21st Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. Archie Cameron) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
Mi-. COSTA. - Is the Minister for the Navy aware that approaches were recently made to the management of Cockatoo Island Dockyard regarding anomalies which exist in conditions of employment at’ Garden Island, Williamstown and Cockatoo Island dockyards? Is it true that wages and leave conditions at Cockatoo Island Dockyard compare most unfavorably with those of employees engaged on similar work in industries elsewhere? Did. the Minister promise representatives, of the 24 trade unions concerned that he - would discuss this matter with his colleagues and make an early reply? Is .the Minister in a position to give a reply now, and is it intended to take remedial action ?
– I think it is only fair to say that the honorable member for Martin and other honorable members have raised this matter with me recently. I had the opportunity to meet,” by appointment, the ‘ deputation that the honorable member has mentioned. I undertook to examine the points that it raised and to give them consideration, but I told the men that it wds not possible for me to’ do so at an early date. I made no tindertaking to discuss, the matter- with my colleagues. It is not necessary for me to do so. This is a matter for my own decision, and I shall’ reach a decision as soon as possible. I simply point out’ that it cannot be made’ at an early date.
– Can the Minister for Defence Production inform the House whether the Government has reached a decision on the intended use at St. Mary’s, within the electorate of Mitchell, of land and buildings formerly used as a munitions factory but now occupied for the most part by manufacturers, and known locally as the St. Mary’s Industrial Estate?
– The Prime Minister announced recently that the Government had decided that the explosive filling factory requirements for defence purposes would not include that portion of the St. Mary’s area which is now tenanted by industrial factories. I, as Minister for Defence Production, will be called upon to submit proposals to the Government for the provision of new filling factory requirements, and the Minister for National Development will submit proposals to the Government in relation to the industrial estate. It is likely that these proposals will enable existing tenants ‘ and others to purchase properties and will allow additional land and buildings to become available for industrial concerns.
– Has the Treasurer yet studied any of. the reports of the Public Accounts Committee, which now number sixteen I understand ? If so, has anything been done by the Government, or by himself, about any of them ?
– The answer to each question is “ Yes “.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture. I refer to the urgent problem that has arisen in the pig and poultry primary industries with regard to the supply and cost of stock food. Has the Department of Commerce and Agriculture been asked to investigate the possibility of using milk powder for stock food? If so, has it been found that milk powder is suitable for those two industries? I understand that powdered milk- has been used successfully in Great Britain and Holland as a stock food. As it is a product of the dairying industry, if it could be used for the pig and poultry industries, such use would be of economic value to each of those industries.
– To my knowledge there has not been any suggestion made to the Government, or to the Department of Commerce and Agriculture, that dried milk powder should be used for ,the purpose suggested by the honorable member. However, I can tell him from my own knowledge that dried skim milk powder, as a high protein food, is used regularly overseas as an element in a balanced ration for poultry, and often for pigs. Meat meal is more generally used in Australia, but powdered skim milk is used to a lesser extent to provide the protein added as a small percentage of balanced feeds. But in this country I should say beyond the slightest shade of doubt, that here where ordinary skimmed milk is available as food, the costs of powdered milk for use in this country as the main bulk of pig food would put it quite out of court economically. ‘
– I ask the Minister for the Army, . in view of the vicious attack made yesterday on my credibility by the Minister for the Army, and in view of a doubt existing in the minds-
-Order! Is the honorable member referring to something that took place when I .was not in the Chair? .
– I am referring to a newspaper report of a statement’ ‘made by the Minister for the Army about me yesterday.
– Order ! That is something that occurred in committee, and it cannot be dealt with now.
– Is it a fact that the World Health Organization has undertaken an influenza research programme? What form is this research work taking, and how many countries are participating in the struggle against this disease ? Are the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories co-operating fully with the World Health Organization in this work?
– Yes, the World Health Organization to which the Commonwealth contributes & subsidy of £70,000 every year, is undertaking a world-wide influenza research campaign. I understand that 39 or 40 countries are participating in that campaign, and that the number is expected to increase during the next year. The Commonwealth Serum Laboratories are actively co-operating in this campaign which is a part of the policy adopted by the World Health Organization with the full co-operation of the Government. The honorable member for Darling Downs referred to the research methods which are being adopted. These include the classification of the various types of viruses, which cause epidemics, the examination of the methods of spread, and the means whereby infection is carried. An attempt is also being made to standardize laboratory methods in the various countries and, generally, to try to make certain that the type of vaccine is manufactured which will do the job.
– Will the Minister for Health restore the former system of handling in Canberra the accounts of Canberra chemists under the pharmaceutical benefits scheme? Does the right honorable gentleman recognize that that system worked perfectly until a month ago, when the department commenced to handle the accounts in Sydney. as a result of which delay has been caused?
– The honorable member was good enough to write to me about this matter, but I received his letter only this morning. The officer who deals with the subject is absent on duty, but, as soon as he returns, I shall attend to it.
– Can the Minister for Social Services state whether it is true that a patient in a public hospital is precluded from receiving social services sickness benefits if he is a subscriber to a medical benefits fund?
– I do not know whether a patient in a public hospital who is a subscriber to a medical benefits fund is precluded from receiving sickness benefits, but I shall investigate the matter and inform the honorable member of the result of my inquiries. Ou the face of it, it seems that an anomaly may exist, but I shall ask the DirectorGeneral of Social Services to investigate the matter as soon as possible.
– I ask the Minister for Health a further question about the increase in doctors’ fees, and the possibility of administrative action to preserve some value in the Commonwealth health benefits. The Minister has already informed me that he has not the power to control prices charged by doctors, and that to increase the amount of the ‘Commonwealth subsidy would merely be an incitement to doctors to increase their fees even further. I therefore now ask him whether he will appeal to the British Medical Association to exercise some control over the members of this union. Alternatively will he consider administrative action to amend his scheme so that the health benefit system will apply only to those doctors who agree to confine themselves to an approved fee?
– About a fortnight ago the honorable member asked me a question regarding this matter. In order to deal with his question I had to write to organizations, and the replies have not yet arrived. During the intervening time, I have been fortunate enough to get some reports with regard to the working of the medical benefits scheme, which indicate that with the rapid increase of the number of subscribers and the number of services, the proportion of the fee that a patient is paying is relatively small, and in fact is about what we expected it to be despite the fact that during the first year of this undertaking there must be many thousands of persons who come for treatment when they have not fulfilled the waiting period as regards confinements or in some other respects which require a period of two months. I am fairly satisfied, from what I have seen in this regard, that there is no general increase of fees, although there may be an increase in certain quarters.
AUSTRALIAN VISIT OF Mb. CLEMENT ATTLEE.
– I desire to raise with you, Mr. Speaker, a matter which is of some importance, although it is only a small matter in one way. To-morrow evening, the Parliamentary Labour party, which is Her Majesty’s Opposition here, and the Australian Labour movement generally; by arrangement with the Government, will give a function in honour of the Leader of the Opposition in the British House of Commons, Mr. Clement Attlee, who has been one of the great Prime Ministers of Great Britain. Can you see your way clear, Mr. Speaker, to arrange for the resumption of the sitting to-morrow evening after the dinner break to be postponed just a little so as to coincide as far as possible with the conclusion of that function? I am sure that my request will have the wholehearted co-operation of Her Majesty’s Government here.
– The function tomorrow evening was arranged, not with the Government, but with the President of the Senate and the. Speaker of this House. The sittings of the House depend upon the Government, and have nothing whatever to do with me. The Leader of The Opposition would be better advised to raise the matter with the Government.
– May I, then, redirect my question to the Treasurer, who is at present in charge of the House ? Will the Government co-operate in this matter?
– I suggest that arrangements for the resumption of the sitting to-morrow evening be left in the hands of the leaders of the House on both sides of the chamber.
– Will we have to ask the honorable member for Henty?
– No, the honorable member for Melbourne.
– My question is addressed to the Minister acting for the Minister for Labour and National Service. In reply to a question earlier this session, the Minister indicated that it was the intention of the Government to bring down legislation later this session which would affect the Australian Stevedoring Industry Board? Will he give an assurance that, before any amendment is made to existing legislation concerning the waterfront, discussions will take place among the representatives of the Government, the Australian Council of Trades Unions, and the unions concerned?
– I did say that it was hoped to introduce the legislation to which the honorable member has referred some time during this session. I understand that discussions have taken place, but I shall examine the proposal, and see whether it can be given effect to.
– Is the Minister for
Defence Production yet in a position to inform the House that the new standard service rifle so urgently needed by the Australian armed forces will be manufactured at the Commonwealth Small Arms Factory at Lithgow?. If he is not in a position to make that announcement at this stage will he treat, the matter as urgent and inform the House of any difficulties regarding it?
– That matter is under consideration, at the moment, by the Government. I have no doubt that if satisfactory arrangements can be made with the originators of the weapon we shall eventually go into production of that rifle.
– Will the Minister for the Army say whether the Department of the Army has purchased any residential or holiday resort houses during the last twelve months; or whether it is negotiating any such new purchases at present? If it has made such purchases, will he say for what purposes these places are to be used? If no such purchases have been made during the last year, will the Minister supply the House with a statement showing the number of such properties that was purchased during the three years prior to 1954, the cost involved, and the total number of army personnel now in residence in such properties?
– There has been no purchase of homes by the Army in the last twelve months. If the honorable gentleman will place his other questions on the notice-paper I shall give him an answer to it.
– Has the attention of the Minister for Health been drawn to a statement attributed to a very eminent American scientist who, I believe, is a medical scientist, regarding the effects of atomic explosion upon the health and well-being of the human race, and the possibility that such explosions may produce certain human freaks and certain departures from the normal type of human development and growth? In any event, can the right honorable gentleman inform the House whether research is proceeding to ascertain how far these dreadful effects may be carried to the people generally through the continuance of explosions associated with the testing of atomic weapons?
– The amount of research that has gone into that matter is not of a sufficiently universal type to enable any conclusion to be drawn from it.
– I ask the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture whether, now that bulk’ buying of meat by governments has been abolished in favour of trader-to-trader buying, the reversion to the old system will lead to a considerable reduction in the cost of. maintaining the Australian Meat Board and its subsidiaries? Has the Minister yet had discussions with representatives of the meat producers regarding how the United Kingdom guaranteed price is to be paid- to the producers in the event of the price falling below the guarantee?
– It is expected that, when the Australian Meat Board ceases to be a trading authority, its administrative costs will be reduced. As soon as the new responsibilities of the board are clarified, consideration will be given to the matter that has been raised by the honorable member. In relation to his second question, the terms of the fifteen-year meat agreement which will apply on the resumption of the tradertotrader basis provide that the United Kingdom Government shall underwrite, at a certain level, the returns from the sale of Australian meat and that it shall make good any deficiency if the sales fall below, that level. I have asked the Aus- tralian Meat Board to consider the manner in which those funds should -be paid to, or used in the interests of, the industry. The Australian Meat Board comprises, among others, representatives of the proprietary and co-operative processors, representatives of the Federal Council of the United Graziers Association, and representatives of the Wool and Meat Producers Federation, and I am sure that those representatives are in consultation with their organizations. As a result, the Government can expect to receive the benefit of the best possible advice. I am not in a position to forecast the nature of that advice, but the honorable member and the industry may be assured that it will be the most constructive and best advice that it is possible to obtain from the industry, and I do not doubt that the Government will act upon it.
– In view of the present uncertain position in relation to the marketing of wheat, I ask ‘ the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture whether he is able to impart any information that may be encouraging to wheatgrowers. In particular, is the honorable gentleman able to confirm a report that Italy has rejoined the International Wheat Agreement Council and that that country has been allotted a quota of 100,000 tons of wheat?
– During, the negotiations on the International Wheat Agreement, Italy indicated that it wished to become a subscribing importer with an import quota of slightly more than 31,000,000 bushels. Eventually, Italy signed the agreement, but the Italian Parliament did not ratify it. On the agenda of a meeting of the International Wheat Council to be held in a few weeks time, there is an item, I understand, in relation to an application by Italy to become an importing nation under the International Wheat Agreement, but with a proposed quota of only 3,700,000 bushels - a very modest quantity. I am very glad to be able to inform the honorable member and the country generally that in the last few weeks the Australian Wheat Board has made substantial sales of wheat. => .
– Approximately how many bushels have been sold?
– About 36 cargoes of wheat have been sold to India in the last few weeks and, I think, three or four cargoes have unexpectedly been sold elsewhere. My memory will not serve me well enough to. enable me to state exactly the total of these sales, which perhaps will approximate 10,000,000 or 12,000,000 bushels. Those were substantial sales, and they were made at quite satisfactory prices.
– Is the Minister for Supply aware that the New South Wales price of zinc dust manufactured in Tasmania has been increased from £86 to £168 a ton to bring it up to the average price of zinc on the London market? In view of the huge increase of building costs that will occur as a result, does the Government intend to allow the prices of zinc, zinc oxide, steel and galvanized iron to be increased to the equivalent of the English price, with the exchange added, to satisfy the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited and the Collins-street group !
– I do not know anything about the propaganda aspects of the honorable member’s question. Prices control generally, of course, is a State function and not a Commonwealth one. Excluding that aspect of the question, which will probably exclude all of it, I shall answer the question if the honorable member will put it on the notice-paper.
– Will the PostmasterGeneral inform me whether it is a fact that most telephone exchanges’ have a central observation panel ? Is it the practice, through this panel, to switch inward and outward calls of subscribers whose names appear on a special list to the central observation room at the General Post Office ? ; .
– Police state!
– Is it possible, by the use of specialized switching equipment, to know immediately a subscriber makes or receives a call, and the number called or that from which a call is received ? What is the purpose of this tapping, and is the subscriber always advised that the. conversations on his service are being listened to? If it is claimed that this practice is adopted for the purpose of checking the efficiency of the service, will the Minister state whether it is a fact that all necessary corrections of faulty services can be and are made by technicians attached to local exchanges? Finally, are telephone services connected to the central observation room restricted to those subscribers who have complained of faulty service, and, if not, how is it determined which telephone subscribers’ names shall appear on the special list?
– I have not the technical knowledge to be able to state exactly what instruments are used in the telephone exchanges for certain purposes. But I can say that the method of handling calls or of tapping telephone lines for the purpose of expediting calls, restoring connexions after interruptions, and the like, has not changed since the Leader of the Opposition was AttorneyGeneral and administered Australia’s security services.
– Police state!
-Order! I am going to object to all references’ to police states. The Leader of the Opposition must withdraw that remark.
– I suppose I ought to apologize to the police.
-I ask the right: honorable gentleman to make an unreserved withdrawal.
– Certainly, Mr. Speaker. In deference to your ruling, I withdraw.
Mr. Ward interjecting,
-The honorable member for East Sydney will withdraw thatremark.
– I withdraw it.
– I should like to ask-
– Order ! The time for the asking of questions without notice has expired.
– I desire to. address a question to you, Mr. Speaker;* in relation to references to a police state. You have told me before that you believed there was a police state operating-
– Did you say that, Mr. Speaker ?
– I did not hear the honorable member’s remark.
– You, Mr. Speaker, object to all references to the police state, yet you have told me on more than one occasion that you believed there was a police state operating-
– Order ! The honorable member had better just mind himself. He is not in a police state in here, but in a worse state, that is the Cameron state.
-(Hon. Archie Cameron). - On Thursday last, the honorable member for Macquarie asked me whether I could supply him with information .on .the .number of hours during which the proceedings of the Parliament were broadcast during .the Twentieth Parliament. I can now inform him that the broadcast of Senate proceedings occupied 149 hours during the day and 131 hours during the night. In addition, the rebroadcast of Senate questions and answers occupied 41 hours. In .Hie case of the House of Representatives, the .broadcast of proceedings occupied 5.84 hours during the day and 319 hours during the night. The re-broadcast of question time from the House occupied an additional 73 hours.
Motion ‘(by Sir Eric Harrison) agreed to-
That Government .business shall take precedence over general business to-morrow.
DECLARATION of Urgency.
– I declare (a) that the Estimates of expenditure are of an urgent nature; (b) that the resolutions preliminary to the introduction of the Appropriation
Bill are urgent resolutions; and (c) that the Appropriation Bill is an urgent bill.
Question put -
That the Estimates be considered of an urgent nature, that the resolutions be considered urgent resolutions, .and that the Appropriation Bill be considered an urgent Bill.
Galls of “ No “ being audible,
– Is a division desired ? Will those who desire a division please stand.
Certain honorable members having risen in their places,
– Ring the bells.
– We do not want a division.
– Three members of the Opposition stood.
– I suggest, Mr. Speaker, that you re-submit the question.
– I am not going .to resubmit anything.
The House divided. (Mb. Speaker- How. Archie Cameron.)
Majority . . . . 7
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Allotment of Time
Sir ERIC HARRISON (Wentworth-
Vice-President of the Executive Council and Minister for Defence Production) [3.10].- I move-
That the time allotted for the consideration of the remainder of the Estimates, the resolutions, and the stages of the Appropriation Bill,be as follows: -
The House will note that the allotment of time proposed for the various groups of departments will extend the total period beyond the time that is normally allotted for a debate of this nature by approximately nine hours. I have no doubt that, because it is customary for the Opposition to object to the guillotine, honorable members opposite will protest that the time proposed is not satisfactory or suitable for the discussion in committee of the various proposed votes. Therefore, I draw attention to the fact that, on the last occasion when the Estimates were being considered during the regime of the former Labour Government, a period of only 30 hours was allowed for the consideration of the remainder of the Estimates after the first item, whereas, on this occasion, the Government proposes a total period of 441/4 hours, which, in my opinion, is a generous allotment which will enable honorable members to address themselves to the various matters that will come before the committee. I commend the proposed time-table to honorable members opposite and point out to them that this Government has considered their needs by extending the customary period of time allotted by the Labour Government by about fifteen hours. The proposed allotment is nine hours longer than the period allowed last year, which, in turn, was over six hours longer than the period that the Labour Government laid down. That being so, there can be no genuine objection to the time-table by honorable members opposite.
.- The time-table proposed by the VicePresident of the Executive Council (Sir Eric Harrison) for the consideration of the Estimates is altogether insufficient for the committee to give proper attention to such a vast expenditure as £1,000,000,000.
It is true, as the right honorable gentleman has said, that the Government proposes to allot nine hours more this year than was allotted last year. Nine hours added to 35 hours still does .not give us enough time. Even if the Labour Government, in its day, allotted only 30 hours for the consideration of the Estimates, at least it proposed to expend only £500,000,000.
– Order ! The allotment of time is the only subject before the House.
– I am making the point that the Labour Government allowed ‘30 hours for the disposal of £500,000,000, whereas this Government proposes to allow only 44 hours for the disposal of £1,000,000,000.
-If the honorable member is going to try to defy me, he might as well sit down.
– I am not defying you, Mr. Speaker. I am entitled at least to make a comparison of the times allotted on different occasions for the disposal of vast sums of government money. .
– I rise to order. Is the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) correct in saying that the Estimates provide for the expenditure of £1,000,000,000?
– Order ! I am not sure what the Estimates provide, and it is not my concern. That is not the concern of the House, but is a matter for the Committee of Supply. The honorable member for Melbourne must confine himself to the question of time.
– Exactly ! And the amount of money to be voted in committee .
– I say that a total of 44 hours is not long enough for the consideration of proposed votes of government money which total £1,000,000,000.
-Order! If the honorable gentleman intends to discuss sums of money, he might as well not try to proceed because he will be out of order if he does- so.
– Apparently I am not to do it this year, but it has been done every other year and, indeed, it has been done from the earliest days of federation. The whole truth of the matter is that the time that has been allotted to the discussion of the Estimates this year, about 44 hours, although it is nearly nine hours longer than the time allotted last year, only makes it the second worst example of how not to allow the Parliament to dispose of departmental votes. The Canadian Parliament takes quite a considerable time in disposing of its Estimates of expenditure, and the Opposition considers that longer time is required to deal with our Estimates. Govern ments change, and it may be said that a Labour government would be just as tough with its Opposition as this Government is with the Opposition of which I am a member. Nevertheless, I put forward a plea to the Government that in view of all that is involved in the Estimates, longer time is required to deal with departmental votes.
– How long does the honorable member require?
– It would not be too long if it were twice as long as the Government is suggesting, even if it might mean the curtailment of other debates. At any rate there are still a considerable number of honorable members who have views about departments that they want a chance to put forward. I ask you, Mr. Speaker, before we meet again, whether you will read through the Hansard reports of the debates that took place at the relevant period last year, consider the amount of money that was disposed of in a certain time, and then revise the ruling that you have given which will have the effect of preventing me from saying that the Government is disposing of public money at the rate of-
-Order! I do not intend to read through Hansard. The honorable member for Melbourne. (Mr. Calwell) has as much time to do that as I have.
– Then I suggest that you, Mr. Speaker, should revise your ruling.
.- I join with the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) in criticizing the Government for the limitation of time that it proposes should be placed upon honorable members for the discussion of the Estimates, which are of such great importance to every one of us. It is true, as the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Sir Eric Harrison) has said, that about 44 hours has been allocated for the discussion of the Estimates. However, that time will allow not more than 21 minutes to each member to discuss every matter contained .in the Estimates. I know, as well as you know Mr. Speaker, that the Government seeks to stifle discussion of the Estimates. The Government does not want to allow the Opposition to bring forward many matters that should be brought to the light of day. Since this Government has been in office, it has made every effort to restrict in every possible way adequate discussion of public business. That is particularly true of the Estimates. The honorable member for Melbourne has told the House that the time now proposed is a few hours longer than the time allotted by Labour governments for the discussion of Estimates, but the fact remains that many millions of pounds more will be spent during this financial year, and many more matters will arise for discussion, than in the past. These matters cannot be adequately discussed unless an unlimited time is allowed to honorable members. The Parliament has been unnecessarily in recess for months.
– Order ! The honorable member will confine himself to the proposed time limits.
– I am merely making a passing reference to the matters about which I was called to order. Why is the Government not prepared to allow the House to sit for an unlimited time, and allow discussion of the Estimates in detail without applying the gag ? Why should not the Parliament be prepared to sit until Christmas, if necessary, in order adequately to deal with the Estimates? Why should not the Government have called the House together two or three months earlier than it did, so that the Estimates could receive adequate consideration. Why should the Government have allowed this House to spend months in recess and then expect honorable members of the Opposition to pass millions of pounds of expenditure with a mere cursory glance? Honorable members should consider the amount of work that they are expected to dispose of in the short time of 21 minutes for each member. They should consider the. mass of figures involved in the Estimates. Indeed, Mr. Speaker, even with your intimate knowledge of the procedure of the Parliament and of the Estimates, at your wisest you could not have given adequate consideration in 21 minutes to these Estimates. I believe that the members of the Government, particularly the VicePresident of the Executive Council (Sir Eric Harrison), are bringing home very forcibly the fact that they fear that the Opposition will bring out many things that they want to hide. Why is not the Government prepared to face the House on the issues that will be brought to light in the Estimates, and why does it not allow adequate discussion? The reason probably is that adequate discussion will show up the incompetence of the Government to handle the public funds.
I join with other honorable members of the Opposition in criticism of the Government. I criticize particularly the Vice-President of the Executive Council. When he was a member of an opposition, under a Labour regime, he was continually criticizing the then Government for not giving sufficient time for debate, even though that Government, compared with this one, was extremely liberal in the scope that it allowed to honorable members. The Government deserves to be condemned for its failure to allow honorable members full time “to debate the Estimates, and for its attempt to limit the proper discussion of public business. I hope that some supporters of the Government in this House who, as members of the Liberal party, are supposed not to be tied to any party line, will vote with the Opposition for the freedom of discussion when the House divides on this matter in a few minutes’ time. Those who really believe in- the proud Liberal spirit, will join with honorable members of the Opposition against the proposals of the
Vice-President of the Executive Council in demanding an extension of time.
– Order ! The honorable .member’s time has expired.
.- Those who were members of the Parliament when the last Labour Government held office, find it very strange that the honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly) should call upon democracy and fair play in order to support the arguments of the Labour party. When Labour -was in office, it imposed restrictions on honorable members which were never thought of by any non-Labour government. With regard to this Government trying to hide what it intends to do, I must say that the Government has given ample proof of its good faith. The budget has been fully debated, and, indeed, the budget debate collapsed for want of speakers. Let me repeat that the budget debate collapsed for want of speakers.
– Order ! The honorable member must not discuss the budget.
– Now we reach a stage where this Government is proposing fourteen and a half hours more than the last Labour Government allowed on the last occasion on which it put Estimates before the Parliament. Yet, honorable members opposite have said that we are not acting democratically. Honorable members opposite knew that the time for discussion of the Estimates was to be limited, and yet the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) asked the Government to suspend the sitting of the House at the dinner hour to-morrow night for some time longer than the normal time because the Opposition intends to have some kind of party. If honorable members do not sit until 8.30 p.m. or 9 p.m. to-morrow, the time between the actual commencement of the sitting and the usual commencement of the evening sitting will be lost. Yet the Labour party is complaining that the Government is not giving it sufficient time for debate. If the arguments of the Opposition were genuine, one would consider that they would not be worrying about obtaining an extra hour or so out of the parliamentary sitting in order to attend a party to-morrow night. Honorable members should put the Parliament and the parliamentary sittings above everything else.
We shall be entitled to speak on the Estimates until the 22nd September. It is a fact that the House was called together on the 4th August this year, but when Labour was in office the Parliament was not usually called together until the third week in September of each year. Yet the honorable .member for Grayndler, who is the Opposition Whip, .stated that this Government did .not summon the Parliament early enough. The truth is that the Parliament assembled six weeks before a Labour government would have called it together, if the past performances of Labour governments in this matter are any guide. In the circumstances, I claim that we must regard the opposition to this motion as ordinary Labour obstructionist procedure in an attempt . to disparage the manner in which the Government is conducting the business of the House. The Vice-President of the Executive Council has rightly pointed out that the time proposed for the consideration of the Estimates is longer than was ever given by a Labour government, and is longer than would be given by the Labour party if it were in office now. The proposed allotment of time is adequate for the consideration of the Estimates in view of all the circumstances.
I shall briefly summarize .the points that I have made in this speech. We should realize that the Parliament met earlier in this financial year than is usual, and that a longer time for the consideration of the Estimates has been suggested. I point out, in passing, that the general debate on the budget collapsed because of the lack of speakers. The proposed allotment of time is fourteen and one-quarter hours longer than was given by the preceding Labour government, and nine hours longer than was provided last year. Members of the Labour party who wish to discuss the Estimates should take advantage of the opportunity afforded them, and should not let anything else interfere with their work in this Parliament.
.- The allotment of time for the consideration of the Estimates should obviously be sufficient to allow the Committee of Supply to discuss the proposed vote for each department. The Minister responsible for the administration of a department should be seated at the table while the proposed vote for that department is under consideration.
– Why did .not the proceeding Labour government adopt that practice ?
– I am not interested in happenings in previous years. The majority of us were not members of this chamber prior to 1949, and we now expect honorable gentlemen like the honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull) to bring their ideas up to date and we shall endeavour to correct any faults which have existed, or mistakes which have been made. I am reminded that you, Mr. Speaker, have had occasion to bring before the Public Accounts Committee, by way of a letter, the necessity for the provision of sufficient time for the consideration of the Estimates, so that the proposed vote for each department would be adequately considered, and the Minister responsible for the administration of that department would be in the chamber at the time to answer for his administration. I ask only that sufficient time be allowed to enable the Committee of Supply adequately to consider the proposed vote for each department, so that . this Parliament, as a parliament, may express its views on the Government’s proposals for the expenditure of a huge sum of money. The suggestion that we should adopt the allotment of time which was fixed by the preceding Labour Government falls to the ground, because the number of members of the House of Representatives has been doubled since the Labour Government went out of office.
– The honorable member’s, arithmetic is wrong.
– It is near enough for this purpose. The number of members of this House has been increased from 74 to 123 since a Labour government fixed the time stated by the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Sir Eric Harrison) for the consideration of the Estimates. But even if we retain the standard which the right honorable gentleman claimed waa set by a Labour government, the present Government should be prepared to grant a longer period for the consideration of the Estimates because of the increased membership of the House of Representatives. I am certain that the more thoughtful supporters of the Government, if they were asked for their opinion, would agree with our contention that the time provided for the consideration’ of the Estimates should be sufficient to permit us adequately to discuss the proposed vote for each department.
What is to happen? Four or five departments are grouped in each section of the Government’s proposal and one honorable member may criticize the administration of one department, and the next speaker may criticize the administration of another department in that group. All the Ministers who are responsible for the administration of the departments in the group will not be in the chamber at the one time to reply to matters raised by honorable, members, and the function of the committee to offer criticism of the administration of a department will be defeated. I submit, in all earnestness, to the Vice-President of the Executive Council, that those of us who have become members of the Parliament since 1949 cannot be blamed for happenings before that year, and in view of that fact, I think that he should reconsider his proposal for the allotment of time, and give us an adequate opportunity to perform our functions as parliamentarians. One of the most effective ways in which we can do so, provided we have a reasonable opportunity, is to discuss and criticize the Government’s proposals for the expenditure of money by each department while the Minister responsible for the administration of that department is seated at the table.’ I hope that the VicePresident of the Executive Council, even at this late stage, will change his mind. I see from the smile on his face that he is likely to do so. I sincerely hope that he will. If he does so, he will earn the gratitude, not only of members of this House, including a number of honorable members on the other side of the chamber, but also- of the Australian people, because he will have, given the Parliament an opportunity to function properly.
– I can well understand–
– Order ! The time allowed for the debate on this motion has expired.
Debate interrupted under Standing Order92.
Question put -
That the motion (vide page 1033) be agreed to.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. Archiecameron.)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
In Committee of Supply: Consideration resumed from the 7th September (vide page 1022).
Remainder of proposed vote, £743,000.
Prime Minister’s Department
Proposed vote, £2,164,000.
Department of External Affairs
Proposed vote, £.1,714,000.
Department of the Treasury.
Proposed vote, £7,911,000.
Proposed vote, £1,407,000. (Ordered to be considered together.)
– I wish to say a few words about the Treasury vote, and to raise an important matter of policy. During the recent general election the candidate for the electorate of Maranoa, the present honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Brimblecombe), was about to be opposed by a former member of this House, Mr. Charles Russell. Mr. Russell was also a former State member of parliament, and had broken with the Australian Country party in the federal sphere on an important public issue concerning the revaluation of the Australian £1. I am dealing with the question of the administration of the Treasury in connexion with this one electorate.I am not talking about the election generally. Mr. Russell was about to contest the Maranoa seat against the sitting member, the present honorable member for Maranoa. On the day of the nomination, or the day before, he received from the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden), whose salary is included in the general Estimates, the following telegram, which I shall read to the committee : -
No doubt you and your former Senate team-
That refers to the Democratic party Senate team in Queensland, which included Sir. Raphael Cilento, the former chief, administrator of the World Health Organization, a man who has given outstanding service in Queensland, quite irrespective of any question of politics. I shall resume the reading of the telegram. It read -
No doubt you and your former Senate team leaders are basking in the scurrilous attack on the Commissioner for Taxation and myself by Truth and yourself fur calculated politician benefits to you anil consequent harm and worry to my wife and children-
Then, said the Treasurer, in this telegram, which was sent from Melbourne -
I ask the attention of the committee to this, because if this kind of thing can go on in the administration of the Treasury, a very scandalous and serious state of affairs is revealed. The telegram continued -
Consequently do not be stupid enough to expect me to remain silent of the knowledge available on page 54 of the eighteenth report of the Commissioner for Taxation plus the Stack case.
That was an intimation, in the clearest possible terms, to the intending candidate for Maranoa, that unless he stopped his criticism of the Treasurer-
– I rise to order. Could not we have the Leader of the Opposition address this side of the committee. He has his back turned to us.
– I beg your pardon, Mr. Chairman, and I also beg the honorable member’s pardon. I say that that was the clearest possible intimation to the intending candidate for Maranoa that unless he altered his manner of action, unless he ceased to criticize the Treasurer or the administration of the taxation law and, very probably, unless he withdrew his candidature for the electorate of Maranoa, there would be disclosed publicly - publicly, because this was a private telegram - a taxation breach alleged to have been committed by his father,’ the late Mr. W: A. Russell.
– It was almost blackmail.
– Mr. W. A. Russell died as long ago as 1932, 22 years ‘ ago. In a statement made by Sir ‘ Raphael Cilento at the time this threat was made - and I am. checking this from, the press - he said he had been informed that a claim, of understatement of income had been brought against the . estate, .of the late Mr. W. A. Russell, father of Mr. Charles Russell, who was a very distinguished member of this Parliament.
Government supporters interjecting,
– I ask why honorable members opposite object to that statement, because even though one may differ from a politician one can respect the man himself. .1” think that everybody respected Mr. Charles Russell. Is not that true? Sir’ Raphael said that he had been informed that a claim of understatement of income had been brought against the late Mr. Russell’s estate, after his death. He said that Mr. Russell had kept his affairs largely to himself and therefore, the trustees not having the necessary information to deal with the matter, a penalty was imposed on the estate.
Now what does that mean ? What is the implication of it? It is perfectly true that the reference made by the Treasurer was to a document. But who in 1954 would be aware of what occurred so long ago, and was stated on page 54 of the eighteenth report of the Commissioner of Taxation, “plus the Stack case”? I ask the Treasurer to tell us what the reference was, and who gave it to him. Did he have it ready to use against Mr. Russell? Was he provided with it by anybody in the department? I think it is a shocking thing that such a threat should have been made. An honorable member on this side of the committee has interjected that it was almost blackmail. What else is it? The Treasurer said to Mr. Charles Russell, in effect, “Unless you do what I want, unless you stop criticizing me and worry my wife and family, what shall I do? I shall defame your father.” The father whom the Treasurer proposed to defame was a very distinguished citizen of the Dalby district, who had done a lot for that ‘ distract, as I believe most Queenslanders know: That is how the administration of the Treasury is being conducted under the present Treasurer. I made a protest publicly’ during the election and I should like, with your consent, Mr. Chairman, to repeat it. I repeat it because it dealt with the only possible explanation of this threat. It is perfectly true that somebody might pick up this reference in some report among thousands of bluebooks. In any event, the charge against the late Mr. Russell probably did not involve fraud or misconduct, but on some occasion, because of some mistake or some breach of law, a penalty was imposed on the estate. What is the administration of the Treasury like if the Treasurer can send such a threat, through the telegraph service, to a citizen at the very moment when he is determining whether to stand for the electorate of Maranoa against the Australian Country Party candidate?
– It is absolutely wrong?
– What is wrong?
– Your statement.
– It is not wrong. I am quoting the statement made by Sir Raphael Cilento. In any case I assume U:at the honorable member for Maranoa would not have known about this threatening message.
Honorable members interjecting,
The CHAIRMAN (Mr. Adermann). ~ Order! The committee must maintain order. Otherwise I shall have to take action against honorable members. That statement applies to members of the Opposition as well as to Government supporters.
– I wish to say quite directly that no other interpretation can be given to such a message than that it is a threat. It says so on the face of it in the words of blackmail that were used by the blackmailer himself. The telegram stated, in effect -
Consequently, do not be stupid enough to expect me to remain silent with the knowledge 1 have against you and your father.
What does that statement mean? lt means, “ You are criticizing me in a public newspaper and I am going to expose, not you or anything you have done, but you i’ father before von “. No other mean ing can be attributed to those words. That was a dreadful threat to make, and the Treasurer was condemned for it. I think there should be a vote of the committee to determine its opinion and to ascertain whether Liberal party members and Australian Country party members approve of the Treasurer’s administration. I made these statements publicly without privilege, and I repeat them in this chamber. The right honorable gentleman said, in reply, that an attack had been made on the Commissioner of Taxation. He sheltered behind the commissioner and said, “How dare you attack the Commissioner of Taxation ? “ The Treasurer also stated -
Nothing in the original private telegram I sent to Mr. Russell was in the slightest degree concerned with secret information from the Taxation Commissioner.
That may be true in the sense that it was not a confidential file, but who in the world knows about these particular cases which range over a period of twenty or 30 years? Who kept these files and said, “Ah, yes, there is something about Russell in the files. We might use that?” Somebody must have done so. Who was it.? If the Commissioner of Taxation was a party to that telegram, he is just as responsible as is the Treasurer himself. The Treasurer cannot stifle criticism in this chamber by threats of that kind. On behalf of the Opposition, I strongly protest against the action that was taken.
The same kind of thing happened in this chamber in relation to the Daily Telegraph. During the last Parliament, the House was informed, at 8 o’clock one night, that the Treasurer would make an important public statement in relation to the Daily Telegraph which had been criticizing him and the Commissioner of Taxation. The great assembly was hushed, and the Treasurer stated that somebody who wa3 associated with the Daily Telegraph, which had been criticizing him - that was the implication-
Honorable members interjecting.
– Order! Honorable members must remain silent.
Mr. Edmonds interjecting,
– The honorable member for Herbert must, remain silent.
– I repeat that a similar type of thing occurred in relation to the Daily Telegraph. A special statement was made at S o’clock one night to tell that newspaper in the plainest of terms that, if it continued its criticism of the Taxation Branch and of the Treasurer, special action would be taken, and that any legislation which might be introduced no deal with its alleged evasion of taxation would be made retrospective to that night. The report of that statement appears in Hansard. People can be threatened under those circumstances. But what happened ? I.’ rose on behalf of the Opposition and stated -
Under the present law, people who are guilty of evasion of taxation can be dealt with without any amendment of the law. 1.” invited the Treasurer, if he had any action to take, to take it. What action did the right honorable gentleman take? He took no action at all. In the present case, Sir Raphael Cilento and Mr. Russell refused to remain silent and, upon the receipt of that private telegram, they made a public protest against the administration of the Treasurer. I think the committee should debate the matter and express its opinion whether that is the manner in which the Taxation Branch should be administered.
– I think it is pathetic that the leader of a great party and a man who has occupied the highest judicial position in this country as a member of the High Court of Australia should have used such language, and should have made such implications as he has made this afternoon.
– What did the right honorable gentleman say to Mr. Russell?
– Order !
– In the first place, I make no apology for the attitude that I adopted and the action that I took. A brief outline of the history of this matter will not go amiss. Mr. Russell was associated with a newspaper that was making scurrilous attacks on me and on the administration of the Taxation Branch, with particular reference to the powers that were, resident in the Commissioner of Taxation in relation to the discovery of tax evaders, and to the appli cation of the penalty provisions of the law. Those powers have remained unchanged since the inception of the federal income tax law. They are precisely the same as the powers that were administered by the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) when he was Attorney-General and which were in existence during the whole of the time that his party was in office. I sent a private telegram to Mr. Russell because the attacks upon me were so scurrilous and so personal-
– It was blackmail.
– It was not blackmail. It was just a friendly hint to him.
Honorable members interjecting,
– With the axe behind it!
– Mr. Russell had no occasion whatever to disclose the contents of that telegram, but he disclosed them to my opponent, Sir Raphael Cilento, who in turn endeavoured to use them for political purposes. The manner in which the electors of Maranoa, of Macpherson, of the remainder of Queensland and of Australia, assessed my action, Mr. Russell’s action, and the action of Sir Raphael Cilento, was reflected in the result of the election. The Australian Country party did not lose ore single seat. It was the only party that did not lose a seat, and I was its leader. To-day, the Leader of the Opposition, as he did when the incident occurred, has endeavoured to take political advantage of the situation that arose as a result of the unnecessary disclosure by Mr. Russell of his father’s affairs to Sir Raphael Cilento. Mr. Russell did not disclose tha.t information publicly; he gave it to Sir Raphael Cilento to disclose. There is no mystery about the matter. You know, Mr. Chairman, as well as do I and every other discerning Queenslander who keeps abreast of the times-
– Do not bring the Chairman into it.
– We know tha.t the Russell estate was fined for understating his taxable income by approximately £97,000 over very many years. Therefore, it ill behoved Mr.
Russell to attack the administration of the Commissioner of Taxation, in ensuring that everybody pays, in taxation, his proportion of the country’s revenue. I want to make it clear and definite, that Mr. Russell himself disclosed the information about his father. But he. did not do so directly. He gave it to my opponent in the McPherson electorate, Sir Raphael Cilento, who used it and, with the knowledge, connivance and assistance of Mr. Russell, aud at his request, disclosed the whole affair. There is no mystery about it. No secret information was used by me. The Leader of the Opposition should know as well as any one that the reports of the Commissioner of Taxation, which are tabled as public documents in the Parliament, are not secret. The .eighteenth report of the commissioner contained the information to which I invited Mr. Russell’s attention privately, and which Mr. Russell disclosed publicly through Sir Raphael Cilento.
As to the allegation about the Daily Telegraph newspaper, I defy the Leader of the Opposition to produce any statement that I am alleged to have made in relation to the Daily Telegraph when I introduced the measure to which he referred.. That newspaper was never mentioned in relation to that legislation, which was intended to take effect from the day on which it was introduced in an attempt to stop a scheme of largescale tax evasion.
– By the Daily Telegraph.
– I did not say then, and I have never said, that the evasion was engaged in by the Daily Telegraph. Certain action has now been taken under the taxation laws in relation to the large-scale evasions of tas to which the honorable member has referred. The Leader of the Opposition, this lily-white advocate, as Attorney-General, was associated with more retrospective taxation legislation than any other Attorney-General since federation. I am unable to produce proof now, but that is a fact. In spite of it, the Leader of the Opposition now criticizes retrospective action.
– Did the Treasurer send the telegram in question?
– I sent it privately. I remind the honorable member that I have sent him plenty of private telegrams. They have always been in the most friendly terms. If Mr. Russell wished to disclose a private telegram, that was his responsibility entirely, and he has to bear the consequences of disclosing the contents to my election opponent for political purposes. What were the consequences of Mr. Russell’s action? He failed to win the Maranoa seat. My majority over Sir Raphael Cilento in the McPherson electorate totalled more than 10,000 votes. Every sitting member of the Australian Country party was returned under my leadership.
.- I move -
That the amount of the vote - “ Department of (Jio Treasury, £7.011.000 “-Ins reduced by fi.
I take this action so that the committee may express its dissatisfaction with the administration of the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) and with his actions in the affair that concerned Mr. C. W. Russell and Sir Raphael Cilento. We have heard the Treasurer’s reply to the allegations of the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) in relation to. one of the most extraordinary incidents in the history of parliamentary elections in Australia. The Treasurer said that he sent Mr. Russell a friendly hint. It was as follows : - do not be stupid enough to expect me to remain silent with the knowledge available on page 54 of the 18th report of the Commissioner of Taxation, phis the Stack case.
I should hate to hear the Treasurer when he was really annoyed if that is what he calls a display of friendship. The truth of the matter is that he was trying to get Sir Raphael Cilento out of the field in the McPherson electorate and Mr. Russell out of the field in the Maranoa electorate. The following report of the opinion of Sir Raphael Cilento appeared in the press on the 15th Maylast : -
It seemed an open attempt to “frighten out of the election ring “ a man whose personal integrity was recognized by members of all political parties, he said.
This was being done by an attack on Mr. Russell’s father who died 22 years ago.
The Treasurer said that he was entitled to giv.e a friendly hint in such a case. One member or another of a considerable number of families in Australia has been involved in breaches of taxation and other laws. Even the Treasurer has been attacked because of certain incidents that occurred in relation to a family case in Townsville. I sympathized with the Treasurer at the time, because I thought that the attack was completely wrong. In the same spirit,. I now say that the attack made on Mr. Russell was wrong.
When the incident that concerns Mr. Russell’s father occurred, Mr. Russell was a young man and knew nothing of his father’s financial .affairs. The father was a tight-fisted, able old man who kept all the family business to himself. He evaded the laws and his estate was penalized for the evasion. The Treasurer attacked his son, Mr. C. W. Russell, 22 years later, after the son and the Treasurer had broken with one another. When Mr. C. W. Russell became member for Maranoa in this chamber nothing was wrong with him in the Treasurer’s eyes. But everything went wrong with him when he began to argue in favour of revaluation, and subsequently he had to resign from the Australian Country party. There is not the slightest doubt that the Treasurer’s attack on Mr. Russell and Sir Raphael Cilento was illtimed, ill-mannered and in the worst possible taste, if one takes it at its best. At its worst, it was an attempt to frighten those two candidates out of the election ring because of something that was published by a newspaper that the Treasurer did not name. It was the Queensland Truth. In the Treasurer’s view, Truth was all right when it supported the Government in 1949, but it was all wrong when it attacked the Government in 1954. The Treasurer was prepared to accept all the support that he could get, editorially and by way of propaganda, from the Truth newspaper network between 1949 and 1951, but in 1954, because the Queensland Truth published articles attacking him and boosting Mr. Russell, he falsely accused Mr. Russell of having written those articles.
– I did not say that he wrote them. He could not have written them.
– I shall refresh the honorable gentleman’s memory by reading his telegram to Mr. Russell, as follows : -
No doubt you and your former Senate team leaders are basking in the scurrilous attack on the Commissioner of Taxation and myself by Truth aud yourself for calculated political benefits to you, with consequent harm and worry to my wife and children.
If the Treasurer did not believe that Mr. Russell wrote the articles, he at least alleged that he inspired them, because in his telegram to Mr. Russell he used the words “ by Truth and yourself “. What construction can he place on the telegram except that he was annoyed because Truth was attacking him? Why should he be annoyed because Truth or the Daily Telegraph attacked him? Every newspaper in Australia, in turn, has attacked me. For the time being, Truth, the Daily Mirror and other newspapers can find something to say in my favour, but I do not know how long their friendliness will last. I am completely indifferent whether the press attacks or supports me, and I would not use a newspaper attack on me in an attempt to blackmail a candidate out of an election campaign. The Treasurer’s attempted blackmail was most deplorable and reprehensible. I invite him now to apologize publicly in this chamber to Mr. Russell and to Sir Raphael Cilento for his attacks on them. The Treasurer escaped the wrath of the people at the last general election, and, in boasting that the Australian Country party did not lose a seat, he criticizes and condemns the Liberal party for having lost seats. He may yet live to see the day when not only he but also the honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Brimblecombe) will lose his seat because of tactics of the sort the Labour party brings to the attention of the committee, and which it roundly condemns.
I should like to know what is happening about the Seato conference. We have been told a lot in the press about it, but the Government is adopting a hush-hush attitude on the matter. No one knows whether the conference is proceeding satisfactorily or not.. No announcement on the subject has been made to the Parliament, and, I presume, no such announcement will be made. I am afraid that Seato will fail to provide a defensive organization that will be of real value in the protection of democracy in this part of the world. All that we know is that the United States of America and Great Britain do not want this treaty organization to be made as powerful or to be constructed on the same lines as Nato. From the viewpoint of Australia’s future, if there are to be treaty organizations, the pacts that bind nations should really mean something and not be pacts that merely refer powers to some authority for discussion at some time in the future. Seato may seem to have failed almost from the beginning, because of the fact that India boycotted it whilst Ceylon and Burma did not attend the talks. In addition to the Anzus pact it might be advisable for us to have this other sort of treaty arrangement but, so far, it seems that we are going to experience another disappointment. We want to know just what is expected of Australia and what assistance it will receive in return for any assistance that it is prepared to give. A ministerial statement on the matter should be made immediately after the current discussions have been concluded. Indeed, if the Government is concerned at the moment about information that it is receiving from the Minister now attending the conference, the Parliament ought to be informed of that fact.
This Parliament is the representative forum of the people, and decisions ought to be made here. They should not be made without the Parliament being given an opportunity to discuss the subject as a whole. If it is important to send two members of the House of Representatives to a meeting of the United Nations Assembly to be held in New York later this month, it is equally important that two members of the Parliament should be sent to the Seato conference. If it is not too late, the Government should now send two honorable members to the conference, because their presence there could not but strengthen Australia’s delegation. I am certain that every honorable member desires, if it is at all possible, to guarantee the security of this nation. Our population of 9,000,000 people, which is only equal to that of London, or New York, cannot hold a territory which is the size of the United States of America. If we are to accept obligations, we should be assured that any assistance proposed to be made available to us shall be of real value and that it shall be given to us at any moment that we might need it. Please God, we shall never need assistance in the future to defend this country. However, the sands of time are running out, and creeping aggression is still creeping on. Nobody knows whether in six or twelve months there will not be another crisis somewhere, perhaps on the Era Isthmus. Up to date, the Parliament has not been given the information which the Government has in its possession. Even if some person in some foreign chancellory might feel upset about disclosures of this kind, it is better that the Government should make such information available rather than lock it away in the hope that things will work out all right. They will not work out all right. We have no reason to be happy about our position, because Australia is probably the most vulnerable country in the world.
– I rise simply to refute the statement that has just been made by the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) and reiterated by the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) to the effect that the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) sent a telegram to Mr. Charles Russell with a view to intimidating him and blackmailing him out of the recent general election campaign in which he stood as an independent candidate. I. emphasize that that telegram was despatched to Mr. Russell the day after nominations had closed. That fact can be verified upon inquiry at the electoral office in Dalby. The Treasurer had no intention of intimidating Mr. Russell. The telegram was of a friendly nature, and the matter was handled in the only friendly way that Mr. Russell understands. It is characteristic of Mr. Russell to use stooges for the purpose of divulging information which he, himself, is not game to divulge. He has adopted tactics of thai; kind time and time again. However, during the recent general election campaign, the Leader of the Opposition and other Australian Labour party candidates grasped the opportunity to use information of a nature which they contend should not be used by party political candidates. They did not hesitate to break that rule themselves. I do not propose to say anything further on the matter. I again deny the charge that the Treasurer sent the telegram in question to Mr. Charles Russell with the object of intimidating him and blackmailing him out qf the campaign, and I repeat that it was despatched the day after nominations had closed and after Mr. Russell had already embarked upon his campaign. There is no truth in the imputa-tion that the Treasurer sent the telegram to Mr, Russell in an endeavour to get him out of the way in order to give me an easier “ go “. The Leader of the Opposition should feel ashamed of himself for having introduced a matter of that kind into this debate.
.- I am rather surprised at the reduction in the proposed vote for educational activities that come within the ambit of the Prime Minister’s Department. Whereas the sum of £151,500 was voted for this purpose last financial year, it is proposed to allocate under this heading this year only £148,500, a reduction of £3,000. Such a reduction is somewhat surprising in view of the additional interest which now appears to be taken in educational matters throughout, the community and, more so, having regard to the absolute necessity for making increased funds available for educational purposes generally. Individual items under the proposed vote for the Office of Education call for comment. We are being asked, for instance, to make available £750 for research projects, £850 in respect of publications and £1,100 for teaching aids. Even in respect of items of that kind, one would imagine that plenty of room exists for expansion. The total proposed vote for educational purposes is less than the expenditure that was actually incurred under that heading last year. That reduction requires some explanation. It is alarming when one realizes that there are fields of education which, so far, have hardly been touched and for the development of which funds are urgently required.
Before I discuss this point at length, I acknowledge that some of the Government’s activities in relation to education merit our praise. I think that most parents definitely appreciate the granting of tax remissions for expenditure on school fees, clothing and requisites, for which the maximum concessional deduction is now £75 for each child. This concession was well warranted, and I am sure that it will become increasingly appreciated throughout the community as more and more parents realize the extent of their rights. I am sure that many people also welcome the Government’s proposal to grant tax remissions in respect of gifts and bequests made to educational institutions. Such payments will now come under the same heading as charitable gifts. I have not the slightest doubt that this proposal has been introduced principally in the interests of registered schools. I understand that these institutions asked for assistance because of the difficulties that they had been experiencing in recent years. They found the going very hard indeed because they had to compete with State schools, and they considered for a long time that tax concessions of the kind now proposed by the Government would relieve their difficulties. I emphasize again my appreciation of the Government’s policy on these two items. The granting of deductions up to £75 for each child in respect of educational expenses seems to be reasonable at the present time. The proposal under the present budget to grant remissions for gifts or bequests to institutions that are struggling to keep their heads above water is well appreciated.
Nevertheless, there are many other educational services in the various States that warrant a considerable increase of the Commonwealth grant instead of the reduction that is now proposed. The Government’s decision has somewhat shocked me, and that is why I direct attention to the subject now. There are many mentally backward children in Australia, and I believe that the Commonwealth has a duty to help and encourage those who are striving to educate them. In fact, I consider that the burden should be taken almost entirely off their shoulders. A great deal of educational work is now being done to very good effect in the interests of backward children and I have been astonished by the developments that have taken place in recent years. I recently attended the annual meeting of an organization in the electorate of Darebin known as the Helping Hand Society, which devotes itself to the education of mentally retarded children. Various pupils in this category, ranging from a very tender age to the age of about eighteen years, contributed to the programme at the meeting and I was impressed by the training that the society had been able to give to these unfortunate mentally underprivileged children. The results were significant. At present, however, such organizations are expected to struggle along on the income from voluntary contributions. It seems to me that the Government should give the most earnest consideration to the needs of bodies which are willing to undertake such work and which are obliged to carry on from hand to mouth, raising funds as best they can for their valuable work. It is wrong that they should be expected to put up with just any sort of accommodation.
The Government ought to extend a helping hand to the Helping Hand Society and similar organizations so as to make sure that mentally backward children shall be trained profitably, even to the point of becoming self-supporting members of the community. Their needs should receive the consideration of the Government in a very special way, and I hope that my appeal on their behalf will not be overlooked and that something positive will be done to enable bodies such as I have mentioned to obtain proper buildings and reasonable grants to assist them to carry on their work. The Commonwealth should do everything in its power to ensure that mentally backward pupils shall become economically independent units of the community. Money expended’ on such work would not be wasted. Such unfortunate individuals can be trained ‘to exercise their limited faculties to such good effect that they may become useful members of the community.
The platform of the Australian Labour party expresses its wish that funds shall be provided for just such purposes as this, as well as for various forms of cultural and artistic education, many of which merit Commonwealth aid. The encouragement of cultural pursuits with Commonwealth grants appears to be well warranted in a community such as this. There is no reason why financial aid should not be provided for cultural development and education generally.
Registered primary schools, in my opinion, have strong claims for assistance of the kind that the Government proposes to make available to registered secondary schools. Many of these schools are merely struggling along in handtomouth fashion, largely because in recent years they have been obliged to pay large salaries in order to attract teachers who otherwise would enter the State services. In fact, these institutions have had to overbid the States in order to obtain adequate staff. After all is said and done, the parents of children who attend such schools pay school fees in the form of taxes just as other people do. It seems to me that the only way in which the Commonwealth can give assistance to such schools is through the medium of education’ endowments. It would be easy for the Commonwealth to formulate ‘an endowment scheme. Parents could be given the sole right to nominate the schools which should be allowed to collect the endowment on behalf of their children. I sincerely hope that earnest attention will be given to this suggestion.
Many of the remarks that I have made may be directed with equal justice to preschool educational institutions, because very little assistance is given to kindergartens. There is every justification for the granting of Commonwealth aid to the kindergarten system, at least in certain specific localities. Pre-school centres appear to be absolutely essential in many ‘ industrial areas. For example, many widowed mothers have to go to work and must leave their children somewhere during working hours. In such circumstances, it seems to me that financial aid by the Commonwealth to the kindergarten system would be well justified. The Government would make a valuable contribution to the system generally even if it agreed to give assistance to pre-school centres in certain restricted areas. Most of these organizations are maintained largely by charity. Municipalities often help them, and I understand .-that grants may be obtained from the States on a £l-for-£l basis for .salaries, and also for the erection of buildings, up to a total of about £2,500. The normal approved kindergarten school to-day may cost anything from £12,000 to £15.000. Obviously, therefore, there is ample scope for the Government to cast its mind further abroad in the interests of those who are obliged by force of circumstances to send their children to kindergartens.
Having regard to the great scope of education in all its forms, and the needs of all parties concerned, I consider that a scheme of education endowment should be seriously considered, to say the least, by this Government. It could well examine the needs of organizations that interest themselves in the education of children who are underprivileged in one way or another, of pre-school institutions, and of bodies that promote cultural pursuits of various kinds, such as dancing, acting, music and elocution. Parents could be allowed to nominate the authority entitled to collect endowment in respect of the education of their children.
I have discussed these subjects because of the Government’s intention to reduce the education grants to the States. The education needs of the community, which have been acknowledged already by the Government through its decision to allow tax deductions for education expenses, appear to be so great that some sound explanation is required of the proposal to reduce the vote this year by £3,000. The demand for education is constantly growing, probably at a faster rate than any other demand in the community with which the Estimates are concerned. To. be confronted with a reduction of expenditure, on education, in these circumstances, is shocking, to say the least. Surely the Government cannot justify a reduction of the grant below the amount provided last year! I shall be grateful if the responsible Minister can offer some reason for the Government’s de cision. It should have a deeper appreciation of the importance of education even than the States.
The CHAIRMAST.- Order ! Tho honorable member’s time has expired.
– I shall speak on the proposed vote for the Parliament, and I hope that I shall not be misunderstood when I discuss the practice of adjourning the House of Representatives on the occasion of the death of a sitting member. I want to make it perfectly clear that any suggestion .[ shall make for the ‘shortening of the time of such adjournments is not a sign of any lack of respect on my part for any member who dies. However, since I became a member of the Parliament in December, 1949, the practice has been, as I believe it was previously, for the House of Representatives to adjourn, following the death of a sitting member, for the remainder of the day after a motion has been proposed by the Prime Minister, and usually seconded by the Leader of the Opposition. I believe that, if any change is to be made - and I suggest that there should be a change - it should be made at the beginning of a new Parliament. Therefore, this is an appropriate time to consider the suggestion. With an enlarged Parliament, it has become a much more common occurrence than previously for the House of Representatives to adjourn because of the death of a sitting member. Since I was elected in 1949, twelve sitting members of the Parliament have died. The present system could be of great disadvantage to the process of governing the country if, for instance, a member died after the adjournment of the House on a Wednesday night. Something of vital interest to the affairs of the Commonwealth, that needed our urgent attention on the Thursday, might occur. If an honorable member should die on the Wednesday, the normal procedure would be that a motion would be proposed by the Prime Minister, seconded by the Leader of the Opposition and carried by the House, that the House , should adjourn. Then, because there would be no sitting on the Friday, the House would not meet again until the following Tuesday. Therefore,, a matter of vital interest to the nation would have to be carried over until the following Tuesday. So I suggest that if a sitting member should die, and we should receive notice of his death in the morning, a motion should be moved that the House adjourn until the beginning of the afternoon session. If a member should die and we should get the notice during the afternoon sitting, the maximum period of adjournment should be until the evening sitting. If we receive notice just before the 8 o’clock sitting, the adjournment should be until the following day. The chances are one in 183 that I shall be the next member of this Parliament to die.
– We shall have a week off if the honorable member dies.
– The honorable member for Watson (Mr. Curtin) probably thinks that if he should die he is important enough for the House to adjourn for a month. The chances are one in 183 that I shall be the next one to die. I believe, and I understand that many honorable members agree with me, that an adjournment for a whole day in the case of a death of an honorable member is neither necessary nor desirable.
. - The discussion by this committee of the telegram sent by the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) to Mr. Charles Russell during the last general election campaign should serve a very useful public purpose. I believe that that incident degraded public life in Australia, and that this discussion, if it prevents1 a similar happening, will be of great advantage. After the’ Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) raised the matter this after” noon, the Treasurer had the opportunity of rising and expressing regret for what he had done,, and perhaps explaining that it had1 been done in a moment of haste or in the heat of the election campaign. If he had done that, I believe there would have been a satisfactory ending of the matter. As he did not do so, I believe that it was- important that the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) ‘ should move the amendment to reduce the1 amount of the vote’ by £1, upon which the committee will shortly have the opportunity nf voting.
I imagine that the amendment moved by the honorable member for Melbournewill be, in the normal course of events, defeated, and that the majority of the chamber, out of loyalty to the Treasurer and the Government, will vote to sustain his action. But I am perfectly certain that there is not one honorable member on the Government side, including the Minister for Social Services (Mr. McMahon), who is at the table, who will endorse the Treasurer’s action and express the opinion that it was a proper action and one that any other honorable member of this chamber would be prepared to say he would also take in similar circumstances. The fact that no honorable member of this committee will rise and endorse the Treasurer’s action, and say that he also would have done what the Treasurer did, is a most salutary rebuke to the Treasurer for taking an action which discredited public life in this country.
The Treasurer has claimed that his telegram was not an attempt to blackmail Mr. Charles Russell, but was merely a friendly hint. I think that that contention deserves a little examination. What did the Treasurer mean when he said that he was conveying a friendly hint to Mr. Charles Russell? If the Treasurer had heard that some other and quite despicable person was proposing to make public something discreditable to the dead’ father of Mr. Charles Russell, it might have been a friendly hint on the part of the Treasurer to’ communicate: that to Mr. Charles Russell and’ warn him that that action was about to be taken. But when the Treasurer himself was proposing, to take the very action which, would defame the memory of Mr. Russell’s father, and which would injure the reputation of Mr. Russell’s, family and cause hurt to themembers of that, family,, how can theTreasurer possibly claim that he was conveying a friendly hint to Mr. Charles Russell? He was warning, or threatening, Mr. Russell that he himself was about to raise this discreditable matter publicly..
If the Treasurer believed that it was important, and was an issue in the general’ election campaign, that what the late Mr. Russell had done 22 years previously should be brought to the attention of the electors, why did he not bring it to their attention1? If it was important’ that it should be brought to the attention of the Australian people, and was .a proper matter for consideration in an election campaign, it was not the business of the Treasurer to send a private telegram to Mr. Russell warning or threatening him that this was about to be done. On the contrary, it was the duty of the Treasurer to raise the matter publicly. Why did he not raise it publicly? Why did he send a private telegram to the effect that unless Mr.. Charles Russell ceased his attacks on the Government this discreditable matter would be raised? Obviously the contention of the Leader of the Opposition is the only one that can appeal to a reasonable man. The Treasurer did not consider it important to the public of the country that the matter should be raised, but he did think that it would be hurtful to Mr,. Russell and the members of his family if it were raised. Therefore, the Treasurer had only one motive in sending that telegram. That was to endeavour to prevent a political opponent from exercising his normal rights and functions as a political candidate in opposition to candidates of the Government of which the Treasurer, .om this occasion, was spokesman. The Treasurer, therefore, acted in a deliberate endeavour to suppress -political controversy in this country, and silence Mr. Charles Russell from saying those things that Mr. Russell believed to be important in the election issues then being considered by the people. That is blackmail. As the Leader of the Opposition said, that cannot be interpreted in any other way than political blackmail.
The Treasurer claimed that he was not disclosing any secret information, but was merely proposing to reveal to the world the contents of a public document:; and that therefore any suggestion that he was using his position as Treasurer and the knowledge he had as Treasurer to prevent Mr. Charles Russell from exercising his legitimate political rights is wrong. I suggest that it is right. True, the document in which the information was to be found is a public document. True also, that no one unless he had special knowledge would know where to look for, or how to find, such information.
The Treasurer has not explained how it happened that he was able to place his finger .so readily on the volume and the page of the volume in which this information, so discreditable to the late Mi’. Russell, was published. Did he himself go to the trouble of searching through the records to find the volume ,and the page, so that he could defame the memory of the father of his erstwhile colleague, or was he able to obtain the information through the officers’ of his department? If he took the latter action, did he, for his own private political ends and .spleen, use a Treasury officer to seek out this information ? If he did .so, it was discreditable and a complete abuse of his duties and position as Treasurer.. If he did not, how did he obtain the information? Was it brought to him by an officer of his department? Did some one say to him, “Here is the way in which you caD silence Mr. Charles Russell. You can bring to light this information, so discreditable to him and his family.” If that happened, surely the correct course for a man such as we believe the Treasurer to be, was to turn that person out of his office immediately and to forget muCh n wretched idea.
The Treasurer missed the opportunity, after the Leader of the Opposition had risen, to express regret for what he had done and to tender an explanation which would have been readily acceptable. An explanation, for example, that he had done it in haste, and in the heat of an election campaign, and . that on sober thought he would not have done anythingof the kind. When the Treasurer failed to take that opportunity to express regret for an action which shocked public, opinion throughout Australia, he made itmandatory for the honorable member for Melbourne to move the amendment now before the committee. I am sure that not one of the Treasurer’s colleagues will rise and say that he would have done what the Treasurer did on that occasion. The fact is that throughout the whole of the discussion of the amendment moved by the honorable member for Melbourne, not one of the Treasurer’s colleagues will rise and claim that he would have done what the Treasurer did. That will be .a most salutary rebuke to the Treasurer for an almost unprecedented debasement of the public life of this country.
I shall now turn to another matter with which I am deeply concerned. That relates to broadcasts in furtherance of Commonweai r,h loan campaigns in Australia. I have already raised this matter with the Treasurer by way of question, and also through correspondence. The matter that I desire to be considered is the harm and the departure from democratic practice involved in blanketingthe Australian Broadcasting Commission’s stations with talks urging the people to subscribe to loans issued by the Commonwealth. Obviously, we want those loans to be filled, and obviously it is a natural thing to try to ensure that the largest possible audience will hear the loan appeals, lt is true that the practice followed by the Treasurer of taking almost every national and commercial station in Australia for the broadcasting of loan appeals, was not initiated by him. The practice was also followed during the regime of the Chifley Government, and just as I am now protesting against it I protested against it then. My reasons for doing so are extremely important. First, those who listen to the broadcasting stations pay, by means of their licencefees, for the privilege of doing so. The first purpose of requiring a licence-fee is to provide entertainment. I do not suggest that the listeners would not care to hear the Treasurer making a loan appeal on an important occasion, but surely it is sufficient for the Treasurer to speak only over the stations which will enable every one in Australia who wishes to do so to hear what he has to say. When the Treasurer takes, as he did on this occasion, both stations in Canberra for the talk, he is endeavouring to force people, who do not .want to hear him, to listen to him, or go without broadcasts for the duration of his talk. When, in addition, he takes the commercial stations, he is obviously trying to force all the people of Australia to listen to his voice. That is a totalitarian tactic. lt was employed by the leaders of the authoritarian countries. Hitler and Stalin employed it, and it is employed, 1 suppose, by Malenkov, but it has no place in a democracy.
People should not be forced to listen. They should be given the maximum opportunity to listen, and that can be done if the Treasurer will simply confine himself, say, to one national station in each State. If he gives sufficient preliminary advertisement to the broadcast which he proposes to make, every one who wishes to hear him will have full opportunity to do so; and he will not create, as he is doing now, a great deal of resentment in the public mind. People who do not wish to listen to a loan talk, and turn the dials of their receiving sets from one station to another, only to hear the Treasurer’s voice again, and turn “ to a third station only to hear the wretched Treasurer’s voice again, do not become enthusiasts for the loan in which he is seeking to interest them. They say, “ A plague upon the Treasurer “, and endeavour to find a station which is broadcasting Jack Davey, Bob Dyer, or somebody else who will amuse them. They are certainly not influenced by such tactics to fill in a loan application form.
Finally, I should like to make a brief reference to the suggestion of the honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull)-
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– I should like to add one or two observations to my previous remarks because of the statements of the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Allan Fraser). Implications have been made, and, indeed, the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) has not camouflaged his view that the secrecy provisions of the income tax law have been violated, in this case by the Commissioner of Taxation, or somebody in the Taxation Branch.
– That is not so.
– -The Leader’ of the Opposition stated in fl paper-
– He made the allegation during the general election campaign. I want to make the position in respect of the Commissioner of Taxation, and his officers quite clear and unequivocal. I would never, in any circumstances, put an officer of the Government in the invidious position of giving me information, nor would I agree to get information from any officer, in violation of decent government or administration in this country.
– That is accepted. That ‘is not the charge.
– I would not act in that way in any circumstances. I desire to state quite definitely that it is an absolutely unfair implication, or accusation, to say that the Commissioner of Taxation, or anybody associated with the Taxation Branch, gave me any information that enabled me to send the telegram to Mr. Russell, or take the action that I took. In my professional life, I am a chartered accountant, and it is a part of my job to read the reports of the Commissioner of Taxation. I have done so every year over the years, and I have an average memory. I would remember the eighteenth report of the Commissioner of Taxation, because the contents of it were disclosed publicly in Queensland. It was well known in the State Parliament, where I happened to be at the time, and it was a matter that was known elsewhere, because the man in question was a public figure in Queensland. Indeed, he was, or- had been, a member of the State Parliament. So, obviously, it was information that was readily available to any one who was interested in such subjects, and it was not difficult for me to turn up the report. It is, a public document. I had it in my Brisbane office and, as a matter of fact, I was requested to use the information on the occasion of the Senate election, but I did not do so._ t
– The Treasurer kept it for the House of Representatives election.
– I was forced into the position, and I should like honorable members to realize just what prompted the action I took. I was the victim of a scurrilous attack in a weekly newspaper in Queensland. Mr. Russell had articles in that newspaper accusing me of being a financial dictator and everything else. In fact, the paper in question attacked the administration- r
– A financial tyrant.
– Order ! The honorable member for Werriwa will withdraw that expression.
– A financial tyrant? Well, if it makes you happy, Mr. Chairman, I shall do so.
– Order ! The honorable member must withdraw the remark without qualification.
– I withdraw the remark unreservedly.
– I rise to order. The honorable member for Werriwa, who has not been here for very long, has twice been deliberately rude and disrespectful to the Chair. I think that he should make a proper apology.
– I rise to order.
– Order ! I can deal with the point of order. I asked the honorable member for Werriwa to withdraw the remark, and he has done so.
– Do you think, Mr. Chairman, that the word “ tyrant “ is offensive ? -The CHAIRMAN.- Order ! It is a personal reflection on an honorable member. I invite the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen), if he is in- doubt, to read the Standing Orders relating to this matter. I further point out that the honorable member for Werriwa is distinctly disorderly repeatedly. He continually interjects, and I will deal with him severely if he does not behave.
– I object to that. It is not correct.
– I repeat, with emphasis, that the Taxation Branch, or anybody associated with it, is absolutely innocent of any breach of office jurisdiction or administration in connexion with this matter. The information was available to me. It had been available for years to any one in Queensland who took an interest in these matters. I shall now read the reply to the telegram that I sent to Mr. Russell. I had no other idea but to-
– Scare him.
– Knock a bit of sense into Mr. Russell concerning the line of action that he was taking in his association with the scurrilous attacks on the Commissioner of Taxation and myself with regard to the treatment of evaders of taxation in this country.
The telegram had its effect. This is the reply that I received from Mr. Russell -
Your telegram astounds me. Please do not imagine that I have inspired or had anything to do with publication by Truth newspaper of any view on taxation administration.
He knew what I was getting at -
Surely you jest re silence. Anybody may quote Parliamentary papers. Charles Russell.
Anybody can quote parliamentary papers, and,, therefore, he did not think that there was any breach of trust. Nor was there any breach of trust. Nor would there have been any public disclosure of this matter had Mr. Russell had the same regard for his father’s welfare as Opposition members expect me to have had when I sent the telegram. Mr. Russell gave the whole detail’s of this taxation case to Sir Raphael Cilento, who used them publicly. He did not care whether he disclosed that information publicly, but he- did not disclose it himself He used a stooge to disclose it. Those are the facts that cannot be denied.
-. - I rise to order. A few minutes ago, the honorable member for Werriwa was corrected by you, Mr. Chairman., because he used the word “ tyrant “. The Treasurer has used the words “ stooge “ and “ scurrilous “. Both are offensive to me.
– Order! Those words were not applied to any member of this chamber.
– Will the Treasurer explain the meaning of the case to which lie referred in his telegram?’
– That has nothing to do with the matter. The Leader of the Opposition can get the information from Mr. Russell. He gave it to Sir Raphael Cilento, who will give it to the right honorable gentleman.
– I have not asked him for it.
– I did not disclose it, and I shall not disclose it now. If Mr. Russell likes to disclose it, let him do so. I have stated the position. Mr. Russell himself took that view of the matter. He drew my attention to the fact that anybody may quote parliamentary papers. I did not disclose this information. Mr. Russell himself dis closed it. Mr. Russell did not make it public. Sir Raphael Cilento made it public with the connivance of Mr. Russell.
Mr. Clyde Cameron interjecting,
– Order 1 The honorable member for Hindmarsh is disorderly.
– I want it to be thoroughly understood that, in this matter, the Taxation Branch has not committed a breach of the confidence reposed in it. I take full responsibility for information which was available to me and to every Queenslander who has taken an interest in these matters over the last nineteen years. This is the report of the Taxation Commissioner for 1936. It was presented to the Parliament and ordered to be printed on the 28th October of that year, and information about a Queenslander having failed to disclose taxable income amounting to almost £97,000 obviously created interest among those people- who were paying their fair dues to the revenues, of this country, and naturally arrested attention at the time. It became a topic of conversation in taxation circles and among, taxation agents, members of Parliament and public men. Consequently, the information was available; for anybody to see. The statement, that the Taxation Branch told me where to get the information, or, indeed, produced the information for me, is an accusation that is ridiculously unfair and. unwarranted. But, of course, the Leader of the Opposition is in the frame of mind to-day to believe that every one else is engaged in und’erground’ activities, is undermining something, or is involved in a conspiracy. Bie has spoken about a police state-
– Order I The Leader of. the Opposition was ordered to withdraw that remark, and it cannot, be used again.
– I still have a recollection of. the time when I was the Acting Leader of the Opposition, and the Government, in which the right, honorable member for Barton was the Attorney-General, sent two detectives to my office in Parliament. House, and thereby committed a. breach, of every parliamentary privilege.
– I do not wish to repeat statements that I have already made. I do not consider that the committee has really done justice to the Treasurer ((Sir Arthur Fadden). In my opinion, the committee has let him off far too lightly. He dealt, in his second speech, with the substance of what was said. He stated that the .message was private. Of course, the message was private. It was private to the person whose conduct is to be affected. Does anybody send a message of that kind publicly? Of course he does not! The message was private to Mr. Russell in order to deter him from indulging in criticism. The ‘Treasurer said that the criticism was scurrilous, but the only words he recalled to try to make that statement good were “financial tyrant”. “What is scurrilous about that? The fact is that, according to the Treasurer, Mr. Russell criticized him in the public press and then the Treasurer in retort and reprisal, and by way of pressure said to Mr. Russell, in effect, “If you continue in this way, do you think that I will be silent about your father’s breach of the taxation law 22 years ago ? “ That is a typical, classical example of pressure brought to bear on a person in order to deter him from acting as he might otherwise act. If the Treasurer would only express regret for what he has done it would not be so bad, but he attempts to justify his action.
– The right honorable gentleman attempted to justify himself in a place where his attempted justification was not accepted.
– I have never said that these particular matters arose from confidential taxation documents.
– Tes, you did !
– I said something quite different. I said this afternoon, and I repeat that the Treasurer has, amongst the enormous files of public reports about taxation, references to a list of individuals, including, for instance, the father of Mr. Charles Russell. The reference to the late Mr. Russell shows that 22 years ago he committed some offence against the taxation laws. Who knows of it? Did the Commissioner for Taxation join with the Treasurer in sending the telegram, or not?
– Did I not tell the right honorable gentleman that he had nothing to do with it?
– Therefore, the Commissioner of Taxation must be kept out of it. It is obvious that the Treasurer threatened Mr. Russell with the disclosure of the matter to which I have referred, because he said, in effect, in his telegram, “Do you think I am going to remain silent about it? “ The reason that the committee has to divide on this matter is that it is a matter of principle. H the Treasurer were to say he was sorry, that would be one thing; but he has attempted to justify himself. I say that it is a very serious thing if that kind of attack is condoned and approved, in effect, by the committee when it is voting approval of Estimates that include the Treasurer’s salary. The Treasurer apparently has no true conception of the misuse that has been made of the information concerned. It is perfectly true that it is public information. iSo is everything that is published in the law reports. One might as well say to a man, “Tour father committed a crime twenty years ago, the details of which are in the law reports for people who desire to examine them. If you do not stop criticizing me I shall no longer remain silent about the case “. That is exactly the kind of thing that the Treasurer has done. I ask the Treasurer to stand up here and express regret for his action.
– The right honorable gentleman expressed regret yesterday for what he had done, but nobody took any notice of him.
– The Treasurer is trying to justify himself in this matter, just as he has tried to justify himself in connexion with certain statements published in the Daily Telegraph. I think that the criticism that has been expressed has been fair, and was based on facts. The committee should express, by its vote, its disapproval of actions such as that of the Treasurer. This matter has nothing to do with the Commissioner of Taxation.
– So the right honorable gentleman has changed his mind.
– Mr. Charles Russell and Sir Raphael Cilento certainly did publicize the matter. The Treasurer is right about that aspect of it. They had the courage to make it public. Mr. Russell had the courage to say, in effect, “ What is being threatened against me is detrimental to my family honour and reveal what had happened. As to that matter, we know nothing, but I understand from honorable members on this side of the committee who come from Queensland that Mr. W. A. Russell, Mr. Charles Russell’s father, was a great pioneer of the Dalby district and was held in high esteem by the people of Queensland. That fact makes the whole thing much Worse.
I have spoken again on this matter only because I think that the Treasurer, by bis second speech, has admitted the gravamen of the case made against him.
– The Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) has risen a second; time in order to defend himself in relation to the statements that he made in his first speech, because the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) made it clear that the information contained, iri the telegram to Mr. Charles Russell was not confidential information. It was available to anybody who cares to buy a copy of Hansard or of a public document, or have either of them posted to him. What the Leader of the Opposition did say during the general election campaign, unless my recollection is faulty - and I would be under an obligation to produce the newspaper accounts at the time - was that this was a violation of secrecy by the Taxation Branch. He made that statement in the press. He charged the Treasurer with having extracted from the Commissioner of Taxation, by some means or other,, information that he was using to stand over Mr. Russell. The fact is, that the document concerned is just as much as a public document as is a copy of Hansard. It is available to everybody. Does the Leader of the Opposition refrain, when it suits his purpose, from quoting from issues of Hansard of 15, 20 or 25 years ago in order to silence or controvert a political opponent, or to make a point ? The Hansard records are used in that manner on every day of the’ week by honorable members .on both sides of the chamber. To imply, as the Opposition has attempted to do, that the Treasurer used a document that came into his possession only by virtue of the fact that he was Treasurer, is to strain the case very greatly indeed.
– Would you have done what the Treasurer did ?
– I am not saying what I would or would not do. I would not do a lot of the things that the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Allan Fraser) would do, because I should be ashamed to do them. But, shame does not stop the honorable member from doing them. He just goes ahead and does them. ; I would not measure my conduct or actions by those of somebody else. The honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) does many things that he thinks are just and right. Very few members of this chamber would do what the honorable member for East Sydney does. To charge the Treasurer, or any member of this chamber, who cares to use a public document, with impropriety for having done so, is bringing politics to a ridiculous level. The Treasurer’s correspondence with Mr. Russell was correspondence between him and Mr. Russell, as he has said. I have ‘often sent a pithy letter to somebody about some matter, because he has raised my ire and I have, to put it colloquially, told him off. I would not intend that letter to be put into general circulation by the recipient. Every one of us sends that kind of letter at times. To charge the Treasurer with impropriety because he used an old document, the report of the Commissioner of Taxation, to direct attention to the fact that a man, whether the late Mr. Russell or anybody else does not matter, evaded taxes to the amount of £99,000, which everybody knows about, is to lay a false charge. Now the Labour party comes forward as the defender of that kind of breach’ of the law. The Leader of the Opposition says that the Treasurer should not have sent the telegram because the late Mr. Russell was a very estimable gentleman,Ta pioneer of the Dalby district, and so forth. That might be true. The fact is, however, that Mr. Russell defrauded the revenues of an enormous sum. Yet here we have the Labour party defenders of such actions saying that nobody should say a word about that kind of thing. They say, “ That is all in the past and you must not refer to it “. It is so much hypocrisy on the part of the Leader of the Opposition now to say in this chamber that there was no impropriety on the part of the Taxation Branch, when, during the general election campaign, he freely alleged that there had been impropriety on its part because it had revealed some information. Now that the general election is over he no longer wants to make that charge, which he blasted from one end of Australia to the other while the election was being fought. We know why the Leader of the Opposition is making a small storm about this matter now. It is because, when one is being subjected to attack, the best thing to do is to create a diversion, or raise a smoke-screen, which might keep the minds of other people from oneself.
– I wish to devote my time to a discussion of the policy of the Department of External Affairs towards Asian countries. In present circumstances it should be possible for Australia and the Asian countries to meet on a level of sincerity, respect, mutual understanding and cooperative endeavour. I should also like to point out that it is not for non-Asians, like us, to attempt to mould the pattern of social and political change in Asia. We’1 must recognize that Western arms alone will never save Asia from communism. We should understand the importance of giving economic and technical aid to the Asians in order that they will be in a position to save themselves from communism. We should realize that military measures on the part of this country, or on the part of a group of Western powers, are, at the best, only a short-term device for dealing with problems that require long-term treatment. It seems to me that, from the Australian point of view, the greater the emphasis placed on economic goals the stronger will be the possibility that those of the non-communist Asian countries that are at present hostile to our foreign policy, might be induced to reconsider their attitude and line up with us. That is a most vital requirement. We must work at all times to correct the economic conditions which, seemingly, are favorable to the growth of communism in free Asia.
I come now to a consideration of the working of the Colombo plan. It is now possible, with the information at our disposal, to undertake a detailed study of its operation, and its grave defects. Apparently the Government is satisfied with the operation of the Colombo plan, because it has made provision for very little additional expenditure in that connexion during this financial year. Furthermore, the Government has not invited suggestions about an alteration of ,the plan. However, I shall make some suggestions in the matter, which I hope the Government will consider before the operation of the Colombo plan comes up for review at Ottawa later this year. There are a number of aspects of the matter which leave no room for complacency. In response to a letter that I addressed to the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Casey), I was supplied with a copy of the second report of the Consultative Committee on South and SouthEast Asia. That report gives no satisfaction to an ardent supporter of the’ Colombo plan. Rather does it give rise to the thought that the plan, which came in with a bang, will go out with a whimper. Three and a half years have passed since the Commonwealth foreign ministers met in Colombo, in an atmosphere of apparent urgency, and initiated this scheme for the, economic development of the countries of South-East Asia. At that conference, the Consultative Committee on South and South-East Asia was established. Subsequently, the committee met on four occasions - at Karachi, Colombo, London and New Delhi. Its report issued after the last meeting . at New Delhi, contains some disquieting statements. For example, it states that, by October, 1953, the Colombo plan had reached a crucial stage, and that the difficulties faced by member countries’ had become formidable. The reason for that particularly pessimistic observation, of the committee was that progress had been checked by the ending of the world boom in 1951-52. Since the middle of 1951, there has been a serious deterioration of the trade of the underdeveloped countries of South and South-East Asia, which have been receiving aid under the Colombo plan. The economy of those countries is dominated by one or two export commodities - mainly raw materials - and, unfortunately, from the point of view of the progress of the plan, since 1951 the export prices of those commodities have nose-dived to a very considerable degree. The price of rubber fell by as much as 66 per cent., cotton by almost 50 per cent., and raw jute and tin by almost 40 per cent, between 1951 and 1953. Of the main export commodities of those countries, tea and copra, alone survived the collapse. At the same time, the prices of articles imported into South and South-East Asia fell relatively little. Therefore, most of those countries have experienced a serious worsening of their trade position since 1951. The consequent decrease of their national income has resulted in an almost complete collapse of the Colombo plan. Referring to the decrease of their export earnings, the report that was issued by the consultative committee after the New Delhi meeting stated -
This caused rather wide-spread economic distress and the contrast with the previous high expectations, produced a genera] feeling of frustration and bewilderment.
The adverse development that I have mentioned has had serious consequences for those countries, and consequently the future success of the Colombo plan has been jeopardized. It may exist in the future in name only. Therefore, it might a.s well collapse now and be done with it. Existing chronic unemployment, resulting from lack of arable land and a shortage of capital, has increased in the Asian countries. If there is anything that we do not want, with the Communists hammering at the gates of those countries, itis an increase of unemployment. During 1951-52, there was a general recession of the prices of capital goods and the level of wages, which had the effect of increasing the cost of developmental projects. Since 1951, there has been little or no decrease of the cost of building construction and developmental works, but there has been a considerable decrease of the resources available in these under- developed countries to finance their developmental programmes. Any one who knows anything about the principles underlying the Colombo plan realizes that the objective of the plan is that these countries should, ultimately, finance their own projects, but because of the considerable decrease of their resources, the Colombo plan is crumbling. Despite this very serious state of affairs, the Government has seen fit to ignore the problem, other than to include in the
Governor-General’s Speech a passing reference to it. We must ask ourselves whether, if the national income of the countries which are receiving aid under the Colombo plan is subject to extreme and unpredictable fluctuations due to reduced prices for their export commodities, the plan is based on false premises. I urge the Government to give very serious consideration to an amendment of the plan, in order to assure to the countries concerned stable prices for their products ; otherwise the scheme will collapse. The democracies should say to them, in effect, “In order to save you from the machinations of communism, we shall, for a period of five, ten or fifteen years, as the case may be, guarantee you assured prices for your products”. We must consider whether any real advance has been achieved by the operation of the Colombo plan, and its future prospects. Has the standard of living in the countries receiving aid under the plan been raised sufficiently,, having regard to their increases of population? That is one matter for which the Colombo plan did not provide. An improved standard of living has not been accompanied by increased production and larger national income. I point out that there is a population increase in South and SouthEast Asia of about 8,000,000 people a year. The basis of the Colombo plan is wrong, unless the national income of the countries concerned rises proportionately to the increase of population. Unfortunately, the second annual report of the committee did not attempt to answer the questions that I have raised, but was confined to an account of the material achievements to date. It ignored the paramount question of whether those achievements are contributing, significantly, to the raising of the standard of living in Asia and South-East Asia.
In the light of the comments that I have made, the Government should reorientate its attitude to the Colombo plan. I suggest that it should take advantage of the opportunity to re-examine the salient features of the basis upon which the Colombo plan was developed so that it may assess what real progress has been made and the prospects for the future. Opposition members want the Colombo plan to succeed. It was originally intended that the plan should provide for the economic growth of South Asian and South-East Asian countries, and for the maintenance of the present standard of living, in spite of a rapid increase of population. Increased output in those countries requires the investment of an increased amount of capital, but, unfortunately, as everybody who has a smattering of knowledge about economics knows, we cannot expect to attract overseas capital to an undeveloped country until its level of production is raised. Before those backward countries can attract overseas capital, they themselves need capital. That was the idea behind the Colombo plan. It was instituted to prime the pump, or to provide capital so that those countries might increase their production and in turn attract overseas capital, with the result that production would be increased still further. Unfortunately, that has not happened. I have mentioned a couple of reasons for that state of affairs, but there are other reasons.
Under the Colombo plan, an expenditure of £1,868,000,000 was envisaged, but the contemplated expenditure is now £3,000,000,000. The difference between the original sum of £1,868,000,000 and the later estimate of £3,000,000,000 must be met, not by the Western powers, but by the South Asian and South-East Asian countries themselves. Because of the economic circumstances - in which those countries find themselves, it is not possible for them to provide that money. The consultative committee meets regularly and, theoretically, finds the requisite amount, but, in practice, it is left to the under-developed and povertystricken countries to provide it. The results of the operation of the plan over a period of three years have convinced me that the assistance that has been given is not nearly sufficient to cause an acceleration of the factors that are necessary for raising the standard of living. Australia is one of the countries that have accepted responsibility for giving assistance to the countries of South Asia and South-East Asia. The failure of the Colombo plan would rebound on Australia more than on any other Western country.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– I am sorry that the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) has left the chamber, because what I propose to say has direct reference to his actions in the committee this afternoon. If ever honorable members have seen the forms of the Parliament debased in order to secure a mean and paltry party advantage, they have done so this afternoon.
– That is a reflection on the Chair. If an Opposition member had made that statement, he would have been punished.
– There was protracted opposition this afternoon, by honorable members opposite, in an endeavour to have the time for the debate on the Estimates lengthened. In spite of that opposition, they have spent approximately two hours in a deplorable and wretched debate which can do no good, and which was designed for .one purpose only - to secure a poor, miserable party advantage by an attempt to bring discredit on the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden). What relation has that attack to the Estimates ? What has it to do with the matter that we are really discussing? Nothing whatever! The attack was made with complete insincerity by the Leader of the Opposition, who, in doing so, made a great song and performance about the Russell family, whose interests and feelings he ignored from start to finish. It must be plain to the committee, and to the country, that he had one purpose and one purpose only - to secure a wretched party advantage, irrespective of what people outside suffered or what they felt as a result of his forcing the matter into this debate. It was a most deplorable return to the chamber by the right honorable gentleman.
I point out that the country has passed judgment on this matter. It has expressed its opinion of the Treasurer by returning him to the Parliament with an enormous majority ; by completely discrediting his opponent; and by returning to the Parliament the honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Brimblecombe), also with a large majority. It is a patent and obvious fact that, not only does the Treasurer enjoy the confidence of his electorate, and not only does the honorable member for Maranoa enjoy the confidence of his electorate, but also that the Treasurer enjoys the unstinted loyalty and support of both of the Government parties in this chamber and the unmitigated confidence of the people of Australia. I repeat that the action of the Leader of the Opposition in raising the matter during the debate on the Estimates was a mean and paltry action that was designed for a discreditable purpose.
.- There are three aspects of the Estimates that I should like to discuss briefly. The first is in relation to the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden), and the broadcasts to which reference was made by the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Allan Fraser). It is only a small matter, but we should consider it. Not all of the broadcasting channels should be closed when the Treasurer is soliciting money for the loans that are raised by the Government. The voice that breathes o’er the Division of Eden-Monaro also breathes over the Division of Parkes, and it is very important to my constituents, who like to have a varied and entertaining programme, that appeals for loan money for our essential services should not be driven in with a sledge hammer, but rather should be edged in with a camel hair brush. I shall say no more about that matter. It is not, and never has been, desirable to blanket a whole area at once to obtain publicity. It is better to insinuate; one gets a better result. Any publicist knows that.
I speak now in relation to the Estimates of the Department of External Affairs. First let me congratulate the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Bird) upon his statement in relation to the Colombo plan. Honorable members must consider whether the Colombo plan represents a miserable, inadequate hand-out, or a balanced contribution to the welfare of the Asian countries. The remarks of the honorable member were particularly apposite, and they should be considered by the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Casey) or by his departmental officers to whom the report of this debate will be available. The Colombo plan has an imaginative slant to it, but it may be left out of the theatre of international affairs if it is lacking in strength. While speaking about theatres, and in particular, the external affairs theatre, I should like to refer to Seato and the atmosphere of the theatre in which the conference was opened. I beg leave to read the following newspaper report in relation to the Minister for External Affairs : -
Wonderful in his Shirt.
External Affairs Minister Casey attended a lavish Filipino fiesta last night wearing a cream barong tagalog.
A barong tagalog is not a sarong. The first is worn by the male on the top part of the body. I understand that people who go to the pictures know where a sarong is worn. A barong tagalog is a flimsy shirt-like garment delicately woven from pineapple fibre. I should like to see the right honorable gentleman in his barong tagalog at the next social function he attends in this country. I daresay that raspberries are in short supply in the Philippines! The appearance of the Minister in this dress so moved the lady in charge of the celebration that she said -
Oh, Mr. Casey, you look so distinguished.
Commenting on the first day of the conference, the newspaper report stated -
By the presidential decree the barong tagalog, worn with black trousers, is formal night dres’s for Filipino men. At the fiesta, 1,000 different native delicacies wore served and beautiful girls danced.
What extraordinary things are going on over there! Then the reporter added a most unnecessary tailpiece. He said -
Most foreign Ministers attending the Seato conference were present.
In view of the urgency of the decisions that have to be made by Seato, it is unfortunate that it should have begun in an atmosphere of carnival. I daresay that it is necessary to have functions when the representatives of various nations arrive at international conferences, but it is dangerous for a Minister to become lost in the social side of affairs and to develop the barong tagalog complex instead of remembering that he has something to do for his country.
The honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) made an important statement when he said that reports should be made in this House as soon as possible by the acting Minister for External Affairs on what is being done at Seato. Honorable members have to get their information on these conferences from the newspapers. From that source we know that there is a wide divergence of opinion as to what form the arrangement between the various nations that are opposed to communism should take. J am heartily in agreement with the decisions that I believe will be made concerning the necessity for strength in the creation of Seato. But honorable members would like to know what differences of opinion have been expressed at the conference and they would like to hear frequent commentaries on the Seato discussions. Although the decisions of the conference may eventually come to this House for approval, agreements that have been entered into by a responsible Minister are difficult to dismiss. The honorable member for Melbourne emphasized that the Parliament should be informed at least week by week, if the conference lasts long enough, or before this House adjourns at the end of this week, of the main difficulties confronting the Seato conference. It is apparent that Mr. John Foster-Dulles wants a pact against the aggression of communism. I am in favour of that. But I should also like the pact to safeguard Australia against future aggression by Japan. That is most important to this country. Has anybody told the conference of our fear that the aggressors in Asia may not be the adherents of a single ideology? It should be possible to express the view of the Australian people at the Seato conference. The Minister for External Affairs will he talking to the representatives of Asian nations. The ears of the Asian countries are open to listen to our requirements and protestations, though certainly not to our demands.
I believe that the Parliament should receive more frequent reports on Seato. There are no secret aspects of Seato. The items that appear in the newspapers are merely those which have , been selected by journalists as important and cabled to this- country. But honorable members should be informed from time to time of the hedging that is going or and the important issues that are causing differences between the countries concerned. This conference is being held for the purpose of drafting a treaty which must have teeth. Under its provisions, Australia must have commitments and honorable members want to know what those commitments are. A treaty of defence eventually becomes a treaty of offence. It is a simple proposition that during this conference and any other international conference, at frequent intervals, some little information of an official nature should be conveyed to members of parliament. For the benefit both of the Colombo plan and of Seato an end should be made of all those characteristics that pin-point our way of life to the Asian countries. We must get rid of the barong tagalog philosophy that these conferences are first the opportunity for a fiesta and only later a tongue feast. There are solid jobs to be done at Seato. The Opposition is as interested in this conference as the Government. We are interested as Australians. I ask the Minister for Defence Production (Sir Eric Harrison) to take steps to implement the request of the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Bird) in relation to the Colombo plan and my request concerning the Seato conference. I ask the Minister not to give us one of the somnambulistic reports that usually come from the Department of External Affairs. Give us something that is fresh, frightening and informative so that we may acquaint the people with the issues at this momentous conference. It is a pity that a responsible newspaper can find nothing to write about concerning Seato except that the Minister for External Affairs was wearing a flimsy, shirtlike garment, delicately woven from pineapple fibre. No doubt, in due course; the Minister will see this report and realize how damaging it could be. Al* though I began on a note of humour I conclude by saying that information should be readily available to honorable members concerning these conferences which are of such importance to the Australian people.
– I am glad that the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) has returned the debate to a serious level. I believe that there are serious things to be said. I want to direct my remarks particularly to the Department of External Affairs. I believe it is most important that we should realize that our whole way of life may be changed by certain features that are developing in the domain of atomic energy. I propose to speak on each one of the groups of Estimates in this committee and to try to explain how these features affect some of the matters that come within the purview of each of those groups. In regard to the Department of External Affairs, I want to speak on the necessity for changing the present practice whereby immunity is given to the diplomatic bag and territorial immunity is given to the embassy of a foreign power. I believe that this practice was justified in the past because the power to carry weapons of destruction in any significant form was limited. That is no longer true. It is possible, even with the old type of fission bomb, to carry in a suitcase a considerable measure of death. If that is true of the old type of fission bomb, it is a hundred times more true of the new type of bomb. Let me give some figures concerning the energy releases which are the crux of the whole matter. ‘ One pound of T.N.T., if exploded, will release the energy of one-half a kilowatt hour. One pound of plutonium, if exploded, will release 10,000,000 kilowatt hours of energy. One pound of lithium deuteride, the new fission material, if exploded, will release 27,500,000 kilowatt hours of energy. In order to indicate the actual destructive power of the explosive, these figures would have to be reduced because the atomic explosive would yield only about 40 per cent, efficiency. But even allowing for this efficiency factor, 5i lb. of plutonium is the equivalent of 20,000 tons of T.N.T, and 2 lb. of lithium deuteride is theequivalent of 20,000 tons of T.N.T.
In view of figures of this magnitude,, one cannot ignore the amount that can be carried in a suitcase or a diplomaticpouch and stored in an embassy or transmitted to an enemy agent. Unfortunately,, lithium deuteride is a cheap substance. It is unlikely to cost more than a few hundred pounds per lb. and, unfortunately, it would be readily available toRussia in large quantities at this moment or at any rate within a very short period. Indeed, Russia may already have it available in quantity. Action to prevent atomic smuggling is now imperative. It is no use closing the stable doors after this horse has got in. Action is needed immediately, for the crisis is upon us. It would seem - and I use the word “ seem “ because this may be regarded at present as being a little in the domain of speculation, though unlikely to remain there - allowing that a normal fission bomb will cause a reaction in lithium deuteride without any tritium interposed, that in point of fact once the fission bomb is available the -step up to a fusion bomb is a very simple matter.
What are these materials and weapons like? We know that the United States of America has succeeded in making a fission missile that can be fired as an ordinary artillery shell. It has a diameter of a little less than 10 inches, and an overall length of about 3 feet. These are known figures. A complete fission bomb need be no bigger, and it could be broken down into small parts, none of which could be detected by a geiger counter or other instruments capable of measuring radio-activity, and none of which need weigh more than a couple of pounds. That is bad enough, but the fusion bomb situation is worse, because the stepping-up material, lithium deuteride, is merely a blackish powder, which gives no evidence of radio activity, so that it is difficult to detect its presence. It can be carried in a packet of any size. As it has a specific gravity ,a little more than half that of water, a large suitcase or a small trunk, say, 3 feet by 2 feet by .2 feet, would be adequate for :the carrying of more than 400 lb. of these materials which would be the equivalent in explosive power, even allowing for an efficiency of only 40 per cent., of approximately 4,000,000 tons of T.N.T. That quantity of T.N.T. would fill a line of 20-ton lorries 1,000 miles in length.
We must not ignore this danger and allow Australia to remain open to possible enemies. We must not allow diplomatic pouches to enjoy immunity, because they are potentially capable of bringing into Australia in a short time enough of these dangerous materials completely to wreck a city and Australia’s economy. We cannot afford to give diplomatic immunity in a city to an embassy in which might be stored enough explosive material to destroy the whole of the city and cause millions of casualties. I am aware that the proposals that I envisage would mean considerable changes in accepted practice. I would not advocate these changes were it not that the whole foundation and substructure on which we have erected the practices of diplomatic immunity are now vanishing. We are facing a change and a discontinuity in history. We are in a situation in which man, in the space of a few years, by his own works has changed the environment in which he lives more than he had changed it in the preceding thousands of years of his history. We cannot regard this merely as a normal and gradual development. An abrupt change in man’s environment has been made, and an abrupt change in policy is called for. Since the capacity to manufacture this tremendously dangerous material in large quantities already exists in Russia, it is not too early to act, if, indeed, it be not too late.
.- I wish to address my remarks to the Estimates of the Prime Minister’s Department, particularly to that portion which relates to the Commonwealth scholarship scheme. Honorable members will notice that the sum of £1,000,000 is to be voted for this scheme in the current financial year. The amount could be increased, with great advantage to the country, but that is not the point to which I wish to refer. Last financial year, the vote for the Commonwealth scholarship scheme was much greater - £1,006,500 - and the sum actually expended was disappointingly low at only £917,341. The amount of approximately £89,000, a considerable proportion of the vote, was not expended. The vote calls for the careful scrutiny of the Prime Minister’s Department and of the committee. Though the amount spent has been expended usefully, the Commonwealth scholarship scheme is capable of doing much more than it has done. From time to time, the attention of honorable members is directed to anomalies in the scheme that ought to be rectified. During the last financial year, I received correspondence from a number of university students who, on Commonwealth scholarships, had already obtained bachelor degrees in faculties such as science, and were proceeding with medical courses. Having obtained one degree, they were denied living allowances for the final three years of the medical course. Honorable members should consider carefully what that means. The young men and young women to whom I refer, some of whom have attained their majority, embarked on the highest possible service that they could give to Australia by undertaking medical studies. They earned no money except a little that they received from temporary jobs taken during university vacations. In the final three years of the medical course, additional study is required and students are denied the long vacations that are enjoyed by students in other faculties and in the early years of the medical course. As a result they are unable to earn a little money during vacations to help in their maintenance.
Taxpayers may not claim concessional allowances in their income tax returns in respect of students who are more than 21 years of age. This is an anomaly that the Government should rectify. If a taxpayer is entitled to claim a concessional allowance for a student child under the age of 21 years, I can. see no sound reason why he should not be able to claim the allowance for a student child over the age of 21. The maintenance of a university student of more than 21 years of age is a considerable expense even for a “wealthy man, and it bears much more heavily upon the taxpayer in the middle and lower income groups. Some students, with great credit to themselves, are able to manage on £250 a year, but that amount is little enough. I should say that at the very least a student would require £300 a year for his maintenance if he is to be able to pursue his studies without the worry of economizing as much as possible. The Government should spend the entire vote for the Commonwealth scholarship scheme, examine the conditions under which assistance is granted to students, and see that the utmost help is afforded them.” I speak particularly for students who undertake a medical course, although I think that my remarks apply also to people who undertake a second degree course after already having achieved a degree. Those who eventually qualify to go into the professions and, in many instances, earn lucrative incomes for the remainder of their lives. Most doctors start to earn a good salary at 26 or 27 years of age, and although, generally speaking, they do not have a long earning life, they earn good money for most of it. They become heavy taxpayers. In short, they return to the community a great deal of money later on in life. For that reason, I think that they deserve consideration early in life, when their difficulties are greatest.
In my opinion, this whole situation should be examined. Certain remedies are in the hands of the Government. For1 instance, the Government should pay living allowances to students who undertake a second degree course at a university, and not deny such allowances, as is the case at present. In my opinion, the parents of such students should be allowed a rebate of tax in respect of all expenditure incurred on behalf of their children during such time as they are university students, irrespective of their age. I also feel that consideration should be given to students who are in a special category, such as those who are unable to earn supplementary incomes. Under the Commonwealth scholarship scheme, provision is made for students of advanced years to undertake university courses. Generally, these students have worked before commencing a university course and have a little money in the bank. They may also draw on the students’ relief fund during the remainder of their course, and in that fashion manage to pay their way, although it may be often a matter of great difficulty to do so. However, that assistance is denied to students who have already done a course and who go straight on to complete a further course.
I feel that the Government is allotted sufficient money to do the things that I have suggested should be done. The expenditure of £1,000,000 ought to be sufficient to bring about considerable relief and the abolition of a number of anomalies, and so make the working of the whole scheme very much more effective. The Australian Labour party introduced this scheme and it has been of wonderful benefit to the community ever since. I think it will continue to be of great benefit, but if we approach it in an unimaginative way and say, “ That is that - let it go on as it always has been”, it will continue on the same lines. If we examine the scheme from time to time, however, and overhaul it, it is capable of being made very much better than it was originally. I therefore invite the attention of the Government to this item, because I believe an opportunity exists for a great deal to be done for the community and, particularly, a very respectable portion of the community.
Sitting suspended from 5.5^ to 8 p.m.
Mr. DOWNER (Angas) J8.0].- I wish to say a few words, on this group of the Estimates, concerning the Department of External Affairs. I think honorable members will agree that the total vote, which amounts to something less than £.1,750,000, is not high in comparison with the tremendously important work performed. I would say without fear of contradiction that no Commonwealth government department is better served by its officers than is this one. During my time abroad last year, I had the good fortune to travel in a number of countries in western Europe, particularly those in which Australia had representation. I do not think that public opinion, in this country at any rate, is sufficiently well apprised of the quality of our diplomatic representation abroad. The type of man whom we have representing Australia’s interests in, for example, Paris, The
Hague, Bonn, Berlin and Borne, compares very favorably indeed with the highest traditions of the British diplomatic service; and I would like to say to the committee that, in my own observations, our ambassadors and ministers in Europe compare more than favorably with their opposite numbers from our sister dominion of Canada, and also diplomatists whom I met representing the United States of America.
I feel that, in view of the work that these gentlemen are performing, this is an apposite moment to consider whether they are being sufficiently remunerated for their efforts. I know that it is a cry amongst the public, and perhaps amongst some honorable members, that some members of the civil service are perhaps, if anything, rather overpaid, and there is a popular illusion that some of them do not do a great deal of work. Well, far from complaining about the salaries that our diplomatic service receives, I would ask the Minister at the table to convey to the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Casey)-
– The Minister representing the Minister acting for the Minister for External Affairs is in the chamber now.
– I trust that the VicePresident of the Executive Council (Sir Eric Harrison), who has an interest, not only in his own department, but in all government departments, in a genial and paternal capacity, will pass on my recommendation and my message. My plea is that the Minister for External Affairs give consideration to a somewhat higher remuneration, not only for our top men - our ambassadors and ministers - but also for the men in the lesser ranks. I refer to the first and second secretaries. I feel that the need for this is not sufficiently understood by the public; nor, I suspect, is it sufficiently apprehended by the Chairman of the Public Service Board. If honorable members will turn to the Estimates for this year, they will see, for example, that in France the representational allowance for officers other than the ambassador has been slightly reduced. If they turn to West Germany, they will notice that the representational allowance for the Australian Ambassador is down by £900. I would say that this is a move in the wrong direction.
I would like honorable members to consider the extraordinarily high cost of living occasioned by our diplomatic representation in the capitals of western Europe. We are accustomed by now to fairly high costs in Australia, particularly those honorable members who have the misfortune to live in that great and flourishing City of Sydney. But let me tell the committee that the prices you have to pay in Sydney for living are nothing compared with what our Australian representatives have to meet when they are stationed in Paris, in Berlin, and, to a slightly lesser extent, in Rome. Consider again the case of what I will describe as the secondary officers - the first and second secretaries. On them, in the absence of their ambassador or their minister, sometimes falls the task of deputizing for that dignitary. They have considerable entertaining to do. They have to maintain a position worthy of the great country they represent. I think all honorable members would agree that it is essential that, wherever Australia is rup resented, its diplomats, whether great or small in stature, should maintain a status which is suitable to their position. And so I hope that the Minister will pay some attention to these things and, if nothing can be done by way of amendment this year, then at any rate next year, when the Estimates are being framed, that the cause of our diplomatists abroad will be approached in a move liberal, more tolerant, and more understanding light.
There are two other suggestions I wish to make for the consideration of the Minister. The first is this : it occurred to me that we might well adopt a practice which, 1 believe, has been current with United States diplomatic envoys in Europe for some time, and have an annual conference of Australian ambassadors in Europe. To this I would suggest that the Australian High. Commissioner in London be also a party. I have discussed this with some of these gentlemen on the spot, and, from what I have heard and observed, I should imagine that nothing but good could come from some sort of annual conclave in which Australia’s relations, not simply with one European country, but with the various countries of Western Europe to which we are accredited, could be considered in their totality.
The other thing I wish to suggest is that the Minister put some end to the illogical division at present obtaining between the status of embassies and legations. I remind honorable members that, in a country such as Italy, with which we have considerable business - and I refer not only to trade but also to immigration and other contacts - a nation of between 40,000,000 and 50,000,000 people, we are still represented only by a Minister heading a legation. But if - and in saying this I do not wish to appear disparaging to the government I am going to mention - you go to a country much closer to us, such as Indonesia, which cannot possibly maintain it is a nation of equal status to that of Italy, you will find that we are represented by an embassy. The same applied, and still applies, in the case of Eire. This, I would suggest, is untenable and illogical, and I would think that the Government would be wise either to raise all of our posts abroad to the one common status of an embassy, or, as in the case, of Italy, to remove those anomalies which are so glaring that they cannot be properly defended.
.- Prior to commencing consideration of the remainder of the Estimates after the first item had been agreed to, we had a preliminary skirmish with regard to the time permitted by the Government for the discussion. I want to refer briefly to that matter, and I want- to do so, if possible, not in the spirit of the preliminary skirmish-
– Order! Tho honorable member cannot discuss a decision made by the House.
– I do not wish to discuss that particular decision. What I want to refer to is the necessity on future occasions, not on the occasion of this debate-
– There is only one Chairman in this chamber. I refer to the necessity on future occasions for some attention to be given to the views that have been expressed by the Public Accounts Committee and by honorable members on both sides of the chamber. This matter has been the subject,, not only of debate by honorable members themselves, but also of examination by the Public Accounts Committee. That committee obtained the views of Mr. Speaker on the matter and also reported on the conditions that appertain in parliaments on the other side of the world. I propose to refer briefly to the remarks that were made by Mr. Speaker on this matter in a letter that he sent to the Public Accounts Committee. Honorable members will note from those remarks that the criticism previously expressed with regard to the method by which honorable members in this chamber debate the Estimates, is not without support in responsible quarters. This is what Mr. Speaker had to say, among other things, in the letter that he sent to the Public Accounts Committee -
I have seldom attached much importance to the debate on the “ First Line “ of a Budget. 1941 being an exception. I think that, after some half dozen leading men have spoken, the debate becomes a repetition of previous speeches and almost completely futile. I think that much more time should be devoted to a close study of the hundred of items which make up the Estimates, and that the time available for the debate should be allotted on a known plan to cover each department in turn.
I heartily endorse the views that were expressed by Mr. Speaker, and they were supported also by the Public Accounts Committee in its subsequent report. Those views are endorsed also by the Treasury officials who are charged with the task of observing the passage of the Estimates through the House. Representatives of the Treasury made the following statement to the Public Accounts Committee in connexion with this matter : -
Departments prepared voluminous notes on the Estimates for the information, of members, and departmental representatives attended the sittings of the House to provide any other information required. But here another difficulty was encountered. The time of the debate on the Estimates of any particular department was not known, and unless the departmental representative was to remain continuously in the House during the debate, no one might be available to answer inquiries of members. On the other hand, the debate often failed to touch on the details of the Estimates at all so that the notes prepared and the time of departmental representatives were not profitably used.
– Honorable members had plenty of time this afternoon.
– I am trying to make an impartial approach to this matter, and I hope that honorable members on the Government side of the chamber will act similarly, because I remind honorable members that they are debating Estimates totalling £1,000,000,000. Surely, irrespective of what we may have done in the past and the arguments that have taken place in this chamber on a party basis, honorable members should consider seriously whether they cannot improve the manner in which this Parliament deals with the vast sum qf money that is involved in the Estimates. I am not blaming this Government. I readily admit that previous governments have adopted the same practice of grouping Estimates together, and there has been very limited opportunity for honorable members to review the expenditure of huge sums of money by the various departments. It is impossible to review the administration of each department adequately unless honorable members are given adequate time to discuss each department, and unless the Ministers concerned with the various departments are in the chamber to hear and answer the criticism that is advanced and to tell honorable members where they are wrong, if they can. If the Government desires this parliamentary institution to function as it should and to see its status improved in the minds of the people - and it is not very high in their opinion at present - it will give serious thought to the matter that has been submitted to it; by ‘ the Public Accounts Committee and will take action. Frankly I hope that another government will introduce any change that is made, but if this Government is in office, I hope that it will pay serious attention to the problem. It is important. Honorable members have an opportunity to discuss the administration of particular departments virtually only when the Estimates are being debated. If there are other occasions when they can do so, they are very few. Honorable members can ask questions, but they cannot pursue a question too far, and a Minister can always allow a question, figuratively, to go through to the keeper without giving an adequate reply. I suggest to honorable members on the Government side,, particularly those who are not fortunate-, enough to be members of the Cabinet,, that they have a duty to endeavour tosecure adequate time for the discussion of the huge sum that is involved in the Estimates and how it is to be expended. We, as the people’s representatives voting this large sum of money, should have time to examine proposals fully,
– Why does not the honorable member for Yarra start examining them now?
– I am discussing the amount of money that is to be spent by the Parliament, the money that is to be expended on parliamentary salaries, and on the transport of honorable members to Canberra. The Minister for Defence (Sir Philip McBride) apparently believes that honorable members - including back-benchers on the Government side as well as honorable members in Opposition - should sit like dummies and simply endorse everything’ that the Cabinet submits to ‘the chamber. I do not subscribe to that point of view. The Government has a responsibility to give the Parliament, as such, an opportunity to examine how the money that it appropriates is to be expended. The Government has a duty to the Australian people, who provide the money, to give the parliamentary representatives of the people an opportunity to examine the proposed expenditure. I do not believe the Australian people are getting full value for the cost of this Parliament.
There are honorable members in this chamber, outside the Ministry, with at least as much ability, energy and intelligence as members of the Cabinet.
Government supporters interjecting,
– I am trying to give a bi-partisan flavour to this argument. I put it to honorable members, as distinct from the members of the Ministry, that until they are given an adequate opportunity to examine the expenditure of each department, one at a time, with the appropriate Minister in the chamber to give answers to the questions that are asked and reply to the speeches of honorable members, the taxpayers of Australia are not getting an adequate return for the money they are paying for the maintenance of this Parliament, nor is the expenditure being adequately scrutinized.
The other point to which I wish to refer is one that I discussed recently during another debate in this chamber. That is the advisability of this Government, by a further extension of the committee system, giving back-benchers on both sides of the chamber an opportunity of serving as legislators. Already two committees are functioning successfully. They are the Public Works Committee and the Public Accounts Committee. Both those committees have done excellent work, and no honorable member on either side of the chamber will suggest that the Government made a mistake when it reconstituted the Public Accounts Committee. Why should there not be joint committees to deal with problems associated with agriculture, commerce, defence and territories? I am certain that most of the Ministers would welcome a committee, consisting of honorable members from both sides of the chamber, to which proposed measures could be referred. They could be discussed by the committees with departmental experts so that when the bills reached this chamber, they could be debated beneficially in the light of the expert knowledge of the honorable members who had been appointed to the respective committees. In that way, a substantial measure of agreement on the bills would be obtained. When a bill is introduced in this chamber under the parliamentary system, the objective of the Opposition is to endeavour to discredit the Government so that it may replace the Administration, and to make a critical examination of the measures. There may be provisions in the bills upon which honorable members on both sides would be in agreement if the bills could go before a joint committee first for discussion. Points that then would be debated publicly in this chamber would be matters of principle or those upon which honorable members definitely disagreed. Ministers would get much greater cooperation from honorable members in getting measures through the Parliament, and the people would find much more general agreement among the legislators about those measures.
This matter is of very great importance, because although the Parliament can pass legislation, unless we have the willing co-operation of all the people in applying that legislation, our work will be largely nullified. Whatever measures may be passed by the Parliament - not by any political party, but by the Parliament itself - we should get the maximum possible support for them from the whole of the Australian people. We cannot get that support when the only debate that takes place on a measure is from the viewpoint of the Government and from the viewpoint of the Opposition. I do not suggest that honorable members should abrogate their function of severely criticizing, and pointing out every defect in the Government’s legislation. That is the way that the British parliamentary system works, and because it works so well it is important to preserve it. However, there are many items of legislation, and even of departmental administration, that can well be referred to joint committees of the Parliament, which may discuss them, obtain expert opinion from witnesses and be able to debate them skillfully and learnedly in this Parliament. Honorable members would then be able to go out confidently and seek greater support from the people for legislation passed by the Parliament.
I ask the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Sir Eric Harrison), who has been charged by the Government with the responsibility of conducting government affairs in this Parliament, to take serious account of all that I have said in this connexion. This matter has warranted the consideration of the Public Accounts Committee, and, indeed, Mr. Speaker himself has considered it of sufficient importance to address a lengthy memorandum to that committee about it. It is also a matter about which a number of honorable members on the back benches of the Government side of the House feel strongly. There is a vast body of talent in this Parliament. “No one will suggest that the new, younger members who entered the Parliament a few years ago are not capable of handling important matters in the way that I have suggested. At present they are forced into the position of merely registering automatic approval of the decisions made by the Cabinet and presented to the Parliament. We, on the Opposition side, in accordance with the duty of an opposition, must pass our critical opinion on all the Government’s legislation, and endeavour to discredit it where necessary. I suggest that such a system does not make the fullest use of the talents that may be found in this Parliament.
There is a great amount of talent to be found on the back benches of both sides of the chamber. Indeed, I suggest that there is just as much talent there as there is in the Cabinet and on the Executive of the Opposition. I would even go so far as to say that we could find talent in the Country party; and that indicates how strongly I feel on this matter. That being so, surely the Government should devote some time to a consideration of how to make the Parliament function more efficiently. Surely it is not seeking too much to ask the Cabinet to spend a little time in considering whether the Parliament is functioning as a British parliament should function. If the Cabinet would do that, it would surely earn the gratitude of the people.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– The honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Keon), who has just resumed his seat, asked “me, as leader of the Government in this committee, to take soma serious notice of his submissions. I propose to give some consideration to them, because the honorable member has addressed himself in this committee to something, in my opinion, he might well have addressed himself to in his own caucus. I suggest that, having tried and failed to convince his own caucus, he then decided that he would take on the herculean task of trying to convince this committee. Let us consider what he said. He drew attention to the fact that Mr. Speaker had said that he did not attach much importance to the first item in the budget, and that he considered that after the first six or seven, speakers had spoken in the budget debate everything that could be said about the budget had been said. I take it that the honorable member for Yarra approves of that attitude, and believes that in that way we might be able to save time in a budget debate and devote whatever time is saved to a consideration of the Estimates.
The Opposition, in its wisdom, chose the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) to act as leader in the Parliament on the Opposition side. Therefore, the arrangements to be made about the orderly debates in this House are made between the honorable member for Melbourne and myself. Let me apply myself to the present position, because submissions such as those that have been made by the honorable member for Yarra, and others, continually crop up when budgets are introduced into the Parliament. Honorable members know that a considerable amount, of time has already been expended during the debate on the Address-in-Reply, when honorable members had an opportunity of addressing themselves to any subject that they desired to address themselves to. That debate was preceded by a debate on foreign affairs of a very lengthy nature. The time taken by that debate was practically equivalent to the time that would normally bo occupied on foreign affairs during a complete session of the Parliament. Now we come to a budget debate, and because honorable members had already addressed themselves over a long time to subjects of their own choosing during the AddressinReply debate, I suggested to the honorable member for Melbourne, who is the spokesman for the Opposition in these matters, that we should curtail or cut to a minimum the debates on the first item of the budget and devote the remainder of the time so saved to the debate on the Estimates. As honorable members well know, such arrangements can be made effective only by mutual agreement and understanding between the spokesman for the Government and the spokesman for the Opposition. I venture to say that the honorable members of the Opposition would certainly not subscribe to the remarks made by the honorable member for Yarra, because they understand that if the debate were to be reduced to one day, say, or two days, to permit the number of speakers to speak as set out by Mr. Speaker on the first item in the Estimates,, very few honorable members of the Opposition on the back benches would have bad an opportunity of speaking about the budget at all.
That was made clear by the honorable member for Melbourne, who said to me, in effect, “ I have a responsibility to the honorable members of the Opposition that I must discharge. They want to speak on the budget, and. devote their attention to certain matters arising out of it. I cannot concede the point that this debate should be curtailed. It is true that the Address-in-Reply covered certain matters, but the Address-in-Reply was delivered when honorable members had no knowledge of the budget, and therefore it is essential that those on the back benches of the Opposition side of the chamber should have an opportunity of devoting their attention to the budget “. That was the basis of the agreement made between the honorable member for Melbourne and myself. The Government, through myself said to the honorable member for Melbourne, “ All right, the recognized period of time is x days. Therefore, we shall split them up in a certain way to cover the Estimates by giving an additional day, and you can take the additional day for the budget debate.” At that time it was within the province of the honorable member for Melbourne to say, “ Let us curtail the budget debate by three days, and we can spend those days on the Estimates”. That would have covered the point made by the honorable member for Yarra. Then additional time would have been made available so that the estimates of each department could have been discussed for a reasonable period of time.
Honorable members must realize that the Government has a duty to this country to ensure that the benefits that flow from the legislation ancillary to the budget should be made available as soon as possible to the people for whom those benefits are designed. Therefore, we cannot hold up the budget and the Estimates debates for an unnecessarily long time, because to do so would prevent the flow of benefits from the ancillary bills to the people whom the legislation was designed to benefit. Therefore there must come a time at which we say “ enough “ to the budget debate and “enough” to the Estimates debate. That is the Government’s province and the Government’s responsibility. At the same time, of course, it is the province and responsibility of the honorable member for Melbourne, as Deputy Leader of the Opposition to get as much debating time as he can for his own side of the chamber. If the honorable member for Yarra considers that his deputy leader is not looking after the interests of the Opposition to the extent that he should and therefore is not doing his job properly, the honorable member has his redress because surely he” can change all that in caucus.
Having dealt with the method of arranging the debate - and I do not think the honorable member for Melbourne will challenge what I have said - let me turn now to the question of the presence of Ministers in the chamber during the debate on the Estimates. We are debating now a group of proposed votes including the remainder of the vote for the Parliament, and the vote for the Prime Minister’s Department. The Deputy Prime Minister is in the chamber and, as associate Minister to the Prime Minister, I am looking after the Estimates of the Prime Minister’s Department. We are debating also the vote for the Department of External Affairs and the acting Minister for External Affairs is present in this chamber. The vote for the Treasury is also under consideration, and the Treasurer (Sir Arthur. Fadden) himself is present. The other department to which we are directing our attention is the Attorney-General’s Department, which the Prime Minister is looking after at present. Therefore, the Ministers concerned with the various departments now before the committee are available in the chamber, and have been available since the honorable member for Yarra rose to speak. Let me deal now with the question of Ministers answering the various points raised by honorable members in the course of the debate on the Estimates. I recall a time when Labour was in office and Minister after Minister rose to speak at length when the Estimates were under consideration. The votes were considered en bloc as they are being considered now, and as the speaking time of Ministers is not limited in the Estimates debate, they were able to occupy all the time available, to the total exclusion of members of the Opposition. We rose again and again to try to get the call, but the Chairman of those days with a leer, would turn to a Minister and call him and so prevent members of the Opposition from criticizing departmental administration. T£ that is the kind of behaviour that the honorable member for Yarra wants, I can assure him that by seeking a return of it he is doing a great disservice to the Parliament and particularly to honorable members on his own side of the chamber. The Ministers who are in attendance to-night, are taking note of the remarks that are being made, and if there is a point that a Minister considers should be answered immediately he will do so, as I am doing in this instance. But Ministers will not take up the time of back-benchers on this side of the chamber who have just as much right to speak, on the Estimates as the honorable member for Yarra has. Every time a Minister rises he is given precedence over a back-bencher on the Government side, and may prevent him from expressing his views on the Estimates. The honorable member for Yarra cannot- trap me into doing that. I realize that he would like members of the Opposition to be given the whole right to criticize departmental administration to the exclusion of backbenchers of the Government side, .but Ministers will not permit that to happen. If there are points of moment that we consider should be clarified immediately, that will be done, but Ministers will not talk unnecessarily on matters that can be taken into consideration at some future date in the administration of the departments.
.- I have listened to what the VicePresident of the Executive Council (Sir Eric Harrison) has said, and I do not disagree with his statements about the allocation of the time. Of course, when I go to see the right honorable gentleman in his capacity as Leader of the House, 1 appear always in the role of a suppliant and to be told what the Government proposes to do. I have to take it or else. Occasionally, my persuasive eloquence does lead to a mitigation of what has already been decided. On this occasion the honorable gentleman told me that instead of having six days on the budget as had happened last year, we would have five and a half days, and instead of having seven days on the Estimates, we could have eight. It is true that, last Thursday, he said to me, “ What about winding up the debate and having an extra day on the Estimates ? “. I said, “ There are too many people on our side who want to speak. They have an excellent case, and your Government has such a shocking record that we propose to take full advantage of the opportunity, particularly while we are on the air “. He said, “ Very well. That is all right. The arrangement that has been made will be honoured “. The right honorable gentleman will admit however, that I said to him that we should have more time on the Estimates. I have been making that request for some years now. I have been saying that the Canadian system is better, and that there are other better systems than ours. We should not have to debate the Estimates before we pass the ancillary bills. Wc could give all the benefits of those bills first, and discuss the departmental votes later. Honorable members should not be in the position of having it said that if they talk on the budget and Estimates they will delay the granting of benefits. I have been trying to persuade the VicePresident of the Executive Council that next year we should have more days on the Estimates. I hope we will. In fact, I believe there should be a minimum of ten days on the Estimates because their importance now is much greater than it has been at any time in our . history except perhaps during World War II. It is true that mistakes have been made in the past, and that Ministers have monopolized time. That was wrong whoever did it. I should like to hear occasionally from Ministers something about their departments in answer to the criticism by honorable members on this side of the chamber. We do not want Ministers to take up all the time, but we do want them to answer some of the criticisms that have been made of their administration. They should not merely ignore criticism that comes from the Opposition side of the chamber, and occasionally, too, much more stridently and directly, from the Government side. En regard to the allocation of time, I hope that if this Government is in power next year, or whatever government is in power next year, back-benchers particularly will have much more time to analyse proposed votes, and will not have to vote for them in groups as they do to-day.
I should like the Minister acting for the Minister for External Affairs to tell the committee some time to-night just what is the latest position in regard to Seato which is being discussed at Manila. The outcome of these discussions can have a vital bearing on the future of this country. We in this part of the world are. in. a most vulnerable and difficult position. We have our own mandated territory of “New Guinea. Further south there are the Solomon Islands - British possessions which are completely undefended, and which, from Great Britain’s point of view, are undefendable. There is the condiminium of the New Hebrides and there is Fiji which is also completely undefended. All those islands are on our flank and could be a very great danger to us in the event of another war. There was a suggestion that the Japanese, if they had captured Guadalcanal, would have come down through the New Hebrides to New Zealand and Tasmania. If that danger could exist at one time, it could happen again.
The Government should tell us, too, something about the future of Malaya. Mr. Malcolm MacDonald, who is the British Special Commissioner in SouthEast Asia, openly told a youth conference held there only a few weeks ago that Great
Britain proposed to give Malaya its independence next year. That conference was attended by delegates representing the youth of the nations of the world, and Australia sent a dozen or so young men to it. But we in this Parliament should be told whether or not Britain is likely to grant Malaya its independence. Surely the Government has some information about the Malayan situation. When the Estimates are under discussion, this is the place where decisions should be announced, or we should at least be given an informed guess about what is happening there. It should not be left to youth conferences to find out what is to happen in a part of the world which is so vital to our continued existence.
The Minister for External Affairs is now in Manila, where he is putting the view of the Australian Government, and I think that a Minister acting for him should tell us what is to take place at that conference. I have an uneasy feeling that nothing very real will take place, and that it will be a case of “ Save Europe First”, which will be the 1954 version of the policy of “Beat Hitler First “ in World War II. That will not be too good for this country. If ve are to have a defensive organization, let us know something about it. These Estimates should not be passed before the Government pays the committee the compliment of telling us what is to happen in a very important sector of the world, where a lot of trouble is brewing, and, in fact, where more trouble is brewing than anywhere else at the present time.
I now come back to the arrangement for the debates on the Estimates. The Opposition likes full time to examine the Estimates, but perhaps we can devise, through the Standing Orders Committee, or in some other way, some means by which we can pass the bills which confer benefits before we proceed to discuss the proposed votes for the various departments. The departmental votes will not lose anything by the fact that they are placed second to the legislation, whereas to-day they are placed first. I put that suggestion forward in no partisan spirit, but with a view to helping every honorable member who feels a sense of responsibility to the people who send him here to give of his best, and to help the country at a very dangerous time for our national existence.
.- The debate on the Estimates is always interesting to those who care to listen to it, for a variety of reasons. One reason is the demonstration of the ability of those honorable members whom the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Keon) has described as the “ Before Forty-niners “, to talk at length on everything but the actual matter in the Estimates under consideration. We have had some excellen examples of that ability during the discussion of the Estimates to-day. The honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly) waved a copy of the Estimates in the air, pointed out that the bulky document contained 233 pages, and that the total provision exceeded £1,000,000,000, but Opposition members have since confined their remarks to subjects which, in the aggregate, have nothing whatever to do with the proposed expenditure on various items, which amounts in some cases to thousands of pounds, and in other eases to millions of pounds. The whole purpose of the Estimates debate is to enable honorable members to make a detailed examination of the proposed votes, item by item. The honorable member for Yarra, I think, finds the answer to the problems which confront him in the speech of the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell), which may be described as thoughtful and, to some degree, objective in respect of larger matters, but it really did not relate to the subject-matter of the Estimates.
– Of course, it did! The honorable member for Melbourne dealt with the expenditure on the Parliament.
– The honorable member for Yarra is not without some mental ingenuity. He has enabled himself to jump from one side of the fence to the other, and agree with the Deputy Leader of the Opposition. It is a practice that is not uncommon among members of the Opposition. I think that they must accustom themselves to it, so as to continue to play that distinguished part in public life that the honorable member for Yarra plays.
I listened with particular interest to the speech of the honorable member for
Darebin (Mr. Andrews), who referred to the financial provision for the Office of Education in the proposed vote of the Prime Minister’s Department and proceeded to make some comment on it. My own comment is that this division illustrates a general truth in connexion with these Estimates. Some honorable members have declared that we need more time for the consideration of the Estimates, but I believe that we need more information in the .Estimates in order to enable us to discuss all the details. Provision is made on page 12 of the Estimates of £148,500 for the Office of Education. Those honorable members who, like myself, became members of the Parliament for the first time at the end of 1949 might be excused foi- thinking that no additional provision was made for the Office of Education, but we should be in error in doing so. A glance at page 148 of the Estimates reveals a provision of £101,400 for the Office of Education. Another glance, this time at Miscellaneous Services on page 84 of this document, discloses a total of £1,027,000 for the Office of Education. So far as I am aware, no information is contained in the Estimates regarding the way in which that money is to be spent. I am not challenging the validity of it, but I challenge the fact that information is not supplied to honorable members, which they should have if they are to discuss the Estimates intelligently.
– That is university expenditure.
– I desire to refer the committee to an interesting matter in relation to the Office of Education.
– On what page of the Estimates is this item to be found?
– The honorable member for Burke (Mr. Peters) must have been asleep earlier, because my voice is not so soft that he could not hear me if he had been awake. His somnolence is understandable because of the gentle debate earlier. However, the point is that provision of £1,027,000 is made for the Office of Education for a Commonwealth Scholarship Scheme, the Australian Council for Educational Research, Adult Education Publications, and Occupational Therapy Training. I have always understood that education in Australia is largely the responsibility of the States. I admit tha’t I do’ not know how much responsibility the Commonwealth assumes’ for education; find that- I do not- know iri detail how this money is spent, but I- venture” to” assert that I am not the only person iri this chamber who is guilty of ignorance of those matter’s. The honorable’ member for Burke’, who’ is interjecting, is; perhaps well-informed about this subject, arid is not in the same unhappy position as I am. However, it is interesting to discover how the money is spent oil education. I find, on page 148 of the Estimates, that provision is made for one director, one chief education officer,- one chief training officer, two officers in charge; 37 education officers, cadet education officer and teachers, 38 clerks and 35 typists, librarian and assistants., I consider that the committee should be given some informatio’n about that proposed expenditure.. .1 do not , challenge the sincerity cif the honorable member for Yarra who has also emphasized the need for information .about matters of this kind. I believe that it is possible for us to deal with them in a non-party way. If we do that, we shall make some contribution to the solution of the problem with which’ we are faced.
I want to draw the attention of the committee ‘to, /another matter. .As we go through the Estimates, section by section, we find that a very interesting item appears with monotonous regularity.
– Did the honorable member say “ monopolies “.
– He said “ monotonous “; The word could be used to describe ,the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward).
– I did .not venture to say .that, because I thought it might hurt the honorable member’s feelings. I know that he is Qf a sensitive and retiring disposition. I was referring to the item in respect of incidental and other expenditure .which crops up in every section of the Estimates-. Honorable members will find. in division after division a sum for incidental and ‘other expenditure which, iri some instances, amounts to 25 per cent-, to 30 p’er cent, of the proposed vote. In the aggregate, k large sum is involved. I realize, as does any one who has thought about these ‘matters, that it -is impossible to give itemized accounts of petty expenditure in a volume that is already as large as this one,- but I think some information on these items should be included for the benefit of those honorable members who want to consider the Estimates seriously, not to indulge iri the sort of thing that was indulged in this afternoon by the Leader ot the Opposi-tion (Dr. Evatt): His contribution to the debate had nothing to do with the fact that the committee is considering proposed votes’ which, in the aggregate,, amount to £1,000,006,000. It is alarming that, in a Parliament which represents the Australian people and is an instrument of our democracy, so little attention is paid to realities and so much attention is devoted to. matters that have nothing to do with finance but have a great deal to do with personalities.
.- I join with the other honorable gentlemen who have claimed the right to express the views of their constituents on th’e Government’s administration of the affairs of the country. The proposed votes now under consideration; which relate to four of the principal Government departmentsand the Parliament, amount to> £13,938,000, but we are required to complate our consideration of them by noon tomorrow. There are 123 members of the House of Representatives. Surely- -
– Order ! As an ex-Speaker, the honorable member for Sturt (Mr. Makin) roust know that, he cannot canvass iri committee a decision made by the House. The House hai already decided the allocation of time for the .discussion of the various sections of the Estimates.
– Surely the members of this Parliament have a right to express, on behalf of their constituents, the views they hold on the methods employed by the Government of the day to expend money collected from the taxpayers of the country. It is about time that honorable members realized that they have some right to speak on behalf of the people responsible for their presence in the Parliament. I desire to make some reference to that matter, because I feel the attention of the Australian ‘people should be drawn to the fact that proposed votes amounting to nearly £14,000,000 must be disposed of by noon to-morrow. In my opinion, the committee has not been given the reasonable opportunity to discuss these votes that it has a right to expect from those in power.
– Order! I repeat my ruling that the honorable member mustnotdiscuss the time allotted for consideration of the Estimates for the various departments. That question was decided by the House. The honorable member can discuss the disbursement of the funds pertaining to those departments and the working of the Parliament, but he must not discuss the allocation of time for consideration of the Estimates.
-I have referred only to the fact that we are required to complete our consideration of the Estimates for some departments in a certain time. I have not gone into the general question of the allocation of time. I leave it to the people to decide whether I have made an unreasonable demand on their behalf. No doubt they will require some explanation of this matter from the Government in due course.
I desire to refer to the Department of External Affairs and Australian representation abroad. I think I can claim to have some knowledge of this subject. I join withthe honorable member for Angas (Mr. Downer) in saying that the permanent officers of the Department of External Affairs discharge the duties of their offices very worthily. I have had the pleasure of being associated with them. They are men of great ability, loyalty and industry. I should be very ungenerous if I did not acknowledge the loyal and efficient service they gave to the mission with which I was associated-. I received every possible consideration from them.
I want to pay a tribute tothe Australian consuls-general in New York and San Francisco. Theyare doing an excellent job. No consulate has a higher place in the estimation of the people of New York and San Francisco than has the Australian consulate in each of those cities. Australian nationals in America and Americans who want to visit or do business with Australia are extremely well served by GeneralSmart and Mr.
Norman Frewin, the Australian consulsgeneral in New York and San Francisco respectively. I consider that the time has certainly come for us to make changes in respect of certain aspects of the work done on behalf of Australia by the Australian mission in Washington. I presume that the conditions that apply to that mission apply also to Australian missions in other countries. Greater responsibility should rest on the head of the mission inWashington in the determination of local matters for the finalization of which it is now necessary to obtain approval from Canberra. The head of the mission in Washington has to seek approval from Australia even in relation to the engagement of local staff.
Inorder to show how limited is the authority of even an Australian ambassador, I require only to tell the committee that I found when I was Australian Ambassador to the United States of America, that I had to obtain approval from Australia for even the retentionof the services of a gardener. It is ridiculous to require a man who is considered fit to represent his country as an ambassador, to submit trifling matters for approval to a public service official who was formerly in the Department of External Affairs. Surely a man who has the ability to be Australian ambassador in a great country like the United States of America shouldbe considered much more capable of determining the staff requirements of his embassy. He is on the spot, and knows the exact position. In my term as ambassador to the United States of America the staff of that mission received far too little in emoluments. I complained very bitterly about the way in which three Australian women particularly were treated by a reclassification inour embassy in Washington and were denied hundreds of dollars that I feel were rightly due to them. They were forced to accept lower salaries than they had been receiving, despite the fact that they were given every possible credit for the splendid work that they had been doing. Although the official who came to Washington to carry out the classification ofthe staff was supposed to act in conformity with ‘the standards of the
American State Department, he was unwilling to acknowledge that any of the people identified with our work at the mission in Washington were equivalent to the first line of officers of the State departments. He added an extra line to the list of classifications, and by that means members of the staff employed in the Australian embassy were dropped ono grade as compared with the State department. That was rather a distinctly unfair means of denying to the temporary officials at the embassy the amounts that were due to them for the services they had rendered. Many of the locally engaged staff at the Australian embassy in Washington are Canadians, but the three Australian women to whom I have referred are in the more senior positions. They were required to sacrifice a great deal as the result of unfairness in the reclassification of their positions.
We should see to it that the head of such a mission has greater authority to be able to protect the rights of his staff, who are undertaking duties with the details .of which, and the value of whose work, he is more familiar than any visiting official from Australia can be. The denial of such authority to the high officials who represent us overseas is an anomaly. I hope that members of the Government, and the Parliament generally, will increasingly appreciate the value of our overseas representation, because of the importance of our expressing our point of view, and exerting such influence as we can, and invariably Australia stands high in the countries in which we are represented.
– Order I The honorable gentleman’s time has expired.
– I was astounded to hear a gentleman of the experience of the honorable member for Sturt (Mr. Makin) inform the committee that, although he was the Australian ambassador to the great American republic, he did not have sufficient authority vested in him to deal with matters pertaining to the expenditure, on the engagement of staff, of moneys allocated to him. I am irresistably reminded of a certain Minister for Territories on my own side of politics who once said that nothing could be done in the Northern Territory, that not even a Northern Territory policeman could marry, unless the matter was referred to the almighty Minister at Canberra. It appears that that tradition holds good. I can understand that in decisions in connexion with salaries regard must be had to the salary ranges throughout the diplomatic service, so that uniformity can be maintained. The principle that such matters shall be determined only by a senior officer of the Public Service who is authorized to deal with them must be observed. But if the facts are as the honorable gentleman has revealed them from his own experience, the time is well overdue for a review.
– But that occurred under a Labour government.
– I am not concerned with whether it happened under a Labour or an anti-Labour government. I am only concerned with the fact that if a matter requires remedying in the interests of this country, it should be remedied. I think that that is the only proper approach in discussions in committee on a subject such as this. I usually agree with the views expressed by the honorable member for Angas (Mr. Downer). He referred to the general question of re-organization throughout the diplomatic services. I had some contact some years ago with the diplomaticservice, and I thoroughly agree with the view expressed by him. I cannot help but feel - and I think I expressed this opinion on a previous occasion - that there is certainly a need for a review of the expenses and salaries allotted to a number of male members of the diplomatic service whom I met while I was abroad.
I shall now touch lightly on a matter raised by the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Keon). It was obvious that the honorable member had given much thought to the arguments that he advanced, but I agree entirely with the view that has been expressed by the VicePresident of the Executive Council (Sir Eric Harrison) that a very high level was maintained throughout the general debate on the budget. Indeed, the standard was much higher than that in any previous lengthy debate in which I have taken part during my 35 years of public life. Although there were, inevitably, certain repetitions, on the whole the level of the debate was extremely high. Throughout, the purpose of the budget debate, which is to provide honorable members with an opportunity to direct the attention of the committee to the inherent principles of the budget, and its proposals, was respected. I should be very loath to see a budget debate curtailed in any major aspect.
I shall refer, now, to the proposed vote for the Office of Education, which is within the jurisdiction of the Prime Minister’s Department. This matter has already received attention by some honorable members especially the honorable member for Deakin (Mr. Davis). The previous Labour Government, _ very wisely, appointed Professor Mills _ to control and develop this most important government instrumentality, which the Commonwealth was forced to establish as a result of the circumstances that arose after World War 11. Those who knew the late professor as I did, had a tremendous respect for his integrity, his scholarship, and his capacity to organize such a body. The idea of having an Office of Education is not entirely new in a federal system. Whilst I was Minister for Education in New South Wales, I visited overseas countries - at the expense of the people - to inquire into certain aspects of education. As a result, 1 believe that I may have had a slight part in the projection of the idea of establishing the Commonwealth Office of Education. When I visited Washington, I met the then Commissioner, Mr. Studebaker, and studied what the American federal government was doing to try to equalize the difficulties that were experienced by various States in raising the standard of education in that country. After World War I., the American Government conducted a most searching and complete inquiry into this subject, because of the incapacity of the individual States to provide a high range of education, particularly in technical subjects. The inquiry sought to ascertain how best the nation could be equipped to deal with any future crisis necessitating greater technical efficiency. The Commission of Education was subsequently established by an initial financial provision of 33,000,000 dollars. A much greater amount than that is now expended annually by the United States of America on education. As the American federal government had no general power to take over responsibility for education, the system was adopted of allocating money to the various States and advising them of the standards that had been prescribed by education experts. In effect, the federal government said to the States, “ If you want money for education, and conform to these standards, we will extend to you the benefits and leave the general administration to you “. However, before the American education authorities had gone very far along the road, they found that it was necessary to have, figuratively, a solid foundation before constructing the second story. They had then to rectify anomalies.
In Australia we have, for a long time, been confronted with a difficult situation as a result of the shrinkage of the amount of finance that the States originally enjoyed, and an increasing demand for the attainment of higher standards of education, rendered necessary by growing technological requirements.
Whilst I agree, entirely, with certain university authorities who have stated that we should have a universities commission, similar to the commission that is operating in Great Britain, to see that the technological and all aspects of university education are fully supported, I believe that the time has long since arrived when there should be a comprehensive review of all education facilities in Australia, in which due regard would be paid to both technical and administrative aspects, with a view to determining the distribution of responsibility for planning and finance to be brought about over a term of years. Although I could speak on this aspect of the matter at very great length, the limitation of time does not permit me to do so.
The honorable member for Deakin stated that provision has been made for expenditure on education of much more than £148,000. That is perfectly true. I wish it to be understood that I am not reflecting on this Government’s actions in relation to education. The allowance of education expenses as a deduction, for income tax purposes, has been most helpful to many people in this country. A glance through the Estimates reveals that about £8,800,000 will be expended on education in this financial year, including considerable expenditure on repatriation training, and the provision of technical assistance to other countries. There is an adjustment involved in the last item, which could modify the figure that I have mentioned. I have taken into consideration the proposed expenditure in relation to educational activities conducted by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, and other educational activities. A further £850,000 of what I shall term capital expenditure from revenue will be provided for the construction, in the Australian Capital Territory, of essential buildings for the Australian National University.. Therefore, in this financial year, the Australian Government will expend, altogether, about £9,500,000 on education. I should like to make two points perfectly clear. The first is, that the present Government is doing more to assist education than has any previous Australian government. The second is, that because of the magnitude of the problem, the Government should not rest on its laurels: Having regard to the Australian picture as a whole, the Government must take care that the upper stories on the educational structure are firmly related to the foundation, in order to ensure that we shall have a symmetrical and perfectly balanced education system, which will enable this country to discharge efficiently its responsibilities both during times of war and times of peace, and guarantee our progress as an Al nation. We must not drop back to a B-minus or a C-minus nation.
.- I wish to make a small statement about a big item in the proposed vote for the Treasury. I refer to the national debt. I shall endeavour to explain why the figure is so large. First, I shall direct the attention of the committee to loans that we have obtained from the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development, and the International Monetary Fund. Recently, I asked the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) whether the Go vernment was using any of the dollar loans that it received from the United States of America for the establishment of plant to manufacture capital equipment, the purchase of which, otherwise, would require dollars. Unless we use those loans in this manner, it will become necessary to obtain many more dollar loans. We know where that will lead us. I am not opposed to the establishment of the International Bank. When the Australian Labour party was in office, Australia was a signatory to the agreement that was reached following the conference at Bretton Woods. The International Monetary Fund was established for the purpose of assisting the reconstruction of countries that were devastated during the war, and also of helping backward countries. Such an international institution justifies its existence. When I asked the Prime Minister whether the Government was using the loans in the prescribed manner, I was requested to place my question on the notice-paper. I assume that the Government has not made any such move; otherwise, I am certain that the right honorable gentleman would have known something about it. The annual report of the International Monetary Fund reveals that these loans are made for the purpose of assisting the development of agriculture, coal-mining, iron and steel industries, railways, road transport, manufacturing industries, and the light and power industries. Australia should be able to manufacture some of the equipment that is required for these purposes. My complaint against the budget, in this respect, is that it shows the aggregate expenditure on those particular items, but it does not show the details. As a result, we are at a loss to know how the money is expended.
The Menzies Government has raised three dollar loans since it assumed office. In 1951, it borrowed 100,000,000 dollars for 25 years at an interest rate of 41 per cent.; in 1952, it borrowed 50,000,000 dollars for twenty years at an interest rate of 4$ per cent.; and, in 1954, it borrowed 54,000,000 dollars for fifteen years at an interest rate of 4f per cent. The budget revealed that Australia’s total indebtedness to America was £128,000,000. That indebtedness cost Australia £5,626,000 in1 interest in 1953-54. When the last loan is fully accounted for, our total indebtedness to America will be 400,000,000 dollars, or approximately £170,000,000. The interest bill in 1954-55 will be approximately £7,000,000. Our dollar earnings are so small that I think we are approaching the point at which we shall have insufficient dollar earnings to pay the interest on those loans. Under those circumstances, Australia would have an accumulating debt that it could not repay. I cannot understand why Australia should remain a debtor nation. It has built up colossal overseas credits in the sterling area, but it has not yet been able to lend money overseas. On the contrary, it has always borrowed money from overseas. It is time that Australia attempted to reverse that position, but it will be able to do so only when it uses dollar loans for the purpose of establishing plant to manufacture capital equipment,
Australia’s national debt is approaching a very high level and, in my opinion, it is doing so at the expense of the poor people. This year the debt is £200,000,000 higher than it was last year. An analysis of Australia’s borrowing programme shows that in Australia borrowings total £3,186,128,130. In London, we have borrowed £351,179,029; in the United States of America, £128,698,753; and, in Switzerland, £6,000,000. The total national debt at present is £3.671,905,912. Last year, the national debt was approximately £3,400,000,000. The interest on the Australian portion of the debt is £94,924,000 ; on the London portion, £14,233,000; on the American portion. £5,626,000; and on the loan from Switzerland, £250,000. The total interest debt is now £115,029,000, as against approximately £100,000,000 , last year. The reason for that indebtedness lies in the fact that this Government has pursued a policy as a result of which it is paying increased interest rates. It has yielded to the investment brokers to such a degree that interest rates have been allowed to rise. I suggest that the interest rate of 4 J per cent, which we pay to the International Bank is too high, and that the interest rate in Australia also is too high. The position will not improve, because every time the interest rate is> increased by i per cent., £15,000,000 is added to the national debt. At least half of the national debt was borrowed by the Labour Government during the last war for the defence of Australia, at interest rates of 2 per cent, and 2^ per cent. The interest rate is now nearly double that figure.
As these loans become due each year, they are converted at a very much higher rate of interest. Eventually, Australia will reach the stage at which it will be obliged to borrow money to pay off that colossal interest debt. Instead of steering interest rates upward, the Government should be steering them downwards. That trend has an effect on everybody, but in particular on the poorer people in the community. In the current budget, the Government has made provision for the payment of those colossal interest rates at the expense of the pensioners. I condemn that action of the Government. If the Government wants to steer Australia’s economy in the right direction, it should adopt the policy of reducing interest rates rather than of increasing them.
.- One or two of the points that were raised by the honorable member for Banks (Mr. Costa) are very pertinent and should be answered immediately so that misconceptions may be removed. The honorable member condemned the rates of interest that the Government is paying on its loan raisings. I remind the honorable gentleman that loan raisings are made on behalf of the State governments, all but one of which are Labour governments. Under the Financial Agreement, the Australian Government which has a minority vote on the Australian Loan Council is the borrowing instrument on behalf of the States. The whole of the moneys that have been lent, by the Australian people in the last three years have been made available almost exclusively to the States. In addition, the Australian Government, from its own resources, and with no thanks from the States, has supplemented the loan programmes of the States to an enormous extent. Last year, the Government provided the States with £74,000,000 from its own resources because the loan market would not yield sufficient to meet State requirements. The previous year the Government provided the States with almost £123,000,000 from its own resources. That amount constituted the deficiency between the States loan programme and the yield of the loan market. In the year before that, the Government provided £153,000,000 for the State governments.
The interest rate that the people of Australia are invited to receive for the moneys that they lend to the Government is fixed by the States at the meetings of the Australian Loan Council, on which the States have a preponderance of voting power. So it becomes tedious continually to hear the complaint from honorable members opposite that the interest rate on loan raisings for public purposes is too high.
– It is too high.
– If it is too high, the. honorable member should blame the State Labour governments. The rate that is fixed is not a notional rate. The rate at which the lending public is willing to make its money available must be considered.
– The Government repudiated a lot of bondholders.
– That is ridiculous. The Government is not in a position to repudiate loans because it is the Australian Loan Council, not the Government, that raises the loans. So any repudiation would have to be effected by Labour governments. But no repudiation has taken place and it never will take place. Only the Lang Government in New South Wales, which the honorable member for Hume, who has just interjected, supported, has been guilty of repudiation.
The honorable member for Banks stated that dollar loans should be expended on plant for the production of equipment in Australia. The Chifley Labour Government was entirely opposed to seeking any dollar loan for development. It was the present Government that recognized the necessity to borrow dollars in order to obtain the material that was required for the proper development of Australia and which was not available except from the dollar area. In August, 1950, the present Go vernment obtained a loan of 100,000,000 dollars from the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development. A further 50,000,000 dollars was granted by the bank in 1952 and a further 54,000,000 dollars was granted by it in 1954. By that means, nearly £100,000,000 dollars has been obtained by this Government for developmental purposes. Under the first 100,000,000 dollar loan, import licences were issued in the following categories : -
The allocations from the second loan of 50,000,000 dollars were as follows: -
About one-quarter of the 1954 loan will be used for agriculture. Foreign exchange provided by the loan will make possible continuing imports for the improvement of existing farms and for opening new areas to cultivation. Tractors, earth-moving equipment, farm implements, harvesting equipment and components for the manufacture of agricultural machinery in Australia will be bought under the Loan, which will also provide tractors and forestry equipment for the exploitation of forest reserves.
About three-fifths of that loan will be used to improve transportation. Funds will be provided for the importation of medium and heavy trucks that are suited to Australian road conditions and for the importation of equipment to construct and maintain roads. An amount has been allocated for railway improvement, mainly to purchase components needed for the manufacture of diesel locomotives in Australia. Much of the amount allocated to transport, however, will be used to expand air services. Air transport plays an important role, both domestically and in international travel to anc! from Australia. Australia’s stable climatic conditions are favorable to air transport and an extensive network of scheduled air routes has been in operation for many years. The loan will help pay for four four-engined aircraft which will be used in domestic service and for eight four-engined aircraft which will be used in international services. The remainder of the loan, about one-seventh of it, will assist in the continuing development of electric power and manufacturing industries. It will be used to buy equipment for iron and steel production, food processing, chemical production, textile processing, mining, metallurgy, metal working and fabricating and to buy specialized electrical equipment. The loan is for fifteen years and bears interest at 4f per cent, per annum, including the 1 per cent, commission which will be allocated to the special reserve of the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development.
In addition, the Government obtained a loan of 60,000,000 Swiss francs from Switzerland. That loan will be used for purposes of development by such means as the installation of hydro-electric plant and sugar mill machinery. The criticism of the honorable member for Banks, which was very pertinent, has been well answered by this statement of the conditions of the loans and the purposes to which the loans will be put.
.- Possibly no Treasurer has had more .to answer for because of his incompetence than the present Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden). The Treasurer quite falsely placed the blame for rising interest rates on Labour governments. He failed to say that all money required for development and the conduct of a great war was raised by the Curtin and Chifley Labour Governments from the Australian people at an interest rate of 3$ per cent. The public was then prepared to lend money at the minimum rate of interest, confident in the knowledge that the bonds would be redeemed in good time on the basis on which their money had been lent. But what happened when the Liberal and Australian Country parties came into office?
– They repudiated their obligations.
– Patriotic subscribers to war and security loans suffered losses of £12 or £14 in every £100 they had subscribed, because this Government, as the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Fuller) has said, repudiated its obligation to maintain the value of the bonds. This Administration stands condemned because it has allowed thousands of Australian citizens to suffer heavy financial losses through its failure to safeguard the interests of subscribers to government loans and to honour the obligation that was entered into by the Chifley Labour Government. Any administration worthy of the name would have honoured that obligation. “Why should Australia borrow abroad at all? The Chifley Labour Government met all Australia’s financial requirements by internal borrowing from the people. The safest and soundest method of public finance is to borrow internally and to refrain from entering into overseas obligations that might place Australia in pawn in the future, irrespective of its internal prosperity. Every Australian who has read anything of his country’s history, knows that the Liberal and Australian Country parties, under several of the many names by which they have been known, on a former occasion borrowed so heavily overseas that they drove Australia into bankruptcy in 1929. The present Treasurer has assumed the mantle of the previous tragic Treasurer of the Australian Country party, the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page), and is following faithfully in the footsteps of his model by completely destroying Australia’s financial stability and integrity. No Treasurer in our time has had a more damning record of incompetence in administration than has the present Treasurer. Since he assumed his portfolio in late 1949, costs have skyrocketed by more than 61 per cent., as the committee was told recently.
– Order! The honorable member must direct his remarks to the appropriate departments and the proposed votes that are at present before the committee. He may not continually cast personal reflections. I remind him, also, that this is not a general budget debate.
– I am well aware of those matters, Mr. Chairman. The Treasury vote amounts to £7,911,000, of which the sum of £450,700 relates to administration. I am merely criticizing, in accordance with my right as a member of this Parliament, the Treasurer who is responsible for the expenditure of £7,911,000 under that vote. Why should he be protected from my criticism? The Treasurer has imposed crippling rates of taxation. Why should he not answer the charges that we on this side of the chamber make concerning the manner in which he has allowed inflation to run riot despite the huge revenues that he collects? Why should he not answer for the present high level of prices which, as you, Mr. Chairman^ know, has seriously depreciated the savings and the incomes of all sections of the community? Why should the Treasurer, who has increased everything except pensions, not answer to the Parliament for his incompetence and inefficiency in administration.
I make passing reference now to the praise that Government supporters have given the Treasurer. They said that he has rendered great service to this country. During the .Senate election campaign I visited Queensland, to find that the Treasurer had been sent to the far west and that -no mention of him was made in Liberal party advertising for the campaign. Members of the Liberal party were ashamed of the horror budget and refused to speak on the same platforms as members of the Australian Country party, because they did not support the Treasurer’s financial policy.
– Order! If the honorable .member does not link his remarks with departmental matters relating to the relevant Estimates, I shall ask him -to resume his seat. I again remind him that this -is not a general budget debate.
Mr. -DALY.1- I mentioned those matters only in passing, and naturally I bow ‘to your ruling, Mr. Chairman. Yet surely you will agree that the Treasurer and other Government supporters who have spoken on these Estimates have had the benefit, I should not say of laxity on your part, but of your wise judgment,, in allowing them full scope in thediscussion of the important mattersinvolved in these proposed votes. But why should the Treasurer be sacrosanct and above criticism? Why should Opposition members not discuss his administration ? It is only reasonable that I should be allowed to comment on the administration of a Treasurer who is responsible for the conditions that I have mentioned, but you, Mr. Chairman, seek to restrict me. However, I accept your ruling, and I have no desire to discuss it and thereby curtail my remarks, which, I am sure, will be of benefit to the Parliament and the people generally. The comments that I have just made answer the Treasurer’s charges in respect of interest rates.
I intended to continue at length and examine further the incompetence that the Treasurer has displayed in theadministration of his portfolio. I do not desire to be personal. I regard him as a nice chap personally. But I disagreeentirely with the plaudits that Government supporters have given him for his general administration as it ‘has affected the condition of Australia’s economy. His incompetence as an administrator and his failure to grasp financial problems relegate him to a level far below that of his illustrious predecessor, the late Ben Chifley.
This is perhaps one df the most valuable contributions that I shall ever make to the deliberations of the Parliament, because every minute that I address the committee represents the voting of £28,000 On the basis of the amount of money ‘concerned in these votes and the time allowed for discussion of them. The Government maintains that it is not afraid to support the financial policy that it has enunciated, but it severely curtails the time that this committee may have for the discussion of financial matters. For months the Administration prevents the Parliament from meeting, and, when it does allow it to meet, refuses to give the committee adequate time for the discussion of the details of the Estimates. Why should the people’s Parliament not be allowed to deliberate at sufficient length for all honorable members to take their full time in the budget debate, and why should the Government apply the “guillotine” to restrict the debate on the Estimates? Every honorable member should be allowed the whole of his two periods of fifteen minutes to discuss every proposed vote in the Estimates and to give to the committee and the people his views on these important financial matters.
– Sit down!
– I am well aware that the Treasurer would like me to resume my seat. My criticism is not nearly so palatable to him as were the half-baked plaudits that he has received from Government supporters. It is significant that the Treasurer has not stated that he is opposed to the restriction of discussion of the Estimates. He has acquiesced in the restriction because he knows that a full and enlightened discussion will reveal in all its stark reality the incompetence of his administration. It has been suggested that Estimates such as those for the Parliament and the Treasury should be considered by special parliamentary committees or by other means. In common with other honorable members, I feel that the committee system, when used in connexion with matters of vital importance, is of great benefit to all members of this Parliament. I support the principle that committees should investigate financial and other matters, so that honorable members may gain knowledge which would be of benefit to their constituents and the people generally. At the same time, E see no reason why a parliament which is twice as large as it was previously should set an all-time record for the low number of sittings and minimum period of discussion of the Estimates. I hope that, during the next budget debate in this Parliament, adequate time will be given for debate. Honorable members should be given an opportunity to elaborate on the many matters that come before them in connexion with the Estimates, and the Treasurer should not be able to escape just criticism at such a time.
We on this side of the chamber are not what might be termed “ dumb doras “. We are not prepared, like the sheep of the
Australian Country party and the Liberal party, to accept without question the Estimates that are produced by Ministers from time to time. Brains are keen on this side of the Parliament. With the financial knowledge which abounds in the Australian Labour party, honorable members on this side of the committee desire to investigate to the full all matters which are covered by the Estimates. We believe that the Treasurer and other members of the Government should be prepared to answer for their stewardship when the Estimates of the departments they administer are being discussed. We consider that the debate on the Estimates should not be gagged and “ guillotined “, so that Ministers may escape their responsibility to the people and the Parliament. I hope that the Treasurer will take note of my remarks.
– He has done so.
– I hope I shall live to see the day when a Labour government will be able to reduce the interest rate. Perhaps, in the distant future, we may enjoy again the conditions which existed in 1949, when prices were 60 per cent, to
TO per cent, lower than they are to-day. when real economic stability reigned in this country, and when we had a Treasurer who knew something about finance, instead of the incompetent occupant who holds that office to-day.
– A delightful expectancy I enjoy in this Parliament is to listen to the honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly) in the hope that, one of these days, his tongue will poke through his cheek. Nevertheless, I always have great pleasure in listening to his remarks because I know him sufficiently well to appreciate that he has ability above the party policy that he preaches. I think that that is the highest compliment I can pay him. I wish to say something about certain remarks made by the honorable member. Some minutes ago, we had an opportunity to listen to the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) explaining the interest rates, as they apply in Australia. The right honorable gentleman pointed out that although the interest rates are fixed by the Australian Loan Council, they are, largely, a matter for determination by the investing public. After alii the people provide the money which fills the loans, and. prospective investors are attracted, or repelled, according to the rate of interest which is offered. The honorable member for Grayndler spoke of the great performance of the Chifley Government in regard to interest rates, but he did not tell the committee that, during the regime of that Government, capital issues, like wages, were pegged, so that there were no other avenues of investment. The whole of the investment moneys of this country were channelled for one purpose.
The honorable member also made certain points in connexion with dollar loans. I know that it is one of the planks of the Australian Labour party that no money should be borrowed from countries outside the British Empire. The party has
I do not wish to refer to any more of the obviously irrelevant remarks of the honorable member for Grayndler. As I have said, we always live in hope about the tongue in his cheek. Instead, I wish to refer to the subject of education, which was partially covered by the honorable member for Deakin (Mr. Davis) and the honorable member for New England (Mr. Drummond). As the committee knows, the Commonwealth has no immediate interest in the subject of education. It is a State responsibility to provide for primary, secondary and tertiary, or university, education, but owing to the enormous increase of expenditure in regard to higher education, it has been felt - and I think quite gratuitously - that the Commonwealth should take some action in this regard. I have gone through the Estimates and taken out certain items which, in toto, have a tremendous effect on education problems in Australia to-day.
The honorable member for Darebin (Mr. Andrews) adopted the attitude that the Estimates for the current financial year indicate a reduction in expenditure by the Commonwealth on education. Being slightly cautious of any remark that comes from the other side of the chamber, I have checked through the actual grants for the previous year and, on my estimate, the Commonwealth will expend on education some £300,000 more this year than it did last year. The point that I wish to make relates to the extraordinary diversity of Commonwealth expenditure on education. Under Division 16, which refers to the Office of Education, provision is made for the administrative side of the Commonwealth’s approach to education. The proposed expenditure in this connexion is £148,500. Let us turn now to higher education. I think that this is one direction in which the Commonwealth can assist with the general problem of raising the- standard of scientific and technical knowledge which we require to carry on the development of the nation in the next ten, fifteen or twenty years. In Division 187, we find that item 15 refers to the Australian National University. Expenditure in this respect was £325,000 last year, whereas the estimate for this year is £423,000, or an increase of £9S,000. Item 23 of that division refers to the Australian Academy of Science, the grant for which was £5,000 last year, whereas this year the proposed grant is £10,000.
If honorable members turn to Division 189, which refers to the Office’ of Education, they will see provision for expenditure in relation to the Commonwealth scholarship scheme to which the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. Joshua) referred earlier to-day. Expenditure in connexion with the Office of Education was £941,454 last year, whereas this year it is proposed to expend £1,027,000, or an increase of £85,546.
Division 254d, which refers to education in the Australian Capital Territory, includes provision for a grant in aid for the University College, which is also a form of higher education. Whereas, last year, expenditure under this division was £361,646, it is proposed to expend £420,000 this year, or an increase of £58,354. An item which is of considerable assistance to the States in regard to their educational problems is to be seen in Part 4 of the Estimates - Payments to or for the States. Honorable members will see in that part, provision for financial assistance for universities which, this year will be £1,420,000, whereas last year it was £1,389,421, or an increase of approximately £30,579.
On those items alone, it is proposed to increase expenditure by approximately £300,000. I have left out of account completely the item mentioned by the honorable member for New England which refers to our approach to the educational angle of the Colombo plan, and under which £4,500,000 was voted to cover the cost of educational and technical assistance to students who come here and, of course, technicians who go abroad to advise Colombo plan countries. I regard such expenditure as purely an Australian responsibility. In addition to those items which are concerned entirely with our own higher education, we have made, under Division 199h, provision for the granting of £300,000 in relation to the education in the English language of non-British immigrants. Such expenditure is well justified. It will help to solve the problems that beset many immigrants. Division No. 207l provides for a grant of £350,000 for the education of children of deceased and totally and permanently incapacitated ex-servicemen. These sums make a total of over £4,000,000 for education although, as I said earlier, the Commonwealth has no immediate responsibility in the financing of education. If the honorable member for Darebin were here to compare these items with the provision that has been made for education in the past, I am sure that he would agree that the Government has planned a grand contribution to the advancement of education.
How much responsibility should the Commonwealth undertake in the field of education? It is obvious that primary and secondary education, and university education in part, must be the entire responsibility of the States for as long as they continue to receive from the Commonwealth the amounts that they now obtain in the form of tax reimbursement and other grants. The States cannot have it both ways. My opinion is that the
Commonwealth should accept a considerable responsibility - as the Estimates show that this Government has done - for the higher education of the people who will become our main scientific and technical experts and advanced teachers. That is one important direction in which the Commonwealth can contribute to a full and effective education system. It is already assisting the State universities, providing an education service in Commonwealth territories, and maintaining a research university for post-graduate study. I believe that this is the direction in which it must continue to serve the needs of education.
For honorable members to assert that the Government has abandoned its interest in education is ridiculous. The fact that the proposed provision for the Office of Education this year is a few thousand pounds less than the actual provision last year Ls of little significance, because that division of the Estimates relates entirely to the administrative aspect only. Such criticism is quite beside the point. Education is a subject of the highest importance, and therefore I was deeply interested in the remarks of the honorable member for New England, who is a man of great experience in this field. The honorable gentleman has taken a great personal interest in education throughout his life and has a fine administrative record on the governmental level. The problem of establishing the level at which Commonwealth finance can best be directed towards the fostering of the highest elements of the education system should he one of the utmost concern to all of us.
.- I am very pleased that three recent speakers on the Government side of the chamber have discussed the important subject of education. The honorable member for New England (Mr. Drummond) said that the Government had expended more on education than had any other government, but he acknowledged that sufficient had not been done. The other two honorable gentlemen, the honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. Mackinnon) and the honorable member for Deakin (Mr. Davis), also made interesting contributions to the discussion. I regret very much that the Government has not seen its way clear to provide assistance for the establishment of a medical school in Western Australia. The urgent need for such a school in that State was stressed in an item published in the Perth Daily News on the 26th June last. That item reported a significant statement, made in Adelaide by an eminent medical authority from the United States of America, in the following terms : -
The establishment of a medical school in Western Australia would greatly relieve the pressure on Adelaide University.
This was said by former Medical Faculty lean Professor A. A. Abbie.
He was commenting on a statement by American medical authority Dr. Malcolm T. MacEachern that Australia’s medical standards were threatened by a shortage of money and the lack of teaching and student facilities.
Professor Abbie said that the medical school at Adelaide would be unable to cope with the increased enrolments expected in the next few years.
Now comes the important part of the news item - “ Adelaide is responsible for 20 students a year from Western Australia. If a medical school was opened in Perth at the hospital level, the position here would be greatly relieved”, he said.
That clearly indicates the seriousness of the situation in Western Australia. The medical school at the University of Adelaide will eventually be unable to take even the twenty students a year that lt now accepts from Western Australia.
The Australian Medical Journal of June last reported that from 20 to 30 students needed medical education each year in order to provide essential medical services for Western Australia. It pointed out also that, when a medical school was provided in Victoria, the population of Melbourne was not nearly so large as the present population of Western Australia. The same comment is applicable to the medical school at Adelaide. Melbourne had a population of slightly over 500,000 when its medical school was established in 1863. Adelaide had a population of only 319,000 when its medical school was established. The population of Western Australia, however, was nearly 600,000 in 1951. and honorable members can rest assured thai the recent census will disclose that the present population is considerably more than that. Thus, there can be no argument against the establishment of e> medical school in Western Australia on the ground of population. The case in favour of such a school is greatly strengthened by the special circumstancesof that State. It covers a wide area which is sparsely populated, which means that its doctors are required to cover larger areas than do doctors in other States. The vast distances that separate Perth from cities that have medical schools emphasize the need for such an establishment in that city. The most important point is that, in future years, the medical school at the University of Adelaide will be unable to provide facilities for students from Western Australia.
Honorable members must be aware that the population of Western Australia has increased very rapidly since 1945. From 1948 to 1952, the increase in that State was 13 per cent., as compared with 8 or 9 per cent, in other States. Obviously,, therefore, there is a crying need for a medical school in Western Australia, and I am sorry to note that the Estimates contain no provision for funds for the establishment of such an institution. 1 ask honorable members to note the result of an investigation that was made by Dr. Malcolm T. MacEachern, to whom reference was made in the newspaper report that I quoted earlier in my speech. According to the West Australian of the 14th June last, he had this to say about Australia’s medical standards -
Australia’s medical standards are threatened by money shortage and lack of teaching facilities, an American medical authority, Dr. Malcolm T. MacEachern, warned to-day.
The position was serious and called foi immediate action, he said, in a report to the Australian Hospital Association.
While Australia needed more doctors, teaching staff and facilities were inadequate for the number of students entering medical schools.
Dr. MacEachern came from America last October to study Australian hospitals.
His report says that between 150 and 180 students arc admitted to some medical schools each year, while American schools, with better facilities limit entries to 100 a year.
There should be ten hospital beds per student, says the report, instead of four, as at present.
With 5,919 physicians at June 30, 1953, Australia had one doctor to every 1,884 people.
The report criticized the financing of hospitals and the provision of facilities and concluded with certain recommendations that I shall not repeat now. I direct attention to the urgent necessity for the provision of a medical school in Western Australia. There is also a strong opinion in that State that the Australian Government should assist education. The cost of education has gone beyond the reach of the Western Australian Government because the State is growing rapidly as a result of the discovery of oil and the establishment of heavy industries. The State’s income is insufficient to provide for immediate education needs. They include additional schooling facilities to meet the needs of the growing population. I propose to submit to the committee some figures that indicate the urgency of the need for finance to help the State with education. In 1947, a classroom could be built for £1,000. Now, a similar classroom costs £3,000. Since 1946, the school population in Western Australia has increased by 55 per cent. More than 80,000 children are attending school, and 5,000 more are being educated by correspondence because of the scattered nature of the population.
Industrial expansion in the State is rapid and the resulting growth in population indicates that the school population will increase greatly in the near future. It is estimated that by 1960 the number of children attending school in Western Australia will increase by approximately 50 per cent. Obviously, the Government of Western Australia has-, difficulty in finding finance for education. If complete chaos is to be avoided, an extensive, school building programme must be undertaken and started immediately. The Minister for Education in Western Australia estimates that an essential school building plan based on current needs would cost £10,000,000 by 1960. Such expenditure would be too heavy for a State like Western Australia to carry itself. A press report only a few weeks ago stated that plans had been prepared for a new high school at West Midland Junction and that the work would be started during the current, financial year only if sufficient loan funds were available. Western Austral ia,’is! doing tha best it can to provide education facilities with the money at its disposal. Its expenditure on education from revenue is the highest per capita in Australia and it needs assistance from the Australian Government urgently for the reasons that I have already stated. Some provision has been made in the Estimates for education, and there is no reason why the amount should not be increased.
Western Australia needs financial assistance in other ways because of the nature of the State and its recent rapid progress. Although the Government has done much towards the rehabilitation of the railways, they are still below standard. Heavy track maintenance and renewals are required urgently, and the State cannot meet the cost with the funds at its disposal. It must get assistance from somewhere, and the Australian Government has an obligation to assist the State because of the work that it is doing. The Kwinana oil refinery project has taken much of the State’s funds. The Australian Government should assist with that project because it will be important in the event of war. The Australian Government should also assist with the dredging of Cockburn Sound because that work also will be a contribution to defence. I ask the Government, therefore, to give some further consideration to the provision of financial assistance for Western Australia.
.-! wish to reply to some honorable members who have: spoken in this chamber to-day. I refer particularly to the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt), the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell), the honorable member for Banks (Mr. Costa) , the honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly) and other honorable men> bers on the Opposition side who made unjustified attacks on the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden). First, honorable members heard the Leader of the Opposition, who has returned to this chamber after a long absence during which the budget was debated. He launched an attack on the Treasurer and, worse still, he followed it with an attack on the. Commissioner of Taxation. That attack cannot be justified in any way. An honorable- member on the Opposition side, may be justified in attacking the Treasurer because the right honorable gentleman is a member of a different political party, but it is disgraceful to attack the Commissioner of Taxation who is a public servant. I propose to reply to the Leader of the Opposition, and I ask him first why he attacked the Treasurer to-day. He referred to events that had taken place during the general election for the House of Representatives in the final days of May last. If the events to which he referred were so important that he should use them as the basis for an attack on the Treasurer to-day, is it not reasonable to suggest that he should have referred to them immediately the Parliament met for the opening of this sessional period on the 4th August last? He should not have left those matters until to-day. Anybody who has had experience of debating can easily understand why he allowed the matter to rest for so long. The Leader of the Opposition brought into practice probably the oldest debating trick in the world. The right honorable gentleman returned to-day to his place in this chamber. “Where he had been his house, figuratively, had been burnt down, so he started another fire in this chamber to divert attention from that calamity.
– What has that to do with the current debate?
– The Leader of the Opposition made his attack to-day and I noticed that the honorable member for Blaxland did not object to it. The right honorable gentleman was followed by the honorable member for Melbourne, who is the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, and he spoke along the same lines. He was followed by the honorable member for Banks and the honorable member for Grayndler. The honorable member for Grayndler said that he did not agree with the plaudits that had been accorded the Treasurer “ by the people opposite “. If the honorable member had omitted the word “ opposite “ he would have been on the target, because only a small number of honorable members of the Opposition side, and some of their most ardent supporters, are unable or refuse to see the great difference that has come over the economy of Australia since the present Treasurer took office. I invite honorable members to recall the situation that faced the Treasurer when he took charge of the Treasury. He found a run-down economy.
He found that there were too many people employed in luxury industries, and that the vital primary and secondary industries that maintained the strength of the nation were not functioning to full capacity. They needed tools of trade, machinery and many other necessities in order even to carry on. A nation’s prosperity is built up in the fields and the furnaces, and all those things necessary to increase the production of our fields and furnaces were lacking. Moreover, there was an extensive blackmarket. Within a few years the Treasurer, and the Government, have been able to change all that, and now there is plenty of machinery and no blackmarket and our economy is stable.
The Treasurer must have been a man of courage, because one budget that he introduced was anything but popular. When he presented it to honorable members he forecast the result of the actions that the Government would take under his budgetary proposals, and no forecast ever made in this Commonwealth has proved to be as reliable as that. I heard a story recently about a man who walked into a shop and asked the shopkeeper whether he could use his telephone. The shopkeeper allowed him to do so, and the stranger telephoned a man and said to him, “ I am a good mechanic and motor driver, and I am looking for a job. Have you a job to give me? “. The man whom lie telephoned said, “ No, I already have a good man “. The man telephoning said, “ Are you quite satisfied with him ? “, and the person to whom he was speaking said, “ Yes, I am quite satisfied “. Then the man said, “Well, it is no good me asking for that man’s job I suppose “, and the employer said, “ No, it is no good because I am satisfied with the man I have “. As this man was walking out of the shop the shopkeeper said to him, “ I heard you asking for a job over the telephone. I have a job just the same as the one that you were asking for. You may have that job if you like “. The man who had entered the shop said, “ No thanks, I do not want a job. I work for the man to whom I have been speaking. I telephoned him to check up on myself and find out whether he was satisfied “. The Labour party checked up on itself in 1949, and found that the people wanted a different government. This Government has twice cheeked on itself within the last three years or so, and has discovered on each occasion that the people are quite satisfied with it. In other words, the people do not want the Labour party.
The Treasurer is not only praised by the supporters of the Government in this chamber, but he is also praised by people throughout the Commonwealth. The people who have the welfare of Australia at heart, and who were prepared to accept the Treasurer’s difficult budget in 1951 because they knew it was for the future welfare of Australia, are solidly behind the Treasurer and his Government. . believe that if Labour checks up on itself again in the near future, it will find that the people still do not want it.
In. fact, it is less popular than it has ever been before because of certain events that have taken place during the last few weeks.
T now desire to outline the ways in which the Treasurer has helped the country. He discovered that provisional taxation was harassing the Australian taxpayers. Honorable members from the Opposition side have attempted to delude the people into the belief that this Government introduced provisional taxation. They know very well, and the people know also, that a Labour government introduced provisional taxation in 1944. In fact it can be said that the Labour party has run away from its own legislation. However, the Treasurer introduced the self-assessment system with regard to provisional taxation, and the primaryproducers throughout Australia know the great benefits that that system has given them. Under the Labour party system, the provisional tax was based on the tax paid by a primary producer in the previous year. Therefore, if a man had a good year and got a large income, and the next year suffered from a drought and had no income, he had to pay the same income tax in the bad year as he had paid in the good year. Under the amendments introduced by this Government through the self-assessment system, if a man has a bad year he assesses his income according to the year and if he earns nothing he pays no tax.
This Government, of which the Treasurer is a member, abolished the land tax; but the Labour party is pledged to re-impose it at the first opportunity. ‘ The abolition of that tax has greatly helped the primary producers of this country on whom the nation’s economy depends. The Government, of which the Treasurer is a member, abolished the entertainments tax, which meant a gain to thousands of people who patronize entertainments. The Labour party puts itself forward as a champion of the people in both State and Federal spheres. Let us consider what the Victorian Labour Government proposes to do with regard to the entertainments tax. A report published to-day in the Melbourne Herald, which the Opposition cannot say is an ancient report, reads as follows : -
The State Government has rejected a request by the Olympic Organizing Committee for entertainment tax exemption for the 1956 games in Melbourne. Sporting officials said the tax had never before been levied on any Olympic Games. The Federal Government guaranteed to advance half the cost of the 19515 games.
– Order! The honorable member may not discuss that matter under the section of the Estimates that we are now dealing with.
– Very well. Victoria will get a rake-off of about £100,000 from the Olympic Games. I shall deal with that matter later, when an appropriate part of the Estimates is before the chamber. I suggest that that is one of the most disastrous things that we have heard of. I compliment the Treasurer because he has sent his taxation experts to certain country towns, and has invited taxpayers to go to them for advice about their taxes.
– That is for the cockies, not the working man.
– The honorable member for Watson (Mr. Curtin) represents a metropolitan electorate in Sydney. He is merely trying to disparage the country men whom he calls “ cockies “. But they are the men upon whom the cities, and indeed the whole country, depend for food and clothing. Taxation officers have been sent to various areas to advise taxpayers.
Mr. Keon interjecting,
– The honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Keon) has described wool-growers as the “bloodsucking wool-growers “. He sometimes tries to make honorable members believe that he will fight for the primary producers, but the moment it suits his purpose he refers to wool-growers as the “” blood sucking wool-growers “.
– I rise to order. I object to a stock and station agent saying that I described the graziers as blood-suckers. That is entirely untrue. I have never made such a statement. I may have referred to blood-sucking generally, by auctioneers and stock and station agents.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Order! I remind honorable members of the items that are at present before the committee.
– I rise to order. The honorable member for Yarra spoke in disparaging terms of an honorable member of the Parliament as a stock and station agent. The Standing Orders make it perfectly clear that an honorable member may refer to another honorable member only as the honorable member for the electorate he represents. I suggest, Mr. Temporary Chairman, that you ask the honorable member for Yarra to comport himself in the way that he should.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Order ! I do not wish to take up too much of the time of the honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull). The term “stock and station agent” should not have been used.
– If the term “ stock and station agent “ is offensive, I withdraw it.
– The use of the term “ stock and station agent “ does not affect me.
The TEMPORARY ‘CHAIRMAN. - Order ! I have ruled on this matter. The honorable member for Mallee should proceed with his speech.
– I am not a stock and station agent, and everybody should know it. If I were, I should regard it as a much higher occupation than that of union organizer. Speaking on the proposed vote for the Department of External Affairs, one member of this chamber said to-night that certain islands adjacent to Australia were wide open to attack by an enemy. In the first place, that is not true. But even if it is true, it is surely a dreadful thing that a member of the Commonwealth Parliament should make such statements to the world. Has he no regard for our security? Some people who heard him may believe that he really knows what he is talking about, and may be in a position of authority. Such statements may be an enticement to an enemy to try his luck in an area where he believes the defences to be weak. We all know that what the honorable member said is not true. Nevertheless such statements should not be broadcast from the National Parliament.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– I hope to use the time at my disposal to much better advantage than did the honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull). During a debate on the budget, I drew attention to the Government’s failure to tackle the problem of developing our far north. I have always regarded that problem as one in which the National Parliament must interest itself sooner or later - and the sooner the better for this country. I have on many occasions submitted proposals which I consider would produce results if tackled earnestly, but my pleas have always fallen on deaf ears. I do not wish to traverse again the grounds that I covered in my “budget speech. I intend merely to make another appeal on behalf of the people who live in the remote areas of the Commonwealth. In 1945, the special conditions in which these people live and work were recognized by the granting of zone allowances. That move, I may say, was warmly supported by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) who was then Leader of the Opposition. The zone A allowance was fixed at £40, and the zone B allowance at £20. The basic wage at that time was £4 16s. a week. An adjustment was made in 1947 when the basic wage had risen to £5 6s. a week. The zone A allowance was increased from £40 to £120, but the zone B allowance was allowed to remain at £20. Since 1947, although the basic wage has risen from £5 6s. a week to £11 16s. a week, there has been no special recognition of the difficulties of the people who live in those zones by a further adjustment of the allowances. I urge the Government to give early consideration to this anomaly. I suggest also that when an adjustment of the allowances is made, it should be retrospective for twelve months at least to compensate for the Government’s failure to deal with the situation earlier. I leave the matter at that.
I support the appeal that has been made by the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Webb) for some additional help for education in Western Australia. I believe that education should be regarded as a national problem. Every child born in this country becomes, not a Western Australian, a South Australian, and so on, but an Australian. He is a citizen of this nation, and his education should be the concern of the National Parliament. What is the position in Western Australia to-day? Through a lack of financial resources, the Government of Western Australia is unable not only to provide sufficient teachers, but also to provide sufficient accommodation to meet the needs of the rapidly increasing number of school children in that State. The result is that schools are over-crowded and under-staffed, particularly in the country districts. Everywhere I go in my electorate I am asked by localgoverning authorities such as roads boards - shire councils as they are called in the eastern States - and other organizations which are doing their best to provide adequate facilities for education, why the Australian Government turns a deaf ear to pleas for assistance. The children of to-day are the future citizens of this country. They will be expected to accept the responsibilities of citizenship and to try to make a better world to live in. If we- neglect their education we shall be imposing a handicap upon them. I believe, therefore, that this Government’ should1 give immediate attention to the problems of education. I can speak with some authority on this subject because of my knowledge of education difficulties: in Western’ Australia.
I have appealed time after time to this Government to give special consideration to age pensioners who live in outback areas of the Commonwealth. As I said earlier, the disabilities suffered by residents of those areas are recognized by the payment of zone allowances. Why should not the same concession be given to age pensioners ? They are the pioneers of the back country and, regardless of the enticements that the cities and towns offer, they refuse to leave the areas in which they have spent so much of their lives. If it is just that workers in those areas should receive zone allowances as some measure of compensation for the disabilities that they suffer, the old people, too, should have a special allowance added to their pension. I feel that this appeal is justifiable. I have debated this matter before, and Ministers have said to me that the people who live in the back country do not have to pay the high rents that the pensioners who live in the cities are obliged to pay. That is all very well, but the people who live in the outback areas have to pay many other high charges and additional costs that people who dwell in the cities do not incur, and they also lack the amenities that areavailable in the cities. However, I do not propose to discuss the pensions position generally, because my colleagues have made the strongest possible appeal to the Government to increase the rates, even at this late hour, and thereby rectify its failure to do so when the formulation of the* budget was under consideration.
I now desire to discuss the gold-mining industry, and I am sure that the Chair will correct me if I am not in order in doing so at this stage. I refer specifically to the undertaking given by the Government to provide- all necessary aid to the industry. The Prime Minister, in answer to a question which I asked recently, informed me that legislation to provide assistance to the gold-mining industry would be introduced during this session. We have been waiting for assistance since 1949. I regret that the Treasurer (Sir Arthur’ Fadden) is not in the chamber, because I have a suggestion to> make to him. From my understanding of the Government’s intention, the aid that is: to be granted will not meet the present situation.. If the- assistance is. as indicated by the Prime Minister in bis letter to the Premier of Western Australia, it will not be acceptable to the goldmining industry. Therefore, I suggest, in the interests of this great industry and the people it supports, and because of its importance to the economy of Western Australia in particular, that the Treasurer invite representatives of the industry to a conference on the problem before he introduces the legislation. In that way, assistance to the industry will not be made a political football. I do not wish to make this subject a party political matter. I urge the Treasurer to take the representatives of the industry into bis confidence, discuss the proposed legislation with them, and provide aid at least somewhat in conformity with the formula which was submitted, in the first instance, to the Government by the Chamber of Mines in Western Australia. I shall not refer at greater length to the matter now, because I desire to reserve any comment that I may have until the bill is introduced. However, I have a knowledge of the letter written by the Prime Minister to the Premier of Western Australia, and from that, I take my clue that the intentions of the Government will not meet the requirements of this great industry. The Prime Minister, when he was Leader of the Opposition, made an appeal to the Curtin Labour Government for assistance to the goldmining industry. He said that the goldmining industry was a wasting industry, and that it could not” plough back”, and, as a consequence, the Government should make substantial aid available in an effort to establish new mines and keep this valuable industry in existence. I leave the matter there.
Motion (by Sir Eric Harrison) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- I desire to bring to the notice of the House a certain matter which affects employment at the Cockatoo Island Dockyard. I may say that the dockyard is situated in my electorate; and that quite a number of my colleagues are associated with me in the matter that I now raise. To enable the House to get the matter in its proper perspective, I shall read a letter which I have received from an employee of the dockyard. It is as follows: -
Over two and a half years ago the Management of CockatooDocks reached an agreement with the 24 Unions with members at the Island, the first paragraph of which is as follows : - “ (1) This agreement has for its object the correction of the anomaly which exists between the conditions of employment at Garden Island and Williamstown Dockyard, and those at Cockatoo Island Dockyard, where the work at the present time is substantially identical. The broad effect is to give 15 days recreation leave per year in lieu of10 days; 15 days sick leave per year in lieu of 5 days; and increments in wage rates of 5s. on engagement, 5s. after 12 months service, and 5s. after 24 months service
The Labour Council of New South Wales has been carrying out the negotiations on behalf of the Unions, and a new approach was made to the Minister for the Navy, theRt. Hon. Francis on Monday, 23rd August, 1954. Mr. Francis promised to discuss this matter with his colleagues, and give his reply as soon as possible.
As an employee of Cockatoo, and one of your constituents. I respectfully request that you seek an interview with the Minister, with the view of assisting to achieve a satisfactory conclusion to this very long drawn out business.
We at Cockatooare the lowest paid on the Waterfront, and large numbers have left the Island because of this fact. Another important point is that we at Cockatoo built the Turbines, Condensers, andBoilers, etc. for all the Naval vessels built in Australia, and so we are relatively more important than Garden Island Dockyard or Williamstown Dockyard.
I would like to conclude, Sir, with a quotation from a letter received by the ‘ Cockatoo Shop Stewards from Mr. J. D. Kenny, Assistant Secretary of the Labor Council of New South Wales dated the19th February, 1952, report ing an interview with G. Mooney, Esq., Senior Conciliation Commissioner: “ Mr. Mooney stated that many difficulties existed in attempting to carry out the wishes of the Parties, and in an attempt to overcome same he was prepared to interview the Minister at Canberra, and make it clear to the Minister that he had no objections, and that something should be done to complete the arrangements that the Parties desire to enter into.”
This criticism is not directed at the present Minister for the Navy (Mr. Francis), because he has only recently been allotted that portfolio, but I respectfully bring to his notice the fact that this matter has been dragging on for two years, and has given rise to considerable discontent among the employees of the dockyard. They point out the anomaly that they are placed in an inferior position to that of men who do similar work in other dockyards. This matter has been before the Government for the last two years. When approached about it in the past, the Government tried to evade its responsibilities by pointing out that, under its agreement with the dockyard, this was a matter for the management. On Monday night, I had an interview with members of the shop committee of Cockatoo Island Dockyard, and they informed me that the dockyard management was quite prepared to accede to their request. The Government has always stated that the management is the sole arbiter in this matter, but now we have information to the effect that the management is prepared to accede to the men’s request and that a decision is being held up by the Government.
In conclusion, I say that I associate myself with this request by the employees of the Cockatoo Island Dockyard. By the restraint and patience they have exercised during the last two years they have shown that they believe in arbitration and conciliation. They have a good case, and I hope the Government will act promptly to put an end, not only to an anomalous situation, but also to the procrastination that has occurred during the last two years.
– It was only a few days ago that I received a deputation from a number of trade union officials, acting on behalf of the personnel of the Cockatoo Island Dockyard. I visited Sydney to receive the deputation very soon after I was requested to receive it. I have only just received the notes of the meeting. I told the deputation that there was no prospect of an early decision, because I had many other things to deal with. But I undertook to give the matter very careful consideration, and I shall do so. The honorable member for Martin (Mr. O’Connor) has discussed it with me quite dispassionately, and I assure him that I appreciate the way in which he presented his case. When I have made a decision, I shall communicate with him. I cannot make a decision immediately, but I shall do so as soon as possible.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers were presented : -
Public Service Act - Appointments - Department -
Repatriation - R. G. Painter.
Social Services - M. P. Smith.
Works - M. L. Connick, K. F. Proposch.
Repatriation Act - War Pensions Entitle ment Appeal Tribunal No. 2 - Report for year 1953-54.
House adjourned at 10.53 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
d asked the Minister for Health, upon notice -
– The information is being obtained and a reply will be furnished to the honorable member as soon as possible.
e asked the Minister for
Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
In addition, 56,631 Army national servicemen have completed their initial full-time training and are at present carrying out their part-time training liability with the Citizen Military Forces.
y asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
a asked the Minister for Defence Production, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
n asked the Minister representing the Attorney-General, upon notice -
Has the Government briefed counsel torepresent Australia before the International? Court in the dispute between Australia and Japan regarding pearl fishing on the Australian continental shelf ?
– The Attorney-General has informed me that the matter is under consideration.
d asked the Prime Minister,. upon notice -
In view of the fact that the head of theCommonwealth security service has recently departed from the established practice of informing the Leader of the Opposition as well as the Prime Minister of all important developments affecting security, and the PrimeMinister’s assurance that this departure from the accepted procedure did not result from any instruction issued by him, will he arrangefor the head of the security service to interview the Deputy Leader of the Opposition so that an explanation of his action may beobtained ?
– I gave the House the full facts relating to this matter on the 1st September during the debate on the adjournment of the House. I have nothing to add to what I said at that time.
z asked the Minister representing the Minister for National Development, upon notice -
– The Minister for National Development has supplied the following answers : -
Compulsory Acquisition of Land.
E asked the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 8 September 1954, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1954/19540908_reps_21_hor4/>.