20th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. Archie Cameron) took the chair at 10 a.m., and read prayers.
Mr. GRAHAM presented a petition m from certain employees of the Postmaster-
General’s Department, the Department of Civil Aviation, the Department of the Interior, the Department of Labour and National Service and the Department of Trade and Customs praying that the Parliament will rectify the injustice which they believe is being done under the Superannuation Act. Petition received and read.
– Is the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture in a position to indicate what will be the position with respect to the supply of woolpacks in the 1954 season and whether the present system of purchasing woolpacks by a controller will be continued?
– I understand that supplies of woolpacks already purchased by the Jute Controller are estimated to. be sufficient for the forthcoming wool clip, or at least for a certain period ahead. As a matter of policy, it is the desire of the Government that as normal conditions have substantially been restored in the jute trade, the trade should now be allowed to revert to the traditional practice of private procurement and trading. At the same tune, the Government is intent to ensure that during the transition period provision shall be made to meet Australia’s jute requirements. With that object in view, officers of my department and I, myself, have had discussions with representatives of the jute trade. I shall have a full-dress conference with representatives of the trade in the near future for the purpose’ of arranging for the trade -to take over this business. However, I assure the House that, in the meantime, the Government is making adequate provision for the requirements of primary industry.
– As grave concern was expressed at the recent New South Wales State Congress of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia over the inability of the War Service Homes Division to proceed, within a reasonable time, with the erection of war service homes on land that has already been purchased, as well as the delay that is occurring in the granting of approval for the erection of war service homes on privately owned sites, will the Minister for Social Services give consideration to making sufficient funds available for the purpose of financing promptly the purchase and erection of war service homes?
– I am not aware that concern of the nature indicated by the honorable member was expressed at the meeting to which he has referred. My department has been in touch with the Federal Congress of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia, and at that meeting every confidence: was expressed in the administration of the War Service Homes Division. With, regard to the provision of additional funds for the purpose indicated by the honorable member, I point out that this Government has provided more funds for war service homes in the last three years than all Australian governments provided in the preceding 30 years.
– I address a question to the Minister for External Affairs relating to the terms of the Russian Note that was received by the Western Powers approximately a week ago. Is it possible that the intransigent tone of that Note was dictated by a desire to divert attention from the decisive atomic issue to issues which, while grave, ure of lesser importance, such as the organization of Europe? If so, would such action be a continuation of Russian tactics during the last six or seven years, whereby Russia has endeavoured to stall consideration of the atomic issue? Will the Minister consider having representations made at the present session of the United Nations at New York that more urgent consideration be given to this one decisive atomic issue before it is too late?
– The Russian Note to which the honorable member has referred was very long. It consisted of about eighteen pages. The full text has not yet reached Australia although we have received a fairly full summary of it. The honorable member was correct in describing the tone of the Note as being most intransigent. I believe that it could more rightly be said that one thing that flows from the Note is the Bermuda conference which will take place within a few weeks. With regard to atomic weapons, a debate on disarmament is in progress in the United Nations. A resolution has been tabled in the name of fourteen countries - the old members of the Security Council and the recently elected members, of which Australia is not one. The Australian representative, Sir Percy Spender, will speak in the debate, to-day, I think. Hp will make a strong speech. In private and, I believe, in public, he will seek to strengthen the resolution tabled by the fourteen powers. He will also lay stress on the urgent necessity, to which the honorable member for Mackellar has often referred so eloquently, to implement the resolution of the Disarmament Commission within the next twelve months.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture. What are the primary products or other products used in the manufacture of margarine in Australia? In what proportions are they used? What is their country of origin?
– I cannot answer the question. I have no knowledge of the formula under which margarine is made. It is not a matter that comes within the administration of my department.
– As the Minister apparently does not know the composition of margarine, what was the basis of his statement to the House yesterday in which he described the production of margarine as an exotic or foreign industry ? Is not the basic element of margarine prime Queensland beef fat?
– 1 am astonished to gather from the context of the right honorable gentleman’s question that he apparently regards the production of margarine as a normal industry. It is not so regarded by his colleagues in the various State parliaments who have pledged themselves to limit the production of margarine. I know that margarine can be manufactured from a variety of products, although I understand that the exact formulas used by various manufacturers are secret. It is well known that margarine normally includes coco-nut oil and various other vegetable oils. I have always understood that margarine also contains a good deal of animal fat, but I discovered quite recently that that is not the case. However, the right honorable member can take that for what it is worth, because I have no definite personal knowledge of the matter.
– Can the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture inform the House of the amount of margarine that is sold by butter factories to dairy-farmers throughout Australia?
– I would be amazed to discover that margarine is sold by any butter factory to dairy-farmers anywhere in Australia, but I assure the honorable member, who represents a Queensland constituency, that thousands of tons less margarine would be sold in Queensland if the Labour Government of that State would carry out its pledged word to other State governments to limit the production of margarine.
– Is it not a fact that, when answering a question about margarine yesterday, the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture used the word “ exotic “ or was it “ erotic”? In the interests of justice, would the Minister care to define the word that he used, because I should not like the impression to be gained abroad that this very fine product contains thallium.
Question not answered.
– Will the Minister for the Interior consider the advisability of floodlighting the Australian War Memorial regularly, so that it will always appear as it did last night?
– I understand that the Board of Management of the Australian War Memorial is considering the floodlighting of the memorial. The lights in use now look rather like a couple of. circus lights that have been borrowed for the occasion. They do not do justice to the memorial. Indeed, they rather spoil the entrance to it. The Board of Management is considering the provision of permanent floodlights at suitable points, with stands in conformity with the general architectural features of the building and. with its surroundings. The floodlighting of thebuilding last night was very effective, but the lights were installed on temporary stands with tin reflectors.
– Will the Minister for Supply inform the House whether the assets of the Commonwealth Handling Equipment Pool are being offered for sale in small lots or as individual machines, and whether any equipment not sold in that way will be sold by auction? If that is so, what progress has been made in the disposal of the equipment? Is this method of disposal in accordance with promises made to deputations on a number of occasions to the effect that the major portion of the equipment of the pool would be retained as one unit, which could be called on, if required, to do emergency national or defence jobs for Australia ?
– Generally speaking, the answer to the first part of the question is “ No “. I shall refer the whole of the question to the Minister for Shipping and Transport and see that the honorable gentleman is supplied with an answer to it.
– Can the Minister for External Affairs give the House any information about the recent decision of the Pakistan Government that Pakistan shall become a republic? Can he say what effect such a step would have on the position of Pakistan within the Commonwealth. ?
– The constitution of Pakistan is a matter for determination by the Pakistan Government and Constituent Assembly. I need hardly say that during the past three years I have been in close touch with the development of thought in Pakistan on this matter. It is not something that has arisen in the last few weeks or the last few months. On each of my several visits to Karachi in recent years, I have had an opportunity to discuss this matter with the leading personalities concerned in the Government of Pakistan. I can say for myself, and I believe also for the Government, that it would be a matter of infinite regret if any formal steps were in due course to be taken that would have the result of loosening the bonds that now attach Pakistan to Australia and to the rest of the Commonwealth. I do not think any such formal steps have yet been taken although, as I have said, I have followed this matter closely. I regret to tell the House, however, that I believe the trend of thought in Pakistan is in that direction. Even if Pakistan were in due course to become a republic within the Commonwealth, I have no doubt that the relationship of that country with Australia and other members of the Commonwealth would still be very close. At the same time, however, something would be missing, and such a happening would be a cause for infinite regret both to myself and to the Government.
– I . have recently received correspondence from the Commonwealth immigration officer in Sydney indicating that, under the present immigration policy, a certain gentleman in Lebanon is not eligible for admission into Australia although he has been nominated by his brother, who is a resident of this country. Will the Minister for Immigration state the special policy in connexion with immigration from Lebanon?
– I suggest that the honorable member should bring the details of the particular case he has in mind under my notice. In certain instances, admission from Lebanon is .permissible upon the nomination of close friends or relatives here. I should be glad to examine the case cited by the honorable member to see what the circumstances are.
– My question to the Prime Minister is based upon .a telegram that has just been handed to me by an attendant. It was dispatched at six minutes past nine this morning from Red Cliffs, a prominent soldier settlement centre in Victoria. The telegram states -
Prime Minister announces actual Coronation rones on display Melbourne in March concluding on Twenty-third March. At Royal visit we will enact pageant of Royalty and these robes on display here would enable country people to share what city people have. As our (late is 25th March just two days after Melbourne conclusion it seems most appropriate that the robes he made available even if some slight adjustment other venues be made kindly advise. - Returned Soldiers.
Will the Prime Minister make an investigation and if possible grant that request?
– The arrangements already announced about the royal robes were not made without difficulty, and I cannot hold out much prospect of altering them at this stage.
– The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture announced on the 7th March, 1950, that during the then current session of the Parliament the Government would establish a tribunal to determine production costs in primary industries. Will the Minister inform honorable members whether that tribunal has been established, and if so where I can obtain copies of it3 reports? If the committee has not been set up, when will he carry out the promise that he made in 1950?
– A tribunal has been established to deal with the dairying industry. It has made a report, and I shall let the honorable member have a copy of it. By arrangement with the wheat industry and with the State governments, a committee or tribunal was set up to investigate and report upon certain cost factors in the wheat industry. I shall also let the honorable member have a copy of that report.
– I ask the Minister for Civil Aviation whether it is a fact the British Ministry of Civil Aviation tion allows operators to fly DC3 aircraft at a higher all-up weight than is permitted in Australia ? In view of the fact that the British are not without some knowledge of civil aviation, will the Minister consider the introduction of similar standards in Australia which would either allow greater loading of such aircraft, or else a reduced runway length for DC3’s with a consequent large saving in the cost of aerodrome construction throughout Australia.
– The matter of alluo weight for aircraft is determined by the civil aviation authorities in each country according to what they believe to be a safe weight under their particular conditions, but in general according to the dictum laid down by the International Civil Aviation Organization. The all-up weight that we have determined for our Australian aircraft has been found satisfactory, because it has maintained our safety margins. The proof of that is the fact that in the last two years not one single life has been lost in Australian civil aviation.
– My question is directed to the Prime Minister. Will be inform honorable members whether the Government proposes, in view of the decision of the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration to abandon the quarterly adjustments of the basic wage and the fact that the cost of living is continuing to rise, to take action to peg prices, either in agreement with the States or by seeking power through a referendum for the Commonwealth to do so? If no such steps are to be taken, can it be accepted that the Government has now abandoned the pledge that was made on its behalf by the Prime Minister in 1949 to put value back into the fi ?
– The Government lias no power to peg prices. It has no intention to try to exercise a power that it does not possess. It seems eminently rational to me that if one has no power to do a thing one should not even try to do it.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Labour and National Service and Minister for Immigration, one of whose responsibilities is to ensure industrial peace throughout Australia. Is the Minister aware that many thousands of new Australians and, to a less degree, old Australians, are working many hours a week in excess of the normal number, and ave being paid wages much below the basic wage because, as they are not members of trade unions, they are not covered by awards? Will the Minister undertake to advise all employees in the pastoral industry, particularly new Australians, that unless they are members of the Australian Workers Union the terms and conditions of their employment are matters for mutual arrangement between themselves and the graziers, and that they can be required by their employers to work the number of hours per week agreed to between themselves and their grazier employers and be paid wages at rates mutually agreed to between them?
– This Government has at all times given encouragement to new settlers to join trade unions, and it has advised them of the working of the trade union machinery in this country. However, many new Australians have very bitter recollections of their regimentation into industrial organizations in other countries, and they are very chary about joining what they believe to be similar kinds of organizations in Australia. When a new settler goes to an occupation in a rural area where it is not practicable for him to join an appropriate union, the officers of my department arrange for his placement in employment with a stipulation that he shall be paid a wage comparable to the wages that are paid for similar work in the district. I am not aware of any recent instance coming under notice of a new Australian having been exploited in the manner mentioned. If the honorable member has any particular instance in mind I should be glad if he would bring it to my notice.
– Will the Minister for Immigration investigate the alleged refusal by a building firm in Canberra to refund to German carpenters, on completion of their two years’ contract, moneys deducted from their wages in Australia to meet the fares that were paid to bring them to this country, in accordance with an agreement with the German Ministry for Labour? Will the Minister examine documents received from Germany, with a view to having the position of these immigrant tradesmen clarified* and a just settlement made?
– I shall cause the matter to be investigated.
– Will the Minister for Labour and National Service inform the House whether it is true that the Government intends to abolish the Australian Stevedoring Industry Board ? If so, will another organization be established in its place, and how will it operate? Are any applications being invited for positions in any such new organization, and have such positions been advertised in the press? Will the Minister see that the provisions of the Re-establishment and Employment Act are applied to appointments to any new organization contemplated by the Government to supersede the Australian Stevedoring Industry Board ?
– The honorable member has raised a matter of policy on’ which I do not propose to comment at this stage.
– Can the Minister for the Army inform the House whether members of the military forces who do not come within the provisions of the Repatriation Act are covered, in the event of injury or death, by the Commonwealth Employees’ Compensation Act? Are soldiers covered for compensation at all times, including periods while on stand-down leave, at week-ends and at night, or are they covered only while actually on duty? If they are covered only while on duty, will the Minister explain when soldiers cease to be on duty?
– A soldier is entitled to repatriation benefits if he has been on active service. Members of the forces who are serving in Korea are entitled to the advantages and benefits of the Repatriation Act. Membersof the permanent army, the citizen forces and national service trainees are covered, while on duty, by the Commonwealth Employees’ Compensation Act. The question about when a man is on duty is one for legal interpretation. I do not give legal advice.
– Has the attention of the Prime Minister been drawn to the fact that interest rates have been recently reduced in the United Kingdom, France and other countries, and that loans have been floated successfully by local government bodies at a rate of interest approximately1/8 per cent, lower than that applicable to the loan recently floated by the Australian Government ? In View of that fact, does the Government propose to support a reduction of interest rates so that financial institutions may be called upon to share in the sacrifice that was recently imposed by the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration on workers on the basic wage ?
– The matter is clearly one of policy and, in particular, a matter of policy for the Australian Loan Council.
– My question is directed to the Postmaster-General. By way of explanation, I point out that recently I have received numerous com plaints of the manner in which parcels are being damaged in the post, and I have had personal experience of the same thing. Will the Minister give instructions for greater care to be exercised in future by postal employees in handling and delivering parcels?
– I desire to ask the Treasurer a question with regard to the number of assurances that he has given to this House that a measure would be brought down for the imposition of an excess profits tax, and his subsequent statement that such a course had been abandoned because of constitutional difficulties. Will the Minister make available the correspondence between himself and the Commonwealth Committee on Taxation? Is it true that the minutes of the committee disclosed that it was unable to recommend an effective means of taxing excess profits, not because of constitutional difficulties, but because of limitations imposed upon the committee by the Treasurer himself?
– The honorable member’s question is based on false premises, and does not demand an answer. The question of constitutional difficulties was never raised. The proposal was not proceeded with because of the complexity of the problem on the basis of equity.
Debate resumed from 11th November (vide page 93), on motion by Mr. Downer -
That the following Address-in-Reply to the Speech of His Excellency the Governor-General he agreed to: -
Mat itplease Your Excellency:
We, the House of Representatives of the Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia, in Parliament assembled, desire to express our loyalty to our Most Gracious Sovereign, and to thank Your Excellency for the Speech which you have been pleased to address to Parliament.
– Mr. Speaker, at this stage of the debate on the Address-in-Reply to the GovernorGeneral’s Speech we are able to see a very bright picture in Australia. Industry is in a prosperous and thriving condition. A good season is evident for our primary products, and there is a good export demand for them. We have a favorable and a developing balance of trade and employment is again at very high- levels. Only 14,000 people or less are in receipt of unemployment benefit, and some 35,000 work vacancies are recorded with my department, the Department of Labour and National Service.
– Order! I must ask the House to come to order. There is as much noise here this morning as there was in the Senate last Tuesday afternoon.
– The progressive prosperity of industry generally is reflected in the growth of factory employment from 542,000 employees in 1939 to 870,000 at this moment. As a government, we are able to look back on the developments that have produced these happy results with some degree of justifiable satisfaction because, from time to time, in the interests of the country, we have taken the course of action that we believed to be necessary without baulking at the consequences even if it brought to us some passing unpopularity with one section of the community or another. If any one feature of administration has marked the term of office of the Menzies Government it has been its determination to do what it felt to be right for the country as a whole, regardless of what the effect might be on some particular section of the community, having ever before us the national welfare.
I hope to show without much difficulty that the attitude of the Government has been in very marked contrast to the attitude of honorable gentlemen opposite. From time to time we have had to take unpopular action. When wool prices soared we had to impose a levy on wool incomes which was definitely unpopular with the wool-growers, but which we felt to be a necessary temporary imposition in order to check the inflationary pressures. Later, as wool prices dropped, we found it necessary to restrict the importation of goods into this country, and naturally that action brought its share of unpopularity so far as importers were concerned. When a favorable trade balance was again established we were able to relax those restric tions and whilst this action was in the national interest, it brought criticism from some manufacturers, who felt that they would be adversely affected as a result of the increase in imports. Finally, by way of illustration, I have no doubt that from time to time the stand that we have found it necessary to take on the great industrial issues with which we have been confronted has brought us passing unpopularity with some sections of the trade union movement. I have in mind our legislation strengthening the Commonwealth Arbitration Court; our legislation making provision for secret ballots in order to remove Communists from positions of leadership in the trade unions; and, lastly, our decision to put into effect a system of national training for defence. All of these in their turn evoked criticism from honorable members opposite and were, no doubt, unpopular with some sections of the community. But looking along this chain of events, can any one deny that what was done was done in tho national interest irrespective of the passing unpopularity it might evoke in some quarters? The buoyant condition of the Australian economy, the strengthened prestige of our Government and our people abroad and the excellent prospects ahead of us for developing Australia are all, I believe, attributable in substantial measure to the courageous attitude adopted by the Government as necessity dictated from time to time in the interests of national welfare. By contrast, hi recent years, it has, I believe, been one of the tragedies of the Australian situation that the Labour Opposition has displayed no realistic or courageous leadership in respect of the industrial issues which the country has been called upon to face. 1 say with full confidence in the truth of my statement that since the death of Mr. Chifley, a man who, however much wb may have disagreed with him, put clearly before the people and the Parliament the views which he held and the policies which he proposed to apply, there has been a complete absence of leadership in relation to these issues on the part of the Opposition. The country has no conception of Labour policy in relation to these great questions. The Opposition to-day is a disorganized rabble unable either to lead the trade union movement along the paths of safety or to give to the people any effective alternative to the policies which the present Government has espoused. This state of affairs is, in my judgment, tragic for the country which should have clearly presented to it from time to time not only the views of the Government but also a clear analysis of them by the opposition of the day together with effective alternatives which the community can consider. I believe that the explanation for this absence of leadership is the fact that in recent years Labour has been content to make a naked and sectional appeal for support compared with the broad national approach which the Liberal and Australian Country party Government has brought to bear on these questions. Nowhere Kas that contrast become more apparent than in relation to recent developments in our arbitration system and the highly controversial and very important question of compulsory unionism. The Parliament should have before it a much more balanced version of developments in relation to arbitration and the decision in the recent wages and hours case than so far has been given to it. Let us get the picture a little more clearly in our minds than is possible from the distorted versions given by State Labour Premiers and some of the alleged spokesmen of the trade union movement in this Parliament. First, this case which was brought before the Commonwealth Arbitration Court was particularly concerned with four applications made by the employers. The first application was to increase the hours of work; the second was to reduce wages of male employees; the third was to reduce wages of female employees; and the final application was to suspend quarterly adjustments of . the basic wage. I know that the decision of the court is being represented by Labour Premiers, for their own discreditable political purposes, as an attack on the standards of the working men and women of this country. Nothing could be farther from the truth. What the court did, in effect, was to say that the trade unionists, having gained during the years of post-war boom, the shortest working week in any industrial country of the world-
– That is not correct.
– It is correct. I challenge the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Drakeford) to name a country in which a shorter working week applies. The 40-hour week in Australia is, in effect, a 35-hour week. I do not criticize the introduction of the 40-hour week, because it was a decision of the court taken with a full knowledge of the circumstances at that time. At the time when the court gave its decision, the basic wage had reached the highest level in the history of this country. Again, in confirming that wage, the court confirmed the gains of the boom years for the trade unionists. Incidentally, the wage include: a loading of £1 a week which the court itself gave in 1949. The court rejected an application for reduction of female rates.
– Because the Government put up a case for reduction.
– I am presenting an analysis of the details on which the deci: sion of the court was based. The suspension of the automatic adjustments system is now being attacked by honorable members opposite on the ground that it is an indication that the court is prepared to cut down the standards of the wageearners. It should be apparent to any fair-minded, objective observer who has studied the history of the court during recent years that there is no lack of sympathy or understanding on its part for the trade unionist. It was the same court which awarded the 40-hour week and increased the basic wage by fi a week in 1949. Now, because there has been a very minor rise in costs during the last quarter, it is being argued that the court is cutting down the standards of living of the wage-earners. .
The court itself has pointed out that the basic wage includes £2 10s. a. week which is not related to needs at all; it is surplus to a consideration of needs. What should be common knowledge to every member of this Parliament is that the basic wage itself is only, as its name implies, a basis on which the rest of the wage structure is built. The Commonwealth Statistician has stated that the estimated average weekly earnings in Australia during the September quarter were not £11 16s. a week, which was the six capital cities average basic wage for that period, but £15 lis. a week. Honorable members of the Opposition should read the details of the court’s decision, because if anything is made clear there it is surely that the court held the view that, in order to hold these very important gains made during the boom years, it is essential to maintain’ Australia’s competitive position in relation to other countries of the world. What, _ good service to wage-earners would the court do if it allowed our wage structure to reach the point where Australian industries were completely unable to compete with those of other countries? The court’s findings on this point are full of interest and should be studied by all honorable gentlemen. I seriously suspect that not one of those who have criticized the decision of the court went to the trouble of reading the 60-odd pages of reasons and facts on which the court based its judgment. By way of illustration, I wish to read from page 58 of the judgment, where a comparison is made between the weekly minimum wage being paid in Australia to. a fitter who is a tradesman in the engineering trade with that paid to a similar worker in Birmingham. The court based its conclusion on evidence which it accepted. For the sake of simplicity, I reduce the comparison to tho basis of hourly rates. Expressed in Australian currency, the cost to the employer of an hour’s work of a fitter in Birmingham would be 3s. 10-Jd., compared with 7s. 3d. in Australia. That is an indication of how far our wage structure is getting out of line with that of our prospective competitors. The comparable figure for New Zealand is 6s., for West Germany 3s., and for Japan ls. 6d.
– What is the comparable figure for the United States of America ?
– The United States of America is in a very different situation from Australia. The United States of America does not have to depend on exports for its prosperity. Only 4 per cent, of its production is required for export. The United States of America has a home market of 160,000,000 persons, and, therefore, can disregard very largely happenings and conditions in other parts of the world. The United States of America also puts S horse-power behind each worker, compared with only 4 horse-power per worker in Australia. We have a real problem in this matter, and I hope that the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Greenup) has more sense regarding the position than is displayed by some of his colleagues. I believe he has more sense than they possess, and that he realizes that no good service is done to the Australian trade unionist by allowing his wage to rise to such a point that our opportunities for employing him are reduced, because of the inability of our primary products and manufactured goods to compete with those of other countries. I should, like to read a passage on this subject from, a journal which is not a so-called tory paper, but which circulates freely in the factories, and, I believe, is highly regarded by an influential section of the trade unions. I speak of the Nexus-Weekly, which has a forthright- view on industrial matters, and certainly is highly sympathetic to the viewpoint of responsible trade unionism in Australia. The journal published on the 28th October last a leading article entitled “ Lack of Leadership “. I do not propose to read the entire article, but I believe that it sums up the tragic situation, into which the Australian Labour party has allowed itself to drift. The article reads, in part, as follows : -
Lack of Leadership.
The unreasoning demand of trade union leaders to continue their fantastic dogchasingtail policy because the demand for the extra few shillings C.O.L. adjustment is popular shows that -
They lack the rather moderate amount of brains necessary to appreciate the fundamental cost crisis facing the nation.
They lack both the common sense and the courage to lead the trade union movement instead of following every breath and whim of the most shallow drifts of popular opinion.
Lacking any semblance of a logically devised wage policy, they ave prepared to follow policies which run directly counter to the best interests of the trade union movement.
Against Own INTERESTS
The present “ grab-all “ habit, concentrating on demand after demand to raise the basic wage, has not only precipitated a cost crisis that has priced Australia out of world markets in secondary industry and is rapidly pricing her out of primary markets as well, it hag created the margins crisis in the trade union movement itself, and denied the skilled man anything like a fair return for his skill.
Australian union leaders are thirty years behind their overseas colleagues in terms ot thinking. Until they brush out their brains with a little elementary study of modern developments in industrial relations, and realize that it is childish to demand a larger slice of cake unless you have a cake to slice, Australian workers will be denied wage justice and the Australian economy will be brought to disaster.
The attitude of the Government on this issue may be summed up as follows: - We believe in arbitration as the only sensible alternative to the law of the jungle and a reversion to the painful, long-drawn-out strikes which marred the previous system, or perhaps I should say lack of system, prior to the establishment of arbitration. We should be prepared to support the decision of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court, not merely because it flows from the arbitral authority, which, in itself, should command our respect, but also because we believe that it is a carefully considered judgment designed to retain for the Australian worker the highest wage that industry can afford to pay and, at the same time, maintain our industries in a competitive position which will enable them to thrive, and extend work opportunities for the people. It is tragic that, in the face of that sober reasoning, State Labour governments, and Labour leaders in this House, should try to achieve temporary popularity which may well have the effect of wrecking the cost structure of this country.
I shall not have time to develop fully a discussion upon compulsory unionism, but surely that is a matter of major principle upon which honorable members could have expected some forthright expression of opinion from honorable members on the Opposition side. Surely the Opposition could have shown some leadership to the rank and file unionists upon that matter. In the absence of that leadership, we can only assume that honorable members on the Opposition side stand firmly upon the printed platform of the Australian Labour party. Under the euphemistic heading of “Progressive Reforms “ in that platform is item No. 5j which is expressed in the stark term “ Compulsory Unionism “. There are no apologies or qualifications. The platform of the Australian Labour party states clearly that one of its objectives is to bring compulsory unionism into effect.
I do not need to argue here the question of principle. The Government has always shown clearly where it stands upon the issue. The Government believes in the healthy development of the trade union movement in Australia. It believes that the trade union movement has made great progress and achieved important gains upon a basis of voluntary membership. Well-conducted unions can demonstrate to their members that’ they can give good service without relying upon compulsion in enlisting support. They can depend upon their own campaigning and their own good record. The fact that in Australia the percentage of unionism is double that of the United States of America and 50 per cent, more than unionism in the United Kingdom, shows that the Australian workers have responded to the appeal of the trade unions. I hoped that the bad. old days of the press gang were behind us, but the compulsory unionism proposal means that Australians are being called upon to accept regimentation with government sanction whether or not they have strong objections, either on the basis of principle or practice.
Objections to the proposal in practice are based upon the known link between trade union leadership and the funds provided for the work of the trade unions and the political activities of the Australian. Labour party. A growing body of trade union opinion resents the link between trade union policies and the political issues that the Australian Labour p’arty is called upon to fight in this Parliament. The body of opinion wants the activities of the trade unions to be considered on their merits and not made the shuttlecock of party politics in the Commonwealth Parliament. Since there has been some suggestion of lack of consistency on the part of the Liberal party on this issue I shall read the terms of a resolution that was adopted only a few weeks ago by the supreme policy-making body of the Liberal party. The terms of a resolution that was moved by Senate1’ Wright, of Tasmania, at a meeting ot the federal council of the Liberal party i« Canberra were -
That the attempt to institute compulsory unionism in Australia is indicative of an undemocratic attitude on the part of the Labour Party, is inimical to the best interest of the Australian workers and a disguised method of attempting to gain political funds from unionists irrespective of their own political beliefs.
That resolution was adopted unanimously by the representatives of all States in the Liberal party organization. The Leader of the Liberal party in New South Wales has made clear the course that we shall follow if the compulsory unionism legislation is forced through the New South Wales Parliament. I believe that a growing body of thoughtful trade union opinion in Australia is realizing how unionists have been led by the nose by those who, under the banner of Labour, have claimed to represent their interests.’ Those trade unionists have been led down the garden path on the issue of higher productivity, incentive payments, secret ballots and national service training. Now they are being led astray on the great issues of arbitration and compulsory unionism. They have been led by honorable members on the Opposition side into supporting policies that they have learned later to oppose. They have been directed into opposing the Government’s policy on secret ballots, incentive payments, arbitration and voluntary unionism which they now believe to be worthy of support. They realize to-day that the Menzies Government offers them, not merely an alternative policy to that of Labour, but a preferable policy. Our policy on industrial issues is infinitely better than that of the Labour party from the point of view of the interests of the workers.
-Order! The Minister’s time has expired.
.- The Communist party is opposed to compulsory unionism, and so are the representatives of unbridled capitalism. I recall the birth, of the present Government’ on the 10th December, 1949. One of its first actions, before it had met the Parliament, was to destroy preference to trade unionists within the Public Service. Preference to trade unionists in the Public Service was opposed by the Communists also. The Government, of course, had its will. What was the result ? land others in the Federated Clerks Union of
Australia were fighting bitterly at that time to rescue the union from Communist domination. The Government’s decision was an invitation to every Liberal supporter in the Public Service to leave Ms trade union, and that invitation was accepted. Public servants who supported the Liberal party left members of the Labour party within the Federated Clerks Union to carry on the fight against communism alone. That was the most dastardly stab in the back ever delivered to Australian trade unionists engaged in the struggle against communism. Nevertheless, within the Federated Clerks Union we were able to recapture control from the Communists. It was the first occasion on which an Australian trade union had been delivered from the hands of the Communists.
I refer now to some of the issues that were raised by the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holt) in his attack on the standard of living of the workers. A similar attack was made on an earlier occasion by another coalition government. I refer to the Bruce-Page Government. What occurred then is being repeated to-day. The Bruce-Page Government attacked the wage standards and conditions of Australian workers and said that they must be reduced because Australia was pricing itself out of the markets of the world. That Government asked, “ How can we sell our products abroad if Australians work shorter hours than the Japanese and enjoy leave privileges and other amenities that do not apply in other countries ? “ In addition to attacking the conditions of the workers, the Bruce-Page Government decided to abolish the industrial arbitration system once and for all. It fought an election on that issue and it was defeated. However, before it was thrown out of office it depreciated the conditions of the workers on the plea that such a depreciation was essential if Australia was to retain overseas markets for the products of its farms and factories. Who will deny that this Government has adopted a similar attitude?
What are the facts ? Let us consider primary production first. The incomes of primary producers have increased since 1939 by a proportion that varies from 1,200 per cent, to 1,600 per cent. That, is a fairly reasonable increase for one section of the community! But, since 1939, the number of farms throughout Australia has diminished by 10,000. That means that fewer people are sharing the benefit of the enormous increases that I have mentioned. Have the incomes of the workers increased by 1,600 per cent, since 1939? Certainly not! Of course, we may expect a Minister to rise and say, “ It is true that primary producers’ incomes have increased vastly, but this has been due to an abnormal increase of the prices of wool, eggs, wheat, beef, pork and mutton “.
– And potatoes.
– Yes. The people of New South Wales are only too well aware that the cost of this staple part of their daily diet has increased tremendously in recent years.
– Has the honorable member read the judgment of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court on rural production ?
– The Minister is trying to divert me from my criticism of his propositions, but my time is limited and I wish to deal with another aspect of costs in Australia. I refer to people who have invested money in companies that sell motor cars.
Standard Cars Proprietary Limited, for example, has declared dividends of 70 per cent, and 100 per cent, in recent years. In other words, anybody who had invested £1,000 in the company obtained a return of £700 on the investment in one year. Such an investor could live in luxury on that dividend. A person who had invested £5,000 could live in super luxury on his’ dividends. But Standard Cars Proprietary Limited is not the only company that has declared fantastic dividends. Companies engaged in almost every kind of industrial undertaking in Australia have amassed exorbitant profits in recent years. Patersons Proprietary Limited, which retails furniture to working men and women, has declared dividends of per cent. It has been unusual for companies to declare anything less than a dividend of 15’ per cent. Moran and Cato Limited, a retail grocery firm which sells goods that the average man in the street requires, has. declared dividends of 15 per cent, and over. Investigation shows that companies engaged in all kinds of activities in Australia over a period of years have declared abnormally high dividends, three or four times as high as the dividends that they declared in 1939, and even higher. Although the basic wage has increased, it has not increased in anything like the same proportion. I protest against this Government’s attack upon the living wage of the Australian worker. I am proud to say that I am out to do my best to raise the conditions of the average Australian and to liberalize social services benefits that are made available to the average man, .woman and child in this country. I am out to bring about a reallocation of the national dividend for the benefit of those who do the real work and those who are advanced in years and must depend upon social services benefits. But that is not the policy of this Government. Ever since it assumed office, it has been carrying out its allotted task of gradually lowering the proportion of the national income that is made available to the average citizen whilst, at the same time, improving the position of the privileged few in the community.
– Does the honorable mem- ber really believe that? I suggest that if he reads the Commonwealth Arbitration Court’s judgment he might be more accurate.
– The court’s judgment has nothing to do with the particular issue which I am now raising. If the Minister for Labour and National Service would study the official statistics relating to the national dividend and national production he would be convinced, as I am, that the proportion of the national income made available to the worker is becoming less and less. I shall give one example to show how the Government is achieving that objective. Last year, a person who, after payment of tax, had an income of £5,300, will after payment of tax this year have an income of £6,200. That is an increase of net income by £900, or £18 a week, and a. percentage increase of net income of 17 per cent., but, at the same time, the. net income of a married man with two children who has an income of from £600 to £800 will be increased by only from £10 to £18 a year, an increase of 3 per cent. ! That one example clearly indicates how the Government is reducing the living standards of the ordinary man and woman compared with that of the relatively few privileged individuals in the community.
I rose mainly to deal with the subject of secondary industries which are of the utmost importance to the future of the nation. Those industries provide the greatest opportunities for employment for the vast majority of our citizens. Consequently, they must be promoted and expanded. But this Government has not seen fit to do that. The Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden), when delivering his budget speech for 1951 in this chamber, declared that many secondary industries were uneconomic and inefficient and that during World War II. many had been expanded out of all proportion to the needs of the community. The right honorable gentleman declared that those industries must be restricted or obliterated. He said that the Government would achieve that purpose through its control of credit and banking. The Treasurer made that declaration in 1951. By March, 1952, over 100,000 persons had been thrown out of work, and not one of that number was able to obtain alternative employment in primary industries or in so-called basic industries which the Government pretended it was fostering. Of course, overnight, the Government was obliged to reverse that policy. In the course of a broadcast to the nation, the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) said, in effect, “We face financial bankruptcy overseas. We must impose restrictions upon imports; otherwise, the people of this country will face immeasurable difficulties and hardships “. Consequently, the Government imposed stringent restrictions on imports. It was obliged to take that action because of its previous policy of unduly encouraging imports. However, it is nothing new for a government of the type that is now in office to encourage imports. I recall the record of the Bruce-Page Government in that respect. In that coalition, the Country party free-trade tail wagged the dog. Members of the Australian Country party at that time contended that secondary industry was being developed beyond our economic requirements and that the volume of imports should be substantially increased. Imports that were then permitted to flood this country caused grave unemployment and accentuated the evils of the depression. Every honorable member will remember that the Scullin Government, through its tariff policy, promoted the development of secondary industries and thus helped Australia to extricate itself from the depression. That government’s policy was constructive.
Secondary industries are just as important in a time of peace as they are in a time of war. They are essential to absorb the working population. Ultimately, through taxation, they provide the main source of revenue to enable governments to stabilize and expand primary production as well as to finance essential public works. Secondary industries are also essential because, indirectly, they provide the reservoir from which governments derive loan funds. Secondary and primary industries are interdependent, and both should be fostered accordingly. That is the basis of Labour’s new protection policy, which, for the benefit of honorable members, I shall cite. It is -
Effective tariff protection of Australian industries with measures to prevent profiteering and to assure industrial protection to workers.
That is Labour’s new protection policy. What is the policy of this Government for the encouragement of industries in this country? Having regard particularly to the industrial resurgence of Japan and other low-wage countries, it is most important that we should know exactly what the Government’s attitude is towards secondary industries. Because of that, I listened with particular attention to the Governor-General when he said that this Government had abstained from any association with the recent decision of the majority of the contracting parties to the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade to allow Japan to participate in the work of the agreement. Under the agreement, member nations can secure favoured treatment for their exports. Tariff barriers are lowered for fellow members. Australia is a member. If Japan became a member, Japanese goods would have to be admitted to this country on a preferential basis. I object to that. Australia abstained from voting on the question whether Japan should be allowed to participate in the work of the agreement, but mere abstension from voting is not enough. “We must announce our attitude on this matter, not only in regard to Japan, but also in regard to the industrially resurgent countries of Europe that are building up their manufacturing industries and looking for markets throughout the world in which to dispose of their manufactures. I know that trade is a two-way proposition, and that other countries cannot buy from us unless we buy from them. But I know also that it would be better to have a million Europeans in Australia, manufacturing secondary goods for the Australian market and fed with the primary products of Australia, than it would be to have the same million Europeans working in European factories, manufacturing goods r.o be sent to Australia, and being fed with the primary products of Australia sent no them across vast expanses of ocean. An expansion of our secondary industries is essential for the defence and development of this country. I believe that secondary production and primary production are interdependent. I believe also that this Government, by listening continuously to the suggestion that we are pricing ourselves out of the markets of the world, is not serving the best interests of the Australian people.
I welcome the proposal by the Government to secure rapid action in connexion with, tariff inquiries. Two years ago, in a statement made in this House, I suggested that action should be taken to expedite the hearing of cases by the Tariff Boar-d, but my suggestion was coldly received. On Tuesday, the GovernorGeneral announced in his Speech that the Government intended to take action to expedite Tariff Board inquiries. I point out that the next general election is much nearer now than it was when I made my statement on this matter. If Australia is to progress as it should do and become a self-reliant and prosperous nation, action must be taken, on the lines laid’ down in the new protection provisions of the platform of the Labour party, to defend our secondary industries and the standard of living enjoyed by the workers in those industries. Workers in Japan do not get annual leave or long-service leave, they do not have as many public holidays as we have, their hours of work are not so short as ours and their wages are not so high. We must not destroy the working conditions for which the average man in this country has fought through the years so that we shall be able to sell our goods in other countries in competition with Japanese goods. If it is correct that we are pricing ourselves out of the markets of the world, in order to compete with Japan on overseas markets we should have to sink to the lowest possible standards.
.- The honorable member for Burke (Mr. Peters) made the extraordinary statement that Communists in Australia are opposed to com’pulsory unionism. I suppose he wanted us to draw the quite incorrect conclusion that, by opposing compulsory unionism, we are assisting communism in some way. I do not believe that the Communists are opposed to compulsory unionism. The real test of the Communists’ attitude to compulsory unionism is the position in Russia, the home of communism. There, as is widely known, compulsory unionism is strictly and rigidly enforced. Every loss of individual freedom and every additional regimentation of the people helps to create a state of affairs in which the imposition of a totalitarian regime would bc easier. That is our fundamental objection to the introduction of compulsory unionism in New South Wales.
The Governor-General referred to the fact that the policy of the Government is to maintain the strength of our armed forces. I want to direct the attention of the House to the present state of the Royal Australian Navy. Recently, I had the privilege of observing some’ aspects of the work of the Navy, and I want to tell the House of the conclusions that I have reached. Any one with any knowledge of naval affairs who is privileged to see the working of the
Navy from the inside will acknowledge that it shows a very high -standard of efficiency. There is no doubt that, so far as the naval arm of our defences is concerned, this country is much more ready for war to-day than it was in 1939. The Navy has been greatly expanded and has had the advantage of extensive exercises. The sea-time of ships in commission now is much greater than before the last war. The personnel of the ships in commission are working extremely hard. We should not begrudge the expense of the fuel consumed in continuous work and exercises at sea.
But the Navy, when measured against the tasks it would have to perform in war and the degree of responsibility for our defence that would fall upon it, is still pitiably small. We have two light fleet aircraft-carriers and will have eight fleet destroyers - five are in existence and three are under construction. As to the new class of fast frigates, we have one in commission, four under construction, and four former destroyers are being converted to fast frigates. We have in commission -six slow frigates of last war vintage and seven are in reserve. We have only twelve up-to-date ocean mine-sweepers, including those in reserve. We have only twelve up-to-date ocean mine-sweepers, including those in reserve, and sixteen which have not yet been converted and refitted for modern tasks. When we consider the tremendous responsibility that would lie on our Navy in a time of war, we see at once that our naval forces are not yet large enough to shoulder that responsibility. They are not adequate for the defence of an island continent whose coastline measures no less than 12,000 miles. I have often reminded the House that our settlements and industries lie mainly along the coastal fringe. With our sister dominion, New Zealand, we lie isolated and alone in the seas to the south of South-East Asia. We are at the end of the long sea routes from both Europe and the United States of America. If ever a country depended for its existence on sea power, it is Australia, and, of course, by sea power I mean the main tenance of our sea routes free from interference by sea or air. Sea power in this modern age can be exercised only by the combined use of ships and aircraft. In the past, we have depended largely upon the strength of the Royal Navy. In the more distant past, of course, we depended entirely upon the Royal Navy. During World War II. we relied also on the Navy of the United States of America. However, it seems unhappily clear that in any future war the Royal Navy would be occupied to the limit of its resources in the defence of Great Britain and the Colonies. Can we be sure that the Navy of the United States of America will always be available to come to our aid? I do not question American goodwill or intention, but is it not conceivable that, at least in the early stages of the only future war that we can reasonably contemplate at present - a war with Soviet Russia, and its satellites - the American Navy will be fully taxed and that we may be left to stand on our own feet ? Even if that suggestion be rejected, it is quite true that our future depends upon the survival of the United States of America and of Western Europe generally. Our task will be to make the greatest possible contribution to the joint effort, and above all, to look after our own affairs and keep our own sea routes open. We may well have to depend, at least for a considerable time, on our own ability to protect our merchant shipping and our convoys. And against what will we have to protect them in the Pacific and the Indian Oceans and, if the pattern of World War II. is to be repeated, as far afield as the Mediterranean? The first and greatest threat will come from submarines. It is common knowledge that the submarine of the next war will be faster and will have much greater endurance than the submarine of World War II. had. Ir. addition, it will be equipped with, weapons of a destructiveness hardly contemplated in the last war. To protect not only our distant ocean trade, but also our coastal trade, it is necessary for us to have large numbers of fast frigates of long endurance and equipped with the latest anti-submarine weapons. Such vessels are costly and cannot be built in a. day. They need an enormous quantity of very expensive and complicated equipment, and large highly skilled crews. Eight fleet destroyers and nine fast frigates, which is the number we will have when our present programme is completed, will not be enough to undertake that task effectively.
The last war proved beyond doubt that sea-borne aircraft are an essential part of the defence of ocean convoys. Landbased aircraft cannot perform this task adequately. When a convoy is at a great distance from shore bases, too much of the time of land-based aircraft is taken up proceeding to the area of the convoy and returning from it. Another important lesson of World War TJ. is that the necessary high degree of understanding and co-operation between aircraft and surface vessels cannot exist unless aircraft are carrier-based with the convoy. The modern anti-submarine techniques which depend, on that very close co-operation between surface vessels and aircraft cannot be employed effectively unless seaborne aircraft are present as an essential part of the defensive force of the convoy. We have at present two light fleet aircraft carriers. They would be invaluable in any future war, but they are not enough. Have we plans to refit and convert merchant ships into escort carriers? Have we plans to put flight decks on oil tankers and grain ships so that in addition to carrying out their normal task of cargo carrying those vessels may take with them three or four aircraft? Such ships were invaluable in the last war, and I emphasize that the lessons of the last war on this subject still hold good. The advent of the fast submarine with long underwater endurance lends further emphasis to those lessons.
There is one further matter on which I should like to be re-assured. The atomic age has forced upon us the necessity to have mobile bases. It is conceivable that refitting bases on the old permanent pattern will be untenable in a future atomic war and that the success of naval forces will depend upon their ability to move their bases with them. I emphasize to the House that our present naval force is the very minimum we should have. In fact, it is less than the minimum we need for the defence of this country; yet our current naval vote amounts to about £46,000,000. That is a considerable drain on our economy, but it is still hardly enough to provide what we need. We should consider, therefore, whether the best advantage is being taken of our naval funds. First, I believe there is a need to standardize our ships and equipment to the highest possible degree. We still have on our naval vessels guns of many calibres and there is a great variety of other equipment which I believe could be standardized. I realize, of’ course, that it is easier to talk about standardization than it is to achieve it, because we depend largely upon British naval design. We also depend largely on the United States of America and Great Britain for the supply of much intricate equipment which we either cannot make or cannot make economically. So, standardization is dimcult. Nevertheless, I sometimes wonder whether we are wise to plan a navy based on the most elaborate and highly technical ships such as “Battle” and “Daring” class destroyers. Is it not possible that our naval vote would be better spent on ships of simpler standardized type ? If we were to content ourselves with simpler and more quickly constructed vessels, which of course would be cheaper, we might be able to have more of them. However, it is not possible to pursue that argument at length in this debate without embarking upon a technical discussion which, I believe, would not be appropriate.
One often hears the suggestion that we should aim at a balanced navy. Presumably, if a “ balanced “ navy means anything at all it means a navy which includes vessels of all types in use in modern warfare. It would include, I assume, a battleship, a fleet carrier, submarines, and all kinds of modern offensive and defensive vessels. I believe that such an idea is a complete chimera so far as this country is concerned. We have to decide first what threat we face and, secondly, what classes of vessels are needed to deal with that threat. Our object should be not to have a completely balanced navy, but to have the largest and most efficient navy for our limited purposes. In that connexion, I believe that the sooner our cruisers are paid off and scrapped the better. I am glad to learn that Shropshire is being broken up. I have heard a suggestion that Australia is likely also to be scrapped in the near future. I believe that should, be done. I am concerned about the large sums of money involved in the refitting of Hobart. On the last occasion when this matter was mentioned in the House the Minister for the Navy (Mr. McMahon) said that Hobart was being refitted as a training cruiser. I draw the Minister’s attention to the fact that the Royal Navy has given up training in cruisers. The training cruiser Devonshire is being paid off and all training in future is to be undertaken in carriers. If our Navy is to consist of fast frigates and carriers, our men should be trained in fast frigates and carriers. The sooner the two cruisers that remain to us cease to be a drain on our naval vote, the better for all concerned.
Another matter of great importance needs consideration and clarification. That is the matter of the qualifications, the rank and the length of time of appointment of future Chiefs of the Naval Staff. In the naval service, where many are called and few are chosen, and in which there is a steady and inexorable process of selection going on during the whole of an officer’s career, it is essential that the conditions of appointment to the highest rank should be clear to all officers of the service. Moreover, it is necessary that the period for which that office can be held by any one officer should be widely known. It is necessary that this office should be held by the most suitable, capable and experienced officer available, and it is also necessary that he should have gone through all the stages of a senior officer’s career that are necessary to fit him, to hold the highest rank in the Royal Australian Navy. He should have exercised command as an admiral in a sea-going fleet for at least two years, ho should have attended the appropriate courses at the naval defence college and other places, and he should have had a period of active service in high rank with another dominion navy.
As a matter of policy it should be arranged that officers of high rank should Iia vo the opportunity to serve with other dominion navies wherever possible. It should be clearly established that an officer can only hold the office of Chief of the Naval Staff for only a specified limited period. That is necessary, first, in the . interests of the Navy so that there may be a constant change of fresh ideas which flow from periodic changes of officers of the highest rank, and, secondly, in the interests of the senior officers of the Navy so that they shall know that the office of Chief of the Naval Staff shall be vacant, at stated times. The present very gallant and distinguished admiral who is Chief of the Naval Staff was appointed very early in his career as an admiral, in unusual circumstances at the end of a long and destructive war, and he has held that office for an unusual length of time because of those very circumstances. I urge that the Government, in the course of time when he reaches the retiring age and his successor has to be appointed, should consider the conditions of appointment to the office. The time for which an officer may hold the position should be laid down once and for all.
I suggest to the Government that the conditions of appointment might be as follows: The Chief of the Naval Staff should be of vice-admiral’s rank; he’ should hold the office for not longer than three years, and having held it for that time he should retire from the naval service in conformity with the practice in the Royal Navy where the First Sea Lord invariably retires on the termination of hi3 appointment. I believe that the retiring age for a vice-admiral is 60 years. It follows that if he is to hold the office of Chief of the Naval Staff for three or four years, he should be appointed in the last three or four years of his service career. It is natural that we should all desire that an Australian officer should hold the office of Chief of the Naval Staff, and now that officers are becoming available, no doubt the Chief of the Naval Staff will generally be an Australian. However, I suggest that such an officer should be appointed after he has gone through the stages of a naval career such as I have already referred to. He must have had service at sea in command for two years, service abroad and must have done the various defence courses.
During the last war the Royal Australian Navy lost no less than five of its senior captains. In view of that serious drain on our captains, if the conditions that I have mentioned are to be fulfilled, there will be a time in the years immediately ahead of us when there will be no Australian officer available with the qualifications that I have urged upon the Government as necessary qualifications. In such circumstances I suggest that the Government should not hesitate to seek the loan of the services of a British or Canadian admiral to fill the gap caused by our war losses. A bargain could be made that while we give employment to an officer of the highest rank of another Commonwealth navy, that navy might well give similar employment to one of our officers who in the future might be called upon to become the Chief of the Naval Staff. We all want to see an Australian in command of the Royal Australian Navy, but it is not in the interests of the Navy that he should hold that office for too long, or that he should be promoted to it before he has had the necessary experience. Therefore, if no Australian officer can be found for appointment to the position, except one who is really too young to be appointed, the Government should follow the practice that has been followed so successfully in the Royal Australian Air Force, and obtain the services of a senior officer from another dominion, or from Great Britain, in order to fill the gap. When we remember that we lost five of our senior captains during the last war it will become apparent that we may have to seek the services of an overseas officer in the near future.
Another aspect of the naval organization could be improved. That is the attention that is given to reserve forces. In war-time there will be a great expansion of our Navy. Vessels will be taken out of reserve and will have to be manned, auxiliary vessels will have to be taken over, distant naval bases will need to be established and manned and new air stations brought into being. The nation cannot afford, and would not accept in time of peace, such an activity, but it would become necessary if we were again at war. That expansion could be achieved only by a dilution and expansion on a great scale of our present forces. Key personnel will have to be taken out of existing complements and diluted in order to establish crews for our new ships and establishments. Inevitably, the standard of efficiency of the Navy will temporarily suffer. The Navy is an instrument for war, and its potential efficiency, in a future war is the only test of its present efficiency.
If the question is asked whether our Navy is ready for expansion and dilution in time of war, the answer is that it is not. I acknowledge gladly that the naval reserve is in a much better state now than it was during the years after the war, and, indeed, during the years before the war. I also acknowledge that far more money is now being expended on reserve training than has been expended in the past, but the Navy will not be ready for complete mobilization for war unless there is an efficient reserve in existence. There should be a complete change of attitude about the reserve, because we must have a reserve ready for mobilization if the Navy is to be in a state of readiness for war. The first step in achieving that objective is to place the responsibility for the reserve on a member of the Naval Board.
At the present time one senior officer only, who is not a member of the Naval Board, with one staff, has to discharge the two duties of training of reserves and responsibility for the reserve fleet. I suggest that a member of the Naval Board should be responsible for those two duties, and that he should have a separate staff for each branch. Under the present organization the naval reserve does not receive the emphasis that it should. The efficiency and devotion to duty of the officer responsible for the naval reserve is widely recognized, and his sympathetic leadership of the reserve forces is very creditable. However, the reserve should be dealt with on the Naval Board level, and a member of the Naval Board should be charged with the responsibility for reserve training and the reserve fleet.
I have offered a qualified criticism of the Royal Australian Navy, but it is friendly and constructive because the country can well be proud of our Navy. The Navy is rapidly undergoing great changes, yet its officers and men remain highly efficient. They are hard-working, and exhibit a high degree of devotion to duty, which is a characteristic of the navies of the Empire. Readily, and with a reasonable degree of cheerfulness, they accept the inevitable hardships associated with life on ships at sea. Their calling has always involved long periods of separation from their families, and lengthy absences from their homeland.
Such criticisms as I have made to-day should be measured against a background of the present state of the Royal Aus- tralian Navy.
.- In common with honorable members on this side of the House and many other supporters of the Australian Labour party, who are loyal citizens, I associate myself with the part of the motion that expresses loyalty and devotion to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second. I am sure that all honorable members are in unison in that connexion. His Excellency referred to the armistice in Korea. I for one hope that the last shot has been fired, not only in Korea but also everywhere else in the world, and that goodwill and peace will prevail henceforth.
I regret that His Excellency omitted to mention that this Government has failed to honour many of its preelection promises. The Government is not going the right way about obtaining peace in industry. As quarterly adjustments of the basic wage have been suspended, the wage and salary earners of this country will have to bear the burden of any further increases of the cost of living, because inflation has not yet been checked. “Why should not the workers receive an increase of 3s. a week, in accordance with the rise of the cost of living during the last quarter f Why should not the captains of industry bear a part of the burden of economic adjustment? Economic conditions in this country are not now so stable as they were when Labour relinquished office. In these circumstances, I am unequivocably opposed to the suspension of the quarterly adjustment of the basic wage. I believe that the Government bears a responsibility to decide this issue.
-me. - The Government has not the power to do so.
– The Government should take steps to obtain the necessary power, if it hopes to convince the people that it is doing all that is possible to establish peace in industry. I remind the House that when prices were controlled under the National Security Regulations inflation was kept in check. The prices control administration that was established by the war-time Labour Government was very efficient. The cost of living in this country rose by only 10 per cent, during the period of the war, compared with risesof up to 200 per cent, in other countries. Surely the Government could adjust the monetary position other than by the pegging of wages. By its last budget the Government granted huge rebates of taxation to wealthy companies, aggregating £33,000,000, but the pensioners were granted increases at a cost to revenue of only about £4,500,000. That was most inequitable. Why should not the workers receive an additional 3s. a week to offset the rise of the cost of living during the last quarter? .Surely big industry and big business could afford to carry that increase, without raising the prices of commodities. But, in their selfishness, they are not prepared to do so. They are motivated only by a desire to pay big dividends. I consider that big business was well able to bear some of the monetary adjustments that have become necessary from time to time. I recall occasions when, based on the C series index, the basic wage was increased by 2s. a week. Even that small rise was passed on to the consumers by way of increased prices. It is time that the captains of industry contributed to the stabilization of our economy.
I agree entirely with the proposal of the New South Wales Government to introduce legislation to provide for compulsory unionism. This is not a new principle; it has been adopted in other countries.
– Does the honorable member’s leader agree with what he has said ?
– My leader would do so. The advantages of compulsory unionism have been enjoyed by the workers of Queensland for more than a quarter of a century, and I remind the honorable member for Petrie (Mr. Hulme) that the Queensland Liberal party advocated compulsory unionism prior to the last Queensland State election. As all workers receive benefits that are gained by the efforts of the trade unions, I consider that they all should contribute to the cost of obtaining such benefits. The trade unions were involved in an expenditure of about £20,000 as a result of their fight before the Commonwealth Court of
Conciliation and Arbitration in Melbourne recently to protect the conditions of the workers when the Employers Federation and big business sought to reduce the basic wage by £2 4s. a week and to increase the working week to 44 hours. Of course, that amount of money was not paid into the court; it was expended in the payment of advocates, and to defray travelling expenses for witnesses who had to journey to various capital cities, according to where the court heard evidence. I know from my own experience as a union delegate that to bring together in one city delegates from the six States costs £1,000 for fares and board and wages.- When officers are freed from service to attend a conference they are on leave without pay, and their loss of wages must be recouped. Any person who is prepared to accept the benefits of unionism but is not prepared to contribute towards the cost is a very poor sport. That is a simple decency that should be observed by all decent people.
I think, in relation to the 3s. cost of living adjustment, that it should not be the function of the court to decide the ability of the economy to pay. I believe that it is the function of the court to decide the standard of living, but that it should be the function of the Government to say whether that standard can be afforded.
– In other words, as long as the decision goes the honorable gentleman’s way he will accept it?
– Order !
– The Government, of which the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Mr. Eric J. Harrison) is a prominent figurehead, is responsible for throwing the present economy out of balance and the right honorable gentleman should be the last one to talk like that. He is one of those people who believe that the economy should be adjusted by making the workers, and not the friends of the Government, pay the piper. When the Labour Government was defeated in 1949, the economy of the country was very sound. There was full employment for all. Australia could not get sufficient immigrants to cope with the volume of employment. The economy was so sound that the Labour Government had two jobs for every worker, but it is because of the actions of this Government that the nation’s economy has drifted from that very healthy position.
I wish now to discuss a topical subject which supporters of the Government have called compulsory unionism. I refer to it as preference to unionists. I quote the following definition of unionism: -
The obligation of unionism means the payment of a small contribution by each worker in industry. The organization looks after his welfare. In other words, all get together for their mutual good.
Prior to the last war there was not preference to unionists in the Public Service. There was never greater contentment in the Public Service than when the Labour Government, under the National Security Regulations, extended that preference to the Public Service. I witnessed some very peculiar things at that time. There were quite a number of public servants who called themselves conscientious objectors. I do not think such people are always sincere, but if they are sincere I agree that they should have the right to object. Public Service conditions improved under the Labour Government during the war and the stage was reached where the substantial increase of 25 per cent, on margins was extended to the Public Service. Strange to say, officers who occupied the highest positions were the meanest in their contributions towards unionism, because they thought they were above it.
– They were too proud.
– They were too proud. The 25 per cent, increase of margins was based on the basic wage as it was in 1939. It was then £216 per annum. Some of the “ tall poppies “ in the Public Service whose incomes were approximately £1,000 and £1,500 above the basic wage and who were amongst those who objected to unionism received £250 to £300 and they were glad to join the union. They very quickly forgot about their sensitiveness as conscientious objectors. As a result of extending to the Public Service preference to unionists there was 100 per cent, union membership and the union obtained better results than it had ever obtained before.
I understand that the Government contemplates amending the regulation that gives to public servants quarterly basic wage adjustments. There are 150,000 people in the Public Service. Honorable members on this side of the House were fairly certain where the Government stood but now the Government is going to make certain where it stands. It seems that the Government does not disagree with the decision of the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration to cancel the quarterly adjustments. I think the Government is strictly in favour of that step and that it is going to bring down amending legislation to deprive those 150,000 public servants of their quarterly adjustments.
– It is an Executive interference with the functions of the Commonwealth Public Service Arbitrator.
– It is. I now wish to refer to the national debt. I note that since the financial year ended on the 30th June, 1952, the national debt has increased by approximately £167,000,000. That is a very serious increase. I have noted particularly that the Government lias not taken that into account at any time. I know that there is a National Debt Sinking Fund ‘ Commission, but despite that, the national debt is assuming very serious proportions. The amount owing in Australia is approximately £3,019,000,000, the amount owing in London is approximately £353,000,000 and the amount owing in the United States of America is approximately £60,000,000. The amount owing in London has been owing for a very long time. I believe that a portion of the debt is over 100 years old. It is time that some government paid attention to this matter because the payment of interest on the debt is a continuous drain upon our economy. Our total national debt is equal to £390 a head of population and the interest payable on it is over £100,000,000 a year. The fact that the Government has permitted interest rates to rise will worsen the position. I hope that the Finance Ministers will discuss this subject at their meeting next year. In New South Wales the amount of interest payable annually on loans that have been raised for the financing of the transport system is £6,000,000. The exchange that must be paid on that amount increases it to £8,000,000.
Conversation being audible,
– Order ! The debate across the table is out of order. The honorable member for Perth (Mr. Tom Burke) and the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Eric J. Harrison) must be silent.
– The Government represents the investment brokers. Consequently it is encouraging the rise in interest rates. If those rates rise much higher our economy will drift into an irreparable state. When the Labour Government is returned to office next year it will be able to give this matter attention. I understand that a portion of the overseas debt bears interest at the rate of 5 per cent., so that the amount of the debt would be repaid in the form of interest in twenty years. We have repaid this portion of our debt three or four times yet Ave still owe the original amount. The Government should endeavour to free the country from this iniquitous imposition which affects the housing position, as well as transport finances. The building of dwellings is dependent upon public borrowing. By permitting the rate of interest to rise the Government has added at least £400 to the cost of each home. As a result, many people will never get the homes that the Government promised to provide before it was elected to office in 1949. Because of its failure to proceed with its national development policy, the Government has had. to reduce the number of immigrants coming to Australia. If the Government gave proper attention to national development this country would be able to absorb a. much larger number of immigrants. More money should be found for land settlement. We can only populate this country by developing our resources and settling more people on the land.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- I rise to support the motion for the adoption of the Address-in-Reply. In common with other honorable members
I should like to comment on the first important fact that was revealed in the Speech of His Excellency the GovernorGeneral. I refer to the visit of Her Majesty the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh to Australia next year. I endorse the sentiments that have beer expressed by other honorable gentlemen in connexion with this matter. There is a profound and an abiding affection in this country for the Royal Family. This will be the first time that a reigning monarch has come to Australia. That is a point of historical significance that is worth mentioning. The place of the Monarch in the life of this country is well known and deeply appreciated by all British peoples. In 1940, the place that the Monarch occupied in the hearts and the way of life of the British people was illustrated in classical fashion. The German Fuhrer had to find refuge and comfort in a hideout in Berchtesgaden but the British Monarch shared with his subjects in London the full blitz of the German Luftwaffe. At no time at the peak of the blitz did King George the Sixth or the then Queen leave the people of London. The memory of the Monarch visiting the bombed areas of London will be carried in the minds and hearts of the British people for a long time. These thoughts will be with many Australians when Her Majesty the Queen comes to visit Australia next year.
I shall now pass to the reference that was made in the Governor-General’s Speech to the peace in Korea.. Some opinions have been expressed in this House to the effect that no veal security will arise from the armistice in Korea. I do not believe that the armistice in Korea will be worth anything if the policy of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics makes it necessary for war to commence again in Korea or anywhere else. In order to obtain a clear picture of the people who make Union of Soviet Socialist Republics policy in the Kremlin one can do no better than talk to many of the new Australians who have come to this country, in particular those who have come from the Baltic States. It is my firm conviction that these people, who can very graphically explain to Australians the sort of events that take place when there is a change of policy on the part of the Kremlin, will bring home very clearly the essential facts of life to those who hope that some form of lasting peace can be achieved by conferences with those who move in accordance with the manipulations of the Kremlin. Australia’s future as far as Asia is concerned is of enormous importance and significance. Our actions to-day may very easily have a vast influence on whether the young children growing up at the present time will marry and live in a completely white community or in a community vastly different from that which we have at present. Because I believe that the best way to prepare for peace is to prepare for war, I want to make it clear that I do not believe for one moment that any thought of peace by negotiation with people in the Kremlin is worth anything at all. World peace can be established only by the democracies being so well prepared that those who would like to attack them refrain from so doing because they fear that they may not be able to wage an aggressive war to a successful conclusion. That is the sensible and logical thought that emerges from what I have called the facts of life based on the history of mankind over the last 3,000 or 4,000 years. Because I believe that it is vital for this Parliament to take, as this Government has done, the necessary action to assure the heritage of this country for Australians yet unborn, I say that we must, at all times, be prepared for war in order to establish peace.
Two matters were referred to by the honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Edmonds) yesterday with which I should like to deal. They were the decision of the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration in the wages and hours case and compulsory unionism. In dealing with the latter matter the honorable member said that he had been told that the Law Institute was a classic illustration of compulsory unionism in the legal profession.
– That is complete rubbish !
– I remind the honorable member for Herbert that only by a complete appreciation and statement of the facts can we bring people to see the truth clearly. In New South Wales the legal profession is divided into two branches, which cover barristers and solicitors. Barristers have an association called the Bar Association, membership of which is entirely voluntary. Solicitors have an association called the Law Institute. It was that association to which the honorable member referred. Until recent years membership of the Law Institute was entirely voluntary; but shortly before the war a fund for the protection of solicitors’ clients against misappropriation of trust funds by defaulting solicitors was established by statute. Under the law solicitors who practise on their own account are obliged to subscribe a considerable amount of money each year to insure the public against fraudulent actions by the black sheep of the legal profession. The Law Institute was made the administrative authority for the scheme, and therefore membership of the institute was made compulsory for solicitors who practise as principals - that is to say, solicitors who practise on their own account and are not employed by another solicitor or firm of solicitors. The Law Institute is not a trade union. Membership of the institute is compulsory only because the public must be guarded.
– It is the same thing as compulsory unionism.
– It is not the same thing at all. The statement which I have made on this matter completely refutes the most improper references of the honorable member for Herbert yesterday afternoon.
Voluntary unionism has proved of enormous value to Australia. The arbitration system has brought to the less privileged workers who are, let us assume, in the majority, economic security and a position which their fathers at the turn of the century would never have dreamed to be possible. I have heard the former right honorable member for Macquarie, the late Mr. Chifley, the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Clarey), and others who have had a long association with trade unions in Australia, make such a statement again and again. I do not believe that any rational Opposition member would question the truth of my contention that, at the turn of the century, those who took a prominent part in trade unions would have scarcely conceived; that, in a period of 50 years, such an enormous improvement in the conditionsof the less privileged workers could be achieved. The voluntary unionist, by virtue of the fact that he is a volunteer,, is essentially more powerful than would be a conscript unionist. That fact can be illustrated in many ways. During thewar the volunteer in the services possessed, with some degree of pride, an independence which was denied to the conscript. The spirit of the volunteer is one of the characteristics which led to thedevelopment of initiative for which Australians are supposed to be so famous. If the proposal for compulsory unionism is adopted the voluntary unionist will be nomore important and of no more significance than the unionist who is conscripted into a union under the compulsion of the law. One result of the adoption of compulsory unionism will be the destruction of the significance, the independence, the importance and the value of the voluntary unionist who is already a member of a union. No fewer than 400,000 workers will be affected by this proposal, including clerks, shop assistants and rural workers. It is my view that they will regard compulsion to joina union as an evil. I merely reiterate the views of honorable members on this side of the House when I say that compulsory unionism will not meet with the approval of the majority of rational, sensiblethinking people in New South Wales. The Australian Council of Trades Unions presented a case before the Commonwealth Arbitration Court last year which was in direct variance with the story that is being told in this House by the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt), the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) and the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward). Obviously, there is a distinct cleavage between the Australian Council of Trades Unions and the Australian Labour party.
The truth of the matter is that the Australian Labour party has evolved this means of obtaining more funds. It proposes to use compulsory unionism as a completely vulgar and improper method of obtaining money. In the process, it may destroy the trade unions. I think that when the unions appreciate that fact they will see compulsory unionism in its proper perspective. Honorable members will recollect that yesterday the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett), referred to the view which has been expressed by that most distinguished Labour man and one-time member of this Parliament, Mr. J. T. Lang. When the trade unionists consider this matter in its true light they will appreciate that the political party which professes to represent them is engaged in a form of highway robbery. It is endeavouring to obtain money for political ends and not for the benefit of unionists at all.
I come now to the decision of the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration, which was referred to repeatedly by the honorable member for Bants (Mr. Costa) who pursued the usual policy of honorable members opposite and accused honorable members on this side of the chamber, including the honorable member for Petrie (Mr. Hulme), of representing sectional interests. I suggest that if there is an organization in this country which is a classical example of sectional representation it is the Australian Parliamentary Labour party. That party has never been anything other than a body which represents sectional interests in this place. If the amazing statements of the honorable member for Banks are to be rationalized, they must be brought to the level of common sense, although it will be somewhat difficult to bring them to that point. When the honorable member stated that the Government should take steps to do something about the decision of the court, he indicated that he has never read the Constitution of the Commonwealth, and does not understand the way in which it was framed. If he had done so, he would have an appreciation of the distribution of responsibilities referred to in that document. In my opinion some member of the Opposition should explain those matters to the honorable member, for his own benefit.
As I have already said, the arbitration system has resulted in even the least privileged workers of Australia becoming prosperous and attaining a standard of living which, 50 years ago, would have been considered unattainable. For that reason, I think that we can say fairly that the sensible trade unionists support the arbitration system. This Government supports the Commonwealth Arbitration Court, and will continue to stand by it. The supporters of the Government believe that if they do not support the decisions of the court, the whole arbitration system may be destroyed. The system must be maintained. Speaking in a sporting sense, when the umpire rules against us we should have sufficient sporting instinct to accept the decision in the interests of the team as a whole. I think that honorable members opposite have lost sight of that elementary principle. Their colleagues in the State governments are endeavouring, for purely party political reasons, to bring about a situation in which it will appeal- that such and such a premier is protecting the workers in his State from the evils of the court’s decision. When the matter is stated in that way, it is possible to appreciate the terrible thing that is being done by those who are attack.ing the arbitration system.
.- The Opposition supports most strongly the remarks made in the Address-in-Reply concerning loyalty to Her Majesty the Queen, and congratulations on her recent coronation. Honorable members on this side of the House hope that her reign will be blessed with peace and prosperity, not only in the British Empire, but also throughout the world. If the Address-in-Reply had gone no further than such expressions, it would have been laudable. I have been a member of the Parliament for approximately nineteen years and I have heard the presentation of a number of Addresses-in-Reply. In my opinion, the remainder of the most recent Address-in-Reply is puerile. It contains no promises and outlines nothing of a progressive character in which the Government proposes to engage. It holds out to the people no hope at all of relief from the economic chaos with which the country is at present beset.
The honorable member for St. George (Mr. Graham) went to considerable trouble to explain to the House that compulsory unionism exists in the legal profession in New South Wales, as well as in other States. I suggest that he should have gone a little further and explained the way in which compulsory unionism also exists in the medical profession.
– I rise to a point of order. The honorable member for Darling (Mr. Clark) has deliberately misrepresented my remarks.
-Order ! The honorable member has not raised a point of order or anything remotely connected with one.
– I was merely dealing with the point of view expressed by the honorable member. He may express a different view at a later stage if he wishes to do so. The Incorporated Law Institute of New South Wales is no different from a trade union, nor is the British Medical Association. Barristers and medical practitioners must either , belong to the relevant organization or be unable to practice. I think that the honorable member might have stated that fact to the House.
The Minister for Immigration (Mr. Holt), who spoke earlier this morning, referred to the lack of leadership from which he claims the Australian Labour party is at present suffering. During the years, I have seen a number of leaders of the Australian Labour party. In my opinion the present Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) is giving great leadership to the nation. He came to this Parliament from the High Court of Australia because of his enthusiastic wish to do something in a practical way for the people of Australia. He has achieved great success in the councils of the world, particularly in the United Nations. His record with that organization is an outstanding one. I had the privilege to be in the United States of America in 1947 when the right honorable gentleman arrived in that country to attend a conference of the United Nations. The press comments concerning him which I read were couched in terms only a little less respectful than those which American journalists use when speaking about the American President. That was due to the stand which the right honorable gentleman had taken in dealing with the problems which confronted the United Nations. He is a man of high idealism, with a logical and constructive mind. When he leaves this Parliament - and I hope that he will be here for many years to come: - his name will be remembered as that of a man with a record of great achievement for the people of Australia. The Australian Labour party is fortunate to be led by a man of such ability and determination.
The economic position of the country was also referred to by the Minister for Immigration. He claimed that the economic security which exists in Australia to-day is out of all proportion to that of other times. In my opinion it is out of proportion because our economic circumstances at the present time are unsound. People are living in economic fear. Our economy began to drift when this Government came into office, and it has drifted ever since. Many people engaged in commerce and industry are wondering what to-morrow holds in store for them. The Minister claimed that many jobs are vacant, yet considerable numbers of people are unemployed. In addition,, many other people have been forced from their usual avocations to other avenues of employment at substantially reduced rates of pay. Australia is passing through a period of economic instability. The present pattern of events is similar to that of the depression in the 1930’s. However, at that, time, the Parliament had the courage to take a stand on the issue of reductions of wages and pensions. This Government has not shown a similar degree of courage, but has slunk behind the back of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court. The Government has endeavoured to get the court to do the job that it is not prepared to do, which is to reduce the living’ standards of the1 people.
– The Government h;is capitulated.
– The Government has certainly taken shelter in a coward’s castle, and has got the court to do the job that it is not, itself, prepared to do. By that means, the Government has reduced the standard of living of the workers. The prices of meat and bread, which are two staple items of diet, have increased since the court decided to peg the basic wage. It is most unfortunate that the Government has adopted this policy. The worker was called upon to bear the brunt of the sacrifice during the depression in the early 1930’s, when the government of the day tried to restore economic stability.
– The worker was called upon by the Seullin Labour Government to bear the brunt of the sacrifice.
– The Menzies Government is calling upon the workers to-day to make a similar sacrifice. The Government did not possess quite enough courage to refuse to increase pensions during this financial year, but considered that it could probably get away with the miserable increase of 2s. 6d. a week. The battler on the basic wage, and. the recipient of social services, are to bear the brunt of the sacrifice required to restore economic stability.
– The Scullin Labour Government reduced pensions in 1930.
– Order ! Interjections are disorderly.
– I decided to seek election to the Parliament during the depression because of the policy adopted by the government of the day to reduce the living standards of the people in an endeavour to restore economic stability. The Menzies Government is now following a similar pattern, and will ultimately suffer the .penalty for doing so. I warn the people that the .attitude of this Government to the economic situation is exactly the same as that of the government of the day during the depression in the 1930’s. Wages are virtually pegged. In those circumstances, prices should also be pegged. This morning, the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) was asked whether the Government would take action to peg prices, and, as usual, he tried to evade his responsibility by. claiming that the Commonwealth did not possess constitutional power to control prices. I remind the House that when the Chifley Labour Government asked the people at a referendum to confer such power upon this Parliament, the present Prime Minister and his colleagues loudly advised them to reject the proposal. The Government, when it claims that prices control should be exercised by the States, is endeavouring to avoid its responsibility, and pass the buck to State governments and their instrumentalities. This Parliament should be prepared to accept the responsibility for prices control. Keen and sound government cannot be obtained unless the Parliament is fully responsible to the people. This Parliament, under the leadership of the Menzies Government, is evading its responsibility to the people. The only solution of the present difficulty is for us to seek wider powers for this Parliament to deal with national problems on a national basis. We should not try to evade our responsibilities as has been done in the past.
Sitting suspended from 12.4-5 to 2.15 p.m.
– Before the sitting was suspended, I was speaking of the effect upon the economy of inflation and the chaos that has developed under the present Government during the past four years. The policy that the Government is now pursuing will place burdens upon the less fortunate members of the community who are living on or below the basic wage standard. I warn the Government that by reducing the spending power of the people, it is hurting not only those who are on the basic wage, but also indirectly every section of the community. The businessmen will discover that their turnover is smaller because of the reduced spending power of the workers. Similarly those who are in professional walks of life will be adversely affected. The primary producers’ markets will be less profitable because consumers will not be able to pay a fair and reasonable price for their products. At present many of the prices are extremely unreasonable because of the inflationary policy of the Government and the resultant high cost of production. The Government’s plan to cure economic ills in a negative fashion is based upon wrong premises and many sections of the community will not appreciate the Government’s actions as the effect of them becomes more widely spread.
As an example of the result of the Government’s policy in trying to extract itself from its predicament, I have a letter which I received recently from the Department of Social Services. It is very enlightening. The person referred to in the letter has been unemployed since the 30th. March last and is in receipt of the unemployment benefit. The Government has been unable to find this man employment through its instrumentalities. If it could do so, he would not be seeking unemployment relief. He receives in unemployment benefit the princely sum of 10s. a week. He is receiving that amount because his wife is an invalid pensioner and the payment that he would receive has been reduced because of the income of his wife. His wife’s income consists entirely of the invalid pension. I thought that the invalid pension was little enough to, maintain a person, but this Government expects a woman to maintain herself and her unemployed husband on the pittance that is called an invalid pension. It is one of the most disgraceful cases that has been brought to my notice. The Department of Social Services has also admitted that this man was receiving unemployment benefit totalling 12s. 6d. a week before pensions were increased by 2s. 6d. a week. When his wife received an increase of 2s. 6d. a week in the invalid pension, the unemployed benefit paid to the husband was reduced from 12s. 6d. to 10s.
I direct the attention of honorable members to that case in support of my charge that the Government is placing hardship upon the workers and those who are in receipt of social service benefits in an endeavour to extract itself from the financial and economic chaos that has resulted from its policy. The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) is anxious to evade responsibility in these matters. He would like to see results achieved through some other instrumentality so that he can avoid responsibility. This morning the right honorable gentleman was asked to take some action to deal with rising prices and he replied that the Government had not the power to do so. If he were sincere and if he believed that control of prices should be achieved on a national basis, which is the only logical way to do it, he should have asked for the required powers. Certainly the Government should not have endeavoured to cut the wages of the workers while increasing the cost of primary products and other commodities that the people require to sustain life. This policy of passing the buck is not a new one where this Government is concerned. It seeks to evade responsibility and have powers vested in other authorities so that it can take advantage of the situation. I was alarmed recently upon reading of the proposed agreement that the Australian Government intends to enter into with the Governments of New South Wales and Victoria in connexion with the construction of the Snowy Mountains hydroelectric project. Honorable members have heard much about the effects of the right of veto in the Security Council of the United Nations. We have been told that it is wrong for a country to take advantage of the right of veto as Russia has done and so prevent the Security Council from putting proper decisions into effect. This Government is trying to use the same principle in the economics of Australia. It proposes to enter into an agreement with New- South Wales and Victoria under which either of the three parties can veto any new section of the Snowy Mountains scheme. I remember when the measure enabling the Snowy Mountains scheme to be started was introduced into the Parliament. It was stated then that endeavours had been made over a period of 60 years to get some scheme of the kind started. We had not been able to begin it because it had been impossible to get agreement between New South Wales and Victoria.
All honorable members and those who are interested in Australian politics know that it is almost impossible to get unanimous agreement among the States upon any issue of a major character, particularly if it affects varying interests in different States as the Snowy Mountains hydro-electric project will do. The Government’s decision to establish the right of veto under which it will be possible for one party to the agreement to prevent work of a national character being done is criminal. One section will be able to object to a particular phase of the scheme, and’ another section will be able to veto something else. This is the Government’s way of trying to knock a great project on the head because it is jealous of the achievement of the Australian Labour party in beginning such a valuable enterprise.
I believe that the Australian Government should take a greater interest in primary and secondary education throughout Australia. Large numbers of immigrants are entering the country and as the population grows the Government has a greater responsibility in connexion with education. I am pleased to note that the Government proposes to continue assistance through the University scholarships that were initiated by a previous Labour government. That was a step in the right direction and I should like to see more assistance given to the universities in all States, because I believe that a high standard of education, in both the technical and academic spheres, is essential to the progress and welfare of Australia. The nation can progress only according to the enlightenment of its citizens. Strong requests have been made by the New South Wales Teachers’ Federation to the Australian Government to make more money available to the States for the improvement of educational facilities and schools. This is a matter of major importance. I should like to see the Government take the appeal seriously and make a greater amount of money available for that purpose. Only if the Commonwealth enters the field and makes more money available for the building of schools and the training and adequate payment of teachers can we achieve the standards that we hope to attain.
Another subject that has been discussed at length during this debate is the proposal to introduce compulsory unionism in New South Wales. Newspapers and politicians have indulged in a lot of cheap talk about the State Government’s plan. They have condemned compulsory unionism and said that it will seriously affect the economic and social welfare of the people of New South Wales. I remind Government supporters and other critics of the proposal that compulsory unionism has been in force in Queensland for about 30 years. Queensland has prospered under the system, and both the Labour party and the anti-Labour parties in that State now support it as a part of their established policies. They realize the benefits that accrue to industry generally, as well as to the workers, from the system. I represent in this House the electorate of Darling, which includes the great city of Broken Hill. Compulsory unionism has applied in Broken Hill for many decades, and it has operated most satisfactorily in the interests of everybody concerned. I have often heard people refer to Broken Hill as an outstanding example of a successful industrial system. Strikes in that city are virtually unknown. There is more harmony between employers and employees there than anywhere else. The system has produced noteworthy economic and industrial progress. Under compulsory unionism, the trade unions have control over the workers and are able to prevent foolish stoppages and disturbances. The employers in Broken Hill, too, operate on the same basis as the trade unions, and the result is that the two elements are able to work in harmony. Every worker at Broken Hill is eligible for membership of a trade union, and business premises are obliged to employ only men and women who are financial members of trade unions. I have had the great privilege of representing Broken Hill in this Parliament for about nineteen years. Compulsory unionism operated in that city even before I was elected. It has been successful, and it still is successful. I am convinced that, when the system is established throughout New South Wales, it will continue to be successful in the wider sphere and will operate for the benefit of all concerned. I should like the Australian Government to introduce the system throughout the Commonwealth, but I realize that there is little hope of that at present. The time allotted to me has almost expired, and I conclude by urging the Government strongly to adopt the recommendations that I have made and to give careful attention to my comments. I hope that, as a result of speeches made by members of the Opposition in this debate, the Government will be more considerate to citizens on the lowest rungs of the social ladder.
– I wish to make a personal explanation, Mr. Speaker. As you know, I preceded the honorable member for Darling (Mr. Clark) in this debate. When the honorable gentleman rose, he said deliberately that I had gone to great lengths to indicate that the legal profession in New South Wales, in particular the Law Institute, provided a perfect example of compulsory unionism. That is directly opposed to everything that I said. I obtained a statement of the facts from a member of the legal profession and I read it very carefully and clearly to the House. The honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Whitlam) did not contradict me, and I refer the honorable member for Darling to his learned colleague. I regard the statement that he made as a blatant misrepresentation of the facts as I carefully outlined them, and as an absolute distortion of the truth. The record will show that I carefully explained that it would be utter, arrant nonsense to relate compulsory unionism to the legal profession in New South Wales.
– I wish to make a personal explanation.
– Order ! The honorable member may not do so when he is not occupying his proper place in this chamber.
.- Like other honorable members who have spoken, I am glad to have the opportunity to associate myself with the AddressinReply to the Governor-General’s Speech and to express, on behalf of myself individually and the political party of which I am a member, both loyalty and devotion to our monarch and delight at her impending visit to Australia. Unfortunately, the tenor of the debate contrasts violently with the sentiment associated with that happy event, and, much as I regret the necessity, I must deal with some of the statements that have been made by members of the Opposition. I understand the kind of attack that the Labour party is now making on the freedom of the people so well that I shall take the opportunity to explain the reasons for it. It is generally recognized in this place that Her Majesty the Queen is not only the symbol but also the protector of traditional British freedom. 1 regret that in this part of her realm she will be faced by the fact that a major political force is advocating a course of action that, if carried into effect, will deny to free British people their right to be the arbiters of their own destinies. I refer to the proposed sovietization, or regimentation, of the whole work force of Australia.
The trade unions demand that every man shall be made to join one of their organizations. They contend that every1body who refuses to join a trade union should not be allowed to work. If a man cannot find work, he cannot buy food; if he cannot buy food, he must die.
– The world would be a better place.
– Order ! The honorable member for Wills must remain silent.
– Honorable members opposite do not like the truth, Mr. Speaker. The attitude of the Labour party on this issue reminds me of the prediction in the Scriptures of a future period in the world’s history when all people who do not wear a brand described as the mark of the beast will be allowed neither to buy nor to sell. That prediction means, in effect, that people who do not carry the brand must starve to death.
Mr. Tom Burke interjecting,
– The Labour party is trying to anticipate that unhappy prediction in Revelations. They want to be able to say to the worker, “ Join a trade union or die “.
Mr. Bryson interjecting,
– Order ! I. shall not allow the House to become disorderly. I ask honorable members to cease interjecting.
– The Labour party wants to force every worker to join a trade union. In other words, it intends that every man who fails to comply with its1 wishes shall die, because men who are not able to work cannot buy food and must starve. The retrograde action proposed by the Government of New South Wales involves a denial of the traditional rights of British men and women to determine their own way of life. That Government merely wants to anticipate the unhappy era predicted in the Scriptures when men who do not bear the mark of the beast will be allowed neither to buy nor to sell, and therefore must die. In New South Wales and Queensland, Labour feels that it is reasonably secure and, invariably, when that happens
Labour governments become arrogant and contemptuous of the rights of every one who does not agree with them. That is the position to-day in those two States. I warn the people of Australia to realize in the months that are still left to them before the next general election that if they place Labour in office in the federal sphere it will be completely contemptuous of the rights and aspirations of the individual and will force people to do what may be foreign to their nature. Labour will act on the principle of no work, no food, no life. That is what Labour is proposing to the community to-day. I again warn the public to watch between now and the next general election this leaderless, bits and pieces organization. If the people return Labour to office and that party carries out the policy which is being carried out so blatantly by the State governments in New South Wales and Victoria, their fate will be on their own beads.
One hears a new note in the speeches that are made to-day by members of the Australian Labour party. In a way, I sympathize with honorable members opposite because, having been in Opposition myself, I know how difficult it is for an Opposition to make a case to defeat a government which has pleased the people of Australia as a whole. However, honorable members opposite have adopted a. new line of attack. They have been humiliated because their propaganda has been falsified, by events. Their predictions of unemployment, inflation running wild and overwhelming industrial strife have been knocked over one by one until, to-day, the best-informed section of the community looks with contempt upon propaganda of the Australian Labour party.
– What hopeless twaddle.
– Order ! The honorable member for Wills will apologize for making that remark.
– In deference to you, Mr. Speaker, I apologize.
-The honorable member will apologize without qualification.
– I apologize to you. Mr. Speaker;
– Whereas a few months ago, the hopes and aspirations of honorable members opposite were high, to-day they are directed to a remote future. For instance, in a recent byelection in Victoria, Labour made an issue of the digging of a drain somewhere in chat State. The Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) raised that matter as a national issue on that occasion. Needless to say, the digging of the drain had nothing whatever to do with Commonwealth authorities. Yet in the eyes of Labour that was the greatest issue that appeared on the national horizon during that by-election campaign. Like Micawber, honorable members opposite are still hoping that something will turn up to give them the opportunity to deceive the people and obtain a new lease of life at the next general election.
I turn now to Labour’s attempt to undermine the arbitration system in this country. 1 was surprised and disappointed that so well informed a gentleman as the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Clarey) could associate himself with this attack. The reasons for it are clear, and I shall mention some of them. If anybody else made an attack upon the Commonwealth Arbitration Court every honorable member opposite would be up in arms. Such a development would give them a shibboleth to use against the Government. But they would not tolerate for one moment anybody putting a hand upon the court. Consequently, they are making their attack upon the court for a specific purpose. The first point I make is that the recent judgment of the court knocked the props from under Labour’s old propaganda and blasted its old battle-cry, which we have heard with nauseating repetition, that the Australian Government has financially starved the States and that the latter have not sufficient money to build a. school, or even a weir. I shall give the facts. That cry has been kept up for years in Victoria. The State Government said that it did not have sufficient money to build a school because the Australian Government was starving it of loan funds. For years, representations have been made to the State Government to construct a diversion weir for the purpose of developing a very fertile area in which such a work would increase production out of recognition. The State Government refused to make funds available for that work, which was estimated to cost £250,000. At the same, time, however, that Labour Administration, seeing a chance to wreck the economy, immediately made available the sum of £600,000 for the purpose of defying the judgment of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court. Such action is all the more reprehensible when we realize that the increases of costs which led the court to make its decision, have resulted from bungling on the part of State instrumentalities. For instance, under prices control, the cost of potatoes rose to £140 a ton, whilst control by a State body resulted in transport costs rising beyond recognition. The increase of cost of practically every commodity was brought about as a result of control by State instrumentalities. But, whilst the State Labour Government of Victoria is prepared to make available the sum of £600,000 in order to defeat the decision of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court, it claims that it cannot make one penny available for the purpose of building a school because the Australian Government will not make sufficient finance available to it. I have never heard such nonsense in my life. Another reason for Labour’s present attack upon the Commonwealth Arbitration Court is the maintenance of the old battle-cry of that now moribund party. Not long ago, honorable members opposite proclaimed that the Government had failed miserably to check inflation, that it had failed to stabilize the economy, that the inflationary spiral was still rising and that wages were chasing costs like horses on a merry-go-round. Honorable members opposite have now lost their old battle-cry about the Government’s failure to put value back into the £1. But whilst members of the Australian Labour party in this Parliament are helpless to do anything about that matter, they know that they can rely for action on their colleagues in the States. In their view, costs must continue to rise so that when the next general election comes around they can claim that this Government has failed te halt inflation. For that reason they are now prepared to attack the arbitration system although, for the last 40 years, they claimed that they would try to make it work effectively. Honorable members opposite have not said one word about the fact that in 1951 the Commonwealth Arbitration Court increased the basic wage by an amount of 50s., which had no relation to the C series index. But when the employers attempted to persuade the court to adjust the basic wage in respect of that increase, the trade unions successfully fought the application in the court. The court refused to rescind that increase. Let us not forget that it had no relation to the cost of living or the G series index. Honorable members opposite had nothing to say about that decision of the court, but they say that the recent decision to suspend quarterly adjustments of the basic wage is an attack by the court on the wages of the workers. They have suggested even that this Government engineered it. We arc much less likely to try to interfere with the jurisdiction of the court than are honorable members opposite. The Labour party, bereft of ideas, is desperately clutching at anything that may help it to deceive the public further and give it a new lease of life before the next general election. I am sorry for the members of the Opposition. They are in a bad position.
– The honorable member will feel sorry for himself next May.
– If every member of the Opposition came into my electorate during the election campaign, I should stay at home and win by a bigger majority than ever before. I regard the introduction of compulsory unionism as an attack on the traditional freedom that is the inherent right of every man and woman born under the Union Jack. The Labour party takes the view that no-one in this country should have the right to choose whether he will join a trade union, but must obey the edicts of the gentlemen who stand at the head of trade unions.
Honorable members interjecting,
– Order ! I gave the House a warning a few minutes ago, but interjections have continued. It seems that certain honorable gentlemen are determined to disobey, the Standing Orders and defy my authority. If that be so, we shall settle the matter very quickly.
– A possible result of the introduction of compulsory unionism would be a move to establish free unions - unions free from the- coercion, of governments. In. that event, the state of affairs would be worse than it is to-day.
Let me refer to something that has been done by _ the Premier of Victoria - a State which I love and which deserves something better than it is getting at the moment. I mention this matter only because of what will flow from that action. I refer to the vandalism practised against little Tasmania. It is nothing, less than vandalism. The major portion of the internal revenue of Tasmania is derived from a certain, organization but - this shows the lack, of unity in the Labour party - the Premier of Victoria, one of the colleagues of the Premier of Tasmania, arranged secretly for that organization to leave Tasmania and. go to Victoria, for the demoralization and debauchery of the people of that State. If Tasmania’s revenue were reduced by £2,000,000 a year because of the loss of this organization, it would ask the Commonwealth Grants Commission to make up the loss, and the commission would be bound to do so. Where would the money come from ? All the taxpayers in Australia would, be taxed further because an organization had been filched by the Premier of Victoria, for the aggrandizement of Labour in that State. Every taxpayer should realize that some of the taxes that he pays may be used to compensate Tasmania for the loss of this organization.
I reiterate my pleasure at being able to express my own and my party’s loyalty to Her Majesty the. Queen and our delight at her impending- visit. I regret that I had to go off the beaten track to reply to some of the stuff that has emanated: from our friends on the Opposition benches.
.- Although I have to catch an aeroplane early to-morrow morning, I do not think I shall have to set my alarm clock tonight. Having^ listened to the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Bowden) paint a word picture of men walking round the country with the mark of the beast on their foreheads and dying in thousands, I am sure I shall have a sleepless night. The honorable member for Angas (Mr. Downer), having paid lip service to Her Majesty the Queen, went on to say that we should forget the Balfour Declaration and throw out the Statute of Westminster. Having eulogized, the Queen, he immediately attacked Her Majesty’s Government. That part of the speech of the honorable member reminded me of the famous incident in the House of Commons when Oliver Cromwell strode into the chamber and, referring, to the Mace, said,; “ Throw out that bauble “. The honorable member for Angas said that we should throw out the Statute of Westminster and forget the Balfour Declaration. The patriotism of the honorable member is the kind of patriotism with which Brutus disguised his attack on Caesar. The honorable member’s remarks were uttered in the dulcet tones heard in Oxford or on the banks of the river Cam, but they were quite revolutionary. They were remarks of the kind that one would expect to emanate from Soviet Russia. He urged, us to throw out something that gave liberty to the people of Australia and enabled us to become a nation. The Statute of Westminster is of vital importance to Australia, but a supporter of the Government, having talked about his loyalty to the Queen, made a violent attack on. it.
It is very difficult for members of the Opposition and also, I believe, for some of the members of the Government parties, to find out what the policy of the Government really is. The honorable member for Angas advocated centralization, but I read in this- morning’s press that the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) said last night that it would be bad for Australia if all power were centralized here. Does the honorable member for Angas or the Prime Minister control the policy of the Government? Nobody seems to know who is in charge of the Government. It is a leaderless legion. We know that private members’ of the Government parties have no say in government policy and that Cabinet Ministers do not consult them. I take this opportunity to declare my allegiance to the Queen. I do so as an Australian. Her Majesty is the Queen of Australia and the head of the Commonwealth of Nations that the honorable member for Angas wants us to throw into the discard. I make no bones about my attitude to the principle of preference to unionists. From the factual, logical, and commonsense point of view there can be no argument against this principle. In Queensland there is a law providing that preference in employment must be given to exservicemen. I point out that most exservicemen arc from working class families and that practically 100 per cent, of them belong to the appropriate unions. Therefore, no problem arises there in connexion with preference to unionists. “We are told that membership of the law institutes is voluntary, but we all know that it would be fatal for any lawyer or barrister not to be a member. Unmistakably, the British Medical Association is a compulsory union. For instance, if a doctor is not a member of the British Medical Association, he is unable to obtain another doctor to administer an anaesthetic for him. I know of a mining village of about 4,000 people which, because it discharged a doctor, was refused the services of another doctor by the British Medical Association and patients had to be taken 20 miles for medical attention regardless of their condition. Some of them may have died as the result of the delay in obtaining medical attention.
I have consistently urged the Minister for Air (Mr. McMahon) to re-open the aerodrome at Mareeba in Queensland, but. he has refused to do so. The result is that instead of being able to refuel at Mareeba, ambulance aircraft have to fly direct to Cairns to take patients to hospital. Two such aircraft have crashed recently because they had insufficient fuel to reach Cairns. They would not have crashed had they been able to land at Mareeba. Several people have been killed and aircraft worth many thousands of pounds destroyed. Apparently in spite of my representations and in spite of the fact that the Minister has a civil aviation officer in the area to advise him, he is either too lackadaisical or is too overcome by lassitude to examine this matter and endeavour to do something to prevent this unnecessary loss of life. Every assistance should be given to doctors and ambulance men and others who are carrying out wonderful work in the back country of Australia looking after the health and welfare of the people. I am astounded and alarmed by the Minister’s failure to take advantage of the knowledge of his own officials in the northern regions of the Commonwealth. I level that criticism too at other Ministers who are concerned with defence preparations. An attack upon Australia in the not distant future is within the bounds of possibility, and it will come from the north. This Government’s failure to build up our northern defences will enable an enemy to establish bases in northern areas. Ministers may feel complacent about the remoteness of Sydney and Melbourne from any likely theatre of war in this country, but their complacency would be disturbed most violently if an enemy were able to establish bases in the north of this continent. There is an inclination to say, “What does the north matter? Only a few people live there. We are a long way from any likely hostile activity.” I repeat that I am astounded and alarmed by the failure of the Government to do anything for our north. I shall not argue about means of providing finance. I have no doubt that money can be provided for anything that is necessary for the development or defence of Australia. According to figures issued by the Commonwealth Bureau of Census and Statistics expenditure on new buildings and capital equipment in the second half of 1952 was £v ,700,000 less than in the previous half year. Undoubtedly, construction work was delayed by the lack of materials. There is a saying in Queensland, particularly in time of drought, that the crows are flying backwards to keep the dust out of their eyes. Apparently this Government is flying backwards to keep the dust out of its eyes. It is permitting the export of essential building materials despite shortages in this country for the construction of houses. This is a vital, matter. The scarcity of materials is an important factor in keeping building costs high. Surely it is only common sense that sufficient essential materials should be retained in the Commonwealth for our own needs. It is most noticeable that when export prices fall, materials become more plentiful in Australia although very often more than the export price has to be paid for them. On the other hand, when export prices are high, there is no consideration for the people of Australia, and manufacturers export as much as they can. To-day thousands of young couples, including large numbers of ex-service men and women are unable to obtain homes largely because many essential materials are being sent to other parts of the world. Mention was made at question time today of galvanized iron. We are given to understand that plenty of galvanized iron is being manufactured. However, I have received requests from every part of the north of Queensland for supplies of galvanized iron. Surely our own people are entitled to the first call on the products of this country, and only after we have supplied our own needs should any surplus products be sent to Great Britain and foreign countries.
The world is not at present too friendly towards the English-speaking people, and it is therefore vitally necessary that we should develop our country and build up our resources so that we shall ultimately be in a position to say to the rest of the world, “ You might not like us, but we a re able to stand on our own feet “. It is all very well to be charitable towards other nations, but we must make sure that we do not build up their resources at the expense of our own; because we are never able to feel sure that they will not join our enemies. Therefore, charity should begin at home. This Government has not only neglected the development of Australia, but it has also sold many of the Queen’s assets. For those actions it must answer to the people. In the days of Queen Elizabeth I., whenever her advisers displeased the Queen they were beheaded, f suggest that the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) is in the same position to-day as Sir Walter Raleigh was in his time, and the right honorable gentleman should therefore beware of the future. This Government has certainly sold the assets of the Queen to foreign countries.
– What are they? , Mr. BRUCE.- The Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited is one such asset. The ships of the Commonwealth shipping line engaged in the Pacific trade were also sold to a company. Moreover, we know nothing about the details of that transaction. The government shares in Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited were sold, but honorable members know nothing about that transaction either. Perhaps now that we are nearing a general election, the Government will be careful to make no further reference to the sale of the Commonwealth line of ships. At present a foreign company is removing large quantities of valuable timber from New Guinea. That company does not pay income tax, and through the action of this Government the people are being robbed of that timber.
– What about Hancock and Gore?
– A certain person was sent to gaol over the Hancock and Gore case, but that concern was a strong supporter of the Liberal party in Queensland. The Prime Minister and the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) handed the New Guinea timber over to a foreign company. Hancock and Gore offered £60,000, but I wonder how much somebody got out of this transaction concerning New Guinea timber. All the assets that the Government has disposed of are assets of the Queen. The members of this Government are continually swearing allegiance to the Queen, but during the whole of the time that they have been ia office they ha ve been dissipating her assets.
– Order ! The honorable member is now getting to a stage where he is using the name of the Queen in his argument. I cannot allow that. Expressions of loyalty to the Queen and references to her coming visit are in order, but whatever property of a government nature there is in Australia is the responsibility of the Australian Government. The Queen’s name must not be attached to it.
– I must accept your ruling, Mr. Speaker. I believe that if the assets of the Crown in Australia were, properly administered, this country could become the centre of the British Empire. A great .number of people, ‘both in Britain and Australia, are beginning to .realize that. Recently a representative of the British Government addressed honorable members of this Parliament. He informed us that Great Britain could not possibly spare any more people for emigration to other parts of the world, be cause it required all its people to maintain its activities in peace and to protect the country in time of war. The British Government has energetically developed all the industries of the United Kingdom, and it has paid particular attention to rural development. It has increased its primary production by breaking up large estates and utilizing the shooting areas of the aristocracy, and I suggest that Great Britain is now fully developed. However, we have large areas of land, a virile population, excellent climatic conditions and unlimited credit to carry on the development of the country. But the Government is doing practically nothing. There is not one item required by mankind that we do not produce in Australia, except oil.
-Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– In common with honorable members on both sides of this House, I echo the sentiments that were expressed by His Excellency, who made the keynote of his Speech our loyalty to Her Majesty. I think that everybody in Australia realizes the great importance of the singular event that will take place next year when, for the first time in the history of this .nation, a ruling Monarch will visit our shores. The Royal visit will emphasize the importance of Australia’s position in the great British Commonwealth of Nations, which is such a force for good and peace in the world to-day. It will also exemplify our fealty to the Crown. We should be intensely proud to belong to a nation which, through the wisdom of its people and the statesmanship of its leaders down the centuries, has evolved a true democratic system of government with its base firmly established in a common recognition of the leadership and example of the Crown. On behalf of the loyal people of Corangamite, whom I have the privilege to repre sent in this House, I -.echo the sentiments that have (been expressed, rand I have a thought, too, :for -that (great and loyal public man, -the late Allan McDonald, whose seat I now occupy in this House.
It would take -too long forme to correct the many misapprehensions that have been introduced into ‘the debate by the honorable member for Leichhardt (Mr. Bruce). During his speech I was reminded of the days of ancient Rome. When he referred to ‘the attack on Julius Caesar I ‘felt that he must have been thinking along the same lines as the artist who drew a cartoon depicting the modern version of ‘the treacherous attack on Caesar during “the palace revolution, which appears in to-day’s Sydney Morning Herald. He positively identified Caesar and Cassius, but did not include Brutus. However, it is not my purpose to address myself to the problems of honorable members opposite. We should get down to a consideration of subjects that concern the future of this great country. A part of His Excellency’s Speech of great significance dealt with development. I shall confine my remarks to the phase of development that I believe to be most important in connexion with the economy of Australian industry. On previous occasions I have referred to the extraordinary deterioration that has taken place in our road system. One would need to be blind not to realize that the main roads are crumbling. It is obvious that the future development of this country depends to a large degree on a good, well-equipped road system. This debate affords us an opportunity to examine the problem of road construction and maintenance, which is assuming serious proportions. To a degree, the bad condition of our roads is an aftermath of World War II. During the war period, sufficient money was not available for the purpose of keeping our roads in good repair. Our whole economy was devoted to the war effort. We are now paying the penalty of that neglect. Not only this Government, but also all other governments in Australia are aware of the seriousness of the position. The problem is causing grave concern to the hard-working and unselfish persons who have accepted municipal responsibility in this connexion.
I shall now examine the reason for the deterioration of our roads. There has been a tremendous increase of road usage. In consequence, our roads are now carrying .large tonnages at speeds that were never envisaged in the past. This is not a new problem. It has been revealed by discussions and investigations in the United States of America that the problem was first encountered during the ‘forties of this century, when it was found that roads that had been, constructed during, the depression period could not withstand the arduous strains to which they were submitted by modern transport. Naturally I am particularly interested in the position in Victoria, where deterioration of roads has been hastened by the very wet winters of the last two or three years. Considerable damage has been caused by floods. In addition,, there have been many subdivisions for the purpose of soldier settlement, and road, mileage has had. to be increased to serve the subdivided areas. I speak very feelingly on this subject, because there are probably more soldier settlement subdivisions in my electorate than in any other electorate in Australia. I have been closely associated with municipal councils in connexion with this matter, and- I appreciate fully the difficulties with which they are confronted. We cannot shut our eyes- to the deterioration of the roads, which, to a large degree, has been caused by overloads and excessive speeds. A survey that was conducted some years ago in the United States of America revealed that one solitary overloaded- vehicle, travelling at an excessive speed, could in one journey, cause £100 worth of damage to each mile of roadway that it traversed. Therefore, the subject of excess loading is very important. Several days ago I was standing alongside a concrete road in Footscray, a suburb of Melbourne, when an overloaded lorry passed at excessive speed. Although I was standing well off the carriageway, I felt the ground shudder. Obviously no road can stand up indefinitely to such traffic. Unless definite action is undertaken by the State authorities to enforce- the observance of speed limits. and to police the weight of loaded vehicles) our roads will crumble away, irrespective of the amount” of money that is expend,*d on their maintenance. I shall now briefly recapitulate the history of the petrol tax legislation.
For many years the Commonwealth has recognized the necessity to assist, the States in road construction andi maintenance, but it is not true to saythat import duties on petrol have been used entirely for the purpose of road construction and maintenance. When a sPirit and petrol tax was first levied in 1902, it was purely a revenue measure. In 1923 the Commonwealth recognized its responsibility by making grants from Consolidated Revenue. The next step was taken in 1926 when the first Commonwealth Aid Roads Agreement was entered into with the States. That agreement was for a period of five years and involved the expenditure of approximately £2,000,000 per annum, over the whole of Australia. At the conclusion of that agreement in 1931 another agreement, which involved approximately £14,000,000 over a period of six years, was signed”. “ Throughout succeeding years the moneys made available by the Commonwealth to the- States have been increased. In 1947 the Commonwealth Aid Roads and Works Act provided for the deduction from customs duties on petrol of 3d. a gallon on imported spirit and 2d. on locally refined spirit. That deduction yielded, over a period of three years,, approximately £53,500,000, which was made available to the States for road purposes. That represented 59.6” per cent, of the total money, collected as petrol tax.
When this Government assumed office after the 1949 election, it realized that the provision made was quite inadequate and it substantially increased the amount. In 1950 it increased the duty on imported spirit to 6d.. a. gallon and the duty on locally refined spirit to 3d. a gallon.. During the three years since that legislation was passed the Commonwealth has contributed to the States approximately £78,000,000 or the equivalent of 44.6. per cent, of the petrol tax collected. It will be seen that this Government; has recognized the need, to provide funds to the States for road construction and maintenance.
– Does the honorable member think that the percentage should be higher?
– I shall deal with that matter in due course. In the latest budget provision is made for a grant of £16,200,000, which is the largest sum yet made available, so it will be seen that the Commonwealth Government is fully alive to the situation.
Despite the payment of those huge sums and the availability of moneys through State agencies and from loan funds, it would be idle to suggest that our roads are not deteriorating. The position must be examined, particularly because of the fact that within the next two or three years a huge increase in Australia’s refining capacity will cause a serious reduction of the yield from the duty on imported spirit. It seems to me that Australia has two problems. It has the problem of road maintenance and also the problem of raising money which in the past has been obtained from duties on imported spirit.
How is this position to be rectified? Let me preface my suggestion by saying that I hope I am a good Victorian and also a good Australian Whilst many people in Victoria, and perhaps in some of the other States, think that, because a large portion of petrol tax is derived within the State, it should not be spent outside that State, I do not subscribe to that idea. If the Government were to adopt that idea, I think it would mean a complete negation of any policy for the development of outback areas. * The 1926 formula for the distribution of petrol tax revenue was based on the provision of 5 per cent, to Tasmania and a division of the balance among the other States in the proportions of threefifths as to population and two-fifths as to area. I think the time has arrived when the Government should examine that formula. I shall state my reasons for saying that. The main cause of road wear indisputably is road density, or the number of vehicles that use the mileage of roads within the State. It is quite obvious that, if the problem of road deterioration is to be solved, one of the factors that must be considered is road density. I suggest that at the conclusion of the current five-year period, or before that if the situation is forced upon the Government because of increased refining capacity, it should examine the 1926 formula. That is one logical way of finding a satisfactory solution of the problem. I suggest that, in addition to the factors of population and State areas, the formula should include a third factor based on the mileage of classified roads and the number of vehicles registered, that is, road density. Victoria has a road density of 36.5 vehicles per mile of classified roads as against 12.1 in Queensland and 7.6 in Western Australia. Under the last distribution Victoria received 17.4 per cent, of the Commonwealth assistance, Queensland 19.2 per cent, and Western Australia 19.2 per cent. Victoria, with a huge road density, and at certain times other problems, received less than the other States. While I would be the last to recommend that the area factor should be taken out of the formula, I think it is time that the factor of road density should be introduced.
The Government should attempt to get back to the original idea in 1926 that petrol tax should be devoted to road construction and maintenance. When the Minister for Health (Sir Earle Page), who was then Treasurer, introduced that legislation, he said, as reported in Hansard, volume No. 114, page 3950 -
The Commonwealth, therefore, is cooperating with the States in a national roads policy, and will impose special customs duties which will bc hypothecated for road construction. The imposition of these duties at the source will ultimately result in the road users paying this special tux proportionately to their use of the roads.
I suggest that prior to the expiry of the present agreement, or when the situation is forced on the Government because of increased refining capacity in Australia, the question of the allocation of petrol tax should be reviewed. If there is a continuation of the good administration of the Menzies Government we can reasonably assume that the finances of the country will be restored to a better level than at present and it would be reasonable to assume that the whole of the petrol tax could then be devoted to the purpose to which it was intended to devote it in 1926.
Other action necessary for the prevention of the deterioration of roads is the policing of tonnages hauled. The State authorities must make sure that the public assets are not permitted to depreciate. A far more strict examination should he made of axle loads and speeds, particularly in the case of long-distance haulage by heavy trucks. If such a course of action ls not successful it might even be necessary to impose some sort of weight-mileage toll such as that which exists in certain States of the United States of America. Australian State authorities have neglected their obligation to ensure that the fees that are extracted from vehicle registration and licensing are devoted wholly to road purposes. In Victoria the Government withholds from road purposes half of the licence-fees and all transfer-fees collected in respect of vehicles.
When local oil refineries come into operation the whole position will obviously require to be reviewed. The position of road funds will have to be examined in the light of decreased customs’ duty and increased excise duty. There is always a tendency to play party politics in relation to a matter of this kind. The Commonwealth Aid Roads Agreement has for some time been used as a political weapon, particularly in Victoria. It has been used in an endeavour to build up public feeling that Victoria should receive more money for the maintenance of its roads so that other moneys may be used for other purposes. But first things must be put first. It is far more important that millions of pounds should be expended on the maintenance and construction of roads than on the electrification of a certain well-known tram line in Melbourne. During the last three or four years, the State of Victoria has devoted enormous sums of money to assisting the State Electricity Commission. A percentage of that money could far better have been devoted to the maintenance and care of our roads. As I said before, first things must be put first. I put the problem of roads in a very high position and I feel that the subject should be dealt with by all governments because only in that way will it be possible to solve this problem. On behalf of my electorate I repeat my loyal sentiments regarding Her Majesty the Queen.
Mx-. MINOGUE (West Sydney) [3.40]. - In addressing my remarks.v to the Speech of His Excellency the Governor-General I desire to associate myself with previous speakers who have welcomed the announcement of the visit of Her Majesty the Queen to Australia next year. This visit will be appreciated by honorable members on this side of the House just as much as it will be appreciated by honorable members on the other side of the House. I sympathize with the Government because of the criticism to which it has been subjected in the press due to the fact that many towns in the Commonwealth will not be visited by Her Majesty the Queen. The honorable member for New England (Mr. Drummond) complained bitterly that Her Majesty would not visit Tamworth. One cannot blame the organizers of the. tour for the fact that Her Majesty will not visit many towns, ‘because they are doing their best and they probably had to work to a schedule. But when one considers that the leaders of State and Federal governments had an opportunity to meet the Queen three or four months ago one would think that they would have provided better opportunities for the people to see her. The people of my electorate of. West Sydney will have the honour of seeing a procession which will be 7 miles long. That procession will pass through the main streets of West Sydney and will give the ordinary people an opportunity to welcome Her Majesty. I feel that the Government has failed in its duty to do something on behalf of those poor people who will not be present at any banquet with the Queen. The Lord Mayor of Sydney has set aside a portion of his allowance in order to provide the people of Sydney with some entertainment on the occasion of the Royal visit. The municipality of Glebe has reserved’ a magnificent site in Parramatta-road from which the elderly people of West Sydney will be able to witness the procession. Similar action should be taken throughout the Commonwealth.
If the Governor-General’s Speech had not referred to the visit to Australia of Her Majesty the Queen it would have been the dullest speech that has ever been made in this Parliament. Throughout the country, there is nothing but dismay and disillusionment at what the Government has done. For three years and ten months honorable members have waited for a health and medical services bill to be presented to them. We have been promised all sorts of benefits by the Minister for Health (Sir Earle Page) who has gone all over the world telling the people of other countries what a good bill he was preparing. I shall not be too caustic towards the Minister before giving him his last opportunity to introduce this bill. He has been known in the past as the “ Tragic Treasurer “. He will be known in the future as the “ Tragic’ Minister for Health “ because I prophesy that the bill that he will introduce will not provide for the people who are most deserving of assistance. Under the existing health and medical benefits legislation sick people cannot receive hospital treatment unless they are in a position to pay for it before they receive the government benefit or the benefit from the insurance organization to which they belong. Under the Chifley Government’s scheme every sick man, woman and child in Australia was entitled to receive free hospital treatment in a public ward. Only those who were able to afford to pay for treatment in other wards were called upon to do so. Contrast the position that existed under the administration of the Chifley Government with the position that exists to-day when families are compelled to pay 5s., 6s. or 7s. a week to insure themselves against sickness and ill health but are hard put to it to find any benefits to which they are entitled for the payment of that money.
In this debate on the Address-in-Reply to the Governor-General’s Speech, Government supporters have invariably begun their speeches by referring to the impending visit to Australia of Her Majesty the Queen, and have then indulged in a tirade of abuse about the New South Wales Government for its proposal to introduce compulsory unionism. The next election will sound the death knell of the Liberal party in Australia. Government supporters know only too well the fate that is about to befall them. One would have thought that the Government, after having remained inactive for the three years and ten months it has been in office, would, even at this late stage, introduce beneficial legislation designed to stave off its impending doom. I notice that the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Joske) is shaking his head. He is an advocate in the courts of justice of this country. If this Government were brought before the bar of justice for breach of promise it would be immediately condemned because it has repeatedly made promises which it had no intention to honour. It will stand at the bar of justice when the general election is held about four months hence, and justice will then be done. Contrast the treatment meted out by the Government to war pensioners, war widows, the aged and the invalids in the community, v/ho have to exist on a pittance which represents but a fraction of the basic wage, with its treatment of the farmers, the woolgrowers and other wealthy sections of the community. The Governor-General in his Speech said -
The position regarding the supply of agricultural machinery, tractors, chemicals and fertilizers, such as superphosphate and sulphate of ammonia, has improved appreciably during the last twelve months and has considerably aided my Government’s drive to increase food production.
The Government has given to farmers, wool-growers and wheat-growers subsidies amounting in value to approximately £500,000. Those people, in common with every other member of the community, also enjoy the benefits of subsidies paid by the Government on tea, butter and other commodities. The representatives of the Australian Country party in this chamber have enjoyed in great measure the bounties handed out by this Government, but they are the first to condemn to penury the pioneers of Australia who made it possible for them to accumulate the wealth which they and those whom they represent enjoy. Wealthy farmers and graziers work their properties for about three months of the year and spend the following six months jaunting around the capital cities in their expensive motor cars.
No reference was made in the Governor-General’s Speech to the proposal of the Government to dispose of the Commonwealth shipping line at a bargain price as it has disposed of other assets of the people. The residents of Lord Howe Island, which is situated within my electorate, formerly made their representations to the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) in the hope that he would be able to induce the Government to do something for them. They have written to me again and again stating that the Government has done and will do nothing for them. They do not know where to turn. They live on an island situated 430 miles off the coast of New South Wales, yet the Government has deprived them of a shipping service to transport their requirements of foodstuffs and is now advertising for sale the ships of the Commonwealth shipping line on the basis of a down payment of 25 per cent., possibly with no intention to demand from the purchaser the balance of -the purchase price. That state of affairs will not be allowed to continue when a Labour Government again sits on the Treasury bench. I leave the Government to its plight because I realize that it is useless for an Opposition member to appeal to it, after its three years and ten months’ maladministration, to mend its ways. In April or May of next year the pensioners who have been wrongfully deprived of their rights, and the people who have been robbed of the benefits to which they are entitled, will rise up in their wrath and throw the Government out of office.
.- I express my very great pleasure at the fac* that Her Majesty the Queen proposes to visit Australia next year. The Australian people will be delighted to pay her homage as her dutiful subjects. Her Majesty’s visit will go a long way to cement the bonds of the British Commonwealth, particularly of those portions of it which will be included in the Royal tour. This debate has taken a rather peculiar turn. It has been notable for the great volume of political propaganda poured out by Opposition membersSome very irresponsible and untrue statements have been made by them. It is obvious that they are taking the opportunity afforded by this debate to indulge in Labour propaganda in the hope that they will enhance their chances at the general election. The honorable member for Burke (Mr. Peters) said that the
Communists do not favour compulsory unionism and that accordingly they favour the Government’s view on that subject. I reply to that statement by asking why the Communist party made a five-figure contribution to the funds of the Australian Labour party to fight the referendum proposal to ban the Communist party.
– How much was paid
– I have been informed that the payment amounted to £12,000. It was organized by a member of the Labour party who sits in this House. I also ask the honorable member for Burke why the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) felt impelled to fight the Communist Party Dissolution Act on behalf of the Communists in the High Court of Australia, for which service, according to a published report, the right honorable gentleman received more than £20,000.
Last night the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) advocated marriage loans. That is a very laudable idea but I remind him that during the many years of Labour government no such legislation was introduced. Why did not the Australian Labour party refer to it in its policy speeches of 1949 and 1951? The subject was not even referred to during the recent Senate election campaign, which the Australian Labour _arty lost. It is now raised as a sop for the people. Although such loans would be worthwhile, the money to provide them would have to be supplied by the taxpayers. Perhaps the honorable member for Parkes would like the necessary legislation to have retrospective effect, so that he also might benefit from it.
The honorable member criticized the business people in the community on the ground that they are receiving large dividends from their investments. That may be so, but only a short time ago, during the recent budget debate in this chamber, the honorable member and many of his colleagues complained because greater tax reductions had not been made in favour of business people. They cannot have it both ways. The honorable member’s criticism in this connexion was merely party political propaganda.
The honorable member for Leichhardt (Mr. Bruce) referred this afternoon ti the disposal by the Government of what he called the “ Queen’s assets “, upon which, you, Mr. Speaker, very properly called him to order. The honorable member meant, of course, the disposal of government-controlled business undertakings. “While I cannot endorse his remarks in that connexion, I point out that he omitted to state that the Queensland Labour Government, of which he was’ a member, went into the retail business, engaged in pastoral operations and in many other business activities. In the process, it lost millions of pounds which had been provided by the Queensland taxpayers. Evidently, the honor-, able gentleman wishes to see the same kind of thing happen in the federal sphere.
– But losses were nol being made on the undertakings which this Government sold.
– No, for the simple reason that it was this Government whir:h was running them. Had they been run by a socialist government there would have been losses or big rake-offs. I am glad that the honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Edmonds) has interjected, because he also raised the question of compulsory unionism last night. Very few people in Australia, including myself, object to unions. Indeed, I have been a member of four unions at various times.
– “Would the honorable member have belonged to them had it not been compulsory to do so ?
– That .is by the way. Nobody denies that in days gone by, when there were decent, honest unions, those organizations performed wonderful service for the working people of Australia. To-day, however, it is found that union funds are put to party political use. During election campaigns the funds contributed by the various trade unions go into the coffers of the Australian Labour party. Although the working people pay money to their unions, they have no say in its use for election purposes. The union bosses decide that thousands of pounds should be provided for the purpose of supporting causes in which the majority of unionists do not believe. I object to the practice of keeping men in highly paid union jobs.
The honorable member for Herbert and many other honorable members opposite should know something about that.
– Why should I know something about it?
– I do not propose to go into the matter. I have already gone far enough with it, but if you wish me to go further I shall do so.
– Tell us all.
– Order! The honorable member will address the Chair.
– Through you, sir, 1 now tell the honorable member for Herbert that he was once a union organizer himself.
– The honorable member has let the cat out of the bag. Nobody knew about that matter previously!
– In that capacity he contributed nothing to the economy of the country and little to the union, apart from collecting fees from shop stewards. He was a union boss. In the majority of instances, such bosses are supplied with high-powered motor cars to enable them to run about at the expense of the people who really do the work. At election time the union bosses, are organizers for the Australian Labour party. At the expense of the unions, they push the barrow of the decrepit Australian Labour party. The money used in that way is really blood money which has been taken from the unionists.
– Is not that so whether unionism is compulsory or not?
– That is so in any case, and that is the basis of my objection. I do not object to unions but to the union bosses who are blood-suckers upon the people who really do the job. Money contributed to union funds should be used to provide amenities for the members of the union. It should be used also to provide for sickness benefits, the higher education of the children of members, provident funds, and matters of that kind. At the present time, approximately half of the money contributed by unionists goes to the Communist party, because a great number of the unions are Communist controlled. The Communists, therefore, control the money which is contributed by unionists. Many honorable members opposite should know that that is so, because they themselves were, prior to entering this Parliament, union organizers and officials, such as secretaries and presidents. They were parasites on the people who did the work.
– Has the honorable member ever heard of butchers being convicted of black marketing?
– Yes, I have.
– Has he ever heard of a man named Berry being “in” for black marketing ?
-Would the honorable member like to make a charge outside the House?
– I challenge him to do so.
– Very well. I shall be there.
– Many people who have no natural courage outside this House make accusations in this chamber, by innuendo or otherwise, and think that in doing so they are being big people. If the so-called “ honorable “ member for Herbert cares to make his charge outside the House I shall be very happy to accommodate him, and I am sure that I shall not have his leader handling my case.
– Order! I ask the honorable member for Griffith to address the Chair. I also ask the honorable member for Herbert to refrain from interjecting.
– It is all very interesting, though.
– If the honorable member were involved, I would sue him for £40,000 at least. I know that he has that much.
The honorable member for Burke (Mr. Peters), for whom I have a considerable amount of respect, contends that secondary production has declined since this Government has been in office. Let us forget about political propaganda, and examine the facts. I believe that such propaganda is designed only to instil fear in the hearts of the industrial workers. That is bad. The true posi tion is evident. During the last three years of the Labour Government’s dictatorship, an amount of £281,000,000 was invested in the establishment of new secondary industries, or the expansion of existing ones. During the last three years, under the Menzies democratic government, £746,000,000 has been invested in new secondary industries or in the expansion of existing ones. Those figures do not take into account the sum , of £80,000,000, which is being invested in the construction of oil refineries. They speak for themselves. The industrial expansion has produced a considerable increase of employment in secondary industries.
One feature of our secondary industries has disturbed me for a considerable time. I refer to the high cost of production. Often, goods manufactured in countries 12,000 miles away can be sold in Australia more cheaply than similar goods can bo manuf actured here. Not for one moment do I claim that all the blame for that position rests on the shoulders of the workers. Much, if not most of the blame for that situation is attributable to management. Many of our industries must be brought up to date with the installation of modern equipment. Machinery in some of the factories in my electorate has been in operation for more than 50 years, and simply is not capable of producing articles of high quality or giving an increased yield. Our manufacturers will not be able to compete with imported goods until factory managements are prepared to plough back some of their profits for the improvement of the conditions of their employees and the purchase of modern equipment.
Primary industries are progressing by leaps and bounds. I am gratified to learn that production last year was approximately 17 per cent, more than that of the previous year. Let us hope that the improvement will continue because primary production is the core, as it were, of Australia’s economy. Last year, our overseas balances increased by £350,000,000. We hope that the balances will be even greater this year. We do not export many manufactured goods, because much of our machinery is obsolete, and our manufactures cannot compete with those of other countries. The remedy lies in our own hands. Production methods must be improved, and costs reduced.
I am gratified that the Queen is to visit Australia next year. I fervently hope that she will have a most enjoyable sojourn here.
.- I join with previous speakers in expressing cheerful anticipation of the forthcoming visit of Her Majesty to Australia, always conscious of the fact that the Royal Family forms the substratum, as it were, of our civilization. I wish to express my supreme disgust at some of the wildly irresponsible statements made by the honorable member for Griffith (Mr. Berry). He presented rather a sad spectacle when he attempted to label members of the Labour party in an insidious and dangerous way, and could not support his statements.
– I did not apply my remarks to all members of the Labour party. I referred to only some of them.
– It is the fashion to-day to speak of the forthcoming Royal tour. In common with many other honorable members, I have noticed that the Prime Minister (Mr. M’enzies) has also been embarking on a tour. The purpose of the tour is undoubtedly to save from complete los3, if that be possible, electorates represented by such honorable gentlemen as the honorable member for Griffith. I have the deepest sympathy for the Prime Minister. Every time I look at him I am greatly worried because the harassed, careworn look on his face indicates to all disinterested observers that he realizes that he has an almost insuperable task. He has to endeavour to convince the electors that his Government has been beneficent and just for the common good.
– The people are aware of that already.
– Of course, the Prime Minister has an impossible task. Tt is comparable with the effort of King Canute to turn back the waves. But, perforce, the right honorable gentleman has to undertake the tour. Why all this uneasiness. Why the urgent necessity to peregrinate on this Herculean task of convincing and persuading reluctant voters? No’ wonder the right honorable gentleman is harassed, distressed and careworn.. But he is carrying another burden. Certain members of his Ministry are quite incapable of performing their duties. Not even the well-known eloquence of the Prime1 Minister, not even his poise, charm and undoubted presence, can turn back the rising tide of discontent, which will undoubtedly engulf the Government next year.’ It is a characteristic of the upper crust in this community, this Government, and the honorable member for Griffith, that all the poignant personal problems of the ordinary man in the street make no- impact upon them whatsoever. The honorable member for Griffith, who has just resumed his seat, referred to union organizers as parasites.
– Hear, hear!
– I take it that that is the considered opinion of Her Majesty’s Whip, the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett).
– Order ! The honorable member cannot refer to “ Her Majesty’s Whip “. The honorable member for Henty is the Government Whip and that is an entirely different matter.
– Far be it from me, in my usual generosity, to refer to any type of parasite. Far be it from me- to refer to those who neither toil nor spin, but for an honorable member to state calmly and dispassionately that the fundamental place of unions in the community is to provide amenities for the workers is the quintessence of stupidity. This tour of the Prime Minister intrigues me immensely. I have reason to believe that he started his tour in Flemington-road, Melbourne, near Royal Park. As a keen student of history you will recall, Mr. Speaker that the Burke and Wills expedition started from that spot. At the outset of his tour, the Prime Minister had the supreme consolation of looking from that noble avenue in Flemingtonroad over the beautiful vista of Royal Park. No doubt Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth the Second, will see it also, including that scene of glorious delight, Camp Pell, the home of the homeless and the very nearly hopeless ! What an appropriate place to start a tour ! Surely some of the harassed looks of the Prime Minister stem from the fact that insufficient funds have been provided to- house the people of Victoria and every other State adequately. Therefore, blots like Camp Pell remain on our horizon.
I invite honorable members to follow me in retrospect along the route that was taken by the Prime Minister. After leaving Royal Park, he passed through the suburbs of Fitzroy, Footscray and Collingwood. The right honorable gentleman’s enthusiasm for the tour is paling considerably already because in Footscray and Collingwood the bystanders who are expected to applaud him include recipients of the magnificent sum of 2s. 6d. a week that was added to their pensions. “With respect to the patriotism of the honorable member for Griffith, I remind him that the ex-servicemen pensioners received in many cases the bountiful sum of 1-Jd. a week as an. addition to their pensions. Far be it from me to follow the Prime Minister more closely in his journey through such suburbs as Fitzroy, Collingwood and. Footscray. It is characteristic of this Government that it prefers to ignore the existence of such environ ments, and the Prime Minister and the members of his entourage are happy to leave those suburbs and. cross the river Yarra and enter the salubrious suburb of Kew. There are many consolations for the Prime Minister in Kew because he represents that district and in it are to be found the polite, stuffy, smug, complacent people who have been the recipients of the Government’s bounty. They include company shareholders who have received 2s. in the £1 reduction of their income tax and the businessmen, big and small, who no longer have to pay the pay-roll tax. As I take honorable members with me in retrospect upon this tall r. we find the Prime Minister welcomed with open arms. He represents a school of thought dear to the hearts of the materialistic citizens of Kew.
The Prime Minister now enters the electorate that is about to cast its member of this Parliament into the limbo of forgotten things. The right honorable gentleman is now in the country. What !i delight! The schoolmistresses are there and the poor, innocent, freshly scrubbed children are trotted dutifully forward with waving flags to meet him. Is it not significant that in this electorate the Prime Minister and his party became lost ? His car took the wrong turning and then he received directions from a source that I shall not mention in this House. Then followed an event that I believe is frequently duplicated in Canberra, where the school curriculum is interrupted from time to time so that the children may watch a passing parade- of politicians. The poor children of Evelyn, in their innocence,, were trotted forward to swell the applauding multitude. We can imagine the local member of Parliament looking anxiously and with anxiety at the stony faces in front of him. His fate is reflected in them just as it appears in the faces of the jurymen who are about to try a criminal. The honorable member concerned knows that he is marked for the slaughter. In between false applause for the ironical quips of his leader, he looks with strained visage at those around him to see how the right honorable gentleman is being received. The poor children! I believe that the right honorable gentleman selected one of the children as a prospective Prime Minister. A new Prime Minister will be wanted in this country long before any of those children reaches adulthood. I am the emotional type. I have a feeling for my fellow men.
– The honorable member has us in tears.
– I am sorry for those who are about to leave us, including the honorable member who has thrown aspersions upon the trade union organizers. The honorable member accompanied the Prime Minister on his tour. I invite honorable members to consider the colossal waste of donations that were made in the course of this journey. The donations were made in the less valuable Fadden £1, but still they were donations. They included donations to mother clubs and were accompanied by a terrifying consumption of lemonade and cakes. All honorable members on the Government side know that they are dancing on a quaking floor and that their time has almost arrived. All this pretence of concern for the ordinary man in the street goes by the board when one considers the Government’s record in reality. The Prime Minister and his supporters could never adequately represent all sections of the community because they are concerned with the profits of business and taxation concessions. It makes one’s gall rise to hear the patronizing tone of the successful business man, accustomed to all the maneuvering, intriguing, skulduggery, devotion to Mammon and pelf and pride and prejudice that success in business involves, when he scorns the only protective weapon that is left for the organized workers, the ordinary blokes in the community.
The festivities that will automatically attend the Queen’s visit to this country will undoubtedly be in many cases, as the honorable member for West Sydney has said, the monopoly and prerogative of those who like to bask in the reflected glory of the great. I hope that there will not be another tour on that occasion, a tour of prancing politicians, shire bumbles and heavyweights, ponderous, boring people and brass hats to drive the Queen and her entourage into the ground and weary them with their inanities and reiterations. The Prime Minister has been on his tour. The net effect on the community has been nil. He cannot stem the tide. He cannot stop an irresistible force. The pensioners of Collingwood and the other industrial suburbs of Melbourne know now that the meek shall not inherit the earth, and the people in the country districts represented by my friend who is marked for political extinction know that the land is not to be unlocked for them. Perish the thought! This Government believes in the consolidation of inheritance. It believes that what comes from father to son should go on ad infinitum. It believes in land aggrandizement. It believes in the abolition of land tax for its wealthy friends. It believes that the rest of the community should bring forth children, and labour, while it offers them a circus as their share of the good things of the earth. However, the average man has the supreme virtue of being able to sift the wheat from the chaff. The tumult and shouting has died, and the Prime Minister has returned from the by-paths of Evelyn in which he was lost with some of his followers. There will be a return to reality and this Government will be displaced for all time. There will be a greater balance of representation for the dispossessed in the community and those that have will be made to realize that, if they do not concede their ethical duty to their fellow men, the function of government will be to tax them until the desired result is achieved indirectly. When the great day comes next year - and it will come as surely as night follows day - the discerning people of Australia will bid the Prime Minister and the honorable member for Griffith a fond vale and farewell.
.- The . great virtue of the speeches made by the honorable member for Gellibrand (Mr. Mullens) is that he never expects anybody to pay the slightest attention to what he has to say. We have just listened to a typical speech by the honorable gentleman in. which, although he began with gracious references to Her Majesty the Queen, he quickly reverted to the tactics that he has commonly used ever since he has been a member of this House. I take this opportunity, in debating the Address-in-Reply to the GovernorGeneral’s Speech, to express the unswerving loyalty to the Queen of the people of Riverina and to say, like other honorable members, that they will look forward to her visit with the expectancy that is the due of such a good and gracious lady. It is true, as His Excellency said, that our devotion to the Throne is both deep and warm and that it is not the special prerogative of any political party, or of any creed, or of any section of the community.
I confess that I have been encouraged to hear the obviously sincere expressions of loyalty that have been uttered by honorable members on both sides of the House who have already taken part in this debate. There was a time, which I recall vividly, when class-conscious socialists could not subscribe to such sentiments or, if they did, they subscribed to them with diffidence and timidity. Most of them were in varying degrees either mildly or violently opposed to the Monarch. But time and circumstances work in a mysterious way. I knew men who came to this Parliament during the last 30 years with views on the monarchy that could only be described as unorthodox, to say the least. As they prospered and reached places of eminence, their views changed and, almost without exception, they died both rich and repentant of! the views against the monarchy that they had expressed for the sake of political expediency. I am very happy to learn that Her Majesty’s Opposition in this House is completely reformed so that member after member on the opposite side of the chamber has been able to rise and express without equivocation the same quantity and the same quality of devotion and loyalty to the Crown as has always emanated from the parties represented on this side of the chamber. The pity of it is that the class-conscious socialists who have criticized the institution of the monarchy have wrought incalculable harm among the credulous and the uninformed so that their repentance is not a matter of great importance to the community when measured against the harm that they have done.
I believe that a good queen is better than a good king. I believe, too, the fair sex being what it is, that a great queen is greater than a great king. That has been the experience of the British people throughout their history. The recent enthronement of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth, and her approaching visit to us as Queen of Australia, are amongst the most hopeful signs of our times. I pray that, her presence amongst us will do much to cause us to re-affirm our faith in ourselves as British people in the first place, our faith in our country in die second place, and our faith in our democratic systems and institutions in the third place. Those systems and institutions have brought us farther along the road of social, political and economic progress in a shorter space of time than the systems and institutions of any other country have brought any other people since the dawn of human history. I hope that, after the visit of the Queen, there will be a restoration of the name “ British Empire “, which has meant so much to previous generations in this country and in other countries where British people are to be found. I have always deplored the dissolution that has been visited upon the components of the Empire by the socialistic parties throughout the Empire in order to achieve their own political ends. Most of all, I deplore the substitution of the nebulous title, the British Commonwealth of Nations, and the nebulous arrangement that allows countries that used to be components of the Empire to walk into and out of it just as it suits their political whims. Above all other things, the Empire requires to re-shape itself according to its original form; and I trust that that will happen after the visit of Her Majesty to this country.
This debate has taken extraordinary turns. I should like to make passing reference to one or two subjects that have been mentioned by honorable members on both sides of the chamber. The first matter and, perhaps, the one that I shall touch upon least of all, is compulsory trade unionism. Of course, compulsory trade unionism is a violation of human rights, and a corruption of human dignity. The time has come when honorable members opposite should realize that some of us would prefer to die rather than be forced to join an organization devoted to the spurious philosophy of Karl Marx and of the Australian Labour party. Honorable members opposite seem to derive some comfort from the fact that membership of trade unions is compulsory in Queensland. What cold comfort that is ! One has only to peruse the comparatively recent history of Queensland to learn that the people of that State have passively resisted compulsory trade unionism for many years, and that, whenever they have been free to express their political opinion, they have expressed it in direct opposition to compulsory trade unionism and to the socialistic party in favour of the nonsocialist parties in the two houses that constitute the National Parliament. Admittedly, the people of Queensland have not the opportunity to express that view in voting for elections for the State legislature because there are flaws in the electoral system in Queensland that prohibit any manifestation in the State legislature of passive resistance in this respect. However, whenever the people of that .State are given an opportunity to do so, they voice their protest in the only way that is available to people in a democratic country. Another solution to this vexed problem is also open to them in that they can take their departure from Queensland. But if this disease, this social corruption, that is called compulsory trade unionism is to spread to the mother State and, subsequently, to the other four States, there will be no escape for any one. There will be visited upon this country the political machinations that have obtained in Queensland and, consequently, the men and women of Australia, regardless of the State in which they live, will be doomed to socialism whether they like it or not. However, [ repeat that some of us would prefer to die rather than be forced to join a trade union.
That is all that I wish to say at this juncture on that subject because I propose to refer to other and more pressing matters. One of them is the speech of the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett), in which he said that every one knew that the Snowy Mountains hydroelectric project would never be completed. I have no doubt that the honorable member was suffering a minor mental aberration when he made that illconsidered statement, because it will not bear examination for a single moment by any informed person. This Government has already invested no less a sum than £47,000,000 in the vigorous prosecution of the diversion of the tributaries of our snow-fed rivers, and these efforts are already taking shape. Within a single year, 60,000 kilowatts of electricity will be fed into the grid in New South Wales and will be made available to the people of that State. In my view, that fact is comparatively unimportant. J have always believed that the generation of hydro-electric power by the diversion of snow-fed rivers is of minor importance because, after all, the people can use candles for illumination as the people of New South Wales have been forced to use candles for some considerable time, and it would not hurt them very much if necessity forced them to do so again. The really important fact is that because this Government has applied itself to this gigantic task of diverting our snowfed rivers, which in itself, is the greatest engineering project yet to be undertaken in any part of the world, the present plan contemplates that the first diversion of water into the Murrumbidgee River will take place in 1959, only six years hence, when the diversion will be at the rate of 300,000 acre feet of water per annum. Some of that water will be lost by seepage and evaporation during its journey down the Murrumbidgee, but at least 160,000 acre feet will be usable on irrigation farms. That quantity is equal to onehalf the water that is now used each year in the whole of the Murrumbidgee irrigation area which is in my electorate. Two years later, that is in 1961, a further 200,000 acre feet of water will become available. This means that eight years hence the total diversion into the Murrumbidgee, apart altogether from the water that might be diverted into the Murray and its tributaries, will be 500,000 acre feet per annum, of which about 300,000 acre feet will be immediately usable, after allowing for losses by seepage and evaporation. This quantity of usable water is equal -to the quantity used each year in the Murrumbidgee irrigation area, where about 30,000 people are applying themselves to the task of production with such energy as to achieve an aggregate production valued at £8,000,000 a year.
The effective use of the water depends on the construction of the Blowering dam. That matter has been raised in this House from time to time by people who have no clear understanding of the respective responsibilities of the Commonwealth and the two States concerned. The Commonwealth is committed to divert the water of snow-fed rivers into either the Murrumbidgee River or the Murray River and, in the process, to generate vast quantities of electricity. Having generated that electricity, the Commonwealth is committed to feed it into the grid system. Superimposed on that, in my opinion, is the diversion of this water into the Murrumbidgee River and the Murray River for the purposes of irrigation. When the process of diversion has been completed, the responsibility for the distribution of the water will pass to and remain with the States. So far as New South Wales is concerned, the key to the situation is the construction of the Blowering dam. Whenever that question us raised, the New South Wales Government replies, as it replies on other occasions for a number of reasons, that it is impossible for it even to contemplate the construction of the Blowering dam because the Commonwealth will not give the States any money. That statement was repeated here this afternoon and was referred to this morning. On every possible occasion, the senseless lie that this Government will not give the States-
– Order ! The honorable gentleman must not characterize as a lie anything said in this House. If he is referring to a statement made in this House, he must withdraw the word.
– I withdraw it. The senseless allegation that the Commonwealth will not give the States any money will not bear examination for a single moment. The figures that I shall cite have been given to the House on a number of occasions. I have tried to condense them into a simple form in order to nail this senseless allegation for all time.
Public borrowings aTe the responsibility of the Australian Loan Council, which, as we all know, is constituted by the six State governments and the Australian Government. Borrowings in the years since this Government took office and was able to exert an influence for good on the Australian Loan Council reveal a startling state of affairs. The best that the socialists could do when they were in office and were exerting a socialistic influence on the council was done in 1949-50, their final year of office, when they made £74,800.,000’of loan funds available to the States. In 1950-51, the first year of office of this ‘Government, the .figure rose to £139,400,000. It was almost double the figure for the previous year. Yet the States say that the Commonwealth will not give them any money. I remind the House that the money comes from the Australian Loan Council. In 1951-52, the figure rose to £200,400,000. In the next year, it was £247,500,000. In the current year, the Premiers have voted themselves - the decision lies with them - no less than £231,000,000. In a short space of time, loan allocations to the States have risen, in round figures, from £74,000,000 to £231,000,000. Yet the States say that the Commonwealth will not give “them any money. Surely the time has come when that outmoded and stupid allegation should cease to be made.
Let us consider tax reimbursements to the States. Just as there is a formula for the distribution to the States of loan funds raised by the Australian Loan Council, so there is a formula for the distribution to the States of revenue from taxes levied under uniform taxation. That formula was devised by the Premiers themselves. In 1949-50, the States were entitled to £62,500,000 under that formula, but in that year, the first year of office of the present Government, they actually received £70,500,000. Even then, they said that the Commonwealth would not give them enough money. In 1950-51, the States were entitled to £70,400,000, but they received from this Government, in cold cash, no less than £90,400,000. In 1951-52, the States were entitled to £86,400,000 under the tax reimbursement formula, but they received £120,000,000. Yet they still reiterated the stupid allegation that the Commonwealth would not give them enough funds. In 1952-53, the States were entitled to receive £108,000,000 under the formula, but they received no less than £135,000,000, or £27,000,000 more than they were justly entitled to. So there is no excuse for New South Wales ot any other State to say that it cannot proceed with the developmental work that must be done if this country is ‘to take its rightful place among British communities throughout the world.
– I join with other members of the Parliament in expressing my satisfaction at the information about the visit of Her Majesty the Queen contained in the Governor-General’s Speech, but I want to take this opportunity to say how disappointed I am. that the Government has studiously avoided any possibility that the Queen will meet the people who make this country tick. Great care seems to have been taken by the Government to ensure that Her Majesty shall not visit those parts of the Commonwealth where the people who work for their living, and have made this country what it is, reside. As a South Australian member of this Parliament I am disappointed that the Queen is to be denied an opportunity to see the slum conditions at Hindmarsh, Brompton, and parts of West Adelaide. Failure to show the Queen those conditions will be nothing less than an attempt to deceive Her Majesty and lead her into believing that living standards in this country are better than they really are. The Queen would be horrified if she were to see in a country as rich in natural resources as Australia undoubtedly is, the deplorable conditions under which great masses of the people live. The section of the community that she will meet have more than is good for them, whilst the people she will not meet have not enough to enable them to live civilized lives.
The honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Roberton) and quite a number of other members on the Government side of the chamber have had a lot to say about socialism. Apparently, as communism is now a dead issue, the Government is hoping to raise the scarecrow of socialism. I do not know why Government supporters bother about raising this issue at all, because if they believe that Labour supporters will run away from the charge that they are socialists, honorable members opposite have another think coming. The Labour party has been a socialist party for many years and during that time it has won many elections. It was a socialist party when it was elected to office in this Parliament with a record majority in 1943. It was still a socialist, party when it won office again in 1946 with a handsome majority. It was a socialist party in South Australia when itreceived the largest number of votes at the last election in that State as it had done at the previous election and at the election before that. Only because the Liberal party has jerrymandered the South Australian electorates has the socialist party been unable to gain office in spite of its majorities at elections. The Labour party was a socialist party when it became the government in New South Wales fourteen years ago and it has remained a socialist party during its continuous term “of office ever since. It was the Labour party with its socialist objective which polled the greatest num- ber of votes at the recent Senate election, and it . is the same Labour party with the same socialist objective that has held office in the Queensland Parliament for more than 30 years.
– Which socialist objective is the honorable member referring to?
– I am speaking of the socialization of the means of production, distribution and exchange which are now being used to exploit the people. If honorable members opposite will read the platform of the Australian Labour party they will understand the methods and principles of action by which wc propose to socialize those undertakings.
– Is that the Beazley or the Blackburn interpretation?
– It is the Australian Labour party interpretation. Our socialization objective will be attained through democratically elected governments. We believe that amongst the undertakings which, instead of being used to exploit the people should be under the control of the people and operated for their benefit, are banking, shipping, sugarrefining, and two or three others including insurance. I know of no greater exploiters of the people than some of the proprietary insurance companies. I had occasion to bring to the notice of this House some time ago the methods of a private insurance company in New South Wales with which the Minister for Supply (Mr. Beale) informed me he himself had a rather large insurance policy. I cited the case of a man who had paid to that company under an insurance policy 150 per cent, more in premiums than he could possibly get back when the policy matured in another five years. If that is not exploitation of the very worst kind I do not know what it is. No one can deny that the Australian people are being exploited by monopolies in a way that should not be tolerated in a country that is governed by democratic parliamentary institutions.
– Be specific.
– I shall cite quite a number of cases. Take for example, General Motors-Holden’s Limited.
Although that company has a paid-up capital of only £3,000,000, it made a gross profit of £9,000,000 last year. .
– Does the honorable member suggest that General Motors-Holden’s Limited should be nationalized?
– I say that any undertaking which, on a paid-up capital of £3,000,000, can make £9,000,000 in one year is exploiting the people and should be placed under the control of the people.
– Did the honorable member say gross profit?
– That is very different.
– Of course it is.
– Does the honorable member not want the men to be paid wages?
– Wages do not come out of gross profit.
– The wages of the office staff come out of gross profit.
– No. The items that come out of gross profit are the taxes that the company must pay, the funds that it decides to set aside for coping with obsolescence, and the amount that the company is pleased to call net profit. I am surprised that the honorable member for Petrie, who is an auditor, should have made such an interjection. Let us see the extent to which General MotorsHolden’s Limited is exploiting the people. It has been estimated that if that company were compelled to accept a reasonable profit on the money that the shareholders have paid, theHolden motor car could be put on the market for £200 less than its present price. Now let us consider some of the other public companies which have made exorbitant profits during the last financial year.
– Does the Labour party propose to nationalize the Ford Motor Company of Australia Proprietary Limited as well as General MotorsHolden’s Limited?
– The Australian Labour party proposes to nationalize ail undertakings that are exploiting the people. I do not know whether the Ford Motor Company of Australia Proprietary Limited is exploiting the people, but all that the honorable member has to do is to apply the simple test of whether a concern is exploiting the people. If exploitation is found, then that concern should be made to operate for use and not for profit alone. I am sure that honorable members will be interested in the following list of companies together with the profits that they made during the financial year which ended on the 30th June: -
The Australian Labour party proposes, if constitutional power can be found, to nationalize the Colonial Sugar Refining Company Limited. That is no secret, and it can be verified by an inspection of the platform and constitution of the Australian Labour party. I believe that the profits of many of these companies this year will be very much higher than they were in the last financial year. The private trading banks also made enormous profits during the financial year that ended on the 30th June. Those profits are as follows : -
rates have caused much of our trouble during the last few years, and the trading banks have restricted credit for no other reason than to increase interest rates. I believe that the Government erred when it allowed the rate of interest on public loans to be increased to the present rate, because .bat automatically increased the rate of interest that has to be paid by people who build homes and by those who borrow money for expanding their businesses and for other purposes. 1 also believe that the Government’s action in increasing the interest rate was the main reason why the value of Government bonds was reduced from £100 to about £S6 which represented a loss of about £14 on each bond held by investors. j_ueover all honorable members should remember that those investors subscribed their money to assist Australia in its time of need.
– Why should people seek to expand their businesses when the Labour party intends to nationalize them ?
– If the Labour party can persuade the people to give it the constitutional power to nationalize banking we would, not hesitate to do it, because we believe that whoever has control of the finances of this country is able to determine whether we shall suffer a depression or enjoy prosperity. Honorable members on the Government side have criticized the nationalization of banking on that very score. They have stated that they are opposed to bank nationalization because if the banks were nationalized the federal government would be given too much power over the lives of ordinary citizens. A logical conclusion from that argument is that if nationalization of the banks would give the Government such great power over the people, then non-nationalization of the banks leaves that control in the hands of the directors of the private banks. Surely if it is safe for the private banks to have that power, it is much safer for the Parliament to have it. There is a vital difference between the Parliament having this terrific financial power and the directors of private banks having it. In the latter case the people who are vitally affected by banking- policy have no right to remove those who make the policy should they abuse their powers. But if the power is exercised by the Parliament, the people have a right every three years to remove those who abuse that power from the Parliament.
– It is well known that a scrambled egg cannot be unscrambled.
– I should not want to unscramble it because I am convinced that if we are to have parliamentary government we must give Parliament adequate power over the finances of the country. The Parliament must have the right to interfere with monopolies that exploit the people and have a say over wages and working conditions. We cannot agree to a restricted democracy if government of the people, by the people, for the people is a good thing. We must widen parliamentary powers because we cannot have too much of a good thing. If democracy is good, in respect of some things, it is good in respect of all things. An expansion of the scope of democracy would benefit everybody.
– Does the honorable member suggest that landlords exploit their tenants ?
– Of course they do, as the honorable member for Sturt (Mr. Wilson) should know.
– Then the Labour party would nationalize homes.
– That depends. That is a very good question because Mr. Playford, the Premier of South Australia, has already taken action on those lines. He has set up a housing trust in South Australia because he believed that landlords were exploiting their tenants so much that dwellings should be nationalized. The Premier of South Australia has introduced more nationalized homes in South Australia a head of population than there are in any other State of the Commonwealth.
– That is utter nonsense.
– Not so. Mr.- Playford did that because he believed that a time had been reached when the exploitation of tenants by landlords should be ended’. Power over wages and working conditions should be exercised also by this Parliament. Every State government has complete and absolute power over the wages and working conditions of employees under State industrial awards, so can anybody therefore advance any logical reason why this Parliament should not exercise similar power? I agree entirely with the statement that was made “by the honorable member for Angas (Mr. Downer), a supporter of the Liberal party, in this House in 1951, to the effect that he believed that the Government should exercise some influence over the activities of the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration. Strange as it may seem, I find myself in complete agreement, also, with a spokesman of the Chamber of Manufactures in Adelaide, who expressed a similar opinion yesterday, and though not so strange, I find myself in complete accord with the former Chief Justice, Sir John Latham, who expressed similar views. The Government should not shirk its responsibilities in connexion with bread and butter issues. “Why should not this Parliament exercise authority in relation to wages and working conditions, which, more than anything else, affect the lives of the people? I am not suggesting for a moment that this Parliament ought to exercise its authority over these conditions in .connexion with every little dispute that arises, ‘ but the Parliament should have the right, ultimately, in the public interest, to step in if necessary and override the decision of the court.
– Does the honorable member suggest that these things should become political footballs?
– Yes, I do, because if wages and working conditions
– At least the honorable member is frank.
– I endeavour always to speak with candour. If wages and working conditions were made political issues, I am convinced that on election day the electors would exercise greater care and discretion than they now display. They would not then be so apathetic ‘towards elections. I doubt whether very many anti-Labour candidates would be elected if the Parliament had power to determine industrial conditions. When the workers realized that the candidates that they elected to the Parliament would determine their bread and butter issues, they would hesitate to vote for supporters of the Liberal party, which supports big business. Conversely, the workers would realize that members of the Australian Labour party would be on the side of the trade unions. I repeat that if it is proper for State governments to have authority to determine working conditions and rates of pay, why should not the National Parliament be vested with the same authority? Some supporters of the Government may contend that the possession of such power by the National Parliament would lead to abuse. But it has not led to abuse in the State Parliaments, which have possessed the power for more than 100 years. When a power if given to a parliament the people always retain a right to discipline that parliament for any abuse of that power. However, when power is given to the directors of a bank, the people have no right to discipline them, and furthermore, the people have no right to discipline judges of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court, who exercise power over wages.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Opperman) adjourned.
Sitting suspended from 5.20 to S p.m.
Motions (by Mr. Eric J. Harrison) agreed to -
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent (a) before the Address-in-Reply .is adopted, the introduction and motions for the first and second readings of a National Health Bill 1953 and (6) the Minister introducing the bill from making his speech on the second reading without limitation of time.
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent, before the Address-in-Reply is adopted, the introduction and motions for the first and second readings of a Therapeutic Substances Bill 1053 and a Sales Tax Assessment Bill (No. 5.) 1953.
Motion (by Sir Earle Page) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act relating to the provision of pharmaceutical, sickness and hospital benefits, and of medical and dental services.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
In doing so, I wish to thank the House for giving me the privilege of setting out this complex subject at ease.
Australia is fortunate in having found it possible, not only to develop a national health scheme the principles of which have earned the unanimous approval of those most qualified to speak in 53 countries of the world, but also to have it operating smoothly, efficiently and economically over the whole of the continent before the final legislation incorporating the scheme in the law is ratified by Parliament. A happy augury in this is that, as Treasurer in the 1920’s, I was able to have a voluntary loan council working for four years with such satisfaction tq. the people of Australia that the Financial Agreement on which it was based was incorporated in the Constitution by a four to one vote in every State in Australia.
The most important thing in the world is individual and national health. Once people cease to live, the other issues, however important they seem, no longer concern them. Good health is the first priority in the whole world. Its attainment places tremendous responsibility on the medical profession because medical direction and medical knowledge are indispensable to life. The medical profession must therefore be ready to make its best minds available for this purpose; in fact, to insist that those minds should be used to the full in all health schemes. To secure health, medical direction and contacts with all countries and their health plans are indispensable. Unfortunately, this need is not generally recognized. Engineers are always called in to build dams, railways or roads and lawyers to draft new laws. There is a much greater need for calling in doctors to plan for health, on which life itself depends. Good health speaks all languages. It is therefore especially valuable to get such medical direction and contacts from all countries. The common frame of human, anatomy, physiology and pathology automatically binds all people of all races and colours. Good health is the great common interest of all peoples. The consistent pursuit of health in unison by all governments and peoples of the world: may well be the magic talisman that will give us that universal peace so necessary to enable the devotion of the whole of our human and physical resources to the improvement of the health and happinessof mankind. In fact, the whole complicated processes of modern civilization,, such as transport, communicationsgenerally and power development arereally designed to make available supplies of water, food, clothing, housing, schools,, hospitals, and even recreation, so as tosustain or prolong healthy life.
A national health scheme, to be permanently successful, must be something much more than can be stated in figures or money. It must have substantial social and moral values which are intangible and not measured in money terms. Restoration of health and prolongation of life is the task of the physician, who must be dedicated to the practice of the healing art, just as the. priest is dedicated to the saving of souls. The work of both those dedicated professions is essentially personal and individual. It is the person with his idiosyncrasies, allergies and family heredity and personal and financial problems who must be cured. It is the individual with his physical and mental disease and his own peculiar symptoms who must be treated. It is the personal, continuous contact of the doctor, with an interest in the patient and his family, that must be maintained. These results can best be obtained by maintaining the position, prestige and fullest usefulness of the general medical practitioner. His intimate contact and knowledge of the history, constitution, life and environment of the patient make the preservation of his opportunity to use to the full all modern improvements in knowledge and technique one of the most important factors in a national health scheme.
The report of the General Practice Review Committee set up by the Council of the British Medical Association in London, states -
The general practitioner is the only person whose view ranges over, the whole complex field of modern practice. He selects, on behalf of his patients, from his knowledge of the scope and potentialities of all the special branches of medicine, those services and those specialist practitioners most suitable for the individual needs of the patient.
Australia is fortunate in that, although its method of government may have diverted national commercial development, the conditions produced have stimulated the quality and capacity of the general medical practitioner. Country hospitals, situated hundreds of miles from big centres, have been built. For many years a very inadequate system of transport and communications forced local doctors, without the assistance of metropolitan specialists, into many surgical and medical activities and to make considered diagnoses with the aid of their nearest available colleagues. I have seen Australian general practitioners in two wars, working alongside those of many other countries, as well as practising throughout Australia, and I can confidently say that their capacity, energy and enthusiasm are as high as any in the world. Britain has one of the best specialist systems in the world, but its present national health service is causing deterioration of general medical practice.
It will be interesting to consider for a moment or two the reasons why the quality of Australian medical practice is so high. At the turn of the century, many new medical and surgical techniques and . processes were discovered and applied. Our medical schools, then in the first flush of their youth, began to turn out graduates from relatively small classes which gave students most intimate contact with their teachers. As well, the medical men who migrated from Britain and Ireland to Australia were also mostly young men with new knowledge, so that we had a wonderful basis on which to build, as well as the general geographical set-up that I have just mentioned. The aim of our scheme is to conserve this high quality of general medical practice, as well as high specialist efficiency. Only yesterday the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) and I discussed with the leaders of medical education the problem of maintaining high teaching standards in Australia. The fact that the general medical practitioner may follow his cases in suburban as well as in country hospitals, as I have mentioned, has been of tremendous assistance. In recent reports on the British service, the great complaint of that system relates to the deterioration of the general medical practitioner, due to inadequate hospital contacts and lack of time for proper examination owing to the panel system under which each doctor often has several thousands of patients. In one startling paragraph the report of the committee which investigated the working of the British national health scheme condemned a prevalent practice of doctors examining the abdomen with the patient standing up fully clad, because of lack of time.
The most important point in medical treatment is complete and early examination and diagnosis, whether the treatment is later given by a general medical practitioner or a specialist. It is imperative to preserve this cardinal feature of complete and early examination and diagnosis. I emphasized this in my address to the World Medical Association’s conference at The Hague last September, and I have received letters from leaders of the profession of various countries saying how right I was in my approach. But, apart from this aspect, it is absolutely necessary for the doctor to. -have time to be the friend and confidant of the patient and his family, because illness is not only physical. It is frequently psychological.
Retention of the intimate doctor-patient relationship must also be supported by social and psychological factors that build up the morale, independence, benevolence and community spirit of the individual. The presence of these social factors enables individual financial risks such as costs of sudden or serious catastrophic illness to be averaged on a community basis. This system of averaging, by the use of insurance, permits payment for these costs on a time-payment plan.
Its success is assured by the fact that over the whole nation the proportion of illness each year is fairly constant, even though the sickness of the individual occurs spasmodically. The development of these psychological factors is promoted by a nation-wide partnership of the Government, the individual and all the providers of medical and therapeutic services and voluntary organizations that have specialized in providing benefits for the sick. Such a partnership can use all these agencies in making a national health programme run smoothly. The principle of the Government’s national health scheme, therefore, is to build up such a partnership of mutual aid, supported and stimulated by governmental aid. Substantial government aid towards meeting the cost of hospital and medical care and treatment is, however, only a small part of the assistance given. As well, the Government’s approach to the problem offers many intangible benefits to the moral and social uplift of community life and cooperation that cannot be measured in money terms. These have great influences in maintaining a social balance, both in the individual and the community, in these difficult, threatening and uncertain times.
This scheme has been made to work despite constitutional and administrative difficulties inherent in our federal system, especially where, as in this case, the subjectmatter of health is constitutionally a State obligation. It is true that in 1946 an amendment, primarily intended to place child endowment payments beyond constitutional doubt, added to the Constitution a clause covering a fragment of the subject of health. By this clause, provision could be made by the Commonwealth for pharmaceutical, sickness and hospital benefits and medical and dental services, but not so as to authorize any form of civil conscription. The Commonwealth already had constitutional powers over quarantine. Thus the total health powers of the Commonwealth, apart from its appropriation power in section 96 of the Constitution, cover only a small portion of the health field. Registration of doctors is only possible by the Commonwealth in its own territories. It has been necessary to include a special clause in this bill to ensure that a medical prac titioner, who is employed by the Commonwealth, will be entitled to perform, on. behalf of the Commonwealth, the dutiesof his profession in any other State or territory notwithstanding that he is not registered in that other State or territory.. When this subject was before the Parliament in 1946 I pointed out that the minimum satisfactory constitutional course, if the Government really wished to deal with health, was to give the Commonwealth concurrent power with the States in relation to health. Placing the word “ health “ as one of the placitums in section 51 of the Constitution would do this. Commonwealth health powers and legislation would then be placed beyond legal or constitutional doubt. My advice was not heeded. Now, by the irony of fate, I find myself in the unenviable position of having to make bricks without much constitutional straw, and not too much clay, and to do it on a legal foundation that has been already challenged on constitutional grounds before the High Court.
In these difficult circumstances, three factors have contributed to our success in. framing a workable scheme. They are -
First, the co-operative approach that we have adopted ;
Secondly, the possession of a medical background that understands the practical problems of the sick; and Thirdly, the gradual dealing with the problem, step by step.
Under this approach, the whole Australian health system is now working as a partnership of individual citizens, the healing professions, insurance and. hospital organizations and State and Federal governments, with a minimum increase in governmental officers and a maximum use of self-help and voluntary co-operation. Each partner has specific functions and obligations and has a wide power of control over the implementation of its specific field. Every partner’s aim is to cure disease, shorten the duration of sickness and make the scheme pay more than it costs by getting sick people back into their normal occupations as quickly as possible. The whole scheme was placedbefore the British Commonwealth Medical Congress in Brisbane in May, 1950. This bill describes the method of its implementation. Its detailed provisions were set out fully to the Parliament last March when I spoke on this matter.
Pour features are indispensable to the permanence of the scheme. They are -
The quality of medical service must be kept high.
The coverage of the people must be very wide.
The costs of the scheme must be controlled.
Hospital administration must be kept solvent.
A comparison of these, with those of previously proposed Australian schemes and of health schemes operating in other countries, will show to the advantage of the present legislation.
I have already indicated how our methods have maintained and even improved the quality of medical and hospital treatment. Early and accurate diagnosis by the general medical practitioner and especially early reference of serious cases to specialists, enables early and successful treatment. This is encouraged by adequate insurance cover. The shortening of the duration of disease, quicker recovery of the patient and a lessening of the cost to all sections of the community depend greatly on this early diagnosis. A division of the schedule for medical benefits into a compulsory minimum range for general practitioner benefits, which must be covered by every insurance organization, and an optional schedule for specialties, which may or may not be covered, makes the minimum cost payable for the general practitioner schedule a very low premium. In actual practice people are insuring for the greater coverage.
The coverage possible under the present Australian scheme is at least equal to the coverage of any other scheme in any other country, and much greater than most, in the following seven years: -
First, that section of the community least able to fend for itself, consisting of pensioners and their dependants, is provided with a comprehensive medical treatment and medicine service free of charge to the pensioner, as well as 12s. a day when in a public hospital. Under the bill a “ pensioner “ is a person to whom, or in respect of whom, is being paid -
It will be seen that the pensioner medical service covers the treatment of active tuberculosis cases. While patients are acutely infectious they are given special allowances, as I shall describe, and, while unable to work, they receive an invalid pension. Both of these allowances entitle them to free medical treatment and medicine. Their hospitalization is free in public hospitals.
Secondly, a voluntary insurance system has been evolved the terms for insurance in which are extraordinarily low by reason of a substantial governmental contribution towards benefits. For instance -
For hospital insurance the minimum premium for a married person is 6d. a week, which gives £6 6s. a week for 84 days’ hospitalization. For a weekly premium of1s. a married person and his dependants will receive £8 8s. a week towards hospitalization.
If people desire increased fund benefits, they may be obtained for relatively increased premiums. Every one is eligible to join. The benefits that I have mentioned are the combined governmental and organizational benefits for hospital and medical treatment. For actuarial reasons organizations must limit the number of days hospitalization covered and the total annual cost of medical treatment. However, the Government’s contribution depends, not upon the length of time or cost of treatment, but on the fact of insurance. From the clay upon which a patient insures, even though the organization’s rules may impose a waiting period before he or his family may receive a benefit, the Government’s contribution is paid through the organization to the patient, both for medical and hospital benefits, and will be continued for the duration of the illness provided he has insured with an approved organization. The Government’s benefit and insurance contribution are paid for ordinary consultations and visits to doctors as well as for major sicknesses. This enormously widens the scope of the service as it is estimated that 50 per cent, to 60 per cent, of the cost of benefits conies from this source. In many countries these expenses, which are individually small in themselves, are not paid out of insurance funds, but- through a system, of co-insurance in which the patient carries the first £5, £10 or £20 of the expense of treatment.
Thirdly, it will be noted that all insurance organizations cover a married man and his dependants. This is in sharp contrast with compulsory insurance schemes as originally passed by British and Australian legislatures, as well as those of most other countries. These schemes cover only the employed person, and voluntary insurance must be made in addition to cover the family if desired. This was one of the main reasons why the British system of national insurance by individual contributions was changed to a system under which the bulk of the expenditure on the national health service is paid out of general taxation. However, I am reliably informed that in Britain it is estimated that not more than 90 per cent, of the people avail themselves of the service, even though they pay taxes for it and this, despite the fact that any one in Britain who employs a private doctor, cannot get free medicine.
Fourthly, the width’ of the coverage is further ensured by provisions that the Australian Government has made in respect of the aged, and those with preexisting and chronic diseases. The insurance organizations which will not insure for coverage of these diseases are willing to insure coverage for all other diseases. The Commonwealth has said that it will pay, to all those insured, the Commonwealth benefit for those diseases which are not covered by the organizations. Already, however, as a result of the rapid growth of insurance, and the consequent relatively big cross-section of people covered, organizations have ameliorated their conditions, first, by eliminating age as a bar; secondly, by removing chronic diseases which occur after insurance from the excluded list ; and, thirdly, by acceptance by some organizations of cases of pre-existing diseases if they are insured in a group or if they have established an equity in the insurance fund by having been insured for two years. I am pleased to be able to’ say that the organizations that gave a lead in that regard were associated with industrial unions in the Newcastle, Port Kembla and “Wollongong districts. Their lead was followed by other large friendly society organizations. These provisions will undoubtedly be extended as the volume of insurance grows, which it is rapidly doing, and the financial resources of the organizations become clearer and more substantial. In. fact, some organizations already have covered all those- conditions by a slight, increase in their premium. Even uninsured persons receive Ss. a day whilst in an approved hospital.
Fifthly, a completely universal coverage is given to every resident in Australia in connexion with the distribution of free life-saving drugs when ordered on a doctor’s prescription. The Government is removing a very unfair prohibition on these drugs being provided free to people in public hospitals, which was imposed by the previous Government. If honorable members examine the budget they will observe that the Government proposes to make retrospective payments to the hospitals on this account.
Sixthly, children up to the age of thirteen years who attend approved creches, kindergartens and public and private primary schools throughout Australia, are entitled to one-third of a pint of milk every school day. The object of this provision is to build up the constitutions of the children and thus save later sickness. I was very much impressed to-day when the honorable member for Macarthur (Mr. Jeff Bate), who brought to the House a large party of children from Mittagong, said that although bottled milk was not available in that town arrangements had been made to obtain half-pint bottles of milk from a tuberculosis-free dairy which were made available to each of the children every school day instead of the one-third of a pint normally provided for them under the scheme.
Seventhly, it will be observed that all these factors are available throughout the whole continent of Australia. For instance, a special feature of the Government’s plan is that hospital and medical insurance can be effected in any part of Australia. No matter where the insured person needs medical care or hospitalization he can secure the benefits. Thus, a person insured in northern Queensland who takes ill on holidays while in Perth may receive the same benefits as if he had received the care in his home town. No restriction is placed upon any person who wishes to insure. Encouragement is given by government subsidy, with special attractions, for every one in Australia to join some non-profit, approved insurance organization. The greater the number of persons insured, the greater will be the benefits available. The Commonwealth subsidy towards the cost of medical treatment has enabled the premium payable by the insured person to be made so low that every one can afford to pay the few shillings that will guarantee hospital and medical care when it is needed. Persons in the higher income group may insure for greater benefits.
Experience in other countries has shown that health plans on a national scale generally have been accompanied by confusion and lack of understanding of procedure due to complicated administra tive machinery involved in such largescale planning. The Government is proud that its national health plan has been put into operation with a minimum of inconvenience to every one concerned. The use of existing societies and the co-ordination of medical services without upsetting long-standing practice and tradition have made for simplicity, which has been appreciated by the medical profession, hospital authorities, the Government, and the public generally. The smooth implementation and operation of the plans have been achieved without setting up a large government department.
In order to join an organization a person merely has to fill in a form of application showing his name and address, date of birth, occupation and details of any illness or disability suffered by him at the time of, or immediately prior to, joining. This form can be completed by any person in the community in a minute or so. When the hospital or doctor’s bill is received the member pays the account and forwards it to the insurance organization, which makes the refund to him. It would be difficult to find a scheme more simple in operation and less inconvenient to doctors, hospitals, organizations and the individual members.
A further indication of the Government’s desire not to interfere with the traditional and accepted practices is the manner in which the doctor-patients relationship has been preserved. The patient is free to choo…! the doctor he wishes to attend him. If he so desires, he may change his doctor from, time to time. At no stage does the Commonwealth come between the patient and his doctor.
The question of controlling costs resolves itself largely into the prevention and elimination of abuse, especially of so-called free services’. This bete noire of all social services schemes, and especially those entirely paid for by the taxpayer, is being successfully handled and lessened by decentralization of control through the medical and pharmaceutical professions and the insurance organizations, aided by the co-operation of State governments.
The method of control of the medical benefits scheme is specifically designed to prevent abuse. The Commonwealth medical benefits are most comprehensive and are set out in the First and Second Schedules to the bill. Benefits in the First Schedule, which cover the ordinary services provided by a general medical practitioner, must be at least matched by those provided by the organizations. Most organizations also provide the Second Schedule benefits, which are mainly of a specialist nature. Thus, an insured person receives a total benefit of at least double the amount shown in the First Schedule and also double the Second Schedule amount if he is so insured. Thus, for a very modest weekly contribution, the contributor and all his dependants receive very substantial benefits, which cover the major portion of his medical expenses in the event of sickness, leaving him with only a nominal sum to Pay-
Supervision and control of governmental expenditure are ensured by the fact that the insurance organization at least matches the Commonwealth benefit, pays the combined Commonwealth and fund benefit to the patient, and receives recoupment for the Commonwealth benefit which it has paid only on production of a receipt from a doctor or a hospital for the whole amount. Thus, the Commonwealth payment is in arrear; that is to say, only on production of a receipted doctor’s bill will the Government benefit be paid to the organization. As payments from its funds are involved, the organization must carefully scrutinize the account for its own security as well as that of the Government. Also, as the patient pays the balance between the combined benefits and the actual fee, opportunities for collusion are much less than if the whole fee were provided from benefits and the patient had nothing to pay.
The most costly free service in the scheme is the pharmaceutical benefits service, which provides for the supply of free life-saving drugs, on a doctor’s prescription, to every resident of Australia. This step of the scheme has been operating since August, 1950. During the last year, its cost has been brought well under control by a co-operative partnership with the British Medical Association and the Pharmaceutical Service Guild of Australia. The methods which have secured this result are unique in the world and will be described subsequently.
The previous Government’s attempt to provide free medicine was a ‘Complete fiasco. Only 155 doctors of 8,000 in Australia were willing to prescribe the stereotyped general prescriptions laid down by that Government. In contrast, up to date, under the present Government’s scheme, more than 8,000 doctors, or practically the whole of the Australian medical profession, have prescribed 20,000,000 prescriptions of free life-saving drugs for the sick. The provision of these drugs has had an extraordinary influence in improving the health of patients and the finance of the hospitals, as I shall later show, and has brought a much earlier return to work of people who were sick. The value to the nation of these cumulative benefits probably equals the cost to the Government of the free drugs.
The Australian scheme, alone of all the schemes in the world, seems able to keep the number of prescriptions, and consequent drug cost, under control. The cost in 1952-53 was £800,000 less than in 1951-52, even though there has been a continuous increase of population. This reduction of cost has been secured although each prescription of free lifesaving drugs under the national health scheme, because of quality and potency, cost three to four times as much as a similar prescription in New Zealand and Great Britain, or under the previous Australian Labour Government’s scheme. Life-saving drugs provided under the Australian scheme have proved more effective in combating sickness than have general medicines provided under other schemes. At the same time, the expenditure on compounded drugs in the pensioner scheme has risen steeply. I am afraid no way has been found to control such expenditure.
The provision of free drugs has proved the Achilles heel of other national health schemes. It must be carefully safeguarded in Australia ; otherwise costs will bolt. At the inception of the New Zealand health scheme, in 1941, it was estimated that the drug cost to the Government would not exceed £500,000 per annum. In 1945-46, the cost passed the £1,000,000 mark, and in 1953-54 it is estimated that drugs will cost the New Zealand Government £3,200,000, or more than six times as much as in 1945-46. During the whole period since the inception of that scheme, the New Zealand Government drug bill has steadily risen at the rate of £300,000 to £400,000 a year. The Director-General of Health in New Zealand, in his 1953 report, said that one of the main causes of this increase was irresponsibility because of complete freedom from cost to the patient.
The free drug section, of the British health scheme was estimated to cost £12,700,000 for the first nine months of 1948-49, the year it was introduced. In 1951- 52 the cost had risen to £43,600,000. Even though a charge of ls. a prescription was imposed in 1952-53, the estimated cost is still £40,000,000. From inquiries which I made in london, it is apparent that the cost is still rising, despite the charge which the chemist receives in addition to the government payment. On a similar basis, a comparison of Australian figures shows that the provision of free drugs cost £7,3.27,000 in 1951-52, and £6,486,000 in 1952- 53, or £841,000 less for the year. The 1953-54 budget figure includes a sum of £1,300,000, which is a retrospective act of grace payment to give back to State public hospitals the cost of free life-saving drugs denied to them by the previous Labour legislation.
The methods evolved to secure this result are unique in the world, and have proved crucial to the whole success of the Australian health scheme. These methods brought into being the most intimate collaboration’ and planning with the federal council of the British Medical Association and the Federal Pharmaceutical Guild of Australia. Machinery has been developed that ensures policing and disciplining of the whole drug service by the professions which actually implement the service. At this point I cannot speak too highly of the activities of the doctors of Australia as a whole in this matter. The medical profession has no pecuniary interest in the proper management of the mechanics of the distribution of free lifesaving drugs. The interest of the doctors is the welfare of the patients. Yet the doctors helped to elaborate machinery, which they are working under regulations, whereby they not merely control the provision of free drugs, but also prevent abuse in other parts of the health scheme. These regulations are reproduced in the bill in order to give them statutory sanction. Part VIII. of the bill, in clauses 105 to 131, deals fully with these matters.
Experience has shown that the committees constituted under these rules are able to exercise control, not only over the free life-saving drugs position, but also over other sections, such as the pensioner medical” and medicine services. Their existence and collaboration are seen to be invaluable in our general dealings with the whole of the insurance aspect of this scheme as set out in the bill.
Determination of appropriate items of free life-saving drugs is a specialized technical and expert matter. The drugs to be recommended for inclusion must be decided on medical grounds alone. A specialist advisory committee, therefore, has been appointed by regulation and will now be endorsed by statute to carry out this function. The bill, provides, in clause 100, that additional drugs or medicines shall not be prescribed as general pharmaceutical benefits, except in accordance with a recommendation of the committee to the Minister. It must be the experts who decide the proper drugs to be >used. This specialist advisory drug committee, officially called the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee, consists of four medical experts, one chemist from the Department of Health, one chemist chosen from a panel nominated by the Pharmaceutical Service Guild of Australia, and one pharmacologist.
Control over abuse of the scheme as a whole is vested in the hands of committees of doctors or pharmacists respectively, according to whether abuse is committed by a member of one or other of the professions. A federal medical disciplinary committee is appointed by the Minister for Health. This consists of the Director-General of Health and four doctors chosen from a panel of six nominated by the federal council of the British Medical Association. State committees, with a similar constitution, are also appointed. Pharmaceutical committees, both Federal and State, are also appointed in a similar way. These committees have wide powers of inquiry, which are fully set out in Part VIII. of the bill. Inquiries already made by these committees, and action taken by the department, have resulted in successful prosecutions and the imposition of minor penalties.
The exhibition of costly life-saving drugs in adequate doses to patients suffering from appropriate acute diseases has already saved many lives. Many cases of acute disease have been cut short. The necessity for patients to enter hospital has been obviated in thousands of cases. Crippling and often fatal sequelae following acute disease have been prevented. Thousands of men and womenworkers have been able to return to their normal occupations much earlier, thus adding millions of man-hours to the productivity of the community. Use of such drugs has proved an important factor in the restoration of hospital finance. This phase of the National Health Scheme is paying for itself by preventing disease, by cutting it shorter if it comes, by quicker convalescence, earlier return to normal health and activity, and shows a net gain to the taxpayer. It has also played a big part in the evolution of machinery for streamlining the working of the Health Scheme as a whole.
The fourth indispensable feature of a successful national health scheme is that hospital administration must be kept solvent. Hospital revenues have rapidly improved with the operation of the scheme. Later, with the consent of honorable members, I shall incorporate in Hansard some figures which show this improvement. In the meantime, I point out that after 1945-46, the proportion of public payments to the hospital system declined from 52 per cent, to 16 per cent, of the revenue. Under our plan, the proportion has risen to 21.6 per cent, and it is estimated, on the basis of the experience of hospitals at the present time, that the figure will be 30 per cent, this year. This afternoon, I was given figures in respect of the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital, which showed that the local income of the institution from all departments for one quarter last year was £75,000, and for the corresponding period this year was £130,000. In 1952-53, the scheme operated in all States for nine months, and hospital finances improved by approximately £3,500,000. In passing, I express by appreciation of the co-operation that I have received from the New South Wales Minister for Health, Mr. O’Sullivan. The improvement in the hospital position in that State is approximately £2,300,000 annually. Honorable members have some knowledge of the terrible condition of our mental homes. If the huge hospital deficit can be reduced, we shall begin to see daylight in respect of dealing with the mental homes. Before the inception of the scheme, the hospital system was almost bankrupt. Now the hospital position has been changed into one of current surpluses and of optimism that old deficits will be wiped out and new hospital gains built up. It is worth noting that the only other countries in the world where new hospitals are being built are in those which have developed voluntary hospital insurance schemes, such as Switzerland, the United States of America, Canada, Sweden, &c. In Britain the taxpayer, in one way or another, finds the whole huge cost of the health scheme, amounting to £515,000,000 a year. Despite this enormous expenditure, a British official statement for 1953 points out that the scheme has not yet been able to finance the construction of a single new hospital. Of the 20,000 health centres, which were said to be indispensable five years ago, the first specially constructed one will be completed this year, and two more are under construction. I shall now show that each step of the Australian scheme improves the general hospital position.
The well-equipped hospital bed has become, since the war, one of our most precious assets. Pressure on man-power, materials and money has made it almost impossible to increase the number of hospital beds. Therefore, a successful health scheme must make the best use of existing beds. The hospital has really become the workshop of the modern doctor.
The Australian scheme attacks the problem in a co-ordinated way, which aims to lessen the duration of sickness, and while increasing the revenues of hospitals, it also provides a means whereby the patient is able to meet his hospital bill.
Firstly, early diagnosis and treatment of disease are stimulated by the introduction of medical and hospital benefit insurance. Patients frequently delayed taking medical advice in the early stages of disease for fear of facing ultimately an overwhelming hospital and medical bill. Insurance removes this fear, and hospital stay is shortened. The Commonwealth’s medical and hospital benefit scheme enables such bills to be taken care of at a very low premium rate by reason of the Australian Government’s subvention to voluntary insurance. This government assistance is given and safeguarded in such a way that the insurance organizations handle the whole project in distributing by their traditional methods both their own and the Government’s benefit.
Secondly, the new antibiotic drugs given free on a doctor’s prescription to all sections of the community often prevent and, in all cases, cut short the duration of sickness. For instance, in the case of pneumonia, the patient may be out of danger inside three days instead of three weeks as was the case ten years ago. The result is that it is often not necessary for the patient to enter hospital at all. If the patient does go into hospital, his stay is much shorter. An analysis made in Canberra of the cases able to be treated at home shows that 10 per cent, fewer now enter hospital than previously were forced to do so.
Thirdly, the Australia-wide free milk scheme inaugurated for the first time in Australia in December, 1950, for children under thirteen years of age attending public and private primary schools and approved kindergartens and creches will have a definite, beneficial effect on the hospital bed position. Over 750,000 children are obtaining free milk in all the States, and the answer <to the problem of children in the outback districts is being carefully sought. I discussed this matter a few days ago with the Premier of Queensland and previously with the authorities in Western Australia, South Australia and New South Wales with a view to ascertaining whether means . could be provided for the introduction of an easily handled scheme in places where there is no milk.
The experience of Great Britain in the war, despite its terrific housing problems owing to the blitz, and destruction of houses accompanied by shortage of many classes of food, showed conclusively the value of the gift of milk to children. Measurements taken after the war, despite these appalling conditions of life, showed that this gift of milk had increased the average .weight of children between the ages of twelve and fourteen years by 2 lb. as compared with pre-war, raised their average height by 1 inch and strengthened their constitutions. Healthy children are more likely to make healthy adults, with less sickness, less hospitalization, less absence from work, continuous earning capacity and a much longer life. This milk provision will prove to be one of our best national investments. The method of distribution in the schools by senior boys and girls gives an education in community effort and a sense of personal importance that will prove of great value in their ultimate view of life.
Fourthly, the Government’s provision of free medical treatment and medicines to pensioners, in which over 5,000,000 services have already been rendered, enables many of the aged to received treat- ‘ ment in their own homes. This relieves pressure on the hospital bed position from that group, to the extent of 6 per cent, of admissions, as well as being much more comfortable for the pensioners themselves. Many of these pensioner cases are of a chronic nature and usually have a long stay in hospital, thus using beds urgently needed for acute cases. The hospital position is therefore helped by the average stay in hospital being lowered from this service. This provision has given a tremendous psychological fillip to the pensioners themselves, which no previous government ever contemplated.
Fifthly, practically all State governments are now charging at .least the cost of board in hospital, even though actual nursing may not be charged for. This fact tends also to lessen hospital stay, after the patient is cured. Hitherto, a patient might remain indefinitely if he thought that the hospital was not a bad sort of place, but now that he pays at least the cost of board, he is eager to leave the institution as quickly as possible.
Australian hospital statistics show that the average stay in hospitals has been reduced from fourteen to fifteen to twelve to thirteen days. This quicker turnover of beds last year saved 1,200,000 bed-days as compared with the previous year. In 1953-54, it is estimated that the hospital bed-days saved will be much greater than in previous years.
The effect on hospital finance is already very striking. Many of Australia’s large hospitals, which last year had big deficits, are now showing surpluses. For instance, Royal Prince Alfred Hospital showed, on 30th June, 1953, the first surplus in its history. In the quarter from July to October, 1952, it had a local income of £75,000 from all its departments. In July to October, this year, its local income was £130,000 and was increasing at the rate of £5,000 a month. The position is set out in the following table: -
In Western Australia, in 1952-53, the revenue of public hospitals increased from Commonwealth aid and patients’ fees by £381,000. I have already pointed out that in 1952-53, though the hospital insurance scheme had not operated in all States for the full year, the increase in income from Commonwealth aid and patients’ fees, including the additional Commonwealth hospital benefit and the insurance organization fund benefit, exceeded £3,500,000. If the rate of increased income of the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital applied throughout Australia during 1953-54, the hospital income increase from Commonwealth insurance and patients’ fees would be between £7,000,000 and £8,000,000. This improvement in hospital maintenance income leaves other funds available to keep the hospital building programme in line with the needs of an increasing population, and provides the necessary modern and improved equipment necessary to cone with the progress made in medical science.
The improvement in the financial position of large metropolitan hospitals applies equally to small country hospitals. The Dubbo Base Hospital has reported that the credit balance for 1953 is the first since 1947. Likewise, the Yass District Hospital records the first surplus for many years. The Kyogle Memorial Hospital created history in finishing the year with a credit balance for the first time in eighteen years. Those examples could be multiplied many times. The revolutionary change in hospital finance has been achieved in the first year of operation of the hospital insurance scheme, and has given inspiration to hospital administrators throughout Australia. No doubt the president of the Bairnsdale District Hospital in Victoria expressed the opinion of many hospital workers when he stated in his annual report -
Had it not been for the additional source of revenue derived from the Commonwealth hospital benefit scheme, the hospital would have shown a substantial deficit on the year’s transactions.
The hospitals tell their own story as to whether the health programme pays. New hope has been given to the members of hospital boards, administrators and all workers in the hospital field. Difficulties, which in the past seemed insuperable, will be tackled and overcome. A new spirit has been born, and this will be reflected in the progress that the relief from financial difficulties will make possible. This will be especially evident among the auxiliary workers, who have given such fine, voluntary assistance to hospitals over many years.
Perhaps the most striking contribution of the national health plan to Australia will be the “eradication of tuberculosis and the conversion to general use of the special hospitals now being built for the treatment of tuberculosis when eradication is completed. All these hospitals are being constructed with this ultimate purpose in view. The first effective step taken to eradicate tuberculosis was in July, 1950. The Government was able to make this successful attack through the presence on the statute-book of an act following upon a report by Dr. Harry Wunderly, the present Commonwealth Director of Tuberculosis, and passed by the previous Government in 1948 under the appropriation powers of section 96 of the Constitution and has been actively supported by the present Government. In December, 1949, when we took office, we found that although the bill had been passed in November, 1948, two of the States ‘had not signed the agreements. Immediately approaches were made to the States of New South Wales and South Australia to get into line. The stage was then set for a huge frontal attack in eradicating the disease.
The first move was to draw out of circulation acutely infectious cases who were concealing themselves in the fear that, if they ceased work and underwent treatment, their homes would not be maintained. Until that time, the only allowance that they could receive was the invalid pension at the ordinary rate. I immediately discussed the whole matter of allowances with the Treasury officers who were persuaded of the wisdom of making the allowance sufficiently large to assure maintenance of the sufferer’s domestic economy. These are the most generous tuberculosis allowances in the world. They are -
Immediately thousands who had been concealing their disease offered themselves for diagnosis and treatment. In Queensland, for instance, where facilities for treatment of tuberculosis and the segregation of patients had been very inadequate, the number notified during the eighteen months after the beginning of the tuberculosis allowances scheme was almost exactly double the number notified in the eighteen months preceding the introduction of the allowances. At the same time, the Government started a mass X-ray chest service and made financial provision for new hospitals in the States to enable the segregation of tubercular cases from ordinary cases. The succeeding four years have shown most extraordinary results from this policy.
Although the number of cases notified has increased, as was anticipated, the number of deaths has been very substantially reduced, falling from 1,964 in 1949 to 1,289 in 1952. The rate of deaths from tuberculosis fell from 25 in 1949 to 14.9 in 1952 per 100,000. At the beginning of the scheme, the number of allowances paid rose steadily to 6,518 in December, 1951. Now the number has fallen to 5,700. This decrease is not due to a decrease in the number of new cases, because the intensive search mentioned has revealed many unsuspected cases, but is due to the number of persons returning to full-time employment after being cured, and thus no longer requiring the allowance. Their danger to their family and fellow workmen has been removed. Patients have been restored to full citizenship. Surely every one will agree that this health scheme is paying for itself.
In 1952-53 the Australian Government found £1,907,945 for tuberculosis allowances and £2,968,012 for maintenance of tuberculosis hospitals in the States. In the years 1950-53, it found £2,500,000 capital expenditure for new hospitals for tuberculosis and committed itself for a further sum of £4,000,000.
Altogether, 1,000 additional hospital beds have been found for tubercular patients, and commitments have been made for a further 1,500. Treatment of tubercular patients in these hospitals is quite free, the Australian Government finding approximately 80 per cent, of the maintenance cost and the States about 20 per cent.
The building programme in every State, which is financed wholly by the Australian Government, is making provision for special beds for tubercular cases to be well decentralized throughout the State as well as being provided in the metropolitan districts. I venture to say that there is no more interesting story of the attack on tuberculosis in the world than this. Our generous allowances for acutely infectious cases assured its success. These have been described by the tuberculosis journals of Great Britain as the most generous in the world. I am glad to say that practically every State has now brought in provisions making submission to mass X-ray compulsory.
Before concluding my story of the gradual and steady growth of the Australian national health scheme, it is only right that I should pay a tribute to the assistance given by all the officers of my own and other departments and the cooperation of State governments. However, I should especially like to mention that the continued active working of the scheme depends upon the consistent cooperation of the governments and the community generally, and of the federal organizations which direct the policies of the doctors, chemists and insurance organizations. On the 12th January, 1950, within a month of taking office, I called together representatives of all these bodies, and I should like to thank their organizations as a whole, and the individuals of the organizations, for the loyalty and support that they have shown in this long struggle to present a health plan acceptable to all partners in the undertaking. Especially am I glad to announce that, in the last few months, a federal council of the insurance organizations has been brought into existence. I am sure its advice will be as valuable in the future progress of the national health scheme as that of other federal organizations has been in the past. I have been struck by the manner in which public interest has been displayed and opportunities for disinterested public service have been seized by these organizations. I am sure that the personal contacts and administrative relationships that the scheme has made inevitable will be invaluable to Australia in the future.
The Government’s well-designed plan has been accepted by all the people of Australia, as is proved by its smooth operation in practice. In the four years since this Government took over the reins of office, successive steps of the scheme have resulted in every stage of life being touched -
Children are immunized against infection and 750,000 are supplied with free milk.
Young people, who are so prone to tuberculosis, are protected.
The most generous allowances in the world are paid to sufferers from active tuberculosis. The community is protected by such a programme.
Every one is provided with free lifesaving and disease-preventing drugs.
Pensioners are provided with free medical service and free medicines over and above the free lifesaving drugs available to every one.
Hospital and medical benefits are made available to encourage earlier diagnosis and cheapen the cost of hospital andmedical insurance and treatment.
Anomalies regarding age restrictions, chronic diseases, pre-existing complaints, &c, are being rapidly overcome.
These services are estimated to cost, in the current financial year, £31,213,000, or approximately £25,000,000 more than in the 1948-49 financial year, the last complete year during which the Labour Government held office. This record scarcely deserves the term niggardly that the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) has applied to it. If it does, what term of praise could describe the Labour Government’s effort ? This also recalls to my mind that the federal Labour party strenuously opposed, at every stage, the Australian Loan Council legislation as well as the referendum and even the enabling bill to carry it into effect when the people had voted so heavily in its favour. Federal Labour’s opposition to the health measure may be an augury of permanent success for the health scheme similar to that which resulted from the application of the financial agreement and the establishment of the Australian Loan Council.
In order to enable honorable members to have readily at hand the statistics regarding Australian and overseas development, I have prepared a number of short statements and, with the consent of the House, I should like to have them incorporated in Hansard as an appendix to my speech. This would save time and trouble.
The Government is proud of its achievements in the health field and believes that the people have endorsed its plans. The fact that approximately 5,000,000 persons are now covered for hospital and medical benefits is proof positive that the national health scheme is no longer a fantasy but is, in fact, a reality that, in the period of its operation, has become an integral part of the life of the Australian people. Voluntary co-operation, mutualunderstanding, self-help and mutual help breathe the spirit of service into thewhole system. They provide a realistic basis for the attempt, on a national scale, to relieve human suffering, prevent sickness, provide the best: possible service, and bring to all individuals maximum health and happiness.
– Is leave granted for the incorporation in Hansard of the documents to which the Minister has referred ?
– As there is an objection, leave is not granted.
Government Supporters. - Read them out.
– May I read them to the House, Mr. Speaker?
– Order ! I do not think that would overcome the difficulty. I examined these documents while the Minister was speaking. They consist of nine foolscap pages of statistics. There would be difficulties in the way of printing them in tables the size of Hansard pages. In fact, I am sure that some of them would have to be re-arranged. Apart from those difficulties, I think it is high time that the House considered the relationship between statistics and speeches. Hansard is supposed to be a record of what is said in the House. I have reminded honorable members of that fact from the chair time and again. I do not wish to express an opinion one way or the other on this occasion, but I think that a committee of the House should be asked to consider whether, and, if so, in what circumstances, statistics of this type should be incorporated in Hansard.
– I shall be pleased to supply copies of the documents to members of the Opposition.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Allan Fraser) adjourned.
Motion (by Sir Earle Page) agreed to-
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act to provide standards for certain therapeutic substances, and for other purposes.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill bo now read a. second time.
In Australia for many years it has been the practice for the States to adopt the standards of purity of the British Pharmacopoeia or the British Pharmaceutical Codex in respect of medicines controlled under their food and drugs, dangerous drugs and poisons, and other enactments dealing with matters of this kind. The Commonwealth, where it has dealt with this subject by statute, such as, for example, in the pharmaceutical benefits legislation, has also in the past adopted the standards of purity of the British Pharmacopoeia. Unfortunately, the British Pharmacopoeia does not completely cover the field of therapeutic substances, as there is usually a time-lag between the introduction and use of new drugs and their inclusion in the British Pharmacopoeia. Naturally enough, with such a standard authority as the British Pharmacopoeia, it cannot be amended from day to day nor can positive and conclusive standards be determined and established in such a form as would readily permit their incorporation in such a. standard work.
It will thus be seen that, until some authoritative standard is set up, or until the newer drugs are incorporated in the new editions of the British Pharmacopoeia, it is extremely difficult to control and regulate standards of purity for new drugs. This means that drugs are imported and are used without the responsible authorities being in a position to control and regulate them by reference to appropriate standards. It is the consensus of opinion of both the Commonwealth and the State authorities, and of the medical and pharmaceutical professions, that means of fixing standards ancillary to the British Pharmacopoeia and other accepted authorities should be adopted in this country. Quite apart from the absence of appropriate standards in some cases, there are the mechanical and technical problems associated with the testing of certain types of therapeutic substances. For example, many of the new drugs are not susceptible to analysis by chemical means alone. For instance, such drugs may be sera, vaccines, glandular products such as insulin, or antibiotics. It is apparent, therefore, that there is a necessity for properly equipped and staffed testing laboratory facilities capable of determining standards on a national basis.
In 1935, Great Britain passed a Therapeutic Substances Actfor the control of these substances, and Australia passed somewhat similar legislation in 1937-38. This Australian act, however, has never been proclaimed to come into operation and so the control of drugs for all purposes in this country has been dealt with by the States and, because of some dissimilarity of the provisions and requirements existing in State law, complete uniformity in this field has not been achieved on a nation-wide basis. An expert committee of the National Health and Medical Research Council, which is the technical body to which both Commonwealth and State governments look for advice on these matters, recommended in 1951 that the Commonwealth should pass an amending act dealing with therapeutic substances. As a result of this recommendation, the Commonwealth and State governments agreed that a conference of their representatives should be held, which conference subsequently deliberated on the matter on the 17th November, 1952.
This conference passed a number of important resolutions concerning the regulation and control of therapeutic substances and of other matters incidental thereto, one of the most important of which was that the Commonwealth Government should enact legislation to the limit of its constitutional powers relating to the standard of purity of such substances: that is to say, drugs which are used as therapeutic substances. Though I shall discuss the precise meaning of the term “ therapeutic substance “ when I deal with the various clauses of the bill, I mention at this stage that, generally speaking, “ therapeutic substance “ means any material or substance that is used in the treatment of disease or sickness. This recommendation from the expert advisers of the Commonwealth and State governments was of particular importance to the Commonwealth because the great proportion of life-saving and diseasepreventing drugs used in Australia are paid for by the Commonwealth Government under the provisions of its pharmaceutical benefits legislation.
I may be pardoned if I interpolate here a reference to the significance of proper standards for drugs in relation to the control of the expenditure by the Commonwealth for pharmaceutical benefits. It will be agreed, I am sure, that it would be false economy on the part of the Commonwealth to lay out large sums of public money to provide life-saving and diseasepreventing drugs if such drugs did not achieve the purposes for which they were provided. The quality of the drugs that are provided is of paramount importance. If no standard exists for certain drugs, no person, whether with guilty or innocent intentions, can be accused of supplying sub-standard drugs or drugs which have little or no therapeutic value. Steps are being taken in other directions to eliminate waste and extravagance in the prescription and use of drugs, but such action will , be robbed of its efficacy if a proportion of drugs that may be legitimately used are of sub-standard quality. As a matter of fact, it may be truthfully said that even financial considerations are secondary to the overriding consideration that drugs which are provided to safeguard and restore health should be of the highest standard, and the Government must ensure that only drugs which are capable of achieving the purposes for which they are prescribed shall be made available to the people. I regret to state that at present there is evidence that drugs are being supplied that do not conform to the requisite standards and, so, are incapable of carrying out the job which the medical profession believes that they will carry out. It would be criminal to allow such a state of affairs to exist and continue merely through lack of appropriate action.
The Government decided to accept and act on the recommendation of the conference referred to above and, in its approach to this matter, it took cognizance of the fact that, in addition to having constitutional power to make law3 with respect to the provision of pharmaceutical and sickness benefits and medical services and so on, and other matters incidental thereto, it also has power to deal with imports, interstate trade and exports. As will be seen from an examination of the bill, the Commonwealth has made use of such powers to deal with certain aspects of the matters comprised in this bill. It must be remembered that laws relating to the manufacture of therapeutic substances in Australia lie within the constitutional responsibility of the States. It is considered necessary that in order to round off the overall scheme for the proper regulation and control of drugs in this country, the several States will need to enact the necessary complementary legislation with respect to the manufacture of drugs and their purely intrastate distribution and use. I might mention that the States have to a large extent covered this field so far as it is within their power, and any further legislative action on their part will probably have to be of only a limited character.
One of the actual recommendations made to the Commonwealth and State governments was -
That the Commonwealth and States should jointly, within the limits of their respective constitutional powers, take the necessary legislation and administrative action with respect to the marketing and labelling of therapeutic substances as is from time to time deemed necessary.
A specific recommendation of the conference, addressed to the State governments alone, was to the effect that the States should develop their legislation along uniform lines to provide for the licensing of manufacture of drugs and medicines in the respective States. It is proposed, therefore, that following the passing of this bill such draft model legislation should be prepared. Owing to the complex nature of modem therapeutic substances, the tests employed to determine their purity, both chemical and biological, have become more difficult and exacting. In this regard I gratefully acknowledge the assistance that has been given in recent times by the staffs of several of the Australian Universities in the testing of drugs. It is the responsibility of the Commonwealth to extend both numerically and qualitatively the tests of purity of medicines used by the sick people of this country, and arrangements will be speedily completed after this bill is passed to give full effect to this responsibility.
It will be realized that the successful carrying out of the policy of the Government with respect to the establishment and maintenance of high standards for therapeutic substances will not be achieved only by Parliament passing this bill. The constant vigilance and assistance of technical experts will be necessary in the various ways and means that are employed to determine and maintain standards. The governmental experts at their conference recommended that an expert committee be set up to advise the Commonwealth and the States on suitable standards for drugs not yet included in cither the British or other recognized pharmacopoeia and on the related matters which are incidental to such standards. The Commonwealth has accepted this advice and it is proposed that such an expert committee will be set up. Provision is being made under the bill for that purpose. In conclusion, therefore, 1 state briefly that this bill will empower the Commonwealth to establish standards for therapeutic substances so far as it may do so, and to prescribe testing facilities to ascertain whether such standards are being maintained. Already a very fine laboratory is being operated by the Trade and Customs Department for the testing of imported drugs. Also, if the Parliament approves of this measure and complementary legislation is enacted by the States, the collaboration of those parties will result in uniformity of packaging and labelling of therapeutic substances throughout Australia. One of the causes for the present high prices of drugs is that each State prescribes a different basis for the packing of drugs with the result that a manufacturer in Victoria, for instance, must pack drugs according to the relevant law of the State to which they are to be despatched.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Allan Fraser) adjourned.
Motion (by Sir Arthur Fadden) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act to amend the Sales Tax Assessment Act (No. 5) 1930-1939.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The provisions of this bill relate only to certain matters of procedure in connexion with the collection of sales tax upon the importation of goods into Australia. Its principal purpose is to authorize the adoption, for sales tax purposes, of the same procedure as that followed for purposes of customs duty in respect of goods which are temporarily imported into Australia with the intention that they shall be subsequently re-exported. The bill is designed to amend the Sales Tax Assessment Act (No. 5) 1930-1939, which is the act relating to the collection of sales tax in respect of the importation of goods into Australia by retailers or by users or consumers of the goods. When tax is payable in such cases, it is collected by the Department of Trade and Customs on behalf of the Taxation Branch.
Section 6a of the Sales Tax Assessment Act (No. 5) provides that, in prescribed cases, sales tax payable in respect of imported goods may be paid to the Collector of Customs and retained by him on deposit for a period not exceeding twelve months. Where the goods are exported within that time, the deposit on account of sales tax is refunded. Subsection (4.) of section 6a provides that, in these cases, the Collector may accept a security in lieu of a deposit. Goods to which the section applies, and the conditions to be observed, are prescribed in sales tax regulation 52a. The classes of goods so prescribed in regulation 52a include travellers’ samples, certain goods imported for the purposes of public exhibition or entertainment, the personal belongings of tourists or temporary residents, wedding presents, containers, and goods imported for the purpose of being repaired Or for other industrial purposes.
Section 6A is administered by the Department of Trade and Customs for the Taxation Branch, in conjunction with the corresponding provisions of section. 162 of the Customs Act. The latter section has, however, been re-expressed in order to authorize the Collector of Customs to deliver the goods upon receipt of a security or undertaking for payment of the duty in the event of failure to comply with the conditions regarding reexportation of the goods. Section 162, as amended, also authorizes the Minister to extend, beyond the prescribed period of twelve months, the time during which the goods may be retained in Australia. It is, of course, most essential that in such cases there should be uniform treatment for the purposes of sales tax and customs duty. Action, therefore, is being taken to bring section 6 a of the Sales Tax Assessment Act (No. 5) into line with section 162 of the Customs Act as now expressed.
Opportunity is also being taken to delete certain parts of section 4 of Sales Tax Assessment Act (No. 5) which are now unnecessary. Under sub-section (1.) of that section, sales tax is payable in respect of imported goods upon an amount which exceeds by 20 per cent, the sum of the following : -
Sub-section (3.) of section 4 specifies the rate of exchange to be used in converting the value for duty into Australian currency.
When these provisions were made, the Customs Act provided that all duties were payable in British currency and values shown on invoices in any other currency had to be converted to British currency for the purpose of ascertaining the value for duty. By Act No. 54 of 1947, which was assented to on the 13th November, 1947, the Customs Act was amended to provide that the value for duty of imported goods should be expressed in Australian currency. Therefore, since the 13th November, 1947, the requirement in section 4 of the Sales Tax Assessment Act (No. 5) that the value for duty shall be converted into Australian currency for sales tax purposes has been redundant. It is proposed now to remove it. The bill deals with these matters of routine only.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Tom Burke) adjourned.
Debate resumed (vide page 153).
.- It is obvious that the impending visit to this country of Her Majesty the Queen is a subject on which there is agreement on both sides of the House. The fact that already the visit has created an atmosphere that usually i3 conspicously absent from this chamber shows, as has often been claimed, that the British Monarchy is the most outstanding influence for good that is left in this troubled world. I do not want to say anything to upset the understanding that exists between us in respect of the Royal visit, but I feel I should direct some attention to the remarks that have been made by an honorable member and persons outside this House about people whose duty will be to participate in some of the functions attended by Her Majesty in this country. I refer to members of local government authorities who, year after year, devote their time and energy, perhaps to a degree of which we are not fully aware, to the affairs of their shires and municipalities. Their sense of voluntary public service is an example to all of us. When the Queen visits this country, it will be the duty of local councillors to represent their municipalities and shires at some of the functions attended by Her Majesty, but some people have suggested that they are pushing themselves forward and seeking the limelight. I regard that suggestion as a grave reflection on people who have worked for this country industriously, but inconspicuously, for years.
I want to refer to the remarks that were made on this subject by the honorable member for Gellibrand (Mr. Mullens). As he is not in the House now, my criticism of his remarks will not be as caustic as it would otherwise have been. This afternoon he referred, in the glib, easy and facile- style with which he is gifted, to bumbles and their ponderosi ties and platitudes. Let me say that tho bumbles to whom he referred, with their ponderosities and platitudes, have worked for the welfare of this community for years. It ill becomes an honorable member who has the gift of expressing himself clearly and easily to talk of local councillors in that way in the national forum of Australia. There are dozens of local councillors in my electorate who will not push themselves forward when the Queen is here, but who will need to be in attendance. Perhaps they will be a little embarrassed by the limelight focussed on them, but I know that they will do their duty in connexion with the Royal visit just as conscientiously as they have performed their other duties in the past.
The honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron) endeavoured to place some of the responsibility for thu arrangement of the Royal tour on thi* Government. But we know that the task of preparing the intinerary for each Sta to has been jealously guarded by the States concerned. It is the privilege of each State government to arrange the details of Her Majesty’s tour of the State for which it is responsible. The places visited and the route taken by the Royal couple in each State are decided by the State governments. A State government would bitterly resent any interference with its plans by the Commonwealth.
The honorable member for Hindmarsh, in the course of his speech, gave an outline of the policy of the Labour party. Although the policy that he outlined gave us no pleasure, we derived some satisfaction from the fact that the policy of the Labour party had been revealed. Honorable members on both sides of the House are on common ground in many instances and whilst we may have different ideas about how we can secure the welfare of the citizens of Australia and about, social services and repatriation benefits, the objective of all of us is to look after people who - shall I say - are underprivileged and need help. The fact that £1S4.000.000 has been earmarked for social services this year is indicative of that. But if there is one reason more than another why a number of honorable members on this side of the House have been impelled to enter the political arena, it is their belief that there is a fundamental difference between the policy of the Government parties and that of the Labour party. We believe in free enterprise and the liberty of the subject, whilst the Labour party believes in control and direction. The result of the general election of 1949, after the Labour party had legislated to nationalize the private banks of this country, showed that the Australian people did not want legislation of that type. Many of us who normally would not have entered politics felt that we should do so in order to safeguard the interests of Australia and that is why some of us are here at the present time.
Honorable members opposite, realizing that the Australian people resent direction and control by governments, have concealed, as far as possible, their socialist objective. After the Privy Council had given its decision in the bank nationalization case, the late leader of the Labour party in this Parliament, who had fought desperately to nationalize the banks, said that bank nationalization was a dead issue. But the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward), when he is stung by barbs from this side of the House, admits from time to time that members of the Labour party are socialists and asks, “ Why do not we call ourselves the socialist party? “ Other honorable members opposite imply that the honorable member for East Sydney is an extremist who can be kept under control, but we know that the policy of their party still is a policy of socialization and nationalization. That was revealed by a man who, if this Government were defeated at the next general election, would be one of the outstanding members of a Labour government. He is a man with great authority in the trade union movement, in which his word is given a tremendous amount of weight. We believe that if he used some of his talents in the right way he would be an asset to Australia. The honorable member for Hindmarsh candidly revealed something that so-called moderate Labour members have been endeavouring to camouflage for years. He admitted that the policy of the Labour party was the nationalization or socialization of the means of production, distribution and ex- change. This policy was brought to light again earlier this year at the biennial conference of the Australian Labour party in South Australia, when the following motion was submitted:-^’
That the Australian Labour party should warn private enterprise that it will on return to office pursue its socialist policy and resume control of those means of production, distribution and exchange sabotaged by the Menzies Government earlier.
Surely that must have been one of the best pieces of sabotage ever performed by a government! However, the official explanation was that as socialization was already on the platform of the Labour party, there was no need for the motion. To emphasize that, it was pointed out that the order of nationalization was banking, credit and insurance, monopolies, shipping, public health, radio services and sugar refining. Those matters were mentioned by the honorable member for Hindmarsh earlier to-day. The honorable, member also criticized profits made by General Motors-Holden’s Limited. He spoke as if it was disgraceful for a company to become so efficient that it could make profits and distribute them to its shareholders. The implication was, too, that” even the drawing of money from share investments was a sin. We on this side of the chamber believe that anybody who is prepared to take the risk of investing capital in business is entitled to enjoy some of the profits of that business. In the absence of a profit-making community who would pay our annual pensions bill of £1S4,000,000 ? Presumably, the honorable member for Hindmarsh believes that the Westclox organization in Australia was an ideal company because it was compelled to fold up. The honorable member said that General MotorsHolden’s Limited had made a gross profit of £9,000,000. In fairness to the company I point out that there was an initial investment of £8,500,000 before any return whatsoever was received. Indeed, there was no assurance that profits would ever be made, but investors were prepared to take that risk. The venture has proved successful only because of the engineering and administrative skill that has been applied to the company’s operations. Now £11,000,000 is being ploughed back into the undertaking in a programme of expansion. The Ford motor company in the electorate of Corio has a £6,000,000 expansion plan. It will be a long time before any profits are drawn from that money, but the plan shows that the company has confidence in the future of this country. Competition between efficient industries keeps prices down, and the socialization of any industry can only result in inefficiency and higher prices.
For years members of the Australian Labour party have been afraid to let people know their real intentions towards industry, and the revelations made today by the honorable member for Hindmarsh are most interesting. At least the honorable member has the courage of his convictions and is not afraid to let the electors know exactly what he and his colleagues have in mind. I invite him to come into my electorate and tell employees of the International Harvester Company and the Ford Motor Company that if Labour is returned to office at the next elections those industries will be brought under government control. Of course, if compulsory unionism is introduced the Labour party will be in an even better position to dictate to industry. The whole trend of this debate indicates clearly that Labour’s policy is based on compulsion, and we on this side of the chamber believe that the people of Australia should be told on every possible occasion of the danger that this country is in from socialization. Even the professed moderates of the Labour party are compelled to subscribe to the party’s socialist objective. Whilst I do not accuse honorable members opposite of being Communists, I do say that if they were to study their policy carefully, they would find that they were being led into a trap. Complete socialization must lead inevitably to communism. No one would be allowed to be moderate, and the opponents of complete control would be swept aside. That is why we on this side of the chamber are so afraid of socialization, and that is why we owe a debt of gratitude to the honorable member for Hindmarsh for his disclosures to-day. It is just as well that the public should know that Australia to-day is facing the same dangers as it faced back in 1949.
Mention has been made of the present uneasy peace or truce in Korea. Whilst we are all grateful that hostilities have been abandoned for the time being at least, we should not lose sight of the fact that our part in that conflict has cost us approximately 1,200 casualties and has had a tremendous effect on our economy. Opposition speakers have cited figures to show that this Government has not been as mindful of its obligations as was the Chifley Administration, but I point out that whereas the Labour Government in its last year of office allocated £55,000,000 for defence, in 1950-51 the present Government spent £92,000,000 under that heading. In the three years from 1947-4S to 1949-50 the Labour Government spent a total of £191,000,000 on defence, but in the three years from 1951-52 to 1953-54 this Government has voted £575,000,000 for defence. This has meant substantial budget allocations for defence each year. We are all very interested in the cessation of hostilities in Korea, and we must realize that this Government successfully carried through a very important but unpopular task in raising money from the people for the carrying on of this war, which was ultimately for the defence and protection of Australia.
I agree with the honorable member for St. George (Mr. Graham), who said that he doubts the sincerity of the Communists in Korea, and believes that perhaps they do not desire a permanent peace. I consider that the Communists are only marking time at present, but even so we must not relax our efforts to secure a lasting peace and the security of Australia. Indeed, we must continue with all our powers to attempt to reach an understanding with the Communists. When the democratic powers had a monopoly of the knowledge of how to make atomic weapons they could have used those weapons to ensure a lasting peace, but we are civilized people possessing what can be termed a civilized conscience, and we must always consider’ the principles of humanity. While acting in accordance with our moral principles, unfortunately, because of necessity, we must take the chance of becoming victims of aggression. Although we have no great confidence in the peaceful intentions of the Communists in Korea, we must nevertheless be grateful because hostilities in that country have now ceased.
During the past few years this Government has had to display all it3 good judgment and great ability to cope with our difficult economic situation. Honorable members opposite have referred to our time of adjustment, when it was necessary for the Government to stem the vast flood of imports pouring into this country. I suggest that no other government could have done a better job for Australia in the face of a 30 per cent, overnight reduction of our export income, and the success of its policies may be gauged today by the fact that our trade balance is extremely favorable and we are now able to relax many of the import restrictions that it was previously necessary to impose. Moreover, the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holt) has recently stated that there are now more positions available in this country than there are men to fill them. Therefore, it is quite apparent that the control of imports was a great benefit to our industry but, of course, no government has had a better appreciation of the problems of Australian industry than has this Government.
It is not possible to protect industries indefinitely by government control of imports and finance, and those controls must be relaxed gradually and then the Tariff Board should be allowed to resume its place in our commercial life with its judgments on protection. Of course, it is not possible to build up very high tariff walls to protect our industries, because such a course would only initiate a further inflationary spiral. The cost structure of the country must be carefully studied by both employers and employees, and both men and management should realize that they are members of the one team. The necessity for cooperation was illustrated in Geelong last year where one industry had to reduce its staff because of the high cost of production. Then the industry was able to reconstruct its production line, increase its efficiency and. re-employ its staff. Nevertheless, that industry was desperately afraid that if the quarterly adjustments of the basie wage had continued they would have caused further unemployment, because the consequent increased cost of production would have again priced its goods out of the reach of the consumers.
We believe that it is a good thing that provided there is high production employees should receive the highest possible wages, because a high purchasing power among the people tends to keep our industries working at full capacity. But if wages get too high and consumers cannot buy the goods produced, then obviously both management and men must suffer. As far as ‘ our exports are concerned, the workers in other countries will certainly not buy our goods merely because they believe that the Australian workers should have high wages, more holidays, shorter hours and three months’ long service leave; they will buy our goods only if we can sell them at prices which can compete with the prices of the goods of other nations. In other words, our goods must be obtainable more cheaply than the goods of other countries if we are to continue to export. No matter how much we would like the best of everything in this country, we must be on the alert to see that that attitude does not price us out of the world marketsand lead us into depression.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– I am very pleased to join with honorable members from both sides of the House in expressing my appreciation to the Governor-General for the Speech that he delivered at the opening of the second session of the Twentieth Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia. His Excellency said -
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.
They are fine words, and they expressvery fine sentiments. I have quoted them because of their quality, clarity, and correctness. His Excellency also stated that Her Majesty the Queen had. graciously consented to open the next session of this Parliament. That will be an historical happening of great interest and significance, because it will be the first occasion upon which a ruling monarch has opened a session of the Commonwealth Parliament. The electors of Macquarie are also delighted to know that Her Majesty has graciously agreed to visit three centres in the electorate - Bathurst, Lithgow and Katoomba. Those towns will spontaneously and fervently welcome our Sovereign.
It was a source of great regret to nic. as no doubt it was to the people of Australia, that His Excellency’s advisers found so little for him. to say. Of course, he referred to the Government’s promise, to bring in a. comprehensive health measure, which is now before the Parliament, but most of his Speech was devoted to explanations of the Government’s past conduct and apologies for its failure to stabilize the economy of the nation. He also mentioned a few minor matters of very little importance to the development of this country. The Governor-General’s Speech contained not one word about any notion that the Government contemplates to halt inflation in Australia. It did not mention bow prices are to be stabilized, there was no word of a vigorous land settlement policy, and not one sentence which would engender a feeling of national pride and patriotism. The mcn, women and even the children of Australia, look to the National Parliament for leadership. They ask for little, they seek only security. However, His Excellency’s Speech did not offer them that security. It was almost as barren of promises as it was barren of a recital of the Government’s faults and its failure properly to administer the country.
One would have expected, when this distinguished soldier opened the second session of the Twentieth Parliament, that the people of Australia would be told something worth while. There should have been some declaration of action to safeguard our people and make Australia safe in this troubled world, Not one word was spoken in relation to the harnessing and development of atomic energy in this country, or the husbanding of supplies of fissionable material for Australian development. Nor was one word uttered by His Excellency in connexion with such important matters as housing, water conservation, transportation, irrigation, Commonwealth and State relationships, and local government affairs. The honorable member for Corio (Mr. Opperman), who preceded me in this debate, sought to reply to statements that had been made by members of the Opposition. That is significant of the Government’s attitude. Instead of coming forward to uphold the Government’s policy, honorable members opposite are content to direct themselves to extraneous matters, and to deal in detail with side issues.
The honorable member for Corio preferred excuses in relation to our protectionist policy. He, more than any other member of this House, should be one of the greatest champions of protection, because at Geelong industrial activity is the order of the clay. There are produced at Geelong many commodities that are important not only to our industrial life but also to our development generally. If ever there was a matter that should have been discussed in detail and upheld fervently, that matter is the protectionist policy. But the honorable member for Corio quietly ignored that subject entirely. However, he did discuss the failure of Westclox (Australia) Proprietary Limited in his’ electorate. Who, ultimately, is responsible for economic failures in this country? Obviously the Government desires to hide behind the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration in relation to the freezing of basic wage adjustments, which will prevent employees from receiving increases of wages in keeping with the increased cost of living. When an industry closes its doors, due to the failure of the Government’s economic policy, honorable members opposite ask the Opposition to accept responsibility for that state of affairs. The whole responsibility for the failure of that industry, and the closing down of other industries rests squarely upon this Government. I sincerely hope and trust that the Government will change its ways even at this late stage, because the paramount consideration is the good of the people of Australia; we are here to try to do a job of work for Australia. If the Government could produce something worth while to help the people of Australia in some small degree, I should be one of the first to proclaim its virtues and say a kind word for it. However, I regret that I am unable to express one word of praise about the Government, because it has failed all along the line. His Excellency stated that a health hill would be introduced. That measure is now before the House. It forms into a pattern various bills that have been dealt with by this House from time to time. I wonder whether, at long last, the Government has made up its mind on this important subject and corrected anomalies in existing legislation. His Excellency also referred to the forthcoming meeting of Commonwealth Finance Ministers in Australia. I wonder whether that meeting will herald another Niemeyerism or Premiers plan. What is the purpose of it? Will it be for the benefit of the people of Australia, or will it result in the adoption of an international or imperial policy that will plunge Australia into a depression such as we experienced in the ‘thirties? It would be nice to think that overseas industries may come to Australia, if there were some substance behind that thought, but in view of the closing down of the industry that was mentioned by the honorable member for Corio, it is obvious that the Government is not encouraging the investment of overseas capital in Australia. The Government has failed to halt inflation, and it has not concerned itself with the cost structure beyond the freezing of wages. Supporters of the Government have discussed this matter piously in the hope that the electors will be misled into voting for their return to office at the next general election.
His Excellency referred to the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, and our relationships with the Territory of Papua and New Guinea. Surely a waiver in relation to products of the Territory is long overdue. I urge the Government to permit the entry into Australia without hindrance of products of Papua and New Guinea which cannot be produced in Australia, and which therefore offer no competition to commodities that, are produced on the mainland. As much Australian capital is invested in New Guinea, one would expect that there would .be a spirit of reciprocity in this matter. I do not consider that the Tariff Board has always given entire satisfaction. In the long run it is necessary for the Parliament to keep an eye on tariff matters to ensure that Australian industry will be protected to the fullest possible extent, because it is important that every man and woman employed in industry in this country should be allowed to continue to work, receive wages, and enjoy happiness and prosperity.
His Excellency also mentioned that an atomic bomb had been exploded recently near Woomera, but as I have already mentioned, his Speech did not contain a word about atomic development generally, the preservation of our national wealth, and our heritage to provide for the advancement and development of this great nation. In these days of trouble and disturbance, I should be the last person to deny that the danger of war is ever present and that new techniques in relation to warfare should not be developed fully. What guarantee have we that Australian scientists, experts, and military chiefs are given the fullest information in relation to these matters? Such evidence has never been produced in this House. The Government has adopted a hush-bush policy in relation to the price of uranium. From time to time the Minister for Supply (Mr. Beale) has made excuses for the Government and has given different versions of prices that are being paid for Our uranium. The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) informed the House that, in the interests of security, it was undesirable that all of the fact? should be made public. Despite that, the London Financial Times seems to be able to discuss these matters quite freely and clearly. I think it is necessary that Australia should know the facts and that it should get the correct price. There was an extraordinary variation between the opinion expressed by the right honorable the Prime Minister in this House in reply to a question asked by me, when he advanced the cause of security, and his broadcast over the national network on the same evening when he declared that there was a cost-plus system associated with the sale of uranium. It is extraordinary that a valuable mineral such as uranium should be sold on a cost-plus basis. Consider the case of a gold-miner who finds a great nugget of gold after working for only one day. Would he sell it on a cost-plus basis? Uranium is more precious than gold. As I said earlier, Australia should bt: prepared to husband its resources of uranium and to proceed with vast development of atomic energy as well as make this country secure.
His Excellency also referred to the intake of immigrants. He said -
With the improvement in economic circumstances in Australia, my advisers have been si bic to increase the level of the migrant intake.
Ho did not refer to the number of immigrant hostels that have been closed and the diminution of our effort to populate Australia. Australia is begging for development. There is work to be done, but the intake of immigrants has almost halted. Yet we have that fine expression in the Speech of the Governor-General.
The Speech states that coal production has increased. It should be noted that the vast increase in coal production was effected by a Labour Government led by the late Mr. Chifley who, until his death, represented the division of Macquarie. He laid the plan for the establishment of the Joint Coal Board, as a result of which valuable machinery was brought from overseas, vast open-cut undertakings were commenced, and the way made clear for the present production of coal. The tragedy that has overtaken the economy of Australia has resulted in the production of much more coal than industry requires. It is not that Australia has over-produced coal, but that it has geared back its national economy. Australia is not using the amount of coal that should be used. There is the sorry spectacle of valuable equipment that was bought with dollars and with sterling being offered at all sorts of bargain prices. I make a plea on behalf of the mining industry, because I represent an important part of the western coal-field of New. South Wales. Now is the time for the Joint Coal Board and for this Government to plan the organization and development of deep mines. Before deep mines can produce coal in the quantities necessary for Australia’s economy, many years of developmental work are required. I hope that, with the falling off in the demand for Open-cut coal, which in some cases is of inferior quality, the Commonwealth Government will evolve a plan for the development of deep mines.
His Excellency also made reference to native people and their health. Much requires to be done for our native people. In the Territory of Papua and New Guinea tuberculosis and other diseases are prevalent and the hospital situation leaves much to be desired. The same could be said about the Northern Territory. I hope that the Government will not be content with what is taking place at the present time, but that it will proceed vigorously to overcome these problems. The people of Australia want action. They want to see something worthwhile being attempted. This futile recital of things that belong to the past and of the proposed health legislation, and no more, is not good enough for Australia.
Thanks to the fighting quality of our servicemen and the assistance rendered by our allies, Australia has come through two world wars unscathed. Let honorable members thank Divine Providence, too, for the opportunity given to them of being present to-night in this House to consider these important matters. Australia has passed through two wars and a depression, and surely there is an urgent need for the Government to undertake vast railway development. I was pleased to hear honorable members on both sides of the House discuss the important matter of a uniform railway gauge and the opening up of vast tracts of country. The demoralizing depression has passed; it must never return. In any plan of development there must be included the provision of homes and water supply. There must be development in a variety of ways. The Government, however, accepts the position that the present conditions of things should be allowed to continue. The old idea of too little too late may prove to be true of Australia.
I do not approach the question of development from a narrow point of view but from an Australian point of view. I make a plea to-night for further land settlement. How the Commonwealth has failed in this matter! Honorable members hear complaints from time to time about the principal States and the agent States not doing the work expected of them, but honorable members should think about what the Australian Government should do. In the Northern Territory vast development awaits the attention of the Government. I hope the Government will prove to be big enough for it. The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization has conducted a soil survey. Further surveys are needed and water is needed. Opportunities should be provided for people to go on the land and develop it. If this Parliament provides the finance needed to settle people on the land and provides a worthwhile transportation system, there is a chance that the Territory will make progress. Great problems face the people, of Australia. Such matters as high costs and dear money are ever present problems to any one who desires to proceed with the worthwhile development of Australia.
I refer now to relations between the Commonwealth and the States. “When the States approach the Commonwealth for the money necessary for developmental plans, they are invariably assailed by the right honorable the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) with such terms as, “ Fantastic “. “ It cannot be done”, “Take it or leave it”. If there has been one man in this country who has damaged relations between the Commonwealth and the States, it has been the right honorable the Treasurer. This Government, more than any other government in the history of Australia, stands condemned for destroying the federal system. Local government also had a very unenviable experience. Only recently the Prime Minister met a deputation of representatives of the Australian council of local governing bodies. The council sought from the Prime Minister an assurance that there would be opportunities for local government within the Commonwealth framework. What promises were made by the Prime Minister I do not know. But I suggest that in spite of the airy generalizations that have been voiced by the honorable member for Corio (Mr. Opperman) we need practical action. The proceeds of the petrol tax must be spent on the development of our country roads so as to facilitate food production, and further sums of money should be devoted to that purpose from the common pool of taxation. If adequate funds are made available to local government bodies they will be able todevelop their districts, increase food production and enhance Australia’s economy. All the matters to which I have referred are of the utmost importance.
Mr. FALKINDER (Franklin) flO.13]. - The honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Luchetti) is the successor in his electorate of a person for whom I had a high personal regard, although I did not always agree with his politics. I refer to the late Joseph Benedict Chifley. I waa glad that the honorable -member for Macquarie began his remarks on a high plane when he expressed his pleasure at the fact that we will shortly experience a visit from Her Majesty the Queen. I support his remarks in that respect. I believe that every honorable member will associate himself with those sentiments. However, I was disappointed when the honorable member advocated that details of the sale of Australian uranium should be made public. I am sure that if the honorable member were to give further thought to that matter from the point of view of the security of this country he would realize that it would not be in the interests of Australia to release that information. Having no responsibility in regard to the protection of uranium resources, it is easy for honorable members opposite to advocate that the Government should supply full details of uranium production.
I was glad that the Governor-General made special reference to the achievements of our servicemen in Korea. Very little publicity has been given to the truly magnificent effort of those members of the three services who served in Korea. During the last war and the preceding world war we were fighting for the survival of our nation, and that fact provided a tremendous impetus for every one of us. The members of the three services who went to Korea fought, not so much for the survival of our country, as for the ideal of the United Nations. An ideal is not quite as tangible a thing as the survival of one’s own country. As one who has served in a war I wish to pay my own special tribute to those men who have shown that they have the courage of an older generation. Every honorable member should feel intensely proud of the job that they did. Those who are growing older are apt to say that the younger generation is not equal to their generation. It has been shown in Korea that the standards of the younger generation are as high as those of any other generation. ]’. now wish to address my remarks to what I term the best utilization of our forces commensurate with our financial ability to maintain them. Since I entered this Parliament seven years ago .1. have heard arguments put forward by service Ministers to the effect that we should have balanced forces. “With that contention I do not agree. In order to achieve the best utilization of our forces we must examine a low simple, self-evident facts. Let us examine our own problem in the light of what we believe might happen. Our greatest need is for mobility of our forces to meet any sudden situation. We have to be in the position to deliver an effective blow in concentration if any aggressor attacks us. It is evident to any one who thinks about this problem that we have a very large perimeter to defend with, numerically speaking, .comparatively small forces. Our principal danger, as I see it, will come from a surprise attack. Therefore, I believe, quite simply and fundamentally, that the only force which, in main, will be able to meet an. initial shock attack is the Air Force. Generally speaking, I believe that there may be the exception to that proposition that, if a force ever lands on our shores, to all intents and purposes the war is lost to us. That is why I propose to the House that it is the duty of the Parliament and of the Government to place the .greatest emphasis on our Air Force. One of the best suggestions ever made in this House on this subject was made by the honorable member for Indi (Mr. Bostock) when he spoke about the need for an integrated command for the three services. Anybody who has served in one of the three services knows that a great deal of internecine strife goes on between them, that there is a great deal of service jealousy and that, under the present system of three separate autonomous services each is fighting against the others. In order to illustrate what I mean I have only to point to a recent example of what has occurred. Recently, naval manoeuvres were held, in the course of which an exercise was carried out by carriers escorting a supposed group of merchantmen. At the conclusion of the exercise it was proudly stated by the Navy that, although submarines had endeavoured to attack it, they had not been successful. I do not suggest that there is anything phoney in the naval report of the results of the exercise. I remind the House, however, that during the last war - and it ended not so long ago - submarines had the unfortunate habit of consistently “knocking off” merchantmen. I do not believe that such an exercise carried out in peace-time is truly indicative of what might happen in war-time. I realize that I am open to the charge of bias in this matter because I have had some experience in the Air Force. I believe that aircraft carriers are necessary, and that the Navy sees in them one of its best forms of survival as a major part of the three services, for the simple reason that I believe that air power is a major form., of defence. I do not contend that air power is a major form of defence without having given considerable thought to the matter and without being able to fortify my view by quoting from an extremely interesting and recent report of a staff study signed by the three British Chiefs of’ Staff, Field-Marshal Sir William Slim, for the Army; Admiral Sir Rhoderick McGrigor, for the Royal Navy ; and Air Marshal Sir John Slessor, for the Royal Air Force. Their proposal has bren paraphrased in this way -
Through force of circumstance, the British have had to face the realities of modern warfare. They cannot afford the luxury of pretending that the three main elements of defence - air, land and sea - can each play an equal role. They are compelled to rely on new concepts rather than on standing armies which can never match the Red Army. Although traditionally a seapower. the British have accepted the fact that Russia cannot be blockaded and have therefore drastically curtailed naval expenditures. Their air force has become the “ first line of defence “ in the ocean of the sky.
Every honorable member will agree that the three senior officers of the British services know what they are talking about.
– Did they actually say that? Where did the honorable member obtain the report?
– I have read a condensation of the British staff study by Brigadier-General Fellers, of the United States Army. I believe it to be a fairly accurate condensation, because I have taken some trouble to check it.
This is not the first occasion upon which I have propounded the view that the essence of defence must be mobility and that our Air Force is our most mobile striking force. I believe that the Navy and the Army would have a most important part to play in any future war, but I do not believe that either the Navy or the Army could stop the first shock wave of aggression because they are not sufficiently mobile. I rely once again on my recollection of the commentary made by the Australian Broadcasting Commission of the exercise to which I have referred, in which it was said that the aircraft carriers were mobile and could cover hundreds of square miles of area. Surely it is self-evident to every one that aircraft carriers, which are comparatively slow-moving surface vessels, would be unable to meet a shock attack. That is the basis of my argument. I do not believe that there will ever again be a declaration of war. That is my own personal conviction. In future, a hostile power will merely commit an act of aggression, similar to Pearl Harbour and Korea, which will not be preceded by a declaration, pf war. A declaration of war is something of the past- an almostchivalrous act viewed in retrospect. Therefore, we must first guard against the initial shock of aggression. As honorable members well know, I have a personal bias in this matter, having once served in the Air Force ; but it is not bias that animates me when I argue in this way. My sole interest is the best defence of my country, a matter which is prominently in the mind of every one of us to-day. That is why I propound these views to the House. Some may say that I have stated the problem in ultra simplification.
That may be true, but I have formed my views after very careful study and in the light of my personal experience.
Having discoursed for probably too long on the subject of defence, I now turn to a quite different matter with which this debate on the motion for the adoption of the Address-in-Reply to the Governor-General’s Speech affords me an opportunity to deal. As honorable members are aware, the Postmaster-General’s Department is the largest department, numerically, of all the Public Service departments. It is one of the very few revenue-producing departments. I urge upon the Government the need to consider the dearth of technicians in the service of the department. From personal observations, it is apparent that there are only sufficient technicians to carry out maintenance work. There ore certainly not sufficient to carry out new capital works. It has often been said, by way of excuse or explanation for the delay in installing telephone services, that it is necessary to make up leeway lost during war-time, and to meet the needs of increasing population. However, the relevant figures make a myth of such claims. Pre-war, the number of telephones was 9.4 to every 100 of population. In 1951 it was 14.3, and today it is almost 16. The pre-war number of installations was approximately 13,000 telephones annually, whereas to-day it is approximately 100,000. Those figures dispose of the. claim that a backlag due to the war years has been responsible for insufficient telephones being installed. The real reason is that there is an increased demand for telephone services.
There are those who argue that the price of telephone services does not deter people from wanting those services. They believe that if the cost is increased sufficiently the demand will decrease. I disagree with that argument because I feel that the standard of living in this country should be constantly improved. Such an approach to the problem is a negative one. In addition, I believe that there are times when the sacrifice of income by the government is in the best interests of the country in the long run. This is not the first occasion on which I have expressed that view to the House.
Recently, when discussing the ‘Commonwealth shipping line I pointed out that it is necessary for us to maintain shipping services to remote islands and States,
Such as Tasmania, which is completely water-bound and dependent on either air transport or shipping services. Therefore, in my opinion, it is worth while in the long run to allow expenditure to go down the drain, as it were, if the provision of such services is involved. It is futile to speak on the need for greater population in this country unless it is also appreciated that the people who are brought to the country are provided with services which are better than those that exist in the countries from which they como.
At the present time there is a general cry abroad about inducing a greater number of people to go to country areas. I think that all honorable members agree that that is desirable. However, people can only be induced to go to rural areas if electric light, power, water and postal services are available. The provision of such services may involve a loss to the government at the time they are provided, but in the long run they must result in increasing our population. I believe that we have not a great deal of time in which to do so. If we do not increase our population within a reasonable short period we shall be disregarding at our own risk, the possible consequences.
I repeat that there is a real need to increase the number of technicians employed by the Postmaster-General’s Department. To my knowledge, the annual sums appropriated in respect of the provision of postal services in Tasmania have never yet been fully expended.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- Honorable members are speaking on the Address-in-Reply to the GovernorGeneral’s Speech when he opened the first session of the Parliament since the coronation of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second as Queen of Australia. Australians of English ancestry will be particularly exhilarated by having a monarch of that name. I make that ethnic qualification, because Queen Elizabeth the First was never Queen of Scots and was not very welcome as Queen of Ireland. The Kingdom of Australia is considerably more populous than was the Kingdom of England four centuries ago. Athens, under Pericles, is the only community known to history which rivalled the England of Elizabeth the First for literary excellence, restless inquiry and undaunted enterprise. I am confident that Australians under their first Queen Elizabeth will, do their best to emulate their forbears.
I turn now to a subject which, though not referred to in the Governor-General’s Speech, has been mentioned by practically every previous speaker during this debate. I refer to the question of wages and preference to unionists. Honorable members on this side of the House have been diverted by the spectacle of honorable members opposite espousing the cause of unionists and the merits of unions. They have been distressed by the crocodile tears which have been shed by honorable members opposite over the so-called tyranny which the New South Wales Labour Government is about to impose on the citizens of that State. Honorable -members opposite seem to forget or to gloss over the fact, that in New South Wales, by legislative action, annual holidays, long service leave, sick pay and reduction of working hours had all become general under State awards well before they were introduced under Commonwealth awards by action of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court. In every instance, Labour governments of New South Wales introduced those industrial improvements in the face of Liberal opposition.
There has never been such chaos in relation to industrial matters in this country as that which exists at the present time. The Commonwealth Arbitration Court, for the first time in a generation, has decided that award wages shall not vary according to the rise and fall of the value of money. However, there arc many people in Australia, who are not, subject to Commonwealth Arbitration Court awards. The number varies from State to State. In New South Wales, for instance, approximately 60 per cent, ot the wage-earners are covered by Commonwealth awards, but in Western Australia only about 10 per’ cent, are so covered. The conditions of persons who are covered by State awards vary from State to State. The Industrial Commission of New South “Wales has determined, in interpreting a statute of the New South Wales Parliament, that it is bound to follow the policy of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court in freezing wages, and honorable members opposite, during this week and in the closing week of the last session, criticized the New South Wale3 Government for contemplating the alteration of that legislation. After all, the decision which the court has made has only been made pursuant to existing New South Wales legislation. Why, therefore, should the Parliament not alter that legislation in pursuance of its legislative competence and sovereignty? The Victorian Parliament has decided that wages will continue to vary in accordance with fluctuations in the cost of living. In Queensland, the court has decided that wages shall be varied in accordance with increases or decreases in the cost of living. In South Australia, the court has determined that the example of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court shall be followed. In Western Australia the court has not yet given a decision but the Parliament will be asked to ensure that wages shall continue to vary in accordance with costofliving changes. In Tasmania, the chairman of the wages boards has announced that he will peg wages to conform to the decision of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court. In the meantime, wages in that State have been increased by 10s. a week, but they will be reduced once the wages boards have met. Then again, more than 150,000 Commonwealth Public Servants are covered by regulations, and apparently, the Menzies Government will not hesitate to intrude into the field by introducing regulations to peg their wages, which have varied for the last generation in accordance with alterations of the cost of living.
All those divergences between the courts of the Commonwealth and the States, between the court of one State and the court of another State, between the Parliament of one State and the Parliament of another State, and between the parliaments of some States and this
Parliament, are unparalleled in the previous industrial history of the Commonwealth. Such divergences are apparent in every factory and every office in Australia. It is extremely common to find an office or a factory where persons are working side by side under Commonwealth and State awards. The time has never been so opportune to secure uniformity, consistency and co-ordination throughout the country, and the proper method to adopt to secure it is that which has been advocated by the Labour party over the last 50 years. It is to have one industrial system for the whole country, for everybody in it, and to have that system subject to the legislative sovereignty of this Parliament.
That is not the policy of the Labour party alone. It is the view of a great number of persons who support the Liberal party or the Australian Country party. I direct attention to the following news item in to-day’s issue of the Sydney Morning Herald: -
The President of the Associated Chambers of Manufactures, Mr. R. G. C. Parry-Okeden, said yesterday that the Federal Government should not leave the question of wages entirely to the Arbitration Court.
No one would quarrel with the jurisdiction of the Court were its functions confined to conciliation and arbitration, ho said.
In recent years, however, the Court had become the arbiter of wage levels in Australia and, through this power, of the whole economy of the nation. “While none of us wish to sec wage levels become the plaything of politics, no Government can escape responsibility for safeguarding Australia’s economy by leaving it in the hands of a legal tribunal,” he said.
No Redress. “ There is a growing belief that such fundamental responsibilities should not be wholly borne by a body responsible only to itself and its conscience and against whom the electorate has no redress.”
The Government, he said, should play a more important role in this question, even if that required amending the Constitution.
That solution is advocated by the Associated Chambers of Manufactures, and by the Australian Labour party. It is the only sane solution of the industrial chaos in this country. The only power that this Parliament has had for more than 50 years in industrial matters is to legislate in respect of conciliation and arbitration for the prevention and settlement of industrial disputes extending beyond the limits of any one State. I propose to quote extensively from an article written on what he calls a “constitutional curiosity” by Sir John Latham, the last of the three very distinguished leaders of the late Nationalist party; the last to retire, but by no means the least distinguished of the Chief Justices of Australia, and the nian who, in the view of many, should be Her Majesty’s representative in this country. The article was published in the Sydney Law Review last April, and reads, in part, as follows : -
The Commonwealth Parliament, responsible to the people for the policy which it adopts, controls credit and investment policy, and by various measures affects the consumption of goods. But the Parliament cannot legislate upon industrial matters. Wage policy is “beyond the reach of the Parliament. iVa/.£ policy is in the hands of the Court. Thus vital elements in economic policy are controlled by entirely separate and independent authorities without any co-ordination whatever, it may be that this strange position must be tolerated in the absence of any acceptable alternative, but it is obvious that such a system places grave obstacles in the way of devising unci applying any integrated economic policy
A remedy for the defects in the present system should bc sought, it is suggested, not In the decrease, but in the increase of federal power. . . .
If the Parliament went too far in raising wages - or in reducing wages - it could subsequently correct what it thought was an error, und in any event it would have full responsibility to the .people for what it did or failed to do. The prospect of an election is a great steadying influence. Parliament would soon learn that it could not itself possibly deal with all aspects of employment, and it would establish authorities which would be given such independence in tenure as Parliament thought proper.
If Parliament had fuller powers the community would not be compelled to accept - without any possibility of parliamentary revision - a wage policy framed by a court in deciding a case between a set of employers and a set of employees, and who each place their own interests before those of the community. At present wage policy is a matter for which all parliaments disclaim responsibility. They do this with a virtuous air - “ We will not interfere with the Court “. Some Governments get along without having any wage policy at all. If things go wrong, the Government and Parliament can blame the Court - of course very respectfully - and the Court can blame the Parliament. If responsibility were placed upon the Parliament, there would be an cud to this evasion - which is ti necessary result of the present system . . .
A new power might well be a power to make laws with respect to terms and conditions of industrial employment, and rights and duties of employers and employees with respect to industrial matters anc! things.
Under such a power the Parliament could give to industrial authorities created by it such relevant powers as it thought fit, free from the useless and embarrassing limitation* which hamper the present Court.
Theoretically there is an attraction in the idea of a serene, impartial, judicial body determining issues of such great importance as those which arise between employers and employees. But it has become increasingly apparent that this function is not truly judicial, lt is essentially a legislative function. The Arbitration Court does not apply rules of law - to be found in the common law or in a statute - to proved facts. What the Court does is to prescribe rules of conduct in accordance with a policy which is devised and approved by the Court. Other countries get along, many of them at least as well as Australia, with authorities which are not courts. Under the new power suggested Parliament could, if it chose, still have an industrial court, and could still use the methods of conciliation and arbitration. But the Parliament would not bc limited to these instruments and methods. It could still provide for conciliation commissioners or committees. But they would not be worried by difficulties about the interstate character of a matter or about ambit Local authorities could be set up to deal with local matters - without the absurdity of including such matters in an “ interstate “ dispute which had been promoted in order to enable the Arbitration Court to take jurisdiction.
Australians are not masters in their own house. Industrial relations in this country are a legislative no man’s land. The Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration controls wages, hours and conditions of most Australians, and the other courts and legislatures usually follow the lead of that court, but fiscal and tariff matters and the development of the country in general are controlled by a different body. They are controlled by this Parliament. The court is independent of this Parliament. Its members hold office for life and during good conduct and the only way in which the view of the court can be modified is by increasing the number of its members. But this Parliament is regularly answerable to the electors and it is frequently changed. If this Parliament were to seek and obtain from the electors at a referendum, the power that has been suggested by
Sir John Latham, there would be an end of the buck passing which is endemic in federation and in our Parliaments in industrial matters and there could be no excuses by State parliaments or by the Parliament of the Commonwealth. There could be no abuse of one by the other and fruitless abuse of the court by both.
Even though the court is composed of lawyers, it lias, in general, done its work reasonably well. The court need not necessarily be composed of lawyers. Its members could just as well be economists or other learned and intelligent men. But if they are to bc called a court, they must hold office for life. There again the court is truly irresponsible in the sense that it is not answerable to the Australian people. Sir John Latham, who had a long and distinguished career in the service of Australia in its legislature, its judiciary and its diplomatic service, has come round to a point of view that the Australian Labour party has advocated for 50 years. In fact, the suggestion that he has made for bringing about industrial progress is phrased in practically the identical words of the Australian Labour party’s platform.
The suggestion that was made last night by the president of the Associated Chambers of Manufactures is the courageous and clear policy that this Government should follow. The GovernorGeneral should have enunciated that policy in his Speech to the Parliament. If that had been clone, the Government would have shown a clear lead. Never has the time been more opportune for a clear lead in Australian industrial matters. The present system has staggered along for half a century and it has been found wanting. This Government should have had the courage at this critical time to seek a change. The Opposition would support it and the Australian people would support it also. If the referendum were carried, the members of this Parliament would be responsible for economic prosperity and industrial peace and justice in Australia. That is as it should be, because the members of this Parliament are responsible at regular intervals to to citizens of this kingdom.
.- I join with honorable members on both sides of the House in expressions of loyalty to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second and in thanking the GovernorGeneral for the Speech that he delivered to the Parliament. On behalf of my electorate, I join with other honorable members also in expressing pleasure at the forthcoming visit of Her Majesty and the Duke of Edinburgh. I am sure that they will receive a resounding welcome from the people of Australia.
The motion for the adoption of the Address-in-Reply has been used by some honorable members of the Opposition as an opportunity for propounding the policy of the Australian Labour party. Others have used it to condemn the actions of the Government. The honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Whitlam) delivered a dissertation upon the claims of the Australian Labour party that industrial conciliation and arbitration should be taken over completely by the Parliament of the Commonwealth. It is doubtful whether the people would accept such a proposal, but as I know the honorable member for Werriwa to be a profound and complete unificationist, I am not astonished by the contents of his speech. I remind him that only yesterday one of his colleagues, the honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Edmonds), decried the composition of the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration. He referred to the system that has been adopted in Queensland which is somewhat similar to that in operation in Western Australia where the arbitration court consists of a judge, an advocate of the employers and an advocate representing the employees. It is rather astonishing that members of the Australian Labour party in this Parliament and in all the State parliaments that are controlled by Labour governments are so critical of the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration. Several years ago when the court gave to the workers an increase of £1 in the basic wage through a prosperity loading, and later granted other increases making a total addition of £2 10s. a week, there was no such outcry from members of the Opposition or their colleagues in the State parliaments. The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) recently stated, in effect, “If you have a referee, his decisions should be accepted, whether they were for or against you”. Honorable members on the Opposition side have proved conclusively to the people that they and their colleagues throughout Australia cannot take it. Consequently they are not fit and responsible people to occupy the treasury bench in this Parliament.
During the course of the debate, several honorable members have suggested that the Parliament should take complete control of industrial arbitration and conciliation and remove it from the court. I for one and the majority of the people of Western Australia would not favour such a move. If that proposal were adopted, an inglorious spectacle could be expected. Members of the Parliament on the Opposition side who make no secret of their socialistic tendencies would tour the country offering 2s. 6d. and 10s. bids in the form of wage increases to the people in return for votes. That action would be entirely irresponsible. The statements that have been made by members of the Opposition have astonished me in the light of the views that were expressed by their representative in the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration when the wages and hours case was under discussion.
Last night the honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly) attacked the Government but he was very wide of the mark in some of his statements. He said that this Government had removed the subsidy on tea, sugar and butter. There has been no subsidy on sugar and the subsidy on tea and butter is still being paid. If honorable members on the Opposition side study the Estimates that were recently approved by the Parliament, they will see that provision has been made for the payment of a subsidy totalling £15,400,000 on dairy products and a subsidy of £4,800,000 on tea. The subsidy on dairy products will be paid largely upon butter and it is therefore a consumer subsidy. The honorable member for Grayndler said that the pegging of wages was entirely the responsibility of the Liberal and Australian Country party Government.
– It stinks.
– I remind the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) that ‘the decision of the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration to suspend quarterly wage adjustments was, in fact, the decision of the umpire. The honorable member has shown conclusively by his interjection that neither he nor the Australian Labour party can take it. The honorable member for Grayndler said that this Government had set out to destroy the Commonwealth Bank. What was the Labour party’s policy on banking only a few years ago? In the debate on the Commonwealth Bank Bill 1945, the then Minister for Post-war Reconstruction, Mr. Dedman, with the full concurrence of his Prime Minister, Mr. Curtin, who, incidentally: moved for an extension of time to enable Mr. Dedman to complete hi3 speech, said -
I suggest to the House that, from the point of view of the trading banks themselves, it is a better proposition for them to have the activities of the central bank entirely separated from the trading bank activities of the Commonwealth Bank than to have the two combined as they are now.
That is recorded at page ‘799 of volume 181 of Hansard. This Government has separated the trading bank activities of the Commonwealth Bank from its central bank activities. Members of the Labour party in 1945 were trying to appease their leader, who was a very sick man, because they knew of his absolute hatred of socialization. Throughout that debate they protested that they did not want nationalization or socialization, but they failed to put into effect Mr. Dedman’s suggestion that the central bank activities and the trading bank activities of the Commonwealth Bank should be separated. That task was left to this Government, which also gave further protection to the private banks by adjusting the special deposits accounts. This Government has not attempted to destroy the Commonwealth Bank. That charge has been made by the Opposition Whip and his colleagues merely for political purposes. They want to persuade the people to vote for them at the general election next year, but I fear that they are kicking a dead horse, as their late leader, Mr. Chifley, was accustomed to say.
The honorable member for Grayndler also said that this Government was trying to sell the Commonwealth’s assets. Another honorable gentleman on ‘ the Opposition side of the House even said that it was trying to sell the Queen’s assets.
– Order ! I have ruled that subject out of order.
– I have mentioned it only in passing, Mr. Speaker. The people obviously did not think that the Government was trying to sell their assets when they voted for it at the last Senate election, although the Labour party had tried to convince them that the Government had sold a valuable defence asset when it disposed of its shares in Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited. The people realized that the Commonweal tl is interest in the company was of no further value to them and that the company had never produced even so much as a pint of petrol that could be used in a service vehicle without being doped. It was obvious to them that the company would be of no further service after the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company Limited established its refinery at Kwinana, in Western Australia. The Labour party wanted the Government to go into the business of operating bowsers and dipsticks throughout the country so that a new army of bureaucrats would be established to hamper our economy. The old story a.bout the sale of Commonwealth ships has been trotted out by the Opposition in this debate. Honorable members opposite know very well that the Government does not intend to sell Commonwealth ships unless it can obtain a. fair price for them and a guarantee from the purchasers that the service now provided by the vessels will be maintained or improved. Incidentally, I should be astonished if private enterprise could not provide a better service than is now provided by the Commonwealth line of ships. I do not know of any government show which, when it has had a complete monopoly, has been of any use to the people or has earned any profits for them.
Another old story aired by the Opposition in this debate related to TransAustralia. Airlines and Australian
National Airways Proprietary Limited. The honorable member for Grayndler said that the Government had tried to sell Trans-Australia Airlines. Nothing could be further removed from the truth. The Government did not attempt to sell TransAustralia Airlines, but, to its everlasting credit, as the people will acknowledge, it introduced a goodly measure of safety into airline operations in Australia. The policy that the Labour party adopted when it was in office was to do everything possible to prevent Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited, from obtaining dollars with which to buy new aircraft and the spare parts that it needed to keep its aircraft in Al condition. The Government was charged last night with having sold Australia’s assets to foreigners. Had any of our assets been sold to the Opposition, it might have been true to say that they had been handed over to foreigners. But, thank goodness, that was not done. The honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Luchetti) referred to-night to the petrol tax and said that the former Leader of the Opposition, Mr. Chifley, had declared that the revenue from the petrol tax should be devoted entirely to the construction of roads. I remind the honorable gentleman, who is a comparative newcomer to this Parliament, that Mr. Chifley, when he was Prime Minister, told the honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull) in this House, and also a deputation that waited on him, that petrol tax revenue was never intended to be used exclusively for road construction. He said that the petrol tax was similar to other taxes imposed on transport in Australia. I shall not pursue this issue further. The honorable member will find the facts for himself if he will examine Hansard.
The Opposition has been stung into action by the highly creditable record of the present Administration. The Government’s performance has hurt it and has raised a few sores on its thick hide. Honorable members opposite do not like the Government’s record because we are approaching a general election and they fear the outcome. This Government has honoured all its promises and has stabilized the national economy. This fact was acknowledged by the representative of the Australian Council of Trades Unions, Mr. R. M. Eggleston, Q.C., before the Commonwealth Arbitration Court recently. Mr Eggleston told the court that the inflationary pressure in Australia had virtually disappeared. I have not heard any member of the Opposition deny the statement yet. Honorable members opposite have tried to run away from it ever since it has been brought into the open. Mr. Eggleston also said that exports were expanding and that overseas funds were increasing. Will any member of the Opposition deny that?
– Yes. He was pulling his own leg.
– The GovernorGeneral’s Speech pointed out that overseas income had increased by about £200,000,000 a year. Statistics confirm the statement. I am surprised that the honorable member for Grayndler, who, no doubt, as the Opposition Whip, aspires to ministerial office, should say that Mr. Eggleston was pulling his own leg. I remind the House that Mr. Eggleston was appointed to represent the interests of the Labour party before the court. Therefore, the public will be aware that, if a man who pulls his own leg is appointed to represent the Labour party in an important arbitration case, it would not be wise to elect that party to power so that it could interfere with the economy. Mr. Eggleston also, told the court that employment was rising. The Government said many months ago that this would happen. The honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward), in one of his wild outbursts in this House, after his colleagues had said that there were 20,000 unemployed persons in Australia, declared that the real number was 104,000. He will never be able to live down that statement, because that was the number of unemployed in the country when he was a Minister. As a matter of fact, while Labour was in office, over 600,000 persons were unemployed in this country. What did that Government do. about that disgraceful position? Nothing. It turned down the offer by the present Prime Minister to accompany Mr. Chifley to the coal-fields with a view to making a joint effort to restore peace in the coalmining industry. Honorable members opposite poured cold water on that offer. Yet, they are now endeavouring to lead the people to believe that this Government has failed to honour its promises. They are merely attempting to confuse the people with the object of regaining the treasury bench. Thank heavens, the Australian people have good memories. I have not the slightest doubt that they will not forget Labour’s record when it was in office. Mr. Eggleston also told the Commonwealth Arbitration Court that the current economic outlook was favorable. He was able to make that statement as a representative of the trade unions only as a result of the policy of this Government.
– Who made that statement?
– Mr. Eggleston, who the honorable member himself said was pulling his own leg when he advanced those arguments in the court in his capacity as counsel for the trade unions. Those statements were substantiated by evidence given under oath by witnesses for the trade union movement. It is obvious that with the leaders of that movement some honorable members opposite contributed to the evidence that those witnesses gave to the court in the case to which I have referred. It was on the basis of that evidence that the court, while it endorsed the views of the trade unions in every other respect, decided to abolish the automatic quarterly adjustments of the basic wage. Now, honorable members turn about and seek to destroy the arbitration system in this country. When the Government assumed office in 1949, the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Keon), the honorable member for Burke (Mr. Peters) and the secretary of the Australian Workers Union loudly proclaimed that they would cleanse the unions of Communists. The honorable member for Yarra went on record as a guest writer in a Melbourne newspaper as saying that moderate men in the trade unions would never be able to get rid of Communists unless the Government enabled them to control ballots within their organizations. This Government introduced legislation for that purpose.
I recall that the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt), as Attorney-General in the Chifley Government, introduced a measure to amend the arbitration law but refused the request of the then Opposition to enable moderate members of trade unions to approach the appropriate official of the court to ensure that all ballots within their organizations would be properly controlled. At that time, all sorts of complaints were made about the rigging of ballots by Communists, but after such ballots had been held moderate trade unionists had no opportunity to take effective action. The honorable member for Batman (Mr. Bird), who, like myself, was a member of the Amalgamated Engineering Union, could tell many stories about Communist tactics in controlling ballots.
– Is the honorable member still a member of that union?
– No. We pleaded with the present Leader of the Opposition to amend the arbitration law to ensure that trade union ballots would be properly controlled. However, it was left to this Government to take action in that direction, with the result’ that, to-day, very few trade unions are completely controlled by Communists. Honorable members opposite always mouthed platitudes in praise of the arbitration system until the trade unions suffered a temporary set-back as a result of the recent judgment of the court in the wages and hours case. I recall that the Leader of the Opposition, when he was Attorney-General in the Chifley Government, also refused to incorporate in an amending measure provision for appeals from decisions of conciliation commissioners, although that industrial jurisdiction was the only jurisdiction in which provision was not made for such a procedure. As a result of the strike that occurred in protest against the Galvin award in respect of margins, the Government cf Western Australia suffered a loss of £1,800,000. Workers in the metal trades in the eastern States sponsored that strike and their misguided counionists in Western Australia followed suit, but when the former went back to work the latter remained on strike. They knew that until the law was altered the Galvin award would have to stand. It is to the credit of this Government that it made provision for appeals from decisions of conciliation commissioners. It is useless for honorable members opposite to distort the facts in an endeavour to confuse the people with the object of regaining the treasury bench.
Honorable members opposite have had much to say about defence. Never let it be forgotten that they and their colleagues in the Senate held up for a period of nine months the efforts of this Government to improve the defences of this country by the introduction of the national service training scheme. The Opposition’s stand on that measure was dictated by an outside body, the executive of the Australian Labour party, but, subsequently, when that body reversed its stand they let the measure pass without a vote. Although they had spoken against it, they did not vote against it. Honorable members opposite have pointed the finger of scorn at this Government with respect to its repatriation legislation. When they were in office they refused to remove the means test in respect of war pensions, and after they were relegated to the Opposition benches they voted against a measure which this Government introduced for that purpose. Honorable members opposite, when they were in office, failed to honour their promise to provide motor cars for limbless ex-servicemen. This ‘Government took such action at the first opportunity and, in addition, made available for running expenses the sum of £120 per annum to each limbless ex-serviceman .who was supplied with a car. Honorable members opposite also refused to make eligible for pensions the wives and children of ex-servicemen who had not married prior to 1938 ; but this Government has done justice to that section of the community. The Labour Government also refused to liberalize pensions payable in respect of blindness and tuberculosis. This Government has a record of which it can well be proud, but if I were a member of the Australian Labour party I should, like an ostrich, hide my head in the sand when any examination was made of Labour’s record in these matters. I am confident that the people will not be fooled by the platitudes of honorable members opposite.
Motion (by Mr. Eric J. Harrison) put -
That the question be now put.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. Archie Cameron.)
Majority . . 20
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Presentation of Address-in-Reply.
Motion (by Mr. Eric J. Harrison) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
Motion (by Mr. Eric J. Harrison) put -
That the question be now put.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. Archie Cameron.)
Majority . . . . 20
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 11.35 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
n asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
What were the casualties incurred during the Korean hostilities by the Forces of (a) the United States of America, (6) Great Britain, (c) Australia, (d) other Commonwealth countries, and (e) all other countries?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
E asked the Minister for Social Services, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 12 November 1953, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1953/19531112_reps_20_hor2/>.