20th Parliament · 3rd Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. Archie Cameron) took the chair at 10 a.m., and read prayers.
Mr. CURTIN presented a petition from certain officers of the Commonwealth Public Service, praying that the Parliament take action to halt a proposal of the Postmaster-General’s Department to purchase a new telegraph system called Tress.
Petition received and read.
– I refer the Post master-General to a contract that was letby his department for the laying ofa cable between Mitcham andWarrandyte, in Victoria. Was the work completed within the time specified in the contract? Was the contractor paid more than the contract price? Was the work fully carried out in accordance with the specifications?
– I shall obtain tho information and supply it to the honorable member.
– Has the Minister for Labour and National Service received confirmation of the report that Corn.munists have ‘banned the shipment of arms to Indo-China on the freighter Radnor? If so, what effect will this ban have on our commitments to Indo-China in its fight against Communist aggression, in which we are vitally interested?
– I have been giving a great deal of attention to that matter since news reached me yesterday that there had been a refusal to load some equipment on to Radnor. The facts, as I understand them, are that, following an arrangement made last year with M. Letourneau, a Minister of the French Government at that time, Australia agreed to provide some gift equipment, a good deal of it, I understand, surplus stores, to the French Government. Announcements regarding the proposal were made publicly at the time and, I understand, statements covering the matter were made in this House. ‘Some shipments have already been made. I have found, on investigation, that the matter falls into two parts, an industrial relations section, and a foreign relations section. On the industrial relations side, a number of complaints have been raised by the men working on the job. They relate to the position of the winches, allegations that the method of loading is dangerous and that some of the equipment being handled is so old as to constitute a danger, and some other matters of a purely industrial character. The foreign relations aspect would stem from a report of a resolution carried by the men on the joh, in which they appear to have given effect to their views on the foreign policy that should apply between this country and the French Government. Before dealing with the industrial aspect, I think I should make it clear that the foreign policy of Australia is determined by this Parliament, acting - through the Government, which is the agency drawn from the Parliament. So far as the Government, and, I am sure, the Parliament are concerned, they would have the people of Australia loyally abide by the foreign policy decisions that are prescribed by the Government, with the support of the Parliament.
– The Government has no support.
– Order ! The honorable member for East Sydney must remain silent while the Minister is answering a question.
– As far as the industrial aspect is concerned, the chairman of the Australian Stevedoring Industry Board has discussed these matters with representatives of the men this morning. They have agreed to proceed with work on the ship, and an inspector of the board is to examine the working operation in company with an inspector of the Department of Navigation and a representative of the employers. My information from Sydney is that the men have gone back to the ship, and I understand that work has recommenced on it. I hope that there will be no further interruptions so far as that vessel is concerned.
– I direct to the Minister for the Army a question that relates to the practice under which national service trainees are requested to contribute voluntarily the sum of 2s. each out of their pay towards buying floor polish to make their huts and furniture shine, so that the various huts in each camp can compete in presentability with each other. Does not the Minister agree that if the trainees are prepared to put additional work into polishing their furniture and huts, the Army should at least supply the necessary polish to allow them to do that work?
– I congratulate the national service trainees who have the spirit to improve the conditions under which they live. Adequate polish is being provided by the Army for normal purposes. The Army does not require the use of any more polish than is necessary to keep buildings tidy and clean but if those lads, of their own volition and as a result of pride in their camp, or because of competition with other sections of a battalion, wish to have the neatest huts in the camp, then I congratulate them. I am astonished at the observation of the honorable gentleman.
– Will the Minister for External Affairs say whether it is a fact that while the Vietminh movement in Indo-China may have started as a nationalist movement it has long since been completely exploited and captured by communism and even if it was in existence before China became a Communist power it has none the less always been in close relationship with the China Communist party? Will he also say that its leader, Ho Chi Minh, has always been a Communist, was trained in Moscow and has openly declared his intention of setling up, in collaboration with Soviet Russia, a Communist state in Indo-China ? Is it not misleading for an impression to be created that the war in Indo-China is now anything other than Communist aggression?
– I agree with everything that the honorable member said while asking his question.
– I believe, for one, that the Minister is wrong.
– Order !
– I regret to say that I am still of the same opinion. It is quite true that the Vietminh movement may have started a great many years ago as a nationalist movement, and it is equally true that it has been wholly captured by the Communists. Its leaders are Moscow-trained Communists, and it would be quite misleading to get the Australian public to believe that there is anything but communism in the Vietminh movement to-day. While speaking on this subject yesterday I tried to put this matter into perspective. I believe that it is misleading the Australian people to leave the impression in their minds that the Vietminh activity is a nationalist movement and holds no menace for Australia. I believe that it has a very great deal of indirect menace, in due course, for Australia, by reason of ;t» avowed Communist intention.
– I ask the Minister for Health whether any provision has been made to give effect to recommendations of the representative of the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories who is about to return from America after having studied in that country the mass preparation of serum for the prevention of poliomyelitis. What are the nature and value of the buildings that may be required under his recommendations, and has any action .been taken to procure the monkeys that are essential in the preparation of the serum to which I have referred ?
– About eighteen months or two years ago Dr. Bazeley was sent from the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories to the University at Pittsburgh, where certain researches were taking place. As a result of those researches, conducted by a team of experts, it is believed that at last we shall be able to prepare a vaccine for poliomyelitis which will be much more effective than anything that has been produced to the present time. Dr. Bazeley, who is at present travelling to Australia, is’ bringing full information back to enable us to work out what will be necessary for the preparation of the vaccine. When he arrives the whole matter will be’ thoroughly studied and a decision made.
– Will the Minister for Social Services inform the House whether it is true that the secretary of the Pensioners Amenities Society is now visiting Canberra to protest against the inhuman treatment which the New South Wales Labour Government is giving to old people in that State?
– Yes, it is true. Just before question time the secretary of the Pensioners Amenities Society interviewed me and protested about conditions in general in New South Wales.
– What sort of conditions ?
– Conditions in the Liverpool and Lidcombe State Homes. The press, perhaps in an exaggerated fashion, has published statements of certain malpractices there which I should not like to. discuss in the House. The Lidcombe and Liverpool State Homes are under the authority of the New South Wales Government, and our interest is in the pensioners in those homes. We have no authority over the homes themselves, or over the way in which they are conducted. These, matters are purely matters for the State Government. The secretary also mentioned the position in mental homes. I pointed out that, in the opinion of this Government, the agreement entered into with State governments by the previous Labour Government was one of the most iniquitous agreements that has ever been made. It is an inhuman thing. At the last conference of Commonwealth and. State Ministers, State Premiers wore told that under no circumstances would this Government extend the terms of the agreement, as it thought the agreement was a monstrous thing. However, this Government said that it would be quite happy to discuss a new agreement immediately. Since that date the State governments have done nothing about the matter. The third matter that was mentioned at this particular discussion had relation to rents and the payment by pensioners of extremely high charges in and around Sydney. All the matters that have been raised this morning are completely under the jurisdiction of the New South Wales Government, and it is for Mr. Cahill to do anything about them that he can.
– Will the Prime Minister inform the House when the Australian Government was first informed that it was the desire of the United States of America to carry out a survey of the waters to the north of Australia? Ho.w long after that date was the matter considered by Cabinet? Was any action taken between the receipt of that advice from the United States of America and the consideration of the matter by Cabinet? If so, will the right honorable gentleman outline the details of that action? Is it not a fact that service Ministers were asked for their opinion upon the proposal and that in one instance at least, that of the Minister ov Defence, approval was forthcoming? Is it not also a fact that the Australian Government had actually acquiesced in the proposal for the use of Japanese personnel on this work and that Cabinet was summoned and reversed the decision only after a leakage of information and protests from all sections of the community?
– In relation to the last part of the honorable member’s question, I repeat that on the very first occasion on which Cabinet dealt with this matter it rejected the proposal. If the honorable member places his other questions on the notice-paper, I shall see what information I can obtain.
– My question is directed to the Minister for the Interior. The honorable gentleman may recall that a few months ago I asked him a question regarding the curtailment of the war service land settlement programme in New South Wales. I now ask the Minister whether he has been able to persuade the New South Wales Government to consider an extension of the scheme in that State?
– I have received no official advice from the New South Wales Government. I understand that a certain amount of money has been made available for the purpose of obtaining additional land for war service land settlement in New South Wales. I do not know the amount of money nor do I know when it was allocated, but at present the only action seems to be in relation to the obtaining of land and not in relation to improvements on properties.
– Will the Prime Minister inform the House whether it is a fact that recently the British Ministry of Pensions ruled that all ex-servicemen who had been accepted for service in the armed forces and who were ultimately discharged medically unfit were entitled to receive a military pension irrespective of their length of service? If that is a fact, will the right honorable gentleman consider the application of this principle to the ex-servicemen of Australia who were similarly discharged from the
Australian Military Forces, especially those of World War I. who were discharged medically unfit after years of active service and who have not been able to perform any work for years?
– I shall direct the terms of the honorable member’s question to the Minister for Repatriation and obtain an answer for him.
– I address a question to the Minister for the Interior in his capacity as the representative of the Australian Government on the River Murray Commission. Is he aware that considerable erosion is being caused below the Hume Reservoir as the result of the sudden opening and closing of the valves which is unnecessary? Will he ask the commission to endeavour to control the height of the river more slowly, and consequently more evenly, so that erosion now being caused between Albury and Corowa may be reduced? Does he believe that the height to which the Hume Weir is being raised is adequate, or would he advocate a greater height than that which is proposed to provide an additional 2,000,000 acre feet?
– I have not any information with respect to the first of the honorable member’s questions. I was not aware that serious erosion was taking place or, as somebody has put it, that land was being transferred from New South Wales to Victoria, reminding one of the fight that has taken place between Victoria and Tasmania over the transfer of Tattersalls lottery from the latter State. As a Victorian, I assure the honorable member that no attempt is being made in this instance to transfer land from New South Wales to Victoria. I shall obtain a report from the engineers with respect to the rate of flow from the weir when the valves are opened. I shall obtain a full statement of the facts and let the honorable member have the information as soon as I can. The point that the honorable member has raised in his last question depends on several things. First, the present height of the Hume Dam is woefully insufficient to provide adequate water in the event of drought in the irrigation areas if we were to experience a recurrence of the conditions that occurred in 1902 and 1903 or even a recurrence of those that occurred in 1944 and 1945. At present, the height of the dam is being raised to provide for an additional storage of 2,000,000 acre-feet. This is being done under the terms of the River Murray Agreement to which the Commonwealth and New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia are parties. But the experts consider that that additional accommodation is not sufficient to provide the required security against severe drought conditions. The commission itself has recommended that the height of the dam should be raised to accommodate an additional 500,000 acrefeet of water. The Victorian Government has requested that a conference be convened to consider this matter, but up to date New South Wales has not taken any action in that respect. Speaking as the chairman of the commission and not in my capacity as Minister for Works, I am most concerned at the moment that if water is diverted from the Tooma River to the Snowy River such water would be abstracted from the quota allotted to irrigators on t,hr> northern side of the Murray River. If 200,000 acre-feet of water were diverted in that way their supplies might be reduced to something like 60 per cent, and, consequently, under drought conditions they would suffer serious losses. If the height of the weir were raised to accommodate an additional 500,000 acre-feet the water supplied would he between S5 per cent, and 87 per cent, -of requirements. Two things must be considered. The -first point is that if the water is to be diverted, to what degree can irrigation be proceeded with in the Riverina. That is a matter to be considered by the New South Wales Government, but that Government is keener to have the water diverted from the Tooma than it is to agree to heighten the Hume Weir to accommodate an additional 500,000 acre-feet.
– I lay on the table the following paper: -
Honorable members are aware that the Government, late in 1950, appointed the National Security Resources Board, which consists of a group of prominent citizens who have been selected for their personal qualifications and wide experience, to advise the Government on the best use of resources in Australia in the interests of national security. A period of intensive preparation ensued. On the 10th September, 1953, I asked the board to review the progress over the three years. On the 10th December, 1953, the board considered the first draft of its report. The document which the board has prepared and which I have laid on the table, jives a comprehensive review of the condition of Australia’s defences and the development of our economy up to the last quarter of 1953. The names of the members of the National Security Resources Board are to be found on the last page of the report.
– As Chairman, I present the following report of the Public Accounts Committee -
Thirteenth Report - The form and content of the financial documents presented to the Parliament - Progress report.
I had intended also to present the committee’s report on the Postal Department but, because of a power failure at Goul- burn yesterday, the printing of the document has been delayed.
Ordered to be printed.
Bill received from the Senate.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Mr. Holt) read a first time.
Debate resumed from the 7th April (vide page 152), on motion by Sir Arthur Fadden -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- One of the most interesting features of this debate on the Government’s Supply legislation has been the reference by the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Whitlam) to the Labour party as the socialist party, the former administration as the socialist government, and the parties represented on this side of the House as free enterprise parties. His descriptions were completely true. In recent years, and especially during the last eighteen months, the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) has told us that, in his opinion, socialism is outmoded and is no longer an objective of the Labour party. However, although the right honorable gentleman has tried to softpedal on this issue, the objective still remains in the Labour party’s platform. In view of that fact, we should be well advised to study some of the statements that have been made recently by various members of the Opposition. For example, I quote the following statement made last December by the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) : -
Bank nationalization still remains the policy of the Labour party, and I think you will find, when the Labour party is returned, we shall set about correcting the lack of powers to allow us to implement the policy of which you approve.
The honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron) said this -
If Government supporters believe that Labour supporters will resist the charge that they are socialists, they have another think coming. If honorable members will read the platform of the Australian Labour party, they will understand.
Let us adopt the honorable member’s suggestion and study the pledge that is made by every parliamentary candidate of the Australian Labour party. In the terms of that pledge, each candidate undertakes that he will not oppose any selected and endorsed candidate of the Australian Labour party, and that he will, if elected to Parliament, do his utmost on all occasions to carry out the principles embodied in the party’s platform, and will, on all questions affecting the platform, vote as a majority of the parliamentary party may decide at a caucus meeting. He also pledges himself not to retire from any election contest without the consent of his party and to actively support and advocate at all times the party objectives, including that of the socialization of industry, production, distribution and exchange.
The objectives adopted by the Labour party are well worthy of close study. I refer, for instance, to compulsory unionism, which is listed as the fifth of the party’s objectives. As honorable members will recall, the leaders of the Federal Australian Labour party and their supporters hedged on this issue for a considerable time after compulsory unionism had been instituted in New South Wales by the Cahill Government. However, the plain fact is that compulsory unionism is a part of the party’s platform, and the Leader of the Opposition has , been obliged finally to admit it. In order to prevent misrepresentation, I declare emphatically at once that honorable members on this side of the House believe in trade unionism as a movement. We fully realize the good that trade unionism has done, and we ‘believe that it should continue to be a part of our national society .because of the good effects that it has produced both in the industrial sphere and in the economic sphere. Nevertheless, we believe strongly that no citizen should be compelled to join any association, whether it be a trade union or any other organization. We have faith in the Declaration of Human Rights to which Australia has subscribed. That declaration was born during World War II., when we were fighting for freedom. The two great democratic leaders of the world at that time met and laid the foundations of the Atlantic Charter, which embodies the Declaration of Human Rights. It should be unnecessary for me to stress the vital importance of retaining the freedoms specified in the declaration. The people should never lose sight of the dangers that would arise if we allowed individual citizens to be forced to join organizations of any kind.
I propose to give some examples of the effects of compulsory unionism in New South Wales in order that honorable members and the public may understand how Labour party members throughout Australia regard this issue. . As we know, members of the Opposition have tried to soft-pedal on the effects of compulsory unionism and have tried to extol it as a beneficial innovation. The three examples to which I shall refer are within my own knowledge. The first concorns an ex-serviceman who started business in a small way after World War II. and who now employs about 40 men. He was visited first by a representative of the Australian Workers Union, who told him that all his employees had to join that union. He asked his visitor whether that applied to the ex-servicemen in his employment, and he was told that they, too, would have to join the union. On the following day, the employer received a visit from a representative of the Transport Workers Union of Australia. He asked this man the same question and was told that it. would not be necessary for ex-servicemen to join that union. However, on the third day the representative of the Australian Workers Union returned, and told him, not only that the ex-servicemen amongst his employees would have to join the union, but also that he, as the employer, would have to do likewise. He refused to do so and now, in his own words, is being badgered by the union. He complains that he is never let alone by its representatives.
The second example to which I refer occurred only about ten days ago. In this instance, a young man of my acquaintance started business in partnership with another ex-serviceman, and thu partnership now employs about twenty persons. He received a visit last week from a representative of the union concerned. After he had pointed out that his employees worked under a federal award the union representative said, “ You will still have to arrange for them to join our union, and if you don’t do it this .week we’ll have arrangements made so that you’ll have to do it after the 29th of May”. The third example concerns the visit to a shop of a representative of the Shop Assistants Union, for the same purpose. When the employer said he would discuss the matter with his employees before giving the union representative permission to interview them, the answer he received was, “If we cannot fix you now we’ll fix you after the 29th of May”. I give honorable members these examples in order to illustrate the kind of thinking that is going on in the Labour party throughout Australia, and in the Opposition in this Parliament. I am also attempting to show that, however much honorable members opposite might try to soft-pedal on this particular issue because of the imminence of the general election, the Labour party is making its preparations for the introduction, should it gain power, of dictatorial methods, of which compulsory unionism is the first. Indeed, compulsory unionism is one of the first steps towards complete dictatorship of any country. Dictatorship starts with forcing people into organizations, including trade unions, and maintains itself by control of the nation’s finances through nationalization of banks. Since State Labour governments in this country already control the police forces of most of the States and a Federal Labour government would control the armed services, it does not require a great stretch of imagination to be able to forecast what will happen to this country in the unfortunate event, of the election to office of a Labour government on the 29th May.
I turn now to the speech made last night by the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell), who is the Deputy Leader of the Opposition in this chamber. He pointed out that, amongst other things, the seven bills with which we are dealing will provide Supply for the first four months of the new Parliament. It is only right, therefore, to study not only his statements, but also the record of this Government, in order to make a comparison of the two forms of government of which the Australian electors have a choice, and the nature and type of men who lead these opposing forms. A great deal of mischievous nonsense has been talked by honorable members opposite, and by members of State Labour governments, about the amount of financial assistance that has been extended by this Government to the States. Honorable members will no doubt recall that during the debate yesterday members of the Opposition cited many examples of bad roads in the various States. They said, with truth, that there is a need for development in the States. They did not admit, however, that responsibility for the lack of development in the States rests fairly and squarely on the shoulders of the Labour party, because it is a fact that more money has been made available to the States for development during the regime of this Government than was ever made available to them before by a federal government. In the first four years after the end of the war, when the Chifley Government was in office, loan allocations to - the States totalled £212,994,000, of which amount New South Wales received £85,966,000. In the last four years of the present regime the total allocations to the States have been £75S,666,000, of which amount New South Wales received £240,800,000. In other words, financial provision for the States has been three and a half times as great in four years under this Government as it was in the last four years of the Chifley Government. Yet, to hear honorable members opposite, one would think that the States had been starved for money by this Government, whereas the opposite is the truth. I know that New South Wales needs more money for roads. I know also that more money should be allocated to local governing bodies, which are facing great difficulties, and are now endeavouring to raise loans for themselves. We should lose no opportunity to draw attention to the facts, and so arouse public opinion as to force the State governments to make a more equitable distribution of their available money, and so provide local governing bodies with the finances they require.
The next subject with which I shall deal is the Government’s social services record. It is a record of which we can be proud. The social services problem is always with us, and it is one to which the Opposition continually directs attention. It is, therefore, necessary to give briefly the background of this matter, so that statements by members opposite may be viewed in their true perspective. We should remind ourselves that a Labour government under Mr. Scullin in 1931 has been the only federal government to reduce the pension rate. We should also remind ourselves that it was a Labour government, with the present Leader of the Opposition as one of its senior Ministers, which deprived pensioners of the benefit of cost of living adjustments that had been extended to them by the Menzies Governnent in 1940. We must also remember that the advocacy by the Leader of the Opposition of abolition of the means test is of recent birth.
His original statement about it was one of his band-wagon statements. It caused some upset within his own party ranks because, as we all know, the abolition of the means test is not one of the Labour party’s objectives. Before speaking of that in detail, however, I remind honorable members that the community as a whole has acknowledged its responsibility towards its less fortunate members who, through no fault of their own, require financial assistance. That is why increased financial assistance has been given to pensioners, especially in recent years. Various other methods of assistance have been adopted, including medical, hospital and pharmaceutical benefits. We should study how various governments have shouldered that responsibility. During the last four years this Government has made a number of direct increases of pensions by reasonable amounts. An amount of 7s. 6d. a week was granted the first year ‘that this Government held office, 10s. 6d. a week the next, 7s. 6d. a week in the third year and 2s. 6d. a week in the last year. Therefore, those pensioners who were receiving the base rate of pension have obtained great advantage from this Government’s actions. I believe that it was wise for us to follow the course that we did follow because the community was still suffering under the great increase? of the cost of living which was a legacy from the previous socialist administration.
It has been pointed out by other speakers that this Government, through its economic policy, has been able finally to halt the ever increasing cost of living, to stabilize our own economy, and, particularly, to stabilize the prices of the more usual domestic articles. Therefore, we find that last year the increase granted to the base rate age pensioner was 2s. 6d. a week, or a little more than the increase of the cost of living which was 2s. 4d. a week. In our benefits to age pensioners we have given valuable assistance to the group of persons who had been very badly hit by inflation during the previous years and who had, until this Government assumed office, received very little assistance. They are the persons with fixed incomes, either by way of superannuation or by way of savings investments. They were helped by this Government’s action in raising the property qualification and the income means test. In some cases married couples on fixed incomes, through the Government’s actions, have been able to obtain a further 15s. a week, which, I suggest, has been of great benefit to them. The actions of the Government towards pensioners and fixed income classes indicates the way in which this Government is thinking, and the policy that it has decided upon with regard to social services. As all honorable members know, an important objective of the Government parties is the complete abolition of the means test. We are gradually working towards that end, and we have shown our sincerity by continually increasing the number of recipients of pensions and by increasing all existing age pensions. It is quite correct to say that since this Government has held office we have ameliorated the means test in many ways. Surely that indicates that we have a definite plan, and that we are working towards our objective of ultimate complete abolition of the means test. Our plan is steady and purposeful, and is completely unlike the practice of the Labour party of snatching policies out of the air and using them for purely party political purposes.
Yesterday the honorable member for Melbourne attempted to describe the economic state of Australia. I shall now remind honorable members of various measures which were all part of our programme, and which this Government has introduced into the Parliament during the past four years or so. At the time some of our measures gave rise to criticism both inside and outside of this House, particularly in certain sections of the press. However, strong as that criticism was at the time, the Government gave no indication that it believed that it was necessary to introduce a press gag bill such as the New South Wales Labour Government found necessary not so long ago in order to stifle criticism. Those incidents again indicate quite clearly the policy and the thinking of the Government parties as compared with the repressive policy and thinking of the Labour party. Although some of this Government’s actions have been hotly and strongly criticized, there has never been any suggestion that we should introduce, as the Labour party has done, a gag-the-pressbill. Moreover, at no time has the slightest breath of scandal ever touched the name of any member of this Government, and I suggest that that is a record of which we can be justly proud. These are only some of the things that provide a background for the policies and actions of the Government parties and the Opposition party.
It is not for me at the present time to enter into details about the policy which we shall put before the people at the next general election. We believe that that is entirely the responsibility, the duty and the honour of our leaders. However, the people of Australia know enough from our past actions to forecast our policy, because they know that we have at least a plan which we have been steadily following and which has proved to be successful despite the criticism to which I referred a short time ago. We shall continue along those lines for the good of Australia, and shall not be persuaded from our beliefs into taking action merely for the party political advantage of the moment, or to get some benefit in a general election campaign. The value of our policy has been proved, and it was noteworthy that yesterday, while the honorable member for Melbourne was endeavouring to criticize our actions and policy, he entirely omitted to face up to the fact that they have been completely successful. I am well aware that both inside this House and outside it supporters of the Government might have believed in their own minds that they could have done some things slightly differently from the way in which the Government carried them out, but that is merely because individual people have a different approach to all problems. The main fact that stands out above all else is that this Government has been successful and has once more given the people a steady and stable economy. Moreover, in all its major actions our leaders have had the unwavering support of all honorable members on this side of the House, and of course that cannot be said about the Opposition. That is merely another proof of the Government’s successful handling of intricate matters.
Although the present health of our economy is due in some measure to good seasons and to the co-operation that the Government has received from the Australian people, we could have been brought to our present most satisfactory state only by a Liberal government, and certainly not by a Labour government.
.- I do not intend to traverse the speech of the honorable member for Robertson (Mr. Dean), but I do wish to deal with one matter that he raised. He appeared to be concerned about the introduction of compulsory unionism in New South Wales, and stated that ex-servicemen would be affected.
– Of course they are affected.
– For 35 years compulsory unionism has been in force in Queensland, and. indeed, my good friend the honorable member for Brisbane (Mr. George Lawson), was the first man ever to have a preference clause inserted in an Australian industrial award. Of course, no honorable member on this side of the House would hold that against him, and I am doubtful whether any honorable member on the Government side would be disposed to do so. For the 35 years that Queensland has had compulsory unionism ex-servicemen have not been compelled to join unions. Despite that, not one ex-serviceman in Queensland has ever endeavoured to dodge his responsibility to be a member of a union. Moreover, no ex-serviceman or exservicemen’s organization has ever protested against ex-servicemen taking out union tickets. The honorable member for Robertson will find out that there are just as good unionists among exservicemen’s organizations as there are outside them. The honorable member for Gwydir (Mr. Allan), who unfortunately is not in the House at present, should be complimented on the speech that he made last night. But after all, the honorable member for Gwydir is a tory member and he ran true to form. I think that at once the honorable member should be very, very careful, because I do not think he should get into his head the idea that his stature entitles him to overlook truths and facts in relation to any matter, even matters in relation to nationalization or free enterprize. I think the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Whitlam) gave the complete answer to the question of nationalization. The new honorable member for Gwydir came into this Parliament from an industry that is completely nationalized.
– Broadcasting is not nationalized.
– It is completely nationalized.
– There are 103 commercial stations in Australia.
– All the talk that has been dished out, and hashed and rehashed, and. boiled and baked and stewed, makes no more sense now than when this stupid story of nationalization was first introduced. The Minister for Air (Mr. McMahon) was in Cairns recently and opened the election campaign for the Leichhardt electorate. The fact that the honorable gentleman was wasting his time is not relevant, so I shall not deal with that matter. However, the honorable gentleman warned the cane-farmers that the Evatt Labour party was a socialist party and that it intended to nationalize everything on which it could lay its hands. He warned those people that the sugar industry was one of the industries that the Australian Labour party proposed to nationalize. It is impossible to nationalize the sugar industry, because it is already nationalized. The only sugar cane that can be sold must be grown after an assignment has been granted. Nobody can grow sugar cane in the same way as one can grow wheat or breed cattle or sheep. The cane-farmer must o’btain an assignment. and the body that is responsible for the granting of that assignment is the Central Sugar Cane Prices Board, which is a board that has been established by the State government. The sugar that is produced is placed in a pool which is controlled by the board. The price that the farmers receive for their sugar is a. price that is determined substantially by the board which was established by the State Government and the export markets are determined by the Australian Government in conjunction with the Government of the United Kingdom. The protection that has been afforded to the sugar industry - and I suppose it is the most protected industry in Australia - was granted by the Australian Government. Nobody need talk about nationalizing the sugar industry when that industry is a pure example of what can be done in the nationalization of industry. Is the Postmaster-General (Mr. Anthony), who is a practical farmer and who, I understand, grows sugar cane, prepared to say that the sugar industry is not the best, organized and probably the most efficient industry in Australia?
– But it is not nationalized.
– It is not nationalized?
– No. That is nonsense.
– It is socialized.
-. - It is organized.
– It is organized. Who organized it?
– The growers.
– Did the cane farmers organize it? Did the tories organize it ? Did big business organize it ? The Queensland Labour Government organized it.
-. - It was organized long before there was a Labour government in Queensland.
– Let me say to the Minister for Air that before he goes out campaigning he should find something more effective than telling the cane farmers, who know that their industry is socialized and that it is the best organized and most efficient industry in this country, that the Australian Labour party intends to nationalize it. When the honorable member for Gwydir or any other honorable member speaks in the manner in which the honorable member for Robertson speaks about socialization and nationalization, he should examine the facts and, although it is difficult, for once try to be honest.
I am pleased that the Minister for Civil Aviation (Mr. Anthony) is in the House, because my chief reason for participating in this debate is to present the position that obtains in relation to country aerodromes. The Chifley Government introduced a scheme in order to encourage the establishment, development and maintenance of such aerodromes. The scheme required that the local authority concerned should acquire the land and build a strip to the best of its ability or to the extent that its finances permitted. The scheme further provided that, after the local authority had built the aerodrome and aircraft were landing there and it was proved that the aerodrome was economically sound, the Department of Civil Aviation would take over the aerodrome. The idea was that the local authority would be saved the cost of maintenance. In addition, it was intended that the Department of Civil Aviation would re-imburse the local authority for constructing the aerodrome to that stage. I am sure that the Minister for Civil Aviation will agree that that was the position. Quite a number of local authorities proceeded along those lines when the Chifley Government was in office. I do not know the number of aerodromes that were taken over by the Department of Civil Aviation, but quite a number were taken over, and from then on, the cost of maintenance was the responsibility of that department. A number of local authorities came in a little late. There were two such bodies in my electorate, to one of which I wish to refer in particular. The Queensland Labour Government realized the importance of developments of this kind and decided to subsidize the local authorities. I understand that that subsidy is the highest subsidy that is granted to local authorities in Queensland. The State Government subsidized the scheme by 50 per cent. It said to the local authorities, “ Acquire the land and build an aerodrome, and for every £1 you pay we will pay £1 also “. That was done in the town of Ayr, which has a population of approximately 11,000 people, and in other towns also, but I shall use the town of Ayr as an example. Proserpine, Bowen, Ingham and Innisfail are similiarly affected. At Ayr the local authority spent £7,000 and £7,000 was paid in subsidy by the State government, a total amount of £14.000. The local authority thought that, as it had built the aerodrome and put it on an economic footing, its responsibilities would cease and that the service to which the town was entitled would be maintained by the Department of Civil Aviation. I made representations to the Minister for Civil Aviation in an effort to persuade his department to conform to the arrangement because, although there had been a change of government, no statement had been made by the Minister or anybody else in authority that the agreement ha.! been cancelled. In the absence of an official announcement that the agreement had been altered, the local government authority was entitled to believe that the original arrangement stood; and, in that belief, it proceeded with the work. I have made representations on several occasions to the Minister, but on each occasion he has replied that the Department of Civil Aviation is not prepared to take over this particular aerodrome. The department did not say whether the original scheme had been amended, although officers of the department have made statements to that effect. The Minister should know whether the original scheme has been amended. If that be so, I ask him to ascertain why it has been left to officers of his department to inform both the major airlines that it has decided not to take over any more sites _ for aerodromes that are situated within 100 miles of an aerodrome that is already under the control of the department. Both Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited and TransAustralia Airlines use the aerodrome at Ayr. I have not at hand the figures relating to operators at this aerodrome, but I know that the number is quite substantial and that it would certainly warrant the department carrying out its obligations under the scheme that was initiated by the Chifley Government.
Recently, we heard the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) indulging in a lot of claptrap in making attacks upon the Queensland Government. We heard more of the same sort of talk last night from the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Pearce), although he indulges in such talk to such a degree that now nobody takes any notice of him. The Treasurer attacked the Queensland Government for failing to complete the Burdekin bridge, and he claimed that as a. result of that failure the northern portion of Queensland was isolated recently when the Burdekin River was in flood. I inform the Government that work on the bridge is being proceeded with as rapidly as steel supplies come to hand. In any event, the Queensland Government is prepared to finance the construction of the bridge; and when the work is completed that Government will be able to say, “We built that bridge without one penny of assistance from the federal government “. I put it to the Treasurer that this Government is equally responsible for the state of affairs about which he complained, because it repudiated an agreement whereby it undertook to build an all-weather aerodrome at Ayr and as a result contact could not be made with that centre during the recent floods. 1 urge the Minister for Civil Aviation to have another look at this matter and to inform the public whether the original agreement that was made between the Government and the local government authority still stands, or whether it has been amended. If it has been amended, I should like to know why it was left to officers of the department to convey that information to the airlines and the local government authority concerned.
Having regard to the fact that a general election is pending, I do not blame the Treasurer for indulging in attacks upon the Queensland Government. However, in view of his experience, I should have thought that he would have had more sense. He has seen fit to bash the Queensland Government because of its alleged failure to complete the construction of the Burdekin Bridge. He is frightened to go to Ayr and make similar statements there. In fact, although he has been challenged to return there, he has not done so since he made his policy speech in 1949. I have been accused by honorable members opposite of harping on this hardy annual, the development of the Burdekin Valley. I raise the matter again. I am completely entitled to do so because the Treasurer, without reservation, made the promise that the Menzies Government would provide financial assistance for that purpose. He said that the matter would not be pigeonholed as a blueprint for depression. The Government has repudiated that promise. Time and time again, the Treasurer has since said that the development of the
Burdekin Valley would be uneconomic. The reason he gave for making that statement was that such a scheme would make it possible to produce an additional 600,000 tons of sugar annually, and that it would be necessary to construct additional mills to crush that sugar. The Treasurer knows as well as I do that the growing of sugar is not a factor in the present proposal for the development f the Burdekin Valley. Indeed, all the sugar that we require for the domestic market and for export could be grown in the Lower Burdekin because the cultivation of sugar in that area is not dependent upon seasonal conditions. What the supporters of this scheme are concerned about is not the quantity of sugar that could be produced as a result: of it but the provision of irrigation for pastoral and agricultural development and the supply of hydro-electric power for the purpose of developing the back block? beyond the Burdekin Valley. That is what the supporters of this scheme are concerned about. Therefore, the Treasurer,s statement about the production of additional sugar in this area is humbug.
I remind the right honorable gentleman of the hullabaloo he got into over this matter. Mr. Ferguson, the manager of the National Bank at Ayr, who has authorized me to use his name, was so disgusted when the Treasurer repudiated the Government’s promise to assist in the development of the Burdekin Valley that he wrote a letter to the local newspaper. We know, of course, that the Treasurer is inclined to “ do his block “, but he overdid it on this occasion. In his reply to Mr. Ferguson, he said that he was surprised that the manager of a bank would say anything adverse about this Government because if the Chifley Government had been returned he could tell Mr. Ferguson that he and his bank would have been tossed into the Burdekin. That was the tone which the Treasurer adopted towards Mr. Ferguson and the latter, in a further reply, said, in effect, “ We may have been thrown into the Burdekin, but I want to remind the Treasurer that if it were not for the bankers, their wives and their kids, there would not have been a Menzies Government “. So, the
Treasurer thought it was time to give Ayr away ; and he has not returned there since. If the right honorable gentleman wants to make party political capital out of the flooding of the Burdekin River, let him go to that area and tell the people what he has done in the Burdekin. It. would not take him long to tell that story. I repeat that the residents of the Burdekin Valley are not worried about the production of sugar. They can grow all the sugar that they require to grow without asking the Australian Government for any assistance at all for that purpose.
Yesterday, I asked the Minister for the Array (Mr. Francis) a question about the food supplied to national service trainees at Wacol camp, in Queensland. The Minister, in- his reply, accused me of being irresponsible. Well, if I am irresponsible, that makes two of us, because I cannot imagine any one more irresponsible than he is. I mention, in passing, that a majority of Ministers adopt a similar attitude towards any honorable member who dares to express a view that conflicts with their own. They immediately accuse him of being irresponsible. 1 heard the Minister for the Army tell another honorable member this morning, in effect, that he was irresponsible. The Minister did not use those precise words, but his meaning was clear. We must not ask him any questions that are not to his liking.
It does not matter whether or not I have been to Wacol. When all is said and done, it is not necessary to be a dog to know a dog biscuit. I happen to have some knowledge of the conditions at Wacol. ‘Scores and scores of parents, whose sons have been taken from north Queensland to that camp, have come to me in my electorate, and said thai they have been told that serious complaints have been made about the food. Very well ! I put it to the Minister that complaints had been made about the food, and he immediately replied that I was irresponsible. Would it not have been logical to assume that the Minister, when he heard reference to such complaints, would say, in effect, “I have no knowledge of the complaints, but I shall examine the position”. But he did not do so. He described me as irresponsible because I raised the subject.
I make it clear that any person who is elected to this Parliament is entitled to raise matters here, so long as he conforms to the Standing Orders and observes Mr. Speaker’s rulings. You, Mr. Speaker, have been accused on occasions of being irresponsible. I put it to you that it is only because you have always been courageous enough to express your views that you have been so accused. A person elected to this Parliament who is not courageous enough to express his views should not be here. The Minister has accused me of being irresponsible. Well, I cannot imagine anything more irresponsible than the statement of the officer in charge of the Wacol camp about the walk-out of the national service trainees. I do not condone the walk-out. I am sure that it was wrong for the lads to walk out. However, the officer in charge of the camp was reported in the press next day to have said that the walk-out was inspired by Communists. He went a long way farther than that, and said, in effect, “ You only find this behaviour among young lads from the cities whose fathers work in industry. You do not get it with farmers’ sons, because farmers and their sons are not used to the 40-hour week. The kids from the cities are used to it. All they can talk about is the 40-hour week “.
I asked the Minister for the Army yesterday whether he supported that statement by the officer in charge of Wacol camp, and he replied that, because I made such a statement, I was irresponsible. I understood that the Minister, towards the. conclusion of his answer, said that the national service trainees had come to be known as the wonders of the age. I, too, think that they are wonderful, but I do not believe that they are so wonderful that they can do their training without adequate food. I also think they are wonderful to reach such heights when such a futile Minister is in charge of the Army. The writer of an article published in a newspaper a few days ago referred to the Minister, rightly or wrongly, as the most futile Minister since federation. I do not know whether that statement is absolutely correct. I have not been a member of this House long enough to be qualified to express an opinion on that matter, but. some other honorable members who have been here for many years may be prepared to agree with the opinion expressed by the writer of that article. I shall not make reference to the remarks made by the writer about the Minister for Air, because he has just entered the chamber, and it would not be fair to involve him in the argument at this stage.
– Go right ahead. I should like the opportunity to reply to the honorable member for Herbert.
– I am inclined to agree with the statement of the Minister for the Army that the national service trainees are the wonders of the age, but I repeat that they should not be expected to become efficient soldiers unless they are given adequate quantities of food of good quality. Having made those statements, I shall leave the Minister for the Army at Wacol.
The sudden promises that are now being made by the Government are most interesting. We learn that money is to be made available all at once to finance the construction of additional war service homes. However, the provision of the extra money is to cease at the- end of June next. What is the reason for that decision? Can it be that the result of the general election will be known by the end of June? If extra money can be made available for the next two months for war service homes, why could not money have been made available for that purpose in the past? Why is the Government not prepared to enter into a commitment beyond the end of June? The Government has also suddenly decided to increase Public Service superannuation benefits and to amend the Commonwealth Employees’ Compensation Act. Heaven forbid that I should suggest that those moves are prompted in any way by the forthcoming general election ! But it is an amazing coincidence.
– The requests for the introduction of legislation to amend the Superannuation Act and the Commonwealth Employees’ Compensation Act were made by the unions.
– Were the requests made only last week? The Government has received a series of requests to take such action ever since it has been in office, but has not found it convenient to act until the eve of a general election.
– The Chifley Labour Government did not take any action in those matters.
– And the Chifley Government went out of office. The Menzies Government should heed that warning.
The invalid and age pensioners were sad that their pensions were increased by only 2s. 6d. a week at a time when the Treasurer was throwing thousands and thousands of pounds about last year. However, the pensioners extracted some consolation from the thought that a further increase would be granted on the eve of the general election, as election bait. But the Treasurer adopted the role of a mother who says to her daughter, “ If anybody asks you anything and you do not understand what it is about, say No ‘ for safety’s sake “. The honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Minogue), who is the champion of the pensioners in this House, addressed a question to the right honorable gentleman yesterday about pensions, and the Treasurer replied, without hesitation, that the pensioners would not receive an increase. The Government will have to answer to them for its parsimony on the 29th May next.
! - I rise to express views in support of the policies that this Government has carried out since it was elected to office in 1949, but before I do so, I propose to make a few comments on the speeches of the honorable member for Hd bert (Mr. Edmonds) and the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Whitlam), who have given us the pleasure of hearing them in this debate. I believe that the honorable member for Herbert, when he criticized honorable members on this side of the House who have referred to the nationalization policy of the Labour party, was endeavouring to confuse the issue. He referred to conditions in States where the complete socialist plan of the Labour party has not yet been brought to fruition. The Labour party has proudly proclaimed that its fundamental political aim is the establishment of socialism in Australia. Surely no rational and decent member of the Labour party will attempt to deny that statement. The honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell), who is the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, was reported recently to have said that he was of the opinion that Australia with a one-party parliament would be the best type of Australia that we could look forward to. No doubt, the honorable member considers that the one-party parliament and the one-party government should consist of members of the Australian Labour party. If he did not make that statement specifically, he at least was of the opinion that a one-party government and a one-party parliament would make the ideal political set-up in Australia. I defy him to deny that he has gone on record to that effect during the last three months. Therefore, I say to the honorable member for Herbert that he is confusing the issue if he seeks to attribute present conditions in the sugar industry to the fact that there is a Labour government in Queensland. I ask the Labour party to affirm or deny that its ultimate objective is the establishment of a planned economy according to its written platform. The honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron) and other honorable members opposite have openly espoused that platform, but the Leader of the Opposition has tried in every possible way, particularly during the last six months, to convince the people that the Labour party is not a socialist party and does not seek to establish total government ownership and control of the means of production, distribution and exchange. If the right honorable gentleman is right, then those members of the Opposition who support the published platform of the Labour party are wrong. The honorable member for Herbert, in fairness, might have referred to the Colonial Sugar Refining Company Limited in his remarks on the sugar industry. I do not pose as an expert on the industry, but I am inclined to the belief that the company has contributed in no insignificant degree to its growth and progress in Australia. I have been led to believe, in fact, that most of the growers and others associated with the industry consider the company to have a very creditable record and to have served Australia well. It would have been only fair for the honorable member to acknowledge, if this be true, that the company deserves at least some of the credit for the condition of the sugar industry.
– I give full credit to the company.
– I am happy to know that the honorable member agrees with me.
I propose now to discuss the misuse of figures for the purpose of comparing the results of the policies pursued by different governments in relation to taxation, war service homes and several other matters. I have listened to broadcasts that have been made recently by the Leader of the Opposition, who has gone to great lengths in his efforts to convince the people that sales tax, for example, is much more severe to-day than it was previously and that this state of affairs reflects an everincreasing desire on the part of the Government to take money from the taxpayers. The right honorable gentleman has said that many more millions of pounds are collected in sales tax each year under the Menzies Government than were collected under the Chifley Government and that, therefore, the Menzies Government should be condemned. He has urged the people to vote for the Labour party on the ground that a Labour government, would reduce the impact of sales tax on the community. I believe that we should establish a precise standard for the making of such comparisons. The Leader of the Opposition and his supporters should be made to rationalize their arguments so that it shall be clear to the people that their misrepresentations are not made deliberately. It is unreasonable to compare the sales tax policies of different governments unless a common basis of comparison is used. If, for example, Australians were able to buy, say, 60,000 motor vehicles in 1947-48 and 128,000 motor vehicles in 1952-53, it follows logically that sales tax collections from the sale of motor vehicles must have been immeasurably higher in 1952-53 than they were in the earlier year. The simple fact is that sales tax revenue is greatly affected by the consumption of goods. Obviously, if sales tax collections are high, the consumption of goods must be high. This is a fact in relation to the increase of sales tax revenue that ought to be brought home to the Australian people. There is scarcely a commodity that is not being consumed more extensively in 1954 than at any previous period of our history.
– And on which the Government is not levying a higher rate of sales tax.
– The rates of sales tax are dictated by the Government’s commitments, which govern all taxation rates. However, if sales tax rates were too high, the natural economic effect would be a reduction of the consumption of goods. In that event, there might have been some sense in the honorable member’s interjection.
The truth is that, notwithstanding the rates of sales tax, the consumption of goods has increased enormously under this Government. It is true that ice-cream sales decreased during 1952 and the early part of 1953. But provision was made in the 1953-54 budget for a reduction of sales tax on ice-cream and certain other commodities to 16§ per cent. During the six months that have elapsed since that budget was introduced, it has become evident that the consumption of ice-cream is rising towards a level much higher than prevailed during World War II. or previously. Therefore, I say that honorable members who complain of the severity of the sales tax burden should be made to state the consumption figures for the goods concerned so that people may assess the real force of their complaints. Sales tax provides revenue in a fair fashion because the consumer always has the right to avoid the tax by refraining from the purchase of particular commodities. If consumption figures are high, it is obvious that sales tax levels have not militated against the purchase of the goods concerned.
The honorable member for Werriwa last night treated the House to an extraordinary dissertation on the subject of war service homes. The situation ought to be clarified. It is true that there was a great demand for houses in the immediate post-war period because people had sufficient money with which to pay deposits. No government of any colour has maintained that it could provide ex-servicemen with all the money that they might need to purchase and furnish homes. It has always been necessary for applicants for war service homes to have a percentage of the estimated cost. During the first four post-war years, people accumulated savings while production rose slowly in spite of the strangling effect of government controls and industrial unrest, in relation to which the record of the Labour Government was extremely bad. During that period, many exservicemen saved sufficient money to enable them to pay deposits on war service homes. Thus, in 1949-50, the demand for war service homes increased enormously. There were 20,000 outstanding claims for financial assistance from the War Service Homes Division when the Labour Government went out of office in 1949 and, notwithstanding the vastly increased provision of funds for war service homes by the present Government in the last four years, there are still 16,000 outstanding claims in the hands of the division. This Government, has overtaken the lag by about 20 per cent. Honorable members should bear in mind the fact that, when the permissible advance to an applicant for a war service home was £2,000, applications were flooding in at the rate of 2,000 a month. Thus, £48,000,000 would have been needed in 1950-51 alone in order to satisfy the demand at that time. In that year, the Government made available £27,000,000 for war service homes, which was the highest sum ever provided for that purpose. Mr. Chifley declared specifically in the post-war period that his Government had never claimed that it would supply funds with which to provide a war service home for every ex-serviceman who applied for aid. The magnitude of the Government’s effort in this field can be indicated clearly by the fact that, although 54,541 war service homes were built or purchased in the 30 years from, the inception of the scheme until 1939, 48,784 were built in three and a half years under the administration of this Government to the 30th June, 1953. Thus, in a few years, the Menzies Government provided 80 per cent, of the total number provided by various governments over the previous 30 years. That- is a remarkable performance. The honorable member for Werriwa advanced arguments in relation to the decreasing value of money, but I point out to him that the true test of the purchasing power of the people is to be found in the consumption figures of the community. People are buying more houses to-day than previously. The test is not what £1 will buy, but how much people have been able to buy.
– The Chifley Government provided more war service homes in its las; year than this Government will provide in its last year.
– That is not true. The facts do not support the honorable member’s statement. I repeat that, in three and a half years under this Government, the total number of war service homes provided represented 80 per cent, of the number provided in the previous 30 years. Whether or not the demand will increase depends on the quantity of materials available, the stability of the economy, and a variety of other factors, including the good sense of the exservicemen who will receive technical assistance from the War Service Homes Division. The honorable member for Werriwa endeavoured to present what I regard as a distorted picture of the war service homos position. One other statement that he made was remarkable, considering the fact that he is a member of the legal profession and his acknowledged status in it. He said that he believed something should be done to give a lead to the Commonwealth Arbitration Court in the matter of margins. Just as is any other member of this Parliament who is also a member of the legal profession, the honorable member for Werriwa is conscious that what he is advocating is nothing more or less than that the court cease to bc a completely impartial body. He is demanding, as the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) himself has demanded, that the court lose its independence. If the sin of the honorable member for Werriwa is great, then the sin of the Leader of the Opposition is immeasurably greater. That right honorable gentleman said recently, “ We will make, arbitration work “. In other words, in his view the arbitration system does not work properly unless the trade unions are successful in their applications to it. If the trade unions succeed in obtaining from the court a wage increase of £1 a week, as they did in 1950, then, according to the right honorable gentleman, everything in the garden is lovely. But if they do not succeed in doing so, the Leader of the Opposition, a former member of the High Court Bench, has the impertinence to say, “ We W111 make it work “. That is, after all, contempt of court, which is singularly unfortunate in a person who occupies such a senior position as is occupied by the Leader of the Opposition. It is astonishing that he and another member of the legal profession, the honorable member for Werriwa, should express that, opinion. Their expression of it does the Labour party little credit.
Honorable members will recall that tb>. margins issue arose originally from a decision of Conciliation Commissioner Galvin. This Government gave trade unionists the right to appeal to the Full Court of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court from the decisions of conciliation commissioners. The legislation to give effect to that change was opposed bitterly in this Parliament by members of the Labour party. Yet now we have the Leader of the Opposition saying that if Labour is elected to office on the 29th May that right of appeal will be withdrawn and the conciliation commissioners will again be the ultimate authorities in relation to margins. Would not such an action by a Labour government restore the position that existed in 1950, when Conciliation Commissioner Galvin made his decision? Trade unionists will find little to attract them in that proposal. We should have a shocking state of affairs in this country if a government could influence the court by saying to it, in effect, “ It will be a good thing for us if you make this decision and we think you should do so “. The court is an impartial body which was established by the express wish of the people to do a certain joh without interference.
Any political observer who looks at the Australian scene to-day will agree with many of the statements made last night by the honorable member for Gwydir (Mr. Allan) in his maiden speech. In that fine speech he expressed properly the sentiments of the two leading political parties of this country. I lay this charge directly against the members of the Labour party. They are conscious of the f;»ct that all reference to the socialization of the means of production, distribution and exchange is liable to cost them votes. Some of them, who lack the intellectual honesty and moral courage to stand by the platform of their party, have endeavoured here to foster in the minds of the electors and other members of the Parliament the idea that they are not socialists and do not, in fact, believe in a planned economy. T am prepared to admit the right of any man to express an opinion, and I am prepared to accept his opinion as genuine until such time as he shows otherwise, but F also believe that every opportunity should be grasped by members of the Labour party to clarify their position in relation to this issue;, because, if we assume that the attitude that the Leader of the Opposition has adopted in recent months is genuine, there must have been a change of heart in the Labour party, and we ought to know more about it. I am confident that on the 29th May, when the Australian people compare the effort of this Government in four years with the effort of the Labour Government in eight years, the Government will be returned to office on the yardsticks of integrity, efficiency and genuine application to the administration of the Commonwealth in the interests of the nation as distinct from administration of it in accordance with the wishes of pressure groups. I have no doubt that the Government will be fully vindicated at the general elections.
– I propose to review briefly the effects of the Government’s economic policy and particularly its failure to honour some of the main promises that its leaders made during the 1949 general election campaign. The most outstanding feature of the Government’s achievements has been its record of unexcelled inflation. Not only has inflation gravely affected the purchasing power of the great mass of the people, but it has also set problems for the nation’s future. The Government, which has evaded it3 responsibility to plan for a brighter future for this country, has also, by its neglect, presented us with new economic problems. The first of these stems from the great increase of costs and prices as a result of inflation. Our secondary industries provide employment for most of our working population and must he expanded to provide more employment as our population grows by natural increase and immigration. As a result of inflation however, our secondary industries have reached a stage at which they can no longer compete in the world’s markets because of high production costs, and are facing difficulty in competing with overseas goods even in the Australian market. This is due to the fact that our level of costs and prices has outstripped that of other nations, especially the English-speaking nations, with whom we have to compete in out own market as well as in markets overseas. Because this is so, industries which should normally expand to meet the needs of a growing population and to earn more money for this nation overseas, cannot expand as they should. This means plainly that in future we shall have to concentrate on our home market instead of developing export markets, until something has been done about the cost structure. In addition, as a result of such actions as the freezing of cost of living adjustments and margins, purchasing power will be lessened and our industries will, to some degree, face a shrinking market for their goods in Australia.
I turn now to views expressed in various reports of the Tariff Board, which will substantiate my statements. I refer to the hoard’s recent report on gearbox, differential, and rear axle assemblies, in which significant statements are made. Incidentally, the report says that the company concerned employs 300 people on the manufacture of gears and gear parts at the moment, and could employ an additional 1,000 people on allied work, thus saving about £8,000,000 a year that would otherwise be drawn from our overseas balances. The report adds -
The company’s prices for gears was acceptable to local buyers when they were first quoted in 194R, but since then greater increases in Australian costs, as compared with increases in overseas costs, hare damaged the company’s competitive position and much business in spare parts lias been lost to United Kingdom manufacturers.
That is a typical statement of the position that now confronts other Australian industries. If we look at the somewhat sober statement made by the Tariff Board in its annual report for the year ended the 30th June last, we find constant references to the effect of inflation on the power of our industries to compete with goods from other nations. For example, the report states -
Hie Tariff can only provide temporary protection.
There must be a limit to the protection it can give effectively without damaging the economy of our home industries, which are above all affected by inflation. The report also states -
The evidence of rising costs in Australia does little to encourage belief in the existence of a sound competitive position.
It says further that -
Finally, it states that - . . taking a longer view, there could be real setbacks to many parts of Australian industry which have proved themselves over years of development, and are still fundamentally sound.
I have cited these statements to emphasize that not only newly established industries have been threatened by the high cost structure, but also industries that the Tariff Board regards as soundly based industries, which have achieved results, but whose future is threatened as a result of this Government’s policy. Our goods produced at high cost have to compete, not only in overseas markets, but also in our own market, with goods produced in other countries, particularly in the United States of America and the United Kingdom, where price and cost levels are lower than ours. While we have no real hope of expanding our exports of secondary goods we cannot guarantee, as we should be able to guarantee, an expanding employment field in Australia to absorb our natural increase and our increase by immigration. If our economy is to expand as it should - and if this nation is to fulfil its responsibility to its own people - it must have an expanding economy and maintain its standard of living, we must have an economic situation that will encourage development. This Government has deprived us partly of the opportunity to have such an economy, and the job of achieving economic stability, which cannot be attained at the top of a wave of inflation, remains to be tackled. Such stability has never yet been attained at the top of a wave of inflation, and there is certainly no reason to consider that we have achieved the stability that honorable members opposite claim we have achieved. Inflation is not the same thing as prosperity. There are many people in this country who are condemned to live on a fixed income, and who have suffered most from the 60 per cent, inflation which this Government has allowed to run riot. Despite the specific- promise made by the present Prime Minister in 1949 to put value back into the £1 and cut living costs, inflation has been allowed to riot uncontrolled. That promise has been no joke for the pensioners, people on fixed incomes and people who have to rear families for whom the reducing value of the Menzies £1 has made life burdensome. Also affected are the thousands of people who wish to build homes, but have been unable to pay the necessary deposits because inflation has eaten, and is still eating, into their earnings, or to obtain loans for building purposes. Loans have to be made available for intending home builders. In recent years private banking institutions have failed to provide adequate finance, and sometimes have provided no finance at all, to enable building societies to do the work that they wish to do. That social duty has been left to the State savings banks and the Commonwealth Bank. Those banks have done, to some degree, a good job, but not as adequate a job as I hope we shall be able to help them to do and to do ourselves in the future. So a prospective home builder, even if he can raise his deposit, is faced with the inflated cost structure which has so vitally increased the cost of building that he will require years of constant high income in order to pay off the debt that he may incur. The wage and salary earners are suffering side by side, irrespective of the type of their employment, from the results of inflation and from this Government’s refusal, or lack of ability, to indicate to the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration its opinion about the future economy of the country. This Government refused to intervene in the basic wage case, and I have often wondered why it did so. Could not the Government have said that prosperity lies ahead of ns ?
If it could not have said so, how can it now claim that we have attained a condition of prosperity. On the other hand, if it is sincere in its belief that we have stability, why could not the Government have intervened in the case.
The honorable member for Robertson (Mr. Dean) made certain references to the fact that the Menzies Government had introduced cost of living adjustments to pensions, and that in 1944 the Curtin Government had abolished cost of living adjustments. The position is that in !l 944 the Curtin Government did remove Hie adjustments to pensions in relation to the C series index, and instituted a programme that wass intended progressively to relate the pensions to the basic wage, which at that time was increasing. The pensioner, in accordance with the new comparison adopted by Labour of relating the pension to the basic wage, received 10s. a week more in 1949 than he would have received on the old anti-Labour basis of comparing the pensions with the C series index. In 1949, the age and invalid pensioners received £2 2s. 6d. a week in accordance with the Chifley and Curtin basis, whereas had the C series index comparison, as favoured by the present
Government, been continued, they would have received only £1 13s. a week. To carry that matter a little further, we may say that since 1950 this Government has gradually reverted to the old relationship of the pension with the C series index, and lias progressively reduced the relationship of the pension to the basic wage from 33 per cent, to 29.6 per cent. As a result of that action the pensioner has now lost 10s. a week, because instead of now receiving £3 10s, a week he would, if the older basis of assessment were in operation, receive £4 a week.
– We disagree.
– I know that. The Government parties, which include the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Bowden) and his Australian Country party cohorts, have always believed that we should relate pensions to the C series index, and if this relationship had obtained in 1949, pensioners would have received 10s. or 9s. 6d. a week less than they actually received. To-day, because the relationship does obtain they receive 10s. a week less.than they should.
– We disagree with the honorable member’s figures, which are quite erroneous.
– I should not like to rely on the statistical capacity of the honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull). The remuneration to those persons who have served the community so well has become more and more inadequate, and yet this Government was able to return £34,000,000 to companies in remissions of taxation. It has handed out £34,000,000 mostly to wealthy companies but has been unable to increase pensions by more than 2s. 6d. a week. After all, to have given an additional 10s. a week to all age and invalid pensioners in Australia, would have cost only about £12,000,000. One of the main arguments advanced on this matter by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) and by the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Townley), is- that pensions should not be compared with the basic wage because the basic wage includes a prosperity margin. The prosperity margin was added to the basic wage in 1950, and had no reference to the achievements of this Government. The plain fact is that as long as the basic wage earner and the salary earner are entitled to a prosperity margin, the pensioners are also entitled to share in our prosperity. The Commonwealth Arbitration Court has recently indicated that not only will there be no further prosperity margins for those earning wages but also that there will be no increase of margins at all. That is one of the clearest indications of the value of the economic and financial achievements of those who temporarily sit on the Government side but who will very shortly sit on this side of the House.
Widows have suffered above all others as a result of this Government’s administration. As I indicated in my speech on social services last year, which the honorable member for Mallee did not then query, A class widow pensioners receive 13s. a. week less than they would have received if the same relationship had existed between their pensions and the basic wage as existed in 1949. B and D class pensioners have lost lis. a week, and C class pensioners 21s. a week. To make another comparison, had widows been granted 5s. a week increase last year, instead of 2s. Gd. a week, the increase would have cost the Government about £170,000. But the Government could not find that money for the widows although it returned £34,000,000 to companies. Therefore, it is quite clear that the widows and the pensioners have not done very well under this Government. Indeed, they, more than any other class, have lost purchasing power in relation to the basic wage because of the uncontrolled inflation that has raged under this Government’s administration.
I desire now to refer to the sales tax peregrinations of the honorable member for St. George (Mr. Graham). He said that we should strike a common basis for sales tax, and his common basis appeared to be related to the consumption of goods by individuals. He said that that consumption was constantly increasing. He should have inspected the last national income and expenditure documents in which, after a reference to rent, it is stated that food, tobacco, cigarettes and alcoholic liquor were the major items on which expenditure increased substantially. Expenditure on those items increased by about .10 per cent., but the increase of average retail prices was also about 10 per cent. Therefore, in the last couple of years there lias been no real increase in the quantity of goods consumed. In other words, there has been an increase of the amount of money required to be paid for the same quantity of goods. A significant statement in the documents is that purchases of other goods in retail shops were about the same in money terms, although purchases of hardware, furniture, electrical goods and so on were slightly lower. As average prices were 5 per cent, to 10 per cent, higher, this suggests that the quantity of those goods purchased last financial year was considerably less than was the quantity purchased in 1951-52, or, alternatively, that there was a great concentration on purchases of lower-priced goods at the expense of the presumably betterquality goods. Apart from that indication that the honorable member for St. George was not arguing from safe ground, we have an indication that people have reduced the expenditure on the main items of goods that they need, and also that the tendency has been to purchase lowerpriced goods at the expense of highquality items.
If we require a comparison we can take the comparison of the rate of sales tax charged. I cast my mind back to 1949 when the present Prime Minister indicated that he would reduce taxation, and, above all, would reduce the rates of indirect taxation. I shall not traverse the story of the great increases that have occurred in indirect taxes and the subsequent partial reductions in the last two financial years. The fact is that sales tax rates have been increased and are still higher than when this Government assumed office. When one looks at the range of general items which all people must buy, one finds that a rate which was S-?f per cent, has been increased to 12i per cent., and despite the Government’s promise in 1949 to reduce rates, the increased rate of 12£ per cent, has been retained. Seventy per cent, of all goods subject to sales tax come within the range of goods generally purchased by the community. So, the sales tax, which raised £42,000,000 in 1949, is now bringing in £88,000,000 a year, or more than 100 per cent. more.
– That is good government.
– The honorable member for Gippsland will go on record as supporting high indirect and direct taxes, and will perhaps find it difficult to explain to the family man in Gippsland why he has to bear heavy increases of taxation. This Government has doubled income tax collections during its term of office, but the plain fact is that all that increase has been eaten up by the cost inflation that has been induced by the Government. This country has a period of potentially rich development ahead of it, and we, as a Parliament, must look to the future constructive development of the nation. We must not only maintain a condition of increasing standards of living, but we must also strengthen our economy so that we can withstand internal economic storms and external physical assaults. If we are properly to base our defence, we must realize the implications of isolation, possibly even more than we have- in the past, and that our home industries, both secondary and primary, are basic to our defence.
We must also encourage local development. Unfortunately, when I look around my own electorate I find that necessary local development has been held up purely because of the inadequacy of available loan funds to meet the cost of inflation. For example, the Tarago water scheme which should have been developed, was held up in 1952 because of insufficient loan funds to meet inflated costs. Moreover, I seek employment opportunities for all the young people at our schools - in my electorate as well as in others - who are entitled to an opportunity to carve out a basic career. But as long as facilities such as electricity and water supplies are not available, readily and in adequate quantities, they will be denied their opportunities for careers in the future. Above all, we must develop economically in the Commonwealth territories to the north if we are to sustain a growing population and a high and expanding standard of living. I reiterate that Australia faces an opportunity for greater development. That development cannot be achieved in times of violent inflation, particularly if some of the effects of past periods of inflation are felt in the future as they have been felt in the past. At least one of the tasks of the incoming government will be to maintain that stability which the existing Government has done so much to destroy. Future governments must adopt a national outlook and certainly not a sectional outlook such as we have witnessed over the past four years. I appeal to honorable members, including the honorable member for McMillan (Mr. Brown), who apparently cannot appreciate the value of this approach, in the coming election campaign to examine the responsibility which all future governments must bear.
– I quite agree with the honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Ewert) when he said that the incoming government will maintain stability in the future. The Government can say with definiteness that when it is returned to power on the 29th May it will maintain the economic stability which it has established over the years it has been in office. Some of the matters raised by the honorable member for Flinders need clarification. He referred to the cost of production level, to the inflationary spiral, and to the taxes that this Government has collected. A government cannot collect taxes on black-market money. A government cannot collect sales tax on goods that are sold on the black market. When the Australian Labour party was in office there was a strong black market in this country, as a result of which our finances suffered.
– Now it has been legalized.
– Therefore, as the honorable member for Watson (Mr. Cur tin) has pointed out, the Government legalized sales, as a result of which it has been able to collect sales tax on those sales. While this Government has been in office production has been increased, with a resultant greater field of taxation. The arguments that have been advanced by honorable members opposite have strengthened the Government’s claim that during the time it has been in office it has brought a measure of stability to the economy of this country. The honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) stated that the next parliament would be the Twenty-first Parliament and that it was time that we grew up. I quite agree with that statement, because I think that it is time that Australia as a nation grew up. It is also time that some members of this Parliament grew up. Her Most Gracious Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second recently visited Australia. During that visit all members of this Parliament adopted a high standard of behaviour and thought. There was a conception of the higher and nobler things of life by the people of Australia. One of the weaknesses of this country is that the people fail to adopt a national outlook. In time of war, because of the dangers and difficulties that are associated with war, the people of Australia are proud of their citizenship, but when those dangers are removed they seem to forget that after all they are citizens of the Commonwealth of Australia and they tend to sectionalize themselves and regard themselves as being citizens of New South Wales, Victoria or Tasmania. Worse than that, they sometimes regard themselves as members of a particular district or of a particular parish. The time has arrived when Australia should take its place in the world and play its proper part in world affairs. I think that, unfortunately, honorable members opposite have not assisted to any marked degree the establishment of pride in Australian citizenship.
Much has been said about the promises that were made by this Government at the last general election and its alleged failure to fulfil them. I invite honorable members to examine for a few moments the Government’s achievements. Much has been said by my colleagues to substantiate the claim that the Government has fulfilled many of the promises that were made. I refer to the work of the War Service Homes Division and to the difficulties with which the Government has been confronted in that field of development. I say, without any fear of contradiction, that the Government can be proud of its record in the erection of war service homes. Who can look at the development that has taken place over the last few years and say that this Government has not played its part nobly and well in the continued development of Australia? Money has been given to the State governments in far greater amounts than it was given by the Labour Government. I am reminded of the many cries that have been made in relation to the reduction of taxation. Those cries have been answered by the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden). How is it possible to go forward with full development in any country and at the same time reduce taxation to a negligible figure? We cannot have it both ways; we cannot eat our cake and still have it. Honorable members opposite, on many occasions have asked why, if money can be found in times of war, it cannot be found in times of peace for development. I ask the Opposition to indicate the support that it has given to the Government on the many occasions on which it has endeavoured to raise money for the development of this country. It is never easy to get money from people, but it is easier to raise money when the emotions of people are aroused in times of war and of danger than it is to raise money by means of taxation or loans or in any other way in times of peace. In time of war the people have a feeling of pride in their country and a desire to match the sacrifice of the men of the fighting forces overseas who are risking their lives in the service of their country. Such a desire is naturally absent in times of peace. I repeat that honorable members opposite have not been of very great assistance in the raising of loans or in the financing of developmental works by this Government. Although I do not wish to labour the point, I repeat without fear of contradiction that the Government has nothing to fear on the 29 th May because the electors realize that the welfare of Australia is of paramount importance to them and to the world generally.
– What about the survey of the islands by the Japanese?
– I shall deal with that matter later. This Government has played its part nobly and well in the field of international services. The leaders of many Asian countries have acknowledged that the assistance that has been given to Asian students in this country and the economic assistance and machinery that have been given to those countries have assisted the maintenance of peace in those areas. The honorable member for Watson asked, “ What about the survey of the islands by the Japanese ? “ That question has been answered by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies). It seems that, if there is a bandwagon and honorable members opposite think that they can obtain any advantage from jumping onto it, they will do so.
I refer now to the international situation. The inability of the Opposition to attack the Government on this subject has been revealed by the statements that have been made. When we study one of the leading Sydney newspapers, Truth, which often seems to publish matter that is very far from the truth, and one of its babies, the Daily Mirror, we realize that the strength of the attack of the Australian Labour party on this Government is really a weakness. One wonders whether there has been some agreement between the dirctors of those newspapers and the members of the Australian Labour party, because over the past few weeks there has been a concentrated attack on this Government in relation to almost any matter, including even the wearing of certain types of clothing. If the Opposition is dependent upon such an inanity as the wearing of a top hat by a member of the Government to support an attack upon the Government, it has a very bare cupboard indeed. Australia must adopt a world outlook on international problems. As I said on another occasion, honorable members opposite seem to be first on one side of the fence and then on the other side. In the course of this debate, honorable members opposite have made certain statements about the atomic bomb and the hydrogen bomb and also about the lack of defences in the north of Australia. However, members of the Opposition have not always been so enthusiastic about the need to defend this country or in supporting measures that have been taken outside Australia which were designed to give us greater protection. Speaking in this House on the 27th June, 1937, the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) said -
I wish now to offer a few observations concerning the activities of certain representatives of this Government overseas. It cannot be denied by any observant student that foreign imperialist powers - and among the number I include Great Britain - are preparing for war.
The honorable member went on to say -
The British Imperialists are spending money in this way because they realize that sooner or later they will be compelled to fight to protect their vested interests in different parts of the world. The honorable member for Henty asked what the Labour party had to say about the Empire. Here is what I, as a Labour man, have to say about it: The British Imperialists who have invested their money in different parts of the world have done so not to benefit races, but to exploit them. The actions of British capitalists in many countries are such as would not bear description in this House. Despite what honorable members of the Govern- ment may say about the need to protect British investments in foreign countries, I–
– Who is the “ I “ ?
Mr.LUCOCK.- The honorable member for East Sydney. He continued - - I, as a member of the Australian Labour Party, declare definitely that if the British capitalists wish to protect their investments they can do it themselves. I would advise the workers to protect their own interests. Let us defend and fight to improve our own conditions in this country.
I do not deny to the workers the right to fight to improve their standards. However, I recall that the thought that was expressed by the honorable member for East Sydney in the quotations that I have made was also expressed by a delegation which came to Canberra over twelve months ago to protest against the participation of Australian troops in the war in Korea. Members of that delegation declared that those Australians should be fighting for their own rights in their own country. Surely, no one would say that the war that was waged against Hitler and. Nazi Germany was fought to protect imperialistic investments in foreign countries. Surely, no honorable member would say that the war in Korea, or the conflict that is still being fought in Indo-China, is being fought in order to maintain imperialistic interests. Yet, in respect of all these matters, members of the Opposition have opposed measures which have been taken for the defence of this country. Prior to the outbreak of World War II., but when it was obvious that that conflict was inevitable, honorable members opposite opposed practically every piece of legislation that was introduced with the object of strengthening our defences. Yet, when World War II. actually commenced they had the nerve to accuse the Government of betraying Australia. We recall all the poppycock that was talked about “ the Brisbane line “. At that time, Opposition members opposed every effort of the government of the day to strengthen Australia’s defences.
– They adopt the same attitude to-day with respect to national training.
– That is so; if honorable members opposite are consistent in one thing, it is in their endeavours to deride national service training. This morning the honorable member for Kingston (Mr. Galvin) asked as a question of national importance whether national service trainees were obliged to pay for floor polish used in the cleaning of their huts. What crass stupidity! Any one who realizes the import of war must inevitably agree that our armed forces must be adequately trained. During both world wars many men lost their lives because they had not been adequately trained. If members of the Australian Labour party have any concrete proposal to put forward with respect to national service training, let them do so through the right channels and in the right quarter, instead of trying to gain cheap publicity by exploiting matters which are really of no importance at all.
The honorable member for Melbourne and several other honorable members opposite spoke about our northern defences. Addressing the Council on Foreign Relations in New York City on the 12th January last, the American Secretary of State, Mr. John Foster Dulles, said -
Local defence will always be important, lint there is no local defence which alone Wil contain the mightly land power of the Communist world. Local defence must bc reinforced by the further deterrent of massive retaliatory power. (The Administration had made a basic decision) to depend primarily upon a great capacity to retaliate instantly by means and at places of our choosing.
When we are planning the defence of our northern shores, we must realize that it is beyond our capacity to man adequately every area in that portion of the continent. The honorable member for Melbourne said that Darwin could be blasted within a few minutes. Basically, the effective defence of this country will depend upon the mobility of its armed forces, which must be transferable in the shortest possible period to any area that may suddenly be threatened by an aggressor. On the other hand, if we remain content merely to mobilize forces in this or that area we shall reduce their effectiveness. Strength in defence lies mainly in the mobility of armed forces. In this respect, the importance of strong air defences cannot be over-emphasized. The Government realizes that fact, and, accordingly, is developing the Royal Australian Air Force. However, it is implementing its defence programme in conjunction with other countries that are vitally concerned in the defence of the Pacific area. Mr. John Foster Dulles, when addressing the American Press Association on the 29th March last, listed a series of promises that had been made and broken by Soviet Russia, and he added that the United States of America would require to see some evidence of sincerity on the part of Soviet Russia.
Great concern has been expressed during the last few weeks about the horrible possibilities that have been opened up by the development of the hydrogen bomb. Every one realizes the horrible destruction which the use of the bomb could cause. However, we should feel thankful that this weapon has been developed by one of Australia’s greatest friends. Having regard to the present international situation, I believe that the knowledge that the United States of America possesses such a destructive weapon is one of the greatest factors in deterring the Communists from engaging in further aggression. Rather than decry the development of the hydrogen bomb, we should take comfort in the knowledge that its possession by the United States of America is one of the greatest forces for the maintenance of world peace. I look with pride at the record of the Government, which has at all times placed in the forefront the welfare of Australia rather than seek to gain party political advantages. For that reason, I believe that the Australian people will confidently return the Government to office on the 29th May next.
Debate (on motion by Mr. J. R. Fraser) adjourned.
Sitting suspended from 12.41 to 8.15 p.m.
Bill presented by Mr. McEwen, and read a first time.
– by leave - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
This bill provides for a return to the wheat-growers of the moneys collected from the proceeds of the export taxes paid into the Wheat Industry Stabilization Fund. The total amount collected through this export tax on wheat shipped abroad from the 1951-52 wheat crop was £9,166,000. This amount, together with interest which has been earned by its investment, is the sum to be refunded to growers. The wheat-grower can take it that the money will be paid back as soon as the Commonwealth Bank and the Australian Wheat Board can conveniently make the necessary arrangements. Whilst I cannot speak for these instrumentalities, I should expect that this would be a matter of four or five weeks.
This Government regards the issues raised by this bill as so important that I must recount the events which have given rise to it. The Australian Wheat Growers Federation, the authoritative body representing growers, asked the governments to legislate to extend wheat stabilization for a further term, and indicated the principal points that growers desired in such a plan. The total character of the plan requires both State and Commonwealth legislation. The Commonwealth, and all State governments, have declared their support for a plan embracing the general principles requested, and very long negotiations have taken place on details between the Commonwealth, the six State governments, and the Australian Wheat Growers Federation. The Australian Primary Producers Union has also had its views considered by the governments. The plan has three basic features, as follows: -
The Commonwealth has declared, in quite explicit terms, its willingness to assume this guarantee on the basis of contributions by growers to a stabilization fund, with deficiencies made good from the Commonwealth Treasury. That offer still stands. An integral part of the plan was that legislation to establish this marketing arrangement was to be passed by all the governments after the growers had voted upon it in a ballot, and subject to the growers favouring the plan by ballot in each of the producing States. That provision was a condition stipulated by the State governments themselves. This is not a new concept. It was designed to be a continuation on terms different and more acceptable to all parties of the fiveyear stabilization plan initiated in 194S.
On a matter involving so huge an industry, of such great interest to the consuming public, and involving such tremendous financial and economic aspects, of course there has not always been unanimity of thinking. The interests of the consumer and of the grower on local price are obviously not identical. The interests of the guaranteed grower and the guaranteeing taxpayer are obviously not identical, and the negotiations have inevitably been long. There have been delays for very valid reasons. State elections intervened, and negotiations for an international wheat agreement were unexpectedly protracted. At one stage, all the governments and the growers agreed that it would be better to defer determination of grower contribution and treasury liability until the details of an international agreement revealed price levels likely to obtain internationally. I think I can say that until nine months ago, the negotiations between governments and the industry were proceeding reasonably and steadily, with every prospect of reaching finality before the termination of the 1948 stabilization plan last September. It has been my function to manage the long negotiations on behalf of the Commonwealth, and I should like to place on record the great assistance that has been given to me ,by the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator McLeay), who, on various occasions, has been the Minister acting for the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture. I should like particularly to pay a tribute to the work of the honorable member for Darling Downs (Mr. Swartz), the Parliamentary Under-secretary attached to the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, who has worked with great ability and devotion during the whole of the long negotiations. Many valuable suggestions have also been made by my colleagues in the two Government parties who represent wheat-growing areas. The relations between Commonwealth Ministers and State Ministers for Agriculture remain amicable. The Australian Wheat Growers Federation, particularly the secretary, Mr. T. Stott, has maintained a constructive and responsible approach to these difficult problems. The same applies to the Australian Primary Producers Union.
About nine months ago the new Labour Government of Victoria commenced to raise issues, and adopt a stand which made the achievement of unanimous agreement between governments more difficult and increasingly doubtful. Indeed, intransigence of the Victorian Labour Government finally, as at about August last year, made it clear that there could be no uninterrupted succession of one stabilization plan by another.
All governments and growers had agreed that any plan must first be submitted to a ballot of growers. By last August, it was obviously too late to have a ballot, and the subsequent legislation passed by the seven parliaments by the time the old stabilization plan came to an end on the 30th September last.
Finally, when the Australian Wheat Board had actually ceased to exist, except as a winding-up authority, there was left nothing but a prospect of chaos. Not only could stabilization not continue, but. orderly marketing, which is a very important part of a stabilization plan, was also destroyed. Private traders in wheat were not geared to commence without warning, the finance, purchase, and handling of a £100,000,000 harvest. Further, without the statutory instrument of organized marketing, it was clear that Australia could not ratify the International Wheat Agreement .because it would have been impossible to administer its obligations under the agreement.
All this was at risk. All the achievements of twenty years’ work of growers to secure order in the marketing of wheat were in jeopardy and about to be lost through the reckless obstruction of the Victorian Labour Government which, viewed in retrospect, was no doubt being promoted by the same federal Labour Opposition, which now has the effrontery to pose as the originators of the new plan of salvation.
No one offered any constructive proposal to salvage this situation except the Commonwealth. Under its pressure, agreement of all parties was reached and an orderly marketing plan for the three years was agreed to. Even the prospect of early dissolution of wheat marketing into utter chaos did not at first move the Victorian Government to come into line on an orderly marketing plan for three years. It was only when the Commonwealth devised a plan and secured the approval of the governments of the three other big producing States to legislate to establish a three-State pool, excluding Victoria, that the Victorian Government finally submitted, not to help the industry, but because it feared the wrath of t.k” industry.
This legislation, so painfully obtained, provided, amongst other things, for the continuation of the Australian Wheat Board as the marketing authority, and the continuation of realization of growers’ wheat on a pool basis. This arrangement is now referred to as the current three-year orderly marketing plan. However, after this had been achieved, all parties still affirmed that they desired the stabilization scheme and it was agreed that this could be simply grafted by legislation on to the orderly marketing arrangement when and if it were approved. This still involved a ballot of growers, but no ballot could be conducted until all the points embodied in the scheme had been agreed to and all governments had undertaken to legislate accordingly if the ballot resulted in an affirmative decision.
The Commonwealth’s part of the plan had long since been declared and frequently stated in this House. Its engagement to legislate after a ballot was, and still is, a specific commitment. All State governments agreed upon all the points to be submitted to ballot that affected them, except the Victorian Government on the one point of local selling price in the fourth and fifth years of the plan. On that point, the Victorian Labour Government had refused, at meeting after meeting, to accept the home selling price conditions agreed to by all the other governments arid declared to be acceptable to growers by their representatives. This stand by Victoria denied to the growers an opportunity to vote on stabilization.
The Commonwealth considered that it was desirable for the ‘£9,000,000 in the old stabilization fund to be retained for the new plan. However, the Government had said that this money should not and would not he withheld from growers for an unreasonable period. In these circumstances, the Commonwealth announced last October that its undertaking not to retain the £9,000,000 indefinitely without the approval of the wheat-growers, expressed through ballot, could only be honoured if the matter were dealt with during the life of the present Parliament. Speaking for the Government, I said at that time, first, that these moneys would be retained until the 31st March, 1954, giving six months for the States to reach agreement amongst themselves upon a home selling price and to conduct n ballot; and secondly, that, if by that date a ballot had been conducted, and the proposal rejected by growers, or if by that date a ballot had not been conducted by the - States, the Commonwealth Would legislate to return the £9,000,000 to the growers.
Since then the Victorian Government alone has constantly equivocated, has asked for meeting after meeting, and has refused to be moved by the unanimous attitude of the growers’ representatives and all the other governments. The point on local selling price which the Victorian Government took in opposition r,o the other governments was microscopically small but was declared by it to justify its obstinacy. At the best, from the consumer’s viewpoint he would be better off by no more than a decimal point of Id. on a 2-lb. loaf of bread. On the other hand, in the event of high export prices for wheat, the Victorian plan could cost -the wheat-growers millions of pounds. Clearly, the Victorian obstruction has been based upon a party political motive, ft was designed to produce a situation in which the Commonwealth, as the principal negotiating authority, could be alleged to ha.ve been incapable of bringing a plan to fruition. It kept the question of wheat stabilization open as an election issue.
The federal Labour party has already disclosed its hand by announcing, on the eve of a general election, details of a quite irresponsible and reckless proposal. This scheme, for which Mr. Cain has been a ready tool, is obviously the deep-laid plan of cunning men in this Parliament who are callously prepared to jeopardize the whole future security and stability of the great wheat industry, at a time when its international marketing problems are becoming increasingly serious, in order that they and the Labour party may secure a political advantage. I expose the whole machinations of the Labour party, which has wantonly robbed the wheat-growers of many millions of pounds in the past, and which to-day is willing to endanger the whole wheat industry in the course of promoting its own political schemes. This Government does not fall into such traps, and the wheat-growers have been brought up in too hard a school not to recognize such traps.
During the last year, international market prospects for wheat have undoubtedly deteriorated, at least in the short term. The succession of big export crops in the northern hemisphere, the release of very big security stocks held in the United Kingdom, a temporary self-sufficiency in grains in India and European countries, and favorable production seasons in Australia and Argentina, have all combined to convert the market broadly from a seller’s market to a buyer’s market. This situation undoubtedly increases the possible liability of the Commonwealth Treasury in guaranteeing exports, notwithstanding that the market for Australian wheat in the long term appears sound, since it is a relatively low-cost wheat. But despite this, the Australian Government is as positive to-day as it was a year ago in its offer to guarantee for five years a return to growers of not less than the cost of production for 100,000,000 bushels of wheat exported each year.
As I have already said, it is evident that the Cain-Evatt plan was to frustrate every effort to reach agreement by governments on a stabilization plan and to prevent the question of stabilization from being put before growers by ballot before the election. By Victoria’s use of the veto - and that is what it was in fact, because in negotiations of this character, which call for unanimous agreement, every government literally possesses the power of veto - the way was prepared for the election-time Pollard-Evatt plan to be put before the growers as applicable to a veritable promised land where security and prosperity were to be had for the asking, and where self-help on the part of the growers would not be needed. It is interesting that there should be a conspiracy to exercise a veto between the present Leader of the Opposition in this Parliament and the Victorian Labour Premier, in the light of all the utterances by the Leader of the Opposition, when he was the Minister for External Affairs, about the use of the veto in the Security Council of the United Nations. Apparently, when it suits him and his party to do so, they employ the veto recklessly and ruthlessly. In this connexion, it is interesting to contrast the Pollard-Evatt plan with the PollardScullyChifley plan. Mr. Chifley lived in an atmosphere of financial reality. Whereas the Pollard-Scully-Chifley plan necessitated that wheat-growers supply Australian consumers for five years with wheat at the bare cost of production, the new Pollard-Evatt plan proposes that consumers shall, for ten years, pay at least ls. 5d. a bushel in excess of the cost of production, irrespective of how low export values may fall during that period.
It is true that, under the present Labour proposal, the consumer would appear to gel his wheat at the bare cost of production, but the consumer of bread and the taxpayer are identical people, and the trick proposed by Labour is that the consumer should pay over the counter at the rate of bare cost of production, and then separately, as a taxpayer, make good to wheat-growers another ls. 5d. a bushel through taxation. I do not think that Australians are so simple-minded as not to see through this trick. On the other hand, in respect of the export guarantee by the Commonwealth Treasury, the plan of the Pollard-Scully-Chifley regime placed some-limit upon the extent to which taxpayers, through the Treasury, could he liable. Mr. Chifley determined this by limiting the guarantee to 100,000,000 bushels a year exported, a figure which has been regarded as reasonable throughout my negotiations with the wheat industry and the six State governments. In the
Pollard-Evatt era of finance, taxpayers are to guarantee wheat-growers the cost of production for an unlimited export quantity for a period of ten years. The cost of this election bait could be prodigious, as I shall illustrate in a moment. The Pollard-Evatt plan commits the Australian taxpayer for ten years to put up ls. 5d. for every bushel of wheat used for whatever purpose in Australia.
Some calculations have been made on the amounts which taxpayers might have to find under the home consumption aspect of this Labour scheme. The ls. 5d. subsidy on a normal home-consumption quantity, and with the cost of production not falling, would amount to about £4,500,000 a year, or more than £40,000,000 over the ten-year period. However, under the law of averages we are due for some adverse seasons during this period, and the demand for stock-feed wheat could total very large quantities. Therefore, the taxpayer, under this new Labour plan, might perhaps have to put up an extra couple of million pounds a year to provide cheap wheat for the woolgrowers. No one has ever before suggested that taxpayers should subsidize wool-growers in times of high prosperity. At this point it looks to me like a plan which all wool-growers should support and all other taxpayers should oppose.
I turn now to the liability on account of the export guarantee in the new Labour plan. The abandonment of any bushelage limitation to the Treasury liability opens up possibilities which should horrify any taxpayers’ association. Calculations by experts show that, should there be a fall in the price of wool, and should the production of’ other grains become relatively unprofitable, as has already occurred, with barley, the resulting diversion to wheatgrowing could produce an exportable surplus in excess of 200.000,000 bushels. The liability of the taxpayer in these circumstances, under the unlimited guarantee on exports proposed in the Pollard-Evatt offer, could be as high as £20,000,000 in any one year - and the promise is for the next nine years ! Remember that this would be additional to the direct commitment that taxpayers should, at the same time, put up more than £40,000.000 to meet the local-consumption aspect of the Labour party’s plan.
This broad examination, the figures of which can be substantiated, should, up to this point, startle every one except a wheat-grower. However, I hope and expect that the wheat-growers are not so simple as to accept this promise of manna .from heaven without examination. Financial guarantees to an industry of this kind are not -finally disposed of in the first legislation. The Treasury liabilities which ensue become the subject of annual votes of the Parliament, and what the wheat-growers must weigh up is whether any government in any parliament during the ten-year period would be able to pass through the parliament the tremendous impositions on taxpayers that would be necessary to make good the wild election-period undertakings of the present Labour Opposition. As a matter of interest, I ask whether the Labour party proposes to give an unlimited guarantee of this kind only to wheat-growers. Is there anything sacred about wheat in the eyes of the Labour party that this industry alone should be guaranteed ? Why not given an unlimited .guarantee to every other industry ? Of course nobody would be guaranteed, in fact, in such circumstances. The issue raised, which wheatgrowers should ponder seriously, is not merely the ordinary question of the justice .of imposing blistering taxation on all other sections of the community during, perhaps, a period of recession, in order that wheat-growers alone should enjoy a high prosperity, lifted above all other mortals. Wheat-growers should consider whether such a reckless promise would, in the long run, stand up in the parliaments.
No wheat-grower who was operating in the early ‘thirties will again be found an easy victim of a desperate Labour election-time trick. The Scullin Government made a reckless promise to pay wheat-growers 4s. 6d. a bushel for all wheat grown, quite irrespective of its value in the market. Of course, it transpired that it was a promise of a kind incapable of being passed through the Parliament, and growers who produced wheat on the 4s. 6d. promise of Labour, in fact sold for about ls. 6d. a bushel, and so had their most disastrous experience. This new so-called Pollard plan, is just as ephemeral as thai plan was. It is pure political propaganda. It purports to announce the basis of .local selling prices over a ten-year period. This is a matter capable of decision only by the six State governments in office over that term. The whole plan is so extravagant and reckless that it bears the imprint of a hurried announcement by people bidding for votes but never really expecting to be in office or to have to translate their promise into concrete legislative terms.
The Commonwealth has negotiated for nearly four years with one purpose in view - the attainment of agreement between governments and growers. The Government hopes that even at this late stage Victoria will come into line with the other States, so that without further delay a decision can be made by the growers themselves about whether or not they want a stabilization plan. That is what we want. We want the growers to be .given a chance to vote, and not to be robbed of that opportunity by a Labour government, as has been the case so far.
The Commonwealth has held to the two points of policy which have been declared on behalf of the Government time and time again. First, the Government would not retain the money of the wheatgrowers -without their approval. Secondly, it set a limit to the date within which that approval could reasonably be sought. That time has passed and the Government now proposes, by this bill, to return the money. The Commonwealth will legislate for an extended wheat stabilization plan if that plan is first approved by polls of wheat-growers and the necessary agreement on details has been reached by State governments. The Government’s policy has been that stabilization, if desired by the growers, should be over an adequately long period. Ten years has been mentioned as the desirableperiod. This is in line with the views of the growers, but all experience has shown that to write in precise details for too long a term is’ almost always a grave mistake. The growers have asked for an assurance that, if they desire it, stabilization as a principle would exist for at least ten years, but that the legislation defining the precise details should cover five yearsonly. That proposal is in line with the Government’s thinking.
The Commonwealth firmly offered a guarantee under the plan of the Australian Agricultural Council. It deferred repaying the £9,000,000 referred to in the bill, in the hope that this amount would be available as a nucleus for an effective revolving fund in a stabilization plan. With no certainty that any stabilization plan will ever be agreed upon by States and growers, and with the possibility also that the Victorian Government will continue its policy of obstruction and procrastination, the Government has no alternative, in fairness to growers, than to keep to its undertaking announced last October, and to return the £9,000,000 to the growers, within the life of the present Parliament. The Government considers that there would be no justification for retaining the £9,000,000 to be the nucleus of a new fund which, in the light of recent experience, might never come into existence. Not withstanding the repayment of that amount the Government does not wish to see the future security of the wheat industry prejudiced by failure of the Victorian Government, to date, to agree on the one outstanding detail of the stabilization plan. Consequently, the Commonwealth offer stands. That offer is that in an agreed plan it will guarantee a return to growers of cost-of-production on 100,000,000 bushels of wheat exported in each year of the five-year plan. The growers’ contribution to the stabilization fund will be limited to a maximum of £20,000,000, and will come from an export tax imposed when export values exceed cost of production, and at a maximum rate of1s. 6d. a bushel. The Commonwealth is accordingly willing to legislate for this, its part of stabilization, if growers have approved the plan by ballot. This offer of the Government to stand by its previous promise under the Australian Agricultural Council plan cannot be held open indefinitely, as the plan itself includes the crop recently harvested, and which is now in course of being sold.
No government has worked more faithfully and more constructively to give growers an opportunity to vote on a plan which is almost entirely of their own devising, but which pays full regard to the general public interest. I remind the non-wheat-growing public of Australia that in an attempt to do justice to the wheat industry this Government has never lost sight of the general public interest at stake, but the manoeuvres of Labour, which risked the whole stability of the wheat industry, have been nothing less than shameful.I am confident that wheat-growers can look only to this Government or any other anti-Labour government, to treat their enterprise on its merits as an important economic unit, and not as a vehicle for political plotting.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Pollard) adjourned.
Debate resumed(vide page 179).
– If members of this Parliament whose knowledge of Canberra is limited to the tree-shaded walks around this building and the hotels in which they are accommodated, or to the pleasant surroundings of diplomatic residences in the more favoured suburbs’, were to undertake some journeys through my electorate, and particularly the outer suburbs of this national capital, they would agree with my assertion that the Government has completely neglected the development of this city. It has failed completely to meet its responsibilities to develop the National Capital of Australia. The development of Canberra involves something more than providing for the daytoday requirements of the citizens who already live here. Successive governments have a responsibility to ensure that the building of this National Capital, which is the property of the nation, and should also be the symbol of the nation, is continued, and that there shall be a proper expansion of permanent buildings and memorials which form a part of the capital. There is no excuse for the failure of the Government to do so, because in this Territory the Government’s power is unlimited. It has no need here, in any field, to seek agreement with other bodies or with State governments. It has complete and unfettered control here. The responsibility of the development of the capita] lies on the government of the day, and the blame for this Government’s failure to meet that responsibility can be laid on no other. The greatestavenue of neglect in Canberra with which the Government can be charged is its neglect to provide adequately for the housing of the people who are brought to this Territory to undertake work either for this country in the various departments or in private enterprise. There is at present almost a complete lack of a homebuilding programme in this Territory. It has been accurately estimated that we need here at least 1,000 new houses a year for the next five years, in order to cope with the present and the foreseeable demand for housing in Canberra. “When the construction of the administration building opposite to this building has been completed, and, indeed, the move will start when its first section has been completed, some 2,000 public servants will be transferred to Canberra from Sydney, Melbourne and other places where they are now employed. Their transfer here, with the transfer of additional departments to the capital, will mean an immediate increase in population of 7,000 persons. No adequate provision is being made by the Government to meet that expected increase of population which, it must not be forgotten, will be over and above the normal and natural increase of population in the Territory, an idea of which can be gained from the fact that the population of the Territory has doubled in the last ten years.
In the first three months of this year the Department of Works, which is the constructing authority, has handed over to the Department of the Interior, which is the administering authority, about 50 houses. There are at present under construction in the whole of the Territory only 337 government homes, and a further 123 are projected. But projected houses give no shelter to people, and no comfort to those who are at present on the waiting list for homes. The building of houses at the rate that I have suggested is an inescapable responsibility, and should be a definite commitment of whatever government is in office. The attention of the Government has been directed time and time again by the Australian Capital Territory Advisory Council - not only by its elected members b”t also by the departmental officers who sit on that body - to the problem of housing in the. Territory. The annual report of the chairman of the Public Service Board
Ifr. J. R. Fraser. has also drawn attention to the problem most forcibly. But the Government has failed to act.
At present the waiting time for a house in Canberra is more than two years and three months, and some people in this city who are waiting for houses are living in garages, shacks and caravans. If honorable members care to go around the outskirts of the city and look at the conditions under which these people are living they will be appalled and, no matter on which side of the chamber they may sit, they will condemn .the Government foi1 its failure to act. The conditions under which these people live should never have been allowed to develop in this National Capital, and would not have been allowed to develop except under a recreant administration such as the present Government. If .no plan is made for home-building to meet the increase of population the present waiting time of two years and three months may well be doubled, so that people transferred here to work in Commonwealth . departments, or who come here to undertake some essential work in the community, in trade, commerce or industry, will have to wait for more than four years to obtain a house. There is absolutely no good reason why they should have to wait so long. Officers of the Department of Works have prepared plans for the building of houses at the rate of 1,000 a year and they could have built houses at that rate this year had ministerial approval for the work been forthcoming.
What excuse can be offered for the Government’s failure to have these houses built? Absolutely none!- The Government cannot claim truthfully that shortage of man-power was the reason for its failure, because the necessary building force was already here in Canberra. However, because of the Government’s failure to use it in building houses, it has been dissipated. In recent months we have seen the closure of the Turner Hostel and the Ainslie Hostel, each of which housed 300 workmen, and the almost complete closure of the Capital Hill No. 1 Hostel. The building force has been allowed to drift away from the Territory because of the Government’s failure to provide for a proper building programme and face its responsibility to develop this National Capital. The Government is at fault not only because of its failure to provide an adequate building programme, but also because of the methods it has adopted to provide for home construction even on the scale on which it has been providing it. The Minister for Works (Mr. Kent Hughes) has expressed himself time and time again as a great believer in private enterprise. He has stated that he does not believe in the use of day labour. Yet there is incontrovertible evidence that the building of houses by day labour in this capital has been substantially cheaper than building under any form of contract. Figures which I have given before in this House show that houses built by day labour cost £50 a square less, or £500 a house less, than similar houses built under contract on an adjoining section. Building costs in Canberra are reflected in rentals, and £500 on the cost of a house means an extra 10s. a week rent for the tenant to pay. There is no reason why the money needed for building houses cannot be made available, because houses are investments that commence to yield a return immediately they are occupied. The rent is assessed to cover all costs, charges and interest. When the Minister decided that he would no longer have houses built by day labour, and that all day labour projects would be allowed to tail off, he let housing contracts to various building firms. Many of those contracts are far behind schedule and arc proving to be much more costly than day labour construction would have been. Certain contracts were recently let for the construction in Canberra of groups of monocrete homes. The monocrete buildings, although at first unfavorably regarded in Canberra because of the damp conditions of the sites upon which they were constructed are now accepted as quite desirable residences. I know that separate contracts for the building of similar monocrete homes on similar sites in the same general area have varied from £350 a square to £408 a square. Therefore, tenants who ultimately take those houses may be living almost next door to each other in the same type of house but one may be paying a rent of 10s. a week more than the other. Contracts for varying amounts are being let at the same time, and the houses are being built at the same time. The difference in total cost between some of them amounts to £500, and consequently there is a difference in the weekly rental of 10s. or more.
Further, in his great admiration for private contractors as against day labour workers, the Minister has let contracts to private firms for the installation of sewerage and drainage schemes * and street works, and has allowed the men employed on this work in the day labour gangs of the Department of Works to be thrown on to the market for employment by contractors. But the contracts that have been let for sewer installation and street works have lagged so far behind schedule that the handing over of completed houses has been delayed owing to the lack of services and roads. The major home construction firm, in this city has been in the past, and is now, a most efficient builder of houses. That firm, which is a Melbourne concern, built houses here under the cost-plus system oven more cheaply than many of the contractors are to-day building for the department. The neglect of the Government extents not only to the actual building works, but also to every aspect of maintenance in this city. The journey to the outer suburbs that I suggested to honorable members would reveal the neglect of this Minister. It is pertinent to ask why residents in Scrivener-street, O’Connor, should have been occupying houses there for two years and still have their homes flooded with dust every time a lorry or truck passes along the well-used road in front of them. That road should have been sealed long ago. The people of Angasstreet. Ainslie, have to put up with the same kind of discomfort, and people in whole sections of Narrabundah still have to endure unmade roads, lack of gutters and other necessities. Moreover, the people of north Ainslie are in the same position. Those conditions did not occur when houses were built and services provided by day labour under the direct supervision of the Department of Works.
The responsibility for the bad conditions that I have mentioned does not rest on the engineers or the draughtsmen of the department; it rests squarely on the Minister. The areas that I have mentioned are actual dust bowls at this time of the year, and unless the streets are sealed, kerbing and guttering undertaken and footpaths built, the people will have to put up with quagmires during the coming winter months. Housewives and workers will have to trudge through the mud when going about their affairs. The people * living in the areas that I have mentioned are paying full rent and rates on their homes, and there is no reason why the street and developmental works should not be completed. I make no excuse for mentioning what normally might be municipal matters, because this Parliament has complete responsibility for the Australian Capital Territory, which includes Canberra, and that responsibility is vested in two departments, both of which are headed by the one Minister (Mr. Kent Hughes). Why have the minor industries and shops which have been established in Lonsdale-street, Braddon, not been provided with footpaths, kerbs and gutters? Why should the people of Canberra have to put up with conditions such as these establishments suffer? I suggest that there is no valid reason at all. Again, there is no reason why many houses should remain unpainted and lacking in necessary maintenance. If honorable members wish to see houses such as I have mentioned, they should take a walk between Angas and Bonney streets, Ainslie, and around some areas in Griffith, and Causeway. If they do that they will see that this Minister has neglected his responsibility to the Territory.
It is also pertinent to ask why houses that have been built as family homes and fitted with household facilities for the people of the Territory, should be handed over as office space for foreign legations. I shall cite one example at Yarralumla. There is a two-storied semi-detached house there which could have provided proper living accommodation for two Canberra families. It carries a placard announcing that it is the Royal Thai Legation. This Government has also been neglectful in the provision of other facilities that should have been provided for the development nf this city. T refer particularly to schools. Provision nf schools and other community facilities is lagging far behind our needs. In order to prove the truth of that statement I shall quote from an article that appeared in the Canberra Times of the 1st April regarding the annual meeting of the Telopea Park Parents and Citizens Association. Telopea Park school is the largest school in the Territory, and is also larger than any school in New South Wales. The article reads -
The meeting, which was held at Telopea Park School and attended by 60 members, unanimously carried a motion stating that the association deplored, once again, the “shocking inadequacy” of the building programme for education in the Australian Capital Territory and pointed out that children had but one chance of education. If this chance were missed a complete generation might be sacrificed. … In reply to questions . (the Headmaster) said the school had 1.524 students. Thirty-six classes were housed in the school, one in an adjacent church hall, and four at the Acton Nursery school.
He said the breakup of classes was only an expediency until a new school was built nt Griffith. It meant, however, a big problem in the disposition of children and staff.’
Another speaker said -
The utter failure of the Government to provide educational facilities to cope with thu overcrowding could not be excused.
He said the excuses given in previous years, such as the war, could not hold to-day. Even the bomb-torn countries of Europe had built up their educational facilities.
Only yesterday the Minister for the Interior performed the opening ceremony at a new infants’ school at Turner and, being responsible for education in the Territory, he received the congratulations cf the Deputy Director-General of Education in New South Wales who, according to to-day’s Canberra Times, said that the new school represented the standard of schools that should be provided for children. I agree that that is a fine school, as is “the recently opened infants’ school at Narrabundah. Similar schools were projected, and plans were prepared, but when they were submitted to the Minister for the Interior he was horrified at the proposed cost of building. Admittedly, building costs are high, but if we are establishing a standard which should be the highest in Australia and the admiration of the States, we must pay for it. However, the Minister said that the cost of the new schools was too great, and he communicated with Melbourne to find out the nature of school building costs in that State. When he was given a figure which was much lower than the figure quoted here, he issued a stop order on school construction. Therefore, it is his responsibility if children are denied proper schooling facilities in the southern areas of Canberra.
– That is a lie.
– I have stated the complete truth.
– I rise to order. The Minister stated that the honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory (Mr. J. R. Fraser) had lied.
– The Minister must withdraw that unparliamentary term.
– I shall be pleased to do so, but what the honorable member said is untrue.
– I fail to see the difference between a lie and an untruth, but what I have said is quite true and there is plenty of evidence to support it. A construction delay exists in other fields. For instance, we were to have had an Olympic swimming pool. Quite adequate and satisfactory plans were prepared, but once again a stop order was issued by the Minister, and the northern side of Canberra is still without the pool which was promised for last summer but which we shall be lucky to get next summer. There was to be a newroad to Queanbeyan to cost £45,000. That was to be completed twelve months ago, but it is barricaded off and is unable to be used while discussions about drainage proceed between the contractor and. the Government. That is another failure of this Government. The Minister has, time and again, refused to investigate the possibility of closer settlement generally in this Territory, and has turned a blind eye to the traffeking in leasehold land which has gone on in the Territory. He has allowed, as head of his department, the aggregation of estates in leasehold, and has allowed leasehold land to be treated as freehold to the detriment of the Territory and the farmers’ sons who desire to get on the land here. He has taken no notice of representations by ex-servicemen, through me, that he should consider the establishment of any scheme of land settlement for ex-servicemen in the Territory.
– The honorable member knows the reason why - he was at the conference.
– I have heard reasons, but I was not at the conference.
– The honorable member received full information.
– Some time before the sitting ended last year I took “ the appropriate action in the House to* enable me to introduce a discussion on the failure of the Government to provide for war service land settlement in this Territory, and I referred particularly to Booroomba station which was then on the market. The Minister would not agree even to investigate the possibility of acquiring Booroomba for land settlement of ex-servicemen, and, in fact, his under-secretary, the honorable member for Canning (Mr. Hamilton), ventured the opinion that Booroomba was not suited for subdivision. However, within a few weeks the new owner had arranged a subdivision, and had sold all the blocks except the homestead and about 5,000 acres, which in the ultimate issue according to reliable reports he obtained almost for nothing. But that property was not suitable for subdivision for war service land settlement! The Minister, in showing his interest, or lack of interest, in rural affairs, rejected out of hand a request from the Rural Lessees Association for the establishment of an agricultural college in the Australian Capital Territory when a property, eminently suitable, was available for the purpose. _ To illustrate that my attack is not directed towards one Minister only. I refer also to the complete failure of the Postmaster-General (Mr. Anthony) to live up to his responsibility in the Australian Capital Territory. There is no excuse for the shockingly inadequate state of the telephone service. Some people in the suburb of Deakin just aross the road from the Prime Minister’s residence have waited four years for a telephone service. There are people in O’Connor, in Ainslie, in Yarralumla and in practically every other suburb who have waited years for telephones. Nine years have elapsed since the termination of the war. Does the Postmaster-General dare to suggest that this state of affairs has been caused by a shortage of equipment, a shortage of labour or a shortage of money? The Postal Department is a business undertaking and. it is revenue producing, particularly in the field of telephone services. Some attempt has been made to provide services, which is the reason for the existence of the famous tin hut opposite Hotel Kurrajong, the residence of so many honorable members. The provision of these services should progress in conjunction with the planned development of the city. There is no reason why, when new housing developments are undertaken, telephone services and other facilities should not be readily available.
The Minister for the Interior is responsible for the Territory. He is a man of whims and fancies and has become quite famous, through his department, for his pertinent little quips and abbreviated signature at the bottom of departmental submissions. The honorable gentleman was seized with a whim just a couple of days ago when he announced that henceforth the department would not cut hedges in the Australian Capital Territory free of cost. On the face of it, the action seems reasonable. Apparently the suggestion is, “ It is not done in Kew. Therefore, let us not do it here “. The cutting of hedges was not done as a sop for the individual tenant nor to save him the work of cutting the hedge at the week-end, but because Canberra is the National Capital and because it is planned as a garden city. It was thought that the hedges and gardens should be uniform and attractive.
– And I suppose citizens should have no civic pride?
– Our citizens have had ample say in the development of their garden properties, but I do suggest that the Minister should reconsider his decision to discontinue the cutting of hedges.
– And I suppose taxpayers should subsidize the Royal Canberra “Golf Club?
– I have not the slightest doubt that some assistance has been given to that body and to other sporting bodies in the Territory. The Minister’s decision was not made on the recommendation of his experts in the parks and gardens section of the department. It was made without their knowledge and it came as a shock to those officers who had devoted their lives and their talents - admittedly they are paid for it - to the development of a beautiful city, the beauty of which will not bc enhanced as a result of the Minister’s decision in what might seem, to be a comparatively minor matter. The hedges are uniform in height, uniform in .appearance and of a growth selected by experts in the parks and gardens section of the department, and they enhance the beauty of Canberra. Henceforth the department will cut the hedges only if the tenant is prepared to pay at the rate of 2s. a yard, which in the case of the average Canberra frontage would mean an annual cost for two cuttings of approximately £6. I can well imagine that many of those hedges will go forever upward and onward and detract from the appearance of this city. I believe that the Minister was hasty in his decision and that he would not have made it if he had consulted the experts.
.- One of the oldest traditions in British parliaments is that, as a condition to the granting of Supply, members shall be at liberty to speak on matters covering many aspects of the public good. That liberty means that, coupled with support for the working out of financial policies, it is permissible also to focus the attention of honorable members and of the public on those events which led to such financial policies, the results of policies, and the future prospects for the people of Australia, which are dependent upon their wisdom in supporting or rejecting the government which provided the leadership necessary for the successful implementation of those policies. I wish, therefore, to examine the circumstances under which the present Government was able to introduce financial measures such as the measure now before the House. I shall emphasize also those features of government which, in recent years, have contributed so greatly to a state of economic prosperity in Australia - a condition of economic well-being that leads us confidently still to expect progressive improvement in the nation’s finances.
In 1949 Australia experienced a state of political instability which caused grave electoral dissatisfaction with the then socialist Labour Government and which, translated into facts at the polling booth, led to its replacement by a LiberalAustralian Country party government. First, there was the menace of communism which at no time in Australian history was more potent than in the year 1949. Encouraged by the appeasement and collaboration of Labour’s political leaders - in particular that of the present Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) - the Communists in this country set about testing their strength against that of the Labour Government and, patently, the reds came out on top. Let us examine the factors which had rightly led the Communists to believe that they would triumph over the Labour Government. Those factors go back to the time when the Labour Government, in which the Leader of the Opposition was AttorneyGeneral, removed in war-time the ban which the ‘Menzies Government imposed on the Communist party. Another factor was the right honorable gentleman’s release, against the recommendation of an internment tribunal, of two Communist traitors, Ratliff and Thomas. Known Communists were appointed to governmental agencies, such as the Maritime Industry Commission, the controlling authority of the coal industry and the Australian Stevedoring Industry Board. The Leader of the Opposition co-opted Communist leaders onto a campaign committee to fight for his “powers “ referendum. It is not relevant in point of time, of course, to refer to his more recent defence of Communists in the High Court of Australia and also the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration.
In view of that background, it is little wonder that the reds felt confident that they could defeat the Labour Government in a test of strength. Although it is not difficult to select the main event in the campaign against the previous government, which was the general coal strike in 1949, there was a series of political and industrial actions which led up to that defeat. Over the last three years during which the Labour Government was in office, strikes and stoppages caused the loss of 1,231,784 more man- working days than in the three years, 1951, 1952 and 1953. The 1949 coal strike constituted a Labour Government record. Although the record of the Labour Government in 1931 in relation to unemployment was grim enough, in 1949 the number of unemployed persons reached 630,000. Over £33,000,000 in wages was lost by the workers, and the loss of production which could be calculated amounted to over £100,000,000. The strike commenced on the 27th June, 1949. It was not until August, 1949, such was the speed - or should I say the lack of speed - with which the Labour Government acted that, with a general election in the offing, the Government found it necessary to use troops to break the strike. Work was resumed by the 15th August.
The late Frank Brennan, probably the last honest, true Labour man to grace this Parliament, said -
I do not think Communists should exercise any influence over the Labour party. They do at present.
The influence that they did exercise was apparent through the days of the “ black Christmases “, the metal trades disputes, the Queensland rail strike and a score of other industrial upheavals which were all met by a supine attitude on the part of the Labour Government. Worse than that, the influence of the reds was aided by the class-war preachings of some who occupy the Opposition benches to-day. Industrial relations in 1949 were, to use a euphemism, malodorous. Other factors which caused the electors, or a majority of them, to seize the first opportunity to oust the Labour Government are to be found in the socialization policy of the time.
– I rise to a point of order. First, is the honorable member for Griffith (Mr. Berry) in order in reading his speech ? Secondly, if he does continue to read his speech, should he not inform the House who wrote it?
– Order ! If honorable members wish the standing order in relation to the reading of speeches to be enforced, I will enforce it. The House had an excellent example last night, when copies of a speech were supplied to every member of the House and to some of the visitors in the gallery, which is distinctly out of order. If the standing order is to be applied, it will be applied to Ministers as well as other honorable members. We shall not get the House back to a debating chamber until that standing order is applied.
– -The 1947 Banking Act was the expression of a political theory that began in 1848 and died in popular esteem in Australia in 1949, but, unfortunately, did not die in the hearts of honorable members opposite. If ever there was a case of an unpopular move by a single Australian political party, it was the attempt to nationalize the banks. As an illustration of the fact that the Australian Labour party lives in the past, that it is out of touch with public opinion and that, iri short, it is flogging a dead horse, we still have the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell),- the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) and the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron) threatening darkly to nationalize the banks at the first opportunity. The last-named honorable member said that Labour, would also nationalize the sugar industry, insurance companies and such organizations as General MotorsHolden’s Limited and Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited. We know, of course, that banking was not the only sphere in which Labour attempted to apply its policy of nationalization. It attempted also to nationalize the airways and shipping whilst it introduced a host of regulations and checks on private enterprise.
Labour’s record in its alinement with Communists and its inability to deal effectively with industrial unrest and socialism, as the figures that I have cited show, profoundly and deleteriously affected our economy. Of not less importance, was the effect of Labour’s record on Australia’s reputation overseas. I recall, for example, that the United States of America refused to make available even minor defence secrets to the Labour Government in this country. At the_ same time, even the Attlee Government in the United Kingdom was chary of divulging defence information to the Labour Administration in Australia because that Administration could not be trusted. Labour’s defence record is indeed shabby. It is sickening to hear the Leader of the
Opposition, the honorable member for Melbourne, who is the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, and other honorable members opposite, going to town on the subject of defence, particularly when they deal with the defence of northern Australia. The Leader of the Opposition, when he was a Minister in the Chifley Government, permitted Manus Island to revert to the jungle ; and the honorable member for Melbourne, when he was Minister for Immigration in the same Government, antagonized the teeming millions to the north of Australia about whose existence he now so raucously reminds us. [Quorum formed.] When the Leader of the Opposition, as Attorney-General and Minister for External Affairs in the Chifley Government, was strutting the stage at the United Nations, where he allied himself with the central American republics against Great Britain and the United States of America, Australia’s prestige abroad declined to a tragic degree.
I summarize the situation that existed in this country in 1949 by saying that the features of it were : First, we had in office a government subservient to and, in certain particulars, acting in co-operation with, the Communist party; secondly, we were in a period of record unemployment, industrial unrest and loss of production; thirdly, the government of the day was dedicated to carrying out outmoded, unAustralian and socialistic policies; fourthly, our defence forces were of no significance - we had no northern defences at all and the government of the day refused to co-operate with the Western democracies; and fifthly, the Chifley Government’s external affairs policy was designed solely to serve the honour and glory of one man, the present Leader of the Opposition.
Let me compare the situation that existed in 1949 with that which exists to-day. The Leader of the Opposition has so much difficulty in finding a point on which to attack the present Government’s policy that he is acting more like a gadfly than ever before. He is darting from one place to another in a frenzy of misplaced zeal. Whereas in 1948-49 the average male wage was £8 8s. a week, it is now £1 6 a week. Members of the Opposition like to prate about putting value back into the fi and about inflation, but the difference’ between those wages in monetary terms reflects an improvement in purchasing power. If it did not do so, it would be impossible to explain why, since 1948-49, weekly deposits in all cheque-paying banks have increased from £866.000.000 to £1,331,000,000, savings bank deposits have increased from £237,000,000 to £947,000,000, twice as many houses are being built annually as in 1948-49 and new registrations of motor vehicles have increased by more than 50 per cent, annually. To-day, more telephones are being installed, more assurance is being written, more consumer goods of every description are being bought and retail sales have reached record figures. All of these facts are indicative of the prosperity that has been wrought since the Menzies Government assumed office. The immense increases of production of basic materials that have occurred since 1949 are’ not the first cause of our present abundant prosperity. That first cause is to be found in the changed industrial relations that exist to-day compared with the conditions that existed when the Government took office. In 1949, the doctrine of “ don’t work yourself out of a joh “ was the industrial philosophy of the Labour Government. But what is the position to-day? The workers accept the principle of incentive payments, there is a lessening of industrial unrest although the record in this respect could be better in New South Wales where a Labour government is in office, and there is a new climate of co-operation in industry. Not long ago, we witnessed the spectacle of the Australian Council of Trades Unions testifying in the Commonwealth Arbitration Court to the soundness of our economy. The president of that body, as did other trade union officials also, expressed approval of the Government’s last budget.
Although the Government’s last referendum proposals were rejected, and none worked harder than members of the Australias Labour party for their rejection, the Government turned the spotlight of publicity upon the Communist party, and from that date the po’wer of the Communists commenced to decline. Early in 1950,- the Communists attempted to assume power over this Government as they’ had succeeded in controlling the Labour Government. But in this instance, there was a different story. As soon’ as the reds started something, the Government took resolute action to counter their activities’. It implemented the Crimes Act in order to prevent rolling strikes on the waterfront. For the first time in nine years, the Communists learned the meaning of democratic government. In. 1951, this Government, by promptly instituting contempt proceedings against the miners’ leaders-, quelled unrest on the coal-fields that had arisen over the Gallagher award. The Leader of the Opposition merited the praise of the Communists in, their newspaper, Tribune, of the 25th March, 1951, as a result of his appearances in court on their behalf. The Government’s legislation, under which it introduced secret ballots in trade unions, and which was resisted by the Opposition, has been an enormous success- and has provided just another example to dispel Labour’s delusion that it represents the working man. Whilst honorable members opposite Opposed that measure and are still muttering about it, section 96m of the act, which was inserted by this Government, has been applied On 63 occasions’ since the 19th July, 1951.
The key to the succ’es’s of the Government’s domestic and foreign policies is leadership. For once’, the ‘Australian people have been given real leadership and have enjoyed that boon since the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) was returned to office in 1949. Overseas, Australia’s prestige has never been higher than it is to-day. Gone are the days when Australia was just simply not trusted by other countries. We have witnessed the greatest single diplomatic achievement in our time in the signing of the Anzus pact. Labour cannot challenge that defence achievement. Australia enjoys the respect and confidence of the. United States of America. At present, officers of the Royal Australian Air Force and of the United States Air Force perform interchange duties. The United States of America would never have ‘dreamed of countenancing such an arrangement when Labour” was in office.
The ‘United Kingdom has chosen Australia from .all countries in the Commonwealth to co-operate with it in the conduct of atom bomb tests.- The Attlee Government’ would never have contemplated making such an arrangement with this country when Labour was in office. The lead that the Government has given in- establishing the Colombo plan has practically overcome the intense bitterness and : hostility that the honorable member for Melbourne, when he was Minister for Immigration in the Chifley Government, aroused because of the peculiar way in which he administered his department. The honorable member at this minute is itching to get back into office in order to repeat the absurd situations that he caused to arise in what are known as the O’Keefe case, the Gamboa case and the case of the Manilla girls. Australia, to-day, engages in a dignified way in the councils of the United Nations. Its representatives on such bodies, really represent this country and do not seek, .as they did when Labour was in office, merely to amass piles of press cuttings.
In order to enable honorable members to’ gauge properly the strength of Australia’s leadership in international affairs, I. shall quote a statement that was made on the 26th January last, a significant date, in Australian history, by the managing director of Ampol’ Petroleum Limited. .He said -
The nationalization policy of the Australian Government, seven years ago delayed the discovery bi oil ‘ in Australia. In 1940 we . did not’ have ; the amount of risk-money, or the knowledge, . to search ‘ for oil in Australia. A. Californian company was on the point of providing the money when Australia’s nationalization policy became news. The Californian executive immediately drew out, saying,. he.’ had Jost- 20,000,000 dollars through nationalization in Mexico. We could not interest American,’ Canadian or British companies in the Exmouth Gulf prospect. lt is amusing to hear the ranting of the’ Labour party about what should be done respecting our oil. If the Labour party had remained in power, .there would have been.np oil, anyway.
Tinder -the administration of the. Menzies Government, the national income has . almost doubled- compared with the’ fig.” re in- 19.48-49.’ Wages and salaries rose from £1,061,000,000 in 1948-49’’ to £2,040,000,000 in 1952-53. Farmers’ income, company income, and the value of national production all have shown- commensurate increases. Over the prevail1ing state of happy prosperity, there is only one dark cloud, and that is the fear that Labour demagogues, by harping on this or that feature, will swing electoral support in their favour. I do not think that this will happen. I am certain that, if people look back to the dark days of- 1949, when shortages, rationing, blackmarkets, Communist dominance,- socialism and isolationism were the features of the time, the Menzies Government will be returned with an even, larger majority than the present one.
The future, under the present Government, looks bright.. The Menzies Government, even if it had done no more than olean up the legacy of Labouradministration, would have done sufficient to merit the support of the people. As it is, with all the achievements the Government has to its credit, there is little that cannot be accomplished if it is returned at the forthcoming election. T believe that it will be.
The honorable member for Hume (Mr. Fuller) forecast that a number of .Ministers would visit his electorate duringthe general election campaign in an effort to bring about his defeat. I believe that many prominent members of the Labour party will visit my electorate in an effort to accomplish my .defeat. I shall welcome all of them. The more the honorable member for East Sydney speaks in my electorate, the more votes I shall receive.
-. One of the most remarkable features of this debate is the silence of the Prime . Minister (Mr. Menzies). One naturally assumed that he would seize, the oppor.tunity, on the eve of a general election, to tell the Australian people about the alleged benefits of the administration of a Liberal party-Australian Country party Government, but he has not spoken. . He has earned the reputation of being a man of eloquent inaction, but/ in this debate, he has not been even “eloquent. The Prime Minister, in bis usual fashion, sent round notices to his claquers and. friends in the Australian Capital Territory -to fill the House because he ‘was to speak in the debate last evening. For some reason or other, he changed his mind.
The half-hour period which is allowed a speaker in this debate is not long enough to enable me to deal with all the sins of this Government, but at least it will permit me to deal with some of its major sins. This is not the first occasion on which the Australian community has been inflicted with a Menzies government. I well recollect that a Menzies government was defeated at the end of 1941, not by a vote of the people, but by some of its own parliamentary supporters, who became alarmed at the situation that existed in this country at that time. We are again facing difficult times, and I have no doubt that when the international situation becomes grim, the people of Australia will turn to the Labour party, as they did in 1941, to provide the only effective government that is possible here.
Let us examine the position of the Government at the moment. The Prime Minister has had the reputation for a number of years of being pro- Japanese. Even while World War II. was in progress, he made a speech to the Australian Summer School of Political Science in Canberra and said that we wanted in the post-war period a prosperous Germany and a prosperous Japan. That speech was applauded by the Japanese. One radio station under Japanese control and not far distant from Australia in those days commended the Prime Minister for what it regarded as his far-sightedness in that matter.
What is the situation now? I do not wish to devote too much of my time to this theme, but I shall mention a few happenings in recent years. Of course, the Government attempts to escape its responsibility for the Japanese peace treaty by claiming that the United States of America wanted the treaty in the form in which it was signed, and that Australia could not do anything about the matter. The Japanese peace treaty was condemned even by some supporters of the Government. I suggest that honorable members opposite read the speech delivered on the treaty by the honorable member for Angas (“Mr. Downer), and then recall the lenient treatment of the Japanese war criminals who had been convicted on charges of having committed the most serious crimes against Australian servicemen and civilians and those of our allies. Those war criminals have ‘been given their freedom, and have resumed control in Japan. The same old militarist clique has returned to power, with the approval of this Government, and Japan is rapidly rearming to-day.
I also recall an incident at the time of the arrival of the first Japanese Ambassador to Australia since the termination of hostilities in World War II. If I am wrong, I shall welcome correction, but I think that it was the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Kent Hughes) who was responsible for having Japanese war relics removed from the Australian War Museum because the Government did not wish to offend the newly arrived Ambassador from Japan.
The latest betrayal of Australia by this Government is in respect of the proposed survey of the northern waters by Japanese personnel. I shall tell the House one of the reasons why the Prime Minister has not taken part in this debate. When he answered a question about . this matter earlier this week, he was not telling the truth regarding what happened. He suggested that the first Cabinet meeting had rejected the proposal for the use of Japanese personnel. Sheer evasion ! He refused to answer a subsequent question about when the request was made* about the period of time which had. elapsed between the making of the request and the rejection of the proposal by the Cabinet, and what had transpired in the interim. I shall tell the House what happened. When the request was received from the United States authorities, the greatest secrecy was to be observed. The Australian public and the press were not to be given an inkling of what had happened, because the Government had agreed to the ulan. The only matter that was the subject of negotiation was the precautions to be taken. I challenge the Minister for Defence (Sir Philip McBride) to take mrt in this debate, and de”“v that hi« department actually expressed approval of the plan to use Japanese personnel T bai-e here a report from the Sydney Morning Herald of the 28th January last on the subject. 1 think that the House will agree that that newspaper is not favorably disposed to the Labour party. The report read as follows : -
The plan was under discussion. It was learned in Canberra last night that the Commonwealth had tentatively accepted the United States plan subject to adequate security precautions.
The report proceeded to state that the Prime Minister had declined to give an outright denial of the Government’s acceptance of the plan to employ Japanese on the survey. I think that honorable members will agree with me when I say that if the Prime Minister refused to deny the report, there must have been some substance in it. He would have been only too ready to let the Australian people know that there was no truth in it, because he knew what an effect it would have on the Australian community. It was only after the public outcry, when a leakage of the news had reached the press, that Cabinet met ; and it was only when the Government knew that returned soldiers’ “ organizations, labour organizations and other bodies of various kinds were condemning it that the Cabinet finally rejected the plan. That is the report we have. It may be that, by agreement with the American authorities, the proposal has been put aside only temporarily until after the general election on the 29th May next, so that if the Austraiian public were foolish enough to return this Government to office the plan might even be revived.
I shall now deal with the subject of J apanese trade, because it is relevant to the pro- Japanese attitude of the Government. I should like a Minister to tell me why the decision of Cabinet which is made every three months on the value of the licences to be approved for the importion of Japanese goods, is to bc kept a close secret. No information about that matter is to be given to the Australian people or the press. I have here a letter from the Comptroller-General of Customs, who tells me that the information is secret. I had sought the information. I shall tell the House why the Government is keeping it a secret. The Government knows that if the Australian public were informed of the figure approved by the Cabinet for Japanese imports in the future, there would be a stampede to support Labour party candidates. The Government would be certain to be defeated.
– On the contrary!
– I ask the Minister for the Navy (Mr. McMahon) whether it is a fact that the information is not to be revealed to the Australian public. Lest the Minister should wish to deny my statement, I inform him that I have here a letter from the Comptroller-General of Customs on his own official stationery, and that he tells me that the information cannot be made available because it is regarded by Cabinet as being of the greatest secrecy. Why is that information regarded as secret? Why must it be kept from the Australian public? I hope that a Minister will answer those questions during this debate.
What is the policy of the Government on defence? One Government supporter has read extracts from speeches made on defence about seventeen years ago. The Government must be desperate for support if an honorable member opposite is obliged to turn back the pages seventeen years. The important thing that the Australian people wish to know is the defence policy of the Government at the present time. They are not interested in a speech made in this Parliament or elsewhere years ago. Let us consider the Government’s great defence plan. This Government assumed office at the end of 1949 and has spent, on defence in the intervening period, approximately £S00,000,000. What can the Australian people see for that expenditure? What sort of defence force have we got? I believe that the Minister for the Navy thinks that the Navy exists just for the purpose of giving gentleman friends of the commanders free trips around the Australian coast.
Government supporters interjecting,
– That is the practice which is being followed by the Minister and the Australian naval authorities. But let us consider this great defence plan. Every honorable member must know that enormous waste has occurred. I am certain that Australian taxpayers would not object to the expenditure of hundreds of millions of pounds on defence if they knew that they were getting value and security for their money. Australia has a population of approximately 9,000,000 people and £800,000,000 is a lot of money. What have we to show for the expenditure on defence? The honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Pearce) has made reference to the position in the north. He has stated that the Burdekin Bridge has not yet been built. The honorable member said that the Queensland Government has not sufficient money for that purpose, and that the construction of the bridge is an urgent defence work. But the Menzies Government has wiped its hands of the whole matter. The Minister for the Navy has emphasized the importance of mobility in . defence. I think that some of his friends used that expression in his hearing, and he thought that it sounded impressive, and, accordingly, wished to repeat it. But what does it mean? Mobility in defence means the ability to shift an effective defence force to any threatened area. For that purpose, efficient roads, railways and bridges are required. But what is the position in Australia to-day? Mr. Fitzpatrick, an executive officer of the New South Wales Department of Railways, has said that, from a defence point of view, the Australian railways system is terrifying. What’ has the Minister for the Navy to ‘ say to that? The honorable member for Lyne (Mr. Lucock) supports this policy of mobility of defence. He probably has as much experience in this sort of activity as I have, but he must be well aware that, in the north-east of New South Wales, about half an inch of rain on the black soil plains would cause a defence force to bog down. The road system of Australia is in a deplorable condition. What is the use of having defence equipment if we cannot send it to the quarter where it is needed in the event of attack? Everybody knows that, if one enemy bomb were to fall on the Hawkesbury Bridge, 41 per cent, of our northern traffic would be cut off immediately and could not be shifted. Therefore, it is ridiculous for the Government to boast about its plans for mobile defence. We heard similar platitudes just prior to the outbreak of World War II., but the Labour party dis covered, when it took office, that the defences of the country were in a deplorable state.
– Mr. Curtin did not think so.
- Mr. Curtin, in fact, did think so. He expressed great concern to his Cabinet. What he said publicly was not what he really believed privately.
Government Supporters. - Oh I
– Honorable members should not jeer. If they have any sense of responsibility to the country, they must realize that a Prime Minister who was leading the nation’s effort against a desperate enemy when the country was almost completely defenceless could not go on the hustings and advertise the truth, because that would have been an invitation for the enemy to move in and attack. What Mr. Curtin had to do, and what he did, was to carry out a game of bluff in order to keep the Japanese from learning of Australia’s desperate situation.
Let us consider the development of the Northern Territory. We have heard honorable gentlemen on the Government side of the House talk about our defenceless north. I ask the Minister for the Navy to say, when he speaks in this debate, whether he and his colleagues accept responsibility for a statement that appeared recently in National Development, a journal issued by the Department of National Development. An article in the December issue of the journal declared that development of the Northern Territory was not a commercial proposition, that the area was hopeless from the developmental point of view, and that it should not be developed.
– Who wrote the article ?
– I am glad that the Minister has asked that question. On the back of each copy of this journal there is a statement to the effect that the Minister for National Development does not accept responsibility for all the views and articles contained in it.
– Quite right.
– This was an unsigned article, and I took the matter up with the Minister, who said, in his letter of reply to my inquiry, that articles prepared within the department appeared anonymously. Therefore, the article in question must have been prepared in the department. The Minister’s letter added -
These latter articles are almost invariably the work of several officers and views expressed by an individual may undergo modification in the course of editing. The text finally produced is thus ‘the result of composite work. In these circumstances it is inappropriate to attempt to identify authors.
So this article represented the collective thought of responsible officers of the Department of National Development, and the Minister and the Government cannot escape responsibility for the views expressed in it. The truth is that the Government has no plan for the development of the Northern Territory, and it is useless for Government supporters to talk about developing the region while they remain inactive in the matter.
Now I come to a subject that has been discussed at length by Government supporters in the course of this debate. The honorable member for Griffith (Mr. Berry), like other Government supporters, declared that rackets and black markets flourished when the Labour Government was in power. It is not to be denied that, when the Labour party was in office during , a very difficult war period, there were some abuses of the laws of the land, but those abuses were largely committed by the very people whom the Government parties represent in this Parliament, not by the workers, who are represented by the Labour party. The workers were not in a position to engage in rackets. They were the people who were exploited by the racketeers whom the present Government parties represent. All sorts of rackets are being practised in Australia to-day under this Government. Only on Tuesday last, during the adjournment debate, I referred to abuses associated with the Department of “Works.
– Alleged abuses!
– If the honorable member will be patient, he will soon learn whether there is any foundation for my charges. I said on Tuesday night that the man who had informed me of the abuses was prepared to support his allegations with a statutory declaration. The Minister for the Interior then said that, if I could secure the statutory declaration, he would certainly act promptly upon it. Well, less than two days has elapsed since then and I have the statutory declaration. I shall first read it to the House, and I shall then hand it to the Minister at the table and ask the Government, which declares that, it wants to suppress rackets, what it proposes to do about the matter. The statutory declaration is as follows: -
I, Frank Hewing, of 124 Francis-street, Bondi, Sydney, in the State of New South Wales, Salesman, do hereby solemnly and sincerely declare that: -
I wasemployed by the firm of Cody and Willis Pty. Ltd., Builders, of 25 Burton-street. Glebe, Sydney, as a Clerk, from October, . 1951. to December, 1952.
As aresult of my experience during that time, if given an opportunity before a properly constituted Inquiry, I am prepared to produce evidence to prove that, in connexion witha contract they had with the Department of Works to erect 500 Swedishprefabricated houses (known as the “ Mokonga “ Contract) Cody and Willis Pty. Ltd. did: -
Submit false time-sheets for work done by sub-contractors;
Falsify invoices in regard to cement and paint used;
Make presents of beer, whisky, to officers of the Department of
Works and Supervisors on the job:
And I make this solemn declaration conscientiously believing the same to be true and by virtue of the provisions of the Oaths Act 1900.
I ask the Minister for the Navy to hand the declaration to the Minister for the Interior. I shall be interested to learn what course of action the Government proposes to take.
Honorable members will recall that the Government parties established a committee of six, which invited members of the public who had any evidence of scandal in Commonwealth departments to bring such matters to its notice so that it could take action. The committee was a rather strange coterie. It consisted of the honorable member for Bennelong (Mr. Cramer) as chairman, the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth), the honorable member for Macarthur (Mr. Jeff. Bate), the honorable member for Evans (Mr. Osborne) and two other Government supporters. This committee was going to see that the Government cleared up all rackets. The statutory declaration that I have just quoted can provide it with a starting point. I suggest also that the Minister for the Interior, while he is investigating that matter, should inquire into certain activities at the brickyards conducted by his department at Canberra. It would be interesting to know exactly what sum the Government has been defrauded of as a result of its laxness and neglect of duty. Since I raised the charges against the Department of Works in this House last Tuesday, I have received a communication from another man who wants to supply me with information about another racket. I hope to be able to advise the House of the details of this matter next week.
We all know that the purity committee on the Government side of the House, which was formed for the ostensible purpose of investigating rackets, did not do anything about the Mr. Irish incident. The Government did not want to have that matter investigated. Honorable members will recall that Mr. Irish, the chairman of directors of Consolidated Press Limited, was able to come to Canberra and have the Capital Issues Branch opened on a Sunday afternoon by the head of the branch, and was further able to type out a capital issues permit and have it approved. I regret that limitation of. time will not enable me to discuss the details of that .incident. However, Mr. Irish was afterwards able to return to Sydney and give his board of directors an accurate forecast of the budget provisions in relation to company taxation, which were then supposed to be on the secret list. According to the Prime Minister, this merely disclosed Mr. Irish’s business acumen. Mr. Irish was a shrewd businessman, he said. Honorable members will agree with me that Mr. Irish did not obtain his information from conversations with an attendant at Parliament House - or a Canberra ‘bus conductor.’ Such estimable citizens would not have been in a. position to give him information on which he could base such an accurate tip on company taxation as he gave to his board of directors. The Government did nothing about that leakage !
Honorable members will also recall the leakage of information to David Jones Limited when the Government was preparing to impose import restrictions. The Prime Minister gave the show away on that occasion. When I first raised the matter, he said that there was no substance in the charge that I had made. According to him, the letter from which I had quoted did not exist. However, at a later stage he said in this chamber that he was still investigating one feature of the affair, and that was the means by which the information had leaked from the Department of Trade and Customs. Had my information been false, how could it have been regarded as a leak from an official source? Why did the Government not conduct an investigation into these matters ? Obviously it has been playing a political game deliberately designed to discredit the Labour party, but its attempt will fail. It is trying to divert attention from its maladministration because it knows that it cannot successfully fight a general election campaign on the strength of its record. Therefore, from now until the date of the election, it will endeavour to introduce State issues and try to confuse the people by using all sorts of red herrings. I confidently believe that, on this occasion, it will fail dismally .to deceive the electors.
I refer now to the important subject of the freezing of the basic wage and wage margins generally. The Government proposes to take a novel stand on this issue during the election campaign. I do not know whether my colleagues have received copies of a little booket entitled Pocket Politics, issued by the federal secretariat of the Liberal party. Perhaps I am one of a privileged few, but I have received a copy of this publication through the post. In this booklet, the Liberal party suggests to its members that the Labour party will attempt to make political capital out of the freezing of the basic WA ee and wage margins.
Tin’s is the advice that is given to its follower.”! -
The first thins to get clear is that the Menzies Government was not a party to the hours and wages case.
Liberal party speakers are to tell the people that the Government had nothing to do with the case and that it was a matter entirely for the Commonwealth Arbitration Court. However, I remind the House that there was a subsequent case iri which the court, without having received any application from employers dr employees, wanted to remove from industrial awards the provisions under Which wages had been adjusted regularly according to the quarterly cost-of-living index variations. The Attorney-General (Senator Spooner) was represented at that case, and it was argued on his behalf that, under section 49 of the Con1 ciliation and Arbitration Act, the court had power to vary an award at any time. Therefore, it is clear that the Govern1 ment supported the action taken by the court in order to accelerate the elimination from industrial awards of the provisions which authorized the quarterly adjustment of wages. The” Arbitration Court did not have’ before it the proper data upon which to make intelligent calculations in the wages and hours case, but its members declared that the basic wage must be frozen and that margins must not be increased because the economy of the country could not stand further wage rises. They asserted that the economy was practically stabilized.
I was rather interested,* as, no doubt, other honorable gentlemen were, to receive recently a copy of Statutory Rule No. 17 of 1954. I suggest that honorable members should read it. It shows that judges of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court, and conciliation commissioners, amongst others, were recently granted increase’s of their travelling allowances. I wish to refer to conciliation commissioner’s, and judges of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court in particular, because of recent decisions that affect the workers. The increases were made retrospective in the case of conciliation commissioner’s to’ December and in the case of judges to November. I sought from the AttorneyGeneral the reason why those increases had been granted’. He said that it was a fact thai the allowances were recently increased, and that the reason for reviewing the rates* of the allowances was that a marked increase in hotel- charges had’ taken place since the previous review; So, we have judges who sit On the Bench and tell people that, became the court accepts the Government’? word that the economy has been stabilized,- increased margins ought not to be granted, and basic wages adjustments ought to be discontinued. But when it comes to themselves they are given increased allowances because’ their costs have increased.- Further,- I find that not only all other federal judges have received increases of allowances but that also various high officers close to the Government have received increases; I think I am not incorrect in saying that the secretary of the Prime Minister’s Department himself was given a salary increase of £900.- Such increases were given right through the higher ranks of the Public Service. It is no wonder that there is unrest amongst the organized workers of this country, and that they feel resentful of what is being done to them’,when the very people who sit in judgment on their claims, and refuse to adjust their wages and margins, receive increases from this Government.
I wish now to refer to a serious and important matter that has again been deferred by the Government until after the general election. I refer to the sale of the Commonwealth line of steamers.Some time ago a circular was sent- to the various private shipping companies quoting the terms and conditions under which the Commonwealth was prepared to dispose of the line. ‘I know that there are people like the honorable member for Gwydir (Mr. Allan) who say that this is a free enterprise Government, and therefore we must get away from the idea-
– Order ! The honorable gentleman’s time has expired.
Motion (by Mr. James) negatived -
That the honorable member for East Sydney (.Mr. Ward) be granted an extension of time.
.- For the’ last few hours the House has been doing* one of two things. It has either been discharging” the £feat responsiblity, which is placed’ on any democratic parliament,of exercising its right to control the nation’s purse, o’r it has engaged in a’ sortof free-for-all as a prelude to” the general election. I have listened with great interest to one of the chief spokesmen of the Labour-socialist party, the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward), and I should like to dissect some of hi3 arguments to see in what capacity he was addressing the House. If he were concerning himself with the traditional rights of a democratic parliament to maintain control of the purse, a right which all honorable members know our ancestors fought and died for, then, during the half hour for which he addressed the House, he made not one statement about the matter we are discussing, which is the granting of the Supply necessary to carry on the services of the nation until a new parliament assembles. If, however, he were addressing himself to a prelude for a general election campaign as one of the chief spokesmen for the Labour party, then, during that half hour, he made not one constructive statement, although he is one of the three leaders of the Labour party. It is, of course, not unusual to have that kind of thing from the honorable member. He spoke about defence. Surely it is absurd and paradoxical for the- honorable member for. East Sydney to speak about defence, because his war activities, I understand, were confined to his heroic defence of the “ Brisbane line “. Is it not ridiculous’ that an honorable gentleman-,, who, like’myself had very little military experience,, should charge this- Government with being pro-Japanese, when ‘the great majority of the Government’s supporters in this chamber are ex-servicemen, many of whom took an active part in. the campaign against the: Japanese? The- honorable’ gentleman’s tactics illustrate a weakness of case and a- lack of responsibility. It is a weakness that is frightening to anybody who- is- concerned with the traditions and. practices- upon which democracy rests. Here we had one- of the three leaders of the- Labour party in this chamber spending half an hour doing nothing but attempting to destroy the very institution we are sent here to maintain. Everything in his speech was attack. Every move he made was designed to. create unrest-
– Distortion’ and disaffection.
– Yes, complete distortion.
– He was rubbing salt into the sores.
– The honorable member for Banks (Mr. Costa J is evidently one of those who supports the honorable member for East Sydney.
– I certainly do.
– I am astonished to hear it, but if he wishes to go down into the depths with the honorable member for East Sydney, that is his concern. I Wish to come back as I think I should
– We all do.
– I wish to come back to the matter we are supposed to be discussing, which is Supply. I feel sure the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen), who is leading the Opposition at the moment, could make some more Constructive approach to this matter than some of his colleagues have done, buthe should not take advantage of his position at the table in order to interject while honorable members on this side of the chamber are making a proper contribution to the debate. I wish to refer to something that has been self-evident during the debate. During the 53 years in which this Parliament has existed, and particularly during the last decade or so, we, as a Parliament and as a people,, have tended, if not to forget the meaning of words, at least to allow ourselves- to become so conditioned that certain phrases that have been used frequently, have lost their significance. In this connexion I refer to the financial relationships between this Parliament and thepeople. One such phrase which has often been used here, and outside, is that the Commonwealth should make suchandsuch an amount of money available for this, that, or some other purpose. Every member of every party has received suggestions from people along these line3. The phrase has been used so frequently in the last few years that its meaning, has become so distorted that even herefew people realize exactly what it means. Many people in the community take it t’o mean that, by some means, in which they are not particularly interested,, money will be. pulled out of the sky, or out of the cellar, and sent in to fill in a particular gap somewhere.
The truth is that money made available by the Commonwealth is raised from taxes. With the. expansion of the scope of Government activities and powers, it is a truism to-day to say that Government action and Government policy affect the lives, the standard of living and the welfare of every person in the community. The question of who is to control the public purse, therefore, is of paramount and personal importance to everybody in the community. Is it not obvious that it is of the utmost personal importance to every person in the community to be satisfied of the ability of the Prime Minister, the Treasurer, and the Cabinet generally, to disburse in a proper manner the vast sums of money that are drawn from the taxpayers into the Treasury. In that regard, since it has been said that this debate is being used as the gun that is firing the first shots in the electoral campaign, I should like to remind the House of the debate on the budget in 1951. That is a long time ago, but the happenings then were significant. The Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) made a statement, which can be checked in Hansard, to the effect that instead of the surplus of £133,500,000 for which the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) had budgeted, there would, in fact, be a surplus of £250,000,000. He said that the result of that faulty finance would-be a depression. His deputy, the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell), dealt with the same matter in his more eloquent way, but he arrived at a different conclusion. He said that we would have a deficit, but he was too emotionally disturbed to estimate it. I think, however, that a reading of his speech indicates that he expected a deficit of £300.000.000. The surplus estimated by the Treasurer was achieved. The significant point of that is that on this crucial and vital matter the Leader of the Opposition and his deputy made estimates that differed bv about ^550.000,000 regarding the condition of this country’s finances n the succeeding year. The estimates of the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) and the Treasurer, however, were both within a reasonable distance of the actual figure. T suggest it would be much more reasonable for the electors to trust the Prime Minister and the Treasurer, who both presented accurate estimates to the Parliament, than to trust the Leader of the Opposition and his deputy, whose estimates disagreed by about £550,000,000.
I listened with interest and some tolerance to the speech of the honorable member for Melbourne in this debate. If my recollection is right, he said, during his more eloquent and frenzied moments, that during the election campaign this side of the House would, in all probability, drag out the old bogy of socialism. I am astonished that the honorable gentleman should have made such a statement, because any one who has listened to debates in this chamber knows the views of the honorable member for East Sydney on socialism. He has made himself perfectly clear on that issue. We know the views of the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron), who has also made himself equally clear on it. In addition, we are well aware of the views on that matter held by the latest addition to the Labour brains trust, the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Whitlam), who has made himself perfectly clear on it. Indeed, the honorable member for Melbourne himself has, on a number of occasions, stated where he stands in regard to socialism. Being of a somewhat bright mentality he is carried away at times, but if there is any doubt about my interpretation of his words the opinion of the House can very easily be discovered. The honorable member for Melbourne, who is the Deputy Leader of the Opposition and the second spokesman for what used to be the Great Australian Labour party, speaks with the full authority of Labour. Yesterday, he spoke at considerable length about housing. Perhaps I misinterpreted his remarks, but I understood his reference to housing to confine itself to interest rates, and some of the actions taken by the Commonwealth Bank and the private banks to make loans available to their own employees at rates of interest lower than the current rates. The honorable member suggested, by inference, that some future Treasurer could, by a stroke of the pen, follow the practice of the banks and solve the housing problem.
I shall now remind honorable members of some facts’ relating- to housing.
Although figures do not present a completely accurate picture of any activity unless they are accompanied hy a full statement of the position, some indication of the attitude of governments in regard to housing can be obtained by a consideration of the amounts of money that have been made available during the four postwar years of Labour government and the last four years of the Menzies Administration. During the last four years of the Chifley Government, about £56,000,000 was made available to the States for housing under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement. During the last four years of the Menzies regime, £115,000,000 was made available. The honorable member for Griffith (Mr. Berry) reminded the House that in 1949 there was a shortage of all essential material required for housing. It needs no words from me to establish the fact that at that time the country was short of all those things necessary to make a housing programme effective. We were short of men and materials as well as the most important element of all, which was the drive and energy necessary to make any housing programme effective. During the administration of the last Labour Government the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement was signed, the general purpose of which was to make money available from the Commonwealth to the various States for the purpose of housing. The agreement is a complicated and devious document, but paragraph 3 sets out its main objectives. It is designed to establish rental housing projects, and to deal with slum clearance. The best method of providing adequate housing is by recognizing that housing is a human as well as an economic problem, but the matter of slum clearance is much more important to us as human beings. Indeed, I believe that there is no more important matter to any one who cares to face the facts. This Government has made about £115,000,000 available in the last four years, so that the States may carry out their agreement with the Commonwealth.
I recently received a brochure from the Brotherhood of St. Laurence, in Melbourne, and I have no doubt that other honorable members have also received the booklet. I am sure that my Victorian colleagues, at least, are aware of the fine work done by the Brotherhood of St. Laurence among slum-dwellers. The first paragraph in the brochure sets out quite clearly what should be the ideal attitude of government towards housing. It reads -
The only justification for a State housing programme is to house that section of the community which cannot, by its own efforts, provide adequate housing for itself.
The brochure also details, with the authority of those who have worked day and night to help the people who dwell in slums, certain aspects of slum clearance. The slum clearance problem is acute in Melbourne, and I have no doubt that it is more acute in Sydney. At page 7 of the brochure wc may read -
In 1037, when the Housing Commission was set up in Victoria to abolish slums, there were 6,100 houses within five miles of the Melbourne General Post Office officially recognized as slums. To-day, seventeen years later, the official figure stands at 7,500, an increase of 1,400 or 23 per cent. . . . the official figures of the number of slums are only approximate. There are actually considerably more than 7,500 sub-standard dwellings to-day, but. no one knows exactly how much greater the total is because no one has conducted a survey. The official figures only represent the number of houses that have actually been condemned as unfit to live in. They do not include the countless dwellings sub-standard in every respect that have not yet been reported.
This is one of the most important matters that could engage our attention. We are responsible for raising the money which is given to the States under the agreement, and yet although we have provided £115,000,000 to the States nothing has been done in Victoria, at any rate, about slum clearance. Indeed, the position ie worse to-day than it was seventeen years ago. I suggest that this House should concern itself with that matter after the next Parliament meets, when we are considering our financial relationships with the States and the implementation of the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement. If there is one thing above another that constitutes an indictment of the existing agreement, it is that although money has been collected by the Commonwealth and made available to the States, nothing has been done to ameliorate this most terrible of all human troubles, that is slum dwelling in the great cities. The honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory (Mr. J. R. Fraser) voiced opinions that are not uncommon among certain sections of the Canberra people. He referred to the lack of Government services in Canberra, and, in particular, to the lack of an Olympic swimming pool in the northern suburbs.’ He said that the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Kent Hughes), in a most depicable way, had instructed the Department of Works that private hedges would no longer be cut by Commonwealth employees. I represent an electorate of about 60,000 people who live in an outer metropolitan and near rural part of Melbourne. In that area during the last few years, about 15,000 young people have built or are building their own homes. They have no Olympic swimming pool, they have not the service of Commonwealth gardeners to cut their hedges, and, moreover, they have no roads or sewerage works. Indeed; in places they have no reticulated water or electric light. If we are to maintain some sort of balance in this community, and if money is to be raised by the Australian Government and expended throughout the community, it is far more reasonable that some money should be devoted to the needs of those in the community who, by their own efforts, are building homes, rather than to securing amenities for the very favoured people who live in Canberra, which, of all the smaller cities of Australia, is unquestionably the best kept.
.- It is customary towards what is quaintly known as the dying hours of a parliament, to speak in the most kindly way about the imperfections of the government of the day. I shall fall into no such trap, because a sense of duty to my electorate will enable me to speak at length with strength, clarity and superlative honesty. The honorable member for Deakin (Mr. Davis) fell into the same error that has engulfed many of his colleagues^ and I must take this opportunity to bring the supporters of the Government back to a discussion of the supply measure. It is obvious that the supply on the Government side of the House is a supply of propaganda issued to Government supporters by their own public relations officers for use as they may see fit. They have made no attempt to justify or explain the budget. Therefore, as the protagonist of the Labour party, I say that we are doubly entitled to the. samelatitude in thrust and parry. Although it is not my usual practice in relation to a new member, I desire to reply in my own way, to some of the statements of the-‘ honorable member for Gwydir (Mr.. Allan). The honorable member made an interesting maiden speech in this House,, and, as is customary, I congratulate him upon a well modulated and orderly pieceof radio work. His lofty ideals about this House will not remain long, and so I must be pardoned for saying what I think concerning his electorate, and its representative, within the time available to me. The poppycock that he put forth about free enterprise is quite a new line for him, because I know that he was shopping himself throughout the electorate, and even approached the Labour party at the special Keepit Dam branch. Therefore, if there is to be sincerity let us have real sincerity and not the idle nonsense of the honorable member for Gwydir about the preservation of private enterprise. All that he is thinking about is the preservation of his seat. Then we have the three sad sacks from Queensland, the three miserable boys who do nothing in this House but deride their own shining State. The honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Pearce), whose zodiacal sign is certainly that of the goat-
– Order !
– The honorable member does nothing but . consistently criticize the Queensland Government. Of course he is completely inconsistent in that criticism, because the same electors who sent him. to this Parliament elected the Labour Government of Queensland and have maintained that Government for many years. It is no advertisement for Queensland members, and the younger members who, perhaps, have some future, if not here then elsewhere, to deny the greatness of that State. Apart from my own native State, Queensland is my favorite State. While the honorable member for Capricornia goes into his lamentation that “ the wheel of the wagon is broken “, that “ it ain’t goin’ to rain no more we all can see the growing prosperity and fertility of Queensland.
Mr. Wight interjecting,
– The honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Wight) has not yet had an opportunity to speak, but he adds his doleful voice to the chorus. He is a very companionable and friendly fellow, but when one mentions Queensland he hursts into tears. The water comes down as it does at the Barron Falls. In the words of Southey, “How does the water come down at Lodore ? “ I say to the honorable member, “ Gird your loins ; remember that you belong to a magnificent State and report its conditions to the House accordingly”. The honorable member for Griffith (Mr. Berry) also had a doleful story to tell. He did not do himself justice. He does not believe all the dreadful things he said. Why should honorable members froth at the mouth at the mention of socialism when it has been the only buttress that has kept this staggered government in office so long? If Government supporters kick that prop away, they will be flat on their faces even before the 29th May. Any of the useful things that have been done by the Government have been done by shouting right-wing slogans and taking left-wing action, and supporters of the Government know that that is true. The honorable member for Griffith, who laments so much, is one of the team of younger members who represent Queensland who see nothing but a miserable state of affairs. In the circumstances of the coming general election - and I speak with great authority because I have held a precarious seat on a creaking gate for eleven years - there is some merit in the disconsolate attitude of the honorable member, because he, like so many other supporters of the. Govern ment, very soon will be on the outside looking in.
– You will get a job with Wirth Brothers.
– And I shall be pleased to give the honorable member bis meals at regular hours.
I shall devote the remainder of my time to a discussion of the complete ineptitude of the Government and the sometimes dangerous practices adopted by it in relation to foreign affairs. I had hoped that the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) or the Minister for Defence (Sir Philip McBride) would be present in the House. Although neither is here, at least one of the Ministers who represents a branch of the services is present and will take the brunt of my attack upon the Government and perhaps make a reply to it. I shared the view of the fifteen members of the Liberal and Australian Country parties who, in January of this year, came to Canberra and asked the Prime Minister and the Cabinet to adopt some realism in the country’s relationships with J apan. I do not charge the Government with being pro-Japanese, because, for one thing, there are too many returned soldiers in the Government and, for another, it is composed almost entirely of Australians. However, I do charge the Government with a complete lack of understanding of the public conscience in this matter. If the Government fails in that respect, it fails entirely. I am in agreement with the fifteen honorable members who came down here and prayed for some surcease, and who asked the Government not to let this matter drift into bureaucratic hands and run to the edge of disaster.
Before I deal with this subject in the manner in which I desire to deal with it, I direct the attention of honorable members to the faux pas of the Government in relation to foreign policy. The Opposition warned the Government on many occasions about what was happening. On the 6th February, 1953. the Japanese peace treaty was submitted to this House for ratification. That was a treaty that the whole of the free world had combined to draft. It was intended to bring about peace in our time. I do not try to scarify old wounds, or to wring withers or make hasty tears when I say that the war with Japan was the maximum of our sacrifice. The submission of the peace treaty to the Parliament for ratification was a momentous occasion. . The treaty was a document which any honorable member should have been proud to discuss. But how was the House treated on that occasion ? Is it conceivable, looking back at the matter, that the whole debate on the treaty should have occupied only thirteen hours? The bombing of the north of Australia, the entry of submarines into Sydney Harbour, the war in New Guinea and the tortuous, terrible anxieties of those years, not to mention the incarceration of our soldiers in Japanese prison camps, became as nothing because of political expediency. We do not blame the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Casey) for these things. Honorable members opposite knew that he had a policy in relation to the intransigence of the Russians and the use of the Japanese, but surely the Government made its first mistake in foreign policy when it allowed honorable members only thirteen hours in which to discuss the treaty. Did any exserviceman who was a member of the Government - and many of them have that honour - or any civilian or ex-serviceman on this side of the House believe that the Government would restrict to thirteen hours the debate on the peace treaty, which was one of the most momentous if riot the most momentous matter to come before this House in its 50 years of existence? If any honorable member thought that such a restriction was impossible, what was his state of mind when the debate was gagged? On the stroke of midnight on the 27th February the debate was suddenly terminated by the application of the gag. Questions relating to Australia’s future, reparations, our northern defences and rapprochement after the war were, higgledy-piggledy, thrown into a heap because some instruction had been received from one of our allies that the treaty must be ratified quickly or it would not be ratified at all. Honorable members on this side of the House believe that that was when foreign policy passed into the hands of some one else and when the Minister for External Affairs and the Government merely rubber-stamped decisions made by others in relation to the South- West Pacific and Australia’s interests in that region. Thirteen hours of debate on the greatest document to.come before the House. That a measure designed to secure our preservation and the future of our children and of posterity should have been gagged in such a fashion is one of the most disgraceful incidents-
– Order ! The honorable member may not reflect on the decisions and the votes of the House.
– Did you, sir, not think that it was disgraceful ? You would not say, of course, and I apologize for asking you the question.
The next thing was that one morning we were confronted with the fact that Japanese pearling luggers were on the horizon of Darwin. The honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson), who knows more about these matters than does any other honorable member, was in Darwin at the time. He issued warnings to which the Government refused to listen. The fact was that the Japanese were coming back into Australian waters and intended to engage in pearl fishing, but the whole thing was boggled again because of expediency. The Government said, “ Let us keep this news out of the headlines “. The Prime Minister of the nation says, in consternation or surprise - simulated or otherwise - that every time the word “ Japan “ is mentioned it is good for a three-line heading in the press. Of course it is ! If the right honorable gentleman does not know that, he does not know anything about the defence of this country. We all know how damaging the news was and the futile manner in which the Government dealt with the matter. First, apologies were offered, and then some concessions were made. Then, a few pious people got up and said that such a thing could not happen, but the Japanese persisted with their poaching and their infiltration. What happened then ? The Government introduced a bill which was a geographical monstrosity in order to find out how wide was the continental shelf. The strategy of draughtsmanship was employed in order to avoid a plain statement on national aspirations. The Japanese decided to take the matter to the International Court of Justice’ in order to ascertain whether they had the right to fish and dive for pearls in our waters.
Now we come to the worst story of all - the events of the 27th January in relation to Japanese participation in the survey of our northern waters. The Government’s decision to use Japanese for this purpose so threw its supporters off balance with the Prime Minister - I say this with a full appreciation of the significance of my words - that the Prime Minister deliberately misled this House on the matter when he said that Cabinet had not previously considered it.
– I rise to a point of order. I object to the statement of the honorable member. The Prime Minister has already given an explanation and has denied explicitly that this matter was previously considered by Cabinet. It is insulting to me for the honorable member to say that the Prime Minister deliberately misled the House when the right honorable gentleman pointed out that, when this proposal came before Cabinet on the first occasion, it was rejected and the Americans were asked to withdraw the Japanese. I take exception to the words of the honorable member.
– The honorable member for Parkes is out of order in saying that the Prime Minister deliberately misled the House. He must withdraw the statement.
– If it will help the debate, I shall withdraw the statement.
– It is not a question of helping the debate.
– Order ! I asked the honorable member to withdraw his statement.
– I withdraw the statement, because it gives me an earlier opportunity to prove that the Minister for the Navy—
– Order ! The honorable member must withdraw his statement without qualification.
– I withdraw it. The Australian people were outraged and shocked to the very core by this proposal. The Prime Minister and his Ministers looked for alibis and in making them forgot that one can be too loquacious and fall into a trap of his own conniving. The Minister for the Navy said - the honorable gentleman may correct me if I am wrong - that the first time that this matter was dealt with was when it was discussed by Cabinet on the 28th February. “ I shall outline the sequence of these ugly events. The reply to the fifteen honorable members who came to Canberra to see the Prime Minister and his colleagues should have been, “Yes, we have made a mistake. We shall correct it “. The Prime Minister and his colleagues would have been honoured for such a reply, but instead they ran for cover.
– The matter had not gone to Cabinet.
– It is of no use to say that there is no question of Cabinet’s having considered the matter. The digest of ministerial statements shows that on the 27th January the Prime Minister said that he had not heard of the proposal for some time. He certainly had heard of it. ThePrime Minister further said -
I cannot say whether the proposal will come before Cabinet again. That depends on what happens.
– Quite right, because the Chifiey Government agreed with the United States of America to carry out the survey.
– Order ! The Minister must refrain from interjecting.
– The Prime Minister further said -
If Ministers want to bring it back to Cabinet, I suppose they will do so.
Does the Minister suggest that the former Ministers of the Chifiey Government want to bring the matter back to Cabinet? I object to the miserable subterfuge of suggesting that a former Prime Minister of this country would have had any part in such a trick with the Japanese.
– It was an agreement.
– The honorable member for Parkes will address the Chair and not the Minister.
– Itwas an agreement to chart the coast. The Opposition admits that, but the use of Japanese personnel is the matter in dispute. In order to make a complete refutation of the Prime Minister’s story and the unfortunate way in which he made what appeared to be a misrepresentation, which word you ruled, sir, that I should withdraw, I again refer to the digest in order to fix the date sequence in the minds of the public. On the 27th January. 1954, the Prime Minister said -
I cannot say whether the proposal will come before Cabinet again.
On the 2nd February, when the matter was at boiling point, and when it was making headlines in every newspaper in Australia and, indeed, throughout the world, the Prime Minister - and I partly quote from the digest - said -
But having regard to criticisms which have been evoked by unauthorized statements in Australia, it is essential that the decision of the Australian Cabinet, the first decision made by it on this matter, should be made public as soon as possible.
It is obvious there was another decision. On the 28th February, the Prime Minister, in order to confirm that his statement was no slip of the tongue, said -
At its meeting on 2nd February, Cabinet considered for the first time proposals concerning the mapping survey of New Britain.
I submit that the real story is that a Cabinet sub-committee prepared the proposals, that they were submitted to Cabinet, that they were approved by Cabinet, and that Cabinet Ministers, when the bomb exploded behind them, ran for cover. That is what happened and it brought fifteen members of the Liberal party and the Australian Country party tumbling from their seats down to Canberra to interview the Prime Minister. That was no accident. The point I make is that the sequence of timing of the statements to which I have referred and of events indicates that this House has been misled on this issue. I believe that I am entitled to affirm that a submission was made to the Cabinet by the Minister for Defence, that it went through Cabinet on the voices and that members of the Cabinet, who have been notorious for their absences from Canberra, fled the scene and left the bureaucrats to carry on. It is idle to suggest that honorable members opposite, who are extremely subservient to their leader, should break down and come to Canberra if it were not that they were deeply concerned about the trend that events had taken. We are not naive. Those honorable members were deeply concerned, not only as members of the Parliament, but also as Australians. They believed that something was wrong. The Cabinet was in a complete blue funk. Ministers were funking the issue. That fact is established by the sequence of events, by the relevant dates and by the actions of the Government itself. Nobody except a bureaucrat could conceive that any group of Australians either on the Government side or on the Opposition side of this chamber, or at any point of thecompass, would agree to the course that the Government took originally. Of course, the Government was negligent. That is the charge that I make; members of the Cabinet were absenteeing on this matter. The Minister for the Navy is incorrect when he says that honorable members opposite did not make a former approach to the Cabinet before it changed its decision in this matter. A tremendous error of judgment wasmade, and the Government is not sufficiently courageous to admit it. Instead,, it is ducking and weaving like a boxerIt will not admit the errors of judgment -which has characterized its foreign policy since the Japanese peace treaty wassigned and now it refuses to admit theclassic blunder of all that it made with respect- to the survey of our northern waters. The Minister for the Navy recently spoke in glowing terms in describing what ha3 been done at Manus IslandHe said that this and that was perfectly in order, and that he was delighted that Australia’s base at Manus Island was now working efficiently. Was it not ho andhis colleagues who derided the present Leader of the Opposition for refusing togive away that base to another country?
Mr. McMahon interjecting,
– Of course, theMinister for the Navy is acting in a second-hand role in this matter. Any government worthy of its salt would not yield one inch of Australian territory to either ally or enemy. That is the concept of the Australian people in this matter. The Minister should not be so blown up about Manus Island. In respect of the original proposal to employ Japanese crews and technicians in the conduct of a survey of our northern waters, the Government is under threat from its own supporters.
Mr. McMahon interjecting,
– Order, Order r I call the Minister to order !
– The Government is under punishment by its own supporters in the Parliament. This is a most momentous moment. As tie Prime Minister is absent from the chamber, as he has been during the greater part of this debate - that is understandable because he has to attend to duties outside - and as only the junior Minister at the table is contributing nothing to orderly debate, I am obliged to make my case alone. But in the view of the people of this country, the Government has a case to answer in this matter. Why the first procrastination? Then, the Government, having made its egregious error, as the honorable member for Melbourne has said, funked the issue and ran away from it. Why did senior Ministers try to load the responsibility on to the bureaucrats? The Government should be dismissed for its failure to control foreign policy. That is the responsibility of a government whether we are at peace or at war or whether there is an uneasy feeling that disaster is round the corner. Surely, when the world is threatened with dangers as it is to-day, a government should not be so remiss as to leave the handling of matters of this kind to incompetents. I ask the Minister for the Wavy, when he is replying to my statements, to justify the statement of the Prime Minister that he made on the 3rd February that this matter had been referred to Cabinet and would come back to it again, and also the reiteration of that statement by the Prime Minister on the 8th February in which he said that the matter had been before Cabinet for the first time. Between those dates a lie was told to the Australian people. It should be corrected or the Government will stand condemned in the eyes of the people.
– I rise to make a personal explanation. The honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) alleged that I had approached a branch of the Australian Labour party in order to secure nomination as a candidate for Parliament. He used the words to that effect. Such a statement is completely without foundation. As I am not yet familiar with the rules of procedure in this House, I missed the opportunity to ask the honorable member to withdraw that statement. In these circumstances, I am sure that the honorable member will now do so.
– Did you approach the secretary of the Australian Labour party and inquire if you could join it?
– That is complete rubbish ; it is completely untrue.
– You did ! I know that you did. Mr. Somerville Smith told me so.
– Order !
– I rise to order, Mr. Speaker. The honorable member for Gwydir asked the honorable member for Parkes to withdraw a certain statement.
-Order! If the Minister will permit it, I am still in charge of the House.
.- The honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen), having completed his oration and having indulged in flights of fancy-
Mr. Pollard interjecting,
– Order! If honorable members are not prepared to maintain order, I shall have to act in accordance with the Standing Orders. I think that they understand from experience what that means.
– I was about to say that it is time that we got down to something solid in this debate. I propose to do so. The Government is entitled to ask the Parliament to grant supply to it to meet the cost of normal administration until a new parliament is elected on the 29th May next. On occasions such as this it is proper for honorable members to review the record of the Government during its term of office. After all the conduct and achievements of the Government will determine whether it will be returned to office. Equally, they should determine whether supply should be granted to it until a new parliament is elected. The achievements of the Government will fully justify its re-election. It has succeeded in those achievements not by reason of any help that it has received from the States as units in the federation, but rather in spite of the actions of the governments of several of the States. I propose to deal briefly with the activities of various departments and to refresh the minds of honorable members of the Government’s record. I commend to the House, particularly to members of the Opposition, a publication dealing with defence and development that has just been released by the National Security Resources Board. This publication has not been put out for propaganda purposes but is crammed with factual information concerning the Government’s achievements. I inform honorable members opposite that the members of the National Security Resources Board includes Mr. A. E. Monk, who is president of the Australian Council of Trades Unions. As that gentleman l’.as seen fit to subscribe his name to this document, we may conclude that he is satisfied that the information that it contains is factual and authentic. I propose to refer to the Contents of that document.
Much of the weight of government falls on the Prime Minister’s Department. I take this opportunity to say that the Prime Minister has not only won great personal prestige at home and abroad but, in doing so, he has also placed Australia high among the nations. He has given unqualified support to the British Commonwealth of Nations. Evidence of that support was provided at a conference of great importance that was held in Sydney a few months ago. However, the Government is not insular in its outlook. It has not clung solely to the British Commonwealth of Nations, but has acknowledged the United States of America as being one of the great powers in the free world. Consequently, it has co-operated with the United States of America. To that end, Australia has signed mutual defence pacts with that country. The office of Treasurer is occupied by a man of great integrity, skill and knowledge. The Treasury itself is soundly administrated, with the result that the Government has been able to check inflation and to restore confidence among the people, not only in Australia but also overseas. It has attracted considerable overseas as well as local capital. In several instances, the Government has introduced legislation that has not been readily acceptable to its own supporters. However, a government that shirks its responsibilities for fear that it might offend its supporters is not worthy to hold office. I instance the Government’s action in introducing the wool sales deduc tion.’ It did so in order to correct a temporary financial unbalance. The Government promised the taxpayers concerned that they would receive credit to the full amount of their deductions in respect of their first assessment of income tax. In that way every one in respect of whom a deduction was made received the benefit of the deduction in the first year. It has been whispered in certain quarters that that money has not been returned to the taxpayers concerned. That allegation is completely unfounded.
The Government did not hesitate to establish a public accounts committee for the purpose of investigating its own administration and expenditure. In appointing such a committee, the Government gave evidence of its honesty. Happily, as a result of the investigations that that committee has conducted the Government has been enabled to reduce administrative costs considerably. I have no doubt that the taxpayers will agree wholeheartedly with the Government’s action in that respect. The Government has been able to raise by loan amounts of much greater magnitude than those that were raised by its predecessor. The last two Government loans were readily over-subscribed by investors. That is a healthy state of affairs, and is an excellent indication of the financial condition of the country at the present time. By means of those loans, the Commonwealth has been able to give financial assistance to the States. But we are not satisfied that the States have always made good use of loan money. We consider that, on many occasions, the States have misused their loan allocations. Repayments of money which has been lent to the States for the land settlement of exservicemen are not being made available by the States for new settlement. However, I shall not discuss that matter at length in this debate, because an opportunity will probably be afforded to the House on another occasion more adequately to deal with this subject. I am content to point out now that throughout the difficult financial time which we have experienced, the States have continually pressed the Commonwealth for more and more money, and that we have been prepared to forego our share of loan raisings in order that the States might have all the available money raised by the Australian Loan Council.
The Government has an admirable record of aircraft, ammunition and weapons production. Aircraft are being constructed in Australia to-day which compare more than favorably with similar types constructed elsewhere.
When the Menzies Government assumed office, the Department of Labour and National Service set out with the object of attacking communism. Legislation introduced by this Government enabled rank-and-file members of unions, if they so desired, to remove Communists from office in the industrial organizations. I suggest that it would have been reasonable for State governments to pass complementary legislation. Al] of them declared that they desired to do so, but according to my information, they have not taken such action. Consequently, we stand alone in the effort to assist unionists who despise Communists to rid their organizations of Communist officials. The New South Wales Government is giving every possible assistance to Communists by means of its legislation that compels workers to become members of unions. That Government now compels every worker, even if he is a Communist, to become a member of a. union, and, in that way, is assisting to introduce communism into the unions. Compulsory unionism is not popular with the people, and particularly with many persons who voluntarily joined unions. A man with whom I was speaking a few days ago told me that he had resigned from the union of which he had been a member. When I asked him the reason, he replied, “ I am an exserviceman so the State Government cannot make me belong to a union. Therefore, I have resigned from the union “. That is now a fairly common occurrence in New South Wales. Persons who willingly joined unions in the past are now withdrawing from thom. When I make these statements, I do not wish it to be thought that I am criticizing trade unionism. Far from it ! Many people who willingly joined unions object to being compelled to be members of them. The New South Wales Government proceeded with its legislation without any consideration for the feelings of such people, and, as I have stated, is. compelling even the Communists to become members of unions.
The employment situation to-day is highly satisfactory, as indeed, it has always been while the present Government has been in office. Frequently, Opposition members have tried to whip up a little courage by claiming that” unemployment is widespread and that the Government is taking no action to remedy that situation. The Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holt) has shown from time to time that the employment situation is satisfactory. Members of the Labour party, who formerly denied that it was so, now realize that the employment figures are eminently satisfactory at a time when Australia is expanding rapidly.
The Department of Immigration has been admirably administered. A proper proportion of British to foreign immigrants has been maintained. The only time the proportion was varied was when certain Opposition members deliberately set out to create a feeling that immigrants were not being properly cared for here. A continuous flow of immigrants is of great importance to Australia. Every member of the Australian community who is not an aboriginal, is either an immigrant or the descendant of an immigrant. We should remember that fact in our relations with the new arrivals who come here to give us considerable assistance to develop Australia. I believe that we should endeavour to keep the immigrants in the country districts rather than let them congregate in the cities. Every effort should be made to introduce more skilled workers. As an instance, bridge workers are almost unobtainable to repair and construct wooden bridges in country districts. An influx of immigrants, skilled in that occupation, would he of great advantage to us.
I turn now to the Department of Commerce and Agriculture. The highest credit can be awarded to this Government for having honoured its promise to introduce the Wheat Industry Stabilization (Refund of Charge) Bill’ 1954 to authorize the repayment to wheat-growers of moneys which ha.ve been held in trust for approximately three years. That act of keening faith with the people is characteristic of everything which has been done, not only by the Department of Commerce and Agriculture, but also by other departments. This Government has always been honest with the people. The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. McEwen) has been particularly frank and honest, and his administration has been most successful. He has retained for Australia the wool auction system, and has conducted lengthy negotiations with the States in an effort to obtain a wheat stabilization scheme. He has overcome shortages, and has been responsible for obtaining amendments of the income tax law so that expenditure incurred by producers on the purchase of machinery and materials to increase production, clear and fence the land, and make improvements is an allowable deduction. This department is showing a definite improvement year by year, and the people, particularly those who reside in country districts, are regaining the confidence which they lost under the previous administration.
The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization collaborates closely with the Department of Commerce and Agriculture and has done magnificent work in the spread of myxomatosis and experiments with plague locusts. The organization has been able to achieve its successes, not with the full co-operation of the States, but in spite of them. A proposal was made some years ago by the organization for an examination of plague locusts, and the States refused to co-operate with it.
The Department of External Affairs has been administered with knowledge and tact. Information about international affairs is received constantly.
Expenditure by the Department of Defence has jumped from £55,000,000 in 1948-49 to £200,000,000 in the last financial year. This Government, while it has been in office has provided more than £600,000,000 for defence purposes. It has increased the supplies of equipment, and the numbers of trained men. The Minister for Defence (Sir Philip McBride) has administered the department so efficiently that it is a going concern in the real meaning of the term. I remind the House that all the efforts bv the Government to introduce the national service training scheme and to increase voluntary enlistments were opposed by the Labour party.
The Government has a fine record with its national health scheme, and Opposition members should be reluctant to criticize it. Benefits are provided for pensioners, and hospitals have been released from the threat of bankruptcy. Opposition members who attempt to discredit the Government’s national health scheme evidently do not realize that, by criticizing it, they are doing more harm to the people than to the Government. The more people who take advantage of the health scheme by voluntary insurance, the greater the assistance that can be made available to them.
I pass quickly over the Department of Trade and Customs, which had a tremendous task in implementing the import restrictions that were necessary to preserve our economic stability. Australia passed through most difficult times two years ago.
The Department of Shipping and Transport has been able to maintain continuity of shipping services, to overcome congestion in ports, and improve the turn-round of ships to a degree that has not been known for many years. I mention, in passing, the news item in today’s press about the hold-up of a ship in Sydney. Waterside workers declared Radnor black because they said that arms and bombs were to be carried by it to Indo-China. Of course, those arms and bombs were a gift from the Australian ‘ Government to the French authorities to fight communism. That was the reason why the waterside workers refused to load the ship. However, under the administration of this Government, shipping hold-ups are decreasing and conditions on the wharfs are improving.
The east-west railway is an inspiration, or should be an inspiration, to the New South Wales railway system. On one occasion when wheat-growers were encountering hard times, the New South Wales railways authorities increased freights by 300 per cent. The cost of transporting wheat from places in my electorate is now ls. lOd. a bushel compared with 6£d. a few years ago. How can the primary producer be expected to keep costs down when charges of that kind are levied on the transport of his product ?
The Postmaster-General’s Department claims that its progress while this Government has been in office has not been equalled since federation. The relevant figures bear out that claim. The department was strongly criticized by the Labour party when it made a reduction of staff, yet the fact remains that it was able to maintain its efficiency and perform its functions.
– The honorable member for Batman (Mr. Bird) knows perfectly well that the department is giving infinitely greater service to-day in spite of the reduction of staff. For that increase of efficiency, the department is entitled to great credit. It goes to show that many employees who were displaced were obviously not pulling their weight. Do Opposition members support a condition of affairs of that kind?
The Department of Civil Aviation has taken over about 45 new aerodromes, and I am proud to say that two of them are in my electorate. In addition, the department has licensed 171 private aerodromes, many of which have been constructed by local authorities. Again, I am proud that one of those aerodromes is completed and two additional ones are in the course of construction in my electorate. The department has given to the local authorities concerned tremendous assistance in the preparation of plans and the compilation of estimates for the work.
Earlier, I stated that the legislation for the introduction of the national service training scheme was opposed at every stage in this chamber by the Labour party.
– It is a waste of money.
– I am astonished that the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. Joshua), who has had military experience, should make a statement of that kind. He should know–
– I do know.
– I know, and other honorable members know that a great number of men in the last war went into action untrained and absolutely unqualified. We have said many times that we certainly shall not allow a repetition of that occurrence. The national service trainees are being instructed to fit them to do the job that they may be called upon to do.
I have given an extremely brief resume of some of the achievements of this Government. The main thing that we can feel proud of is that we have always been honest with the people, and have given encouragement when encouragement was for the national benefit. We have not hesitated to do unpopular things when we considered that they were right. I contend that, on the basis of our record, Supply should be granted to the Government, not merely for the period provided in the bill, hut for the next three years. I know that the people of Australia will grant us that Supply on the 29 th May next.
Motion (by Mr. Holt) put -
That the question be now put.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. Archie Cameron.)
Majority . . . .15
Question so resolved inthe affirmative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and reported from committee without amendment or debate; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Debate resumed from the 6th April (vide page 36), on motion by Sir Arthur Fadden -
That the bill be now read a second time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and reported from committee without amendment or debate; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - road a third time.
Debate resumed from the 6th April (videpage 39), on motion by Sir Arthur Fadden -
Thatthe bill benow read a second time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and reported from committee without amendment or debate; report adopted.
Bill - by lea ve - read a third time.
Debate resumed from the 6th April (vide page 39), on motion by Sir Arthur Fad den -
That the bill be now read a second time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and reported from committee without amendment or debate; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Debate resumed from the 6th April (vide page 40), on motion by Sir Arthur Fadden -
That the bill be now read a second time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and reported from committee without amendment or debate; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Debate resumed from the 6th April (vide page 40), on motion by Sir Arthur Fadden -
That the bill be now read a second time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and reported from committee without amendment or debate; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Debate resumed from the 6th April (vide page 41), on motion by Sir Arthur Fadden -
That the bill be now read a second time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and reported from committee without amendment or debate: report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Sitting suspended from 5.45 to8 p.m.
The following bills were received from the Senate: -
Common wealth Employees’ Compensation Bill 1954.
Seamen’s Compensation Bill 1954.
Dairy Produce Export Control Bill 1954.
Egg Export Control Bill 1954.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bills (on motion by Mr. Holt) read a first time.
The following bills were returned from the Senate without requests : -
Customs Tariff Bill 1954.
Customs Tariff Bill (No. 2) 1954.
Customs Tariff (Canadian Preference) Bill 1954.
Customs Tariff (New Zealand Preference) Bill 1954.
Debate resumed from 6th April (vide page 43), on motion by Sir Arthur Fadden -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- This small bill relates only to officers transferred from a State service to the Commonwealth service at the time of federation. The Opposition supports the bill, which refers particularly to Western Australian civil servants who transferred to the Commonwealth service at federation under conditions that were provided at the time. At that stage their remuneration on retirement was calculated at twothirds of their estimated salary at the date of retirement. That was the condition under which they served, and on which they transferred to the federal service. However, the salaries that these officers were actually receiving at the time of their retirement after long and honorable years of service, were, in most cases, far greater than the amounts estimated at the time of the transfer. Because of the agreement that had been reached, however, the amount of superannuation based upon the estimated remuneration at retiring age was far short of the amount regarded as just and in keeping with other superannuation payments being made. As the rate was fixed originally, it has been necessary over the years for increases of it to be made by statute. On every occasion when it has been necessary to make such an increase the Western Australian Parliament has passed the necessary legislation and the Commonwealth Parliament has passed a complementary measure, in order to ensure justice to those retired employees. I have nothing more to say except that the primary credit for the increases that have been made from time to time by the Chifiey Government and by this Government in its turn must go to Mr. Fred Hall, who has been a tireless worker for the cause of those transferred officers. He has from time to time pressed upon the notice of governments the injustice that has been done. Consequently, the present increase and those granted by preceding governments, have been in large measure due to his activities.
– Is he a constituent of the honorable member?
– Yes, and a good one, too. The Opposition endorses the bill and proposes to expedite its passage.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and reported from committee without amendment or debate; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Debate resumed from the 6th April (vide page 50), on motion by Sir Arthur Fadden -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- The Opposition intends to oppose this bill because it believes that the Government has not been completely or sufficiently frank with it, and the Parliament, regarding the measure. We oppose the bill, first, as a protest against the Government’s mishandling of loan finances. Secondly, we oppose it because the information that has been given to us about the loan is insufficient to enable us to judge whether this, the third andquite large dollar loan that the Government has borrowed, should be engaged in. Thirdly, we oppose it because the distribution of the loan proceeds is tentative in character, and gives a bias in favour of industries that do not appear to serve the vital needs of the community. Fourthly, we oppose it because the way in which the credit of Australia has been hawked around the nations, large and small, all over the globe, has done irreparable harm to this country.
The Opposition is not, and never has been, completely and implacably opposed to borrowing overseas if the need is urgent and if the borrowing is on such terms and conditions as would justify the belief that it would expedite Australian development and make it possible for us to repay the loan and the interest that accrues on it. In our view those conditions have not been met in connexion with this loan. During the Chifley Government’s regime supporters of the present Government who were then in Opposition, made insistent demands that loans should be raised in dollar areas. They claimed then, as they claim now, that we cannot expedite Australian development without dollar borrowing. We believe that it is largely because of their present temporary embarrassment, and because they are not able or willing to face up to the problems of their own creation, and to set their house in order, that they wish to borrow dollars.
As I have said, this is the third loan that Australia, under this Government, has borrowed from the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development. The bill provides for a total borrowing of 204,000,000 dollars, comprised of 54,000,000 dollars to be borrowed now, and 150,000,000 dollars borrowed earlier. When the first bill was introduced to ratify the original agreement with the bank, the Opposition stated the conditions on which a loan of this nature could be justified. On that occasion the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) indicated that the Government proposed to borrow 250,000,000 dollars in all from the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development, and stated the purposes of the loan. He said, further, that the bank had indicated that it was prepared to consider this amount of finance over the following five years at the rate, presumably, of 50,000,000 dollars a year. That was the occasion that I mentioned earlier, on which the Opposition stated the conditions on which such a loan might be undertaken with some reasonable justification. In the course of the debate, which I led for the Opposition, I reminded the Treasurer of his -attitude towards the Bretton Woods Agreement. He, as leader of the Australian Country party, was extremely critical of the organization then brought into being. I quoted from the right honorable gentleman’s speech on that occasion and I mentioned that, speaking for the Australian Country party, he said that there would be certain dangers in membership of the bank and in making borrowings from the bank. The Treasurer interjected -
These (‘angers have shown their head.
The dangers to which he referred were those that he had foreshadowed in his luke-warm support of the passage of the bill to ratify the Bretton Woods Agreement which made Australia a member of the International Bank. It was on the 7th December, 1950, when the right honorable gentleman was supporting his own measure to engage in borrowing 50,000,000 dollars from the International Bank, that he said that the dangers he had envisaged two years earlier had already shown their heads. Those dangers were that this international organization would later dictate to member countries which borrowed from its funds.
If, on that first occasion, when he sought to borrow money, the dangers that he had predicted had shown their heads, we suggest that that is all the more reason why a project of this nature should now be examined with great caution. Before engaging in a loan of this kind and magnitude, the Parliament should be satisfied that the goods to be imported under it will be capital goods. Such a loan, carrying considerable rates of interest, cannot be justified unless it is used for the purchase of capital goods that will increase our production, equip our factories and generally make it more possible than it would otherwise be for us to repay the loan and the interest on it. We stated additional safeguards that should be provided before any such loan ought to be made. We said that five testa must be applied before the Government could be justified in proceeding with the loan. The first test was whether it would enable the Government to meet increased as well as ordinary dollar commitments, because the ordinary dollar commitments would go on, and increased dollar commitments would be entered into by means of the loan. Therefore, the first test was then, as it is now, whether the loan would increase our ability to earn dollars. Has that test been applied to the present loan, and is the answer that it will so increase our ability? Will the borrowing of 54,000,000 dollars enable us to sell more wool or any other commodity in the United States of America or other hard currency areas ? If that is not the case, there is justification for querying the advisability of a loan of this magnitude at the present time.
The second test is whether the loan will enable Australia to absorb satisfactorily and permanently an increased number of immigrants. We have been given no information by the Treasurer to indicate that this additional dollar loan, which will make a total borrowing of 204.000,000 dollars in a little over three years, will increase our capacity to take more immigrants from the old world in order to relieve the pressure there and speed the development of our own country. The third test is whether it will enable Australia to make its defences more secure against the possibility of future aggression. That test must be applied before we should vote in the affirmative on this measure. The fourth test is whether it will enable the tempo of our development to be increased, and enable us to proceed with our great public works schemes which are designed to produce more power, conserve more water, irrigate more land and speed thedevelopment and productivity of Australia. The fifth test is, whether the loan will enable us to increase our rural production so that we can feed starving people throughout the world ? Of course, there is no doubt that in many areas of the world people are still undernourished. We must produce more food for those people, and if we can do so with the help of the loan it will be justinfied We supported the first dollar loan, but indicated quite clearly that we supported it subject to its satisfying the tests that we applied, and subject also to the Government giving us on future occasions all the information that it had at its disposal to indicate whether these tests had been made, and the magnitude of our future dollar earnings.
On this occasion we have been told baldly that the loan of 54,000,000 dollars has been raised to do certain general things. One significant fact arises from the Government’s action or this loan, and I shall discuss it later in the course of my remarks. The loan will not make up the total of 250,000,000 dollars that the Treasurer at first envisaged, and which he said the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development suggested it would be willing to advance over a period of five years. I believe that the Government’s action in hawking Australia’s credit throughout the world has done great harm. The situation that the Government inherited when the nations of the world were willing to lend to this country, has been destroyed by the mismanagement of our internal affairs and by the way in which we have sought feverishly to borrow money all round the globe.
Fiscal policy depends upon the Government’s policy in all its departments. Borrowing abroad cannot be separated from borrowing at home. At present we are borrowing at 4£ per cent, interest within Australia, and that is the highest rate of interest that has obtained in this country for many years. If we cannot get money from our own people for the development of our own land at less than exorbitant rates of interest, we cannot expect to get cheap money from the rest of the world. The Government has deliberately established that rate of interest, and has maintained it in the face of considerable pressure for the establishment of low interest rates and in the face of clear warnings by the Labour party. It is necessary for me to traverse the circumstances in which the rate of interest was raised in this country, and the consequences of that action to the Government.
The House is well aware that for many years under Labour governments a low rate of interest had been maintained. Iti spite of ‘the low rate of interest, Commonwealth loans were all heavily over subscribed. In fact, at 3£ per cent, they were over subscribed almost before they were opened. I suggest that that indicated abundant confidence in the then Labour Government, The present Government assumed office, ;and quite soon after it obtained power it indicated that it would increase the rate of interest. That weakened the price of bonds on the stock exchanges. Despite the fact that his loans were being over subscribed, the Treasurer issued the next loan at discount. That did not achieve his purpose, and he raised the rate of interest in spite of the market. Day after day in this Parliament the Labour party warned him of the effect of such an action. We told him that such an action must cause an immediate fall in the value of bonds, and that ig what happened. Then industry was burdened with increased costs, and bondholders, large and small, public and private, individual and trustee, lost up to £14 per cent, of the value of their holdings simply because of a single unwarranted and unnecessary action by the present Government. Nevertheless, the Treasurer’s policy brought considerable benefits to banks, and those who could purchase bonds. They made an immediate capital increment out of the losses of those who were forced to sell their bonds.
-Order! The honorable member is getting rather wide of the subject of this bill.
– I believe that you must admit, Mr. Speaker, that the loanmarket at home is inextricably bound up with the loan market overseas. However, I shall now consider the ruling rate of interest. The Government recently issued a further loan at the same high rate of interest. It has pointed out with glee that the loan has been heavily over subscribed, but the rate of interest was completely unjustified and should have been reduced long ago. I shall now read from the Australasian Insurance and Banking Record of the 22nd March-
Mr,. -SPEAKER.- Order ! The honorable member is now debating matters outside the scope of the measure.
– I am speaking in connexion with a loan raised from the International Bank for- Reconstruction and Development, and I suggest that that is bound up with local borrowing.
-The honorable member had an opportunity to discuss internal borrowing when the Supply Bill was being debated.
– I suggest, Mr. Speaker, with great respect, that I am submitting that the rate of 4 per cent, interest on overseas loans is too high, and I am considering whether we should participate in a loan by the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development at that rate of interest. How am I to indicate whether the overseas loan rate is too high or too low unless I can compare it with the rates prevailing at home? The article in the Australasian Insurance and Banking Record of the 22nd March reads -
Interest Bates. - To the surprise of sonic investors the Loan Council has retained the rate of £4 10s. per cent, for the long-term portion of its latest loan of £35,000.000. The loan carrying the same rate issued in September last was over-subscribed by £16,000,000. More surprising still to some may he the raising of the effective rate on the short-term securities from £3 to £3 10s. 8d. per cent.
Therefore, honorable members will perceive that it has been stated by a most authoritative source that the rate of interest, which has caused tremendous losses, is unnecessarily high. It does not seek to raise money abroad except for the importation of capital goods, and to increase our overseas indebtedness to make up for its inability to raise money on the Australian market. Therefore, the Government has gone to the international field and has run frantically from the great United States of America to the small country of Switzerland. Its domestic policy has caused a high rate of interest which has been reflected in the rate of interest of the loan now before honorable members. This loan is for 54,000,000 dollars. It is’ to be borrowed from the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development in order to improve our capital resources and to modernize our factories, and to do things that we cannot do with our own capital resources. In urging a cautious view of this loan Labour is not alone. To prove my point I shall quote from the Australian Financial Review of the 6th April. Dr. J. 0. N. Perkins, of the Australian National University, wrote in that journal as follows: -
Great care must be taken when dollar loans are raised - for example the considerable sums borrowed in recent years from the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development - that they are used to finance the im,port (from the cheapest source) of goods that will do most to increase Australia’s dollar exports, or Australian production of goods that will enable Australia or the other sterling countries to save dollars, and to an extent that will more than offset the payment of dollars in the form of interest and amortization on the loans.
Only so will it be possible to avoid making additional demands for dollars from the sterling area’s reserves, demands that might well have to be made at a period when the reserves were under considerable strain from an American recession or an attempt to restore convertibility.
Then he adds the safeguards that I have detailed. The Government has given us no indication that any such safeguards have been provided, nor does it appear to have made a proper survey of world economies to ensure that the goods that we are to get from the United States with this money cannot be obtained in the sterling area. The Treasurer set out a list of headings of goods towards the purchase of which the 54,000,000 dollars is to be devoted. Thirteen million dollars will be used in agriculture and forestry; 500,000 dollars for electric power, 10,500,000 dollars for road transport, 1,000,000 dollars for rail transport, 21,000,000 dollars for air transport, and 7,800,000 dollars for industrial development. Recently, we had a loan from the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development, and following that loan experts from the bank visited Australia to survey our resources and potentialities. The report of the bank for 1952-53 headed “ Australasia “ reads, inter alia -
Early in 1.953 two of the bank’s agricultural specialists went to Australia to study farm production and the effects of bank-financed equipment on agricultural development. This mission also studied Australia’s farm production targets and the prospects for marketing farm products. It found that most of the deficiencies in materials and equipment, which had hampered the expansion of agriculture since the end of the war, had been successfully overcome.
The Treasurer now says that agriculture and forestry are to receive 13,000,000 dollars, but in the face of the report of the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development we demand further explanations from the right honorable gentleman about the amount that he has allocated to agriculture and forestry. The allocation under the . heading “Electric Power” is 5,000,000 dollars. That is a bald statement of the amount of money that can be used but, to use the words of the Treasurer, it is a tentative allocation. Those figures are far too tentative for a responsible government to submit to a parliament and for a parliament with a sense of responsibility to the people to accept lightly.
The allocation for road transport is 10,500,000 dollars. I invite honorable members to compare that allocation with the allocation of 1,000,000 dollars for rail transport. Australia has a tremendous length of railway line. If there is one thing in Australia which is in need of rehabilitation it is the railway system, but the Government, in its tentative allocation, says, “We will provide’ 1,000,000 dollars for Australia’s railway system “. The road transport system of the country, which in many cases is in competition with the railway system, also serves a vital need. The road transport system is to be allocated 10,500,000 dollars, which is ten times as much as for railways. The measure indicates that if a survey of Australian needs has been made, it has been too cursory and that no steps have been taken to ascertain the articles that are wanted, whether they can be used and, we must assume, from where they can be obtained. That is why the Opposition strongly opposes this measure.
I now refer to what I think is. the major fault of this Government in its handling of domestic and overseas loans. Because of the lack of intelligence in Government policy at home, Australia has publicized to the world its continual failures in the raising of loans. That has occurred at a time when Australia’s resources in savings banks and in trading banks are greater than ever before. In a recent debate the Postmaster-General (Mr. Anthony) boasted that it was to the credit of the Government that approximately £967,000,000 is deposited in the savings banks. Whether that is to the credit of the Government is an arguable point, but that certainly is a large sum of money which is earning a relatively small rate of interest. But the Government cannot fill its loans. That is known npt only in Australia but also to overseas investors. Because of the action of the Government in hawking Australia’s credit overseas, that credit has been harmed. We were told that we could borrow 250,000,000 dollars. The total amount now available is 204,000,000 dollars less than that original figure. An even more telling example is the fact that a loan which the Government attempted to raise in Britain at attractive rates of interest was a complete and utter failure. That is the result of this Government’s mismanagement and of its hawking of Australia’s credit throughout the lending and non-lending countries of the world.
Honorable members on this side of the House restate the principles that they have always adopted in relation to such a matter as this one. The first principle is that before a country seeks to raise a loan it should ensure that it is for capital goods alone. Then it should ensure that those goods cannot be procured within its own borders. Next it should find out whether the goods it needed can be procured from Great Britain or from any other countries that are using sterling currency and with whom we have a surplus in the current trading account. When all those principles are satisfied, the Government should ascertain whether the raising of the loan will improve the country’s productive capacity in order to sell to the dollar world. The earnings must be raised from existing industries or from new industries that will earn sufficient’ dollars to pay, in addition to current commitments, the new commitments into which the Government has entered. Honorable members have been given no information which would lead them to believe that this loan would increase our productive capacity. Where has the Government, in the information which it has given to the. House, referred to any category of equipment which will provide a guaranteed improvement of our productive capacity?
The Government has allocated 21,200,000 dollars for air transport. That allocation is for the purchase of Super Constellation aircraft for Qantas Empire Airways Limited for its overseas service. The Opposition assumes that they are modern aircraft which are needed for the international service, and so we pass quickly over that allocation. But quite a considerable amount has been made available to Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited. Did Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited need those dollars? Secondly, did the company purchase the best available equipment? Thirdly, did it purchase too many aircraft and use too many dollars? An article in yesterday’s press pointed out that Great Britain led the world in commercial aircraft. It stated that Vickers Viscount turbo-jet aircraft were making a tremendous impact on European airlines, that they were earning greatly increased profits and that they were beating every other aircraft out of the sky. The article further stated that many countries were ordering the maximum British output of that type of aircraft. In a very balanced survey, the article also pointed out that the new Britannia aeroplane, which it is expected will soon come off the production line, will make another great advance and will put Great Britain in the forefront of civil aviation for many years. Australia’s own publicly owned air transport system ordered and will obtain the Vickers Viscount turbo-jet aircraft. Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited originally ordered a number of those aircraft, but apparently because of promises that it received from the Government, purchased a number of DC6 aircraft, which are stated to be far from new and to have been operated for many thousands of miles. Honorable members on this side of the House believe that a proper survey of the British aircraft industry was not made when dollars were made available for the purchase of old aircraft by Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited. It cannot be said that the need is very urgent. It cannot be said that a complete investigation has been made, because the Treasurer has not stated that aircraft are not available from Great Britain. .Speaking from memory, I think that Trans-Australia
Airlines would have needed the permission of the Minister for Civil Aviation before it could purchase turbo-jet aircraft of the value of those which it purchased from Great Britain. It seems quite certain that the purchase was sanctioned by the Minister because of the amount of money involved. Is it not clear, therefore, that Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited should have saved this country a considerable amount of dollars by purchasing aircraft that are said to be in the forefront of world aviation?
I understand that Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited has purchased four DC6 aircraft in the United States of America. The Opposition believes that such a purchase was not necessary, particularly when dollars are so scarce. Moreover, those aircraft have had years of operation. As the aircraft industry develops or leaps ahead, it seems reasonably clear that those aircraft will be out of date within a few years. If that is so, the aircraft will have been used, the dollars will have been used and the loan will remain in existence without having made any contribution to Australia’s national development and without having lifted the country’s wealth one iota. The life of the aircraft certainly falls far short of the fifteen years that is provided for in the service and repayment of the loan.
I believe that there is a lack of balance between the amount of 10,500,000 dollars that has been allocated for road transport and the 1,000,000 dollars that have been allocated for rail transport. As I said earlier, and as the Treasurer has always claimed, these loans should be used only for the purchase of capital equipment that should outlive the period of the loan and which should remain in service after the loan has been repaid. Under the heading of road transport, Australia will purchase utility trucks of 15 cwt. and above. The estimated maximum life is probably five years. They are the capital goods that Australia is importing under a loan. It seems, on all the evidence, that this arrangement has been entered into in order to relieve the Government of its temporary embarrass ment. It has been entered into without proper regard to the availability of supplies or to the needs of Australian industry and the rapid development of Australia.
Finally, the Treasurer said, in relation to the Loan (Swiss Francs) Bill 1954, that this loan does not amount to anything because our overseas indebtedness is approximately only 2 per cent, of our national debt. That is not mere deception; it is complete and utter selfdeception. No comparison of our overseas indebtedness with our overseas exports or our national wealth can explain the situation. We should compare the service of the debt in dollars with our dollar earnings at the present time, and not only with dollar earnings at the present time but also with possibly increased dollar earnings that will result from the loan that is being raised. Stated in that way, which is the only way in which it can be reasonably and honestly stated, this measure imposes an added burden and makes no single contribution towards providing more dollars for the service of the debt or repayment of the principal when that is due. To use the words of Dr. Perkins, a loan must provide a sufficient return in dollars to repay the debt on maturity and to service the debt during its lifetime, otherwise an added strain is imposed upon the sterling area at a time when it is seeking to obtain convertibility. The Opposition opposes the measure for the reasons that I have outlined.
.- The honorable member for Perth (Mr. Tom Burke), on behalf of the Opposition, has opposed this bill, the object of which is to ratify the borrowing of the sum of 54,000,000 dollars from the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development. In doing so, - the honorable gentleman and his party assume a heavy responsibility.The honorable member dealt with this proposal from a series of small points of view. I should like to attack the problem involved from a larger point of view. First, why is it necessary for Australia to borrow money overseas?
– I had hoped that honorable members opposite would have thought out this master before they expressed their views upon it. This proposal involves a fundamental problem which all those who take part in the national life should have worked out for themselves before now. Why do we need, from time to time, to borrow money outside our shores in America, Switzerland and England? The reason is simple and it is well understood by a large number of Australians. With a population of 9,000,000 people we are endeavouring to occupy this great continent. We are in the developmental stage and we are attempting to increase the strength of Australia, in the broader sense, as rapidly as possible. Geographically, Australia is a remote and vulnerable country, and if we do not strengthen ourselves rapidly our survival as a free and independent country will be at stake. How does that link up with this proposal to borrow money overseas ? Unless we increase our population rapidly, unless, speaking broadly, we double our population in the next several generations, we shall not be able to say that we are in any way secure.
– What has that got to do with borrowing money overseas?
– I trust that the honorable member will not reveal his ignorance and the fact that he has not hitherto thought about this problem. We are endeavouring to increase our population at a rate probably more rapid than that which any other country has ever attempted to achieve, that is, at a rate of, approximately, 3 per cent, annually. In addition to our natural increase of population, the surplus of births ‘ over deaths, we are importing people under our immigration scheme at a rate of from 80,000 to 150,000 annually. Thus pur population as a whole will increase by approximately 250,000 a year. We cannot support any increase of population from whatever source it may come unless we make substantial capital provision to meet their requirements as members of the community. This provision falls under two headings. Every additional person, native or immigrant, must be provided with a modicum of services in respect of water, electricity, gas, schooling, transport, &c. The services that are provided in a modern civilized community must be provided in respect of every new unit of population. That involves expenditure on the governmental side. In addition, we must develop our resources, such as minerals, and increase food production. All this entails capital investment which, very largely, falls on the private enterprise side. Various estimates have been made of the amount of new capital investment that will be entailed, either on the private or governmental side, in making provision of the kind that I have mentioned to cater for each additional unit of population. Those estimates vary from £1,000 to £3,000 for each additional individual. When that sum is multiplied by 250,000, representing the total annual increase of our population, the expenditure involved assumes very large proportions.
Whence is the money derived, in both the private and public spheres, to finance the services required to be provided for that additional population? First, it is drawn from the savings of the people, that is the balance between the earnings of the Australian people and ..companies and business organizations in this country and their daily expenditure. That sum is a considerable amount. Figures in respect of the national savings are available, and I shall not deal with them in detail at this juncture. However, the amount available from that source would be totally inadequate to develop Australia and to finance the rapid increase of population that is now taking place. We could get along well enough if we endeavoured to finance this development from our national savings but, in that event, we could progress at only a microscopically slow rate and we would not be able to import immigrants at the rate at which we are importing them to-day. In addition, we would not ‘be able to maintain our current standard of living. If we were content to finance this development solely from national savings we would get along at a slow rate, but in the view of thinking Australians and of the Government, that rate is not sufficient. We have the ambition to increase Australia’s strength at a vastly more rapid rate than we could possibly achieve solely on the basis of our national savings. Having regard to the present disturbed international situation that is not good enough.
Our population must be increased from !i,000,000. people as rapidly as possible to 18,000,000 at least in a generation. We can achieve that objective only in one way and that is by supplementing national savings by borrowing overseas. There is nothing more certain than that if the money is expended in a sensible way on capital equipment and not on current consumer goods we could absorb ten times the amount of borrowings that we are raising overseas at present. This proposal to borrow the sum of 54,000,000 dollars is the first of a series of three loans which it is proposed to obtain from the International Bank. The amount is acceptable for the time being, but I repeat, we could absorb ten times this sum with notable advantage to Australia in order to increase the rate of our development and to increase om- capacity to attain our goal of being a safe Australia, because Australia can be safe only if it is strong and we can be strong only if we develop this country to a much greater degree and maintain a vastly increased population enjoying a standard of living equal to that which we enjoy to-day. A great number of thinking Australians realize that fact. There is nothing speculative about my statement. The objectives I have mentioned are of primary concern to public administration in Australia. Any one who has the welfare of his country at heart knows these things. I am sure they are well known to most honorable members and I refer to them largely because the honorable member for Perth has ventured to take a lower line in discussing the proposed borrowing. He has put the matter on the level of pettifogging small issues and has avoided the larger issues that are related to the purpose of the loan. It is to be used to strengthen Australia and enable ns to advance some distance towards the day when we can say that Australia is more or less secure for the future: That day is not here yet by a long shot.
This is the third loan of this nature that has been raised. The first was a loan of 100,000,000 dollars four years ago. That was followed by a loan of 50,000,000 dollars two years ago and the loan from, the International Bank for Reconstruct tion and Development in Washington to! which I am now referring will amount to 54,000,000 dollars. The bank is truly an international bank. Between 40 and 50 nations, including Australia, are shareholders and help to provide the capital for: it. This bank is not a charitable institution that issues loans merely by way of benefit to some particular country of which it is fond. All three loans’ that have been obtained by Australia were’ hard business propositions. The coun-tries to which the bank lends money must have a high standard of credit worthiness and ability to service a loan and, in due course, to repay the capital. As an Australian, I join with many other Australians who think about these matters, in expressing pride that this international bank has confidence in Australia as it has shown by the appreciable amounts of money that it has lent to us.
I know something of the bank and the loans that it has made to many other countries. I know that the bank administration studies very closely the credit worthiness of any country to which it lends money. There are not many countries to which the bank has made three loans totalling 204,000,000 dollars over a relatively short period as it has done to Australia. I take great pride in that fact.
I might be permitted at this stage to mention incidentally another loan that will be the subject of legislation to oe introduced into this chamber later. That is a loan of 60,000,000 Swiss francs, equivalent to about £6,000,000, that has recently been obtained by the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden). I take great pride in that loan also because the. currency of Switzerland is probably the hardest in the world. It may even be a little harder than the American dollar. Australia has, never approached the Swiss money market before. It has confined itself to the traditional loan markets of London and New York. Now for the first time we have turned our attention from the traditional markets to borrow £6,000,000 in Switzerland.. That loan was taken up instantly on the Swiss market although Australia was not known there through; any traditional connexion. Naturally, the
Swiss investigated our repute and credit worthiness, and the response in Switzerland to the loan must be a. source of gratification to every thinking Australian.
The loans of 54,000,000 dollars from the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development and 60,000,000 Swiss francs will be added to the general pool of developmental funds in Australia. That money will be used to help Australia to go ahead more quickly than it would have done otherwise. The matters of which I have been trying to remind the House are on a high level. They show the justification for Australia’s overseas borrowing. With respect to the honorable member for Perth, when I compare them with the tiddly-winking arguments that he has produced in opposition to this loan, I wonder what the great Australian Labour party is coming to.
– Drop down from the clouds.
– The purpose of the Opposition presumably is to oppose, but if I were in the Opposition and had a sense of responsibility I would approach this matter differently. I hope that in the years ahead the honorable member for Perth and his party will put behind them the tiddly-winking arguments that he has produced to-night.
– What capital goods are involved ?
– The capital goods, as the Treasurer has stated, will be concerned with the great fundamental activities of Australia - agriculture, mining, transport and the like. This loan expenditure will be confined to the acquisition of developmental equipment that is not available in Australia.
– Or in the sterling area ?
– Yes, very largely because the dollar barrier remains. .We will get anything we can in the softer currency countries because the dollar barrier is as difficult to pierce as the sound barrier. This loan will be used with the greatest circumspection for the purchase of developmental equipment that is not available to Australia elsewhere and not upon consumer goods. If honorable members study the directions in which the previous loan of 150,000,000 dollars was spent, they will discover that fundamental activities; in Australia have benefited enormously from that expenditure. I have been told,, and I believe it is true, that some of the State platforms of the. Australian Labour party provide that there shall be no overseas borrowing for purposes other than the repayment of loans. I believe that I am doing the Labour party no injury in referring to that provision. I cannot conceive anything more shortsighted for a country that is still in the developmental stage.
We are and must be a capital-hungry country. That has been the condition of Australia throughout my adult lifetime, and I believe that it will continue through the adult lifetime of our sons. The countries of the world divide themselves into two categories. First,, there are the older, more developed countries, whose economy is more or less static. They have, not the necessity to develop their natural resources and population. Honorable members will recognize the countries that fall within that category. On the other’ hand, there are the younger countries, such as Australia and New Zealand and some that are young, not in terms of age, but in terms of economic development, such as India, Pakistan, Ceylon, Burma, Malaya, and a. score of others in South America and Central America. The world has probably 40 countries that are still in the developmental stage. There are very few countries where money can be borrowed, even by those of first-class repute such as Australia. Those countries are the United States of America and Great Britain, and Switzerland to a lesser degree, and perhaps our brother Dominion of Canada is beginning to come into the category of potential lenders. But when I have mentioned those four countries, I think that I have named all the lenders. I venture to think that our repute and credit is good with them. I believe that Australia can borrow, for proper purposes, in any one of those countries to its future advantage.
We should not take a local, parish pump view of this matter, or merely ask ourselves whether or not the Australian Parliament should endorse the borrowing of 54,000,000 dollars in 1954. We should realize that Australia is at the beginning of a new era of development. Our forefathers - a mere handful of persons - did a miraculous job in a relatively short period of a few generations. Now, there is a new era and condition of life generally, and we have to carry on the work. A part of that job is to increase the population at a great rate. From 1939- almost yesterday - to to-day, the population of this country has increased by 25 per cent. Never before have we experienced such a rate of growth in such a short period; and the rate of growth to-day is even more rapid than it was in the period I have just mentioned. Pray Heaven that an even faster rate of growth will be experienced in the years to come, if our children are to continue to enjoy the heritage which Ave of this generation have inherited !
– The House is considering the Loan (Swiss Francs) Bill 1954 and the Loan (International Bank for Reconstruction and Development) Bill 1954. The purpose of the first bill is to authorize the raising of a loan of approximately £6,000,000 from Switzerland, and the purpose of the second bill is to authorize the raising of a loan from the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development of 54,000,000 dollars which, translated into Australian currency, is approximately £25,000,000. The Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Casey), in his second-reading speech, stated that he did not wish to cite a number of figures about investment in Australia, but J. consider that we should have the facts about that matter if we are to see the position in the proper perspective. It is reckoned that the national income of Australia is between £3,000,000,000 and £3,600,000,000, and that from 20 per cent, to 25 per cent, pf the national income is invested every year in this country. That is to say, a sum of between £800,000,000 and £900,000,000 is the total amount of investment, private and government, in the Australian economy in order to make it function in the way in which the Minister has described. The loan of £25,000,000 from the International Bank, and the loan of £6,000,000 from Switzerland, in relation to the total annual investment of between £800,000,000 and £900,000,000, are comparatively insignificant. In other words, the prosperity of Australia is due largely to Australian investment within this country, from within its own resources. Any borrowings from America or Switzerland at least are only marginal in their impact.
After having listened to the Minister for External Affairs, one would be inclined to think that if it were not for the beneficence of America and the benevolence of Switzerland on this one occasion, the Australian economy would languish. Again, such an interpretation of the position would be far from the facts. The Minister was careful to say that he did not wish to cite a number of precise figures, but I consider that we must see this matter in the right perspective. Australia will develop, as it has developed since federation, by properly utilizing its own resources, whether that be by improving the immediate living standards of its people, or by “ ploughing back “ its income, by governmental or private action in the form of investment. Our development depends largely upon our own ability to utilize the resources that have been bestowed on thisCommonwealth.
One is also inclined to think, after having listened to the Minister’s speech, that Australia is an undeveloped country. The right honorable gentleman almost implied that Australia was a capitalhungry country. He prides himself on being one of the architects of the Colombo plan. Under that plan, Australia and other countries, in conjunction, devote some of their capital resources to the improvement of the condition of the countries of South-East Asia.
The two bills provide some contrast in respect of the kind of capital development that is occurring in the world to-day. The Swiss loan is a classical example of the kind of investment that took place in Australia 40 or 50 years ago. The people of London in those days would invest in that country a certain sum, which would be placed at the disposal of the various Australian States. The Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden.) has grandiloquently said that the loan has not been obtained for specific purposes, but will be used for developmental works in. the States. The dollar loan is to be obtained from one of the financial organizations which were established after World War II. when it was considered that, in order to correct many of the mistakes which, it was felt, caused the war, a freer movement of commerce should be encouraged between countries. The International Monetary Fund and the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development were established for that purpose, and ‘Australia became a participant in them. The events which have transpired since the inception of those institutions indicate that capital development, if it is required, is needed most in certain so-called undeveloped countries. I refer particularly to the countries of Asia and South-East Asia, the people of which can improve their standards of living only if technical and economic assistance is given to them by the more fortunate countries.
We feel, apart from Australia’s abhorrence of foreign borrowing in any case, that if the American Government has capital resources and equipment at its disposal which it cannot sell in the United States of America, there are countries that have greater need of such assistance than has Australia. The Colombo plan, of which the Minister for External Affairs claims to be a proponent, at least envisages that that is the pattern of development which is required in the world to-day.
I refer also to a report published recently by the United Nations Department of Economic Affairs on a special United Nations fund for economic development. This scheme does not envisage that countries like Australia, which, relatively to the rest of the world, are in an advanced stage of economic development, require economic development. We are developing our country, but are doing so largely out of our own resources, and in terms of our own capacity. The assistance is required by countries where agriculture is primitive, and where there is a kind of concealed unemployment within their borders, because their people have nowhere to get a living other than from the scanty soil by the primitive methods that have been in use for generations. Those countries have a potentially large industrial population, but they have no industries. Through aid from countries such as the United States of America and Australia, the standard of living of their people could be improved. The Colombo plan has set the pattern but it is only a small beginning. It is merely an example of the kind of endeavour that has to be made to-day if mankind is to improve its living standards generally. Occasionally we are prone to refer to the people of Eastern countries as “ yellow hordes “ and to represent them as having hungry eyes on other countries. But primarily their difficulty is that they are not able properly to organize their own economy because they have not the technical knowledge or the capital equipment required to do so. If the United States of America or Switzerland has resources to spare, they would be better disposed, although probably at lower rates of interest, to undeveloped countries than to Australia as is now being done. I have made these statements merely by way of preamble.
The loan from the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development is the third that Australia has received from that agency. There is, of course, a second agency, the International Monetary Fund. Since those two instrumentalities were established, Australia has borrowed 50,000,000 dollars from the International Monetary Fund, and prior to this latest loan, 150,000,000 dollars from the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development. This latest loan of 54,000,000 dollars - why 54,000,000 I do not know because all the previous loans have been in round figures - will bring the total of our borrowings to 254,000,000 dollars. The difference between those two agencies is that whereas the International Monetary Fund is what is known as a short-term financing institution, the function of which is to cover temporary balance of payment difficulties, the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development is a long-term institution from which money is borrowed for undertakings which may take some years to reach fruition.
In reply to a question that I asked in this chamber recently, the Treasurer informed me that of the 50,000,000 dollars borrowed by Australia from the International Monetary Fund, 18,000,000 dollars had been repaid - 12,000,000 dollars on the 31st December, 1953, and 6,000,000 dollars as recently as the 25th March of this year. It is interesting at this stage to take up a point that the Treasurer touched on in his second-reading speech on the International Loan (Swiss Francs) Bill. In his remarks on that measure the right honorable gentleman was a little more frank about the process of international borrowing than he was when dealing with the Loan (International Bank for Reconstruction and Development) Bill. Referring to the Swiss loan he said that we had borrowed 60,000,000 francs, which was the equivalent of £A.6,000,000, but, in fact, we have received not £A. 6,000,000 but only £A.5,800,000, because of certain expenses that have had to be met in connexion with the floating of the loan. The Treasurer would have us believe that the effective interest rate is only 4 per cent., but it must be at least 4-,’i per cent, because we are paying interest not on £5,SOO,000 but’ on £6,000,000. The bill also makes guarded reference to certain other charges, and it is very difficult from a casual reading to ascertain their total. However, although it is difficult to assess accurately the interest that we shall pay on the Swiss loan, the mere fact that it was speedily filled indicates that from the point of view of the Swiss it is a good investment. The fact that loans can be filled in Switzerland at 4 per cent., but not in this country at 4J- per cent., may be an indication of the relative stability of the two countries. Undoubtedly the effective interest rate that we shall pay on the Swiss loan 13 much more than 4 per cent.
The Treasurer went on to add that the deficiency, of £200,000 could be increased if there happened to be movements in exchange rates between now and the date of repayment. It appears that we have borrowed at the rate of ten franc3 to the £1 Australian, but looking at the latest quotation of Swiss francs to the £A.l, I find that it is 9.808, which means that whereas the francs were borrowed at say, 2s. each, if Ave had to pay them back to-day they would cost us a little more each. That indicates that the effective interest rate to which Australia is committed, has not been precisely stated. I call the attention of the House also to a very pregnant example found in the budget papers for 1953-54 at page 132. If honorable members will look at the tables published on that page they will see details of Commonwealth loans floated in New York some years ago when the exchange rate was 4.8665 dollars to the £A.l. Those loans were floated in New York in terms of dollars, and the total amount of the loans was approximately 70,000,000 dollars. “When one looks at the budget papers where the figures are expressed in terms of Australian currency converted at 4.8665 dollars to the £A.l one finds that Australia’s liability which has to be discharged before the end of June 1955 is £14,308,000. But that conceals the fact that the rate of exchange between the £A.l and the dollar to-day is not 4.8665 dollars to the £A.l but 2.24 dollars to the £A.l. So, instead of having to pay back £14,308,000 which Ave borrowed in the 1930’s, the sum, expressed in Australian currency, .to-day would be nearer £30,000,000. Recently, portion of this 70,000,000 dollar loan has been repatriated. The loan was floated at the high rate of 5 per cent., and the present Government has taken a reasonably shrewd step. It realized that it could borrow from the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development at 4J per cent. Therefore, why should it have to pay 5 per cent, for the amount that will be due at the end of June, 1955? In the course of the last eight months, the Australian Government has repatriated 30,000,000 dollars of the 70,000,000 dollars outstanding, Exactly where is this process leading us?
For the year 1952-53, Australia’s exports direct to the United States of America represented £57,800,000, and imports from that country represented £85,000,000. Thus, the adverse balance for the year was about £28,000,000. In fact, Australia’s exports to the United States of America do not strictly follow the pattern indicated by the Treasurer, who said that the interest bill on our external debts was only a small proportion of the value of our annual export trade. The right honorable gentleman conveniently overlooked two facts. One of these facts is that, under a Labour administration, our overseas indebtedness to the United Kingdom decreased by hundreds of millions of pounds. That is why to-day
Australia’s aggregate overseas commitments in terms of debt service constitute only a small proportion of the value of its export trade. The second fact overlooked by the Treasurer is that, under the administration of the present Government, our indebtedness in the United States of America has considerably increased. I repeat that, of the aggregate of 254,000,000 dollars that I mentioned earlier, the former Labour Government borrowed only 20,000,000 dollars, 18,000,000 dollars of which has since been repaid. At any rate, Australia now has a> new debt of about 234,000,000 dollars incurred by this’ Government, and there has been no significant change in our trade with the dollar area. As a result of extravagant borrowing by this Government at an interest rate of almost 5 per cent, our annual interest bill and amortization payments, which will commence in the next four or five years, -will amount to considerably more than 2 per cent, of the value of our trade with the United States of America. That is the light in which the House should view this matter. There has been a rapid increase of dollar borrowing. Loans raised in the last three years alone total over 230,000,000 dollars. Interest charges on this sum at the rate of 4$ per cent, will have to be paid for with goods exported to the United States of America, for which we shall obtain no return. We shall have to export annually uranium or other commodities worth more than 9,000,000 dollars in order to pay the interest charges, and, in addition, the total debt must be repaid within the next fifteen years according to the terms of the various loans involved.
The argument that overseas borrowing is justified because Australia cannot produce everything that it needs within its own shores is specious. We have surpluses of certain goods, of which wool and wheat are the most prominent examples, and the proceeds? of the sale of those goods can enable us to buy other goods and services that we require, including capital equipment, in the dollar area, the sterling area and other areas. It is possible for a country as large as Australia to finance the purchase of capital equipment by the sale of exportable goods. The Opposition views with grave suspicion the state- ment by the Treasurer that certain equipment can be obtained only from the United States of America. The right honorable gentleman said that goods specified in the schedule could be obtained immediately from America. That is not true. Earlier this week the right honorable gentleman tabled in this House the annual report for 1952-53 of the International Monetary and Banking Agreement. That report points out that, although a 50,000,000-dollar loan was negotiated by Australia on the 8th July, 1952, for the purpose of buying urgently needed capital equipment, only 11,227,000 dollars worth of equipment had been purchased with the money and delivered in Australia by the 30th June, 1953. That fact throws some light upon the alleged capacity of the United States of America to supply immediately the goods and services which, according to the Treasurer, can be obtained only from that country. When that 50,000,000- dollar loan was being debated in this House, members of the Opposition said that many of the items that the Government proposed to purchase with the borrowed money, notably tractors and earth-moving equipment, could be produced in Australia and that others could be obtained from the United Kingdom., which would not involve any loan problem because Australia’s sterling balances then, as now, amounted to about £500,000,000.
I cannot see any reason why Australia needs to attract capital investment from the United Kingdom when its total overseas sterling balances are about £500,000,000. The Chancellor of the Exchequer, Mr. Butler, made grandiloquent promises when he attended the recent Commonwealth economic conference at Sydney and said that the United Kingdom would extend its Commonwealth capital development programme. However, for the year ended the 30th June, 1953, the total capital development expenditure by the United Kingdom in the British Commonwealth as a whole, not in Australia in particular, was £120,000,000. If we relate that figure to the amount of £800,000,000 cited earlier in the debate as representing the total internal investment envisaged for Australia, we see that we should not rely, for Australia’s future development, upon the United Kingdom, the United State? of America, or even the Republic of Switzerland. “We must rely largely upon our own efforts and initiative. Perhaps, by the legitimate processes of trade, we can exchange with those countries goods and services that we produce in abundance for goods and services, in eluding capital equipment, that we need for the development of Australia. The suggestion by the Minister for External Affairs that Australia is capital-hungry in the sense that it can be developed only with financial assistance from other countries was extremely misleading. “We may welcome investments from other countries in some circumstances, but, at best, such investments can be only marginal investments, and we must realize that marginal investments, whether they be public investments by governments oi private investments by individuals, may cad us into a position in which large corporations in the United States of America or elsewhere will be able to pick the eyes out of investment opportunity in Australia. That process has already taken place under the administration of this Government.
There is a great deal of confusion in relation to two economic factors that prevail in the world to-day. One of these factors is described as the dollar gap. The dollar gap simply arises from the vast economic importance in the. world of the United States of America. America can produce all the goods and services it needs for its own purposes and still have the capacity to export goods and services. At the same time, it has not the same, need to import commodities from other countries. There is a vast difference between what the United States of America exports and what it has to import. Theoretically, if there were no restrictions on what can be obtained from dollar countries, every country in the world could be flooded with surplus American goods. But we have had to impose exchange restrictions. We have had to divide the world into the dollar area and the sterling area to avoid dislocating our own economy in order to make up deficiencies that exist in the United States of America in terms of its own economic development.
– Order! The honorable gentleman’s time has expired.
Mr. JOSKE (Balaclava) f9.36]. - The honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Crean) has made a great point of the fact that money is needed for the Colombo plan. Apparently he considers that it would be far better if the money we shall get under this loan were used for that purpose. The Colombo plan is something in which this Government has taken a great deal of interest and for which it has provided money. But that does not mean that we do not need money still for our own economic development. I am amazed at the type of speech I hear from the other side of the Blouse. We are told that more money is needed for economic development, for roads and so on, but when this Government takes steps to provide money for economic development and roads, we are told that it should not be used for those purposes, but should be spent elsewhere. That is not very cogent reasoning. It is somewhat on the lines of the argument that was advanced by the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Tom Burke). A substantial part of his speech dealt, not with the money that is being raised by these two loans, but with local loans. His reference in this debate to local loans was like King Charles’s head, about which a great author spoke and made fun.
There is no doubt that more and more development is required in this country. This Government can be proud that it has put national development in the forefront of its policy. Unless we have more economic development, we cannot continue to raise the standard of living in Australia. The Government parties have every reason to be proud of the fact that, during the term of office of this Government, the standard of living in this country has been raised. We hope to raise it still further, but that is impossible unless we have still more economic development. Therefore, it is necessary to get all the money we can for that purpose. The Opposition has suggested that it is not necessary to get money from the United States of America or other dollar sources. I am astonished that that argument should be put forward by gentlemen who pride themselves on being economic experts, and who have, perhaps, in some small ‘way a reputation as such. It is well known, as was stated at the Conference of Commonwealth Finance Ministers, that most sterling countries and the sterling area as a whole still need additional financial assistance from outside the sterling area. The countries of the British Commonwealth of Nations and other countries need money from dollar sources because it is only from those sources that certain equipment can be obtained. The honorable member for Melbourne Ports, in answer to that proposition, says that the equipment is coming forward slowly and that it does not seem to be really necessary. The point is that it is only from those sources that certain equipment that we* require can be obtained. Therefore, we must have dollars to get it.
Let us see how we have spent the money that we have got from the United States of America. This will be the third loan that we have obtained from that source. The first loan was 100,000,000 dollars, of which 29,000,000 dollars was spent on agricultural tractors and equipment, 24,000,000 dollars on industrial crawler tractors and earth-moving equipment, 14,000,000” dollars on locomotives and other railway equipment, 2,500,000 dollars on mining machinery and equipment, and 30,500,000 dollars on electricity generating plant and other types of machinery. That was very valuableexpenditure for the purpose of developing our great resources, which could not be developed without that equipment. The second loan was 50,000,000 dollars, of which 17,000,000 dollars was allocated for agriculture and land settlement, S.000,000 dollars for coal-mining, L000,000 dollars for the iron and steel industry, 4,000,000 dollars for electric power, .2,000,000 dollars for railways, 7.000,000 dollars for road transport, 2,000,000 dollars for non-ferrous metals and industrial minerals, and 9,000,000 dollars for other industrial development.
We see that, under the agreement in respect of this loan, the money is r,o be spent, in part by the Commonwealth and its subordinate authorities, in part by the State governments and their subordinate authorities, and in part by private enterprise. Of course, the socialists object to the part of the agreement that deals with expenditure by private enterprise. But what about the part that deals with expenditure by the State governments? One of the criticisms levelled at this Government by the Labour party is that it does not provide enough money for the State governments. As a result of this loan, we shall be able to provide more money for the State governments, but, Labour is opposing it. We see from the schedule to the bill that irrigation is being provided for. We heard a sorry story from the honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Edmonds) about the Burdekin Valley irrigation scheme being neglected, but the schedule shows that a part of this money is to be spent on irrigation in the Burdekin River district. Does the honorable member for Herbert propose to vote against the bill? The truth is that the opposition of the Labour party to the bill is, in the main, opposition to money coming from overseas. Labour policy has been, and still is, opposed to money coming from overseas. The honorable member for Melbourne Ports said that the amount of money that was coming was insignificant. Nevertheless, he attacked the bill. Then he made another attack on the rate of interest as extravagant, though the interest payments will amount to only an insignificant sum. It is obvious that he is only trying to find some reason for attacking the loan. The truth of the matter is that the Opposition’s attack really stems from Labour’s traditional attitude that it does not want Australia to borrow overseas. When the Prime Minister dealt with the subject of loans in his policy speech in 1949 he said that there was no reason why we should not borrow money overseas. One of his first steps after he took office was to proceed to negotiate for overseas loans. In procuring this loan the Prime Minister is once more adhering to one of the many points of his 1949 policy which he has so faithfully carried out.
This money will be used for, among other things, the purposes .of assisting primary production, maintaining full employment and assisting the States financially. These are all objectives for which the. Labour, party has professed support. Will Labour vote against the borrowing of this money to assist in the maintenance of full employment, to assist primary production, and to aid the States financially? If the Labour party votes against this bill it will hinder the attainment of the three objectives that I have named, and its vote will prove that its protestations that it supports these objectives are insincere.
.- Mr. Speaker–
Motion (by Mr. Holt) put -
That the question be now put.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. Archie Cameron.)
Majority . . . . 12
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Question put -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. Archie Cameron.)
Majority . . . . 12
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a recond time, and reported from committee without amendment or debate; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Debate resumed from the 6th April (vide page 52), on motion by Sir Arthur Fadden -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- I shall be very brief because the Opposition’s views on this matter are similar to the views that we expressed during the debate on the motion for the second reading of the Loan (International Bank for Reconstruction and Development) Bill 1954. We oppose the measure now before the House for the same reasons that we opposed that bill. The Government has not attempted to satisfy the Opposition’s objections, and I am sure that many Government supporters feel grave disquiet about the matter, because the two of their number who spoke made no attempt to explain what the Government proposes to do with the money that it seeks to borrow overseas. The Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Casey) gave a long dissertation on the cost of making provision for a newborn baby and an immigrant. I should like him to assure me that the proposed capital borrowing will be expended not on the purchase of consumer goods, but only on capital goods that cannot be obtained from easy money sources. No member of the Government deigned to endeavour to combat the submissions that were made by the Opposition in connexion with the other measure. The Minister did not do so, and the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Joske) had no conception of the case that he tried to argue. He said that we voted against full employment, whereas, in fact, we voted to ensure continuity of employment, both when prices are high here and throughout the world as well as when they recede here and throughout the world. The full impact will be felt when the time comes for repayment of the loans. The Australian Labour party supports the borrowing of money from overseas for the purchase of capital goods that are vital to our development, and which cannot be procured in this country or in the sterling area. As the Government did not answer the charges that we made when the other measure was before the House, the Opposition’s stand in relation to it was amply justified.
.- This bill is typical of the woolly-headed thinking of this Government and its advisers on matters of finance, whether internally or in the international sphere. On the home front the Government has utilized the horse and buggy method of finance in connexion with such matters as the provision of war service homes and the Snowy Mountains hydro-electric undertaking. The Government has used the proceeds of current taxation for such purposes as war service homes loans, with redemption spread over 45 years, and the Snowy Mountains scheme, from which only posterity will benefit. The presentday taxpayers are taxed up to the hilt, although the Government has control over the internal economy of the nation per medium of the Commonwealth Bank. In addition to having power to tax, the Government has credit resources and control over labour and material, and it will have the assets created. On the other hand, in the international sphere it is not so free in that regard, because it has no control over the credit resources as far as outside borrowings’ are concerned. The Government must be very cautious in that regard. It has been .well said that “fools rush in where angels fear to tread “, and. the Government seems to be actuated by some irresistable urge to rush in and place this country in pawn to overseas bondholders, although we have just been freed from th’eir grasp by the wise financial methods adopted by the previous Labour Government during the war and the post-war periods. Labour governments changed the position of Australia from that of a debtor.nation to that of a creditor nation, but this Government is now trying, with the aid of the hocuspocus of international financiers, to put us back into the position that we occupied before the last war.
Let us consider the Swiss loan. We have been informed that negotiations in connexion with the loan began when the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) visited Switzerland in 1052. The right honor.able cent1 cm a n has not told u« what he was doing in Switzerland, whether or not he was on a skiing excursion or something of that nature, but it appears that, he had preliminary talks with the Swiss Government and banking officials. Apparently he met the general manager of the Swiss Corporation, who visited Australia at the beginning of 1953 to get first-hand knowledge of the Australian economy. The Treasurer does not indicate whether the Swiss sold us something, or whether we sold them something. Perhaps he impressed the Swiss financiers that there were great possibilities for investment here, or perhaps he was filled with the spirit of good fellowship that seems to be abroad in the misty mountain air of Switzerland. Perhaps he was mellowed by yogurt, which is said to give one a sense of well-being. In any event, the Treasurer invited the Swiss bankers to visit us. Switzerland is one country that managed to keep out of World War II. and is consequently in a prosperous position. It is now looking for outside investments for the great profits that it made during the war period, just as the Wall-street financiers are looking for avenues of investment for their profits. Of course it is well known that the banker lends you an umbrella when it is fine, but wants it back when it begins to rain. We had that experience ourselves during the depression days of the 1930’s. We all remember when Sir Otto Niemeyer and Professor Guggenheimer looked us over and told us that we had to tighten our belts and cut down our social services.
Recently, Mr. Eugene Black, the President of the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development, came to Australia to examine our economic structure, and he made some pronouncements about our social services, living standards and so on, and indicated that Australia should move more slowly with regard to these matters. Therefore, we have had the beginning of outside dictation again, and will have more of it from international financiers if we allow this country to be placed in pawn again. If another depression should overtake us we might find ourselves in trouble. Another depression may occur, because such depressions are artificially created. The depression of the 1930’s commenced with heavy selling of stock on Wall-street, and now it looks as though this country may be dominated again by overseas financiers- the bondholders of America on this occasion, although it was the bondholders of London on the last occasion. We shall merely transfer our bondage from Thread.neadlestreet to Wall-street, and we shall be shackled by the almighty dollar as we once were by the pound sterling. One has only to look at the organization of the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development to see that what I have said may come to pass. The Government regards this bank as an institution that will help the country, but I suggest that the establishment of the organization was merely a snide way of getting the governments of many countries to underwrite what is really a financial corporation that has been set up by the Wall-street financiers. One has only to refer to the last balance-sheet of the bank, issued on the 30th June, 1953, to discover how true my contention is. That balance-sheet indicates that the capital structure of the bank is share capital underwritten by 54 member nations, but the total capital, which is the very foundation of the bank, has not been subscribed by those nations. Indeed, only 2 per cent, of the share capital of the subscriber nations has been paid up. Eighteen per cent, is in the form of currency or notes on demand of the 54 countries. Eighty per cent, of the share capital is callable in the event of the bank having to undertake certain obligations, or if there are losses to the actual subscribers to the securities.
As was pointed out in a document issued by the bank recently, the bank derives the remainder of its lendable funds from the sale of its own securities in the capital markets of the world. The total amount of the bank’s securities .now outstanding is about £556,000,000. Of this amount, £500,000,000 has been raised in the United States money market, £15,000,000 has been raised in Canadian dollars on the Canadian market, £14,000,000 in the United Kingdom, and the remainder by Swiss banks in Switzerland. Therefore, out of total securities of £556,000,000, £500,000,000 has been raised in Wall-street, and the securities involved carry substantial rates, of interest. Indeed, they are very good investments for those concerned, because although all government securities are gilt edged, being backed by the issuing nation, here the securities are backed by no less than 54 nations. Therefore, in the event of interest not being paid on those bonds, the bondholders could call upon the outstanding share capital of the subscriber nations. Consequently, the bonds are very safe, gilt-edged, securities. Moreover, in some instances the interest on the securities is 3i per cent., which is a very good return, and which gives the American investors a double return because they not only have an excellent return on their surplus invested money, but they also have au outlet for surplus goods produced for the American market. Those are obvious reasons why American financiers want to place their capital goods and money overseas at substantial rates of interest. It should be repeated that by so doing they provide a ready market for goods that they cannot sell in their home market. At present there are nearly 4,000,000 unemployed in America because of over-production in major industries. Also, one of the objects of the provision of this capital is to increase production, particularly primary production, in Australia. I should say that the United States of America would be the one country that would not require Australia to increase production because the United States of America is suffering from overproduction in primary industries. It has proposed to subsidize its own primary producers in order to enable them to sell at less than actual production costs to countries which may already be customers of Australia.
Australia has a credit of nearly £600,000,000 in the United Kingdom. One would think that if the Government really wanted to obtain capital goods from overseas it would obtain them from a country in which we have a substantial credit and which is one of our best customers. The Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Casey) has said that Australia has a growing population and needs capital. But the great United States of America itself expanded and increased its population tenfold by throwing off the shackles of the overseas financiers. We do not want capital as much as immigrants with technical skill. Those immigrants could be brought here by utilizing some of the vast credits that Australia already has in Great Britain. If those immigrants were brought here they could open up this country and make it selfreliant in the event of invasion. As the Minister for External Affairs has said, in dealing with these financiers we are dealing with hard-headed people. He said that it would be just as hard to break through the dollar curtain as it would be to break through the Iron Curtain. There is no reason why we should not adopt hard-headed methods also. This would not be ingratitude to the United States of America. Australia fully repaid all that it owed to the United States of America under the lend-lease agreement and there was a provision in that agreement that any equipment that we received must be destroyed at the e:id of the war. After the war, when I was going down Parramattaroad, Sydney, I saw millions of pounds’ worth of equipment suitable for aeroplane construction that had come from the United States of America being taken to the wharfs to be dumped in the ocean because of our obligations under the lend-lease agreement.
We are entitled to utilize the same business methods as are adopted by the United States of America. One way of doing that would be to utilize our credits in London to the extent of- £600,000,000. After all, during the war period other British dominions eliminated their overseas debts and built up credits in Great Britain. Australia did not use the same harsh methods in that regard, but we were eventually able to build up trading credits to the value of £600,000,000 in London against a debt of £400,000,000. Great Britain is now our best customer but is in dire financial straits, as has been indicated by the British Prime Minister, Sir Winston Churchill, and the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Mr. Butler. The United Kingdom Government has recently had to introduce one of the harshest budgets in the history of that country. Surely we should help a good customer of our country back on to its feet, particularly as that customer is being hard-pressed by the invasion of its markets by exenemy countries such as Germany and Japan. If we have any purchases to make overseas, we should give first preference to the United Kingdom and utilize the vast credits that we have in that country. We should also explore the possibility of purchasing many of these commodities in Australia. During the war it was proved that this country could manufacture aeroplanes and rolling-stock without resort to overseas borrowing. Under the Prime Ministership of the late Mr. J. B. Chifley and the late Mr. John Curtin, Australia was able to finance the greatest war in its history without having to resort to overseas borrowing. Many great industries were established during the war period which we did not have before the war. The Australian worker and the Australian industrialist proved that we can produce commodities as good and as cheap as those produced in any other part of the world.
Only a few months ago I saw industries in the district of Rydalmere which could manufacture heavy earth-moving equipment. I spoke to executives of such firms as Le Tourneau (Aust.) Proprietary Limited and Tutt Bryant Limited, who sa id that their companies were crying out Cor business. They can manufacture the equipment that we need in the same way as the Clyde Engineering Company Limited and the Commonwealth Engineering Company Limited can manufacture rolling stock. The Government should give orders to our own firms. An unfortunate position exists in relation to surplus equipment of the Joint Coal Board. One would imagine that there would be some understanding between the Government and the international body that made the purchase of this equipment possible in order to provide that, when such equipment was no longer required, the international body concerned would take it back, at least as second-hand equipment. The Public Accounts Committee has indicated that the Joint Coal Board is likely to lose about £10,000,000 on equipment which it no longer uses. At the open-cut mines in the Newcastle and Muswellbrook areas I saw equipment lying rusting in the paddocks.’ Nothing had been done to keep it in proper condition, as is done in the United States of America and elsewhere by certain processes. Apparently the international body which provided this capital’ equipment is no longer interested in it, but some American has come here with the idea of buying it cheaply. Proper provision should be made to resell this equipment to some other country that needs it. There is an old saying, “ Easy come, easy go”. I think that the time has come for the Government to adopt a more responsible attitude in matters such as this. After all, these loans have to be paid back sooner or later. Our national debt is developing into huge proportions, particularly as a result of the loan policy of this Government. Our interest bill has now reached £100,000,000 per annum, and has increased by approximately £20,000,000 per annum “during the comparatively short regime of this Government. That annual interest burden on the nation is now as great as was the total expenditure budgeted for in 1940, when I first came to this Parliament. At that time the budget was an all-time record. I suggest that it is time that this Government faced up to the financial situation of the nation. When Labour is returned to office at the forthcoming general election it will resort to the sound financial policy pursued by the governments led by the late Air. Curtin and the late Mr. Chifley.
This Swiss loan is a curious business. Apparently, while the Treasurer was up in the clouds in Switzerland some Swiss financiers told him that they had some francs available. Whether by ..means of yogurt or something else, he was persuaded to say, “ All right, I shall take them “. The right honorable gentleman did not explain in his second-reading speech how he proposes to expend this money, nor is that explained in the bill. Even in regard to the loan from the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development, concerning which legislation was passed by this House earlier to-night, no inventory of the items on which the loan is to be expended was given. What are we going to purchase from Switzerland? I suggest that this loan will be placed in a trust fund with the Commonwealth Bank, as the Treasurer has said, and then invested in short-term securities at 15s. per cent, or 1 per cent, until such- time as the Government finds something to do with it. That means that the Government has borrowed £6,000,000 worth of Swiss money at 4 per cent. and will lend it at 15s. per cent. or at 1 per cent. until the Government finds something to purchase with it overseas. In view of that position, is it not time that the Government resigned?
Question put -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The House divided. (Mr. Deputy Speaker - Mr.c.f. Aderm ann.)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and reported from committee without amendment or debate; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Motion (by Mr. Holt) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
– I wish to inform the House that last night I inadvertently deprived the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Whitlam) of five minutes of his time. I apologize to the honorable member and to the House for having done so.
– I wish to draw the attention of the House to the question of shipping and the export of timber from Tasmania. The longer this Government remains in office the worse the shipping service to Tasmania becomes. The sooner the Government is removed from the treasury bench, the better it will be for the island State of Tasmania. Approximately 8,000,000 super. feet of timber is stacked at five northern Tasmanian ports awaiting export to Melbourne and Adelaide. No ships are available to move this timber. Exporters, millers and other men working in the industry are involved in this disastrous state of affairs. At a special meeting in Launceston on the 6th April, the Tasmanian Timber Association expressed deep concern at the accumulation of so much timber, which is urgently needed in Victoria and South Australia for home-building and other purposes. The timber has accumulated at the ports of Launceston, Devonport, Ulverstone, Burnie and Stanley, with the largest accumulation at Launceston. The slow movement of this timber is causing financial embarrassment, especially to the small millers in Tasmania. Melbourne and Adelaide are the principal markets for Tasmanian timber. Tasmania can obtain firm orders in those two cities, but the buyers want regularity of supplies. Tasmania must market 60 per cent. of its timber on the mainland.
Unfortunately, one shipping firm has almost a monopoly in relation to timber shipments from the northern ports of the island, and the allocation of supplies is almost entirely in the hands of that firm, which has ships of its own and which has Government-owned ships under charter. Almost every exporter in Launceston is at the mercy of that firm. The firm is interested not only in shipping but also in timber, and it is associated with Tasmanian Board Mills Limited, Kilndried Hardwoods Proprietary Limited and Terton Wood Products. lt ensures that those firms get the cream of the space for the export of timber. There are not sufficient ships. The position is made extremely difficult for the small man when this shipping firm makes sure that its own interested parties get the space that they require. The small millers and the exporters are being forced out of business because so much money is tied up in stacked timber. Delamere, a Commonwealth-owned ship which this Government wants to sell, together with 38 other ships, is under charter to the shipping firm to which I have referred. Delamere, which left Launceston for Melbourne on the 12th March, could take 700,000 super, feet of timber. Twelve shipping agents obtained space on the vessel for a total of just over 500,000 super, feet of timber, but one timber exporting firm, Tasmanian Board Mills Limited, which is associated with the shipping firm, obtained space for approximately 150,000 super, feet of timber, plus paper space equivalent to that needed to slow between 150,000 and 175,000 super, feet of timber. In other words, one firm obtained space equal at least to 300,000 super, feet of timber, or 60 per cent, of the space available on the vessel.
The subject of shipping is the most vital election issue in Tasmania. The threat that has been hanging over the Commonwealth-owned ships for so long is well known to all political groups throughout Tasmania. Supporters of this Government from Tasmania know that I am speaking the truth and that they will have to accept responsibility for any sell-out of the Commonwealthowned ships. Last week the Hobart Mercury received a report to the effect that this Government does not now intend to sell the Commonwealth-owned ships. The report said that that decision would help Liberal party members in Tasmania, but I did not see a similar report in any mainland newspaper. I do not know where the report originated, but it was a piece of purely political propaganda. The Opposition knows that the Government is stalling until after the election at least, because the subject of shipping is such a “hot” subject in Tasmania, Western Australia and Queensland.
I urge the Government, through the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator McLeay), to provide immediately two Commonwealth-owned ships for the purpose of moving the 8,000,000 super, feet of timber that is lying in stacks at Tasmanian ports and which is urgently needed in Victoria and South Australia, and to make available sufficient ships to provide a regular service to Tasmania. Let the shipping firm to which I have referred continue its present methods, because its service is very inadequate and is frustrating to the timber millers. The millers have told me about the great losses they will suffer if they cannot send regular shipments of timber from the island. The Australian Labour party, if returned to office-
Government supporters. - If!
– The Australian Labour party, when returned to office, will proceed immediately to vest iri t’ho Australian Shipping Board the ownership and operation of the 39 Commonwealthowned ships. In other words, Labour will reconstitute the Commonwealth shipping line in its own right. Those vessels will be sent where they are most needed on the coast of the mainland and Tasmania. When such crises in the ‘timber industry arise, ships will be used to move the timber. They will be sent to move non-paying cargoes. The future Labour Government will use its own vessels, not for profit, but in order to meet the need of the Australian exporters. Recently a meeting was held here between Liberal party members from Tasmania and the Minister for Shipping and Transport to discuss the matter of shipping freights. I am the only Opposition member from Tasmania, but I was not invited to attend that conference. I remind honorable members opposite that when Labour was in office from 1941 to 1949 every honorable member from Tasmania, regardless of party, was invited to attend conferences of the kind to which I have just referred. I have not been invited to attend any such conference since the present Government assumed office. In any event) the result of the conference was completely negative. The Minister cannot give any assurance that freight rates will be reduced beyond the amount of ls. 6d, a ton that has been announced. Consequently, the present rates will continue to apply in respect of potatoes, limber and sugar.
– I desire to say only two things with respect to the matter that the honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie) has raised. My first point is that all Tasmanian members of the Liberal party are, quite naturally and properly, concerned to maintain an efficient shipping service between Tasmania and the mainland. In that respect, the honorable member for Wilmot has no monopoly. The honorable member for Bass (Mr. Kekwick), the honorable in ember for Darwin (Mr. Luck) and the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Townley) have always been assiduous in matters affecting the welfare of Tasmania. The Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator McLeay) has done more than any of his predecessors to provide an efficient shipping service between Tasmania and the mainland. With reference to the fairy tale that the honorable member for Wilmot told .about the Commonwealth shipping line, I inform him that the Government is not selling that line. Every time there is a hint of an election, members of the Opposition always trot out stories of that kind. The Government might have been prepared to consider offers for the purchase ‘of the line, but subject to certain conditions. The first of these was that the purchase price offered must be commensurate with the value of the ships; and the second condition was that the prospective purchaser must give a guarantee to the Government that services at a certain standard shall lie maintained. The Government has not received offers the acceptance of which would protect the interests of the people. So, I can relieve the mind of the ‘honorable member on that matter.
I repeat that the Commonwealth “shipping line is not being sold. Every unbiassed person will admit that the Minister for Shipping and Transport has done an enormous amount of work personally, day in and day out, to ensure the maintenance of efficient shipping services between Tasmania and the mainland. To that end he has been in consultation, not only with the Commonwealth shipping authority but also with private shipping lines. I am reminded by the Minister for Social Services that Mr. Holyman made an offer on behalf of his company to reduce freight rates by £1 a ton if the wharfies would work what is known as the twilight shift, but as they refused to do so he could not give effect to that offer. Probably, the wharfies would have been prepared to work the twilight shift if they had been rightly advised by Mr. Healy, of ill fame.
.- Every honorable member, and, I trust, the Government also, are aware of the great difficulties that are looming in the wheat industry in respect of the provision of adequate storage in the various States. This is not a party issue. It would appear that if the estimates made by the chairman of the Australian Wheat Board are correct, storage will be required at the end of November for 80,000,000 bushels from this harvest plus 16,000,000 bushels carry-over for the following year as a reserve, and that shortly afterwards wheat from the 1954-55 harvest will commence to flow in. Existing storage facilities, including silos, are sufficient to carry the normal wheat crop but they will not be sufficient to cope with the abnormal situation’ that now exists and which is likely to continue for a considerable period.. The Victorian Grain Elevator Board is unable to raise sufficient finance for the purpose of constructing emergency storage. The Victorian Wool and Wheat Growers Association has informed me that it has appealed to the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) to assist the board in that direction. That association has also made similar representations to the Leader of the’ Opposition (Dr. Evatt) and to honorable members generally. Therefore, this is a. non-party issue. In normal circumstances, grain elevator and silo authorities are financed by State governments from their loan allocations although some of those authorities have power to raise their own loans. Those authorities which obtain their funds from State -loan allocations will be financially embarrassed because the Victorian Government has already apportioned its loan allocation for this year for specific works. I support the request that the Victorian Wool and Wheat Growers Association has made to the Prime Minister in this matter. I believe that the Government will appreciate the position of the Victorian Grain Elevator Board and will assist it. It would be useless to ask the wheat-growers to wait for a decision in this matter until the outcome of the general election that is pending is known. Whilst the authorities concerned will he able to store the wheat that has already been harvested, provision must be made for the storage of wheat from the following harvest in the event that this year’s crop may not he disposed of during the intervening period. In those circumstances, storage authorities should be given every assistance for the purpose of providing emergency storage. I should like to have an assurance from the Government with respect to this matter.
– I am pleased that the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) has dealt with the matter that he has just raised in a non-party way. The wheat industry at present finds itself in difficulty as a result of the falling off of sales on the overseas market. In the absence of the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. McEwen), I cannot speak at length on the subject, but I should like to inform the honorable member for Lalor immediately that the Government has under the closest consideration all the aspects of the matter that he has raised. The Government realizes the urgency of the matter and the responsibility that falls upon all governments and upon all sections of the wheat industry to meet the present unfortunate situation. I assure the wheat-growers that the Government is giving urgent attention to this matter and will do all it possibly can in the interests of the industry.
– I also desire to direct the attention of the House to a matter which I trust honorable members will agree is a non-party issue. I refer to an extraordinary letter that was published in the Canberra Times this morning and also in the Melbourne Age and which would appear, to be partly designed to paralyse Australian policy with regard to Indo-China. I describe the letter as being extraordinary because it is based on a premise that is demonstrably false. That fact will be made clear w hen I read the last sentence of the letter which states -
The Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Casey) and the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) were content to describe the Vietminh movement as Communist. This is not in accordance with fact.
That statement is demonstrably false. The Vietminh movement has been dominated since its foundation by Ho Chi Minh, who has been a Communist for the last twenty years. He took part in the formation of the French Communist party. In 1923, he went to Russia and represented the French colonies at the International Peasants Congress. Following that congress, he remained in Moscow and studied at the Far Eastern Toilers University. He then went to China where he was offsider to Borodin. Later, in 1929, he founded the Communist party of Indo-China. He has been a Communist agent throughout his career. The other leading figure in the Vietminh movement in Indo-China is Vo Nguyen Giap, who is commanding the forces that are now besieging the town of Dienbienphu and who has been a full Communist for twenty years. The Vietminh, although certain non-Communist elements were originally included in it as a facade, was, in fact, founded as a Communist intrigue in lado-China and ever since its foundation in May, 1941, it has endeavoured to protect itself by assuming a number of apparently innocent fronts. But, all the time, the Communists have been in control of the organization in the background. In February, 1951, the Vietminh organization was in substance dissolved and the movement then came under the control of a party called the Lao Dong, which I shall allow to speak for itself. I read from the manifesto on its formation -
The Lao Pong is the party of the Vietnam working class and labouring people. It accepts the doctrine of Marx, Engels, Lenin, Stalin, and the ideology of Mao-Tse-Tung and combines them with the characteristics of the Vietnam revolution to serve as an ideological base and magnetic needle for every action of the party . . . The party recognizes that the Vietnam revolution is an integral part of the world revolution led by the Soviet Union.
Honorable members interjecting,
– Order! The honorable member for Mackellar is dealing with a serious matter, and I cannot see any reason for the laughter in the chamber.
– A speech which is aimed at the exposure of Communist intrigue should be treated as a serious matter on non-party lines. The manifesto which was published on the 24th March, 1953, under the name of Vo Nguyen Giap, reads as follows : -
In the mourning for Comrade Stalin, we must have even more confidence in the MarxEngelsLeninStalin doctrine and in the party of the working class . . . must be even more united round President Ho-Chi-Minh, and, as stated by President Ho-Chi-Minh in his pledge, “ We must always unite ourselves closely around the Soviet Union, always follow the Marx-Engels-Lenin-Stalin doctrine, and be determined to lead the struggle for the unity and inter-dependence of materials, peace, democracy and socialism “.
This is the movement which the signatories of this egregious letter in the Canberra Times described as nonCommunist. They differ from the Leader of the Opposition and members of the Government, who correctly describe this movement as Communist. What is even more significant is that the Sydney Tribune, which is the organ of the Communist party, published on the front page of yesterday’s issue what is virtually a paraphrase of the letter which appeared in the Canberra Times, at least in regard to the vital question of whether the present Vietminh movement should bo regarded as still retaining some genuine nationalist character, or whether it should be treated as a Communist front. I do not know whether there was any communication between the signatories of the letter and the writer in the Tribune. I simply point . to the remarkable paral lelism in the thinking and, to some degree,, in the phrases and the ideas which areexpressed. It is too close to be ignored.
Who are the signatories of this letter? One of whom I wish to speak particularly is Professor Fitzgerald. I speak of him particularly because he is Professor of” Far Eastern History in the Australian National University and he sets himself up as an authority. How can a man who sets himself up as an authority be ignorant of the plain facts that I have put before the House? Perhaps he did not read the letter which he signed. That is possible, I suppose. Perhaps he does not know anything about his subject. That, I suppose, is possible. Or perhaps there is some more sinister explanation, and that is possible. I cannot choose between those alternatives. I only say that here is something which requires explanation - which demands explanation. I know very little personally of Professor Fitzgerald. I know that he is a man of very considerable personal charm, and apparently of considerable wealth. I understand that he was recently refused, for reasons with which I am not familiar, a vise to enter the United States of America. But I do know that this is not the first time he has engaged in activities of the kind to which I havetaken exception, and used false information to buttress his ideas, because in a broadcast from the Australian Broadcasting Commission some years ago, he committed precisely the same kind of offence. Under the authority of his name, he put forward facts about China which were not only untrue, but were demonstrably untrue, and the untruth of them was of such a character as to help the Communist line. I do not know much about the other signatories. Bishop Burgmann, I understand, was at one time connected with the AustralianRussian Society. I believe that he is innocent, although, perhaps, illinformed. Professor Manning Clark and Professor Davidson, about whom I know nothing, were others. All of them have to give some explanation why they have signed a letter that is demonstrably false and follows so closely the Communist line. The Communist line is not only a line of propaganda but one of action as is obvious from the strike that has occurred to-day in Sydney Harbour and has not yet been settled. It remains a policy of action in the interests of the Communists and against Australian interests.
– In my opinion, the House should not have to listen to speeches such as that which has been delivered by the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth). His attack on Bishop Burgmann was a calculated one. The honorable member said, “ He was a good bishop, but . . . “. He said that Bishop Burgmann was an innocent man, but he had associated with other people who were not so innocent. The honorable member for Mackellar recalled that Professor Fitzgerald was refused a vise into the United States of America. The inference is that one man ties up with another, and as one man has something against him, the whole lot are Communists or crypto-Communists. That is what the honorable member has been trying to say. In the Communist party referendum campaign the PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Anthony) described Bishop Burgmann as a friend of communism.
– He was right.
– That is the sort of McCarthyism that is creeping into this country and is to be deplored. I do not agree with anything that the professors stated and I do not always agree with the statements of Bishop Burgmann, but because I disagree with him, I am not entitled to declare that he is a Communist or a friend of communism. That sort of disease is sweeping the United States of America and robbing it of its position of prominence in the western world. We do not want that in Australia. If the honorable member for Mackellar feels that way about the signatories to this letter, he should make his statements outside the House and not rise in this chamber stating that it is a non-party matter. In effect he has said, “We can agree on this matter “.
There has been a metamorphosis in the life-time of the honorable member for Mackellar. When he was first elected to this House, he thought every honorable member who sat on the Opposition side was a crypto-Communist. He accused the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) and the brother of the Leader of the Opposition of being Communists and waa allowed to say it. Now he says that the Leader of the Opposition is lily-white and every honorable member on the Opposition side is, as Caesar’s wife was reputed to be, above suspicion. That is also part of the. technique of the honorable member. The misrepresentation that the professors and other signatories allegedly resorted to, and which the honorable gentleman has sought to refute, is contained in the words that the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Casey) and the Leader of the Opposition allegedly used in describing the Vietminh movement as being Communist. I heard the Leader of the Opposition make his speech last night. He said that the Vietminh movement had started out as a nationalist movement, as many of the revolutionary movements in Asia have started out, but the Communists had set out to capture it.
– He said that they had captured it.
– He stated that insofar as Ho Ghi Minh is in charge, they have captured the Vietminh, movement, but he did not say it was a Communist movement in its early development. His statement was carefully prepared and expressed the view of 90 per cent, of Australians. We want peace in Vietnam. We do not want to see the French forces annihilated or defeated. We do not want to see the spread of communism in any part of the free world, but the honorable member for Mackellar is not assisting the cause of anticommu”nism with his character assassination methods. He should make his statements in the press and not try, by inference and implication, to associate other honorable members of this chamber with them. Honorable members have their own views about the Vietminh. They desire to see peace brought to Vietnam. They want to see a community established there with the aid of the French Republic, that will be of lasting value to the people of Vietnam and save them from incorporation behind the bamboo curtain, the iron curtain or any other part of the Communist world.
As has been said many times, people have a right to say what they think in a democracy so long as their words do not constitute a contravention of the law and an incitement to disorder. The persons who signed the letter that has appeared in the press hi ry be hopelessly wrong and should be criticized by those who think so. But it is wrong for an honorable member of this House, particularly in the dying stages of a Parliament, to try to make some sort of capital for himself or somebody else by attacking the bishop and the professors because they have published a statement of their beliefs. Persons living in a democracy have a right to do so. Nobody has the right to criticize r.hem, as the honorable member has done, under parliamentary privilege. In such, circumstances, no honorable member should state in this House that such persons are Communists or near Communists, nor should he imply that because one man was refused a vise to enter the United States of America, all those associated with him are Communists. Professor Marcus Oliphant was refused a vise to visit the United States of America. Is he a Communist? It was in his laboratory in the Manchester University that the secret of the separation of atom U235. from U238 was . first revealed. The details of the discovery were taken by him to Sir Winston Churchill who conveyed them across the Atlantic to President Roosevelt. A charge that because a man is refused an entry into one country he is a Communist is the sort of thing that is calculated to, will help to, undermine our democracy.* Voltaire, in his defence of freedom of speech, said -
I do not agree with a word that you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.
So long as a person does not say anything that will harm this country, he should not be held up to ridicule even if an honorable member considers that he is wrong in any statements that he makes. There has been no wilful intent on the part of any of the signatories to the letter under discussion to try to help the Communist party in that matter. It has been suggested that Bishop Burgmann and the professors who signed the letter are trying to aid communism. I disagree entirely with that suggestion just as I disagree with many of the views .expressed by the bishop and the professors.
-. - I associate myself with the remarks that have been made by the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth). It is very distasteful for any honorable member to rise in this chamber and, directly or by innuendo, cast reflections upon the loyalty of any citizen of this country. That is the position in which the honorable member for Mackellar felt himself to be to-night. On this occasion, I am quite prepared to stand with him. For the life of me I cannot determine what caused the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) to speak on this matter. Nobody disputes the right of anybody to say what he thinks in Australia, as the honorable member for Mackellar pointed out. A statement signed by certain gentlemen, which is demonstrably false, appeared in the press to-day. The honorable member for Melbourne stated that anybody could say anything so long as it was not detrimental to the interests of this country. Surely the letter that is under discussion was detrimental to Australia.
I remind honorable members that today there is only one struggle in the world. That is the struggle between the free democracies and the Communists. The struggle is active in certain parts of the world and, for the moment, the battle is in Indo-China. I do not know anything worth mentioning about foreign affairs because the sources of information at my disposal are exceedingly meagre, but I do know that at this moment we are being defended by those who are fighting the battle against the Communists on the Indo-China front. There can be no doubt where our interests lie. We ‘are against those with whom the persons who signed the letter in the press have alined themselves. If they like to do so, that is their business, but I think that we in this House, who, after all, are the custodians of the public welfare in matters of this kind, must, in certain circumstances, take ‘ cognizance of ‘letters such as this. The first circumstance is that some of these . nien are engaged at the Australian National University, and it cannot but be construed, particularly among our allies, that they are people who, unless they are contradicted, may reasonably be taken to be spokesmen for Australia when delivering themselves of sentiments of that kind. I shall go further. I find it very distasteful to attack these people personally on this or any other matter, particularly when they have no right to reply to me here, but I say that this is not the first time that any one of them has lined himself up with the point of view and interests of our enemies. I use all those words most deliberately. No one can sit on the fence in this matter. Every one must make up his mind where he belongs. He must decide whether his interests are with the democracies or not. I was amazed to hear the honorable member for Melbourne, who is the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, speak in flat contradiction of statements made by his own leader last night, and express the point of view that he did. To me, it is intolerable that persons engaged in a government instrumentality should be able to contradict publicly leaders on both sides of the National Parliament at the very moment when our Minister for External Affairs (Mr. -Casey) is to go abroad to put Australia’s point of view in circumstances which can only be regarded as critical. As for Bishop Burgmann, I have nothing to say except that he is at least a most meddlesome priest. ‘ That is my opinion of him. However, if his church cares to put up with hi3 constant interference in such affairs, that has nothing to do with me. I do not belong to it. If he likes to continue in this manner it is entirely his own affair. With regard to the others, I believe that the honorable member for Mackellar was perfectly right in drawing the attention of this House to the situation and to demonstrate the falsity of the statements of these gentlemen, and I stand by him.
.- I believe that, as a member of the party which in this country has pioneered the fight for civil liberties for two generations, I must join in the protest against the use of the processes of this Parliament to attack persons who hold responsible positions, and who have no right of reply in this chamber or of redress before any tribunal outside. This House is being made cheap just as other parliaments of this country are being made cheap by the party to which the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett) and the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) belong. It is sheer humbug for the honorable member for Henty to say that it is painful for him to mention names in this case. He and his colleagues rejoice in mentioning names. He said, with all the midget pomposity of which he is capable, that it was not the first time that these men had lined themselves up with our enemies; but he did not mention one instance in which any of the four signatories had lined himself up with our enemies. The signatories included the bishop of the diocese which includes the National Capital, a professor of Pacific history at the National University, a reader in Par Eastern Affairs at the National University, and a professor of history at the Canberra University College. It is to the credit of the Canberra. Tvm.es that, as it so often does with expressions of heterodox views, ‘it published the statement in full; Of the other metropolitan newspapers available in Canberra to-day, the Melbourne Age. once again a journal which is deserving of credit for its treatment-of matters such as this, alone published a full account of the statement. . Each of those paper? thought it sufficiently meritorious to give it prominence on the front page.
The statement did not only venture an opinion as to the Communist motivation of the Vietminh. It mentioned other things which are endorsed by, a great majority of the Australian people. The statement commenced with the assertion that it would be most unfortunate, if, at this stage, the Australian Government were to give unqualified support to American policy on Indo-China “ without the fullest consultation of members of the British Commonwealth and of its own Parliament “. It continued -
Before Australian policy is determined, there should be full and public discussion of this issue between the governments of tinBritish Commonwealth.
I am confident that all honorable members on this side of the House, and some on the other side, as well as the vast majority of the Australian people, believe that before Australia becomes involved in Indo-China the whole matter should be thrashed out, not between the Americans and the French on one hand and the Vietminh and Chinese People’s Republic on the other, but by the United Nations. Hostilities have been going on in Indo-China for longer than they have gone on in any previous war in which the French nation has been involved. There is a threat to the peace of the world in Indo-China. It is a matter for the United Nations, and it is salutary that these four persons holding public positions should express a point of view that is shared by a great majority of their fellow citizens. This is not a light matter, but it is too late to discuss it here. The Minister who is to deal with the matter will no longer have any opportunity to have guidance on it from members of this Parliament. But there is one very grave aspect which must concern the National Parliament. It would be monstrous if this Parliament were to become the rostrum for the shibboleths and taboos of the tories - those ideas which in the United States of America are crippling academic freedom of thought. Nothing but good can flow from a free discussion of these matters. In America, leading clerics and professors have been intimidated by just this sort of abuse of congressional processes. It is not surprising to me that the matter has been raised by the two honorable members opposite who have spoken on this subject, but it is a disgrace that two members of the bishop’s communion should attack him in this covert way and that one should use the phrase that Henry II. used about Archbishop Becket.
– That was “turbulent priest “.
– The idea is the same. We must allow freedom of discussion and we must have respect for the opinions expressed by persons in these institutions that we have established. We shall forfeit the. respect of independentminded persons throughout the world if ive prevent ‘individuals from expressing their own ideas. Ideas may be wrong, but people are entitled to express them. ‘We shall take awav with one hand what we have given with the ot’her if we endow these great academic institutions but fetter the men whom we employ in them.
– Are their ideas right or wrong ?
– That is not the question. It is not for any one of us to adjudicate upon their opinions. They have expressed an opinion which can and should be expressed. It may be wrong, but it is wrong on one point only. It is an over-simplification, and therefore is within the mental compass of the honorable member for Mackellar and the honorable member for Henty, to say that any independent nationalist movement in South-East Asia is necessarily a Communist movement. Of course, it is ‘a fact that the Communists have been manoeuvred into the vanguard of all these movements, but that is largely our fault in allowing the only feasible alternative to appear to be the form of European tutelage and American protection which the new Secretary of State in the United States of America constantly advocates.
If the peace of the world is .to be maintained, it should be maintained through the United Nations. If the United Nations says that we should intervene with police .action, then in my view Australian troops should ,go to IndoChina. But if the United Nations does not issue any such verdict, we should keep Out of the matter. In the meantime, the warning with which the learned signatories began their letter is obviously one which we ‘should heed. That warning is that this Parliament and all other parliaments of the British Commonwealth of Nations should consult before any members of the Commonwealth are committed in Indo-China. For that statement we should be grateful to the f our signatories, land TOe .also should be grateful to newspapers like the Ganberm Times .and the Melbourne Age, which had .the courage to publish that statement prominently.
– I am reluctant to intrude in this discussion because I have not heard all of it. However, I have read the article published in the Canberra Times this morning from which the discussion has arisen. I did not have the advantage of hearing the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. “Wentworth) or the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell), but I did hear the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett) and the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Whitlam). Anybody who is informed on these subjects could readily agree with two-thirds of the article, but not with the remainder. I have not the advantage of the acquaintance of all of the four gentlemen who signed the article, but presumably they are men of considerable erudition and knowledge of current affairs. Were that not so, I assume that they would not have committed themselves to such publicly expressed views. The article was two-thirds or three-quarters factual. I am concerned only with the factual side of it, not with the opinions it contained. The article finished on a note which would lead uninformed people to the belief that, in the opinion of the four distinguished writers, the Vietminh movement was nationalist and not Communist. That is quite simple and unequivocal, and I say that it is wholly and absolutely untrue.
The honorable member for Werriwa made an equivocal speech and I have never heard a speech with which I disagreed more. He must know the facts of this case. At any rate, I give him that credit. Nobody in Australia would disagree with the free expression of opinions, particularly by educated and informed persons, but I think all honorable members would disagree violently with persons who suppressed facts that they knew to be relevant to the matter in hand, which was done by the four men, distinguished though they may be, who contributed the article that was published in the newspaper this morning. They were attempting to sway the minds of people less well informed than themselves by suppressing an essential part of the truth. I condemn them for what they have done, and I condemn the honorable member for Werriwa for the speech in which he supported them to-night.
– I did not support them.
– We shall soon have to stand before the people and show where we stand in the great struggle that is dividing the world between democracy and international communism. The honorable member for Werriwa, I hope, . will be man enough to stand forward and be counted without depending upon equivocal forms of words to suit his partypolitical purposes.
It is easy for honorable members opposite to condemn the United States of America, as they frequently do, in one form of words or another. The United States of America has done more than any other country or group of countries in thehistory of the world has done to maintain democracy by proper methods. Yet, on every occasion when some honorablemembers opposite have an opportunity to deliver a snide, backstairs kick at that country, they take advantage of it. The honorable member for Werriwa is a fairly typical wellinformed, educated example of the exponent of that form of snide international politics. I hope he is proud of himself for what he has done. I repeat that no reasonable person takes any exception to the expression of an opinion, provided that it is honestly expressed, but I take very great exception to statements which purport to be factual but which are only one-half or three-quarters factual. The world is very disturbed. Anything could happen at any time, and this is a time when we have to stick to our friends and to our convictions. The United Statesof America is on our side. It is on the side of democracy, decency and right, and the forces of darkness opposed to it are very apparent and very powerful. The world may have a show-down at any time between our form of life and the forces of darkness. The show-down may come soon or it may come later. I pray to God that it will never come. In the meantime, in this desperately anxious period of history,. I think all decent people - and I direct this remark largely to the honorable member for Werriwa - should decide in their minds where they stand, where the interests of their country, of their children, if they have any, and of all democratic countries lies, instead of playing at party politics snatched out of the air of a very touchy international situation. I leavethe honorable member to the contemplation of my remarks
.- I commend the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) and the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Whitlam) for the stand that they have taken in this debate. It is about time that more people stood up in the defence of free speech in this country. The Labour party must resist these smear campaigns against reputable citizens. I have not had the opportunity to read the article from which this discussion has arisen, but I shall do so at the earliest possible moment. The honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth), who initiated the debate, has earned in Australia a reputation akin to that of McCarthy in the United States of America. Let me give the House one or two illustrations to show how this honorable gentleman is capable of smearing reputable citizens. Not very long ago, a royal commission was pending in New South Wales. It was to be presided over by Judge Amsberg. The honorable gentleman implied in this chamber that I was going to be involved in the proceedings of the commission in some way and he mentioned the name of a Mr. Bissett. Mr. Bissett was supposed to have told the honorable member something about me that he regarded as being to my discredit. It was something.utterly untrue and without foundation. The honorable member said that two gentlemen had given him the information, that he proposed to mention the name of one gentleman in the House and that he would mention the name of the other before the royal commission. In- the House, he mentioned the name of Mr. Bissett. I waited patiently to hear the honorable member raise the matter before the royal commission, but when he was asked by counsel during the proceedings of the commission to write down the names of the people he wanted to call as witnesses and who he thought would be able to assist the commissioner, he wrote down a list of names which did not include the name of Mr. Bissett. There waa no truth in the allegations that the honorable member had made about me, and. he was afraid to stand up to them.
I ask him to tell us about some actions that are pending before the courts. I do not want to make any reference to the details of the actions. I shall say merely that, in a letter to a daily newspaper, the honorable member attacked the widow of an Australian Victoria Cross winner, Mr. Hugo Throssel, of Western Australia, and referred to her a6 the “de facto Mrs. Throssel”. That is the type of individual who wants to smear reputable citizens of this country.
-Order! If the actions are before a court, the honorable gentleman is out of order in referring to them.
– I am not certain whether they are before the court. Nobody has advised me on that point.
– The honorable gentleman had better make certain about the matter, and continue that part of his speech to-morrow, if it is in order to do so.
– If I get an opportunity to do so with your assistance, Mr. Speaker, I shall. I deprecate this Cronulla commando making attacks on the relatives of people who have made great sacrifices in the defence of this country.
What is the -complaint of the Government about the article to which reference h8S been made? I have not read the article, but I know that one of the signatories is a very eminent churchman in this country. I think honorable members opposite are playing the game of politics pretty low when they try to smear eminent churchmen and brand them as Communists, even by innuendo. When they do not suggest that people of whose opinions they disapprove are Communists, they suggest that they are half-wits who do not know what they are doing and have been taken in. As a matter of fact, many people have not dared to mention the word “ peace “ in this country for some time, because if a man says he believes in world peace, he is automatically a Communist according to members of the Government parties. Those are the tactics that honorable members opposite use. It is a good thing to see members of the Labour party standing up at last and combating these smear campaigns against reputable citizens.
I want to deal now with something in ‘ this country that is making Communists. Honorable members opposite say that they are very keen to fight communism. 1 think many things are happening in this country that are breeding’ and fostering communism. The honorable member for Gwydir (Mr. Allen) had a great deal to say about the free enterprise economy under which we live, but I doubt if he could define what he meant by a free enterprise economy. We have to-day in this country a form of monopolistic capitalism that is growing in strength. The poor individual who believes that free enterprise still exists is being crushed by the activities of monopolists, assisted by honorable members who sit on the Government side of the chamber. Let me give an illustration of what I mean. I shall refer, not to an individual or a small organization, but to a brewery in South Australia. This brewery, although it was a paying concern and its accounts were solvent, has been compelled to go into voluntary liquidation as a result of the activities of the Australian and New Zealand Bank Limited. The South Australian Brewing Company Limited is a great monopoly in that State. Its directors are prominent members of the Liberal party. With their interlocking directorates, they were able to exercise their influence with the Australian and New Zealand Bank Limited and compel a brewery to close down. They wanted it to close down because, about nine months ago, it had been able to produce a very good beer and was cutting into the business of the combine that controls the West End brewery and Nathan’s brewery. Let us examine what happened. In May, 1953, when the business of the brewery was not going too well, the bank requested an undertaking that, if required, a debenture would be issued by the brewery in favour of the bank. On the 15th May, when pressure was applied by the. bank, the directors of the Springfield Brewery Limited gave the undertaking that had been requested. Shortly afterwards, the bank again began to apply pressure and demand the issue of the debenture. The directors of the brewery resisted, because they had other creditors. They owed money to the Taxation Branch and to various people. However, the deben ture was issued. Subsequently, the bank entered into an agreement with the brewery. On the 2Sth October, 1953, they decided that the main account should be frozen at a figure of £65,350, to be reduced to £60,000 by the 9th September, 1954. A No. 2 trading account was opened, and it was agreed that this account should be kept in credit. There was to be no overdrawing on it. The brewery honoured that part of the agreement, and the account was never overdrawn. By agreement with the brewery and the bank, an excise account was opened, and it was agreed that it could be overdrawn up to £3,000. That part of the agreement was honoured by the brewery. It was decided that the account should be dispensed with by the 31st March, 1954. By February of this year, so successful were the brewery operations, that it had discharged its debt to the Taxation Branch and had paid off outstanding accounts. The only debt remaining was that owing to the Australian and New Zealand Bank. The quarter that ended on the 31st December, 1953, was a very profitable one for the brewery, but at the end of February, 1954, sales began to decline. The reason was that the combine, through its tied house system, was preventing the proper distribution and sale of the opposing brewery’s products. However, the brewery was assured that that position could be rectified. On the 1st March, 1954, the bank advised the brewery that the excise account was overdrawn at £1,200. That was still well within the limit of £3,000 that had been agreed on. To offset the deficit, the brewery had in hand £2,000 worth of stamps. ‘
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– I rise to make a personal explanation. The lady to whom the honorable member for East Sydney referred, who is a foundation member of the Australian Communist party, and who has for longer than thirteen years been in one of its chief offices, has never been described by me as the de facto wife of anybody. It is entirely and completely false to allege that I did so.
– Then tell us what the court action is for.
– The honorable member for Mackellar referred to her as “ alias Mrs. Throssell”.
– I endeavoured to open up the matter before the commission, but the judge considered it irrelevant. It is perfectly true that Bisset’s name was not on the written list I gave to counsel assisting the commission, but on the first day of the commission, the judge indicated that he did not want it followed up. He later indicated that he considered himself bound by the terms of reference which did not include the matter referred to by the honorable member for East Sydney.
– That is not true. The honorable member made no attempt. You ran away, you dingo.
Government supporters interjecting,
– I rise to order. The honorable member for East Sydney called the honorable member for Mackellar a “ dingo “, and I ask that the term be withdrawn.
– I did not hear the word that was used.
– The word was “ dingo “.
– Order ! Then the honorable member for Parkes must withdraw the word.
-Withdraw what? I said nothing like that.
– Order ! If the word “ dingo “ was used in reference to any honorable member it must be withdrawn.
– I did not use the word “ dingo “.
– Did the honorable member for East Sydney use the word? If so, he must withdraw it.
– Yes, I used it, and I withdraw it.
– Mr. Speaker–
Motion (by Mr. Holt) put -
That the question be now put.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. Archie Cameron.)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers were pre sented : -
Broadcasting Act - Fifth Annual Report of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board, for year 1952-53.
National Fitness Act - Report for 1952.
Nauru - Report to the General Assembly of the United Nations on Administration of Nauru for year 1952-53.
House adjourned at 11.54 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 8 April 1954, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1954/19540408_reps_20_hor3/>.