21st Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. Archie Cameron) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– As the Minister for the Interior is aware, the only persons who are eligible at present for the allocation of homes in Canberra are .married men, or widows, widowers, and divorcees with dependent children. Will the Minister consider extending such eligibility to single men and women who are responsible for the care and upkeep of aged parents? I point out that at present many such persons are required to maintain themselves in hostels in Canberra and their parents in cottages or other establishments in Melbourne and Sydney.
-J shall certainly consider the matter. The honorable member asked me about it two or three weeks ago, and I have discussed it with officers of the Department of the Interior. Consideration is now being given to the allocation of houses to people of that description. I cannot give the honorable gentleman a definite reply at the moment, but the whole question of the allocation of houses is under review. Certain other alterations of the housing programme also may have to he made because of the expansion of Canberra generally, due to the fact that the administrative building will be completed in stages over the next three or four years.
– Can the Minister for Air’ say whether it is intended to replace the Neptune reconnaissance bomber squadron which was recently transferred from Pearce aerodrome in “Western Australia-? If it is intended to do so, can the Minister inform me of the type of aircraft to be used and when the replacement is to he made?
– I cannot say, at this stage, whether we are to replace the Neptune squadron or not. Our present policy is to_ use Pearce for Citizen Air Force training. Other aircraft may he stationed there in the course of time, but there is no firm policy on the matter at present.
– I have heard a report that a Royal Australian Air Force Dakota-type transport aircraft has crashed to-day while on a flight from Canberra to Sale. I ask the Minister for Air whether this report is true. If it is true, is he in a position to give any .details of the crash to the House?
– I regret to inform the honorable member and, through the reply to his question, the House that a Dakota aircraft of No. 86 Wing was forced to land in . mountainous country near Mount Kosciusko to-day, and was severely damaged. It was on a flight from Canberra to Sale, with a crew of four who were under the command of an experienced pilot. At 11.26 a.m. the pilot sent out a distress message saying that he would have to land within two minutes, and, subsequently, he made a forced landing. Rescue aircraft went out and located the aeroplane and reported that three of the four members of the crew, who were identified, were well and had waved to the rescue aircraft. No information has yet been received about the fourth member of the crew. Rescue equipment has Deen dropped, and a helicopter is standing by. I am now awaiting further news from the crew of an. aircraft which went from Canberra with the intention of making contact with the damaged plane. All appropriate steps are being taken in the matter.
– Is the Minister for Health aware that pensions for service pensioners are paid through the Repatriation Department and that, in relation to the amount of pension and .the application of the means test, they are regarded as being in the same category as age pensions? In view of that fact, will the Minister give sympathetic consideration to providing medical and pharmaceutical benefits for service pensioners in the same manner that they are provided for age pensioners ?
– I think the honorable member will find that, in relation to the provision of medicine and medical treatment, service pensioners are treated in the same manner as age pensioners.
– I direct to the Minister for the Army a question in relation to the proposed re-establishment of the jungle training centre at Canungra, in Queensland. On behalf of all those people who are interested in the preservation of our national parks, I ask the Minister whether he will ensure that jungle training exercises shall be carried out in other suitable scrub country in the vicinity of Canungra instead of in Lamington National Park, as was the case during the last war, with the result that considerable damage and destruction were caused to the park.
– I appreciate the interest of the honorable member in the development and maintenance of national parks. I share his views. Most of the national parks in that area were set aside as a result of the efforts of myself and other people. I assure the honorable member that I shall issue definite instructions that jungle training must be conducted on the area that we propose to set aside specifically for that purpose. So far, no encroachment upon private or public property has been made before obtaining prior approval. I will see that that is done on this occasion.
– Will the Minister for the Army inform me whether any sinkings of amphibious craft in training operations had taken place in Stockton Bight, or elsewhere, prior to the disaster of the 8th March? If so, on how many occasions did sinkings occur, were the causes inquired into, and what were the findings of those who conducted the inquiries ? Can the Min ister say when those servicemen and trainees who lost their personal belongings in the recent Stockton amphibious disaster may expect payment of compensation for their loss, as it is now more than five months since the loss occurred ?
– I am unable to make any statement about accidents that might have occurred in Stockton Bight except during the time that I have been Minister for the Army. While I have been Minister there has been none other than the one that occurred on the 8th March. I shall make inquiries to ascertain whether any mishaps occurred during the administration of my predecessors. As to compensation for the loss of personal effects by servicemen and trainees who were involved in the accident, I have had great difficulty in obtaining authoritative claims from the servicemen concerned.
– The unit in question has held only one parade since the accident occurred. I have given instructions that declaration forms shall be provided for completion by servicemen who wish to make claims and that the staff of the unit shall return them to me as soon as possible. I am anxious, and have done everything possible, to have the matter settled, but unfortunately I have been unable to get the claims from the men concerned.
– Will the Minister for Supply inform the House whether it is a fact that the Government considers that the contribution of the United Kingdom Government towards the cost of maintaining the Woomera rocket range is inadequate? Has the Australian Government had discussions with the United Kingdom Government with a view to reapportioning the amounts that are contributed by them?
– Some time ago there were discussions in relation to this matter and a very friendly arrangement was made with the British Government for the sharing of the costs of the Woomera rocket range. I think I made a statement on this matter in the House some time ago. I shall ascertain whether that is so, and, if not, I shall give the honorable member further information.
– Is the PostmasterGeneral aware that the radio competition known as Mobil Quest is one of the biggest competitions of its kind in Australia and that its purpose is to provide prizes for young Australian singers to enable them to travel overseas to further their studies ? Is the Postmaster-General also aware that this year’s finals will be held on the night of the 8th September and that the organizers are having difficulty in arranging a relay of the programme to Tasmania because the land lines have already been taken for programmes of the Australian Broadcasting Commission? Can the Minister say whether anything has been done to make available a land-line channel to Tasmania for the finals?
– The organizers of Mobil Quest communicated with me recently and pointed out that they were unable to relay their finals to Tasmania because there were insufficient land lines and because the only one that was available on that night had already been taken by the Australian Broadcasting Commission to broadcast a concert by a visiting artist. I immediately communicated with the chairman of the Australian Broadcasting Commission, Mr. Boyer, who, as a result, has arranged with the sponsors of the Mobil Quest programme that the commission shall provide facilities to enable the complete programme to be relayed throughout Tasmania.
– I understand that it is customary, quite regularly, for war widows to make application at post offices for concessions in respect of wireless licence fees. I ask the PostmasterGeneral whether such a concession is available to war widows?
– I am unable to answer the honorable member’s question immediately. I do not think that a concession of the kind to which he has referred is available to war widows, but I shall make inquiries and inform the honorable member later.
– I ask the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture whether, following his recent announcement that the Australian Government would no longer participate in the arrangements for the control of the marketing of hides and leather - if I may say so, a decision that is welcomed by all sections of the industry - he can indicate the attitude of the State governments generally towards this development and in particular that of the Queensland Government? Is it not a fact that the complete decontrol of hides will make more hides available to the tanning industry, because producers will now have a reasonable incentive to supply all available hides? If so, will this mean that the public will get better supplies of footwear ?
– The recent decision of the Australian Government to cease control of the export of hides and leather was the outcome of a situation, to which I have referred previously in this House, in which control was based upon the continuation of prices control by the States during the period when there was a big differential between export values and the local prices fixed by the States. When that situation no longer obtained, the Australian Government decided in favour of de-control, but only after the proposition had been submitted to the Prices Ministers of the States time and again. As I understand it, the position at present is that all the States, with the sole exception of Queensland, have de-controlled the prices of hides since the Commonwealth decision was made. No useful purposeis to be served by Queensland maintaining its present attitude, because supplies of hides will go to the highestpriced market, and I should expect that the result might well be a shortage of hides for Queensland tanners. The attitude of the Labour Government of Queensland is similar to its attitude in respect of butter and other commodities on earlier occasions, when it was demonstrated that when the Australian Government was trying to give justice to a section of primary industry and to establish reasonable conditions in industry generally, the Queensland
Government was the last of the State administrations to fall into line behind this Government. I believe that the de-control of hides will result in graziers saving hides that were wasted under the rigid conditions of control which previously obtained, because the financial return from hides was inadequate. More care will be taken with flaying and the preparation of hides. Ultimately the effect will be reflected in the quality of footwear and the public interest will be found to have been well served by the freeing of hides from control.
– In view of the statement that was made by the PostmasterGeneral recently, in reply to a question to the effect that there was a shortage of approximately 1,500 technicians in the Postmaster-General’s Department, will the Postmaster-General inform the House what action has been taken to step up the intake of technicians and linemen in training in the department? Are sufficient young men being recruited to make up the leeway in skilled work within a reasonable time and ensure that the public will not have to wait for long periods, as they do now, for the provision of telephone services?
– I do not recollect having stated that the PostmasterGeneral’s Department is short of 1,500 technicians, but, of course, there is a shortage. An increase of the number of technicians in training depends greatly upon the availability of such trainees. As the honorable member undoubtedly knows, there is a grave shortage of trainees in that class of work. However, the department is doing the best that it can with the numbers of trainees who are coming forward.
– Will the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture inform the House whether all the States have completed arrangements for the ballot of wheat-growers to be taken in connexion with the wheat stabilization plan? Are the State governments arranging for details of the stabilization proposals to be outlined on the ballot-paper?
– The States’ representatives agreed at a meeting of the Australian Agricultural Council recently that they would complete arrangements to enable a ballot of wheat-growers to be held on the question of wheat stabilization. I believe I am correct in stating, from memory, that the ballot was to close by the 15th October. I believe that the States are proceeding in accordance with that arrangement. As part of that arrangement, the States agreed that the ballot-paper should be accompanied by an adequate explanation of the proposed wheat stabilization scheme, or that the details should be printed on the back of the ballot-paper, so that the growers would be fully informed of the issue upon which they were voting. The whole matter is in hand.
– Will the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture be good enough to have a statement prepared for the benefit of honorable members giving details of the explanations printed on the ballot-papers for the poll on the wheat stabilization plan?
– Yes, I shall be glad to make such information available.
M!r. TIMSON. - I ask the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture to inform the House whether it is proposed to establish a honey marketing board in Australia. If that is so, will the Minister indicate when an announcement of the details of the proposal may be expected ?
– The federal council of the Apiarists Associations of Australia has been making representations for a long time to me and to the State governments with the object of securing the establishment , of a honey marketing board for reasons that honey producers consider to be adequate. The matter has been considered by the Australian Agricultural Council. The proposal would depend principally upon State legislation, and the representatives of all the State governments except that of Tasmania, agreed at the meeting of the Agricultural Council to conduct a poll of apiarists who have ten or more hives of bees on the proposal. That poll is to be concluded some time in September. If a majority of the bee-keepers favour the establishment of a honey marketing board, the Agricultural Council and the governments concerned will give further consideration to the details of the proposal. That is. where the matter stands
– I ask the Minister acting for the Minister for Immigration a question about the vessel, Fairsea, which is under Panamanian registry, and is about to bring approximately 2,000 Italian immigrants to Australia. When this vessel recently arrived in Australia from England with 600 Australian passengers, they made complaints the details of which are in the possession of the Department of Immigration, that conditions on board were totally unfit for human beings to endure. Is the Australian Government represented on the Inter-Governmental Committee for European Migration which is chartering this vessel? If so, is the Australian Government in a position to ensure that the vessel shall not be allowed to sail from Italy and that the charter shall not be proceeded with until the Australian representatives on that committee have satisfied themselves that the 2,000 Italian immigrants about to embark for this country will have an opportunity to travel under decent human conditions?
– I remember well the complaints that were made with respect to the last trip of Fairsea. If the honorable member will permit me to treat his question as having been placed on the notice-paper, I shall furnish, him with a reply as soon as possible.
– Is the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration aware that a delay of some months sometimes occurs between the date on which an immigrant becomes eligible and applies for naturalization and the date on which the naturalization ceremony is performed ? If so, can he state the cause of that delay and indicate what action is being taken to diminish it?
– Another honorable member asked a similar question last week. I have had inquiries instituted to see whether the allegation is true,, and if it is true, to ascertain the cause of the delay. As soon as possible I shall let the honorable member have an answer to his question.
– The PostmasterGeneral, no doubt, is aware that no legal obligation rests upon the Australian Government, or the Postal Department, to seek formal approval of local government authorities for plans and specifications of buildings which it constructs in any of the States. In these circumstances, it frequently happens that the first information about the erection of a new building that is obtained by either the people or organizations interested in the particular locality is when building operations are actually commenced. As a result of this, local resentment has been caused by certain departmental decisions which have been made without consultation and with a disregard of local feelings and plans. Will the Postmaster-General issue instructions to his departmental officers that consultation must take place with local authorities in such matters before a final decision is made?
– The department tries to work in as closely as possible with all local authorities in relation to buildings that are to be erected. Although ifr is not always possible to have direct consultations, usually the local governing authority knows when a new post office building is to be erected because, as a rule, the local authority has been pressing for that building for a long time. However, I shall, see that in cases where there is conflict, or where there is likely to be conflict, between the Postal Department and the local governing authorities, departmental officers will consult with the local people as much as possible. One cannot give an absolute assurance because on occasions prompt action might be inhibited, but so far as possible we shall co-operate with the local authorities.
– I direct a question to you, Mr. Speaker. As you are aware, members of the House of Representatives are expected to remain in this chamber for up to twelve hours a day or more, and, in that time they have to concentrate on the business of the House, which of course is transacted by the spoken word. Will you inform the House whether anything is being done .so that members may have good conditions in which to perform their important duties? Can you say whether the acoustics of the chamber can be improved so that back-benchers may at least hear answers given by Ministers across the table to the Opposition? In your answer will you please not lay the blame entirely on loud conversation in the chamber? In view of the increased membership of this House, can the air that is being pumped into the chamber be diffused further than the centre of the House? Can the lighting, which is nearly 30 years old, be improved ?
– The honorable member for Macarthur told me that he was going to raise these matters and I have had them examined. Therefore t can give him an answer right up to date.
HONORABLE Members. - Speak up.
– I can assure honorable members that when I am not heard in this chamber, that will be the day. The new air-conditioning plant was installed to meet the needs of the enlarged Parliament, and it is considered that the system can be still further improved by the installation of anemostats in certain parts of the chamber so as to allow the main air outlets to ensure a better distribution of the conditioned air. Yesterday, the thermometer here registered up to 70 degrees, and even I noticed the temperature. It is anticipated that the anemostats will be installed during the coming recess. This is the first occasion on which I have had a complaint from an honorable member that the replies of Ministers to questions cannot be heard by Government members seated on the rear benches, so I am not able to give a reason for it. I shall have to investigate that matter.
Honorable members interjecting,
– Order ! The Standing Orders provide that Mr. Speaker shall be heard in -silence when he is on his feet. The honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell), who is the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, is one of the offenders on this occasion.
The third question asked by the honorable member for Macarthur is about the lighting in the chamber. Soon after I assumed the office of Speaker, a request was made that lights be installed near the back wall on either side of the House. They were installed, and some honorable members who had asked for them then requested that they be removed. We had the chamber examined recently, and the experts have reported that no worthwhile improvement can be made in the lighting here. The lighting is as good as the experts can arrange. We have made certain improvements here, and, at the request of many honorable members we have installed fluorescent lighting in the library. It was no sooner installed than a number of other honorable . members asked that it be .removed. The plain truth, gentlemen, is that we cannot have a set of conditions in Parliament House which suits everybody. We do our best. I am bound, for the moment at any rate, to leave the matter there, but I assure the honorable member for Macarthur that I shall have another- look at these matters next week-end.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether any consideration has been given by the Government to the inadequate arrangements made for the accommodation of honorable members in rooms in Parliament House? Has the Government ever considered the proposal for the erection of a new Parliament House in Canberra?
– I have given a great deal- of thought to that problem. I am sure that a new Parliament House will be built one day, but I fear that it will not be in my time.
– Is the Treasurer aware that there is a fever of speculation on the stock exchanges of Australia in uranium and oil flotations? Is he also aware that many flotations are obviously of the wildcat variety, and that professional manipulators, who understand the mysteries of stock exchanges, are making fortunes? Will he do his utmost to protect the innocents among the investing public?
– I am aware of the matters which the honorable member for Gellibrand has mentioned, but I am afraid that even, the Government cannot act as a guardian. Birds and opossums are protected, but the mugs are not.
– Does the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture know that, in spite of an additional allocation of money for the States, the Victorian Labour Government has closed several railway lines of importance to primary producers, and it is said that consideration is now being given to the closing of the Horsham-Hamilton rail link? As this line is the only direct rail link between north-west Victoria and the decentralized port of Portland, will the Minister, in the interests of primary production, confer with the Victorian Government in an effort to have this line improved and retained ?
-I have no official knowledge of this* matter, but I gather from information which I believe to be well founded that it is proposed to close the line that the honorable member has mentioned. I should regard it as very unfortunate if the Victorian Government did that, because I know that for many years it has been the hope of wheatgrowers in the great Wimmera and Mallee areas that an adequate port will be established at Portland to which they could send their wheat and other products for export and thus save much of the cost of the longer haul to Melbourne and Geelong. However, I am afraid that the negotiations that I have had with the present Victorian Government in relation to the interests of primary industries do not encourage me to hope that I would have any influence with them in this matter.
– Is the Prime Minister aware that Field Marshal Lord Montgomery is to open a war memorial cemetery at El Alamein shortly? Will the right honorable gentleman inform me whether an invitation to attend the ceremony has been extended, through the Go vernment, to the returned servicemen’s league? If it has, will the Government give sympathetic consideration to according appropriate financial assistance to the representative or representatives of the 9th Australian Division and attached troops who served at the battle of El Alamein to enable them to be present?
– I am unable to answer the questions now. I know that there have been some communications about this matter. I shall find out the precise position and. advise the honorable member accordingly.
– Has the attention of the Minister for Defence been drawn to reports from the United Kingdom to the effect that preparations are in hand there to meet the possibility that ports could be put out of action for a considerable period by atomic attack, and that the preparations include the provision of lighters, floating cranes and beach landing craft and similar emergency measures? In view of the position in this country where, especially on the east coast, seaborne trade is concentrated in relatively few ports, so that we are particularly vulnerable to atomic attack, will the Minister inform the House whether corresponding precautionary measures are contemplated in Australia? I have directed the question to the Minister for Defence rather than to the Minister for the Interior, whose department deals with civil defence because this matter seems to me to be rather outside the ambit of civil defence.
– I have seen a report in the Sydney Morning Herald of the steps that are being taken by the British Government to try to keep British ports working in the event of atomic attack. I assure the honorable member that we are constantly in touch with the authorities in Great Britain on civil defence developments in that country. The Director of Civil Defence, Brigadier Waddell, has been over there to discuss these matters with the British authorities. There is a constant interchange of information between us. The projects that the honorable member has mentioned will be examined very closely by the Australian civil defence and defence authorities to see whether they are necessary and adaptable for use in Australia.
– Is the Minister for Social Services able to reply to the question I asked him on the 17th August about the rehabilitation section of the Department of Social Services undertaking prevocational training of handicapped children on completion of their schooling and preceding their placement in employment?
– I informed the honorable member that this problem would receive consideration. With several other matters of a similar kind, it is receiving consideration by the department. As soon as a submission is ready, I shall present it to Cabinet. The Government will then make its decision known. I warn the honorable member that there are many matters of a complex nature which have to be considered^ Recently:. the principal medical officer of the rehabilitation section carried out extensive surveys in the United Kingdom and the United States of America. He is preparing a report for the Government, but it has not been completed yet. I think it will be some little time before I am able to make a submission to the Government.
– I ask the Minister for External Affairs a question supplementary to one asked in the House last week by the honorable member for Mackellar in relation to the inordinate size of the staff of the Russian Embassy at Djakarta. In his reply to that question, the right honorable gentleman expressed his hope that the danger of Communist insurrection was well known to the present Government of Indonesia^ but I now ask him whether he can confirm the information, which has been widespread in Australia recently, that the Indonesian Government depends for its existence on the votes of a group of Communist deputies, and whether it is correct that the Indonesian Government includes one or more ministers who are widely believed to be associated with Communist organizations.
– I regret that I have not yet obtained information in relation to the size of the staff of the Soviet diplomatic post at Djakarta, but I hope to have it very soon. I have heard stories to the same effect as the information contained in the rest of the honorable member’s question, but I do not believe that it would be right for me to make any comment, either for myself or on behalf of the Government, on a matter that must be regarded as the domestic affair of another government with which we have friendly relations. I do not think I could reasonably be expected to make any further reply than that to the honorable member’s question.
– Will the Prime Minister say whether, in the awarding of honours by Her Majesty the Queen, it is the practice of the palace authorities to advise the Australian Government from time to time of the number of particular awards that are to be made available? Is it a fact that, so far as Australia is concerned, it is the sole prerogative of the Prime Minister to submit recommendations? If so, is it correct to say that, in his own case, the right honorable gentleman not only submitted the recommendation but also, in effect, selected the type of honour to be conferred ?
– The awards of honours by Her Majesty arise from communications between Her Majesty, the Governor-General, the Governors in the case of the States, and those who are the advisers of the vice-regal representatives. Beyond that I naturally have nothing to say since these honours are awarded by the Queen.
– Has the Minister for External Affairs any further information to give to the House in relation to the case referred to the International Court of Justice by the Japanese Government as a result of the dispute between the Australian Government and that Government over pearl -fisheries ?
– I have no particular information on the subject at this moment. The responsibility for this matter is shared by my friends, the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture and the Attorney-General, and me. It is not an exclusive affair. There is no fresh information available at the moment, but. I believe the matter is proceeding according to the plan that the Government has proposed.
Mr.DUTHIE. - I ask the Minister for External Affairs whether representatives of the Colombo plan nations are to meet early nextyear. Is there any likelihood of any of the nations withdrawing from the plan? In view of the great success of the plan, so far as its present geography is concerned, will Australia make any attempt to extend and expand the vital work of the organization as an economic barrier to communism ?
– There is to be a meeting of ministerial representatives of the Colombo plan countries in Ottawa about the end of the first week in October this year. There is no immediate proposal of which I am aware for an extension of the membership of the Colombo plan, although I have heard a tentative suggestion, as distinct from a proposal, that one other country should be invited to participate. I endorse the honorable member’s belief that this is an extremely valuable plan. As he knows, quite substantial financial provision has been made for it in the 1954-55 budget. I shall be going myself, on behalf of the Government, to the meeting at Ottawa, as I went to the last two meetings at New Delhi and Karachi.I assure the honorable member that, to the extent of our financial ability to subscribe, we are implementing the Colombo plan in a most sympathetic spirit, in an effort to promote important developmental projects nominated by the Asian governments, concerned, particularly those directed to the growing of more foodstuffs, transportation, and the basic economic necessities of those countries.
Sir ERIC HARRISON (Wentworth-
Vice-President of the Executive Council and Minister for Defence Production.) [3.16] . - I lay an the table of the. House the following papers: -
Technical Report on charges made by the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron) against Chrysler Australia Limited in relation to aircraft production in the aircraft division of that company, and
Addendum to the Technical Report on charges made by the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron.) against Chrysler Australia Limited in relation to “ Canberra “ bomber components, and move -
That the papers be printed.
This is a. matter of such importance and of such a complex nature that, in addressing myself to the charges that were made by the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron) I shall have to refer to copious notes. I shall read quite a lot of technical matter associated with them, so that there will be no misunderstanding either with regard to procedure or the result of the inquiry that was made. I shall also have something to say at the conclusion of those remarks. On the 18th August, the honorable member for Hindmarsh made charges in this House against Chrysler Australia. Limited. He added to those charges on the 19th August. On the latter occasion, I said that the charges were either very serious or fantastically absurd. I now withdraw the first part of my statement, and shall leave it to honorable members to judge whether my observation with regard to the charges being fantastically absurd has not been justified. The quotations that the honorable member made were from inspection cards. They formed merely a catalogue of difficulties that characterize the day-to-day activities of any workshop in any part of the world engaged on a project as complex and as tightly specified as jet aircraft. The comings and goings between the workshop and workshop inspection, aircraft inspection, workshop principles and workshop supplies of materials for subcontractors, makes such a story as the honorable member’s story was, but without the sinister implications or interpretations with which he associated his story. If the honorable member had kept to the quotations from inspection cards he would have done considerably less harm. If he had done that he would only have revealed his ignorance of what actually happens between Adelaide, Melbourne and Avalon, before the parts are finally built into the aircraft, and’ before the aircraft is flown. But the1 sinister twist that the honorable member gave to the quotations from these: inspection cards - and I think the House will agree with me here - is quite in keeping- with the Communist tech- nique- of undermining confidence- “
Opposition supporters interjecting,
– r repeat that statement. It is quite in keeping with the Communist technique of undermining confidence in national instrumentalities. That is why I must make this- statement in some detail, and must give some indication of the identity of the persons who investigated the charges. They are men of a very high technical standard; Six of those gentlemen were sent, over the week-end from Melbourne to Adelaide. They were - Mr. Hanford Stevens, A.F.R. Ae.S., assistant secretary, Aircraft Production Department of Defence Production, who was leader and chairman of the investigation committee; Mr. N. W. Hodgson, A.N.I.P.E., manager, Government Aircraft Factory; Mr. A. P. West, A.F.R. Ae.S., chief engineer, Government Aircraft Factory; Mr. N. R. Blick, B.Sc, engineer, deputy chief inspector, Government Aircraft Factory; Mr. H. E. Kelly, acting director Aeronautic Inspection, Department of Air, Melbourne; and Mr. L. A. Scascighini, projects Engineer, Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation. Five high-ranking officers were co-opted in Adelaide. Eight other officer’s who were interrogated were in attendance at the inquiry.
– Who were they ?
– I propose to ask that these names be incorporated in Hansard..
– Is leave granted?
Opposition supporters. - No !
– Leave is not granted.
– I want the names.
– I shall read out all of them. The men- who were co-opted in South Australia were - Mr. E. A. Hocking, supply superintendent, Government Aircraft Factory at Chrysler, who is permanently located at Finsbury; Mr. J. McKenzie, senior government aircraft factory liaison engineer, South Australia; Mr. J. Herington, M.A. (Cantab.), security officer, Department of Defence Production; Mr. E. A. Trevelyan, A.R.Ae.S., inspector-in-charge, Aeronautical Inspection Directorate, Adelaide area; and Mr. G. E. Dufty, resident Aeronautical Inspection Directorate inspectorincharge, located at Chrysler’s.
They were co-opted from the Department of Defence Production and the Department of Air in Adelaide. The following people were in attendance at the inquiry and were interrogated : - Mr. C. G. Erlan, manager, Aircraft Division, Chrysler Australia Limited; Mr. F. T. ‘Jones, A.M.I. Prod.E., assistant manager, Aircraft Division, Chrysler Australia Limited; Mr. K. Heath, factory superintendent, Aircraft Division, Chrysler Australia Limited; Mr. R. W. Olds, chief inspector, Aircraft Division, Chrysler Australia Limited; Mr. G. R. Dobson, production engineer, Aircraft Division, Chrysler Australia Limited; and Mr. L. K. Brook, L.I.M., metallurgist, Chrysler Australia Limited. After the main committee met a ‘ sub-committee was formed to check the factory inspection records. The persons who constituted the sub-committee were - Mr. A. P. West, A.F.R. Ae.S., chief engineer, Government Aircraft Factory (Leader) ; Mr. N. R. Blick, B.Sc, engineer, deputy chief inspector, Government Aircraft Factory; Mr. J. McKenzie, senior government aircraft factory liaison engineer, South Australia; Mr. E. A. Trevelyan, A.R.Ae.S., inspectorincharge, Aeronautical Inspection Directorate, Adelaide area; and Mr. G. E. Dufty, resident. Aeronautical Inspection Directorate inspector-in-charge, located at Chrysler’s. All Chrysler personnel in attendance assisted the sub-committee by producing the company documents requested by the subcommittee. I think the House will agree with me that that was a highranking inquiry. I want the House, therefore, to take note of the remarks that were made by the honorable member, because they purported to come - and, in actual fact, in some cases did come - from inspection cards. But, as I have pointed out, the inspection card itself is only part of the story.
– Did you- ?
– I do not intend to be cross-examined. The honorable member for Hindmarsh will have the right ‘ to address himself to what I have to say later on. I will not be put off my speech by interjections.
I should like to explain the inspection procedure that is adopted throughout the aircraft industry in this country which is basically the same as the procedure adopted throughout the rest of the Empire and which has its complementary procedure in the United States of America. The procedure which has been evolved to protect the quality and safety of service aircraft is the result of 40 years of establishing correct procedures to which the industry in this country strictly adheres. Each factory o-1 contractor has its own inspection department with unified inspection procedures. These procedures and the personnel concerned are adjudicated upon by the Aeronautical Inspection Directorate of the Department of Air. This directorate, according to its judgment, gives the company a “ full approval “ or a “ provisional approval “ depending upon its experience and the quality of its personnel. The confidence that has been built up by the Aeronautical Inspection Directorate in Chrysler Australia Limited justified the directorate in giving this company “ full A.I..D. approval “. The Aeronautical Inspection Directorate employs its own resident inspectors to examine, check and see that the company’s inspection department conforms with the principles and procedures that have been laid down. Any departure from specification requirements is made, if agreed to, only under a concession or production permit which has to be fully approved by the Aeronautical Inspection Directorate. In the case under review, the contracting factory is our own Government aircraft factories at Fishermen’s Bend. They, too, have to maintain an approved in spection department. “When parts or components are released from Chrysler Australia Limited, fully accepted by their own inspection, and approved by the resident Aeronautical Inspection Directorate staff, those parts are then subject to a receiving inspection at Fishermen’s Bend, in order to ensure that no damage has occurred in transit and that the relevant release documents are in order. Furthermore, the Government aircraft factories employ their own resident engineer at Chrysler Australia Limited.
Since the honorable member for Hindmarsh made these charges, the Minister for Air (Mr. Townley) and I have ordered a full investigation to be made into the allegations made by the honorable member in connexion with faulty parts being produced by Chrysler Australia Limited which, so it was said, could be fitted to Canberra aircraft. It was desired to ascertain whether there had been any negligence or malpractices on the part of the company in carrying out its responsibilities under its contract. This “ on-the-spot “ investigation has been made by senior members of my department. The people who took part in the inquiry are well experienced and qualified to carry out such an investigation. I have already placed ou the table of the House the technical report on their findings. Summarizing the report, there is no foundation in the allegation that has been made that the company i3 guilty of serious negligence in the manufacture of parts and components for the Canberra aircraft or that any faulty part from Chrysler Australia Limited has been fitted which would in any way affect -the safety of the aircraft. But on this point I shall speak later. Taking the first point of the honorable member for Hindmarsh, that part No. CAL/WB/CF/31 was sent to Melbourne to be fitted to a Canberra aircraft and that the component was of such’ a vital nature that if it were fitted to a Canberra aircraft the plane could explode in mid-air-
– I did not say that.
– The honorable member did say that.
-Order! No crossfire across the table.
– The honorable member for Hindmarsh said -
In order to give an example of what is happening, .1 have here a note concerning a particular part, the serial number of which is CAL/WB/CF/3.1. Om the 9th July last, that part was rejected by an Aeronautical Inspection Department inspector, the note on the check slip being -
Not acceptable. Workmanship and spot welding rough.
In spite of the fact that this part hud been rejected by the inspector, Chrysler Australia Limited continued to produce it. It is a component of such an important character that every phase nf its manufacture must be checked and a history card made out for the whole of the process from the first moulding until its final machining for installation. Yet, I have here proof that on the 13th July, four days after it had been rejected by the Aeronautical Inspection Department inspector, this component was still being worked without rectification of the faults that had been referred to on the first inspection. The next inspection report stated -
This assembly is not acceptable to A.I.D. and is rejected. Workmanship and spot welding too rough for acceptance.
This component is of such a vital nature that a Canberra jet bomber which was fitted a faulty part could explode in mid-air.
Consider the honorable member’s first point that part number CAL/WB/CF/31 was sent to Melbourne for fitment to a Canberra aircraft, and that if this component was fitted it is of such a vital nature that a Canberra could explode in mid-air. I claim that is a false and entirely mischievous statement.
– I said some component.
– This could not happen because the part in question is the front canopy of a Jindivik target aircraft which has no human pilot.
– I did not say that.
– Order ! I warn the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron) that I do not intend to permit a dialogue across the table.
– Let me repeat that this could not happen, because the part in question is the front canopy of a Jindivik target aircraft, which has no human pilot. Certain agreed relaxations are permitted with regard to the manufacture of this expendable unmanned aircraft, which have nothing whatsoever to do with the manufacture of the Canberra bomber. This part was sent to Fishermen’s Bend, and its standard of workmanship was considered by Chrysler Australia Limited as acceptable for unmanned aircraft. The relevant documents were suitably endorsed, and brought to the notice of the Government aircraft factory’s chief inspector, and the resident Aeronautical Inspection Directorate Inspector, at Fishermen’s Bend. The component was acceptable to both the Government aircraft factories and the Aeronautical Inspection Directorate inspection authorities at Fishermen’s Bend, as being suitable for fitment to a Jindivik aircraft. It is most unfortunate that the honorable member suggested that the recent accident to a Canberra aircraft at Amberley might have been due in some way to a technical or structural failure. I have the assurance from the Minister for Air, whose department carried out the accident investigations, that this accident was not caused by a structural failure of any sort. It is even more unfortunate that the honorable member, by this reference, raised doubt and anxiety in the minds of relatives of the personnel who were killed in that accident.
I shall now consider the other points, and report to the House the findings of the investigation that I have made. The allegation that Canberra, parts are released by the company after being rejected by the Aeronautical Inspection Directorate is incorrect. Parts finally rejected by the Aeronautical Inspection Directorate are mutilated by the company, under Government aircraft factory supervision, so that they cannot at some later date be fitted to aircraft. The procedure provides, however, for parts that are not strictly in accordance with the technical specifications, to be released from the company, with the permission of the Aeronautical Inspection Directorate, on a provisional or red release note, and those parts are sent to the Government aircraft factories for further investigation and final decision as to their acceptance or otherwise.
Another allegation that has been made is that assemblies built in jigs that have not been cleared by the Aeronautical Inspection Directorate are suspect, that in many cases details can be in a dangerous condition due to an excessive .amount of hand setting and that parts built in jigs which have been checked by the Aeronautical Inspection Directorate are more satisfactory. In the early production of an aircraft such as the Canberra, it is not possible for all jigs and tools to be fully finalized and cleared by the Aeronautical Inspection Directorate factory and inspection until such time as it has been possible to check the components in their various later stages of assembly. During this period, and subsequent to it, a certain amount of hand setting is necessary, and such hand setting is common practice in aircraft manufacture. The honorable member claimed that this hand-setting is uncontrolled, but the investigation shows that this operation is, in fact, rigidly controlled, not only by the company but also by resident Aeronautical Inspection Directorate inspectors. In any case, the Aeronautical Inspection Directorate inspection and acceptance of jigs primarily concerns interchangeability requirements of the various assemblies to ensure that adequate maintenance and the provision of spare parts in the service can be achieved. It has been stated, also, that Chrysler Australia Limited agrees that the production of these assemblies is now excellent, and that the time required for manufacture is considerably less than that in respect of jigs that are not cleared by Aeronautical Inspection Directorate. There is no record that the company has stated any such thing, but it follows that, once jigs have been checked, re-checked and accepted by all parties, production naturally must flow more expeditiously.
Let us now take the .question of plastic block CT 91214. This block involves the fitting of a fuel drop tank to the wing tip. The technical difficulties associated with the manufacture and interchangeability requirements of this part of the aircraft have been considerable, and similar difficulties have been experienced abroad with the manufacture of these items for aircraft. The facts are that the company took the initiative in this matter, and with the assistance of the proper authorities at the government aircraft factories and the Aeronautical Inspection Directorate, the manufacturing problems were eventually-solved. This matter is so technical that a detailed description of it would only confuse the House, but it is referred to in more detail in the technical report that I have tabled.
At no time has there been any doubt concerning the location of the explosive bolt holes. It is sufficient for me to say at this stage that this problem has not at any time influenced the safety of the aircraft. The plastic block was manufactured as a tool in order to achieve the required degree of interchangeability at the explosive bolt location centres and between the drop tank and the wing. The geometry of the bolt hole centres has remained consistent from the time of the first Australian-built Canberra aircraft. [Extension of time granted.] The inquiries which were made and referred to by the ‘honorable member were, in fact, normal factory operating investigations and were of no particular significance. Manufacturing difficulties were encountered in achieving consistent clearances between drop tank and wing tip, but those difficulties have been resolved satisfactorily in conjunction with the other matters.
The honorable member stated that Chrysler Australia Limited does not care how many rejects are made because it is paid for all work done, whether the parts are acceptable or not. A careful analysis has been made, although the rate of rejections is the subject of a regular report by the company to the government aircraft factories, and a continual check is maintained on this matter, as with other contractors. Chrysler Australia Limited produces, in its aircraft division, approximately 17,000 parts a month. In any manufacturing operation there are rejects, particularly in the highly technical and rigid standards of aircraft production. However, may I point out that my department has set a standard man-hours production programme, which comprises a target man-hour consumption, against which the actual efficiency levels of the company are progressively checked. Naturally, the level of production efficiency in respect of any such project rises from the initial stages until, ultimately, the highest standard is reached. Any person with a knowledge of engineering production will understand this. The progress efficiency levels set by my department permit only a conventional amount of rejected work, whether it be due to materials, for which the company cannot be held responsible, to modifications in design, amendments of specifications, or faulty workmanship in a highly complex and exacting industry. If, therefore, the number of rejects becomes excessive, the production efficiency levels cannot be met. The one is incompatible with the other. But the plain fact is that the company is maintaining the required efficiency levels set by my department. The percentage of rejects, whether measured in this fashion or by visual examination, is not excessive. Furthermore, my department maintains a close supervision of the accounts of the company. Government cost investigators regularly examine the detailed contents thereof to ensure that the Government pays only for that which it should pay. There is no warrant for the honorable member’s implied claim that the company is exploiting a cost-plus contract. All the evidence is to the effect that the company is meticulous in the discharge of its obligations, both technical and financial.
The honorable member stated that a number of aircraft inspectors employed by Chrysler Australia Limited had left during the last few months because of the frustrating tactics of the company. The facts are that twelve inspectors have left the aircraft division during the eight months of this year, but the records show that all but two of these inspectors left for perfectly straightforward reasons. Seven left to earn more money, one has since applied for his position back. One left the State. One was not suitable and was discharged. Two left because of demotion through inefficiency, and one left to gain a wider experience.
A further allegation was that the number of Aeronautical Inspection Directorate personnel at Adelaide was totally insufficient to inspect every individual item covered by a release note, and that these men made only sample inspections. I have explained already that the Chrysler company has the confidence of the Aeronautical Inspection Directorate, through a full inspection approval, and that, therefore, Aeronautical Inspection Directorate inspectors resident at Chrysler Australia Limited are not required to carry out 100 per cent, check inspections. They are there for the purpose of making percentage checks and inspection at predetermined stages of production, and to ensure that the company’s inspection department is efficient and adheres to the standard procedures which have been laid down. The acting director of the Aeronautical Inspection Directorate has claimed that the strength of his staff resident at Chrysler Australia Limited is adequate.
It has been stated that, since Chrysler Australia Limited commenced making parts for Canberra aircraft, hundreds of stringers made by it had been returned from the government aircraft factories as unfit, and had to be reworked. Clearly, the honorable member’s- informant had only half the story. For the benefit of the House, I explain that the stringers under comment are slender metal members 26 ft: long. Because they are made of a particular high-strength light alloy, they grow in length during final heat treatment. This growth is not consistent or excessive, but can cause difficulties in subsequent assembly operations; The material was purchased from a wellknown company in England, and Chrysler Australia Limited, aa the records show, wrote to the British suppliers putting to them this problem of linear growth. The British company replied and stated that they were well aware of the difficulty but, as yet, had not found a remedy to prevent such growth with this particular alloy. In conjunction with the engineering- department at the government aircraft factories, therefore, and with the concurrence of Aeronautical Inspection Directorate, steps were taken to overcome the manufacturing difficulties. The stringers that had been made . were returned by government aircraft factories to Chrysler Australia Limited for rework, with the full approval of Aeronautical Inspection Directorate, and subsequently returned to the government aircraft factories. Any stringers that were outside the limits ofthe approved rectification procedure, together with normal shop scrappage, were mutilated by cutting them into random lengths. This is standard practice to prevent any possibility of faulty material being used in an aircraft. This, apparently, prompted the criticism that there are hundreds lying out in a paddock at the rear of Chrysler Australia Limited building. Investigation on the spot disclosed no abnormal conditions. The area set aside for scrap is holding materials awaiting collection by the proper disposal authorities. Once again, the safety of the aircraft was not in any way affected, and the action taken saved many pounds worth of parts.
The honorable member stated that the same was true with relation to large quantities of rear walls, to which the ailerons of the aircraft are fitted. This problem was one of a technical nature and demanded the attention of engineers at both government aircraft factories and Chrysler Australia Limited. The manufacturing data from the United Kingdom on this particular part was supplied in such a form that it was misleading, and it was not until parts made by Chrysler Australia Limited were fitted into the assembly fixture at Fishermen’s Bend that the discrepancies became apparent. Immediately they became apparent, government aircraft factories, Chrysler Australia Limited, and the Aeronautical Inspection Directorate investigated the matter, and approved corrective action was taken. The record shows that there was no malpractice by Chrysler Australia Limited. Corrective action was taken in accordance with the proper procedure and with the full consent of all parties. Again, in no way was the safety of the aircraft in jeopardy. Furthermore, the company has never used any tropical paint. The paint used was intended for normal protective treatment, and no covering up of an unauthorized process took place. Fully approved concessions covered this action. As an indication of the control exercised over this type of work, a concession for one part was refused and the part was condemned.
The final specific point the honorable member raised concerned the navigator’3 escape hatch. Any one with a knowledge of modern pressurized cockpits will understand the need for an escape hatch to fit the fuselage to the closest possible limits. This requirement results in manufacturing difficulties in both the manufacture of the hatch and manufacture of the part of the fuselage to which the hatch is fitted: The adjustments that were necessary were carried out under full supervision, and with the concurrence of all parties. Some changes in design were incorporated in the drawings by government aircraft factories in order to facilitate manufacture and ensure interchangeability. Once again, there is no question of the safety of the aircraft being involved or of malpractice on the pa,rt of Chrysler Australia Limited. Of the total number of hatches that were released to government aircraft factories, one had to be returned to Chrysler Australia Limited for rework due to a twist which had occurred during or at some point after its manufacture. On its return to Chrysler Australia Limited, it was reworked in the normal way with the approval of all concerned and subsequently returned to the government aircraft factories for fitment. The production difficulties are dealt with in the technical report, and I say again that there has been no question of malpractice and that everything which the company has done has been done with the full approval and knowledge of all parties.
I have dealt with all the technical points that were raised by the honorable member. His charges that the company has been guilty of serious negligence are not sustained. In the case of Jindivik aircraft, there was a difference of opinion between the company and the resident Aeronautical Inspection Directorate in the interpretation of a government aircraft factories’ operating procedure which was approved by the Director of Aeronautical Inspection. This procedure gives the company’s inspection authorities certain discretionary powers. The company’s interpretation of this procedure caused it to depart from the established practice, but there was no attempt on the company’s part to hide anything. In fact, the released documents were properly noted and letters were sent to the government aircraft factories specifically pointing out the shortcomings of a component which Chrysler Australia Limited desired to send to the government aircraft factories for further examination and final decision. However, the ultimate decision in relation to the acceptibility of the component was resolved by the government aircraft factories and the Aeronautical Inspection Directorate in favour of the company.
Apart from the technical matters that were raised by the honorable member, the departmental technical committee was asked to report on any matters which could be said to be relevant to the inquiry. Reference to the technical report will show that the technical committee mentions other matters. I shall refer to them briefly. The first of these matters deals with faulty workmanship in a Canberra wing-drop tank. No question of the safety of the aircraft was involved. The fault was duly discovered and corrective action was taken some time ago. The second matter refers to a materials test piece which is dated December, 1953, and which, in the ordinary course of events, one would have expected to have been put out of the production system. The reason for its existence at the present stage of production is being investigated, but there is no evidence at this stage that the matter is of any consequence. It is very unfortunate that the malicious allegations that have been made against the company could raise, and doubtless have raised, in the minds of crews who fly Australian-built Canberra aircraft doubts as to their strength and airworthiness. It is also unfortunate that the morale of those engaged in the industry could be adversely affected.
Honorable members will recall that the Royal Australian Air Force participated in the London-Christchurch air race last year. The aircraft used in that race were two Australian-built Canberra ‘bombers, and they successfully completed the race without technical failure. My colleague, the Minister for Air (Mr. Townley), assured me that before taking over these aircraft from the government aircraft factories, the Royal Australian Air Force subjected them to an additional examination and it was fully satisfied with their performance. The Minister for Air also told me that similar precautions were taken by the Royal Australian Air Force before taking over completed aircraft from the manufac turers. That is in addition to the rigid inspection to which they are subjected by officers of the Aeronautical Inspection Directorate during the whole process of manufacture and during the inspection of the completed aircraft to ensure that faulty parts are not used and that lives are not endangered by faulty production processes. Our aircraft are built to strict procedures and proven specifications. Prominent and well-qualified overseas visitors have stated that the standard of workmanship is higher than in many aircraft made overseas. During the course of the investigation, it was observed by the representatives of the Department of Defence Production and the Department of Air that the standard of workmanship in the plant of Chrysler Australia Limited was of the same standard as that in the government aircraft factories’ workshops.
Let us look at the record of our own government aircraft factories. During the war they built over 1,000 aeroplanes. Many more have been built since. I am proud to place on record the fact that these factories have never experienced an accident and that none of the aircraft they have produced have failed through any structural failure. The rigid principles that applied to production and safety then apply now. Chrysler Australia Limited also makes parts for the Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation. The representative of the Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation who attended the investigation has stated that the corporation is satisfied with every phase of production and control of the parts that they have on order.
Charges of this nature have a disquieting effect upon the country as a whole. I think it will be agreed that they harm the morale of the men in the fighting services and disturb the peace of mind of their families and of those unfortunate relatives who remain after men have lost their lives in an aeroplane crash. If the honorable member had read the reports and let the matter rest there, the position might have been all right, but he gave the matter a sinister twist by referring to the Amberley air crash and saying that no Canberra aircraft should fly until certain action had been taken, and he reminded the House that, if an accident occurred to -Canberra aircraft in future, honorable members would remember his statements. This information is peddled by disgruntled persons who seek to create a lack of confidence in national instrumentalities and who use the honorable member for Hindmarsh for that purpose. I think the taxpayers should take note of the -cost of the investigation that has been made as a result of the irresponsible statements of the honorable member. The honorable member, either knowingly or unknowingly, allowed himself to be used by those persons to whom I referred. He could have taken the reports on those cards, as any other honorable member would have done, and referred them to the responsible Minister. If he did not receive satisfaction from the Minister, he would have had every right to raise the matter in the House. To come into this House and read from investigation report cards, which in themselves give an air of authenticity to his statements, and then to deliberately twist that information by referring to an explosion in mid-air in a Canberra aircraft instead of in a Jindivik pilotless aircraft, is unforgivable.
The honorable member said that he would apologize. His apology is not sufficient to compensate for the disquiet and the loss of peace of mind to those people who must have been upset by what he said. Let me say to .the honorable member that he should not be used in this House by people who, in future, may peddie this type of information. He is in a responsible position, and he should not allow himself -to be used by some disgruntled person who possibly does not care about the degree to which he may sabotage the industries of this country. If the honorable member is so irresponsible in seeking to gain some political advantage, let him remember the harm that he is doing to the unfortunate people whose minds are upset by the statements he is making.
.- This is a very difficult question because, in the first place, it is full of technicalities. The House must decide to accept either what the Minister for Defence Production (Sir Eric Harrison) has said or what the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr.. Clyde Cameron) has said. It might even decide .that the problem cannot ‘be solved by any amount of argument in this chamber. When I hear the Minister for Defence Production waxing .eloquent and denouncing people for practising the Communist technique by making charges which he said undermine .our .great national undertakings, I take my mind back a few years to the time when the right honorable gentleman sat on this side of the House and made charges of that kind against the Chifley Government, not once in a while, but almost every week. I well remember that, when the Chifley Government bought Convair aircraft for Australian services, the then ‘honorable member for Balaclava, now Sir Thomas White, who was a gentleman with a ‘very distinguished war record, said in the House that the Convair aircraft were a trap and that no aircraft with ‘two engines could carry 40 people.
– The honorable member did not. I was here then.
– The honorable member did, and he made his charges outside the House. His charges were so serious that, although we had .an option over ten aircraft, we took delivery of only five.
-Order! The honorable member is getting away from the subject under discussion.
– The Minister was allowed to accuse the honorable mem’ber for Hindmarsh of indulging in the Communist technique by undermining confidence in national undertakings, but, even if that charge is true, I am saying that, when supporters of the Government were in Opposition, they did worse. The Minister should be the last one to talk about using Communist techniques, because every criticism that he makes could be interpreted as having a Communist flavour. Consequently, I dismiss the matter. The charges brought by the honorable member for Hindmarsh are either right or wrong, and the Minister has not helped his case by misrepresenting what the honorable member said. The honorable member for Hindmarsh did not use the words “ this component “. The words that are quoted against him are -
This component is of such a vital nature that a Canberra jet ‘bomber which was fitted a faulty :part could explode in mid-air.
I have in my hand the statement of the honorable member for Hindmarsh in his own handwriting, which he read in this House. It could not have been faked in a couple of minutes. The honorable member said -
Some components- not “ this component “ - are of such a vital nature that a Canberra jet bomber which was fitted a faulty part could explode in mid-air.
That is entirely different from the remark that the Minister for Defence Production attributed to the honorable member. I do not care where the Minister read the words that he quoted. The document that I have is the one that’ the honorable member for Hindmarsh used the other night in the House, and the statement that he made is written on it. The Minister for Defence Production then used other extravagant language. He said that the statements of the honorable member for Hindmarsh were fantastically absurd. The honorable member for Hindmarsh has been authorized by eight reputable citizens in South Australia, who have been associated with the manufacture of aircraft parts, to give their names to the Government if it will appoint a judicial inquiry with power to summon witnesses and examine them on oath.
Sm Eric Harrison. - Will he give us their names now?
– I offer to the Government the suggestion that it appoint a judicial inquiry. If it does so, the names of all the informants of the honorable member for Hindmarsh will be made available so that they may be summoned. We shall provide the Government also with the names of many other persons who might be summoned to give evidence. In the interests of air safety and of the people of Australia, the course that I have proposed should be taken. It might mean that the honorable member for Hindmarsh could be completely discredited by an inquiry.
– He is completely discredited now.
– The Minister and his colleagues who sit in judgment on the honorable member for Hindmarsh have their own interests to serve. They have to defend their own reputations. Let us have a judicial inquiry and then we shall, get at the facts.
Government supporters interjecting,
– Mr. Speaker, I cannot compete with the noise made by honorable members opposite.
-Order! I insist that the House keep silence.
– A judicial inquiry can determine the matter. Neither I nor any other member of the Opposition casts a reflection on any of the gentlemen who visited South Australia and made inquiries, on the general management of the Aeronautical Inspection Directorate, which is under the control of the Royal Australian Air Force, or on Chrysler Australia Limited. The executive of the. Federal Parliamentary Labour party this morning heard the story of the honorable member for Hindmarsh, in the telling of which the honorable member made available certain other information that he obtained in Adelaide at the week-end. The Parliamentary Labour party has authorized me, as its deputy leader, to suggest that this matter be considered at the judicial level. Let us have an examination on oath, not only of the persons who were interviewed last week by the investigators, but also of everyone who has been in any way associated with this aspect of aircraft production during the last twelve months or two years. The argument on this matter has been in progress for at least twelve months. The first documents in relation to it were dated August, 1953. The matter has not arisen suddenly. I trust that the Government will accept my proposal to bring the matter to a conclusion by allowing a judge to determine it. The matter would not be brought to a conclusion by a vote of this House, because after that vote was taken it would still be canvassed and discussed outside the House. That would not be in the best interests of Australia.
– I can add little to what my colleague the Minister for Defence Production (Sir Eric Harrison) has said. It has been suggested that some aircraft have been accepted and used by the Royal
Australian Air Force with faulty components fitted. Also, a disreputable suggestion that a Canberra bomber that crashed at Amberley may have been fitted with faulty components has been made in my hearing at a time when the relatives of those who died in that crash are still suffering from intense grief. I can understand why the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) has come to the rescue of his colleague in an attempt to whitewash him, but I will not allow him to mislead you, Mr. Speaker, and the House. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition has just read to the House what he claims to be the notes of the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mt. Clyde Cameron).
– So they were.’
– They may have been given to the Deputy Leader of the Opposition by the honorable member for Hindmarsh, but I have the Hansard record, and if I were asked whether I would accept as the truth what I read in Hansard or what the Deputy Leader of the Opposition asserted that the honorable member for Hindmarsh said, in common with most supporters of the Government, I would say, “ Give me Hansard every time “.
– Let the honorable member dispute it if he so desires. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition has just read something that he represents as the notes of the honorable member for Hindmarsh, and he said that the Minister for Defence Production had misquoted them and distorted their meaning. I read from Hansard the remarks- of the honorable member for Hindmarsh, which were quoted by the Minister, as follows: -
This component is of such a bital nature -
– I did not say that.
– No. The Minister quoted the honorable member for Hindmarsh.
– Order ! If the Minister for Air is quoting from a “ flat “ of Hansard, he is completely out of order. Every issue of Hansard “ flats “ bears on the first page a notification that it is confidential and shall not be quoted from.
– I have not the front page. The quotation is not material to my remarks. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition transposed the words and distorted their meaning. You will recall, Mr. Speaker, that he used the words, “ some components “ - a plural expression. He said that the honorable member for Hindmarsh had not used the words “ this component “ in referring to the component of the Jindivik aircraft that he claimed was fitted to Canberra bombers, but in the Hansard, “flat” one may read that the honorable member for Hindmarsh referred to one specific part of the aircraft.
– I rise to order. You, Mr. Speaker, pointed out that the Hansard proof is uncorrected and may not be quoted from. The Minister continues to quote from an uncorrected proof in defiance of your ruling and of the Standing Orders.
– -Order ! I said merely that no quotation from an uncorrected proof of Hansard may be made. So far as I am aware, the Minister then put down the Hansard “ flat “. Beyond that I know nothing. If the House wants me to ascertain the actual words in the proof of Hansard and the corrections that might have been made, I can do so and report to the House.
– As you have said,, sir, since you told me not to quote from the “ flat “ I have not referred to it. I was in the House when the allegations of the honorable member for Hindmarsh were made. I have read a Hansard report of the incident other than the “ flat “ that was handed to me only a moment ago.
Opposition members interjecting,
– The Minister’s argument is flat.
– The fact is that the honorable member for Hindmarsh made the allegations that have been referred to in relation to one particular aircraft component. “Mr. Ward. - He did not.
– He did. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition, rallying to his colleague’s cause, tried to whitewash the honorable member for Hindmarsh, but he cannot do so. The remarks of the honorable member for Hindmarsh on this matter are mischievous and misguided. First, the inference to be drawn from his remarks is that workers in the factory of Chrysler Australia Limited in Adelaide are producing faulty aircraft parts. Not only does he say that those Australian craftsmen are producing shoddy components, but also he implies that they are so low in character and so lacking in a sense of responsibility that they are producing defective aircraft parts that will cause the deaths of fellow Australians.
Opposition members interjecting,
– Order ! I insist that the House maintain order. From this moment I shall begin dealing with interjectors.
– The honorable member for Hindmarsh a.l30 said that the faulty components had been used in Canberra bombers. I remind honorable members that Australian-built Canberra bombers flew from London to Christchurch in less than 24 hours and made the names of such pilots as Cuming and Raw, household words in Australia and abroad. Never has an aircraft from one of our factories had a structural failure. No other country can make a similar claim for service aircraft from government factories. Yet the honorable member for Hindmarsh alleges that faulty parts are being put into our Canberra bombers.
I do not claim to be an authority on the structure of aircraft, hut there ari men in Australia who are acknowledged authorities ‘ on the subject. They are aeronautical engineers of the highest standing whose word would be accepted anywhere in the world. We are fortunate to have in the Royal Austraiian Air Force a man of the calibre of Air ViceMarshal E. C. Wackett. Not only is he an expert in aerodynamics and an aeronautical engineer of world-wide repute, but he also has been a pilot for many years. He has gambled his life on the safety of the aircraft he has flown and the quality of their construction. He knows far better than any honorable member on the Opposition side just what it means to have strength and stability built into an aircraft. Air Vice-Marshal Wackett inquired into the honorable member’s complaints and I shall read his report in which ho stated -
I am satisfied beyond doubt that work done by Chryslers is under adequate inspection control (both A.J..D. and firms) . In particular, the condition of material and fabricated parts leaving their factory for incorporation in Canberra aircraft is correctly recorded in accordance with A.I.D. requirements.
With regard to the extent of inspection, Chryslers have been approved by the Director of Aeronautical Inspection as an “ approved firm “ operating . under the supervision of A.I.D. inspectors who carry out regular check inspections and a full inspection at determined stages.
A.T.D. inspectors are also responsible for the final acceptance of completed assemblies. In the process, all aircraft parts and components are 100 per cent, inspected. There is, in my opinion, adequate A.I.D. inspection stall’ at Chrysler and it is not proposed to increase the size of this staff at present.
There is also adequate control at the Government Aircraft Factory on parts received from Chrysler. This control in particular ensures that parts received on a “ red release “ i.e., parts not strictly to drawing or specification but considered capable of being reworked and brought up to an entirely satisfactory standard, are clearly brought to the notice of A.I.D’. at G.A.F.
There is a comprehensive documentation of these processes at all stages and a clear-cut acceptance of responsibility by any officer authorizing a variation from original design requirements. The system enables! waste resulting from slight errors in production to be reduced to a minimum at the same time guaranteeing the maintenance of the highest aeronautical engineering standards.
Quite apart from the elaborate and thoroughgoing system of inspection insisted on by the Department of Air, there are two other steps taken to ensure that aircrew are only given serviceable aircraft. The first is through the system of requiring the contractor to put the aircraft through a series of extensive and rigorous flight trials as laid down by the R.A.A.F. ; the second, by means of R.A.A.F. flight trials before the aircraft is finally accepted for delivery on behalf of the Department.
Some things are abundantly clear. As to others, it is impossible to follow the tortuous and sinuous wanderings of the honorable member for Hindmarsh. First, it i3 clear that the charges that he has made are completely unfounded. It is also clear that the system of inspection in operation is adequate and complete. If the honorable member foi Hindmarsh thinks that his words will cause the Government embarrassment, or that they will lead to disaffection in the Chrysler factory in Adelaide or any dissatisfaction in the Royal Australian Air Force, he is sadly mistaken. He has merely exhibited himself as a mischief maker, if. not. an. object of ridicule;
– The House has just listened to a report that has been prepared for the Minister for Defence Production (Sir Eric Harrison) by certain officers and certain persons who are personally affected by the charges that I made in this House last week. It is very much like asking a burglar to write his own report of a burglary for submission to a magistrate.
– I rise to a point of order. Is the honorable, member for Hindmarsh in order in likening a gallant and distinguished Air Vice-Marshal to a burglar ?
– Order ! The honorable member for Hindmarsh is entirely in order.. Nobody outside this House has any protection whatever unless the House resolves to take action.
– I am sorry that the Minister for Air has entered this discussion with such vehemence. Usually he adopts a reasonable attitude. By the time that I have finished with the Minister for Defence Production (Sir Eric Harrison), those concerned will be sorry that they did not have a more extensive inquiry made into this, matter. Some of the details that would have been, disclosed in such an. event would have proved to the Government that it cannot afford to neglect these complaints. I have placed certain facts before honorable members on the Opposition side and the Opposition has decided that nothing short of a royal commission or a judicial inquiry will suffice to clear up the charges that have been made. I realize fully that if such an inquiry is held and its findings are contrary to my charges, I shall stand discredited as a public man, yet I ask for a judicial inquiry and. the Opposition supports that request. We are seeking a judicial inquiry that will have full powers to- force witnesses to1 appear before it and give evidence. I shall give the Government the names of persons whom. I want called before the inquiry to give evidence.
– Who are they ?
– If the Minister for Defence Production will state that a judicial inquiry will be appointed, I shall give him the names of the persons within two minutes of that announcement.
– Ar.e they new names?
– I shall give the right honorable gentleman the names if he will agree to an inquiry. Failure to hold an inquiry will make the Government completely responsible if any of the charges are true. In that event, the Government must accept the full responsibility and take upon its shoulders all the risks that might be attached to the charges that I have made in this House. Among those whose names I shall supply if a judicial inquiry is appointed’ are persons who can disclose some amazing happenings, and, I repeat, almost criminal disregard for the men who will’ fly the aircraft that are being made. They will tell of some of the worst cases of fraud, bad management and waste of public money ever known in Australia’s history. They will tell of a Birlec electric furnace that costs £8 an hour to run being kept running for sixteen hours to precipitate two or three small objects when they could have been treated with other materials with properly organized precipitation. They will tell of largepieces of sheet metal being used- for cutting out a horseshoe shaped component and then the balance of the sheet being thrown away while another sheet was requisitioned for the making of four orfive small components which could havebeen made from the piece that wasdiscarded.
An inquiry should be held in orderto inform the Parliament of the fulldetails of the Chrysler company’s contract. What is the cost-plus system under which the company operates? Isit true that that company is usinggovernment machinery and a government factory ? How much has the company received up to date under that contract, and. for what.? The Parliament is entitled to be fully informed about the deal that the Government made to pay the fares and expenses of two Chrysler officers to make a six-month trip abroad, and also to know whether it is true that one of those officers, a Mr. Moore, resigned from Chrysler Australia Limited within a few weeks after his return to Australia and took a job with Commonwealth Industrial Gases Limited. What was the cost of these trips, and what result was gained from them, apart from the acquisition of a few technicians who were engaged in Great Britain ? One of those technicians has already returned to the United Kingdom. What qualifications did they have at the time that they were engaged in the United Kingdom? Are all of them qualified to perform efficiently the duties of the positions that they now hold? At this point, I make it clear that one of the technicians, a Mr. Brook, who is a metallurgist, holds the highest qualifications. There is no evidence to the contrary about that gentleman’s ability. He knows his job thoroughly. The remainder of those technicians, one of whom the Minister mentioned as having taken part in the inquiry that has already been conducted, knows very little about the job that is being done at the Chrysler works. I want to know all about the Chrysler company inspectors’ black books. A very good story will be told about that matter if an inquiry is held.
I shall name a person who knows that about two years ago extruded sections, which did not meet physical requirements, were released by Chrysler Australia Limited and were returned by the government aircraft factory, but Chrysler Australia Limited sought and obtained a concession by quoting “best tensile, hardness and ultimate tests of individual pieces “ to make it appear that all the sections were satisfactory. One of these persons told me - I shall name him for subpoena - that Chrysler’s foreman inspector, Mr. White, directed him to pass four port and starboard rear walls which he rejected. This he finally did by using Mr. White’s Chrysler company No. 1 stamp on Mr. White’s orders. An Aeronautical In spection Directorate inspector, whom I am prepared to name, has on more than . one occasion reprimanded the Chrysler inspector for this practice. Of the list of persons whom I am prepared to name if an inquiry is undertaken, I am prepared at this juncture to mention John Gordon Lee, whose address is 19 George-street, Norwood. He holds a reference from Australian National Airways which sets out the following particulars: -
Date of reference, 18/1/46.
Entered employ at Parafield as Aircraft Sheetmetal worker, 5/10/42.
Left employment 1st October, 1945, and transferred to D.A.P.
Remarks. - During the period he was employed by this company, Mr. Lee carried out his duties in a very efficient and reliable manner. (Sgd.), R. McMorton,
The Department of Aircraft Production also gave him a recommendation, dated the 27th September, 1950, stating that his conduct and the quality of his service were completely satisfactory.I have in my hand another reference given to him by Chrysler Australia Limited which reads as follows: -
This is to certify that Mr. J. Lee has been employed as an Aircraft Inspector since May, 1952, on all classes of work. He has been employed in checking tooling, detail parts and finished assemblies. During that time he has proved himself a. conscientious and reliable tradesman, with an excellent knowledge of aircraft framework requirements.
I understand he wishes to apply for. entrance into the Citizen. Air Force and can thoroughly recommend him in any capacity that his training qualifies him to be used.
From these facts it will be clear that the authorities for the information that I am giving to. the House are reliable. Mr. Lee is now a member of the Royal Australian Air Force doing work of a type about which he claims to be qualified to speak. If an inquiry is held it will be told that in January this year, while he was at Fishermen’s Bend, a Mr. H. G. Taylor, who is attached to the Department of Aircraft Production, or another government authority of that kind, told him that wing-tip drop tanks were found to be faulty and would not work. The aeroplane was grounded and the tank cut. It was found that the valve was jammed with small wood chips and a fibre washer. This man is prepared to swear that that information was given to him by Mr. Taylor. If these facts do not call for a full inquiry, I do not know how one could justify any inquiry. In urging the Government to appoint an inquiry for this purpose, I am speaking not only as the guardian of the people’s money but also, and more importantly, as the guardian of the lives of airmen who may be obliged to fly these aeroplanes in the defence of this country. Allegations of this kind must be investigated, not by a departmental committee the members of which have an axe to grind in the matter, but by a judicial tribunal which will not have an axe to grind and will uncover the facts. Unless the Government arranges for a. judicial inquiry of the kind that I now seek on behalf of the Opposition, nobody will be entitled to feel satisfied .with the Minister’s explanation.
The same person is also prepared to give evidence at an inquiry that he was ordered in writing to release temporarily a navigator’s escape hatch so that its production could proceed. He has told me that it was part rivetted and then taken out of the jig, that rivetting was completed on the bench and that this destroyed the proper contour. That is what Mr. Lee has told me ; and I am now simply asking the Government to hold a proper inquiry in order to ascertain whether those statements are correct. I am also told that at this moment, a hatch that was rejected by the Aeronautical Inspection Directorate is awaiting clearance of a concession at Finsbury. Any investigation that may be arranged should cover the reported attempt by Chrysler Australia Limited to use mild steel bolts instead of high tensile steel bolts, and whether that attempt was blocked by the Aeronautical Inspection Directorate. Another of the persons whom I have already named has agreed to testify on oath that 21 stringers were returned from the government aircraft factory and reworked after precipitation and that, as far as he knows, they were repainted and cleared to the government aircraft factory. He informed me that once this material is precipitated it should not be worked again. But, in this instance, the stringers were returned after precipitation from the government aircraft factory and were reworked. The same person also says that he will swear on oath that Mr. Dobson, a Chrysler company engineer, who was one of the officers who helped to compile the report that the Minister has just read, brought a pressurized air cabin cooler to the heattreating section for annealing. The leading hand protested that it was against aaeronautical engineering directions to anneal the particular type of metal, which was D.T.D.213. Mr. Dobson insisted that it should be annealed and welded, but a Chrysler company inspector reported the incidents to Mr. Brook. The cooler was commandeered to the laboratory; and that practice has not since been repeated.
– He was called to give evidence in the course of the inquiry as a result of which that report was compiled.
– Oh yes, the honorable member is right.
– The same person to whom I refer is prepared to testify on oath that rear walls showed bruises from hard hammers, but that after precipitation, they were anodized and released by Chrysler Australia Limited to the government aircraft factory. A certain E.E.J, section was being made about four months ago from “ 390 “ material, but was stamped “ 610 “ at the direction of an officer of Chrysler Australia Limited, and this stamping was endorsed by the company’s assistant chief inspector, Mr. Mark Warden. My informant, whose name I shall disclose to an inquiry, and who will give evidence on oath, tells me that he queried this action with the planning section, and was told that he did not know what he was talking about. He then took it up to Mr. Brooks, the metallurgist who, after a trip to Melbourne, had the matter rectified by re-stamping the section to correspond with the material actually used. Material “ 390 “ must be treated at 495 degrees Centigrade, plus or minus 5 degrees, in a salt bath, whereas “ 610 “ material must be treated at 510 degrees Centigrade, plus or minus 5 degrees. The important thing is that a risk was run by wrongly branding the material. The “ 610 “ material can be precipitated to a tensile strength of 20 tons per square inch, but “ 390 “ is never precipitated. So, if according to the specification a 20-ton tensile strength was required for the particular part it could not possibly be obtained from “ 390 “ material merely because it was branded “610”. Chrysler Australia Limited release notes covering parts rejected by the Aeronautical Inspection Directorate are called “red releases”, and are used to send parts to the government aircraft factory on approval. Numerous small parts were sent to Melbourne without proper heat treatment. I am not saying those parts were used. I am speaking of what is said to be happening at Chrysler Australia Limited. If the Government is satisfied with the explanation that has been given of what is alleged to be happening there, it is much more easily satisfied than I am.
Another person whose name I can give is a former Chrysler Australia Limited inspector. He found that on one occasion, a jig had not been set in accordance with the English Electric Company’s basic drawings. This is one of the most important charges against the Chrysler organization. If what this man says is true, the company is guilty of criminal negligence and should not be allowed to participate in the manufacture of aircraft components any longer. There is no logical reason why Chrysler Australia Limited should have been given this work in the first place. It should have been done from the beginning by the Department of Aircraft Production. As I have said, my informant states that a jig had not been set in accordance with the English Electric Company’s drawings. He adds that the drawings were then altered by a Chrysler Australia Limited’ engineer to cover the error in the jig.
The engineer marked the alteration on the drawings and initialled it in the presence of this person and also another person whom I have interviewed and who is prepared to give evidence. I want the Government, immediately, to issue an order to the Commonwealth Investigation Branch in Adelaide to impound the whole of the drawings at Chrysler Australia Limited to find this endorsed alteration to basic data because I am told that such a practice should not take place in any circumstances. It is no use the Minister thinking he can satisfy the community at large that everything is all right by glibly reading a report prepared by certain individuals who, if my charges can be sustained, are culpable. It is remarkable that the people who prepared the report went to the aircraft division manager of Chrysler Australia Limited, Mr. Erlam, a.nd the managing director, Mr. Ferguson, but did not interview one of the Aeronautical Inspection Directorate senior inspectors , whose reports I quoted in this House. I should like to know why it was that Aeronautical Inspection Directorate inspectors whose reports I quoted in this ‘ House were not interviewed. What is the Government afraid of? What is it running away from when it refuses the Opposition’s request for a judicial inquiry at the highest level? If such an inquiry were instituted, people could be subpoened and be forced to give evidence on oath. I say it is not true that Aeronautical Inspection Directorate inspectors inspect every part. There are only five such inspectors in the whole establishment which is turning out, as the Minister himself has said, 17,000 parts a month. The inspectors make a sample inspection of approximately 10 per cent, of the total output. A full inquiry should be held into the Aeronautical Inspection Directorate’s report on jigs. [Extension of time granted.]
I was almost finished, but I thank the House foi’ granting me an extension of time. What has happened? Every one knew before this report was made that it would whitewash the people mentioned by me in the House the other night. The Minister, without knowing anything at all about the matter - in fact he said, “ I know nothing about the matter but I shall have an inquiry made “ - proceeded to ridicule thewhole thing. He accused me of being a Communist or something else. To-day he started his speech by accusing me of carrying on some Communist stunt to try to strike fear into the hearts of the men who may have to fly these aeroplanes. I say that, on the night the Minister said he would make inquiries, he had no intention of holding an impartial inquiry. He intended that night to have an inquiry conducted in the matter in which this investigation was conducted. He is determined that, whatever the rnerits of the case may be, and whatever risks may be run : by our airmen who fly these aeroplanes, those matters shall be of minor importance compared to the political advantage he might possibly derive from a whitewashing, concocted report by the people directly concerned with the charges. I repeat that the Opposition will not be satisfied with anything short of a completely impartial judicial inquiry. I have given to the House the information that has been given to me. I have never said that I personally can vouch for it because I am not a worker for Chrysler Australia Limited. But I have been told certain things, and I want the House to examine the charges. Instead of condemning me for acting as I have acted, and also condemning the people who have had the decency to tell me that their consciences are troubled by this company’s negligence, I should be commended for ventilating the matter in this House, and my informants should be commended for their action. What happened last Thursday night ? The Minister came stamping into this House bellowing like a mad bull.
– Order !
– It was typical of the Minister’s behaviour in this House ; but there is absolutely nothing in the report that he submitted to this House that has convinced me and there is nothing in it that will convince the people at large.
.- Mr. Speaker -
Motion (by Sir Eric Harrison) 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 negative.
Motion (by Sir Eric Harrison) agreed to -
That Government Business shall take precedence over General Business to-morrow.
Motion (by Sir Arthur Fadden) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act to amend the Income Tax and Social Services Contribution Assessment Act 1936- 1953.
Motion (by Sir Arthur Fadden) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act to amend the Pay-roll Tax Assessment Act 1941-1953.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
Sir ARTHUR FADDEN (McPherson-
Treasurer) [4.42]. -by leave - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The principal purpose of this bill is to make a further increase in the general exemption for pay-roll tax, from the present level of £80 a week to £120 a week. It will be recalled that the amount of the weekly exemption formerly stood at £20, until the 1st October, 1953, when it was increased to £80 a week, or four times the amount of the previous exemption. The exemption of £120 a week now proposed, which is six times the amount of the original exemption, will take effect in respect of wages payable on and after the 1st September, 1954. The higher deduction will thus be allowable for the first time in the returns to be furnished early in October, 1954, in respect of September wages. Pay-roll tax will be payable only by employers who pay wages in excess of £120 a week, and the tax will be payable only on the actual excess of the wages over £120 a week.
In some instances, because of fluctuating pay rolls, the full amount of exemption is not claimed in all of the monthly returns. In such cases, the law provides for an annual adjustment to ensure that the full benefit of the statutory exemption is secured. For the financial year 1954-55, annual adjustments will be made on the basis of £5,893, and in later financial years, the annual allowancewill be £6,240. This increase in the general exemption will represent a further substantial benefit to employers in the lower pay-roll groups. It is estimated that it will relieve approximately 10,500 employers from liability to pay the tax.
A further object of the bill is to authorize exemption of the wages paid by nonprofit private hospitals. Hitherto, the law has authorized exemption from payroll tax on wages paid by public hospitals, without any specific provision for private hospitals. Some private hospitals have, nevertheless, enjoyed exemption because they are conducted by church organizations, and thus fall within the scope of the exemption of religious institutions. Under the income tax law and the sales tax law, the concessions which are allowed to public hospitals arealso applied specifically to private hospitals which are not conducted for profit. It is now proposed to bring the pay-roll tax law into line with these provisions by exempting the wages payable by non-profit hospital’s on and from the1st September, 1954. The estimated cost to revenue of the increased exemption is £1,810,000 in a full year and £1,508,000 in the current financial year. I commend the bill to honorable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Calwell) adjourned.
Message recommending appropriation reported.
In committee (Consideration of GovernorGeneral’s message) :
Motion (by Sir Arthur Fadden) agreed to -
That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue be made for the purposes of a bill for an act to grant and apply out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund a sum for war pensions.
Standing Orders suspended; resolution adopted.
That Sir Arthur Fadden and Mr. McMahon ito prepare and bring in a bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented by Sib Arthur Fadden, and read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of the bill is to provide £42,000,000 from the Consolidated Revenue Fund for the payment of war pensions. It is necessary to submit a measure of this nature to the Parliament from time to time for the purpose of appropriating from revenue an amount for payment into a trust account to enable pensions to be paid in accordance with such rates as are approved by the Parliament. The amount of £42,000,000 now requested makes allowance for the proposed increase in war pension payments announced in the budget, which will be the subject of a separate measure: The bill has no relation whatsoever to the rates or conditions under which pensions are paid. It merely authorizes the provision of funds for the trust account from which war pensions are paid.
Debate (on motion by Mr. CHAMBERS adjourned.
Message recommending appropriation reported.
In committee (Consideration of Governor-General’s message) :
Motion (by Sir Arthur Fadden) agreed to -
That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue be made for the purposes of a bill for an act to grant and apply out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund sums for the purpose of financial assistance to the States.
Standing Orders suspended; resolution adopted.
That Sir Arthur Fadden and Mr. McMahon do prepare and bring in a bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented by Sir Arthur Fadden, and read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of the bill is to authorize the payment to the States in 1954-55 of a special financial assistance grant, of approximately £19,500,000 to supplement the amount payable under the formula embodied in the States Grants (Tax Reimbursement) Act 1946-1948. In each of the last five years, the Commonwealth has supplemented the amounts payable to the States under the tax reimbursement formula. Last year, the formula grant amounted to £120,507,000. In addition, the States received a special financial assistance grunt of £21,915,000, making a total payment for 1953-54 of £.142,422,000.
The precise amount payable in 1954-55 under the tax reimbursement formula will not be known until the Commonwealth Statistician has completed his calculations later in the year. It is estimated, however, that the formula grant this year will amount to about £130,500,000. Therefore, unless the Commonwealth made a supplementary payment again this year, the States would receive £11,922,000 less than the total payment which they received last year. This matter was discussed at a meeting of Commonwealth and State Ministers held in Canberra last June. At that meeting, the Commonwealth offered to make a supplementary grant sufficient to bring the total payment in 1954-55 to £150,000,000 as compared with £142,422,000 last year. As the amount payable under the formula is estimated at £130,500,000, this involves the payment of a special financial assistance grant of about £19,500,000. The Premiers agreed that this supplementary grant should be distributed among the States in the same proportions as the formula grant. A. provision to this effect has been included in the bill.
The total payments which it is estimated will be made to each State in 1954-55 as a result of this legislation are compared in the following table with the total payments made to each State last year. With the leave of the House, I shall have this table incorporated in Hansard. It is as follows: -
I commend the bill to honorable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Chambers) adjourned.
– I move -
That, not withstanding anything contained in the Standing Orders -
The terms of this motion differ to a certain degree from the terms of the resolution by which the Foreign Affairs Committee was first constituted in 1951. The principal alteration occurs in the first paragraph of the motion, which provides for an appreciable broadening of the scope of the work of the committee. Under the terms of the motion, the committee will be authorized to discuss matters of its own choosing, as in fact it has done in practice during the last three years, in addition to the matters that I, as the responsible Minister, refer to it. There is a consequential alteration in paragraph (4) of. the motion which absolves the committee from the obligation to report on subjects that it discusses on its own initiative. The reason for that, I think, is fairly obvious. It is no good avoiding the subject. There are certain matters of public interest - indeed, of international interest - that it might well be unwise to have exhibited to the public gaze. There is no reason why the committee should not discuss in confidence such matters as it sees fit to consider, but it would: not be in the public interest for reports on all these subjects to be submitted to the House. There is another small alteration in the motion which has been made merely as a matter of convenience in expression. The last few lines have been divided into two separate paragraphs. This is really a matter of presentation rather than one of substance.
The Foreign Affairs Committee was first established nearly three years ago. Until now, greatly to our regret, it has been composed only of Government supporters from the two chambers. The committee has met formally on 34 occasions, on most of which I have been present and have discussed the subjects that it has had under consideration. I think, in fact, that I have attended and spoken at two-thirds of its meetings. No fewer than fifteen distinguished visitors have addressed the committee at its invitation, and to none of these persons have I or any other member of the Government raised any objection. Departmental officers, of course, have served the committee. They have provided it with documents that it has required and have given evidence before it whenever they have been invited to do so. On seventeen occasions, senior departmental officers have addressed the committee at some length and have supplied it with confidential information on the subjects that it has had under consideration. In addition, copies of no fewer than 540 documents have been made available to the committee by the Department of External Affairs. Many of these documents were specially prepared at the instance of the committee in order to serve the purposes of its discussions.
The committee has considered a wide range of subjects without any restriction from me or from senior officers of the Department of External Affairs. It has conducted its own affairs and has very largely chosen its own subjects for investigation. I have told the committee vastly more than could have been told to it in public. I have told it confidential stories which, by the nature of things, could not have been, told in this House or in any other public place. These facts can be verified by honorable members who have served on the- committee. I believe that the committee has been a successful experiment. It may now be said to have emerged from the experimental stage, as it has been in existence for nearly three years. If I may say so, with respect, its benefit has been reflected in the very much improved calibre of the debates, at least on our side of the House, which has had the advantage of membership of the committee. I have asked for nothing better on the several occasions that this matter has been before the Parliament than that the Opposition should associate itself with this committee. I know of no other foreign affairs committee in the world - although scores of countries have such, committees - in which the opposition has not collaborated. It is a truism that foreign affairs are becoming increasingly important to every country of the world, not least Australia. In the light of events of recent times, and as the area of trouble has come appreciably nearer to U3, I do not believe that there will be any diminution of the importance of foreign affairs to either the Government or the people of Australia. They are of vital concern to us. The nature of many matters connected with foreign affairs is such that they cannot be made public in this House, The members of the committee become privy to many secrets of other countries, and we would forfeit the confidence of those other countries if we made them known. It would be quite wrong of us to do so.
There may be a misapprehension still residing in the minds of some honorable members about our Foreign Affairs Committee. This Parliament has established various joint committees, including the
Committee of Privileges, the Standing Orders Committee, the House Committee and the Printing Committee. In. addition, there are joint statutory committees, such as the Public Accounts Committee and the Public Works Committee. All these parliamentary committees have an executive flavour, by reason of their activities on behalf of the Parliament, but the Foreign Affairs Committee has no executive function. Because it is in a different category from the other committees of this Parliament, misapprehension may exist in the minds of some honorable members. It was formed - I should like to believe at my instance, on behalf . of the Government, - in order to provide an opportunity for members of all political parties, without any party flavour, to inform themselves, and to be informed of as wide a range oi foreign affairs as they chose to study. I, personally, and the ;senior officers of the Department of External Affairs, have done all possible, and made every facility available to the members of the committee, to assist them to improve tho educational level of the committee. It has no purpose other than that. Although the foreign affairs committees of many countries of the world started, more or less, on the same premise, they have nearly all developed on lines wholly different from our committee. Our Foreign Affairs Committee, relatively young though it is, is developing on very healthy, wholesome and useful lines. I know of no other foreign affairs committee which enjoys the same privileges as our committee.
– Not even the Foreign Affairs Committee of the United States of America 1
– No, more particularly the United States of America, although I .make no criticism of that great country or its institutions. I, personally, hope very much that our ‘committee will not adopt the system of public hearings, which is the practice in the United States of America. I have no doubt that the American committee suits the administrative arrangement of that country, which is wholly different from ours. The American committee sits very largely in public, and its findings and deliberations, in due course, by one means or another, become public knowledge. .1 hope very much that none of the deliberations of our committee will be made public. From time to time, it -may become necessary, with my agreement, on behalf of the Government, to make public in this Parliament certain reports of our Foreign Affairs Committee, but I should not advocate that as the raison d’etre of the committee. Its real work is done in private, in order to educate the minds of honorable members. As we become aware of the facts of international affairs, we make them available to our confidential committee. But let us not burke the point ; this is an educational committee, not an executive committee.
– A study circle?
– If the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) chooses so to describe it, I shall not proclaim against that description. That is one way of describing the committee. It is an informed study circle, with the advantage of having the Department of External Affairs to put before its members all the facts that can properly be put before them. As I said before, that is vastly more than I, in my present capacity, could place before this House, because many of the matters are confidential and secret - not all our secrets. I repeat, that we would be abusing a confidence if we were to make them public. I hope very much that the Opposition will agree to join the Foreign Affairs Committee. If its members consider, subsequently, that I have misled the House, and that the committee does not measure up to what I have said, they will be at liberty to walk out, hut I venture to say that they will not walk out after attending one or two meetings and seeing at first hand its great value.
The Government has a majority in both this chamber and another place. Of course, it must have a majority, in order to function as a government. It is proposed that .the committee shall comprise nineteen members - at first glance a peculiar number - because that is the least number that will give appropriate representation to each party in this House and the Senate. It is necessary, of course, for the Government to have a majority on the committee, and that number ensures only a minimum majority of Government * supporters from both Houses. The committee will comprise twelve members of this House - seven Government and five Opposition members - and seven members of the other place - four Government and three Opposition senators.
I have asked the Opposition, both privately and publicly, time and time again to join the Foreign Affairs Committee. I can say no more about the matter and I do not propose to embellish what I have said, or do anything further. The Government has asked the Opposition, both in its own and the public interests, to join the committee. Having said that, I know that the Opposition will do as it pleases. However, we will allow a reasonable time for the Opposition to make up its mind on the matter, after the motion has been resolved by both Houses. If the Opposition participates in the committee, well and good ; nobody will be more pleased than the members of the Government. ‘If it does not come in, I shall suggest to the Government that, until the Opposition sees fit to participate, the empty places on the committee shall be filled by Government members, always with the provisions that should the Opposition see fit to join in the work of the committee our members, other than our normal complement, will retire to make place for members of the Opposition. I commend this proposal to the House.
.- The Minister for External. Affairs (Mr. Casey) intends apparently to establish, in connexion with the Foreign Affairs Committee, the same principle that now operates in the Cabinet. There are to be a first-class section and a second-class section. The members of the second-class section shall keep their places in the committee only until such time as the Labour party is prepared to join the committee. The Labour party has never opposed the formation of a foreign affairs committee. It argues with the Government on details only, and the Minister bas been very stubborn for years in connexion’ with the matter. The first proposal for the establishment of a foreign affairs committee was made by the Minister’s predecessor, Sir Percy Spender. In the course of a speech in this House on the 9th March, 1950, the then Minister said that a committee of that sort should be established. On the 7th December, 1950, he made a proposal which was much wider than the proposal made by the present Minister for External Affairs. Sir Percy Spender sought leave of the House to move that the committee be established. Leave was refused because the proposal that was put to the House in December, 1950, was narrower in scope than the proposal that Sir Percy had made in his speech on the 9th March. When the present Minister for External Affairs made his original proposal on the 17th October, 1951, we found that it was still narrower than the proposal made by Sir Percy Spender in December, 1950, which, as I already said, was itself narrower than the original proposal. It is on that rock that the Government and the Opposition have split. The Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt), in discussing the proposal put by the present Minister for External Affairs on the 17th October, 1951, said -
This is a matter ‘ of first-rate importance. I ask the House to consider the proposal in detail. It could be that the establishment of a foreign affairs committee consisting of members of all parties in both Houses of the Parliament would assist this country at the present time. Therefore, the Opposition does not reject the proposal. Everything depends upon whether tin: committee will work satisfactorily, not only as an instrument of the Department of External Affairs, but also as an instrument for obtaining information upon important matters for members of this House and the Senate.
Unfortunately, the motion has been drafted in the narrowest terms.
The motion which we are now debating differs little from the motion that the Minister moved in October, 1951. It i.= true that the Minister now suggests that the committee, instead of dealing only with matters referred to it by him, may also consider foreign affairs generally. There is also the following provision: -
Provided the Opposition is represented, on the committee, copies of the committee’s report to the Minister for External Affairs shall be forwarded to the Leader of the Opposition for his confidential information.
That, too, is a worthwhile improvement: but basically we stand where we stood three years ago. The proposals that the Leader of the Opposition put forward on that occasion have been endorsed to-day by the caucus of the Labour party. 1 make the same objections to the present proposals as were made three years ago. The Government has not advanced anything and the Opposition refuses to retreat. In the first place, we object to paragraph (1) of the motion as at present stated. We suggest that not only should the committee be allowed to consider foreign affairs generally, and, in particular, to inquire into matters referred to it by the Minister for External Affairs, but also that the committee should be enabled to consider any matter referred to it by either house of the Parliament. I should like the following words to be added to paragraph (1) : - or by either House of Parliament, or as decided upon by the majority of the committee.
The Minister would not accept a similar proposal when it was made by us three years ago. I do not know why he refused to accept it, because the Government controlled both Houses of the Parliament in October, 1951, as it does now. So, the refusal to accept that proposed amendment seems to have no point. The second proposition which we put to the Government is that the members of the committee to be drawn from this House should be equal as between each side of the House. The Minister has said, “ We propose to draw twelve members of the committee from the House of Representatives - seven to be Government supporters and five to be Opposition supporters, and from the other place, four from the Government side and three from the Opposition side.
Basing the representation on the committee arithmetically on the numbers on both sides in both Houses, the Opposition is entitled to nine members and the Government to ten members. But the Government says, “ No, you must come in on our terms, which are that we shall have eleven and you shall have eight, and if you don’t accept these terms we think you are unreasonable “. The Opposition, for its part, says that the Government is trying to have the committee too much its own way.
Sub-paragraph (d) of paragraph (4) reads - the committee and its sub-committees will sit in camera and their proceedings shall be secret unless the Minister at the request of the committee otherwise directs.
We find ourselves critical of the fact that the committee and its sub-committees should sit in camera at all, or that their proceedings should be secret, We think that, whilst there is a necessity for some secrecy, the committee and its subcommittees should be the bodies to determine whether they should sit in camera and whether their proceedings should be secret. Therefore, I propose to move that all the words after the word “ unless “, i.e. - the Minister at the request of the committee otherwise directs. be deleted, and that the following words be inserted: - the committee or sub-committee otherwise orders.
We think that there is too much “ Minister “ about this proposed committee, and too little freedom in the committee itself.
In sub-paragraph (/) of the same paragraph, we find these words - the committee shall, for considerations of national security, in all cases forward its reports to the Minister for External Affairs, hut on every occasion when the committee forwards a report to the Minister it shall inform the Parliament that’ it has so reported; except that in the case of matters not referred to it by the Minister for External Affairs, the committee shall not submit a report to the Minister nor inform the Parliament accordingly without the Minister’s consent.
I propose that after the word “ reported” the following words be inserted : - and either House of Parliament may decide that the report be published.
The Minister says that such a proposal cannot be accepted. He went so far as to say that he hoped - I shall quote his exact words -
I hope very much that none of the deliberations of our committee will he made public.
We propose that the following words be deleted from sub-paragraph (/) : - except that in the case of matters not referred to by the Minister for External Affairs, the committee shall not submit a report to the Minister nor inform the Parliament accordingly without the Minister’s consent.
We think that the additional provision in the Minister’s proposal that the Leader of the Opposition -shall receive copies of the report in the same way as the Minister for External Affairs receives them, is worth having.
Sub-paragraph (g) of paragraph (4) reads -
Subject to the consent of the Minister for External. Affairs, the committee shall have power to send for- persons, papers or records:; and, subject to paragraph. 4 all evidence submitted to the committee shall be regarded as confidential to the committee.
The Opposition proposes that the followbig words be deleted : - subject to the consent of the Minister for External Affairs . . .
Further, after the word “ records “ we would delete the words - and, subject to paragraph 4 (d), all evidence submitted to the committee shall be regarded as confidential to the committee.
The Opposition’s case on this subparagraph is also still the same as it was three years ago. If the committee could, be allowed some initiative; if it could be allowed to report to Parliament; and if the members, of the committee were allowed to report to their parties on the trend of affairs and disclose such information as could be properly disclosed, I think that the Opposition would be prepared to co-operate. The existing committee is not a real foreign affairs committee. It is not the same sort of committee as the Foreign Affairs Committee of the United States Congress. The Minister for External Affairs himself has admitted that the term “study circle” might be an appropriate description of the committee. He has admitted that it is intended for educational purposes. It has been proposed for the purpose of letting members of this House and another place have access to documents and persons so that they may become better informed. If it were called a study circle there would be less objection to members of the Opposition joining it. But it is called, a “ Foreign Affairs Committee”, although it is not a foreign affairs committee.
– A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.-
– Perhaps it would. But the Opposition considers that the committee has been given its title for the purpose of giving it a status and importance which it does not really have. The present’ Foreign Affairs Committee has been in existence for three years. If the Minister is content with its work and has confidence in its membership, why does he not relax some of the prohibitions that apply to it ? The Minister wishes the committee to continue only within very narrow limits. The other parliamentary committees to which he ref erred have very wide powers. The Public Accounts Committee may send for persons and papers. It may examine people outside Parliament, members; of Parliament, and public servants, on all sorts of details of governmental expenditure and activities. The Public Works Committee may take similar action. The Committee of Privileges has extensive powers which are almost as wide as those of Parliament itself. The Minister’s refusal to give wide power to a foreign affairs committee seems- to indicate that he is suspicious of what some people might do if they become members of the committee. I think that the limitations that have been placed on the committee’s activities have been inspired by a conviction that some members of this Parliament might be irresponsible or might not have a full appreciation of how they should comport themselves in debates on foreign, matters. There is no restriction on the selection of persons for a. ministry, and Ministers handle problems of far greater importance than those that are handled by the Foreign Affairs Committee. Honorable members on both sides of the House should be trusted to use discreetly any information that may be given to them.
– Would the Government like to choose the members of the Opposition, too?
– That suggestion has not been made. But inherent in the speech of the Minister was a suggestion that certain information might not be kept within a narrow circle and that it would be wrong for the deliberations of the committee to become public. The Labour party considers that it should not allow its members to be bound to refrain from referring to any matters which may come to their notice as members of a foreign affairs committee when foreign affairs are raised in the party room. This committee might well consider matters affecting- Indo-China or Malaya. It might deal with the subject that was raised by the honorable, member for Evans (Mr. Osborne) concerning the Indonesian
Government,, a government of “fellow travellers “ which is led by- a gentleman named Dr. Sastroamidjojo. We consider that the members of our party- should be allowed to make available to the party information, that they obtain at a meeting of a. foreign affairs committee.
The Minister for External Affairs said that he knew of no country in the world in which the opposition did not cooperate with the government on foreign affairs. I know of no country in the world in which an opposition has been asked to join a committee of this kind. I suppose that if the Labour party were in office it might see the position a little differently. But in our period of office we never agreed to the formation of a committee of foreign affairs although such a committee was sometimes- requested from both sides of the chamber. I do not know the exact position in the United Kingdom, but I have reason to believe that Sir Winston Churchill tells Mr. Attlee of every major development in foreign affairs, and I believe that when Mr. Attlee was Prime Minister he gave similar information to Sir Winston Churchill and Mr. Anthony Eden. No such confidence exists between the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) and the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) in this chamber. No attempt is made by the Prime Minister, at any time, to give any information on foreign affairs either to the Leader of the Opposition or myself. We make out speeches on the basis of information that we gather from newspapers and other sources. The Government might well establish better liaison with the Opposition on the highest level before commencing at the kindergarten or study circle level. If the Opposition could obtain an assurance that the Government would let the Leader of the Opposition and I, and the Leader of the Opposition and his deputy in the Senate know about important happenings that occur daily in the Pacific area, the Opposition might feel better disposed towards the body that has been suggested by the Minister. The Opposition considers that, if it joined this body in these, circumstances, its. membership of the committee would be regarded as a substitute for the higher-level consultation which we believe to’ be desirable and necessary. Such consultation would help the working of a parliament every member of which is expendable and every party in which has. its turn on the right and on the left of the.- Speaker according to the whims and fancies of the electorate.
The Opposition cannot vote for the proposal before the House at this time. Even if the Government carries its proposal into effect, I hope that it will give further consideration to what I have said on this matter. The Minister for External Affairs,, the honorable member for Evans, and other members of the Foreign Affairs Committee did consult the leaders of the Labour party in the two Houses some time ago. I thought that we made worthwhile progress on that occasion, but none of the things that we agreed upon then have so far been incorporated in the motion before the House. It may be that the Minister has misplaced his notes, and perhaps we have lost some of our notes, and we should start afresh and see how far we can advance. The Minister has made no advances up to date, and the Opposition does not consider that it should depart from the position that it has taken up because it believes that the reasons for it taking up that position are still good.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- The honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) has referred to a discussion which took place some time ago between the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Casey) and the Leaders of the Opposition both in this House and in the Senate, at which both he and I were present. He expressed his disappointment that changes that he had asked for at that time were not made in the motion now before the House. Well, that is not quite my recollection of the tenor of the discussion. My recollection is that the Opposition, and particularly the honorable member for Melbourne, had stated a strong objection to joining this type of committee while its constitution remains as it is at present contemplated. It should be stressed that his objection was not an objection to particular parts of the motion. I was very disappointed to hear him continue to sustain his objections to-day. The motion before the
House will considerably widen the scope of this committee. The inclusion of th( words -
That a joint committee be appointed to consider foreign affairs generally . . . will extend very widely the scope of the committee, and will constitute a clear invitation to it to consider any aspects of foreign affairs that it thinks may be necessary. Indeed, that is what the committee has been doing during the two years of its life. I desire to-day to make a genuine appeal to the Opposition no reconsider its decision not to join this committee. The members of the committee from this side of the House, do quite sincerely and genuinely hope that members of the Opposition will be permitted by their party to join the committee. The purpose of the committee is to create an informed public opinion both within this Parliament, and in the wider parliament, formed by all intelligent and thoughtful Australian people. It is to create an informed public opinion about foreign matters, about our relations with the peoples of other parts of the world and about the very rapidly changing international situation which we, on both sides of the House, quite clearly believe threatens the security of this country, of the British Commonwealth and of the democratic way of life.
During the two years that I have been privileged to be a member of the Foreign Affairs Committee, I have found that confidential papers have been supplied to us, so far as I can see without restraint or restriction, by the Minister for External Affairs and his department. At no time when. I have asked for confidential information about our relations with other parts of the world, has anything been withheld from me; and I do assure honorable members opposite of that fact. We are given information of a confidential character with complete generosity and without restraint. Moreover, we have had the very valuable services of senior officers of the Department of External Affairs, not only at the meetings of the committee but also at other times. We have had ready access to them and have been able to telephone them when we have wished to ask questions of them. Whenever we wanted information we have been able to get it very readily. For my part, I believe that my membership of the committee has greatly increased my understanding of the problems of the world, and of the relations of this country with others. All that information is available to honorable members opposite, if they will only accept it. Speaking for myself, and also, I believe, for my colleagues on the committee, this desire for the Opposition to join the committee is quite genuine, and arises only from the belief that the purposes for which the committee was formed - that is, the creation of an informed public opinion on foreign affaire - will be more effectively fulfilled than can be done by a committee which consists only of members from one side of the House.
– Is not the report of the committee confidential?
– I shall come to that later. There is nothing selfish about our attitude in this matter. I believe the reverse is the case, because the force of party feeling in ali the parliaments of Australia is such that discussion is easier and fuller among the members of one side of politics. That is a regrettable fact, and I believe that most Opposition members regret it as much as I do. I suggest that that is something that we must remedy. It would be easier and more pleasant for the members of the committee to consider the problems of the world in the atmosphere of academic detachment which can exist in politics only in the discussions of one party. Indeed, I believe, from a purely personal viewpoint, that nothing is to be gained in the way of easy working and study by making this committee an all party-committee. But its real purpose of creating an informed public opinion in Australia cannot be carried out effectively while the committee is boycotted by the Labour party.
The Minister pointed out that the committee has no executive functions, and the honorable member- for Melbourne has joked about the’ committee and called it a study circle. I do not object to that term. Perhaps it puts the purpose of the committee in its proper perspective. The committee has to create an informed public opinion, and we can only create that informed opinion by study - whether it be in a circle, a square, or anything else. I suggest that under the British system of parliamentary government, no government could ever allow a foreign affairs committee to be anything but an informative body. Some references have been made to American committees, but a moment’s reflection will convince honorable members of this House that in foreign affairs we cannot give executice functions to a parliamentary committee, because the conduct of the foreign policy of the country is, -par excellence, a function of the executive government.- No government could readily allow control of its foreign policy to pass out of its hands. That is the basic reason why the powers of a committee of this sort must be strictly limited.
I hope that I do not have to belabour the point in this House that it is important to create an informed public opinion on foreign affairs, and to rise a little above the party level in dealing with our relations with our neighbours, our friends, and our potential enemies. It is still more important to create an informed opinion among the Western democracies generally.
When we compare the disunity of the West with the tightly-knit authoritarian front that the Communists present, is it not obvious that Australians must try to clarify international issues and draw some conclusions from . the state of the world, above the party level, which we can put before the country with one voice? Is it not pur duty to try to form and lead a single Australian, opinion about the matters that so disturb the world to-day? Consider the vacillation of the Western democracies as they face one Communist threat after another. Is it any wonder that we have gone from one retreat to another? Consider the disagreements which occur from time to time even among the most closely joined of the democracies. I suppose we all are aware of the disadvantages that flow from the periodical disagreements on minor matters, and sometimes on important matters, between , the United States of America and the United Kingdom, and the suspicions, sometimes of a more or less permanent nature, that exist between some of the Western democracies. Was it ever more important for the free nations of the world to sink their differences and present a common front?
Against that background, is it very much for the Australian people to ask that the Opposition give this committee a trial? As the Minister pointed out, if honorable members opposite find that the committee does not work, they will have a perfect escape. They can leave, it. Having experienced the workings of the committee, they can then, if they find it necessary to leave it, say why it is necessary for them to do so. But to reject it without a trial seems to me almost irresponsible, having regard to the times in which we live. The honorable member for Melbourne stated that the Opposition has never objected to the formation of a foreign affairs committee in principle, but has objected only to the details. He went on to state his objections, the first of which was that the committee would be allowed only to consider foreign affairs generally, or matters referred to it by the Minister for External Affairs. He said that, in his opinion, the committee should be enabled to consider matters referred to it by either House of this Parliament. But that would lead to an invasion of the sphere of executive government and. to a state of affairs, such as we see under the American system, of which Cabinet responsibility to Parliament is not a feature, and in which different pressure groups in the Parliament try to take charge of the Government’s foreign policy. I suggest that that would be the inevitable result of such an arrangement. Let us suppose that the Opposition had a majority in the Senate. The Senate could then refer controversial matters, with which it was in disagreement with the Ministry, to the Foreign Affairs Committee, and could seek, in that way, to force the Government to adopt a policy contrary to that approved by the majority party in this House. In other words, attempts could be made to take from the Government the unfettered conduct of the foreign relations of the country. I am perfectly certain that if honorable members opposite think about the matter they will agree that that is so. With a parliamentary system of government under which the government of the day is responsible to the House, and the House -is responsible to the country, the conduct of foreign affairs is one of the functions of the Executive Government. No Australian government, whether, Labour, Liberal or anything else, would ever allow such an invasion of its right to conduct its foreign policy. The amendments foreshadowed by the honorable member for Melbourne would cut cleanly across that principle, and I am absolutely certain that no Labour government would consider them for a moment. I support the attitude of the Government in rejecting them.
The honorable member for Melbourne went on to say that the number of Labour members proposed to be appointed was inadequate. It seems to me that the ratio of eleven to eight would provide very fair representation. I suggest that any government that set up such a committee would want to be assured of a majority on it, because, otherwise, the committee clearly could be used for attacks on the government of the day. I am sure that if the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. “Ward), who now interjects, were in office to-day, he would not consider for a moment a smaller majority on such a committee.
Another objection raised by the honorable member for Melbourne was to the proposal that the proceedings should be held in secret. I can only tell him, from my experience as a member of the committee for two years, that that restriction has not created the slightest difficulty, nor would we wish it to be otherwise. The study circle, as honorable members opposite choose to call it, is different altogether from the Public Accounts Committee, to which an honorable gentleman opposite referred. The function of the Public Accounts Committee is to examine matters affecting the public accounts, and it properly does so in public. As I have said ad nauseam, the function of the Foreign Affairs Committee is to try to form public opinion, first in the Parliament, and then outside. The final objection of the honorable member for Melbourne with which I wish to deal is the fear he expressed - and I believe that this line of objection may have some validity in the minds of the Opposition - that the members of the
Opposition who serve on the committee might be fettered by a pledge of secrecy; that they might, in fact, be muzzled, because if they read something in a secret document supplied to them by the Department of External Affairs, and it turned out that it was a piece of information which they could have obtained from other sources, they might be fettered in their use of it. AH I can say is that it does not work out that way. A member of the committee is given access to documents, some of which have a restricted classification and some a higher degree of secrecy. He obtains a body of information from those documents, and he forms an opinion. At the same time, he reads the daily press, the learned journals, and other sources of information which are available to all. Any person with an ordinary sense of responsibility can express opinions, which he has drawn from his reading, and state facts from sources which he knows are available to everybody. I assure honorable members opposite that, in my experience during two years of service on this committee, I have not felt in the least inhibited in speaking in the House because I gave an undertaking to the Government that I would not disclose information which I had read in the secret documents supplied to me.
The honorable member also complained that the Leader of the Opposition and other honorable members opposite are not given very much information by the Minister for External Affairs and “the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), or by the Government in general. He complained that the Government does not take them greatly into its confidence on matters that affect foreign policy. It seems to me that if those gentlemen wish to improve relations between the political parties concerning foreign .affairs, they should join this committee as a start. Let the Opposition show a genuine and a real desire to co-operate with the Government and, in the national interest, try to get this matter of foreign affairs a bit above the party level. I should think that that would be the most useful means of lessening the differences between the two sides in this House.
What are the real reasons for the Opposition’s boycott of this committee? Has the Opposition boycotted the committee because it is suspicious of the purposes of the committee? I am afraid that that is one of the reasons, and that is why I have tried this afternoon to convince those members of the Opposition who are listening to me that the invitation to join the committee is a genuine one on our part. Does the boycott exist because of personal disagreement among the members of the Opposition? If there is an element of truth in that suggestion, I appeal to them to put those disagreements behind them, in the national interest.
– We are a united party.
– What will be the judgment of the future about the Opposition’s conduct of this matter should it be the unhappy fate of the democracies to continue to retreat before the forward movement of communism? What will be the judgment of the student of history who looks back and reads these debates? We have made a genuine attempt to form an all-party foreign affairs committee and the Opposition has rejected it. We still hold the door open to the members of the Opposition, and I most sincerely hope that, in the national interest, they will come in.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Ward) adjourned.
Sitting suspended from 5.55 to S p.m.
In Committee of Supply: Consideration resumed from the 18th August (vide page 417), on motion by Sir Arthur Fadden -
That the first item in the Estimates, under Division No. 1 - The Senate - namely, “ Salaries and Allowances £20,000 “, be agreed to.
.- I move -
That the first item be reduced by £1.
I have moved this amendment as an instruction to the Government that the budget does not satisfy the Parliament or the nation. This budget does not differ from any of the other budgets in the unfortunate series that the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) has introduced and which the nation has had to endure. In 1952 we had the “horror” budget; in 1953 we had the “ chain store “ budget; and now, in 1954, we have the “ starve the pensioner “ or “ Scrooge “ budget.
The Opposition regards this budget as being unfair and unjust. It is unfair and unjust because the legitimate claims of age, invalid and widow pensioners for an increase of at least 10s. a week so that their small incomes shall have the same purchasing power that they had in the days of the Chifley Government, have been flatly and contemptuously rejected by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) and the Treasurer and all of their colleagues. The people gave the Australian Labour party a majority of the votes at the last general election, and therefore they have the right to expect the Government to put into effect the policy for which they voted. Three hundred and fifty thousand pensioners have been ignored. They are the age, invalid and widow pensioners who have nothing but their pensions upon which to exist. But the Government refuses to give them any increase. Last year, the Government gave those pensioners 2s. 6d. ; this year it gives them nothing. If the Australian Labour party had not advocated the abolition of the means test within the life of the Parliament, the Government would not be liberalizing the means test in relation to those people who will benefit under this budget. There are 70,000 pensioners who will receive some benefit, but there are 350,00.0 whose claims for participation in social welfare benefits, after having paid taxation, will be completely ignored.
I know that there are many people who will benefit, but there are many other people who feel that they, too, should benefit. I have received a sheaf of letters from people of more than 70 years of age, people who. have passed the allotted span, asking that their claims be taken into consideration. The people who are suffering most, however, are those whose claims have been neglected entirely. The Government certainly would not have won the last general election if it had indicated before polling day that it did not intend to give pensioners an increase in their meagre allowances. Two days after polling day, the Government gave some indication to people of more than 70 years of age that their claims might be considered, but they, too, have been disappointed. During the election campaign I stated very precisely where the Australian Labour party stood in relation to an increase in pensions for those people who have no other income. I advocated an increase of 10s. a week. The Minister for Air (Mr. Townley), who was then Minister for Social Services and who was sacked from that portfolio after the election, probably because of his statements, is reported as having made the following statement: -
This is absurd and could deal the national economy a body Mow from which it might never recover. Every shilling increase in the age pension costs £.1.300,000, and Mr. Calwell promises a 10s. increase. It is just crazy.
But the Government brings down a budget under which it proposes to hand back £35,000,000 to people who do not need it as much as the pensioners. There are 90,000 other pensioners who have property, or who are on superannuation, who will receive some benefit from the budget, but the claims of the vast majority of people who are pensioners, and who have no other income, or who are of pensionable age but continue to be barred by the means test, have been completely ignored.
This budget is unfair and unjust because the increases that have been granted to war widows and 100 per cent, general rate war pensioners are totally inadequate and much less than those for which the various ex-servicemen organizations have been pressing over the past few years. I refer honorable members to the following report in the Melbourne Herald of the 5th May in relation to comments made by Sir George Holland, the Federal President of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia : -
Last year, although the R.S.L., after careful analysis asked for a £1 a week increase in the basic rate pension, only 2s. 6d. was granted. “ I will ask the Prime Minister immediately for a clear statement whether, if reelected, his government will increase war pensions,” Sir George said.
All that has been given is an increase of 7s. 6d. to the war widows and to the 100 per cent, general rate pensioners. But that increase does not bring their pension up to the same relationship with the basic wage that it enjoyed when the Chifley
Government was in office. When the Chifley Government was in office these pensions were equal to 50 per cent, of the basic wage, but under this budget they are not even 40 per cent. The claims of the blinded and totally and permanently incapacitated soldier pensioners have been ignored completely. They received 10s. last year when the other groups of pensioners received 2s. 6d. That latter group have received 7s. 6d. this year, but the Government says to the blinded and totally and permanently incapacitated pensioners - there are not very many of them, and they will not live very long because of their disabilities - “ A grateful country can soon forget all the services that you have rendered to it “. I repeat that the Government would not be in office to-day if, before the last general election, it had indicated its real attitude towards those unfortunate people and other groups of returned soldier pensioners.
The Australian Labour party condemns the budget as being unfair and unjust because the amount that is to be provided for the construction of war service homes out of revenue and the loan moneys that are to be allocated to the States for civilian housing construction are less than the total amount that was granted last financial year, despite the present needs of a growing community for homes. In this budget £30,000,000 is set aside for war service homes as against £27,000,000 last year. That is just another example of the Government’s deceit. At the meeting of the Australian Loan Council in July, the allocations to the State governments for housing were reduced from £37,000,000 to £32,000,000. That means that from loan funds and revenue the Australian Government will expend itself and will make available to the States for housing a total sum of £62,000,000 this year as against £64,000,000 last year a reduction of £2,000,000. The housing position is becoming worse all the time. The population is increasing, but this year private enterprise is building fewer houses than it did in 1951.
The Government stands condemned for its budget because no increases have been made in child endowment payments. The mother of a family will receive endowment of only 10s. a week each for the second and every additional child, the same as she received in 1949.
The budget is unfair and unjust because it allows the sales tax to remain at high levels. This tax bears most harshly and unjustly on married couples with large families, and on the salary and wage earners in the lower-income groups. Too much revenue is being raised by the sales tax. In the financial year 1949-50, in which Labour was last in office, £42,000,000 was collected in sales tax. This Government, after making sales tax remissions, will still collect £89,000,000 in this tax. The Administration should remit more of the sales tax, which is the most unfair tax of all, because the man with a large family pays most, and the single person pays least. Which are the commodities that are regarded as luxuries and are subject to sales tax? They are cakes, ice cream, toys, fireworks, and the like, and they are subject to sales tax varying from 10 per cent, to 16- per cent. Furniture, carpet cleaners, crockery and cutlery also are subject to sales tax. The sales tax on radios is hardly justified at a time when the Treasurer talks of the abounding prosperity of the nation and seeks votes of confidence because the Government is remitting £35,000,000 of taxation in the current financial year. Sales tax should be removed from radios. If this were done, the listening audience of this Parliament would be substantially increased. Of course, it is a million or more strong this evening. Harsh sales taxes, such as the Treasurer proposes to levy in the current financial year, should not be imposed at a time when he is collecting revenue of £500,000,000 a year more than the late Eight Honorable J. P>. Chifley collected at any time after the end of World War II.
The budget is unfair and unjust because the income tax remissions made .by it give most benefit to persons on high incomes and give little or no benefit to those in the middle and low income groups. Those who least needed relief received most, and those who most needed it received very little. Indeed, some people will receive comparatively nothing. The Treasurer has boasted that he bas remitted income tax by approximately 20 per cent. An unfortunate person who, owing to illness or inability to obtain work, receives an income of only £400 a year - about £230 a year less than the basic wage - will benefit by a reduction of 8s. a year, which is equivalent to a reduction of 20 per cent, of the tax that he paid last financial year. Consequently, the Treasurer can say in partial truth that he has remitted taxation by 20 per cent.
– He is the tragic Treasurer.
– Not only is he a tragic Treasurer, he is also a woeful one. One of his friends in the newspaper world a few years ago said of him -
What are the Treasurer’s real beliefs ami principles ?
Where is he likely to jump next? His financial administration, irresponsible and discredited, has created greater dangers to a free State than existed before.
If that is typical of the opinion held of him by his friends, honorable members can imagine what his political opponents think of his administration. Taxation reductions of £35,000,000 are to be made in the current financial year, but that does not mean that the people will pay £35,000,000 less in taxation this financial year than they paid in 1953-54. In fact, in the current financial year they will pay the Treasurer £4,000,000 more than they paid last financial year, despite the taxation reductions. In 1953-54 revenue amounted to £S97,000,000. The estimated revenue for the current financial year is £901,000,000. Actual revenue will probably amount to millions of pounds more than this figure, but no one can say by how much it might exceed the estimate. The secret of giving away millions of pounds and still collecting at least as much revenue as before, is one of the Treasurer’s sweet mysteries of life. He traffics in inflation.
Let us see how various groups- in the community will fare under this budget. A man with a dependent wife and two children who receives an income of £15,000 a year will benefit - one would not expect it to be otherwise - from a reduction of income tax by £671 a year, or approximately £13 a week. Let us now consider the position of persona who receive the basic wage of about £630 a year. A man with no dependants will benefit by a tax reduction of £4 7s. a year. A man with a dependent wife will benefit by £2 17s. a year. A man with a wife and one child will receive a benefit of £2 4s. a year. A man with a wife and two children will benefit by £1 16s. a year, or :8d. a week. A man with a wife and three children will. receive a benefit of £1 7s. a year. A man with a wife and four children will benefit by 18s. a year, or 4d. a week. A man with a wife and five children will receive a benefit of a whole 9s. a year, or less than 2½d. a week. That is the miserable sort of benefit that the working man is given by the Treasurer in this budget. If I might lapse into the vernacular, I would say, in the jargon of the day, “What a terrific budget! What a mighty Treasurer ! “.
As I have already pointed out, the budget is unsound also because it does not benefit the mothers of families. The mothers of Australia at present have to struggle to provide clothing and food for their children at prices that are twice as high as they were when this Government took office. It is usual for Government apologists and anti-Labour politicians and propagandists throughout Australia to talk about stability. Of course the price level is stable at present, but it is at Mount Everest levels. The index of retail prices has risen to far greater heights in Australia than in any other country in the English-speaking world. The Treasurer has told us that we have abounding prosperity in Australia. Let us see how prosperous we are. Since Labour went out of office in 1949, retail prices have risen in Australia by 66 per cent., in the United Kingdom by only 29 per cent., in New Zealand by 36 per cent., in Canada by only 16 per cent., and in the United States of America by only 12 per cent. The Treasurer appended to the budget-papers figures purporting to show how much better off we in Australia are than are the citizens of Great Britain and New Zealand, but he did not tell us of the more efficient control in those countries that has limited the increase in prices, and he certainly did not include in the budget-papers any comparable tables indicating how much less taxation is paid by the people of Canada and the United States of America than is paid by the citizens of Australia.
The budget is unsound because the Government is gambling on another good season and upon the maintenance of high prices for Australian wool. The prices of all our other primary exports have declined, and the base metal market is lower this year than it was last year. Should the price of wool decline Australia will be in grave difficulties. According to Sir John Teasdale, the chairman of the Australian Wheat Board, a surplus of 140,000,000 bushels of wheat will be carried over from this season’s harvest, and no one can foretell the price of wheat twelve months hence. The Government apparently has not given any consideration to these factors when framing the budget.
The budget is unsound also because the Government has not declared its attitude to the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, and to the Ottawa agreement. Any alteration of those agreements will vitally affect the condition of Australia’s economy, but the Treasurer, if he mentioned those matters at all in his budget speech, gave the impending international conferences on the Geneva and Ottawa conventions scant attention. I understand that in September a convention will be called by the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development to deal with some of those questions, but the Government has told us nothing of its policy on those matters. The time when the nation’s finances are under consideration by the Parliament is the most appropriate time for a statement of policy on those questions.
The budget is unsound because the convertibility of sterling with the dollar - and there is some hope that this might be achieved - also will vitally affect Australia’s interests. The Treasurer has ignored these vital questions in his budget speech. As the question of convertibility has not been taken into consideration, this budget of receipts and expenditure might easily be a very misleading document should free convertibility be restored. Might I ask what part Australia is playing in this question ? Will some Minister indicate the Government’s attitude on how convertibility will affect Australian industry?. Will this question, like that of depreciation, be also considered by a committee? There is no reason why this Government should not have made UP its mind as to whether or not it intends to give a depreciation or investment allowance for both primary and secondary industries in Australia. [Referring the matter to a committee ‘ is merely dodging the issue, and this Government is adept at that. I am informed that the Government has between 70 and 80 boards or committees associated with the Department of Defence. Production, the Department of Supply, the Department of Social Services and several other associated departments. One more committee would not matter among such a plethora of committees.
The Opposition believes that the budget is unsound because the state of Australia’s overseas balances is not one to encourage optimism, but it is one that the Government has chosen to ignore. When the Chifley Government went out of office, it left a credit of £800,000,000 in London. This Government dissipated those funds. It thought it could reduce inflation by increasing imports, but it only created more inflation and caused much unnecessary suffering and hardship to many decent Australian people. The flood of imports which was only checked by drastic import restrictions that did harm to many reputable people, could have been avoided. I warn this Government that it might be caught unprepared again.
– It has already been caught.
– That is probably true and it is the result of the Government’s incompetence, or of bad advice from economic advisers. The year 1953-54 will probably show, when the final balances are announced, that our exports were £40,000,000 below those of the preceding year, but imports rose by £167,000,000 in that period. We might finish with a favorable trade balance of only £149,000,000, compared with £357,000,000 in the previous financial year. The figures for June and July showed that imports were rising and receipts from exports were falling. Australia might easily have an overseas debit trade balance of £100,000,000 this year. Imports will probably exceed £800,000,000 compared with £680,000,000 last year. I fear that import restrictions may have to be imposed again suddenly and that they may be imposed soon. Why should this Government cause hardship and distress to many business people, most of whom, ironically enough, are supporters of the Government?
I say that this Government’s budget is. unsound because of the Government’s refusal to grant any initial depreciation or investment allowances such as those that are granted in the United Kingdom for buildings and plant in both primary and secondary industries. British manufacturers are the chief competitors of Australian manufacturers. Because they are granted those allowances, they are in a stronger position to compete on the Australian market. The decision of the Government to refer the question of a depreciation allowance to a committee indicates how little the Treasurer understands the needs of industry and how little he cares. The manufacturers of Australia want to modernize their plants. If trouble is coming to the Pacific area, the sooner we get the most modern machinery into Australia the better. The Government should encourage manufacturers to bring it in now, and not leave the country defenceless and without war machinery as it did before. Many of the members of this Government were Ministers in the government of the day before Japan struck at Pearl Harbour.
The Opposition believes’ that this budget is unsound because of the failure of the Government to provide adequate protection for Australian manufacturers. The only machinery for that purpose are the Tariff Boards, the second of which was appointed only recently because of the demand’s of so many manufacturers for protection against cheaply made foreign goods. A tariff board takes from twelve to eighteen months to reach a decision. Then it furnishes a report to the Government and the Government presents the report to the Parliament months later. This is but a typical example of the attitude of the dithering dilettantes who form the Government.
Our industries are in a dangerous position. Rising costs Lave made their situation precarious. We have lost markets for our secondary industries abroad and are in danger of losing our home markets also, not only to Japan and Germany, but also to Great Britain where employees work 45 to 48 hours a week and receive a basic wage of £6 5s. They have no paid holidays, no long-service leave and no penalty rates. They have shorter holidays at Christmas and Easter than the Australian workers have. Australian working conditions, which we defend and for which we stand, must be taken into consideration as cost factors, but this Government will not give the Australian manufacturers the protection they want. If unemployment rise3 as a result of the flooding of the Australian market with more cheaply made goods from overseas, this Government will be responsible.
The Opposition believes that the Government’s budget is unsound because the Government’s medical benefit scheme still imposes an unfair burden on the people by obliging them to subscribe to hospital and medical benefit funds before they are entitled to receive added assistance from the Welfare Fund. Despite many protests that have been made from time to time by the ladies who serve on the committees of various maternity hospitals throughout Australia, the Minister for Health (Sir Earle Page) and the Treasurer, both “of whom have been leaders, at one time or another, of the Country party, and tragic Treasurers of Australian Governments, have refused to recognize as patients the babies who are born in hospitals. They refuse to give the hospitals any assistance at all for baby patients, and then they wonder why the maternity hospitals are in difficulties. If we can spend a lot of money on immigration - and I defend every penny that this Government spends properly on immigration - we ought, at least, to help the maternity hospitals to look after the Australianborn babies. Many of the babies that are being born in the hospitals are the children of new Australian parents. When those parents came to this country, they received all the assistance that the Government could give them, but once they become Australian citizens they are deprived of something to which they and all old Australians are surely entitled.
This budget cannot be sound while the Treasurer balances uneasily between two mutually contradictory claims. In the first place he talks of real and substantial material progress. He says we have stability in our general economic conditions, yet a little later in his speech he warns us that “ stresses are beginning to develop in our economy “ and that “ there is a degree of unhealthy financial speculation going on “. And, as if speaking in prophetic vein, he said -
Were inflationary conditions to return we could expect at a fairly early stage the beginning of a new upward thrust of prices and costs.
How can he reconcile those two claims as I have put them to-night in juxtaposition? It is obvious to every member of the Australian Labour party and, I believe, to most Australians, that conditions in this country are really not stable, that our cost structure is precariously poised and that anything could happen. The Treasurer, as if again to hit his friends hardest, referred to business that goes out to chase the ephemeral profits of inflation rather than the profits of efficiency. Is not that a reflection upon Australian industry? Will Australian manufacturers be happy to hear the Treasurer say that they are more concerned about growing rich through inflation than by operating their industries efficiently?
I now refer to one of those half-truths that pass one’s notice unless one has some recollection of the immediate past. When the Treasurer says that there has been an increase of 90,000 in the national work force during the last twelve months, he tells a half-truth only. He deliberately omits to point out that there are only 6,000 more persons in employment in Australia to-day than there were in employment three years ago. The following figures prove this. The total number of persons in employment in November, 1951, was 2,643,000, but that figure had fallen by 83,000 in June, 1953; and, according to the May figures of the statistician it is now 2,649,000. But during those three years there has been a great increase in our working population through immigration and through the accretion of children leaving school. The explanation of that phenomenon is to be found in the fact that many women who entered industry during the war and the post-war years, and many men over 65 years of age, were put off after the introduction of the “ horror “ budget. Even many persons between the ages of 40 and 50 years, if they suffered from any disability, were not wanted in industry. Those are the persons whom the Government Employment Office finds difficulty in placing. Although 60,000 boys and girls enter upon their working life nach, year, and in spite of the big increase of our population through immigration, I repeat that no more than 6,000 additional persons are in employment now than there were in employment in 1951. I select that period of three years because during the three years preceding the defeat of the Chifley Government the number of people going into employment each year was 80,000. In other words, Labour’s policy brought 250,000 more people into both primary and secondary industry in a period of three years. If we want to increase production let us bring back into the employment field the several hundred thousand persons whom this Government’s policy lias put out of employment.
The Vice-President of the Executive Council (Sir Eric Harrison) referred by interjection to the recent general election. During that election campaign he would have the people believe that only a government composed of the present Government parties was really prepared to defend Australia. Such a claim cannot bc substantiated.
– It is pretty true.
– It is certainly not true. This Government has been expending £200,000,000 annually for a number of years on defence. Probably, during its term, of office, it has expended £700,000,000 under that heading. However, Sir John Storey, who was formerly chairman of the Joint War Production Committee, had this to say a year ago about the Government’s expenditure on defence -
We are spending £200,000,000 a year on defence. The defence services and manufacturers are not working closely together and much of the benefit of this huge expenditure was being lost. There is no crusade - no target on which to build.
I have always had the feeling that a lot of this Government’s expenditure on defence was being wasted. We know that in the northern part of Australia there is no defence at all. Queensland, at present, is as wide open to attack as it was before Pearl Harbour; and the Northern Territory is as defenceless as it was when Japanese Zeros swept our Wirraways and Ansons out of the skies.
– Do not tell us that the Government that was in office in those days is coming back again.
– I am telling the right honorable gentleman that he is just as incompetent to-day as he was in 1939, and that in the interests of the nation not only he but also all his colleagues should be dismissed from the Government and from the Parliament. Let us have a lock at the defence equipment that is available to the services. The other day a Sabre Jet took the air for the first time, five years after the Chifley Government had authorized expenditure on the construction of that aircraft.
– That is not correct.
– The Minister for Social Services (Mr. McMahon before he was deposed from his positions of Minister for Air and Minister for the Navy, admitted to the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Drakeford) that the plans for that aircraft had been completed during the term of office of the Chifley Government. Other than a few Canberra bombers what aircraft have we to-day besides Lincolns, Dakotas and Wirraways? Only obsolete and obsolescent arms and equipment are available to our defence services to-day.- We should be in a sorry plight if we became involved in war to-morrow. It is useless to talk about sending armed forces to Malaya, or elsewhere, to defend democracy, when we now find ourselves in a position similar to that in which we found ourselves in 1941 when we were obliged to ship the last 30,000 rifles in this country to the Middle East. Government supporters talk about the Brisbane line; but they are in favour of the
Melbourne-Sydney line - with the Union Club at one end and the Melbourne Club at the other.
In respect of development the Government has no ideas or imagination. This financial year it proposes to make available a few million pounds for the development of the Northern Territory which is 500,000 square miles in area, one-sixth of this continent. In the north-western part of’ Australia, which has a population of only 6,000, the Government does not propose to incur any expenditure at all on defence or development. And in Queensland this Government has not a single developmental project under way. I admit that it is proceeding with the Snowy Mountains hydro-electric scheme, which was commenced by the Chifley Government. That expenditure will be all to the good. But this Government has refused to assist in the Burdekin Valley scheme in Queensland. The Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden). who is an ex-Queenslander or, perhaps, I should say, a renegade Queenslander, has described that project as being uneconomical. But what is an uneconomic scheme? In a time of war, economics do not matter. We should be well advised to do everything we possibly can to populate the northern part of. Australia, and we can best do this by developing those areas. We must do so, because if the north goes the rest of Australia must go with it. The Governor-General stated -
My advisers regard their responsibilities during the life of this Parliament to be the strengthening of Australia’s security, the maintenance of a healthy economy, the development of our national resources and the social welfare of the Australian people.
Judged on any, or all, of those counts, this Government has failed, because it hus not strengthened. Australia’s security; it has not maintained a healthy economy; it has not developed our national resources and it has neglected the social welfare of the Australian people. Our people are conscious of the fact that time is running out against us in this part of the world. They want to see rapid development in this country, and they want to see in office a government in which they can place their confidence and trust.. But, in this Government, they have neither confidence nor trust. The. Government may have won a snatch election a few months ago on spurious issues. It may have made false promises, but it may not have another opportunity to make false promises, to the people. I recall that the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. McEwen), when he was canvassing for votes during the recent general election campaign, went on record at Numurkah as saying that, personally, he thought that the Australian Government had raised too much money and had spent more than it could actually afford. Those remarks were not published in the metropolitan press because the Governments friends saw to it that no admission of that sort on the part of a Minister would be allowed to damage them. Honorable members opposite tell us that they are a coalition government and a great government. I have always thought that the Liberal party and the Australian Country party are like the two great American parties, the Republicans and the. Democrats, which have been described as two exactly similar bottles with different labels, and both empty. There are. many indictments that may be made successfully against this Government for its budget proposals, but time does not permit. I think the finest piece of naivety I can ever remember came from the lips of the Prime Minister during the election campaign. He proved that there is no limit to the Liberal party’s audacity and unscrupulousness when he said -
We can rightly claim to be the workers’ party in the truest sense.
The workers party in the, truest sense! The workers have had a look at this budget and they know this Government is not a. workers’ government. Anyway, how could the Liberal party be a workers’ party when its . federal, president is the head of the Shell Oil Company Limited, and leading members of the party are prominent on every Australian Stock Exchange and on the boards of almost all Australian newspapers and radio stations, and on the boards of all the private banks and insurance companies, chain stores and emporiums? Indeed, they are on the directorates of all the financial, commercial and industrial enterprises that have the one common objective; of keeping the. worker as close to the basic wage as possible. The Government hopes, of course, that the people will forget quickly, so that before the Senate election campaign is due, eighteen months hence, they will be able to- bring down another budget which they hope will enable them to escape the just retribution which they deserve, and avoid the Nemesis which is certainly pursuing them.
This budget is bad. It cannot be justified on any grounds at all. It is a rich man’s budget because the big people on incomes of £15,000 a year or more will get all the benefits while the great mass of the people will get no worthwhile benefits whatever. In relation to sales tax, income tax, excise and everything else, there is nothing to commend the budget. Last year, the Government reduced the excise on whisky, a rich man’s drink, by 21s. a gallon. This year, it is reducing the. excise on brandy by 30s. a gallon. But there has been no reduction of the excise on beer, tobacco and cigarettes from the heights to which they leapt under the “ horror “ budget. The excise on beer was increased from 4s. 7d. to 7s. 2d. a gallon, an increase of 2s. 7d. a gallon. The excise on cigarettes was increased to 5s. Id. per lb., and on tobacco to 3s. 6d. per lb. If any benefit is to be given to the mass of the people in a budget, all those items should be reduced to their previous level. In fact, as I have said often around Australia, a person who buys a bottle of beer to-day pays half the price of it. in excise to the Commonwealth Treasurer. Every time a person drinks a glass of beer, he gives half of it to the Treasurer. And the Treasurer takes it and apparently will continue to take it. So, by any criterion, and certainly by the test of public welfare, this budget is bad and the first item should be reduced by £1.
– We have had the benefit of listening to the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell), who is Deputy Leader of the Opposition. The Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) is engaged elsewhere on more important pre-occupations, so we have heard the crown prince, the heir apparent to the throne, who is no doubt waiting modestly for the crown to be pressed upon his reluctant brow by his enthusiastic supporters. However, the individual who speaks for the Labour opposition, whether he be high, or low in the party, deserves an attentive hearing. No doubt the words that have fallen from the lips of the honorable member for Melbourne have been discussed in caucus and his attitude is a. considered one. From the ganglion of matter dealt with in this £1,000,000,000 budget he picked out, with great care and attention and presumably on the advice of his supporters, those matters which in the minds of the Opposition are of outstanding and paramount importance in the Australian economy. Whatever falls from the lips of him who speaks first for the Opposition we must listen to with the greatest attention. But we must give due consideration not only to what he says, but also to what he does not say. The budget debate is the most important single debate pf the year because the budget itself is the summarized expression of the Government’s policy. It is the epitome, the omnium gatherum of everything that the Government has to say, reduced to financial terms.’ The budget debate affords the greatest opportunity that the Opposition has to . criticize Government policy. It is a field day, field week, or field fortnight for the Opposition and for the first individual in the Labour land who speaks on behalf of the Opposition. He is assured of a wide audience both in this House and also. I have no doubt, throughout the country. Those are npt terms of exaggeration. Against that background what did the honorable gentleman have to say to us? What were the matters of supreme national importance that he picked out of this £1,000,000,000 in the 45 minutes in which he addressed the committee to-night? His words still ring in our ears. He talked almost entirely of the welfare state and .social services. He spoke of what he considered to be the deficiencies of the Government’s administration, but the greater part of his speech was taken up with social services - the amounts that are being paid by a grateful Government to those people who have fallen by the wayside, or who cannot live on their own earnings. Whilst that is a subject, ‘of some consequence, I suggest with, great respect to the honorable gentleman that it is not the most important subject to this young developing nation of 9,000,000 people, beset by a variety of difficulties and struggling as best it can to maintain its prosperity and security, and indeed to survive in a dangerous world. I suggest with great respect that this matter of social services is far from the most important subject that the honorable member for Melbourne should have picked out to discuss in this most vital single debate of the year. Of social services I shall say little. I shall not pursue the honorable gentleman down that path. I simply say that his party went to the polls a few months ago, promising the sun, moon and the stars in the field of social services. Had Labour’s proposals been implemented they would have cost at least £300,000,000 on top of this £1,000,000,000 budget. We went to the people under the leadership of the right honorable Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) and promised nothing; but we have done something on our return. We have done fairly by all those who need Government bounty to carry on. That is the simple proposition.
The Opposition went to the people with extravagant promises of what it would do if it were returned to office. We went before the people with no promises at all. The people believed us. They considered that we would make the better government, and returned us to office. Now we have done things, and have not merely talked about doing them. In other words, we have something else to think with and talk with but our mouths. I have done with saying harsh things, which I possibly have said, about the honorable member for Melbourne, but I suggest that the people of Australia have had a little bit too much of demagoguery. In my view, there are more thinking people in Australia to-day than ever before.
I shall not produce many figures in this speech, particularly figures scrawled on the back of an envelope to show whether somebody is 2d. a week or 8d. a week better off than before. I shall not bother honorable members with figures of that kind. But I point out that there are 520,000 civil pensioners and 3,750,000 workers in Australia. That is the work force of Australia, male and female, in all branches of human activity. On the basis of that simple comparison, which group is deserving of more consideration in a debate of this sort, the 3,750,000 workers or the 520,000 people who draw civil pensions of one kind or another? The simple fact is that thu civil pensioners, at the instance of thi? Government through, this budget, are to receive something like £200,000,000 to enable them to carry on. The gross national product of this country that the work force of 3,750,000 persons produces, is more than £4,000,000,000. I suggest that the matter to be discussed seriously by people who have some regard for thi welfare of the country, is how to increase the gross national product, on which the welfare of the workers depends. When we stack up those two subjects for discussion, I think that the matters which the honorable member for Melbourne talked about sink into something like their proper proportion.
I should now like to deal, quite briefly, with a group of related subjects of firstclass importance to the economy, and the welfare and well-being of this country, and, in. particular, to the work force of 3,750,000 persons. I thought that some, at least, of these related subjects would find a. place in a considered speech, of 45 minutes duration, delivered by the honorable member for Melbourne, on behalf of the great Labour party of Australia. It is beyond dispute that on these linked subjects the productivity of this country depends. I thought that the honorable member would speak about the amount of production per man-hour in Australia. I thought that he would refer to the sending of productivity teams overseas in order to see whether we had anything to learn about production methods from Great Britain, Canada or the United States of America.
He might also have developed the theme of obtaining more efficient management in Australia, because that is one of the factors on which productivity depends. He might also have spoken of employment, and even unemployment, if he could have found any unemployment worth mentioning. I refer now to employment of vast importance, not only at the present time, but five or ten years hence, and the conditions and other matters on which employment depends. He might have talked about immigration, and the advisability or otherwise of bringing to Australia 100,000 persons each year unless we, as a government, make adequate provision for their employment. The Opposition, as the alternative government, doubtless has views about whether we are providing too much or too little for the continued employment of that regular influx of 100,000 immigrants annually in the years ahead. In other words, the honorable member for Melbourne might have discussed how much, or how little, of our national income we are ploughing back in the form of capital equipment which will form the means of production for our constantly growing work force. Unless enough is ploughed back, the work force of two to five to ten years ahead will not have tools with which to produce. The honorable member for Melbourne did not express an opinion about whether we are ploughing back too much or too little. This budget creates the conditions under which the businesses of Australia, small and large, are to plough back x per cent, of their income. The Government produces the provision under which the ploughing back is done. On the result of this ploughing back process depend employment and production two years or four years hence. The honorable member did not say a word on that matter of first-class importance.
I thought that the Opposition would have firm views about the subject of depreciation, because this is not a “ hifalutin “ matter which does not concern the worker. Indeed, it concerns him immensely, because on the percentage of depreciation which, again, is linked with the ploughing back of profits into the economy, depends the state of employment a few years ahead. The honorable member for Melbourne did not mention incentives. We know that everyone, whatever the industry in which he is employed, needs some incentive to work to his utmost. The honorable member did not say a word about incentives, or scientific research, which is one of the indirect but most potent causes of greater production. Finally he did not say a word - not a single word - about socialism, yet we know that socialism is the main plank of the platform and the objective of the Australian Labour party. I like to think that if I belonged to a party whose No. 1 objective - not just any objective - was socialism, I would not be ashamed of it. I would speak about it. In those circumstances, I would deplore the lack of socialism, and the grievous falling away from the great socialist objective. The honorable member for Melbourne did not say a word about the socialist objective of the Labour party.
I have discussed a group of related subjects on which the bread and butter and the well being of the Australian workers a few years ahead depend. The honorable gentleman might say, if . he were frank enough, that there were no votes for the Labour party in those matters. He might ask, in effect, “ What do the people, who support me and my colleagues care about depreciation, all those matters that you call ploughing back, and the rest of it ? That is “ hifalutin” stuff that my political supporters know nothing about. They want some good, hard, red meat which will make them vote for me, Arthur Calwell, at the next election “. I venture to think, with great respect to the honorable member, because I have a great respect for him, that he is wrong. This community is getting a little tired of demagoguery. Many thinking people, who could normally be expected to vote for the Labour party, are included among our supporters. If I may venture on a personal experience, I contested the electorate of La Trobe a few months ago. I had on the roll approximately 16,000 new electors, many of whom had come from the crowded inner suburbs of Melbourne. Possibly, a great many of them had lived in the electorate of Melbourne.
– No, they all stayed with me.
– Well, those people, in view of their former surroundings, might very well have been expected to vote against me. They did not, in their wisdom. I was returned with a greater majority than before. When I mention this matter, I am not boasting. I am merely giving an example to show that people, although they come from a Labour environment, do not necessarily vote for the Labour party. They think about political events, they listen to the parliamentary broadcasts, .and they decide whether the Government or the Opposition is talking more sense and -whether one is trying, with better prospects of success than the other, to penetrate the mists of the future and do more in their interests. I venture to think, with great respect for the honorable member for Melbourne - I have almost affection for him - that the people will not derive a great deal of comfort from the nuts and bolts, if I may so describe them, with which he provided them to-night, when there is so much in the world for him to talk about at this time. Imagine the situation! This is a £1,000,000,000 budget. The budget statement contains scores of pages of detailed material on every conceivable subject in Australia, yet out of that great ganglion of things, the honorable gentleman picks out a few rusty nuts and bolts. “Well, there it is ! Probably the honorable gentleman has been loyal to his leader, who is absent this week on more important business. Maybe the honorable member for Melbourne said to himself, although I do not attempt to penetrate his mind on this matter, “If I shine too much, I am disloyal to my leader “. I do not say with any assurance that that is the case, but that mav have gone through his mind. It may account for the muted intellectual tone of the honorable gentleman’s speech tonight. I do not say this of the Opposition as a whole, because I am certain that from some private members here and there on the Opposition side we shall get some very thoughtful speeches, possibly dealing with some of the matters about which I am speaking.
In the relatively short time at my disposal, I want to try to analyse the phenomenon of the Australian Labour party and its leadership. I assure the House that I shall do it in all kindliness. It is a phenomenon that at this stage of the national history of a young and developing country we should have been subjected for 45 minutes to a speech on a few rusty nuts and bolts. That needs explanation. I think the explanation is that the Australian Labour party has run out of ideas. I believe that, twenty years or so ago, the Labour movement ceased to think. The Australian Labour party was once a great party. It came into existence about 60 years ago to improve the conditions of the average worker in Australia. That task has been very largely, but not entirely, completed, although not by any means solely by the Australian Labour party. “When the task was well on the way, the Australian Labour party, by an intense mental effort, evolved the concept of socialism. One fine day, the leaders of the Australian Labour party woke up, cleared their throats, moistened their lips and astonished the world by announcing that they had adopted a policy of full-scale socialism. It was inscribed in their platform as the objective, not one of the objectives, of the party. Everything was fine for a short time. Then one day they woke up to the fact that socialism was very unpopular with the Australian people as a whole. The Australians, being a vigorous and individualistic people, did not like that concept of socialism. So socialism was put rapidly back] into the bag and, except from one or two gentlemen in the Labour party who have views of their own, we have not heard anything about it for a great many years. I should have thought that at the last general election, a fiercely fought battle, that objective of the Australian Labour party would be displayed on red banners all over Australia, but we did not hear a word of it. If any of us had the temerity to raise that issue, the subject was changed before we could blink an eye. The simple fact is that if the Australian Labour party could bury and forget that plank of its platform without producing a resounding laugh throughout Australia, it would bury it overnight and we should never hear of it again. But it cannot do so. It is hoist with its own petard. It’ knows that Australia would laugh itself to sleep if it tried to do so.
I venture to suggest with great respect that, apart from the welfare state, which is a fine humanitarian concept, the Aus.tralian Labour party has no discernible set of principles to-day, either political, industrial or economic. It is living in a vacuum or, to change, the metaphor, Is free-wheeling downhill with the momentum of the past. I believe, there are. a lot of Young and middle-aged men in the Australian Labour party who know that that is so. They are unhappy because they belong to a party that has ceased to think, a party that has no connexion whatever with Labour parties and Labour movements in other parts of the world which are thinking. I think I know more about Transport House in Smith Square in London than is known by practically any member of the Opposition to-day. More thinking goes on in a week, in Transport House, the head-quarters of the Labour movement in Great Britain, than goes on in any twelve months in the head-quarters of the Labour party in. this country. I know that thinking is a strenuous process. It. is one of the most difficult tasks, that mankind, has to per. form from time to time. But, after all, we have not been elected to this Parliament merely to use our mouths. We are supposed to use what we are pleased to call our brains. We on this side of the House do our best to do so. Some of the results of our thinking are epitomized in this budget, which is the result of a great deal of thought. I ask the members of the Opposition to tell us who, and where, are the back-room boys who are doing their thinking? Thinking eventually produces some results - good or bad, controversial or otherwise.
In view of the influence that honorable members opposite believe they have, and tell us they have, with the- workers of Australia, the Australian Labour party should be thinking about the future prosperity of our great work force of 3,750,000 people, a large proportion of the Australian population. I believe it is beyond dispute that the prosperity of the workers is based more on their individual production than on any other single factor. Individual production depends on a lot of things. It depends on good management, adequate mechanization, reasonable incentives, good employer-employee relations, and the psychological atmosphere in which the workers work. How many of those problems, if any, have ever been given attention in this House by the Australian Labour party - the party which, above all others, should be prodding and pricking us to get busy on them ? We are busy on them, of course, but not by any means because of pressure applied to us from the. other side of this House. We are busy on them because we know them to be important.. There is never a word about, them from the Opposition, whose task should be to prod us and shove us along the road. I wonder how many members of the Opposition have heard of Professor Elton Mayo? He is a man whose photograph each of them should have in his room. He has done more than any other man to improve employeremployee relations throughout the world. He is an Australian who had to go to America to get recognition, because the Labour party in this country would not be bothered with him. How many members of the Opposition have heard of him ? How many of them could spell, his name? I do not think very many could do. so.
The factors that increase productivity are beyond dispute. They are pursued with energy and conviction, in the interests of the workers, in many civilized countries of the world. They are recognized by a few individuals in the Labour party here but not by the Australian Labour party as a whole.-‘ Not one of them is, or ever has been, a part of the policy of the Australian Labour party’. The problem .of the Australian Labour party is not, as has been- suggested recently, a problem of personalities. Tt arises from the fact that the Australian Labour party has no positive policy. However, we can see a ray of light at the end of a long and very dark tunnel, because I believe some individuals in both the political and the industrial sides of the Australian Labour movement are thinking. They are people who are not too proud to think. They are people who do something other than talk. They recognize that the survival of Australia is a great deal more important than mouthing the tenets of the Australian Labour party as it exists now. I believe the survival of this country depends on thinking, but I do not believe that many honorable members on the other side of the House engage in that intellectual exercise.
What I have been trying to say will be interpreted, no doubt, as an attack on the Australian Labour party, but it is nothing of the sort. That is not my motive. I say that, in order to maintain our democratic and representative form of government, it is essential to have an alternative to the party in power - one that does not strike terror into the hearts and minds of thinking, patriotic Australiana. There should be at least two great parties, so that thinking people can turn, if they think fit corporately to do so, to one of them as an alternative to the other. The matters about which I have spoken are the minimum which should be thought about, and in respect of which policies should be developed by the Australian Labour party, but they are not being thought about. Perhaps in due course the Australian Labour party will cure its troubles, close its schisms - to which I do not want to draw particular attention - pull itself together and get down to thinking about and dealing with some of the matters I have mentioned to-night. If we have an Opposition that considers serious and important things, rather than a few rusty nuts and bolts, not only will thinking and patriotic people in Australia rejoice, but so also will our friends in Great Britain, Canada and the United States of America. When that great day dawns, if it ever does, then our friends in those countries will be able to say -
As cold waters to a thirsty soul, so is good news from a far country.
– I can understand the trepidation with which the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Casey) delicately skirted the substance of the budget, because, when that document is subjected to cold analysis - which was the last thing that the right honorable gentleman contemplated - it amounts merely to the promise of some tax concessions for the more fortunate sections of the community and, on the side of additional expenditure, some modifications of the means test without any offer of help for the really needy - those who are entirely dependent upon pensions for their existence. The Minister undertook to place the budget in its broad national perspective without citing figures, and then airily declared that the national income amounted to about £4,000,000.000 annually. He went on to re fer, again rather airily, to the 3,750,000 people whom he described as the breadwinners, in striking contrast, it seemed to me, with the 500,000 whom he described as civil pensioners. The right honorable gentleman spoke of the pensioners, with what I suppose he considered to be a well-bred air, as “ unfortunate people “. The truth is that they are full citizens of the community and are entitled to its support. However, they will not share in what the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Pad den) was pleased to call the widespread prosperity of the Australian community.
It seems that the Government is convinced that a pensioner can live decently on an income of £3 10s. a week, because the budget contains no provision for any alteration of the basic rate of pension. The Government has a callous disregard for the welfare of pensioners. Tr. has said, in effect, “ Well, they are getting along all right, and prices have not risen this year, so that, if £3 lOs. a week was sufficient for 1953-54, it will hr sufficient for 1954-55 “. The general election is over, as one of my colleagues has pointed out, and the Government, realizes that there will be no day of retribution, at least for another year or so. That is a very callous attitude. It is all very well for the Minister for External Affairs to dismiss the pensioners as a mere aggregate in the community. The right honorable gentleman should try instead to envisage them as individuals trying to maintain life in a community which they served during their years of health and strength and which ought to recognize their needs in the- twilight of their existence. The Opposition has moved formally that the first item in the Estimates be reduced by £1, with the object of having the budget redrafted so as to provide adequately for that section of the community.
The Minister spoke of the prosperity of Australia, but he made no attempt to examine the vital problem, of the distribution of the substance of prosperity amongst the various sections of the community. I propose to comment critically upon the complacent way in which the Government appears to regard the state of the national economy.. The first section of the Treasurer’s budget speech bore the heading, “ The State df the Economy “, and in this section the right honorable gentleman said -
Altogether 1053-54 was a period of stable genuine and widely spread prosperity.
I emphasize his use of the term “ widely spread “. He went on to say -
Perhaps never before in our history have wu had a year to equal it.
The custom of this Parliament for many years has been for the Treasurer to present, with his budget papers, a statement of national income and expenditure for the preceding financial year. The statement for 1953-54 analyses to some degree the distribution in the community of what the Treasurer has called the “vast national income “. A critical examination of the figures in that document discloses the fact that the so-called widespread prosperity is confined principally to a small section of the community, and that the broad base of the community is not quite so prosperous as the right honorable gentleman would have u3 believe. We know, in the first place, that there is to be no greater distribution of wealth to the pensioners as a result of the budget. In fact, their meagre hold on security is already threatened because an important item in the average household budget is to become considerably more costly at any day. I refer to tea, the price of which will probably rise by ls. or ls. 6d. per lb. very soon. The pensioner, who surely is entitled to have his cup of tea, will have no additional income with which to cover the increase. Having a fixed income, the more he has to pay for tea, the less will he have left for other important items. I simply point out that this is one section of the community at any rate, that will not enjoy widespread prosperity. Another section that will be excluded from, the so-called widespread prosperity consists of the wageearners, whose income will not be increased because quarterly wage adjustments have been discontinued and because this Government is placing all possible obstacles in the way of their campaign to obtain greater margins for skill. At least four out of five of the 3,750,000 people of whom the Minister for External Affairs talked are dependent upon weekly
The Treasurer made a misleading statement when he laid stress on the fact that the national income had risen by 5 per cent, during 1953-54. The national income must, continue to rise, when the population is increasing by 2 or 3 per cent, annually, if we are merely to preserve our present standard of living. The right honorable gentleman did not point out that the population, as well as the national income, had increased. Furthermore, although he said that the total of wages and salaries had increased by nearly 7 per cent., he did not explain that this had happened because the 90,000 people who had become unemployed as a result of the policy pursued by the Government eighteen months ago had been slowly re-absorbed into industry. As the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) pointed out, according to the Commonwealth Statistician there were 2,630,300 persons in employment in Australia in June, 1951. The latest published official figures show that the aggregate employment in this country in May last, almost three years later, was only 2,649,000 persons - an increase of only 18,700 - despite the fact that during that period our population had increased by about 600,000. ‘ The potential work force ought to have increased by about 300,000 persons. Obviously, this budget will bring about a reversion to the disastrous state of the economy that resulted from this Government’s administration in 1951-52. There are now emerging signs of a threat to our economy similar to those in the days of import restrictions.
According to the white paper that I have mentioned, the aggregate income of the community rose from £3,599,000,000 in 1952-53 to ‘£3,766,000,000 in 1953-54. However, the important consideration is not the aggregate amount, but how that amount was distributed amongst the various sections of the community. The table National Income and Expenditure 1953-54 shows that in that year the aggregate income of wage and salary earners was £2,176,000,000, which was slightly more than 57 per cent, of the national income. In other words, 57 per cent, of the national income was shared by approximately 85 per cent, of our population. It is obvious, therefore, that we have not advanced so far towards the welfare state as the Treasurer implied, because some sections of the community have “ shared a disproportionate part of the national income. The effect of the taxation concessions granted by the budget will be to make the distribution of national income even more disproportionate. The budget grants some concessions in relation to income tax. The greater the income of the individual the more will he benefit from the proposed concessions. The right honorable gentleman estimated that, in this financial year, the proposed income tax concessions would aggregate about £32,000,000.
Table No. 53 of Section VT. of the budget papers - Miscellaneous and Statistical - which contains information in relation to the distribution of taxable incomes in the Australian community, shows the number of recipients of various grades of income during the financial year 1951-52. I shall direct my attention to the income grade £701-£800 a year. For all practical purposes, an income of £800 a year is equivalent to about £15 10s. a week. There were 3,415,861 taxpayers in Australia in that year. Of that number,. 2,434,351 - almost 75 per cent. - received incom.es of £800 a year, or less. Therefore, of the proposed aggregate of taxation reductions of approximately £32,000,000, about £10,000,000 will be shared by 2,434,351 taxpayers. The remainder will be shared by the other 25 per cent, of the taxpayers. Apparently, this Government endorses the scriptural assertion -
Whosoever hath to him shall he given.
We are entitled to be critical of the Government’s proposed taxation reductions, having regard to the plight of the aged and invalid people in the community. I refer to those who are entirely dependent upon pensions. During the campaign which preceded the last general election, Labour promised the people that, if returned to office, it would increase the basic rate of pension from £3 10s. to £4 a week. That would have involved an additional payment of 10s. a week to about 450,000 pensioners, or an extra annual expenditure of about £11,500,000. Before deciding the range of income tax reductions, the Government should have weighed all relevant factors. It should have considered whether it would be more just to distribute £22,000,000 to approximately 981,000 people who are already in receipt of incomes in excess of £15 10s. a week, than to pay an additional 10s. a week to people who are entirely dependent for sustenance on age and invalid pensions. The Opposition considers that the budget should be withdrawn and reconsidered La the light of this observation. It is all very well for the Treasurer to criticize members of the Opposition for rising at budget time and talking about pensions. I contend that at this time first things ought to be placed first ; the most needy sections of the community should receive prior consideration. This Government has been callously unmindful of the plight of the pensioners. If the supporters of the Government believe that persons in Australia who have no income apart from their pensions are able to live decently to-day, they are completely out of touch with the basic needs of those people. Honorable members may have received from the Australian Red Cross Society, as I did a month or so ago, a copy of a monthly magazine entitled Bed Cross Activities. The June, 1954, issue of that magazine contains an article headed “The Plight of the Pensioner”, which describes mainly the plight of pensioners who live alone. The society’s dietitian, in reply to numerous requests that had been made to her, prepared a simple menu for each, day of the week to meet the needs of a pensioner who was living alone, and to provide a nutritious diet. The diet lacks many of the things that aged people ought to get; but the dietitian knew that these people faced great economic difficulties, and produced a menu that was as meagre as possible while still providing the maximum possible nutrition for the expenditure involved. She estimated, however, that even that meagre diet involved, in the purchase of food alone, an expenditure of more than £2 a week. How can pensioners, many of whom have to pay exorbitant rents for rooms, and have to clothe themselves, and who, in addition, are surely entitled to such refinements as tobacco and an occasional visit to the metropolis if they live in a suburb, be expected to pay for all these things, including fuel, out of the remaining £1 10s. a week of their pensions? Yet the Government apparently complacently believes that, because prices have not risen since June last year, according to its claim, if pensioners managed to live during the last twelve months apparently they can struggle on in the next twelve months. I suggest that that attitude is callous - coldly and calculatedly callous. The Government is indictable on that score alone. “We on this side of the chamber make no apologies because, as the Minister for External Affairs has said, we do not seem to be able to rise above the mere aspect of the welfare state.
The total expenditure proposed for this year on items that come under the National Welfare Fund aggregate £193,000,000. Would anybody say that, in terms of the grand national income, as the right honorable gentleman calls it, of £4,000,000,000, £200,000,000 is an inordinate amount to distribute among the various welfare payments? Pensions are not the only welfare payments. There is, in addition, child endowment, which was mentioned by the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell). The actual amounts of these payments to-day are inadequate in terms of what they were two or three years ago, but they have remained unaltered despite the fact that their purchasing power has declined considerably in that time. One hundred and ninety-three million pounds . out of £4,000,000,000! And the Minister for External Affairs seems to think that we have done enough, and that we ought to pass on to discuss the higher things, as he sees them, the grand and broader perspective of the economy as a whole. I suggest that if he feels’ so disposed he ought to consider in more detail some of the tables contained in the white paper on National Income and Expenditure 1953-54. I refer to table VI. on page 13 of that document, which appears under the heading “Capital Account”. It is indicated therein that the personal savings of the community declined from £452,000,000 in 1952-53 to £348,000,000 in 1953-54. In other words, the Australian community, in all the aggregated forms of saving, saved during this last financial year of well spread prosperity £100,000,000 less than it had saved in the previous year. I suggest that a further . examination of the figures would show that the reason lies in the fact that, because prices of all food and clothing have risen, the community is spending more in the aggregate, not to obtain more goods hut to obtain the same volume of goods is it obtained before. One thing that is causing concern in business circles to-day is the growth in this community of the amounts of money involved in hire purchase agreements. I suggest that that is one of the reasons for the decline of personal savings. People are still buying what are called durable consumer goods, such as radios and refrigerators, which nobody could justly call luxuries, but so hard-pressed is the ordinary family budget to-day that people cannot buy these goods unless they involve themselves in hire-purchase agreements. That means, of course, that they are not only paying for the article but also meeting the charges of the usurer and the interest lender who get a rake-off to which they have no just entitlement. That is a matter to which the Government has given no consideration.
The honorable member for Melbourne referred to one other significant trend in the community to which I think the Government should pay some attention. I refer to the future of the Australian economy, particularly the all-important balance of payments, which, after all, simply reflects the balance of trade between the value of the goods we export and the value of the goods we import. To some of us it seems that in Australia to-day we have already reached a critical stage in the balance between import and export trade. Yet the Government has budgeted for increased revenue from customs and excise duties this financial year. It states that customs and excise duties are expected to yield more revenue because there will be greater imports during the year than there were last financial year. Yesterday, the Commonwealth Statistician published a document which deals with the Australian balance of payments for the financial years 1949-50 to 1953-54. Some of the things that are indicated in that document suggest that even the level of imports that we had reached at the end of June, 1954, was becoming alarmingly high so far as the future of Australia was concerned. The following statement is made on page 4 of that document . -
The movement in the balance on current account of £103 million-
Which is unfavorable as far as Australia’s trade is concerned - between 1952-53 and 1953-54 was due to an increase of £1.7] million in the value of imports and a decrease of £30 million in thu value of exports. . . . [n other words, we are losing both ways. We sold less wheat at a lower price last year, and at the same time we were beginning to import more goods, particularly textiles. Table 15 in the document shows that the value of yarns, manufactured fibres, textiles and apparel imported increased from £4S,300,000 in 1952-53 to £113,800,000 in 1953-54. In other words, of that total increase of imports of £171,000,000, approximately £65,000,000 was accounted for by an increase, of imports of textiles of various kinds. I suggest that we face, at this time, the same sort of critical situation, so far as employment in the textile industry is concerned, as we faced about two years ago. Already the groups which are concerned in particular with the textile industry in Australia have pointed out that there is a decline in the aggregate of employment in that industry to-day. We know, of course, that once we tend to get a recession, causing unemployment, in one particular industry, it does not stop there. It reaches out to other branches of the economy. That was the position that we had here only about two years ago. The Government has taken great unction to itself from the fact that 90,000 more people were employed during the last twelve months than in the previous twelve months. As I have pointed out, for the most part they were people who had been thrown out of employment by the dislocation of industry, responsibility for which can be laid largely at the door of the Government, which acted too late and in a manner that only made confusion worse confounded than it was before. I suggest that the Government should at least critically examine the situation. Perhaps it could be maintained that because Australia is dependent for its export trade on wool and wheat a certain measure of control of imports will always be necessary and that we should evolve machinery which is selective enough to attend to these difficulties as they come instead of waiting until they are upon us. It seems that the Government has done nothing so far as this situation is concerned.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– I understand that the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Crean) graduated as a Bachelor of Commerce at Melbourne University and claims to have a knowledge of finance which is denied to most other members of his party. He mentioned that Australia imported an additional £171,000,000 worth of goods in the last financial year. These imports represent capital equipment and material which will provide employment. At one stage 70 per cent, of all imports were used in providing further employment. ‘At a time when there are plenty of good jobs in Australia there is no need to have calamity howling about depression. Our rural production has been sufficient to enable us to pay for those imports. The honorable member said that there was no provision for a quarterly adjustment of wages, meaning that there was no provision for an upward adjustment. But there is also no provision for a downward adjustment. Consequently, as the cost of living is falling, the fact that the quarterly adjustments have been suspended will protect the working man and give him a higher real wage. The honorable member for Melbourne Ports knows that, because he has studied these matters. If prices fall, the workers will be better off. They will be protected by this very mechanism that the honorable member has criticized. In fact, the price of pigs, live weight, for bacon has fallen from 2s. 8d. per lb. to ls. lOd. per lb., a fall of about 35 per cent., which has not yet been passed on to the consumer because of the high costs that are supported by the honorable member’s friends and because the State price-fixing authorities have not taken appropriate action. The price of butter fat for cheese has fallen hy 6d. per lb., and the price of cheese has fallen by 3d. per lb. If the position is handled properly by the Labour Government of Victoria and other State governments, or if pricefixing is abolished and competition allowed to exert its influence, that price reduction will be passed on to the worker who will be better off and who will be encouraged to work as efficiently as he can.
The honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell), who is the deputy leader of the Opposition, made a pathetic speech in which he said that pensions had not been raised. In fact, the value of pensions has been raised, because the flow of production has increased to such an extent that it has created a buyers’ market. Prices are falling and pensions are of more value than they were before. They are certainly worth more than the amount that was paid when the Chifley Government was in power if their value is judged on the basis of the C series index.
Australia is maturing politically. It has been through uncertain political fortunes. Governments have stayed in office for a while and then gone out, to be followed by another. But the present Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) has remained in office for three successive terms. That shows that Australians are beginning to realize the value of stability. I think that Australians now know where they are going. They know that they will have a strong Government and they know what the future holds. What would have happened if the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) were Prime Minister of Australia? At present, his party cannot be called an opposition. Honorable members on the other side of the chamber constitute a headless body. The Leader of the Labour party is not present to deliver a speech on the most important matter that is dealt with by this Parliament. I hate to think that he was afraid to do it, but, judging from his performance last year, he could well have been afraid. On that occasion, the Prime Minister cut him to pieces. The Leader of the Opposition said then that the Government should spend more money and raise less by taxation. He was £300,000,000 short in his calculations. That is understandable, because the right honorable gentleman, though he may be brilliant in law, is very weak in mathematics. He has said that he does not understand statistics. He has said that he could not make head or tail of the Monthly Bulletin of Business Statistics. which a high school boy could understand. There is a headless body on the other side of the chamber with a deputy leader who has not the confidence of his own party of which three or four pretenders are trying to get the leadership. At the moment, there is no Opposition. But what would have happened if, by a fluke, the Labour party had been returned to office ?
One of the promises which the Leader of the Opposition made to the electors was that a Labour government, if elected, would abolish the means test. That proposal would have cost about £100,000,000. He promised to increase all other pensions, including war pensions, which would rise to £5 a week. He promised to increase child endowment and maternity allowances and, at the same time, reduce taxes in a number of ways such as by means of a 40 per cent, initial depreciation allowance. He promised to promote home-building by instructing the Commonwealth Bank to make maximum advances of £3,500 at 3 per cent, interest, and he said that a directive would be issued to the Commonwealth Bank to make all the necessary credit available. Honorable members know what the late Mr. Theodore, known as fiduciary Ted, did. Yet the Leader of the Opposition said that & Labour government would make available all the credit necessary. Apparently he forgot that there are men in the Commonwealth Bank who regulate the delicate credit mechanism so as to ensure that there is sufficient money in relation to the goods and services available. Instead of supporting that important body of men in the delicate job that they are doing, he proposed, with a sweep of his arm, to provide all the credit necessary. He promised to extend to all persons, whether insured or not, Commonwealth medical benefits covering doctors’ services, increased hospital treatment benefits and free treatment in public wards. He promised to accept from original investors, at full face value, government securities which were at, a discount when the investors wished to use them to pay tax. He promised to repeal legislation permitting appeals against conciliation commissoner’ rulings. The implementation of all that he promised would have cost £400,000,000. Yet he promised, at the same time, to reduce taxes. If the Leader of the Opposition were now Prime Minister, Australia would he on the way to complete financial chaos. It l3 also pertinent to ask what would have happened to the Royal Commission on Espionage had a Labour government now been in office. The Leader of the Opposition supported the legislation to set up the commission that was introduced into this House before the end of the last parliament, but now he has discovered that the commission is a political conspiracy directed at himself.
THE CHAIRMAN.- Order! The honorable member is not entitled to discuss that matter in this debate.
– Very well, Mr. Chairman. I shall not discuss the Royal Commission on Espionage, but I should hate to think what would have happened to Petrov if the government had been changed after the last general election. Perhaps he would now be on his way back to Russia with an escort of people whose identity we can easily imagine. It is almost too awful to contemplate what would have happened if a Labour government had been returned to office after the last general election, but in any event it is quite certain that it would have destroyed the stability and prosperity that we enjoy to-day. At the last general election the working men showed what they thought of this Government, because in many thickly populated industrial areas the Liberal vote increased by about 50 per cent. Obviously the working man did not want a Labour government to destroy the prosperity that this Government had brought him. To-day, all our people, including men with large families, unionists and others, are enjoying wages that have been frozen at an unprecedentedly high level, and are also enjoying prosperity and stability on a scale* that they have never known before.
I desire now to pay a tribute to the leader of the Government parties. I have never been one to offer fulsome praise to the Prime Minister ; indeed, I have often criticized certain things that he has done. Any one who has any knowledge of what has transpired in the Government party room, and certain sections of the press have claimed that they have such knowledge, will know that I have never been lacking in criticism of certain matters brought before the parties by the Prime Minister and other leaders if I thought they needed constructive criticism. But I now say that all Australians should be grateful that we have a leader with the balance, sanity and calm judgment of the Prime Minister who at present graces the treasury bench. Honorable members well know that the leading members of the Opposition, who show in their eyes the lust for power, have somehow achieved their positions through the hatred, spleen and malice that they have shown towards the Government. In view of that, the Prime Minister must indeed be a man of stamina and courage to stand up to the attacks that they have made upon him from time to time. One has to be a member of this chamber to understand the force and power of the attacks that have been directed at the Prime Minister by the Opposition. The Prime Minister entered politics at a youthful age, when most men would have been trying to make fortunes. Consequently, he brought his youthful vigour into politics, and during his prime gained the wealth of experience and political wisdom which has now enabled him so ably to lead this country.
The political pendulum has swung fairly evenly in this country, but now that the Menzies Government has been elected to office on three successive occasions it seems as though the pendulum has ceased to swing, and that the people of Australia can continue to look forward to prosperity and stability for many years to come under the Menzies Government. At present we are in much the same economic position as Canada was in in 1937. At that time rich mineral deposits were discovered in Canada, and that country was fortunate to have a strong, and. what might he called strongly financial, government. We are now in the same position. Our country is being developed rapidly, and we have the strong leadership of a man of outstanding brilliance. There are also supporters of the Government who are gaining political experience in the ranks, and training themselves in political wisdom for the great job of helping to govern Australia. Let us all be grateful to the Prime Minister for his sacrifices for Australia, and for his work as leader of the Government in holding the Parliament and the country together during troublous times. There have been many political difficulties during the last few years. We have been faced particularly with troubles arising through communism in international affairs, and the Prime Minister has brought us through those storms to the calm waters of stability and prosperity.
The budget has been described by some sections of the press as too popular to be good. But I say that the budget is a further step towards ensuring the financial stability of Australia. People now know how to plan their affairs, because they know that the Government will not waver from policy to policy. Our citizens are prosperous, except perhaps those people who cannot obtain age pensions because they are debarred by the property means test. However, I hope that their problems will be dealt with in the next budget. Broadly, it may be said with certainty that Australia has been well and skilfully led by the Prime Minister. Now let us consider the results that have followed his government of ‘ Australia. The National Security Resources Board is composed of persons of all political colours. One of the members is Mr. Albert Monk, the president of the Australian Council of Trades Unions. A recent report from that body indicates that in recent -years agricultural production in Australia has increased tremendously. Such production is most important to us, because every £1’s worth of goods produced is ultimately worth £4 in the national income. Again, rural production provides 90 per cent, of our exports, which bring millions of pounds from overseas into this country. ‘ Primary production also provides employment for hundreds of thousands of people.
The Australian Agricultural Council, whose membership contains a preponderance of State Labour Ministers for Agriculture, and the National Security Resources Board, have both pointed out. that the production of many primary products in Australia has already reached the targets set by this Government for 1957 and 1958. Although the production of wheat is increasing only slowly at present, the production of oats has increased by over 30 per cent., barley by 40 per cent., rice substantially, and grain sorghum slightly. Our livestock production has also increased substantially, and is. already greater than the target set for 1957-58. The production of eggs and pig meat has been slightly reduced, but mutton, lamb, beef, veal and processed milk, including the all-important fibre-wool, have all ‘ increased. The production of cheese has increased tremendously, and is now more than the target for 1957,-58. Of course, because of the method of sale, cheese is now bringing less to the producers than it formerly did, but its increased production, together with that of our other primary products, is of tremendous benefit to Australia in general. All that increase has been brought about by sound government policies which have allowed the farmers to plan a long way ahead.
The efforts of the Government in the housing field are also most satisfactory, although several honorable members opposite have tried to attack the housing policy of the Government. However, in a statement issued a few day3 ago it was indicated that the War Service Homes Division, which is a Commonwealth instrumentality, has, in the last four and a half years, provided as many war service homes as have been provided by all Australian governments since 1919. Approximately 61,000 war service homes have been built since the Menzies Government has been in office, although only about 55,000 were constructed in the preceding 29 years. There has been tremendous forward movement by other schemes with which this Government has been connected. For instance, since the Government has been in office, all State governments have co-operated in a drive against tuberculosis with the amazing result that, in all States, the death rate from the disease has fallen by approximately one-half. Indeed, I understand that the drive has been so successful in Tasmania that hospital beds are now available in that State for patients from the mainland.
– There are so many vacant beds in Victorian hospitals that they are being given to the aged.
– I am grateful to the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Kent Hughes) for his interjection.
I believe that the Government has been attacked unfairly in regard to the help that the budget will give to companies and business undertakings. I suggest that the answer to such criticisms is to examine the investment position with a view to ascertaining whether sufficient investment is going on. If that is done, it will be found that great progress has been made in relation to major industrial and manufacturing development, which is surely the best measuring stick of economic development. In 1952-53, a year that followed a period of reduced manufacturing activity, a total of £117,000,000 was invested in manufacturing industries. During the last year of office of the Chifley Government, the total was only £29,000,000. The tempo of investment shows that the policy of this Government is not hard on manufacturers and, on the contrary, that it attracts overseas capital. As honorable members are aware, overseas oil interests are investing in this country. If I remember correctly, it was announced recently that £49,000,000 had been expended by the oil companies in Australia, and I suggest that that indicates that they have confidence in this country. A few days ago, a leading Australian newspaper drew attention to the fact that our credit abroad is very good, and that Uncle Sam, who is one of the leading financiers of the world, appreciates the fact that Australia pays its way and is repaying loans by means of the National Debt Commission. Because our credit is good, people will invest here. I have no doubt that they have become more courageous in that respect since the Australian Labour party threw socialism away. The Americans, particularly, do not like sucha threat to hang over their heads. They know now that we will support private enterprise, which is the strongest and most vigorous force in the development of a young nation.
As far as our reputation in external affairs is concerned, it is pertinent to compare the ability of the Leader of the Opposition, who was Minister for Eternal Affairs during the Chifley regime, and who is absent on other work at the moment, with the present Minister for External Affairs, who has such a high reputation abroad, particularly in India, Pakistan and other Asian countries. The differences between the two right honorable gentlemen are great. It is horrible to think that the Leader of the Opposition, with his leanings to the left, might be directing our foreign policy had the Australian Labour party been returned to office at the last general election. The honorable member for Gellibrand (Mr. Mullens) stated last night that the Order of the Celestial Sucker had been awarded to a legendary gentleman from Athens, who had been to Macedonia and seen the nine dragons, and the dance of the seven veils. I have no doubt that had the Leader of the Opposition been leading the Government, and in charge of the Department of External Affairs, he would have gone to Peking at the same time as the Labour delegation from the United Kingdom and tried to give effect to advice once offered by the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward), who said, “Why not talk to them before it is too late, instead of putting ourselves in a state of defence ? “
The committee will remember that, in the early post-war years, the Labour government of the day annually disposed of £50,000,000 or £60,000,000 worth of war materiel. It allowed the Army to run down, so that that arm of the services consisted of only a few warrant officers. There was no national service training and no readiness by the Government to improve our defences. Recently, in the course of some quite clever attacks on the Government, members of the Opposition have stated that ‘we have only one Dakota aircraft or one worn-out Wirraway. Those attacks ignore the fact that we are manufacturing Canberra bombers and are placing increased emphasis on air defence. Great work has been done in connexion with rockets and guided missiles. [Quorum formed.’]
– I rise to order. Can you inform me, Mr. Chairman, whether you have any power under the Standing Orders to ensure that the Opposition does not systematically organize a movement outside the House so as to leave only about five members on the Opposition side and thus provide one of their number with an opportunity to call for a quorum while a speaker on this side of the chamber is on his feet ?
– Order! There is no power vested in the Chairman which enables him to discern what is happening outside the doors of this chamber.
– I also rise to order. If a Government supporter is making a most uninteresting speech, do the Standing Orders compel honorable members on this side of the chamber to listen to him, although his colleagues do not?
– Order ! The Standing Orders contain no such provision.
– It is regrettable that the Opposition, which appears to be a leaderless body, thrashing about in all directions, does not interest itself in the affairs of the Parliament. It is even more regrettable that the members of the Opposition do not even bother to come into the chamber. I suggest that that is a sorry state of affairs for Australia. The people of Australia should require members of the Opposition to be in the chamber. It is indeed a very disappointing state of affairs that only one or two Opposition members should be here. The Parliament is not in session for very long and it does not require a prolonged attendance of honorable members. There were whole blocks of seats in which no honorable members were sitting; only eight or nine Opposition members were in the chamber. They are a disgrace to the Australian Labour party and to the people of Australia whom they represent. They should be here during such debates as this, at least.
– They were outside plotting.
– That is an interesting explanation. We have seen the bitter fights and the distrust and hatred that exist in their party, and I suppose they could have been outside plotting.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– I do not suppose one should waste much of the time that is available by attempting to deal with the contribution of the honorable member for Macarthur (Mr. Jeff Bate). It is sufficient for my purpose to say that whatever disagreements we may have had in the Australian Labour party-
– And you have had some !
– We may have had one or two, but at least we have not in the party people who still bear the scars of stab wounds such as those which have been inflicted by one party leader on another among the antiLabour forces.
Government supporters interjecting,
– Order ! There is too much noise in the chamber.
– Having listened to the speeches of two supporters of the Government, one of whom was the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Casey), let us return to the budget to see what it means. For some unaccountable reason, the Minister and the honorable member for Macarthur did not discuss the budget for more than three minutes altogether. The Minister for External Affairs, in his one short passing reference to the budget, said that it epitomized the work of the Government. Let us analyse it on that basis. When the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) introduced the 1953-54 budget, he made the following statement: -
Now that we have attained this first great goal of economic stability, what is to be the next stage? Stability is important, something which, having won, we must do our utmost to maintain.
This is the important part -
But it is not by itself a sufficient goal. Stability cannot and ought not to be allowed to mean stagnation.
But the budget for this financial year spells stagnation because, in spite of all we heard during the foreign affairs debate, the Treasurer’s speech makes no reference to a speeding up of the defence programme. Last year the Treasurer stated that an amount of £200,000,000 had been provided for defence services compared with an allocation of £215,300,000 for 1952-53. We have heard much about the necessity of preparing for the defence of this country. After all that has been said about the onward march of communism in Indo-China, those of us who are concerned about the future of Australia as a nation, stand aghast when we compare the comments of the Treasurer last year with those he made this year, when we hear of a reduction in taxation of approximately £30,000,000 and when we note that the taxes of a basic wage-earner with a wife and two children will be reduced by approximately ls. a week while the reduction for a person who is in receipt of £15,000 a year will be £670.
If the defence of this country is as important as the Government would lead us to believe, not one penny should be handed back until such time as we are sure that the defences of the country are properly organized. It is ridiculous to speak about reducing by £670 the taxes of those persons who are in receipt of £15,000 a year when the defence vote is approximately the same as it was last year. There is not one word in this epitome of the Government’s effort in relation to the unification of rail gauges ‘ to facilitate the movement of troops. I think it was the honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Wight) who stated that we had eighteen months in which to prepare for anything that might happen to Australia. If the budget is an epitome of what the Government proposes to do, it is unfortunate that the general election was held before its presentation, because the people of Australia must be wondering whether the Government, when it allocates for defence exactly the same amount of money that was allocated when it said Australia was winding up its Korean commitments, i3 sincere in its statements about the need to defend this country. In effect, the Government says that the level of the country’s preparedness is the same as it was last year when it was winding up its Korean commitments.
I am inclined to the view that the budget speech was not prepared with a view to outlining an increase in defence organization, but that there was a different end in view. There is much unhealthy industrial unrest in Australia. As one who has had some experience in arbitration court methods, I had hoped that, when this epitome of the Government’s policy was presented to us, there would be outlined a clear plan of approach to Australia’s industrial future. When I read in this year’s budget speech the statement that, during the financial year just closed, we had in Australia stability of general economic conditions, combined in remarkable degree with real and substantial material progress, I thought that we were going to be put on the high road, not only to improved defences and the building of more homes and the unification of our rail guages but also to improved industrial conditions, particularly in relation to wage margins, and some of the other matters to which the Minister referred to-night. The right honorable gentleman talked about productivity, efficiency of management, employment and unemployment, immigration, ploughing back profits into secondary industry to promote efficiency, and incentives. He mentioned everything that does not appear in the Treasurer’s budget speech, which is supposed to epitomize the Government’s policy. A study of the Treasurer’s budget speech will reveal why it made no mention of all those matters.
The honorable member for Macarthur, in his inimitable fashion, this evening discussed the productivity of rural industry, though the Treasurer in hisbudget speech, said -
Total farm income, it is true, fell by 8 per cent. . . .
It is remarkable that that reference should appear in the first paragraph of the Treasurer’s remarks about the state of Australia’s economy. I can only think that it was intended to influence the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and
Arbitration in giving a probable future decision on the question of increased margins for Australian workers. The court, in its recent judgment on thaI issue, said -
It must be plain that there is- a considerable unbalance in the condition of our economy. Correction of this must be made more difficult so far as this Court’s limited field of contribution to any correction is concerned, by the tendency of a growing proportion of our population to pass from primary to secondary occupations. . . .
In the very first page of bis budget speech the Treasurer set the stage for the court again to refuse an increase of wage levels in Australia. He began on the very theme of the court’s judgment, and he went further and said, at page 2 of the printed copy of the speech -
We have, nationally, a tremendous task to people and develop this continent; but we can only hope-
He used the word “ hope “ in this epitome of the Government’s policy - to perform that task if we go about it in an orderly and effective way.
What is the Government doing, in an orderly and effective way, to increase production ?
The Treasurer remarked, at page 3 of the printed copy of the budget speech -
Good though recent times have been, there can be no mistaking the signs that stresses are again threatening to develop in our economy . . . Nevertheless. the most significant fact at the present time is that pressure upon resources has again appeared in our economy and on present indications seems likely to grow . . . Were inflationary conditions to return we could expect at a fairly early stage the beginning of a new upward thrust of prices and costs.
He made the important observation, also, at page 4 -
The first thing to do about the problem of costs is, obviously, to ensure that costs rise no higher:
Let us set that beside the judgment of the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration on the margins issue, in which it said, among a host of other things -
The main question which these references require this Court to answer is whether the Australian economy as a whole can support a restoration in part of the real value of the marginal rewards prescribed as minima for skilled tradesmen.
I might be excused for suggesting that the early part of the Treasurer’s speech was not an epitome of the Government’s policy for progress, but was designed to influence the court’s decision on an application for increased margins that will come before it.
The honorable member for Macarthur gave great credit to the Treasurer for his consideration of the great national needs of Australia, and eulogized the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies). A question about the Government’s policy in relation to margins that I asked the Prime Minister on the 19th August was not merely plucked out of the air. It was asked as a consequence of a statement that had been made by the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holt), not in response to an approach by a deputation, but voluntarily as a ministerial statement, prior to a conference of federal trade unions, which had been convened by the Australian Council of Trades Unions. On the 28th June last the Minister said -
It is the intention of the Commonwealth Government to emphasize before the Arbitration Court when it resumes the hearings on the margins application, the Government’s view of the importance of maintaining a sufficient disparity between the wage rates of skilled workers and relatively unskilled workers. “We want a declaration of the Government’s policy in respect of margins.
– Is the’ honorable member obsessed with margins more than with the state of the national economy?
– The statement that I have quoted was made not by me, but :by a Minister of the Government that the honorable member supports. The Government need not think that it can humbug the workers of Australia and get away with it. When I questioned the Prime Minister - the great, learned friend of the workers, as the honorable member for Macarthur called him - about the Government’s policy on margins on the 19th August, he replied -
It is obvious that I would not endeavour to state at this interval of time ahead what view will be stated by the Government in court and in what terms it will be expressed.
Important principles are involved in the margins issue. It is all very well for supporters of the Government to shake their heads over it. Under the existing system of parliamentary institutions’ in Australia, the Parliament is entitled to be told clearly and definitely the nature of the Government’s policy on industrial matters before it is enunciated in the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration. The present Prime Minister, on the 20th July, 1947, when Labour was in office, emphatically declared his position on margins and wages. On that date be made a clear and definite statement in which he outlined several, conditions that lie said would avoid industrial unrest and depression, one of which was a wage policy that gives real extra, reward for extra skill and production.
– Who said that?
– Surprising though it may seem, that was said by the Prime Minister when he was in opposition in 1947. The right honorable gentleman either believed it to be (rue, or he was a hypocrite. There can be no two ways about personal views on wage margins.
It is ridiculous for the Minister for External Affairs to talk about productivity a week after the Treasurer has brought down a budget designed to influence the decision of the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration on an application for increases of margins that will be filed this week by the Australian Council of Trades Unions. The, Government is destroying the very conditions that will give us productivity. It is all very well for the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Freeth) to ask whether I am concerned more with margins than with national development. National development, in any country, requires contentment among the workers, without which maximum productivity cannot be attained. The Government, when it introduced legislation to deal with the Communist party, and, as it said, to protect the unions, believed that it had solved all the problems of the workers.
I invite honorable members to consider an analysis of the margins issue. In 1935, when the basic wage was £3 8s., margins were increased to £1 7s., or the equivalent of 39.7 per cent, of the basic wage. In 1937, margins were increased again by 3s. to £1 10s. The basic wage was then £3 lis. and the ratio of the margins to the basic wage rose to 42.3 per cent. The next increase of margins was the war loading of 1941. That loading of 6s. took margins to £1 16s. or 41.4 per cent, of the basic wage which was then £4 7s. In 1947, the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration increased the margins paid to fitters to £2 12s., or 46. S per cent, of the basic wage which was then £5 lis. What is the position to-day? The rate of margins has been maintained and the ratio to the basic wage has fallen to 21.8 per cent. Do supporters of the Government honestly suggest that they will get increased production from Australian skilled workers when the workers are told that they are worth only u rate of margins that is little better than it was at the end of the depression ?
The Government wonders why there is dissatisfaction among the workers and why it does not get increased production. The industrial legislation that has been introduced by this Government has proved to be a failure. I predicted when its industrial legislation was introduced that it would drive Communist influence back into industry at the shop organization level. Honorable members on the Government side have risen in this House to praise great Labour workers for their achievements in removing Communists from the leadership of trade union organizations. The first of them was the Federated Ironworkers’ Association of Australia. Mr. Laurie Short has been praised throughout the world and feted as a great unionist who did wonderful work under the Chifley Government’s legislation in removing McPhillips and the rest of the Communist union leaders from office in the ironworkers’ union. What did the ironworkers get out of that deal? A few weeks ago that union was fined £100 by the court because it broke the industrial law that had been introduced by this Government. The union was fined because the Communists refused, at the shop level, to carry out the instructions of the union leaders. This Government has destroyed control at the top level of union leadership and handed it back to the Communists on the shop level. As a result, production in that industry will continue to fall.
It is no use the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) crying as he has done in this budget. The Government must do the right thing in the court in the margins case. If the Government follows the line that the Prime Minister has indicated, and opposes any increase in margins except in the case of a few picked highly skilled workers, it will destroy the present leadership of the ironworkers’ union to such an extent that I predictthat the union will he under the control of the Communists again before the end of next year. That is the kind of industrial action that we have come to expect from this Government.
If the Government really believes in the policy that has been enunciated in the budget speech, and if it really wants productivity, why does it not set out to produce legislation and leadership that will encourage the workers? Its supporters have spoken of incentives. If incentive schemes are introduced, unscrupulous employers, at the end of three or five years, will declare the normal rates to be the incentive rates payable. The Government has failed to declare a sound policy on industrial legislation. The Prime Minister has refused to discuss with tho Parliament the decision that has been reached by the Government with regard to the submissions that will be made by it on the margins case although that is an industrial matter of the greatest importance. Ho will not discuss the matter with honorable members in this House who know something about industrial leadership and what must be done to foster increased production.
The Minister for External Affairs has spoken of a proposal to send productivity teams overseas. What would happen when those teams returned to Australia? This Government has not set up any organization that could harness the great wealth of knowledge that might be obtained from, such investigations overseas. How is efficiency in management obtained ? Yesterday, in reply to a question in this House about the increase of the price of steel, the Prime Minister said cold-bloodedly that it was the prerogative of management to increase prices if it wanted to do so.
The CHAIRMAN” (Mr. Adermann).Order! The term “cold-bloodedly” is hardly a suitable one.
– Then I shall say that the Prime Minister said, as calmly as he could say anything, that it was the prerogative of management to increase prices if it wanted to do so. The Government has been a party to pegging wages and margins and yet it asks the workers to produce more. The Government cannot have it both ways. It is all very well for the Treasurer to say, as he did in his budget speech, that he was frightened about certain trends. He stated -
There is a degree of unhealthy financial speculation going on, though so far it is limited mainly to certain sections of the market.
What does the Treasurer propose to do about it? He will hand back to monopolies relief in taxation without any questions asked. This budget is the complete reversal of the 1950-51 budget which was called the horror budget. The Government talks of inflation and everything associated with it, but instead of trying to control the manipulations of those who are in charge of big business, as he did in 1950-51, the Treasurer proposes to hand concessions back to them on a silver platter. In other words he is inviting them to proceed with their inflationary activities. It is of no use for the manufacturers to speak of the failure of the Opposition to gain office. But for a few votes at the last general election for the House of Representatives, honorable members on the Opposition side would have been on the Government side and would have introduced the legislation that is necessary. We know, for example, that incentives are valuable because they are provided in Great Britain. The workers in that country have just been granted a flat wages increase of 12 per cent. And workers in New Zealand have just been granted a flat wages increase of 20 per cent. Those increases have been granted because the workers in those countries have ready access to tribunals which are empowered to deal with their claims expeditiously. Any one who knows anything about the management of the British trade unions is aware of that fact. A similar position does not exist in this country. Under this budget, the Government does not propose to provide any relief to the workers. This budget is tragic. It offers no hope of industrial stability. It offers no leadership to the people who are still in search of homes. Furthermore the Government stands condemned by reason of the fact that in spite of the threat of communism in countries to our north, it believes that it will make adequate provision for that contingency by expending an amount only equal to the amount that it expended last year after the Korean conflict had ended. The Government stands branded for what it is. It does not propose to do anything to encourage industrial development in this country. It does not propose to allocate one penny for the extension of railway services, or for the unification of railway gauges. The cost of completing the rail link between Broken Hill and Port Pirie would be less than £10,000,000.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- I support this budget because, like previous budgets presented by my distinguished colleague, the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden), it is designed to develop our- national resources and increase Australia’s prosperity. I assure the honorable member for Blaxland (Mr. E. James Harrison), who seems to be concerned about the scale of expenditure on defence, that the best method of defending this country in existing circumstances is to stabilize our economy. No fifth column can operate effectively in a community that is prosperous. That is precisely what this budget is designed to do, and, in that respect, it is a repetition of previous budgets introduced by this Government. This budget will stimulate and increase production. It is a cautious and businesslike document and will do much to protect our economy against inflation and the loss, or diminution, of our overseas markets. Proof that the budget is designed to serve the best interests of Australia is provided by the fact that it has been attacked by’ both the captains of industry and the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt). It has been attacked from the extreme right and the extreme left. Obviously, therefore, it does not pander to any one section of the community.
The Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden), in his speech, pointed out that serious stresses are again threatening to develop in our economy and that these stresses are chiefly inflation, which may result from an increase of margins, and the loss of overseas markets. This budget by its caution and prudence will do much to protect Australia from those dangers during the current financial year. I believe that at this stage in our history we should go further. We should seek to determine the root causes of this threat of inflation, and proceed to eradicate them. For some time, we have been warned by various authorities, including judges of the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration, members of the Tariff Board and by the Treasurer himself, that low productivity per manhour is threatening our economy. The honorable member for Blaxland suggested that the remedy for this state of affairs was to make the workers contented. He said that we shall never achieve increased productivity unless the workers are contented. I suggest that the solution to this problem lies primarily in the provision of incentives and m moral and financial leadership with a view to inducing every person in the community to give of his, or her, best. As I said in my maiden speech in this chamber, wage incentives and profit-sharing have, in instances in which these principles have been applied, resulted in an increase of productivity of up to 50 per cent. These systems should be recognized and welcomed by honorable members oppositebecause great benefit can accrue from them to those engaged in industry.
– Does the honorable member know anything about profitsharing ?
– I believe that a system of profit-sharing, parallel with the .system of profit-sharing that has been successfully introduced in certain industries, should be adopted on a national scale. By that means we should be enabled to deal with the root causes of low productivity which is one of the main problems that confront us to-day. Therefore, I suggest that the Government, when it intervenes in the margins case before the Arbitration Court in the near future, should propose that margins be keyed to the Australian “ Terms of Trade “ indices which are compiled by the Commonwealth Statistician and the Commonwealth Bank, and are published in Australian Balance of Payments, and reflect the efficiency of Australia as a trading concern. Broadly, those indices compare the value of our imports with that of our exports. They indicate the varying stages of efficiency in Australia as a trading concern in a world of trading countries. This suggestion may sound novel to some honorable members, but we should remember that the present method of fixing the basic wage is novel. Our court-assessed basic wage is unique, and the process by which the wage is fixed is still in an evolutionary stage. We have abandoned the conception of a needs wage, and, now, the wage is fixed upon the basis of the capacity of industry to pay. Under my proposal, the basic wage would approximate more closely the real reward to which workers are entitled. At present, the wage is assessed every five years. If margins were automatically varied in relation to the terms of trade indices, we should lie enabled to maintain reasonable relativity between the amount of the wage and our national wealth. Such a system, apart from the justice and fairness of it, would direct the attention of the workers and of industry generally to the fact that Australia depends so largely upon our trade balance. We cannot cut ourselves off from the rest of the world. Practically the whole of our income from exports is earned by our great pastoral industries. Yet, those industries and the primary industries generally are the Cinderellas of our economy. For instance, roads in country districts of New South Wales are now in as bad a state as they were before the war. The Commissioner of Main Roads in that State has said that, to-day, he cannot maintain roads in country districts any more effectively than he was able to maintain them in 1939. Yet, the country is the main source of our export income, being responsible for earning for us over £400,000,000 annually.
The incentive that the system that I suggest would provide to the community as a whole would lead to increased productivity, because it would direct the attention of all sections of industry to the need to improve our terms of trade, that is, to export to other countries those goods for which we require a bigger market and to import more products and lower our tariff walls as efficiency increases. I believe that if we were to increase our efficiency, we would be able to maintain a rising standard of living. We might also perhaps reach the stage where we could trade on equal terms with Asian countries. As we became more efficient, we would counter-balance our high standard of living with high efficiency, and we could meet the low-efficiency low standard of Asian countries on equal terms and open up the vast and hungry market of Asia. By trading with Asia we would be making friends and also doing something to lower the tariff barriers that tend to divide us from our Asian neighbours. My Queensland colleagues will bear me out when I say that, in the cane-fields of that State, an Australian worker cuts up to 8 tons of cane a day, whereas in Asian countries, a worker cuts only 2 tons a day. I believe that margin of production efficiency could be achieved in industry generally. We could step up our efficiency in all phases of industry enormously provided the right moral and financial incentives were given. Australia has the ball at its feet. I am a firm believer in the ability of Australians to excell in all fields of endeavour whether academic, warfare, sport, or industry. All we need is the proper incentives, and I believe that my proposal to key margins to our terms of trade indices would do that very thing. I look forward to the day when we shall trade on a large scale with our Asian neighbours, and when we shall develop this democratic country to the point where it will become the greatest producing unit of the British Commonwealth. When that day comes, we shall be able to show our Asian neighbours that liberty, and the democratic way of life bring greater rewards than does any authoritarian system.
Motion (by Sir Eric Harbison) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- In my speech, on the Address-in-Reply, I made certain criticisms of Dr. Roland Wilson. I claimed that he had made certain statements and that, in effect, he had been pronouncing government policy. As the result of further inquiries that I have made, and of certain information that has come into my possession, I wish, for the purpose of the records, to place the matter in its true perspective. Dr. Wilson has informed that he attended the dinner to which I referred, but that it was held in Canberra and not in Melbourne, as I had stated. Secondly, he said that he was present informally, and thirdly, that he did not in any way defend Government policy. In support of that contention he has given me permission to quote the following letter : -
The Associated CHAMBER of Manufacturers of Australia.
Department of the Treasury Canberra, A.C.T.
I am constrained to write to you and express our concern at the malicious distortion by one of the Sydney newspapers of your “ After Dinner “ remarks at the function given by the Electrical Manufacturers.
Your remarks, which were couched in humourous vein and directed to some of the contents of a document circulated at the Dinner function, were, of course, wholly in order and were thoroughly enjoyed hy every one present. That odd passages from them could lend themselves to such distortion is almost beyond belief. The “Mirror” .staff in Canberra tell me that the criticism was initiated in their Sydney Office and apparently based on some broadcasted references to the Dinner function.
My object in writing this letter is to disassociate ourselves wholly from the “ Mirror ‘’ reports and to convey ibo you our profound regrets in this matter.
Yours very sincerely. (Signed) L. Withall, Director.
My criticism of Dr. Wilson’s statements at the dinner function was based on reports taken from the Daily Mirror. I went on to state that, as a member of the Commonwealth Bank Board, Dr. Wilson Was bringing to the deliberations of that board a point of view that I considered to be irrelevant. First of all, I think it should be emphasized that the discussions of the board are confidential and that my information did not come from any member of the board. Quite a number of employees of the Commonwealth Bank hold the view that I ventilated in. this chamber. I have received the following information from Dr. Wilson : - The fact is that the present Board has not at any time given bonuses to the staff. Indeed, over the last thirty-four years the Bank has only paid a bonus to its staff on two occasions, namely 9th January. 1050 and 19th December, 1950. The Bank Board was not then in existence but I myself was a member of the Advisory Council at the relevant times. As from 5th January, 1951, the annual amount of the bonus (5% of salary) was virtually added to the salaries of the Bank’s staff and has been paid ever since. The Governor of the Bank recently informed the Treasurer that the decision to do this “ . . . was consistent with views held over the years by the Bank’s administration and also the Staff Association that generally adjustments in salary, when justified, were preferably to the payment of bonuses “.
As I have explained, you could not know what discussions went on in the Board. Further, I now inform you that I have never inside or outside the Board Room attempted to judge the worth of non-Public Service employees by reference to the scale of salaries and allowances paid to public servants. The implication in your remarks, even although unintended, is grossly unfair and unjustified, and calculated to bring me into public disrepute. 1 merely desire to say, in conclusion, that I considered the statements which I made, were based on authoritative information. I have never at any time used my place in this House to take an unfair advantage of anybody, and I do not consider that public servants or the Public Service are “fair game”. At the same time, I reserve to myself the right to criticize individuals or the Public Service itself, as I deem fit. But because of the fact that I have made certain criticisms which I now find lack foundation, I think it . is only fair, in the interests of Dr. Roland Wilson, that his point of view should also be placed on record.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers were pre sented : -
Lands Acquisition Act - Land, &c., acquired for Department of Civil Aviation purposes at St. Mary’s, New South Wales.
Public Service Act - Appointment - Department of Works - R. Clark.
House adjourned at 11.2 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
z asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
n asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
s asked the Minister for Civil Aviation, upon notice -
– The answer to the honorable member’s questions is as follows : -
A report from the Civil Aeronautics Boards of the United States of America on the accident to the DC6 operated by British Commonwealth Pacific Airlines near San Francisco last year has been received. It will be made available to the public in the next issue of the department’s Aviation Safety Digest, but in the meantime, I have made a copy available to the honorable member.
R*- I have to advise honorable members that His Honour Mr. Justice “W. O. Douglas, of the United States Supreme Court, is in the Speaker’s Gallery. 1 feel that I shall have the backing of every honorable member when I ask His Honour to take a seat on my right hand on the floor of the House and extend to him a welcome on your behalf.
HONORABLE Members. - Hear, Hear.
Mr. Justice Douglas was seated accordingly.
D.- My question is addressed to the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture on behalf of the honorable member for Riverina, who is absent on parliamentary business overseas. Is it a fact that in the Mumimbidgee irrigation area the prices of grapes for wine making and distilling were reduced, as from the 1st May of this year, to below the levels applicable in other parts of Australia? If so, what steps can be taken to relieve the position of the growers concerned?
Mr. McEWEN. - Early in the last grape growing season, there were negotiations between the grape-growers and the wine manufacturers. In accordance with recent practice, prices were agreed upon between the growers and the manufacturers for grapes used for the* manufacture of wine. I understand it was intended that those prices should obtain for that growing season. Neither this Government nor, I believe, any State government has any status in this connexion. My information is that the pro~cessors began to huy grapes in accordance with the schedule of prices, but during the season there became available in the Mumimbidgee irrigation area a much larger crop of grapes than had been, expected and the wine makers in that area felt obliged to say that, beyond a certain tonnage, they would have either to cease to take more grapes) - I think that was their first intention - or to pay a lower price for them. As a result of representations that were made, Senator McLeay mediated between the parties concerned, but with no authoritative status. The outcome was that, at a lower price level, the growers were able to dispose of the whole of their grapes. Without that new arrangement, I believe they would have been unable to do so. It is my desire and intention that the good offices of the Government shall be employed during the forthcoming season for the purpose of promoting a satisfactory price arrangement for the duration of the season. I hope that such a result will be achieved.
N. - Is the Treasurer aware of the grave hardship and difficulty that people are experiencing in purchasing or building houses because the maximum amount of advance available from the Commonwealth Bank is only £1,750? Can the right honorable gentleman offer any hope that the maximum amount will be increased to the amount that will soon be available to ex-servicemen through the War Service Homes Division, or will he take the necessary action to arrange for such an increase ?
Sir ARTHUR FADDEN. - This matter has received the consideration of the Commonwealth Bank on the administrative level. I remind the honorable member, and the House, that more money has been made available by the Commonwealth Bank and government instrumentalities for the purposes of housing under this Government than was made available under any previous government.
N. - I ask the PostmasterGeneral whether, when a country telephone exchange is listed for conver-sion to a rural automatic exchange hut the local post office keeper resigns before the work is due to commence, the Postal Department will give a higher priority to the work so that the installation of the rural automatic exchange can start immediately. Alternatively, is every effort made to keep subscribers connected to the telephone system by moving such exchanges to places where they can be operated by new operators? I refer particularly to the Mullengandra exchange.
Mr. ANTHONY. - We endeavour to keep telephone connexions in service in
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 25 August 1954, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1954/19540825_reps_21_hor4/>.