21st Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. Archie Cameron) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers
– Will the PostmasterGeneral ascertain “whether the Postal Department in South Australia is having consultations with the State authorities in relation to the postal and telephonic services that are likely to be required in tha initial stages and during the progress of the establishment of the new satellite town in the Salisbury district! “Will the Minister insist that the department shall anticipate the need of materials and thus obviate delays similar to those that are apparent in the provision of services in other new areas that are being developed in that particular district?
– The department will co-operate with the South Australian Government in relation to the establishment of this satellite town, but I cannot give an undertaking that, in the provision of services, it will be given priority over older towns.
– Is lie PostmasterGeneral aware that no provision appears to have been made in the Estimates this year for the construction of a new post office at Geraldton in “Western Australia, notwithstanding that a definite undertaking was given to the people of that town in 1947 by the then Postmaster-General that such a building would be provided.? Is the PostmasterGeneral prepared to accept that undertaking and to give effect to it in order that the Government’s property in Geraldton will be developed in keeping with the progress that has been made in the district during the last ten years? The present post office building is obsolete and is not adequate to accommodate all the present postal staff. Other buildings have been erected to accommodate some members of that staff. Having regard to the Government’s decentralization policy, will the Postmaster-General give effect to the undertaking to which I have referred that a new post office building would be constructed in keeping with the progress that is being made in Geraldton and throughout the surrounding district ?
– I am afraid that I am unable to accept responsibility for any promise that was made by my predescessor as far back as 1947. The gentleman who was Postmaster-General at that time remained in that office for the two following years and during that period he had ample time to carry out the undertaking that he had given to the people of Geraldton. Of course, it is simple to make promises but quite another thing to carry them out. I recognize that the provision of an uptodate post office at Geraldton is an important undertaking and is thoroughly justified, and that a modern building should be erected when it is possible to do so. The department has acquired a site for the proposed building and plans have been prepared, but, unfortunately, works of high priority are required in many places in all the States, including Western Australia, and until those works can be carried out the Postal Department will be unable to do the Geraldton job. At the same time, the importance of Geraldton is fully recognized. The work will have to be done before long, and it will be done as soon as we can get around to it.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture in relation to the export of Australian butter to Japan. Does the Minister know that information has been received from J Japan to the effect that Australian butter has lost some of its popularity on the Japanese market because the quality ha* deteriorated in the hot, humid, climate, mainly as a result of the kind of wrapping that is used? Can the attention of the industry be drawn to this matter, and can suggestions be made by the Department of Commerce and Agriculture for improving the wrapping?
– The Department of Commerce and Agriculture is not the exporting authority, but, through its inspection service, it has the responsibility of watching the quality and reputation of Australian exports. I have not any personal knowledge of the matter that the honorable member alleges to be a fact, but I will ensure that the attention of the Australian Dairy Produce Board, which has the control of such exports, is directed to it. As that board comprises representatives of every section of the dairy industry, including the producers and the great co-operative and proprietary companies, the honorable member may be assured that appropriate action will be taken.
– My question is directed to the Minister acting for the Minister for Labour and’ National Service. Does the Minister know the latest results of the ballot that is being taken by the miners’ federation in relation to the extraction of pillar coal? Can he inform the House of the figures for and against in the States that have completed taking the ballot, and when it is hoped that the final result will be determined?
– Ballots among miners on the question of the mechanical extraction of pillar coal have been held in New South Wales and Victoria, and I understand that a ballot will be held in Queensland next week. The date on which a poll will be taken among Tasmanian miners has not been decided as far as I know. The combined majority in . New South Wales and Victoria in favour of the mechanical extraction of pillar coal is 105; so that the honorable member will understand that the voting has been very close.’
– I invite the attention of the Minister who represents in this House the Minister for Shipping and Transport to a question that appears in my name on the notice-paper under the date the oth August last. It concerns the disposal of the assets of the. Commonwealth Handling Equipment Pool, and I have not yet received a reply. Will the Minister ascertain the reason for the delay in answering the question, with a view to expediting the reply?
– I shall be pleased to bring the matter to the attention of my colleague in another place with a view to giving the honorable member a reply as soon as possible.
– Can the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture inform me of the present position in relation to representations that have been made to him by the pig and poultry industries in respect of assistance by way of a subsidy on stock-feed wheat, or by any other means ?
– Officers of the Department of Commerce and Agriculture and I have co-operated in the examination of various proposals in relation to the reported problem of the pig and poultry industries in respect of feed costs. Those suggestions have been advanced by members of this Parliament, by representatives of the pig and poultry industries, and by some of the State Departments of Agriculture, no doubt at the direction of the State governments. At the same time, the Bureau of Agricultural Economics has been studying the general economic position of these industries, and the factors bearing upon them. I expect that in the near future I shall be in a position to submit the suggestions of the Department of Commerce and Agriculture to the Government for consideration in the terms of the Prime Minister’s undertaking^ to the State Premiers that the Australian Government would give this matter consideration.
– I desire to direct a question to the Minister for Supply. Is the Minister aware that a serious shortage of roofing iron is restricting building operations in Tasmania? The allocation of roofing iron to Tasmania in 1953 was 4,700 tons. To the end of June last, total imports for the current year amounted to 992 tons, and I understand that no allocation is contemplated for the third quarter of the year. Has the Minister been informed that a licence for the export of roofing iron to New Zealand has been approved ? If a licence has been issued, will the Minister make a thorough investigation to ensure that the export of this material to New Zealand will not be to the detriment of Tasmania? I ask the Minister further whether he will intervene on behalf of the building industry of Tasmania with a view to assuring it of a more equitable supply of roofing iron.
– This matter falls within the administration of my colleague, the Minister for National Development. I shall bring it to his attention and shall let the honorable member have a reply as soon as possible.
– Is the Minister for Health in a position to inform the House whether any progress has been made in consultations with the Health Ministers of the States on the subject of the general administration of mental institutions and the treatment of mental diseases ?
– Honorable members who sat in the last Parliament will remember that I made a statement in which I said that, with the consent of the State governments, Dr. .Stoller, a distinguished Australian psychiatrist, had been chosen to visit all States of
Australia to make a general survey of the treatment of mental diseases and the administration of mental institutions Dr. Stoller has partially completed the survey, and the Victorian Government made a suggestion, in which I, as Minister for Health in the Australian Government, acquiesced, that he would be greatly assisted in his task were he to attend a psychiatric congress in “Washington. He is there at present and will return on the 13th September. He will then complete his survey and the Government will consider his report.
– Does the Minister for Health know that there is considerable resentment among doctors over the decision of the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee to restrict the use of cortisone for asthma sufferers to a very limited basis ? Is the Minister aware also that as a result of that decision, many asthma victims will be compelled to expend up to £2 5s. a week to purchase what is virtually for them, a life-saving drug? Will the Minister request the committee to review its decision?
-The Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee has been considering cortisone over the past three years and has obtained reports upon the drug from many parts of the world. The decision that it has reached is their considered decision and one of which I approve. I spent two days in Rochester at the Mayo Clinic where cortisone was discovered, and those who are working on the development of cortisone there consider that Australia is acting correctly in connexion with this matter in its cautious dealings with this very potent drug.
– Has the attention of the Minister for Defence Production been directed to criticism of the lengthy period of manufacture of the Avonengined Sabre, the cost of its manufacture and the slow rate of delivery? Will the Minister give the House the facts of the matter in order to allay any doubts that- may have arisen with regard to the Government’s aircraft production policy?
– There is an accepted period of time in aircraft manu facture. It covers a cycle of seven years from the time that an aircraft is first designed until it comes off the production line. First, there is a period of four years from the time of the design to the first flight of a prototype, and then three years from the flight of the prototype to the production of the aircraft itself. The first Canberra bomber that was produce[ in Australia was the first aircraft of its type that had been built and flown outside the United Kingdom. Australia went into production of the Canberra bomber almost jointly with the United States of America, but Australia beat American production of the first bomber by six weeks. If my memory is correct, the first Australian-built Canberra was flown two years from the time that production was started, notwithstanding alterations that had been made in the machine as a result of the Royal Australian Air Force’s request for modifications to enable the aircraft to conform to tropical conditions. Production of the Sabre aircraft involved an almost complete revision of the fuselage design so that the aircraft could take the Rolls-Royce Avon engine. From the time that the first prototype was flown in Australia to the handing over of the first Sabre off the production line a few days ago, a period of approximately twelve months elapsed because the fuselage, after revision of the design here, had to be sent to the United Kingdom for testing and approval before it could be built into the Sabre in Australia. I have been informed that seven Canberras have already been delivered to the Royal Australian Air Force, and that by the close of this year, total deliveries will be fourteen Canberra bombers and twelve Avon Sabres. That will bring us almost up to the computed time for the delivery of those aircraft. The cost of the aircraft is a much more difficult matter. The redesigning of the fuselage of the Sabre threw completely out of perspective the costing associated with the building of a formal or normal aircraft to the design that was obtained from North American Aviation Incorporated. That interfered with costing of the- Sabre at a fixed level. The same difficulty obtained with regard to the modifications of the Canberra bomber, but the Board of Business Administration that investigated the cost of those aircraft found two or three factors over which the Government had no control. The first difficulty was the procurement of material, much of which had to be brought in from overseas. The second difficulty was in respect of wages, over which wc have no control. The third difficulty was tooling. Tooling plays a most important part and is the most costly factor in aircraft manufacture, and those costs had not been determined. In relation to the cost of the Canberra bomber, tooling was laid down for a total of 80 machines, but this number was subsequently reduced to 48 with the result that the total original cost has to be carried on the basis of the smaller number of machines. I am unable to add anything further with respect to costs, because they are being investigated. So far as the building of aircraft is concerned, we shall be up to schedule at the end of this year; and I believe that the House will agree that we are producing excellent aircraft that compare favorably with aircraft produced overseas.
– Is the PostmasterGeneral in a position to indicate the availability of battery-operated rural automatic exchanges? Does the Postal Department consider that these exchanges operate satisfactorily and are a suitable alternative to manually operated exchanges ?
– The rural automatic exchange is very satisfactory, and is the answer to the problem of the provision of a 24-hour service for small country communities.
– My question is about the battery-operated exchange.
– I cannot give any details about the battery itself, but I am able to inform the honorable member for Fisher that we shall install about 150 rural automatic exchanges this year. That number is about the limit to the installation work which we can undertake in this particular period.
– During the last Parliament the Postmaster-General informed me, in reply to a question, that experiments were being conducted to ascertain whether 20-unit and 10-unit rural automatic telephone exchanges could operate successfully, the smallest then in operation being a 40-unit exchange. Is the honorable gentleman now able to advise the House of the degree of success, if any, that has been achieved in those experiment and of the prospects of having these smaller exchanges installed in country areas, where telephonic communication is so much more urgently necessary than in urban areas?
– Experiments have been carried out by the Postal Department with smaller exchanges than the 40-uuit rural automatic exchange. They have been made with units with as few as ten subscribers, but it has been found that these are not economic. Therefore, the department has discontinued the experiments. The department, of course, can install rural automatic exchanges for any number of subscribers from 40 down to ten, but it considers that the provision of such exchanges for fewer than ten subscribers is not a worth-while proposition.
– My question is addressed to the Minister acting for the Minister for Labour and National Service. What steps is he taking, through the employment section of the Department of Labour and National Service, to widen the scope of assistance for mentally and physically handicapped men and women to secure employment in industry? Is the Minister aware that many people in those unfortunate circumstances have been disqualified for the invalid pension because they are less than 85 per cent, incapacitated, and that they are advised to seek light jobs in industry, according to their capacity, but are unable to obtain employment, because there are no such jobs in industry for them? Will the Minister take this matter up with the district employment officers, and give them greater power to negotiate with industrial managements to stress the need to provide a higher level of opportunities for handicapped persons ?
– I have noted the comments of the honorable member on the rehabilitation of mentally and physically handicapped persons. T shall’ obtain a full report, on that matter, and supply him with the information for which he has asked.
– Will the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture be- good enough to inform the House of the present position regarding the experiments that have been carried out for the control of grasshoppers, or plague locusts ?
– At the meeting of the Australian Agricultural Council a month ago, the representatives of the respective governments agreed that a patrol officer should be appointed to maintain, as a trial, a patrol over the areas in which outbreaks of plague grasshoppers are liable to occur. In the terms of that decision, a patrol office will be appointed at an early date. The costs, which will be comparatively modest, will be shared by the Commonwealth and all the mainland States. Each of them will bear” an agreed percentage of the- expense. If an outbreak of grasshoppers occurs, a trial campaign will be conducted to control it. All this work will be of an exploratory and educational character, upon which future policies will be built. I think this is the first concerted attempt to plan, first, to discover at an early stage an outbreak of plague grasshoppers, and, secondly, to engage at that point in the control of it. Control measures adopted during the 1953 outbreak would form the basis for a trial control campaign.
– Can the Minister for the Army inform me whether it is a fact that, provided the body of Trooper R. A. Blackie, who was lost in the Stockton Bight amphibious disaster is not found, seven years must elapse before his military affairs can be brought to finality? Further, provided documentary evidence, accompanied by statutory declarations, can bc obtained, which illustrate and confirm that the sea at Newcastle was boisterous and unsafe for small craft to sail in between midday and dusk on Sunday the 7th March, will the Minister give consideration to ordering an open public inquiry, into the cause of the disaster f-
– My reply to the last of the honorable member’s questions is that a public inquiry, the details of which, were organized by the New South Wales police, has already been conducted by a coroner. I shall consult the Attorney-General on the other question.
– I ask the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture to indicate to the House the manner in which the money granted by the Commonwealth for agricultural extension services is , being applied by the State governments ?
– Time will not permit me to give a detailed account of those matters, but the manner in which the moneys are being expended is the result of an agreement by the several governments in negotiation. The purpose for which money is used in extension services is the outcome Df that negotiation. On that basis, the State Departments of Agriculture advance proposals which, in their opinion, conform to the general policy. They are approved or not approved by me in the exercise of my judgment. If the honorable member would’ like a more detailed explanation- of the extension services that are being undertaken, I should be glad to furnish it to him and to any other honorable member who is. interested in the matter.
– Will the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture say whether the Government regards as dangerous in the long run our concentration on the wool industry for the purposes of export revenue, on the ground that we are putting all our eggs into one basket and that a slump of wool prices would have serious economic repercussions? Has the Government any plans to boost other primary industries for a five-year or tenyear period, in co-operation with the States, in order to spread our export income over as wide a field as possible?
– The Government -has demonstrated very clearly that it is conscious that an undue dependence on wool could put the Australian economy in a precarious situation. That explains why it has done- more than any other government in this country has ever done to sustain, encourage and stabilize other primary industries. Its long fight to gain stability for the wheat industry was obstructed by a State Labour government, but fortunately there is now an opportunity to give stability to that industry. The meat industry has stability with an assured full market for the whole of its production for fifteen years. The dairy industry, under this Government, enjoys for the first time real stabilization in respect of both Australian consumption and exports. The egg industry has been helped more than any other industry by this Government. The dried fruits industry, which had its products sold for £56 a ton by a Labour government, obtained more than £100 a ton for its export surplus as a result of the efforts of this Government. This account of successful stabilization under the present Government could be taken through the whole range of primary industries. The sugar industry has the benefit of satisfactory long-term stabilization in respect of both the home market and export sales. Even the berry industry, in which the honorable member displays a very understandable interest, has been stabilized by this Government. That is the complete answer to the honorable member’s question.
– I ask the Minister acting for the Minister for Immigration whether he will have another look at a request by the Cooma Municipal Council to be supplied with the address of a new Australian from whom it wishes to collect some overdue rates? Whilst I appreciate the reasons of highest principle, although’ I totally disagree with them, which have led the Minister for Immigration, not the Minister acting for him, to refuse to supply the address in order to protect the interests of the new Australian, may I point out that the action is having the opposite effect? If the Minister will not supply the address of this new Australian to the Cooma Municipal Council so that it can collect these rates, will he consider writing to the new Australian and warning him that unless he gets in touch with the council pretty quickly his land will be sold for the rates ?
– As the honorable gentleman understands, I am not familiar personally with the details of this matter. I shall have it examined and give him a reply.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Health. It concerns the growing incidence of cancer in Australia. Can the Minister inform the House whether he is contemplating taking practical measures to improve the capacity of general practitioners to mike an early diagnosis of this disease? Furthermore, will the Government consider establishing a Director of Cancer Research, on the analogy of that of tuberculosis, to co-ordinate and stimulate postgraduate instruction in all States?
– I think the only contribution the Commonwealth has made to the solution of this problem is the provision of about £100,000 about 30 years ago, when I was the Federal Treasurer, to establish a radium bank. Through that bank, radium has been made available to various teaching hospitals in Australia. As a result, the technique of medical practitioners in Australia in the value, use and method of radium application for cancer cures probably is more advanced than in any other country in the world. Medical education and research are entirely State matters. In practically every State there is a cancer research fund, the custodians of which are extraordinarily jealous of their control. But it has been recognized that there must be some coordination of their activities. Only last week, I had a chat with Sir Peter MacCullum the president of the Victorian AntiCancer Council. We have agreed that the Commonwealth Department of Health shall contact the various State departments to see whether we can bring about such co-ordination.
– I ask the Minister for Social Services whether it is a fact that the War Service Homes Division of the
Department of Social Services has been able to insure war service homes at rates that are less than half those charged by private insurance companies? If this is so - and I understand that the Minister recently issued figures showing this to be the case - will he state the reason for such a disparity between the rates charged by the War Service Homes Division and those charged by private insurance companies? If, as all the evidence suggests, the high rates charged by the private insurance companies are a clear indication of exploitation, will he refer the matter to the Prime Minister with a view to the Prime Minister carrying out his election promise to nationalize industries in which blatant exploitation is taking place ?
– The War Service Homes Division is conducted by a very efficient man in a very efficient way, and it has been able, during the course of the last few days, to announce that there will be a rebate on all insurance premiums charged on war service homes. It is not a rebate as big as was made last year or the year before, due to some unfortunate accidents that occurred in South Australia and in parts of New South Wales. I am not able to give the reasons why the division can operate so efficiently, but I will find out and I will let the honorable member know. As to the last of his questions, I think his imagination has got. the better of him again, as it has done on so many other occasions, for I am quite certain the Prime Minister did not mention the case of exploitation in the way he has mentioned.
– I was pleased to hear the remarks of the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture about the Australian dried fruits industry a few moments ago. I now direct a question to him in relation to the overseas trade publicity campaign, which has been inaugurated to foster overseas sales of our primary products. Will the Minister assure the House that special attention will be given, during the campaign, to the promotion and extension of sales of Australian dried fruits in the United Kingdom ?
– The Government has been co-operating with the Dried Fruits Export Control Board and the Australian Dried Fruits Association, along the lines that the honorable member has indicated. Conferences have been held with representatives of those bodies. The Government recently appointed a special publicity officer to the United Kingdom, centralized on Australia House, to conduct publicity in relation to Australian primary products, the overseas sales of which we are endeavouring to increase. Special emphasis is being given to the sale in the United Kingdom of dried fruits in which the honorable member is so interested.
– I call the honorable member for East Sydney.
Opposition Members. - Hear, hear!
– Order ! The honorable member for East Sydney will resume his seat. I do not want “ Hear, hears ! “ when an honorable member receives the call, as has happened both yesterday and to-day. I remind the House that the honorable member for East Sydney has, during this session, asked more questions than any other honorable member.
– But they have not been answered.
– It is no business of mine whether or not the honorable member’s questions are answered. If honorable members on my left continue the practice of calling “ Hear, hear ! “ when one of their number receives the call, I shall take appropriate action.
– I hope that that will not affect your attitude towards me, Mr. Speaker.
– That would be impossible. The honorable member may now ask his question.
– Will the Prime Minister inform me whether the Australian Security Intelligence Organization has been clothed with power to tap, listen to, . and record telephone conversations? If so, is there any limitation of that power? Are all officers of the security service, regardless of rank, empowered to exercise this authority? Is the security service subject to any authority in respect of moneys expended by it? If so, what are the details? In particular, is the expenditure of moneys voted by this Parliament for the purposes of the security service subject to scrutiny by the Auditor-General, in accordance with the Audit Act? If the right honorable gentleman adheres .to his practice of refusing to answer any questions about the security service, will he explain in what way the answering of such questions would affect, detrimentally, either the operations of the security service, or national security?
– The Australian Security Intelligence Organization is under precisely the same directions and enjoys exactly the same authorities as it did under the previous Government.
– That is all right.
– What would the honorable member know about it? I repeat, that our security service is under exactly the ‘same authority and under precisely the same conditions as . during the previous administration, of which the .honorable member for East Sydney was a member. Therefore, if he wants tq know the precise terms of that matter, and did not know them before, he has my full authority to ask the Leader of the Opposition, under whom the service was conducted during the previous administration. If I am going to be asked what the .security service does, then I must ask the honorable member for East Sydney to tell me what the Communist spies do, because not while I am here will I have counter-espionage exposed to the public while espionage goes on in secret. The interests of this country are supreme. The second thing that I want to say is, that now, as when the honorable member for East Sydney, was, technically, a responsible Minister, all matters of security are dealt with by the head of the security service, who is a most responsible man. He is known to most members of this Parliament and respected, I venture to say, by most honorable members. Nothing occurs in the course of the operations of the security .sendee which does not .hove hia express approval.
– And yours?
– If there is some matter of remarkable novelty of policy, then, of course, he sees me. I understand the honorable member for East Sydney’s worry about his fears.
– What about your own fear—
– I read bis views a fortnight before he voiced them, because I saw them in the Tribune.
Mr. Ward interjecting,
– Order ! The honorable member for East Sydney will maintain silence. Document J is not .going to be discussed in this chamber at present.
– The Prime Minister will see that it is discussed nowhere else. He does not want it known.
-As you very well know, Mr. Speaker, there has been going on, for some time, a campaign in the Communist press against the royal commission and, in particular, against the security service of this country.. I merely remind .anybody who does not know it, that the constant spokesman of “that campaign is the frightened honorable member for East Sydney.
– I address a question to the Minister for Air. How many Royal Australian Air Force singleengined helicopters-
Mr. Ward interjecting,
-Order ! The honorable member for East Sydney will cease interjecting.
– Will the Minister for Air say how many Royal Australian Air Force single-engined helicopters are in operation in Australia, and whether it is intended to increase the number in the near future? Will consideration be given to continued assistance by helicopters in the event of civilian emergencies such ‘as floods? Are “there .any plans for the provision of multi-engined helicopters for the use of the Australian defence services, similar to the type now coming into use in the United States of
America,, where they are replacing trooplanding barges?
– -The Royal Australian’. Air Force has one Sikorsky’ S51 helicopter,, which is in use now and, as the honorable’ member probably knows, bas been used on search and rescue work on a number of occasions. It is located now- in Sydney,, where it is thought to be more centrally situated and more easily called upon in an emergency than it would be if it were located elsewhere. It has, been brought into service for evaluation of its work in connexion with defence purposes, but it will be maintained and, if an emergency arises, it is there to be used, and it will be used. There is at present no suggestion that we shall obtain multi-engined helicopters in this, country, but. que technical men overseas are watching developments. Such aircraftare still, to a great degree, in the experimental stage. They are costly and we cannot, afford to buy them just for fun. However, we are watching the development of them, and particularly of the big Sikorsky and the Piasecki. We. are well informed of their capabilities, and if the time comes when they will be of use in this country they will obviously be included in our programme.
– I ask the Minister for Works a. question regard.ing a system adopted by the- Department of Works in relation to building in Canberra. When, instead of advertising contracts and calling for competitive tenders, the Department of Works invites tenders from selected firms in Sydney or elsewhere for the construction of homes in Canberra, who initiates the invitation, what is the basis of selection, and who makes the selection of the firms?
– This matter goes back a very long way. As a matter of fact, some of the contracts made on that basis were made in 1948,- and they have bean a continuous source of worry to me ever since- 1 took office, particularly those that were made on a cost-plus basis and are still running. In order to get. contractors to come to Canberra,, tender for. work, and. actually start work here, it has very often been necessary to make with them what, are culled “ negotiated “ contracts. A certain number of contractors in the Australian Capital Territory to-day would not be here if negotiated contracts’ with them had not been made. These contracts are initiated, in the first place, through the head’ office of the Department of Works in conjunction with- the Department of Works in Canberra. The amount of the tender is always compared with tenders for work of a simitar nature that is being done in the Territory. I can assure the honorable member that the fairness of prices was safeguarded by the previous Government and has been safeguarded by this Government. But for negotiated contracts, a number of contractors who are working in Canberra at present would not be here. In view of the approaching completion of the administrative building in Canberra, I think that it will soon be necessary to have other work in the Territory carried out by negotiated contracts instead of calling for tenders.
– In view of the fact that the costs of the Australian delegation to the sessions of the United Nations organization, including those of the Minister for External Affairs and the public servants who accompany him, are paid by the United Nations organization, will the Prime Minister give consideration to the sending of two members from each side of the Parliament to next year’s session of the United Nations organization- and charge against Commonwealth finances the cost of sending any public servants who would otherwise be displaced by the addition of members of Parliament to the delegation?
– I understood from the Minister for External Affairs that it had been proposed by the United Nations organization that one member could go from each side of the House at the expense of the United Nations organization. If there is any alteration in that proposal I shall be very happy to have consideration given to the proposal of the honorable member.
Motion (by Mr. Calwell) agreed to -
That leave of absence for one month be given to the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Drakeford) owing to his absence from Australia.
In Committee of Supply: Consideration resumed from the 31st August (vide page 802) 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 “, he agreed to.
Upon which Mr. Calwell had moved by way of amendment -
That the first item be reduced by £1.
.- The preparation of the budget necessarily requires-
– Order! There is too much audible conversation.
– The preparation of the budget necessarily requires that the economy of the nation must be examined beforehand. The budget should give effect to the policy of the Government. The. budget now before the committee is the budget of a government which has come victorious from the polls and which is carrying out the policy which it presented to the people for their approval. Every intention to which the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) gave expression in his policy speech has been carried out in this budget. I refer in particular to the promise to reduce taxation. In the course of many speeches that the Prime Minister delivered during the last general election campaign, he stated that if the Government were returned it would reduce taxes as much as possible, in conformity with the needs of the country. The measures that have been adopted by the Government, and set forth in the budget, will undoubtedly benefit the many people of this country who have to pay taxes, and will provide a considerable incentive for increased production. “When considering tax reductions, one must remember the precarious state of our economy during the last few years. During those years the Government, by its wise policy gradually managed to stabilize the economy until now both wages and prices are steady. Moreover, we have full employment and the highest living standards in the world.
I suggest that the Government is entitled to be proud of Australia’s present position. The community at large has realized the good work done by this Government, and because of that realization it has returned the Government to office. The country believes that the policy of the Menzies Government is directed towards national solvency and stability. The Government has shown that its policy can be effective, and our present prosperous condition is the proof of its effectiveness. However, the cost structure of Australia’s industry is very high indeed and inflationary tendencies are still in the background of om economy. Those important matters must be seriously considered. International trends have to be watched very carefully, and certain clouds on the horizon indicate that we must prepare to defend the country. To do so we must provide large sums of money.
In all the circumstances of this country, both domestic and international, it may be said that the budget is sound, sane and sensible, and undoubtedly has the general approval of the people of Australia. A consequence of this sound budget, is that the attack made upon it by the Opposition was necessarily defective, because it was mounted by a leaderless party, and, indeed, has proved to be the weakest of all weak attacks. It has not been an attack en masse at all. The honorable member for- Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) spoke about this budget, but his speech was almost a repetition of the speech that he made during the 1953-54 budget debate, though it was much less vigorous than his last year’s speech. Perhaps the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) has never made a more lifeless speech in this chamber on any occasion or any subject, than the speech he delivered on the budget. The Opposition, being rudderless, leaderless and pilotless, has mainly attacked the Government on pensions. It has asked why the Government has not increased pensions. The simple straightforward answer to that question is that the Government faced the electors without having made any promise at all to increase pensions. However, the Government definitely promised to ameliorate the means test on age and invalid pensions, and it has honoured that promise in its budget.
The new social services provisions will increase social services benefits by more than £16,000,000. That is a very substantial sum of money, and shows that the Government has social services well in mind. There is many a pensioner in this country who, before the last general election, believed that this Government would, in the long run, be more dependable for the pensioners than the Labour party, notwithstanding the Labour party’s promise to increase age pensions by 10s. a week. Why is it that this Government is regarded as being more likely to help the pensioners than a Labour government would be? Apart altogether from what I have said regarding the Government’s policy of stability, we have its record, during the last few years, with regard to pensions. It is a fact that this was the first government which increased pensions in each of its first four years of office. It is also a fact that three of those four increases were records, being far greater than Labour had ever given. Of the £3 10s. which now constitutes the pension, Liberal governments have provided £2 8s., whereas Labour governments have provided only £1 2s. In addition, the Menzies Government has provided medical and pharmaceutical services free of charge for pensioners, a thing which Labour had never done. All of those tremendous benefits have been given to pensioners by the Menzies Government. Consequently, the pensioners preferred to rely on this Government because they knew that when the time was opportune to increase pensions, such increases would be given and, what is more, given in circumstances which would ensure that the increases would be of value. The pensioners knew that increases would not be granted in respect of a time of inflation when, in effect, they would be. merely an attempt to repair the ravages of inflation.
The increases of pensions which have been given by the Menzies Government throughout the years have been greater than increases of the cost of living, so that to-day the pensions are of more value to the recipients than they were when Labour was in office. Remarks made by honorable members opposite during the course of this debate have recalled to my mind the fact that in 1949, when the late Mr. Chifley was Prime Minister, the Labour Government did not grant any increase of pensions, although prices had risen by approximately 10 per cent. When Mr. Chifley was asked, “Why is it that pensions are not being increased ? “, his reply was, “You got an increase last year I wonder what the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Crean) would have said to Mr. Chifley, had the honorable member been a member of the Parliament in those days. Would he have said to his leader, “ That was a callous thing to say. Prices are rising rapidly, but you still keep pensions clown “. Did any honorable members opposite, who were in this chamber ‘ in 1949, stand up to their leader and tell him that the time had come for pensions to be increased? The honorable member for Brisbane (Mr. George Lawson), in describing the Chifley budget of 1949 as a budget of “ prosperity and progress”, expressed the pious hope that perhaps an increase of pensions might be made at some time in the future. The honorable member for St. George (Mr. Lemmon), who was a Minister in the Chifley Government, described the budget of 1949 as one that would give the people security, but he did not utter a word about the need to increase pensions. Last night, in this chamber we heard a speech by the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Tom Burke). Did he press for pension increases in 1949? On the contrary, he praised the Treasurer of that day, the great Mr. Chifley, for not increasing social services benefits. What has the honorable member for Perth to say to-day about pension increases? Can it be said that he is sincere when he criticizes this Government because, according to him, it has not increased pensions sufficiently, although he praised the Treasurer of 1949 for having failed to increase pensions at all, although the cost of living was rising rapidly? The honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) praised the 1949 budget of the Labour Government, although it did not increase pensions, and he also praised the Treasurer who introduced it. He said nothing about the fact that pensions were not being increased. At that time, the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) said bluntly, and doubtless vigorously, that it was impossible to extend the provision of social services, but this Government has shown that it is not impossible to do so. It is continually extending them, and in this budget it has extended them. The honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly) and the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Puller) were not any more helpful. The honorable member for Port Adelaide (Mr. Thompson) said that the 1949 budget was excellent. Although the honorable member did make an attack in relation to the provision of social services, it was not an attack upon his own government for failing to increase the benefits, but an attack upon the first Menzies Government for providing child endowment. He regarded that as a trespass upon the prerogative of the Australian Labour party. He considered that only a Labour government should give social services benefits, and that it was outrageous for an anti-Labour government to do so. I have no doubt that the honorable member has learned, within the last few years, that the Menzies Government has provided many more social ser-‘ vices’ benefits than any Labour government has provided. The honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) and the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. McLeod) were silent. In 1949, the honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Chambers), who spoke so vigorously last night, did advocate an extension of social services benefits, but he did not say, “ This is the time when the poor pensioners, who are worse off because of the rising cost of living,, should get an increase “. He expressed a pious sentiment, and doubtless he became very angry in the expression of that pious sentiment, but he did not advocate any increases for those poor people. He remained silent on that point. The honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie) kept well away from the question of any increase in social sea” vices benefits at that time.
– I still believe that I was right.
– Of course, the honorable member Was right! But he criticizes this Government under very different circumstances, when we have a stabilized economy and no rising cost of living, The honorable member suggests that the Government is wrong. He likes .the best of both worlds ! The silence of the honorable member for Martin (Mr. O’Connor.) and the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) was, as silence should be, golden, but there were not any gold coins in the pockets of the pensioners. The honorable member for Grey (Mr. Russell) said that never before were the people of Australia so .happy and -contented. He .said that even though the pensioners did not receive any increase of pension rates. In addition, he said that the -country was never so prosperous. Yet there was no reason for ,ari increase of pensions! Not very long ago, the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Allan Eraser) assumed the attitude of being shocked because there .was no increase of pension rates. I assume that in 1949 also he was .shocked because there was no increase of pension rates. But on that occasion, he was shocked into silence, because he never advocated an increase. It will be seen that all this criticism of the Government for not having increased pensions on this occasion is just poppycock.; it is for the purpose of propaganda. Honorable members opposite themselves do not believe in it.
I pass to a consideration of the benefits that have been provided in this budget for those persons who have been unable to obtain a pension because of the means test. The budget has provided for a substantial amelioration of the means test, and that amelioration will help particularly those persons who are on superannuation. It is only right that persons who, because of their thrift, are just outside the pension range, should be brought within it. They should not be penalized for their thrift. This Government has taken a great step towards the abolition of the means test. Honorable members have asked what was the Government’s policy in .relation to the abolition of the means test. The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), in his policy speech, stated definitely that the Government would see that the means test was progressively ameliorated. I sincerely trust that the next step will be to ensure that persons who own property on which the rent is pegged should be given the benefits that are now given to many people who are on superannuation. Under this budget, many thousands of people who have been unable to obtain a pension will receive one, and many of those people who are on pensions will have their pensions increased. For that reason, the Government is to be commended for giving effect to the promises it made to the people, and for doing so very promptly indeed.
I now refer to the subject of housing. At the outset, let me say that the Government has a very splendid record in this direction. Over a period of four years, it has provided the sum of £115,000,000 for housing, as against a sum of £56,000,000 that was provided over a similar period by the previous Labour Government. Over a period of three years during the lifetime of this Government, no fewer than 227,000 houses have been built in Australia, as against 144,000 houses built during the lifetime of the previous Labour Government. The matter to which I wish to refer particularly is that the Commonwealth and States Housing Agreement expires next year. The Minister who introduced the legislation that preceded the making of that agreement said that it was introduced for two purposes: First, to provide housing and, secondly and in particular, to provide housing for people who were living in sub-standard nouses or, in other words, to terminate the existence of slums. The latter part of that policy has never been implemented. The reason that has been advanced by the State governments for their failure to give effect to it is that the agreement is defective and that it does not enable them to do so. Although it appears from the agreement that that quite clearly was the intention, the State governments insist that the agreement is not sufficiently specific. The agreement also fails in another aspect; it does not provide for home-ownership. That was done deliberately. The Minister who introduced that legislation stated specifically that he did not want little capitalists in this country, and that he regarded homeowners as little capitalists. That legislation was deliberately framed with a view to making landlords of the governments and preventing people from owning their own homes. When the Commonwealth and States Housing Agreement comes up for revision it should be renewed in a form that will provide definitely for home-ownership. It is clear from the Prime Minister’s policy speech at the last general election, and from observations that have been made on other occasions, that it is undoubtedly the Government’s policy to provide for homeownership, so that the ordinary man may have the satisfaction of living with his family in his own house.
The other side of the picture also needs attention, and a revised agreement should genuinely provide for slum reclamation instead of merely expressing the view that slum reclamation i.= desirable. Slums are a blemish upon the fair face of Australia. They came into existence with industrialization and grew up about the new factories. During the last 80 to 100 years, factory standards have been greatly improved, and extensive factory legislation has been enacted in all the States to ensure that working conditions shall be safe and healthy. But the slum homes that have been allowed to accumulate about the factories become older and more substandard as the years pass, and they have been completely neglected. A man may work in healthy conditions in a factory only to return to a sub-standard home in the slum areas. Curiously, little effective comment has been made, and still less action has been taken, in relation to the removal of slums. People who are charitably minded, interest themselves in hospitals and the like, and are anxious to obtain improvements of all kinds, but they do not seem in the least interested when the existence of the slums is mentioned. To the majority of Australians the knowledge that extensive slums exist neither arouses shame nor challenges their sense of civic pride so that they are moved to act. The few voices that have been crying out for the abolition of the slums have been crying in the wilderness and are unheard. I ask the Government, when it revises the agreement with the
States on housing, as it must do shortly, to ensure that in its revised form it, first, shall make definite provision for homeownership, and, secondly, shall set out in no uncertain language that a specified amount must he devoted each year to the removal of sub-standard dwellings and slums, and I appeal to the Government to ensure that money shall be paid to the States under the agreement only if those definite conditions are observed.
– I am somewhat surprised that an honorable member of the broad personal outlook of the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Joske) should address himself to the budget debate in the terms that he has used. He described the budget as sound, sane and sensible, and then he endeavoured to justify its positive denial of relief to one of the most deserving sections of the community. Though it might be interesting to the honorable member to say that in 1949 members of the Australian Labour party did not comment on the position of this class of the community, we on this side of the chamber are fully aware of the different circumstances in 1949, when the pension at least offered the prospect of a more reasonable existence than it offers at present. The honorable member talked at great length about what members of the Australian Labour party failed to say in 1949 about a budget that was brought down in that year by a Labour government, but he conveniently overlooked the fact that at that time the basic wage was less than half of its present amount. In spite of a few increases of pensions that have been made by this Administration, the basic pension to-day represents a considerably smaller percentage of the basic wage than it did in 1949. Though the honorable member overlooked those facts and pointed to the absence of comment from members of the Australian Labour party in 1949, he and all other honorable members know as well as I do that it is a physical impossibility for a deserving section of the community to live on an income of £3 10s. a week, and it surprises me that supporters of the Government should endeavour to justify a budget that does not improve the position of those people. It does not matter to me, or to any other honorable member who has humanitarian ideals, that the Government, during the general election campaign, made no promise to increase pensions. Whether or not it made a promise, the citizens of Australia, including pensioners, have to live. The Administration completely disregards the obvious needs of those who have borne the heat and burden of the day and are compelled to rely upon the Government for assistance in satisfying their meagre needs for the remainder of their days.
I bring to the attention of the committee, so that it may form an idea of the philosophy that actuates the Government and its supporters, a remark that was made by the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Bowden). The honorable member referred to the absence of any increase of pensions, and in endeavouring to justify that omission, he said -
On the one hand, extra money would be used to buy food and clothes: on the other hand, it might be used to buy petrol fur week-end trips in a Bentley.
That typical lack of understanding and sympathy is indicative of the attitude of the Government and its supporters.
– The honorable member has misrepresented the honorable member for Gippsland.
– I did not misrepresent him.
– I heard the remarks of the honorable member for Gippsland. He did not make the observation that the honorable member for Hoddle has attributed to him.
– I have quoted the words of the honorable member for Gippsland. Why do the honorable member and other Government supporters profess concern about the past attitude of members of the Australian Labour party? My concern at present is for the 471,000 age and invalid pensioners who are dragging out a miserable existence on the pension. Though my colleagues and I welcome the easing of the means test, we believe that the Government’s complete rejection of the claims of that large and deserving group of pensioners is a negation of all human principles. This Administration stands indicted at the bar of public opinion for its failure to do anything to ease the circumstances of age and invalid pensioners. Supporters of the Government may say as often as they like that members of the Australian Labour party are parading this matter in the hope of using it as an election bait, but that is not so. We on this side of the chamber are merely restating the attitude that we have consistently adopted towards age and invalid pensioners. I have in my hand a moving and human document, the like of which has been received by many other honorable members. I propose to read from it to show the opinion of pensioners of the Government’s attitude towards them. The document is a letter that I have received from a Mrs. Foster, who is an age pensioner. She wrote that some one should investigate the plight of many pensioners, and her letter continued -
By the time we pay rent (42s. p.w.), gas and light extra, we have not a penny left. For years we have not been able to buy any clothes and you can imagine how disappointed we were - not a word in the Budget about the pension.
I guess there are many others in the same plight as we.
That is true. There are many others in a similar plight. Honorable members on the Opposition side would be bereft of a sense of duty and responsibility if they did not raise their voices in condemnation of the unsympathetic attitude of this Government to the pensioners and its failure to recognize their difficulties. In addition to age and invalid pensions, other phases of social services should be given some consideration. The budget does not contain one word about an increase of the rate of pension that is paid to civilian widows. A contemptible increase of allowances has been provided for men and women who served with distinction in either of both world wars and for the relatives of those who served. They will get a miserable moiety from the Government that has claimed ability to cure the ills of the community. No increase has been provided for the wives of invalid pensioners who number almost 20,000. Pensioners suffering from tuberculosis will not receive an increase, and child endowment payments will remain un changed. Those who are covered by the social services that I have mentioned represent one-ninth of the community. Can the Government claim with truth that it understands the needs of the community and that this is a good budget? I also remind honorable members of statements that were contained in the joint Opposition policy of 1949. The leaders of the present Government who advanced that policy stated -
We still believe that rates of taxation must be steadily reduced as national production and income rises and as economies are effected in administration . . . We will review the incidence of indirect taxes (which are a huge though sometimes unrecognized item in Australia) upon basic wage and cost of living items and housing costs.
How far has that policy been carried out, and to what extent has the Government justified the boasts of its protagonists who have claimed that this is a reasonably and soundly balanced budget that will reduce taxation? The honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell), who is the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, exploded the statement of the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) that this budget represented an advance in the field of personal taxation. The honorable member for Melbourne proved to honorable members who have the capacity to think clearly for themselves just how much that reduction of the rates of taxation on personal exertion income will mean to the wage-earners. He burst the bubble of misrepresentation. I support him entirely as do all honorable members on the Opposition side. The Minister for Social Services (Mr. McMahon) was not to be outdone in his distortion of the statements that are contained in the budget. He said that the Government had progressively reduced taxation and that this budget provided for a further magnificent reduction. I propose to refer to some phases of indirect taxation as they affect working people in Australia. If, at the conclusion of my remarks, honorable members on the Government side still believe the statements of their leaders upon this matter, I suggest that they will be fit subjects for the attentions of an alienist. The Treasurer stated -
All told the sales tax concessions I have just outlined are expected to have a value to taxpayers of £12,822,000 in a fall year and £9,892,000 in 1954-55.
On the 28th April, 1953, the present Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) said -
People will be hard put to it to discover instances where sales tax and excise rates are higher now than under a Labour administration.
I invite honorable members to consider facts and figures. Between 1931 and 1949, total collections from sales tax in Australia were £404,000,000, an average of £21,300,000 a year during that period of nineteen years. Since this Government came into office, sales tax collections have been : 1950-51, £57,000,000 ; 1951-52, £95,500,000; 1952-53, £89,000,000; 1953- 54, £95,500,000. Provision is made in this budget for sales tax collections totalling £92,000,000 in the current financial year. That means that in five successive years, this Government will have collected from sales tax an aggregate of £429,000,000 or an average of £85,000,000 per year.
How does that figure compare with the collections of all the governments that were in office in the nineteen years preceding the enthronement of this sorry Government? Each man, woman and child in Australia pays in sales tax alone £10 a year. I agree with other honorable members on the Opposition side that the burden of sales tax falls with undue severity principally upon the working people who, despite the- sneers of the Government supporters,, are represented by the Australian Labour party. Every family unit in Australia pays sales tax at the rate of £40 a year. In other words 15s. a week is added to every family budget by sales tax alone. The impact of customs and excise duties is similarly heavy. In the five years to which I have already referred, this Government will have collected £1,024,000,000 in customs and excise or an average of £205,000,000 a year. In the last four years of the previous Labour Government’s administration, the average annual collections of customs and excise totalled £488,000,000 or £122,000,000 a year. Under this Government each man, woman and child in Australia contributes to customs and excise £27 a year. When the supporters of the Government claim that it has steadily reduced taxation, the people of Australia have only to point to its record to refute those statements. I do not desire to weary the committee by citing a series of figures with respect to taxation; but for want of humanitarianism lack of. courage to face the facts and failure to do justice to the people, this Government has failed lamentably. In the time remaining to me, I shall deal with the effect of the Government’s import policy on the clothing industry which is one of the principal industries in this country. From £60,000,000 to £70,000,000 is invested in this industry, the production of which approximates £160,000,000 annually. The industry employs over 100,000 persons, including New Australians, but, to-day, this valuable unit in Australia’s economy is in grave danger as a result of the Government’s import policy. I quote the following from a joint statement by the Federated Clothing Industries Council of Australia and the Clothing and Allied Trades Union of Australia: -
The mounting volume of imports of clothing is threatening the ability of the industry to employ one of the greatest single groups of workers in Australia; the stability of the national economy and the continued success of the Commonwealth migration programme.
Already employment in this industry has been gravely affected. The average number of employees in 1951-52 was 79,000. In 1052-53 this had fallen to 69,000. At least 102 factories have been forced to close their doors. The annual wages bill of the industry, in the two years, has fallen from £46,000,000 to £33,000,000 and the value of output from £159,000,000 to £111,500,000.
Whether we like it or not the industry in Australia is faced with labour payments of up to three and four times the rates applicable in competing countries, taking into consideration the fact that hours and conditions of. work and payment for annual and sick leave and public holidays in Australia are far more generous.
I repeat that the clothing trade is now in grave danger. A deliberate campaign is being waged by certain well-known importers, with whom the Government is co-operating, to destroy this valuable Australian industry by organizing a steady flow of imports from various countries overseas. particularly the United Kingdom. Unfortunately, many retailers are playing their part in this plot. In order to show that the ground is being prepared for this plot, I quote the following statement which was published in the English periodical, Style for Men
Overseas, in a report of an interview in Great Britain with. Mr. H. C. Taafe, who is the chief buyer for the Myer Emporium Limited. Mr. Taafe; is reported by that journal as having said -
It will be of particular interest to British manufacturers to know that a good half of this large turnover in due to merchandise directly imported from the Old Country. The policy behind Myer’s advertising, display and verbal salesmanship is to bring good clothes within the reach of every one.
In the view of that particular gentleman,, good clothes mean English clothes even though their importation may be to the detriment of the Australian product. Mr. Taafe added that he was a firm believer in the pulling power of famous British trade names, a list of which he mentioned. He said that in selling such products his firm was not worried by competition, but that the offering for sale of those products served to keep alive an interest in men’s wear. Similar comments were made in interviews with u representative of Style for Men Overseas by a buyer for David Jones Limited and by Mr. Bernard Greer, who is the advertising manager for .Farmer and Company Limited. Mr. Greer said -
British merchandise has always represented a. large proportion of Farmer’s importation. This fact was reflected in the company’s recent celebration of British Week shortly after the Queen’s* visit to Sydney. In this store, wide promotion, special window displays, an extensive advertising campaign and a particularly beautiful decorative, wrapping paper made the event a spectacular success.
Mr. Greer should have mentioned this Government’s policy as another factor that contributed to that spectacular success. The effect of the Government’s import policy is reflected in the decline of production in recent years in Victoria and throughout Australia as a whole. The Tweedside Manufacturing Company Limited, which has. large woollen mills and carbonizing works in my electorate, has pointed out in a letter to me that during the term of office of this Government, production of woollen cloth in Victoria fell last year from 737,000 square yards in February to 731.000 square yards in March, and increased by only 82,000 square yards in April to 813,000 square yards in May, whilst, this year, production varied from 699,000 square yards in February to 745.000 square yards in March, and from 578,000 square yards in April to 577,000 square yards: in May last. This decline, in production caused a serious reduction in employment. At. the same time, however, whilst imports of woollen cloth of similar types totalled 1,659,000 square yards for the whole of last year, they totalled 955,000 square yards during the first four months of this year. This Government, naturally enough, has to give service to those who help to keep it in office. It must do its job by those who have an interest in retaining it. on the treasury bench. But very little consideration is given to the people to whom reference has been made by Opposition members. I submit,, with respect to this committee, that not one worthwhile speech has. been made by honorable members opposite in support of the budget. None of their speeches has recognized the plight of a pensioner, or agreed that the drift in Australian industry poses for this community a problem that can only result in chaos and unemployment unless remedial action is taken in the near future.
In my concluding remarks, I again refer to statements made by honorable members on this side of the chamber. Very little consideration has been given in this budget, to the civilian widow and wai- pensioner. Yet they, together with invalid and age pensioners, number more than 1,100,000 persons. Can any budget be called a good budget, and does any budget deserve the enconiums of its supporters, when it fails to recognize the needs of one-ninth of the population? Because of those factors, and because this is the meanest budget that it has been my lot to consider in the brief time I have been a member of this Parliament, I submit that the Government stands condemned for its lack of sympathy and for its callousness. The Government will assuredly encounter the disapproval of the. electors of the Commonwealth.
– I congratulate the honorable member for Hoddle (Mr. Cremean) upon a somewhat more logical speech than I have heard from most of his colleagues. In due course, I shall examine some of the statements that he has made. I remind the committee, as a preliminary, because this is the background naturally to my speech, that we are considering a budget that makes provision for a net expenditure of £1,014,849,000. It is interesting to note that the National Welfare Fund accounts for £193,372,000, defence for nearly £201,000,000, and repatriation and war services for £118,426,000, or a total of approximately £512,000,000. If we look further, we note that payments to States account for £198,665,000. The sum of those four items accounts for £721,000,000 of the total expenditure of £1,014,849,000.
I have noticed, from the beginning of this debate, that Opposition members, almost without exception, have directed their comments and criticism against the alleged meanness, or something worse, of the Government, because it has provided only £193,000,000 for social services. Honorable members opposite have concentrated their attention on pensions. I remind them that honorable members on this side of the chamber have just as warm a regard for the unfortunate section of the community as have Opposition members, but we do not attack the budget simply because of the provision for social services. We rather support the budget, because an analysis of it shows that it is a well-balanced presentation of the accounts of Australia, a well-balanced provision for the use of the funds which are likely to be available, and a wellbalanced recognition of certain disturbing factors which confront us, as a comparatively small number of people occupying a great continent, and with great possessions.
An examination of the budget reveals that something like 20 per cent, of the total expenditure is directed to national welfare. Opposition members say that the manner of the apportionment of the revenue to various items could be improved, but they have studiously refrained so far from discussing details “ of their proposal. If they say that it is a mean and miserly contribution from the total amount raised from the Australian people, I shall immediately join issue with them, and say that if we are to accept certain preliminary assumptions of a democratic people, this provision for social services represents a well-balanced contribution for the purposes for which it has been set aside. It is quite true that there has not been an increase of the general age pension. It is equally true that honorable members opposite who pound the Government so vigorously, and protest so strenuously that they have always had the interests of the pensioner at heart, have completely lost sight of the fact that the Chifley Labour Government, in its last year of office, refused to increase pensions, although there had been a marked movement in the cost of living.
I merely remind Opposition members of that fact. Personally, I have little interest in delving into ancient history. I believe that politics is a fluid thing, and that men could honestly say something three years ago that has very little validity as applying to the situation to-day. I am quite prepared to believe that what Opposition members said in the past, generally speaking, was spoken in good faith ; but I cannot overlook anything quite so blatant as this criticism as a means of challenging the Government, which has not only materially increased pensions from £2 7s. 6d. to £3 10s. a week during the period it has been in office, but also made available to pensioners extensive and beneficial free medical services that were not provided by the Chifley Labour Government. Those additional services represent a marked increase of the value of pensions.
I now come to the consideration of what is to be the basis of our procedure in these matters. Are we to say that, irrespective of any factor, pensions must rise every time a budget is presented to the Parliament? If so, we have to face the implication, which was so capably poluted out by the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Casey). The right honorable gentleman pointed to the fact, which I myself have emphasized on a previous occasion, that the total work force of Australia is 3,750,000 persons, and that if We are to leave incentives for them to improve themselves, there is a limit to the burden that can he placed upon them. Consequently, I find that, taking the broad view of this matter, the Opposition has failed to do other than engage in a cheap, pin-pricking form of attack against the
Government, without attempting to explore the fundamental issues involved in the budget itself.
The honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Crean) was most eloquent upon this subject. He always has a masterly command of the figures at his disposal, but one is sometimes in doubt about the application that the figures have to the subject under consideration. However, generally he makes his meaning fairly clear, at least to his own satisfaction. He made a pronouncement that was in accord with the Labour party’s line of attacking the Government on pensions because there appears to be very little else on which to attack it. He said that first things should be placed first. That statement raises a very important issue. Are pensions the first thing in this or any other community? I shall proceed to answer my own question. Nobody on this earth has yet found out how to distribute anything without first producing it. Recently, I deputized for the PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Anthony) at a function to celebrate the first sale of land in the town of Glen Innes. That sale took place 100 years ago. At that time, people who were regarded as wealthy lived under conditions under which no pensioner would be permitted to live in this country to-day. Why was that? It was because we had less wealth to distribute then than we have now. I say that any one who takes the Labour party line on this matter is not only deluding himself, bur. also misleading people who listen to him.
– The honorable member wants to perpetuate the conditions of 100 years ago.
– The last 100 years have been years of improvement, thank God! It has not been solely the prerogative of the Labour party to effect, the improvements. A great deal of the work has been done by people on my side of politics. I refuse to be sidetracked from the basic and fundamental principle at issue. I say we cannot properly distribute anything unless its production is in proportion to the proposed distribution. In addition, we must have something over. Even wild animals have enough sense to provide against the scar cities of winter. No country can afford to neglect to keep something in the kitty for use in inevitable recessions and bad seasons. When my friends on the other side of the chamber say that we should improve social services, I am with them. But when they say that social services are the first thing, I say that that is a misstatement of the position. Social services are not the first thing. We must secure adequate production and give incentives to produce. If we get adequate production, certainly let us make a fair distribution that will recognize the advancement and improvement of our views on social questions. So long as we do not make this nation too soft in the process, by all means let us see to it that there will be a more generous distribution of that which is available to distribute. But if we attempt to distribute that which is not there, or that which is there only in limited quantities, we shall be in for a great deal of trouble.
I am perplexed by the Opposition’s attitude to budgetary activities and to the community, which, of course, is the basis of budgetary activities. The wealth of the nation depends upon industries and the intelligence, initiative, drive and, if you like, the ambition of the people engaged in them. If I have misunderstood the Opposition’s attitude to this matter, a part of the fault may be mine, but I refuse to accept that all the fault is mine. I am mystified by the Opposition’s attitude. Let me give one example to show why I am mystified. Honorable members opposite have attacked companies which are making profits. One company, General MotorsHolden’s Limited, has been referred to particularly because it has made a spectacular profit. I *admit it is spectacular. But what is the basis of the attack on the company ? Not one member of the Opposition has said that the company is sweating its employees, is breaking industrial awards or is not providing the finest amenities that any modern manufacturing or business concern could provide for its employees. There has been no suggestion or insinuation that the company is not treating its employees decently or is departing from sound business practice. Not one member of the Opposition has attempted to attack the profit made by that company from that view-point. No one could do so reasonably. We know that some companies which are struggling for existence are only shaving the boundaries in . their treatment of . employees and their observance of industrial awards. They are companies which are just managing to keep afloat. It is the prosperous companies, well managed and with the necessary know-how, drive and capital, which offer the best conditions of employment.
If, some of my friends opposite believe that I am one of those fortunate people who has a block of shares in General Motors-Holden’s Limited, let me dispel such a false notion. I have no interest in the company at all. I have referred to it only in an endeavour to analyse the ideas implicit in the attack that has been made on it. The company is selling motor cars in competition with overseas manufacturers. I do not drive a Holden, but I see hundreds of them on the road. I know, as do most people, that the company had a great lift when imports into this country were so drastically reduced a few years ago. Fewer cars were being imported and the Holden organization went into production and popularized its product. Does the Opposition suggest that, too much tariff protection is being given to the company? The honorable member for Melbourne Ports has ear-bashed the Government because he alleges it has not provided enough tariff protection for some Australian industries. I believe the Holden organization is so efficient and so well managed that the Holden car will continue to hold its own against the many good cars that are being imported into this country, some of which are sold at a lower price.
I want to find out the starting point of the Opposition’s argument. Do honorable members opposite want Australian industries to -be prosperous? General Motors-Holden’s Limited has proved to be the Henry Ford of Australia. It gives the best possible conditions to its workers. Does the Opposition want to prune its profits because it has made a big profit? Does the Opposition want to turn the company into a government institution such as the transport system of New South Wales, which lost £5,000,000 last year? Is the Opposition opposed to the profit motive, and does it want the loss motive to be substituted ? What is the basic’ philosophy of the Opposition on this subject ?
– We want a cheaper car.
– I suggest that the honorable member is like a cheerful political cynic whom I knew as a member of the New South Wales Parliament many years ago. When I challenged his actions on one occasion, he said, “Well, I have a theory and practice for parliament and a theory and practice for business “. The two did not go together. People who inveigh against company profits do not object to receiving dividends if they own shares in companies. Honorable members opposite who dabble in shares know perfectly well that many companies which were supposed originally to be very good concerns are not making any profits, and that others are making profits so microscopic that they would not like to try to live on returns from shareholdings in those companies without their parliamentary allowances and a few other emoluments in addition. It is imperative that honorable members opposite should make their intentions clear to the community. Do they want to see private enterprise flourish and go ahead, provided that it pays its taxes? I remind them that, without those taxes, we could not afford to provide nearly £200,000,000 a year to finance pensions and other social services benefits. Does the Opposition want companies to make profits so that they can pay taxes and provide their employees with secure well-paid jobs, or does it want to bleed them white?
– The profit of £7,500,000 was the amount left to General MotorsHolden’s Limited after taxes had been deducted.
– The honorable member is not entitled to point to one swallow and say that it makes a summer. If we study the whole range of industry, we find not only that many industries experience fluctuating fortunes, but also that, the greater the enterprise the greater can be its financial loss in any one year. I can think of one great enterprise at least that must have given its employees some very bad moments. Because that company bought wool on a certain basis, and because the price of wool altered, it was unable to pay its shareholders a dividend for some time. The price of its shares went to the bad by an amount of over £600,000 almost overnight. I repeat that the bigger the enterprise the bigger is its risk and the greater is the provision that a company must make against loss, not only by its shareholders, but also by the men and women who depend for their daily bread upon the successful conduct of its business. The shareholders, of course, are looked after by the taxation authorities. Make no mistake about that. The security of the community depends upon the successful operation of big enterprises.
I heard one member of the Opposition last night berate the Government for its allegedly iniquitous decision to reduce tax on small incomes by only a few shillings a year and yet, at the same time, to hand back thousands of pounds to people with large incomes. That unwarranted criticism was effectively dealt with by the honorable member for Lawson (Mr. Failes), but the facts justify further comment on the subject. Under this budget, a person without dependants and with a taxable income of £150 a year will pay a tax of only £1 ls. I emphasize the fact that taxable income is neither gross income nor net income. It is the balance after all permissible tax deductions have been subtracted from the gross income. In the case that I have specified, the tax reduction represents 16 per cent. A taxpayer without dependants who receives a taxable income of £200 will benefit by a reduction of nearly 20 per cent, as a result of a slight difficulty in arranging tax scales. A man with a taxable income of £300 will benefit by a reduction of 15.5 per cent. In the higher brackets, a man with a taxable income of £1,000 will be required to pay £106 5s., which represents a reduction of 9.4 per cent. Many people in Australia to-day earn £1,000 a year, and many others earn a great deal more than that. I suppose, in fact, that people with incomes of £1,000 a year are much more numerous to-day than were people with incomes of £500 a year a few years ago. The num ber in receipt of £200 a year is very small indeed in these days, when a youngster can earn £5 10s. a week as soon as he leaves school. As I have pointed out. a man with a taxable income of £1,000 a year will pay approximately £106 in income tax. His counterparts in the United Kingdom and New Zealand will pay over £232, and .£189 respectively. That in itself is an effective reply to the argument of honorable members opposite that the tax rates for which the budget provides are unduly oppressive. I cannot agree with them, and I submit that the facts do not support their case.
People who are in close contact with business and with primary and secondary industries cannot fail to he aware that a grave problem faces Australia to-day. We have seen countries, which only a few years ago were battlefields, restore their shattered industries and return slowly to a condition of full production. Some of them are applying a little artificial manure, as it were, to certain lines of production in order to prevent the importation of goods from other countries. That is their policy, and we cannot cavil al it. Australia’s primary and secondary industries have had a very good time on the whole since the war. We have passed through a period of great and growing wealth and are now in a period of worldwide reshuffling and reconstruction. The Treasurer and his expert advisers had to decide, in this situation, how Australia’s cost structure could be maintained in the face of overseas price trends. Wool, as another honorable member said earlier today, is the key to our present ability to service our overseas debts - in other words, to pay our interest charges on overseas loans - and to produce those goods that are vital to our national development. An examination of trade statistics shows that over 90 per cent, of our exports are products of our land, including forests, and our mines. Therein is the key to our prosperity.
I remind honorable members that there is a painful analogy between the events of the present and the events that occurred eight or nine years after the end of World War I. On the earlier occasion, I followed very closely the arguments that developed in the great United States of
America, which had built up a tremendous cost structure for its primary industries. With the collapse of world markets, which the Americans could not understand in the first place, and which destroyed their capacity to sell their products in the second place, they were precipitated into the great economic depression. A significant circumstance is that the great financial institutions of the United States of America continually stressed the fact that it was not possible to have a sound and stable economy unless the prices of primary products were in line with the costs and prices of secondary and tertiary industries. Such institutions as the great City Bank of New York continually harped on this theme and tried to impress it upon the United States administration. The American Government realized that unless there was harmony between the capacity of the people on the land to sell, and the capacity of the people who produce secondary and tertiary goods to buy and sell on the same basis, the whole economy would rot. The Treasurer had an appreciation of that principle clearly in mind when he produced the budget. Before the end of this year, we may have to consider reverting to the unorthodox practices of days gone by in order to effect a gradual levelling off in the cost structure in Australia, in an attempt to bring it into line with price levels in other parts of the world. I do not think that there will be a collapse of our economy. However, with the bitter knowledge of one who was in government during the hungry ‘thirties, when I was thrown out of office and came back again, I believe that we have to face certain facts. If this country refuses to allow the Government to face the facts, or if the Government fails to take appropriate action, I believe that we shall find ourselves in trouble.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- Some supporters of the Government have complained about the concentrated attention that the Opposition has directed to pension provisions in the budget. The honorable member for New England (Mr. Drummond) attempted to justify the change of attitude of some honorable members opposite by saying that politics are somewhat fluid, and then brushed off that change of attitude. The honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Joske), when addressing the committee this afternoon, had a good deal of praise for the budget. However, his comments to-day were not in line with remarks that he made in this chamber in 1951. The Daily Telegraph, of the 5th October, 1951, reported the honorable member for Balaclava to have stated -
There is no reason -why a person who has paid taxes all his life should not have the benefit of them in his old age.
Abolition of the means test would help those who have to retire on a small superannuation and those who have saved thriftily all their lives.
His different attitude this afternoon was not justified, despite the fluidity of politics. The whole of this debate has been exceedingly fluid. I thought that we were discussing the budget, and either praising or criticizing it, but, as the debate developed, honorable members opposite concentrated on defending the huge profit that had been made by General Motors-Holden’s Limited. Irrespective of the ease or difficulty of so doing, I submit that that was far easier than attempting to defend this unimaginative budget. We were treated to an equally unimaginative homily by its principal defender, the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Casey). Of course, the Government’s attitude is easily discerned. Honorable members opposite, being fresh from the polls, can afford to treat the electorate contemptuously. Apparently they consider that, having been returned to office, they are safe for the time being. They probably believe, that, if prices remain stable, they will be able to offer something better in next year’s budget, and that the shortcomings of this budget will then be forgotten by those who placed confidence in them. This most miserable attitude will cause many people who have been well disposed to the Government to withdraw their support. Ultimately, the Government will pay the price for disappointing the electorate.
The Minister for External Affairs waxed most ironical about Labour’s approach to the budget. He offered no defence of it whatever in terms of the machinery of the Australian economy. When attempting to describe the annroach to the budget proposals of the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) he stated bitterly that our deputy leader had dealt only with the nuts and bolts of the Australian machine. After listening very carefully to the right honorable gentleman’s remarks, and analysing them, I concluded that, figuratively speaking, he was still immersed in the sump oil of the machine. He then sank flippantly to the level of discussing Labour’s socialization objective. I am glad that he did so. He asked why the honorable member for Melbourne had not referred to that plank of Labour’s platform.
– That was a fair question.
– Yes. I think that a fair rejoinder to the question would be to ask the Minister for External Affairs why, if that objective is as evil as he implied, the present anti-Labour Government persists in implementing it year by year, and is unable to uphold the capitalist system that he lauds. The Minister stated that the great Labour movement - a nice compliment - which formerly drew up programmes, now has nothing to offer. That contention is worthy of analysis. Labour’s periods in office have been most infrequent. Therefore, Labour has been directly responsible for very little nationalization in this country. The majority of the nationalization measures have been introduced by anti-Labour administrations, which hava been called, successively, Nationalist, the United Australia party, and LiberalCountry party governments. Of course, it is very easy for honorable members opposite to ask such questions about nationalization and socialization when they have themselves introduced nationalistic and socialistic measures. In effect, honorable members opposite are attempting to imply that their own actions are the actions of Labour governments. Nothing could be further from the truth, as honorable members opposite know very well. The gradual march of the welfare state in Australia has been due, in the main, to frequent encroach ment upon and pirating of the Labour party’s policy by the anti-Labour forces. Honorable members opposite cannot laugh that statement off. A further pirating of Labour policy is seen in this budget, in the intention of the Government to liberalize the means test. Even though the proposed liberalization is meagre, the fact that the Government is granting it goes to prove my point. The continuance of the work of the Snowy Mountains hydro-electric project and of activities at the long-range weapons establishment at Woomera, both of which were inaugurated by a Labour government, show that this Government is merely carrying out plans laid by Labour. The retention of the Commonwealth line of steamers, the establishment of pools for the benefit of primary producers and their representatives in this place, and of prices stabilization, all point to the fact that the Labour party has had to provide most of the brain-power in the development of the type of economy that we have in Australia.
– What about the banks ?
– On the subject of banking, I am not averse to pointing out the success of the Commonwealth Bank, which is the bolstering force of the banking system of Australia to-day. The Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Casey) made a mighty poor start by firing at pets that he lifted from Labour’s cage, when he still desires to retain them and enjoy their presence. Of course all the talk by honorable members opposite about the great Labour movement and its achievements in the past is of much earlier origin than is the organization to which the Minister himself belongs. Labour, in the past, has always been great in the opinion of people who possess minds similar in character to that of the Minister for External Affairs. Obviously having nothing to offer in justification of the budget - in fact, having now discovered that the budget is somewhat destructive in character - the Minister escapes from his quandary by saying that Labour has run out of ideas. Labour was not expected to have any ideas. It was the Government that was expected to have ideas in relation to the budget. Only the Government has the opportunity to draw up a budget. There is nothing laughable about that. Honorable gentlemen opposite have discovered, from reading- press reports, that they were expected to have some ideas, and that only they can be criticized for the budget’s omissions. The Minister for External Affairs need not be- in the slightest deluded. He and his party have done very well in the past, and right up to date, by pirating the Labour party’s, ideas. They will probably adopt a lot more of the Labo 1-firty’s policy. They will probably adopt in their next, budget even the p”l’.ii.) of the abolition of the means test tb:t-. was enunciated by the Labour party during the last general election campaign. At the moment they have announced that they will ease the means test, and it would not astonish, me in the slightest if they made provision in the next budget for its abolition. But under this budget they are continuing to starve the age and invalid pensioners, as well as disabled and blinded ex-service pensioners. The budget holds nothing, for those people, or for totally and permanently incapacitated ex-service pensioners.
Government supporters interjecting.
– I am not trying to glide over anything. I am saying precisely what the budget does not contain. The Government will probably, in its next budget, try to appease the outraged pensioners who are so little able to fend for themselves. I consider that I am correct in. concluding that the Minister for External Affairs was bluffing. He said that Labour has run out of ideas. He probably has two very good reasons for making that statement. His first reason is probably that he plans to veil the Government’s budget failures with an attack on Labour because the press has received the budget with arctic acquiescence, notwithstanding the fact that it has tried to maintain a. distorted sort of loyalty to the party it has always supported. The Bulletin of the 25th August refers to the budget as a “ make-do budget “. It goes on to state that the Government’s taxation remissions are negligible. It says in a leading article that -
Economists wm question whether tax reductions have been made so that the most good can be obtained from them..
I wish to point out the salient fact that income tax and sales tax reductions will absorb 95 per cent, of the total of £46,600000 of tax reductions. They will provide a stimulus only to consumer spending and to inessential industry. It is no wonder that the *Bulletin made the statement I have quoted. The Bulletin further comments that -
Industry undoubtedly needs income tax relief it didn’t get.
It also points out that skilful organization and thrift are not reaping their deserved rewards. I am. speaking of serious economic facts in a constructive way. The Bulletin says that a decline in the production of basic materials is visible, as is the increasing demand for these materials. It also points out that appreciable relief from sales tax and payroll tax is absent from the budget. It says that whilst emphasizing the seriousness of the cost problem the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) has himself provided no effective means of dealing with it so as to protect our overseas and home markets.
These are extremely severe criticisms of a budget that honorable members opposite are doing their best to bolster. However, the Bulletin tries to water down its criticisms by saying that, of course, things might have been worse if somebody else had been elected to office. That is the only consolation that the Bulletin could take from this unimaginative and almost destructive budget.
– Whom did it mean by somebody else who might have been elected to office?
– The honorable member’s guess is as good as mine. The Bulletin could have meant that a leader of the Australian Country party could have taken office, or it could have meant somebody else. Each honorable member can have his own opinion about that matter. The consolation drawn from this destructive budget by the Bulletin was very poor consolation when all it could say was “ It could, have been worse “. Things are never so bad that they could not be worse, but that is not much consolation to a corpse. However,, the statement that it could be worse can always be used to good effect in relation to a budget like this, if there is no better defence for it.
The Government has shown itself sufficiently interested to suggest it will assist artisans to secure an increase of margins, which have been unjustly withheld, allegedly to assist the general economy of the country. Concurrent with this state of affairs, the Treasurer has stated that there has been a rise of 6 per cent, in business and professional incomes which are a charge against industry. It has also been pointed out that wholesale and retail prices and wages rates have remained fairly steady.
What are the Government’s intentions in relation to increased margins for those who work in industry? All that the Government has said on this subject so far amounts only .to synthetic sympathy. It would be as well to ascertain how real are the intentions of the Government to support the case for increased margins. It must be remembered that industry will be called upon to bear the burdens of increased margins. What has the Government done for industry? To reiterate those things that were enumerated by the Bulletin. the Government has offered no incentive in the form of depreciation allowances which, if they were reintroduced, would be years too late; the payroll tax, in the main, is to be retained; the Government has no selective tax policy designed to give relief and provide incentives to the owners of resources used in basic industries, as in the case of gold and other minerals ; taxation still exceeds 25 per cent, of national income, and it was 27 per cent, in 1953-54, so that the Government has made no sacrifice in remitting taxes; and, worst of all, those on fixed incomes such as age pensioners, invalid pensioners, and non-earning soldier pensioners, have been left on the same incomes as obtained last year. Therefore, whilst the Government may easily pretend its interest in the margins case by sending its representative to the Commonwealth Arbitration Court, it has prepared its budget in such a way as to suggest to the court that it should not increase margins.
The Government knows that the court will examine the ability of industry to carry the additional costs that would be involved in granting marginal increases. Yet, the Government has afforded industry no appreciable relief in any form whatsoever. Therefore, the court could easily be induced to consider that industry would not have the ability to carry additional costs. The Government knows very well that the court will examine the ability of people to purchase at the higher prices which would result from an increase in marginal rates. Yet the Government has left thousands of people on fixed incomes with precisely the income that they had during the last financial year. The Government has indulged in a massive humbug in claiming that it will support increased margins because it has done nothing to enable industry to carry the burden of increased costs, and has kept thousands of pensioners on exactly the same bread and butter line that they were on last year. This seems to indicate that the Government has no intention of supporting the case for increased margins. Its budget is the best available argument against the improvement of marginal rates. The Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Casey) was engaging in buffoonery when he introduced matter so wide of the subject under debate as Labour’s socialization objective which, as I have already indicated, has been appreciably carried out by anti-Labour governments, including the present Government, over a number of years.
The Government’s desire to influence the court against increased marginal rates is the only possible excuse for its callous indifference to the need for incentives in basic industries for the purpose of lowering costs and increasing output. This can be the only excuse for the Government’s timil approach to immigration, for which it has provided only an additional £2,000,000. This can be the only excuse for the callous indifference that the Government has shown to the thousands of individuals on fixed incomes who would be forced to carry the higher costs which would be associated with any increase given in marginal rates. The whole of the evidence proves that the Government is not genuine in its advocacy of increased marginal rates because it is not possible to admit any one to the ta bie without opening the door. This budget closes the door on the possibility of presenting a good case for marginal increases to the Commonwealth Arbitration Court in the near future for the purpose of providing the incentive to workers to develop skills that are urgently required in order to improve our economy. If there is a dearth of skill it will be because apprenticeship no longer pays. That is the position that we are facing. The Government will have to carry the blame for the fact that there will be no incentive for workers to improve their skills. It will also have to carry the blame for the rates that are paid to labourers.
The country needs to reduce its prices in order that its markets at home and overseas may be secured. It is necessary to. increase the supply of basic materials which are essential to our economy. Apparently, the Government has either prepared the budget without having given the Australian economy any serious consideration or it has given no thought to the obligations to which it was committed prior to presenting the budget. It is unfortunate for our economy that those who recently courted the people, apparently so fairly, have turned out to be so false. The Minister for External Affairs was bluffing when he devoted most of his speech to the subject of the objectives of the Labour party.. The objectives of the Labour party are the objectives of every party in this country and have been implemented by every party to the extent to which they have desired to make use of them. It is a dreadful fact that this budget could bring the national economy to disaster. It was even admitted by a Government supporter during the course of this debate that Australia could face economic disaster within as short a period as twelve months. The criticism that has been made of the budget from this side of the chamber has been justified because, in preparing the budget, the Government has been careless of the needs of those on fixed incomes and careless of the future of industry. Those charges must be answered by the Government.
.- Mr. Chairman-
Government Supporters. - Hear,, hear !
– It is quite invigorating to receive such a warm welcome from my colleagues. I have been interested by the remarks of the previous speaker,, the honorable member for Darebin (Mr. Andrews), who is one of the decent members of the Opposition. It seems to me that the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Casey) has got under the honorable member’s skin with his nuts and bolts. One could take the honorable member for Darebin to task quite seriously for some of his statements, but because he is such a decent member of the Opposition I do not intend to do so. In any event I do not believe that he expects me to do so, because, as he said, nobody expects the Opposition to have any ideas about anything at any time. The honorable member for Darebin did not seem to appreciate the matter that is now before honorable members, that is, the Government’s budget. He did not seem to realize that a budget is a plain statement of the amount of money that the Government intends to collect in the ensuing financial year, from whom it is to be collected, how it is to be collected and upon what it is intended to be expended. The Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) set before honorable members the reasons why he has thought it expedient to bring in his budget.
The people at large, and many honorable members of the Opposition also, should have the simple fact impressed upon them that a government has no money of its own. Many of the people seem to believe that the Government is some sort of rich uncle. The Labour party has always encouraged the public to believe that the Government is some mystical body, which by the wave of a magic wand could give an easy life, no worry and plenty of everything free of charge to everybody. It has tried to make the public believe the old socialist soapbox cry “ nothing to pay for anything, and everybody to get a shilling more than the proper change “. That has been the Labour party’s policy which, of course, is quite irresponsible. The business of government is very real and very important, and it is not fictional in any shape or form. We must appreciate that everything that we need in this country - and we need many things - must be paid for with money. For example, we need to prepare Australia’s defences. We alao need a great expansion of national developmental works, because ours is a young country with great undeveloped resources. We must care for our people by giving them social services. We have to raise our standard of living, increase our culture, expand our education system and do many more things. In order to do those things we must have money. Money is a very mundane subject, but budgets deal only with money. Now, it cannot be impressed too strongly on honorable members opposite, and on the people at large, that the money required for all those governmental activities can be provided only by the efforts of the people and the goods that they produce. That is a plain common-sense fact. Every fi that we spend, whether it be spent on bullets or books, pipes for the Snowy Mountains scheme, that the honorable member for Darebin mentioned, or beds for tuberculosis sufferers, has to be provided by some person or persons in the community.
– Why did not the honorable member tell us all that before?
– Labour members seem to have lost sight of that simple fact in the airy-fairy, theoretical, nonsensical speeches they have delivered on the budget. This budget is designed to deal fairly, pot only with each person in the community, but also with Australia as a nation. The tax remissions contemplated by the budget are designed to encourage incentive in the individual so that he will do his best for the community. That encouragement is in conformity with the policy that has been followed by this Government since it assumed office in 1949.
A most important, function of this budget is to maintain economic stability. The Treasurer has set out to maintain economic stability, a high standard of living and full and congenial employment for our people. The honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell), who led the budget debate for the Opposi tion, said that the 1954-55 budget was a second horror budget, and that it was unfair and unjust. I take it that he was referring to the 1951-52 budget as the first horror budget, but the people of Australia know full well that although that was a hard budget, it was the greatest instrument for the welfare of the nation ever introduced by any treasurer. It is only because of the Government action outlined in that budget that we are at present enjoying economic stability and a high standard of living. If the 1951-52 budget is the honorable member for Melbourne’s idea of a horror budget, 1 can only say that this budget, if it is as successful as the so-called first horror budget, will help the people enormously. It was only because of the hard 1951-52 budget that we were able to reduce taxes under the 1952-53 budget by about £80,000,000. Then in 1953-54 the Government was able to make the greatest tax reduction in our history; a reduction of £120,000,000. All those things have been said before, but they should be said again in order to impress people with their truth.
Another consequence of the so-called horror budget of 1951-52 is that this year the Government is able to contemplate a further reduction of taxes by £47,000,000. Yet the honorable member for Melbourne has called this budget unfair and unjust. I ask him, and I ask the Labour party, how can it be said to be unfair and unjust when it seeks to protect full employment and keep our economy stable? Is it unjust and unfair that, during a period when inflation may have been rampant, the Government has stabilized costs, or reduced them, and that the prices of goods have not increased for at least twelve months? Is it unfair and unjust that we should endeavour to maintain that satisfactory position? Is it unfair and unjust that we should spend millions of pounds more this year than last, in order to prepare the defences of the country because it is now facing great peril? It is most unfortunate that the honorable member for Melbourne, speaking for the Labour party, which as the honorable member for Darebin said, always has been a great party, did not make some constructive criticism instead of playing about and trying to confuse the minds of the people by making them think about minor matters instead of the major benefits that this budget will confer upon them.
It is high time that somebody in Australia paid a tribute to the Treasurer, and I intend to do so. No treasurer in our history has been subjected to such unfair personal and party political criticism as has the present Treasurer during the life of this Government. Some of that criticism was so vindictive and vicious, that it must have had a personal effect upon him. I am proud to have lived to be a supporter of a government of which the Treasurer is a member, because of the magnificent work that he has don” for Australia. Irrespective of what the Opposition may say about him, he will go down in history as the greatest Australian treasurer since federation, because he has saved our economy from the great perils that have beset it during the last few years. Why cannot those critics, and this remark also applies to some honorable members of this chamber, be fair and kindly enough to say now that their criticisms have been proved to be completely unjustified? The results of the right honorable gentleman’s efforts are evident. I think that he has done a magnificent job. Honorable members opposite should be the last people to decry his work, because it was their actions, when in government, which brought about the economic condition from which the country has been suffering. The people will not easily forget some of the things that Labour did when it. was in office. They will not forget that, after “World War IT. ended the Labour Government was pre-occupied with its plan to establish a socialist State. It was not concerned at all with the development of the country or stabilization of the economy. Labour went about its socialist objectives in a very systematic manner. It tried to direct labour and to retain, in complete form, all the war-time controls. It was only because of pressure from the nonLabour parties in this Parliament that those controls were eased. The people will not forget, either, the attempts of the Australian Labour party to nationalize banking, insurance, the airways, the coal mining industry, and other key industries. I have no doubt that if Labour has the chance to do those things in the future,, it will go ahead. The people should appreciate that that is so.
Labour, by its policy, encouraged sloth and irresponsibility. The result was that the economy deteriorated so badly that only a change of government could retrieve it. That is why there was a change, and why this Government is in office at the present time. All honorable members on this side of the committee are aware of the difficult task which faced the Menzies Government, after years of Labour government. I recollect clearly that, after this Government came to office, the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward), the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt), and the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell), constantly predicted depression and unemployment. They said that both of those calamities were about to happen. On almost every sitting day during 1951, 1952 and 1953 some honorable member opposite got to his feet and predicted depression and unemployment. Those things have not come to pass, and if honorable members opposite are big enough, they will admit that that is so.
Honorable members interjecting,
– Order ! Interjections from both sides of the chamber must cease.
– What would the position be now if the people had been sufficiently foolish to take the bait that was offered to them by Labour during the general election campaign last May? I suggest that the result would have been the greatest hoax ever perpetrated in the history of Australia. The honorable member for Melbourne stated in the chamber recently that the Government had snatched victory on spurious issues. That is strange comment from the Deputy Leader of a party whose programme consisted of a network of dishonest promises which were incapable of fulfilment One cannot attribute ignorance to the honorable gentleman. He and his colleagues must have known what they were doing. They must have been aware that they were being politically dishonest with the people. Fortunately for Australia, the electors saw through their promises. The .plain fact is that the people of Australia trust this Government and do not trust the Australian Labour party.
As this debate proceeds, it will be interesting to see whether the Opposition proposes amendment of the resolutions which the committee will be asked to adopt. So far, I have not heard many honorable- members from the opposite side of the chamber press for the abolition of the means test, and I am rather at a loss to know why they have kept away from that subject.
Mr. Lemmon interjecting,
– Order! The honorable member for St. George (Mr. Lemmon) is distinctly disorderly. I warned him yesterday, and if he repeats the offence I shall deal with him. He must know that he aggravates his offence by interjecting from a seat other than his own.
– As I have said, the objectives of this budget are fairness to the individual and stability for the economy. The budget was prepared with the knowledge that every man and woman capable of employment is now engaged in employment. Since the introduction of the previous budget, there has been no rise whatever in either wages or costs. The cost of living has not gone up. Honorable- members opposite profess to be deeply concerned about the welfare of pensioners. I claim to be as interested in the welfare of that section of the community as is any honorable member opposite. I know very well that pensioners are still suffering hardships, and I also know that anomalies in regard to the system of social services benefits continue to occur. At the same time, I appreciate that, during the last year, there has been no increase in the cost of living, for pensioners or any one else. Despite that fact, great additional benefits, such as the provision of free hospital treatment and medicine, have been provided by this Government.
Because of our dangerous situation geographically, we are obliged to expend considerably more on defence measures this year than was the case last year. I suggest that it would be utterly foolish for us drastically to increase expenditure in other directions, at this time. If we did so, we should not be playing fair with the people, or with future generations of Australians.
Let us now examine some of the outstanding features of the budget. Who will challenge the advisability of increasing expenditure on defence? Last year, as honorable members know, we spent £177,000,000 under that head, and I understand, that this year the expenditure will be £212,000,000, or an additional £35,000,000: During the time that I have been in this Parliament, I have heard several honorable members opposite, particularly the honorable member for East Sydney, challenge the expenditure of money on the defence of Australia. In my opinion, it is a terrible thing for men who are prominent in public life to do that. We must prepare the country to defend itself. To do that, we must spend an additional £35,000,000 this year. I am confident that the good people who are in receipt of pensions know that defence expenditure is essential expenditure. I believe that if they were informed that their pensions could be increased by reducing the amount of money to be provided for the protection of the country, those genuine, decent Australians would say, “ Spend the money on the defence of the country and prevent communism from taking charge “.
During the course of this debate, ce* tain honorable members opposite have criticized the housing policy of the Government. One would imagine, from such criticism, that responsibility for housing was essentially that of this Government. I do not intend to say much about the subject of housing, because I shall have another opportunity of doing so. Housing is. not the responsibility of this Government; it is the responsibility of the State governments. The Australian Government has a responsibility under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement, a spurious agreement, that was foisted upon the nation by the Australian Labour party and under which the Government, because of the legality of the agreement, is obliged to act. Because of that legal obligation, this year the Government is providing approximately £30,000,000 for housing. The Government also has an obligation in relation to war service homes. This year it has increased the provision for that item by more than £3,000,000.
– The Government will receive £10,000,000 in repayments.
– Order! The honorable member for Werriwa is disorderly; he is not in his allotted seat.
– The budget has other splendid features. I refer in particular to the proposed exemption from the payment of pay-roll tax. In each of the last two budgets the Government has reduced the amount of pay-roll tax. I, and the people of Australia generally, would like to see that tax abolished. It ought to be abolished at the earliest possible moment, because it is clearly a tax upon employment. However, that money is being raised in order to provide certain services, and the tax cannot be abolished at present unless some important provision is eliminated from the budget. It is proposed to raise the annual exemption from £4,160 to £6,240. As a result, 10,500 employers will be relieved of the necessity of paying pay-roll tax. They are employers who conduct small businesses, and they should be given encouragement in the conduct of their businesses.
Another splendid thing that the Government proposes is the lowering of customs charges on certain essential goods, particularly household goods. The Government has broken new ground in its proposal to allow gifts to private schools to be deducted for income tax purposes. That action will be welcomed throughout Australia. Many private schools are languishing because of the need for money to be expended upon improvements, and doubtless the result of this proposed step will be a greater inclination on the part of people to offer gifts to such schools. I commend the Government for taking this action, because it will encourage the establishment of more private schools. A similar step was taken by the Government last year when it increased to £75 per annum for each child the amount that may be deducted for income tax purposes in relation to education expenses. Another step in the right direction is the provision of £1,500,000 to subsidize capital costs incurred in the building of homes for aged people. I hope that proposal will be developed and that organizations will be encouraged to collect money in order to obtain the benefit of the subsidy. The proposed reduction of £31,250,000 in income tax is designed to give people an incentive to do their best. It is important that people should have that incentive, and it is sadly needed.
I refer now to a matter which I think is of very great importance. Doubtless much thought has been given to the preparation of the budget, Ministers have been well advised, and the budget is one which the people may accept as being for the betterment of the country. However, it is unfortunate that the average citizen lacks an understanding of the matters that affect the preparation of a budget. He lacks also an understanding of fundamental economics, and of the direction in which the country is going. I believe there is a great need for some change in the machinery of government so that there may be aroused an interest, on the widest possible terms, in matters that affect the country’s economic position. Only once each year, when the Parliament is discussing the budget, do people take any great interest in such matters, and even then their predominant interest is displayed in the question, “ What do I get out of it? By how much will my tax be reduced? What benefit does it bestow on me ? “ The Treasurer’s budget speech is a splendid statement and doubtless it is widely read, but that occurs only once each year. Great changes can occur in a year, but the public at large is not fully aware of what is happening. Probably businessmen take an interest in the budget, but then mainly only so far as it affects themselves. However, that’ is a wrong approach. For example, exporters look for high tariffs and high sales tax, importers look for low tariffs and low sales tax, local manufacturers want high tariffs and low sales tax, and the consumers want all taxes abolished.
Not many people are interested in the fundamental economics of the country. Are the people themselves to be blamed, or is the machinery of government to be blamed for that state of affairs? I do not think we can blame the people, because I do not believe that we have made sufficient effort to inform people about the fundamental economics that affect the government of the country. As soon as this debate is concluded, we shall hear nothing further, in principle, on the subject until the next budget is presented. Information is made available in periodic reports and statistics, Ministers make statements from time to time, and certain other reports are issued which are sometimes months and sometimes years late. But who is available to collate the information that is contained in those reports? Although, in theory, a democratic approach is made to such matters; although Cabinet makes decisions; although Cabinet is answerable to the Parliament; and although the Parliament is answerable to the people, there is a tendency for those decisions to be prompted by the advice and the knowledge of experts behind the scenes.
The experts do a very good job and I do not criticize the excellent advice that they have given. But the public at large knows nothing about the basis of their advice, which is kept secret. Many members of the Parliament also do not know the basis upon which many decisions have been made. The Ministers who comprise the Cabinet also do an excellent job, and I want it to be perfectly understood that I do not criticize them. They make decisions for sound reasons, but the economic basis of the decisions is not available to the public at large. In the United States of America a different system has been adopted. I have not time to discuss it in detail, but I shall merely point out that an economic advisory council is constantly on the job collating information in simple form for presentation to the President, who submits it to Congress. The Americans have a habit of trying to make the information on which decisions are based widely known throughout the country. Two things should be done. First, a periodic statement that collates the economic facts simply in the form of a white paper should be tabled in the Parliament.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- During the recent general election campaign supporters of the Government made many speeches in which they featured promises of big taxation concessions to the general public. They placed emphasis upon relieving the burden of taxation on the little man in the low income group. A similar type of propaganda was disseminated immediately after the general election in a deliberate attempt to prime the public with the expectation of something in the nature of a reward for returning this Government, which is representative of a minority of the voters, to office. It is interesting to note that a minority of the electors supported the Government. The Australian Labour party polled 51.7 per cent, of the total number of votes cast. Immediately Parliament met, the scene changed. The softening process began to take shape in the Governor-General’s Speech, which, of course, was prepared by the Government. In drafting the Speech, the Administration followed the usual technique that it has used in previous years in pre-budget speeches. Subtle hints were repeated continually, and much emphasis was placed on the danger to Australia from all quarters. The debate on the motion for the adoption of the Address-in-Reply to the GovernorGeneral’s Speech featured more hints from Ministers and Government backbenchers of a. deterioration in the situation in the Far East, the Near East and the Middle East, but nothing was said about the north-east or the south-east.
Suddenly the attention of honorable members was switched from the AddressinReply debate to the discussion of a statement by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) on Indo-China. All honorable members must have wondered at the complete humiliation of the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Casey), who, by virtue of his portfolio, should have been the Minister best fitted to inform the Parliament about the situation in IndoChina. But the Prime Minister, in accordance with his usual technique, considered that he could not afford to miss the chance of making a speech on Indo-China at the prima donna hour of 8 p.m. His remarks on Indo-China were full of frightfulness, fear, sneering smears of members of the Opposition, and a resurrection of the old Communist bogy. In smearing members of the
Opposition, the Prime Minister said that if he only told what he knew, they would not be here, and he talked a great deal of boloney about the Communist menace. The honorable member for Robertson (Mr. Dean), who sits on the Government side of the chamber behind the right honorable gentleman, would not have been returned to this chamber at the last general election had he not received preference votes from a Communist party candidate.
– The red dean!
– Since the general election he has been christened the red dean.
– Order ! The honorable gentleman will withdraw that remark. He has no right to refer to other honorable members except by the names of the constituencies which they represent.
– I did not mention his name.
– The honorable member referred to the honorable member for Robertson, and I direct him to withdraw his remark.
– I withdraw it. The honorable member for Mitchell (Mr. Wheeler) also would not have been returned to this chamber had it not been for the intercession of a Communist party candidate. All electorates that are Labour strongholds were contested by Communist party candidates, who, no doubt, were financed by the Liberal and Australian Country parties for the purpose. The Prime Minister excels at making war-like speeches. One would not think, when the right honorable gentleman whips up hysteria and glorifies the virtues of war, that at one period of his life he deliberately threw away a golden opportunity to display his prowess as a warrior ready to lay down his life for his native land. This parade-ground hero, this strutting popinjay of 1913, was responsible also-
– I rise to order. I suggest that remarks such as those made by the honorable member should not be directed at responsible members in this chamber and that they should be withdrawn. They do not add to the prestige of this chamber.
– Tell us what Sir Earle Page said.
– What did “ Doc “ Page say?
– Order! The honorable member for East Sydney and others interjected and I did not hear the conclusion of the point of order.
– The remarks of the honorable member for Watson were out of order.
– Order! The Chair will rule on that.
– This strutting popinjay of 1913-
– Order ! If the honorable member applies that term to a member of this chamber he must withdraw it.
– I withdraw the words “ strutting popinjay “. This Prime Minister of ours was responsible also for a government that he led walking out of office and leaving Australia to its fate when it was in dire peril from the Japanese threat in 1941.
– I rise to order. Is the honorable member entitled to read directly a speech that he has had some one type for him?
– The honorable member for Farrer is one-eyed.
– Order ! The honorable member for Dalley has been warned previously about interjecting from a seat other than his own. He will apologize to the Chair for having done so.
– I apologize.
– Honorable members generally avail themselves of the opportunity to quote from copious notes, and the honorable member for Watson is not out of order in doing so.
– The Prime Minister in 1954, is ready to sacrifice more sons and daughters of Australia by accepting unspecified commitments on behalf of this country. He is ready to accept, in his own words, commitments the extent of “which he is not aware, and he said that whatever is involved Australia will and must accept these commitments. It must be remembered, of course, that the right honorable gentleman is now in his sixties and would not be eligible for military service. It is wonderful how glibly one can talk about war when one is in the sixties. The right honorable gentleman is a saw-dust Caesar whose ego is swollen to such an extent that he has adopted a practice of fellow dictators of the past and present, including Hitler, Mussolini, Franco, Stalin and others. He is now hanging his enlarged photograph on every nail that he can find in Parliament House and honorable members who occupy the back benches on the Government side of the chamber bend the knee in reverence to the enlarged photograph of the Prime Minister in the party room. The Russians made a similar obeisance to likenesses of Stalin when he was alive. It is done also in other parts of the world where dictators rule and Australia is slowly drifting towards a dictatorship. Recently the following report appeared in a Sydney daily newspaper: -
The special security guard who watches Mr. Menzies now rides in the Prime Minister’s own car because of recent telephone threats on his life. Previously the guard, an ex-Scotland Yard detective, followed Mr. Menzies in another car at a discreet distance of about 1O0 yards. To-day the guard was seen to occupy the front seat of the Prime Minister’s car while Mr. Menzies sat at the back. Mr. Menzies always rides to and from the Prime Minister’s Lodge in a black Buick. He has abandoned the practice of taking long weekend walks around Canberra. Mr. Menzies was a familiar figure in Canberra on Sunday afternoons when he walked, cane in hand.
The cane was a presentation from the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Sir Eric Harrison), who used it in his profession before he was elected to the Parliament. The article in the Sydney newspaper continued -
Without the Prime Minister’s knowledge, his Ministers asked the Commonwealth Investigation Service to provide him with a paid guard.
In 1942, the war-time Labour Prime Minister, Mr. Chifley, used to walk home at two o’clock or three o’clock in the morning to his lodgings at the Kurrajong Hotel, but that was Mr. Chifley. There was only one Chifley. He was not afraid, and he did not try to create the impression that all the spies in our midst were after him. Nor did he try to bolster his ego to try to make an impression.
– I rise to a point of order. I direct attention to Standing Order 78 which states that all personal reflections on honorable members shall be considered highly disorderly. I submit that for some minutes the honorable member for Watson has been casting personal reflections upon the Prime Minister.
– I wish to speak to the point of order, Mr. Chairman. The honorable member for Watson stated that the Prime Minister had done certain things and he said that the former Prime Minister, Mr. Chifley, did not do these things. The honorable member was comparing two Prime Ministers and was not casting any reflections upon anybody.
– Order ! The point of order that has been raised by the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Joske) is upheld. Personal reflections have been cast upon an honorable member and that is my ruling. The honorable member for Watson must cease casting reflections upon any honorable member of the Parliament.
– I rise to a point of order. I should like to know in what way it is a reflection upon any honorable member to make a statement of fact about the manner in which, or the means by which, an honorable member travels to Parliament House. Is that not a pure statement of fact, whether we approve of a security officer accompanying an honorable member, sitting alongside him in a motor car or following him at a distance? Some may appreciate the company of a security officer and some may not, but in any case to refer to such matters is not a reflection: upon an honorable member.
– Order ! I have already ruled that the honorable member for Watson cast personal reflections upon the Prime Minister. I remind the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) that very often it depends upon the manner in which a statement is made whether a personal reflection is cast upon somebody else. !ir. WARD - All that the honorable member for Watson said was an understatement.
– I would not think of making a reflection upon the Prime Minister. His speeches are prepared with the object of deluding the people of Australia as to the real intentions of this Government. We are rapidly-
– I rise to a point of order.
– Go back into your rabbit burrow.
– I rise to order, Mr. Chairman. You must be convinced that the honorable member for Watson is reading every word of his speech.
– The honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull) has done so 1,000 times.
– Order ! I have already ruled on that point.
– I know, Mr. Chairman, that you have said that an honorable member may quote from copious notes, but the honorable member for Watson is not quoting from notes. He is reading his speech. ‘
– Order! Honorable members are usually allowed to quote from notes and the honorable member for Watson may proceed.
– As honorable members on the Government side appear to be a little heated, Mr. Chairman, would this be an appropriate time to suspend the sitting for dinner?
– Order! I shall allow the debate to continue until 6 p.m.
– The Prime Minister has told honorable members repeatedly, and so have his trigger-happy Ministers, that events have occurred that could easily produce a third world war. That is the usual technique that has been adopted by the Prime Minister and his satellites in previous years. I refer honorable members to a statement that was made in this chamber on the 7th March, 1951, during a budget session when the present Prime Minister said -
The dangers of war have increased considerably. It is my belief that the state of the world is such that we cannot, and must not, give ourselves more than three years in which to get ready to defend ourselves. Indeed, three years is a liberal estimate, and nobody can guarantee that it may not be two years or even one year.
Not to be outdone by the Prime Minister, the Vice-President of the Executive Council, who had just returned to Australia from London in 1951 after an exhausting series of social events and cocktail parties, predicted that war was inevitable and that we had no time to lose. Another statement was made before the High Court of Australia on the 23rd November, 1951, after the budget bad been introduced. That was in the case in which Marcus Clark and Company Limited challenged the Australian Government on the capital issues regulations. The present Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) made the following solemn statement to the High Court: -
The Government of which I am a member has formed the conclusion on all the material available to-day that there is unmistakable danger of the occurrence of a general war involving the Commonwealth of Australia, and the threat thereof is such that Australia must be prepared for .possible mobilization for hostilities by the end of 1953.
The Treasurer could not hoodwink the judges of the High Court of Australia. The year 1953 has passed. In view of all the statements that have been made by seemingly responsible Ministers of this Government, I submit that those statements were prepared with one object in view, and that was the deception of the people of Australia for political purposes. Further inspired statements have been made by high diplomatic representatives of Australia in various parts of the world. The Australian Ambassador to the United States of America, Sir Percy Spender, stated on the 27th August last -
The world must become conditioned to living in a state of crisis for many years to come.
What a terrible statement for a responsible man to make in peace-time.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
- Sir Percy Spender has also spoken of the importance of maintaining a global policy over a long period. His warnings have not always fallen on responsive ears. A message from New York on the 19th August last announced that America would withdraw four of its six divisions from Korea. The Department of Defence stated that the divisions would be sent to areas where they would better serve the interests of the United States of America. Two of those divisions will return to America so as to increase the central strategic reserve, one division will be stationed at Okinawa, and one at Hawaii. That decision by the United .States of America should serve as a warning to the Australian Government, which should now set about preparing the defences of this country. Let the Government nail the Australian flag to the mast. Let the outlook of the Government be national first, Let its sentiments be national. Let it look to the adequate defence of our homeland.
Let us use our unlimited resources for important national works. Let us begin the urgent work of the standardization of railway gauges. Let us build railways into the far north. Let us develop the north. Let us ‘build a ring of airfields round the Commonwealth and station the latest jet fighters and jet bombers on them. Let us use the resources of the long range weapons testing establishment at Woomera to develop guided missiles. Let us embark upon the extensive use of radar, and construct radar stations at all strategic points. Let us build a fleet of fast corvettes fitted with the latest submarine detection devices and modern depth charge equipment for the destruction of prowling enemy submarines off our coastline. Let us build a fleet of merchant ships to carry our produce to the ports of the world. Let us build a fleet of destroyers and battleships, fast and modern. Let us build aircraft carriers to protect our long coastline.
– Who wrote that?
– The honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett) is not interested in the defence of Australia.
– I am fascinated with this story. .
– Let us make Australia invulnerable to enemy attack. Let us ‘ keep our equipment and soldiers in Australia for the defence of this country. Let us not allow a situation to develop such as developed in the early days of
World War II. Because of that situation, the Labour Government, under the Prime Ministership of the late John Curtin, was forced, despite the protests of Mr. Winston Churchill, to insist that Australian troops in the Middle East return to Australia to defend this country. Government supporters must know of the dire peril in Which Australia was placed at that time. Approximately £800,000,000 has been expended on defence since the Menzies Government has been in office. What have we to show for that expenditure? We have no modern ships, no modern military equipment, no modern military installations and and no modern aircraft except a soiltary jet fighter which has taken five years to complete. We have no military roads to ensure the mobility of our defence forces. I submit that it is time that this Government got round to thinking and acting in terms of Australia first, instead of tinkering at all sorts of harebrained schemes concocted by cocktail drinking diplomats and the brass hats of the services who have one thought in mind, and that is to send Australian servicemen and service equipment abroad.
These suggestions and schemes, if they are put into operation, can have but one outcome, which is the conscription for overseas service of our Australian youth in peace-time. What next? This policy must be very discomforting to the mothers and relatives of young Australian boys and girls who will have their lives and careers disrupted as the result of being sent to guard an Asiatic frontier, thereby weakening immediately the defence of our own country. The really disturbing aspect of the present situation is to be found in the remarks of the Chief of the General Staff, Sir Sydney Rowell, immediately prior to his departure for London, where all the final proposals for British Commonwealth defence will be worked out. Sir Sydney Rowell admitted that the Army authorities were experiencing great difficulty in maintaining the supply of new recruits. He stated further that the problem had become greater since the unemployment position had eased, and since the demand for labour at high rates of pay had increased. The diminution of the flow of recruits was inevitable. If the
Government enters into definite commitments to send troops overseas, how will it cope with that situation? The Prime Minister has said that whatever the commitments are we must accept them. I recall that in 1951 the Menzies Government was faced with the problem of more jobs than there were applicants to fill them and embarked upon a policy of credit restriction. Herein lies the danger of conscription for service overseas. The Government created an artificial depression and quickly formed a pool of unemployed persons. Those actions show that this Government has at hand the means of indirect economic conscription when and where it wishes to use them, and no doubt it is preparing at the moment to use them again.
I want it to be fully understood that I am strongly opposed to the extreme left, and I am also strongly opposed to the extreme right. I believe that one is just as dangerous as the other to our democratic mode of existence. I fully believe in democracy. I support democracy to the full. But I am strongly opposed to the conscription of any Australian for service overseas. I believe that a stronger Australian sentiment should be shown by the Government, if it wishes to gain the confidence of our people. Yet we find that the representatives of the people, in the persons of Government members opposite, bend over backwards to meet all the demands of other nations. Let us co-operate with the rest of the world by all means, but let us be the masters of our own destiny. Let us stand on our own feet. Let this Parliament of the Commonwealth decide what is best for Australia. “We must not be merely informed, from time to time, through ministerial statements in this House, about the policy that will be followed.
It is time that this Parliament looked into the question of international diplomacy. What does it mean? Who makes the decisions in international matters? Those subjects are brought to this House in the form of vague statements by various Ministers, and no opportunity is given to this Parliament to have any voice in the* formulation of policy. In the Australian way of life, there is no room for secret diplomacy. It is unjust for any Minister in this or any other government of the Commonwealth - to enter into secret treaties and commitments, military or economic, which affect our community, without the consent of the Parliament. It is high time that the Parliament decided that we should put into effect a policy for Australia- Australia first, Australia always. Let us fly to the defence of our homeland. Before we send an Australian soldier overseas anywhere, let us make sure that Australia is fully defended. Let us use all the equipment at our disposal. Let us use our money for the defence of our native land. Let us put the development of Australia first and foremost. Let us nail the Australian flag to the mast. Then we shall not be afraid of danger from anywhere.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- We have had the interesting experience of hearing the Curtin plan for the defence of Australia. It is a bit hard to follow, but I gather that, having nailed the flag to the mast three or four times, we then build merchant ships, roads, railways and jet fighters. I am not qu.ite certain whether we can get them ready by Thursday week, but the impression I have gained is that we can. Having done all that, we go back to the glorious folly of saying that we can defend Australia best on Australian soil. I should have thought that the experience of a Labour government during the last war, which finally had to agree that even Australian soldiers who had not volunteered for overseas service should be used beyond a line a good way to the north of Australia, had done away once and for all with the theory that we can defend Australia best by letting an enemy land on our shores before attacking him. I do not regard the speech of the honorable member for Watson (Mr. Curtin) on the budget as having very much to do with the budget, and I do not propose to follow him very far down the interesting side lanes that he explored. However, I shall deal with one or two of the statements that he made. He attempted to take a great deal of credit to himself and his party by suggesting, that my friend the honorable member for Robertson (Mr. Dean) was elected by the Communist vote. There were 1,000 Communist votes cast in the electorate, of which the Labour party got 900, but even those votes did not win the seat for the Labour candidate. The seat was won for the Liberal party although only 100 of the Communist votes went to the honorable member for Robertson.
Opposition members interjecting,
– Honorable members opposite may be able to explain their suggestion to their own satisfaction, if not to that of anybody else-. In my own electorate, almost exactly the same thing happened. There were 700 Communist votes. I got 70 of them, and the Labour party got the rest. In those circumstances, I cannot understand why it is suggested that the Communist party is supporting the Liberal warty, but the suggestion gives us an idea of the mathematical processes that go on in the minds of honorable members opposite when they try to- deal with figures. It is characteristic of the way in which they have tried to deal with the figures in the budget. They twist figures in any way they like and arrive at any conclusion that suits them for political purposes.
I support the budget, and I shall give the committee my reasons for doing so. The budget has been described by the honorable member for Darebin (Mr. Andrews), in perhaps the most constructive attack that has been made on it by the Opposition, although it was not very constructive, as an unimaginative budget that will not produce any spectacular reduction of taxation or any spectacular increase of benefits for the pensioners of this country. Being unimaginative and unspectacular, it is, in the view of the Opposition, a budget that must be condemned. I suggest it is about time that we in Australia got rid of the idea that we must do something extraordinary and spectacular before we can achieve anything or warrant merit of any kind. We know the position that obtained in 1949, and I do not propose to enlarge upon it. There were shortages of all kinds. In 1950-51, with the advent, of the Korea incident, a rise in prices and an immense rise in our income from wool, we started to spend overseas more than we had to spend. So the Government introduced unpopular import restrictions. We are reminded continually from the other side of the chamber that the very salutary measures which the Government took produced for a short time a small degree of unemployment. But the degree of unemployment then was not so high as it was in 1949, when- the Chifley Government was still in power. However, after a period of full employment, it was something that could be noticed and talked about, so it was trotted out. It has been said by honorable members on this side that the impression we have gained is that many members of the Labour party were intensely disappointed that that unemployment did not grow into some kind of major disaster. Now we have completely full employment. There are 6,000 people drawing the unemployment benefit, but there are 47,000 vacant jobs registered with the Commonwealth Employment Service.
We have much more interesting evidence of our prosperity, our state of full employment and the vigorous condition of our trade. In an affidavit submitted to the Commonwealth Arbitration Court this week, asking for the margins case to be re-opened, Mr. Albert Monk, the president of the Australian Council of Trades Unions, has said that the economy is stable, that there is no danger of a recession of any kind, that prices have been stabilized and that there is no reason to expect that industry, in its present prosperous condition, cannot pay the increased margins that he hopes will be granted. I should like to talk about margins, but I shall not do so because I want to address myself to other matters. However, I have no doubt the subject will be dealt with by other honorable members. The president of the Australian Council of Trades Unions, in his affidavit, gave the absolute stability of the Australian economy at the present time as a reason why the margins case should be re-opened. That stability has been achieved in spite of the Korean war, and in spite of the obvious danger, which was belittled by the honorable member for Watson, of the southward march of communism in Asia.
I do not imagine that any serious and responsible person on the other side would deny that such a danger existed. “We have stabilized our economy in spite of the fact that we have had to step up our defence expenditure - I shall say something about that later - and in spite of the fact that during the last few years we have had to adopt very unpleasant expedients to maintain our balance of payments overseas. Despite those difficulties, the budgets which this Government has produced in the last four years have so conditioned the economy of this country that a desirable state of stability has been achieved. Prices have not risen for some time. Employment is increasing. Indeed, it might be said that we have almost got back to a state of overfull employment. Present conditions are such that it is. possible for a responsible man like Mr. Monk to go to the Commonwealth Arbitration Court and say to the court in an affidavit, “ Conditions are so stable that the reasons you gave last year for adjourning the margins case apply no longer, and the case should be re-opened at once “. If that stability has been achieved by this Government’s budgets, I suggest that it is desirable now to consolidate the position. Having reached a condition of stability, we cannot immediately say with safety, “ We have done so well that we are entitled to reduce our intake of money or to increase enormously our output of money “. The time has come for us to consolidate while, at the same time, offering reasonable encouragement for the maintenance of industry in its present expanded state.
This budget will achieve exactly that result. Income tax cuts over the last three years have raised the average reduction to 30 per cent., with the result that the taxes payable by Australians are well below the amounts payable by their opposite numbers in England, Canada and New Zealand. While that has taken place there has been an enormous development of our industries. It is a curious fact that the successful development of one of our new industries - the manufacture of motor cars - should immediately become the object of an attack because of its very success. That industry is an example of the truth of my statement that this Government has built an economy in which it is possible for industry to develop. Our primary industries have developed at the same time as our secondary industries, and since 1949 their output has increased by 6 per cent. Some emphasis has been placed on the fact that Australia is dependent for its prosperity on the wool industry, and the honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie) seems to think that somebody should do something about it. Short of going around Australia and shooting half the sheep in the country, I fail to see any action that could be taken to change the situation. If we have the sheep and if we can sell the wool, the best thing to do is to keep the industry going. There has been a great deal of discussion of the situation of the wheat industry in relation to overseas markets. I, for one, am convinced that the problem which confronts the industry is, in the main, a short-term problem. There have been seven very good seasons on the North American continent, and seven or eight very good seasons in the southern hemisphere. One must expect that, sooner or later, either in Canada or the United States of America in the northern hemisphere, or in Australia or Argentina in the southern hemisphere, the advent of one bad season will lead to the consumption of probably the entire surplus of wheat now held in those countries.
The present condition of stability has been used by the Labour party as a reason for attacking the Government for its failure to provide in the budget for the expenditure of additional sums on social services. That is what I call a negative attack. The funds available for social services, defence, the administration of government departments and so forth, come from money that is produced by the work force of Australia - the 3,500,000 people who actually do the work and produce the wealth that Australia needs. Surely the right way to approach the budget is to make sure that these people are employed to the very best advantage of Australia. If we can suggest means by which their output can be improved, or developments that will enable the size of the work force to be increased, then we can justly say that we have a sufficiently stable income to enable us to consider sympathetically the claims for increased social services payments. I do not think that anybody will accuse me of being unsympathetic to people in need of social services, but it seems to me that any further expansion of our social services programme at this stage would be unwise. We can maintain social services on the present scale while seasons are good and we continue to receive a big income from the sale of wool and other exportable products, but nothing could be more tragic than an enforced reduction of social services benefits such as the Scullin Government had to make in the early ‘thirties.
It has been suggested that £3 10s. a week is not enough to support an age pensioner. It has never been the philosophy of any country that the age pension should provide for all the needs of the recipient. Perhaps that is a desirable objective towards which we may strive. However, it has never yet been contended that the work force can provide a really comfortable living for the people who need pensions. Australia has gone very much further than any other country by providing a pension of £3 10s. a week, with a permissible income allowance that will now rise to £3 10s. a week, together with medical services, which have been estimated conservatively to be worth Ss. a week to the age pensioner. It may be desirable for us to go further than that, but I do not believe that it would be safe to do so unless we first consolidate our position and make sure that the income available to us can be maintained so that this magnificent scheme of social services, which is gradually spreading through Australia, will not be undermined as a result of bad seasons or other adverse circumstances. We must have time to consolidate the position that we have established. Having assured ourselves that we can maintain the system without having to reduce it, we may then plan improvements to be included as permanent features of the structure.
I particularly want to refer to the important subject of immigration in relation to the budget. I have an intimate knowledge of the subject, and therefore I leave a detailed discussion of social services and defence to other honorable members so that I may deal with immigration and the part that it plays in the development of Australia. This will help the committee to consider the budget as a balanced whole. The Government has indicated in the budget that it proposes to continue the vigorous policy of immigration which was initiated by the Labour party and to which the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) applied so much energy in the old days. This Government has carried on that policy without causing any real division of opinion between the two political groups in this chamber. Although some members of the Opposition, and perhaps some on this side of the committee, have been critical of minor matters, generally honorable members are agreed that the overall policy should be maintained. I shall examine and reply to the minor criticisms that I have mentioned. It has been suggested that the housing of immigrants interferes with the housing of Australians, and that immigrants should not be brought into the country until all the people in Australia are satisfactorily housed. Since 1949, the annual rate of house construction has increased by 37 per cent. That has been due very largely to the work of the immigrants themselves. They have increased our ability to construct houses beyond their own needs. Since 1949, our production of steel has risen by about 50 per cent. About 25 per cent, of the employees of the steelworks are immigrants. The increase of steel production has been made possible by the availability of immigrant labour.
– Where is all the steel going?
– The honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Edmonds), who presumably lives in a country district, as I do, asks where the steel is going to. He should know that a great proportion of it is going to the country districts. The honorable member may have difficulty in obtaining down-piping and other such items, but I assure him that the farmers are now able to obtain, readily, their requirements of steel and steel products for work on their farms. The immigration programme has made possible the expansion of various industries in Australia, and the development of this country has proceeded at a rate that would not have been possible without large numbers of immigrants. We reached a peak intake of immigrants of more than 120,000 in 1951. We then had to cut back our immigration programme, due to a. temporary recession in employment opportunities. I remind the committee that we were faced with considerable difficulty in persuading the governments of the countries from which we had been obtaining immigrants, to accept reduced quotas. Subsequently, we experienced difficulty in arranging for increased numbers of immigrants to come to Australia from those countries. Our intake of immigrants fell to 90,000 a year, and later rose to 100,000 a year. This year we have arranged to bring in 107,000 immigrants. About 5,000 of the increased number of immigrants compared with last year will be workers. The remainder will be families of other workers who are already here. It is imperative for us to maintain our immigration policy, if we are to increase Australia’s population to a degree that will enable us to develop this country as it should be developed. However, I point out that it is not now so easy for us to attract immigrants from Europe as formerly. I do not suggest that the Government, departmental officers, or any ons else connected with immigration ia not working so enthusiastically as before to obtain immigrants. Recently, the honorable member for Kingston (Mr. Galvin) stated that he was disappointed to learn that I was no longer eager to see our immigration policy maintained. That is not so. Due to the current state of prosperity in Great Britain, Holland, Denmark, and Western Germany, the necessity to reduce the pressure of population in those countries is not now so great as it was formerly. Furthermore, as plenty of well-paid work is available in those countries, intending immigrants to Australia are not now easily attracted. The immense amount of publicity that, was given in Europe to the visit to Australia earlier this year of Her Majesty -the Queen resulted in a great increase of the number of inquiries by potential immigrants in Great Britain, Germany, and Holland, about conditions in Aus- tralia. That made possible an expected increase of 7,000 immigrants this year, compared with last year. Of course, we have to pay attention to the matter of balance in ‘relation to prospective immigrants. It is of no use our bringing out completely unskilled labour when we want skilled labour for work on the fabrication of goods for use in connexion with our water conservation and housing projects in which the unskilled labour would have to work. We must maintain a balance between skilled and unskilled labour.
The Government is to be commended on its reaction to the possibility of increasing the immigration intake by 7,000 immigrants in this- year, as well as on the budget generally. Of course, the budget is not spectacular. Rather it is a budget of consolidation. I am convinced that, in the long run, its provisions will protect the interests of the recipients of social services benefits. That is preferable to granting spectacular increases, which could be jeopardized by a fall in the price of wool. The proposed reductions of taxation will encourage small businesses to develop and expand. The Government showed wisdom by grasping the opportunity to increase the number of immigrants, and so increase our ability to develop this country.
.- I support the amendment of the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) that the first item of the budget should be reduced by fi, as an indication of the Opposition’s dissatisfaction with the budget, which is a most uninspiring document, that does not do justice to a very large section of the Australian community. I have often wondered why we are required to suffer from the application of the conservative policy of the very conservative wing of the coalition Government, which to-day controls the treasury bench. The Australian Country party is the less entitled of the two Government parties to be honoured by the appointment of one of its number as Treasurer. As was pointed out by Mr. W. A. Watt, who was the honorable member for Balaclava some years ago, finance is government, and government is finance. The policy of this Government has been influenced to a large degree by the Australian Country party. This Parliament should, not have had submitted to it a document that does not fulfil, the high purpose and the intention of the Australian people regarding the nation’s economy. The Treasurer has erected a facade on the pediment of what he calls “ stability “. The word. “ stability “ features largely in his budget speech and in other statements he has made. Those who sit behind him on the opposite side of the chamber have followed suit in their speeches. The Treasurer made the following statement in his budget speech: -
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.
Later in the same speech, he said -
Altogether 1953-54 was a period of stable, genuine and widely spread prosperity. Perhaps never before in out history have we had a year to equal it.
I ask! honorable members to remember that statement. The last financial year ended with a surplus of about £56,000,000. This year no doubt revenue will be even greater than last year, as a result of normal development, which will produce more taxable income. Yet the Government has deemed itself incapable of increasing pensions and so of doing justice to pensioners who have practically no means. I say that the budget, as an expression of the policy of honorable gentlemen opposite, is an outrageous document. It is itself a direct denial of the claims about stability and progress that honorable gentlemen opposite make and in fact, in a very real way, is more the product of a period of austerity.
I shall prove, by reference to official documents, the falseness of the claims that honorable gentlemen opposite make about prosperity in order to delude, the people into believing that they are engaged in a genuine attempt, to make Australia’s economic future secure. The index figure which expresses the. price level when the Chifley Government was in office is 1,415. That figure represents the purchasing value of money, in relation, to essential commodities, during the Chifley regime. To-day the index figure has risen to 2,325, which is an increase. of 61 per cent. That means that people have to pay 61 per cent, more money in order to purchase the same goods as they purchased during the Chifley regime. In effect, the value of money, including the money that lies in people’s bank accounts and which the owners may require to draw in order to meet emergencies or purchase necessities,, has dropped by more, than one-half. Yet the Government makes claims about prosperity and progress. That kind of progress, is a “ rake’s progress “. It is recessive rather than progressive. I deprecate strongly the claim made by honorable gentlemen opposite that the Government’s policy is bringing stability to the economy. That policy, has, in fact, been the very source of the impoverishment, of every man- and woman, in this country who have any financial means. What a tremendous price the people have had to pay for their mistake in returning the parties opposite to office. I instance the serious loss sustained by certain bond-holders as further evidence of the- Government’s failure.
Honorable members opposite claim to have public support for their policy, yet. if, prior to the last general election, Commonwealth electoral boundaries had been redistributed equitably according to population movements in order to give true value to representation of the electors, this Government would not now be in office, because the majority of the elec? tors definitely voted for the Labour party at the last general election. The failure to redistribute electoral boundaries in a just manner put this Government into office, and deprived the electors of having in office a government that reflected the community’s wishes. In the minds of honorable ‘ gentlemen opposite stability means the maintenance of the status quo. Since Australia’s motto is “Advance Australia “, we should show some vision and courage, and be prepared to acknowledge that a country with such initiative as is- innate in this country, and with apeople so resourceful and industrious as the Australian people are, should have such a policy of continuing advancement as would attract desirable immigrants, whose very presence here would render us more able to undertake the duties required of us as- a people.
One of the features of the budget which calls for criticism is the Government’s neglect of people who have been the pioneers of this country. These people have undertaken the labour and suffered the privations that were necessary to enable this country to progress. Now, because of age and infirmity, they have difficulty in fending for themselves. They have reached a stage of life at which it has become increasingly difficult for them to provide themselves adequately with the comforts of home life. These people require additional benefits in their old age. Honorable members opposite, with their lack of vision and understanding, have failed to give sympathetic treatment to these people who have served this country with such devotion and industry.
The official volume that is issued by the International Labour Office places Australian seventeenth on a list of 24! countries which pay social benefits to their people. This volume shows that Australia pays 6.9 per cent, of its national income in social services benefits. New Zealand, a country which provides a reasonable basis for comparison with Australia, pays 14.S per cent, of its national income in social services benefits, which is more than double the amount that is paid by Australia. Belgium pays 12.8 per cent, of its national income for the relief of its people, Austria 14.1 per cent, Denmark 9 per cent., Finland 8.S per cent., France 13.7. per cent., and Germany 17.1 per cent. Even Iceland makes a higher percentage of its national income available for this purpose than does Australia. Italy pays 10.8 per cent of its national income in social services, Luxembourg 13.6 per cent., and the Netherlands 8.4 per cent. Australia does not occupy a very enviable position on this list. Such a grand and glorious country as this is should take full advantage of its unlimited wealth in order to care for those of its people who need assistance. At Norwood, in the electorate that I have the great privilege to represent, there are aged and indigent people who are not receiving the consideration that is due to them. I would not be a responsible representative of my electorate if I did not voice an earnest protest at this state of affairs. Every pensioner in the community deserves better treatment than the Government has given to them.
The Government has, to some degree, admitted that an increase in pensions was necessary by increasing certain war pensions by 7s. 6cl. a week in order to enable the pensioners concerned to meet the increased cost of living. But the Government did not extend that increase to all pensioners. I do not wish to deny that those who receive the increase are entitled to it but many other pensioners have to pay the same prices as these pensioners pay for their food, clothing and shelter. These people have been denied common justice. Surely, when honorable gentlemen opposite examine themselves on this matter they must realize that they have failed to honour their responsibilities. As the next general election is about three years ahead, the Government does not need to do much in the way of gaining the support and goodwill of the electors. I can well afford to wait until later to do that. No doubt there will bc some provision for increased social services in next year’s budget, and especially in the one after that. In the meantime, unfortunately, many people are being denied the social justice that is due to them. I say quite candidly to many of those dear folk, that if only they had exercised a little more diligence and afforded support to those who were seeking to befriend them and give them justice, their situation might have been a great deal different from what it is to-day.
We cannot allow this budget to remain as it is. We seek to re-mould it so that it will afford a greater measure of justice, and give more help to the most deserving people in our community. I have set tables of figures before honorable members which prove that we need to do much more than this budget envisages doing in order to give people greater social security and wellbeing. Therefore, I look to the return of a Labour government, which is the only type of government that can be relied upon to provide what is due to our people, and what this country is capable of offering them. However, I am afraid that in the meantime there will be a great deal of suffering for innocent people who can ill afford to suffer, and who are incapable in many instances of obtaining, in the eventide of their lives, the help and comfort to which they are entitled. I hope that the Government will respond to the request of the Opposition in this matter. I do not wish to act like a school master and lecture honorable members, but I do say that it would be better for supporters of the Government not to spend their time trying to besmirch the record of the great Australian Labour movement. They should rather have a positive policy to develop our resources and make this country a great Australia in all respects. Let them help to make our country great by treating our people well, and by developing our national resources.
– In addressing myself to this budget, I want to refer particularly to the provision made in the budget in respect of Commonwealth territories. I shall speak almost solely of the Territory of Papua and New Guinea, but in doing so I do not mean to indicate that the other great Commonwealth Territory, the Northern Territory, is in any way less important or less deserving of attention than is Papua and New Guinea. However, it seems that there are some particular considerations in respect of Papua and New Guinea that need to be brought under the notice of this chamber, which are rather different from those which apply to the Northern Territory. After all, the Northern Territory is an integral part of the Australian Commonwealth, and an inseparable part of the life of the mainland. In politics and social habit, and in its general pattern of economic life, it follows very much the pattern of the remainder of the northern parts of Australia. But when we turn to our great external territory of Papua and New Guinea, we find that it stands in a somewhat different position. To begin with, it stands in a rather different constitutional relationship than the Northern Territory. It is geographically separate, and its social and economic life do not coincide at all points with the social and economic life of the Australian mainland. So I believe that the Australian Parliament might well ask itself, at the commencement of any discussion of this kind, what are the points of interest which we as a Parliament have in this great external territory of Papua and New Guinea?
There is one very familiar argument relating to the strategic importance of Papua and New Guinea. When we talk of the strategic importance of Papua and New Guinea to the Australian Commonwealth, I do not believe any honorable member would suggest for a moment that their strategic importance to us is that we ourselves want to make use of them, for a military purpose. Bather the line of our thinking is that it would be completely untenable for us, for any other power, and particularly for any power that might be a potential enemy of Australia, to be in occupation of those lands. That is indeed a vital interest to Australia, and I do not believe that at any time we need hesitate to let the rest of the world know that we regard it as a vital interest. It was first seen starkly and plainly 75 years ago as being vital to the interest of the Australian Commonwealth, and our entrance into that region established one of the foundation stones of Australian policy three-quarters of a century ago. On two occasions since then our fighting men, whose memorials now stand in the three corners of the Territory, have demonstrated by their practical patriotism that this is a land of great importance to us. It is a land over which we, as Australians, are prepared to shed blood. We have paid a great price for a very great right to that Territory.
Then, passing from the strategic argument, we could take up the economic argument, and say that there is a very great interest on the part of Australia in the development of the resources of this Territory. Its resources are complementary to the resources of the Australian mainland, and should be developed in a way that would be complementary to the development of the Australian mainland to produce enough to meet both Australian and world needs.
But after we have referred to the strategic importance of Papua and New Guinea, after we have developed to the full all the arguments that we can propose about the development of its resources, we come back to the main argument which is the argument of national responsibility. Ours is a nation that has its own pride; a nation that has its own traditions and standards of proper conduct in the tasks of government, and particularly proper conduct towards dependent peoples. It is a matter of historical fact that our national needs and our national interests have brought us into Papua and New Guinea, and, being there, I believe that it would be the wish of every patriotic Australian that we should discharge to the full our responsibility to that country, and to the people of that country. I do not suggest that that is a task which any one else obliges us to do; it is a task which we lay upon ourselves. I think that what we do as a nation in the development of this Territory is something that we do in order to live up to our own standards, and in order to live up to our own ideate of national responsibility. I suggest that that is a national reason, far more compelling than any of the other reasons, strategic and economic, which might he argued very persuasively.
We know quite well that part of the Territory of Papua and New Guinea is a trust territory; we also know that we have our solemn treaty obligations, in respect of the trust Territory, under the agreement concluded between the Australian Government and the General Assembly of the United Nations. Needless to say, we will honour that treaty. But I do not think - and it is a point that is well worth stressing - that the compulsion of that treaty is the only compulsion. I do not think that we, as Australians, need rely on any one else to be the . guardian of our conscience. Let us guard our own conscience. Let us satisfy ourselves that we are doing the right thing there, and that we are living up to the standards which we set ourselves as Australians.
The word “ trusteeship “ is bandied around quite a lot to-day, but we need to remember, and remember with some pride, that long before the term “ trusteeship “ entered into any international documents, it was given a practical meaning, both by our British kinsmen in their colonies and by our Australian forefathers in Papua and New Guinea. We discharged the duties and sought the ideals of trusteeship long before we had the compulsion of any trusteeship agreement in respect of those territories. I say that, because there is a tendency for us to-day to talk rather glibly, and perhaps too readily, about the need to satisfy someone else besides ourselves. I like to think that, in satisfying ourselves and in meeting our own. self-criticism, we will live up to a harsher standard, a more exacting standard, than any one outside Australia could ever set us. I like to think that we in Australia will put our own target higher than any one else will put it for us. We have been in what is now the trust Territory for more than a quarter of a century, and we have attempted to obey those standards. We have already established certain principles in our conduct towards the people of that country, and certain policies in respect of our development of the country. I think it is sometimes rather unfair to those who have laboured there on behalf of Australia in the past, for some Australians to assume too readily that the record of Australia in Papua and New Guinea is a discreditable record. Ear from it. We can stand before the world with pride a.nd with self-justification, and meet nothing worse than the criticism which we can apply to ourselves.
If the committee follows me in my initial point, which is that the development of this Territory is a national responsibility, I should like to think that all parties, irrespective of any political chances or changes inside Australia, would consider this national responsibility as being a continuing one. A point we need to remember is that, irrespective of what is happening in Australia, irrespective of change’s that may take place in this Parliament, and irrespective of anything that may happen in the political fortunes of either party, the essential nature of that situation in PapUa and New Guinea will be unchanged. The essential nature of a situation which involves the contract between the Australian people and the native Papuan people will be still there. Parties in this Parliament may come and go; members and also Ministers may come and go, but that problem up there is an enduring one. Its essential features are likely to remain with us for some generations to come. I should like to think, as I have said, that during the course of the generations, there will be consistency and something greater than partisanship in our approach to our national responsibilities in the Territory.
As I have spoken in this way, tho committee might very understandably ask, “Well, what are you doing about it? What is this Government doing in the Territory of Papua and New Guinea?” As I shall attempt to show presently, this Government has been doing quite a number of things in that Territory, but first of all, I want to say some: thing about the reasons why the task in New Guinea is necessarily a long and a slow task. I think honorable members who have looked closely at any situation which involves dependent peoples will realize that precipitate action can be perilous action. It would be quite easy for a forceful person, given men and money, to go in and transform New Guinea in ten years and multiply its production almost overnight. But in doing so, he would destroy something which could not be replaced, and he would lay up seeds of great trouble in the future. So we must be careful to recognize that, in the very nature of the situation there, we cannot take precipitate action, because it may very well prove to be perilous action and grow more problems than it. grows crops.
The first of the two main reasons why this work is rather slow is, as I have said, in the nature of the problem. The second of the two main reasons relates to our own capacity. New Guinea, as the committee knows, was ravaged during the war, and suffered demolition and destruction to a degree which no other part of the Australian domain suffered. After the war, the government of the day faced great problems of reconstruction, and it also faced the need to rebuild anew an efficient organization. Those tasks have very largely occupied both the preceding Government and this Government up to the present moment. We had to restore the basic services and buildings. We had to assemble once again, from the ground up, the staff that would do our work.
This brings me to an account of what this Government has done during the past three or four years. When the territories were made the sole responsibility of one Minister, and the portfolio was entrusted to me, I attempted to survey the situation and, rightly or wrongly, came to the conclusion that the foundation of future progress and sound work in the Territory lay in the reorganization of the Administration. By and large, the situation in Papua and New Guinea did not call for any startling revision in policy, although it did call for, I think, and did receive, some shifts in emphasis. It did receive some clarification of the particular applications of policy. But by and large, it did not call for any major revision of policy. What it did call for was a fundamental reorganization and a building up of the strength and efficiency of the Administration, so that it could make that policy effective in action. It is, of course, necessary for policy to be laid down, and laid down clearly. But I am sure that honorable members will agree with me that a ministerial pronouncement on policy does not alter a single thing. Affairs are only altered when a body of officers can apply that policy in the field.
So it was necessary for us to do something to build up the administrative staff. For three long years, in face of a great number of difficulties and some discouragements, we have been attempting to do that. I would like to give the committee some figures of the progress that has been made. The total European administrative staff in 1946 was 447, as compared with a pre-war strength, for the combined territories, of 600. By 1949, it had grown to 1,130, including a pretty large proportion of temporary employees. To-day, it stands at 1,675, and in the current year, under the proposals contained in this budget, we are planning a recruitment of 319 officers; that is, 213 technical and professional officers; and 106 administrative officers. For the next three years, we have a programme, for the recruitment of 740 officers, and on that scale of increase we are planning a regular intake of officers to build up the administrative service until 1960. This growth in the numerical strength of the service has been accompanied by some tidying up, by the conversion of some temporary positions to permanent positions, by the strengthening of the technical and professional arms and the senior branches of the service, by the elimination of some of the less satisfactory features by the filling of senior positions and by taking pains to get key men on whom. the strength of the service depends.
Improved recruitment procedures have been introduced. We have attempted to establish a planned programme of recruitment, by taking regularly each year into the different branches the appropriate number of people. In conjunction with that, we have extended very greatly the system of cadetships, which applied previously only to patrol officers. We now have a cadetship system for education officers, forestry officers, surveyors, agricultural officers, veterinary officers and medical officers. Young Australians who have either matriculated or have commenced university courses may be recruited as cadets so that they may make a career of the public service of the Territory. The entrance standards for the clerical divisions of the service have been raised, and ‘attempts have been made to recruit clerks with graduate qualifications so that eventually we may supply from within the service officers to occupy the senior executive positions. In addition, we have in hand an extension of training for the service. Hitherto, training for the service has been confined mainly to the School of Pacific Administration, which has provided a long course for patrol officers and also short courses for a few other officers. We are engaged in the provision of in-service training and on-the-job training for the whole of the service, and we intend to go much farther in* that process of improvement.
That growth of the service has been achieved despite the fact that during this period we have had . to compete with a very strong demand for trained and skilled people throughout Australia. We have not always been able to get people of a standard that was completely satisfactory to us. We have had to struggle also against the lack of facilities. One of the greatest difficulties in recruitment is the shortage of housing within the Ter- ritory. In addition to recruiting officers, we have had to embark on a building programme. The rate at which we have been able to recruit has been limited to a degree by the rate at which we have been able to provide new recruits with houses. I confess to honorable members quite frankly that the housing programme is lagging behind the rate of recruitment, and that that is the chief obstacle to expediting the intake of new officers. During this period, attempts also have been made to improve the conditions of members of the Territory public service.
I should like to refer brieflly to the place that native employees occupy. There are approximately 13,000 natives employed by the administration in various categories. Approximately 2,000 or 2,500 of those natives are employed in what might be called administrative work as clerks, medical orderlies and teachers. We propose extending the scheme so that native people may play a greater part, particularly in the sphere of health and education, in improving the conditions of their own people and in the management of their own affairs. With that end in view, we shall establish in the near future an auxiliary division of the public service to assist in the training of native clerks, native teachers, native medical assistants and other natives who can qualify for entry into the public service with the same rights and privileges that are extended to other members of the service. We have established the principle, that, if a native can qualify on exactly the same level as a European, he should enter the service on the same footing. Before I leave the subject of the strengthening of the administration, I should like to pay a tribute, which I think honorable members and in particular those members who have been privileged to visit the Territory will endorse, to those officers in the Territory who are doing the job on behalf of Australia.
Honorable MEMBERS - Hear, hear I
– It has been very gratifying to me personally, as Minister for Territories, to meet within the last few months distinguished representatives of foreign governments who have told me of their high admiration of the standard of our young officers , in the
Territory. The nation should recognize, and I am sure it would he willing to pay tribute to, the sterling work that is being done in lonely parts, often under great difficulty, by a very fine group of young officers. A public servant, in the Territory needs qualities that are twice as good as those which are required by public servants in the capital cities of Australia. The demands on his character, on his own personal resourcefulness, on his initiative, and on his self-reliance are much greater than those of our comparatively com.fortable jobs in this part of the world. It should be remembered that, in the more remote parts of the Territory, the term “government” means to the people who are receiving the benefits of government the things that these young officers are doing day by day. It does not mean the kind of complex activity that is known to honorable members in this chamber; it means what those young officers do. If those young officers act worthily, if they deal justly and if they do their job efficiently, the reputation of government is high. If they slip, the reputation of government is low. It is important, in establishing trust and confidence in our future relationships with these people, that, from the beginning, the reputation of government among native people should be high.
We have now reached the point where, as a result of the expansion and strengthening of the public service, we feel we can go forward. For that reason, additional provision has been made in this budget. I was able to go to Cabinet with confidence and say that, as a result of that re-organization, we were ready to move forward and to move forward more rapidly. This year, Cabinet has approved of the principle of expanding expenditure, under which the Territory shall not be tied down each year to the expenditure of the previous year. It has been decided that there shall be an expanding expenditure in keeping with the growth of responsibility and in keeping with our capacity to discharge that responsibility. Furthermore, Cabinet considered a threeyear programme of activities which need to be undertaken in the Territory. We have outlined, with considerable particularity, the things that need to be done and which can be done within the next three years. That programme has been accepted in principle, and a procedure has been devised by which, in April of each year, that programme will be considered by a Cabinet committee to be presided over by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies). That committee will decide which part of the programme can be undertaken and should be undertaken during the forthcoming year. We hope that by that procedure some of the delays consequent on the need to wait for budget approval will be eliminated.
As an earnest of the Government’s intentions, an additional provision of £2,139,000 over and above the actual expenditure from Commonwealth sources last financial year has been made in the current financial year. The total amount that the Parliament will be asked to vote for the Territory of Papua and New Guinea is £7,561,000. This sum will be supplemented by local revenues to provide a territory budget, to be administered by the Territory itself, of approximately £10,500,000. The committee may be interested to learn the total expenditures on the Territory during recent years. These figures show the way in which activity has been increased as the administration has been built up and as reorganization has proceeded. The expenditures for the financial years from 1948-49 to 1953-54, inclusive, are as follows : -
The estimate for the current financial year is £10,500,000. Honorable members will notice the way in which the curve of expenditure is sweeping upwards. We are confident that the rise in the curve will be much more marked in the immediate future than it has been in recent times. I commend these broad provisions of the budget to the committee for its approval. During the debate on the Estimates we shall have an opportunity to deal with particular items in the amounts proposed to be voted for the territories. I am sure that the Australian people, as they come to realize more and more their responsibilities in Papua and New Guinea, and as a proud nation that is careful of its own conditions and standards, will be willing to accept the responsibility and to discharge it with greater enthusiasm and energy.
– I listened with close attention to the Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck). No doubt he is confronted with a lot of troubles in his administration as it concerns the territories to which he has referred. It is a strange coincidence that every Government supporter who has participated in this debate to-day has apologized for the Administration. Honorable members opposite say, first, that this is the best Government that we have ever had, and that, thanks to the Treasurer’s horror budget, it has now come good. I can assure you, Mr. Chairman, that for thousands of Australians this budget contains nothing beneficial.
The honorable member for McMillan (Mr. Brown) discussed immigration and housing. The Government is not discharging its responsibilities in the matter of housing. The honorable member for Bennelong (Mr. Cramer) brought with him when he was elected to this chamber a housing programme. He could not get here quickly enough to have it put into effect, but he is now a frustrated man. In his remarks this afternoon he made no reference to the housing problem, although he professes to be well acquainted with it; and doubtless he is. The honorable member has said, in this chamber and outside it, that if the governments of New South Wales and the other States would remove rent controls, housing for every one would at once become available. Let us see what has happened, not in New South Wales, but in Western Australia. The Labour Administration in Western Australia controlled rents under laws similar to those of New South Wales, and when the Western Australian legislation expired recently and it was necessary to extend its period of application, the upper house, which is dominated by the tories, would not agree to the continuance of rent controls as before. Tn consequence controls ended, and within two months 200 people were thrown out onto the streets, and some rents increased from 30s. to £6 a week. That is how the honorable member for Bennelong would provide homes for every one. The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), referring to the stability of the economy, said the other day that in all the States, with the exception of Western Australia, everything was right, red and rosy. On the 30th August last, the Western Australian Arbitration Court refused to increase the State basic wage. The court’s ruling was given by a majority of two to one; the employees’ representative gave the dissenting judgment. The decision leaves the basic wage in the Perth metropolitan area at £12 6s. 6d. a week. It had remained steady for thirteen months despite a cost of living rise of 19s. lid. a week. This Government tells us that everything is stable and that the prices of foodstuffs and other essential commodities have not increased, but the cost of living has risen by 19s. lid. a week, and the Western Australian Arbitration Court refused to increase the State basic wage.
The honorable member for McMillan mentioned the problems of immigration. When the Chifley Labour Government went out of office at the end of 1949, Australia’s economy was stable. Twelve months earlier the population had reached 7,500,000. When the returns from the recent census are compiled, it will probably be found that the population now exceeds 9,000,000 persons. What has this Administration, which has been in office for almost five years, done to house the 1,500,000 additional persons who have been bom in this country or have come here as immigrants since 1949 ? It has done nothing ; yet we have been told by a Government supporter that the housing position is now stable. But that is only one of the matters that are troubling the minds of citizens who are seeking homes. During the general election campaign the Government promised to provide homes for every one, but the people know only too well that the promises of a Government such as this one will not be fulfilled. The Governor-General said, at page 5 of the printed copy of his Speech -
My Government will continue to undertake a large housing programme Both directly and in conjunction with the States.
The housing programme was second to none after the former Australian Labour Government signed an agreement with the governments of New South Wales and the other States that were willing to construct homes on satisfactory terms. As soon as this Administration took office it undertook a tremendous immigration programme and promised to bring prefabricated dwellings to Australia to house the immigrants. It imported only 18,000 homes to accommodate approximately 90,000 immigrants a year. Honorable members opposite who represent country electorates have told the committee that everything is right with Australia. It is obvious that they are completely out of touch with the circumstances of 70 per cent. of the people of Australia who are struggling to provide themselves with food and shelter to eke out their existence despite the high cost of living for which this Government is responsible.
One of the last measures that was passed by the Parliament prior to the general election was the Stevedoring Industry Charge Act 1954. The purpose of the act was to reduce the rate of the charge payable under the Stevedoring Industry Charge Act 1947-1952 from11d. to 6d. a man-hour. The proceeds were used to finance the operations of the Australian Stevedoring Industry Board. The Government claimed that that reduction would permit a decrease of shipping freights by 2s. a ton. That result has not been achieved. Overseas shipping freights have risen. The shipping companies are now approaching the Government for the abolition of the Australian Stevedoring Industry Board.
When labour troubles were being experienced on the waterfront in every State, this Government brought an expert from England and asked him to investigate and report upon Australian shipping problems. The expert was Mr. Basten, and he came to Australia at the expense of the Government. He reported that shipping arrangements in Australia were 30 years behind the times and he was astonished at the rate of turn-round of ships considering the nature of the port facilities.. I should like to read to the committee some of the functions of the Australian Stevedoring Industry Board into which Mr. Basten inquired. They are as f ollows : -
Now the board that has done so much to secure peace on the waterfront and get work done in the stevedoring industry is to be sacrificed by this Government for the benefit of its friends, the shipping companies that have helped the Government with its election expenses. In that regard, they have only joined tie other big companies in the community that have supported this Government.
In my electorate I have seen the sorrowful plight that can be forced upon people by the shipping companies. Lord Howe Island, 430 miles from Sydney, is part of my electorate and apart from a flying boat service, it is almost entirely isolated. Many of the people conduct boarding houses. Practically their only imports are foodstuffs and clothing. This Government has taken land on the island without paying any compensation to the New South Wales Government. It has built a radar station and four cottages, but it allows the New South Wales Government to provide ships for the island as best it can. Last Christmas, the New South Wales Government had to engage two small ships for the island trade. One was wrecked and the people were almost starving for a week or so. A deputation from the’ island visited Canberra and I assisted the members of the deputation to approach several Ministers. One of the Ministers said to me the following day, in effect, “What do you think we are, asking us to go there and to provide shipping? It is not a payable proposition. They had better do the best they can.” That is typical of the Ministers in this Government. The people of Lord Howe Island are isolated. Of that small community, 38 saw war service. They pay their taxes and surely they are entitled to some protection.
I direct the attention of the committee to another instance of neglect in my electorate which the telephone system has practically failed. Hundreds of applicants are waiting for telephones. Five years ago, one could write to the Minister in charge of these matters and get a reply. In about twelve months time the request would be met. Now, when the Postmaster-General (Mr. Anthony) is asked about the installation of telephones, he does not know when they can be supplied. If this Government cannot provide telephone facilities for the people, it should stop talking about the introduction of television. Many of the people in my electorate are in business and they need telephones. Numbers of them gave their services to their country in World War II. . They cannot get homes. They came back from the war more than seven years ago and they are still without houses. If they apply for a home, they have to wait two years. Some nominated for homes six years ago and they are no nearer to getting them. If those ex-servicemen leave the country again, or if they go to war in this country, they should first have an assurance, written and signed, that they will be given homes when they return. Why should men and women who are willing to give their services in war be deluded by a government such as the Administration that is now in office?
The Government supporters claim that prices have been stabilized. They have said that the economy of the nation is sound. A review of the newspapers each morning shows that big profits are being made by large companies. Yet when the working people ask for wage margins and adjustments of the basic wage to enable them to meet the rising cost of living, they are accused of being leftist. In the interests of the future of this country, this Government should get down to business. During the past five years, about one-third of the immigrants who were brought to this country at great national expense returned to their homelands because they could not get homes or work.
– A poor advertisement for Australia !
– I agree. Unless that position is improved, Australia will not progress as it should.
I would be failing in my duty if I did not refer in this debate to the plight of the pensioners. I put this question to Ministers who have decided that the age and invalid pension shall be £3 10s. a week. Would that sum pay for the food and drink of a Minister for one day? Of course it would not!
– It would not pay for the cigars that a Minister smokes every day.
– Yet the pensioners are expected to purchase with that amount the necessaries of life for seven days a week. Ministers should not tell us that pensioners are well off now that the Liberal Government is in office. The honorable member for Bennelong informed us on one occasion that he had never hesitated to say that a pensioner could not live on the pension. The former Minister for Social Services, Mr. Townley, and the former honorable member for Sturt, Mr. Wilson, often spoke sympathetically about the plight of the pensioners. I gave the former honorable member for Sturt great credit for his solicitude on their behalf. I thought then, and I still think, that he is an honest man, but I realize now that the Government was using him for its own political purposes. Frequently, he was given the call at 8 o’clock when a debate on social services was beingbroadcast. However, the electors of Sturt, to their credit, woke up to the situation and, at the last general election, returned a genuine Labour man to the Parliament.
– The preceding Labour Government was in office for eight years before the Menzies Government came into power. Did the Labour Government improve the lot of the pensioners?
– When the Chifley Labour Government was in offi.ce, the pension waa 37 per cent, of the basic wage, and to-day. with the Menzies Government in office, it is only 28 per cent, of the basic wage. If the honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Brand) had to live on £3 10s. a week, he would not have such a corporation.
The Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) announced, in his budget speech, that the Government undertook to provide, on a £l-for-£l basis, money towards capital costs incurred by churches and recognized charitable institutions for building homes for aged persons, up to a total Commonwealth contribution of £1,500,000 a year. In my opinion, this offer is despicable. The National Government is virtually asking churches to cadge from the peopleup to £1,500,000 a year in order to provide homes for the aged. The cost of building a two-bedroom cottage is now between £3,000 and £4,000, yet the Government expects churches and charitable institutions to collect money to provide accommodation for elderly persons. 1 consider that the Government should distribute the £1,500,000 among the State governments, and ask them to supplement the allocations and erect homes for the aged. Churches and charitable organizations are already doing their utmost to provide accommodation for elderly folks, and the Government should not make it a condition of Commonwealth assistance that they cadge money from the public. The Reverend Hammond, in New South Wales, has tried in every way to build homes for the aged, and he has done a good job, but it has taken him from 1932 to the present day to build eight double cottages. Approximately 75 per cent, of the pensioners have no means other than their pensions. They. are obliged to support themselves on £3 10s. a week. Why should churches and charitable institutions have to come to their aid and give them support? That responsibility rests upon this Government.
I recall that before the last general election, 500 pensioners attended a meeting in the Sydney Town Hall. The honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Jack) was present, and he made all sorts of promises to the pensioners. The honorable member for Bradfield (Mr. Turner) was also present. Possibly, he knew of the Government’s intentions and, to his credit, said nothing at all. I warned the pensioners at the time not to expect anything from the Menzies Government, and I pointed out that the Leader of the Labour party (Dr. Evatt) had promised that a Labour government would increase pensions by at least 10s. a week. Last year, the Menzies Government increased pensions by 2s. 6d. a week,” and this year the pension is not to be increased at all. I have no doubt that before the next Senate election, the Government will increase pensions by 2s. 6d. a week, and will hope that many pensioners will not be here to remember the things that it has done to them. After all, pensioners do not live for ever. A pensioner made that remark to me last Saturday. We had asked a speaker at a Liberal party meeting why the Menzies Government had not increased pensions by a reasonable amount, and the speaker answered, “Pensioners will not live for ever “. The Government is in office for three years, and is not worried about the plight of the pensioners. The price of brandy has been reduced under this budget by 6s. a bottle. Last year, the Government reduced the price of Scotch whisky by 5s. a bottle. I predict to-night that the Government, in next year’s budget, will reduce the price of cigars. Then the twenty good Ministers and true will be able to sit round the Cabinet table, drink their Scotch whisky and brandy, smoke their cigars, and tell the people that £3 10s. a week is sufficient to maintain an aged or invalid pensioner. The Minister for Social Services (Mr. McMahon) is sitting at the table. I venture to say that he would not dare to return to the place where he was reared in Redfern if he did not raise his voice against this Government for starving the people.
– He is a millionaire.
– That is not important. He can have a conscience even if he is a millionaire. But I doubt whether any member of the Liberal party has a conscience. Why is it necessary for the West Sydney Labour Electoral Council to organize a dance in the Sydney Town Hall once a year?
– When is it to be held?
– On the 22nd October next, and the admission charge will be 4s. Any member of the Liberal party who wishes to attend will be welcome. O.n no other occasion would a member of the Liberal party spend 4s. on the pensioners. Fortunately, two benefactors on the north shore have come to the aid of the pensioners on thi3 occasion. Sir Edward Hallstrom is to donate a refrigerator, because he knows of the conditions under which the pensioners are trying to exist. Halvic Industries, of Gordon, have offered a garden set of tables and chairs. This Government, which claims that it has an adequate defence policy, is starving the very people who have made Australia what it is- I have yet to be convinced that elderly folk who have reared large families on small incomes, have been in a position to save money for their old age, yet the wowser who does not drink or smoke, will assert that pensioners should have saved money during their working lives, and that had they done so, they would not be in need now. If the pensioners had saved money and had not done any of the things for which they are condemned out of hand by some people, their critics would be paying higher taxes now.
The Government has plenty of time in which to retrace its steps. I am honestly surprised that an Australian Government has ignored the plight of people who deserve so much. Why has the Government ignored them ? Is there any man in the street who would refuse a request by an old pensioner for 2s. with which to buy food? I know of a place in Young-street, in Sydney, near the Metropolitan Hotel, where hundreds of people go morning after morning for a free breakfast. Nobody will say that a pension of £3 10s. a week is adequate to pay for housing, food and clothing. This Government is in office because it has practised a policy of deception. I say that advisedly. Government supporters have told tales to the people for which the Government will be called to account soon. They have gone round the country telling the people that the Labour party had something to do with the Communists.
– Of course it has.
– The honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett) would not be in the Parliament but for the Communist party.
– What is the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) doing now?
– He is fighting for liberty, as he always has done. On the previous occasion when he fought for liberty, and when Government supporters accused him of supporting the Communists, five judges of the High Court of Australia upheld his view.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– The committee has just been entertained by a semi-humorous interlude. Having listened to the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Minogue), I almost regret that I do not smoke. The honorable member made some references to the budget, and I think one or two of the matters to which he referred should be replied to. He made a rather obscure reference to the number of immigrants who had decided to return to their home countries about two years ago and stated that they represented 33 per cent, of the yearly intake. I do not think any honorable member is gullible enough to accept that figure. Speaking from memory, I think that the figure was 3 per cent., not 33 per cent. The figure stated by the honorable member for West Sydney should be corrected in the record.
The honorable member referred to the fact that this budget makes no provision for an increase of the rates of age, invalid and widows’ pensions. Let me say at the outset of my remarks on this subject that the promises made by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) and the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) during the last general election in their policy speeches have been honoured in this budget. They made no promise to increase pension rates. During the last year of office of the Chifley Government, when costs were rising at the rate of approximately 12 per cent, a year, no increases of pensions were granted, yet some members of the Opposition have criticized this Government because it ha3 not increased pensions at a time when prices are stable. During the last twelve months, no increase of the cost of living has been indicated by official statistics. The honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Joske) quoted at length from speeches made on previous budgets by some members of the present Opposition, including the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward). [Quorum formed.’] In 1949, when costs were rising rapidly, the honorable member for East Sydney supported a budget which did not provide for any increase in the rates of age, invalid and widows’ pensions, yet he and his colleagues are criticizing this Government because it has not increased pension rates now, when the economy is stable. I repeat that in this budget the Government has honoured all the promises made by the leaders of the Liberal party and the Australian Country party at the last election.
I am surprised that the honorable member for West Sydney has criticized the proposal by the Government to provide up to £1,500,000 to assist charitable organizations to provide homes for aged people. Having regard to the general tenor of his remarks, I should have thought he would support that proposal, but he criticized it and suggested as an alternative that the money be paid to the State governments for their use. I suggest to the honorable member that he discuss the matter with a number of the church organizations and charitable bodies that have written to express their appreciation of the Government’s proposal. I suggest also that he discuss with his colleague, the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. W. M. Bourke), the promises made by the Labour party during the last election to increase pension rates and abolish the means test. The honorable member for Fawkner was the only member of the Opposition who had the courage to say publicly exactly what he thought of the promises made by the
Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt). He said they would have to be reviewed if the Labour party obtained power again.
Two points have emerged from the debate so far. First, the budget, which is regarded as a stability budget, is accepted generally by the people of Australia; and secondly, no real opposition to it has been offered by honorable members opposite. Indeed, the Leader of the Opposition has failed to put in an appearance in this chamber during the most important debate of the financial year. I wish to refute certain statements by the honorable member for East Sydney and the honorable member for West Sydney on the general economic situation in Australia by quoting a brief extract from the Bank of New South Wales Review., No. 18, of August, 1954. That publication contains the following commentary on the economic situation : -
The new financial year has opened in a spirit of optimism founded on the heartening experience of the past year, when the Australian economy operated at a high level of activity and for the first time since the war reached stability. Past achievement, however, must not be allowed to lead to blind optimism or to disguise the real difficulties that lie immediately ahead. The year 1953-54 showed an effective contrast from the whirling inflation and subsequent setback of the past few years, but it cannot necessarily be taken as a guide to the future.
The Australian economy must expand if only because it is attracting a larger population which has its own contribution to make, but it will show steady progress only provided the community is willing to make adjustments called for by changing circumstances. There is perhaps no conclusive evidence yet that all sections of the community have fully assimilated the lessons of the recent past.
I shall refer again at a later stage to the spirit that is apparent in that commentary.
The statement of financial policy made by the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) when he presented the budget included references to a. number of problems, both internal and external, which face Australia to-day. The right honorable gentleman at the same time made it abundantly clear that, under the terms of the budget, the Government would honour all the election promises that had been made on its behalf. This is a budget that can really be called a stability budget. It demonstrates that the Government is approaching with an appropriate degree of caution a situation that is fraught with grave difficulties. We have internal problems of great consequence, but there is an overriding pressure of external events, which may have a more significant effect on our economy in the immediate future. The object of the budget is to maintain our economy on an even keel and, at the same time, to give further taxation relief during this difficult period of our history both as an incentive to industry and as a means of assisting the community to overcome the high cost problems that beset us internally. I shall discuss very briefly some of the major points to which the budget refers. The first item is that of defence, for which an amount of £200,000,000 has again been allocated. However, an additional sum will be expended on defence during the year by drawing upon reserve funds and in fact, the amount to be devoted to defence this year will be £35,000,000, more than was expended last year. It is pleasing to notice that the general rate of war pensions and war windows’ pensions will be increased by 7s. 6d. a week at a cost of approximately £2,000,000 for a full year. This is a noteworthy gesture in a very important cause.
Social service benefits are to be increased by the alleviation of the means test in accordance with proposals that were put to the people during the last general election campaign. These extensions will mean that about 90,000 persons will be able to draw increased benefits and that many thousands more will be brought into the pension field during the next twelve months. The cost to the country will be approximately £17,000,000 in a year. I have already referred to the proposed allowance to encourage the provision and extension of homes for aged people, which the honorable member for West Sydney criticized. Probably everybody but the honorable member for West Sydney approves of the Government’s decision to provide £1,500,000 for that desirable purpose. Payments to the States this financial year will be raised to £198,665,000, which represents a substantial increase over the amount for 1953-54. One important feature of these payments will be the substantial increase of funds for the maintenance and construction of roads under the Commonwealth Aid Roads Agreement. The increase under this heading will be about £7,000,000, so that the total allotment for the financial year will be about £24,000,000. I am sure that people throughout Australia, particularly those associated with local government, will heartily approve of the Government’s action in fulfilling its promise to give extra assistance to the States for road works. This will represent a most important contribution to the development of Australia.
Another important item in the budget is the proposed appropriation of £30,000,000 for war service homes this year compared with the expenditure of just under £27,000,000 last year. This represents a substantial and significant increase, which will be greatly appreciated by ex-servicemen and their organizations. The Government has made provision for higher bounty and subsidy payments on such .items as cotton, tractors, dairy products and tea. These payments will help substantially to keep our costs and prices structure within the limitations which are essential to continued stability of the economy. Income tax reductions also will make a considerable contribution to the general wellbeing of the people. The Government is to be congratulated upon the fact that most of the tax benefits that will flow from the budget will apply to income tax. The reductions will range between 20 per cent, on the lower income groups and 8 per cent, on the higher income groups, and the average reduction will be 9 per cent. Another item in the budget that will earn the general approval of the community provides that donations to schools and colleges for the construction, extension and maintenance of buildings shall be allowable as deductions for income tax purposes. Gifts of £1 or more will be allowed as deductions after the necessary legislation has been passed. I am sure that this provision will indirectly make- an enormous contribution towards the improvement and extension of school buildings and the general improvement of educational services. Substantial sales tax reductions will apply to a wide range of items, and the exemption from payroll tax will be considerably extended with resultant benefit to the entire community.
Many complex problems affect the task of deciding how depreciation allowances shall be granted in order to overcome the major problem of capital erosion in industry, and I am sure that all honorable members are pleased that these problems are going to be tackled on an efficient and thorough basis by means of the appointment of a special committee. I am happy to know that the honorable member for Petrie (Mr. Hulme) has been chosen as chairman of the committee. I look forward with faith and optimism to the outcome of the deliberations of the committee under his guidance. I am sure that the result will be of great benefit to industry and the country generally. The budget is in balance. It caters for a revenue of over £1,000,000,000, and it provides for a small surplus of approximately £251,000 It is a budget that the Government can take a great deal of pride in presenting to the people, especially in view of the prevailing conditions, which are fraught with many dangers, both internal and external.
In the time remaining at my disposal, I wish to refer briefly to the general economic conditions in Australia, to-day. Private persons as well as those connected with business and parliamentary life, should first assess the degree to which any particular set of circumstances is likely to continue. During the last half century in Australia there have been alternating periods of prosperity and depression, between which were sandwiched two world wars. Our economic conditions to-day are affected by international developments in the Par East and in other parts of the world. Of course, the Ear East has most significance, as far as our immediate problems, and the problems associated with our economy in the near future, are concerned. Our economy is affected, also, by world price fluctuations. Many of these problems, which emanated from world price fluctuations during the last 30 or 40 years, should have been a sufficient warning to us to guard against them in the future. Again, our economy is affected by changing seasons. Australia has been fortunate, particularly on the east coast, to have had a succession of . reasonably good seasons. We cannot expect an indefinite continuation of the good seasons we have had in the past to enable us to maintain our past volume of exports. We must take seasonal conditions into consideration when assessing the condition of our economy. Governmental policy, also, is having a very definite impact on our economic situation.” Changing situations, and changing governments, both Federal and State, have very definite effects, ultimately, on the whole of our economic set-up. Lastly, the pattern of industrial events also has a very definite impact and effect on the whole of our economy.
Since the end of World War II., there has developed a condition of shortages, coupled with the unprecedented wool prices of a few years ago, and the impact of a tremendous growth of population. However, it is pleasing to note that, during the last twelve or eighteen months, we have enjoyed a state of prosperity unequalled in the previous 166 years of settlement of this country. We suffered a slight check to this build-up of prosperity during the financial year 1950-51, when there was a sharp and fairly rapid decline from the peak of wool prices. But, of course, that has always been characteristic of the wool industry. We have been fortunate, indeed, to have had a continuity of reasonable prices since that year, and it is reasonable to expect a continuance of that state of affairs for at leaest one or two years to come. At the time of the sharp fall in wool prices in 1950-51, there was a tremendous upsurge in the volume of imports into this country, which introduced other pressures that affected our economy. It is obvious to all that the action taken by this Government checked the position that was tending to develop, and during the last eighteen months we have enjoyed a state of economic stability unique in our history. We are enjoying a period of full employment, and our living standard is bettered by that of only one other country, the United States of America.
What are. our prospects of maintaining the present economic conditions in our country ? Let us first, consider the problem from an internal point of view. We must; maintain the productive capacity and working spirit of every person in the community. There must also be full co-operation and co-ordination of effort by governments, industry and individuals. Externally, we must play our part, politically, in relation to economic conditions, particularly as far as our sister nations in the Western world are concerned. We must also assess the trade situation in the future, because there are some inherent problems in our overseas trade arrangements. From a trade point, of view, we enjoy some protection, but basically our overseas trade is governed by the cost factor within. Australia. The immediate outlook in relation to the wool and meat industries is reasonably good. It is reasonable to expect that, for one or two years wool prices will remain fairly firm. The fixed conditions in relation to the marketing of our meat overseas> particularly in the United Kingdom, should ensure the receipt of reasonable prices for that commodity. So we can say that, at least in relation to those two industries, there should be a degree of stability in the immediate future. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said of many of our primary and secondary industries. Wheat, of course, is affected by surpluses in many of the major wheat-producing countries, such as the United States of America and Canada. It is influenced, also by other factors, such as the using of internal stocks in the United Kingdom, and good seasons and record rice production in certain countries, which have tended to influence them tq increase their consumption, of rice rather than import more Australian wheat. Whilst this is a transitional situation, we must, realize that bad seasons in North America could, bring about a situation in relation to our wheat, within twelve months, vastly different from the present state of affairs.
The development of many of our other primary commodity export markets, and markets for our manufactured and semimanufactured products, presents a different problem. They are, of course, sub- ject to one of the major problems that is facing us to-day. I refer to the problem of cost of production. It is very interesting to note that our London balance isstill considerable. At the peak of the last export season it was £620,000,000, and at. the end of June last, it had declined to £571,000,000, but it is still a substantial amount. However, I want to issue a word of warning.. There is an unfortunate trend, which has only recently developed in that the flow of imports is increasing at a rapid rate. There has also been a. falling off of the income from our exports. The Government is fully cognizant of the position, which, I am sure, will be watched very closely. If a situation should, arise in which difficulty is experienced’, I do not doubt that the Government will take action to deal with that difficulty as it has dealt with other difficulties in the past.
During the last twenty years there has been a constantly changing picture in relation to the Australian economy. Some important circumstances have emerged in this picture. The first has been the increasing importance to our economy of wool, and the increasing reliance that we place on wool for the maintenance of our export income. Speaking from memory, I think that 53 per cent, of our export income is attributable directly to our sales of wool overseas. At the same time, we have also a vast expansion of our secondary industries, coupled with an expansion of mechanization throughout both primary and secondary industries, and improved technical and management methods. Associated with, all these improvements, and with the expansion that has taken place, however, and looming up in the background, is the factor of increased costs of production which were aggravated a few years ago by the introduction of the shorter working week. They have become one of our greatest problems because they preclude us from competing to the best advantage in overseas markets. I turn now to a reference to this matter that was made in a summary issued by the Bank of New South Wales last month.
– Order! The honorable gentleman’s time has expired.
.- I support the amendment moved by the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell), as a formal protest against the niggardly treatment meted out to pensioners, who are more in need of assistance now than they have been for many years. There are 400,000 age, invalid and widow pensioners who still have to exist on the meagre pittance of £3 10s. a week. It is admitted that the Government, by its liberalization of the means test, has provided 90,000 of these people with an opportunity to earn additional income. The Government would not even have gone as far as that had not the Labour party forced its hand. As a matter of fact the great majority of pensioners are living - a better word would be “existing” - on such a small amount of money that one would have thought that the Government would have shown some compassion for them, and would have given them some assistance in this year’s budget. The Government has ignored their plight. The speech made by the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden), when he introduced the budget, excited no enthusiasm among even the business people who normally support the parties now in office, much less among the working men and women who constitute the greater part of our population. When I speak of the working men and women I am not referring to that section of the population of whom the Prime Minister so glibly spoke on one occasion when he said, “We are all workers “. I am referring to the workers who earn little more than the basic wage, and who constitute 70 per cent, or 80 per cent, of the population. They will not regard this budget with any degree of satisfaction. Many pensioners will regard it with horror and disappointment.
The political pundits on the Government side of the chamber are loud in their praises of the budget. They are finding difficulty, however, in justifying it, to judge from the laborious manner in which they approach the subject. The Treasurer has introduced a number of budgets in the last six years, each of which has aggravated, rather than alleviated, inflation. The Government can be said to have fanned the flames of inflation. In 1951-52 the Treasurer brought down the infamous budget that is known throughout the Commonwealth as the horror budget. It provided for the raising of tax revenue to the record height of £1,000,000,000. In that year taxes reached the astounding level of £116 a head of population. In 1952-53, the Government reduced some taxes, but gave most of the tax relief to the monopolies and wealthy interests that are its friends. Those interests had much to be thankful for, but the ordinary worker got precious little out of that budget In 1951-52, when taxation reached its record height, the Government virtually confiscated the people’s earnings and savings. The money that the ordinary little people in the community had saved for the purchase of homes, furniture, and other necessities, was taken from them by a government which budgeted for a surplus of more than £100,000,000. Yet Government supporters now have the impertinence to say that the Government reduced taxes. What the Government did was to increase living costs by the imposition of the heaviest sales tax in Australia’s history, on the ground tha’ inflationary pressure could thereby be reduced. On the contrary, inflationary pressure was increased. In subsequent budgets the Government made precious little restitution to the people who constitute the basic .work force of this nation of the extra taxes it had made them pay.
The parties now in office have failed to keep their promises to the people who voted them into office after having been misled into believing that they would receive some justice from them. Promises consistently made by the parties opposite have been as consistently broken. The Government hypocritically takes credit for having reduced taxes. Time and time again members of the Government assert with pride, “ We have reduced taxation “. They remind me of a burglar who, conscience-stricken, returns to his victim some of the money he has robbed from him, and takes credit for his action in so doing.
The great majority of the Australian people have not received any great benefit from the Government’s policy of alleged tax reduction since it took office. The Government, and the Treasurer in particular, have made much play of what they term the “ stabilization of the economy “ that they have achieved. It is true that we have a measure of stability to-day, but it can also be said with a great deal of truth that the stability we have achieved under the Government is such that we are almost on the brink of the economic precipice. “We cannot go much further with safety. I propose to point out why, and how, this position has been created. To-day, we face a position where we are unable to compete in overseas markets. A question was asked to-day by a Government supporter al,out the reason for Australia’s loss of the butter market in Japan. One reason was that Australian butter sent to Japan was not fit to eat. Within a few months the Japanese had transferred their custom to New Zealand, and had made contracts with that country for the supply of butter. If the Government is sincere, why does it allow such things to occur? Why has it not taken steps to prevent the present position regarding eggs? Tons of egg pulp were left on the wharfs in the United Kingdom because British importers could buy egg pulp more cheaply from China.
I went through the great canneries of Leeton some time ago. I found that they were not working half the time because they were unable to sell their goods in the world markets. These canneries process vegetables, fruits and other products of this land for all parts of the world. But those markets are now slipping away from this country because of the tremendous costs and other difficulties for which the Government is responsible. The Government has placed before the committee a proposal to give the grape growing industry some relief. When I was in Leeton some time ago growers were begging people to buy their grapes and they said that if they could not obtain an adequate price for them they would root their vines from the earth. The Government has created the position in which that industry now finds itself. The Chifley Government left this country in a far more stable condition than it is in at present. During the Labour Government’s term of office Australia was known throughout the world as a nation whose people could buy better and live better than the people of any other country.
Our industries were then able to compete with the industries of the. rest of the world. British markets then were substantially ours. That is not so now. During its term of office, the present Government had fed the flames of inflation and imposed the worst restrictions that this country has ever known. Having: started the fire, the Government has had the nerve to claim credit for attempting to put it out.
The late Mr. Chifley witnessed the unemployment and the bankruptcies that took place in the depression under antiLabour governments such as the BrucePage Government. In those years Australia was unable to pay its interest bill of £55,000,000. The country was in a shocking condition. Benefiting from his knowledge of the depression years, the late Mr. Chifley set about placing our economy on a firm basis. The work that was done by Mr. Chifley laid the foundation for the work of this Government. Of course, the Chifley Government experienced the difficulties that were inevitable after the war. It w,as necessary to absorb into industry the men who came back from the war and as well the increased number of immigrants. Under these circumstances, it became necessary to institute a number of safeguards against excessive profiteering. Our opponents dubbed as socialism the measures that were taken by the Chifley Government. The £1 note was then described as a socialist £1 note. What housewife would scorn the Chifley £1 note now? Any housewife would tell honorable members that the £1 note that she now receives is spent before she realizes it. The present £1 note may be spent on the purchase of only four items - a pound of tea at 5s. 9d., a pound of butter at 4s., a dozen eggs at 5s. 6d. and a pound of steak at 4s. 9d. Those four items represent the present value of the £1 note. Recently, the Treasurer changed the colour of these notes. Perhaps he sought to give people the idea that they were receiving £10 notes instead of £1 notes. The Government is no more putting value back into the £1 now than it was when the Prime Minister first promised that he would do so. r.
This Government represents the forces of laisser-faire. It represents the profiteers. Under this Government, those forces have run riot. Greater dividends have been demanded. The doors of excessive profiteering have been left wide open. The result has been the high cost structure that exists at present In other words, the Government has adopted a philosophy of “ boom and bust “. It has not mattered who burst, as long as the friends of the Government did not do so. Industry has passed on to the consumer most of the increases in costs that have occurred during this Government’s term of office. In many cases, these costs could have been absorbed by industry, but industrial firms took the line of least resistance. It was inevitable that wages should rise in order to meet the higher costs of goods and services. But the Commonwealth Arbitration Court took the unprecedented step of suspending the quarterly adjustments of the basic wage, ft was the worker who suffered, not the profiteers who received the great dividends. Wages, in effect, were frozen while profits continued to rise. The court became the arbitrator of the country’s capacity to pay increased wages. I have always believed that the function of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court was the prevention of industrial disputes. But the court has now set itself up as the supreme authority for the regulation of the nation’s economic welfare, a function which rightly belongs to this Parliament. ‘ The court’s action denied wage justice to workers in industry, while profits and dividends were allowed to increase without restriction. Rydge’s business journal which is a most authoritative publication, recently referred to some public companies which had made excessive profits. It stated that 100 companies in Australia earned 25 per cent, profit on ordinary capital, and of that number twenty earned 40 per cent., six earned 50 per cent., and four earned 60 per cent, profit. Those are only a few of the companies which have been making excessive profits. Among the companies mentioned in the journal were Australian Silkknit, which earned 46 per cent., Email Limited, a company that makes refrigerators, which earned 25 per cent, profit, Electrolytic Zinc
Company of Australasia Limited, which earned 56 per cent, profit, and General Textiles Limited, 70 per cent, profit. Huddart Parker Limited, a shipping concern, returned 36 per cent., Invincible Colliery Limited, 58 per cent., and David Jones Limited, 25.89 per cent. Out of the hundred companies that I previously mentioned, 64 had greater reserves than they had paid-up capital. Burns Philp and Company Limited had paid-up capital of £3,000,000, but had £4,500,000 in reserve; David Jones Limited had paid-up capital of £1,805,000, but had more than £2,000,000 in reserve ; Email Limited had a paid-up capital of £1,900,000, but had £3,000,000 in reserve; Electrolytic Zinc Company of Australasia Limited had a paid-up capital of £3,000,000 and £3,500,000 in reserve; Henry Jones and Company (Sydney) Proprietary Limited, a company which produces jam that is an essential item for the people, had a paid-up capital of £2,115,000 and more than £3,000,000 in reserve; Howard Smith Limited had £2,250,000 paid-up capital and £2,500,000 in reserve; and Huddart Parker Limited had £1,500,000 paid-up capital and about £3,000,000 in reserve.
Honorable members should remember that this Government gave huge taxation concessions to public companies in its 1953-54 budget. Those concessions will amount in a full year to more than £30,000,000, and the companies benefited by taxation remissions despite having made enormous profits. General MotorsHolden’s Limited made more than £7,500,000, the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited, Imperial Chemical Industries of Australia and New Zealand Limited, the Colonial Sugar Refining Company Limited, Burns Philp and Company Limited and others, also made great profits. This Government has given taxation concessions to the Leonard Darlings of the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited and to the Baillieus of Melbourne, the Smiths, and the Burns of Burns Philp and Company Limited. It has given great taxation concessions to the hierarchy of Collins House who were the ones who benefited most under the Government’s budget. The ordinary man and woman got very little. The sugar daddies of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company Limited, the Knox’s and their families, all benefit. We do not say that they should not get returns for their investments, but we believe that their returns should be in proportion to the incomes of the rest of the community. Burns Philp and Company Limited, which is interested in shipping, coal and retail stores all over the country - even in petticoats which are made from the products of textile mills and other concerns which this company is interested in - also received great concessions. Of 1,047 public companies, 617 made higher profits in 1952-53 than they had made in previous years. Not long ago the Government parties talked loudly about incentive payments, but they only whisper it now. The only incentive payments that they believe in are incentive payments to their wealthy friends.
I desire now to refer to costs, about which this Government has spoken so glibly. Let us consider who. has been responsible for increased production costs. ‘ I suggest that the Government itself was responsible. It is well known that coal is a basic commodity in our community. Indeed, it is the basic material of the nation. I am pleased to see the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) in the chamber, because my following remarks should interest him. The honorable member for New England (Mr. Drummond) has spoken about coal and they should interest him also. ‘In 1949, under the regime of the last Labour Government, the price of coal was 23s. 4d. a ton. In 1951, after the Menzies Government assumed control, the price was 38s. 9d. But, by 1953, it was £2 17s. 3d. a ton; so that from 1949, under Labour, to 1953 under the Liberal-Country coalition, the price of coal increased by £1 13s. lid. a’ ton. For ten years before 1949 the price of coal had increased by only 12s. lid. a ton. At that time the Joint Coal. Board was fully capable of determining reasonable prices and reasonable profits, because the board had within its possession all the data applicable to coal districts.
The price in 1949 was fixed on the basis of 1$ per cent, net on capital invested, with a minimum of ls. a ton profit after all charges incidental to the industry, including depreciation, diminishing assets and insurance had been taken into consideration. But twelve months later, when this Government came to power, the colliery proprietors sought an increase of the price of coal. Then the Prime Minister instructed the Joint Coal Board to increase the price of coal. I suggest that the right honorable gentleman’s action was contrary to the principles and functions of the Joint Coal Board, which should always be free from political patronage and direction. I now desire to refer to a letter written by Mr. Cochran, the chairman of the Joint Coal Board, to Mr. Warren, the chairman of the New South Wales Combined Colliery Proprietor’s Association. That letter clearly shows the part played by the Prime Minister in increasing the cost of coal, which increase, of course, had a great effect tin increasing the general cost structure of the country. This letter shows that the Prime Minister took sides in the matter. It reads -
I refer to discussions which I had with you’ last week when I intimated that it was the wish of the Prime Minister that the Joint Coal Board should appoint a Committee to investigate the price fixation policy of the Board, and to make recommendations to the Board as to whether the existing policy provides sufficient incentive to the colliery proprietors to increase the output of coal from their mines and, if not, what modifications of existing policy should he made.
As I intimated to you, it is the Prime Minister’s wish that the Committee should consist of Mr. Walter D. Scott as Chairman, a nominee of your Association, and Mr. B. H. Nolan, Chief Accountant of the Coal Board.
I enclose copy of the letter which 1 have to-day written to Mr. Scott, which will indicate that immediately you advise me of the name of your Association’s nominee, I shall inform Mr. Scott so that the Committee can get to work.
I thank you for your co-operation in this matter.
As a result of the Prime Minister’s action, the profit on coal was increased by 6s. a ton irrespective of quality and quantity.
The Caledonian Colliery Limited increased its profits by 160 per cent, in the year ending December, 1952. Indeed, its profits increased from £94,000 to £284,000. Substantial increases of profit were also enjoyed by Howard Smith Limited. I suggest that those huge profits were made through the intervention of the present Government and the.’ Prime
Minister. They increased out of all proportion to wages and other costs. In 1939, shipping freights were at the rate of £1 ls. a ton. To-day, they are £6 13s. a ton. Whilst wages have increased by 210 per cent, since 1939, freight rates have increased by 533 per cent. That demonstrates the degree of inflation for which this Government is responsible. It also demonstrates the degree to which costs have risen.
If this Government were sincere in its professed desire to bring down costs it would have tackled the problem years ago. Instead, its wealthy -friends would not allow it to do anything about the matter. The result has been danger to the economy of the country. It is all very well for the pundits on the Government side of the committee to laugh and giggle, but the people outside this Parliament, the great body of men and women who are the voters of Australia, will note these facts and ultimately will deal with this Government which has been so hypocritical in its handling of the country’s affairs. In my opinion this Government is incompetent. I am sure that the people appreciate that the Australian Labour party always gives a fair deal to the ordinary men and women. Despite the fact that the members of the present Government parties have so many wealthy friends, they do not represent the people. There are many things that the Government could do. It has succeeded in holding on to office for the time being, but the time is surely coming when it will be well and truly out.
The CHAIRMAN (Mr. Adermann).Order! The honorable gentleman’s time has expired.
Motion (by Sir Eric Harrison) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- I rise to direct attention to what I regard as a most serious matter. I refer to the conduct of the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies )in this chamber in attempting to intimidate honorable members by making certain innuendoes in order to avoid anwering questions regarding government administration. The Prime Minister repeatedly has stated to honorable members in this chamber that he does not propose to discuss the business of a commission which is at present sitting. Neither do I. But the Prime Minister has used this as an excuse to avoid answering legitimate questions regarding administration. I am one who will not be intimidated by the Prime Minister or any other member of the Government. The right honorable gentleman tried it on a number of honorable members. For instance, he tried it on the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) when he was here.
Government supporters interjecting,
– We shall see whether the jackals will be crying in a moment, because we find that the Prime Minister said this to the Leader of the Opposition-
– I rise to order. The other evening when I was speaking and mentioned that the “hounds were baying” you made me withdraw the term “hounds”, Mr. Speaker. I notice that the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) has referred to members of the Government as “ jackals “, and I ask that he be ordered to withdraw the word.
– Order ! If that term was used, it must be withdrawn.
– I withdraw it. The Prime Minister said in this chamber on the 12th August last -
There were many vital facts not disclosed to the Australian” people. For three days before I made my statement in this House I knew the names of all the people who had been, or were, associated with the Leader of the Opposition, and whose names were mentioned in the Petrov papers, but T remained silent. . . .
He went on to say -
I did not in this House on the 13th April tell the people Vast contents of the Petrov papers, because he knows that if I had done so-
He was referring to the Leader of the
Opposition - he would not be here now.
That, by innuendo, implied that there was something in those papers to the detriment of the Leader of the Opposition. Later in the discussion the Leader of the Opposition said -
If facts which were detrimental to the trustworthiness of these men, and not merely names in documents had been revealed, did not duty and decency require the Prime Minister to inform the Leader of the Opposition of those facts?
The Prime Minister then said, “ Be careful.” The Leader of the Opposition continued -
I did not hear about the O’sullivan matter until the day before that man was dismissed.
And again the Prime Minister said, “ Be careful.”
The right honorable gentleman also said that if the honorable member for “Watson (Mr. Curtin) was not careful, he would reveal something which would mean that he would no longer be a member of this chamber. To-day, when I asked the Prime Minister a question, in making some reference to myself he said, “ the frightened member for East Sydney “. Very well. Let us see whether there is any fright on my part. If the Prime Minister is in possession of information which indicates that a member of this Parliament is not fit to remain a member of it, his duty, as the Leader of the Government, is to reveal the facts to the Australian public. Why does not this gallant Leader of the Government tell the people what he knows? I shall be interested to know, when he proceeds to the royal commission himself to give evidence-
-Order! The royal commission is not under discussion.
– That is right, and I am not going to proceed with that matter. I merely say that, in the administration of the country, the right honorable gentleman has changed the security service from what it was when it was established originally by a Labour government. It was then a non-party instrument, something above party division. The right honorable gentleman has not only withheld information from the Leader of the Opposition, but has also instructed the head of the security service not to approach the Leader of the Opposition to give him information. Let us deal with this matter frankly. It is quite obvious, from what the Prime Minister has said in this chamber on a number of occasions, that if the original practice had been followed, the Leader of the Opposition would have been advised of every important development which involved security. Is it not rather significant that, on this particular occasion, neither the head of the security service nor the Prime Minister told the Leader of the Opposition anything at all about it? If they were worried about the security of the country, the first person they should have told was the Leader of the Opposition, and they should have given him the information in their possession.
What are the questions which the Prime Minister has’ refused to answer? Surely, he will not suggest that if we ask him who controls the security service, under whose authority it comes, what power it exercises, or whether it has the power to tap telephone services, that is asking for detailed information in to its activities which should not be revealed. There would be nothing in the replies to such questions that could be regarded as affecting security in Australia. Yet, the Prime Minister continually tries to avoid answering such questions by saying, “ I do not know, and I do not propose to make any investigations.” What kind of an organization are we establishing in this country? When the Labour Government established the security organization, it dealt specifically with security matters, and it did not deal with them on a party basis. The Prime Minister has admitted - and he is on record in Hansard as having admitted it - that he was always informed with the greatest frankness by the leader of the Government when Labour was in office, and that he was always advised of developments. Yet, he continually asserts in this chamber that there has been no change in the practice. I am certain that the Australian people do not want any organization which is superior to the Parliament, which cannot be questioned in any way, and whose actions cannot be examined, nor do they want an organization, the administrative head of which, the Prime Minister, cannot be questioned in regard to its activities, the funds it controls and whether those funds are subject to audit by the Commonwealth Auditor-General under the Audit Act. Surely we can ask those questions. When honorable members wanted to know whether the Commonwealth security service was at liberty to use as it wished the moneys that were voted to it by the Parliament without question or authority from the Prime Minister, the right honorable gentleman said, “ This question involves divulging the activities of the security service”. What utter rubbish it is to talk in that way! The Prime Minister wants to establish in this country a sort of gestapo which cannot be questioned by the elected representatives of the people who, in turn, cannot obtain information from him. Let me say to the Prime Minister that I am not frightened of anything he can produce either in the House or outside, whether it is in any particular document that he has examined or elsewhere. Indeed, I give him an open invitation to produce such evidence if he thinks he can do so. If I may judge by current rumours, the Prime Minister has every reason to fear those documents being divulged .in full- that is, if current rumours are correct.
– Order ! The honorable member may not deal with rumours here.
– I say to the Prime Minister that what we want in the Parliament from the right honorable gentleman is not evasion. We do not want him to try to smear members of the Opposition by suggesting that he knows something that is to their discredit. I invite him to produce anything that he knows in relation to myself, because if I am not fitted - and that is the inference to be drawn from his remarks - to sit in the Parliament as a representative of the people, the Prime Minister himself would be culpable if he had any information that would justify my exclusion from the Parliament and did not divulge it. I conclude by saying that I look forward with great interest and great eagerness to the time when the right honorable gentleman goes before the commission and tells the story that he says he has to tell.., ,
– The speech to which we have just listened is, even for the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward), a singularly indecent speech. The honorable members knows and doubtless you know, Mr. Speaker, that to-day his leader, in another capacity, accused the security service, or a very prominent member of it, of being party to a conspiracy. I should have thought that decency would have required that an attack on the security service, or on the manner in which it is administered, might have been adduced before the royal commission and not in this chamber.
– Get to the point!
– I am abundantly satisfied that all of the matters that fall for consideration by this highly competent royal commission will be examined, that witnesses who have some relevant evidence to give will be called, and that the truth will fully emerge. That is all I have to say about that subject. The trouble about the honorable member for East Sydney is that, apparently, he is still smarting a little under a remark that I made this morning which I now repeat, that, on every occasion on which the honorable member for East Sydney has permitted himself to say something about the security service or about the royal commission, he has faithfully followed the line laid down by the Communist leaders.
– Can the right honorable gentleman not answer the question?
-Order ! The honorable member for Watson must not interrupt.
– I have answered many questions on this matter. I merely repeat what I said on that point this morning. The honorable member for East Sydney, a little incautiously, challenges me to say whether I think that any honorable member is not fit to sit in this House.
– Produce the evidence.
– I have not the slightest doubt that the honorable member for East Sydney is not fit to be a member of the Parliament.
– I have mutual thoughts about the PrimeMinister.
– I have made that statement more than once. If the honorable member wants to know upon what evidence I base that serious allegation, I shall simply ask leave to table every speech that he has made in the House since I was first elected to the Parliament.
– They will be found in Hansard.
– The honorable member has managed - and he has been unique in this respect over the last twenty years - to reduce parliamentary life to the lowest possible level, and, if he is to be convicted in the minds of decent people, he is convicted out of his own mouth every time he speaks. The honorable member made a suggestion, which follows the normal line, that there is now something different about the security service. The security service was established by a government of which he was a supporter. The instructions that are given to the security service are the same now as they were then.
– They are not being followed.
– The financial arrangements in relation to the security service are the same now as they were then. I repeat the statement that the security service has a responsibility of great moment for the safety of the people of Australia, and for any responsible Minister to disclose the names of members of that service and to disclose exactly what they are doing at any particular moment-
– That is not the information that was sought.
– That would be an abominable action, when the function of the security service is to deal with spies and people who are engaged in treasonable activities, and to conduct its investigations in secret so that it may counter those mischievous activities. The honorable member stated to-night, as he has stated on many other occasions, that when I was Leader of the Opposition the head of the security service was in almost constant communion with me.
As it happened, when the Labour Government was in office, the head of the security service was a friend of mine. He is a gentleman whom I have known for many years and with whom I have always been on the closest and friendliest terms. I do not think that I ever saw him when I was Leader of the Opposition. It is quite true that the late Mr. Chifley, who was then Prime Minister, and with whom I am happy to say I was on terms of great mutual confidence, spoke to me once or twice about security matters, but there was no occasion for the head of the security service to see me. However, the head of the security service has seen the present Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) repeatedly. He has never been instructed by me not to see the right honorable gentleman, and he has seen him on a great number of occasions. What is the grievance? The grievance simply is that I stood up here and publicly stated that the honorable member for East Sydney never fails to advocate in this chamber the Communist line. That statement, Mr. Speaker, is completely true. I repeat it, and most of those who are listening to me believe it.
– Mr. Speaker-
Motion (by Sir Eric Harrison) proposed -
That the question be now put.
– Heil Hitler!
– Order ! Who said, “Heil Hitler!”?
– I did.
– The honorable member must withdraw that remark.
– I withdraw it.
Question put -
That the questionbe now put.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. Archie Cameron.)
Majority . . . . 10
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Originalquestion resolved in the affirmative.
Tie Following papers were presented : -
Public ServiceAct-Appointments - Department -
Commerce and Agriculture - F. J. Lesock.
Territories - W. B. Hitchcock. Works - M.L. Bellairs, C. E. Miller, D.P . Smith.
House adjourned at 11.25 p.m.
The, following answers to questions were circulated: -
Mr.AllenFraser. asked thePost- master-General, upon notice -
How many public telephones are there in Australia?
Are the toll devices on public telephones being altered soasto require fourpennies a call instead of two?
If so, what is the estimated cost of the alteration for each telephone?
Isevery public telephone in Australia to be so altered; ifnot, how many are to be altered?
What is the average annual grossrevenue of a public telephone?
y asked the Minister for Com merce and Agriculture, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Statistics on Australian butter production, consumption and exports are maintained on a fiscal year basis. The statistics are as follows:-
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 1 September 1954, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1954/19540901_reps_21_hor4/>.