21st Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. Archie Cameron) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
Mr. Rowland James, as member for the division of Hunter, New South Wales, and Mr. Hubert Ferdinand Opperman as member for the division of Corio, Victoria, made and subscribed the oath of allegiance.
– Having in view an early debate on the South-East Asia Treaty Organization and the obligations that are imposed under the Anzus pact, can the Prime Minister inform the House of the views of the governments’ of the principal nations that are concerned in the claim that has been submitted by Indonesia to the United Nations organization in relation to Dutch New Guinea? In particular can he state what are the views of the Dutch Government, the Indonesian Government and the Government of the United States of America?
– The right honorable gentleman rightly describes this matter as one of. immense importance. It is one on which the Government, having regard to the interests of Australia, has maintained a consistent line. The Minister for External Affairs will be back in Australia in, relatively speaking, a few days’ time - before the end of the month - and I should think the House would agree that, after his return, he should make a full statement on that matter and other matters that have engaged his attention.
– We shall not know anything then.
– Even the honorable member for Watson will be able to speak during the ensuing debate.
– Can the Minister for
Social Services say when the increases made in respect of age, invalid and widows’ pensions, and wives’ allowances, will be paid? .
– The increased age and invalid pensions; and wives allowances, will be paid on the 14th October and the increased widows’ pensions will be paid on the 19th October.
– I ask the Minister for Health whether it is a fact that pensioners who enter a public ward of a public hospital receive the full government hospital benefit ‘of 12s. a day, whereas pensioners who enter a private hospital receive a benefit of only8s. a day? lathe Minister aware that, due to the unavailability of accommodation in public hospitals, many pensioners are forced to enter private hospitals, and, consequently, do not receive the full benefit of 12s.a day? In view of this fact will the Minister issue instructions that pensioners who are patients in private hospitals shall receive the full benefit of 12s. a day?
– The payment of the benefit of 12s. a day in respect of pensioners who are patients in public hospitals is in accordance with an agreement made between theStates and the Commonwealth, which was ratified by this Parliament. No such agreement exists regarding pensioners who are patients in private hospitals.
– Will the Minister arrange for negotiations with the State governments with a view to having an allowance of 12s , a day paid in respect of pensioners who have to enter private hospitals because of the overcrowding of public institutions ?
– The arrangement that I have mentioned, which was authorized by this Parliament, provided that the whole of the charges that the State governments would put upon pensioners should be met by the 12s. a day that the Australian Government offered to pay. If people desire to pay for attention in certain government hospitals where there are private wards, that is a matter entirely for themselves, because the hospitals have complete control of the beds. With regard to pensioners in private hospitals, I should like the honorable member to indicate how the matter could be dealt with. The Department of Health has given a great deal of thought to it, and has not been able to discover any way of dealing with the present great number of hospitals in order to ascertain, when a pensioner enters a private hospital, whether there are any beds available in public hospitals or whether their friends are paying their fees for them in the private hospitals.
– Will the Minister for the Army advise me whether there is any truth in reports that, the rising sun badge of the Australian Army is to be abandoned? As this badge is the traditional symbol of the Australian Army will the Minister, or the Government, if the report is true, review the decision and so avoid giving offence to the Australian people?
– No change has been made or suggested. The official badge of the Australian Army is, to-day. the rising sun badge. It has not been changed, and it is not contemplated that it will be changed.
– Is the Minister for Immigration aware of the very unsatisfactory state of affairs in the sugar industry in Queensland due to the unsatisfactory type of immigrant that has been sent to sugar districts this season? Has the Minister received a request from the Australian Cane Growers Association asking that the Government permit two men, to be selected by the cane-growers, to go overseas in order to select labour for next year’s harvest? If he has received such a request, has he considered it? If he has not, will he give consideration to the particular kind of person that is required for the harvesting of sugar cane, and, with that in view, allow the suggestion by the association to be put into effect?
– I have been made aware of some complaints regarding the movement of immigrant labour in the sugar districts, and I have bacl an examination made of developments in those districts in recent weeks. One conclusion to which I have been able to come, and of which 1 am. sure the honorable gentleman will be delighted to learn, is that there has not only been a very much greater produc tion of sugar so far this year, compared with the same period last year, but also that the movement of sugar out of the ports of Queensland is considerably higher than it was at a corresponding stage last year. The amount of sugar produced up to this stage last year was 40,000 tons less than has been produced so far this year, and 70 per cent, of it had been despatched ; whereas, at the present time, not only has production increased by 40,000 tons, but 75 per cent, of the total production has been shipped from Queensland ports. I think that the honorable member will agree that that is a very creditable performance, all round. [ am not discounting the fact that there have been labour difficulties, but I wish to assure the honorable gentleman that I have examined, entirely sympathetically, the, proposals that have been put forward by the representatives of the sugar industry. I think that we can meet their requests in regard to the majority, if not all, of the points that they have stressed to us. I shall shortly be in communication with the persons who have written to us in connexion with this matter, and I shall see that the honorablemem ber receives a copy of the correspondence.
– Can the Minister for Labour and National Service say whether the Government intends during the present session of the Parliament introduce legislation to amend the Stevedoring Industry Act?
– The Department of Labour and National Service has for some time been considering a number of matters relating to the waterfront. Wo; are by no means satisfied - and I think this is true of most people in this country - with the performance on the waterfront, particularly in recent months, and I have done a good deal of preparatory work through my department. On various occasions, discussion has been held with representatives of the shipowners, the stevedoring companies, the Waterside Workers Federation and the trade union movement generally. I hope to be able to present some proposals to Cabinet for consideration shortly, but whether they will be given legislative effect during the current session remains to be determined.
– Is the Minister for Supply aware that, in response to the pleas of various governments, the’ Australian coal-miners have now increased the production of coal to such a degree that some mines are closing down and thousands of miners have been given notice that their services are no longer required? As Africa is now crying out for coal, could efforts be made to obtain markets for Australian coal in that country? Has the Minister read in the newspapers that a committee representing business men and mine workers has been set up on the northern coal-fields, with the object of resurrecting the old proposals, about which I have spoken often in this chamber, for the extraction of oil from coal?
– Order ! What is the honorable member’s question?
– I should like to know whether the Government will have further investigations made of the extraction, not only of oil but also of other very valuable by-products, from coal. The New South Wales Government is willing to co-operate in any such scheme.
– This matter come3 within the jurisdiction of the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner). I shall refer the honorable member’s question to the Minister, and I am sure he will provide an answer in a short time.
– Can the Minister for Supply say at this early stage whether sufficient opportunity will be available to students at Sydney University, as well as the University of Technology in Sydney, to be trained at the big atomic research station that this Government proposes to build? In order that the public, and particularly students, may be encouraged in this great field ‘ of study, will the Minister take the earliest opportunity to give some details of the facilities proposed to be made available in this connexion ?
– In a statement on this matter issued recently, the Government indicated that the training and research reactor which is to be built by the Atomic Energy Commission, would he used to train people from industries, the universities, and other bodies, as is done in Great Britain and the United States of America by the respective atomic energy commissions in those countries. That certainly would include Sydney University as well as other universities in Australia. It is too early to make any detailed statement- about this matter, but, from time to time, as developments occur, statements will be made so that the public will be kept informed.
– Oan the Minister for Supply inform the House whether the agreement with the British Government for a joint atomic research programme will provide for close liaison with State governments who are building hydro or thermal power stations, particularly the Tasmanian Government? I point out that Tasmania has developed more than 1,500,000 horse-power of hydro-electric power, and that for some time the State has been- spending an average of £1,000,000 a month on power schemes.
– The arrangements announced recently are directed to the question of research and the building of a research reactor for the purpose of gathering knowledge to enable the building of, in the not far distant future, industrial atomic reactors. That is a somewhat different matter from that which, I think, the honorable gentleman has in mind. That kind of a programme does not necessitate, in my opinion, close liaison with State governments in the matter of the actual generation of electric power, certainly not at this stage. However, we have, as a member of the scientific advisory committee of the Atomic Energy Commission, a Mr. Vivian Brain, who is quite an eminent person in the field of power generation, being a senior civil servant, on the electrical engineering side, in the employ of the New South Wales Government. I have no doubt that he will have discussions with State authorities from time to time, so that a liaison will be kept.
– The question that I direct to the Minister for Supply follows upon the question asked by the honorable member for Bennelong. Will the Minister give favorable consideration to the building of the atomic station in a position west of the Blue Mountains in New South Wales so as to remove this proposed valuable unit of our defence and industry from the seaboard? Will the Minister also make a statement to the House which will make clear to honorable members the intentions of the Government in regard to atomic energy and include the price paid for uranium and other important information associated with the development of atomic energy ?
– No statement will be made concerning the price paid for our uranium. The actual site of the research reactor which is to be built by the Atomic Energy Commission will be determined upon the best advice which the Government can obtain.
– I desire to ask the Prime Minister a question, and I point out, by way of explanation, that steel shortages in South Australia, are seriously interfering with that State’s economic structure, and that important developmental plans are being delayed owing to the non-delivery of steel from the eastern States. As there are approximately 35.000 tons of steel products in Newcastle and Port Kembla awaiting shipment to South Australia, will the right honorable gentleman ‘confer with the Minister for Shipping and Transport with a view to making shipping available so that this steel, which is so urgently needed in South Australia, can be delivered?
– I shall he very glad to discuss that matter with the Minister for Shipping and Transport.
– Can the Minister for the Interior expedite the granting of my request for a film of the great project of water harvesting and pasture irrigation at the University Farm at Badgery Creek? I ask this question because, at present, worsening drought conditions in New South Wales have caused an intense interest to develop in this brilliant method of not only relieving feed shortage but also spectacularly increasing production and soil fertility.
– I am sorry to inform the honorable member for Macarthur that we have not yet been able to send any one down to University Farm at Badgery Creek. Quite a lot of work backed up during the Royal visit, because the film production unit was engaged at that time on the making of the film of the Royal tour. I understand from inquiries that our people have made of the film unit, that a film dealing with this work would probably be a very good item for the Australian Diary, and a cameraman will shortly be sent down to Badgery Creek to examine it from, that point of view, and the possibility of making a film.
– My question . is addressed to you, Mr. Speaker. Will you cause to be issued to new members of this House a list of prohibited phrases and words, the use of which will incur your displeasure, so that honorable members may refrain from offending you and the House by using expressions which are accepted in other places but are banned here?
– That list is available to honorable members. If the honorable gentleman wants one, I shall endeavour to supply him with it; but I can assure him that his experience here will be that honorable gentlemen are always exercising their ingenuity, from time to time at any rate, to add to that list.
– Has the Minister for Immigration yet had time to examine the figures relative to British migration? If he has done so, will he indicate to the House whether or not he feels that Australia is getting a satisfactory quota of British immigrants? Can he also indicate whether or not Australia’s quota is favorable in comparison with the quota being received by other British Common-wealth countries?
Hr. HOLT. - I keep under regular examination the figures of migration movements, including, of course, those from the United Kingdom. The honorable member for Lilley has referred to a quota, and I wish to point out to him and to the House that no quota exists in respect of British migrants. This Government has never placed any limit on the number of people who could come to this country from the United Kingdom or from other’ British sources. Indeed, I believe that we have done more than the government of any other country in the Commonwealth to encourage people to come here from the United Kingdom. Any person of sound health who can secure a relative or friend in Australia to nominate him and his family, can come here on the payment of £10 for an adult, £5 for a child between, sixteen and nineteen years of age, and free for a child under the age of sixteen years. That scale of charges has existed for many years, despite increases in the costs which we, as a government, have had to shoulder. Indeed, we give more encouragement than that, because we have instituted a scheme of Commonwealth nomination, under which we provide accommodation at this end for selected British migrants, and pay their fares as well. The result has been that over the post-war years Australia has attracted more immigrants from British sources than has any other part of the British Commonwealth, whilst the number of those immigrants represents 49 per cent, of the total intake. However, we are by no means satisfied with the rate of flow at present, and we are doing all we can to stimulate it. I suggest that honorable members should not be misled by figures which aTe published periodically by the Statistician. Of course, it is not the intention of the Statistician to mislead, but the fact is that such figures lump under one heading permanent departures from Australia which includes Australians, as well as people of British origin, who leave this country for a period of twelve months or longer. In order to cover that phase of the subject adequately I should have to make a supplementary statement,- which I shall do. I assure the honorable member that during the period of office of this Government and also of the preceding
Government, immigration from British sources has been in the forefront of our immigration programme, and, as I have said, we have been successful in attracting more British immigrants than has any other British country.
– I ask the Minister for Immigration whether it is a fact that since their inception five annual Australian citizenship conventions have been held in Canberra at a cost to the Australian taxpayer of approximately £37,000 ? Is that expense, which includes the cost of travel and accommodation for the invited guests, charged against the vote for the Department of Immigration under the heading of assimilation activities ? If those are facts, will the Minister state how the business of the conventions is related to assimilation activities, and can he give some illustrations of the practical achievements of the conventions in that direction?
Mi-. HOLT. - It is a fact that five Australian citizenship conventions have been held in this country. I understand that the original decision to hold an annual convention of that nature was made by my predecessor in office, and I was delighted to adopt a policy decision which I felt had so much value for the successful carrying out of the immigration programme. It is true that the expenses of the conventions are charged against the Government accounts under the heading of assimilation activities for this very good reason - much of the assimilation work in Australia is, I am happy to say, carried out in an entirely voluntary capacity by tens of thousands of publicspirited Australian citizens in all parts of this country, who are members of welfare, church, employer, . employee, and other organizations which have the public interest at heart. They have associated themselves in what I believe is a unique organization in the world ; that is, our good neighbour movement. They try to make the new settlers feel at home when they come to Australia, and they arrange for the successful absorption of the settlers and their families into our community life. Once each year we bring to Canberra about 200 delegates, representative of those very worth-while bodies, who discuss with senior officers of the Department of Immigration and of the State government departments concerned, the successful working out of the immigration programme based on the experience of the preceding year and ‘on the knowledge of all that we have in mind for the following twelve months. It is true that each year the cost is about £7,000, £8,000. or even £10,000, but I know of no better investment that this country is making than the payment of expenses on such an occasion for the number of public spirited persons who are, in the main, giving their services entirely voluntarily throughout the year to make our immigration programme the great national success that we believe it to be.
– Can the Minister for Supply say whether the Atomic Energy Commission has been in close touch with the Queensland Government regarding discoveries of uranium-bearing ore in the Mount Isa-Cloncurry district in northwestern Queensland ? Is the chairman of the commission at present at Mount Isa? Does the Government intend to erect a treatment plant at Mount Isa or Cloncurry, or does it intend only to establish an ore-buying centre at either of those towns, notwithstanding the fact that Rum Jungle is 1,000 miles distant from the area ?
– It is a fact that the Atomic Energy Commission has been in close touch with the mines authority in Queensland concerning the discovery of radio-active material in the Mount IsaCloncurry area. It is also a fact that Mr. Stevens, the chairman of the commission, accompanied by Mr. Clark, of the Queensland Mines Department, is at present at Mount Isa. In reply to the honorable member’s last question, it is not the present intention of the Australian Government to build a treatment plant in that area. This matter has been canvassed frequently, and it should be said that it would be quite foolish for anybody to erect a treatment plant until they were sure that there were enough reserves of ore in the district to justify the expenditure on such an undertaking which might amount to anything from £500,000 to £1,000,000. At present, although the indications of ore in the area are very favorable, by no means sufficient ore has yet been proved to exist there to justify the erection of any such plant. I have no doubt that if and when a sufficient ore body is proved to exist in the area somebody or other will build a treatment plant there.
– Is the Minister acting for the Postmaster-General aware that in the north-we3t of New South “Wales a number of soldier settlement areas are awaiting telephone installations? Is he also aware that in some -instances the private portions of subscribers’ lines have been erected for two years or longer? Can he say what action is being taken by the department to provide its section of these lines in order to make telephone services available to these applicants?
– I am aware that there has been a delay in connecting at least one soldier settlement with the telephone service. I understand that this delay was due mainly to the fact that applicants in that section were not prepared to accept the local service which was established in January last year. It is now proposed to establish a rural automatic exchange in that area. The department is pushing on with that work, and it is expected that all of the soldier settlers concerned will be connected within the next four months.
– Will the Minister for the Army give further consideration to the proposition put forward by me some time ago regarding the Long Bay rifle range? Is it a fact that this valuable land is badly needed for the purpose of building homes for workers, many of them ex-servicemen, who are employed locally in various industries connected with defence projects, such as General Motors.Holden’s Limited and Imperial Chemical Industries of Australia and New Zealand Limited? Will the Minister take immediate steps to established the range in a position much nearer military encampments and so make this valuable lan( available for building purposes?
– The honorable gentleman’s request has been considered by many governments, including the previous Labour Government, and by myself over a long period of time. I can hold out no hope that this rifle range will be abandoned. It is essential for the defence of the country.
– Following my representations to the Minister for the Navy regarding the necessity for a preliminary hydrographic survey of the Gulf of Carpentaria, to ascertain whether it is possible to construct a port or provide facilities for beach-landing craft, and so make possible a more rational approach to the long-term development of that area, will the Minister say whether he has had a chance to consider this matter ? If so, has he come to any conclusion, and can he tell the House of any action which is to be taken?
– I have discussed the matter raised by the honorable gentleman with members of the Naval Board. I have been very anxious to step-up, as much as possible, hydrographic surveys of the coast of Australia, particularly as it is such a lengthy coast line. So far as the Gulf of Carpentaria is concerned, we have made preliminary arrangements for an early examination of an area 15 miles west of Massacre Inlet and, on the east, to Bailey Point, a distance of approximately 55 miles. It is expected that it will be possible to find a place for a port, together with suitable provision for large type landing craft in the area. I hope that the work will be undertaken this financial year.
– I understand that an agreement has been entered into between the Commonwealth and South Australia concerning the standardization of railway gauges in that State, and that certain work has been carried out already. I should like the Prime Minister to inform me of the progress that has been made towards connecting the South Australian railway line with the railway line to Broken Hill, on the standard gauge, and when the work is likely to be completed, particularly in connexion with the taking over of the Silverton Tramway Company Limited ?
– I shall have the question conveyed to the Minister for Shipping and Transport and have an answer provided.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether it is a fact that, in a recently-published book, of which a United States major-general who was associated with the Commander in Chief of the Allied forces in this theatre of operations during World War II. is the author, it is stated that, upon their arrival in Australia, they found that; -
To defend their home continent, the Australians had only one ready combat division (others were in North Africa).
The Australian Chiefs had drawn a line in front of Brisbane and they planned to defend that line to the death.
In an atmosphere of terrible apprehension, plans were completed to abandon New Guinea and to scorch the earth above the Brisbane line.
If so, will the Prime Minister take action to correct the series of untrue statements that have emanated from himself andother members of the Liberal party and the Australian Country party to the effect that, when the previous Government led by himself left office in October, 1941, Australian defences had reached a high stage of efficiency? Is he now prepared to admit that, during the early years of the war, there existed a Brisbane line strategy whereby large areas of Australian territory were to be abandoned to the advancing Japanese?
– I would not have it thought that I do not understand the desire of the member to dwell on the past instead of the present. I am familiar, of course, with the Brisbane line argument. There was a royal commission about it which was appointed by the then Labour Prime Minister, and the member for East Sydney, with singular courage, having made allegations, went before the royal commission, and claimed privilege, and crawled out. The only other thing that I want to say about the Brisbane line is that the member for East Sydney must not ask me about it. In the book that he has mentioned there is a reference to the period of time of February-March, 1942. The country was relieved of my services as Prime Minister in August, 1941. I would not know whether there was a Brisbane line-
– Oh, yes you would.
– I would not know whether there was a Brisbane line in January or February, 1942, because, if there were, it was invented by the member for East Sydney.
– Major-General Willoughby - -
– I understood perfectly the references by Major-General Willoughby to the state of apprehension. Nobody ever saw it more perfectly exhibited than by the member for East Sydney.
– Has the Minister for the Interior under consideration proposals referring to valuations and rentals in Canberra? Will one effect of those proposals, if adopted, be to increase very substantially the rents charged on older government cottages? Are “the majority of the tenants who are likely to be affected by the proposed increases, people on modest incomes in the suburbs of Ainslie, Braddon, Reid, Turner, Kingston and Griffith? If the Minister decides on the course of action suggested, will he allow ample time for public debate and- representation before implementing the increases, which might double the economic rent of some cottages? Has the Minister an alternative proposal to reduce the rents of new dwellings ?
– The honorable member has obtained his information very quickly. I signed the document relative to this matter about half an hour ago. The proposal has been under consideration for some time. The rents of many of the older homes in Canberra are very low compared to’ those of the new houses that are being occupied by the younger generation. The intention is to have a complete review of rents and valuations in Canberra in order to adjust the anomalies. This will undoubtedly result in the raising of the rents of some, if not all, of the older homes - when I say “older”, I mean the pre-war ones - and
I hope, the reduction of the rents of many of the dwellings that have been constructed since World War II.
– I ask the Minister for the Interior whether it is a fact that the Department of the Interior occupies many rooms or buildings throughout Australia, which it refuses to vacate and for which it pays lower rentals than were paid when it acquired those premises more than ten years ago, taking into consideration the increase of rates that has occurred in the meantime ?# Will the Minister consider either paying increased rents, or vacating those premises?
– It is rather a large order to be expected to reply to such a question without notice. Various government departments are still occupying, in almost every capital city, large areas of office space, that were taken over during the war under the National Security Regulations. The Department of the Interior has tried to relinquish and, to a degree, has succeeded in giving up much of that space which was urgently needed for other purposes, but, unfortunately, it still retains a large number of those offices. In various ways we have attempted to meet the situation and do what might be said to be the fair thing, but it is not as easy as it sounds on the surface, largely because of difficulties caused by the fair rents tribunals and a lot of State legislation. Until we can proceed with the first stages, at any rate, of the provision of accommodation in new buildings in the capital cities, we cannot do much more than we have done up to the present.
– I address a question to the Prime Minister. In view of the urgent interest of many hundreds of thousands of home-seekers in Australia in the provision of co-operative home finance, will the right honorable gentleman inform me when he will be in a position to make a statement to the House, in accordance with his promise, about the provision of increased finance for co-operative societies?
– I was under the impression that an answer to the question that the honorable member originally raised had gone to him, but if not, I shall ensure that he is given the full particulars of the matter.
– Will the Minister for Air confirm or deny current rumours that the Corowa aerodrome is to be taken over by the Royal Australian Air Force and used for flying training?
– I have had no word about that matter at all, and I have no knowledge of it. I ‘believe that it is a rumour completely without foundation.
Assent to the following bills, reported : -
Audit Bill 1954. Social Services Bill 1954. Repatriation Bill 1954. Seamen’s War Pensions and Allowances Bill 1954.
-(Hon. Archie Cameron). - I have received from the honorable member for Burke (Mr. Peters) an intimation that he desires to submit a definite matter of urgent public importance to the House for discussion, namely -
The vast quantities of goods that have recently been imported into this country in excess of exports, the detrimental effects of this upon Australian industries essential to national security and development, and upon the employment of Australian workers, and also the consequent reduction of overseas funds vitally needed to obtain goods necessary to Australian development.
Is the proposal supported?
Sight honorable members having risen in support of the proposal,
.-First, I wish to direct my remarks to Australian secondary industries. About 150 years ago, the early white settlers of Australia made some of the goods that were necessary to their existence, including blankets, nails and boots, but practically until the end of the last century, most of the Australian people depended almost exclusively upon primary production for employment. Fifty years ago, there were 12,000 factories in Australia employing 250,000 persons. In the early 1930’s, prior to the great depression, and in the middle of that decade, the population of Australia was about 6,000,000, and 450,000 person were employed in factories. Now there are practically 9,000,000 people in Australia and, of that number, 1,000,000 are employed in secondary industries. So rapid has been the increase of secondary industries in Australia in recent years, that the value of the output from the Australian factories is greater now than the total value of the output of all our primary industries combined. Australian factories now manufacture at least half of Australia’s requirements in motor cars, totalling 180,000 vehicles a year. Two-thirds of the rolling stock needed in Australia is manufactured within its boundaries. The footwear and knitwear factories of Australia have the capacity to produce all Australia’s requirements. Aeroplanes and ships are built in Australia. Australian factories produce practically everything that is required in the way of manufactured goods, and they are able to do so only because Australian governments in the past, in their wisdom, protected the infant and growing industries of Australia by means of tariff walls.
I know that members and supporters of the Australian Country party and others believe that Australia is pricing itself out of the markets of the world. That is an old argument. The free traders of old said that we were pricing ourselves out of world markets as soon as we introduced tariffs, because it was. obvious that if a country had a higher standard of living than its competitors and paid higher wages than its competitors, itcommenced to price itself out of the markets of those competitors. But conditions in this country during recent years have been such that primary production has been very lucrative and, in the main, Australian graziers have been the recipients of vast incomes of up to ?50,000 a year. They are easily the wealthiest section of the Australian community. In reality, the payment of high wages to the population of every country is the solution of the difficulties from which the world is suffering. We shall overcome those difficulties, not by scaling down conditions of employment, but by raising them. The potential production of the world is so great that it is only by increasing the consumption of the peoples of the world, not only of primary products but also of secondary products, thai we can enable all to be employed and enable all to enjoy the higher living standards that we desire to see.
However, let me get on to the issue that confronts us at present. In 1951, this Government decided, by financial manipulations and the advancement of credit to importers, to encourage imports, and by the refusal of credit to manufacturers, to hinder the manufacturers of this country. A recession occurred, with the result that in March, 1952, 100,000 Australians were out of work. Then the Government, faced with that position, and faced also with the position that our overseas funds were diminishing at an alarming rate, introduced import restrictions.
– The Labour party objected to them.
– The Labour party did not object to them. It pointed out what should be done in connexion with the restrictions. However, the restrictions were imposed and, under their impetus, our overseas funds were enabled to recover partially. Then the Government eased the restrictions. The result is that to-day our overseas funds are diminishing again at an alarming rate. During the last three months, the adverse trade balances of this country totalled over £50,000,000. During the corresponding three months of last year, we had favorable trade balances totalling £83,000,000. From a trading point of view, our position has deteriorated during three months by nearly £150,000,000. The Government has panicked again and has said, “ We shall increase import restrictions. We shall make them more severe than they were.” If in 1951, when the prices of our primary products were at an alltime high and our receipts from overseas trading were greater than ever before in the history of this country, we had to impose import restrictions to safeguard our overseas funds, “what must be done now, when the prices paid for our products overseas are rapidly declining? The severity of the restrictions must become more and more intense. The Labour party, of course, says that the policy of increasing import restrictions until our overseas funds reach a certain level, then easing the restrictions, with the result that the overseas funds diminish, and then imposing restrictions again is not a policy that makes for the stability or advancement of the industries of this country, or for the financial stability of importers or exporters. On the contrary, it provides a harvest for the speculator and the gambler. The Labour party suggests that the Government should evolve other means of protecting our industries.
All over the world there are nations that are capable of producing greater quantities of goods than can be consumed by their own people, and they are manoeuvring for markets. They are employing all kinds of methods to get their goods into other countries. Australia cannot allow itself to become a victim of those manoeuvres. If it did, not only would our industries be destroyed, but also our people would be put out of work and our national survival would be endangered. The Tariff Board has had something to say in relation to such manoeuvres, and it has offered some suggestions about the manner in which the the Government should proceed to overcome the difficulties that confront the nation. The Tariff Board, in paragraph 26 of its report for the year ended the 30th June.. 1954, made the following statement: -
Exercising their rights under the United Kingdom-Australia Trade Agreement, representatives of United Kingdom industries almost invariably appear at inquiries in opposition to requests for increased protection.
Then it went on to point out that, where the raw material is manufactured in Great Britain and is required here, the overseas industry says to the purchaser in Australia, “You have to pay an immensely higher price for your raw materials than that paid by your competitors in Britain”. The result is that the British manufacturer is able to sell goods on the Australian market, or on any other market, at a lower price than that at which the Australian manufacturer can sell them.
The Tariff Board suggests that certain things should be done. In paragraph 43 of the same report, the Tariff Board suggests that the act should be amended to provide as follows : -
where the Minister is satisfied after inquiry and report by the Board that sales for export are at a price below a. reasonable price,
where there is detriment to an Australian industry, dumping duty be imposed . . .
The Government should consider the report of the Tariff Board, and it should ensure that Australia does not become the victim of dumping by another nation.
The Japanese are manufacturing goods very cheaply. They have trade agreements with European nations under which they send partly manufactured goods to those nations. The goods are partly processed in Europe, sent to this country,’ and sold as though they were European goods, with the result that the exporter gets the advantage of lower rates of tariff than those which would apply if the goods were sent direct from Japan. Australian manufacturers are at a disadvantage. I have referred in the House to electrical equipment that was retailed in Australia at lis, 9d. for each article, but which was being sold in the country of manufacture, that is Great Britain,’ at 17s. (3d. Why is that being done? Are those fair trading practices? They certainly are not fair. The Vice-President of the Executive Council (Sir Eric Harrison) may say that the industries that are concerned have only to prove that such things are occurring and the Tariff Board will take action. I remind the Government that the small industries cannot obtain that information. The Government should initiate inquiries to ascertain whether trading operations are legitimate. As soon as the Government receives a complaint, which is supported by evidence, that trading operations are as the Australian manufacturers suggest they are, it should take the initiative in conducting investigations.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
Motion (by Mr. Daly) negatived -
That the honorable member for Burke (Mr. Peters) he granted an extension of time.
– I have never seen the honorable member for Burke (Mr. Peters) so devoid of argument in this House as he has been on this occasion. The honorable member has been more concerned about other matters. He has not been in a position to devote his attention to the formulation of an argument on the subject that he has raised. The matter that he has raised has to do with the vast quantity of goods that have been imported and their effect upon our balance of payments. But what has the honorable member done? He has attacked the general tariff system ; he has spoken about dumping, duties; he has spoken about everything but the matter that he has raised. Let me repeat portion of the proposal and then deal with it, because it should be dealt with. It states -
The vast quantities of goods that have recently been imported into this country in excess of exports, the detrimental effects of this upon Australian industries essential to national security and development, and upon the employment of Australian workers . . .
Let me pause there. I propose to refer to some facts and figures to show that the premise of the honorable member’s proposal is completely wrong. Of the imports for 1952-53, only 10 per cent, were finished consumer goods. The balance represented producer materials, capital equipment, and auxiliary aids to production. The percentage to which I referred has been maintained since that year. The average for consumer goods imported into Australia has remained at less than 20 per cent., which means that, of all imports, the percentage required to assist industry and to aid employment in this country has been between 80 and 90 per cent. It will be seen that the first portion of the proposition is completely out of focus.
Let me be a little more specific in relation to this matter. I refer to the main classes of imports from April to June of this year. Producer materials for use in building and construction, for rural industries and manufacture, comprised more than 40 per cent, of our total imports. The percentage rose from 40.3 in April to 44.4 in June, and fell back to 44.3 in July. The average for fuels and lubricants fluctuated around 10 per cent., and for auxiliary aids to production between 3 per cent, and 4 per cent. The figure for capital equipment varied from 32.5 per cent, in April to 26.8 per cent, in July, an average of approximately 30 per cent. Together, the import of goods in these classes made up more than 80 per cent, of the total. The remainder, or less than 20 per cent., of the total, represented finished consumer goods. These are under close licensing control. They are almost all from non-dollar sources, and are in category B, which means that the value of licences is limited to 60 per cent, of the base year 1951. These figures, which I think it is important to place before the House, show that four-fifths of our imports are for industrial uses. They are to aid development and industry. That is to say, we are expending our overseas funds largely for the purposes that the honorable member has mentioned in his resolution.
– What about textiles and clothing?
– I shall deal with textiles in a moment. Now let us consider the level of employment in the light of the figures that I have given, because the honorable gentleman’s proposal deals with the effect of imports on employment. As all honorable members know, employment is at an all-time high in Australia. At the end of July, 1954, persons engaged in civil employment numbered 2,655,000. In July, 1953, the figure was 2,560,000. At the end of August the number of unfilled vacancies was 49,000, and the number of persons in receipt of unemployment benefit was 4,642. A year ago, this figure stood at 22,297. The House will appreciate the marked difference in the level of employment that has been brought about, yet the honorable member has claimed that employment is being adversely affected by imports. Of course, a number of people among the 4,642 who were receiving unemployment benefit at the end of August are physically handicapped, and cannot possibly keep in constant employment.
The Government is keeping a close watch on the level of imports and on the general balance of payments. It is perfectly true that imports have increased during the last few months and that during the same period exports have fallen. The decline of exports is, in part, a normal seasonal decline. There are also some variations in export prices, which will mean lower export earnings. The honorable member has made some reference to that aspect. In this current export year, since the 1st April, 1954, when many imports were licensed virtually without restriction, some importers took out licences for goods far in excess of their normal requirements. Those importers have thus obtained an advantage over other importers who took out licences to a value not greater than their current requirements. This had the effect of building up a large potential commitment against our international reserves and, as some of the licences issued may not be used, it is difficult to estimate how much of that commitment will crystallize. The Government wishes to see that the real needs of Australian industry for imported materials and equipment, that come within the NQR group, shall be met to the full extent that our balance of payments will allow. At the same time, the Government wants to preserve equity as between importer and importer and to ensure that individual importers will not be allowed to take out licences for an excessive volume of imports. The Government has accordingly set a basis for the licensing of goods within the NQR group that is more generous than it was before the 1st April of this year, and, whilst ensuring that all importers will be on the same footing in point of entitlement to licences, will keep our trade position, as the honorable member will appreciate, fairly balanced. The Government has decided to make changes, and believes that it is prudent to do so now rather than to run the risk of the- need for more drastic action at a later stage. I should like to refer the honorable member to the statement that was made by the Prime Minister in this regard.
I was rather astonished that the honorable gentleman did not touch on textiles, because that is usually the theme song of his questions in the House. He mentioned textiles only as an afterthought by way of interjection. If the honorable gentleman takes the trouble to inform his mind with regard to the industry in which he appears to be so interested, he will find that production in the textile industry, which increased rapidly after import restrictions were imposed, has been maintained since the balance of payments position has permitted relaxation of the restrictions. The figures in regard to the manufacture of textiles in Australia, in comparison with the volume of imports, are interesting. They are -
The same story can be told in regard to woven rayon piece goods. In 1950-51, before import restrictions were applied to non-dollar, non-Japanese countries, imports of woven rayon piece goods amounted to 71,200,000 square yards compared with a local production of 12,600,000 square yards. In the following year the level of Australian production had not risen, but imports had increased to 82,800,000 square yards. This position has changed radically. In 1953-54 Australian production increased by almost 100 per cent, to 23,700,000 square yards, whilst imports fell to 47,700,000 square yards, which is 58 per cent, of the level of imports in 1952-53.
Let us now see how employment in the textile industry was affected. In January, 1952, employment in the larger private factories in the clothing and textile industries in New South Wales and Victoria amounted to 69,882. In January, 1954, it had increased to 71,888. In August this year it had increased to 71,941. That is the latest figure avail-
Sir Erie Harrison. able. So, by whatever rule we may judge, production in Australia is increasing and employment in the industry has increased. The honorable member is saying, in effect, that the Government should use import licensing restrictions to protect Australian industry. I remind him that, purely as a result of the action of the last Labour Government, which committed Australia to the terms of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, we had to refrain from imposing import restrictions for the purpose of protecting Australian industry. The Labour Government, by its acceptance of the terms of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, removed the possibility of our using import restrictions for the very purposes that the honorable member now asks the Government to use them. It is perfectly true that import restrictions may be applied for the protection of the balance of payments but such restrictions must be relaxed as soon as possible. Although the Labour Government, which the honorable member supported, made it impossible for us to protect our industries by way of import licences, the honorable member now has the temerity to ask this Government to do that very thing. I put it to you, Mr. Speaker, that this discussion is ill-timed. It is a diversionary move by the honorable member for Burke to attract attention which otherwise might- be directed upon the affairs of the Labour party. The premises of his submission are false and his arguments have no substance. As I have said, production in this country has increased and imports have decreased. Only between 10 per cent, and 20 per cent, of our imports are finished consumer goods. The balance consists of capital equipment, aids to industry, and the other goods that I have mentioned. Employment is increasing in all industries, including the undertakings in which the honorable member for Burke is particularly interested. Therefore, his assertions are very easily disproved.
.- There is nothing diversionary about this matter. Indeed, the debate is most timely. The Vice-President of the Executive Council (Sir Eric Harrison) has made the textile and clothing industries his battleground; but surely he cannot be serious when he says that employment and production in those industries are increasing, and that imports are diminishing. His claims are at complete variance with the views of all reputable authorities. I shall quote, for the Minister’s information, from a statement that has been issued, not by the Labour party, but jointly by the Federated Clothing Industries Council of Australia and the Clothing and Allied Trades Union of Australia, in the early months of this year. That statement disproves the Minister’s arguments completely. The statement commences -
The mounting volume of imports of clothing is threatening the ability of the industry to employ one of the greatest single groups of workers in Australia; the stability of the national economy and the continued success of the Commonwealth migration programme.
Already employment in this industry has been gravely affected. The average number of employees in 1951-52 was 79,000. In 1952-53 this had fallen to 69,000.
I invite the Minister to note particularly the following passage: -
At least 102 factories have been forced to close their doors.
Surely that refutes the Minister’s claim about continuing employment and increasing production. The remarks of the honorable member for Burke were timely and logical. The statement by these reputable organizations proceeds -
The annual wages bill of the industry, in the two years, has fallen from £46,000,000 to £33,000,000 and the value of output from £159,000,000 to £111,500,000.
Subsequently, the statement makes the following very serious observation : -
Indeed, in an overall consideration of the altered Australian trade balance in 1953-54 compared to 1952-53 it is revealed that the increase in the volume of clothing and textile imports accounts for 45 per cent, of the altered trade balance.
Clearly, the honorable member for Burke has the support of reputable authorities. This debate has not been initiated merely to embarrass the Government. Our arguments are factual. In answer to the Minister’s claim that production of certain basic textiles and articles of clothing is improving, I point out that, for the fourth quarter of 1952, imports of worsteds were valued at £14,300. However, by the fourth quarter of 1953, that figure had increased to £87,500. In a year, therefore, imports increased by more than 600 per cent. The Minister referred to imports of woollen goods. Let me cite figures issued by the Commonwealth Statistician on that subject. For the fourth quarter of 1952, imports of woollen goods amounted to £36,500, but for the fourth quarter of 1953, imports of those goods had reached £123,900, an increase of more than 300 per cent. The Minister referred also to blankets. For the fourth quarter of 1952, the value of blankets imported into Australia - blankets made in England from Australian wool and sold in this country at enhanced prices - was £15,008, but for the fourth quarter of 1953 the value was £62,213, an increase of 400 per cent. The Minister said that the relaxation of import restrictions had had no marked effect on the Australian production of clothing and textiles. I have with me a letter that was sent to the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. McLeod) by the Warrnambool Woollen Mill Company Limited. The information that this letter gives about the affairs of that company is true also of textile mills in the electorate of the honorable member for Burke and in my own electorate. This is fact and not mere bluster. The letter cites figures supplied by nine textile mills to show how vitally employment depends o,n effective production. Before 1951, employees in the nine mills totalled 2,891. During the recession of 1951-52, the figure fell to 1,690. In June, 1954 - the last available figure - the number of employees was 2,358, a decrease of nearly 600 from the peak of 1951. These employees are trained operatives, and once they leave the mills it is very hard to get them to return, with the result that the management is faced with the problem of training new employees. Consequently, production is affected. The Minister claimed that there had not been any marked increase of imports of any particular item. I point out that for the year ended 1953, 14,734 men’s overcoats were imported into Australia. At the end of the first quarter of 1954, the figure was 1S,908, an increase in one quarter at the rate of nearly 74 per cent. It is ridiculous for the VicePresident of the Executive Council to say that there has not been a marked increase of imports. The Australian production of overcoats in 1949-50 totalled 243,280 but declined in the eleven-months period ended the 31st May, 1954, to 135,895’. Does the Minister seriously suggest that such a drop in production has not been accompanied by economic loss, and a reduction in employment in the industries concerned? I have here a letter from the Tweedside Manufacturing Company Limited, which points out that woollen cloths imported from Great Britain totalled 1,659,000 square yards in 1953, and 955,000 square yards in the first four months of 1954.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– I find it extremely difficult to. follow the arguments adduced by the honorable member for Burke (Mr. Peters). He has taken the opportunity afforded by the Standing Orders to discuss certain industries in which he i3 interested, and I do not blame him fordoing so. The honorable member for Hoddle (Mr. Cremean), who has supported the remarks of the honorable member for Burke, has been most voluble, and has given an extensive citation of figures relating to the industry in which he himself is very closely interested. As Opposition members have discussed import restrictions from those viewpoints, they can hardly cavil at my intention to examine certain other aspects of industry as they are affected by the restrictions.
I .recollect that the Government was faced with an extraordinary economic situation in 1951-52, and was obliged to impose most drastic import restrictions. At that time, Opposition members accused the Government of acting hastily, or, alternatively, of not acting quickly enough. Opposition members said that the Government had acted hastily in the sense that it had not given long notice to importers of its intentions, and had not taken action until after a long period of waiting, during which the flow of imports had increased. On that occasion, it was somewhat difficult for impartial observers on the side-line to decide exactly what Opposition members would have liked. At the present time, it appears that the Government has taken action reluctantly and very conservatively to counter the impact on the economy of an excessive flow of imports, having regard to some factors upon which we depend for the purchase of those imports, for debt services or, if you will, the payment of interest on our public debt, for so-called invisible imports, and for matters of that kind. Apparently Opposition members have overlooked the annual report of the Tariff Board for the year ended the 30th June, 1954. I find on page 11 of that document a passage that has particular reference to the matters mentioned by the honorable member for Hoddle. Under the heading “ Hours of Labour “, the following statement appears: -
There was a tendency to revert to increased overtime during 1952-53. This increase arose as a result of renewed orders for Australian factory products’ and dated from import restrictions imposed in March, 1952.
The important relevance of this paragraph now appears -
A survey of more than 700 factories in Victoria-
The honorable member .for Burke and the honorable member for Hoddle represent Victorian electorates - showed the following percentage of those factories as working overtime: -
I am prepared to admit that fluctuations in employment may occur in particular sections of industry from time to time, but it seems beside the point for Opposition members to claim that employment has been adversely affected in some way, when official figures reveal that employment has risen, and that overtime is worked in no fewer than 700 factories, which must .be a fair cross-section of industry in Victoria. The increase of the number of factories working overtime from 15 per cent, in June, 1952, to 34 per cent, in June, 1954, is substantial indeed.
The honorable member for Burke has raised, by implication, some very important matters, and, in the very limited time at my disposal, I shall discuss them. He has raised the whole matter of our internal economy, and our external economy in respect of our capacity to trade with, the rest of the world. Time will not permit me to deal with that matter, but I should like to emphasize, in passing, that the problem should not be faced from any parochial viewpoint. The honorable member for Burke has pointed out, quite rightly, that when wages are increased, hours of labour are reduced, and working conditions are improved, the tendency is to place the industries concerned at a disadvantage compared with those in other countries. The suggestion in his reference to the importation of vast quantities of goods is that Australian industries, on the basis of the present cost structure, cannot compete with the goods of other countries. That notion is not quite true. The great steel industry of Australia manufactures and sells its products at half the cost at which steel products can be imported. Other industries are also well established and highly efficient. But there was a time when, in the words of an economist who wrote during the period of office of the Chifley Government, the secondary industries of Australia were based on the sweated products of the land. That is a cold, hard fact. Australian secondary industries could never have been expanded to their present stage of development, had it not been for the tremendous peonage which was imposed upon the great primary industries. That condition of affairs inflicted great hardship on primary producers, and resulted in the running down of the land.
However, I do not propose to discuss that matter at length. It belongs to the past. What I wish to point out is that that day has passed, and that people engaged in the primary industries simply will not work a 50, 60 or 70-hour week, £f the employees in the secondary industries have a different set of conditions. Let us consider briefly the marketing position for our primary products in other parts of the world. Apart from wool, and now perhaps wheat, as the result of drought in Australia and elsewhere, practically every one of our primary products is confronted with marketing difficulties. The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. McEwen) has gone abroad to combat that situation. That, in itself, should make the Government cautious, as I am sure it will be, in gauging the limitation that it will place upon imports. I am reminded of the old simple and true statement that if one does not sell one cannot buy, and vice versa. If we do not buy from overseas, our markets outside this country will continue to contract. We need only look at the figures submitted in the budget to realize the significance of such a development to the economy of Australia. Last year, our imports were valued at £682,000,000, which was £171,000,000 in excess of the value of our imports for the preceding year. Our exports were valued at £816,000,000, and although that figure was £30,000,000 less than the value of our exports for the preceding year, nevertheless, it was comparatively high. The income represented in the value of our imports was earned through exports. Over 90 per cent, of our exports consists of primary products. These must be sold overseas not simply for the benefit of our primary industries, but also for the benefit of the community as a whole, because, ultimately, our standard of living, national wealth and capacity to obtain strategic materials depends upon our earning overseas. Thus, we are enabled to pay our way and to borrow additional money for the development of this great country.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- My colleague, the honorable member for Burke (Mr. Peters) has placed before the House a matter of transcending importance. For having done so he should be complimented by the Government, but, in fact, he has been assailed by the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Sir Eric Harrison). On this occasion, the Government has been given a second opportunity, which- it should not need, to profit from the advice that is offered by members of the Opposition on this subject. The facts that the honorable member for Burke has placed before the Parliament repeat the story which the Opposition first, recited more than a year ago. On that occasion, the Government’s attention was directed to our worsening trade position and to the fact that unless the drift was quickly checked we should have no alternative but to cut our imports drastically. Such action would have had dire results for our industries as a whole and would have gravely affected interests overseas which had been encouraged to gear their industries in order to meet Australia’s needs. In essence, the honorable member for Burke has repeated that warning. He has directed attention to the alarming drift that is taking place in our overseas trade. However, nothing will shake this Government out of its smug complacency. In the only reply made on the Government’s behalf, the Vice-President of the Executive Council merely retold old history. He also directed attention to the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade. It is obvious that the Minister does not realize the implications of that agreement. During recent months, our overseas balances, which act as a barometer in these matters, have been decreasing. Unless that drift is corrected, this trend will soon be made apparent in its heavy impact upon our home industries; and this will be followed by widespread unemployment of trade operatives as a result of the flood of imports. And, again, the Government, repeating its crass stupidity in similar circumstances a few years ago, will impose savage restrictions upon essential imports which are vital to the development of our manufacturing industries and our national resources as a whole-
That is the case which the honorable member for Burke has put to the Government. That is the warning he has sounded. He has asked it to act upon the advice he has tendered, having regard to those facts. The honorable member for New England (Mr. Drummond) cited the trade figures for last year. Hp. extracted those figures from a paper that was published some time before the final result of last year’s trading was known. They showed a heavy surplus of exports over imports, but the final figures, which took into account invisible items, showed that we finished our trading for the year with a deficit of £2,000,000. Our exports are now running at a far lower level than was the case last year whilst our imports are much greater than they were for the corresponding period of last year. Within a period of three months our trade position has worsened to the extent of £133,000,000 compared with the trading result for the corresponding three months of last year. Carrying that result through the whole year, it is obvious that we shall have a staggering trade deficit when the final figures are adjusted. In these circumstances, the honorable member for Burke has invoked the forms of the House to raise the matter because the Government is unwilling to face the obvious facts.
The General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade provides an organization which had no counterpart in the international sphere following World War I. At that time, no international machinery was available to enable countries to deal amicably among themselves in respect of trade, tariff barriers, and financial arrangements. The primary purpose of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade is to prevent a competitive raising of tariff barriers, because experience in the past has shown that such barriers have not been of benefit to any country. The agreement provides for co-operation between the contracting parties. The point I make, however, is that it does not debar any country from making intelligent use of tariffs in order to protect its industries and economy. The agreement embodies escape clauses for this purpose. The Vice-President of the Executive Council in citing that agreement as an argument against the administration of the Labour Government simply showed his lack of knowledge of the primary purpose of that agreement, and also of lack of appreciation of the ways in which Australian industries can be protected within its framework. The situation with which we are confronted to-day goes even deeper than is disclosed by the facts which the honorable member for Burke has placed before the Parliament. On previous occasions, members of the Opposition pointed out that the Government permitted and, in some- instances, even fostered, a high degree of prosperity among certain sections of the Australian community, and, at the same time, rejected more sensible forms of control that had been adopted in Great Britain and in other major-producing countries.
The principal result of this Government’s policy was to benefit the wealthy section of the community and encourage a heavy importation of luxury and semi-luxury goods. The Government must realize that the final solution of this problem will only be found in effective control of prices, a reduction of costs in industry and the adoption of intelligent controls of the kind that have been applied in other countries. However, we cannot expect this Government to adopt measures, of that kind so long as it remains subject to pressure from wealthy groups and so long as it is obliged to pay tribute to those interests in return for the support which they have given to it in the past and which it expects to continue to receive in the future. Not until this Government has been removed from office and has been replaced by an administration which is conscious of its responsibilities to the community and is prepared to ignore vested financial interests shall we be enabled to solve our present economic problems. We have told the Government what it should do, and we have also demonstrated what it is possible for it to do. Nevertheless, the members of the Government recline on the treasury bench and apparently are content to wait, day after day, for something to turn up. If the Government will not give effect to a sound, just, equitable and, at the same time, practical economic policy, before many months have passed it will be obliged to take stringent measures. It cannot fail to see the signs or heed the picture which is developing before its eyes. The Government must exclude some of the luxury or near luxury goods that are coming into Australia.
– Such as sewing machines !
– Instead of positive action by the Government, we have inane interjections from its supporters. Unless the importation of goods which are not needed in this country, and which compete keenly with the products of Australian industries, is restricted, before three months have passed it will be necessary for the Government again to impose the kind of savage restrictions which ended only recently. We, on the
Opposition side of the House say to the Government, “Take heed before it is too late”.
– Order! The honorable gentleman’s time has expired.
.- The time of the House has been taken up by debating the proposal put forward by the honorable member for Burke (Mr. Peters), although it is obvious that it does not concern a matter of urgency. It might be as well if I repeat the words of the honorable member’s proposition. Its purpose is to discuss -
Thu vast quantities of goods, that ha vo recently been imported into this country in excess of exports, the detrimental effects of this upon Australian industries essential to national security and development, and upon the employment of Australian workers and also the consequent reduction of overseas funds vitally needed to obtain goods necessary to Australian development.
One would expect that honorable members opposite who spoke during this debate would address themselves to the terms of the proposition and attempt to prove that imports have had a detrimental effect on Australian industries which are essential to national security and development. They might have been expected to demonstrate, also, how the volume of imports has affected the employment of Australian workers, and how our overseas funds have been reduced as a result of the volume of imports to such a degree that the possibility of obtaining goods necessary to Australian development, to use the words of the proposal, has been rendered more remote. During the last hour or so we have heard nothing from honorable members opposite that would tend to prove the existence of any of those things.
The honorable member for Burke, who opened the discussion, used phrases which were common in the Labour movement, 30 or 40 years ago. At that time they represented Labour economic doctrine, but the honorable member repeated them parrot fashion, without fully appreciating their meaning. The members of the Australian Labour party have lost the fire and the energy which made their predecessors a force in this House.
The honorable member for Burke declared that members of the Government and others have stated frequently that Australian industry is costing itself out of world markets, and he proceeded to prove that that statement had no substance. In doing so, he referred to the latest report of the Tariff Board, dated the 27th August last, which I think he twisted to suit his argument. I refer to the following passage which appears at page 5 of that report: - .
Two years ago spectacular measures were necessary to meet a balance of payments crisis - a crisis that arose because the value of imports greatly exceeded the value of exports. The remedy adopted was the enforced reduction of imports; a better remedy, had it been at hand, would have been an increase in exports. Australia should place itself in the position of being able to meet a similar crisis with the export remedy. This is less spec’tacular and less disruptive, but on the solid basis of unrestricted international trade, would bp more dignified and more effective. Ability to meet a similar crisis in this more acceptable way depends upon ability to cut costs.
Those words are not mine. If the honorable member is prepared to cite a report of the Tariff Board as authority for his case, I am happy to discuss the matter on that basis. The honorable member for Hoddle (Mr. Cremean) supported the honorable member for Burke, but devoted his remarks largely to the decline in the production of overcoats. It is well known that we have had warmer winters and general rain throughout Australia. during the last two or three years with the result that there has been a great increase in the manufacture of light plastic overcoats and a decline in the production of heavy woollen goods. It is simply one of the realities which the socialist doctrinaires ignore entirely.
Perhaps the most vital matter to which the proposition put forward by the honorable member for Burke refers is the effect of imports on Australian industries. Again, I refer to the report of the Tariff Board which the honorable member cited and with which the honorable member for Hoddle and the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Tom Burke) probably also have some slight acquaintance. On page f>. the following passage appears : -
The near-boom conditions in protected industries are partly the result of the import restrictions imposed in 1952.
It cannot be denied that the Tariff Board is an impartial and objective body.
Let us also look at another authority which I think will be acceptable to all honorable members. I refer to the latest report of the Commonwealth Bank. At page 14, the following passage appears : -
Employment in Australia rose considerably in 1953-54 and by June, 1954, it reached a level at which shortage of labour had developed. There were about 2,700,000 wage and salary earners in employment at the end of June, an increase of 86,000 over the year. The largest increases occurred in manufacturing industries, commerce, building and construction, with smaller gains in other main industrial groups.
During the last year or so I have frequently heard honorable members opposite state that employment in the building industry, which they regard as the basic Australian industry, has declined. The report of the Commonwealth Bank, to which I have just referred, indicates that employment increased, during the period under review, in the building industry as well as in manufacturing industries. It seems to me that the honorable member for Burke and his colleagues have done little service to the cause of Labour by bringing before the House such a proposal as this. The honorable member for Hoddle approached the subject in a fair-minded manner, but I think that he, unfortunately, had been led astray. The honorable gentleman referred to the sad state pf some woollen mills. The facts in Victoria, as they are known to me, indicate that some country mills had to close down because of the heavy burden of freight rates imposed upon them by the Victorian Government, or by agencies of that Government. I understand that situation is not confined to Victoria.
– It is worse in New South Wales.
– The honorable member confirms my view. If members of the Opposition wish the House to consider this matter seriously and conscientiously - and it is a subject that deserves our attention - with a view to improving the position, they should at least be honest and straightforward in. the arguments that they put to the House.
– Mr. Speaker-
Motion (by Sir Eric Harrison) put -
That the Business of the Day be called on.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. Archie Cameron.)
Majority . . . . 5
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Publication of Confidential Report in the “ Century “.
Debate resumed from the 29th September (vide page 1698), on motion by Mr. McLeay -
That the following paper be printed: -
Report relating to the alleged misuse of a confidential Hansard proof, together with minutes of proceedings.
– In view of the provisions of Standing Orders 345 and 346, I rule that the report of the Committee of Privileges cannot be debated on the motion that the paper be printed. That motion is out of order. However, I shall accept at once a motion that the report be agreed to or disagreed with.
Motion (by Mr. McLeay) proposed -
That the report be agreed to.
– Is the motion seconded ?
– I second the motion.
.- First of all, I want to complain about the paucity of the information contained in the report of the Committee of Privileges. The committee has not provided the House with details of the evidence that was submitted to it. All it has told us is that it called certain people before it to express opinions. The report does not include details of evidence given by those people, and we have not been provided with any advice on the subject by members of the committee. In fact, I think this has been a waste of the time of the House, and of the members of the committee in particular. The very member who raised the matter in the first place and made such play on it, the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett), did not appear before the committee, according to its report. He gave no information to it at all. One would naturally assume that any member of the House who wished to have a matter referred to the Committee of Privileges would at least have the courage to go before the committee and tell it what he knew of that matter. But the honorable member for Henty did not do so. He merely left the job to the committee.
Has there been a breach of privilege? The committee could have obtained an answer to that question merely by conferring with the Clerk of the House or with the Solicitor-General, who could have advised it whether any such breach had occurred. “What was worrying the honorable member for Henty ? Honorable members must bear in mind the circumstances in which this matter was brought before the Parliament. The honorable member for Henty complained that a weekly newspaper circulating in NewSouth “Wales had published so accurate a report that, so he said, it must obviously have been taken from the Hansard “flat” submitted to certain members of this Parliament and to government departments. Why should the Parliament worry if the newspaper report was accurate ? The time for it to worry is when misstatements and inaccuracies appear in press reports. What are the circumstances in which the report in question appeared? I realize, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that that matter may not be canvassed in this debate, and I merely refer to it. The report arose out of a matter concerning the selection of the judges to be appointed to sit on a particular royal commission, which was raised in this House. The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) had made certain statements to the House in reference to that matter, which merely vindicated every word that I have said about the careful selecting of the judges by the Prime Minister. That fact is borne out by what I said in this House at the time and by the Prime Minister’s reply. The honorable member for Henty became very disturbed because a New South Wales weekly newspaper was able to report accurately what I had said in this Parliament about the method of selecting the judges to sit on the royal ‘ commission.
I was not present at the meetings of the Committee of Privileges, and I do not know what evidence was given. The report of the committee certainly does not indicate the nature of the evidence. It merely intimates that certain people gave evidence or made statements to the, committee. I understand that the Clerk of the House, who has had great experience in these matters, is of the opinion, which. I believe, is confirmed by the SolicitorGeneral, that no actual breach of privilege was committed. What did the Committee of Privileges do ? The honorable member for Henty did not himself appear before the committee, and, so far as I can ascertain, he did not suggest that any one should be called to give evidence before it. All that happened was that the managing director of the Century newspaper in Sydney wa3 given a trip to Canberra at the Australian Government’s expense, and he was unable to tell the committee very much about the incident in question. As a result, as every honorable member must have been satisfied would be the conclusion, the committee was unable, to get far with its investigation and had to submit for the consideration of thi? House an innocuous report. The honorable member for Henty ought to be condemned by honorable members for wasting the time of the committee on a charge that he could not prove, and, evidently, did not attempt to prove, because he produced no evidence to support the allegations that he had made in this House I trust that this will be the last occasion on which such a frivolous matter will be referred to the Committee of Privileges.
– I have nothing to add to the report of the Committee of Privileges, which, as the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) has said, contains little enough. However, in view of what the honorable member has said, perhaps I should make my position plain. As I am sure you. Mr. Deputy Speaker, will agree, when I raised this matter it was perfectly apparent that the Labour newspaper referred to had published a report that had been taken verbatim from a report of the proceedings of this House that had not at the time been published by Hansard. My only query is this : If the Hansard “ flat “ is given to honorable members on the understanding that it is confidential and not for publication, that condition ought to be observed. It would suit all honorable members, from time to time, to be able to make use of the “flat”. I think it is perfectly reasonable for me to ask the Committee of Privileges to determine whether any breach of privilege had been committed in this instance. If it is not a breach of privilege to publish the uncorrected Hansard “ flat “, let us admit it and make use of the “flat” accordingly. I do not take a stand one way or the other in this matter. I simply say that, on the present basis, we understand that the “ flat “ is privileged. I think that no honorable member will contradict that statement. It is true that I have made no specific charges. It was no part of my intention to do so. I note, in passing, that the newspaper that published the report in question, which, I am certain, was taken verbatim from the Hansard “flat”, is a Labour newspaper, which is edited or managed by a former member of this House, Mr. John Lang, who sat with the Labour party in this chamber.
– It is not a Labour newspaper.
– It is of no use for Opposition members to try to deny that fact, because I see sitting on the opposite side of the chamber honorable members who said they would die for Mr. Lang. They used that very phrase. Apparently they thought better of it as time went on. I have never pretended to be a supporter of Mr. Lang. Whatever else might be 3aid about him, he is a former Labour Premier of New South Wales and a former Labour member of this House. Any one who takes the trouble to look at the current issue of the Century newspaper, will see that it is entirely devoted to supporting the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) in his present strife with his own party. It seems that Mr. Lang is back in grace and is taking the party line once more. It is futile for Opposition members to attempt to deny that the Century is a Labour newspaper. The point that I really wish to make is this: What is the distribution of the Hansard “ flat “ ? The Whips receive copies so that advance reports of members’ speeches may be readily available to them on application to the Whips. The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) and his secretary each get a copy. Other Ministers and their secretaries receive a copy each. What copies do the Opposition get ? The Leader of the Opposition rightly gets a copy. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition, the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell), receives a copy. The press secretary to the Leader of the Opposition gets three copies. Why, and what are the obvious implications of this fact? The duty of the press secretary is to make publications and documents available to the press. The press secretary to the Leader of the Opposition was none other than a man named Fergan O’sullivan, who even his master, it seem: to me, does not-
– Order! The honorable member may not continue on that line.
– Unfortunately, I am not allowed to deal with that matter. Shall we say that Mr. O’sullivan is no longer in a state of grace, even with his former employer. I felt that the Leader of the Opposition was being let down by his own staff in this matter, and it was with that consideration in mind, as I am sure you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, will believe, that I brought this matter to the notice of the House and asked that it be referred to the Committee of Privileges.
.- The honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) referred to what he described as the paucity of information that was given in the report of the Committee of Privileges. I refer the honorable member to the Standing Orders, which provide that evidence given before the committee may not be disclosed except by order of the House. It is competent for the House to make an order, after a report has been tabled, that the evidence be published, so that it may be made available for the benefit of honorable members who wish to study it.
I should like to refer also to the remarks made on the 29th September last by the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Keon), who said that he was astonished that the Committee of Privileges had discharged its duties with so little apparent inquiry, as seemed evident from what he had heard. That is surely a reflection on the way in which the committee discharged its duties. The honorable member for Yarra based his attack on the committee’s report mainly on the ground that the Century is essentially an anti-Labour newspaper. But the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett) said that the Century is a Labour newspaper. However, the issue was not whether the Century was a Labour or an anti-Labour newspaper; that was a purely domestic issue that should have been washed and ironed out in the proper place and through the proper channels. The membership of the Committee of Privileges showed quite clearly that the committee must have appreciated its task in the proper spirit and in the proper manner.
The chairman of the committee was the honorable member for Boothby (Mr. MeLeay), who is very capable, impartial and courteous in all his dealings. I believe that he approached the matter in his usual capable and impartial manner. Another member of the committee was an eminent Queen’s counsel, the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Joske). Other members were the honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull) and the honorable member for Darling Downs (Mr. Swartz), who are capable and experienced businessmen and men of the world. The honorable member for Cook (Mr. Sheehan) and the honorable member for Darling (Mr. Clark) represented the Opposition on this committee, and they have both had considerable experience in dealing with matters of privilege as they affect this Parliament. I was also a member of the committee, and honorable members know that I have had some little experience of such matters. Consequently, honorable members will realize that this was a carefully balanced committee. Indeed the committee’s investigations could have become another spy hunt if some people had their- way. However, we could not arrive at a definite opinion after hearing evidence from a number of expert witnesses such as the Clerk of the House, Mr. Speaker (Hon. Archie Cameron) and the Solicitor-General. Consequently, the committee called upon Mr. J. T. Lang himself to give evidence about the facts of the matter. After hearing all the evidence the committee could not arrive at a conclusion about the origin of this particular Hansard “ flat “ and how it came to be despatched to the Century. I am not able to quote the evidence given before the committee in the absence of a direction from the House, but I can say that the committee had Mr. Lang’s own account that some one sent a complete copy of the speech of the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) to the Century and that there was nothing on it to indicate that it was to be regarded as confidential.
The Prime Minister’s speech was one that might have had an historical value, and that is why the Century was so anxious that it should not be censored in any way. The newspaper Century has always received much assistance from Ministers of this House, and has often printed much that has not found its way into other newspapers. I also point out that the Century received much help from supporters of the Government when they were in opposition in this House! But Mr. Lang could give no information that would have helped the committee to trace the source of the report received by the Century. Therefore, as this printed matter had been sent through the post to the Century, to reach a definite conclusion we should have had to conduct a long, tedious inquiry, starting with the evidence of the Prime Minister because he was the author of the speech under consideration, and would, naturally, have been the first person to give evidence. But we all know that he is a busy man and has not been able to give evidence in other places where there has been a considerable degree of conflict between statements that he has made in this House and the evidence of certain witnesses.
Copies of the Hansard “ flat “ are sent to many persons, including ambassadors from foreign countries, so that some of them may have even reached Moscow. This parliamentary committee, having reached the position from which it could make no further progress, had to report to the House to that effect. We discovered that there is no law or order of this House laying down the nature of privilege, and we found that we are governed by the procedure of the House of Commons in this regard. However, there was no comparable procedure for this House to follow, because the House of Commons publishes a daily Hansard as does the New South Wales Parliament. If this Parliament had published a daily Hansard, there would have been nothing to give rise to the inquiry, and there was considerable doubt whether any privilege was involved because there was a conflict of expert evidence.
Certain parts of the committee’s report have been mentioned, but if the House orders that the report be tabled it will find that the committee was left in some doubt of the law, in some doubt as to whether any privilege was involved, and whether, if it was involved, there was any breach of privilege. Consequently, the committee adopted a positive approach to the matter and suggested that some consideration be given by the select committee that has been set up to inquire into the preparation and publishing of Hansard to the publishing of a daily or twice-weekly Hansard for the benefit of honorable members and of the press and others who desire to publish reports of parliamentary proceedings. The substance of the allegations against the Century was, as stated by the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward), that the Century had published the whole of the Prime Minister’s speech in this House on a very important matter. But one would think that the Prime Minister and the Government would have been anxious for the nation to know the whole of the facts concerning that important matter. It appears to be a new kind of crime to. publish the whole truth. Perhaps the Government, because of the pact that it has made with the press barons, was astounded, and the honorable member for Henty and others were quite shocked, because a little newspaper like the Century with a circulation of about 5,000, was able to publish the whole of the Prime Minister’s speech to the last semicolon and full stop. It is difficult to understand why the honorable member for Henty is upset about this matter, because after all it is only a storm in a teacup, and there should not be so much fuss about it. The Century in pointing out its reasons for publishing the article, stated -
Now that “Century” has stated its position most unequivocally and the Committee has reported to Parliament, it is possible to make a few comments on Gullett’s action and the real position.
Firstly, it must be the first time in the history of Federation that any member has objected to another member being reported verbatim. The report as published by “ Century “ was complete down to the last punctuation mark.
Perhaps, the trouble was that the speech was one that the Liberal Whip did not desire to see re-published. Neither did the Government. It had every reason to want it buried and forgotten. It was the speech made by R. G. Menzies telling how he proceeded with his job of selecting the Royal Commissioners for the Espionage Inquiry.
The matter was also referred to in leading articles published by a number of daily newspapers. The Sydney Morning Herald in a leading article published on the 21st September stated -
In modest imitation of the Petrov Commission, the Privileges Committee of the House of Representatives has embarked upon u domestic espionage inquiry in Canberra. Who supplied document “C”? Document “C”, thus unofficially to label the principal exhibit in the case, is not a farrago of falsities &c. - far from it. In the form of a “ flat “, or unrevised Hansard proof, it embodied in his customary lucid and polished diction the Prime Minister’s explanation to Parliament of how he sought to establish a “ Balanced “ Royal Commission on espionage. “ A ‘ Balanced ‘ Royal Commission on espionage.” What does that mean? The leading article in the Sydney Morning Herald continued -
This explanation was delivered openly. Any newspaper could have reported it in full. Any parliamentary “ fan “ could have heard every word of it. In due course - which means some three weeks later - it became available for public approval in Hansard. But meanwhile, by some agency which the Privileges Committee has set itself to discover, this particular proof appears to have been conveyed to Mr. J. T. Lang’s Century which printed the report, as the shocked House of Representatives was told, “almost verbatim”.
That is something new for the press of Australia. The Government has got into a flurried state of mind because of the agreement it reached with the press barons before the general election in return for their support. It is used to getting garbled reports of the proceedings of the House, always polished and framed in a way that is acceptable to it. That is why the Government was so shocked on this occasion by the publication of a verbatim report. The Melbourne Herald, a journal that could not be classed as a Labour newspaper, contained this comment on the 24th September -
Ordinary people not versed in the intricacies of parliamentary custom-
– Order! The question is whether a breach of privilege has been committed, and whether the report that has been presented by the Committee of Privileges is to be agreed to by this House. The honorable member for Reid is going rather too far in quoting other opinions. It is for honorable members to express their opinions and decide whether they agree with the report.
– It has been contended that the Committee of Privileges should have carried on in some other way-
– The honorable member has to review what the discussion is about.
– That is the point. The Melbourne Herald stated -
Ordinary people not versed in the intricacies of parliamentary custom in Canberra might find it a little hard to understand the current anxieties of the Privileges Committee of the House of Representatives. . . . The item in question is an accurate rendering of a speech by the Prime Minister who, it might be supposed, does not resent the publication of his parliamentary statements by Mr. Lang or any one else.
– Order ! Whether the Prime Minister resents the publication of the matter does not enter into the question. The question before the House is whether a breach of privilege ha3 been committed, and whether the report of the Committee of Privileges should be agreed to.
– A relevant point is why the inquiry by the Committee of Privileges was begun at all. I agree with the honorable member for Ea.=t Sydney (Mr. Ward). The inquiry ha.* been a futile waste of time. For the firsttime in the history of the Commonwealth Parliament, a newspaper has been taken to task for publishing the truth and the whole truth about something that occurred in this House. That is a sorry state of affairs. I am not criticizing the committee. I support the motion that the report of the committee be agreed to. The committee terminated its proceedings properly. They were a farce from thebeginning because the inquiry was not founded on any breach of privilege. Why is the honorable member for Henty uneasy? Does his attitude disclose some collective guilty conscience that is worrying honorable members on the Government side because a little newspaper, such as the Century is, played up the way in which the Prime Minister established, to use his own words, this balanced royal commission. The whole report was based on that matter. I am at a loss to understand why the Committee of Privileges was asked to embark on this witch hunt. The whole of the report of the speech made by the Prime Minister was published. If the Committee of Privileges had gone on with its ridiculous task, it might have continued sitting for months, calling everybody associated with the matter, including the Prime Minister. It is well known that honorable members themselves send copies of their speeches to newspapers. The author of this speech might have sent it on himself. Mr. Lang had no reason to believe that the “ flat “ was private and confidential because there was nothing on the portion of the document that he received to indicate that it was of that nature. When honorable members get proofs of their speeches there is a green slip-
– I rise to order. The honorable member for Reid has stated that he agrees with the findings of the Committee of Privileges. The question before the House now is not whether a breach of privilege has been committed. The Committee of Privileges reached a decision on that point. The motion before the House is that the committee’s report be agreed to. All the side issues that have been raised by the honorable member for Reid have nothing to do with the question.
– I must rule that this is a very wide debate. The House is not considering the opinions of the honorable member for Henty. This matter must be decided upon the opinion of the House.
– I am supporting the motion that has been moved by the honorable member for Boothby that the report be agreed to because, in my opinion, the Committee of Privileges reached the correct decision, and also acted correctly in terminating its proceedings where if did instead of continuing a costly witch hunt or spy hunt and seeking to discover who sent the copy of the Prime Minister’.speech to the Century. One might have thought that the Prime Minister or one of his staff sent it. There would have been nothing out of order in such a course. When members receive proofs of their speeches with a green slip attached, there is nothing to indicate that the proof is private or confidential. It is the practice of many honorable members to send copies of their speeches to newspapers, and they use the proofs that they receive personally for that purpose. There is nothing wrong with that procedure. If would have been a costly procedure to inquire fully into the source of the “ flat “ that was sent to the Century because there are 105 recipients of the Hansard “ flat “. In my opinion, the Committee of Privileges adopted the right course in terminating the proceedings where it did because there are now positive proposals for a daily or bi-weekly issue of Hansard. If that were already in operation, there would not have been any need for the committee to act in this matter at all. I cannot understand why the honorable member for Henty raised, the matter in the first place unless he had something on his mind about the Century-
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Debate resumed from the 25th August (vide page 617), on motion by Mr. Casey -
That a joint committee be appointed to consider foreign affairs generally and, in particular, to inquire into matters referred to it by the Minister for External Affairs.
That twelve members of the House of Representatives be appointed to serve on such committee.
That the Minister for External Affairs shall make available to the committee information within such categories or on such conditions as he ma)’ consider desirable.
That, notwithstanding anything contained in the Standing Orders -
the persons appointed for the time being to serve on the committee shall constitute the committee notwithstanding any failure by the Senate or the House of Representatives to appoint the full number of senators or members referred to in these resolutions;
the committee shall have power to appoint sub-committees consisting of four or more of its members; and to refer to any such sub-committees any of the matters which the committee is empowered to examine;
the committee or any sub-committee have power to sit during any adjournment of the Parliament and during the sittings of either House of the Parliament; (<Z) the committee and its sub-committees will sit in camera and their proceedings shall be secret unless the Minister at the request of the committee otherwise directs;
(i) one-third of the number of members appointed to the committee for the time being constitute a quorum of the committee, save that where the number of members is not divisible by three without remainder the quorum shall be the number next higher than one-third of the number of members for the time being;
three members of a subcommittee constitute a quorum of that sub-committee; (/) the committee shall, for considerations of national security, in all cases forward its reports to the Minister for External Affairs, but on every occasion when the committee forwards a report to the Minister it shall inform the Parliament that it has so reported; except that in the case of matters not referred to it by the Minister for External Affairs, the committee shall not submit a report to the Minister nor inform the Parliament accordingly without the Minister’s consent. Provided the Opposition is represented on the committee, copies of the committee’s reports to the Minister for External Affairs shall be forwarded to the Leader of the Opposition for his confidential information ;
subject to the consent of the Minister for External Affairs, the committee shall have power to send for persons, papers or records ; and, subject to paragraph (4) (d), all evidence submitted to the committee shall be regarded as confidential to the committee;
the Senate be asked to appoint seven of its members to serve on such committee.
That a message be sent to the Senate requesting its concurrence.
.- The Opposition can see no good purpose in this proposal to set up a joint committee on foreign affairs. The attitude of the Opposition is the same as it was when the proposition was first advanced to the Parliament by the former Minister for External Affairs, Sir Percy Spender, who is now Australian Ambassador to Washington. It appears to me, as a member of the Opposition, that the Government hope’s to tie the Opposition to the Government’s foreign affairs policy. I think it would be most improper and dangerous for the Opposition to permit itself to be inveigled into joining the committee and, thereby, playing the game of the Government. I should like some further information from Government members about the purposes of the committee. The Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Casey) said that the purpose of the committee was to keep Government members and Opposition members fully informed of developments abroad that affected Australia’s external relations. Under the committee’s terms of reference, the members cannot initiate any business for discussion by the committee. They are not permitted to exercise any executive powers, or to make any decisions binding on the Parliament or the Government. Certain information is made available to them, which is to be regarded as strictly confidential. They cannot report even to their own parties on the deliberations of the committee. They cannot report to the Parliament, except with the approval of the Minister.
It seems to me that the Government wants to create in the minds of the Australian public an impression that the members of the Opposition have as much say in the formulation of foreign policy as have members of the Government parties. My own opinion is that the Government must, and should, accept full responsibility for its policy. Members of the Opposition disagree fundamentally with many aspects of the Government’s foreign policy. Therefore, we say that the Government should adopt the suggested amendments by the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell). If those suggestions were adopted, the committee might serve some useful purpose. I realize that on some occasions the committee might be called on to discuss matters that obviously had to be discussed in camera, but it could be asked to discuss many other matters which it would not be dangerous in any way for the members of the committee to discuss in the Parliament or to disclose to their parties. That is what the Opposition suggests the members of the committee should be permitted to do.
Let us examine the composition of the committee. It is to consist of nineteen members. Although the Government has said, in effect, that the committee will be nothing more than a study circle, or a body to examine various aspects of foreign affairs, it has been decided that the Government shall have eleven members and that the Opposition shall have eight. “Why does the Government want a majority on the committee if the purpose of the committee is merely to enable both Government and Opposition members to be informed of developments overseas? As the committee will be unable to make any binding decisions, why should not the Government and the Opposition be represented equally on it? There is no provision for minority reports to be submitted. Consequently, whilst Government members, with the approval of the Minister, would be able to disclose to the Parliament reports of decisions and deliberations of the committee that suited the Government, the Opposition would be completely stifled in that respect. Opposition members on the committee would be given no opportunity to state their viewpoint publicly. As I have said already, the committee cannot initiate a discussion on any subject. It can deal only with matters referred to it by the Minister. It can be given information only with the approval of the Minister. The meetings of the committee are to be held in camera. The reports are to be made to the Minister, and the Minister will determine whether the reports shall be submitted to the Parliament. It is quite true that a copy of each report is to be given to the Leader of the Opposition. [Quorum formed.] Honorable members have only to examine reports of the debates on foreign affairs that have taken place in this House to see what a wide divergence of opinion there is on this important subject between members of the Opposition and members of the Government parties. The Opposition will not sacrifice its separate identity in relation to foreign affairs. We shall not tag along at the coat tails of the Government while the Government pursues a policy which many of us believe to be dangerous to the best interests of this country. We shall not allow the general public to believe there are no great differences of opinion between the Opposition and the Government on matters which affect our external relations. Therefore, we do not want to have anything to do with this committee.
– Hear, hear !
– The honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Bowden) apparently is delighted with that statement. I say that the Government is welcome to fill the nineteen positions on the committee with its own members, as it did on a previous occasion. Members of the Opposition are as -anxious as are any other honorable members to obtain the fullest information about what is happening abroad and how Australia’s interests are being effected. But we want to be given that information as members of the Parliament, and to be able to exercise our judgment on the use we make of it. During question time to-day, a matter of vital importance to Australia was “raised. I believe that when the Opposition considers the Government is following a policy detrimental to the interests of Australia, the place for the Opposition to ventilate its opinion is the Parliament. The proper place is not a committee, the deliberations of which are unknown to the general public and to the majority of the members of the Parliament especially as the committee can only report confidentially to the Minister. I suggest to the Government that it examine the proposals put forward by the Opposition. Even if those proposals are accepted, we do not undertake to join the committee. We should want to re-examine the position. If we could be satisfied that members of the Opposition who served on the committee would have the right to make whatever use they believed to be proper, in the interests of Australia, of the information of which they became possessed, we should be prepared to have another look at the Government’s proposal. But the proposal, in its present form, is completely unacceptable to us, and we decline to have anything to do with it.
– I think it would be a good thing for us to start by getting our minds clear about the purposes of a foreign affairs committee. All the objections that have been taken to the form of the present committee by the Opposition have related to the functions of the committee. I think it is fair to say that all the amendments which the Opposition suggest should be made to the motion moved by the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Casey) are designed to take the control of foreign affairs from the hands of the Minister and to put it into the hands of a committee.
To do that would entirely reverse the ordinary processes of British parliamentary procedure. Surely it must be apparent to all honorable members, whether they approve of the proposed composition of the committee or not, that responsibility for foreign affairs policy must lie entirely in the hands of the Government and that the administration of foreign affairs must lie in the hands of the Minister for External Affairs and that any limitations on the responsibilities of the Government or the Minister would not be consistent with the processes of parliamentary government.
It is quite impossible to compare the proposed joint committee on foreign affairs with committees on foreign affairs which, exist in the United States of America, because in that country the principle of Cabinet responsibility is totally different from the principle of Cabinet responsibility in Australia. Whatever the form of the committee, the responsibility for the conduct of foreign affairs must remain entirely in the hands of the Minister who has been appointed bv the Government and who is responsible to the Parliament. The modifications of the Government’s proposal, which have been suggested by the honorable member for- Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) and other members of the Opposition, cut across the accepted principles of parliamentary government. The honorable member for Melbourne said that there was “ too much Minister” in these arrangements. He assailed the power and responsibility of the Minister. He proposed that the reports of the committee should be made to either House of Parliament on the initiative of the House or of the committee, not upon the decision of the Minister for External Affairs. The effect of such a procedure would be that the conduct of foreign affairs could b” taken out of the hands of the responsible Minister. No Australian governmentcould agree to a suggestion of that nature, because its adoption would alter the basis upon which Cabinet responsibility and ministerial responsibility rest. That fact alone would be sufficient to cause Government supporters to reject the suggestion of the Opposition.
The Opposition has also suggested that the committee should report to the Parliament, not necessarily with the consent of the Minister, but at the instance of either House or acting on its own initiative. This would result in taking the business of foreign affairs out of the hands of the responsible Minister. What would happen if the government of the day happened not to have a majority in the Senate? The Senate could take the business of the Parliament out of a government’s hands and it is obvious to what confusion this action would lead. The honorable member for Melbourne suggested that the committee should report, not only to either House, but to the political parties, presumably sitting in caucus. Such a procedure would be a negation of parliamentary government. Under this proposal, the Minister would subject the administration of his department to examination by the committee which would report to the party which is in opposition to the Government. The Opposition can hardly be serious in the suggestions that it has made. Surely these suggestions are merely a reflection of the unwillingness of the Opposition to have anything to do with this committee, for no government could tolerate such limitations on the administration of its foreign policy.
The Opposition also suggested that secrecy should not attach to the deliberations of the committee. Any one who imagines that the delicate business of foreign affairs can be carried on in public is oblivious to the real facts of life. It is not possible to compare the functions of a foreign affairs committee with the functions of other standing committees of the Parliament. There can be no comparison of the Foreign Affairs Committee with the Public Accounts Committee or the Public Works Committee. The Public Accounts Committee examines events which have already taken place. It considers matters of administration and matters of public interest concerning the expenditure of public funds. But the Foreign Affairs Committee will examine matters which have not been finalized. It will examine matters of great delicacy concerning, not only the public life of Australia, but also relations with other countries which are far too important to be made the subject of controversy at a public meeting, or at any meeting where the responsibility of the Minister is not exercised. The suggestions of the Opposition have no relationships to the reality of the conduct of foreign affairs.
Finally, the Opposition proposed that the committee should have an equal number of members from each side of the chamber. Can it be supposed that any government would set up a committee to which confidential information would be entrusted and which would deliberate on most important and. delicate matters and abdicate its own authority to that committee ?
– Mr. Deputy Speaker, I invite your attention to the state of the House.
– There are thirteen honorable members on my right and thirteen on my left. Ring the bells.
– Mr. Deputy Speaker, is there any reason why you should designate the numbers on either side of the chamber? You are merely following the custom of Mr. Speaker and, as the custodian of the proceedings, you should have your own mind. There is no standing order which covers this matter.
– No ruling is required. * [Quorum formed.]*
– As I was saying, the suggestions that have been made by the Opposition cut across the principles of ministerial responsibility and are, therefore, quite spurious and should be rejected.
The purpose of the proposed committee is not to take the administration of policy out of the hands of the responsible Minister but to form in the Parliament a body of well-informed opinion on perhaps the most important subject that affects the people of Australia. Speaking for myself my own knowledge of public affairs has been immensely broadened by my membership of the previous Foreign Affairs Committee. It is not true to say that, because the committee deliberates in secret and has no executive functions, it is of no use. Surely if we can cultivate in the Parliament a well-informed body of opinion on the conduct of foreign affairs, which it is now more important to have than it has been at any other stage in Australian history, this would be sufficient reason for the establishment of such a committee. The contention that the Government’s proposal should be rejected because the committee would have no executive authority has no substance. Although it cannot be an executive committee, it could be a body of immense importance. If it comprised members from both sides of the chamber it could bring about a common body of opinion on our very important relationships with other countries and it could he of immense value to the Parliament. I hope that the members of the Opposition will not allow themselves to be influenced by the spurious and specious arguments that were advanced by the honorable member for East Sydney, and will join the Foreign Affairs Committee, which, for three years, has been comprised only of Government members. I am sure that we all regard it as a very valuable parliamentary body.
.- I do not agree with the honorable member for Oxley (Dr. Donald Cameron) that an immense importance attaches to the Foreign Affairs Committee. My private view is that, eventually, something should be done to encourage the participation by the Opposition in the committee. At present, due to the limitations placed on the committee by the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Casey), it is no more than a study group. The conflict is a very deep one and does not indicate that we on this side of the House are uninterested in foreign affairs, as some members of the Government seem to think. The Minister should get away from merely nattering from the mount of literature supplied to him by an official of the Department of External Affairs. The committee should not be just a study group, as it was in connexion with the Japanese peace treaty. We should be told the whole story in such matters. If our suggestions were adopted, we would hear more of the story. We are in some difficulty during discussions on foreign affairs because, in the main, we do not make policy. We are governed by the great policy system overseas. We adhere very often, to policy already formed. The Foreign Relations Committee of the American Senate is a policy-making organization. As the honorable member for Oxley has said, our Foreign Affairs Committee could never be such an organization, unless the Minister accepts our suggestions, but he is not prepared to go to that extent, because foreign countries might not like us to establish that kind of a committee. Therefore, our committee appears to be frustrated into being no more than a study group. That is the opinion held by this side of the House. It is not suggested that for all time there will be no participation, but to date there has not been any participation by the Minister himself, because, by the nature of his portfolio, he is frequently absent from the country. So we are presented with documents marked “ top secret which have been prepared by the Department of External Affairs. If we are going to discharge adequately the duties’ that our constituents have elected us to discharge, we must have something with meat in it. As far as I can see, nothing very important or definite has emanated from the discussions and investigations of the Foreign Affairs Committee. The first document it issued related to a remote check upon a citizen of this country. It had nothing to do with our foreign policy and relations with other countries. That was one of the first things that alarmed the Opposition. We were not told which way we were going. More recently, the travels of Dr. John Burton were explored. That was an unfortunate attempt to get the Opposition to interest itself in the personal careers of individuals. Then the committee dealt with the important matter of the situation in China and our Asian relations, but the statement that was issued in that connexion had no prospect of encouraging the co-operation of the Opposition, because the Minister displayed a strange reluctance to yield up anything to the individual. Had he informed the House of events from day to day instead of relying on documents marked “ top secret “ he would not have created a feeling of futility. If there is a reason for the committee’s existence other than to be a study group, it is not apparent.
– Evidently the Opposition is not interested in foreign affairs.
– That Ls not so. We are deeply interested in foreign affairs, but we do not want the committee to get bogged down in a study group. That is good enough in its way, but it is not good enough to encourage the Opposition’s participation in the work of the committee. The suggestions made by the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr.
Calwell) some time ago, which are recorded in Hansard, were fairly reasonable. I thought that perhaps in one instance, that of secrecy, they would have to he reconsidered. I am speaking quite frankly on the matter. No Minister should accept from the diplomatic corps, without protest, a secret document, much of which had been made available to a group outside of the Parliament which had no standing other than that it had been appointed to do a certain job. The Minister could release material for discussion. When the establishment of the Foreign Affairs Committee was being considered, honorable members on this side of the House wanted to know how much worth-while information would be given to such a committee. The Minister has asked why does not the Opposition join the committee, and he has stated that we have been guilty of dereliction of duty by not so doing. We feel that we could join the committee, if it had functions other than those of a study group. But the Minister refuses to consider our suggestions. His discourteous speech only worsened the position. It is obvious that there is a suspicion on this side of the House that the Government wants to sell something to the Opposition. I think that that is true. When we asked that some of our suggestions should be discussed, the Minister adopted a takeitorleaveit attitude, and stated that we were not concerned with foreign affairs. How can it be contended that we are not interested in any way when discussions on that subject are held by our own Foreign Affairs Committee? The Minister should have made the first move towards co-operation, instead of saying that he had no intention of adopting our suggestions. If the Foreign Affairs Committee were allowed to “make policy in relation to foreign, affairs, we could have a joint committee. It is regrettable that the Minister will not go any of the way towards that end by allowing the aspirations of the Opposition to be discussed. He just dismissed our suggestions lightly. We shall not get anywhere in this matter until the Minister makes a more realistic and specific approach to the subject. I believe that, if Government and Opposition members were sitting together on the Foreign Affairs Committee today, they would not be, because cf the nature of their situation, very much more than an interested group that was trying to obtain information on foreign policy which it could not pass on, as such a committee would be without any real and powerful influence on the development of foreign policy for this country. If the purpose of such a committee were the serving of the Minister for External Affairs and the department that he administers - and, to some degree, that must be the purpose - it would be at a disadvantage compared with the great policy-making countries overseas which allow their parliaments to prepare and propound policy and, in the case of the Senate of the United States of America, even to make policy. In Australia, it is merely proposed that we should constitute a committee of applause for decisions that had already been made. I suggest to the Government, and particularly those honorable members who are interested in foreign affairs and who have done an earnest job in advancing in the .House a knowledge of foreign affairs, that they should approach the Minister upon his return and ask him to have another look at our suggestions. Let us have a down-to-earth discussion to see where we start, where we knock off, and what concessions can be made.
We must also consider the fact that the Minister for External Affairs, because of the very nature of his office and the necessity for him to attend the conferences of the United Nations and to meet other commitments, is not always in the House. He is absent on the nation’s business for months at a time, and there devolves upon his deputies, and tha officers of the Department of External Affairs who are under his jurisdiction or remote control, the responsibility of indicating the matters that should be handled by a joint committee on foreign affairs. For that reason, all of the matters upon which we are in conflict should be discussed. If those matters were discussed and we reached a proper basis, surely the frustration would end sooner or later. As other members on this side of the House have stated, the
Opposition has no intention, at this stage, of joining the Foreign Affairs Committee.
– I join with the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) in expressing regret at the fact that the Opposition does not intend to participate in the deliberations of the Foreign Affairs Committee. Perhaps the difference between the Government and the Opposition is that the Government is genuinely desirous of persuading the Opposition to participate in the work of the committee, but the Opposition, for its own reasons, will not participate. I feel that the real reasons behind the attitude of the Opposition have not been clearly advanced to the House.
When one looks at a committee of this kind, and at its functions, he sees two things that must be preserved. In the conduct of foreign policy, we need both decision and the power to keep matters secret while they are in the course of negotiation. In relation to the question of decision, I think it is clear that Australia must speak with one voice on matters of foreign policy. We cannot have the position that obtains in France, for example, where the leader of the nation speaks on one day and has to withdraw his words on the next. We do not want even the position that obtains in the United States of America, the foreign policy of which, I believe, has been bedevilled, to some extent, by the fact that those persons who. speak on its behalf in conference are not always competent, because of the constitution of the Senate, to carry their words into accomplishment. We need, and we should demand, decision in the formulation of foreign policy. As Australians, we should realize that whoever has the constitutional power to speak for Australia should have the power to say, “ The Australian people are behind me. I speak for Australia.” If that is not the position, Australia’s interests will be seriously jeopardized. We have seen the interests of France jeopardized in that way and, if the United States of America has not suffered a similar fate, it is because that country is the strongest nation in the world. Australia, as a comparatively weak nation, must have decision in the formulation of its foreign policy as a factor in the safety and survival of its people. This country stands in mortal danger, and it cannot afford to invoke the perils of divided counsel. To suggest that the Foreign Affairs Committee should have an executive function is a retrograde step and, insofar as the views of the Opposition tend in that direction, I think they are bad views.
In relation to the question of secrecy, the Foreign Affairs Committee has been given very wide powers in ascertaining the activities of the Department of External Affairs. As one who has served on this committee, I can assure honorable members that members of the committee have been taken into full confidence by the Minister and the officers of the department. The secrets that the committee has handled have not always been only Australia’s secrets. The committee has had access to matters communicated to Australia by other powers. Perhaps we have not had access to all of the top secrets, but we have been treated very frankly. The Minister has the duty of ensuring that secrecy is fully preserved. The suggestions that were made by the Opposition earlier in the debate, if adopted, would almost entirely destroy that secrecy. Apparently honorable members opposite thought that reports should be made to party meetings. When I say that things that happen in Opposition party meetings are not secret, they are not my words ; they are the words of the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt). The right honorable gentleman has stated that he cannot trust his own members to keep their own secrets. We cannot trust them with out international secrets.
The honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) suggested that, when a report is made to the Minister, it should be made available to the House so that honorable members may debate it and decide whether, it should be printed. If that suggestion were adopted, it would mean that honorable members, without first seeing the report confidentially and knowing that it contained confidential information, would have the right to demand that it be brought into the House and be made available for debate on the motion that it be printed. When the suggestion is examined in detail, it is seen that that kind of thing cannot be tolerated. Are we to have a state of affairs in which two members of the Parliament, whether they are Government or Opposition members, are able to breach the secrecy of a report ? That would be the position if the Parliament were to adopt the suggestion that was made by the honorable member for Melbourne on the 25th August. I do not wish to traverse in detail all the suggestions made by that honorable member. I merely mention that they are incompatible with the two fundamental considerations of decision and secrecy which, I think, must be the guiding principle in the work of this committee.
I believe that the committee will grow, and that its power will be extended without prejudice to the two fundamental principles that I have mentioned. Rut it cannot grow if it is killed at the inception, and it seems to be the policy of the Opposition to endeavour to kill it at the inception. An examination of the Opposition’s ostensible reasons for not participating in the work of the committee shows that these reasons tend to be frivolous. I believe they are not the Opposition’s real reasons that honorable members opposite have other reasons, because those that they have adduced in this House are of such light weight, and go so little to the substance of the attitude that they are meant to support, that they cannot be the real reasons. I conjecture, if I may be allowed to do so that the real reasons are quite different. They lie in the division of opinion among members of the Opposition. There is room for honest differences of opinion. There are differences of opinion on the Government side in relation to matters of foreign policy. But these are differences of opinion among people who have mutual trust in each other, who have mutual respect for the ideas of one another, and who try to argue questions out on their merits without impugning the motives of others. I find myself in opposition to the ideas of the honorable member for Oxley (Dr. Donald Cameron) in relation to several matters, but I do not impugn his motives, nor do I think that he is in any way badly intentioned towards the interests of Australia. I flatter myself that he has the same attitude towards me.
The divisions of opinion on the Government side are divisions of opinion between honest men who trust each other, and who are trying to hammer out, by argument, the policy that is best for Australia, and who will mutually support the policy decided on. Could one fairly conjecture that the same kind of thing was happening in the Opposition? I think not, because the divisions of opinion in the Opposition are divisions between two sections, each of which distrusts the other. One thinks the other dishonest, and impugns the other’s motives. Each faction thinks that the other is treacherous. I do not say this off my own bat. I simply say that this is the account which the Opposition factions themselves give, one of the other. One faction says that it cannot trust the other faction. The second faction says exactly the same of the first faction. Honorable members of the Opposition do not believe that their divisions are merely divisions between two sets of honest, well-intentioned men who are trying to argue a thing out and find, by argument, the true merits of the case. The Opposition itself believes that the division in its ranks is a division between honesty and dishonesty. The real thing about which the two factions differ is the question of which is the honest faction and which is the dishonest faction. Because of that, honorable members of the Opposition exhibit diffidence in approaching the probelms of participating in the work of a committee such as the Foreign Affairs Committee. I think that the honorable member for Parkes for example, was a little less than fair to the House a few moments ago when he referred to the first report nf the preceding Foreign Affairs Committee. In respect of Dr. Burton, he said that the reason for the Opposition’s apprehension about that report was that it was on a matter of trifling importance. I do not accept that. The Opposition was apprehensive about the report, but the reason for its apprehension was that Dr. John Burton had been very intimately connected with one of the factions of the Labour party. It is ridiculous for the honorable member for Parkes to try to dismiss Dr. Burton as a man of no consequence and merely a private person, because only a short time prior to the production of that report Dr. Burton had been the right-hand man, confidential adviser, and shaper of policy for the Minister for External Affairs in the Labour Government, the present right honorable member for Barton (Dr. Evatt).
Opposition members interjecting,
– These things are true. I know that the Opposition does not like to hear them, and I do not wish to rub salt into the wounds of honorable members opposite, but I say that Australia needs a bi-partisan foreign policy. That does not mean that we want everybody automatically, and without protest or argument, to agree with what is said. It means that everybody in this Parliament should recognize that he is a representative of the Australian people, and that entrusted to him is some considerable part of the safety of the Australian people; that he should look at these things as an Australian, and that he should try to inform his mind on all the facts so that in argument, not on motives, but on the merits of the case, he may be able to put the most convincing and best informed point of view. We regret that the Opposition does not yet measure up to that standard. We believe that, later, it will perhaps measure up to it. We share the hopes of the honorable member for Parkes that the Opposition will have a change of heart and a change of front and that it will heal its wounds and be’ able as a body of honest men once more to participate in the work of a committee such as this. After all, we all are Australians in this Parliament. The foreign policy of Australia has always been, and always should have been, the concern of this Parliament as a whole. If we have divisions of opinion between us let us settle them always according to the merits of the case. Let us try to be as fully informed as we can be about the facts. If honorable members opposite do not feel that this committee goes as far as it might, then let them look on it as a body in whose work they could join, which will develop and which will help them to make up their minds more accurately about the problems that confront us. The reasons advanced by the Opposition are not reasons for failing to join the committee. They are reasons for joining the committee, making it more effective, and helping it to grow.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Sitting suspended from 5.54 to 8 p.m.
In Committee of Ways and Means: Consideration resumed from the 2nd September (vide page 883), on motion by Sir Arthur Fadden -
– (1.) That, in this Resolution . . . (vide page 882).
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Standing Orders suspended; resolution adopted.
That Sir Eric Harrison and Mr. Francis do prepare and bring in a hill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented by Sir Eric Harrison, and read a first time.
Motion (by Sir Eric Harrison) proposed -
That the ‘bill be now read a second time.
.- This bill deals with the rates at which income tax and social services contribution will be payable by individuals for the current financial year, and in connexion with the proposals which the Government is placing before the House, the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) has made some very remarkable claims indeed. He has claimed that there will be valuable reductions of tax at all income levels, but that the heaviest percentage decrease will apply to incomes in the lower brackets. Therefore, I think it is interesting straight away to see who are the fortunate people who are to receive this heavy percentage decrease of tax. To make our task easier in this respect, the Treasurer has recently circulated a table showing the old and the proposed rates of income tax on individuals. By examining that table we are able to see for ourselves who are these fortunate people, who, according to the Treasurer, are to receive heavy percentage decreases of income tax. We find that the most fortunate person of all is the one who is to be given a reduction of 19.6 per cent, in his income tax. We find from the table that this lucky person is a man with a dependent wife and one child and that he is earning £400 a year, or £7 14s. a week. So, if there is a man in the community who is succeeding to-day in maintaining himself and his wife and one child on £7 14s. a week, he, and he alone is the beneficiary of this Government’s tax reduction of 19.6 per cent. or21/2d. a week.
– How much does he pay in a year?
– He formerly paid £2 16s. a year, and he will now pay £2 5s. a year. This is the man, and the only man, who will receive the benefit of the reduction of 19.6 per cent. His reduction will amount to 12s. a year or, as I have said, 21/2d. a week. ButI have quite a few other examples for the honorable member for Isaacs (Mr. Haworth) who has interjected. If the man who has to maintain a wife and child on far less than the basic wage is unfortunate enough to be endeavouring to live on £350 a year or £6 15s. a week, the Treasurer is prepared to give him a reduction of only 13.6 per cent, in his tax. This will mean that his weekly contributions will be reduced by1/2d. a week. The taxation that he paid previously was very little, of course, but it is now being rendered less by1/2d. a week. And the Treasurer claims that he has done this person proud by giving him a reduction of 13.6 per cent!
According to the tables there is one person who receives a reduction, not of 19.6 per cent., but very close to it - 19.4 per cent. And who is that? It is the single man or woman receiving not more than £200 a year or £3 16s. a week. He or she is the only one to obtain a reduction of 19.4 per cent., and that reduction amounts to 2d. a week. In the category of persons without dependants, the one who receives the next highest percentage reduction from the Treasurer is being allowed 16 per cent. That, of course, is somewhat less than 19.4 per cent., but it is still a very valuable reduction. But what are the circumstances of the person who qualifies for this magnificent reduction of 16 per cent.? He or she has to he managing to subsist on £150 a year or £2 17s. 6d. a week, and the proposed tax reduction works out at less than Id. a week. The point I am trying to make and which I hope the House will appreciate, is that the claims which the Treasurer has made in terms of percentages are completely phoney claims because they apply to categories of individuals who do not any longer exist and cannot any longer exist in this communty. However, if some folk are managing to exist on the very small incomes to which the Treasurer has applied these percentage reductions, then the benefits that will accrue to them under this legislation range from Id. to 2¾d a week.
– That is not the total income, of course.
– It is the taxable income. The honorable member suggests by inference, I suppose, that if a person has a taxable income of £2 17s. 6d. a week, he is well able to make his way in the world and to pay some tax. The Treasurer has put his claim even more clearly because he has said that the decrease of tax ranges from 20 per cent, on lower incomes to a little more than 8 per cent, on an income of £16,000 a year. “We are told that the man on the average small income is receiving a reduction of around 20 per cent, and that the man on the top income of £16,000 is receiving a reduction of only 8 per cent., and, therefore, the man in a low bracket is being treated much more generously by the Treasurer than the man on a high income. So, once again, we turn to the tables, and we find that there is justification for the Treasurer’s statement that the reduction in rates ranges from 20 per cent, on lower incomes, because there is one man, and one man alone in Australia, who receives, according to these tables, a reduction of 20 per cent. He is the man who is keeping himself and his wife on £4 16s. a week. If there is a man in this community to-day who is so unfortunate as to have to endeavour to maintain himself and his wife on £4 16s. a week, then he, and he alone, receives the benefit of the 20 per cent, reduction of which the Treasurer boasts so much in his advertisement for the tax reductions granted by this Government. The reduction of 20 per cent, in that case is a reduction of 2d. a week.
The Treasurer has remarked in his speech on the resolution in the Committee of “Ways and Means -
No doubt, honorable members have already gathered a full appreciation of these tax reductions by examining the statements annexed to the budget papers.
No doubt, many honorable’ members have carefully examined the statement which shows the present rates, the proposed rates, and the decreases in tax; but in case there are some honorable members who have not had the advantage if thoroughly studying this document, I propose to devote attention to it for a few minutes. Let us look at table 4, which refers to a person with a dependent wife and two children. If there is any one in Australia to-day who is managing to maintain himself and his wife and two children on £400 a year, which is less than £8 a week, the Treasurer is prepared to grant him a tax reduction of 18.2 per cent. In other words, that person, instead of paying £1 2s. a year in tax, as he is paying now, will pay 18s. a year in future. His tax reduction is to be 4s. a year, which is less than Id. a week. All I wonder is why the Treasurer did not make the reduction 2d. a week. It would have cost the Treasury only another 4s. a year, and the Treasurer would have been able to claim that he had made a decrease in taxation of 36 per cent. If the Treasurer had made this poor fellow’s reduction 3d. a week, the right honorable gentleman could indeed have claimed that he was reducing the tax by 54 per cent., or thereabouts. I merely wish to suggest that it must he obvious to any one who looks at those figures that the claims, made in terms of percentages, are completely misleading to the House.
It is not to be thought that the cases I have cited are extreme examples of those who receive the large percentage reductions in rates of taxation. Those are the typical cases, and any one who cares to examine the statement will see that for himself. Those are typical of the valuable reductions, expressed in percentage terms, which have been claimed by the Treasurer. All I ask is, who does the Treasurer think he is fooling ? He is certainly not fooling the average worker, who knows by what small amount his tax payments have been varied by this reduction of rates.
But a much more serious matter is the. totally incorrect impression given by the Treasurer that folk on lower incomes have been given much larger percentage reductions than people on higher incomes. T have already shown that those persons who receive the reductions ranging up to 20 per cent, are people in such small income brackets that they no longer exist as a class in this Australian inflation economy. When we further examine the tables, we find that, from the basic wage upwards, the difference between the reduction of tax payable by a man on a small income, and that payable by a man on the highest income, is only 2 per cent. A person without dependants, on the basic wage of £600 a year, receives a reduction of 9.9 per cent. A single man with an income of £15,000 a year receives a reduction of 8.1 per cent. There is no substantial difference between the percentage reductions given to those two income earners. A man with a dependent wife, in receipt of an income of £600 a year, receives a reduction of 10.1 per cent. A man with a dependent wife in receipt of an income of £15,000 a year receives a reduction of 8.1 per cent. The difference between the percentage reduction granted to the two income earners is very slight. We find, on further examination, that a man with a dependent wife and two children in receipt of an income of £600 a year is granted a reduction of 10.1 per cent., which is only 2 per cent, more than the reduction granted to a man with a similar number of dependants in receipt of an income of £15,000 a year.
The Treasurer has remarked that the benefit of the reductions will be appreciated by all salary and wage earner = from the first pay day in the present month. The fact is that the basic wag”, earner, with a small family, finds that his benefit from these reductions amounts, on an average, to lid. a week. The Treasurer has also claimed that the incomes of some taxpayers with family responsibilities have been wholly freed of tax. Well, I have looked carefully through the schedules, and I can find only two cases to which that particular claim applies. The first is a man with a dependent wife and one child receivingless than £5 16s. a week. In 1949-50, that person was required to pay tax of 19s. a year, or 4d. a week. The tax on that person was remitted last year, and noi; this year, as the’ Treasurer has claimed. The extravagant claim by the Treasurer that the incomes of some taxpayers with family responsibilities have been wholly freed of tax applies only to the man with a dependent wife struggling to exist on £5 16s. a week, and to a man with a dependent wife and two children earning less than £6 15s. a week.
In various statements, the Treasurer has claimed that this Government has made substantial tax concessions to the Australian people compared with the tax that they were paying in 1949-50. Once again, he relies on percentages and tables to prove his point. He can only prove his point by comparing the actual amount of tax paid by a man to-day with the tax paid by a man earning the same number of pounds in 1949-50. But, as everybody knows, the value of those pounds has- greatly depreciated since 1949-50, and it will be agreed that that method of comparison is not a correct or fair one. in the circumstances. It is quite obvious that in a period of great inflation, if the Treasurer were to allow income tax rates to remain unchanged then, he would take a constantly increasing percentage of the total national income. This is because income tax rates are graded so that a man with higher income pays a higher proportion of that income in tax. So, as inflation developed people who were previously in receipt of a small number of pounds, expressed in the basic wage, and are now in receipt of double that number of pounds expressed in the basic wage, would obviously pay a much higher percentage of their basket of goods and services to the Treasurer. So the Treasurer has had to reduce the rates of tax as calculated on a specific number of pounds. The point I wish to examine is whether, in fact, this Government has reduced the proportion of the total national income which it takes in taxation. Is it to-day, in fact, taking from the average man less of his basket of goods and services than the Chifley Government took from him in 1949-50? I have not seen this particular task worked out before, but I have worked it out to the best of my ability with the assistance of the Acting Commonwealth Statistician. One of the first things I suggest one has to do if one wishes to make a calculation of this kind is to find some basis of comparing the 1949 £1 with the 1954 £1. On that basis, I sought the assistance of the Acting Commonwealth Statistician, and On the 7th September last he wrote to me as follows: -
As indicated over the telephone this morning, there is no price index or combination of price indexes which can be utilized as a precise and universal deflator of costs or incomeexpenditure in Australia over recent years. This is because of the wide dispersion and magnitude of price increases in this period.
However, after examining the movements of the two available retail price index numbers in relation to the movements of various groups of wholesale prices, import and export prices, which cover a wide field of commodities, and having regard to movements in wage rates as representing costs of services, I believe that reasonably reliable results would be obtained, for purposes of your calculations, if you work on the basis that thu pound (£) as at mid-1054 would have purchased what cost approximately 12s. in mid-1940.
Illustrative calculations on the basis of amounts mentioned by you would be: -
These calculations refer to disposable income neglecting the incidence of income tax.
The calculations below the line, viz.. for £7,000 and £15,000 are less reliable than those above the line, viz., for £000 and £S0O.
On that basis, what cost £1 in mid-1949 would require 33s. 6d. to buy in mid-1954, and a single man earning £300 a year in 1949 would need £500 in 1954 to provide himself with the same standard of living. It is proper, therefore, to compare the tax payable on an income of £300 in 1949 with the tax payable on an income of £500 in 1954. This comparison shows that whereas the tax payable in 1949 was £13 2s., the tax payable on the same real income in the Treasurer’s new proposals will be £27 2s. However, the sum of £13 2s. in 194.9 was the equivalent in terms of purchasing power of the sum of £21 16s. 6d. at the present time. But the Treasurer proposes to take not £21 16s. 6d., but £27 2s., which is 24 per cent. more. The taxation increase since 1949 is therefore 24 per cent, instead of the 27 per cent, decrease claimed by the Treasurer. I am not an expert mathematician and, therefore, I obtained the assistance of officers of the Acting Commonwealth Statistician in working out the figures with which I shall now deal. These figures show a remarkable result. They show that the Government today is taking a larger share of the real income of every individual - that is, of the basket of goods and services available to every family - than the Government took in 1949. But, most extraordinary of all, the Government is taking a much larger share from the man on a low income and only a comparatively small increase from the man in the very top bracket of income. I do not propose to read all of these figures. I shall refer to some of them, and ask for leave to incorporate all of them in Hansard.
– Is leave granted ?
An Honorable Member. - No.
Leave not granted.
-The Acting Commonwealth Statistician, in supplying these figures, wisely noted, “ Calculations only are vouched for”. In other words, the deductions that I draw from them are my own. For the benefit of honorable members who may not be able imme- diately- to follow these figures I shall explain them in a little more detail after
I have finished reading them. The figures are as follows: -
It will already be apparent to every honorable member who is following me with keen attention that the increase in taxation is lowest oh the very high brackets of income and is greatest on the lowest brackets of income. The remainder of the figures are as follows: -
I consider that table to be extremely valuable.
The figures are officially compiled, but the headings are mine. I hope that honorable members on the opposite side of the House will do me the credit of recognizing that this is, at least, an honest attempt to assess the correctness of the Government’s claims to have reduced taxation during its term of office. If they do not agree with the basis I have presented, I hope they will indicate where, and in what way, they disagree with it. These remarkable figures show that a man with a dependent wife, who had an income of £400 in mid-1949, would require to-day an income of £667 to give him the same standard of living. In 1949, he paid £14 7s., the present equivalent of which would be £23 18s. 4d., but in fact, the Treasurer is socking him for £31 14s., an increase of 32.5 per cent, over the real taxation which he paid in 1949. In other words, the Treasurer has increased by 32.5 per cent, his demand on that man’s basket of goods, groceries and services during the present Government’s term of office. At the other end of the scale, the man with a dependent wife who had an income of £5,000 a year, in mid-1949, would need to-day an income of £8,333 to give him the same standard of living. In 1949, he was required to pay £2,050 17s., the present equivalent of which would be £3,418. The tax actually payable to-day is £3,334. In other words, the Treasurer has increased his real demand on such a man by only 3.3” per cent., whereas he has increased his demand on a man with £400 a year by 32.5 per cent.
Let us take the case of a man with a wife and two children who had an income of £600. a year in 1949. He would require to-day £1,000 to give him the same standard of living. In 1949, he paid £26 5s., the present equivalent of which would be £43 15s. In fact, however, the Treasurer is asking that man to pay £60 2s., an increase of 37.4 per cent. At the other end of the scale, the man with a wife and two children who had an income of £15,000 a year in mid-1949, and who would require £25,000 to-day to give him the same standard of living, is required to pay a real increase of only 7.9 per cent.
I come now to the most extraordinary case of all, that of the man with a wife and six children, the man above all others for whom one might expect this Government to be eager to provide some real taxation assistance in these ° inflationary times. Such a man who had an income of £800 a year in mid-1949, would have paid £35 a year in taxation. The present equivalent of the £800 is £1,333, whilst the equivalent of the £35 tax which he paid in 1949 is £58 6s. 8d. But the Treasurer requires that man to pay £80 19s. a year, an increase of 38.8 per cent. A man with the same family responsibilities, but with an income of £5,000 a year in 1949, the equivalent of which would be £8,333 to-day, is required to pay only 3.4 per cent, more in taxation than he was required to pay by the Chifley Government in 1949.
The figures show, first, that the Government is taking an ever larger share of the real incomes of the Australian people for its taxation requirements, and secondly, that it is making its largest demands; and placing its heaviest impost, on the people with family responsibilities and low incomes, whilst it is giving the greatest Concessions and, therefore, the greatest benefits, to the people with the highest incomes in the community. I have made a very serious attempt to analyse this position and have worked out the figures on a basis provided by the Commonwealth Statistician. I have had the benefit of calculations by his officers in connexion with all the figures I have cited.. They are all official figures. Because that is so, I hope that the Government speakers who follow me will at least endeavour to show, if they can, where, and in what way, that basis is incorrect. I hope they will also demonstrate the way in .which the Government justifies its claim that during its term of office it has really given taxation concessions to the taxpayers. I think that I have provided conclusive proof that the Government has given, no such concessions to the Australian, people but has, instead, constantly and year. by year, increased its take or raised its share of the total contribution of the people which it grabs for governmental purposes. In doing so, year by year, it has raised the percentage of increase on the family men and those with low incomes far above the percentage increase in respect of those in the very top income brackets.
.- It has been said that, if too many figures are used during a debate in this House, every radio tuned to the broadcast of the parliamentary proceedings is turned off. I assume, in the light of the speech to which ;we have just listened from the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Allan Eraser), that there is not a single radio in Australia now tuned to the broadcast of these proceedings. As quite a while has elapsed since the Treasurer (Sir . Arthur Fadden) spoke in the
Blouse in connexion with this matter, we might, with advantage, deal broadly with some of the comments that he made at that time. The right honorable gentleman pointed out that if the previous rates of tax had continued during the current year, the total amount that would have been received from collections of taxes would have been £380,500,000, but under the reduced scales, the estimated- amount to be received is £357,300,000. During the current financial year, therefore, those who pay personal income tax will receive the benefit of reductions amounting to £23,200,000. The benefit in a full year would amount to £31,250,000. Those are the basic facts on which we should make our comments to-night.
The honorable member for EdenMonaro took us on a fairly long excursion into this problem, and we heard some extraordinary comments from him. First, he complained because a_ greater benefit is received by those on higher incomes than is received by those on the lower incomes. That argument is a hardy Opposition annual. For instance, last year it was presented by the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell). I replied to it and was followed in the debate by the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley) who agreed that a sliding scale of taxation is the only basis on which one can make a calculation. As I pointed out last year, in 1949 and at all times under the Curtin Government and the Chifley Government, this exact procedure was in operation. Indeed, I believe that if we go back further we shall find it has always been the case that the person on the higher income receives a much greater tax concession than does the person on the lower income. I do not believe for a moment that that is totally inequitable. If increases were granted mainly to those on the lower incomes, there would be a much greater spending on consumer goods. If that were followed to its natural conclusion it would help to produce a dose of inflation in the Australian community and would not lead to the progress that will be fostered by this Government’s policy. Perhaps that is what honorable members opposite desire. The amount which is given to people in receipt of higher incomes by way of tax reductions represents, in my opinion, money which will be invested as capital, and which will help to maintain full employment, or, better still, to promote overemployment. That system was accepted in principle and adopted by the Labour party when it was in power, just as it has -been accepted by this Government.
The honorable member for EdenMonaro produced a specious argument in relation to the relative values of money to-day and in 1949. In the first place, he suggested that every increase of the basic wage in the last five years had been a cost of living increase.
– Well, if the honorable member takes into consideration the increases that have taken place and then makes a comparison between a wage in 1949 and a comparable wage to-day, I maintain definitely that he treats every increase of the basic wage as a cost of living increase. That is not the case, as the honorable member knows perfectly well, because in 1951 the basic wage was increased by an amount of £1 ‘ a week which had no relation to the actual cost of living. In the second place, I believe, the honorable member totally disregarded special items of concessional benefit which this Government has granted to taxpayers since it has been in office. I remind honorable members, for example, that in 1949 the total amount of the permissible deduction for medical expenses for each taxpayer and each dependant was £50. To-day, the deduction allowed for medical expenses is no less than £150 for each person. Very few taxpayers are not committed to medical expenses of some sort each year, and, when such amounts are deducted from the actual income of a taxpayer, they considerably reduce the amounts which are shown on the schedule referred to by the honorable member for Eden-Monaro.
When this Government came to office, it disapproved of the principle of determining the rate of tax applicable by reference to the gross income. At that time, concessional deductions were made by way of rebate after the rate of tax had been established on the gross income. This Government believed that concessional allowances should be deducted from gross income before the rate of tax was determined. That is another benefit that should be taken into consideration by the House. During the war period, the Chifley Government decided that all tax up to ls. 6d. in £1 paid by a taxpayer should be regarded as a contribution towards social services. Therefore, income tax was not operative until a taxpayer’s charge exceeded ls. 6d. in £1. This Government, however, amalgamated the two levies. Therefore, a comparison of taxes payable under the former Labour Government and under the present Government is misleading, because the figures under the Labour Government do not include the first ls. 6d. in £1, whereas those for taxes paid under the present Government cover the total charge.
The remarks of the honorable member for Eden-Monaro, if taken to their natural conclusion, would almost mean that most taxpayers would, in fact, receive something from” the Government, that there would be very few taxpayers in Australia, and that there would be deficit budgets of some hundreds of millions of pounds every year. The honorable member said that an income of £300 in 1949 was equal to £500 a year now. I want to point out that a taxpayer receiving £300 in 1949 paid no tax and with an income of £500 a year’ to-day, would have to pay £4 7s. income tax. That figure is shown on the schedule. But, at the same time, let us not forget that this Government introduced endowment for the first child under sixteen years in each family, and that the taxpayer now receives £13 a year for his first child. Therefore, he is much better off to-day than he was in 1949. The child endowment of £13 a ye’ar more than covers the income tax of £4 7s. a year. I have demonstrated, by using the same figures as the honorable member for Eden-Monaro and adopting the same basis of approach, that such a taxpayer is better off under this Government than he was under the Chifley Government.
I maintain that it is entirely wrong to make a comparison between conditions now and those in 1949 merely on the basis of the provisions of one bill. Nobody imagines that a government which wished to reduce taxes would remain in charge of the Treasury for five years without reducing taxes and then produce an excellent income tax reduction all of a sudden in one year. Therefore, we should consider this Government’s record in relation to tax benefits over the last five years. Any intelligent person who does so must inevitably come to the conclusion that the citizens of Australia have reason to be more than satisfied with the taxation legislation that has been passed during this Government’s term of office. I have mentioned, for instance, the fact that it abolished the rebate system. At the same time, it has simplified the method of calculating tax liability so that it is no longer necessary for a taxpayer who wishes to check his assessment to obtain a rates book from the Taxation Branch and make a difficult calculation. The advantages of the new simplified method are widely appreciated, I believe. The Government has also liberalized the concessional allowances. The individual allowance for medical expenses, which was £50 in 1949, is £150 to-day. The allowance for dental expenses has been increased from £10 in 1949 to £30. The allowance for life insurance, which was £150 in 1949, has been increased to £200. The allowance for a wife was increased last year from £104’ to £130.
We should not forget, either, what this Government has done in relation to the allowance for aged persons. I am sure that all men over 65 and all women over 60 are keenly appreciative of its action in freeing from taxation all income that they receive up to a certain amount. When the Labour party was in power, every person of any age who received an income of more than £2 a week was subject to taxation. But, in 1951. this Government decided that every single man over 65 and every single woman over 60 with an income of £234 or less would be exempt from taxation. The exemption for a married couple above the ages I have mentioned covered a combined income of £468. It was liberalized in the following year, and last year it was increased to £375 for a single person and no less than £750 for a married couple over the specified age limits.
One cannot justly consider the points mentioned by the honorable member for Eden-Monaro in isolation from the facts that I have mentioned. “ The benefits that I have mentioned have considerably reduced the taxes payable by Australians. Great concessions have been granted in respect of education expenses. This Government first made an allowance of £50 a year for each child. Last year, the limit was increased to £75 for each child. This benefit does not apply Only in relation to children attending boarding schools. It applies to all children who attend schools, and it even includes fares, and the cost of school books and requisites, which have to be purchased by parents in Queensland.
This Government abolished the special rate of property tax, and I believe.’ that to many people in the community that relief has been a boon. Most certainly it has been a great help to taxpayers in making calculations of tax in their income tax assessments. This Government also increased the allowable deduction for contributions to an employees’ pension fund from £100 to £200. Let us not forget, too, that we : have done something that was never thought of by a Labour Government, by allowing for special rates of depreciation to enable primary producers to write off plant, and homes specially built for employees, over a period of five years at the rate of 20 per cent, per annum. These achievements are important in relation to the taxation accomplishments of this Government over the . last five years. I am well aware that at the .time of the last general election, in -May of this year, many electors said, in effect, “We shall put the present Government back into office, because it is the Government that is most likely to reduce taxation “. As a result, the House is now considering a bill that provides for a reduction of personal and company income taxation.
A comparison of the income tax rates in the financial year 1949-50 . and the present rates reveals that, for the man with a dependent wife and two children - an average family - the reduction has been no less than 69 per cent, on incomes of £500, 37.6 per cent, on incomes of £1,000, 26.5 per cent, on incomes of £2,000, and 18 per cent, on the maximum taxation scale. But even that does not tell the whole story. The honorable member for Eden-Monaro to-night declined to refer to the last page of the document entitled Income Tax on Individuals, which was produced by the Treasurer, ‘ because the Australian Labour party would much prefer to forget entirely the information contained in it. I do not want to weary the House by citing a lot of figures, so I shall give just four illustrations of the comparative income tax figures for various levels of income in the United Kingdom, New Zealand and Australia, for a taxpayer with a dependent wife and two children, taken from the last page of the document. On an income of £500 a year, the United Kingdom tax is £15 3s. 10d., the New Zealand tax £37 10s., and the Australian tax £4 7s. On an income of £1,000 a year, the United Kingdom tax amounts ‘to £115 16s. Id., the New Zealand tax is £133 2s. 6d., and the Australian tax is £60 2s. I remind the House that the child endowment benefits of £39 a year paid in respect of the two children more than completely counterbalance the Australian tax of £4 7s. on an income of £500 a year, and substantially reduce the Australian tax of £60 2s. on an income of £1,000 a year, to a net payment of £21 2s. As a result the net tax paid in Australia is in striking contrast to the substantial taxation figures of the other two countries. On an income of £2,000 a year the United Kingdom tax amounts to £465 lis. 8d., the New Zealand tax to £458 2s. 6d., and the Australian tax to £294 7s. On an income of £3,000 a year, the United Kingdom tax amounts to £1,025 lis. 8d., the New Zealand tax to £908 2s. 6d., and the Australian tax to only £648 5s. There can be no doubt in the. mind of any one that Australia is in a much healthier position from a taxation point of view than is either the United Kingdom or New Zealand.
– What does the honorable member suggest is the reason?
– The reason is this Government’s appreciation of the interests of every individual in the community. The Government’s work in reducing taxation during the last five years has contributed materially to the existing stability and prosperity in Australia.
This Administration is recognized as a tax-reduction Government.
– What a lot of rubbish!
– It amuses me to hear the interjections of honorable members opposite. Every person outside this House is in total agreement with me that this is a tax-reduction Government. Its record over the last five years, as I have outlined it. clearly indicates that it has made every possible effort to reduce taxation. I suggest to the House that had the Australian Labour party been in office during the last five years, and had the Korean and Indo-China situations developed while Labour was in office and made it essential to increase defence expenditure, there would have been no reduction in taxation for the Australian community. In spite of the substantial additional defence commitments that this Government has had to undertake, it has to its credit remarkable achievements in taxation policy, and I believe that it will continue the good work that it has undertaken during its five years of office.
Mr. CREAN (Melbourne Ports) J S.57]. - To-night the House is considering the rates of taxation that shall apply for the current financial year to the incomes of individuals and companies. I point out that the aggregate amount to be collected this financial year, according to the Treasurer, is expected to total £539,000,000 compared with the total income-tax collections last year of £528,000.000. At least in aggregate, more income tax will be collected from individuals and companies this’ financial year than was collected last financial year.
I should like to correct one or two matters in respect to what might be called the comparative statistics that have been cited this evening. My colleague, the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Allan Fraser), as I see it, merely pointed out to the House that it was of no use to read the tables that have been presented to honorable members in the document entitled, Income Tax on Individuals. The comparisons made in that document seem to me to be dishonest. It is of no use to say that an individual with an income of £500 in 1949-50 paid a specified amount of tax, and that at present he pays less income tax. That would be true, of course, only if £500 income at present were equivalent to an income of £500 in 1949-50. The honorable member for Eden-Monaro pointed out that the taxpayer who at present receives an income of £500 a year is unfortunate indeed, because the purchasing power of the income has declined by approximately 66 per cent, in the last five years. The honorable member for Eden-Monaro sought to make an honest comparison of like with like, which, after all, is the basis of comparison that should be adopted. He pointed out that at present an income of approximately £850 a year is needed to give a person a purchasing power equivalent to that of £500 a year in 1949-50, and that, therefore, the relevant comparison is between the taxation paid on an income of £500’ a year in 1949-50 and on an income with equivalent purchasing power at present. In making the comparison the honorable member made allowances for the taxpayer’s wife and dependent children. Despite attention being drawn to the falseness of the comparisons in the pamphlet entitled Income Tax on Individuals nothing has been done about them. The Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) compared the income tax payable in Australia with the taxes payable in the United Kingdom and New Zealand, but did not mention the footnotes to the tables on the back- of the pamphlet which indicate that Australian taxes are expressed in Australian currency and that United Kingdom and New Zealand taxes are expressed in sterling. Therefore, honorable members will readily see that it is not correct to compare £500 in Australian money with £500 in United Kingdom or New Zealand money.
Another footnote to the table indicates that in the figures relating to the United Kingdom a sum akin to our social services payments has been included. The Treasurer , did not mention that under the guise of a free medical scheme this Government has introduced a new tax, because it becomes obligatory on every family man in the community to pay out at least 3s. a week in order to receive the medical benefits that the Government claims are free. Therefore, it will b« readily seen that the table to which I have referred is most misleading, and I am astonished that the treasury officials, at least, have condoned the presentation of such a document. It is impossible to draw up a correct comparison of taxes in Australia and taxes in New Zealand and the United Kingdom unless the taxes are stated in the same monetary units. Australian taxes should be stated in sterling, or the’ United Kingdom and New Zealand taxes should be stated in Australian pounds. Honorable members will perceive at once that a comparison between taxes paid in Australia and taxes paid in America is of no value unless the appropriate conversion is made. No one would compare £500 Australian with 500 dollars, yet that is exactly the type of comparison that has been put forward in this document, merely because the currencies of Australia on the one hand and the United Kingdom and New Zealand on the other hand’ are measured in pounds.
Now, £500 in the United Kingdom is equivalent to £625 in Australia. The honorable member for Petrie (Mr. Hulme) said that a man with an income of £5,000, who had a dependent wife, would pay £1,634 as income tax in Australia, whereas- in New Zealand a man with a similar income and a dependent wife would pay £2,242. If he had made the correct comparison he would have stated that £5,000 in Australia is equivalent to £4,000 in New Zealand currency, and would then have discovered that the Australian taxpayer would pay £1,634 and the New Zealand taxpayer only £1,568. That indicates the type of comparison that is put forward by this Government. When we reduce the amounts involved to common terms, we find that the picture is quite different from that painted by the Government. More light is thrown upon the matter when we consider the total amount of taxes collected. In 1949. an individual who received an income of £200 paid a certain tax. He might have been a reasonably typical person at that time, but in 1954 individuals with such incomes hardly exist at all.
There should be a more practical appraisal of the incidence of taxation in this community. The income tax is the most important single tax that we have, because out of a total revenue from taxation of £936,000,000 about £540,000,000 is collected from the income tax. Sometimes in considering misleading individual comparisons we may lose sight of th>; fact that the income tax is imposed on a graduated scale, and that the higher the income of an individual may be the greater the amount of tax he will have to pay - and, of course, that is a just principle. Therefore, when income tax rates are reduced, the greatest benefit of the reduction is given, not to those who need it most, but to those who are better off than the rest of the community. This Government proposes to reduce taxes by about £31,000,000, but if we consider the statistics that are shown towards the end of the budget papers, we find that the Commissioner of Taxation has produced some very interesting information about the collection of taxes. The tables that he has supplied indicate, of course, that everybody does not pay the same income, tax. In other words, there are more individuals in some income groups than in others. I submit that when this Government decided to return about £31,000,000 a year to the taxpayers it should have distributed that amount in a much more equitable way than it has do,ne. It should have eased the burden on the taxpayers in a way that would have put more purchasing power into the hands of the people who need it most. In that regard I submit, despite what certain optimistic people believe, that we aregetting to a stage when certain sections of the people are unable to purchase the goods and services that they need because their commitments in other directions are too great. Therefore, reductions of taxation will have greater effect as economic stimulants if they are given more to those who are receiving lower incomes than to those who are receiving high incomes.
Sometimes it might be wiser not to reduce the rates of income tax, but to reduce indirect taxes which have a greater impact on the poorer sections of the people. However, the House is dealing with income tax to-night, and I call honorable members’ attention to page 152 of the budget papers, which contains statistics for the income year that ended on the 30th June, 1952, which was the last year for which assessment figures were available to the Commissioner of Taxation. Those figures indicate that in that financial year about 3,415,000 people in Australia paid income tax, but of that number about 200,000, who received actual incomes between £105 and £200 a year, paid £434,000. I submit that, as a practical consideration, it is extremely doubtful whether the administrative work involved in collecting £434,000 from about 200,000 people is really worthwhile. When this Government was reducing income tax on individuals by about £31,000,000, it might well have taken the practical administrative step of exempting all incomes under £200. That would probably mean deciding upon a new taxation structure altogether and I submit again that it is time that practical considerations were adopted when considering these matters.
When income tax was first introduced in Australia, there were amounts which were known as statutory deductions. Separate amounts were allowed in respect of various dependants and for other expenditure such as medical expenses. Those amounts were taken off the gross income before taxable income was computed. The idea of the statutory exemption was that an individual living on his own required a certain amount of money to support himself, and that that amount should not be taxed. The individual’s taxable capacity began only after the minimum amount for subsistence had been allowed. Then, if the person was married, he was allowed a further amount which was generally half the amount that was supposed to keep the taxpayer himself. I know that the old adage that two can live as cheaply as one has been exploded long ago, but apparently it was thought that a wife could keep herself on half as much as her husband could. If £150 was needed for a man to support himself, the amount that was required to support a wife was worked out at £75. Similar allowances were computed for children and the various dependants of the taxpayer. All those amounts were subtracted from the income that was derived by the individual before comput ing the amount of tax that he would pay. Now we have a theoretical kind of statutory exemption in Australia. No individual pays tax unless his or her income is in excess of £104 a year, but if the taxpayer does have a taxable income, the first £104 i3 taken into calcu.lation in computing the tax that is payable.
I suggest that the time has arrived in Australia’ when, because of the effects of inflation that have been evident in the Australian economy for some time, there should be some re-appraisal of the taxation structure. The only people who appear to be clamant about re-appraisals of the taxation structure are those persons in business who own plant. They talk about capital erosion so far as capital is concerned, but do not appear to be worried about personal income erosion so far as the effects of inflation on individuals are concerned. If the statutory exemption basis in relation to allowances for various dependants were adopted, those amounts should be adjusted on sliding scales according to changes in the value of money. I referred previously to the fact that about 200,000 persons on incomes ranging from £105 to £200 paid an aggregate of £434,000 in income tax, and in the next group 270,000 persons with incomes ranging from £201 to £300 paid an aggregate Bum of slightly less than £2,000,000. In other words; 470,000 taxpayers with incomes of £300 a year or less paid just under £2,500,000 to Consolidated Revenue. I submit that the administrative problems of the. Taxation Branch would be eased considerably if, at one swoop, those 470,000 individuals could be removed from the income tax field. I know that some people hold the theory that an individual who is deriving an income ought to make some contribution towards the various- functions of government. Most people contribute through indirect taxation of one kind or another, and I suggest that theoretical principles ought to bow down to some of the practicalities of administration. I submit that it is extremely doubtful whether the collection of £2,400,000 from the 470,000 taxpayers to whom I have referred justifies the administrative problems involved.
I urge this Government, which has appointed expert committees on various minor aspects of taxation in the past, to follow the practice of two great countries, the United” States of America and the United Kingdom, and initiate systematic and extensive inquiries into the impact and effects of taxation upon the Australian community. An inquiry of that kind might well take twelve months or two years to complete, but at least it would be valuable and would indicate that some of the things that we take for granted have outlived their purpose. Honorable members might know that the United States of America has a much more extensive code of. taxation laws than we have. The income tax acts of the United States of America cover about 900 pages and recently the law there has been recodified. A royal commission, known as the .MillardTucker Commission, is sitting in Great Britain, and has already produced two important reports for the United King- dom Government. Arising from those reports, some adjustments have, been made in the principles of income tax as they affect the United Kingdom-. ‘” Bearing in mind the importance of income tax on our economy, and the fact that the public is not always well-informed about these matters, I suggest that the time has come when there should be. a . systematic re-appraisal of the effects of’ income tax on the community.
Honorable members on the Opposition side suggest that if the Government was prepared to make reductions of. income tax amounting to more than £31,000,000, it could have made them -with more justice by more extensive reductions in the lower income brackets, even by merely adjusting the amounts that are Supposed to be sufficient for the support of dependants. Two years ago, the Government increased the amount of concessional deduction in respect of a wife or spouse from £104 to £130, hut I doubt whether the Government would suggest sincerely that an’ individual can keep a wife on a sum as low as £130. Therefore, in one sense, the sum mentioned is not a scientific one, but merely a token recognition that the upkeep of a .wife : costs p something, and that some allowance^’ ifr. Crean. g» should be made accordingly. Similarly, with regard to children, £78 is allowed as a concessional deduction for the first child, and £52 for other children in a family. The significance of the difference in the amounts is that only 5s. a week is payable by way of child endowment for the first child under sixteen years and 10s. a week for others. Whether there is any logical connexion between the fact that endowment of £13 a year is paid for the first child and £26 for each other child, and that £78 is allowed as a concession for income tax purposes for the first child and only £52 for the second, is open to serious doubt. So far as medical allowances are concerned, the individual taxpayer is allowed the amounts actually incurred subject to the ceiling. There the principle is recognized that if a taxpayer or his dependant has to attend a dentist an optician or a doctor, the full amount of the bills may be deducted subject to a ceiling of £150. There, at least, the principle is an honest one. It is that the expense actually incurred should be allowed as a deduction. I submit that that kind of approach ought to be made to the general structure of the income tax, starting with the statutory exemption, a minimum sum which, I submit, should have some relation to the basic wage. It should be at least half the basic wage. Then, if the taxpayer were married, there would be a deduction for his wife, worked out a little more exactly than at present, and similarly with respect to other dependants. I throw that suggestion out. If the allowance for a wife were increased from £130 to, let us say, £182, if the allowance for a first child were increased from £78 to perhaps £130, and if the allowance for a second child were increased also - I cannot see any reason why there should be a difference between the allowances for various children - taxation benefits would go automatically to those who needed them most, according to their domestic circumstances. That is a just principle. It is certainly in accord with the theory on which the progressive income tax is based, which is that individuals with the greatest incomes shall pay the greatest amounts to meet the needs of the Government, after allowance has been made for their needs.
That would be a much more logical income tax structure than the one that has grown up haphazardly. Before the introduction of uniform taxation, income tax rates were comparatively low. When uniform taxation was introduced, there were differences between the rates structures of the various States, and a compromise form of the old statutory exemption and standard allowances for wives and children had to be thought out. The device that was adopted was what was known as the concessional rebate system. That might have had some logical foundation during the period of the war, but certainly it had none afterwards. I was all in favour of the change from concessional rebates to concessional deductions as the basis for allowances for dependants, but since then there has been very little appraisal of the real needs which the allowances are designed to meet. I urge the Government to give serious consideration to these matters. It should not take too much credit to itself for having reduced taxation by £32,000,000, because it appears from the figures produced by the taxation authorities that most of the money will go to people with high incomes. For the great majority of the people, as my colleague has pointed out, the reductions will be only 3d., 6d., or ls. a week - comparatively insignificant amounts. The reduction could have been distributed more justly on the lines I. have indicated.
.- I listened attentively to the speeches made to-night by the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Allan Fraser) and the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Crean). It appears that they want the people to have some kind of nostalgic memory of the great days, as they say, of the Chifley Government. Many figures have been cited in this debate. One lot of figures has been set against another. In some instances, the figures cited by the honorable member for Eden-Monaro could not be reconciled with those cited by the honorable member for Melbourne Ports. I do not want to deal with a lot of figures, because figures can be confusing. If we asked the people of Australia whether they wished to continue to get the wages they are getting now and to pay the income tax they are being asked to pay now, or to go back to the days of 1949, what would they say? That is the only practical way of considering this subject. The Opposition and people all over Australia know that our standard of living to-day is better than it was in 1949. When the Government parties were in opposition, the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Fuller) often compared the volume of the people’s savings then with the volume previously. He took the savings of the people as a yardstick to measure the country’s prosperity. But since he has been in Opposition, he has never made a comparison of that kind. Deposits by ordinary men and women in State savings banks and the Commonwealth Savings Bank have increased dramatically since this Government took office. If we take the savings of the people as a yardstick, our prosperity has increased tremendously since 1949. If we want- further evidence of our prosperity, let us look at the increased amenities in homes. I refer to washing machines, wall-to-wall carpets and all the other things that help to make the housewife happier in her home. If we asked the housewives whether they had more amenities now than in 1949, in SO cases out of 100 the answer would be an emphatic “ Yes “. There is no need to cite figures in support of that contention, because every one knows it is true.
– Remember the wool grab?
– I shall deal with that later. Let us consider the number of people who own motor cars. There has been a tremendous increase in motor car registrations. If we go to the big factories in Melbourne or Sydney, we see parked outside the factories hundreds of motor cars belonging to the workers. That is a sign of the times. All the figures produced by the Opposition will not convince the people that they are not better off now than they were in 1949. If we asked the people whether they wanted to go back to what the Opposition calls the good old days of the Chifley Government, what would the answer be?
Opposition Members. - Yes.
– I hear two or three very weak cries of “ Yes “ from the
Opposition, but there is no enthusiasm in them. If we put that question to the people, we should hear the answer “ No “ echo through the land. They would say, “ We have a better standard of living to-day than we had in 1949. We have more amenities now than we had then. Let us continue along the lines laid by this Government”. I remind the House that the Government has produced five budgets. The Opposition is always eager for the people to believe that it. has produced only four. The first budget produced by the Government, the 1950-51 budget, made a. slight reduction of taxation. The 1951-52 budget increased taxation by 10 per cent., but the budget for the next year cancelled that increase and restored taxation to the 1950-51 level. The 1953-54 budget reduced taxation by 121/2 per cent. The budget for this year provides for an average reduction of. 9 per cent. The honorable member for Eden-Monaro cited figures to show that a man on a very small income of £300 a year will receive a large percentage reduction of income tax, whilst a man on, so to speak, a real workman’s wage will not get a very big percentage reduction. But the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) has said very clearly that the average reduction will be about 9 per cent., and that is borne out by the tables that have been circulated. Since 1949, the income tax paid by a man on £500 a year, with a dependent wife and two children, has been reduced by 69 per cent. If we compare the tax that he paid last year with the tax that he will pay this year, we find that the reduction since last year is 17.9 per cent. A man in receipt of £600 a year with a dependent wife and child received a reduction of 12.4 per cent. which left him with £584 8s. The late Mr. Chifley said on many occasions that it was not how much taxation a man paid but how much he had left after paying taxation that was important. A married man with two children and an income of £500 in 1949 had £485 19s. left after paying income tax. This year such a man will have £495 13s. left, which is almost £10 more. However, he will receive £39 in child endowment, the payment in respect of the first child having been introduced by this Govern ment. Consequently, the man in receipt’ of £500 will not, in effect, pay any tax but will receive something from the Government.
The honorable member for Wannon (Mr. McLeod) asked me, by way of interjection, if I remembered the Wool Sales Deduction Act. Of course J remember the Wool Sales Deduction Act. Incidentally, the late Mr. Chifley once admitted, in reply to an interjection of mine, that those deductions were not a tax but a levy. The man who should remember that levy better than anyone else is the honorable member for Wannon because, but for that levy, he would not have been returned to this House. Ho stated in this House and in his electorate that the wool sales deductions would never be paid back to the growers and that the act would remain on the statute-book forever.
– When was it paid back?
Mi-. TURNBULL.- It was paid back the next year.
– But the honorable member for Wannon was re-elected this year.
– He was returned to this House on a previous occasion, subsequent to the passing of the Wool Sales Deduction Act. He nearly failed to return this year. The Wool Sales Deduction Act is the reason why the honorable member got back into Parliament at the general election before last, yet he had the audacity to ask me if I remembered it. Ho is the man who should always remember it.
The honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Crean) made some remark about dishonest calculations by the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden). The calculations to which he referred are not dishonest. Does the honorable member contend that the Treasurer or the Taxation Branch would have made those figures public had they been dishonestly calculated ? In that case it would have been shown that they were dishonest. I remember the honorable member for Melbourne Ports saying in this House and in my electorate that provisional taxation was unfair. He did not mention that Labour had introduced provisional taxation in 1944. Opposition members have not paid any tribute to the Government for the introduction of the selfassessment system which overcame the vicious effects of Labour’s provisional taxation. When a Labour government first introduced provisional taxation, if a man on the land had a fairly good income in one year and suffered from a drought in the next year, he had to pay the same amount of provisional tax in that year as he had paid in th(» good year. When this Government came to office it realized the effect, of provisional taxation on primary producers and introduced the system that had been beneficial in Canada, the selfassessment system. Now, if a man has a bad season after a good one, by exercising his right of self-assessment, lie may estimate his tax liability at nothing and pay no provisional tax at all.
Opposition members should know that, yet they have accused the Treasurer of using dishonest- calculations. It is well known that people who constantly accuse others of dishonesty should be watched carefully themselves. The amendments to taxation legislation which have been introduced by this Government have pleased all Australians and the country has benefited from them to such an extent that people all over the world regard this country as a classic example of the rate of productivity that can be achieved by a people which is encouraged by its government. Members of Parliament from both sides of the House, on returning from overseas, have stated that Australia is the greatest country in the world. Those honorable members who went to the coronation of Queen Elizabeth the Second praised this country on their return because they realized the degree of its economic stability and the scope of itamenities and the chances that it offered people to make good. They realized that this country should ‘be called the land of opportunity.
– The honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull) protested that the Opposition had accused the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) of making dishonest calculations.. We have not charged anyone with dishonesty. Our complaint concerned the manner in which the figures in question had been arranged. I do not intend to plead for a big reduction in taxation. Only a slight reduction has been made in taxation but we have to recognize that, if people are to receivethe social services benefit to which they are entitled, finance for the provision of those benefits must be obtained from taxation. I do not believe that one can draw glass after glass out of the barrel and have it remain full without putting more in. But it is a common belief that tax concessions and reductions can he granted without limitation. The Opposition contends that the Government has not taken the steps necessary to provide for the needs of the people. Taxation should not hare been reduced as much as it has been reduced in some cases while so many people have been in great need. I have always regarded taxation as a means . by which to distribute more fairly the wealth of the community. I think that that is generally recognized. From the taxation tables that have been distributed to honorable members, it will be seen that a person in receipt of an income of £15,000 a year makes an appreciable contribution by taxation to the revenue needed by the Government to conduct the affairs of this country. But it is to persons in another income bracket that I wish to refer. I shall deal first with our method of taxation. The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) and, I suppose, almost every honorable member have, from time to time, when speaking from the public platform stressed the urgent necessity to increase our population if we are to remain a predominantly British community. About two years ago, in a speech that I delivered to the House during the consideration of a taxation measure, I pointed out that in order to offset the depreciation of the value of the currency, the deductions for taxation purposes allowable to family men should be increased. The measure provided for the deduction allowable to a married man in respect of his wife of £104, which was £2 a week. I pointed out that that deduction should he increased to £156, which is £3 a week. I also urged the Government to increase the allowable deduction for the first child from £78 to £104, and that for additional children from £52 to £78 a year. I showed conclusively that such increased deductions would assist a family man in receipt of the basic wage, or even slightly more than the basic wage, to counter the decrease of the value of his wages due to inflation. When I have stated on previous occasions that, due to inflation, a labourer who is in receipt of an income of £600 a year cannot buy with his weekly wage of about £12 as many commodities as he bought several years ago when his weekly wage was only £8, Government members have stated that I had not taken into account the £1 a week prosperity loading. On this occasion I have done so, and, in view of the figures that I shall cite, I hope the Government will consider seriously the suggestions I have made on previous occasions in relation to allowable deductions to family men for .income tax purposes.
Last year, the Government raised the allowable deduction for a wife from £104 to £130 a year, which was a half of the way towards satisfying the suggestion I made. The taxation tables that have been circulated show that a man who is in receipt of an income of £600 a year, who has no dependants, pays tax of £39 12s. a year. I have chosen that category because the living wage is at present about £12 a week. A married man who is in receipt of an income of £600 a year pays tax of £23 17s., which is £15 15s. less than does a single taxpayer. It is ridiculous to suggest that a married man can maintain a home and make proper provision for his wife by an expenditure of £15 15s. a year more than a single man pays. The Australian Labour party believes that taxation should be imposed in accordance with the principle of ability to pay. In that respect, we are at variance with certain honorable members on the other side of the House. I point out that it is unreasonable to impose on a married man in the category I have mentioned taxation only £15 los. a year less than on a single man. If the married man had one child, he would be allowed a deduction of £S 5s. for that child. He would thus pay tax of £15 12s. a year. If he had two children, he would also be allowed a deduction of £4 7s. for the second child, and would thus pay tax of £11 5s.
If -the Government seriously believes that the people should be encouraged to rear large families, it should increase allowable deductions for wives and children. A single man in receipt of an income of £600 a year can well afford to pay the taxation that is imposed on him. The Government must derive income from taxation in order to repay our war debts, provide social services benefits, and carry on the other business of government. I do not think that a single man who is earning £12 a week is being hit too hardly by having to pay a tax of 15s. a week. However, I contend that, if his aged parents need assistance, they should be paid an adequate pension. When, on previous occasions, I have compared the amount of tax payable by married men with children with that paid by single persons without dependants, some honorable members have pointed to the fact that a married man receives child endowment of 5s. and 10s. a week, which is equivalent to £13 a year for the first child and £26 a year in respect of his second child. But a family man is subject to considerable indirect taxation on purchases to maintain his wife and family. A single man does not bear that burden to the same degree. It is true that the present Government has slightly reduced indirect taxation - ‘although certainly not to the degree that the previous Government did - but sufficient consideration has not been given to reducing the burden of taxation carried by family men, particularly those who contribute to the support of their aged parents.
I was interested in the remarks of the honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull) in relation to motor cars at the factories to which he referred. For years I was in industry, and I had the job of collecting certain mutual funds. I noticed, even in those days, that the man with the family usually had to travel on a tramcar if he took his wife and kiddies out on a holiday. Even before the motor car became so popular, a man who owned a horse and trap was not a man with a family. Nearly always, that form of conveyance was used by a man and his wife who did not have children to maintain. The flash motor cars - when I refer to flash motor cars, I mean those that are fairly new - that are seen around the fae.tries, do not belong to men on the basic wage who have two or three children. Some people obtain more pleasure from the use of their old “Tin Lizzies “ than others get from expensive motor cars.
The honorable member for Mallee referred to the days of the Chifley Government, and to wall-to-wall carpets. If the honorable member would let me take him into homes in the division that I represent, he would see homes in which there are four or five children and for which the occupants pay £2 10s. a week rent. One does not see wall-to-wall carpets in those homes. Those people cannot afford such carpets. Admittedly, many people who could not afford wall-to-wall carpets years ago have them to-day, but I remind the honorable member for Mallee also that many of the people who have wall-to-wall carpets had them in 1949 before this Government came into office and became so beneficent. Many people who could afford wall-to-wall carpets in 1949, discover to-day that, when they go to the shops to price those articles, they cannot afford to renew them. The honorable member stated that people have obtained such things because of the generosity of the Government, but I remind him that, because of the Government’s taxation proposals and inflation, they are not able to obtain them to-day.
– The honorable member must admit that people are better off to-day.
– I admit that many people are better off to-day. When on my way to Adelaide, I stop at Nhill, at Horsham, or at other places, I observe that men who could not afford expensive motor cars ten or more years ago, now have them. Those persons are not in receipt of the basic wage. Most of them are primary producers. I give all credit to the primary producers, but many of them are able to obtain very expensive cars to-day whereas years ago, like the family man. they owned old “ Tin Lizzies “. Honorable . members have referred to people being better off to-day, but I re mind them that those persons who are better off to-day belong to the class of persons who were better off even years ago. To-day, the question of ability to pay rents was raised. It was raised also in my own State weeks ago as a result of action that was taken to equalize the amounts of rent that are paid. People who paid rent for houses that were built for £700 or £800 years ago did not have to pay nearly as much as people are required to pay nowadays for houses that are built for £3,000. Government departments have stated that they intend to help the man at the bottom. They are justified in trying to help the man at the bottom, because he is the man who is paying the big rent.
I have examined the schedule and have marked it heavily, but I do not intend to repeat the figures. The honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Allan Eraser) gave a dissertation on the figures that are contained in the schedule. Unfortunately, he had to rattle off many of them. He was not granted leave to incorporate in Hansard the table of comparisons to which he referred and consequently he was forced to read it. It may have been a little confusing to some people, but the statements of the honorable member for Eden-Monaro in relation to statistics that were prepared, not by him but by reputable government authorities, as recorded in Hansard, will constitute a good record. I do not desire to repeat the argument that he advanced ; that was his business. But I was rather surprised by the emphatic refusal of Government supporters to allow the table to which he referred to be incorporated in Hansard. The position was quite different from that which obtained on the occasion when the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) obtained permission to have table after table of taxation figures incorporated in Hansard. The right honorable gentleman was not obliged to read the figures. He was successful in having them incorporated, and the propaganda could go out to the people in the manner in which he desired it to go out. I am not suggesting that there was anything wrong with the tables that the Treasurer submitted, but the Opposition did not object on that occasion and the figures were incorporated in Hansard.
-Order ! The honorable member may not discuss a decision of the House, except to move for its rescision.
– I was referring only to the objection to the incorporation of the figures in Hansard. I wondered why the Government should object to their inclusion when, on a former occasion, the Opposition did not object to the inclusion of figures that were submitted by the Treasurer. I know that the decision of the House is final. I am not querying that decision but I do query the attitude of mind of people who are prepared to have something done that suits their side of the picture-
– Order! The House is not dealing with the taxation of minds ; it is dealing with the taxation of income.
– I quite agree, but I say, with due respect, that taxation has a very serious effect on the minds of many people. In fact, many people are quite worried about taxation matters. I have made my submissions in relation to the families of the community, but I appeal to the Government to give greater consideration to the deductions that are allowed. If it was fair and reasonable to allow a deduction of £78 for a child when money was worth nearly twice as much as it is today, it is only fair and reasonable that a similar deduction should be allowed to-day. Other anomalies have arisen, especially in relation to parents who are obliged to have someone to look after them but who are not allowed to make any deduction for the expense involved. I know the difficulties and anomalies that exist, and that very many people are worried about them, but I do not wish to refer to them in detail. I should like to emphasize that the extra benefit that I have suggested for the man on the basic wage should not be limited to that class of person. I realize that the bulk of taxation is not collected from persons who are in receipt of £15,000 a year. “We may at times cite the case of such a taxpayer for purposes of illustration, and people might, take it that there are many such taxpayers. At the same time, the Treasurer and other honorable members opposite cite the case of the man who is getting a reduction of 19 per cent, or 20 per cent. But the persons who . receive such a high percentage of reduction are very low in the wage-earning scale. A salary of £1,000 a year is not at present regarded as a high salary. Many industrial workers receive such a salary. The proposed reduction of tax imposed on a single man who earns £1,000 a year is 9.4 per cent. The proposed reduction of tax levied on a man who earns £15,000 a year is 8.1 per cent. There is no great difference between the two percentages. The percentage reduction to apply to a taxpayer who earns £1,000 a year, and has a wife and one child, is 10 per cent. The comparable percentage reduction for a similar taxpayer who earns £15,000 a year is 8.1 per cent. The actual amounts of cash involved are more important to consider than are the percentages as mere figures. A taxpayer who earns £1,000 a year, and has a wife and two children, will receive the benefit of a reduction of 10 per cent., which will amount in actual cash to a reduction of £6 14s. a year. But the man who earns £1.5,000 a year, and has a wife and two children, will receive a reduction of 8.1 per cent, which will represent,. not £6 14s., but £671 3s.
I admit that, as the honorable member for Petrie (Mr. Hulme) has said, under a graduated system of reductions the taxpayers who earn the most receive the greatest reductions in terms of actual cash. He contended that that has been the policy of governments for many years. I recollect that, when the Treasurer was in Opposition, he promised the electors during an election campaign that the anti-Labour parties would, if returned to office, reduce taxes by a flat rate of 10 per cent. “We on this side of the chamber objected to such a scheme. Mr. Chifley said at the time that he did not agree with it. He said that we should give the greatest reductions to the taxpayers who needed them most. Such reductions might not amount to £600 or £700 a year, but might amount to £6, £8 or £10 a year for low wage earners. He said that we might grant an 80 per cent, tax reduction to some taxpayers, and only 5 per cent, reduction to other taxpayers. Such a proposal is reasonable and fair to all taxpayers in terms of their actual need.
At many election meetings I pointed out that the 10 per cent, flat reduction of tax proposed by the present Treasurer would mean a reduction of tax to a man on £15,000 a year that would amount to £671 a year whereas to a man on £1,000 a year it would mean a reduction of only a little over £6 a year. It is obvious that the flat rate of reduction proposed by the Treasurer at that time would have been inequitable in effect, and it was therefore something to which the Labour party was rightly opposed, because we believe that tax reductions should be made on a graduated scale. I realize that when a graduated scale operates the man who earns the big salary gets the biggest tax reduction in terms of cash. I am not quibbling with that altogether. I agree with the honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull), and, in fact, I have always held, as the late Mr. Chifley always held, that it is not the amount of tax a man pays that really matters. What matters is the amount that the taxpayer has left after he has paid his tax. The wife of a worker who earns £20 a week and takes home only £16 in his pay envelope, after he has paid his tax, regards that amount of £16 as her husband’s pay. She does not look on £20 as being his pay.
I hope that the Government will give special consideration to an increase of the allowable deductions for spouses, children and dependants generally. The honorable member for Petrie has said that the Government has helped the taxpayers by increasing the allowable deductions in respect of educational expenses. That increase is of great help to people who are in a position to send their children to institutions of higher education, attendance at which involves expenditure on fares, special uniforms and fees. But more help could be given directly to more taxpayers in respect of deductions for educational expenses. Many taxpayers receive little benefit from the increase of allowable deductions for educational expenses because the ordinary city resident sends his children to a State school near his home, and gains little benefit from a tax reduction in respect of educational expenses. Whilst I recognize the fact that benefits have been given to parents who are able to send their children to colleges, and who are thus involved in heavy expense for fees, books, &c, the ordinary worker in industry does not benefit to the same degree.
I again urge the Government to grant greater reductions of tax in the future to taxpayers who have wives and other dependants.
.- I am .pleased to find myself in agreement with the honorable member for Port Adelaide (Mr. Thompson) that the amount of tax taken from a man’s pay envelope is not so important as the amount that he has left to take home to his wife and family after he has paid his tax. I think that, on that particular score, the Government has’ done a very good job. During the war years, when taxation was high, a man who earned £500 a year was able to take home in his pay envelope 83.9 per cent, of his wages. In 1949-50, the financial year in which the present Government took office, the percentage of his wages that such a taxpayer was able to take home after he had paid tax was 97.2, which was a considerable improvement over the position in the war years. This year, such a taxpayer will be able to take home 99.2 per cent, of his wages after having paid tax. By progressively increasing the proportion of wages that the worker takes home the Government has been doing a great service to taxpayers who have family responsibilities. A skilled tradesman who received about £800 a year was able, during the war years, to take home only 75 per cent, of his wages, after having paid taxes. In 1949-50 the percentage was 92.5. This year, such a taxpayer will be able to take home in his pay envelope 96 per cent, of his earnings. I agree with the honorable member for Port Adelaide that the Government has done much towards helping the man with family responsibilities. I do not follow his argument, however, in regard to, if I may paraphrase his remarks, his inclination towards a bachelor tax or spinster tax. It appears that he wishes to place an additional tax burden on single taxpayers.
– I did not suggest an increase of the tax imposed on such taxpayers.
– No, but the honorable member would be happy to see them heavily burdened with taxes so that married men with children could be relieved of some taxes. That argument belongs to a different sphere, and I leave it to the honorable member. I point out to the honorable member, however, that a man with a wife and one child, who earns £600 a year, which is roughly the basic wage to-day, will, under the new scale, pay, £15 12s. a year in tax, and a single man will pay £39 12s. There is only that difference of 10s. a week between the two. But when we take child endowment into consideration - and I believe that we must do so to make a fair comparison - we find that the married man with one child pays £15 12s. a year in tax, and receives back from the Government £13 a year in child endowment. This leaves him with a taxation commitment of £2 12s. a year, exactly ls. a week without taking into consideration the deductions that he is bound to have for medical expenses, dental expenses, &c. Surely when we consider all the benefits that a citizen of this community receives from the Australian Government, a contribution of ls. a week by a married man with a wife and one child cannot be regarded as a heavy load. On the contrary, it is a very cheap discharge of the responsibility that he owes to the Commonwealth. A married man with a wife and two children will pay only £11 5s. per annum in taxation on an income of £600, but he will receive back from the Government £39 a year in child endowment. Therefore, he will show a profit over the year. So great are the tax concessions to the family man in the community that a taxpayer with a wife and two children will have to earn £855 a year before he comes into the tax range at all after receiving child endowment. That is a pretty good concession to the family man.
The honorable member for Port Adelaide also said that we must encourage larger families. Again we speak for ourselves in that regard. But under the proposals now before the House, a man with a wife and five children will have to earn £1,466 a year, or £28 a week, before he comes into the income tax field, after allowing for child endowment. Surely that is a generous contribution towards the family life of the community, especially when we take into account the fact that the Government has no money of its own. All the money that this Government spends is collected from the taxpayers and expended for the benefit of the taxpayers. When we spread taxation revenue over the community in the various categories in which it is spent, we find that, for instance, the Government is paying out £28 a head of population on defence. That means £28 not only for every taxpayer, but also for every dependant of every taxpayer. In other words, a taxpayer with a wife and two children has four times £28 spent by the Commonwealth on his behalf on defence alone. The man with a wife and one child who, as I have said, pays only ls. a week in tax on an income of £600, has three times £28 spent by the Commonwealth on defence on behalf of himself and his family.
Every person in the community also has a responsibility towards those who suffered as a result of war and who are receiving war pensions or other repatriation benefits. That responsibility, too, is discharged by the Commonwealth on behalf of the married man with a wife and one child in return for the ls. a week that he pays on an income of £600 a year. Similarly, his responsibility towards the aged, the infirm and the widowed in the community is discharged by that weekly payment of ls. Surely that is a splendid scheme of things. Taxpayers with family responsibilities have been relieved of the terrific burden of tax that they had to bear in the past. Taxes were very heavy during the war, as we all know. For instance, a man with a wife and two children paid £80 6s. in tax on an income of £500 a year. To-day, a person on that income, and with the same number of dependants, pays only £4 7s. a year. That Ls a substantial reduction and a worth-while contribution to family life.
I wish now to turn the thoughts of the House to an aspect of this measure to which no reference has been made so far. This, too, will prove my point, that the tax reductions that have been effected by this Government have made a valuable contribution to family life, and to the earning capacity of the people of Australia. As a result of this legislation, Australian taxpayers collectively will be relieved in the remainder of the current financial year of a burden of £23,200,000 in income tax alone. That money will not just go into the air. It will be left in the pay envelopes of the wage-earners, starting from this week. The value of the reductions in a full year will be £31,250,000. That is a huge sum of money. Certainly it is far more than I hope to amass in my lifetime. Even spread over the community it is a contribution for which I am quite sure the taxpayers are very grateful. The encouragement that tax reductions of this kind give to the community is reflected in the rise of the national income and the increase of production. One thing that heavy taxation does do is to crimp and cramp the initiative of individuals to go ahead. All of us here have heard time and time again the argument, “ What is the use of working harder or investing more? The more I earn, the heavier my taxation will be “. That attitude has been widespread in the past when taxes have cramped the initiative of the individual and stifled his desire to earn more money. I have nothing against the man who wants to earn more money because he will give it back to the nation in greater production. The man who is prepared to invest more money because he will obtain a greater return for it, also makes a valuable contribution to the national income. Tax reductions and all the other benefits that this Government has been able to give to the community in the past four years enabled the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) to say in his budget speech this year -
Over a wide range of industries levels of production ran high. Output of iron and steel, coal, copper, and zinc approached or passed previous record figures and the same is true of many building materials. There was a notable increase in the manufacture of such diverse articles as domestic refrigerators, rayon fabrics, hosiery and motor bodies. Generation of electricity rose above its previous highest point.
The volume of retail trade increased considerably and that increase was shared by most branches of business.
The Treasurer was able to paint a very bright picture of the Australia that we have to-day. In my opinion, our fortunate position is due substantially to the fact that incentive has been gradually given back to the individual to do more. If he does more, he can earn more, and if he can earn more, he can put more in his pocket and more into his bank account. That is reflected in the record savings bank and trading bank deposits of the last few years.
Although members of the Opposition may disagree with the proposed income tax rates on individuals, the fact remains that Australia is the lowest taxed country in the world to-day. That is something about which the Government could readily make a proud boast. To be able to say that we are the lowest taxed nation in the world is a tribute to the Government that has led this country for the past four years.
Whether Opposition members like it or not, a comparison of tax rates in Australia, the United Kingdom and New Zealand reveals that the rates in our country are the lowest. A married man, in Australia, with a dependent wife and two children, in receipt of an income of £600 a year, pays £11 5s. per annum in tax, and receives £39 from the Government in child endowment. A man with the same responsibilities, and in receipt of the same income in the United Kingdom, pays £24 18s. 4d. in tax, and a man in similar circumstances in New Zealand pays £45 in tax. The skilled worker in Australia, with a dependent wife and two children, in receipt of £800 a year, pays £32 2s. in tax. A man in a similar position in the United Kingdom pays £62 2s. 9d. per annum in tax, and in New Zealand £83 2s. 6d. in tax. The honorable member for Port Adelaide has made a plea on behalf of the man who wants to take home a good deal more in his pay envelope to his wife each week. We all desire to help him, and under the new tax rates, he will be able to take home more money to his wife.
When all is said and done, rates of tax are a pretty fair indication of how a government is running the country, and the indication to us at the present time is very plain that Australia is being run very well indeed, because this Government has reduced taxes year after year, and practically relieved a worker with a dependent wife and children of tax obligations. I have shown that a man with a dependent wife and five children may earn £28 a week, and his tax responsibilities are offset by child endowment payments. The stability and standing of the country is good when such a state of affairs exists.
I ask the Government to give someconsideration to the advisability of deducting tax instalments from workmien’s compensation payments. At the present time, the Deputy Commissioners of Taxation in the States say that this matter is not their responsibility. A man who is in receipt of workmen’s compensation receives each week from the insurance commissioner in the State in which he resides a .cheque for an amount which is a certain proportion of the wages which he would have earned if he had not been injured on his job. I know of many men who have been off work for months because they have been injured, and during that time, they have been receiving workmen’s compensation payments regularly each week. When those men get their tax assessments, they find that tax has been deducted only from the wages that they earned up to the time they were injured, and that no tax has been deducted from their compensation payments. I have seen the assessments of some men with family responsibilities, and I know that they have been called upon to pay £8 or £10 in a lump sum in tax to meet that situation. That is quite unnecessary. The insurance commissioner in each State could very well introduce a system to help men in receipt of workmen’s compensation. Tax instalments could be deducted from their compensation payments each week, and the men would receive credit for those deductions when they lodged their returns. In that way, they would meet their tax obligations for the year with weekly instalments.
The present system inflicts a hardship on injured men who have lived for months on reduced incomes, and have incurred considerable medical expenses. When a man who has shouldered those burdens is called upon to pay £5 or £10 in income tax, it is quite a blow to him.’ I ask the Government to consider an approach to the States on this matter, and ask them to take a humane view of the situation. Goodness knows, all the States have plenty of money -in their workmen’s compensation funds. Even if the system I propose were to entail a slightly increased payment in wages, it would be worth while, because it would relieve injured workmen of a heavy burden which they are not in a position to bear. This matter may seem trifling to some people, but I know that the requirement to pay a lump sum in tax has imposed quite a burden upon quite a few injured workers and their families. All that is needed is for the insurance commissioner in the particular State to say to an injured worker, in effect, “ Very well, I am paying you £9 a week in workmen’s compensation. I shall deduct 6d. or ls. a week, whatever the amount may be, and give you tax stamps or credit for it”. The injured worker would then discharge his tax responsibilities. I hope that such a system will be introduced.
The tax reductions for this financial year have shown the people of Australia, and the rest of the world, that this Government, which is guiding the destinies of this country is certainly aware of, and sympathetic to, the needs and responsibilities of the family man. This Government first established, and now maintains, economic stability, and a goodly level of prosperity in the community, and has made this nation safe and secure. Each person, according to his means, is bearing his share of the responsibility for the conduct of the nation. I support the bill, and commend the Government for having introduced it.
Motion (by Mr. Tom Burke) negatived -
That the debate be now adjourned.
– I wish to inform you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that an arrangement has been made for the debate to be adjourned at 10.30 p.m.
– Order ! Such an arrangement has nothing to do with the Chair. The Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck), who is sitting at the table, opposed the motion for the adjournment of the debate.
.- The purpose of this bill is to fix the rates of income tax and social services contribution for the current financial year. The honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Pearce) has lauded the Government for its financial policy and reductions of taxation in recent years. I inform him that the Government, in fact, has increased taxation on persons on the lower ranges of income, and taxation has borne more heavily on those with heavy family responsibilities than on other persons. The true position is in complete contrast to the story that the honorable gentleman has told this evening.
My colleague and friend, the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Allan Fraser) has shown, by means of figures, that with rising costs, rising wages have incurred higher rates of tax. That position is almost entirely brought about by the higher cost of living. The higher cost of living means higher income in the form of wages and salaries. That higher income, brought about by increased costs, then incurs a greater tax burden. A lower rate of tax should be imposed on, and a smaller amount of money should be collected from, individuals on the basic wage, but the truth of the matter is that a substantially greater amount of money is taken from them now than was the case during World War II. when the Chiefly Government was in office. The Government points proudly to the fact that under these proposals it will reduce taxation in th–: aggregate by £23,200,000. However, the benefit of that reduction will be enjoyed in the main by persons in the higher brackets of income. At the same time, persons in the lower brackets of income with family responsibilities will receive relatively very little benefit. Therefore, this reduction is to be effected in a way that conflicts with the basic principles of taxation and ordinary equity.
The honorable member for Petrie (Mr. Hulme) contended that this reduction would be a means of countering inflation. The reverse will be the case because, as 1 have pointed out, the greatest benefit will be conferred upon those in the higher brackets of income and, consequently, the cost of luxury and semi-luxury goods and services will be pushed up. On the- other hand, if the greater part of thi* reduction of tax were remitted to those with family responsibilities, the money would be expended on essential goods which are in reasonable supply in this country. By benefiting those in the lower brackets of income in that way. the Government would apply this reduction in accordance with accepted principles < taxation and equity and, at the same time, effectively counter inflation. Government r supporters have gone to great lengths to show that rates of taxation in this country are lower than those in other countries. It is almost impossible to make a worthwhile comparison of taxation rates in different countries because consideration must be given to factors in addition to the rates of income tax, such as imposts that are levied by local government authorities and payments that are made under the national health scheme by the ordinary wage and salary earner-. The man with family responsibilities iobliged to make the greatest contribution relatively under that scheme. It would be fair to say that his contribution under that heading would amount on the average to approximately £9 a year. He is obliged to pay that impost in addition to ordinary income tax.
Taxes are not less to-day than they were in 1949. Indeed, when a comparison is made on the basis of the purchasing power of the basic wage, present rates of taxes are not lower than those that prevailed at the peak taxation period of the war. On previous occasions, members of the Opposition have indicated to the Government ways in which it could provide relief from taxation in accordance with principles of equity and, at the same time, counter inflation. After all, income tax is a fair and reasonable impost which can be levied according to ability to pay and in order to allow for varying responsibilities of individuals, such as the cost of maintenance of a wife and children. The greater the number of children in a family the greater should be the degree of benefit afforded, and this adjustment can readily be made under our system of tax graduations. Consequently, the Government should make this reduction of tax primarily with the object of reducing, and in some instances removing, indirect imposts that are now levied upon the community. Such action would have the result of reducing the cost of living. Of course, Government supporters will point out that the sales tax does not apply in this context because that tax is not imposed on goods that are included in the 0 series prices index. However, the fact remains that the sales tax is ultimately paid by the consumer of goods to which it applies; and, therefore, it is borne by the community at large. Persons in the lower brackets, in relation to their income, pay a higher percentage of indirect taxes of that kind. The tables set out in the budget papers show that pay-roll tax at present represents an impost of £4 4s. l1d. per capita. If that tax were abolished, the cost of commodities would be immediately reduced and the competitive position in our economy generally would be stimulated. In this way, justice would be done to all sections of the community.Under these proposals, a reduction of income tax by 13.6 per cent, will represent only an actual reduction of 3s. in the tax payable by a man with a wife and one child, whereas by reducing the pay-roll tax an indirect benefit of £4 4s. l1d. would be provided for every person in the community.
It is clear that the Government has again blundered in framing these proposals. It has paid no regard to the way in which the proposed reductions will ultimately affect the economy. As I have already said, they will not serve in any way to counter inflation. Government supporters talk endlessly about the benefits that will be conferred on the community under these proposals, but the stark fact remains that these reductions will operate unfairly as between different sections of the community. Whilst they will confer the greatest benefit upon persons in the higher brackets of income they will harshly affect the man in the lower brackets who has the responsibility of rearing a family. In spite of the remarks of the honorable member for Capricornia the fact remains that the family man is finding it increasingly difficult to meet his ordinary commitments. That honorable member said that after allowing for child endowment persons in the lower brackets of income actually paid, on the average, only1s. a week in income tax. The honorable member completely misrepresented the facts. The persons who are most deserving of assistanceand who make the greatest contribution to the future prosperity and development of this country will be obliged under these proposals to bear the greatest burden because they will receive proportionately the least benefit from these reductions. The Government is condemned by this bill as it is condemned by every other bill that has been introduced to implement its present budget proposals. I believe that in the near future, the mass of the people will realize that the Government has failed completely to honour the trust that has been reposed in it and, therefore, they will take the earliest opportunity to eject it from office.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Hasluck) adjourned.
The following papers were presented : -
Fifth General Index of the Papers presented to Parliament - Sessions 1937-40 to 1948-4!) (15th to 18th Parliaments).
Ordered to be printed.
Customs Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1954, No. 98.
Customs Act and Commerce (Trade Descriptions) Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1954, Nos. 100, 101.
Defence Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1954, No. 97.
Income Tax and Social Services Contribution Assessment Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1954, No. 99.
Judiciary Act - Rule of Court, dated 22nd September, 1954.
Lands Acquisition Act - Land,&c., acquired for -
Department of Civil Aviation purposes at Coffs Harbour, New South Wales (2).
Postal purposes -
Bibbenluke, New South Wales.
Bobundara, New South Wales.
Tarcutta, New South Wales.
Northern Territory (Administration) Act - Regulations - 1954? -
No. 8 (Health Ordinance).
No. 9 (Slaughtering Ordinance).
No. 10 (Marine Ordinance).
Public Service Act - Appointments - Department of Works - T. Andrzejaczek, E. B. Thompson.
Seat of Government (Administration) ‘ Act - Variation of plan of lay-out of City of Canberra and its environs, dated 21st September, 1954.
House adjourned at 10.40 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated : -
Hire Purchase Agreements.
n asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
a asked the Minister acting for the Minister for Labour and National Service, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : - 1. (a) 1951-52, 34,500; 1952- 53, 35,137; 1953-54 31,710; total, 101,410. (b) and (d) The number liable for training but not called up as at July, 1954, was 65,021 made up as follows: -12,018 call-up in progress July August, 1954; 25,399 deferred in the cases of students and apprentices to certain stages of their courses by arrangement with educational authorities and in the cases of persons granted deferment by a court for the period fixed by the court, or postponed in the cases of rural or seasonal workers for call-up at the most suitable time of the year;26,704 not yet summoned for medical examination. (c) Number medically unfit- 18,568. (e) 189,433.
h asked the Minister representing the Minister acting for the Minister Commerce and Agriculture, upon notice -
– The Minister acting for the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture has supplied the following answers : -
Legislation to give effect to the board’s recommendations will be introduced at an early date.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 12 October 1954, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1954/19541012_reps_21_hor5/>.