21st Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. Archie Cameron) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for the Navy. Can he inform me whether the navy is to maintain only one aircraft carrier in commission, namely, H.M.A.S. Sydney ? When will H.M.A.S. Vengeance be returned to Britain ? Can the Minister say whether the delivery of the new aircraft carrier, H.M.A.S. Melbourne, from Britain has been postponed or cancelled ?
– There are two aircraft carriers in commission, namely, H.M.A.S. Sydney and H.M.A.S. Vengeance.H.M.A.S Sydney is the flagship of the fleet; H.M.A.S. Vengeance is doing the work that H.M.A.S Australia did. H.M.A.S Australia provided training facilities for all recruits for the Royal Australian Navy, National Service trainees, and all naval reserves. H.M.A.S. Vengeance will do that work, as H.M.A.S Australia is tobe sold for breaking up. H.M.A.S. Vengeance will proceed to Great Britain, with the balance of the ship’s company, in time to meet H.M.A.S. Melbourne, which we expect to come back to Australia in August or September, 1955.
– When will we take delivery of H.M.A.S. Melbourne?
– H.M.A.S Melbourne should leave for Australia about September, 1955.
– The Minister for the Navy has informed the honorable member for Calare that . H.M.A.S. Vengeance is to be used for training personnel, asH.M.A.S. Australia was used prior to being paid off. Will the Minister tell me whether H.M.A.S. Vengeance is being used now for operating aircraft? Does it carry aircraft? When H.M.A.S. Vengeance has been returned to the Royal Navy next year and H.M.A.S. Melbourne has been commissioned, will H.M.A.S. Melbourne be used as an operational aircraft carrier? If so, what then will be the role of H.M.A.S. Sydney?
– I thought I made it quite clear that H.M.A.S. Vengeance is doing the work that H.M.A.S. Australia did. H.M.A.S. Australia did not carry aircraft, nor does H.M.A.S. Vengeance. When H.M.A.S. Melbourne arrives in Australia the work that H.M.A.S. Vengeance has been carrying out will be performed by H.M.A.S. Sydney.
– Does the Minister for Social Services recall that when he was Minister for the Navy, in answer to questions asked by myself and other honorable members in this House, he denied that H.M.A.S. Culgoa was sent to a private firm for refitting and repairs ? Such a denial was made on two occasions. Is the Minister aware that the present Minister for the Navy has said distinctly and emphatically that H.M.A.S. Culgoa did go to a private firm for overhaul of machinery, refitting and repairs? If these are facts will the Minister for Social Services say whether it is a case of deception
– Order! The honorable member may not use the term “deception” in relation to a ministerial answer to aquestion.
– Will the Minister give the facts of the case ?
– I regret that I do not know sufficient about the facts to be able to give the honorable member an adequate reply to his question. I presume that the Minister for the Navy heard the question and I am sure that he will take the earliest opportunity to straighten out the tangle whichI think exists in the honorable member’s mind in relation to this matter.
– Is the Minister acting for the Minister for Labour and National Service aware that the steamer Taroona left Melbourne for Tasmania yesterday without mail, perishable cargo and passengers’ cars? Was wharf labour available for the steamer but not used by the owners? . Will the Minister take any steps necessary to ensure that this vessel, a vital link between the mainland and Tasmania, will provide the service intended, without interruption by disputes on the waterfront?
– I am aware that there were no requisitions by steamship owners and stevedoring companies for labour on the Melbourne waterfront yesterday. There was a dispute on a certain vessel, Taiyuan, and the watersiders refused to accept the adjudicator’s award. Some ships loading and discharging in the harbour already had their men, and work on those ships was continued, but there was no requisition for labour for other ships yesterday in Melbourne.
– I ask the Minister for Supply whether the Australian Government has received an invitation from the Government of the United States of America to join the International Committee on Atomic Technology, which the United States Government has established for the further development of peaceful uses of atomic energy. If the Australian Government has received such an invitation, will .the Minister say whether the dispute between atomic scientists that is taking place .at present is likely to lessen the value of Australia’s membership of the committee and the value of the committee to Australia? Is the Minister prepared to try to find some solution of the present controversy in Australia between experts in various atomic fields?
– The difference of opinion to which the honorable gentleman has referred has no bearing on the subjectmatter of the first part of- his question. If he will place it on the notice-paper, I shall have it examined.
– Is the Minister for Supply .aware that two top-ranking physicists have expressed diametrically opposite views on the advisability of erecting an experimental nuclear reactor in Sydney? In view of the fact that public organizations are being induced to contribute large sums of money for this purpose, -can the Minister give any guidance in the matter?
– I think a .whole covey of scientists, and not merely two eminent scientists, were involved in this matter. What happened was that at a recent symposium in Sydney there was a difference of opinion between various scientists who were attending it regarding whether or not there should be erected at some time what is known as a low power reactor, which is alleged to be useful for training and research purposes. Outside the symposium, a day or two before, one professor had offered the view that such a reactor ought to be built. At the symposium, a day or two later that view was opposed by another professor, who had just returned from Harwell, in England. He offered the view, in effect, that that sort of reactor was useless for training and research purposes and was, in effect, a waste of money. He was supported by another professor who had also just returned from Harwell, and by another eminent nuclear scientist in Australia. I offer no views on the merits of the controversy, but I say that the fact that it has , occurred. at least completely justifies the Government’s attitude in this matter, which has been to proceed carefully .and take the latest and best advice possible.
– Will the Prime Minister cause inquiries to be made into the recent stipulation of the authorities which control Commonwealth scholarships, that these are not to be paid unless they reach a minimum of £10 ? Is he aware that that decision permits of the payment of fees of part-time students who are attending the universities in New South Wales and Victoria to study one or two subjects, but that students who are doing the ‘same subjects at the university in South Australia, where fees are being kept low, are deprived of their scholarships 1 Will the right honorable gentleman ensure that South Australian students shall not be penalized merely because they happen to live in South Australia ?
– I shall be glad to have this matter investigated, and I will inform the honorable member of the result in due course.
– My question concerns the fact that, each year, the Commonwealth awards about six or seven socalled Canberra scholarships, but when these are paid their value is deducted from’ any additional Commonwealth scholarships that the recipient may be receiving. Will the right honorable gentleman consider making these few Canberra scholarships additional to any other scholarship which may be held by the recipient ?
– I shall have the matter investigated, and I will advise the honorable member of the result in due course.
– Will the Minister for the Army inform the House whether the Department of the Army is proposing to discontinue the use of hats, khaki, fur-felt - the slouch hat which has become the symbol of the Australian army - and if so, whether the slouch hat is being replaced by the un-Australian beret?
– There is no intention whatever of interfering with the old “ digger “ hat.
– In relation to the purchase of certain farms in the Canungra area for jungle training purposes, will the Minister for the Army say how many farms are being acquired, the prices being paid for them, and whether those prices are reasonable - on a walk-in walk-out basis - and sufficient to enable the displaced farmers to rehabilitate themselves on comparable properties?
– I inform the honorable member that fifteen farms are the subject of negotiation by my colleague, the Minister for the Interior. The owners of these farms are entitled, under the Constitution, to fair and just compensation. I am sure that my colleague will see that they get it.
– As the Minister for the Army is aware, the field firing, range which is used by the Army for artillery training purposes in southern Queensland is situated several hundred miles from the main training centres. Will the Minister indicate to the House whether investigations are being carried out at the present time in an endeavour to locate a suitable area, which could be used for field firing purposes, and which would be handier to the major training centres?
– I appreciate the interest of the honorable gentleman in this matter. For some years now, a very careful search has been made in the vicinity of Brisbane, where the bulk of those who require artillery training is congregated, in an effort to find a suitable artillery range, but so far we have not been successful. In respect of those areas we sought, the cost of the land was prohibitive. The investigation is still going on.
– Will the Prime Minister inform the House whether any progress has .been made, pursuant to a decision taken at the last meeting of Commonwealth and State Ministers, that Commonwealth and State housing officers would meet to work out a uniform and equitable plan for the sale of Housing Commission homes to tenants? When is it expected that .a further meeting of Commonwealth and State Ministers will be held, in order to ratify the proposed plan ?
– This matter is under very close examination by the relevant Minister and by the Cabinet. When we are in a position to make a precise proposition I shall communicate with all the Premiers and if, after that, they desire some further discussion, I shall convene one.
– Can the Minister for Territories give any information to the House regarding statements that are circulating to the effect that the Government is negotiating with American interests to allow them to take over and develop 2,000,000 acres of rice land situated in the northern part of the Northern Territory? A sum of £5,000,000 has been mentioned as the amount to be expended by the American interests in the development of the area. Does not the Minister consider, if these reports are correct, that the interests of the nation would be best served if the Australian Government called in experts from the New South Wales Department of Agriculture, who have made an outstanding success of rice-growing in New South Wales, to assist -with the development of the area, where 3,000 or 4,000 farms could be established which could form the basis of a war service land settlement project? I ask the Minister to allow the Commonwealth to undertake this work so that settlers will not have to bear the added cost of profit-taking which, according to the statement, the outside interests would impose.
– I had anticipated that the honorable member would ask this question and I have prepared a statement, which, with the leave of the House, I would read.
– The Opposition will grant leave.
– Is the Minister asking for leave to make a statement?
– Then I think that lie should ask leave at the stage when Ministers generally are asking leave to make statements.
– by leave - For some time, the Government has been investigating the possibilities of commercial ricegrowing in the sub-coastal plains of the Northern Territory, especially in the Adelaide River and Mary River area. A land use survey by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization of the Darwin-Katherine region indicated that there were considerable areas worth examination and, following a survey of these areas, Mr. Poggendorff, of the New South “Wales Department of Agriculture, reported that the land appeared to be suitable for largescale mechanized production but that considerable investigation of varieties, cultural methods, and water supply and control were necessary before a final answer could be given. The Government provided funds two years ago to enable the agricultural section of the Northern Territory Administration to begin field trials. A quick survey of the water investigation required was made by an irrigation engineer from Malaya and a programme of work on this aspect of the problem has commenced.
The results of this work have been encouraging but until all these lines of investigation have been advanced further, I doubt whether any government could take the responsibility of encouraging the small individual settler to embark on ricefarming or could cut up land for small farms with an assurance of success.
The information which we have acquired and published has, however, attracted attention in various quarters. An American group, backed by substantial financial resources, became interested in the prospects and put forward a proposition under which they would take the risk of investing a large sum of money on a pilot area to test out the prospects of commercial rice-growing, on the understanding that if their pilot venture proved successful they would be able to obtain a larger area to develop. The proposed production of rice would be for export to Asia.
From the Australian point of view the proposal is attractive because such an enterprise would shorten by many years the period needed to find out definitely whether rice can be grown commercially in the north and to discover the best methods. Moreover, any move that would substantially increase the production of rice in those parts of the free world contiguous to Asia is also of interest to us at this time.
Negotiations with the American group were, therefore, authorized for the purpose of preparing a submission for the consideration of the Government. No commitment has been made. In the negotiation to prepare this submission every care is being taken to protect the Australian public interest and to leave ample opportunity for Australian settlers and Australian capital to venture in the same field should they wish to do so. The suggestion which has been made that 2,000,000 acres is involved in the negotiations is fantastic. Nothing like that area is contemplated. While we take every care to protect the interests of and safeguard the opportunities for our own people, I suggest that we have to grow up beyond the infantile attitude of viewing with doubt and suspicion’ the possibility that the nationals of a great and friendly power may be willing to give a hand in developing the resources of our continent and its territories. We know quite well that any such development can only take place in accordance with Australian laws made by Australian parliaments.
– Approximately -what area: is involved?;
– No definite area has been1 suggested, but it is- something (air; far less than the’ 2,000,000 acres’ mentioned in the published’ reports.
– How much less?
– M tha honorable member, for Lalor’ (Mr:. Pollard)’ thought in teams’, of 100,000’ acres, orsomething like, that; area he: would, be fair nearer the mark.. .
– Is’ the Prime Minister aware that”’ an effort” is’ being’ made to establish a university in either’ the- Riverina or the Murray Valley area ? As’ the Government has given outstanding assistance- in respect of the establishmentof universities fat metropolitan’ areas) would’ the- Prime Minister consider the granting’ of financial’ assistance to permit, the establishment’ of a university xd such- a decentralized and congenial area ?’
– I am aware of the project to which the honorable member has referred. A proposal has also been put’ forward! for attaching the- Canberra University College’ to the Australian National University. AH- those proposals* raise large’ matters of the future of universities in Australia, and1 we are givingvery close consideration to them. taxation:
– I direct to, the. Treasurer a question, regarding the payment of provisional tax.. In view of the fact that provisional! taxation is paid in advance, and Because of’ the failure of the Government to accept government bonds.- for the. payment of this tax, will, the right honorable gentleman confer with the, Commissioner of: Taxation with, the object of drafting regulations to waive interest charges on the. unpaid provisional’ tax of: one year ?
– Nov. In this respect,- one- of the. few sound and sensible: policies that. were> pursued by the previous. Treasurer will, be; continued, by me.,
– Can the Treasurer state whether it is a. fact, that physically disabled people who are unable to> walk in a normal manner, and’ who. have cars; fitted with manual controls^ have- to pay sales- tax om those controls’.? Will the Minister give consideration towaiving sales tax both on this1 equipment and on cars for persons who are unable to. walk, normally ?
Sir- ARTHUR FADDEN. - This’ matter has been considered, not only by the present’ Government, but also by its’ predecessor in office. As a result, provision has; not been- made ih>. the- current- budget for such relief.
– My question, is directed to the Treasurer. When1 on a previous occasion I asked, the right honorable gentleman a question, in relation, to the. failure of the Government to honour, its. 1949 election promise to introduce an excess, profits, tax, he said that the proposal’ was not proceeded with because of the complexity of the problem, on the basis- of equity: Will the) Treasurer- elaborate more. fully this Treasury double talk for the benefit of honorable members.?
– Order ! The honorable member may not suggest that a Minister has indulged, in double falk..
Sir- ARTHUR’ FADDEN., - The answer: to; the- honorable member’s! question, ia similar- to> the answer that. I. have given! to him om other occasions, and it, is outlined in the papers that have been tabled for’ the benefit of honorable members’.. In relation to the excess; profits; tax and the promises of 194-9’,, I remind, the honorable member- that has1 partymade a. catalogue of: promises, that; it sought to placate; every section) of the community; but tha*, it did not. make-, any reference to. the introduction of am excess’ profits, tax;
– Did’ not, the Treasurer state in this House, following the general election in l’949j. that the Government would introduce an excess profits tax and would make, it retrospective? Is that a complete misstatement of fact, or have later investigations proved his earlier investigations to be wrong,?
– The answer to. the honorable, member’s, question is; the same as that which I. have- just given to the honorable member for East Sydney.
– In view of the fact that a capital gains tax has been operating for quite a number of years and is still in operation in the United States of America, can the Treasurer say whether the Government has given any consideration to the imposition of a similar tax in this country? If so, what was the result of such consideration?
– The honorable member’s question, obviously, involves a matter of policy. It is cause for wonderment to me that the party to which he belongs did not include that proposal in its catalogue of promises.
– Is .the Minister for Supply aware that there is a very great shortage of -mild steel for use in the manufacture of dairying apparatus’? Is the Minister aware that the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited is ‘forwarding its supplies of mild steel almost exclusively to petroleum companies at a price of about £50 a ton ? Is it a fact that only Japanese mild steel is being made available to those who are manufacturing dairying apparatus at a price about £90 ation? If -these are facts can the Minister do anything to ensure a better supply of mild .steel from the Bro’ken Hill .Proprietary ‘Company Limited .to :such >essential industries as that which manufactures dairying apparatus?
– Tire (honorable member’s -question is -one for the Minister for National Development to whose attention I shall have it brought so that a reply may be forwarded to the honorable member.
– Will the Minister for “Territories state whether it is true that “due ‘to faulty injections of a drug known-as N.A.’B. which is used’to control the tropical disease of .yaws in New Guinea, ‘seventeen natives in the native village -df Faita have ‘died’? “Were these deaths due to lack ‘of “supervision “by the medical authorities’? Will the “Minister take immediate steps to prevent this tragic mistake from being repeated and ‘ensure that the welfare of the natives in the Territory will be safeguarded?
– In a public announcement last week, I said that seventeen natives in the village of Faita. in the Madang district, had unfortunately died following injections that were made by a native hygiene assistant in the course .of his duties. It was a very regrettable happening and one which must cause .everybody some concern. However, pending a .full investigation “by the coroner who will hold the necessary inquest, and by a pathologist who is .making investigations, it is impossible to .give a definite answer as to the actual causes of death. The link between the giving of the injections and the death of these people is quite clear, and the two events must, in some way, be connected. I would point out to the House that, over the last few years,, we have made constant and regular use -of native .medical orderlies of various kinds. More than “1/000 of them are employed in the Administration Health Department. Week by week, day in and day out, they .have ‘ been giving these injections without any mishap, misadventure or ill-consequences. Indeed they have been ‘given with considerable healing benefits -to the natives. The situation, I think, differs a ‘good deal from that with which we are “familiar here. “‘When we ‘went back to the Territory after the Japanese occupation, yaws - a rather loathsome disease - was rife as the -result ;of many years of war-time neglect. We were informed that we would have no chance of -overtaking -that neglect and curing these unfortunate people if -we did .not use-native assistants. “They have ‘been very carefully trained and work in accordance with strict instructions and under regular supervision. ,1 have every confidence in the Director of Medical Services in the Territory, ra man who has done outstanding work in “tackling a very difficult problem. T am sure ‘that anything that has happened “there ‘has not been due to lack of oversight or “lack of energetic direction on his -part. There may be lessons to be learned ‘from this unfortunate occurrence. If there are, ‘I can assure the honorable member and the House that those lessons will be taken to ‘heart and that -every precaution will be adopted. “However, against this one unfortunate occurrence we have the fact that tens of thousands of such injections have been given with curative results for the natives.
– Can the Prime Minister say whether it is a fact that the travelling allowances payable to the judges of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court were increased and made retrospective, with effect from the 1st December, 1953? Are these the same gentlemen who refused the application of certain unions for the adjustments of margins for skill in their respective awards on the ground that the state of the national economy did not justify the granting of such increases? If so, will the right honorable gentleman say whether this factor was taken into account by the Government when considering the adjustment of the judges’ travelling allowances? Finally, have any of the judges declined the’ increased payment on the ground that, having regard to the state of the national economy, such increases should not be approved?
– I ignore the attack, which is a very characteristic one, on the Commonwealth Arbitration Court judges. So far as the question asked for facts, I shall obtain them and make them available.
– Does the PostmasterGeneral know that mail which is normally addressed to Tasmanian Lotteries, Hobart, Tasmania, from New South Wales, Victoria, and South Australia, is being wrongly delivered to Tattersalls, Melbourne? If so, can he state under whose authority it is being done? Will the Minister thoroughly investigate this matter and institute measures to have the practice stopped?
– I am not aware that mail addressed to Tasmanian Lotteries, Hobart, is being re-directed to Tattersalls, Melbourne. I suggest that, in the normal course of post office procedure, if letters were addressed to Tattersalls, Hobart, they would be re-directed to Tattersalls, Melbourne, in the same way as other letters are re-directed upon receipt of instructions from any other person in relation to the re-addressing of mail. The honorable member has alleged that letter for Tasmanian Lotteries, Hobart, are being re-directed to Melbourne without authority. I shall investigate the matter, but I shall be very surprised if the honorable member’s allegations are true.
– Will the Postmaster-General inform the House whether, during the last five years, the Postmaster-General’s Department has purchased or installed any equipment f or listening in to private telephone conversations ?
– Technicians, monitors and linemen at times do use much equipment in the course of their duties.
– With the knowledge of the subscribers ?
– They are required to listen in to ascertain whether the telephone system is working properly. That is a normal part of the procedure.
– With the knowledge of the subscribers ?
– Order ! The honorable member for East Sydney must not interrupt.
– That is a normal part of the procedure that is adopted by every telephone department in the world.
– Has the PostmasterGeneral fully investigated the extension of the contract system in providing telephone lines and for general work as a means of speeding up the installation of telephones, particularly in country areas?
– The Postal Department has investigated the contract system and, to some degree, it is operating in circumstances which are suited to it. However, as the honorable member will realize, labour is scarce, particularly in country districts for that class of work. It is not possible to get labour of the type that is required for the provision and installation of telephone systems, but in certain circumstances this work is being done by contract.
– Is the Postmaster-General prepared to give a assurance that no monitor, technician or any other person, whether or not he, or she, be employed by the Postal Department, shall be permitted to listen to conversations on telephones about the condition of which the subscriber has not made any complaint?
– The question asked by the honorable member for Hindmarsh is manifestly absurd. The honorable gentleman, I know, must have been engaged in many trunk line telephone conversations during which he has been cut off, as other subscribers have, and lost the line. If a monitor or somebody else did not listen in to find out whether the conversation was proceeding, he would be cut off completely and permanently.
– This is the brush-off.
– It must be quite obvious to every person who uses a telephone that it is necessary for somebody to watch the conversation and restore it, if there is a break.
– Will the Prime Minister state what action, if any, has been taken by the Government in relation to the reports of the Public Accounts Committee, particularly those that refer to, reflect o?, or mention, the efficiency and organization of the Public Service? Have such reports been referred to the Public Service Board for investigation and action, and if not, why not ?
– All the reports that are received from the Public Accounts Committee are forwarded to the Public Service Board for its advice and assistance and, if necessary, its comment.
– In an effort to improve the amenities of Canberra and to provide attractions in this capital city other than those the Parliament provides, will the Minister for the Interior consider arranging for the permanent floodlighting of the National War Memorial, the King George V. Memorial and the Australian Memorial to American servicemen? The success of the illumination of these memorials during the Royal visit is a strong reason why their floodlighting should be incorporated as- a regular feature of the Canberra scene.
– I appreciate the interest of the honorable member and other honorable members In the improvement of our capital city. I think that all of us would like to have certain prominent architectural features of the city permanently floodlit. Whether it is possible to do that, I do not know. I shall look into the honorable member’s suggestion.
– My question is addressed to the Prime Minister. In view of the fact that the price of tea in Australia has been increased in the last few days by ls. Id. per lb., bringing the present price to 5s. 9d. per lb., and meat prices in Sydney have also been increased, on the average, by 2s. per lb, what action does the Government propose to take to afford assistance to persons in the low income group, particularly pensioners who have no other source of income, and whose position grows more desperate daily?
– Under the present Government, persons described by the honorable member for East Sydney as being in the low income group have had a high level of employment, have achieved great stability in the prices level, and have a stronger economic position than ever before in the history of this country.
Presentation to the Governor-General.
-(Hon. Archie Cameron). - I inform the House that the Address-in-Reply will be presented to His Excellency the Governor-General, at Government House, at 5.15 p.m., on Tuesday next. I shall be glad if the mover and seconder of it, together with as many other honorable members as can conveniently do so, will accompany me to present it.
In Committee of Supply: Consideration resumed from the 2nd September (vide page 960), on motion by Sir Arthur Fadden -
That the first item in the Estimates under Division No. 1. - The Senate - namely, “ Salaries and allowances, £20,000”, be agreed to.
Upon which Mr. Calwell had moved by way of amendment -
That the first item be reduced by £.1
– I believe that in an extreme war emergency, it is the duty of an opposition to adopt a more constructive role and-, on a broader basis, to offer to a government its fullest co-operation, wherever possible, on such an important issue as a budget. In peace-time, however, the position is somewhat different. It is then the duty of the Opposition, when a budget providing for enormous expendi- ture is under consideration, to ensure thatfull value will be received for all the moneys expended, whether they be expended on defence; development or; for that matter, any one of the physical and financial commitments contained in this budget.
The appropriation for defence this year, in view of the gravity of the world situation,is £200, 000,000, which is nearly £35,000,000 greater than the total expenditure on defence in l953-54. Therefore, I submit that this Government has a great obligation to thisParliament as well as to the people of Australia to ensure that it will eliminate all wasteful expenditure and superfluous allocations for unnecessary expenditure. I shall direct attention to some of those matters later in my speech.
The main deficiency of the present budget is in relation to the proposed expenditure on capital works and services. The Estimates for capital works and services this year amount to £104,633,000, which is an increase of approximately £3,000,000 on the figure for last year. In my opinion, this allocation is completelyinadequate to enable us to push ahead with development on the scale required in a young and vigorous country. The significant point is contained in the budget speech delivered by the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden), because here is to be found the dilemma of the Government. The passage reads as follows: -
Since however, the Commonwealth has agreed with the States that the full amount of loan money raised this year, either fromlocal or overseas sources, will be applied towards the Loan Council programmes, the whole of its own expenditures, including capital expenditures, will have to be met. from its own resources. This is not something we are doing willingly. We would in fact be very glad to finance a large part, if not the whole, of our capital works from loan moneys.
The Treasurer admits that the Government would be pleased to finance a large part, even the whole, of its capital works from loan money. In short, he admits that the present method of financing such works from current resources is imposing an unfair and iniquitous burden on the taxpayers of this country. The Treasurer has stated further that thanks to a notable revival of the loan market last year, a much larger proportion of capital works is being financed from loan moneys than was the case two or three years ago. I believe the right honorable gentleman realizes that the key to the Australian economic situation is the restoration of public confidence in our loan market - confidence that vanished completely in 1951 due to a policy of unrestricted inflation. It is not difficult to understand the hesitation on the part of some people to purchase say; a £100 Commonwealth bond, because in the past Commonwealth bonds purchased in good faith were redeemed or sold at substantially reduced values, due to uncontrolled inflation and an ill advised policy with regard to interest rates. If the people of Australia could be shown that their savings would not depreciate in value if invested in government bonds, I believe many thousands of small investors in this country would be prepared to invest in short-term government loans, particularly in view of the urgent need for schools, hospitals, roads, railway extensions and other developmental works.
I was surprised tohear the opinion expressed last week by a member of the Government parties that pensions were never intended to provide a comfortable living. I hope the honorable member will agree with me when I say that pensions should at least be sufficient to provide pensioners with a reasonable standard of living, commensurate with what they were led to believe they could expect after the general election at which the parties that now constitute the Government were returned to office. There are two questions to which I shall address myself on behalf of honorable members on this side of the chamber. Should social services benefits be increased? If so’, have they been increased in conformity with the election pledges of the Government parties ? In my opinion, the answer to the first question certainly is “ Yes “. I have no hesitation in saying that it is equally certain that the answer to the second question is “ No “. For weeks prior to polling day, honorable members opposite were busy telling the electors that there would be substantial increases of social services payments as well as substantial tax reductions, but I have no hesitation in saying that the Government’s neglect in this budget of the aged and infirm is deserving of censure.
I turn to a very important, deserving and needy section of the community. I refer to the totally and permanently incapacitated ex-servicemen. For the purposes of the record, I shall quote from a statement made by the Prime Minister in 1949’ when, as Leader of the Opposition, he was prepared to offer to the exservice men and women of this country some inducements to vote for the then Opposition parties. In his policy speech, the right honorable gentleman said -
Repatriation remains a great and proud responsibility. The Opposition parties contain a’ majority of members and an overwhelming majority of new candidates who are cx-servicemen. We shall see to it that there is speed, financial and human justice and understanding ih’ our administration of our soldier problems. Current legislation will be promptly overhauled and anomalies’ adjusted.
I believe that honorable members oil this side are entitled to ask: what has happened’ to those ex-servicemen candidates and’ members, and’ to the committee that wds’ supposed to be set up to deal with the problems of ex-service men and women? I- know that honorable members will agree with me when I say that’ if any Australian has been affected by the war to such an extent that1 he can no longer discharge the normal functions’ and responsibilities’ of a citizen, the country that he helped to defend has a moral obligation to ensure that he will be relieved at least of the financial worries associated with his incapacity, and to recognize that, at least from a physical point of view, he is no longer able to meet fully the daily con- tingencies associated with his family responsibilities. Surely the committee to which I have referred is’ drawing the attention of the Treasurer to the complete omission of the totally and permanently incapacitated pensioners from this budget. I suggest that, even at this late stage, it would be possible for the committee to intervene on behalf of the most deserving of all repatriation pensioners. The very nature of the classification of totally and permanently incapacitated pensioners suggests that in no circumstances are they able to supplement their incomes. They have suffered all the hardships of a war, and they have been left in a state of uncertainty, anxiety and ill health.
In 1949, before the last Labour Government left office, the pension paid to a totally and permanently incapacitated ex-serviceman and his wife was £6 lis. a week, which in those days was fi 3s. in excess of the basic wage. To-day, the payment to’ such a man and his wife is £11 5s. a week, or 13s. less than the basic wage. As I understand it, the Commonwealth Court- of Conciliation and Arbitration, at least until recently, has regarded the basic wage as the minimum wage that should be paid to any one engaged in industry in this country. I believe that the Government has a duty to ensure that the pension- paid to these people will at leaS’t be commensurate with the amount they require to meet the normal daily commitments’ of life. I believe that the present Minister for Repatriation (Senator Cooper) agrees with- that point of view. I’ am sure he will agree’ with me when I say that1 no debt- should be honoured more faithfully by the nation than the debt it owes to those who gave so much- ih- its service. That sentiment has: been expressed” by the Minister. In a report issued-‘ to the 38th annual congress of the Returned Servicemen’s League, he expressed Himself ih these terms -
Regarding the pension’ side” of repatriation, itr has always been’ my contention-; long before
I was a Minister, and even before I was a member of Parliament, that those people who are, you could say, the greatest responsibility of the Government are those who are solely dependent on the pension that they get. Those are the people that it is very necessary to look after as much as we possibly can, and I am speaking now of the totally and permanently incapacitated pensioners and widows. Since I have been a Minister it has been my aim to see that those members who are partially disabled and war widows should at least be given something that they could really live on and that we should do our very best to sec that everything was done for them to make their lives as reasonably comfortable as possible.
Surely the Minister does not believe that the treatment of the totally and permanently incapacitated pensioners in this budget is in keeping with the sentiments expressed in that report. I do not believe he does. I believe, as I pointed out a moment ago, that the Government should restore pensions to the level that existed in 1949 under the previous Labour Administration.
I turn now to a consideration of war service homes. The War Service Homes Division was set up in 1919. It has therefore been in existence for 35 years. Its function is to assist in the provision of homes for ex-servicemen. I commend the Government for its decision to provide an additional £2j000,000 in this financial year for that purpose. The Government has also decided to increase the maximum amount of an advance for the purchase of an existing property from £2,000 to £2,750. This shows that the Government has at last realized that the previous maximum was ridiculously low. However, I do not consider that the new figure will be sufficiently high to warrant jubilation by ex-servicemen who require homes, because a survey of present-day costs shows that, for the purchase of an average home, an additional £750 will be required. I am sure that many honorable members will agree with my contention that it is beyond the ability of many ex-servicemen who have accepted family responsibilities to save that amount. Therefore, if they want to purchase an existing home, it will be necessary for them to obtain £750 on second mortgage, and so incur the disabilities that flow from that undesirable practice. The amendment to the War Service Homes Act which was passed by this Parliament in 1951 is of profound importance to all ex-servicemen. It abolished a long-established practice, under which financial assistance had been provided to ex-servicemen to enable them to negotiate privately with contractors, or the owners of old homes, or even the owners of new homes. Previously also, the War Service Homes Division had approved advances to discharge mortgages on existing buildings. In view of the urgent necessity to provide homes for ex-servicemen, the Government should re-consider this section of its war service homes policy. It should, at least, reduce the rate of interest charged on war service homes loans from 3ic per cent, to 3 per cent. The Minister in charge of war service homes, (Mr. McMahon). has frequently stated that, unless there were a change of our economic situation, there would be no prospect of reducing the interest rate. However, in the light of the budget, I consider that the time has now arrived when the rate of interest charged on war service homes loans should be reduced.
I come now to a consideration of the Australian Aluminium Production Commission’s project at Bell Bay, in Tasmania. Doubtless, many honorable me: libers are familiar with the aluminium industry. This project was initiated by the previous Labour Government, in order to bridge a gap in our defence potential, having regard to the importance of aluminium in war-time. Fortunately, the project is now nearing completion, and will soon enter the production stage. Several matters concerning finance, employment, and administration at the Bell Bay project have been the subject of great controversy. Allegations have been made, which are far too serious to be ignored completely by the Government, which is charged with responsibility for this national enterprise. It compares favorably with anything else of its kind in the world. One could not fail to be impressed by the potentialities of the Bell Bay works, and it is not difficult to visualize the coming into existence of supplementary industries in nearby areas. I believe that the Minister for Supply (Mr. Beale) has applied himself to the completion of this project with vigour and enthusiasm. Nevertheless, the serious allegations to which I have referred cannot be ignored. I am prepared to concede that, in any large industrial undertaking, there must inevitably be differences of opinion in relation to employment and other factors. However, I have been informed that, within a period of only a few months, at least nine executive officers have either resigned - sometimes under compulsion - or been dismissed. There is a need for a searching inquiry in this connexion. It is true that, following urgent representation to the Minister for Supply some time ago, there was an inquiry, but as it was undertaken by officers of the Australian Aluminium Production Commission, it was scarcely impartial. It is likewise true that the Minister invited employees to discuss their problems and complaints with him on an occasion that he personally visited Bell Bay. The inquiry was conducted in the presence of the general manager and the assistant manager, despite the vigorous protests that were made about their presence by employees who desired to give evidence. It has been claimed that all three officers who gave evidence before the inquiry have since resigned, or have been dismissed. If that is so, I consider that the circumstances surrounding the termination of their employment with the commission should be investigated. I have before me a letter from a former employee of the commission, an engineer of high repute, who was responsible for a most important phase of the aluminium undertaking. If the allegations contained in his letter are true - and I have no reason to believe otherwise - they reveal a state of affairs which warrants immediate investigation. The letter reads as follows : -
As regards my own position, I am prepared to state that there is no single person at that place who has either the knowledge or experience of Mercury arc rectifier plant that I possess - in fact the persons now responsible have never previously been responsible for this type of plant or for the reconditioning of this type of plant.
The reconditioning is most vital - and failure now may result in this plant being unfit to supply the D.C. power necessary (28,000 k.w) for the. reduction furnaces. This will not, however, be discovered until the “ live “ furnace loading is applied - and failure of these units then will lead to failure of the furnaces. This I consider, is a very grave state of affairs and should be brought to the notice of the Minister.
No further evidence should be necessary to convince honorable members of the seriousness of the charges which have, from time to time, emanated from reliable sources. However, I have before me a document dated March, 1952, which contains a list of discrepancies, of a total value of £11,415. It would not be possible for me to enumerate all of these items, so I shall content myself by giving only a few of them. They are concrete mixing equipment, pneumatic tyred mixer, quantity 1, value £213 8s. ; electric motors (2), £188 15s 9d.; Armstrong Holland dump cart (8), £455 7s. 7d.; mico 18-in. cross-cutting machine (9), £456 4s. l0d. ; Imperial mild steel plate (1), £294 16s.11d.; earth-moving plant, 1-yard tipping trucks (12), £554 2s. 5d. ; fourdrawer steel filing cabinets (12), £228 19s. 10d.; slide rules (6), £20 15s. 10d.; kerosene heaters (11), £48 4s. 4d.; draftsman’s table (4), £165.
– Does the honorable gentleman mean that these items are missing ?
– They are all discrepancies. The list continues : showcase type refrigerator four-hole (1), £416. I have no doubt, and I am sure my view is shared by many others who are either directly or indirectly associated with the Bell Bay project, that there is a need for a searching inquiry by a commission with sufficient powers to undertake a complete and thorough investigation. I emphasize that the commission should not be solely composed of officers of the Australian Aluminium Commission. If the Government is not prepared to authorize such an inquiry I suggest that, in the interests of every one concerned, a searching inquiry by the Public Accounts Committee is not only possible immediately, but is also desirable.
.- During this debate several honorable members have claimed that there is a danger in our economic position because of the risk that Australia will cost itself out of overseas markets. It is to that aspect of the economic situation, and to the budget, that I desire to direct my remarks, because I think that everybody will agree that it is a most serious aspect of our economy which, if allowed to continue, must operate against the financial stability that the Government has been successful in developing. Obviously, if costs in industry continue to rise, there must be, first, a serious result in the home market, because we shall find that, in order to keep pace with costs, industries that produce goods for the home market will have to increase their prices to the consumer; secondly, that continued increases of costs must mean a loss of valuable export markets and a consequent loss of export income. I submit, therefore, that those who have applied, and are still applying themselves to this question are directing attention to a matter to which, for our own sakes, a great deal more thought must be given in the near future. To. discuss within the short compass of 30 minutes all the factors in our economy that contribute to rising costs is impossible unless I gloss over them all, and generalize. It is not my intention to take that course. I propose, therefore, to deal with only one contributing factor, which is a very important factor. That is, the effect upon all costs, both in primary and secondary industries, of the waterfront situation that at present prevails in Australia. I shall confine my remarks to the position in Queensland, because I believe that it is common to the rest of Australia-.
One of the basic requirements in both our primary and secondary industries, if there is to be efficient and adequate production that will result in reasonably cheap consumer goods, is an adequate supply of steel products at a reasonable cost. “When I refer to steel products I mean all the various forms of steel that are use’d in industry, both primary and secondary. I think I would be fight in saying that there is no industry in Australia which does not require, for its efficient operation, some form of steel product. It follows, therefore, that if industry generally is to operate efficiently at a reasonable cost, and produce goods at competitive prices, it must have an adequate supply of basic steel products., I say, without fear of contradiction, that for some time past Queensland has not been receiving an adequate supply of steel products, and that costs have been more and more loaded against industry as far as these materials are concerned. This position is becoming so acute that all honorable members awd senators from Queensland on the Government side have, for some time, been conducting a survey in order to see what can be done to remedy the situation. Although we have not yet completed that survey, we have sufficient evidence to demonstrate the inadequacy of the supply of steel, and the way in which costs are rising. I shall deal with some of the points that we have learned as a result of the survey. From my own experience I can cite one instance in which, at the and of last April, as a result of representations made to me by chambers of commerce, merchants’ associations, master builders’ and primary producers’ organizations, I applied to the Minister for Shipping for a ship to try to get some steel products to Mackay. There had then been no shipment of steel to Mackay or Proserpine for three or four months. The Minister, as always when he is approached in reference to such matters, did his best to help, but was forced to send me a telegram to tell me first, that no vessel was available at the moment for that purpose, and also that the traffic committee had been unable to arrange for a vessel because of the excessive number of disputes in Mackay, which had numbered eighteen in the preceding two months. The telegram also said -
Committee suggested to Lysaght’s Newcastle that galvanised iron for Mackay could be sent to Sydney for transport by vessel Hons P Carl now loading general cargo for Mackay. Lysaght’s rejected suggestion on grounds of transport cost of £3 per ton.
This iron is urgently required, yet consignees in Queensland must be prepared to pay an extra £3 a ton in transport costs in order to obtain it. I am not casting any reflection on the firm concerned. It was trying to help, but had to say that although it had iron to supply, the only way it could -get it to the consignees was to send it by rail to Sydney, which would cost the consignees an extra £3 a ton. The telegram continued -
Consignees hovever might bc willing to pay this cost.
I got in touch with the consignees concerned, and they said that if they were to continue to make the tanks that people in both town and country areas need, and do all tire other work they had to do. they must have steel products, and therefore, under protest, would have to pay the extra cost of £3 a ton. They also said that they would have to pass on the extra cost to the purchasers. That is an example of the increased costs that arise from the serious waterfront position in that area over a period, because ships do not deliver to ports in the area the goods required. We have also made other inquiries concerning this vitally important matter, and have found that production lag is not now a factor that militates against a reasonable supply of steel products. The companies that manufacture these steel products, as a result of the expenditure of enormous sums of money, are able to produce over 90 per cent, of the steel products that are required in Australia. But in the last twelve months’ period for which figures are available, about one-third of the total steel production had to be distributed to the outlying areas of Australia, not by steamer but by other means such as road and rail transport. Steel products are still being taken from Newcastle to Queensland, South Australia and Western Australia by road because sufficient shipping services are not available. The other means of transport that are used must increase the cost of the steel. The fact that nearly a third of twelve months’ production could not be transported by sea shows how parlous the position has become on the waterfront.
Within the last two or three months, during the present crushing season, there has been a ‘considerable improvement on the waterfront in Queensland as far as the removal of sugar is concerned. At the 20th August, 94,000 tons of sugar were stored in sheds on Queensland wharfs. At the same date last year, 130,000 tons of sugar were stored on the wharfs. But that improvement in the rate of removal has not been associated with an improvement i)n the cost of removal. In 1947, the late Mr. Morrison, who had been appointed by the Chifley Government as chairman of the Stevedoring Industry Commission, after making an investigation into the conditions on the waterfront throughout Queensland., stated his opinion of a reasonable loading rate -as 25 tons an hour for each gang of six men. ‘That opinion was endorsed by the chairman of the
Mackay Waterside Employment Committee, who was also a Chifley Government nominee, and who stated that he had seen sugar being loaded at the rate of 30 tons an hour a gang and that, in his opinion, 25 tons a net gang-hour was fair and reasonable. In 1948, on the Mackay waterfront, the loading rate was only 20.4 tons an hour a gang. By 1953, that loading rate had fallen to 18.8 tons an hour a gang. That is to say, the 1953 rate was nearly 8 per cent, lower than the 1948 rate, and nearly 25 per cent, lower than the rate that had been stated as fair and reasonable by the chairman of the Stevedoring Industry Commission. We must remember that loading conditions had improved during that period. Many amenities have been introduced. The work had become easier. There could be no reason for the startling decrease in loading rates except the obvious intention of those who work on the waterfront to work more slowly.
The costs involved in the stacking of sugar in the sheds provide a reliable basis of comparison. The cost of loading into ships varies according to the type of ship and the type of equipment on the ship, but the joh of stacking sugar in the sheds when no ship is available is one in which the conditions remain constant. In 1948, the cost of stacking sugar in port sheds was 9s. lOd. a ton, including the cost of labour itself, the annual leave levy, the Stevedoring Industry Board levy, and other charges such as taxes, meals, transport, and supervision. In 1953 that cost had risen to £1 ls. 4d. a ton, an increase of 117 per cent. It is true that wage rates generally had risen since 1948 ; but the cost of labour for this work in 1948 was 5s. 4d. an hour whilst in 1953 it was 9s. 3d. an hour,, an increase of only 73 per cent. .So the .increase .in stacking costs of 117 per cent., to which I have referred, was made up of an increase of ‘7.3 per cent, in wage .rates whilst the rest of the increase was due simply to loafing and going slow on the job. That added cost to industry is not counterbalanced by any increase in production
In 1948 ike cost of labour only for stacking sugar in port .sheds was 7a. Id. a ton. In 1953 it was ,1.7s. Id. -a ton, an increase of 141 per cent. ¥o industry could possibly stand up to that state of affairs. These increases have mainly been due to the stoppages that have taken place from time to time and the pinpricking tactics which have become the policy of those who lead the workers in this industry. For example, from the 9 th December, 1953, to the 30th April, 1954, a period of 141 days, including Sundays and holidays, 44 days of work were lost on the waterfront. That is to say, over 30 per cent, of the total available time was- lost for no sound reason. There was not an occasion when the stoppages which took place could not have been dealt with effectively by the proper use of arbitration. It must be evident from, the facts that I have given that an enormous load is being placed on the cost-structure of industry throughout Australia. The load must be reflected in increased charges on the home market and it must be reflected in a loss of export markets because of our inability to compete with other countries in which these conditions do not prevail to such an extent. From discussions with other honorable members, I know that these conditions apply throughout Australia. The present conditions on the waterfront are contributing in a material degree to the rise in costs and are helping materially to cost Australian industry out of its markets. Obviously, something must be done. However, it is not sufficient merely to arrive at that conclusion, shrug our shoulders and say, “If the people like to put up with it, that is good enough.” It is not enough to blame the Communists solely for this state of affairs, although we know that it is deliberate Communist policy to break down our economy and quietly whittle away effective administration of the waterfront. We know that, by means of a series of little incidents, the Communists hope to bring about higher costs which we shall not be able to meet, and so lead to inflation. The seeds of Communist conspiracy are being sown, constantly. We know that communism is behind this movement on the waterfront, but it is not sufficient for us merely to say that we will fight communism. We must do that, of course, but we must also ascertain whether there are other remedies which we might apply. I believe that there are other remedies. For is- stance, we could remove the divided control which exists in the employing section of the waterfront industry.
In all other industries in Australia a common form of control is exercised by three main groups.’ The first is the employer group, which has the task of determining the work to be done and the work force needed to perform that work. It also determines a. reasonable wage, and pays the wage. It provides reasonable conditions for those who do the work and, generally, handles that side of the industry. The second group is the employee group, which supplies the actual labour required to carry on the industry. This group is generally led by industrial union representatives, whose task it is to see that reasonable wages are paid for the work done in the industry and that reasonable conditions apply. It also has the duty to ensure that a fair day’s work is given by the employees in return for the wages and conditions that are provided. This important aspect still applies to some industries. The third factor associated with control of industry is our arbitration system, to which either of the other two groups may turn in the event of a dispute about conditions or wages, the determination of which they themselves are not capable. We have found, throughout the years, that this system of the three groups has worked fairly satisfactorily. From time to time, criticism has been directed at certain phases of it, but in the main, we can claim that it is the best thing of its kind in the world. We hold that no other system of handling industry is as good as is our Australian system.
In regard to waterfront control, however, a fourth group has been superimposed on the other three. I refer to the Australian Stevedoring Industry Board, which was established by the previous Labour Government. The task of the board, I think, can be summarized as the regulation and control of stevedoring operations. In other words, the main task of this board is one of the tasks of an employer in the general industrial set-up which I outlined a few moments ago. A fourth group such as this has not been found necessary for the efficient working of other industries. Why then should ii be necessary in the stevedoring industry? I submit, without going into too much detail, although there are many other matters upon which I could touch, that the record which I have presented to the committee this afternoon indicates that this board has failed lamentably in its job.
– The shipowners want to get rid of it.
– I do not know that they do. The position which exists at the moment can best be summarized by making a number of points. The first is that under this system, the employer himself has no right to choose the labour he requires; it is chosen for him and be must take what he is given. I submit that that, in itself, is most undesirable. I believe that the man who is responsible for the production and distribution of goods, and who pays for the labour involved in such production and distribution, is entitled to choose the labour he requires. The second point is that the employer has no real right to dispense with unsatisfactory labour. That follows from my first point. Certainly, under the present system, an employer may suspend a man whose work is not satisfactory, but more often than not he finds that, next day, the same worker is sent to him by the Australian Stevedoring Industry Board representative^ and he is obliged to employ the man. That is a sorry state of affairs which cannot’ result in satisfactory conditions on the waterfront. The third point is that the employer has only a limited access to arbitration. As the act stands at the moment, the Australian Stevedoring Industry Board has power to arbitrate on certain matters which affect the industry. In respect of other matters, the employer is required to go to the Commonwealth Arbitration Court, but the dividing line between the two is very hard to determine. Very often, a situation -arises in which neither the board nor the shipowner accepts responsibility, because each is not sure where responsibility really lies.
The fourth point is that the Waterside Workers Federation of Australia is in the happy position of being able to regard either the shipper or the Australian Stevedoring Industry Board as the em ployer, whichever suits it best. The federation is taking the utmost advantage of that situation. The fifth point is that, because the board has no material or financial interest in the operations of the industry, apart, perhaps, from purely an egotistical desire that it should function efficiently, it tolerates infringements which no employer could possibly tolerate. In addition, it allows the authority of its port representatives, who try to do their job properly, to be flouted. As the result of insidious underground work, port representatives are sometimes deprived of their jobs because they have had the courage to try to correct inefficiency.
My final point is that, as a result of the state of affairs I have outlined, both the shipowners and the board, when faced with the need for real remedial action, are inclined to pass the buck. Frankly, I cannot blame the shipowners for doing so. Is it to be wondered that they feel frustrated, are inclined to throw their hands in the air, and, in typical Australian fashion, ask, “What the hell?” This situation is presenting the Communist waterside leaders with a splendid opportunity to achieve their fell purpose.
Can we do anything more than talk about this state of affairs? Surely, if the points that I have made are correct, the remedy lies in placing the waterfrontindustry in the position which applies in industry generally. Why should it not be possible to have an employer group, an employee group, and a system of arbitration available to both? Surely it is possible to conduct the industry without the imposition of this fourth body. I suggest, therefore, that either the board should be abolished or, as an alternative which I support, its constitution should be radically altered. As it is at present constituted, I do not see the slightest possibility for any improvement in the present state of affairs. I believe that this is one of the major tasks with which the Government is confronted, and that,, if the Government tackled the problem, the whole of Australia would applaud its action and give it all the support that was necessary to deal with any developments. It is a task which cannot be left unattended much longer.
.- I wholeheartedly support the motion of the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) that the first item in the estimates be reduced by £1. When the honorable member was speaking in support of his motion, I could not fail to observe the look of admiration on the faces of Government back-benchers, and doubtless they saw, in the mover of the motion, a future Treasurer of the great Commonwealth of Australia. The Temporary Chairman (Mr. McLeay), who is noted for his stolid nature, displayed a similar good, honest approach. I am quite aware, however, that all of the talking and argument of the Opposition will not have the slightest chance of deflecting the Government from its determination to have the budget passed in the manner in which it has been submitted’.
I wish to confine my initial remarks to the statements of the honorable member for Dawson (Mr. Davidson). The honorable member used all of his time in condemning the waterside workers. There are several port’s in the division that I represent. Quite recently, I received from the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator McLeay) a letter which had been forwarded to him by the manager of the Australian Wheat Board in South Australia, in which that gentleman eulogized the waterside workers in the division of Grey. I have come to the firm conclusion that a certain amount, of the disgruntled feeling that has been displayed in the chamber this afternoon has arisen because the honorable’ member has not made a proper approach to- the’ problems of the waterside’ workers;. I have had a very close association, with waterside workers, and I have found that,, if the same: decent approach- is made: to them’ as1- i9 made to other men,, one always receives a- courteous! reception. I now wish t’o take a. somewhat different like of approach1 to the; debate from-, that taken by. honorable, members, to whom we have been listening during the last three weeks.. I shall give- an. outline. of the industries that, are carried on in the division that- 1 represent.. I think it is the1. Most important, .division,, and that,, after honorable7 members, have heard m.y remarks, they will! agree’ with- me. The division of Grey/ embraces; five-sixths of the area of South Australia. Not only is- it the largest wheat-growing division, but also it produces more wheat than any other division.
– That is questionable. Mr. RUSSELL.- In addition, it produces oats, barley, sheep and cattle. Mining and other industries also are carried on. Four-fifths of the coastline of South Australia lies within the division of Grey, and fishing is a very large industry. Streaky Bay, Ceduna and Port Lincoln,, which are the centres for the deep sea fishing industry, also cater for the sporting community. Record catches are made at these places. Port Lincoln is noted for its remarkable harbour. It is generally conceded by those who have had the privilege of visiting that town that the harbour is equal to, if not better than, Sydney habour, which is saying quite a lot. The largest outcrop of iron ore in the world is found at Iron Knob. The operations of the iron industry there- are remarkable. I paraphrase the words of a great man and say that nowhere in Australia are so many’ people and so much activity dependent upon so few men. We leave Iron Knob and proceed to Whyalla, a distance of approximately 30 miles. At Whyalla, which is the most modern town in Australia, iron ore is loaded into ships at the rate of 1,200 tons an hour. The largest ships that are built’ in Australia are built at Whyalla. Ships- of up to 12,500 tons, or 100 feet longer than ships that are built in any other shipyard in the Commonwealth, are built at Whyalla.
Then we go to Woomera, where guided missiles are tested. The time has arrived when another parliamentary delegation should1 visit that remarkable scientific project. Next we go to Port Augusta, which is the administrative centre for the Commonwealth’ railways. Recently^ at Port Augusta, the’ first switch was’ turned at a power plant which it is estimated will cost £10,000;000i. When that plant is in full operation1 in- 19’56, approximately 30,000 tons of coal a week will be used for the generation df power.. That coal will* be- drawn from, the; Leigh. Cre’e’k area’,, where- the. reserves* have been estimated1, by the geologist!* t©~ be- approximately 360,000,000 tons. From Leigh
Creek we go to the city of Port Pirie, which, naturally, is the only city other than the capital that would have a big man. to represent it in the Parliament. Port Pirie has the largest single-unit lead smelting workings in the world. A uranium plant, which will cost £1,500,000, is. being, erected there. Having enumerated just a. few of the activities that are carried on in my division, I am sure that honorable members who represent the cities, and who see terraces of houses as they walk along, must realize what a pleasure it is for one to represent such a division.
My strongest criticism of the budget is that the Government has under it heartlessly deceived the pensioners. During the recent general election campaign, I presented to the electors in my constituency the picture that was set out in the policy speech of the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) who promised that if Labour were returned to office it would increase the rate of pension by at least 10s., a week. Every Labour candidate, when he was asked what Labour intended to do for the pensioners, definitely replied that a Labour government would substantially increase the rate of pension. Every member of the Australian Labour party, which is the most democratic party in this country, was astounded and disgusted when the Treasurer, in the course of his budget speech, did not announce any increase of the rate of pension. Indeed,. I believe that every honorable member on the back benches opposite thought that the Treasurer would announce an increase. Naturally, some people do not entertain kindly thoughts towards the elderly people who have done so much in th& interests of this nation and who, to-day, find themselves through no fault of their own in such unhappy circumstances: that they are obliged to subsist solely on the- pension. Many of these people reared large families and, in many instances, due to unemployment^ or sickness,, were, unable to make provision for their old age or to1 look after their children adequately. The Government could have left unaltered the rates of tax on incomes, from personal, exertion in excess of £1,500 and reduced only the rates on incomes below that figure. If it had done that,, it would have been in a position to provide an adequate increase of the rates of pension under this budget. I point out that within the next three, years Australia’s population will increase by approximately 500,000 as a result of immigration. The increased revenue which will accrue to the Government as a result of direct and indirect taxes payable by this additional population will be most substantial, particularly if this country should experience the prosperity that it enjoyed during the regimes of the Curtin and Chifley Governments. That increased revenue could be used to finance an increase of the pension rate. As I said earlier,. I believe that every honorable member, regardless of party, is astounded and disgusted that the Government does not intend to increase the rate of pension.
– I, for- ohe, am not astounded or disgusted on that score.
– I deplore the failure of the Government to take honorable members into its confidence with respect to the venture at Rum Jungle. I have visited that centre, and I advise every honorable member to go there and observe at first hand the work that is being done in the development of uranium. The Government has refused to disclose the price at which uranium is being sold to Great Britain and the United States of America. On this matter, the Government has taken honorable members opposite into its confidence, and I can see no reason why it should not take me, as the representative of the electorate in which that undertaking is situated, into its confidence. My record for being able to keep my counsel on matters which it may be essential to keep secret is well known. In that respect, I am just as sincere as are honorable members opposite who have been informed of details of this undertaking. Indeed, the Government has failed to impart to honorable members generally information about this ‘undertaking, to which they are entitled as the representatives of the people.
Port Augusta, a distance of 45 miles, and between Port Augusta and Port Pirie, a distance of 65 miles. Mr. Sawley has been running this service for the last fifteen years, during which period ho has carried 750,000 passengers. He has never had an accident, and on only one occasion has his service failed to connect with the train at Port Pirie for Adelaide. That is a remarkable record. He established this service during the war when man-power was in short supply and materials required for the maintenance of the service, such as replacement parts, tyres and tubes, petrol and oil were most difficult to obtain. During the war period, this service did a national job, particularly as at that time it was most difficult to keep men in the shipbuilding industry at Whyalla. That industry, as honorable members are aware, is not congenial. Those engaged in it are exposed to the rigours of the weather, and at Whyalla the summer climate is somewhat trying. However, thanks largely to the availability of this reliable passenger transport service, most of the men remained in the industry.
Mr. Jeff Bate interjecting,
Mr.RUSSELL. - The honorable member for Macarthur (Mr. Jeff Bate) was not a member of the Parliament during the war period and, therefore, has no appreciation of the difficulties which confronted honorable members generally at that time and during the transition from war to peace. In that respect, one could say that he is in the kindergarten class. Mr. Sawley has done a wonderful job in maintaining this passenger transport service. Whilst a bitumen road linked Whyalla and Port August, it was only in recent years that a good road was provided between Port Augusta and Port Pirie. As a result of this improvement, Mr. Sawley had begun to recoup some of the losses that he had previously incurred in this service, but immediately afterwards the Commonwealth Railways entered into competition with him by providing a fast service with Budd rail motors between Port Augusta and Port Pirie. Naturally, Mr. Sawley’s motor service could not compete with an uptodate railway service. I requested the Minister for Transport to recommend to the Government that it buy out
Mr. Sawley’s right to conduct a service between Port Augusta and Port Pirie. It is ridiculous that both should be carrying passengers to the same destination and running in opposition. Unfortunately the Minister, with the support of the Commonwealth Railways Commissioner, did not agree. I thought it advisable then to go one step further. I have been led to believe that the Prime Minister has great sympathy with private enterprise, and so I decided to approach the right honorable gentleman. I submitted the case in full to the Prime Minister, and received in reply a letter in which he stated -
I am unable to agree that the Commonwealth would be justified in purchasing those rights from Mr. Sawley or in compensating him for loss of his business because of. his inability to compete with the Commonwealth Railways.
I ask honorable members to consider that phrase, “ because of his inability to compete with the Commonwealth railways “. When this Government discovered that Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited was not in a position to compete with our own airline, Trans-Australia Airlines, it generously donated £3,000,000 of the taxpayers’ money to foster Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited in direct competition with TransAustralia Airlines. Yet this Government, that professes to do so much for private enterprise, has refused to do anything in Mr. Sawley’s case. I have correspondence to prove that the Government’s main idea, its sole aim and ambition in this connexion, is to put Mr. Sawley off the road so that it can run the whole business. I can give honorable members a further example of this attitude on the part of the Government. A short time ago, it was necessary for Mr. Sawley to renew his application for the mail contract. Mr. Sawley takes the mail from Whyalla to Port Pirie Junction, but he had to submit two separate tenders. One was to collect the mail at Port Pirie and take it to Whyalla. The other was to collect mail at Port Augusta and convey it to Whyalla. The two tenders were compulsory. Mr. Sawley had a shrewd idea that after he had submitted two tenders, only one would be accepted. That would be for the contract to pick up mails at
Port Augusta and take them to Whyalla and to deliver the mails from Whyalla to Port Augusta. The reason was that when he arrived at Port Augusta with his passengers from Whyalla, the passengers would leave the bus service and use the Commonwealth railways. Consequently, he would receive only half the revenue that should have been available to him. I sincerely ask the Minister to give further consideration to this matter and to direct the attention of the Government to it. If he does so, his action will be approved by all considerate people in the area concerned.
I direct the attention of the committee now to the sale of Australian wheat. Unfortunately, this Government has not shown enough activity in endeavouring to place our wheat on overseas markets.
– Be fair. None of that dirty stuff.
– The Government should be displaying considerably more activity than it has done in the past. It it all very well to send members of the Australian Wheat Board overseas. I have been more closely allied with the members of the board over a long period than the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett) has, and I have the utmost admiration for the personnel of that board. Mr. 0. T. Chapman is a worthy representative of the South Australian growers. He has done fine work for the growers for many years. Of the four large wheat-growing States, South Australia is the only State that handles bagged wheat. At present that State is handling not hundreds of thousands but millions of bags of wheat and transporting it from one centre to another. It is generally conceded that weevils hatch much quicker in some climatic conditions than in others. Consequently, all wheat must be transported from some areas to a different centre. The cost of transport is staggering, and for that reason I believe that bagged wheat from South Australia should be shipped first.’ I know that practically no country that buys Australian wheat wants it in bags. All the buyers expect to get it in bulk. Consequently, wheat has to be shipped in bulk. Bagged wheat has to be placed on the hatches of ships and the grain is run from the bags into the holds. First, the stacks have to be broken down, and after the wheat has been stacked for a long time, the fibre of the bags is weakened, particularly on the outside of the stacks. The bags break easily and the incidence of such breakages is high. After the stack has been broken down, the bags must be loaded into railway trucks. The trucks are taken to their destination and the wheat has to be unloaded from the trucks to the stacks. When the grain is sold, the stacks must be broken again, the wheat must be loaded into railway trucks and then it is taken to the ship’s side. Considerable expense is involved. Th:1 re-bagging of grain is costly because the price of new sacks is high, and added to it is the cost of twine and labour. In addition, freights are heavy. Sheds must be built and the galvanized iron and scantling that are used to cover 4.000,000 bags of wheat could be used more profitably in the construction of homes. I hope that the Australian Government will consider assisting the Australian Wheat Board to ship grain from South Australia first.
In recent weeks, I have been involved in a press controversy over the Commonwealth Railways. I made a statement that was published in the Recorder at Port Pirie on the 25th June. I was reported accurately to have said that a hush-hush policy had been adopted by the Commonwealth Railways authorities. I do not retract with that matter. Whenever I make a public statement I get down to solid facts. I have been in public life for many years, much longer than some honorable members who walk the floor of this chamber, and I pride myself on my honesty of purpose and my truthfulness. Everything that I stated in that newspaper report is undeniable. It is supported by correspondence that I have received from the Minister for Transport and Shipping (Senator McLeay) and the Commonwealth Railways Commissioner. My first argument was that the Commonwealth Railways office and the commissioner should be domiciled at Port Augusta. The administrative officer of an important branch of the Commonwealth service, such as the Commonwealth Railways, should not be in an >office in Collins-street, .Melbourne, with a staff of .35 and a pay-roll of £33,607 2s. lid,, .but should be a’t -the seat .of operations. If the Commonwealth Railways can be effectively controlled from Collins-street, Melbourne, one might just as well .say that the affairs of the Northern Territory could be effectively controlled from Norfolk Island, and every one knows that that would be a ridiculous suggestion. I said previously that I was not satisfied about the safety of the railways. Unfortunately, there have been two serious accidents, .and my disquiet has been aggravated. I asked the following questions about the new luxury train : Which were the unsatisfactory features of the bogies? What was necessary to rectify them? Were the flanges of any of the cars attached to the diesel engines unsatisfactory? If so, what attention did they require? How many trips did all the cars run before the alterations were effected, and what was the total mileage involved?
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired. I call the Minister for the Army.
– Mr. Temporary Chairman-
– I move -
That the honorable member for Grey (Mr. Russell) be granted an extension of time. [Quorum formed.’]
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.I called the Minister for the Army.
– And I have moved that the honorable member for Grey be granted an extension of time.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.I did not hear the honorable member move to that effect. I had called the Minister for the Army.
– I regret the fact that the honorable member for Shortland (Mr. Griffiths) has made a series of very serious misstatements that have done a great injustice to many members of the 15th Northern Rivers Lancers of the Citizen Military Forces. I believe that it is my duty, as Minister for the Army, to correct those .misstatements. As my .time is limited, I shall .be able to .refer only to some of .the more ‘serious of (the honorable member’s .allegations. I .have -had to take the unusual action of . obtaining statutory declarations from some of the men who were engaged in the .amphibious exercise in which the accident occurred, to , show that the honorable member’s statements are entirely incorrect. He made the serious charge that LieutenantColonel James, the commanding officer of the unit, did not test the sea before he took his vessels out on the exercise. That statement is entirely untrue.
I propose to read to the committee the statutory declarations signed before justices of the peace, of Trooper William Richardson, a professional fisherman, who drove the commanding officer’s duck, of Trooper Bruce L. Power, who was the co-driver, and of Dr. Thomas Warren Edmeades, the medical officer of the 15th Northern Rivers Lancers, who travelled in the commanding officer’s duck. The statutory .declarations of these members of the unit completely repudiate the frequent misstatements of the honorable member for Shortland, and they bear out the sworn evidence of LieutenantColonel James at the coroner’s inquiry. The statutory declaration of Trooper Richardson reads -
I William Richardson of Anna Bay in the State of New South Wales, do -solemnly and sincerely- declare that I am u professional fisherman.
On 8th March, 19134, I was a member of the 15th Northern River Lancers and the driver of the DUKW No. 89288, which was commanded by the CO., Lt.-Col. J. A. James.
At about 0120 hours wc entered the water at the Wave Trap at Camp Shortland and went out of the harbour past the break-water to see how ‘the seas were, the seas were safeso we returned to the harbour and circled while the remainder of the vehicles entered the water. Then we led the convoy out to sea in the direction of Monia Point. . . .
The statutory declaration of TrooperPower is as follows : -
I Trooper Bruce Leslie Power, 2/714416, 30” Nelson St., Mayfield, Newcastle, wagonbuilder do solemnly and sincerely declare that as a member of the loth N.K.L. I was the co-driver of the Colonel’s D.U.K.W., No. 89288 on the- 8th March, 1954. At approximately 01.30 hrs. on the morning of the 8th March, we left Camp Shortland with the Colonel aboard and put to sea in order to test the state of thesea.
Om finding, thoi seat was safe, we. returned and circled around, in tha harbour whilst, the remainder of the Regiment formed’ up.
We then put to sea leading the Regiment and the sea in my opinion- was quite safe1……
Dr. Edmeades made the following statutory declaration :
T, Thomas Warren Edmeades’, Medical Practitioner of VIS Nelson St’.,. Wallsend do solemnly and. sincerely declare, that L am also R.H.O. to. 15- N.R.L. and that, on the. 8/3V54 at approximately 0130 hrs. I left. Camp Shortland” in a- D.U.K.W., commanded by Lt./C’ol. J. A. James. We proceeded outside the heads to> test the- state of. the sea. Finding, this, satis-, factory we. returned to tha harbour and then led. all vehicles out to sea. Lt./Col. James, commanded all phases of the operation throughout. the morning’ until after- having taken a disabled Tank: ins tow his own craft founded in the surf,, while attempting to beach, the disabled, craft. He like others then swam for the shore,, having sustained an injured ankle when the. craft foundered. . . .
About ten other soldiers’, who were1 aboard the- craft will support those statutory declarations’. The honorable member for Shortland has done a great disservice’ to the commissioned officers^, noncommissioned officers and men of the 15th Northern. Rivers Lancers- by repeatedly alleging in this chamber’ that the cornymading officer did not test the sea before, the exercise. The two young’ troopers whose1 statutory declarations’ I have read would not have signed those documentsunless they were perfectly satisfied1 that they contained a true account- of the event’s.. The honorable member’ has: acted, dishonestly, and1 I. very much regret hist conduct’;.
The honorable member for Shortland referred also’ to the fact that, a refrigerator was’ installed in one of the vessels and’ he said that it was full1 of grog. I asked the non-commissioned1 officer1 in charge of the duck in which the refrigerator was’ carried to tell me the circumstances. There was no liquor in the vessel. Before the exercise: was begun the commanding’ officer gave definite instructions that no grog was to be taken on board’, and none was loaded. Owing’ to the condition of the- sea at the time, the refrigerator’ contained only spare clothing that the men wanted to keep dry. Refrigerators are normal equipment of units of this kind that undertake exercises in amphibious craft and bivouac at various points along the coast and on the harbours north of, Newcastle and’. Poet, Stephens. The refrigerators; are, needed to keep milk, meat;, butter’ and all perishable foods fresh and fit: for- consumption, I shall read the statutory declaration! of the- non> commissioned officer concerned. He stated -
I, William Thomas. Glazier 318 Newcastle lid. Lambton am a. Crane Driver employed, at Lysaghts Newcastle; Works do solemly and sincerely declare
That as. a Sgt. in 10 Coy RAASC (Amph Gt.) I commanded LVT4’ 149421 which carried’ a refrigerator 100 cf petrol or kerosene less the motor. The refrigerator was to, be used; to keep supplies of fresh moat and other perishable rations arriving at Broughton Island.
To my knowledge the refrigerator contained only bedding and personal effects- of the crew members to keep them dry during; the exercise to. Broughton Isl. These were placed: in ?h,m on my instructions..
The vehicle was loaded and. then tested in Newcastle Harbour and niter a slight adjust ment was found’ OK!. The refrigerator was then shored’ at; the1 sides with- $ s: 2; rend! 4! s” 2 timber and then. lashed securely to pre*en, movement. The vehicle, was loaded, within the limits specified’ for an LYT4.
The cause of the sinking was a. large dumping wave1 which swamped’ the vehicle when landing- at. Cemetery Point. Up to that point the> vehicle node, very well indeed1 ami no trouble was experienced’ with; the. load. The vehicle sank 350 yards from, shore.
That is a complete and emphatic, denial of the base allegations made by the* honorable member’ for Shortland’.. I repeat that the honorable member baa done a great disservice to. a very fine unit which has done a. splendid job since it. was, formed in. 1.947,, and which,, until thismishap,, had never had an accident of any kind. The declaration show3. that the refrigerator was; securely fastened and that it could not have fallen on anybody as the honorable member has claimed. The statement that this, was a. hush-hush accident has. been made. re.peatedly. When I rose to speak to-day I heard, it said again.
– That is right.
– The honorable member repeats the allegation, and I am thus fortified in my determination to deal with this matter in a little more detail’ than I had1 originally intended. The circumstances surrounding the investigation of the whole incident were unique. As I have said before in this’ chamber,
I was communicated with at an early hour in the morning and informed of the mishap. 1 immediately informed the General Officer Commanding Eastern Command that the second in command was to go to the scene of the accident immediately and that after necessary preparations for the provision of medical services and the like had been made, he himself was to go there. He did so. The senior public relations officer of Eastern Command was sent to the beach and he took with him representatives of New South “Wales newspapers. On arrival, a quick consultation was held, and it was resolved .that as the men were spread right along the beach, some of the pressmen would go to the north and some to the south. They would speak to all members of the unit who had been in the ships, ‘to surf life-savers who had rendered valuable assistance and were later thanked by the Army by letter for their assistance, to police officers, three or four of whom also have been thanked for the service they rendered, and to medical officers who came with ambulances to give whatever assistance they could. All those people were spoken to by representatives of the press of Sydney. There was no hush-hush, in spite of th<> constantly repeated observation of the honorable member for Shortland. The journalists agreed to rendezvous at the centre of the beach at 4 o’clock to exchange information they had obtained in the course of their discussions with everybody on the beach. That was done, and the newspapermen prepared their reports accordingly. Those reports, I emphasize, were based upon the result of the open and thorough investigation that had been carried out by newspapermen right along the beach. Honorable members will appreciate that this was unique. That is the way I like to have matters of this kind investigated. I first want to know what the cause of the trouble is, and whether there has been any neglect or failure in duty. If there has been any such, inefficiency it is dealt with. It always has been dealt with. This constant repetition of the insinuations that have been made in connexion with thi? accident is unworthy, and is a reflection on all those people who were interviewed by the newspapermen.
As I have said, several members of the New South Wales police force were present and they did an excellent job. Some of them swam out to help in the rescue work. They were the men who helped in the preparation of the information that was given at the public inquiry conducted by a New South Wales coroner. The observations of the honorable member for Shortland about the coroner and about the police are unfair and improper. The police officers, assisted by the Department of the Army, collected all the available evidence. The Department of the Army was thanked by the New South Wales police for its co-operation in helping to get all the evidence necessary and in making witnesses available. The coronial inquiry was carried out by a properly constituted legal authority of the State of New South Wales whose job is to investigate accidents of this kind. The inquiry was held in public, witnesses were sworn, and the press of Sydney and elsewhere were represented. That is my complete reply to the allegation that this was a hush-hush accident. I challenge the honorable member for Shortland to show that the press had ever before been given the full assistance in making an investigation that was extended by the General Officer Commanding Eastern Command with my approval on this occasion.
The honorable member for Shortland has made a severe attack on a competent and efficient officer, Captain Moir. It is true that the honorable member qualified his observations by saying that this officer had, to a degree, done a good job, but he went on to say that Captain Moir had gone to the mother of Corporal Moran and stood over her to such a degree that she said, “ Go and see my husband at work “. The honorable member added that the husband was so hostile that he threatened to put the captain “ on the knuckle “. That statement is just as incorrect as were the honorable member’s previous statements which I have refuted by quoting statutory declarations. Those declarations have shown how dishonest the honorable member is, or how carelessly he handles the truth. I asked Captain Moir to give a report on the allegations that the honorable member made here last week. I shall not read the report at length because time will not permit me to do so, but I shall quote pertinent extracts in reply to the honorable member’s charges. Captain Moir stated -
The aim of my visit was to explain their entitlement to compensation and to find out if they had any problems that they wished to discuss.
During the interview a young brother - 17 or 18 yrs - was present and at times was very outspoken. He did, on one occasion, early in the interview, say “ I will thump any so-and-so that comes here from the Army “ His mother was quick to quieten him by saying that “ this officer has come to help us “. The interview with Mr. Moran was uneventful and «t 7io time did he threaten or abuse me. When T departed I shook his hand and promised tu forward the necessary forms and follow up the possibility of providing a headstone and kerb for his son’s grave.
On the same day, I interviewed Mr. Mornement at Cara-Park, Maitland Highway, Newcastle - his place of employment. There was a very congenial atmosphere about the interview and I left Mr. Mornement promising that I would forward a certificate of death and. enquiries about the headstone and kerb. All the interviews on 28th July, 1954, were conducted satisfactorily and, apart from one outburst by Moran Junior, there was no sign of any violence or animosity directed at me personally. At no time, did any relative show hostility to me as an individual or any resentment at the way I handled matters.
Those statements are taken from the considered report made to me by the officer after the honorable member for Shortland had made his remarks in this chamber. It is a complete and emphatic denial of all the major statements that the honorable member made. It is impossible for me to deal with all the points that he raised, in the limited time at my disposal, but I inform honorable members and, I hope, the country, that this honorable gentleman has acted in a manner that is really reprehensible. He has done a great disservice and, I believe, a personal injury, to the relatives and friends of the two lads who lost their lives. The coroner found, without any reservation, that the tragedy was an unfortunate accident, and I think the honorable member should have accepted that finding, as every right-thinking person has done.
The honorable member has complained repeatedly that the Army and the Imperial “War Graves Commission have said that they are not able to provide monuments, to use the term employed by the honorable member, to put over the graves of the two men who lost their lives, Corporal Moran and Trooper Mornement I remind the honorable gentleman - and he ought to have known the facts, because every youth in the community knows them - that the Imperial War Graves Commission is a joint Empire authority ‘ to provide and maintain headstones and graves for members of the armed forces who were killed on active service, or who died from the effects of active service after their return to Australia. That is all that the commission, which represents all components of the British Commonwealth of Nations, does. Those graves are kept, in splendid condition in battle areas all round the world, as well as in Australia. That is the answer to the honorable member’s complaint, and he should have known it. It is absolutely futile for any honorable member to say, after all these long years, that he does not know the functions of the Imperial War Graves Con],mission. The Army has no authority, and did not have any authority during the term of office of the Labour Government that the honorable member supported, to provide headstones for members of the services who met their deaths in Australia and not on active service. The only authority that exists is for the Army to provide headstones and maintain graves in civil cemeteries for Army personnel killed on duty in circumstances in which individual identification is not possible. That does not apply to this case, as the honorable member must know. However, I am happy to announce, on behalf of the 15th Northern Rivers Lancers, that the unit proposes to take all steps necessary to provide headstones for the two men win regrettably lost their lives in the accident. That will completely eliminate any opportunity for the honorable member to moan so futilely and unnecessarily along those lines. The unit itself will deal with the matter.
The honorable member described the Army inquiry as a farce, and ridiculed it on the ground that 100 witnesses had been examined in two days.
– That is right.
– Every one of the honorable member’s statements on this subject has been equally Tight ! Only 25 witnesses gave evidence at the Army inquiry, and they were examined over a period of four days. Every one of the honorable member’s observations has been carelessly inaccurate. He has been as indifferent to the truth as it is possible to be. The number was 25, not 100.
Claims for compensation for the loss of personal effects also were mentioned by the honorable member. The Army has had great difficulty in obtaining the statutory declarations in relation to losses which the Treasury requires before compensation can be paid. The 15th Northern Rivers Lancers draws its members from an extraordinarily wide area, and many of the men live in remote localities. For that reason we have had great difficulty in obtaining statutory declarations. Furthermore. many of the declarations made in the first instance did not contain all the necessary information. That is why I had special officers appointed to interview the people concerned. I am happy to be able to say that all but three of the men have now had their claims satisfied. The three outstanding cases are those of men who’ have left the area without notifying their change of. address. We are making special efforts through the Postal Department and other agencies to locate them, and compensation will be paid to them as soon as possible.
I refer now, in the brief time left at my disposal, to the honorable member’s scathing comments on the subject of recruitment. If anybody has done a disservice to recruitment it is the honorable member. His statements on recruiting, as they apply to the Army, are entirely incorrect. In 1953-54, the Army recruiting authorities were asked to provide 2,500 recruits. The actual number enrolled was 2,506. Yet the honorable member declared that the Army had not obtained by recruitment a fraction of the number of men leaving its service.
– That statement was based on the report that the Minister released to the press.
– All I say to the honorable gentleman is that apparently he can neither speak the truth nor read. Arrangement’s have been made for the recruitment of 4,210 men for the Army in the current financial year. The financial provision for recruiting will be increased by 60 per cent, because we know that we are in a period of full employment and that recruiting is always difficult at such times. However, the fact remains that the Army managed to obtain morerecruits than it .set out to enrol in 1953-54. I believe that, should this nation again be asked to provide recruits in a time of emergency, the young men will respond as they did when we sought recruits for special forces to resist Communist aggression in Korea and stand by the United Nations. The response was .so good on that occasion that we had to stop recruiting during the campaign because we were obtaining far more recruits than we could economically use. One of the reasons, of course, was that we were fortunate enough not to have a great number of casualties. Even the efforts of the honorable member for Shortland have not interfered with recruiting for the 15th Northern Rivers Lancers, as he probably hoped they would. The number of recruits obtained for tins unit in 1954 represents an increase of 100 per cent, over the number obtained in the same period in 1953. That is what the unit thinks of the honorable member’s efforts to destroy its recruiting campaign.
In the brief period left to .me, I shall read for the information of honorable members the finding of the coroner, Mr. Priddle, who conducted the civil inquiry into the tragedy. It is as follows: -
This very regrettable accident happened .on the morning of 8th March on military manoeuvres under the command of Lt. Col. James, who is very well-known in the district and is a very capable and experienced officer in charge of the only unit of this type.
He made a test first which showed everything was likely to be satisfactory. To make sure Of the weather and the seas he had contact with the Meteorological Department where he was told it was quite satisfactory and safe. The seas were calm and the wind negligible. He decided :it was ‘in order to cai-ry out the expedition.
We have heard in evidence that the craft were serviced regularly and were in thoroughly serviceable condition. A terrific amount of criticism has been directed about a cyclone and about serviceability. The evidence here to-day excludes that.
Some time after they left harbour., apparently the wind sprang up and the seas became rough. On other occasions, however, they had been in rough -seas also. Jin this district wehave seen the DUKWs in use. I think they are safe enough. It was the last heavy wave that caused the trouble.
The loss ofthese two young people is severe. ‘The relatives might be excused for thinking there was carelessness. I do not think there was carelessness. I think it was a very regrettable accident. I convey the sympathy of the Court to the relatives, and hope timewillhelp to bring some comfort to them.
This was a most difficult case,and in the preparation Detective Sergeant Duffell was a tower of strength and I thank him. I think Lt. Col. James did all that was possible to avert thiskind of thing happening, and it was very bad luck it came topass. The only report which was so much talked about has nothing to do with us. The evidence here to-day was quite enough to show what happened.
I find that on8th March, 1954, off Stockton Bight, Moran and Mornement were accidentally drowned when amphibious craft sank during military manoeuvres.
In view of the matters dealt with by the coroner in his finding, I suggest that the honorable member is using this unfortunate accident purely for party political purposes.
The CHAIRMAN” (Mr. Adermann).Order! The Minister’s time has expired.
– I rise to order. I ask that the documents from which the Minister for the Army (Mr. Francis) quoted, particularly the one which relates to Captain Moir’s report and statutory declaration, he laid on the table of the House.
– I point out, Mr. Chairman, that I have not read from any document. I have read from typed notes. The documents mentioned by the honorable member have never been inside of this chamber.
– -The Minister for the Army read from his own notes, and therefore the point of order is notsustained.
.- I support the amendment so ably moved by the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell). Honorable members will be aware that the principal feature of the Opposition’s attack upon the Government’s budget has been the lank of consideration shown by the Government to the very large number of people in the community who are in receipt of age, widows’ and invalid pensions. I believe that it is theduty of every decent Australian in this ‘chamber tosupport the amendment moved by the honorable member for Melbourne, because that section of the community that the Labour party aims “to help by legislation is sorely in need of assistance. I remind honorable members of the words of the poet Henry Lawson, which will perhaps answer some of the criticisms directed against the Opposition’s attitude by supporters of the Government. In his poem, Faces in theStreet, Lawson wrote -
They lie, the men who tell us, forreasons of their own,
That want is here a stranger, and that misery’s unknown,;
Because of our present inflationary economy, the pensioners, whose incomes are fixed, are experiencing want and misery. That fact is well known to the Government. It behoves us in our kindness, to do something to help those least able to help themselves, whom this budget makes no attempt to help. Indeed, the budget will take from the poor and give to the rich.
I shall completely ignore the callous speech recently made by the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Casey), who has now had a popular song hit, The Happy Wanderer, dedicated to him. I greatly deplore his callous criticism of the speech made by the honorable member for Melbourne, and of the Labour party’s attitude generally in relation to social services. There is a good deal of callousness on the Government’s part in this matter, and I refer particularly to the statement made by the honorable member for Lyne (Mr. Lucock) to the effect that there is a danger in this country that we shall swamp ourselves with social services and overload our work force. I fear that there is a tendency for the members of the Government to become selfsatisfied with regard to our social services. Indeed, the speech of the honorable member for Sturt (Mr. Makin) delivered in this chamber only a few days ago should put the Government to shame for its policy on social services, and should cause us all to take stock of the position. The honorable member cited a report of the International Labour Office, and pointed out that Australia is now spending only 6 per cent. of its national income on social services, and that our work in this field is being eclipsed by the work being carried out in such areas as New Zealand, Iceland, Austria and the Saar Basin. All the people of those nations suffered during “World War II., and, indeed, some of them suffered during World War I. The Governments of those people are leaving us far behind in their generous treatment of the aged, and others in receipt of social services. Australia should not adopt the complacent attitude that we have done well and that we need go no further. The fact that only 6 per cent, of the national income is being expended on social services surely gives us food for thought.
The Labour party does not take the view that we have done all that we can do in the field of social services. It believes that, in relation to the treatment of those who can safely be called the nation builders of this great Australia, we must continue striving for a goal that will always lie further ahead. The people for whom I am speaking deserve every consideration. They should certainly get a lot more than they are getting at present. It is true that in the budget speech of the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden), the Government showed clearly that it is ‘ adopting a policy of saying to the pensioner, “We shall pay you a certain pension, and then you can go to work and earn more “. But about 75 per cent, of those who get age and invalid pensions are unable to go to work, and cannot earn anything at all. Therefore, they are condemned to their small pensions which, because of the fall in the value of the £1, are rapidly becoming mere pittances. Supporters of the Government say that we are swamping ourselves with social services, and apparently they are prepared to let things drift in relation to this most important section of the community. Statistics quoted by one honorable member showed that under’ the Treasurer’s proposal, 300,000 pensioners will get this year nothing more than they got last year. Those figures also showed that the cost of living has not decreased.
Recently the cost of living in Western Australia increased by 19s. lid. a week, because of the action of the Western Australian Legislative Council in refusing to continue rent-pegging legislation, and because of the increased price of meat. The Western Australian Arbitration Court, following the policy of the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration, has pegged the basic wage. The increased cost of living will have to be faced by those who are in receipt of fixed social services benefits, and I ask, in the name of all that is reasonable, how on earth those people can live in 1954 at the same standard as they enjoyed, if one may misuse that word, in 1953. However, the Government has spoken, and I suppose it is too much to hope that the kindness which is in every man’s heart to some degree, will assert itself in the hearts of supporters of honorable gentlemen opposite and cause them to support the amendment moved by the honorable member for Melbourne.. Although that is too much to hope for, I believe that sections of the community, even among those who voted for the Government parties at the last general election, expect the Government to give some additional payment to the members of the community who have built this nation and who are now in the evening of their lives. They are deserving of some consideration from the body most able to help them - the Australian Government.
Another feature of this budget causes me grave concern on behalf of the people whom I represent here. I refer to the direct contradiction in the form of a decrease in the cost of brandy, and an increase in the price of tea. Some propagandists said, immediately prior to World War II., and again during that conflict, that the Japanese hoped to sap the vitality of China by encouraging the use of opium” in that country. I hope that it is not the policy of this Government to reduce the vitality of the Australian people by encouraging the use of brandy as a drink in preference to tea. We are informed by the press, which is generally a most reliable informant, that “tea revives you “. The price of tea has been increased during the last week by 25 per cent, to approximately 5s. 7d. per lb., although wages are pegged, and manypeople will find it increasingly difficult to purchase the same quantity of tea as they purchased during the previous year. Tea is our national drink.
I wish to make reference now to speeches by the honorable member for Bowman (Mr. McColm) and the honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Wight), which . have received wide publicity in Queensland. My remarks on this matter must not be regarded in any way as an attack on those honorable members, but I consider that their speeches require some mention by me. If I may say so, without flattering any one, those speeches were delivered by the most promising young Liberals among the Liberal members from Queensland. The honorable member for Bowman dealt with the Australian immigration policy, which is referred to as the White Australia policy, and he suggested that a certain number of Asian immigrants should be admitted to Australia. He stated that he could not see why the present policy should not be modified in some respects. He also said that he wanted his speech to be regarded as a sounding board. I am afraid that the speech may have been inspired by the Liberal party-
– The honorable member can forget that idea.
– Oh ! Is that so? I repeat that the speech may have been inspired by the Liberal party.
– Some one has been pulling the honorable gentleman’s leg.
– I wish to make my attitude clear on this matter. I stand firmly for the retention of the present immigration policy in relation to Asians. We in Queensland have had some very sad experiences in the past, particularly in pre-federation days, when blackbirding was prevalent and Pacific island labour was brought into the sugar industry. The immigration policy, as we know it now, was introduced in the early days of federation, and the Kanaka labour was abolished in the sugar industry. But towns in the sugar belt in central Queensland are still suffering the evil effects of the Kanaka days. There was also a move to have Chinese immigrants introduced into the pastoral industry. The wealthy squatter, who does not see his station, is not concerned with the kind of labour that is engaged to work his property. He is concerned with the amount of money that he pays to his employees, and the profits that he gets for his outlay. The first riots against Chinese pastoral workers occurred at Hughenden station in central northern Queensland. Those of us who have a knowledge of Australian history are well aware of the fact that severe riots occurred at Palmer gold- field, in northern Queensland, and at Lambing Flat, which is now the town of Young, in New South Wales. Many of the Chinese employed in the mines were killed. Some of the Chinese at Lambing Flat were thrown into the shafts. Generous-minded souls take the view that it is possible, when such people are brought into Australia, that the living standards, to which they were accustomed in their native lands, will be raised to the Australian standard of living. I dispute that contention, and suggest that, should such people be brought here, our standard of living will deteriorate towards their standard of living. We have fought over the years to raise our standard of living to a very high level, and every effort must be made to maintain it, and, indeed, to raise it, to an even higher level.
An article which appeared in the last issue of the Brisbane Sunday Mail states that support will be given at the conference of the Liberal party in Brisbane this week to a proposition that a committee be appointed to study Asian problems, and to encourage Australians to take an interest in them. If the State Liberal party in Queensland is to encourage the study of Asian problems with a view to suggesting eventually that we bring Asian immigrants into this country in. any numbers at all, it is to be hoped that the party will remain out of office for all time, and that its conference this week will be abortive. Delegates to Libera] party conferences in Queensland do some amazing things, and it is well that honorable members and the people should be aware of some of the statements which emanate from those assemblies. I have here a report of a statement made at the last .conference of the Liberal party, which shows the true attitude of mind of some members of that party. One of the Liberal candidates for parliamentary honours is reported to have made the following statement : -
The public are an unintelligent lot. They are interested only in display, and it is up to State Liberal members to give them display. Publicity is the thing.
I have listened closely to the speeches of some members of the Liberal party in this chamber, and I am led to the conclusion that they, too, believe that publicity is the thing. In view of the budget presented by the Treasurer, I should say that he, together with other members of the Government, takes the view that the Australian people are an “ unintelligent lot “. But we on this side of the chamber have complete confidence in the Australian people and regard them as our masters. They have shown that they respect the Australian Labour party, because at the last general election they gave it the greatest number of votes. I hope that the policy of Australia in relation to immigrants from Asia will never be changed. It has worked well during the 50 years since federation, and there is no reason why we should reverse it now. We were told recently by a distinguished visitor that the question of White Aus tralia is never discussed by the Eastern nations and is of no moment to them. We are creating a problem for ourselves by continually raising the question. I say that people in Australia who raise it do the nation a great disservice.
The honorable’ member for Lilley (Mr. Wight) referred to the possibility of reducing the tariff on Japanese goods in order to encourage trade with that nation. I was amazed to hear him make such a suggestion, because in recent years a most progressive and prosperous textile industry has been established in Brisbane. It is true that it bears the name of a former Liberal politician, but that cannot be avoided. It employs a large number of Queenslanders. If we reduced the tariff on Japanese textiles, that industry would disappear overnight and hundreds of employees who now enjoy good conditions would lose their jobs. Figures released recently by the Department of Trade and Customs give food for thought. We imported £5,000,000 worth of textiles in May of this year, and £7,000,000 worth in June. The Australian textile industry is on the down grade. Without adequate protection, it cannot meet competition from overseas manufacturers, yet honorable members opposite suggest that we should encourage imports from over- seas to the detriment of an Australian industry. In view of suggestions of that kind, I am compelled to say that the Liberal party in this country is lacking in leadership when it comes to the expression of Australian sentiments. It has shown a real Australian outlook only when it has been led by men who seceded from the Australian Labour party - men such as Sir Joseph Cook, Mr. Hughes and Mr. Lyons. But those days have gone, and now there is a danger that some of our cherished ideals will be sacrificed.
The Government must insist on the development of Australian industries at all costs. I am afraid there are far too many internationalists and too few nationalists on the Government side of the chamber. In speeches on international affairs, Government members have warned us of the danger of a third world war. If such a war occurred, one of the best contributions to the defence of this nation would be adequate production by our secondary industries.. We know that during World War II. Australia increased the productivity of its factories. Fortunately, we had at that time a government led’ by Mr. Curtin. Production is a great aid to the defence of a nation. This is an island continent, and in time of war we cannot depend on armaments and equipment produced in other countries. There is an obligation on us to establish strategically situated secondary industries, so that if difficult times come we shall not be at the mercy of other nations. That can be done best during a time of peace. Therefore, we should not lower our tariff barrier under any circumstances if that would entail the extinction of any Australian industry. I believe that in voicing those sentiments I have expressed the opinions held by the majority of Queenslanders on the White Australia policy and Australian industry.
We could do much to assist our Asian neighbours if we really wanted to do so. but it may be that, as was said by the Liberal party candidate to whom I have referred, the Liberal party believes that the public is interested only in display and that publicity is the thing. In the southern States, we are spending large sums of money to build wheat silos so that, the wheat surplus of last year can be. brought in from country sidings and space: made available for this year’s harvest., X remember that only a few months ago the finance Minister of Ceylon made an impassioned plea, in Sydney for something to be done so that his countrymen could eat two meals a day. What a great opportunity Australia has to create goodwill, in Eastern countries which could db. so much for us, and on whose friendship we could build our future prosperity !
– Would, the honorable member give wheat to them?
– I suggest that U would be a very generous action on our part to give wheat to< them. Perhaps £18,000,000’ spent on- wheat for the peoples- of India, Ceylon and other nations who eat wheat would be better than £18,00.0,000 spent on bayonets.
– A lot of them db not eat wheat.
-1 refer only to those who do eat wheat. It would be- better to* spend, the money ih a. way that would create: goodwill and perhaps develop markets for: Australia in the future,, when the standard of. living- of these’ people has been raised and- they are looking overseas: for primary . products.. It i.s true1 that this1 country is doing- something to assist: in the1 development of Eastern countries, but tha* development is a slow process-. The people- of those areas cannot wait until irrigation project’s have been developed. This- is1 the time1 to assist them and to build up goodwill.
.- I wish, to- commence my remarks on the budget with a reference: to.- social services.
It is very appropriate that a. Labour member should speak on that, subject, because- all. the social services- in this country were, .instituted by the: Labour party. In contrast,, the Liberal party and its precursors have never held a very high opinion of social, services. That attitude is. well shown by the- Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), who, in his present Cabinet,, has allotted the. portfolio of Social Services, to hia junior Minister. (Mr.. McMahon), a member of the second eleven, and, in fact, the last man in. The Prune Minister, however, usually softens, these blows with, a happy display of whimsicality. Although he has eight members in his Cabinet who are over 60 years of age, he has given the task of. administering, age pensions to the youngest Minister^ and he has entrusted the administration, of maternity allowances and child endowment, to the only bachelor in the Cabinet, although he.- is one of Australia’s most, eligible bachelors. The new Minister has. shown very clearly in his speech in. defence of this budget’s lack, of provision ih the way of social services, that fie is. as new Minister. Despite the vast staff he. has in the committee room downstairs to brief him on these matters, and to prepare arguments for those who have- to sit behind him,, he did not state a. good case ih defence of it. Eminently fitted by age to do so, was the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Casey). I do not in any way minimize the regard that, this, committee has for that right honorable gentleman. He is well regarded far beyond these- shores. In fact, ih the Indian Empire his name will probably rank with those, of Olive, Hastings and Lawrence. But,, on social services, he was the Treasurer in the Menzies G’overnment ih 19’39’ who got cold’ feet about proceeding with a national’ health bill’ when World War II. was imminent. Another very eminent and learned member of the Government parties, the- honorable member for- Balaclava (Mr;. Joske), sought to justify the pittance which- pensioners receive, but. I daresay he would never have the temerity to say, on behalf of any of his clients; that an amount equivalent to- the widows’ pension, or. the war widows’ pension, would be adequate^ alimony for them,, or- that, any of the. children, of those unions were adequately provided for by an amount equivalent to the child endowment, which has remained static for six years or so, or by an amount equivalent to the war orphans pension.
The new honorable member for Sturt (Mr. Makin) quoted the other night from the March, 1953, issue of the International Labour Review, which surveyed the percentage of national income 24 countries expended on social security in 1049. In only six of those countries was the percentage smaller than in Australia. Every country of western Europe expended a greater percentage of its national income on social services than did Australia in that year. If we look at the budget papers, and compare the national income in 1949 and 1953-54, and if we also compare the extent of cash social services benefits in the former year and the latter, we shall see that the percentage of national income in Australia which has been expended on social services has not improved in the five years that this Government has been responsible for such matters. In fact, Australia now expends a smaller percentage of its national income on social services than it did when this Government came to office. Tho reason is that, under this Government, inflation has been worse than in any country of the Western world. Honor able members are familiar with the Commonwealth Year-Booh, because they get it for nothing. Every issue publishes a list of retail price index numbers in successive years in various Englishspeaking countries. When this Government came to office in 1949, it required £160 to purchase what £100 bought at the outbreak of war. But now it requires £254 to purchase what £100 purchased at the outbreak of war.
– Is that shown in the Year-Booh?
– Yes. Taking the basis of 100 units at the outbreak of war. and comparing it with the position when this Government came to power, we find that the United Kingdom had had slightly less inflation at that time; Canada had had the same degree, and the United States of America had had slightly more. Coming to the present position, we find that the figures - compared with 100 in 1939 - are 254 in Australia, 189 in the United Kingdom, 186 in Canada, 186 in New Zealand and 191 in the United States of America.
– Are those official figures?
– Yes. They have been published by the Commonwealth Statistician. If honorable members have any idea that the Australian figures may have been toned down in any respect, I refer them to the United Nations Monthly Bulletin of Statistics published in June this year - the latest copy available in this country. There, the degree of inflation is compared in various countries, taking 1948 as a basis. From those figures, we find that Australia’s inflation is at least twice that of any other English-speaking or Western European country in the lastsix years. Out of 87 countries surveyed by the United Nations in this regard, only seven had endured worse inflation than Australia in the last six years. They were Korea, Indo-China, Austria and four countries in South America. But every other country, including those of Western Europe and North and Central America, had less inflation than we did during the five years this Government has been in charge of the country’s destiny. It has been said that, in some way, the Government had to clear up the mess that was bequeathed to it. Figures show that inflation in Australia was no greater than in Western and English-speaking countries when this Government came to office. Since then, it has been twice as bad in this country, and in many cases four times as bad. The Government did nothing until it secured the double dissolution and got back to power in 1951.
The horror budget, the first step to clear up inflation, was introduced in 1951. The inflation that the Government had to clear up was largely of its own making in 1950. In 1950, this Government was still priming the pump. It was seeking to placate and bribe every section of the community. When it came to office, the first controls it took off were the only economic anti-inflationary controls it had on capital issues and imports. All the proceeds to this country in consequence of the bumper wool season, that occurred during this Government’s first year of office, went on expensive, wasteful articles. It was only after the Government had been in power for two years that it tried to bring back the controls that it had wilfully taken off. The Government brought back import controls to a degree that Australia never had even during the war, and it brought in capital issues controls with a severity that had not been practised even during the war.
Reference has been made to the present value of social services benefits compared with their value when the Government came into office nearly five years ago. No member of the Government will pretend that any social services benefit now bears the same relation to the basic wage as it bore when the Labour Government left office. The excuse is made, however, that various social services benefits bear the same relation to the cost of living as they did five years ago. It is true, if one limits one’s inquiry to age and invalid pensions, that the recipients of these pensions receive the same percentage, based on the cost-of-living index, as they received five years ago; but I shall not limit our inquiry to age and invalid pensions. I shall . cite examples provided by some of the other soeLa! services benefits. Members of the Labour party do not believe that if the country is sufficiently prosperous to afford to pay a bonus, premium or prosperity loading to people who are still able to work, the people who are no longer able to work, or are too old, too incapacitated or too war-afflicted to work, should not share in that prosperity. The Labour party will continue to urge that cash social services benefits should bear the same relation to the basic wage as they bore when this Government came into office. Neither we, nor the people themselves, will be satisfied with anything less than that.
I turn from age and invalid pensions to other kinds of pensions, and I shall compare the percentage that they bear now to the basic wage with the percentage they bore five years ago, when the last Chifley budget was presented. For that purpose I shall use the average basic wage for the six capitals. In August, 1949, the basic wage was £6 7s. In August, 1953, it was £11 16s., at which point it has been frozen. When the Government took office, age and invalid pensions were 33.1 per cent, of the basic wage. They are now 29.6 per cent, of it. The wife’s allowance was 18.9 per cent, of the basic wage, and it is now 14.8 per cent. The child’s allowance was 7.1 per cent, and it is now 4.9 per cent. The same position applies to the widows pension to which, significantly, members of the Government make no reference on any occasion. The A class widow, when this Government came into office, received 37.4 per cent, of the basic wage. She now receives 31.S per cent, of it. The B class widow received 29 per cent, of the basic wage, and now receives 24.4 per cent. These cash social services benefits have increased in the nominal terms of pounds, shillings and pence, but there are other benefits, also similarly increased by Labour, which have remained stationary under this Government. Maternity allowances, which the Fisher Labour Government introduced in 1912, were increased in 1943 to £15, £16 and £17 10s., and have remained at those levels in the eleven years that have passed since then. The Chifley Government increased child endowment to 10s. a week. That figure remains unaltered to-day. The Curtin Government introduced funeral benefits. In 3943 the figure was fixed at £10, and it remains unaltered. Many cash social services benefits are payable by the Repatriation Department in respect of people who were injured during war, or who were bereaved by war. In that respect the Government’s record is particularly appalling, not the least because its members make flag-waving patriotism and the like their stockintrade. They give us a nauseating display every budget time, despite the betrayal which they constantly make of the interests of all those who were bereaved or afflicted as a result of war. When the Government came into office the general rate war pension stood at 43.3 per cent, of the basic wage. It is now 3S.1 per cent. The special rate pension stood at 83.5 per cent., and is now 78.4 per cent.
– Is the honorable member referring to the Commonwealth basic wage or the New South Wales basic wage?
– I am referring to the average of the -six capitals. It is frequently .’said that social -services benefits should not vary according to .the fluctuations of the (basic wage or the :cost -of living In respect of .special rate .pensions, -at /least, they should so vary because the recipients of .every other .kind of pension can go ito work and -.earn up to a certain ‘limit, .’and so have the benefit of cost-of-living fluctuations ; .but . the special rate pensioner is forbidden ito earn -any money in addition to his pension. Accordingly, the is automatically .deprived of the fluctuations and variations that the “Common wealth Arbitration -Court and other bodies, which are not responsible to this Parliament, make at intervals.
I turn now to what I think is proba’bly the ‘most shameful case of betrayal of repatriation beneficiaries that has been perpetrated by the Government. When the Government came into ‘office war widows received ‘47 .’2 per cent, o’f the ‘basic wage and now received 33.9 per cent, of it. In ‘five years, therefore, the value of the waT ‘widows’ pension has declined, in terras of the basic wage, by ‘almost 14 per cent. ‘Significantly none of the honorable members opposite who have so far spoken hi this debate on behalf of the Government have sought ‘to ‘justify that shameful decrease. ‘One would have thought that that crusty old warrior, the .Minister for the Army ‘(Mr.. Francis), who was the last speaker on the Government side, would have made some reference to repatriation benefits. But the Minister, particularly since he has taken over the additional portfolio of the Navy, has in this regard, .as so often, ‘found it very convenient to put the telescope to his blind eye. I well remember that before the last general election the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Cooper), who represents the Government in another place, had the temerity to ‘send to all sub-branches of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers, and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia a copy of the booklet, Repatriation under the Menzies Government, 1949-1953. I have quoted from that booklet all the figures that I have given to the committee. In my own sub-branch of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers, and Airmens Imperial League of Australia, which has about 500 members and has a regular attendance of at least .100 -at meetings, it was moved that the booklet .be placed, not on the notice board, but on the darts board, because it was so full of holes. The plain fact remains that never, before this Government came into office, .have wai pensions stood at .such a low percentage of the basic wage as they .stand to-day. For that statement I quote as an authority the ‘37th annual report of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers, .and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia for the year ended the -31st December,, 1952, which was presented .on .the .27th -October last year.. At page 12 of that booklet there is ;conveniently -set out for members to peruse - and this is :another publication which can be obtained free of charge - the ratio of the war pension .to the basic “wage in every year since 1914. I repeat that never, from 1916 until this Government .came into ^office, have war pensions borne .such a small ratio to the basic -wage :as they now bear.
Silting suspended from ‘6 to 8 p.m.
– Before .the sitting was suspended, I stated that all the -cash social services benefits that are -available to the people .at present had been introduced by Labour governments. I mentioned that in 1949, when the present Government came to power, Australia ‘spent ‘a smaller percentage of its national income on social services than did any country in Western Europe and that now., after five years, all the benefits of that character are worth less by ‘comparison with the basic wage than when this Government came to office. That is due to the fact that Inflation has become worse. The restriction of social services benefits is one of the chief measures that the Government has taken in order to curb inflation. In ot’her words, economies have been effected at the expense of those who are least able to withstand them. The value of the war widows’ pension has declined in value .during this Government’s term of office’ from 47.2 per cent, of the basic wage to .33.9 “per cent.
It is to the everlasting disgrace of this Government that it .again introduced the means best in relation to ‘hospital benefits From the Chifley Government, the State governments which -conduct hospitals received as .much as .they. ever .received from paying patients, but the present Government failed >to .increase that amount although hospital costs subsequently soared. In -fact, the Government required the State governments to introduce .the .means test once again in hospitals. The Government may reply tha’t that was the fault of the State governments. If that is so, why ‘did the Australian Government introduce the same practice in the Canberra Community Hospital which it operates?
The State governments provide certain social -services ;such as education, hospitals, police and -courts. Whereas the Australian ^Government last year spent £218,000,000 ion cash -social services bene.fits, the State governments spent twothirds of that amount, £137,000,000, on the provision of social services. Under ‘this Government, ‘the amount of money th-aft has been made available ‘to the ‘States for the provision of social services has declined. It is true that the amount of tax reimbursements to the States under the uniform income tax formula automatically rises if the population of a State increases or if the average “wage increases. But this Government will make smaller supplementary payments by way <of .tax reimbursements ito the -States this year than it has made in any previous year of office. This year it will make £19,500,000 available to the States in supplementary payments. .Never, in any previous year., has the amount .been less than £20,000,000.; in 1951-5’2 it was £33,577,000. The Government has made this reduction despite the fact that, during the five .years it lias been in office, the population of Australia has increased by 1,000,000 and the value ‘Of the £1 has failed by two-fifths. If a .greater proportion of the population in any ‘State attends school now than ‘attended a few years ago, or if the children remain at school longer, the State is unable to cope with the additional financial burden. This is one of the most melancholy and miserable examples of trite economizing of this Government at the expense of the living standards of the people. The Australian -Government Should decide how much money or what proportion of the national income should be spent on ‘health and education and the maintenance of law and order. But this
Government .will not provide those services itself and will .not let the State governments .’have sufficient money to provide those facilities properly.
Page 13 of the White Paper on National Income and Expenditure 1953-54 shows .that less money was spent last year -on providing housing than in .either .of :£he two previous years. Taking into consideration the increase in population ;and the decrease in the value of money, less was spent by this Government on housing during the last financial year than was :spent in any of the previous years of its term of office. A great proportion of ‘.the -housing ‘in this country is the responsibility of the Australian Government because .of the Commonwealth and State Bousing Agreement. .During the five years that this Government has been in office, New South Wales has been deprived of £26,O00,’0:0.0 that it is entitled ‘to under the .agreement, Victoria has been deprived -of £ll;00q,000, Queensland of £8,000,000. Western Australia of £6,000,000. and ‘South Australia, which is only entering its second year -under the agreement, has been -deprived of £500,000.
Last ,year, the Commonwealth Bank, which alone among the financial institutions of this country has a sense of social responsibility, made less money available to building societies and by way of Credit Foncier loans than in any previous year of the Government’s term of office. Last year, fewer houses were provided by the War ‘Service Homes Division than in any 0I the three previous years. The division provided -47l homes .fewer than it did in the year 1952-53,; 3,40.0 fewer than in 1951-52; and 3,200 fewer than in 1950^51. Yet the repayments <of loans received by the War Service Homes Division have risen during the Government’s term of office from .£5.,0.00,000 to over £11,000.,000 a year. The budget reveals that the Government has not a proper sense of responsibility in relation to the housing needs of the Australian people. The Australian Loan Council provides the only means of developing this country which is available to the State governments as the Constitution stands at present. Although, in the “last two years, the Australian Government has refused to obey the decisions of the Australian Loan Council, this year it has announced that it may obey those decisions. The Government has agreed that £200,000,000 may be raised in loans. However, it has proposed to make advances to the States for the first six months of this financial year at the rate of £180,000,000 a year. That sum is less than it has made available in any of the last three years. The brochure, Major Development Projects issued by the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) shows that of 160 projects listed, 157 are being carried out by the States. Some eight of them have been delayed or deferred for three years for want of money due to this Government’s defiance of the Loan Council.
– Order! The honorable mem.ber’3 time has expired.
.- The honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Whitlam) made so many misstatements, either deliberately or unknowingly, that I cannot help feeling that he may want to qualify for a recent vacancy in another place. I propose to commence my speech on this budget debate by referring to a statement that was made by the honorable member for Brisbane (Mr. George Lawson) in the course of the debate. The honorable member stated that the recent general election campaign was the dirtiest that he had known during his experience of politics.
Opposition members interjecting,
– Honorable gentlemen opposite may well say, “ Hear, hear ! “. I wish to refer to a statement that was made by the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt), not in this Parliament but to the press, some weeks ago. I regret that the right honorable gentleman is not here at the moment to hear what I have to say. The statement was to the effect that this Government had authorized the payment, or had paid, £5,000 in order to obtain something that it could use as propaganda ammunition in the course of the election campaign that was then pending.
– How very true!
– I should like to tell the honorable member for Watson (Mr. Curtin) and other honorable members opposite of my experience in the electorate of Bowman during that campaign. There was available to us propaganda, based on fact, which made accusations against the Leader of the Opposition, but we did not use it.
– The Treasurer used it.
– I am answering for my electorate in relation to an accusation that was made by the Leader of the Opposition, not in this chamber, but to the newspapers. I propose to tell the committee what happened in the electorate of Bowman. We made no reference, either in printed propaganda or in any of the speeches made throughout the electorate, to the fact that, in the past, the Leader of the Opposition had been closely associated with either Communists or communism. We did not refrain from doing so because we doubted the accuracy of that statement. The story is too well known for anybody to disbelieve it. We did not refer to it because we were firmly convinced that we could fight, and win, an election oh government policy. That is the way we in fact fought it and won it.
The ‘honorable member for ‘Griffith (Mr. Coutts) > who was my opponent in 1949, knows that in Bowman we fight a clean campaign. He knows that in 1949, in 1951, and again during the recent general election campaign, we made no reference to individuals, but fought on policy. I should like to say that, in reference to the 1949 campaign in the Bowman electorate, the honorable member for Griffith could not have fought a cleaner or better fight from his side of politics.
– What about the advertisements in the daily press?
– The Prime Minister would say anything.
– The Prime Minister did not tell all he knew.
– I rise to order. Is the honorable gentleman entitled, by means of innuendo, to bring into this committee discussion a matter that Mr. Speaker has ruled should not be discussed in the House? If he is, I hope that you will make it a free-for-all, Mr. Chairman.
– I am replying to statements made by the honorable member for Brisbane in the course of this debate.
– Order ! I rose, in the first instance, to quieten the disturbance in the chamber. “With reference to the point of order, I am listening particularly to -what the honorable member for Bowman (Mr. McColm) is saying. So far, he has not referred to anything that lie should not have referred to.
– Although I have searched in the Parliamentary Library, I have been able to find only one newspaper which contained a reference to a very important statement made a few Sundays ago in the Sydney Domain. That was an occasion when a certain Mr. Lockwood got up and praised to the skies the Leader of the Opposition. I regret that the newspapers of this country, on the whole, did not see fit to mention that fact.
– Hitler boomed the honorable member’s boss, did he not?
– If the honorable member for Watson, who made such an appalling speech on the question of defence during this debate, knew as much about Hitlerism and Naziism as I do, he would be qualified to speak on those subjects.
Earlier in this debate, the honorable member for Griffith referred to speeches previously made by the honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Wight) and myself, not actually in the course of this debate. He implied that I had made a certain suggestion to the Parliament concerning reconsideration of our policy on restricted immigration, which is so unfortunately known as the White Australia policy. The implication was that the Liberal party had suggested that I should do so. I wish to tell the committee that I made that suggestion of my own free will.
– I should like a ruling from you, Mr. Chairman.
– Is the honorable member raising a point of order?
– Yes, I am. The point of order is whether the honorable member for Bowman may refer to a debate that took place in this chamber during the current session.
– Order! The honorable member is perfectly entitled to answer statements made by the honorable member for Griffith during his speech this afternoon.
– I am referring to the current debate. I merely said that the honorable member for Griffith was not referring to statements made during this debate. I think that what I said in relation to that matter served my purpose extremely well. A lot of thought has been given to this idea of reconsidering our present policy on immigration. That was the whole purpose of my remarks. If I encouraged the honorable member for Griffith to think I did a good job, I am glad. Public thought has been stimulated about something that I think is important.
Mr. Ward interjecting,
– I did not think that the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) would appreciate my state ment, because he apparently would not like to see us on friendly relations with our Asian neighbours.
In my opinion, the honorable member for Griffith criticized the speech of the honorable member for Lilley for party political reasons. All thinking persons appreciate that it is necessary for us to preserve the balance of trade. After all, the honorable member for Griffith himself said that he would like Australia to give some £60,000,000 or £70,000,000 worth of wheat to the Asian people because they need it. That is certainly a very nice thought, hut if any one wanted to disrupt the Australian economy - and so many people seem to want to do that - I cannot think of a better way to do it.
In relation to the budget, the honorable member for Werriwa accused this Government of not having done something that it should have done or of having done the wrong thing.
Opposition Members. - Hear, hear !
– Honorable members opposite say “ Hear, hear ! “. I remind them that we fought them with a policy that was in the ‘ interests of Australia, and that we fought them in- the face, of a bribe that was offered to the electors. I believe- that, unfortunately”, a number of people fell for that bribe. They must, be disgusted with, themselves. I. was. very pleased to note,, however.; that many trade unionists said that the policy of the Liberal party was sound, and that consequently there was a switch of. voting. The votes of those people; who were, stupid enough to fall for the bribes that were, offered by the. Australian Labour party were offset by the votes of those who- normally would have, voted, for. Labour,, but who- saw the sad and sorry state into which Labour had fallen and who. voted, for the Liberal party. One thing that emerges, from the recent, general, election is. that,, with reasonable speed, the number of people who: are anti:Liberal. in thought: is growing smaller.
There is not a very great difference in principle between, the action of a. man and his wife who put their head’s together and say, “‘We have so- much money coming in; we can afford to spend so much “j and the action of a= government that wishes to maintain a stable economy and1 which says-, “ “We can anticipate receiving so much money; and’ we can spend only” that, sum of money “. There are four.- major ways, in. which- wei can expend, the moneys that come in as revenue. First. we must try to maintain our.- standard, of living: I shall have: more to; say about: that; in- a moment or two; Secondly;, we must; consider: the social welfare of the people, who, cannot; help themselves; thirdly,, we; must consider the country’s defence- problems; and, fourthly, we must consider the: development o£ our country:. It is; unfortunate that we- in. Australia believe that. we. can hold, this country, that we can compete with world markets; that’ we can sell, goods that are being produced at a high, cost in competition with countries that are pro.ducing at a lower cost, and, at. the same time, improve our standard of living. I think it is more important to retain this country so that we may follow the ideas and ideal’s that have been handed down to us by our forefathers- in the British Empire. It is not as’ important for us to have a bed with a nice spring mattress as it is to have a country or a house in which we can place that bed and in which our children may be reared in accordance with our own ideas and ideals and’ not be brought up as; slaves or outraged in their youth by the evil forces that are gradually coming closer, to us. So we must consider the. ways in which we should allocate the moneys, that we receive;
Mir., Edmonds;: - Oh, sit. down.
– The honorable member for Herbert, who just said “‘Oh, sit down “-
– Well, put a bit of ginger into it !
– Unless the honorable member for Herbert- behaves himself he .will soon find.’ himself outside the chamber,, and he will not have the opportunity of hearing the honorable member.
– The honorable member for Herbert is- a member of a very great trade union which has so much thought for human beings that it will, not admit to membership third, generation Chinese in Australia, and the honorable member was one of the promoters- of that policy.
– Go on from, there-.
– I will carry on from there. The great trade unions’ of Australia must get down to thinking; in terms of humanity, and* to. thinking in terms of the future of our country, and not go back to 1860 when 10- per cent of, the population were. Chinese., They should think of the present’ and of the future.-
– Did it ever- occur to the honorable member that third generation Chinese were Australians’?’
– Yes,, but the Australian Workers’ Union will not admit them to membership..
– What rot!
– T refer the honorable member to his own union. I was stating that the allocation of revenue1 did not differ very much from the allocation of a family’s income. If a family has: not the money, it cannot get the things it wants, and that is the position, in which, the country finds itself to-day. There are things that we want and there are things that we must do without, because it is more important that we should retain our country. Just as it is .important that the home unit should be kept together, so it is important that national unity should be .maintained, and we can do that only by adopting a spirit of self-sacrifice. Honorable members opposite have said, “ The Government has not done a thing towards helping Australia in the last four or five years “. The honorable member for Werriwa made a similar statement just a short while ago, but he seems to forget that, to a -certain degree, a country is like a fairly valuable vehicle which, in .this case, has been serviced, by bad mechanics. That was the position in which Australia found itself when the Government assumed office in 1949. The vehicle, having been badly serviced and having lousy brakes, was on its way downhill and was nearly out of control, “out this ^Government succeeded in stopping it without -doing very great damage. The Government’s achievement over the last five years has been no -mean one. 1 conclude by inviting honorable members opposite to name any other government during ‘the history of the Commonwealth which has completely implemented its financial policy in its first budget after a general election. That has been the achievement of this Government. This is a real budget, and a good one for Australia. I hate to think what would have happened if the Labour party had had a chance to implement ‘the specious promises that were made by ‘the Leader of the Opposition.
Jb. HAYLEN ‘(Parkes)[8.28]Hav ing -listened to the Liberal dose of political blame mange for the last “half .hour, I think it is about Same that the -committee returned .to a consideration of the budge and its implications which, after ‘all, is the .subject under discussion. Within the next few hours, as a result of the ‘brutal majority of the Government, the “budget will have been passed and, as a blue print, it will have been integrated into the economy of the nation. When one looks ‘at it carefully and thoroughly and painstakingly, as at least Opposition members ‘have done, one sees that it is .’a very poor thing indeed. Several -attempts have .been made to (describe the budget. I should like to call it the .horrible little :sister of the horror budget. Whilst the horror budget was brutal and aggressive and .constituted a .sledge hammer assault on the economy., this measly, nlpgardly, pernicious, .little .thing is neither one thing nor the other. The honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Crean), who is .an economist of some ability - indeed of great ability - carefully and cleverly analysed the budget speech of the Treasurer and put his finger on the one thing that the Government will not face up to. The Treasurer himself said that we have .a balanced economy and prosperity. He cannot claim both. There may be prosperity of a kind that is a ‘danger because of its inherent weaknesses, but it is not, as the honorable member for Melbourne Ports has .pointed out, a balanced economy that is of benefit to the whole of the community. .Uo matter what the Treasurer may ‘say about it, the balance to which he has referred is not -ft good one, nor are ‘conditions ideal.
In his statement, the Treasurer ‘spoke of ‘ the economy being in good balance. He then, by accident or design, passed over the real troubles of the community. As I have .-said, they are -set out splendidly for the consideration of the committee by the honorable member for ‘ Melbourne Ports. ‘The honorable member for Bowman ‘(Mr. McColm) made one lucid remark in his speech. If I may paraphrase has ‘statement, he said that budgets were -like housekeeping. ‘If that be bo, I <can demonstrate how futile and fatuous this budget is and .how dangerous it can be.
There lA rA more goods -coming into Australia than we ‘can pay for, while our primary products with which we have to pay for those things are declining in price and volume. I do ‘not ‘have to cite figures ‘to prove that fact. It is necessary only to ‘read the Treasurer’s budget statement. The right honora’ble gentleman referred ‘to imports, and by those he meant imports, from Great Britain, which in the -main are ‘welcome, and goods dumped ‘in Australia from low-wage countries and produced ‘under coolie standards, which are ‘most unwelcome. The Treasurer said that _ “imports continue -as a threat to ‘ our economy and there are more of ‘these”.
The right honorable gentleman added that imports for 1953-54 totalled £682,000,000 and were £171,000,000 more than in the previous year. Honorable members should ponder the problem that is centred on the increase of £171,000,000 in the value of imports. “We know that honorable members on the Government side are pondering the problem because the Delphic oracle of the Government, the Minister for Defence (Sir Philip McBride) said only during the week-end that controls were imminent. He was called on specially in order to see how his prophecy would be received in South Australia, before bringing the matter into the atmosphere of political realism. Willynilly we are to have more imports, not the things we want but those that are being dumped on us. The archaic antidumping laws of this country that were passed years ago have never been amended. During the second world war the time might not have been opportune to review them, but in the midst of a peace-time economy, they should have been reviewed long since.
On the import side, we have the prospect of goods valued at £171,000,000 more than we can afford to purchase. I invite honorable members to examine the export side. The Treasurer stated that exports in 1953-54 were valued at £816,000,000 or £30,000,000 less than their value last year. We had £171,000,000 more of the things we did not want last year and £30,000,000 less of export goods to buy those that we cannot afford. In such circumstances, how can the Treasurer talk so glibly of a balanced economy, prosperity and everything being lovely in the garden? Even the signs that are now evident overseas are dangerous. In eight weeks, Australia’s overseas balance has fallen by £70,000,000. There is barometric pressure somewhere and the Government should watch it. So far the Government has passed over the danger signs with the comforting thought that the problems will adjust themselves. Reserves overseas were built up during the days of the Chifley Labour Government, and the influence of that Government’s administration was still evident in 1951 when the reserves in London stood at £843,000,000. To-day our reserves total £571,000,000. An adverse balance of payments is a certainty this year. Australia is facing an economic pincer movement, yet the Treasurer talks of abiding prosperity. On the one hand, as I have said, we have received an additional £171,000,000 worth of rubbish we do not want that has been drained into the country because this Government is an importers’ government. It obtains finances for” general elections from the importers while our primary industries are running down.
The pincer movement that is directed against the Australian economy is extremely dangerous. Between the pincers, Australia is in a precarious position. The Opposition does not want to peddle depression, but honorable members on this side of the chamber must warn the Government of the ultimate results of its policy. Supporters of the Australian Country party prate about their great fight for the primary producers. I invite the committee to examine what has happened to the primary producers during the last few years while members of the Australian Country party have been associated with the Liberal party in this coalition Government. Wool is our great staple product and we pray that it will remain so, but it is suffering from a price and inquiry change. It is all right to protest that wool that was sold at the opening sales at 8 per cent, to 12£ per cent, less than last season was poor stuff from out west, dirty and affected by di ought. Is that not the beginning? If the pincer moves in such a way that the traders can get inferior wool cheaper at the beginning of the season, it will move later on the super-fine qualities. While there may be a slight, lift in the Brisbane sales, is it not conceded by the wool industry that we must be prepared for a 6 to 7 per cent, slump ? That would mean a fall in revenue of £60,000,000 to £80,000,000. The position of wool is precarious. It is on the razor’s edge because wool is our staple product at present.
What has the Australian Country party to say about the wheat industry? Wheat is virtually on the floor. Every silo is crammed, every bulkhead is full and the Government is wringing its hands. The Government urges wheat-growers to grow more wheat while the chairman of the Australian Wheat Board, Sir John Teasdale, has told them to restrict the acreage under wheat. The guesses of the Government were all wrong when the International Wheat Agreement ended. Members of the Government are always talking about private industry but it turned sour as far as wheat was concerned. The Government went for higher prices and the crash came. To-day, the Government is sending out its agents in an endeavour to sell wheat. The agreement has collapsed. There is a glut and the Government is left high and dry. What formula has the Treasurer evolved to solve this problem? He is the Leader of the Australian Country party. Wheat should be bringing Australia £90,000,000 of overseas credit, but the Treasurer does not know what to do. The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) and Sir John Teasdale do not know. Even the honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull) doe3 not know.
– Neither does the honorable member for Parkes.
– I know that there is a threat to the Australian economy and the Australian Country party should hang its head because it is of no use to the Government. The Opposition is trying to give the Government some dynamic advice on the budget.
– What does the honorable member- for Parkes know of primary production?
– The honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett), the primary producer from the other end of Queanbeyan, is the gentleman farmer of the Liberal party. His farming consists of wearing gaiters and carrying a cane. Another problem is dairying and the marketing of cheese. Cheese is unwanted on the overseas markets. At one time it commanded a steady sale. The butter trade, figuratively has gone into the doldrums. Australian butter is used for blending on the London market with Danish butter and European butter is preferred to Australian. Ours is the Cinderella of the Butter trade. The industry in Australia is being sustained by the home market. It is being kept on its feet by the workers of Australia whose wages have been frozen while margins have been denied them and the pensioners are forgotten. That is the lesson for the Government and the Australian Country party. What of the other primary products? Egg sales on government to government level and other fine schemes, denounced when the Labour Government introduced them but sustained by this Government, have now been abandoned in favour of trader-to-trader marketing. We have lost heavily and the overseas egg market is in a precarious position. Is this the prosperity to which the Prime Minister and the Treasurer have referred? The honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Greenup) said that the Prime Minister was a silver-tongued orator and had persuaded the people that prosperity existed in Australia. I do not agree that the Prime Minister is a silver-tongued orator. He may have been at one time, but now he is only the sanctuary for the ponderous paragraph and the out-worn cliche. I do not agree that the Treasurer is a fine financial genius. He reminds me of a waiter staggering into the kitchen juggling a pile of plates several feet high, and shutting his ears against the crash that will inevitably occur. He piled up figures to towering summits and climbed the Matterhorn of his own platitudes.
The Government will not defend the budget. On the 25th August last, the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Casey) gave honorable members an impassioned address about the Australian Labour party. He knew better than to discuss this budget, this horrible little sister of the horror budget. He has been too long a member of this chamber to have anything to do with the budget. Instead, he gave honorable members a well-mannered lecture in the manner of a farceur entertaining the people at the Tivoli theatre, and he posed the question, “ What is wrong with the Labour party? “ He came to several conclusions, the most important of which seemed to be that the only good Labourite is a dead one. It is significant that he did not touch upon the budget at any stage. We might have expected that, as Minister for External Affairs, he would relate it in some way to the affairs with which his portfolio is. concerned. On Thursday last; the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Kent Hughes), whose job is to look after the drains in Canberra, gave us a rabblerousing’ address on external affairs and said nothing about the budget. Government supporters say that honorable members on this side, of the chamber have displayed no punch in. their observations on the budget. One does not shoot the sitting hen or kick the horrible little child. He just gets’ away from it as quickly as possible. In passing, I make the point that the Government itself is determined not to support this budget, because it knows, that it is only an interregnum measure that contains very little that is worthy of support and much that is. cold’ blooded, particularly in relation to the needs of the servicemen and the pensioners.
The financial leader of. this, chamber,, the Treasurer, gave us a welter of figures. He went along, with a. reaping, hook harvesting the figures- in swathes, making millions- of pounds, here and there, telling us. what would happen, at. one. place or another,, and pointing, out all. the difficulties with which we are assailed. He admitted, in part. that, at present Australia’s overseas trading account- is in an unso.und. condition and that the returns from primary products have; declined. What was his solution to these problems ? His cure-all was the removal’ of 3s. of excise from, the bottle of brandy and the addition of ls. per lb. to the price of tea. That was a magnificent gesture in support of the budget! Real solutions to; Australia’s financial problems are available. If the Government is not aware of them the Australian Labour party will’ be happy to help it along by informing it. of them.
If Australia’s, export- industries’ are in difficulties, why does the Administration not do something to curb the activities of the. monopolistic shipping companies instead” of trying to encourage them? Were it not for the persistent and unceasing, fight of the Australian Labour party, the Commonwealth shipping line would no, longer be in existence,, and Australia’s only bulwark against’, vicious and almost’ insane exploitation would”, have been destroyed. So strong was criticism of the Administration’s intentions in rela- tion to the line, as was evidenced by a gallup poll taken a short time before the last general election, that the Government became humble and almost ate its own words when it announced that it would not proceed with the proposed’ sale of the Commonwealth ships. Any one who studies the high freights that are charged by the overseas, shipping companies, can readily determine where one of the major difficulties lies.
The honorable member for Angas (Mr. Downer) mentioned the problem of costs of production. Costs are a great problem, but it is wrong to attribute the high cost structure to the wages of the workers: Every one! is aware of the racket in shipping freights, that is being practised. Any one with the intelligence, to inquire into, events- in Australia knows that our trade with the Middle East has been wrecked by the overseas shipping monopoly. Australia was building up a. splendid trade with the Middle East, but it was. found that the cost of shipping good’s to that part of the world was’ almost as great as would be the cost of sending them to London or Liverpool. The- freight charge for a. cargo of sugar from Cairns- to Devonport in Tasmania is; nearly as. great as would be the freight charge’ for shipping a similar cargo- to England. If the Government wishes to put the wheat industry and the other more vulnerable primary industries in a. sound position, it must take- action t.o> reduce, overseas shipping freights. Let US; recall what happened, in relation to . stevedoring charges.. The Australian Labour party, in its- wisdom, agreed, to support the Administration in its move to reduce stevedoring charges so that freight’s might be. reduced. Only interstate freights, were reduced” after the passage of the amending legislation,, and the re:duction was. due solely to the fact that the Commonwealth, shipping line acted as. a contra and provided a. basis for comparison.. The overseas shipping, com:panies have gone- off with the loof and are laughing at: the members of this Parliament. Their response , was similar to that of big business to> a reduction of company tax by £30,0;00s000 none of. the benefit of which was passed on to the workers. The Government’ prates of a balanced economy, but it allows itself to be swayed on the one hand by primaryproducing interests, and on the other by big business. If the Administration is sincerely looking for a solution of Australia’s cost problems in primary industries, it. should at least take action to reduce shipping freights, which are dangerously high;but it does nothing.
The Government did not bother to think about markets until sales declined. It then sent canvassers throughout the country to do something about the problem. A feeling of disquiet pervades the minds of Opposition members and supporters of the Government in contemplation of the future.I wonder whether we lean too much upon our economists.. I am not competent to criticize as a class the exponents of the inexact science of economics, but I am able to relate to honorable members some history, both recent and not so recent. When the Australian Labour party was in office, the economists did some guessing and advised the Labour Government to keep servicemen in the Army and to avoid wholesale unemployment. The Labour Administration decided against that policy, and for the first time in Australia’s history; full employment was attained, and this Government dare not undermine it. The economists later advised the people of Australia to begin growing cabbages in their bathrooms because a world shortage of food threatened. What happened? A world glut of food occurred. Economists give all kinds of advice to governments. I suggest that the best thing for this Administration to do with its economists would be to insert ins the Canberra Times and other newspapers an advertisement in the following terms: -
For sale - Some thoroughly worn-out economists complete with graphs, horoscopes: and crystal balls.
The. Government could1 then get to work in an energetic effort to administer the affairs of the country more sensibly.. As the honorable member for Bowman has said, there is not, in principle, a great deal of difference between running a household efficiently and running a country successfully.
Share prices are high and money is abundant, but any one who thinks deeply must wonder why the cost structure is not examined intelligently The unionists go to the Commonwealth Courtof Concilia tion and Arbitration for justice.On some occasions a panel of no fewer than seven judges examines minutely every element of the workers’ cost of living, and fixes a. basic wage, which is then promptly frozen.. The court also fixes margins, and promptly abolishes them.. Then, in the commercial columns) of the newspapers, we read reports that something must be done to reduce thecost structure. The Government, has certainly done something about the cost structure of the workers. It has knelt on the workers in the court; deferred hearings: on applications for increased wages, frozen the basic wage,, eliminated margins, and deprived old people of pensions. It must now look somewhere else for the dangers in the cost structure, and judging by its actions it is looking to the wrong branches of trade exploitation.
The fluidity of money is severely restricted by this Government’s banking legislation. The Administration maintains; that it abhors the very idea, of control, and that, it. was; elected, on a freeenterprise programme, but it: retains the master control upon the entire economy - the control of credit. We in this chamber have heard repeated ad nauseam by honorable members on both sides of the chamber the sorry story of the inability of ex-servicemen, who have only half of the total purchase price to. put down, to attain homes that they sorely need. Neither the Commonwealth Trading Bank nor the private trading banks: will accept half the purchase price as a deposit on a home. We have heard also about the; difficulties of developing industries that want money for expansion that will provide more employment, and are unable to get the money that they need because they are not engaged in the kind of enterprise in which the Commonwealth Trading Bank wants to invest. Only those people who represent short-term investments and can give a quick return can get money out of the Commonwealth Bank. One of the greatest tragedies ever enacted in this Parliament was the manner in which the Commonwealth Bank was separated from the central bank. When the legislation which brought the Commonwealth Trading Bank into existence passed through this
Parliament, the Commonwealth Bank lost the backing of £1,000,000,000 of the workers’ savings. To-day the Commonwealth Bank is forced to lend on its deposits. It is not actually touting for fixed deposits at per cent., but it is trying hard to get them in the Commonwealth Savings Bank. Yet the money lender who finances the purchase of motor cars and other luxury goods, and has already borrowed money from the Commonwealth Bank in the past, i3 able to sell debentures at 3 per cent. If the Treasurer calls that good finance, I should like to know what he would regard as bad work.
One of the real dangers in our economy to-day is the frustration of the Commonwealth Bank. It has withered. It has been allowed to die on the vine. It cannot lend because it has not sufficient funds. Twenty-five million pounds is needed in New South Wales for co-operative housing. If th: Government believes in housing schemes and that governments as governments should be interested in housing, why does it not give money to the co-operative housing organizations, which build houses for individual owners or others desirous of owning property? With this Government, housing is a dead letter. Money is not available for co-operative housing in New South Wales or for any worthwhile expansion scheme because the Commonwealth Bank simply does not have the money. The £6,000,000 capitalization of the great Commonwealth Bank was the cruellest blow that organization ever suffered. Years ago the Australian Country party gave us the “ Tragic Treasurer “. Now it has produced another one. The bloodlines are running true. This is one of the basic principles underlying the finances of this Government and it is one of the dangers inherent in the budget that the Treasurer praises so warmly. The Treasurer leans on the despatch box in this chamber and complains that there is £10,000,000 too much consumer credit in this country, and that people are spending too much money. The reason is, of course, that the things that people really want are too dear, and the reason they are too dear is that most of them are bought on time payment, and the man who is rocketing to fame to-day under this Government is not the worker in industry, the farmer on his land, or the little manufacturer, but the exploiter of money. It is the fellow with that £50,000,000 worth of “ hot “ money that, blew here from Great Britain some years ago. The credit finance game is so good that the banks are chasing it. Every second bank has a credit branch associated with it and makes available credit for hire-purchase because there is at least 30 per cent, profit in it. Why should the Treasurer lament these things when he knows that the money is going into the building of homes and other revenues which cannot be inflationary? He would dispose of this surplus spending power which is going into luxury buying. I quote the case that the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Minogue) mentioned to me some weeks ago. It concerned an ex-serviceman who wanted to buy his house which was valued at £2,000. He took £1,000 to the Commonwealth Bank but the bank could not lend hint the other £1,000. Can you imagine what happened to the £1,000 he had saved? It would be expended on a motor car, furniture, or some other things n’U so basic to the economy and not so noninflationary as the purchase of bricks and mortar for his family. He can blame only the Government and its banking policy. There is too much talk by the Government of inflation. Much of the so-called inflationary trend is due to the fact that this country has taken a leap forward since the war. Our wages are higher, and our prices are higher, but much of that increase is stable. It is not dangerous. It is something that should be encouraged. Other features are more inflationary, but are still within the limit of our capacity to control.
There seem to be some very obvious things to do about our secondary industries. We talk, by and large, of secondary industries and what we are doing for them. But some mushroom industries cannot creep for ever under the wall of protection. I believe most firmly that the 40 per cent, initial depreciation allowance was a good thing for Australia. When the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) was asked a question recently about this allowance, he said, “ You are talking about this depreciation allowance and, at the same time, you are complaining about the profit of General MotorsHoldens Limited.” But the answer to that was given by the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) who asked for an excess profits tax, or, to use the American name, a capital gains tax. The other side of the argument is to say that industries can be encouraged by giving them a depreciation allowance early in the piece for developmental purposes. We stick by that.
The half hour that we have to discuss the budget is of course too short to permit us to traverse adequately a document of such size and importance as this, but I should like to make some general conclusions. The most cowardly and unforgivable feature of the budget is its total and absolute neglect of the pensioners. If this Government is prepared to win elections by kneeling on the vulnerable groups in the community, good luck to it. It can then say to the big money-bags, “ We did not let them get away with it.” But let me warn the Government that if it does not keep money circulating at the grass roots of the economy; in simple language, if it does not feed the pensioner and give him enough to live on, the big fellow will crash too. It is a question of common sense. When, after the Randell report, President Eisenhower was asked what he would do in the event of a depression, he replied, “I would subsidize the men who grow the food and increase social services to see that the men who eat it have enough money to buy it.” The Government should think that one over when considering its treatment of the pensioners. The Government is tinkering with the means test. The only final solution to the social services problem is the total and complete abolition of the means test. I believe in that and I spoke for it. When the economy is in despair, fill up your social services because that is where purchasing, power comes from. The honorable member for Bowman (Mr. McColm) said that this Government had inherited an economy that was running down badly: and that it tinkered at this wheel and that in an attempt to keep the economic machine running. It did nothing of the sort. The Government acquired a financial machine that it did not understand. Its four running wheels were full employment. Its steering wheel was social services and the welfare state, and the chassis was complete prosperity for this great and glorious country of Australia. The Government got control of the machine; it backed and filled and finally rammed the machine into a ditch by adhering to its moth-eaten oldfashioned financial formulas that will not work. Honorable members opposite claim that prosperity is abounding, but we say. as the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Crean) has said, that prosperity is not abounding but it exists only here and there. We are told about the great future of this country, but at least six primary industries are in the doldrums. We talk about our growing secondary industries but they depend for financial aid upon a source which is dangerous because it is tied up with the money lender. There is a stranglehold on the Commonwealth Bank and a blackout on housing and progressive works of all kinds. How, in the face of all that, this Government can believe that the budget is of any use, I am at a loss to understand. It should be, as the honorable member for Melbourne has said, withdrawn and re-drafted.
.- I expected from an old campaigner and a front-bencher like the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) some constructive thought on the matters contained in the budget. But, like his colleagues, he could speak only of the budget’s failure to provide for a general rise of pensions. The only constructive thought in his speech which lasted half an hour was his first suggestion. I should have thought that the honorable member would have at least tried to explain to the committee how the Labour party proposed to abolish the means test.
– Quite easily.
– The honorable member for Brisbane (Mr. George Lawson) is one of those who did not say, when he spoke earlier, how the Labour party proposed to achieve that objective. In fact, no member pf the Opposition has proposed any practical solution of the problem of abolishing themeans test. Of course, we know that the Opposition has no such solution. We have to submit to this continual criticism in the knowledge that it is completely without justice or justification. Undoubtedly honorable members Opposite are champion critics, but we expect them to offer some constructive suggestions for the welfare of our country.
I rose mainly for the purpose of opposing the amendment proposed by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell). I understand that it is the custom for the Opposition to move a formal amendment to the motion that the first item in the Estimates be agreed to, and I sympathize with the honor- able gentleman in his predicament because the case that he had to present was hopelessly weak. In fact, as the debate has progressed, it has become quite clear that the Labour party has no case at all. It has been beaten by the Government at the polls and is now left without a case to argue. It is a great pity that a great political party like the Australian Labour party has not a constructive policy to place before the Parliament. The people believe that it should at least have a policy, and we on this side of the chamber would be prepared to listen to it if it had a constructive policy. I support the budget because it is a balanced budget that will maintain economic stability and economic freedom for Australia. The parties represented on this side of the chamber are able to say to the people that the Government has carried out within three months every promise that it made to them during the election campaign. Ican readily understand why honorable members opposite were aggrieved when they heard the budget speech of the Treasurer, especially when he said, at the outset-
During the financial yearjust closed we had in Australia stability of general economic conditions, combined in remarkable degree with real and substantial material progress. Oh the one hand, retail and wholesale prices were generally steady throughout the year, and so too were wage rates and the other main elements which determine costs. On the other hand, civilian employment increased by no less than 90,000 persons. National income rose by 5 per cent. and, since the price level did not rise, thiswas a real gain in terms of goods and services.
That statement illustrates one reason why members of the Labour party are under a great disability when they try to level criticism at the Government. This ‘country enjoys to-day the best standards of living in the world. According to international food commissions, Australians have more food than people in other countries, with the exception of the United States of America, and our standards of living are equal to those of Americans. The Government can claim quite honestly that it has done goodto the people of Australia. We are proud of its achievements.
The budget offers advantages to all classes of people. Honorable members opposite have complained that the Government has not provided for higher pensions, even though they know that it did not promise to increase pension rates. However, the Government will honour a promise that it made during the election campaign by providing £20.200,000 a year more than previously for pensioners and homes for the aged. A substantial increase of payments to pensioners as a result of a liberalization of the means test will benefit 90,000 persons already in receipt of pensions and willbring 71,000’ additional persons into the social services field. Furthermore, over 3,000,000 taxpayers will obtain relief from income tax and related charges, such as sales tax, to the amount of £42,600,000; This is a continuation of the established policy of the present Government. Honorable members will realize, if they look back to 1949, when the Labour party controlled the Treasury, that we did not then have the advantages of a plentiful supply of food that we have to-day. We ail know that we suffered from food rationing and rampant black marketing throughout Australia at that time;
If honorable members opposite want toknow more of what the Government has. done for the people, they need only examine the records of the savings banks of Australia. The savings of the peopleare an indication of real prosperity. In June this year, deposits in Australian savings banks exceeded £1,000,000,000 for the first time; The amount on deposit at the 30th June was- £1,010,129,000.
MrCurtin - What wasthe total numberof depositors ?
Mr.BRAND- The number of Operative accounts was 6,756,000, and the deposits “represented an average Of £149. 5 per account, or £112.7 per capita Of the population. That is not a bad effort. On the 30th June, 1’950, the number of accounts was ‘6,105,000, and the deposits represented £124.8 per account, or £93.1per capita of the population, with a total deposit of £762,085,000.
Mr.Curtin. - What does that mean? Nothing !
– It Certainly means nothing to a capitalist like the honorable member for Watson (Mr. Curtin), but it means a lot to theaverage Australian. I should say that thesavings bank deposits arean indication that the people are prosperousand that the Government, unlike Labour governments, is a good, sound government Labour has very little to show for its term in charge of the affairs of the country. Its representatives in this Parliament have done very little forAustralia.
I have listened during this debate to a numberof Speeches by members of the Opposition who have claimed that the Labour partyobtained amajority of the votes castat thegeneral election on the 29 thMay last.
Mr.Fuller- That is quite true.
Mr.BRAND - I listened, for example, to the honorable member for Brisbane, who is known for hisfair-ness, and I was surprised ‘to hear him thake the same claim andsay that ‘the electorates of the six honorable members on this side of the chamber who were returned unopposed should notbe taken into account in the calculations. When Vetake the six uncontestedelectorates into account, we realize thattthere were59,386 more votes for the Governmentthan there were for the Labour party. Weare entitled to takethose returned unopposed as representingcertain number ofvotes for the Government I suggest thatalthough you, Mr.Chairman, will be pleased tohear whatI now intendto say, itwillnotbesuch pleasant hearing for the honorablememberforBrisbane. At the last generalelection,374,814 Queensland elector’svotedfor Liberal and AustralianCountry party candidates, and only 295,424 voted for Labour candidates.. The Opposition should note ‘that that is a very decisive vote in favourof the Menzies Government.
MrCurtin - How many votes were cast for each party?
Mr.BRAND.- In Queensland the Government parties Wonthirteen seats, and theLabour party won only -five seats. -I ‘cannot understand the Opposition complaining about a minority of votes putting a party into office, because that sort of thing has been the chief stock in trade of the Queensland Labour Government for years-; possibly of the New South Wales Government also. The Labour party in Queensland is a champion at getting into office on a minority of Votes. At the Queensland general election in 19 47, Labour candidates polled 43.6 per cent, of the total formal votes cast, but obtained 56.4 per cent, of the seats in the Queensland Parliament. The Liberal and Australian Country parties polled 49.9 per cent of the votes cast, but only obtained 47.8 percent of the seats. However, the Queensland Labour ‘Government was not satisfied with that state of affairs, and decided thatit should change the electorates. In1949, the Queensland Government introduced legislation to alter the electoral boundaries, and by so igerrymandeling -the electorates it enabled itself to retain office by a still lower total -number of votes.In 1950, the Queensland Labour Government obtained 42 seats from 303,502 votes, and the Liberal and Australian Country parties got 31seats from 331,542 votes. The reason for the anomalous position was that th’e electorates had been so gerry mandered by th’e Queensland Labour Government that Labour members representedon anaverage 7,226 voters each, whereas Liberal memberseach represented an average of 17,121 voters. Surely that indicates the degree of gerrymandering thatoccurred. We in Queenslandnow realisethat it is necessarytodefeat the men whohavetaken part in sucha diabolicalplot against the people of thatState.
I have not the slightest doubt that this Government, having won a general election in 1949 on a redistribution of electorates by a Labour government, will continue to maintain the confidence of the people of Australia. At all events, an electoral plan may be put forward by this Government before the next general election, but whatever might be the result of that, the last general election indicated quite clearly that the Liberal party and the Australian Country party have little to fear from the people of Australia. They are not prepared to do as Labour has done, that is, to try to hold office by gerrymandering seats and trying to put one over the people of Australia.
– Wait and see.
– The honorable member says “Wait and see.” Well, I believe that this Government has a fine record. The only criticism that the Opposition can offer about the Government’s budget, is that age and invalid pensions have not beeen increased. The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) did not promise an increase in his policy speech delivered before the last general election, and so the Opposition cannot hold it against the Prime Minister and the Government that pensions have not been increased. The honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) said that any government that forgot the pioneers was unworthy to govern. The honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Crean) said that the Government was callous towards pensioners, and his colleagues cheered him. Well, let us take a walk down the corridor of time and ascertain just what the Labour party has done for the pensioner. Within the last 40 years we have had Labour governments at three different periods of our history. Those periods have totalled about thirteen years. On the first occasion, between 1914 and 1916, there was a Labour government led by that late W. M. Hughes. But that gentlemen threw in the towel and got out. Then, except for the short-lived Scullin Government, in 1930-31, there followed a succession of good non-Labour governments, until in about 1941, because two independent members of the
Parliament transferred their allegiance from the Government to the Opposition, Labour came into power. The two independent members who went over to Labour, Mr. Coles and Mr. Wilson, got very good jobs later. We all know what happened when this country was governed by the Labour party under Mr. Curtin and Mr. Chifley. It acted in a similar way to a Labour government which, in 1931, brought about the depression, reduced the age pensioners from £1 to 17s. 6d. a week and even took 2s. 6d. from the invalid pensioners who were receiving 5s. a week.
What did Labour do prior to this Government’s assumption of office? Just as it had done on two previous occasions, it ran the country on to the rocks. Every time Labour has been in power in Australia it has run this country into trouble, and has had to call on the nonLabour parties to restore health to our economy, and to the country in general. From 194.1 to . 1949, Labour had so controlled the lives of the people that rationing was general, and black markets existed everywhere. To try to get out of the mess it had created, it brought down a bill to nationalize our banking institutions. We knew that the people then decided to have another government, and chose the present Government. Since then, although there have been two further appeals to the people, on each occasion the Government has secured the verdict. The Labour party has never given age pensioners, and others entitled to social services, the assistance that this Government and other non-Labour governments have given them.
Mr. Allan Fraser interjecting,
– The honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Allan Eraser) knows that Labour governments are responsible for giving pensioners only 22s. out of the present pension of £3 10s. a week. At least this Government has always recognized those in need, and during this debate honorable members on the opposite side of the House have said repeatedly that those who are in need are first entitled to what this country can give them. Those honorable members should note that this Government has given the pensioners more than any
Labour government has ever given them. If Australia should ever again be unfortunate enough to have a Labour government, that government will run this country very quickly on to the rocks, and, as happened in 1931, the pensioners will have to take a reduction of pension. The Labour party has shown, throughout its history, that it cannot govern in a crisis. I have listened to the remarks of the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) and other members of the Opposition about the fall in the price of wool. I almost fear that I detect a ring of pleasure in their voices when they refer to that subject. I hope that it is not so. The wool sales have only just started, and the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. McEwen) has endeavoured to make the country realize that it may not be such a serious fall as to embarrass the economy of this country. Members of the Labour party seem to wish to convey to the people the idea that the fall is most serious. I ask the honorable member for Parkes why he is not sufficiently constructive to suggest what this Government can do to rectify the position if wool prices are’ falling and the decline is likely to have such a serious effect upon our economy. But not one member of the Labour party has said what this Government can do to rectify the position if prices continue to fall. Fortunately, there has been a steadying influence in the Queensland sales, and it is to be hoped that the prices will become steady and, before the end of the season, will be commensurate at least with the costs incurred by producers to-day, and be beneficial to the economy.
I have listened attentively to honorable members who have spoken about communism and its curse in this country. There is no reason for people to doubt the attitude of honorable members sitting on this side of the chamber towards communism, but the honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Chambers), in a melodramatic outburst last week, seemed to imply that we should charge Opposition members who, we believe, are Communists, That is not the function of honorable members on this side of the chamber. Opposition members have in their own minds the answer to the question that was thrown at us by the honorable member for Adelaide. It is for them to tell the people where they stand. For myself, I make it clear that I stand with the Australian Country party and the Liberal party as an opponent of communism and all it stands for. The party of which I am a member believes that a South-East Asia Treaty Organization should be established. We consider that such an organization will be one answer to communism. I believe that another answer would have been provided by the Communist Party Dissolution Act, and I hope that the people will again be asked, by way of a referendum in the near future, to agree to an alteration of the Constitution in the terms of that legislation. The act at least reveals where people stand.
Members of the Labour party can say what they like about it, but our ally, America, which has the power which we should have, has decided to dissolve the Communist party. The views of world famous men in New York on the Communist menace should not be ignored. Cardinal Spellman, who is a noted world figure, said that it would not be long before the encircling pincers of world communism were turned directly against America. He stated that there was no hope of peaceful co-existence with Russia I think that most Australians agree that there is no possibility of co-existence with Russia. and I doubt very much whether there is any possibility of co-existence with red China. But at least this Government is endeavouring to put our house in order, and protect it, by joining with America and other nations in a Pacific organization which will protect us from this menace of communism. The Australian Country party and the Liberal party have always fought, and will always continue to fight, against the menace of communism that threatens our way of life, and, indeed, our very existence. I believe that many honorable members, even those on the Opposition benches, who have spoken in a similar strain, should take stock of the position, and certainly bring to book members of the’ party, or their own party, that may appear, at any rate, to be supporting the Communist way of life.
– Name them ! Name one of them !
– The honorable member for Hume (Mr. Fuller), must understand that Dr. Evatt–
– Order! The Standing Orders provide that an honorable member must not be referred to by name..
– The Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) was the principal opponent of the Communist Party Dissolution Act.. He has not taken a stand in the courts of this land unless there was a threat to the Communists. Honorable members who sit behind him. will have to answer the question themselves. We on this side of the chamber say quite frankly that we stand as one man against communism. It is for members’ of the Labour’ party, not us; to cast the- mote out of their own eyes.
.- The, last part of the speech of. the honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Brand), in. which he dealt with communism, does not call for any comment by me. The budget of. a government is equivalent to the audit of a private business,, but with a. great deal more latitude than is allowed in private business. The budget is supposed, to, show the income of the nation, and the. proposals, for its distribution in that financial year. The Government is supposed to distribute any benefits among the people of the Commonwealth. But under this budget, we find an astounding position. The people who have the least money and security are to receive the least benefit, and the people who are in a secure position, and have high salaries or big incomes,, or own land1, are to receive a great number of benefits. Some members of the Opposition have discussed this budget very scientifically indeed, and others have, dealt with it with blunt outspokenness. Opposite us- in this chamber are represented the Australian Country party and the Liberal party. Whether the political parties opposed to Labour go under the name of Australian Country party, Liberal party of United Australia party, if one scratches the skin, one has the good old tory party, whose traditional policy is to put the. boot into the workers and the lower paid people: The tradition of the tories, not. only, in; Australia but throughout the world, is to treat: the people with the least opportunities! in the worst possible manner:. The story of the actions’, of this- Government, is a. part of a story that, is; world-wide. Man’s inhumanity to man makes; countless millions, mourn.. This, Government, by its neglect to- provide for some increase, of the age pension, has. made thousands’ of people in Australia mourn.
The budget, is essentially a war budget, because £200,000^000 is to be set aside for war. How much of that money will be spent to provide arms and equipment for the men we are calling up to take part in what, promises to be a war?’ At Canungra the Government has. taken up some of the roughest and most rugged land ih Queensland. Tens’ of thousands of pounds, if not millions of pounds, will Be spent to level ground for soldiers to operate on. Bulldozers and mechanical shovels are on the job already.. If honorable members, went there to-day they would think it was the beginning of the Snowy River dam project. I do not know why the Minister for the Army (Mr. Francis) has chosen an area which is. so rugged that a. huge sum will have to be spent on levelling, it for the. required purposes. The Government will say that that money has been, spent on. defence. It is. repeating the errors that another government, of a similar political colour made, in World: War II., when, it called men up, without having made, proper provision to equip, and train, them.
The- honorable: member for Mackellar (Me: Wentworth )i made. the. best speech delivered from the Government side of the chamber in this debate.. Unlike the Ministers concerned with defence, he has a-, real appreciation of the- necessity for action to build up. the defences of Australia on modern lines.. If the Prime Minister (Mr.. Menzies) could cease foi a: moment to talk, platitudes and to. pat himself on the; back,, he would appoint the honorable! member’ for- Mackellar, as Assistant. Minister- for Supply. The honorable member would certainly enliven tha actions, of the; Government in regard to; supply;, which, ih my view;, is? the weakest lini in. the defence programme; We want as Assistant Minister.- for Supply somebody who is*, really alive, because the; Minister- for Supply ((Mr.
Beale)1 will never wale- up. to- the necessities of the situation nor do- anything that is- worth- while* This- matter is of vital importance to the people of Australia. Et- is not something that concerns only the Government and the- Opposition. But, although- the fate of the whole, country depends- on the Government doing the right thing- at the- present time-, apparently Cabinet has- no idea of what- should be done or where it: is heading..
The honorable member for Mackellar Has stated that it takes only one nation to; start a fight and at- least two nations to* maintain peace: I hope- the nations on- our side will keep that in- mind. We have taken- the stand that we shall take no action against any country on. the other side unless- it becomes an aggressor, but we should’ be very careful indeed to ensure- that there- will be no aggression from out* side: We have agreed to join the South-East Asia Treaty Organization. Indonesia- has. made drastic demand’s for- action by the Allies. A week or two ago the Indonesians were claiming the whole of New Guinea, but now they want us to- take definite action on their behalf. Pakistan is in doubt whether to- join Seato. India, Ceylon and Burma have- refused to join. The United States of America is- reported to be taking action in Formosa. If action h’ taken in Formosa- by the Americans, we- shall be, the- aggressors and we- shall be at war with China1. Anybody who knows the- history of China understands that there- is no possibility that any other country will’ conquer China or will be able- to d’o anything more than to damage some- property and kill some people there: That” would not stop- communism.
China is a communist nation, but it had’ to link with Russia: only- because, it was isolated from- the rest of the world. China is not an aggressor nation. It sent labour corps to Europe in the. 1914-1-8 war and was at’ war with Japan- during World War II. China has; played’ the game in every way. It was forced to join up with Russia because the Western nations had more or less isolated it: But although China has joined up with Russia,, it has not’ given way to the Russians. It’ is not a puny nation that has had to give way to Russia. At’- an early stage of the Korean war, Russia wanted to- go through North Korea and conquer South Korea. That would have put Russia in a key position in that part of the- world, but the Chinese- Government refused’ to allow the Russians to do so. It took charge of North Korea only when the Allies approached Manchuria. The Chinese have not given in to- the Russians- in any way. North Korea was a Russian satellite before the Korean war. T’o-day it is a Chinese satellite. Originally; of course) it was- part of China.
Ih 1941, Japan and Russia’ signed a pact that gave Outer Mongolia- to Russia and. Manchuria to Japan: Some people laud Japan to-day. That pact does not show that China was aggressive. As M’ao Tse-Tung has control of Sinkiang, Manchuria and North Korea, the Russians are between the capitalistic West and the communistic East, either of which would resist an attack by Russia. China could easily be at war with Russia in the not far distant future. If we were to attack. China, we should! drive the Chinese and other coloured races into the hands, of the Russians. Very few of the Asiatic races want to join the South-East Asia. Treaty Organization. Therefore, we would have European races on one side, and Asiatic races on the other. Considerable thought should be given to this aspect of the: matter by honorable members on both sides- of, the committee., I consider, on. the. evidence available,, that Great Britain and New Zealand acted wisely in- recognizing the de facta Government of China. We- know that Japan would turn communistic, at. any time, that suited it.. If our troops became involved in a war with China,, and Australia was left not adequately defended, we. would be a prey to Japan, whether that’ country was imperialistic, or communistic.
We all remember the. attack by Japan on Pearl. Harbour- at the; time- that, a Japanese* ambassador was negotiating peace proposals- with the American Government.. There, were; no* beg-pardons about the matter ;. the Japanese struck at that time because it suited them to do, so. It’ is- this; aspect of’ J Japanese psychology that we- must keep in mind. It: is- gene rally recognized that, after- Japan had entered the war in the Pacific, Australia was saved only by the recall of our Sixth, Seventh and Ninth Divisions from the Middle East, and the fact that the United States of America took heed of our appeal for help. Many thousands of Australian and American fighting men were killed and permanently maimed in the defence of this country. The final attempt by the Japanese to invade Australia was defeated by American bomber squadrons in the Coral Sea battle.
I cannot understand why many people continue to worry about China, because the history of the Chinese is one of nonaggression, whereas the Japanese have a history of aggression. The Minister for Air (Mr. Townley) has admitted that, in the event of Australia being attacked, Queensland would be abandoned. He has stated that Australia could be defended from Darwin, and that a dozen Sabre jet fighter planes would be available shortly. On the other hand, the Minister for Supply (Mr. Beale) stated recently that only one Sabre could be built in each twelve months. On that basis, twelve years would elapse before the twelve Sabres to which the Minister for Air referred would be ready for service. Action should be taken to station more troops and police at Darwin. Although supporters of the Government would have us believe that Darwin is adequately protected, and that everything in the garden is rosy, it was reported recently that a man wearing battered green Army clothing, but without boots, nearly got away with a DC3 aircraft. When the Minister’s attention was directed to the report, he stated that if the man had managed to get the aircraft into the air, a fighter plane would have been despatched to intercept him. That is an extraordinary state of affairs. Apparently the Minister believes that all will be well so long as we have a few Sabres based on Darwin. Honorable members opposite should not forget that, despite the assurances that were given about the impregnability of the great British naval base at Singapore, Malaya fell to the Japanese not long after their entry into World War II. The present meagre fortifications at Darwin could quickly be destroyed by a couple of enemy bombers. While it is true that an aggressor nation would hesitate to attack Darwin if that area were well fortified, it is ridiculous for the Minister to contend that the whole of this huge continent could be defended adequately from Darwin. How could a dozen Sabre jet aircraft hope to combat enemy bombers over various parts of Australia? How can the people of this country place any reliance in a Minister who has expressed such outofdate ideas? It is the story of the Brisbane line all over again, except that, in this instance, it is the Australian line. Apparently the Government proposes to send our troops overseas again, without making adequate preparation for the defence of Australia. As I have said before, only Divine Providence, the intelligence of John Curtin, the sending of American troops to this country, and the return of three of our fighting divisions from the Middle East saved us last time. We cannot depend on Divine Providence or a miracle to save us again. We must take some action to mount our own defences. I wish to emphasize that if the present world position develops into a major war, as it well might, it is possible that, in desperation, one side or the other will drop a hydrogen bomb. If what we aru told by the scientists is true, that would mean the end of the world, because the dropping of one such bomb would be followed by the dropping of a number of them. It would certainly mean the end of our Christian civilization. The capital cities of the world, the churches of London, Paris, Vienna and of other great cities would disappear, as would the Vatican at Rome. So it is not an exaggeration to say that we are faced with nothing short of the possible destruction of modern civilization. Can anybody contemplate calmly the possible destruction of the whole of our civilization? I am bringing this forward because I want people, and particularly the members of the Government, who are in charge of the country to-day, to give every consideration to the possibility of preventing these things from happening. It is so easy to rush into a war, so easy to get into something that produces only destruction and misery. I can even visualize that in another war Australian soldiers would be used as shock troops, as they have been in the past. I hope that that will never happen. In the days of “World “War I. boys with laughing lips and sparkling eyes, from “New Zealand and Australia, were landed, without cover, on an open hill on Gallipoli, which was of no military value. It was the greatest military mistake in modern warfare. That war was fought because production of armaments had reach saturation point, although it was said to ha vo started because an Archduke was assassinated by Serbian nationalists. A clue to the identity of the people who were really responsible for that war lies in the fact that the Turks against whom the Australian and “New Zealanders fought were using armaments that bore the names of munition-makers in Great Britain, Germany and America. The Turks were defending a fortified position, and using against our troops arms that had been supplied to them by the armaments manufacturers of the world. These included light field guns, machine guns and rifles. We celebrate each year the anniversary of the landing at Anzac. It is the day on which we pay our greatest tribute to the courage and endurance of the men who fought on Gallipoli. But it is also the anniversary of one of the darkest hours of military strategy. I hope that our modern strategists, in both the purely military field and the civilian field, will do all they can to maintain peace, in the firstplace, and, in the second place, to see that we refrain from, making war until war is made upon us. That would be logical. Few people, and few honorable members, realize fully the possibility of the destruction of our civilization. Frankly, it is hard for me to realize. Every effort on behalf of honorable members opposite, and on our behalf, should be used to prevent the things that I have mentioned from happening.
.- I have difficulty in finding anything to say regarding the remarks about defence that were made by the honorable member for Leichhardt .(Mr. Bruce), because they seem to me, as so often is the case when honorable members opposite talk about the defence of this country, to be a mixture of, on the one hand, the most craven complaints and fears about what might happen to them and others in this land, and, on the other hand, ceaseless obstruction and criticism of everything that the Government does or tries to do to make this country safe. How they can find those two points of view compatible I do not know. The honorable member referred in the most critical terms to fi military camp that has recently been established in his native State - the Canungra training camp. He referred to the expenditure of millions of pounds there. That statement, for a start, is untrue.
– How do you know ?
– I know personally the director of that establishment. I know what is going on there. I am a member, part-time, of the Commonwealth Military Forces. It is my business to know, and I am here to say that information given to us about that place was false. However, the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron) knows so little about these matters that he would be well advised to keep quiet. The honorable member for Leichhardt asked what the purpose of that expenditure was. I should have thought that the purpose would have been obvious, above all to a Queenslander. The purpose is to train men to defend this country, and particularly Queensland. A moment’s reflection on the part of the honorable member ought to have made that fact clear to him. One cannot learn to fight in tropical countries by moving around on the western plains and the southern States. The Canungra camp was established by the Army for the sole purpose of training men to defend the north, and I can think of few more despicable roles than that played by a man who knows that fact quite well, but complains that his State is undefended and that nothing is being done to defend it, and exaggerates in this chamber the expenditure of a few thousand pounds on an honest endeavour to improve our defences.
Mr. Bruce interjecting.
– The honorable member may interject if hu pleases. He has had his say and, in my view, his time was ill-spent. He saw fit to attempt to frighten the committee and the country regarding the fallibility of our present defences and our vulnerability to attack from -Japan, China and other countries. He pointed out that we had once been led to put our trust in Singapore, and that the fall of that great fortress had opened us to attack from the enemy. From that he deduced that the same thing might happen again. Quite rightly. He ought to remember that fortresses are only as good or as powerful as the men who defend them. This Government has been the first government for many years that has tried, in peace-time, to instill into the people of this country, and particularly our young manhood, the necessity for our preparing to defend our land. Singapore fell because there were not enough men ‘to maintain it. There was nothing wrong with the fortress itself. The honorable member for Leichhardt said ‘that at that time there was talk of a “‘Brisbane line”. As if that were a crime ! Let “us clear our heads about the Brisbane line “, and other lines of which wo have heard talk. If war should come again, and ‘this land should be undefended - which it certainly will be if the advice of honorable .members opposite is followed, because it is noticeable that not one of ‘them has raised his voice during this debate in favour ‘of the defence of Australia - we can be certain that there will be a ‘” Brisbane line “. There will “also be a line south of the ‘” Brisbane line’”. Great armies will not be held up by such ‘talk as we have heard from Opposition members in this debate. This nation can be protected only by the training and arming of its citizenry. When I hear talk such as I have heard in this debate from honorable gentlemen opposite I atn amazed. Thank God, ‘the defence of this land does ‘not lie ih their hands, but they represent the alternative government.
I remind honorable members opposite that one reason why they lost the recent general election was that the people of Australia would not trust them with the defence of this country in view of present world conditions. Particularly, they would not trust the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) in the role of Prime Minister, Another reason “why the Opposition lost the general election was that the people would not trust them to deal with the enemy “within the gates, the Australian Communist party. The honorable -member for Bowman (Mr. McColm) quoted from an article in a newspaper in which the Leader of the Opposition was given fulsome praise by the traitor, Lockwood.. What sort of a person is he tocontemplate as Prime Minister of this country? Ever since he has been an eminent member of this Parliament, the Leader of the Opposition has taken the side -of the Communist party. He ‘hasbeen the defender of ‘communism in theinternational sphere, in the courts, and’ in the Parliament. He comes to this chamber in that role now, belatedly, while the national budget is being debated,, never having had a word to say on that budget. I ‘do not wonder that honorablemembers opposite sit there, mumchance. Who speaks with the voice of Labour inthe present “crisis?
It was my intention to ‘speak mainly on ‘the subject of defence the position in relation to which was being greatly misrepresented by ‘Opposition members, but I shall now say “something about social services and the means test. The great issue ‘before the people in ‘the last general election was the abolition of the’ means test and -the raising of the rates of pension. The Opposition put a clear proposition to the nation. It said that if it werereturned to office it “would increase pensions and ‘abolish the means ‘test. The people rejected those proposals with a great deal o’f Support from certain honorable members opposite. The honorable member for Fawkner ‘(Mr. W. ‘M. Bourke,) .said that t’he proposal was impracticable, unnecessary and undesira’ble. I agree with ever.y word that he said on this subject. I commend his courage in this regard. A great deal of humbug is talked about the .abolition of the means test. In what respect is it so desirable to abolish -the ‘means ‘test, and to pay >a pension to everybody -at ‘theage >of -65 years as if it were prize ‘money for having stayed ‘the course? TheOpposition’s proposal is to pay the agepension ‘whether the person needs it or not. It is the wont of the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. -Calwell) tocriticize what he calls exclusive- club’s ‘and invite attention ‘to “the vast ‘amount ‘of money that is spent on *he idle lives of the members who- patronize them., The proposal to abolish the means test seems to be designed’ to- pay a subscription to most of the- members of these clubs. The honorable member- little knows how popular, he is in these circles because of his proposal to- subsidize- them, in this way; I can assure him that there are a number of establishments’ in Melbourne in. which he might think’ that he is not popular but in which he- would be quite welcome to drop in for a meal at any time. I think that the. members- of these clubs would be the only supporters of this ludicrous proposal to- abolish the means test.
I do not say that the age pension provides all that is necessary for- old people. I. am in two minds on whether or not it might have been advisable to increase it further. But many people- in this country are beginning to accept that any o.ne who wants any benefit or1 payment in sickness or old age ought to receive it. 1’ cannot subscribe to that theory; One honorable member mentioned that manyage pensioners were’ prevented’ from, saving enough to provide for themselves because, for example, they had’ not received’ a< high wage or’ because they might have brought up a large family. Surely a person who brings: up a large family is entitled’ to expect from that 1’arge family in its adult life a certain amount of support and assistance in his old’ age. I know that’ this is not a particularly popular point of view,, but I say that it is wrong, from a national point” of view, to abandon the belief that each of us owes something to. our own aged people. I think that that Is what the honorable member for Fawkner had in mind when he said that, it was not. desirable or practicable to abolish the. means test. Perhaps the greatest wrong that the Labour party has ever done has been to encourage people to believe that they can get something for nothing. Higher pensions necessitate higher taxation.
-ex-.- What about- Tatts?
– I consider that that isi the most scandalous’ form of raising money that any responsible1 government could’ undertake. I have been, in1 countries which: have relied almost exclusively on gambling for their revenue-. Such prac tices are breaking- down the national fibre. If we are to proceed with national development, defence; immigration, capital investment and other essential needs, we must accept the. proposition that social services have reached the point of maximum expenditure. The prosperity of this land after five years of administration by this Government is unparalleled throughout the world. No country has been so fortunate as Australia. The aged, the disabled soldier’s, and the widows’ of no other country in the world are as well cared for at those of Australia. Consider- the jobs of the people who voted the Government into office. What is the standard’ of living of people in similar employment in France, Germany, the Union of Soviet S’ocialist’ Republics or any other country ?’ I do not say that the fortunate position of this country is entirely due to the Government. But 1 fear for Australia on the day when a government composed, of people who are as, irresponsible: as, honorable, members opposite should, take office in’ this land.’
”.- The’ committee is considering the budget for’ the present financial- year, and the debate is drawing- to a close. During the course of the debate, honorable members opposite have made certain remarks which, I think, call for some comment. For instance, the honorable- member’ for Wide Bay (Mr. Brand) stated this evening that the Liberal party and the Australian Country party took over after conditions had become impossible as the result of Labour administration. It Is well known that the Curtin Labour Government was in the minority in both Houses of this Parliament. That Government was forced to take office because of the inability of governments led’ bv the present Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies)- and the- Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) to govern the country when- it was faced with its greatest trial. The late John Curtin was literally forced to take control when the tramp of hostile feet could almost be heard on our shores. It is- entirely wrong for the honorable member for Wide Bay to say that Labour made a mess of things. When the Chifley Government was’ defeated In 1949’, it was’ not defeated on its record but on the mass of propaganda about Communists and communism which had been disseminated by the non-Labour parties. That had the effect of distracting the attention of the people from the record of the Chifley Government and from the fact that the Liberal party and the Australian Country party did not have a real policy. Had it not been for such propaganda, those parties could not have convinced the people that they were able to govern.
I turn now to a statement made by the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett), who concluded his remarks by referring to social services. He contended that the Australian Labour party had convinced the people that they were getting something for nothing when they drew the age pension. I suggest that that comment revealed to this chamber, and to the country, the mental approach of the Government to the whole question of social services benefits. The supporters of the Government themselves regard such benefits as something for nothing. They completely overlook the fact that most of those who receive the age pension are unfortunate victims of the economic struggle through which they had to pass during the whole of their working lives. Many of them are men who have brought up a family. I suggest that the majority of men of 65 years of age who have been able to educate a family and purchase a home are fortunate indeed.
This Government has failed to grapple with the problem of inflation and the economic ills that confront us. Instead of introducing the horror budget of 1951, the Government should have stood up to its responsibilities. The Menzies Administration demonstrated its inability to govern during war-time, and it has also failed the country in peace-time. Although it had stampeded the people with much talk of Communists and communism, subsequently to the double dissolution in 1951 it introduced an innocuous piece of legislation to outlaw the Communist party; but that legislation was invalidated in the High Court on the ground that it was unconstitutional. In 1950 and 1951, when the Government, after waiting, Micawber-like, for something to turn up, realized that in fact nothing was likely to turn up to extricate the country from the economic trouble into which it had been allowed to drift, it bashed and belted every wage-earner, grazier, primary-producer and businessman in the country. Having regard to the failure of the Government to grapple with inflation, is it to be wondered that a worker who now owns his own home, after perhaps 50 years’ work, is lucky?
One of the social problems which confront State administrations is the fact that most young people who get married these days are unable to buy a home because of the high prices of materials and the general inflationary trend. In many instances, they are obliged to live with their relatives and both go to work. The cost of a home is quite beyond the capacity of most young couples. I repeat, for the benefit of the honorable member for Henty, that those to whom he referred as getting something for nothing are, in most instances, men who have brought up a family and who, by means of direct and indirect taxation, have already made a great contribution to social services. In effect, they have contributed to a superannuation scheme. The Australian Labour party is of the opinion that people are entitled to pensions as a right. Because of the deterioration of our economy since the Labour Government went out of office in 1949, it would be necessary to increase the age pension by 10s. a week in order to place pensioners on the same footing as they were then. Yet this Government proposes to increase only certain pensions by 7s. 6d. a week. The age and invalid pensioners have been completely overlooked. The increases of pensions of totally and permanently incapacitated ex-servicemen will be inadequate to meet increases of the cost of living that have occurred since the pensions were increased previously.
I refer again to the statements of the honorable member for Henty. The honorable member tried to castigate- the honorable member for Leichhardt (Mr. Bruce) for the ‘statements he made in relation to the defence of northern Australia and, in particular, north Queensland. The honorable member for Henty referred to the fact that the Government was building a camp at Canungra, outside Brisbane, where troops would be trained in jungle warfare, as he said, for the defence of the whole of Australia. I invite Government supporters to indicate the contribution that the Government has made towards the defence of north Queensland. I have harped on this subject, as the people of north Queensland are defence conscious, if for no other reason, because their homes were threatened in 1942. It is for that reason that Opposition members who come from Queensland endeavour to awaken the Government. Four years ago, the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) said that we had three years, and no longer, in which to prepare our defences. Hundreds of millions of pounds have been spent on defence and defence works, but how much of that sum has been spent in Queensland? It galls me to sit in this chamber and observe that Liberal party and Australian Country party members from Queensland refrain from dealing with national problems. The honorable member for Petrie (Mr. Hulme) spoke about sewerage and drainage works that were controlled by the Brisbane City Council. There are elected representatives of the Government parties in the Brisbane City Council. That is the place in which those matters should be discussed. Speaker after speaker on the other side of the chamber has attacked the Queensland Government. They call themselves Queenslanders, but they are adopting the same tactics .as they adopted in 1949 to distract the attention of the people of Queensland from the record of the Australian Government in relation to that State. They adopt the attitude that attack is the best form of defence. They say, “ Let everything be laid at the door of the Queensland Government, and we shall not be required to explain the shortcomings of the Menzies Government towards that State”. Approximately twelve months ago, Mr. T. A. Hiley, M.L.A., who until recently was the Leader of the Liberal party in the Queensland Parliament, stated at a Liberal party convention, that not one project of a developmental nature could be pointed to in that State in which the Australian Government was directly interested. The position has not changed since Mr. Hiley made that statement.
The Opposition does not refer to 6-in. guns, as did the Minister for Air (Mr. Townley) in a statement that he made last week-end after a visit to Darwin. Members of the Opposition are concerned about the adequacy of civilian services in the event of troops having to be stationed in north Queensland, the adequacy of water supplies, and the adequacy of wharf facilities. The populations of north Queensland towns have grown, although, perhaps, not to the same degree as the populations of southern cities. The airstrips from which aeroplanes operated during “World War II. are being overgrown by jungle; cows walk across them and grass is springing up around them. These are the matters in which we are interested. We are interested in the great Cape York Peninsula and the adequacy of the aerodromes that were constructed at Jacky Jacky and Iron Range. Are those airfields in a fit condition to be used? Some one has stated that, in the event of another war, we may not have the breathing space that we had during World War II. If the Government intends to spend £200,000,000 on defence, is it not natural to expect that the first line of defence will be in the air? Ever since the late Mr. John Curtin first announced that air defence was the basic policy of the Australian Labour party, that policy has remained the policy of the party. We believe that there should be an adequate air force, that airfields in keeping with the requirements of modern aircraft should be constructed, and that in the north the disused airstrips should be reconditioned. It is all very well for the Minister for Air to fly around the Northern Territory, to take a bird’seye view, and to say that everything in the garden is lovely. We know just how quickly, under .tropical conditions and without maintenance, airstrips can break up.
The people of northern Australia are aware of Australia’s defence requirements. They are aware also of the fact that of the £177,000,000 which was expended last year and of the £200,000,000 which it is proposed to spend this year, very little has been expended in Queensland. There are people who believe that, if an aggressor were to attack this country, he would not land .in the north ;of “Western Australia or in the Northern Territory,, but, as -the Japanese attempted to do during World War II., .somewhere on the east .coast of Queensland. J remind .the honorable (member for Henty, when he ‘refers to the Canungra camp, that -that is the first demonstration to the people of Queensland that -the Government is interested in that State. There has been talk about a “ Brisbane line “, but to-day, because of the lack .of action by the Government, people think it has .become a north shore Kline. We ,are aw.are of the fact that a vacuum has .been created to the north of Australia, .but we are aware also that, just prior to the general election <on the 29th .May, -there was an air operation called “ Tropic .strike “ in which Lincoln bombers from Amberley, near Ipswich, participated. The Vampire fighter aircraft came from Melbourne .and Adelaide, but, before they co.uld land at Darwin, a mechanical starter had to be flown up because there was .not one available to re-start the .motors of the Vampire aircraft after they had stopped. That occurred in May of this year.
I refer now to the .remarks of the honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Brimblecombe).. I listened to the honorable member with interest, particularly when he spoke of ancient history and the : State butcher shops in Queensland. That happened .so long ago that I expect the honorable member at any time to talk about the shearers’ strike of 18.91 when the troops were brought out to shoot down the .shearers. The people want some practical suggestions for the .future and not ancient history.
In the course of another debate recently, I referred to’ the development of the Channel country that is in the electorate of the honorable member for Maranoa. The honorable member stated that he supported a railway from Quilpie to Windorah and from Windorah to Dajarra. He also referred to the road trains and to the fact that the Alexandria Downs station in the Northern Territory had possessed a -road train but had sold it to Vesteys. I saw that road train going into Mount .Isa many times and discussed with the driver the cost of carrying a bullock to Mount Isa by that means. He said that .such transport was good if bitumen roads -were available everywhere, hut he .said that when .there was . a mob -of .bullocks in a motor truck and he encountered .a wash-out in the road, he had to .steady up and even then the load often .shifted. In other words, the damage to bullocks by bruising is a major consideration. According to information that was .given to me when the management of Alexandria “Downs wasrunning .a road train into Mount lsa, the cost was uneconomic compared with droving by road. The honorable member for .Dawson ,(Mr. Davidson,) referred to air transport of beef. I have a copy of a pamphlet entitled Air Beef published by Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited. According to press reports the Treasurer proposes to appoint a panel to investigate the transport of beef hy air. I agree -with Mr. Gunn, the president of the ‘Graziers Federal Council of Australia. ‘I do not know his politics, but I assume that he is not a member of the Labour’ party. Mr. Gunn repeated a statement that he has made on other occasions when ‘speaking of air transport of “beef. He said, in effect, ‘” Let ‘us try it, but (rail transport is essential “. We are all agreed about a trial for “air transport. Why, theref ore, is the appoin’tmen’t.of *a panel necessary? Let “us goahead .and try air transport ‘of ‘beef, hut I agree that rail transport is also essential. ‘Of course it is. We must develop the Northern Territory and the area where 10.0,00.0 bullocks are produced each year for treatment in the Queensland meatworks. If young beef that is required under the trader-to-trader agreement is to be produced in that country, some efficient form of transport will be needed.
The : honorable member for Maranoa was having a .dollar each way when he spoke of this matter. He wanted ‘to support air transport of beef and yet he wanted the railway from ‘Quilpie ito Windorah and from Windorah to Dajarra. He said that something should’ be done about the ,development of the country. That has been the cry from honorable members on the Opposition side for five years. The honorable member .for Maranoa may not know that immediately the war ended, the ‘Chifley
Labour Government, realizing ‘that steel and labourwere in short supply, decided to put down a series of roads. The honorable member for Melbourne(Mr. Calwell), who was then the Minister for Immigration, planned the basis for one of the finest immigration schemes ‘that has been introduced in any country. Immigrants were to be brought to Australia under that scheme and, if necessary, the immigrants were to provide labour for the developmentof the outback areas including portionsof the electorateof Maranoa. ‘The present Ministerfor External Affairs (Mr.. Casey) had ; a birds’-eye view of the Channel country. He took the honorable member for Maranoa at the time for a flight over it. While he was up above, I was on the ground in a motor truck. The Labour party never gets “up in the air” about anything. If the honorable member for Maranoa wants to further the development of the outback, he shouldcollaborate with the Labour party.
I had intended to speak more fully about thebudget, “but I considered that the statements that were made by the honorable member for Maranoa required some reply. According to the Treasurer’s statement ‘on the budget, the Government proposes to spend £1,014,849,000. That is ‘£54,420,905 more than last year. At the same time, the Government proposes to ‘give the poor taxpayers £35,000,000 bywayof reduction of taxes. It will spend £54,420,905 more to give £35,000,000 back to the grateful taxpayers. That is an indication of the benefits thatthe people can expect from this budget. This budget has been received coldly by the press and by every section of commerce. An honorable member said in this chamber recently that he was happy because it was a good budget. Nobody is happy about it except honorable members on the Government side and they have to regard the budget in that way. The Labour party is far from happy about it and because of the failure of the Government to do the things that it should have done, the honorable member for Melbourne, as Deputy Leader of the Opposition, has moved hisamendment.
In effect, it is a direction to the Government to withdraw this budget and tointroduce another more in keeping with national needs.
Question put -
That the item proposed to be reduced (Mr. Calwell’s amendment) be so reduced.
The committee divided. (The Chairman - Mr. C.F. Adermann.)
Majority … 4
The general debate being concluded,
First item agreed to.
The following papers were pre sented : -
Customs Act and Commerce (Trade Descriptions) Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1954, No. 91.
Defence Transition (Residual Provisions) Act - National Security (Industrial Property) Regulations - Orders - Inventions and designs (7).
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired for - Department of Civil Aviation purposes - Redland Bay (Brisbane), Queensland.
Postal purposes - Naracoopa, King Island, Tasmania.
National Health Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1954, No. 93.
Naval Defence Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1954. No. 92.
Public Service Act - Appointments - Department -
Civil Aviation - J. M. McRae.
Postmaster-General - H. R. Harant.
Repatriation - M. E. Briggs, J. C. S.
Officer, J. Stockdale.
Supply - D. Hemsley-Hooker.
Science and Industry Endowment Act -
Report by Auditor-General on Accounts of Science and Industry Endowment Fund as at 30th June, 1954.
House adjourned at. 10.49 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
a asked the Minister representing the Minister for Repatriation, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
d asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The Minister for Trade and Customs has furnished the following answers to the honorable member’s questions : -
e asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
n asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
b asked the Treasurer, upon notice-
– The Minister for Trade and Customs has furnished the following answers to the honorable member’s questions: -
– The Minister for Trade and Customs has furnished the following answers to the honorable member’s Questions: -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
n asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 7 September 1954, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1954/19540907_reps_21_hor4/>.