21st Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. Archie Cameron) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– I desire to ask the Prime Minister a question concerning the application of the Australian Council of Trades Unions and four State governments to the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration for marginal increases for workers under federal awards. Does the Government intend to intervene in this case? Does the Government intend to support the case for the adjustment of margins, having regard to increases in the cost of living? If the Government does not intend to support the application, what attitude does it propose to take?
– The Government proposes to intervene in the hearing of the main case before the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration. The view that the Government will put to the court will be made clear at that time.
– Will the Minister for Territories inform the House whether it is true that selected natives from New Guinea have been sent to centres in Australia in order to receive medical training? If this is so, is it true that when they return to New Guinea, and particularly to Port Moresby, they cause a social problem in the area ? What is the nature of this social problem?
– In the Territory of Papua and New Guinea natives are used in various capacities in connexion with medical work. One or two native medical assistants are qualified at the same standard as Europeans. There are also native medical orderlies, native nurses, and native hygiene assistants who are trained at schools which have been established by the Administration in various parts of the Territory. Over a thousand of them are used in carrying facilities for medical treatment to the various villages. So far as I am aware, their use has been wholly successful. I am not aware that any social problem has been created by the natives in helping their own people.
– I desire to ask the Postmaster-General a question about Australian Broadcasting Commission programming and particularly about the need for care to maintain a variety of choice between programmes that are simultaneously broadcast on the two Australian Broadcasting Commission networks. When, last week, I quoted as an example of extremely bad programming, the broadcast of a question and answer session over one Australian Broadcasting Commission network while the other Australian Broadcasting Commission, network was broadcasting parliamentary questions and answers, the Minister did not give me a very encouraging reply. Nevertheless, undeterred, I now asn him will he at least present the view to the commission for consideration that it should be an elementary rule, as far as possible, that while there is talk on one network there should be music on the other? Will he take up, a3 a further example of the type of programme timing which needs revision, the choice of Saturday lunch-time for the broadcasting of successive lessons in English for new Australians at the very time when the only alternative, up and down the dial, is horse-racing?
– I shall reward the honorable .member’s patience and persistence in this matter. I shall present to the Australian Broadcasting Commission a full report of the honorable member’s views with a request that they be given consideration.
– I desire to ask the Minister for Supply a question concerning the continuance of world demand for Australian uranium. Is it likely, as has been suggested in some quarters, that within ten years the demand for uranium will decline?
– I have read some such forecast, but the best advice that the Government has been able to obtain indicates that it will not come true. So long as international tension exists, there will be a hig and increasing demand for uranium. Even if, by the waving of a magic wand, that tension could be dispelled, a great demand for uranium would remain, because we are only just beginning to understand the uses to which this material can be put. That is the opinion, not only of myself, but also of very eminent gentlemen who have just returned from a visit abroad on behalf of the Government.
– I direct a question to the Prime Minister. I desire to know whether it is a fact that meat prices in Australia have risen to fantastic levels as a result of exports to meet increased overseas demands, which are depleting the supplies available for the local market. If so, will the right honorable gentleman take action to limit the volume of meat exports so as to ensure adequate supplies for the Australian market at reasonable prices, or, alternatively, will he take action immediately to have wages released from pegging and to have all Commonwealth social services payments increased commensurately so that the Australian people may be able to pay the increased prices?
– The matter is clearly one of policy.
– Can the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture state the present position in relation to the current season’s wheat crop in Canada? Is it expected that the Canadian harvest will he substantially less than the estimated quantity, and if so, is it possible that the big reserves of wheat that are at present held in Canada will be absorbed ?
– I understand indirectly, but from official sources, that the combined effects of rust and hail, which resulted from adverse weather conditions, indicate that the Canadian wheat harvest will be substantially below the earlier estimate. My advice is that the deficiency might be approximately 100,000,000 bushels, and I am told that some authorities have indicated that it might be almost 200,000,000’ bushels. Also, the quality of the wheat in someareas will certainly be poorer than was expected. I am advised that these circumstances will make it necessary for Canada to draw upon its accumulated surpluses if it is to continue its normal volume of wheat exports next year.
– I ask the Treasurer whether it is a fact that, under the double taxation agreement recently madewith the United States of America, companies . such as General Motors-Holden’s Limited are enabled to pay taxes in the country in which the parent company is situated, rather than in Australia, where their- profits are made. Is it a fact that the huge dividend recently declared by General Motors-Holden’s Limited will be paid to American shareholders in dollars ? If that is so, will the dollars to pay thedividend, which amounts to about £1,750,000, be made available by theTreasurer out of dollar loans on which Australia pays such a high rate of interest to the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development?
– The honorable member’s question is based ob erroneous premises. Nevertheless, if he will put it on the notice-paper, I shall supply him with an answer,
– I ask the Minister for Supply whether he can give the House any information about the preservation of foodstuffs by exposing them to radiation ? Is it likely that such a procedure may be of assistance in regard to Australian primary products exported overseas, for example meat, to supplement or replace refrigeration? Is any research in this matter being done in Australia, or are steps being taken to obtain the necessary information from abroad ?
– I am not aware of any research being done in Australia. No research is being done in the Department of Supply or by the Atomic Energy Commission, although I believe that some research is taking place at Harwell or elsewhere in Great Britain. I read something about this matter a short time ago, and in response to the honorable member’s inquiry I. shall obtain the best information that I can get about the matter and let him have it.
– I preface my question to the Minister for the Army by stating that most of the men affected by the. recent explosion of a shell at Puckapunyal, camp came from, my electorate. Is it correct that the shell which exploded at Puckapunyal military camp was picked up by trainees who had been sent to obtain a. load of sand without a supervisor being present? Is it also true that the shell was in the possession of national service trainees for about a week, during which trainees played with it at odd times? Is it true, as reported by a. brigadier that unexploded shells have been lying around the range for some time? If so, why had these, shells not been picked up by demolition squads? To what compensation are the victims of the explosion entitled?
-The honorable member has asked a whole series of. questions which it is difficult to remember in. detail. A committee of inquiry has been set up bv me to investigate, the whole of. the circumstances of this unfortunate accident. The observations of. the honorable, member are substantially correct, as far as this incident is concerned’. It is difficult for me, having set up an inquiry, to deal with the information that is available at the moment until I receive the report of that inquiry’s investigations. I can say, however, that several men were sent on a fatigue, but the fatigue was not unsupervised. Their job was to get sand, and they did get quantities of sand. While digging up the sand they dug up a small 37 millimetre’ shell. One of the lads surreptitiously took this small shell back to- his billet. It was kept in his locker- for a few days without anybody knowing about it. Several days after it had been found and put there, he took it out and threw it to one of the members of his- unit; and said “ Have a look at this “. I understand that they then began to play what small boys call “eyedrop”, with the shell, and as a consequence of that the mishap took place. Very careful instructions have been issued to the public, and standing orders have been prescribed for the army, to the effect that shells and bombs are not to be handled by the public or by servicemen in camps. If they discover any of these articles they are to report them at once. If these servicemen had obeyed that instruction there would not have been an accident. I have appealed to the public, through the newspapers, again and again not to handle these things, but to direct the attention of the army or the police authorities to them, when they will be destroyed by the Army without any risk to the general public. I want to make it clear that I hope that the circumstances in this case will be investigated in open court by the coroner.
– What about compensation ?
– The honorable member should know that compensation to army personnel for- accidents of that character is dealt with under the Commonwealth Employees Compensation Act.
– Is the Minister for’ the Army aware that claims for compensation by national service trainees who lost their personal belongings in the recent Stockton Bight disaster have been only partly met? Does the Minister know that the- claims1 that I have mentioned have been cut by up> to 33^ per cent. ? If he is aware of that fact, will he say whether he agrees’’ with the action of the military authorities in this- instance:? Will he examine the claims that have been reduced with a view to having them fully met?
– I am personally handling these- claims, and I shall examine every one of them.
– When announcing the decision of the Australian Government to purchase Tattersalls building in Hobart, did the Minister for the Interior intend to convey the impression that the plan to- build centralized Commonwealth offices on the present site of
Treagear’s building had been abandoned permanently, or that the original proposal would have a lower priority than it had previously?
– Insofar as the foreseeable future is concerned, the answer is definitely “ Yes “. That does not apply, however, to the term “permanently “ taking it as five years or more ahead. Ever since the second world war, there has been serious congestion and over-crowding in Commonwealth public offices in all capital cities of Australia. The Government has been doing all that it can do to relieve the position. The new Arbitration Court building in Melbourne has number one priority. New Commonwealth offices and a new customs house building are also wanted in Melbourne. A new office for the Taxation Branch and new Commonwealth offices are necessary in Bris bane. The Government is proceeding with the construction of a new Commonwealth building on the Palladium site in Sydney, and new Commonwealth offices are to be built in Phillip-street, Sydney, also. Similar offices are required in Adelaide and a repatriation building is needed in Perth. It is impossible to proceed with the construction of all those buildings at the same time. As a result of the purchase of Tattersalls building in Hobart, without barrels or marbles, we shall be able to relieve the overcrowdina; in Commonwealth offices in that city, but that will mean that the proposal to construct the new main Commonwealth offices in Hobart will go much lower on the priority list.
– Will the Prime Minister give the people of Australia an assurance that when the inevitable intensification of restrictions on imports takes place at an early date to protect Australia’s overseas funds, the Government will place an embargo on the importation to this country of goods that can be manufactured here, before restricting the importation of other types of goods that, cannot be produced in Australia?
– That is a matter of policy.
– I wish to address a question to you, Mr. Speaker, concerning the broadcasting of the proceedings of this House. While intelligent interjections add interest to the debates, I have had complaints about the whispering interjections that emanate from the occupants of chairs at the table. They are completely out of keeping with the spirit of the debates and are extremely disturbing to radio listeners. Will you, Mr. Speaker, examine the possibility of installing in your Chair, switches that will control microphones at the table so that you or your deputy can at your discretion check that form of jamming of debates on the air?
– I can assure the honorable member and the House that I do not wish to have the responsibility of switching off central microphones at the table. I have pointed out, time and again, that the remedy rests with honorable members themselves. I am constantly receiving correspondence in connexion with the matter to which the honorable member has referred. I have one letter on my table to-day complaining, bitterly of certain interjections that were heard last week. The correspondent informed me that he was able to get much better order from his five grandsons than appeared to be obtainable in this House. At any rate, I simply say again that 90 per cent, of the trouble, I think, comes from the microphones in the centre of the table. Ministers and Opposition leaders, or those representing each side, seem to indulge in talk across the table. I have taken steps to check it at times, but the real remedy rests with them. I certainly do not wish to have the responsibility of turning the microphones at the table off and on when it appears to mc to be right to do so. I think that is .not a part of my function.
– If I may be forgiven for anticipating your comment, Mr. Speaker, I wish as a prospective Speaker to ask you a question which refers to your - ruling that a question may not be based on a newspaper report. Does your ruling mean that a question may not be based . on a newspaper report, or does it mean that the honorable gentleman who asks the question should not say that it is so based? If the latter is the position, would you be good enough to inform honorable members of that fact, so that they will not mention that their questions are based on newspaper reports?
– Order f As soon as an honorable member tells me that a question is based on a newspaper report I take the usual course, which I am quite sure that the honorable member for Herbert, if he ever succeeds me, will be only too happy to follow. Later :
– On Thursday last, the honorable member for Bradfield asked me whether I would inform him of the principles that were followed by the Australian Broadcasting Commission in editing the re-broadcasts of questions. The editing of questions is governed by general principles that have been laid down by the Joint Committee on the Broadcasting of Parliamentary Proceedings. The principles require that all business not being questions and answers shall be excluded from the re-broadcast. It is, accordingly, the practice to delete from the recording points of order, questions ruled out of order, unanswered questions, and questions and answers giving rise to personal explanations. These deletions are made in a most efficient manner. So that listeners may not gain the misleading impression that the re-broadcast is a full and complete version of the particular portion of the proceedings concerned, the committee has requested the Australian Broadcasting Commission to preface the rebroadcast by an announcement indicating, when such is the case, that certain deletions have taken place. I inform the honorable member for Bradfield that the complaint of his correspondent in relation to the editing of the re-broadcast of questions on Wednesday last was quite without foundation, because the time for questions had ended when the incident to which, he referred occurred.
On Friday last, I found it necessary to take action against a newspaper in relation to a paragraph that it published as a result of an incident in the parliamentary dining-room when the Leader of the
Opposition of the United Kingdom House of Commons was entertained. I simply lay it down that remarks made in the dining-room, the Library, the King’s Hall, the lobbies and so forth are not to be printed by the newspapers except with the express approval of the member concerned, which approval must be obtained beforehand. The letter that I received from Truth and Sportsman Limited yesterday was published in the Daily Mirror in the afternoon, and I can only say, in fairness to the publishers of that newspaper, that, as soon as th? matter was brought to their attention, prompt steps were taken to remedy the position from my point of view. I lay on the table the following paper:
Letter, dated 11th September, 1954, from “ Truth “ and “ Sportsman “ Limited containing an apology for the publication in the Daily Mirror of a remark attributed to an honorable member.
– Is your ruling to the effect that a remark made by an honorable member in the lobbies outside the chamber cannot be published in the newspapers ?
– That ia my beliefthat it should not he published.
– Does that policy apply to the party rooms?
– I am not concerned with the party rooms, nor am I concerned with the room of the Leader of the Opposition.
– I ask for your further ruling on this question, Mr. Speaker: Does your ruling cover properly constituted meetings of parties represented in this House and matters that happen at those meetings in pursuance of the consideration of bills and other matters that come before the Parliament?
-If the honorable member wants information on that point, he can obtain it from the privileges reports of the United Kingdom House of Commons - quite recent ones - which deal with it very effectively.
– Will you elaborate your ruling, which raises a question of principle, so that the House can take it into consideration at a future date?
-The only matter to which I referred was the right of a member to make remarks - and, heaven “knows, most of us, I think, -make them at times when we are off our guard - in the lobbies, the dining-room, the Library, the King’s Hall, and so forth, without the risk of those remarks appearing in print without his express approval, obtained beforehand.
Honorable Members. - Hear, hear!
– Has the Minister for Health noticed that a State Labour government proposes to introduce a bill to provide for the establishment of an eye bank? Has his department given any consideration to a similar proposal ? If it has .not, will it render the maximum assistance to any State which contemplates such a project, or, alternatively, will it investigate ways and means to create a federal instrumentality of like character ?
– The Constitution gives the States complete power in regard to health, and matters of this kind are dealt with in big hospitals which the States build. If :any State submits a proposal to me, I shall examine it.
– Will the PostmasterGeneral inform me whether there is any truth in the reports that the Government has decided to introduce television into this country ? If the .reports are true, when may the House expect a statement on .this matter?
– The Government has decided to call tenders for two national stations, one in Melbourne and one in Sydney, and applications for commercial licences, two in Sydney and two in Melbourne, for the time being. A statement was made to the press immediately after the decision was reached last Friday.
– As the Leader of the Australian Country party, does not the Treasurer agree that the introduction of television-
– Order ! The honorable gentleman must not ask for an ‘expression of opinion.
– Is it not a fact that the introduction of television will increase the already great disparity between amenities in the cities and those in country districts? If he agrees that that is so, does he think it desirable, at a time when decentralization is an urgent necessity-
– Order! The honorable gentleman is again asking . for an expression of opinion.
– Does the Treasurer consider that this is the time to increase the disparity between amenities in our overgrown, parasitical capital cities and our country districts, by introducing television in the cities ?
– I fail to see what this matter has to do with me as Treasurer.
– It has a lot to do with the Australian Country party, though.
– I ask the Treasurer whether it is a fact that a recent .ruling by a Deputy Commissioner of Taxation provides that payments to employees in lieu of holidays or long service leave, made as the result of retrenchment, .retirement or resignation, are not subject to pay-roll tax? .Is it also a fact that the Taxation Branch has ruled that it will not refund the hundreds of thousands of pounds of tax overpaid before this ruling was made public, but that it will refund only those payments made since December, 1953? If those are facts, will the Treasurer instruct the Taxation Branch to reverse its attitude, and refund all excess payments of tax, including payments made .prior to December, 1953?
– I am conversant with the facts that the honorable member for Fawkner has mentioned. I have been discussing the matter with the Commissioner of Taxation in recent days. The decision of the Commissioner is in conformity with a ruling of the High Court in connexion with the matter. 1 shall examine it, and give the honorable member an adequate reply.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Civil Aviation and, by way of explanation, I refer to. the inadequate, passenger facilities of Trans-Australia Airlines at various metropolitan air terminals. The principal examples are Essendon, Cambridge and Canberra. Existing buildings bear all the marks, of hurried improvisation. They are shabby. too small, lack attractive, catering amenities, and serve as a. poor introduction to overseas visitors on. first, reaching Australia. Will the Minister seek to correct these defects- as soon as: possible by ordering the construction of permanent buildings at all principal airports in keeping with the high standard of Australian air transport, generally?
– I agree with the honorable member for Angas< that, our terminal buildings leave much to be desired,, but I point out that the provision of such structures depends on the. availability of man-power and. materials, and chiefly finance. We are spending an enormous amount of money on civil aviation. Australia is a big. country, and lias very few people to supply those aids. Australia, on a population basis, is easily the most air-minded of any nation, and even in the aggregate on most counts, we have; a better performance than has any other country except the United’ States of America. We have 500 aerodromes to maintain, 1,600 miles of paved runways, at aerodromes, and 100 miles of lighting,, and 3,500,000’ square miles of our country are covered by the various navigational aids. Obviously this takesan enormous- amount of money. We have plans- for new terminals’ at. Canberra and. Essendon, but not, I think, at Hobart, where the. accommodation is considered adequate, for the. time being. When we have the money, man-power and materials that we: need, those matters, will be given, a higher priority than they have at present, but in the meantime,, we have, to do. first those things which we consider to be most useful and most necessary.
– Before adding to city airport, amenities, will the Minister for Civil Aviation consider putting down all-weather landing strips in places where at present air services can not operate in wet weather, and also to the general, improvement cf country aerodromes?
– That policy is beingcarried out now; Where there are aerodromes with no paved, landing strips, we are putting in all-weather strips as fast as we can,, in accordance with the finance available* We have a list of dozens of aerodromes awaiting improvement. Thereare 500 aerodromes throughout Australia, so that there is still a large number, even with the city aerodromes left out.
– Can the Treasurer say whether it is true as has been reported that another state is to be established in Queensland to encourage development of the northern area of that State ? If this report is correct, when this matter was under consideration was attention paid also to the development problems- of Western Australia which are the same, as; those of north. Queensland? Has the Government any plans for the- development of Western Australia?
– Replying first to the latter part of the honorablemember’s question, I say that consideration has always* been given by this- Government to the development of northern Australia. The- payment of a Commonwealth subsidy on the carriage of beef by air in the Kimberley region- of Western Australia is sufficient evidence- of the Government’s interest in that area. As to a new state- in Queensland, I am more concerned about the dreadful state that Queensland has- been in for years under a Labour government.
– Did. the Minister for Territories see a recent report on ricegrowing in the Northern Territory in which credit for this- development was given to the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization? Whilst, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization’s splendid work in many industries and in many parts; of- the Commonwealth is appreciated, is it not. a fact that am agricultural officer of- the Department of Territories, stationed at Darwin, was responsible for- this- work and ‘ should he given any credit that is due for the success which we expect will result from his energy and enthusiasm over the last few years ?
– I find some difficulty in following the honorable member’s question, but the position generally regarding the rice development was that the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization carried out the soil survey, and an officer borrowed from the Department of Agriculture of New South Wales made the. preliminary examination of the area. As the result of their reports, the Administrator’ of the Northern Territory and the officers of his staff engaged in field trials and are still engaged in field trials.
– In the immediate future, some members of Cabinet will leave Australia to discuss in various parts of the world matters vital to the future of Australia’s international trade and international payments. I refer to the proposed meetings of General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development, and the International Monetary Fund. As these matters are so obviously inter-related, can the Minister say what steps, if any, have been taken to coordinate the views of Australia’s representatives to those conferences? Will the right honorable gentleman give an opportunity to the Parliament to hear the Government’s views on these aspects of economic foreign policy?
– As to the first part of the honorable member’s question, the Ministers concerned in these two matters have been sitting together with other Ministers for some time, because I thoroughly agree with the honorable member that the two matters are quite closely related, and it has, therefore, been essential that our representative at the one conference should be familiar with the views to be put by our representative at the other. In reply to the second part of the honorable member’s question, it is not practicable to put these matters before the Parliament. The Treasurer leaves for abroad this week and the Ministers who are to attend the conference on the
General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade will leave early next week, or quite soon. In addition, the honorable member will realize that when you are about to attend conferences it is not very practicable to state and debate in advance publicly the views that you are going to seek to have established. International conferences proceed in a rather more subtle way than that. However, the honorable member may be quite certain that at both conferences our Ministers will, under our general direction, regard their primary duty as being to secure the most effective, results for this country.
– Apparently the Parliament will not be given an opportunity to debate the forthcoming discussion.? on the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade and other economic problems. Will the Prime Minister inform us of the status of the unofficial observers appointed by the Farmers Union, Chambers of Commerce and Chambers of Manufactures? Will they have any influence on the decisions made? Is the ministerial delegation to be followed round by !i band of urgers ?
– I am sure the gentlemen referred to, who represent such great bodies, will be gratified to be described as a band of urgers. What will happen with them will be exactly what has happened under administrations of all political colours. They will be at the conferences, but they will not be official delegates. If questions arise on which their special expert knowledge and experience could be of use, the ministerial and official delegates will consult with them. That procedure is well known .to all ex-Ministers on the other side of the House, as well as to this Cabinet.
– My question is directed to the Treasurer. During last week-end, the Minister referred to the granting of financial assistance for the defence and development of a new State in north Queensland. Will he make available, during the current financial year, in addition to the money that he says will be made available in the sweet by and by by another Treasurer for a new State in Queensland, financial assistance for defence and developmental works in north Queensland? I ask that question because the Government is not, and never has been, directly interested in any defence or developmental works in north Queensland.
– The last part of the question is out of order.
– It is right out of order, Mr. Speaker! The whole question is wrongly based, because the Government, as a responsible government, cannot do any more than it has done for the irresponsible Government of Queensland.
– Can the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture say what tho present position is in relation to supplies of jute in Australia? Has the Government decided to discontinue trading in jute? Have any discussions taken place with merchants and the trade on the subject of the future of jute marketing?
– The Government decided some time ago that jute control would be discontinued in Australia as from January, 1955, but as the Government regards its primary responsibility as being to ensure that there shall be adequate supplies of jute containers in this country for our principal products, wool and the grains, it did not merely rest on taking that decision, but held a series of conferences with those engaged in the jute trade in order to ensure that the termination of jute control would not interrupt supplies of jute containers. The outcome of those negotiations has been that the Government will step out of the control of wool packs as it is assured that, having regard to the stocks that it has assembled in this country and also having regard to the import arrangements that the other parties are willing to make, adequate supplies shall be available to meet our requirements. The same observation applies to raw jute and the commodities made in this country from raw jute. However, the Government was not convinced that it could terminate cornsacks control with the assurance that there would be adequate supplies of cornsacks in this country. The arrangement that now stands is that those who import cornsacks for the purposes of the sugar industry, as the
Colonial Sugar Refining Company Limited has done right through, will continue to do so. Fertilizer companies will be permitted to import cornsacks on the understanding that they will not resell them other than as containers for fertilizers. The Government will continue to control cornsacks for another year, and it is expected that at the expiration of that period the situation will have so improved the trade will be able to take control.
– I ask the Treasurer whether the person recently appointed to the Commonwealth Bank Board is the same professor who, as economic adviser to the Bank of New South Wales, read to a scientific gathering in 1949 a paper in which he advocated an unemployment pool of from 6 per cent, to 8 per cent, of the work force? If he is the same person, will the right honorable gentleman inform me whether the appointment of that professor to the bank board is in line with the policy of the Government as reported in the Western Australian Wheatgrower of the 24th April, 1946, when it quoted-
-Order ! The honorable gentleman must not base a question on a newspaper statement. That part of his question is out of order.
– This is what was said-
– Order! I have told the honorable gentleman that he must not base a question on a newspaper paragraph. If he has something else to ask, he may do so.
– I want to know whether he is the professor who advocated an unemployment pool of from 6 per cent, to 8 per cent.
– He is the professor who was alleged to have advocated an unemployment pool, and he is the professor who was appointed by the Tasmanian Labour Government as the vice-chancellor of a university.
– Is the Minister acting for the Minister for Labour and National Service aware that the New
South Wales Government is reported to have given notice to transport and power strikers in Sydney that if they do not return to work within 48 hours it will take direct action to ensure that transport and power services will be available to the people of Sydney? Will the Minister, so far as he is able to do so, and if so requested by the New South Wales Government, assist in the provision of labour to maintain services, especially in view of the fact that the Premier of New South Wales has branded the strikes as Communist-inspired?
– It has been refreshing to see the firm stand taken by the New South Wales Government, which !bas alleged that these interruptions have been caused by Communist conspiracies. I assure the honorable gentleman that if the New South Wales Government makes any requests to this Government or to me for assistance, the request will be considered very sympathetically.
– Will the Treasurer say whether, during the week-end, he announced that an investigation is to be held into what is known as “ air-beef “ ? If such an investigation is to be held, will the proposed inquiry include an investigation of the possibility of a rail link between Dajarra, in Queensland, and the Northern Territory, or is the inquiry designed to cloak the rejection by the Government of this suggested rail link?
– The investigation panel, appointment of which I announced as a result of a Cabinet decision over the week-end, is to inquire specifically into all aspects of the movement of cattle by air. It has nothing to do with railways. The railway link to which the honorable gentleman has referred is obviously the link between Dajarra and Camooweal, which is entirely the responsibility of the Queensland Government, and has been rejected by an expert committee established by that Government itself.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether the Government will give urgent consideration to the request of the Tasmanian Government for financial support in connexion with the- con struction of the proposed railway from Launceston to Bell Bay. Will the Prime Minister, in view of the great importance to the development of the Tamar River valley of this vitally necessary railway, examine the possibility of the Commonwealth bearing the whole cost of its construction ?
– I hope I shall be allowed to say in not too dyspeptic a fashion that this is very reminiscent of the aluminium project, which began by being a 50-50 proposition between the Commonwealth and Tasmania, but on every occasion when something has been added to it it has proved to be on the basis of 100 per cent, from the Commonwealth and nothing from Tasmania. Tasmania gets it full share of the loan allocations made each year by the Australian Loan Council. It also gets from the Commonwealth its full and proper share of tax reimbursement, which, during the last three or four years, has been on a record level. It also has the advantage of being one of the States which receive special grants. If the Premier of Tasmania, of course, asks the Commonwealth for some special consideration, we shall give his request our usual consideration, and treat it with our usual courtesy, but I would not wish to hold out too many hopes that we shall take on the job of building railway lines in Tasmania.
– Can the Minister for the Navy confirm reports that a mine has been sighted floating off the Queensland coast? If so, will he say whether the mine has been located, and what action is being taken to safeguard shipping along the Queensland coast, particularly in the area in which the mine was sighted?
– The Resident Naval Officer at Brisbane has notified the Aus. tralian Naval Board, which in turn has advised me, that a coastal ship has discovered a floating mine at latitude 16° 48’ south and longitude 146° 13’ east off the coast of Queensland, floating in a northwesterly direction. The ‘ Navigation Branch has notified all shipping of the presence of the mine, and action to destroy it is being, taken. , . j
– I ask the Minister for the Interior whether he will give urgent consideration to the need for the specific dedication of existing parklands and recreation areas in the City of Canberra, which, at present, can be too easily resumed for building projects? In particular, will the Minister have an immediate investigation made of proposals that section 59, Yarralumla, which is known as Solander-place and which has been developed over 25 years as a tree-planted parkland, is to be resumed for home-building? Will he make this investigation before the bulldozers get among irreplaceable trees?
– The original Canberra plan has been very largely followed out by an expert planning committee, which has made ample provision for parks and gardens. I do not think there is any fear of diminution of the number of parks and gardens that have been laid out or set aside for the future. I will look into the matter of the particular block which the honorable member has mentioned. However, I wonder that he bothers to ask me questions after making rude remarks about me, such a3 those he made in the Parliament the other day. If that is his opinion of me, I do not feel that I have to answer his questions.
– Is it a fact that the Prime Minister recently has been provided with a personal guard service? If so, was this precaution taken at his own request or with his approval? Has any previous Prime Minister of this country ever deemed it necessary to be provided with such a guard? Was this action taken because of the receipt of threatening telephone messages which would appear to be the work of practical jokers or cranks, or does the right honorable gentleman seriously believe that an intending assassin would ring a newspaper office or a police station to give proper and due notice of his proposed act?
– Of course, I do not take any notice of communications from cranks. And of course, throughout most of the history of this country, including most of my own term of office, no Prime Minister has had any watch kept on him. This matter was not arranged by me and was not asked for by me. It represents the judgment, under existing circumstances, of the security service. I shall be very happy when it ceases, because I find that it restricts my movements unduly.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether it is not considered to be a fact that any threat that was made against him was a result of his great fight against communism. Is it not also a fact that there will be no chance of any member of the Opposition being threatened in like manner?
Question not answered.
– Is the Minister for Civil Aviation aware that his colleague, the Minister for Shipping and Transport, has stated that the Government will consider the retention of the Low Head aerodrome in Tasmania, which the Department of the Interior is now advertising for sale? I point out that, in personal representations which I made to the Minister on behalf of the people of Georgetown, I stressed the distinct possibility of future development in that area and the consequent inevitable need for aircraft facilities. Will the Minister inform the House whether he is now in a position to reconsider his previous decision or, at least, to defer the sale of the aerodrome until further investigations have been made in view of the outstanding case that can be advanced for its retention ?
-The middle portion of the question is out of order.
– As far as the Department of Civil Aviation is concerned, the aerodrome at Low Head has been handed over for disposal, and the Department of the Interior is in the process of disposing of it. There is nothing in the foreseeable future which suggests that there will be any need for an aerodrome at Low Head.
– During the absence of the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Casey), the Attorney-General .(Senator
Spicer) will act as Minister for External Affairs and as Minister in charge of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization. He will be represented in this chamber by the Minister for Defence (Sir Philip McBride). The Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) will be represented here by the Minister for Supply (Mr. Beale).
– by leave - The possibility of achieving a reduction of the British Commonwealth Forces serving in Korea as part of the United Nations effort has been under examination since the armistice agreement in July, 1953. The matter was raised informally with the United States Joint Chiefs of Staff early in this year, following the decision of the United States Government that its forces in Korea would be progressively reduced as circumstances warranted, and that two of its eight divisions would be withdrawn as an initial step. The United States of America recently decided to withdraw a further four of its divisions from Korea within the next several months.
A plan for the balanced reduction of the British Commonwealth naval, land and air forces in the Korean theatre prepared by the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and New Zealand has now been agreed to by the United States Joint Chiefs of Staff. The broad effect of the reductions on the First British Commonwealth Division is that one brigade group will be withdrawn as soon as possible. This will include one Australian battalion. It is planned to withdraw further elements, which will include small Australian Army detachments in Korea, by the end of this year. The British Commonwealth Division, as so reduced, will include one United Kingdom, one Australian and one Canadian battalion and will continue to serve under the United Nations Command.
Concurrently with the Army withdrawals, one Royal Australian Navy destroyer, No. 77 Fighter Squadron of the Royal Australian Air Force and por tion of No. 36 Transport Squadron of the Royal Australian Air Force will also be withdrawn by the end of the year. One Royal Australian Navy destroyer or frigate, and two Royal Australian Air Force transport aircraft, will continue to serve in the Korean theatre. There will also be a consequential review of the British Commonwealth base units and facilities in Japan, which will result in a reduction of Australian troops serving there. This matter is’ now being examined by the Commander-in-Chief, British Commonwealth Forces, Korea. Lieutenant-General Wells.
In Committee of Supply: Consideration resumed from the 9th September (vide page 1168).
Department of Commerce and Agriculture
Proposed vote, £1,678,000.
Department of Social Services
Proposed vote, £2,439,000.
Department of Shipping and Transport
Proposed vote, £946,000.
Department of Territories
Proposed vote, £165,000. (Ordered to be considered together.)
– I desire to direct the attention of the committee to a certain administrative requirement in connexion with applications for age and invalid pensions. As about 500,000 people receive social services pensions of various kinds, any simplification of the administrative procedure would result in a lessening of expenditure on overhead and would benefit many persons. Doubtless, many honorable members have had the experience of assisting applicants for age and invalid pensions to fill in the three prescribed documents. The first contains about 40 questions, relating, in the main, to the assets of the claimant, his place of birth, his conjugal state, and his parents. The second is a small card, and the third is a form which has to be filled in by a person who has had a long acquaintance with the applicant. An age pension is a benefit to which a person becomes entitled, as a right, on attaining a certain age, the amount of the pension being dependent on his financial circumstances. I fail to see the necessity for the third document, because all necessary information is furnished by the applicant in the application form, which he signs in the presence of a witness. I point «mt that many persons, on attaining the age of 65 years, experience difficulty in locating some one with whom they have had contact for a considerable number of years to fill in the form. Such a person must have known the applicant for twenty years although in some circumstances a lesser period of acquaintanceship is accepted.
I’ ask the Minister for Social Services (Mr. McMahon) to enquire from hi 3 departmental officers why this third document is required. Surely there is no need to establish the bona fides of the person who is making the claim. Surely there is sufficient information on the other documents that the individual has to fill in. The necessity to fill in this document results in thousands of additional documents being filed by the department each year. This seems to be s practice which has grown up over the years and which has persisted. I have not been able to find any good reason why this document should remain in use. The age pension is given in recognition of the fact that an individual who has wrought in the years of his strength should be looked after by society in the years of his decline. It was often thought that a person only claimed a pension because he had been reckless or a wastrel in the early days of his youth although this was a creed for which I never had subscribed. That attitude does not exist now and I submit that this document is a relic of earlier days and ought to be discontinued in the interests of simplicity. As about 20,000 additional claims for age pensions are made each year, the elimination of this form should result in a reduction by 20,000 of the number of forms lodged with the department each year.
I also suggest that it is doubtful whether a number of the questions on the existing claim forms are necessary. The forms should be recast in the light of changed circumstances. During this debate the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Bland) dealt with the philosophy that should underly the granting of pensions. It must be conceded that a great number of social problems are involved in the administration of a community such as ours. I understand that 450,000 people receive an age pension wholly or in part each year. On the average, people are living longer than they lived 40 years ago. During the last ten or fifteen years, more males have been reaching 60 years of age and more females have been reaching 65 years of age each year and a bigger proportion of them is becoming automatically entitled to a. pension although the means test operates to a degree. That is a difficulty that confronts any attempt to modify the means test. At the moment, eligibility to receive the age pension is limited by the amount of property possessed and the amount of income derived. I do not think that adequate statistics are available to show how much property is held and what income is received by individuals of pensionable age. In considering whether it should modify the means test, the Government would be treading in the dark, to some extent. Every now and again, the department take’s what it calls a “ sample “. The last report of the Director-General of Social Services states that he took a thousand “ samples “ and tried to deduce from them the disposition of property and income so far as some people who were only receiving part pensions were concerned. The difficulty about that sample is that it was chosen from a fairly small group consisting of people who had applied for a pension because they thought that they would get a part pension.
Whether or not many old people apply for a pension depends on the amount of property that they possess and the aggregate income that they derive during the year. Therefore, when any government proposes to modify the means test, either by lifting the property ceiling or expanding the permissible income, it is very hard for it to know how many additional people will be brought within the scheme. The Director-General estimated that at the 30th June, 1953, about 913,000 people would have been eligible to receive a pension if there were no means test. At that date, about 450,000 people were drawing age pensions in whole or in part. Therefore, the effect of abolishing the means test can be computed without any great difficulty. But it is not possible to compute the cost of merely raising, the property ceiling or the permissible income because it would not be known how many of the 463,000 people who are now prevented from drawing the pension would come within the net. From time to time, the department has to make calculations of that kind. Perhaps a more systematic approach could be made to this problem. The community as a whole is beginning to consider that the means test should be progressively altered and some people consider that, ultimately, it should be abolished. How much the Government can do depends on other financial commitments’ and any proposal to extend partial pensions to more people must not lose sight of the basic pension.
Perhaps the time has come when an expert committee of inquiry should be established by the Government. S’uch a committee could make a fairly exhaustive inquiry into what it would cost an individual who is entirely dependent ou the pension to live in decent circumstances. The committee should seek information that would enlighten this or some other government on the effect nf lifting the means test, stage by stage. That information would he of value to the community, and the question of party politics need not arise. As I have said, if we want to go the whole distance, we know what the cost will be, but we do not know the probable cost of increasing the permissible property and income limits to given amounts, because in the long run, it will be determined by the distribution of income and property in the community. We are largely working in the dark in relation to the distribution of property, because we do not possess any definite information about it. The only information that we have is obtained from probate statistics, which relate only to the wealthier propertyowners.. We know how incomes are shared because the Commissioner of Taxation publishes statistics that reveal the distribution. The Minister for Social Services, who is now seated at the table, at least has some appreciation of the economic problems that are involved in this very important matter. I ask him to give consideration to it and also to inform me, if he can, why the document to which I referred earlier must, in these enlightened times, be completed by some one of long acquaintance with the applicant for a pension.
– I want to direct my observations to the Estimates of the Department of Territories, and I am glad to see that the Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck) is present in the chamber. In the time available it is possible for me to develop only one point. I believe that it is a substantial one, and I trust that the Minister will give it careful consideration. I do not myself profess to have any special knowledge of the Northern Territory and its problems, but I think that it will be agreed by all honorable members that a vast amount of development work is needed in the Territory. It is not appropriate for me tocanvass the various schemes that have been proposed or the- policies that will conduce to their fulfilment. It may he necessary to undertake closer settlement, if one. may use such a term in reference to the large areas that will be needed by individual settlers in the Northern Territory.’ Improvements in the system of land tenure may be required to give the security upon which finance for development may be raised. The taxation allowances that have been made for improvements effected on properties may be achieving their purposes satisfactorily., No doubt the development of stock routes and the like will have to be advanced further than it has gone, up to the present. The Government has done a considerable amount of work on most of those problems, and the Minister is to be congratulated upon the progress that has been made. But I am sure that he would be the first to agree that the progress has been, far from spectacular, and that it must he so until means of financing very extensive works- can be found. I propose to direct my remarks particularly to the problem of financing development projects. [Quorum formed.]
I regret that the time taken to form a quorum has been lost to me. I acknowledge, of course, that the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward), who directed attention to the state of the committee, was opposed to the defence of New Guinea; and no doubt he is equally disinterested in the Northern Territory. I was saying that among the various development works that all honorable members will doubtless agree must be undertaken, those directed towards the. improvement of transport facilities are. perhaps the most important. Transport is the only problem to which I have time, to address myself.. Numerous development projects have been proposed - extension of the railway from Dajarra, in north-western Queensland, towards Newcastle Waters in the Northern Territory; a rail link between Birdum, the present terminus of the railway south from Darwin,: and Alice Springs; improvements in the railway line between Alice. Springs and Adelaide; and transport facilities to link the Kimberley region of Western Australia with Broome, where it has been suggested that a new port should be developed. Some authorities believe that the best prospects for the; future rest with road, rather than with rail, transport. Some claim that road transport is satisfactory for the transport of cattle for distances up to 200 miles, and others that it is satisfactory up to 500 miles, and road trains have been used for this purpose. The air-beef scheme for the transport of carcasses from Glenroy has been put into effect. The. results of this scheme, perh aps, might, still be said to be dubious. I do not for a moment suggest that all these proposals that I have outlined should be put into effect at once, andI do not profess to say which should be undertaken first. I am content merely to point out that a tremendous amount of work must be done in developing transport facilities in the Northern Territory, and that, a great deal of money and of labour will be required.
It is almost certain that Australia, would, be. able to obtain a loan from the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development. In the near future,, the Government will, be sending representatives to the United States of America to discuss various problems with the management of the bank. I suggest that the methods adopted by the bank for the making of loans would be highly suited to the more speedy and, perhaps, dramatic development of the Northern Territory. The bank requires that a government that wishes to borrow shall declare its mind, upon and investigate the development, projects that it wishes to undertake, and shall submit a specific proposal for a given project. The bank itself studies the proposal and, if it believes that the proposal is sound, the required funds are forthcoming. It is obvious that the development of the Northern Territory will require a great deal of equipment and material that can be obtained only for dollars. Railway works will require much earth-moving, machinery,, such as excavators and graders, track-laying machines, rails and steel sleepers, and, finally, I should imagine, in dry areas, diesel-electric locomotives. It is true that much steel is produced in Australia,, but at present we are- unable to produce enough to meet our normal requirements, let alone to supply the vast demand that would be made by the large-scale development of an area such as the Northern Territory. The same remarks apply to road works. Adequate supplies of labour might be the first, requirement, but again, earth-moving machinery is also essential.
If there are to be any extensive developments in air transportation, aircraft, will be required from overseas, because apparently we shall not be. able to build them in Australia within the near future. So it: is. apparent that we shall need savings and equipment from abroad, if we are to carry out the development, of the Northern Territory on any dramatic scale. The Minister is proceeding, very well along the lines and within- the limits to which he is inevitably restricted at, the present time, but all the matters that I have mentioned must be considered by him- if the Northern Territory is to be developed quickly. Therefore, I suggest that since the International Bank for Reconstructionand Development was designed to do the very thing that we need to be done - that is develop undeveloped areas - and since it has carried out and is carrying out developmental projects in many parts of the world, not only in South-East Asia and the Middle East, but also in Europe, there is no reason why we should not seek the assistance of that institution to help develop the Northern Territory. I put forward a plea to the Minister and to the Government, that they should give earnest consideration to a proposal which, more than any other that I have heard in recent times, gives some promise of great and dramatic improvements in the foreseeable and near future.
I know that finance and equipment are not everything, and that we also need man-power. However, we are bringing in immigrants at a considerable rate, and I hope that the flow of immigration will be further increased. It is essential that immigrants should be brought here, but we cannot turn immigration on and off like a tap, and we must take these people when they are willing to come. If they are willing to come now, we should take them now, because it is certain that with an area like the Northern ‘Territory to develop we can find sufficient work for them in Australia. I know that the Labour party greatly dislikes introducing outside capital into Australia, and it there were sufficient savings in our own community I should agree that it would be better for us to use our own money. But the fact is that Ave have not sufficient savings in Australia to carry’ out all our developmental work as rapidly a3 itshould be carried out. Therefore, we should have no hesitation in availing ourselves of the facilities of the International Bank. I raise this matter at this time, not only because the debate on the Estimates has given -me an opportunity to do so, but also because an Australian delegation will be proceeding overseas within the next few days to discuss various matters with the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development. That delegation could perform no greater service to Australia than to raise this matter with the bank.
– I desire to put before honorable members certain matters connected with the Department of Shipping and Transport. Honorable members will notice at page 66 of the Budget, 1954-55, under Table No. 8- Total Cost of Each Department; that during 1950-51 £420,409 was provided by the stevedoring industry charge; in 1951-52 £550,816 was so provided, and in 1952-53 £1,143,850. However, no figures are available in respect of this charge for 1953-54 or for 1954-55. The Australian Overseas Transport Association is seeking to undermine the work of the Australian Stevedoring Industry Board, and has been so endeavouring for some time. Indeed, it has been reported that the Government is considering the abolition of the board and the substitution of the system that operated four or five years ago. Honorable members should note that the Stevedoring Industry Charge Act was amended last April to reduce the amount of lid. a man-hour paid by employers to 6d. a man-hour, in consideration of a promise by the shipowners to the Government that freights would be reduced by 2s. a ton. However, like all other commodities and services, freights have been increased rather than reduced, despite the promise made that freights would be reduced.
– Two shillings a ton would not make much difference.
– Yet the shipowners promised that they would reduce interstate freights by 2s. a ton.
– Has the honorable member anything to say about Communist waterside workers ?
– The honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Bowden) has mentioned Communist waterside workers. Surely nobody will say that in years gone by the Communists had anything to do with influencing the MenziesFadden coalition to bring an expert, Mr. Henry Basten, from overseas to examine our shipping industry. That expert was brought here at great expense, and he travelled in every State of the Commonwealth. Finally, he recommended the institution of reforms in the shipping industry. He suggested that attendance money should be given, and that many other amenities should be afforded to waterside workers. He stated that Australia was 30 years behind the rest of the world in the organization of its shipping industry, and that he was astonished that with our poor facilities ships could be cleared from the ports so quickly. He said that in some cases there were not sufficient wharfs to handle ships calling at ports, and in other cases not sufficient stores to hold goods after they had been unloaded from ships. I shall read to honorable members a few of the recommendations made by Mr. Basten. He said -
The functions which the Board (Stevedoring Industry Board) must perform are:
I have visited the port of Sydney, and I have discovered that none of Mr. Basten’s recommendations has yet been carried into effect by this Government. The Government has set aside about £300,000 for that purpose, but it is of no use merely to set aside large sums of money, the money must be expended on carrying out the recommendations with regard to amenities for waterside workers. It may be said by honorable members on the Government side that when a Labour government was in office it did not provide the amenities and reforms suggested by Mr. Basten, but I suggest that that is no answer to my charges against the Government. Shipowners will not reduce freights and they want to obtain control of the harbours. Then they could use the old gag that they used in the past.
I hope that the Government will not agree to the suggestion that has been put forward by persons interested and by honorable members on the Government side that the Australian Stevedoring In dustry Board should be abolished. Shipping is not playing its full role in the Australian trade. The residents of Lord Howe Island, which is in my electorate, wanted a shipping service, but they could not get one because the trade is not profitable enough. The Government is falling down on its job because it is trying to sell the Commonwealth line of ships and it is trying to abandon the stevedoring agreement that has brought peace to the waterfront. It is not encouraging a faster turn-round of ships. Why does not the Government carry out its promises and spend the money that it had set aside for the purpose to improve conditions in the waterfront industry? It reduced the levy under the Stevedoring Industry Charge Act from11d. to 6d. a man hour. It has done nothing to improve the position on the waterfront. The shipping companies have claimed that they cannot afford improvements, but such a statement does not agree with their balance-sheets. Why did not the Government carry out the recommendations that were made to it several years ago? It wants to return to the time when waterside workers had to stand outside the wharf gates waiting for work.
– Order! I have allowed the honorable member for West Sydney to continue his argument, but I point out to him that the stevedoring industry is associated with the administration of the Minister for Labour and National Service. The honorable member may discuss shipping and transport to Lord Howe Island and similar matters, but the stevedoring industry does not come within the ambit of the present debate.
– I shall direct my attention then to social services and the problems that confront many persons in Sydney. As the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) has stated, this Government has placed the pensioners in a desperate plight. The pensioners should be the first section of the community to receive the attention of the Government. Many are trying to exist on a pension of £3 10s. a week. Even honorable members on the Government side will admit that nobody can live on such a pension. The cost of living is constantly rising. I have lost faith in the Government and, indeed, in humanity since I have studied the budget that the Government has produced. I did not believe that there were twenty men in the world who would meet to prepare a budget and treat the pensioners so shamefully as this Government has done. Time and time again, this Government has ignored the pensioners while it has assisted those on high incomes. Last year this Government gave the pensioners an additional payment of 2s. 6d. a week. Then it said, in effect, “ That is enough. We will not give them anything this year “.
– What benefit did the honorable member for West Sydney derive from the reductions of income tax?
– I shall tell the honorable member for Petrie (Mr. Hulme) when I receive my income tax assessment. The honorable member might wear a happier smile if he had supported an increase of pensions. He has been appointed chairman of the committee that will investigate the existing depreciation provisions of the taxation law. He would give money to the farmers and the industrialists who are not dependent on charity, but he would not help the pensioners. I hope that the Government will reconsider its decision on pensions. We should not allow people to starve in this land of plenty. The Government has indicated, however, by its actions during the past three or four years, that it is prepared to do so.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– Sometimes when I listen, to honorable members on the Opposition side, they remind me of a Frenchman who went to a football match with an English friend. The Englishman watched the game and then said, “ That is a fine player”. The Frenchman looked at the umpire and said, “ Yes, but he plays only one note “. Honorable members appear to have only one note that they can play. I propose to address myself briefly to the problems of the Australian territories. Australia has been described .by critics .in .the United
Nations and elsewhere as a colonial power because of the way it has treated dependent territories, such as Papua and New Guinea, but it is refreshing to read the Estimates and the concise and informative statement that has been submitted by the Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck). I should like to congratulate him upon the enlightened, capable and vigorous administration over which he presides, and to which he gives so much practical sympathy and assistance. I notice, for instance, that the total public expenditure of the Territory of Papua and New Guinea rose from £5,500,000 in 1949-50 to £8,500,000 in 1953-54 and that the total public expenditure in the current financial year is estimated at £10,460,000. It may be asked, “ Well, what is the other side of the story? “ Honorable members, if they care to read this report, will find that the other side of the story is extremely interesting. The value of imports into New Guinea was £15,000,000, and exports £10,800,000, leaving an adverse trade balance of £4,200,000. That indicates that the general charge of colonialism, which is hurled at Australia, is not sustained.
What is colonialism? I think that it will be as well if I define it, so that we may get the idea perfectly clear in our own minds, and at the same time, dispose of a few misconceptions which have been apparently cherished by people overseas. I should say that colonialism is a figure of .speech generally used to indicate the control of a subject people by a stronger nation, which exploits the weaker community or people for its own gain and comfort. That might have been true, and undoubtedly it was true, not of this country, but of other countries in the past. No powerful nation could escape the charge that, at some period of its existence, it indulged in colonialism. However, I venture to say that a much more enlightened development took place after World War I. Those of us who care to study the policy and accomplishments of Great Britain in regard to the .subject peoples over which it has relinquished control in the last half century or so, and even before that time, and the policy which it has pursued towards .subject races which it is leading up to self-government, will agree that we are following in the best’ traditions that have been established.
The report which has been presented to us by the Minister in connexion with these Estimates, and the supplementary explanation, are extraordinarily fine documents. I do not think that at any time since we took over the control of Papua, or New Guinea itself, we could ever have been confronted justifiably with the charge of colonialism. The only charges which could be levelled against us, and I think that we would have difficulty in rebutting them completely, were, first, that between World War I. and World War II., there was very little recognition of the necessity to do more than maintain a policy of perfect justice towards the native peoples, and bring them very slowly along the road of civilization, and, secondly, that entirely inadequate funds were provided for the extremely fine body of men, like the late Sir Hubert Murray and others who endeavoured to carry out that administration.
I may say, in passing, that unfortunately, colonialism is not restricted to subject races. When we examine the growth of our capital cities, and see how we have exploited the rich countryside while giving relatively little in return, we can say that this is an instinct of the human race which has turned inwards in its growth, and that, for the good of Australia, it should turn outwards. However, I know that I cannot continue that line of discussion without being called to order by the Chair, so I propose to address myself to the report which has been presented to us.
I notice that a considerable area in the Markham Valley is being made available for settlement. The honorable member for Lawson (Mr. Failes) and I visited that district about three years ago, and I was tremendously impressed with the rich possibilities of the valley, which was practically undeveloped. When we moved from the valley to the highlands, we found that the climate could be extremely cold at night. I was glad to have four blankets over me when I stayed one night at Geroka. I came to the conclusion that the officers in charge of .the .health services were confronted with a problem almost impossible of solution unless an industry could be developed that would enable the people to be properly clothed and housed. Their housing, typical of that of people of early and primitive development, was quite satisfactory until the diseases of civilization began to invade the country. The worst of those diseases there is, I believe, tuberculosis. The people sit round a little fire burning in a confined space in a hut, and crawl into the second division of it at night, and endeavour to keep themselves warm. They do not wash, and they have little clothing. They smear their bodies liberally with pig’s grease and wear a fringe. They have no means of living in what we would call a civilized house. Unless they can be accommodated in houses above the ground, with proper ventilation, I do not think that we can successfully combat tuberculosis in those areas. To be successful in this campaign, we must also provide the people with adequate clothing, at least at night-time. One of the developments which I foresee in places like the Markham Valley is the growing of cotton on a big scale, because such an industry would enable a fibre to be produced which would protect the people against the rigours of the climate.
I do not make these statements in criticism of the administration. In my opinion, it is taking steps in the right direction. I only hope that those steps are being taken fast enough in the interest of the native peoples. I greatly doubt whether, at this stage of the development of New Guinea, sufficient speed will be made except by companies, which would control a fairly large area, and be able to give the benefits of rapid capital development. I am quite in accord with the principle of preserving the native rights in respect of land, and that kind of thing, but I believe that the people must be brought along as fast as is reasonably possible if they are to survive in a world in which the atomic bomb has, unfortunately, wiped out a lot of much earlier conceptions of .what is required.
The other matter to which I wish to refer is education. I am greatly interested to note that the department has been speeding up, and apparently greatly improving since I was in New Guinea about three years ago, the provision for a better system of education. I was horrified when I visited one school at that time. I found excellent officers in charge, but children, a few years of age were being taught in the same school with adult men. That is contrary to all the accepted canons of education practice. The Minister for Territories informed us that to-day there are 3,500 native schools which cater for about 146,000 children. Within the next few years, the Government plans to provide 600 additional native primary schools, 45 native super primary schools and three native technical schools. The whole programme will involve the employment of 1,500 more European and native teachers and workers. The sum of £400,000 will be spent on capital works over the next three years and there will be an increase in three years of £250,000 in the annual cost of recurring- expenditures on salaries, books, equipment and the like.
I am very pleased to see such an expansion of church schools. I hold very strong views on what is necessary for education, particularly of primitive peoples. We are divorcing these natives from their old tribal customs, taboos and practices, and bringing them into our civilization. Unless we give them a grounding in the Christian faith, we shall have only ourselves to blame if we find, poured into that void, queer ideas of the kind that thrive best where there is lack of spiritual instruction. We have behind us in our western civilization 2,000 years of Christianity and 4,000 years of Greek ethics. Those are in the air that we breathe, although unfortunately, not enough of that air is breathed. Teachers of native children must be kept in touch with the kind of training that missionaries can give. Any money that we spend on the training of teachers under the guidance of missionaries will be money well spent. We could well follow the example that has been set by Scotland where teachers in training colleges are trained also to give instruction in the Christian religion as well as in secular subjects. If that principle were applied in educating the native peoples under our care, we could ifr. Drummond. be reasonably sure that we were not. creating something which, deservedly, might cause us considerable trouble later on.
– I listened attentively to what the honorable member for New England (Mr. Drummond) said about the development of New Guinea. That is a matter to which I should like to refer when the Estimates for the Territories are before the committee. I have little objection to anything that the honorable member said, but I believe that we should endeavour to instill into the mind of private enterprise in New Guinea and our other territories the need to provide reasonable amenities and improved living conditions for the primitive people to whom the honorable member for New England referred. Their friendship and loyalty cannot be ensured if there is to be a continuation of the exploitation to which they have been subjected by white people, particularly private enterprise, over a long period of years. In many parts of the world to-day we are reaping a harvest of problems and difficulties resulting from our treatment of the people of other races in years gone by as the people of New Guinea are being treated by some white people to-day. However, I did not intend to deal at this stage with the development of New Guinea. The honorable member for New England has said, that on the issue of social services we play as one band. It is with the same feeling. that I join with other honorable members on this side of the chamber in protesting against the failure of the Government to deal adequately in its budget proposals with the needy sections of the community. It is a standing disgrace to this country to find that, at a .time when so many members of the community are doing exceedingly well financially, the poor and needy have seldom been worse off. Unfortunately, the Minister for Social Services (Mr. McMahon) is not now in the chamber. As the Estimates for his department are now before the committee, I thought he would realize that we on this side of the chamber would wish to make some comment on the Government’s social services policy, and also perhaps to offer some.. advice which might assist him. I intended to appeal to the Minister to heed the pleas of Labour members in framing the measures that he will submit to the Parliament for consideration in the very near future. Honorable members opposite talk persistently abour the economic stability which allegedly Australia enjoys today. We are told that the basic wage has been pegged and that, as the result, the economy has been stabilized. That is complete nonsense. Within the last week we have read in the press of increased prices for tea, meat, footwear and clothing. I am aware of the public reactions to these increases because I mix freely with my constituents - much more freely I am sure than do honorable members opposite. I see my people on Saturday -mornings at Bondi junction, and it is appalling to know the unfortunate situation in which so many members of the community find themselves to-day. It has been said very truly that adequate provision for the poor is the true test of civilization. T commend that thought to the Minister for Social Services who, I am pleased to note, has returned to the chamber. Although the Government’s social services policy has been stated in the budget, if the Minister has any true worth, he will do his best to. see that the legislation of which he will be in charge in this chamber will be in the best interests of the people.
I hope time will permit me to give some advice to honorable members opposite and particularly to the Minister about the treatment of hitherto neglected or forgotten members of the community. It is ridiculous for honorable members opposite to compare social services payments to-day with those made under the Chifley Government because inflation has altered the picture completely. In four and a half years under this Government, wages have doubled. The basic wage has increased by £6 a week. Inflation has run riot. Costs have trebled. However, although as I have said the basic wage has increased by £6 a week, not one social service payment has increased by more than 27s. 6d. a week, and only one has reached that figure. Most other increases have been considerably le3S, and in many instances there have been no increases at all. The Minister for Social
Services should demand that all sections of the community should share in Australia’s prosperity. The honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) drew attention to the huge profits that are being made by companies. Whilst it is true that honorable members opposite did not promise in their policy speech to increase invalid and age pensions, they did promise justice, and justice has not been given to the 300,000 base-rate pensioners. They have not been given Id. more, and I hope that the Minister will make some provision for these people in the legislation which he will shortly introduce. The rate of pension payable to widows, classified as A pensioners, has been increased by only 30s., which is comparatively a minute amount, since (his Government assumed office, whilst the rate of pension payable to widows in classes B, C and D has been increased by only 20s. during a period in which the basic wage has increased by £6 a week. The rates of pensions payable to these widows have not been increased by Id. for many years past. The payment made to A class widow pensioners in respectof their children has also remained unaltered for many years. The Government should not only increase allowances in respect of children of widow pensioners, but it should also provide medical benefits for widows and their children. Indeed, such benefits should be made available in respect of all children who are dependants of pensioners. If the Government is concerned about the health -of the nation, it will immediately adopt that suggestion.
I make a plea for the provision of more assistance to deserted wives who, despite their tragic circumstances, are a neglected section of the community. On this point, I quote the following from an article that was published recently in the press: -
The Director of the Family Welfare Bureau. Miss M. Pillinger, said, “ We believe that the pension for the deserted wife should be like the war widow’s, giving her the right to earn as much as she can in addition. “ As the law stands at present, she can earn no more than an extra £2 a week, although, of course, she has child endowment as well. “With rents as they, are at the moment,, many women cannot manage. One deserted wife I know- has been trying to keep five children on £7 10s.”.. f entirely endorse those sentiments. The fact is that,, at present, a woman must have been deserted for a period of at least six months before she can become eligible for a pension. I urge the Minister to give consideration to shortening’ that period of eligibility.
– A wife may not be able to prove within a period of six months that she has been deserted. In fact,, in many instances, wives who have been deserted by their husbands have the. greatest difficulty in proving that fact. In any event, the. Department of Social Services does not- recognize desertion in respect of periods, under six months.
No increase is to be made’ in the unemployment and sickness benefit. Government supporters may argue that very little unemployment exists at present. At the same time,, however, there is much sickness in the community. The Government should increase the rate of sickness benefit. In instances in which the husband is. ill and the wife goes out to work, sickness, benefit is not made available. That position should be remedied by making available to the husband an allowance, at least equal to the sickness benefit payable- in respect of a single man. The funeral benefit at the rate of £10 was provided by the Curtin Government in 1943 and that benefit has not been increased despite the fact that the cost of a funeral to-day is not less than £40. I also point out that when the cost of a funeral of a pensioner is borne by relatives, upon whom the pensioner was dependent, such persons are not allowed’ to claim for those funeral costs as a deduction in respect of income tax. The same observation applies in respect of medical and hospital expenses that are incurred by relatives on behalf of aged parents. Pensioners are also charged the cost- of conveyance by ambulance services. The Government should subsidize the cost of those services in order to assist invalid, age and widow pensioners. A nation which is as rich as Australia should, en sure that aged people in the community shall not be- neglected.. The policy of. the Australian Labour party is to ensure- that all aged persons in. the community shall be enabled to. end their days under decent living conditions. If the’ Minister for Social Services;, who- has’ just assumed his portfolio,, desires to make: a name for himself he. has the opportunity to do so by fighting for the rights of pensioners in the: ways that members on this side of the chamber have indicated.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– I mentioned earlier that I hoped, as the. groups of Estimates went through, to mention in regard to each of them something that might be done’ in order1 to ensure a, greater measure of safety for this country in the. event of an atomic: attack. I pointed out that by making provision to prevent, atomic attack, this country and other countries would make such an attack, less likely, that to make provision, against it, would, to some extent, also assure that such, an attack would not come. Although many things that one would suggest should be done are expensive and would take some time to carry through,, some of the measures that could be suggested would not be very expensive nor would they take very much time to carry through. In the latter category, I have in mind matters that relate to the Estimates, now before the committee, in respect of the Department, of Commerce and Agriculture and the Department, of Shipping and Transport which would not involve very much additional expenditure. Indeed, if we could get countries, overseas to adopt these arrangements, as principles, they would to some’ extent- in our case pay for themselves by bringing to this country additional income by way of export prices. First, in regard to the Department of Commerce and Agriculture, the point I want to make is that stores should be constituted and kept outside the main centres of population. We need decentralized stores, and particularly do we need decentralized stores of manufactured goods, because I think it is - not going to be possible to shift in any reasonable time any significant proportion of our key factories, which, almost without exception, are in the capital cities and the main centres of population. Since we cannot hope to shift the factories in time, we should be constituting, outside the vulnerable centres, stores of the goods our factories make and also, of course, of manufactured imported goods that we do not make ourselves. It cannot be emphasized too strongly that preparations for defence must be made before any crisis occurs, if they are to be effective. In the past, there has been breathing space. There has been time. Defence preparations made after the outbreak of a war were effective. But that is not necessarily true any longer.’ The only preparations that may be possible nowadays are preparations made before the outbreak of a war. I suggest, in the first place, therefore that stores of essential commodities and manufactured goods should be constituted and kept in places outside our main centres of population, sufficiently decentralized so that no small number of bombs can wipe them out in their entirety. “We must make provision for maintaining our national life in the event of such an emergency. If we make such provision, then, by that “very provision, the emergency will be less likely to occur. I emphasize again that it is only those who are likely to be knocked out by the first blow who are likely to suffer that blow. If we give to Russia the feeling that we can survive the first blow and win in the next round, Russia may be made less willing to deliver the first blow.
One might think that there is not a great necessity in Australia to make provision for foodstuffs because, as a primary producing country, we have that provision already in existence in the shape of primary producing units. However, I shall make one practical observation on this subject. Tn the past, our primary industries, at a pinch, could switch back to the draught horse and maintain their production in that fashion. “But that is not possible to-day. If our oil supplies were entirely cut off - ‘that is by no means impossible - and if, concurrently, there were no facilities for the repair of tractors and other machinery, it would be quite difficult, even in Aus tralia, to maintain primary production. I know that, in the event of an emergency, it would not be necessary to provide food for our full population, because, unhappily, in the kind of emergency which I envisage, our population would be reduced by at least 50 per cent. But it does seem to be only elementary prudence to establish at decentralized points in the country adequate stocks of oil, oil products, tractors and primary moving machinery.
Although I have spoken of the food position in Australia, the food position in some countries overseas is quite different. In each food-importing country, nearly all stocks of food are held in warehouses at main centres. Therefore, they would be unavailable for the population, even for a depleted population, in the event of a widespread attack. I suggest to all foodimporting countries that it would be the merest prudence to establish decentralized food stores at numerous locations away from the main population centres. If that were done, all the so-called surpluses of foodstuffs which exist at present in the world would disappear in a moment, because all would be needed. I know that one must look at this problem in thi; light of technological considerations, such as methods of preserving food, but even after making that allowance, I suggest that if the main food importing countries were to do the thing which is the merest prudence, that is, to set about establishing, at widespread locations, for the survival of their populations, stocks of food in addition to those they hold now, the so-called surpluses of w:heat, butter and other commodities held in the world would vanish overnight. That should be done straight away, not next year or the year after. I suggest that this Government, although its actions might not be significant taken alone, should give a lead which might set in train a significant movement throughout the world.
I turn to the Department of Shipping and Transport. I have already said that stocks of oil and vehicles and vehicle repair facilities should be established and maintained at numerous- places outside the main centres of population. Let me remind the committee that shipping is particularly vulnerable to atomic attack - not to attack on the ships themselves but on the ports which service them. In Australia, particularly on the east and south-east coasts, there are relatively few ports. No port could survive the dropping on it of one atomic bomb. It is, of course, particularly easy to deliver a bomb on a port. Unfortunately, it may well be that the lingering radio-activity associated with the explosion of an atomic bomb under salt water would keep a port out of action for many months. But I do not think that is the main consideration. The main consideration is that port installations, which are centralized, would be almost totally destroyed and the ports themselves put out of action. In those circumstances, would it not be only elementary prudence to establish, at this time a lightering service, with craft, such as Landing Ships (Tank) which could be used in non-developed ports, and could put in to little beaches, and could give us sea transport without port installations?
Some preparations, which would not in themselves be of very much significance, could he]D towards the purpose I have in mind. For example, a survey, a bit of road work, so to speak, of a very minor character, if done in the right place and in time, could make all the difference. Let us remember that these things must be done before the crisis occurs, or not at all. E have pointed out to honorable members previously that, whereas shipping is vulnerable at the nodal points of th«i ports, rail and road transport are not vulnerable to the same degree, because a bomb operates over an area, not along a line. For that reason it is proper that we should be looking to roads and railways as our means of emergency transport. In that connexion I again come back to the proposition of strategic stores in large quantities at decentralized points.
This adds force to the case for some limited standardization of trunk railways. I was interested to hear the remarks made a few moments ago by the honorable member for Bradfield (Mr. Turner) concerning the financing of a proposition of this character. I wholeheartedly agree with him. We have not sufficiently exploited all the opportunities that lie open to us in the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development. I believe that a programme of limited standardization of rail gauges, about which I have spoken in this chamber on previous occasions, not only stands on its own feet as a commercial and economic proposition, but is also necessary as an emergency defence measure for the reasons of which I have spoken. I believe that, as the honorable member for Bradfield has said, if we made the proper approaches overseas we should obtain now the finance necessary to carry out such a programme, as well as materials which, although not scarce a year ago, are in critically short supply now, particularly rails and, to some degree, steel sleepers and locomotives. It is farcical to allow the two main breaks of rail gauge to remain in existence. I regard the construction of a standardized line on the short section between Broken Hill and Port Pirie, in order to link the central Australia system and the Trans- Australia system with the New South Wales system, and the standardization of the short section from Albury into Melbourne, as two of the highest priority jobs that face us in connexion with rail standardization. I should also like to see standardized the Kalgoorlie to Fremantle section, as well as the Port Pirie to Adelaide section. The construction of the Port Pirie to Adelaide section is a minor matter. If those works were done we would have limited standardization that would enable us to have transport facilities that would tide us over if our ports were put out of action.
I could say more along the same lines, but I simply wanted to put the thesis that whilst there are some things which it might he outside our financial capacity to do, in our desire to protect ourselves against atomic danger, there are others, of the kind that I have mentioned, which are cheap and easy to do, which could be put in hand straight away, which do not lie outside our financial capacity, and which would give us, not complete security, but some security.
– Order ! The honorable gentleman’s time has expired.
Sitting suspended from Jf.58 to -p.m.
Mi. CREMEAN (Hoddle) [8.0].- Prior to the suspension of the sitting, a great variety of subjects had been discussed by the committee, and whilst I do not wish to criticize the remarks that have been made by honorable members in connexion with the Estimates for the group of departments with which the committee is dealing, it is my purpose to bring the debate back to the administration and scope of the Department of Social Services. In common with my colleague, the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Crean), I wish to pay a tribute to the excellence of the personal service that is rendered by that department. I do not think that any honorable member will assert that the department could be excelled for humanitarian outlook, efficiency, promptness and despatch. I think, however, with some little knowledge of the department, that certain matters associated with its administration might be improved with advantage to the community generally. I suggest to the Minister for Social Services (Mr. McMahon) that the appointment of additional magistrates and Commonwealth medical referees might be considered. I make that suggestion because I know that the magisterial staff and those concerned with the examination of claims are sadly overworked at the present time. I believe that the position could be improved considerably by making additional appointments, such as those I have suggested.
Consideration might also be given to the matter of information sheets, about which a question was directed to the Minister in the Parliament some time ago. As honorable members are aware, an information sheet is included in the claim papers which applicants for pensions obtain from post offices. As honorable members also know, many changes take place in connexion with the eligibility of persons for pensions. As a result, the information sheet which is distributed with the claim papers sometimes contains information which is out of date. I suggest that magistrates, when hearing claims, should have up-to-date information sheets to give to claimants when their claims are being investigated.
In the short time at my disposal, I wish/ to ‘refer to the excellent work that is being done at “ Coonac the rehabilitation centre in Victoria, and at similar centres in other parts of the Commonwealth. It is greatly to the credit of previous Labour administrations that they had sufficient vision to ensure that invalids were not necessarily condemned to a life of perpetual servitude, as it were, and unending receipt of a pension. As a consequence of that far-sightedness, these rehabilitation centres were established. It is true that this Government has carried on that good work, but major credit for their establishment is due to previous Labour governments.
I note with a great deal of satisfaction that, according to the twelfth report submitted by the Director-General of Social Services, during the years 1950-51, 1951-52 and 1952-53, more than 3,500 people who had been in receipt of invalid pension, unemployment benefit, or sickness benefit were returned to civil life because of the work of rehabilitation performed at the centres to which I have referred. Not a great deal has been said in this Parliament about such work, and it is my pleasure to pay a tribute where it is really deserved.
The honorable member for Melbourne Ports asked why it was necessary for a claimant in the claim papers to submit a declaration by a person who has known the claimant for a lengthy period. I suggest to the honorable member that it is done to establish the bona fide3 of the claimant and to show that some person knows that he has been a resident in Australia for a certain statutory period. Whilst on that subject, perhaps the Minister would consider dispensing with the minimum of twenty years in the case of a claim for an age pension, and five years in the case of a claim for an invalid pension, in certain instances, such as in the case of a person who had followed a nomadic existence and who was unable, at the time of filling in the claim papers, to obtain a declaration by a person who had known him for the statutory period. A number of instances come to my notice, and I am sure they also come to the notice of other honorable members, of claimants who have moved about from State to State and who are unable to find any one to declare that he has known the claimant for twenty years or five years, as the case may he. Unless such a declaration is made, claimants are not able to obtain pensions. The. Minister might consider shortening the statutory period in such cases.
In my opinion, the work of the Department of Social Services is excellently performed. The members of the staff have a very keen comprehension of their duties and are animated by the highest motives. The work which is performed in accordance with statutory obligations is carried out extremely well. As I have stated previously in this chamber, the position of social services in the Commonwealth to-day is of unparalleled importance. In the age and invalid, field there are almost 500,000 pensioners. There are more than that number of war pensioners from both world wars, while service pensioners number 20,000. There are approximately 18,000 persons in receipt of pensions as wives of invalid pensioners, whilst the number of civilian widow pensioners: exceeds 41,000. The total of all classes of pensioners; excluding persons receiving tuberculosis allowance and child endowment, is more than 1,113,000, or almost one-ninth of the total population. The fact that such a. proportion of the community is in receipt of. social services benefits cannot be lightly ignored by this Government. Nevertheless, it has been almost completely disregarded by the Government.. “Whilst it is true that the rate of age and invalid, pension has increased from £2 2s. 6d. a week to £3 10s. a week in the 3pace of four years; it must not be forgotten, that, side by side with that increase, amazing and unparalleled inflation of the economy has occurred.- The result is that the £3 10s; of 1954 does not purchase nearly as much as did the £2 2s. 6d. of 1950 or the end of 1949. This Govern ment stands indicted because- of its failure to comprehend the position, of those people’ who are- in receipt of the existence level social service benefits that it hands out to them. Like some other honorable members, I represent a. poor electorate. Over 3,500 people in that electorate are dependent upon the Government’s contribution, towards making their lives happier. I defy any. supporter- of the Government to tell me, or anybody else, how a man or a woman can exist on £3 10s. a week, or how- a married couple can exist on £7 a week. When the rising cost of the- necessities of life are taken into account, how can the Government contend that it has done a fair thing for those people who are in receipt of social services benefits I
One Opposition member directed attention to the position of civilian widows. There are 41,000 civilian widows who receive nothing by way of increases from the Government’s comprehensive field of social services benefits. The payment of widows’ pensions was introduced by a. Labour government, and at no time during the history of a Labour government did those pensions ever fall below an amount that was equal to one-third of the basic wage. At one stage, widows’ pensions in category A were equal to 41 per cent, of the basic wage. To-day, they are equal to only 29 per cent, of the basic wage, but widows are expected to bring up a family and maintain themselves on that beggarly contribution, plus child endowment. How can the Government contend that it is animated by humanitarian impulses ? As has been stated so often in. this chamber, if the Australian. Labour, party did not speak for the people who are in receipt of social services benefits, no Government supporter would raise his voice on their behalf,
I suggest that at least, when ancillary bills are introduced to provide- for a liberalization of. the social services benefits means: test, further consideration should he given; to raising the- rate of. pension, so that it bears the same relationship, to the basic wage that it bore during the years- when Labour was in office. I repeat that consideration should be. given to the- fact that one-ninth of the1 total number1 of persons in the- community are- in receipt of social services benefits, that nearly half a million of those people are’ in receipt of. age and invalid pensions) and that over half a million of them are in receipt of war- pensions. Moreover, if the wherewithal is provided, members should be assured1 that the Department of Social Services” will distribute the money properly,, benevolently; and in accordance with the spirit that: should’ animate a progressive and humanitarian govern! ment.
.- It is a pity that the honorable member for Hoddle (Mr. Cremean) spoiled what otherwise appeared to be a good analysis of the social services problem by suggesting that there had been some degree of J pettiness on the part of the Government in refusing to increase the age pension. I do not think that there is anybody in the Parliament who would not like to think that, at the present time, or at any other time, we should make to age pensioners and other deserving people a social service payment equivalent to the basic wage, but it must be remembered that the money must be contributed from within the economy of the country, and that there is a limit to the sum that can be contributed for social services benefits.
We know full well that, in the policy speech that was delivered by the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) during the recent general election campaign, absolutely no consideration was given to that aspect of the matter. I think it is appropriate that, reference should be made to the fact that the Leader of the Opposition, as the mouthpiece of the Australian Labour party, suggested that that party was prepared to abolish the means test if it. were returned to office. We must recognize the fact that there are only approximately 3,500,000 taxpayers in this country, and that the estimated cost of honoring the promises that were made by the Leader of the Opposition is between £350,000,000 and £400,000,000. The Labour party, which claims to represent the workers of this country, would have had to take an average of £2 a week from the pay envelope of every worker to finance the scheme; A government which took that action, far from ensuring a state’ of social justice, would perpetrate a great- social injustice. There would have- been introduced a state of affairs in which a man who had an income of £14 or £15 a week, and who maintained a wife and four of five children, would have been required to provide- money from his pay envelope for a social services payment to some very wealthy person who might not have retired from employment. Under the policy that was enunciated by the Leader of the Opposition, even the managing director of Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited, which has been referred to by the socialist party as the acme of the capitalist system, would have been able to demand, at the age of 65 years, that a Labour government should take money from the pay envelope of a man on £14 or £15 a week to provide a supplementary income for himself.
That is not social justice, but this Government has done its utmost to establish a state of social justice in the community. Although the Government recognizes that it is desirable to abolish the means test if the economy can stand it, it realizes that it cannot possibly do so at the present time, but it has done its utmost to eliminate anomalies. In fact, it can claim that it has done something which goes beyond the promises of the socialists who sit on the opposite side of the chamber. The social services payments that were made by the Labour Government amounted to only £80,000,000 a year. To-day, those payments total £184,000,000 a year. Not only has this Government increased the payments from £2 2s. 6d. a week to £3 10s. a week to age pensioners, but also it has made it possible for more than 100,000 people who are on low incomes-, or who are aged or distressed financially, to be brought within the scheme. Whilst we acknowledge that we have not yet been able to achieve the ultimate in social services benefits, the fact is that the Government has, with every budget that the Treasurer has presented, liberalized the means test to the utmost that the economy can support. We acknowledge also that there are anomalies in the social services legislation, but we are striving to eliminate them. I shall refer to three specific anomalies, which 1 ask the Minister for Social Services toconsider very seriously with the object, of having them rectified.
I shall discuss first the case of a man who has passed the retiring age of 65 years. If he continued to work beyond that age but then, through ill health or injury, was forced to relinquish his employment, he is entitled to receive the age pension of £3 10s. a week if his incapacity is less than 85 per cent. If his incapacity were greater than 85 per cent., he would be eligible for an invalid pension. If his wife is between 55 and 60 years of age, she is not eligible for any social services payments. In such circumstances, the wife, who has probably spent most of her life in raising a family and looking after the home, is obliged to register for employment because she is not entitled to receive either the allowance paid to the wife of an invalid pensioner or the age pension. For this reason, the total income of the couple is only £3 10s. a week. Had the husband been declared to be 85 per cent, or more incapacitated, he would have been regarded as permanently and totally unemployable and his wife could then have obtained an allowance. I suggest that a woman of that age, who has devoted many years to the work of looking after a family and maintaining a home, is not in a position to compete for a job in the labour market. Furthermore, I think it is wrong that a woman of that age, without commercial experience, should be expected to go and register for employment. There should be a special provision in the social services legislation to give a very wide discretionary power, either to the Minister or to the Director-General of Social Services, so that special consideration could be given to specific cases of that nature and an allowance paid to the woman in order to bring the total income of the couple to £7 a week.
Another anomaly affects a widow or a widower of advanced years who has continued to live in the old family home but who, ‘because of failing health or age, has been unable to continue to care for herself or himself, and therefore is forced to live with a son or daughter. Because such a man, for example, owns his own home, whether he rents it to a tenant or leaves the place empty, he is precluded under the law from receiving an age pension. Under to-day’s valuations, a family home more often than not exceeds in value the maximum permissible under the property means test. The mere fact that the person concerned owns the home but does not live in it debars him from the right to social services payments. Special consideration should be given to people who are forced to leave their homes because of ill health, and they should be eligible to receive the age pension if they are above the” statutory age. I believe sincerely that this is far more important than any further increase in the rate of pension. These anomalies are of the utmost importance and they should be given very urgent and earnest consideration.
Whenever the scope of the social services legislation is widened, greater and even greater anomalies are created. So much is this so that, under the legislation that was foreshadowed in the Treasurer’s budget speech, a man and his wife with assets to the value of £12,000 will be able to obtain the age pension if their funds have been invested in one special manner. In other words, a very great anomaly will be created, because most people who have assets to the value of only £2,000 or £3,000 will continue to be debarred from social services benefits simply because their money is not invested in that peculiar manner. I shall specify the actual manner in which a married couple with, say, £12,000 will be able to invest their funds without disqualifying themselves from the right to draw the age pension. First of all, they must own and live in a home valued at £5,100. They must then have savings in the form of an annuity - something in which I, as a liberal, do not believe. The forcing of an old couple to invest their savings in an annuity is, in my opinion, harsh and unjust. However, if they have invested savings amounting to £3,500 in an annuity, and if, in addition, they have furniture and personal effects valued at £1,500, insurance policies valued at £1,500 and £400 cash in the bank, bringing the total value of their assets to £12,000, they will be eligible to receive the age pension. Yet an aged man and wife with £2,000 or £3,000 that is not so invested, and who own their own home but are forced by circumstances of illhealth to live with a son elsewhere, will continue to be deprived of social justice! They can, of course, overcome the obstacle by adopting the morally dishonest method of investing every penny they have in a string of pearls, a diamond ring, or perhaps some very expensive oil paintings to hang on the walls of their son’s home. If their savings are invested entirely in personal effects of that sort, they are entitled to social services benefits, even if the full value of those effects is £12,000. This is a glaring anomaly. The position that exists to-day encourages people to be morally dishonest.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- I wish to direct the attention of the committee to the grave position that has arisen in connexion with our balance of payments in Great Britain, and exports to that country and other countries. The Commonwealth Statistician, Mr. S. R. Carver, stated in his latest report that, up to the 30th June last, we had incurred a current account deficit of £99,900,000 in the United Kingdom. This is the fourth occasion within a period of six years that our balance of trade with Great Britain has been in deficit by about £100,000,000. Mr. Carver has pointed out that the total current deficit in balance of payments with Great Britain in the last six years is £669,000,000. This formidable and .dangerous figure must cause grave uneasiness and disquiet. The Ottawa trade agreement of 1933 has resulted in one-way traffic, with Australia on the deficit end. Most of the trade preferences that Australia granted to Great Britain under that agreement are still effective, but the value of reciprocal preferences that Australia received has almost disappeared. That is why we are so greatly concerned about the forthcoming review, in Ottawa, of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade. The grim truth is that, whilst most of Australia’s imports come from Great Britain, that country buys freely from Australia’s competitors in metal and primary produce markets. Of all our farm produce, only wool and meat are assured of a firm market in Great Britain. Wool is not protected by the Ottawa agreement, and meat is protected by a long-term contract. Great Britain buys wheat from North America, butter from the United States of America, wine from Europe, and small fruits from South Africa - thus crippling the Tasmanian small fruits industry.
– The South African farmers have to live, too.
– The honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett) usually interjects pleasantly during my speeches, but he is not so pleasant when other honorable members interject while he is delivering a speech. The fact is that South African berry fruits can be offered for sale on the English market at £84 a ton, compared with £105 a ton for Tasmanian berry fruits. It was only to be expected, therefore, that South Africa would capture that market from us. As British protection for our dried fruits is now almost non-existent, the dried fruits industry is facing its worst crisis for twenty years. Marketing has become a nightmare for Australia. Unless there is an improvement of our trade relations with Great Britain, our balance of payments in this financial year may reveal an even worse position than did the figures that I cited.
It is somewhat ironical that Australia is depending for its international solvency on the trade goodwill of foreign countries, which the Ottawa agreement aimed at elbowing out of the way. I shall cite further figures. In actual fact, our trade with other countries built up a credit balance of £.157,900,000, and nearly counterbalanced our deficit in trade with Great Britain, the dollar area, and other sterling countries. But, if the present trend continues, Australia will have to seek new markets and reach out for increased trade with India, Pakistan, Ceylon, Indonesia and South-East Asia - even red China and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. We have already trade representation in India, Pakistan, Ceylon, Indonesia, Singapore, Hong Kong, Japan, the Philippines and red China. There is an interesting position in relation to the last-mentioned country. I should like the Minister for Air (Mr. Townley) to inform me whether our trade commissioner in red China, for whom financial provision is made in the proposed vote for the Department of Trade and Commerce, is stationed at Peking.
– That is where he should be located. We still have no trade representation in Burma, Thailand, Laos, or Cambodia. We should appoint trade commissioners to those countries, in order to encourage them to trade with Australia.
That would be one of the best ways of checking the spread of communism. If we cannot win battles by military means, because no battles are being fought at present,. we should try to win some on the trade front in South-East Asia. Supporters of the Government should endeavour to be constructive instead of continuing to direct attention to our possible danger from red China.
– Trade missions would help.
– I agree wholeheartedly. Many people in Australia do not imagine that we are trading with red China. When the subject is raised they exclaim, “ Trading with a Communist country? Tut, tut!” A study of the figures in relation to our trade with Russia shows much of the political talking of honorable members opposite to be hypocrisy. In the five years since 1948-49, when the present regime in China took over, we have exported to that country goods to the value of £11,130,480. Our imports from China during the same period were valued at £3,754,508. (Since 1945, we have imported from Russia goods to the value of £3,133,913, and exported to that country goods to the value of £37,653,833. Our imports from Chinn, have increased almost threefold since 1939-40, and our exports to that country have dropped by about 50 per cent. Whilst our imports from the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics have increased by 800 per cent, since 1945, from £89,000 to £731,000, our exports to that country have increased 3,284 times since 1946 - from £446 to £1,642,354. I believe that this has been for the good, and I hope that Australia will continue to increase its volume of trade with those two countries. But, the figures that I have cited show how foolish it is for honorable members opposite to try to give the impression to the Australian people that, because Australia is anti-Communist, it would be. a terrible thing for us to trade with those countries. All governments are practical. That is why we have trade commissioners in various countries. Whilst we might not agree with the political philosophy of red China, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, or Spain, we continue to trade - quite rightly - with those countries. We should build up our trade. Because of our deficit in trade with the United Kingdom, we have to find other trade channels for our primary products or our primary producers will have no sure future whatever.
– What about Japan ?
– Our trade with Japan is continuing at a great rate and I am not averse to that. We are trading with Germany and Italy. We traded with them up .to the day that war broke out.
– This Government would trade with the devil.
– Perhaps it would. However, I want to stress the danger of the trend of our trade relations with the United Kingdom and I want to urge the Government to increase our trade with red China and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. In the long run, that might be the best way to prevent a third world war. Perhaps, in that way, we could build up between ourselves and those countries some understanding on a trading level even if we cannot agree with their political philosophies.
I now wish to refer to the Estimates for the Department of Shipping and Transport and to stress to the Government the desire of the Tasmanian people as expressed by the Tasmanian Farmers Federation, chambers of manufactures and retailers associations, for this Government to reconstitute the Commonwealth shipping; line as it was established by the lute William Morris Hughes when Prime Minister. The line which the late Mr. Hughes founded had been sold out to hig English combines for a song by 1.929. Honorable members on this side of the chamber believe that the present Government was right in deciding not to sell Commonwealth ships. Opposition members have been fighting to save this shipping line from being sold out to private enterprise as the previous line was sold out. It is not sufficient merely to retain the line and charter the 39 Commonwealth owned vessels to private shipping companies, which are restricting the full effectiveness of these ships. The Opposition wants the Government to operate the Commonwealth shipping line as a separate entity, trading in competition with the private lines around our coast. We want the Commonwealth shipping line to be built up into the same kind of organization a3 Trans-Australia Airlines. The Commonwealth shipping line should operate under a board or commission, separately from the private shipping companies. That is the only logical course to take with Commonwealth ships since the Government has decided not to j sell them. If the Government adopts I this suggestion, the States that are so I dependent on shipping, will have a chance to get the ships where they are needed most urgently. At present they are going wherever the profits are greatest. Only when the Commonwealth shipping line operates Commonwealth ships itself will they be of maximum value to Tasmania, Queensland and Western Australia,, the States that are so dependent on ships for their economical survival. I again sincerely stress that the Government should consider reconstituting the Commonwealth shipping line, which is not now competing with private ships. The Government has often stated that it believes in competition. Here is a chance to put its philosophy into practice.
.- The honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie) disproved the statement by the honorable member for New England (Mr. Drummond) that the Opposition was a brass band which only blew one note, and that that note was pensions. I want to get back on to the rails and say something about pensions, a subject with which you may be rather familiar by now, Mr. Chairman. The Opposition has been blowing little more than one note and, through long usage and lack of sincerity, that note has become a little raucous and discordant. Exactly the same speeches are made on this subject by Opposition members each year. The Government increased pensions by 7s. 6d. in two successive years and by 10s. and 2s. 6d. in the two following years. The speeches that were made on those occasions by Opposition members were similar to the speeches that they have made in this debate. On the occasion of each rise in pensions, the Opposition stated that the pensioners were not getting enough. The Opposition propagates the belief that pensions must always rise, regardless of the cost of living or any other factor. That ia a dishonest approach to a subject which should be treated on a nonparty basis. Government, supporters recognize that a £3 10s. a week pension is a bare minimum. But pensions should be increased for one of two reasons, either that the cost of living is increasing or for the .sake of raising, them. A demarcation line must be drawn somewhere. Opposition members propagate the idea that pensions should always be raised for the sake of raising them. They say that the cost of living is going up. Yet the last two revisions of the C series index indicated that the cost of living was falling. The Opposition has contended that the cost of living is rising but it makes that assertion only because without that claim it is completely bogged down and lost. Opposition members stated that the price of meat had increased. Everybody knows that the Prices Commissioner in New South Wales has been overridden by the Minister in charge of prices and that the price of meat has not risen. In order to answer the Opposition’s charge, I shall read a question which was asked of the Treasurer in the last Labour Government by Mr. Turnbull on the 14th June, 1949, which was as follows : -
I ask tce Treasurer whether the Government intends to increase the rate of age and invalid pensions . . . will the Government ensure that the new rate shall have some practical relation to the cost of living?
The then Treasurer, in the course of a lengthy reply, said -
The law provided at one time that pension rates must he related to the cost of living and must rise or fall, according to variations of the cost of living index figures. However, when C series index figures fell about three years ago there was a great protest against any reductions of pensions. As a result, the provision that related pensions to the cost of living was removed from the law. Therefore, the pension rates are not now affected by the cost of living.
That reply was given by the late Right Honorable J. B. Chifley, a gentleman to whom the Opposition are never tired of referring as a paragon of political excellence. Yet every speech that the Opposition has made on this subject serves to repudiate the decision that he made. I shall give the committee one more illustration of the Opposition’s complete insincerity in its approach to this subject. During the last general election campaign the Australian Labour party promised to give pensions to every one. It promised also to increase the age pension by 10s. a week, which, according to the present arguments of Opposition members, would leave the age pension still at starvation level. The abundance of money that Labour was going to acquire by some means would have enabled it to give age pensioners double the suggested pension rate of £4 a week, but the Austraiian Labour party decided not to benefit them, and to give pensions to all the wealthy persons who do not need them. That demonstrates the Opposition’s lack of sincerity. Opposition members moan about the great profits that have been made by General Motor s-Holden’s Limited, but Labour intended to make the directors of that company, among others, eligible for pensions, and. refused to give ls. more to the citizens who need a little extra to buy food, blankets and clothing. Why does the Australian Labour party adopt this attitude ? There is only one answer. A complete economic collapse in Australia offers that party its only prospect of attaining office again, and any means by which that economic collapse can be brought about, if it will enhance Labour’s election prospects, receives the wholehearted support of Opposition members.
Australia’s economy is very finely balanced at present, and indiscreet action could cause serious embarrassment, and possibly an economic crisis. What sense of responsibility does the Australian Labour party exhibit in this delicate situation? It is a source of everlasting amazement to me to think that in this democracy a body of men who claim to represent at least 50 per cent, of the people can so singularly fail to entertain any sense of responsibility in national affairs. Everything that this Government has done for the good of Australia ha 3 been opposed to the last ditch by Opposition members, who should be equally as responsible as are Government supporters. In the immediate post-war years we enjoyed unprecedented prosperity, and markets for our goods were readily available throughout the world, not because other countries particularly wanted to buy from us, but because, as victims of war devastation, they could not produce enough for themselves. Australia profited mainly because it emerged from the two world wars with its economy unimpaired and in a condition to take advantage of the shortages that occurred in countries that were unable to speedily to rehabilitate themselves after years of devastation had ruined their economies. But the warshattered countries have overcome their production problems. They are now selling in competition with Australian goods at considerably lower prices and are pushing Australia out of the established markets for many of our primary products. Probably 85 per cent, of the proceeds of Australia’s export trade comes from the sale of primary products, which largely maintain the trade balance abour which honorable members opposite are always talking. Opposition member* should show more concern for the welfare of the primary industries upon which the nation’s prosperity depends. The Australian skilled worker in one industry, the products of which have been driven out of overseas markets by competition, if he works on Sunday, at double or treble rates, whichever are applicable, and taking into account his margin for skill, and the like, earns more money on the Sunday than does his opposite number in the competitor country in a whole week.
– So he should.
– The “Quiz Kids’’ know more about these matters than does the honorable member. B!ow can we maintain our overseas markets if our costs are so much higher than are those in other countries? Many markets are already lost to Australia, and we shall need to proceed carefully and reduce costs if we are ever to win those markets back. What sense of responsibility does the Opposition show ? It is in fact adopting an attitude that is dangerous to the workers, because if Australia’s overseas markets are lost and a collapse of the economy follows, the workers will be immeasurably worse off than they are to-day. Some idea of the attitude of the Australian Labour party may be gauged from the attempt this afternoon of the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt), who leads the representatives of that party in this chamber, to get the Government, without first considering evidence about the merits of the proposal, to commit itself to a course of action that would inevitably increase costs. The Opposition continually blows a discordant note on its brass whistle as it fights the Government with the one weapon that it has been able to lay its hands on. If this Government has succeeded in tying the Opposition down on1 any one issue, it has a highly meritorious achievement to its credit, and it deserves the good wishes of the community. I ask the people to look at the facts for themselves and not swallow blindly the story that the Australian Labour party tells about pensions. I can tell honorable members opposite that many pensioners whom I know personally resent the spotlighting of their distress in this chamber for purely political purposes. Many of them have played a big part in the development of Australia, and though they are now elderly they have not lost their sense of responsibility. They regard as highly offensive th« Australian Labour party’s implication that their votes can be bought for a few miserable shillings by a party that has no constructive policy to ventilate in the Parliament.
.- -The honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Bowden) concluded his remarks on a mean note and accused the Australian Labour party of reflecting on pensioners and persons who should be eligible for pensions. He alleged that the Australian Labour party implied that the votes of those people could be bought. Let us see what are the views of the Liberal party. I hold in my hand an advertisement that was published in the Sydney Morning Herald. It reads, in part -
The Liberal party will maintain pensions - and in black type - without the means test!
Yet we on this side of the chamber are “ slang-whanged “, as we were during the recent general election campaign, because the abolition of the means test was a cardinal feature of the Australian
Labour party’s election policy. The Liberal party made the promise that was embodied in that advertisement during an election campaign at a time when Australia’s economy had been well stabilized by the Curtin and Chifley Labour Governments. The Liberal party was at that time anxious to attain office and it dangled that bait before age pensioners and others who might become eligible for pensions. In the words of the honorable member for Gippsland, the Liberal party believed that the votes of those people could be bought for a few shillings. He and the honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Wight) have the effrontery, in the face of the Liberal party’s promise, to deprecate any undertaking by the Australian Labour party, in the present condition of our economy, to abolish the means test, as Labour promised to do during the recent general election campaign.
– Some members of the Australian Labour party also believed that abolition of the means test would be impossible.
– Government supporters continually point the finger of scorn at Opposition members and declare that the Australian Labour party allows no opportunity, within its ranks, for freedom of opinion. But because some members of the Australian Labour party at present do not support the great majority of the party’s members in advocating the abolition of the means test, the honorable member for Lilley now points the finger of scorn at the Australian Labour party for allowing some of its members the liberty to express their own thoughts on this question. That freedom of expression does not for one moment discount my argument and my demonstration of the fact that the Liberal party, to which the honorable member belongs, and which the honorable member for Gippsland supports, in 1946, dangled before the electors, and broadcast throughout Australia, a promise, to abolish the means test. In 1949, because the Government had failed to win over the electors in 1946, the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) told the people, in effect, “ My party, if elected, will abolish the means test within the life of the next parliament “.
– He did not.
– Well then, if I am wrong I shall correct my statement. The Prime Minister promised in 1949 that before the next general election he would draw up and produce at that election a practical plan for the abolition of the means test. There is not a reasonable person in this country who does not know that any such plan produced by this Government would be similar to the plan produced in this Parliament by the present Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Casey) in 1938. The plan that he introduced at that time was designed to throw the burden of the abolition of the means test on the Australian workers and employers. The provisions of the measure introduced by the right honorable gentleman were designed to ensure that every worker who earned less than £350 a year would pay ls. 6d. a week for his social service insurance. Those who earned more than £350 a year would pay nothing whatsoever. If an employer employed 100 men, irrespective of whether he made a profit or not, he was required to pay ls. 6d. a week in respect of each of his employees. Wealthy graziers like the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Bowden), and wealthy representatives of the sugar-growers and grazing interests, such as the honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Brimblecombe), although they might employ only two or three men and make ten times as much profit as the factory owners who employed 100 men, would have had to pay only ls. 6d. in respect of each of their employees. The wealthy investor who employed perhaps one or two stenographers and earned an income of £100,000 a year was required to pay only ls. 6d. a week in respect of each of his stenographers. Because of the opposition to that plan by the Labour party in this Parliament, and the people generally, who had been educated by the Labour party, the government of that time did not have the courage to put its plan into execution. Nevertheless, honorable members should always remember that the same type of plan remains in the minds of members of this Government, and that any scheme that they may put forward will throw the whole cost and responsibility for social services almost exclusively on the shoulders of the workers.
The honorable member for Gippsland made certain statements about the justice of abolishing the means test. He said that apparently the Labour party contemplated paying pensions to the directors of the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited and other wealthy organizations. Does the honorable member realize that as far back as the time of Andrew Fisher, maternity bonuses free from a means test were being paid to the people ? No doubt the wives of the directors of the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited, Australian Paper Manufacturers Limited and wealthy squatters, went to the post office and collected their maternity bonuses free from a means test. Child endowment was also introduced by an Australian government, following the pioneer work done by Mr. John Lang in New South Wales. In fact, child endowment wac first initiated by the Labour party in a State parliament. I have no doubt that the mothers of the children of the directors of the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited and of wealthy pastoral companies, also go along and collect their child endowment free from any means test. The same thing would happen in regard to age and invalid pensions if the means test were abolished. I also direct the attention of honorable members to the fact that throughout Australia there are public education systems which permit the children of the wealthy and the poor to he educated free of charge. In my day we had to pay for secondary and university education, but now secondary education is free, and in many cases university education is also free - or practically free. Education is therefore open to the children of all the people, irrespective of their parents’ income. The day will come when this Parliament will see clearly the right of every citizen to obtain age and invalid pensions free from the means test, just as we all now have the right to obtain maternity bonuses, child endowment, and secondary and university education.
I have heard it said that the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) is the evil genius of the proposal made by the Labour party during the last general election campaign to abolish the means test. Let us consider that charge. .After the national insurance scheme was .introduced to this Parliament in 1938, the great Labour .leader, Mr. John ‘Curtin, in a preface to a little booklet, Why Labour Opposed the Lyons ^Government’s .National Insurance Scheme, wrote -
The Labour party is not opposed to national insurance. .But .it considers that widows, invalids, old age and orphans’ pensions are a right due to every .Australian, and that the revenue of the nation should be drawn upon to fulfil that right.
Both the late Mr. John Curtin and the late Mr.. Chifley opposed any social services plan put forward by .anti-Labour governments along the lines .of the plan submitted in 1938. While it is true that if the means ‘test is abolished, a director of the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited, or any other .affluent citizen, may draw money that he does .not need, he will have paid infinitely more in income tax than he will receive Sr-am any pension that “the Government is likely to “make available to him. That is one of the reasons why we have :free education, free “maternity allowances, f r-ee child ‘endowment and other free social services. T’t is ‘rank heresy to say that it is impracticable to abolish -the means -test, or that this ‘country cannot do it. Under the scheme put forward in 1”9’38 by the present “Minister “for External Affairs, taxation -a’t a flat -rate “was “to %e -unjustly imposed on wage-earners and -employers, “while a substantial contribution was to %e made ‘from -‘Consolidated Revenue. -If the .-government of that time, when -our economic position was “not ‘good, ‘could contemplate the ‘abolition of ‘.the ‘means test, surely at tie present time, when ‘out economy .has never been ‘more healthy, £he Government can go :a step .further and abolish it on a more reasonable and equitable “basis.
The ^honorable .member “for Gippsland spoke of w!hat he <called our critical economic .position. He .-said that we were troubled .by increasing costs, and that we were .costing .ourselves out of overseas markets. -In 1949, when this Government assumed office,, somebody .said tome in the lounge -of .this building, “ What do .you think the Menzies Government will do? How will it deal with the economy <of this country ? “ I said, “ This Government will not control costs; it will allow costs in Australia to rise to such an extent that eventually the cost of production of wheat, wool, eggs, butter, and other primary products, upon which we depend for our export income, will increase out of all proportion to the costs of production in the rest of the world “. My prophecy was correct. This Government has allowed inflation to progress uncontrolled. When the Chifley Labour Government was in office, the basic wage was £5 16s. a week. To-day it is £12 and there is no comparison between the value of the £1 to-day with its value in 1949. The cost of production of wheat is exactly twice :as ‘much as it was in 1949. That applies also to wool, dried fruits and every other primary product. This Government nas allowed like inflationary process to go :too far.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- The , committee .can always count upon hearing an entertaining and spirited speech from the honorable member for Lalor (.Mr,. Pollard),. However much , one may disagree with the honorable member, mo one would , say that he is .not sincere or honest .or perfectly frank in the way ‘he nails his colours to the mast. S. -only wish .that some other honorable (members <on =the ^Opposition side, .and one or iwo who are .more .highly :situated -than the honorable member for Lalor, would follow his good example because at , least whether one agrees or disagrees with him, everybody .in f,he chamber and an the country “knows exactly where he stands.
Tie honorable gentleman ^devoted i& good -deal .of .hia speech ito .the controversial . question .of .the means test, .and ‘he .rather surprised me, I must confess, by saying that -at least .the majority oi .bis party .agreed with -tha policy .speech of .the Leader of the Opposition ,(.T)r. .Evatt) -at the last ,general election. I .do not !know -whether the honorable .member *lor lalor .was :in .the chamber .recently when .a .colleague ;of Ms, the .honorable member for Fawkner ((Mr. W. M. Bourke) .made .one .of ‘.the .most sensible, thoughtful. and,, if J_<ma[y,-say<s.o, one of the .wisest speeches ion the subject that has been made for many years. I would say to honorable members on the Opposition side generally, and not only to the honorable member for Lalor, that they would he very wise indeed to follow the example of the honorable member for Fawkner, who rose in his place and told the honest truth as he, and the majority of the people of Australia, saw it so far as pensions and the means test are concerned. The honorable member for Lalor has chided the Government with having said in the 1949 election campaign that it would go to the people three years later and bring in a policy outlining what it proposed to do for the abolition of the means test, and with having failed to do so. The facts of the matter are perfectly clear. It is well known that the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) said, not only in the policy speech this year but in 1951 also, that the Government’s attitude to the means test was that there would be a gradual easing of it as the economic circumstances of the nation permitted. That is exactly what this Government is doing. In the recent budget that the committee has been debating, the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) announced a very substantial easing of the means test, and I believe that all honorable members will agree that if the economic circumstances of this nation continue to flourish in the years to come, as one may reasonably expect, there will be some further amelioration of the means test in the interests of the underprivileged.
I was astonished that the honorable member for Lalor spoke so trenchantly and fervently about the ubiquitous distribution of social services benefits. He has committed himself, quite irrevocably so far as he is concerned - but, I hope, not for his party in the unlikely event of it gaining the treasury bench in the near future - to giving all social services benefits to the people irrespective of their income. It is quite apparent, from what the honorable member and his leader have said in this chamber and during the election campaign, that the honorable member believes in pensions for millionaires. If that is the honorable member’s interpretation of the new midtwentiethcentury socialism, it is something that is completely novel and cuts right across the basis of socialist principles. At least the honorable member for Lalor has made an original contribution to the political philosophy of the world.
My object in rising in this debate was not merely to attempt to controvert the honorable member for Lalor, but to say something about the group of Estimates that the committee is supposed to be discussing. I wish to refer particularly to the third one in this group which relates to the Department of Shipping and Transport. Any consideration of the Estimates raises in this committee the question once again of the disadvantage that all of us labour under in not having a Minister in’ the chamber who is directly responsible for the department and the Estimates that are being discussed. As is well known, the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator McLeay) is not in this chamber because he has ho right to be here. He is not a member of the House of Representatives. I believe honorable members will agree that, however able a Minister may be, no man who is merely representing another Minister can serve as a satisfactory substitute, whatever the width of his experience. I hope the Minister for Air and Minister for Civil Aviation (Mr. Townley), who is at the table, will not think that this is a personal attack on him, because honorable members know that without any qualification, he is one of the most progressive, most unorthodox, and most efficient members of the present Cabinet. But no Minister, whatever his qualifications or ability, can possibly claim to have sufficient experience of another Minister’s department to be able to discuss, as fully as the committee might desire, the Estimates relating to the department administered by his colleague when they come before this chamber. It is perfectly obvious however well he may be versed in the generalities of the department he is representing, that he cannot answer explicitly the various points that may be raised in a debate. I hope that when the Prime Minister appoints the proposed Committee on Constitutional Reform, that committee will give serious consideration to this disability. I would suggest that the committee might recommend to the Parliament and, ultimately, to the nation, an alteration of the Commonwealth Constitution that would enable any Minister to sit in either this chamber or the Senate during the secondreading debate and the committee stages of bills affecting his particular department, and also in the present circumstances when the committee is considering the Estimates of the department for which that Minister is responsible. If the Parliament and the nation sanctioned such an alteration of the Constitution” the result would he that many honorable members of this committee, and honorable senators, would be considerably’ better-informed upon matters under discussion. It. would also mean that the debates would partake of more reality and be far more dynamic.
The proposal, as honorable members will, how, is not new. It has been suggested in this chamber on more than one occasion. Moreover, it is the practice of two other British Commonwealth countries. Some honorable members may realize that the Parliaments of the Union of South Africa and also of Northern Ireland have this very principle in operation. The system works admirably in both countries. I have gone to some trouble to ascertain details of its operation, and from the results of my inquiries, I have come to the conclusion that it is a device that Australia would do well to copy. I hope that the Minister for Air, who is sitting at the table, will pass on this suggestion to the Prime Minister so that it will be one of the subjects referred to the Committee on Constitutional Reform when ultimately that body is established.
Mr. W. M. BOURKE (Fawkner) 1 9.20]. - I have been endeavouring to catch your eye, Mr. Chairman, since about 8 o’clock, because I desire to mention one or two matters which occur to me under the proposed vote for the Department of Social Services. My task has become somewhat more difficult in view of the fact that the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) has spoken before me, and has rather cut across the lines of some matters that I wish to place before the committee. Nevertheless, I think that I should place my views before honorable members.
At the outset, I desire to correct a report of a speech that I made here recently on the vexed question of the means test. When speaking on that subject some little time ago, I expressed my view that the abolition of the means test was impracticable and undesirable
– And unnecessary.
– Yes, and unnecessary; and I gave my reasons for that view. I shall now re-state them briefly. I said that the abolition of the means test on age pensions alone, without taking into consideration invalid pensions and widows pensions, would cost £100,000,000 a year at the present time. A consideration of the economic situation, and the present budgetary situation of the country, made it difficult to see where that money could be obtained without increasing taxation to a substantial degree. I also pointed out that if the means test was to be abolished and all that extra expenditure was to be incurred, it would be done to the detriment of that section of the community which is most in need of social services benefits, namely, the age pensioner who has no income except the pension, because it would become increasingly difficult, if not impossible, to make the adequate increase in the rate of pension which is necessary to help such persons. Some newspapers misreported those remarks.
After I had made those points, I proceeded to consider the means test on income and the means test on property, and I said, in view of my previous remarks, that I.considered that the present rate of permissible income of £3 10s. a week was adequate-
– No, the proposed rate.
– Yes, I said that the proposed rate of permissible income was adequate at present. That remark was misreported in some newspapers, which stated that I said that the present rate of pension of £3 10s. a week was adequate. Of course, that is an entirely different thing. I did not say that the present rate of pension of £3 10s. a week was adequate. I do not think that the present rate of pension of £3 10s. a week is adequate. I said that the proposed rate of £3 10s. at week for permissible income: wasadequate,and’ it- was clear.; from the: contest of: myremarks, that’’ I made that statement, because I. proceeded! to points out,that’; further amelioration.’ of the means test on1 property was desirable. I said, that, in order to) avoid injustice and to do away with anomalies, there should, be a further and. gradual amelioration in. that respect so. that the property means test would’ be expanded.
To. elaborate my point, and to make it perfectly clear that. I. did not say, and. I did. not think,, that. the. present, pension, rate of £3. 10s. a week: was adequate, I mention, thatI made. a. particular plea on that occasion for the person, who.had no income other than. the. pension.. At the present time,, some people who are in receipt of the pension are reasonably well off.. Husband and. wife, both of whom receive the. pension of £3 10s. a. week and, the full permissible income of £3 10s.. a. week have. a. total, income of. £14 a. week, which, is. mom than the basic wage. ‘Some people own a house,, and. have, property as. well.. Ail those people are fairly well off.compared with the. single pensioners, most of. whom, in my experience, are elderly ladies1,, either widows or single women.. They have the pension, of £310s. a week,, and. , no suppler mentary, income.. They will have, the right topermissible income- Up to. £3 10s.. a week when the) Government’s proposals, are given effect by legislation but, in fact they have no income other than the. pension. Those are the people, actually for whom I was making a plea, and’ whom. I. have primarily in mind’ when. I am arguing against the abolition of the means test; Those are the people who are. feeling the pinch most, and who need the greatest amount of help, so that they will be able to live in a reasonable manner.
Whenweare considering the plight of those persons, it is not’ just a’ matter of”’ thinking- in economic; or financial? terms! The- pension of. £310s. a week is quiteinadequate for those people, and it should be increased so that they may be able to buy the necessaries of life;But equally/ important with giving them the greater’ monetary income is the- fact that provision should be,made- for their housing and hospitalization needs’. Many of these’ peoplelive alone in rooms;. They are. unable to care for themselves! adequately; and do the little’ chores that should be done in the house or room that’ they occupy: They are unable to cook for themselves. Many of them are obliged to pay excessive rents up to 30s. a week’ for a room. Their plight would’ Be eased immeasurably, their lives- would be made so much happier, and they would be much more contented if they could be provided with adequate housing accommodation at a nominal rent, and some form of hospitalization. Although they are not really sick, they suffer from the ailment’s: of old age, and they need to have expert nursing attention available so that they can live reasonable and proper lives:
I should like to see development in- both those directions in the provision of special homes and hospitals’ for the aged. I consider that those requirements, should be provided,., not by the. State, but preferably by charitable bodies andinstitu tions subsidized by the State.. The scheme under which the Government will subsidize such bodies on a £l-for-£l basis; to provide homes for aged pepole should be extended to provide a special form’ of hospitalization necessary for the! aged. Progress’ in that’ direction will be of theutmost benefit to our elderly citizens, whom- we all1 admire and respect:
In the few minutes remaining to me,, 1 wish torefer to the.- subject, of child endowment. . I had. intended to discuss it in relation, to the- means test. Child endowment, is a most important form- of social,services benefit.. As we all’ know.,, it was introduced in 1941, and the. rate was gradually increased! from 5s. to- 10s. a week for all children of a family under the age; of sixteen’ years: with: the exception of: thefirst child. In 1950, after the present Government was elected, endowment for. the first, child, was introduced at the rate? of 5s.. a week: The: increase; to- 10s:. a. week- for all children- other than the; first, child under, the; age of sixteen. years1 was made? in 1948., Since’ that; year,, the basic; wage.- has: practically doubled!, but, this necessary and desirable socialservices* benefit, which is; being, made to helpthe) family man, has; not been altered..
When- we1 are considering; the1 people1 who- aresufferingmost as1 the result?ofthe inflationary spiral in1 recent? years, we1 thinkofthe skilled tradesman, whose margins ; have (beenvirtually . pegged, and the man with familyresponsibilities, whose (supplementary income from child endowment . hasnot increasedto keep pace withthe declining valueofmoney. These is an urgent need for a substantial increase of theamount . ofchild . endowment so that the family man may heable to meet, in -an adequate way, the expenses of family life. Those ofus who have experience . of these mattersknow all too well howthe cost , of clothing, feeding and looking after children is growing and . growing. Letus consider the cost of footwear alone. Boots for boys last about six weeks, ; and they cost . a lot . of money. It seems . to me to be imperative that the family man, and particularly the family man in . the lower wage -groups, should have his income supplementedas much as possible, . so that hewill he in a position to . do the right thing, and provide the necessaries , of “life for his growing family. “When we look at the figures, we find that it is practically impossible to make that really substantial increase of child endowment ‘which, is . so necessary simply because, ; at present,child endowment is paid to every family in the community, regardless of its . financial position. According . to the last reportof the Director-General of Social Services, our child endowment bill, even at thepresent inadequate rates of payment, is £53,000,000 a year. If we were to double the presentrates, that is, if we were to make the payments , 10s. a . week for the first child, and . £1 a week for children other than the first - I do not think that any one will say that . those payments would he too great - we would incur an additional . expenditure of £53,000,000 a year. In view of the present budgetary situation . and of our nationalproblems, responsibilities and . obligations, I believe that we could not meet that bill as things stand at present. If we were to tackle the problem on a more modest scale and provide for an increase of 10s. a week for all childrenexcept the first in each family, . and leave the payment for the first child at 5s. . a week as it is at present, the additional cost to the national budget would be £35,000,000 a year. To put it in . another way, if there were a -5s. a week increase for . all children including the first, weshouldbeincurringanadditional expenditure of ; £34,000,000 a year.
Such commitmentsmake these increases impracticable ‘at -present. I do “not -think anybody -will . disagree “with that, but if justice is to be done . to this vitalsection of thecommunity - -the family man in the lower income group -weshould substantially increase , childendowment. It is because . I (believe that child endowment payments : shouldbe increased to£1 a week for all children afterthe first,as a minimum - I should . liketoseethem , go higher - that I sayitwas a mistake . thatchildendowment was paid inthe first instancesto all families -regardless -of their . -needs. I do not . see any justification at all far : say, « memberof . this . Parliament, tocite. any town -.case, or for : any memberofthecommunitywho draws the salary that ‘is. paidtoa member of Parliamenit, receiving childemdowment : at all whilst in the community there are many . men . ‘suchas -those employed by State-owned and ; Stateoperated public utilities in Victoria,including the railways . andtramways, -who bring home , -a weeklywage of lessthan £15 and, in some instances, haveto work overtimeto geteventhat much. ‘Onthat summany ofthemhave to lookafter familiesof four : orfive children. Those men areentitledtolookto thiscommunity fora substantial increase of childendowment so that they will be able tocarry out their financial responsibilities properly . Instead of allthis money being paid to people such as members of Parliamenitwhose salaries are adequate to care for their families, the interests of the -country would be better served if child . endowment, on a much more liberal scale, were paid only to those members of the community who need it. I suggest that a figure . of about £2.0 a -week should be made the dividing line. A family man who receives a wage . or a salary less than that amount should qualify for a very much higher rate of child endowment than is paid at “present, whilst Che man who receives more than that sum should not . draw child endowment at all. I realize that to do such a thing would not be politically popular. It is never popular to take away a benefit that has been paid in the past, but I do think that we should look at this problem in the broad national interest, and realize that no section of the community is more worthy of assistance than the lower-paid wage-earners with family responsibilities.
.- The committee is to a considerable degree indebted to the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. W. M. Bourke) for his observations on child endowment and age pensions. When an honorable member gives great thought to a matter and then has the courage to follow his line of thinking to its conclusion regardless of the political beliefs of his party, as the honorable member has done to-night, he is apt to make a good contribution to a debate such as this. I say that I, and I am sure most members on this side of the chamber, wholeheartedly support the basis of his last argument that the budget does not do enough for the man who has a family - particularly a large family - to support. The honorable member very fairly pointed out that the cost of subsidizing large families adequately by means of straight-out child endowment payments would be prohibitive, but I do suggest that something could be done in the matter of allowances for clothing, education, and the like. These allowances, established as they were many years ago, and increased by only fractional amounts in the last twenty years, now bear no relation to the true cost of supporting children. The Government should examine very seriously the whole scale of allowances and revise it. I agree also with the honorable member for Fawkner that whilst some people who can very well afford to support their children are receiving child endowment at the taxpayers’ expense, others who cannot support their children adequately are receiving insufficient assistance by way of child endowment. The honorable member drew the obvious conclusion that people should not draw government benefits if they have no need of them. That is our attitude, of course, to the application of the means test to age pensions. I have never been able to see the Tightness or the practicability of taxing people by a certain amount, providing the necessary administration, and then giving the money back in the form of some government subsidy or other. As the honorable member for Fawkner very properly pointed out it is absurd, for example, to tax members of this chamber by a certain amount for social services and then, after administration, to give it back to them in the form of a subsidy for their children - a subsidy which, in fact, they do not need and should not need.
We have listened to-night, by and large, to a two-pronged attack on the Government from honorable members opposite in relation to the age pension. We have heard those who have said that the pension rate is adequate, and we have heard those who have said that everybody ought to get it. Let us take the first part first.
– The honorable mem be r does not believe in pensions?
– I merely point out that I am a supporter of a government which, in five years, has raised the annual expenditure on social services from £89,000,000 to £1S0,000,000. The abolition of the means test would cost this country another £100,000,000 a year. Where would that money come from ? It is true that the age pension does not provide a living in a reasonable standard of comfort, for those who receive it. It never has and I go so far as to say that it was never intended to do so. It will be an evil day when we say that everybody, upon attaining a certain age will be kept in comfort by the taxpayer. We have just had an election, and the very issue that is now being debated by the committee was the principal argument engaged in at that time. The Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt), who, at that time, was devoting himself almost exclusively to his parliamentary pursuits, put before the people the proposition that if Labour were returned to power it would abolish the means test and greatly increase the rate of pension. Candidates of the Government parties said that they would do neither of those things because, having had a look at the matter, they knew that no government could do either of them without substantially increasing taxation. The people thought over this matter. Every candidate of the Government parties had to go around his electorate and talk about it to young and old. By and large, my electorate is no different from that of any other honorable member, and I know that a great many old people voted Labour for the first time. They said, in effect, “ We are in favour of this. We want a higher rate. We want to get a pension whether we are in need of it or not”. That is natural. Every one wants something for nothing. But we also know that the mass of people who are working realize that social services benefits can be paid for only by those who work, that is by those who have children to support, houses to pay off and provision to make for their old age. They considered Labour’s proposition and rejected it out of hand. I make no apology for rising in my place in this chamber and saying two things. The first of them is that I am not in favour of the abolition of the means test.
Mr.GULLETT. - As the honorable member for Fawkner has tried to explain to his colleagues in the Opposition, it is not desirable that people should draw a pension if they stand in no possible need of it. That, surely, must be the first consideration. As the honorable member for Fawkner has also asked in respect of child endowment : If persons do not stand in need of a government subsidy to help them support their children, why should they draw it? What is the basis of paying child endowment when others are not receiving enough? If honorable members opposite wish to benefit the pensioners and those who draw child endowment and other social services benefits, they will say, in effect, “ We will pay these benefits on a limited scale to those who need them instead of adopting the ridiculous idea that everybody upon reaching a certain age will draw them whether they need them or not”. The people, at the recent general election, had the last say in this matter. Labour’s proposition was put to them, and they rejected it. That proposition is not popular. There is no justice in it, and furthermore, no country in the world could afford to adopt it.
– Order! The proposed votes before the committee are those for the Department of Commerce and Agriculture, the Department of Social Services, the Department of Shipping and Transport and the Department of Territories.
Proposed votes agreed to.
Proposed vote, £1,296,000.
Proposed vote, £1,776,000.
Department of National Developmen t.
Proposed vote, £822,000.
Proposed vote, £3,800,000.
Proposed vote, £505,000. (Ordered to be considered together.)
– I direct the attention of the committee to an administrative matter that comes within the ambit of the Department of Labour and National Service. Last week, in dealing with the subject of industrial relations, I referred to grants that were made in respect of conferences between employees and employers. To-night, I desire to carry a little further what I said on that occasion and to deal with certain happenings within the trade union movement. When the Government amended the Conciliation and Arbitration Act in order to deal with the menace of communism in the trade union movement, members of the Opposition were severely criticized because they expressed doubt as to the wisdom of certain provisions of that measure, particularly those relating to the control of ballots within trade unions. I am concerned about the way in which Communists are now working around those provisions. Federal trade unions not only in New South Wales but also in some of the other States are experiencing difficulty as a result of the control of shop committees by Communists, and are being embarrassed by the. manner in which the Commonwealth Arbitration Court is implementing section 29 of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act. Those unions will be confronted with serious difficulty if the court continues to apply that section as it is applying it to-day.
One of the first trade unions that was affected by the application of section 29 in this manner was the trade union that is led by Mr. Laurie Short. In this respect, I mention also the Federated Engine Drivers and Firemen’s- Association which, so far as its federal control is concerned, is not in any way subject to Communist influence. The federal executive of that organization is being embarrassed by small groups in shop committees which deliberately bring about a situation in which the Arbitration Court applies section 29 of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act to the detriment of the organization as a whole. A similar situation has arisen in minor sections of industry with which the Amalgamated Engineering Union is directly concerned. Having regard to these facts, trade unionists generally are wondering, for how long the Government will tolerate these happenings and for how long it will delay reviewing- that act in order to ascertain its real effect. The Amalgamated Engineering Union is- to conduct a State divisional ballot towards the end of this year, and there is no doubt in the minds of unionists who are watching the position on a federal level that small groups of Communists in shop, committees! are endeavouring to embarrass the organizatien as a whole by bringing about situations in which the. Arbitration Court will impose fines upon the union. Last week, in similar circumstances, the court imposed a fine of £450 upon one trade union. In addition, such situations: lay a union open to a charge of contempt of the court. When the court takes such a. view, it. is doubtful whether it: will agree! to the holding of a ballot even though a ballot may be requested by as many as. 1,000 members of a union. The Communists will’ be able to go still further under this- legislation. They will continue with these tactics until the Amalgamated Engineering Union has been de-registered. When the union has been de-registered by the court under this legislation, the court will have no control over the conduct of the union’s ballots. The intention of the Communists at the shop level in the Amalgamated Engineering Union is to cause a position to arise in which the court will de-register the union and the Communists will be able to control the ballots:. Section 29 is not only embarrassing the trade unions at the federal level but also is causing a state- of anarchy to develop within the trade union movement. I know there may be some criticism by trade unionists of the line that the New- South Wales Government is taking on the present, issue. They may say that- the Labour Government of New South Wales is abandoning- certain principles- that are near and dear to the trade union movement. But I want- to put as strongly as I can to the committee the proposition that it is time the Government realized that legislation introduced for one purpose only is breaking down under its own weight and that the use of section 29 by the Arbitration Court is handing to the Communists within the trade union movement the material they need to smash the movement at the federal level. The matter goes still further, because some employers, not all, have put the Amalgamated Engineering Union into a position in which it need not care very much about the Arbitration Court. It is common knowledge to-day that members of the Amalgamated Engineering Union can attract wages which are a couple of pounds more than the award rate.
I’ rose to- direct the* attention of the Government to the failure- of the legislation that it introduced to deal with the Communist menace to the- trade union movement in Australia. I said when the legi slation was introducedth at the only people capable of defeating Communists in the- trade union movement were people with Australian Labour party views, who had an intimate knowledge of the movement and were prepared to operate the machinery provided by the Chifley Government, under a Department of Labour and National Service which really understood the requirements of trade- unions. I did not rise only because I wanted to- criticize the Government in relation to this, matter. This situation is developing into a national problem. If the Government continues to sit and twiddle its thumbs for much longer, the trade union movement, at the federal level will be. smashed by a minority section of Communists’.. It. is of no use to talk about Australian Labour party groups and other- organizations which have done such a magnificent, job, because section 29 is being used by the Arbitrar tion Court in. such a way/ as to give the
Communists” the material they want to destroy the trade union movement at the federal level.
I hope you will excuse me,- Mr. Chair- man, if I say in passing that I was Astounded to read in the press that the employers’ representatives had opposed the re-opening of the margins case. They represent a body of people who are prepared to disregard the Arbitration Court altogether and, without regard for the interests of the trade union movement, to pay as much as £2 a week above the award rate to people of the type they want, t know what is developing in the trade union movement. I say to the Government that all the fears that we” expressed about the legislation have been justified. Section 29 should be overhauled immediately. The seven Communists or Communist sympathisers who frere responsible for the Federated Engine Drivers and Firemen’s Association being fined did hot care two hoots about the fine.- They knew that the federal leadership of the association was not in the hands of Communists, but they knew also that seven Communists inside the organization were capable of bringing the federal leadership into such disrepute that the court would use section -39 against it. When the court imposed a fine of £450 on the Amalgamated Engineering Union last week: that -fine did not hurt the few Communists in the organization who were walking off their jobs in order tq embarrass the Labour Government of New South Wales. All that it did was to weaken the position of the federal leadership” pf the union, which, at present, is not in Communist hands.
– They will break the unions before they have finished.
– i agree. What is happening in the Amalgamated Engineering .Union is designed for one purpose only. The Arbitration Court must take cognizance of this Government’s legislation. It cannot let individual members of the union go on :as they are going. The Communists know that if they keep on playing their cards in the way in which they are playing them now- - -
-Why does not the union discipline its members?
– That is the kind of interjection that I expect from a Minister who does not understand this legislation. We told the Government what would happen when it Was introduced. Let me deal again with the case of the Federated Engine Drivers and Firemen’s Association. The seven nien were ordered back to work, not only by the association but also by the Australian Council of Trades Unions. They snapped their fingers at their organization. The worst that it could do was to expel them. The Union, not the seven members, was fined under section 29. Under this legislation, small undisciplined groups of Communists have been given power that they never wielded before in the history of the trade union movement The matter is so serious that unless the Government takes stock of the position that has developed and does something to alter it, the present control of the trade union movement in Australia at the federal level will be undermined, and some unions will be handed back to the Communists, from whom Australian Labour party groups and others have wrested control in the . last, two Or three years.
– -Due to the secret ballots legislation.
– The honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Pearce) talks about secret ballots. Let me tell bini what is going to happen to the Amalgamated Engineering Union under this Government’s legislation. The Communists will continue the practice of small groups df men walking off the job. The union has already been fined £450, and at this moment it is in contempt. If the court takes the view that a union is-in contempt,.it cannot interfere with the union’s ballots.- So the Communists will be able to fake the ballot that is due to be held by the Amalgamated Engineering Union in November of this year. That is the position to which this legislation has led us. That is the way in which we are going.
I make an appeal to the Government to review the legislation. This is not a light-hearted attack on the Government. I appeal to the .Government to get down to .the fundamentals of this problem.
Otherwise, the trade union movement will be smashed. I believe Mr. Aird did a great injustice to the trade unions when he went in on the side of the Communists and opposed the re-opening of the margins case. The Communists in factories and workshops throughout Australia will use that as an argument in favour of strikes designed to bring the federal leadership of their unions into disrepute with, and contempt of, the Arbitration Court. That has been done in my own organization. Fortunately, we are strong enough to deal with these tactics, but other unions are not so well placed as we are. The appeal that I make to the Government to-night is one of the most genuine appeals that I have made in this chamber. I appeal to it to review the position immediately, because we are handing to the Communists of this country a means to take the control of the trade union movement from people who are arbitration-minded and put it into the hands of the Communist party. While ‘ section 29 of the legislation is on the statute-book, the Arbitration Court will continue to use it, because it is the bounden duty of the court to give effect to legislation. But if the court continues to give effect to section 29, it will break the back of the trade union leadership that we want in this country and hand the trade union movement to the Communists. If that happened, it would be to the discredit of this Government.
.- It is not at all surprising that the honorable member for Blaxland (Mr. E. James Harrison) should have put the case concerning section 29 of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act that he has submitted to us to-night, because one has been aware for a considerable time that trade unions, federal unions in particular, have been finding the position which arises under section 29 in the event of disobedience of the court’s orders, very embarrassing to them. But the only reason it is really embarrassing to them is that they are not shouldering their responsibilities to the nation in the matter of dealing with the Communist minorities within their ranks. I sincerely hope that the Government will not be influenced by the arguments advanced by the honorable member for Blaxland, and that it will resolutely retain section 29 in the legislation, because in my observation, in the years that I have sat in this Parliament, since section 29 has been in operation, there has been, for the first time for, many years, a sense of responsibility reintroduced into the management of trade union affairs. The honorable member has spoken about the futility of the Government’s industrial legislation. What about the secret ballots legislation ? Does he give the Government no credit for that ? When I last heard the figures, there had been more than 70 applications by right-wing unions for court-controlled ballots. The honorable member did not bother to talk about that. Instead, he talked about the very remote possibility that unions in contempt of the court might be refused court-controlled ballots. The power to deregister a union is a discretionary power resident in the court. Is it likely that the court would use its discretion against the maintenance of law and order in trade unions? The suggestion that it would do so is nonsensical. It is only by giving the court power that any sense of responsibility and any real state of order have been re-introduced into our arbitration affairs. It is only by imposing sanctions on the parties to disputes that orders can possibly be carried out.
The honorable member for Blaxland has complained because the Federated Engine Drivers and Firemen’s Association was fined £20Q because of the failure of the federal body of that union to prevent activities contrary to the orders of the court by a group of militants in New South Wales.
– Seven in number.
– The honorable member says that that group numbered only seven. Why has not the federal body of the union disciplined the seven members of that group? He has asked what more can a. trade union do than expel such members. Has any single trade union, in contempt of the court as a result of an action by a minority of its members, expelled the members responsible? Trade unions, particularly in New South Wales, where membership of a trade union is compulsory, have enormous power to deal with minority groups of members, such as the seven members whom the honorable gentleman has mentioned, even to the point of expelling them. What sort of trade union is it that fails to expel members who defy the orders of the federal body of the union to such a degree that the whole union is dragged into court and fined hundreds of pounds for contempt of an order? Not a single union has resorted to the remedy of expelling members in such circumstances.
I am tempted to use the term “ effrontery “ to describe the argument advanced by the honorable member for Blaxland, but I do not wish to be provocative about a matter that is too serious for party dispute. However, I hope that some other honorable member on the other side of the chamber will answer the question that I have asked, and which I shall now repeat. That question is: Why is it that no trade union held in contempt of the court under section 29 of the act has yet expelled the minority group responsible for the court’s action?
– Being a legal man, the honorable member should know the answer.
– I do not know it.
– Then the honorable member does not know the act properly.
– We all are aware of the fact that responsible trade union leadership has been seriously embarrassed by the activities of Communist groups. The answer to that problem is that the federal managements of the unions concerned should shoulder their responsibility and deal with those groups as they have the power to do. Until they earnestly attempt to do so, and exhaust every possible remedy, there is no .’justification for such complaints about section 29 of the act as we have heard to-night from the honorable member for Blaxland.
– Does the honorable member think it is as simple as all that?
– I have yet to hear of any trade union that has expelled the minority group of members who have caused it to he held in. contempt of a court order. The honorable member for Blaxland has told us that the Federated Engine Drivers and Firemen’s Association has been put in its present position by seven Communists who are members of the union. What would be the result of expulsion of those men by the federal body of the union? Why has not resort been had to such expulsion? In New South Wales a Labour government has itself used the powers given to it, as an employer, by section 29. What has the honorable member for Blaxland to say about that? The New South Wales Government has threatened to move against tra.de unions in order to have them held in contempt of the court’s order.
– It has given them 4S hours’ notice.
– What does the honorable member for Blaxland say about the action of the New South Wales Government? Is he in disagreement with the Premier of New South Wales in relation to this matter?
– The New South Wales Government has not moved in the court at all.
– I told only the truth.
– I sincerely hope that the Government will pay no heed to the arguments advanced by the honorable member about the removal of section 29. What would be the result of the removal of that section? What alternative does the honorable member for Blaxland suggest to the power conferred on the court by that section? For too long industrial arbitration in this country has been a one-way system under which management alone could be disciplined effectively by the court’s orders. Are we to return to the state of affairs that existed under the Chifley Government, when arbitration was one-sided, when management could be ordered and disciplined, but when labour was free to do as it pleased? What alternative has the honorable member to offer to the present system? If our arbitration system is to progress, then it must be towards the rule of law in industry - not the law of the jungle, but the law of the court. The rule of law can prevail only if sanctions enforce it, and if trade unions are obliged to . see that their militant minorities do not disobey the law. If the tiradeunions are unable to do that, then it is time that such unions as the Federated Engine Drivers ; and Firemen’s Association andthe Amalgamated Engineering Union told the court plainly that they . are unable to do . anything about their defaulting members. Would the court hold them in contempt in such acase? The honorable member for Blaxland said that the court would hold the trade unions in contempt even if ‘they had expelled their defaulting members. I suggest that that statement is nonsense. The court could not do so, because the trade unions would mo longer be responsible for the activities of the militants, because the militants would no longer be members of . the union.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Order! The honorable member for Watson (Mr. Curtin) hasnot got the floor yet.
– If , as I have already said, the arbitration system is to develop satisfactorily in this country, it can do so only by the introduction of law and order, and that will be possible only if the court has power to enforce its orders. If the ‘court is to ‘get ‘anywhere as the ‘controller and director ‘of -our industrial ‘system, it must ensure respect for its -orders, and must have power to enforce them. With section29 in operation this country has had a greater degree of industrial peace than it has ever had before. I ask the committee to compare the . state of industrial peace in Australia between the -end of “the war and the end of 1949, during which period the Chifley Labour Government was in office, with the . state of industrial peace that we have had since the advent of the Menzies Government. There is a -marked contrast in favour of law and order, and very much in favour ‘of the legislative reforms introducedby the Government.
– But whatis the position now ?
– The position . clearly is ithatthe Communists ‘are trying most desperately ito overthrow ‘the existing arbitration system. They are doing their utmost to have the trade unions themselves held in contempt of the court, and they are using the machinery of the unions to forward their efforts. The easiest and surest way for theCommunist purpose . to be achieved would he for the Government to give way to pleas such as we have heard from the honorable member for Blaxland to-night. Then we . should be backing a case in which the federal bodies of . the unions had washed . their hands of the whole . situation and . said, “ We are helpless to move in this matter. We can do . nothing.” If, with all the power of the court behind them, they can do nothing to control the minorities in their Unions, how is their power to do so to be improved by removing the power of the court to enforce its orders? I have never heard un argument which appealed to me as more fallacious than that which has been -advanced to-night, and I hope that the Government will reject it utterly -and completely.
– I wish to refer to certain . aspects of our immigration poliqy -which, in my opinion, indicate . an unfortunate trend. Although, by and large, our immigration policy has proved satisfactory, I am concerned about the present intake of immigrants because I do not think that it is measuring up to the expectations which all of us had when the scheme -was inaugurated -after the end of World War II. For -security reasons, it is essential that our populationshouldbe trebled inas . short a time as . possible, having regard,of course, to economic ‘conditions and the capacity -of the country to . -absorb new arrivals. If our resourcesare to be developed properly, a constantly ‘expanding population is necessary. ‘TheMinister for Immigration(Mr. Holt), when speaking ‘at a national citizenship convention in Canberra earlier in the year, said that he expected out population to reach 10.000,000 by 1959.
I wish to make an analysis of the number of new arrivals during recent years, because that is the point uponwhich I wish to dilate.In 1952, approximately 120,000 immigrants came to our shores,50 per cent. of whom were British. In 1953, approximately74,000 new settlers arrived here,. and of those 39,000, or 46 per cent., were of British nationality. According to figures in this morning’s newspapers, the net immigration gain for the first six months of this year was 31,000, only 43 per cent,being of British nationality. The ratio of British immigrants to nonBritish immigrants is, therefore, declining. In three years it has dropped from 50 per cent. to 43 per cent. For the first seven years after the end of World War II., 50 per cent.- of our immigrants were British. ‘The Minister for Supply (Mr. Beale), who is acting for the Minister for Immigration, may adduce certain reasons for that decline. Perhaps it was due to the abolition of the Commonwealth nomination scheme, which has been revived only recently. Now that that . scheme is again in operation, the percentage of British immigrants may rise. ^Nevertheless, I am alarmed at the number of non-British immigrants who are coming to this country, because I feel that this trend will present problems which will be hard to overcome in the future. If the trend continues, our standards . of living, and even the British character of our . country, may be affected.
It should not be thought that I am at . all antagonisticto the . non-British settlers who are coming to . Australia, I am under no misapprehension about the contribution which they . are making to thedevelopment of the . country, particularly in relation to national projects. ‘Their material ‘achievements havebeen of outstanding benefit, theyhave also . added , greatiy to . our cultural . -attainments. While we -can . gain culturally from people of other nations, we donotwant . to . see our own . British culturesubmerged because ranomerwhelming numberofnon-British immigrants havecometo Australia. “By theandof 1953, approximately 350,000 non-British immigrants had entered Australia. ‘Such a ‘large influx of immigrants ‘has presentedstupendous problems of assimilation. We must appreciate thatthe merging of -those people, who have such diversenational backgrounds, in -our economic, social andculturallife, is anexperimentin assimilation ‘of ft (magnitude andcomplexitywhichwe haveneverknown bef ore. We ‘do ‘not ; have to “worry about assimilating British immigrants, because they fit readily into our way of life. The inflow of non-British immigrants during the last two years, however, presents an entirely different problem. If all the non-British immigrants who have arrived here prior to and since World War II. remain in Australia, even though . such immigration ceased immediately, it would mean that by1960, . approximately one in every nine of our population would be foreign-born or first-generation children of foreign-born parents. Therefore, the task that confronts us at the moment is to ensure that these non-British immigrants settle into our way of life . as easily and speedily as possible.
– Did not Igive the honorable member some later figures which indicateda bigjump-up in naturalization.?
Mr.BIRD.-Forthe firstsevenmonths of this yearthe Ministerstated thatthe numberwas ‘ approximately 6,000,it hawing been approximately1.,300 in the seventh month. Itakeit that the increase this year isduetothe fact that -many immigrantshave completed the statutory five-year period bef ore doing whichthey wereunable toseeknaturalization. Nevertheless,between1946and1949very many non-British immigrantscameto this country,butonly4,000 or 5,000of them sought naturalization.Thatwas a mere fraction of the number who could have applied for naturalization.
It is apparent, from the figures to which I have referred, that for some reason or other, many eligible persons are not keen to seek naturalization. I appeal to the Government to give urgent consideration to this matter, because it is essential that those eligible to apply should do so as quickly as possible. I appreciate that the decision of a nonBritish immigrant to apply for naturalization, or not to do so, is a personal matter, and that neither pressure nor the slightest suggestion of intimidation should be used to influence that decision. However, I think that every encouragement should be given to such persons, and for that reason I ask the Minister to consider some of the aspects of the matter to which I now propose to refer.
Does the Government think that the requirements of the Nationality and Citizenship Act are too stringent ? Does it consider that the fee which is charged is too high, and that the nature of the naturalization ceremony is a deterrent? In my opinion, sub-section (1.) of section 14 of the act should be repealed. It is in the following terms : -
An alien or a protected person shall not be entitled to obtain a certificate of naturalisation unless, not earlier than one year after his entry into Australia or New Guinea, he makes a declaration in the prescribed form of his intention to apply for the grant of a certificate of naturalisation as an Australian citizen.
In other words, the person concerned has to declare his intention to seek naturalization four years before he is able to do so. It seems to me that, in the light of the fact that many non-British people who come to Australia are confused about our way of life, this provision serves no useful purpose. It is interesting to note that, at the. citizenship convention in Canberra earlier this year, to which I have referred already, a resolution was adopted to the effect that so much of section 14 of the Nationality and Citizenship Act as requires a declaration of intention, should be deleted. Apparently that gathering of Australian citizens, who were drawn from every nook and cranny of the community, gave attention to this matter and reached the same conclusion as I have reached.
– The Minister has a discretion.
– Another legal requirement is the insertion in the press of an advertisement to indicate an intention to apply for naturalization. Particulars of the intention must he advertised in two newspapers that are circulated in the home district of the intending applicant for naturalization. That requirement, as in the case of marriage, is for the purpose of enabling persons who know of reasons why naturalization should not be granted to report those reasons to the Department of Immigration. The department has admitted that, during the last 36 years, fewer than half a dozen protests have been lodged. I fail to see why that section should operate any longer. In my opinion, there are certain objections to it. First, expense is involved in inserting advertisements; secondly, it is of a vexatious and futile nature; and thirdly, it is an unnecessary singling out in the community, as an alien, of a person who is on the threshhold of becoming a citizen. The Australian citizenship convention, which was of the opinion that the provision should be changed, passed the following motion : -
That the requirement of newspaper advertisements in connexion with naturalization be abandoned: alernatively, if the requirement ie to be continued, that the birthplace and nationality of the applicant be eliminated from the advertisements, and that the Department of Immigration assume responsibility for insertion of the advertisements in this newspapers.
In other words, that gathering of citizens, whose deep interest in the subject of immigration was demonstrated by their presence at the convention, was of the opinion that the existing legal requirement was obnoxious and that, if it were not eliminated, it should be materially altered. I hope the Minister will take notice of the representations that were made by those citizens and which I am now repeating.
I also ask the Minister whether he thinks that the payment of the fee of £5 might deter some immigrants from seeking naturalization. A fee for naturalization was not charged until 1930, and since that time it has remained the same. Some people might say that the privileges of citizenship are worth £5, but others like myself think that there are some things which defy correlation to money values, and which are cheapened by any attempt at such correlation. I think that citizenship should not be measured in terms of money and that, if there is the slightest suggestion that the payment of money impedes the flow of applications, the fee should be waived.
It is unlikely that the naturalization ceremony itself would deter people from applying for Australian citizenship because, as one who has attended and taken part in a number of ceremonies, I think that the ceremony is bright but dignified. However, there may be some immigrants who prefer to assume citizenship unobtrusively and without publicity. I suggest that for those people there should be an alternative ceremony so that they may acquire the status of Australian citizenship without publicity. I suggest to the Minister that, with a view to stressing the responsibility and the obligations of citizenship, the Department of Immigration should initiate immediately a widespread publicity campaign. Immigrants should be told that, as soon as they acquire Australian citizenship, they are entitled, not to all of the social services benefits, but to some of them, and that while they retain non-British citizenship they are not entitled to them. The department should embark upon such a publicity campaign by obtaining the support of the films, the press and the radio.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- I wish to direct my remarks to the activities of the Department of National Development, the Estimates for which are now before the committee. I think the Parliament has come to a realization of the importance that the ‘Government attaches to the subject of national development, which was displayed by its appointment of the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) to the Cabinet committee of which the Prime
Minister (Mr. Menzies) is chairman. It is essential that all honorable members should give considerable thought to this vital aspect of our national life. It is necessary that throughout Australia there should be a stocktaking of plans for national development. I was pleased to see the public of Australia endorse the policy that was outlined by the Prime Minister during the recent election campaign by returning the Government to office, and to learn that a national development committee would be established to consider, and to give a measure of priority to, national development schemes. I think that the files of this Government and of the State governments on national development matters must be the largest of all the files, because every government in Australia, has accumulated blueprints for schemes that were regarded, at the relevant time, as being for the future. In Queensland, there are files which date back to the early 1920’s in relation to schemes that were considered in those days to be urgent, but those files are still lying on the shelves collecting dust. If those schemes were urgent in the early 1920’s, surely they are of much greater urgency in 1954.
It is necessary that those who are charged with the responsibility of administration should confer in order toascertain which projects should receive priority. I hope that the Department of National Development will watch carefully the aims and ambitions of the governments that submit different schemes,, because, in the past, State governments have submitted schemes for development, or defence as a means of implementingplans for the socialization of Australia. It is a failing, in particular, of Mr. Gair, the Premier of Queensland, to use for further socialist projects in Queensland money that is obtained under the guise of national development. I recall to mind some of the great development schemes in Queensland that have been lauded by the Government of that State. The Peak Downs project washailed as a great scheme of national development. For a little time - “ for a certain reason “ would be the best way todescribe it, perhaps - the proposal had some value in that it demonstrated to the- private farmer that he could grow sorghum in that area, but that the Government could not. I quote the following report, which appeared in the Brisbane Telegraph of the 15th June, 1949, in relation to a statement that was made by Mr. T. A.. Foley, the Minister for Public Lands in Queensland, after a visit of members of the State Parliament to the area of this great, developmental project, as it was described at that time -
Members of the party inspected Peak Downs with obvious relish andtheir enthusiasm knew no bounds. . . The sentiments of the party were crystallised’ by Mr. Foley when lie said - ““If this is socialization, them give uslots more of it.”.
– Who said that ?’
– Mr. Foley, the Minister for Public Lands, in Queensland, in relation to. the. Peak. Downs scheme for raising, socialist pigs.
– Mr. Foley is a. good Minister.
– He is so good that he praises socialization and says -
When the project was. wound up, it was discovered that losses, had cost the taxpayers of Australia more than £1,000,000. So much for- a good’ minister !’ If we in Australia- are going to throw good money down- the drain on socialistic projects such as that1,, then- we- are* not going to progress as1 a- nation. The5 Peak Downs scheme is* written off as’ a- failure to-day because the - Government1 that1 initiated it looked- upon- it’ as another- means’ of socialization instead’ of. as a means1 of giving* private- enterprise an- opportunity to develop the country: In fact, 93 per cent. of the - land in that vast’ State of Queensland isowned by the Government. How on earth are we going to develop the country when people on the land lack security of tenure?1 It is useless and idle forustourge them. to develop thelandif their landlords : are socialistic governments that- can evict: them under theterms of their contracts? We must- consider these facts when we . are ‘.examining the: prospects of national development! especially: in Queenslandr.
My.” mind turns to* many- projects - that have been thoughtof butleft uncompleted in-. Queensland’; For- instance? there* is the great Nathan Gorge scheme, which was surveyed in 1922. The Labour Premier at that time said, in effect. “ This is a vast project which is essential to the well-being of the people of Queensland. If we build this dam, the city of Rockhampton will never be flooded again “. That was in 1922. In this year of grace 1954, the dam has not been built and Rockhampton has suffered its most disastrous flood..
– -After 32 years!
– Thirty-two years’, and not a pick or shovel has been wielded on the project yet ! Throughout that period, with the exception of a term of three years, Labour government’s- have been in power in Queensland. Another scheme that- comes, to mindwas estimated originally to cost”- about £2,000’,000. Probably to-day it’ wouldcost£10,000,000, £12,000,000: or £14,000,000.. I refer’ to the Cania. Gorge- dam project. That dam? was to serve the rich Upper’ Burnett area. In 1926, the Labour Government of Queensland1- announced- that- this was an urgent project!’ The land must be; developed, it declared,, and it- proposed to’ subdivide it into- 800-acre: blocks for- this great irrigation, scheme-.- The Labour. Governmen t of ‘ Queensland- to-day is’, stills talking:’ about the scheme^, but nothing- has1 been done about it. By a strange coincidence, when’ the elections become due every three years; the Labour politicians of Queensland stand up and talk: of their Government’sblue prints for the Nathan- Gorge dam, theCania Gorge dam and. the Burdekih Valley scheme and complain that theAustralian. Government, will not. provide’- money to” enable them to go ahead with those, vital works.
We. must-, come to a realization that some order of priority on a- national basis is needed for such projects. We must Have men with a. national’ outlook in- charge- so that’ we’: may’ go ahead: and complete them; I1 visited the northern part of Queensland recently andhad a look at the Tully Falls hydro-electric scheme; which- is now somewhere near completion’. That schemewasstarted two yearsafterIwasborn but it isstillunfinished, and inall that time, theLabour party has beenin office in Queensland. Throughoutmylifetime.I havebeen told that: thisworkis vitally necessary to the north’ of? Queensland’) and; yet) while I’ Have* been growingsit has been standing’ still!I could go oninthis strain and tell of many other uncompleted works. This Parliament is under fire at present by the Premier of Queensland on the ground that- it is neglecting- theDajarra rail link.
– The Government ought- to go ahead withit
– I suggest to the honorable member, who is older than I am; that the State Government should have started the undertaking the year he was Born, Because that rail link was urgently needed then.Had it done so, the work might have- been half-completed by now The construction of railways in Queensland is peculiarly a task for the State government.,
Now that Government at long last, after almost innumerable commissions of inquiry over the, last 30 years to my knowledge, has before it a report by an expert panel which it appointed in the recent past. I say without fear of contradiction that the report and advice of this panel, which consisted of prominent Queens-landers,, is to the effect that the Dajarra rail link would prove a costly failure to. any government that undertook to build it. Despite that, the Premier is still pressing the. Australian Government, to go ahead and spend the taxpayers’ money on the scheme without having a- full, investigation- into. it. That is. in line with the? conduct of the Queensland Government, in relation to the beef industry, for example. A project that was. hailed as- a great, national development schema for Queensland, under which the State Government undertook the ownership and management of beef cattle properties, involved the people of that State in losses totalling over ?2,000,000. The people are still paying interest and redemption charges on the debt accumulated by that socialist enterprise. My mind goes back to the great scandal of the. Chillagoe-Mungana mining enterprise, which loaded the taxpayers of Queensland with a burden of debt of over ?1,500,000- as a result of “ fraud and dishonesty “, to quote the- report of the royal commission that investigated the fiasco.
I could go. onfrom one scheme to another and demonstrate that the Queensland Government, is, completely irresponsible in such matters. It is aiming, towards- the objective: of the socialized state, and it will continue; to. do so as long- as- it is able to flourish bluepaints andi point to some signs ofi slowmotion workproceeding on various pro.- jects. Every scheme that it. produces will be directed! towards the ultimate- objective of’ socialization. A socialist minister,, for whom I have the- highest personal regard1, Mr. J. E. Duggan,. who is. the Queensland Minister for- Transport, has gone on record as saying——
– -What is the source of the quotation?
-Queensland. Hansard for, the ith August,. 1949, at, page. 53., Mr. Duggan said -
TheLabourparty believes in an evolutionary constitutional and transitional” trend towards the ultimate objective of the public ownership of the means of production, distribution and; exchange.
Mr. Duggan is the Deputy, Premier of Queensland. How can a State develop whenits Government, throughthe mouth of its second senior minister,, says to private enterprise in effect, “ We are going to go on, by an evolutionary constitutional and transitional trend, towards the ultimate objective of the public ownership, oi everything in the whole State “? No wonder development is retarded in that State because private enterprise is not be,ing attracted there.
Iurge this Government to press on with the, policy enunciated by the Prime Minister, which is tha.t an ‘ Australian convention be called to deal with, matters of national development, that the blueprints, for the future be, taken out of the pigeon holes, that, the plans already underway be examined carefully, that the barrierof socialization be removed, and that we look upon our programme with the idea of full development as. a great nation., As long as, we have governments such as those in charge of Queensland and New South Wales, which come, to this. Government and say, “ We want more money, but we- want to spend it. on socialism”, we, cannot expect to have true national development, no matter how willing the Australian Government may be to press on with it.
The matter goes even deeper than I have already indicated because, if this trend continues and people throughout Australia are urged by State governments to call upon the Australian Government for more and. more funds to carry out socialistic enterprises, the ultimate result will be that the federal system will break down altogether and we shall have at Canberra one government for the whole nation. The day when that comes to pass will be a sorry day for Australia. But what else can we expect if people continue to come to the Government at Canberra and ask it to do this, that or the other thing? If this Government continues to assume responsibility for projects that should be undertaken by State governments, the destruction of the federal system must ensue.
The CHAIRMAN” (Mr. Adermann).Order! The honorable member’s time lias expired.
.- I wish to direct the attention of the committee to an aspect of immigration which is causing the people of this country considerable concern. Recently a supporter of the Government advocated the breaking down of the White Australia policy. I take this opportunity to condemn the suggestion that was made during the debate on the budget by the representative of a Queensland electorate - the honorable member for Bowman (Mr. McColm) - that a certain number of Asians should be admitted to Australia under a quota system. I am sorry that the honorable member for Bowman is not present to hear my remarks. I believe that a quota system for the admission of Asians to this country would be the thin end of a wedge which would result, ultimately, in a complete breaking down of our White Australia policy. Once a small quota of Asians was admitted to Australia, there would be a demand from certain quarters for an increase of the quota. It would be difficult to resist that demand, and soon the trickle of Asian immigrants would develop into a flood. Within a comparatively short period of time, this country would become overrun by people from various parts of Asia. I am sure that many Queenslanders were as astonished as I was to hear a Queensland member make such a suggestion. Obviously, the honorable member for Bowman is not aware of the unsavoury conditions that developed in that State some years ago after kanakas, coolies, and Japanese had been taken there to work on the sugar plantations.
– On the contrary, the honorable member for Bowman made a study of that matter.
– It is indeed disturbing to know that the honorable member for Bowman had studied this subject before he suggested that quotas of Asians should be admitted to Australia to resume the dirty work that was stopped by the people of this country in the early days of this century. As the honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Wight) apparently supports that suggestion, we might well wonder about the future policy of the Menzies-Fadden coalition in relation to the White Australia policy.
– Where does the honorable member stand in the matter?
– I stand for the preservation of the White Australia policy. The Labour party stands for that policy. It expresses our determination to exclude coloured races from Australia. We have no quarrel with the cry, “ Asia, for the Asians “. By all means, let the Asians live peacefully in their own countries. But the Opposition resents any person trying to bring in a quota system for the admission of Asians to our fair land. In view of the great deal of hysteria that has occurred in relation to this matter, it is interesting to recall the remarks of a great American jurist, Mr. Justice Douglas, who visited Canberra recently. He was asked by a supporter of the Liberal party -
What impact did the White Australia policy make on the people of Asia?
Th( reply of Mr. Justice Douglas gave the lie direct to the propaganda that has been indulged in. He said -
What impact did it make in Asia? - I never heard the matter discussed until I arrived in Australia.
The yellow press of Australia, which assisted the Government parties to retain office, and which would assist them to break down our great White Australia policy, should take notice of that comment, by Mr. Justice Douglas, which was made on the occasion of his entertainment by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), ar luncheon in Canberra.
– The honorable member for Bowman never suggested a breaking down of the White Australia policy.
– The honorable member for Bowman definitely suggested the introduction, on trial, of a quota system to permit Asians to come to sunny Queensland. A very interesting article on this subject appeared in the Australian Worker of the 11th August, under the heading -
Why “ White Australia “ was horn.
War on Kanaka Slavery and Alien Harems.
Piebald Quotas not wanted.
After tracing the history of the introduction of slave labour onto the Queensland sugar plantations, the article stated -
This hair-raising exposure emanates from tha lips of a former Tory Postmaster-General (ifr. Samuel Mauger), : who joined with several Labour parliamentarians in addressing a Footscray gathering in IBO I on the threat to Australia’s standard of living, spiritually and economically.
I remind the committee that members of the Liberal party were called Tories in those days. The article went on -
Communism is atheistic. But even the Red materialists would have had to don their spiked-shoes to excel the foul conditions reported from the cane-fields by former PostmasterGeneral Sam Mauger. No Australian - except a disciple of Judas - can read this forthright exposure of Black Australia slavery without paying a tribute to the memory of the pioneering leaders, who fought to make Australia “ White “, and who bequeathed to present generations, the duty of keeping it so.
That is a rebuff to the honorable member for Bowman. Later, the article stated -
When pressed into a corner, the planters-
That is, the planters of Queensland, who, for their own benefit protected the slaves - said whites could not be depended upon. They got drunk, they struck, they organized for higher wages . . .
It is indeed amazing that the statements to which I have referred have been made in this Parliament by representatives of Queensland electorates. The article went on -
Mr. Mauger then referred trenchantly to the immorality rampant in Cairns. He men tioned this because he thought the moral aspect oi’ thu case interested the mothers of Australia’s sons and daughters as well as the fathers . . . They learned that the Kanakas rose at 5.30 in the morning and worked all the hours of daylight that God gave them. He saw the men at their meal. Saw the creatures, they were little better than animals, rush, well very like a dog to a bone - knives, forks or plates, there were none. They took their rations in their hands and made the best of it.
Apparently members of the Australian. Country party would be delighted if they could reduce the conditions of the people of Australia to that level. The report, goes on to say that at the end of their journey they were told that the sugar industry depended on the employment of kanaka labour.
– When was this 3
– In 1901. These conditions led to the abolition of black labour in the Australian cane-fields. When the people of Australia hear such speeches as have been made on this subject by honorable members opposite they should remember the lesson that was learnt in those days. The people should remember that lesson when they hear such speeches as that made by the honorable member for the Queensland electorate of Bowman, advocating that quotas of Asians, including kanaka slaves and slaves of other colours and creeds such as the Japanese and Indian coolies, should be brought into Australia in order to break down the high standard of life that has been built up over the last 50 years by the white Australian worker. Honorable members opposite do not believe in good conditions of work. They would like a return to the old slave days when the slave could be whipped to his work from morning to night for a paltry pittance. The article to which I have referred continued -
At Bundaberg they found the time expired Kanaka walking the streets. There they saw the Chinese and Japanese harems. There also they saw the Australian children contaminated by their contact with aliens, and there they began to arrive at some of their deductions.
The Australian Country party would like a similar state of affairs to exist now. The article went on -
They were told that Kanaka labour could not be done without, but he was there to affirm that the whole question was one of pounds, shillings and pence.
Putridprofit! Australian Country party members -wouldlike -to ‘bring these conditions bp Australia again so that . they might makeextra pounds, shillingsand -pence -out of , the blood,sweat and tears of the slaves. Mr . Mauger -was reported -as follows -
He -,was thesetoaffirm ; also . that thetraffic in humanblood,the dragging of fthesehalfedueated, half-developed men underthecondi- tions . hehad depicted, wasdetrimental . not only to northernQueensland,but to thewhole of Australia.
– Order! ‘The honorable member’s time has expired.
Mr.BEALE(Parramatta- Minister forSupply)[10.55].- If -thecommittee can tear its fascinated attentionfromthe history lesson of the honorable member for Watson (Mr, Curtin)I would like to bringthe subject up to date by about 54 years. Apparently, the honorablemember was speaking of alleged conditions which obtained in 1901. The White Australia policyhas not been made aparty matter in this chamber for a number of years and it oughtnot to be made a party matter now. Only a member such as the honorable member for Watson would attempt to make it a party matter. . I remind the committee that during the term of this Government, in order to make the position clear from time to time, statements have ‘been made by the responsible Minister asserting this Government’s adherence to what is known as the White Australia policy. In July, 1954, the Minister for Immigration (Mr, Holt), whom I representatthemoment, made a full statement on the matter in which he said-
Inviewof speculation and controversy appearing in pressrecentlyregarding some restrictive aspects of Australia’s traditional immigrationpolicy,Ifeelitdesirabletore- stats’ the general . viewof the Governmenton thisimportantquestion.. The “Prime Minister, other Ministers, and -myself, as Minister for Immigration, have, at various -times, made it clearthatthis Government stands four-.square behind the maintenance of that policy. Speaking on St in 1949, Mr. Menziessaid-‘ “Itbecomes necessary for me to state,I hope clearly and certainly “quite shortly, the attitude ofmycolleagiie.sand myself towards Australia’s’ national immigration policy anil ifas administration. Ever since the legislative expression of that policy 48 years ago it has beenadministeredandupheldwithout major amendment by labour Governments for something like sixteen -years and bynon-Labour Governments for something like 32 years. It will he , seen that iall political parties . haye stood in . relation ito this policy on completely common -ground.
Inthecourse of my own -address to ithe ThirdAustralianCitizenshipConventionin 1952, I stated thatour -policy , ofrestriction wasnotbaised fin anynotion , of (racial superiority but on a frank and realistic . recognition that there are important differences of raceculture : aaideconomicstandardswhich makesuccessful . assimilationunlikely, and that anyotherpolicy would lead tosocial problems whichhave seriously disturbed the- communitylifein countrieswhere European andAsiancultureshavecome together.I gavetheConventionanassurancethat wewould maintain a general policy . designed to preserve the “homogeneity of -the Australian natfion. ‘The presentGovernmenthas not wavered initssupport of this policy which. hasplayedso important a partinthebuilding of the Australian nation.
That authoritative ministerial statement whichwasmade onlya couple of months ago will satisfy all honorable members thatthe honorable member for Waitson spoke in violentdisregard ofthe truth in making his wild, reckless ‘and wicked statement.
– He is irresponsible,
– Of course he is irresponsible. Having disposed of that piece of irresponsible nonsense, I propose to deal with the subject of immigration quotas. ‘The ‘Government does not . support the proposition for the admission pf quotas of non-European immigrants into this country. ‘That proposition has been put forward from time to time by individual persons who are entitled -to state t’be’ir own views, but it is not the view of the Government. The example of the United States of America is often cited. I point out to the committee that the American quota system embodies quotas for ^European, as well as for nonEuropean, ‘immigrants. ‘The quota system that we hear talked about in Australia applies not to Europeans, but only to ron-Europeans. It immediately gives rise to a form of discrimination. The very thing that is put forward as the cure for discrimination, and as a method of avoiding the giving of offence to pur Asian friends, will itself in turn give similar offence, because it is discriminatory. It is only a question of degree. A quota is just as discriminatory as is the policy that is criticized, and, therefore, it isequallyas offensive, if offence is to be taken, as is’any other form of restriction-. Tnat fact1 is acknowledged by the author of a.book published by the Indian Council1 of World! Affairs, who wrote -
The quota system may he adopted in the narrow national interests! but; let i*. be- clearly Uindesstoodv that; it; is no less- racial in its character.
Although” the’ ?bvernment does not believe- iff line: quota1 system this does noi. mean that, the. immigration policy is not to be administered sensibly and tolerantly, and that we shall be oafish and rude to our neighbours or to people- whom we- think-,, on economic and other ground’s, should not be. allowed to come to Australia in large, numbers. Ail it means is that, for the sake of Australia’s economic. future; and of our standards,, and. for many other reasons, some. o.? which are racial,, although certainly not. for raci’ali reasons alone,, we. are determined to select the type of persons, who- may/ come, to Australia. Every co.un.tey/ kas! the; r.igbfc, to> m&ke> suchi adbtefKBtngCion’. Some of-fche’eoramtries’tbajte have: advocated’ the quota1 system are- themselves among; the first, to insist, upon their right, to exclude every one; that, they/ wish to> Beep* out.,
I’ need say no moTe. about tne matter; Ast it was. mentioned by the honorable, member for Watson, I considered it appropriate-, to. make* the Government’sposition1 cFear. I. db so, too,, Because’, outside this cPramoer, in the 1’ast fere- months, representatives of other coiiiH^ies have made statement’s tnat showl’d! be replied to so that the matter shall1 be put beyond any doubt- One thing wiE damage what we call the White Australia, policy. It is the making of stupid, oafish and rude remarks, about the citizens of other countries. The. kind of statement that we have heard’ from tne honorable member for Watson, exacerbates! the hearts and minds of the: citizens of other countries. A reasonable- and tolerant, application of our immigration policy will not have that effect”.. All other countries acknowledge that- Australia, is entitled! to administer its. immigration policy/ as it wishes to do… Remarks siicii as those made by feEa honorable’ member for Watson arer the very deptB? of folly, and their only result will be to make foreign’ people angry with Australia. Let the> honorable member.’ whotalks about “‘black and wMti&’” and declares that, Australians, will not tolerate this’ and- tHat policy, remember that Australia needs friend’s.. Wei are; fewer than 9-,000,000; persons and we. are1 overshadowed to the north by more than; 1,000,000,000 people whose cultures ist different from ours.. It behoves’ us,, t’nererfore, to administer our policies in. our own way; but tolerantly,, decently andwith dignity,, and’, not to make threats’ or express views that are calculated1 to* insult, to oiffend and to make enemiesi. instead of. f uiends,, of those people.
Presentation to the Governor-General.
– (Hon. ArchieCameron). - Accompanied by honorable.members, I” waited this day on His Excellency the.- Govern or ^General at Government House, and presented to~ Mm. the Address-in-Reply to His Excellency’s’ Speech on the- occasion of the opening of the Eirst Session of the Twenty-first Par^ liament,, which., was agreed to by the House’ on the 2’4’th August. His Excellency was pleased1 tfo> make< the following reply : -
I desire to thanfc you; for the Address-in Reply which you have just presented to uie. ft’ will’ afford me much pleasure to convey to Her Most Gracious Majesty The Queen? ffhV Message.- of Hoyalty, f rom the. Bouse of- Repie sentatives of the CommonwealSfch ofi Australia, to which, the Address gives expression.
Motion (by Sir. Eric Harrison) proposed -
Ilia*, the; Bouse do> now adjourn;,
.- Mr. Speaker-
Motion (by Sir Ebic. Harrison.) put -
That the question be now put..
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon.ArchieCameron.)
Majority … . . 17
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers were presented : -
Banking Act - Regulations, Statutory Rules 1954, No. 96.
Explosives Act - Explosives Regulations - Order directing Berthing of a Vessel.
Lands Acquisition Act -
Land acquired for postal purposes at Traralgon, Victoria.
Return of land disposed of under section 63.
National Debt Sinking Fund Act - National Debt Commission - Thirty-first Annual Report, for year 1953-54. ‘
National Health Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1954, No. 95.
Public Service Act -
Ap po in tments - Departmen t -
Defence Production - A. F. Kent.
National Development - J. K. Fitzgerald.
Supply - G. V. Dunne, W. J. Morley.
Regulations - Statutory Rules 1954, No. 94
Seat of Government Acceptance Act and Seat of Government (Administration) Act -
Ordinances - 1054 -
No. 14 - Companies.
No. 15- Sale of Goods.
No. 16 - Trustee Companies.
Regulations - 1954 -
Nos. 9 and 10 (Public Health Ordinance).
No. 11 (Motor Traffic Ordinance).
No. 12 (Machinery Ordinance).
House adjourned at 11.12 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
The figures to March 1951, are those compiled by the Department of Labour and National Service and because the coverage used is slightly different from that used by the Statistician, the figures shown above for months prior to March, 1951, varyslightly from those published by the Statistician.
s asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
With a view to encouraging land ownership by more working farmers and in order to facilitate land settlement firstly, by returned soldiers, secondly, by Australian-born citizens and thirdly, by immigrants, will he discuss with State Premiers the passage of legislation designed to limit the ownership of arable land to the acreage each such owner can farm personally or with the aid of his family?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows : -
The Commonwealth has some responsibility for soldier settlement and my Government has approached this problem generously and with sympathetic understanding of the needs of ex-servicemen - otherwise closer settlement is a matter for the States.
a asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Government Loans and Finance.
Mr.Ward asked the Treasurer, upon notice - 1.What amount was subscribed to the recent Commonwealth loan?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 14 September 1954, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1954/19540914_reps_21_hor4/>.