21st Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. C. F. Adermann) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– I direct a question to the Prime Minister, following upon a recent statement by the Minister acting for the Minister for External Affairs on the policy of the Government regarding membership of the United Nations. In the course of his statement the Acting Minister for External Affairs indicated the general support of the Government and of the Minister for External Affairs for universal membership of the United Nations, a policy which the Labour party has long supported and to which it is pledged. However, the policy announced on behalf of the Government through the Minister involves, for instance, the support by Australia of the admission of Spain to the United Nations, and in relation to China, as I understand it, the maintenance of the present anomalous position. As this is a very important matter, I ask the Prime Minister if he will try to arrange a time for this subject to be debated in this House.
– As I indicated the other day, in answer to a question asked by the honorable member for Mackellar, I want to arrange for a debate on foreign affairs before the present sittings end. That, I think, would give an opportunity for a discussion of the point raised by the right honorable gentleman.
– Can the Minister for Social Services tell the House when the new rates of pensions which are indicated in the Social Services Bill, now before Parliament, will be paid?
– I understand that arrangements have been made for the Social Services Bill, now on the noticepaper, to be debated in this House to-night, and on Tuesday and “Wednesday of next week. If that happens, and the
Senate passes the bill promptly, it is hoped that the first pay day at the new rate will be the 27 th October next. Arrangements have been made by the Department of Social Services to enable payments to be made on that date, if the legislation is passed in time for that to be done.
M!r. COUTTS. - I address a question to the Minister for Immigration. In view of the recent statement by the Australian Military Mission Emigration Attache in Germany “ that many German men returning from Australia had told him that Australian girls did not give them the attention, sympathy and understanding that German girls did, and that they had returned to Germany to seek wives,” and his comment that, we were tackling this problem and sending more German girls to Australia “ many of whom would take your breath away”, and a further statement that the Australian Government was “courting” 1,200 talented Viennese girls, many of whom speak four languages, whose employment as typists and stenographers with the United States army had ceased with the ending of the occupation of V i.i stria-
– Order ! Will the honorable member ask his question ?
– Has the Minister anything to say concerning the reported tackling of the marriage problem of German migrants by sending more German girls, “ many of whom would take your breath away”, to Australia?
– Order ! Will the honorable member state his question ?
– I am about to do so, Mr. Deputy Speaker.
– Why does he not “ pop the question “ ?
– Order !
– Should the courting of the talented young ladies from the “ city of wine, women and song “ be successful, does the Government intend to employ these multi-lingual, single young ladies in a temporary capacity in the Commonwealth Public Service, or will they be treated as ordinary migrants?
– I can well understand the interest of the honorable member in this fascinating subject. Presumably, he is finding competition a little stiff in this country at the present time. I have heard no complaints from German male migrants in Australia, although when one has regard to the fact that there is a. much higher incidence of female population in Germany than in Australia, one can well imagine that competition in the marriage market would be rather less there than it is here. For the honorable member’s information, I can confirm that the Government is making efforts to bring to Australia a larger number of female migrants from Germany as domestics. As to the staff situation, since the cessation of occupation activities in Vienna by the United States of America and other administrations, a considerable number of highly skilled females with clerical and secretarial experience has become available on the labour market. It was considered that a certain number of these might be attracted by the prospect of employment in Australia, and the position is being carefully examined. The employment of these girls will not be confined to the Commonwealth Public Service. They will be freely available for selection and engagement by any interested persons.
– My question is addressed to -t/he Minister for Health and relates to the extraordinary rise in hospital charges in New South Wales. I ask the Minister whether those increased charges are entirely the responsibility of the New South Wales Government. Was any consultation held between the New South Wales Government and the Australian Government before these increased charges were arranged? Had the right honorable gentleman heard of the suggestion that the New South Wales Hospitals Association would interview the Prime Minister and himself regarding these extraordinary rises in charges?
– No consultation with the Australian Government was sought by the New South Wales Government before this steep rise in hospital fees was made. There was no reason why such a consultation should be held because the fixing of hospital charges, under the Constitution, is essentially a matter for the New South Wales Government, which must take entire responsibility for its action in raising them. Under an agreement between the Australian Government and all the State governments of Australia, a contribution of 12s. a day is paid by the Australian Government for every hospital patient insured. Over the past few years, this has resulted in a considerable rise in hospital revenues. The total sum for Australia is about £13,000,000. In New South Wales, hospital revenues from Commonwealth and hospital fund sources have increased from £2,500,000 to £6,500,000 a year.
– Hospital beds were never scarcer.
– The position is that the New South Wales Government has raised hospital fees after giving practically no notice. The main reason why the Australian Government became involved in this matter of providing insurance assistance was to allow a fiveyear basis on which the various insurance organizations could make an estimate of their premiums and benefits. Insurance is impossible without some element of certainty. One of the fixed elements is this five-year agreement. The second fixed element sought by the various insurance organizations was the maintenance of hospital charges at a certain level for a number of years. If the State governments desire to change their hospital charges, that is entirely a matter for them, but it seems to me that if the New South Wales Government had any respect for the contributors and the sick people of that State, it should have given from six to twelve months’ notice of its intention to increase hospital fees, because, under the rules of the various organizations, any increased benefit is not payable until three months after contributors commence at the higher rate. The unfortunates who are ill at present are being mulcted because of the haste and ineptitude of the New South Wales Government.
– I direct a question to the Prime Minister, and preface it by saying that I have received a telegram from the Brisbane branch of the Waterside Workers Federation, protesting against the Government’s decision to have the Commonwealth shipping line controlled by a corporation in which private shipping interests will hold 49 per cent. of the shares. In view of the Government’s decision on this important matter, will the Prime Minister make a statement to the House, keeping in mind that the Commonwealth shipping line is not owned by the Government but is the property of the Australian people?
– I did not hear the first part of the question, but it sounded very much like a question on policy, to which it is not the practice to give answers.
– I direct a question to the Minister for External Territories. Yesterday the honorable member for Phillip asked the Minister a question about what he termed “ flogging “ as a punishment in Papua and New Guinea. As the Minister rightly pointed out, the term “ flogging “ was incorrect, as the only form of corporal punishment is administered by a cane, in a manner probably not unknown to many members of this House in their schooldays - possibly it could still be used to advantage on occasions. Can the Minister say on how many occasions in recent years such punishment has been administered in Papua and New Guinea ?
– In a return which I recently obtained from the Administrator of Papua and New Guinea I was informed that the total number of cases in which corporal punishment had been imposed by the courts in the combined territories of Papua and New Guinea in the last four years was twelve. Since 1952, when we re-examined the position, there have been only four cases in the whole of the combined territories in which corporal punishment has been imposed by the courts. Of those four cases since 1952, only one involved a youth. Of the twelve cases within the past four years, there was one in which twelve strokes of the cane were awarded, and one in which ten strokes of a cane were awarded. In the ten other cases the punishment was six or less strokes of the cane. Apparently some misunderstanding arose from the way I answered a question yesterday. There seems to have been a suggestion, in the way in which my answer was reported, that there are various kinds of punishment in Papua and New Guinea, such as flogging, whipping, and caning. The only form of corporal punishment is the administering of strokes of a cane. As the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Falkinder) implied in his question, six strokes of the cane constitute very much the same sort of punishment which I think most of us received during schooldays. I have had strokes of the cane - we used to call them the “ benders “. It is that sort of punishment. The use of the term “flogging” surrounds what is, in fact, a caning with a connotation that calls up a lot of unsavoury things that happened many, many years ago. The use of the term “ flogging “ should be avoided because it is an incorrect representation of what actually takes place. If I may try to interpret the opinion of the magistrate - though perhaps one should not do so - in the single case that has occurred since 1952 in which a youth received six strokes of the cane, I believe that what the magistrate had in mind was that the effect of receiving six cuts across the behind with a cane would be less harmful to a boy than if he were to be removed from his family and placed in a prison as a punishment. I would agree completely with such an opinion. I think that I have been rather misrepresented in those reports, which suggest that I favour “ flogging “ as an alternative to imprisonment in all cases.
– I desire to ask the Minister for Social Services a question which is supplementary to the question that he has already been asked regarding the payment of increased pensions. Can the Minister give the House any reason why increases in the salaries of judges, permanent heads of departments, and other highly paid public servants should always be made retrospective to the commencement of the financial year while pension increases for people who, in most cases, are completely dependent on their pensions and who suffer considerable hardship while awaiting increases are only paid after the passage of the legislation and after the assent of the GovernorGeneral has been given to that legislation ?
– It is not my responsibility to express opinions in this House in. reply to questions. I merely state, for the benefit of the honorable member for Yarra, that it has been the practice of succeeding governments, Labour and Liberal, ever since federation, to make pension increases payable as from the first pay day subsequent to the passage of the relevant bill through this House and the Senate. The normal practice will be followed on this occasion, as on other occasions. As I have said, the first pay clay on which the increases will be paid will fall, we hope, on the 27th October next.
– Is the . Prime Minister aware that the honorable member for Melbourne, who is the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, is alleged to have said, during a Labour Hour broadcast, that overseas buyers should not be allowed to take raw wool out of the country after buying it at auction? Since irresponsible statements of that kind can only serve to do irreparable harm and to alienate the goodwill of people who come to Australia from both Commonwealth and foreign countries to buy our wool, will the Prime Minister assure the wool industry generally that it is not unusual for the honorable member to make extravagant statements of this kind, but that it would be most unusual if any responsible person paid the slightest attention to any of them ?
– I would be unwilling to go so far as to express the hope that people would pay no attention to what the honorable member for Melbourne says. I think it is a very good thing .that they should. I am sure that the wool industry and all other industries will need no assurance by me that, for the time being, the honorable member does not speak for the Government.
– I rise to make a personal explanation. The honorable member for Riverina has misrepresented me.
– Grossly, as far as I could understand him.
– Yes, as my leader says, grossly. What I said was not what the honorable gentleman reported me as having said. He said that I claimed that wool sold at auction should not be permitted to leave Australia. What I said - and it is in every reputable newspaper and was heard by many thousands of people when I made the broadcast on Sunday - was that wool sold at auction should not be permitted to be taken from Australia until after it had been scoured in this country and made into wool tops, in order to encourage the development of Australian industry and to assist trades that have already been established and which ought to be further developed. I was making a strong plea for the manufacturing interests. I was making a strong nationalistic speech. I am proud of it, I stand by it; and I hope to convince the Government some day to adopt my suggestion.
– Will the Minister for the Interior have a review made of recently increased fees for motor vehicle registrations in the Australian Capital Territory, especially as they apply to heavy haulage units? Will he consider, particularly, the registration fee for a 9-ton diesel truck, which was formerly assessed at £38 per annum, but is now assessed at approximately £200 per annum ? Will the Minister consider that while the new fees in the Australian Capital Territory are below those charged in New South Wales, that State, has a vast network of roads to maintain? In particular, will he have regard to the position of a number of truck-owners who operate their vehicles only within the Australian Capital Territory on government work, and who have now to meet greatly increased fees without having received any increase in yardage or mileage rates paid by the government departments for which they work?
– This matter was recently reviewed very fully. As the honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory has said, the motor vehicle registration fees in the Territory are even now lower than those in New South Wales. I do not think that the residents of Canberra - motorists or anyone else - should expect to get everything cheaper than it is anywhere else in Australia. In the Australian Capital Territory we have to maintain roads and do a lot of other things. A great deal of research was undertaken, and a large number of comparisons with motor vehicle registration fees in other States were made before the new fees were finally decided upon. In these circumstances, I cannot give to the honorable member the guarantee that he seeks.
– The Minister for Air will doubtless recall that recently I made representations for the Southern Gross, the historic aircraft used by the late Sir Charles Kingsford-Smith on the first trans-Pacific flight, to be transferred to the Eagle Farm airport at Brisbane. Subsequently, a statement was made that the Queensland Government intended to investigate the possibility of giving effect to this suggestion. Will the Minister inform the House whether he has yet received any communication, or information, from the Queensland Government which would indicate its interest in implementing my suggestion?
– The honorable member has directed my attention to this matter on two or three occasions, but the Queensland Government so far has not made any approach to me in connexion with it.
– I ask the Minister for Social Services whether it is a fact that ex-servicemen who wish to purchase houses through the War Service Homes Division in New South Wales must now wait a record term of thirteen mouths before they receive an advance from the division. I also ask the honorable gentleman whether ex-servicemen who make application to the division in New South Wales for advances to build houses have to wait a record term of two years after lodging their applications before receiving the money. If the times mentioned by me are not accurate, will the Minister say what are the actual periods for which applicants must now wait, and also whether those periods will be increased for men who apply later in this financial year?
– I have already made it known to the House that, this year, the Australian Government will make available the record sum of £30,000,000 for the purchase of war service homes, and that 12,200 homes will be provided, which will be an exceptionally high number for any one constructing or providing authority. I do not think it is to be expected that exservicemen should be provided with homes to the exclusion of all other people in the community. This year, substantial sums of money are being made available by various Commonwealth instrumentalities for the purpose of ensuring that the housing programme is kept at a very high level. I think I heard it said the other day that 75,000 homes will be built in Australia this year. It is my intention, when the appropriation measure in respect of works is before the House, to make a statement dealing with the whole problem of waiting periods, and to explain why it is necessary to increase the waiting period during the course of this year. I think the honorable member will be perfectly satisfied with the ‘explanation. We, on this side of the House, usually find that he responds to logic and a reasoned explanation.
– I think the Minister for Social Services will remember that, more than twelve months ago, I discussed with him the refusal of the War Service Homes Division to agree to an applicant arranging temporary finance for the purchase of an existing property, to tide him over the waiting period between acceptance by the division of his proposal, and settlement. As this waiting period has now lengthened considerably because of the large increase of the division’s business, will the Minister now agree that this right should be granted to the applicant concerned?
– I well remember the honorable gentleman asking me that question, because I think it was one of the first questions I was asked on war service homes in this House. It took me a little by surprise, because I did not quite know what it was about. However, I have puzzled over it ever since, and I think he will be pleased to know that the Government has made a decision that temporary, finance can be obtained in respect of an old home once the house has been accepted as a good security by the War Service Homes Division and approval for the temporary finance given by the division. I am sure the honorable gentleman will be interested to know that of 12,200 homes to be provided by the War Service Homes Division this year, 2,050 will be old existing properties. As a result of the decision which recently has been made by the Government, to which I have just referred, and now that temporary finance can be obtained in respect of old homes, it is expected that between 1,200 and 1,500 additional old homes will be obtained this year through temporary advances from other sources. I think the honorable gentleman will agree that that will be a substantial contribution to the provision of homes by the War Service Homes Division. The division has agreed, in each case, to give a letter to the applicant stating that, by the approximate date mentioned, the amount to be made available by the War Service Homes Division will be paid. The ex-serviceman can then take the letter to the lending authority in order to obtain temporary finance, and we have every hope, as I have said, that between 1,200 and 1,500 additional homes may be obtained this year as a consequence of the decision.
– My question, which is addressed to the Prime Minister, is supplementary to that asked by the honorable member for Brisbane. Can the right honorable gentleman say whether there is any truth in the report, which emanated from a reliable source, that the Government has resumed negotiations with the private shipping interests for the disposal of the Commonwealth ships? Will he also say whether a proposal is being examined to set up a corporation to take over the total assets of the Australian Shipping Board, and then to offer to the private shipping companies 49 per cent, of the shares?
– I have not seen the report, and I have not heard it. I do not believe it comes from a reliable source.
– By way of explanation of a question to the Prime Minister, I remind the House that the debate on the miscellaneous items of the Estimates, which included the Australian National University, concluded yesterday at 4.15 p.m., and that the report of the Australian National University only became available to me late last night. Could the Prime Minister make arrangements to ensure that these regrettable incidents do not occur, so that honorable members may have in their hands full information which will enable them to debate the Estimates ? I ask this particularly since there is one matter, in regard to the particle accelerator, which I shall have to raise on the motion for the adjournment to-night, instead of in its proper place, which is when the Estimates are being debated.
– Order ! I point out that the report of the Australian National University is set down on the notice-paper for debate.
– The report of the Australian National University has annexed to it the accounts of the university. It was - I think quite reasonably - thought desirable that the AuditorGeneral’s comments should be available before the final form of the accounts was settled. Therefore, the delay which undoubtedly has occurred and which, I know, causes some embarrassment, is due not to the university as such, but to the need to wait for the Auditor-General’s report. I think the true answer is that, if it is at all possible, the AuditorGeneral’s report might be presented rather earlier than in the past. “Whether or not that is practicable, I do not know.
– I direct to the Ministor for Labour and National Service a question that is consequent upon the Minister’s statement that men who have been displaced from employment in the coal-mining industry will be resettled in other areas, including the New South Wales south coast district. I ask this question in view of the general housing situation in that district, and because the sending of displaced miners’ there will make the position worse. I shall give the Minister two instances. One is that of a man who, with his wife and three children, lives in a garage for which he pays £7 10s. a week. The other instance is that of two families who live in a garage divided by a board partition. What action does the Minister intend to take to house displaced miners sent to the New South Wales south coast district?
– It is curious that the honorable member should put the viewpoint that he has expressed so soon after the question asked yesterday by my colleague, the honorable member for Macarthur, which indicated that the housing position in the New South Wales south coast district was apparently not so serious as had previously been thought, owing to the rapid movement of immigrants from hostels into other accommodation that they have been able to find in the district. I know that we are not finding the pressure on the hostels that we expected and budgeted for. If there is a serious shortage of housing in the district to which the honorable member for Cunningham refers, he might usefully refer the matter to the State members who represent the area, because housing is so obviously a matter within the jurisdiction of the New South Wales Government.
Motion (by Sir Eric Harrison) agreed to -
That leave of absence for one month be given to the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Joske) on the ground of urgent public business.
Motion (by Dr. Evatt) agreed to -
That leave of absence for one month be given to the honorable member for Adelaide (Mr.
Chambers) on the ground of urgent public business.
Message recommending appropriation reported.
In committee (Consideration of Governor-General’s message) :
Motion (by Mr. Menzies) agreed to -
That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue be made for the purposes of a bill for an act to amend the Western Australia Grant (Water Supply) Act 1948 and for other purposes.
Standing Orders suspended; resolution adopted.
That Mr. Menzies and Sir Eric Harrison do prepare and bring in a bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented by Mr. Menzies, and read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill he now read a second time.
The purpose of this bill is to increase from £2,150,000 to £4,000,000 the maximum amount of Commonwealth assistance to the cost of the Western Australian agricultural areas, great southern towns, and gold-fields water supply scheme. The scheme, which is being constructed by the Government of Western Australia, has a threefold purpose -
In 1948, the then Australian Government agreed, at the request of the Government of Western Australia, to meet on a £l-for- £1 basis with the State, one-half of the capital cost of the scheme, excluding the cost of increasing the storage capacity of the Mundaring Weir and the Wellington Dam on the western ranges, subject to a maximum Commonwealth contribution of £2,150,000. It was then estimated that the full cost of the scheme, excluding increased storage capacity on the western ranges, would be £4,300,000. The Commonwealth’s undertaking was given legislative effect by Act No. 52 of 1948.
The Government of Western Australia recently advised that the cost of the scheme will now be greatly in excess of £4,300,000- a figure of between £9,500,000 and £10,000,000 being tentatively mentioned - and asked the Commonwealth to remove the limitation of £2,150,000 on the maximum amount of its contribution.
After fully considering all the circumstances, including the background to the 1948 arrangement and the substantial increase since then in the estimated cost of the scheme, the Government decided that the maximum contribution should be increased to £4,000,000, subject to certain conditions which I shall describe.
In coming to this decision, the Government gave careful consideration to the manner in which the additional commitment involved was to be discharged. We had to have regard to the Commonwealth’s budgetary problems, the problem of maintaining stability in the economy and the consequent need to look critically at any proposal for increased Commonwealth spending. In view of these considerations, the Government decided that the following limits should be placed on total Commonwealth payments to the State: -
A provision accordingly is contained in clause 5 (Z>) of the bill now before the House.
Up to the 30th June, 1955, total Commonwealth payments to the State in respect of the scheme amounted to £1,468,204. A limit of £681,796 will, therefore, be placed on Commonwealth payments to the State in 1955-56, while in subsequent years, the amount payable will not normally exceed £462,500 per annum.
The opportunity is also being taken in the bill to amend the definition of the scheme and the definition of the mixed farming area served by the scheme. It has been found that the definitions in the 1948 act are unduly restrictive and do not cover comparatively minor changes in the scheme as originally planned in 1948. It has been established, for instance, that the construction of storages at Bulla Bulling and Kalgoorlie serves the same purpose as, but at less cost than, increasing the capacity of the main conduit, to the gold-fields. The definitions are therefore being amended to enable the Treasurer to approve alterations in the original scheme for the -purposes of the Commonwealth contribution. Those alterations are made not by is but by Western Australia, which then obtains the approval of the Treasurer.
Debate (on motion by Dr. Evatt) adjourned.
Motion (by Mr. Menzies) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act to approve Acceptance by Australia of Membership in the International Finance Corporation, and for purposes connected therewith.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
.- I move-
That the bill be now read a second time.
This bill amends the Repatriation Act 1920-1955, firstly to give effect to the increases in war pensions included in this year’s budget; and, secondly, to make certain desirable amendments to the Repatriation Act. Since it came into office in 1949 this Government has kept under constant review the rates of all pensions payable under the Repatriation Act. In 1950 it granted all-round increases in these rates, and in each budget it has presented since, some increases have been granted.
This year increases are being granted in the three main classes of pension: the special rate, also known as the totally and permanently incapacitated rate, the general rate, and the widows rate, as well as in the rate of service pension. As the result of these increases, the annual expenditure on repatriation pensions for the year 1955-56 will rise to an estimated £47,500,000 compared with an annual expenditure of £19,000,000 in 1949. The actual increases proposed in this bill are as follows: -
The special rate under the second schedule, (the rate payable to a member for total and permanent incapacity) is being increased by 10s. a week to £9 15s. a week.
As well as the above increases in war pension, service pensioners will receive an increase of 10s. a week, which is equivalent to the increase which is being granted in the rate of an age and invalid pension under the Social Services Act. In addition to providing for those increases, this bill contains another very important provision, which will benefit all war pensioners, including war widows. This bill repeals section91a of the Repatriation Act, the section which placed a limit on the combined amount of war plus service or social service pension which a pensioner might receive. Later, I shall deal in some detail with the full extent of this benefit; for the moment, I shall direct my remarks to the direct increases in war pension rates.
The special rate pension, commonly known as the totally and permanently incapacitated rate, will be increased from £9 5 s. to £9 15s. a week, an increase of 10s. a week, making a total increase of £4 9s. a week in this rate of pension since this Government took office. If honorable members will compare that increase with the rise in the C series index cost-of-living figures over the same period, they will find that the pension rate has risen by 84 per cent. since 1949 while the cost-of-living figures have risen by only 67 per cent. The new rates pay able for total and permanent incapacity therefore will be £9 15s. a week for a single man, while a married man and his wife will receive £11 10s. 6d. a week war pension between them. As an instance of the provision which the Commonwealth is now making for the family of a totally and permanently incapacitated member, we can take the case of a member and wife with two children aged, say, twelve years and fourteen years. They will receive between them by way of war pensions and education allowances payable under the soldiers’ children education scheme, a total of £14 4s. 6d. a week, and if to this is added the amount of child endowment, 15s. a week, it will be seen that their income from all these Commonwealth sources will be £14 19s. 6d. a week.
The proposed new rate for the general rate pension of a member is £4 15s. a week, which is an increase of £2 a week on the rate payable in 1949. In this case, if we make a comparison of pension rates and the C series index figures, we find that the pension has risen by 73 per cent. as against a rise of 67 per cent. in the C series index figures. As a result of the increase of 5s. a week contained in this bill, a member and his wife receiving pension at the full general rate - the 100 per cent. rate - will have a total war pension between them of £6 10s. 6d. a week. If they have two children under sixteen years of age, there will be payable further pension to the children amounting to £1 7s. 6d. If child endowment is added, the family income from Commonwealth sources is found to be £8 13s. a week.
Let me now examine what the position of the war widow and her family will be. This bill increases the war widow’s pension by 10s. a week, making the new rate £4 10s. a week. This represents an increase of £1 10s. a week, that is 50 per cent., since this Government took office. That increase, however, does not present the whole picture. The domestic allowance must be taken into account. In addition to pension, a domestic allowance is payable to a widow -
Since it came into office in 1949, this Government has granted substantial increases in the rate of domestic allowance, as a result of which the present rate is £3 14s. 6d. a week. This rate, compared with the rate of 7s. 6d. in force in 1949, represents an increase of £1 7s. a week and is equivalent to an increase of 360 per cent.
The total increase, therefore, of war widow’s pension plus domestic allowance since 1949, including the increase of 10s. a week in pensions proposed in this bill, will amount to £2 17s. a week, which represents an increase of 84 per cent, over chat period. The total of pension and domestic allowance will now be £6 4s. 6d. a week. As at the 30th June, 1955, there were 2S,292 war widows receiving pension, and of these, 25,950, that is, 92 per cent., receive domestic allowances as well. It will thus be seen that 92 per cent, of war widows will actually be receiving the 84 per cent, increase I have mentioned. A war widow with two children aged thirteen and eleven years will now receive a total of £9 16s. from pension, education allowance and child endowment, and as each child reaches fourteen and sixteen years of age, a higher rate of education allowance becomes payable.
An attendant’s allowance is payable under the second and fifth schedules to the act in certain cases where, because of the nature of their war disability, members require daily attention for some of their bodily needs. These rates vary according to the nature and degree of the incapacity. There are two rates payable - £1 15s. a week and £3 10s. a week - and each rate is to be increased by 20s. a week, making the new amounts £2 15s. and £4 10s. a week, respectively.
A member entitled to a service pension will receive the same increase in service pension as is being granted to an age or invalid pensioner under the Social Services Act, namely, 10s. a week. As the total amount which a service pensioner is able to have by way of incomepluspension is being raised from £7 to £7 10s. a week, all will benefit by the rise. It will now be possible for a married couple, both of whom are entitled to a service, age or invalid pension, to receive from all sources an amount of up to £15 a week between them before there is any reduction in their service pensions.
I return now to what is probably the most important provision in this bill, the repeal of section 91a. The repeal of this section will, as I have said, grant a widespread benefit ; it will benefit particularly those who are getting on in life and have no source of income other than their pension.
The history of the ceiling limits may be summarized in this way: Prior to 1948, a war pension was taken into account as income for the purpose of the means test when assessing a service pension. In 1948, the government of the day decided that where a person was qualified to receive both a war pension and a service or social services pension, the Commonwealth liability for the two pensions should be limited to something less than the total pension he would otherwise receive under the means test, and section 91a was inserted in the act. That further limit was commonly known as “ ceiling “. The following example will show just how that ceiling limit applied : An unmarried war pensioner whose sole income was his 100 per cent, general rate war pension of £4 10s. a week could receive a service, age or invalid pension of only £1 2s. 6d. in addition, because the “ ceiling “ rate for a single man was fixed by section 91a at £5 12s. 6d. a week. On the other hand, a person with an income of £4 10s. from sources other than war pension was able to receive a service, age or invalid pension of £2 10s. a week to bring his income up to the means test limit of incomepluspension of £7 a week. The rates quoted in this example are those operating prior to this amending bill. The Government has decided that such a “ ceiling “ operates unfairly against the war pensioner and has therefore decided to repeal section 91a and also to repeal the corresponding sections in the Social Services Act.
Put shortly, the effect of the removal of the “ceiling” limits is that, although in future war pension will continue to be regarded as income in assessing a service, age or invalid pension, the only limit on the amount the Commonwealth will pay where a service, age or invalid pension is payable in addition to a war pension, will be the ordinary means test limit of income-plus-pension, which is £7 10s. a week for an unmarried person and £15 a week for a married couple. An unmarried war pensioner receiving pension at the general rate under the First Schedule, will, subject to the means test, be able to receive, in addition to his war pension, a service pension up to the full amount of £4 a week, provided the amount of both pensions does not exceed a total of £7 10s. a week. For example, such a member receiving the full general rate, often referred to as the 100 per cent, rate, would receive war pension £4 15s. and service pension £2 15s., or a total of £7 10s. a week. If he is receiving war pension at 50 per cent, of the general rate, that is, £2 7s. 6d. a week, he will receive the full amount of service pension, £4 a week, making his total weekly pension £6 7s. 6d a week.
In the case of a married couple who are war pensioners and who are both eligible for service, age or invalid pension, they may receive between them an amount up to £15 a week, all by way of pension. For example, a married couple in receipt of the full general rate war pension, amounting to £4 15s. for the member and £1 15s. 6d. for his wife, would both, subject to the means test, be eligible to receive the full amount of a service, age or invalid pension, £4 a week each, and so, between them, would have a total pension income of £14 10s. 6d. a week. If they had two children aged, say, twelve and fourteen years, there would be payable in respect of the children additional amounts by way of pension and child endowment which would bring the family income up to £17 7s. a week. In the case of a married member whose pension is assessed at 75 per cent, of the general rate, and who has two children aged twelve and fourteen years, the following amounts could be paid : -
A totally and permanently incapacitated member and his wife have hitherto been debarred by the “ ceiling “ limit from receiving a service, age or invalid pension in addition to their war pension. As a result of this bill, they will, subject to the means test, be able to receive a service or social service pension in addition to their war pension. This means that, either from Commonwealth sources alone, or from those sources plus some income of their own, for example, from superannuation, they will have a guaranteed income of at least £15 a week. Towards this amount the Commonwealth will contribute at least £11 10s. 6d., this being the amount of their combined war pensions. Subject, to the means test, which takes their war pensions into account as income, they may receive up to £3 9s. 6d. service, age or invalid pension between them to make up the combined income of £15 a week, which is the limit of incomepluspension under the means test. A man and wife, with one child aged twelve years, could, subject to the means test, receive between them war pension of £11 10s. 6d. a week and service, age or invalid pension of £3 9s. 6d. a week, and in respect of the child, additional amounts for pension, education allowance and child endowment, making a total family income of £17 ls. 9d. a week.
The removal of the ceiling limits will be of particular assistance not only to the old “diggers” of “World War I., whose average age is now about 64 years and who qualify for a service pension at 60 years of age, but also to all the more seriously disabled ex-servicemen. I should like to emphasize the fact that in applying the means test, the pension, education allowance and child endowment paid to or in respect of a child is not taken into account as income of the parent. This bill also provides that in future the amount of an attendant’s allowance payable under the Second or the Fifth Schedule to the act will not be regarded as income for the purpose of the means test. The extent to which war pensioners will benefit from the removal of the ceiling rates may be summarized in this way: Subject to the means test, an unmarried member receiving a general rate war pension will be able to receive, in addition to his war pension, up to £4 a week, that is, the full rate of service, age or invalid pension; a married member will be able to receive the like amount, and his wife, if eligible for- a service or social services pension, will also be able to receive the full amount of that pension in addition to her war pension ; a married couple, where the member is totally and permanently incapacitated, will, subject to the means test, be able to receive between them, in addition to their war pension, a further amount of up to £3 9s. 6d. a week as service, age or invalid pension. In other words, such a couple will have a guaranteed minimum income of £15 a week tax free, and all amounts payable in respect of any children by way of pension, education allowance or child endowment will be in addition.
I turn now to consider the improved position of a war widow. A war widow receiving a widow’s pension and domestic allowance, £6 4s. 6d. per week in all, may, subject to the means test, receive by way of age or invalid pension a further £1. 5s. 6d. a week, making her total income, all from pension, up to £7 10s. a week. Any pensions or allowances payable in respect of her children will be additional to that amount. A widow over the age of 60 years, for example, may receive war widow’s pension £4 10s., domestic allowance £1 14s. 6d., and age pension up’ to £1 5s. 6d., making a total of £7 10s. a week. In other words, she will have a guaranteed income from, all sources of 7 10s. a week. As an example of a war widow’s family income, we can take the case of a war widow with two children aged eleven and thirteen years. In addition to her own war pension and domestic allowance of £6 4s. 6d. a week, she will receive, in respect of the children, war pension for both, £2 5s. a week, education allowance for the elder child, lis. -Gd. a week, and child endowment for both, 15s. a week. This will give a total family income of £9 16s. a week, and, in addition, the widow and the children receive certain free medical attention. If a widow has three children aged fourteen, fifteen and seventeen years, with the eldest child at a university, the total family income would be £13 7s. a week.
The bill also seeks to amend the provisions of the act relating to the eligibility for pension of dependants of female members who served in World War II. or the Korea or Malaya operations, and to remove two restrictions which now apply.
The provisions that the mother must be receiving a pension of at least 50 per cent, of the general rate before the child could receive a pension is being repealed, as is the one which limited eligibility to a child born of a marriage that took place before or during the mother’s service in the forces. In future, where the mother is the breadwinner of the family, a pension will be paid to a child irrespective of the rate of pension payable to its mother or the date of the marriage of which the child is the issue.
Honorable members will be pleased to know that the disabled members and widows training scheme, which commenced to operate in January, 1953, is fulfilling expectations. This scheme has two objectives - -first, the training of exservice men and women, who become substantially handicapped through warcaused incapacity, to enable them to be satisfactorily re-established in civil life if training is necessary for their reestablishment; and, secondly, the training of war widows who desire training to enable them to follow a suitable remunerative occupation. A comprehensive review of the. scheme was made at the end of the first two years of its operation, and the results achieved are ample to justify its continuation.
The success of the scheme has been due to a co-operative effort, and the Government offers its thanks to the various technical schools and other training establishments and, in particular, to the employers’ and employees’ organizations whose combined efforts have meant so much, not only in the training but, particularly, in placing in employment disabled ex-servicemen. The other provisions contained in the bill make certain necessary or desirable amendments to the provisions of the act which it will be more appropriate to. explain at a later stage.
I feel sure that all honorable members will be in entire agreement with the increases of pension rates proposed in this bill and, in particular, with the Government’s action in doing away with the ceiling limits. The new rates of pension will be payable on the first pension pay day after the giving of the Royal Assent. I commend the bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Calwell) adjourned.
– I rise to a point of order. Honorable members have just listened to a second-reading speech by the Minister for the Army that was read from a printed document. But honorable members did not receive copies of the document, and they are not yet available. May I ask why copies of some secondreading speeches are made available to honorable members, while we have to wait for copies of others until the Minister has concluded his speech?
– The matter raised by the honorable member has nothing to do with the Chair. Whether or not copies of speeches are distributed is a matter for the Minister in charge of the relevant bill.
– Perhaps some arrangement could be made, through the Clerk of the House or otherwise, under which copies of speeches would he made available early to honorable members. Honorable members are at a disadvantage if they do not receive copies of the speeches, particularly when the debate will be resumed soon after the Minister has finished his speech.
– That is a matter for the Minister concerned, and foa? nobody else.
– I should be quite happy to make copies of my speeches available on all occasions, but it has not been the practice for Ministers to release copies of their second-reading speeches until after the speeches have been delivered.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
This bill, which has been received from the Senate, makes provision for increases in general pension rates and allowances for attendants payable under the Seamen’s War’ Pensions and Allowances Act to Australian mariners incapacitated by war injury, for increases in pensions of widows of Australian mariners, and also for an extension of the act to give eligibility for pensions to certain wives, widows and children of Australian mariners who are now excluded from benefits under the act.
The Seamen’s War Pensions and Allowances Act first came into operation in 1940, and has since been amended on six occasions. On the last three- occasions on which it was amended, namely, in 1952, 1953 and 1954, pension increases were granted to Australian mariners and widows of Australian mariners corresponding to pension increases granted to ex-members of the forces and war widows under the Repatriation Act. The latter act is being amended to implement the Government’s decision to increase, war pensions, and this bill provides for similar increases.
The pension rate of an Australian mariner, incapacitated by a war injury, is assessed on the basis of percentage of incapacity. The totally incapacitated mariner receives a pension within a scale ranging from £9 to £10 16s. a fortnight. The Government has decided on an allround increase of 10s. a fortnight, and this will increase the fortnightly rates to amounts ranging from £9 10s. to £11 6s.
The pension rates for widows of Australian mariners will be increased by £1 a fortnight. The existing scale of rates varies from £8 to £9 16s. a fortnight, and with the increases now proposed the rates will be advanced to range from £9 to £10 16s. a fortnight.
A mariner who is partially incapacitated, and who is paid a pension assessed on the basis of the percentage of his incapacity, will receive such percentage of the increase of 10s. a fortnight as corresponds to the percentage of his incapacity. If an Australian mariner is incapacitated by one of the disabilities described in the second schedule to the act, and the Repatriation Committee is of the opinion that he is in need of an attendant, he is granted a fortnightly allowance for an attendant. The allowances at present payable are £3 10s. a fortnight in the case where the incapacity results from a disability other than the loss of two arms, and £7 a fortnight where the incapacity results from that disability. Provision is made in the bill for the allowances mentioned to be increased by £2 a fortnight, namely, to £5 10s. and £9 10s. a fortnight respectively.
The present restricted definitions of the words “child”, “wife” and “widow”, do not permit of the grant of a pension to a wife or widow who married an Australian mariner after the date on which he sustained the war injury, or to a child born, or a step-child or adopted child who became dependent on the mariner, after that date. Provision is made in the bill for the amendment of the definitions of the words “ child “, “ wife “ and “ widow “ to give eligibility for a pension to a wife or widow of an Australian mariner who was incapacitated by a war injury irrespective of the date on which the marriage took place, and to a child, step-child or adopted child irrespective of the date on which the child was born to or became dependent on the Australian mariner. These amendments will bring the relevant provisions of the Seamen’s War Pensions and Allowances Act into line with the corresponding provisions of the Repatriation Act.
The increased rates will be payable from the first pension pay day occurring after the bill receives the Royal Assent. The amendments proposed will, I am sure, be acceptable to all honorable members, and I look forward confidently to their support for the bill.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Calwell) adjourned.
In Committee of Supply: Considera tion resumed from the 5th October (vide page 1302).
Proposed vote, £3,386,000.
Proposed vote, £2,367,000.
Proposed vote, £27,100.
Proposed vote, £8,943,900.
Part 4. - Payments to or for the States.
Proposed vote, £1,750,000.
Part 5. - Self-balancing Items.
Proposed vote, £836,000. (Ordered to be considered together.)
.- My remarks will be directed to the Australian Capital Territory. About two weeks ago, when we were discussing the Estimates in broader terms, I made certain statements about the Australian Capital Territory. Apparently I annoyed the public servants and other residents of Canberra, because a great amount of publicity has ensued. My exact words on that occasion were as follows : -
I am concerned about the apparent claim of public servants in Canberra, and elsewhere that they are entitled to expect that the rent of their homes shall be calculated on an uneconomic basis or that it shall be subject to a subsidy that is not available to the rest of the people of Australia.
I further said -
But I am not afraid of Canberra people. They have expected too much from the Government of Australia. It is about time this was stopped. There are people in Australia who look askance at the money that is being spent on the establishment of the Capital Territory. It is time that we had a serious look at this matter . . .
I now repeat those statements. After uttering them, I was challenged by certain people. Indeed, I received a letter from the very important Turner Progress Association asking me to go over to that suburb and to meet some of the residents. As the Parliament is sitting, I am unable to go at present, but I would be very happy to meet those people at some other time. I told them that I would give more details when the Estimates now before the committee were being considered.
I want it to be clearly understood that I really love the people of Canberra. I think they are fine people. I have nothing against them. But they are getting the wrong slant on things, and it is about time that somebody told them the facts. We cannot expect the honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory (Mr. J. R. Eraser) to tell them the facts, because that would be somewhat distasteful, and one does not win votes that way.
Fortunately, I am not obliged to look for votes in Canberra, so I am free to speak. In criticism of my statement to the committee, the honorable member for St. George (Mr. Lemmon) had this to say -
The fact is that the people of Canberra pay a rent which is assessed on the capital value of the properties occupied, and which works out at approximately 6 per cent, of the capital value of the property. In fact, the people here do not enjoy some of the advantages which other people arc able to enjoy who have had houses built under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement.
Let me say categorically that both parts of that passage are utterly wrong, and I shall prove my statement.
The Minister for the Interior (Mr. Kent Hughes) is doing a splendid job in Canberra. He knows the atmosphere of this place, and naturally he must bring the administration into proper adjustment by degrees without being unfair in any way. There was some justification for giving certain benefits to the early residents of Canberra, because they were building a city and were asked to make certain sacrifices. I am not objecting to that, but it must be realized that we have reached the stage where the population is 30,000. It is a city of some magnitude. In a comparatively short time, 60,000 people will be living here. I suggest, therefore, that it is time that the people of Canberra faced the real facts of life and understood that_ they must accept their own responsibilities in this city in which it is very desirable to live.
I wish to refer to the real facts in connexion with Canberra rents. Until the 7 th July, 1955, rents were fixed in accordance with the following formula which dated back to the early history of this city : -
That gave a total of 5.004 per cent, for a brick house, and 5.8565 per cent, for a timber house, but round figures of 5 per cent, and 5.85 per cent, were adopted for the purpose of calculating rents. As I have stated, that was the position up to the 7th July, 1955. Although land rent was included, the capital value of the land was never taken into account in the total cost. The capital cost of a building was ascertained by taking the net cost and adding 4£ per cent, for overhead charges. I remind the committee that 4 per cent, is a completely inadequate percentage to adopt for such charges. To adopt it in normal commercial practice would be quite absurd. That percentage having been added, 20 per cent., or one-fifth, was deducted in order to arrive at the net capital costs. In other words, one-fifth of the real cost was deducted before calculations of rent were made. That meant that one-fifth of the cost of the house was, in effect, a contribution or subsidy to the people of Canberra
When costs rose steeply in 1951, there was an outcry by the residents of Canberra. What staggers me more than anything else is that the Minister has been subjected to all kinds of attacks from the residents of this city in relation to what they describe as unreasonable rents. That outcry in 1951 was very embarrassing. In March, 1931, rents had been reduced by 20 per cent., and in July of that year, by a further 20 per cent., and those reduced rentals remained in operation until the 6th July, 1955. The position was then reviewed, and the rents for houses that had been built prior to the 31st December, 1944, were increased by from 25 per cent, to 75 per cent. Up to that stage, rents had not given a return that was sufficient to meet even maintenance costs, let alone interest charges. It was also decided that the rental paid by an existing tenant could not be increased by more than 50 per cent. When the reassessment was made, an. average of costs up to that time was taken for houses that were built after the 31st December, 1944. The 5 per cent, formula for brick houses was adopted, again allowing for a reduction of 20 per cent, on costs, and a rental of 4s. 6d. a square a week was fixed. That was just an absolute absurdity. In any capital city of Australia - and I am not taking Canberra costs - at £350 a square, a 10-square house would cost £3,500. If we a.dd, say, £500 for the cost of land, the total costs would be £4,000. At 5 per cent., gross - which would not, of course, cover the interest charges paid by the Government on the money used - the rent -would be £200 per annum. At 4s. 6d. a square a week, it is £117 per annum. If bank interest at the rate of 5 per cent, net were required to be returned to the Government, we should have to add normal outgoings on maintenance, depreciation, rates and taxes and insurance, which would amount to at least 4 per cent. Then the rent would have to be 9 per cent, gross, or £360 per annum. But if the Government wanted a return of only 4£ per cent., which is the rate of interest it pays on the money used to produce these houses, it would have to recover Si per cent, gross, or £320 per annum.
Those are the plain facts. I am not saying what the Government ought to do in this matter. I am stating plain, out-of-pocket money facts that cannot bts denied. No matter what honorable members opposite may say, we cannot get away from the facts. There are 5,000 homes in Canberra let to tenants by the Government. A rough estimate made on the basis that I have indicated shows that the Government is subsidizing the rents of the people of Canberra to the tune of £500,000 a year.
But that is not all. The rates and taxes here are considerably lower than anywhere else in Australia. The general rate is 7d.,- the water rate is 3£d., the sewerage rate is 2£d., and the lighting rate is 2d. Those rates are levied on the assessed value of the land, but the values assessed are considerably below normal market values. The maximum general rate was fixed at 7d. by an amendment of the Rates Ordinance, made in 1931, and it has not been changed since. The lighting rate was first fixed in 1926. The sewerage and water rates of 2£d. and 3d., respectively, were fixed in 1925, and are regarded only as a contribution by the population of the city towards the cost of those services.
There are many other things in Canberra that need to be commented upon. For instance, the fire brigade is wholly maintained by the Commonwealth, but in the States, the fire brigades are controlled by boards, the cost being shared by the State governments, local government authorities and insurance com panies in proportions which vary from State to State. The Canberra omnibus service loses about £64,000 a year. .1 am not complaining about that, because oven the States’ transport systems are losing millions of pounds a year. Many other facilities are enjoyed by the people of this city. For instance, pre-school centres are built wholly at the Government’s expense and small contributions for some purposes are made by the people.
Then there is the Canberra Community Hospital. I am aware of the argument that a hospital tax was imposed on the people of Canberra for some time. But the facts are that the charges made to patients in that hospital are £6 a week in a public ward, £8 a week in an intermediate ward and £10 a week in a private ward. The New South Wales Government has just fixed the charge for a private ward at about £24 a week. An enormous contribution is made by the Government to the Canberra Community Hospital. Canberra people who occupy beds in the hospital when, unfortunately, they are ill, pay about £30,000 a year in hospital charges, whilst the Government contributes about £220,000 a year by way of a subsidy.
– What is the cost of maintaining a bed?
– The cost of maintaining a bed is about £21 a week.
– And the Canberra people pay £10 a week?-
– They pay £10 a week for a private ward. That is the position at present. All this may be very nice in a socialist society, but it is not much good if we are trying to inculcate into people a sense of responsibility. This is the point that gets me. How can we expect people in Canberra to assume the responsibilities of home-ownership and borrow money for house building at an interest rate of 4j per cent, while they can lean on the Government and get a house without paying more than 1 per cent., 1$ per cent, or 2 per cent, in interest? That is all that the people of Canberra, in their rents; are paying for the money used by the Government in the construction of their homes.
This is a question of policy. It is no answer to my arguments for the honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory to say, “ This rapacious estate agent has brought these matters before the Parliament in order to get at the people of Canberra, because he cannot run an estate agency here “. That is not the purpose of my remarks at all. My purpose is to try to awaken the citizens of Canberra to the fact that we are going just a little too far in using the money of the taxpayers to provide subsidies for them, because it is the taxpayers who make up these deficiencies.
– Members of the Parliament who have an interest in the development of Canberra will find a very profitable field of study in the report presented recently by the Senate Select Committee on Canberra. I hope that we shall have an opportunity to discuss that report later. I have no intention of referring to the honorable member for Bennelong (Mr. Cramer) as a. “ rapacious estate agent “, but I think it is proper to refer to his activities in that field. The honorable member has a special knowledge of, and a special interest in matters affecting real estate, but he is out of his depth when he deals with the Australian Capital Territory. In the speech that he delivered to the committee just now, he referred to commercial custom and the value of land. In this national capital, we have, very wisely, provided for leasehold tenure of land on which the homes of the people are built.
The honorable member referred to the speech that he made on this subject a fortnight ago, when he said that he was not afraid of the people of Canberra, or that he had nothing to fear from them. The people of at least one suburb of the city took him up very promptly by issuing him an invitation to attend a meeting of the Turner Progress Association. I suggest that’ the excuse given by the honorable member for not accepting that invitation, namely, that the Parliament was sitting, was not really an excuse. According to the Canberra Times, the honorable member said that’ he was “ too busy “. He must have been very busy indeed, seeking out the information that he has put before the committee as the facts of the housing situation in the Australian Capital Territory.
– Refute them.
– The honorable member has made his speech, and I hope he will listen to me while I make mine. He stated correctly the basis on which rentals were assessed in the Australian Capital Territory. That basis is slightly over 5 per cent, of the capital cost of a brick house and 5.85 per cent, of the capital cost of a timber house.
– Not the capital cost.
– The honorable member is not only too busy to attend a meeting of the Turner Progress Association, but he is also too rude to listen to my reply to the statements that ho made to the committee.
– Keep to the facts.
– The facts are that the percentages in the case of a brick house are 3.125 for interest, .05 for insurance, 1.3045 for maintenance, .4229 for the sinking fund, and .0980 for administration, making a total of, not 5.004, as the honorable member said, but 5.0004. It is a matter of only ten thousandths, but let us be accurate. In the case of a timber house, the percentages are: 3.125 for interest, .2 for insurance, 1.6365 for maintenance, .780 for the sinking fund, and .115 for administration, making a total of 5.8565. Those are the percentages on which the rentals of houses in Canberra were calculated prior to the decision made in July of this year to apply arbitrary increases of 25 per cent, in some suburbs, 50 per cent, in others and 75 per cent, in two more salubrious suburbs. What is interesting to the people of Canberra, and may be of interest also to the honorable member for Bennelong, is the break-up into its components of each £1 of rent paid by tenants of government homes. Of every £1 of rent paid by the tenants of brick homes in Canberra 12s. 6d. is for interest, 2d. is for insurance and 5s. 3d. is for maintenance, ls. 8d. goes to sinking fund for the amortization of the cost of the home, and 5d. is for administrative costs.
– I challenge that.
– The honorable member may challenge those figures if he wishes, but they have been provided to me over the signature of the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Kent Hughes), who is at present seated at the table. They are available for inspection by the honorable member either in the Minister’s office or in my office. For a timber home the break-up of each £1 of rent is as follows: - Interest, 10s. 8d. - which is lower than the interest for a brick home because the amortization period is shorter, being 53 years for a timber home compared with 70 years for a brick home ; insurance 8d. ; maintenance, 5s. 7d. ; sinking fund, 2s. 8d. ; and administration, 5d.
The honorable member for Bennelong referred to some history in the matter of rentals and the assessment of the capital costs of home construction in the Australian Capital Territory. In referring to those matters the honorable member said that the Government had to meet interest on the money it had provided for the construction of homes in the Australian Capital Territory. Indeed, the term the honorable member used was, “ on the money it had borrowed “. The honorable member should know that every government home built in this city since 1945 has been financed from revenue, and not from loan funds, as the honorable member claimed. But even there the honorable member was wrong in his history because, at the time of the Federal Capital Commission, back in the late 1920’s and early 1930’s, rentals of homes were assessed at 7.05 per cent, for brick, and 8.15 per cent, for timber over amortization periods of 60 years for brick homes and 45 years for timber homes. In March, 1931, the formula was revised, and the rentals were varied so that the rent for a brick home was assessed at 6.261 per cent, and that for a timber home at 7.311 per cent. Under the financial emergency legislation in July, 1931, further reductions were marie to approximately the present level, the percentage for a brick home being fixed at 5.009 and for a timber home at 5.8449. In 1948, the formula was again varied, and the interest proportion in rentals was reduced to the present figure of 3-J per cent. At the same time the period of amortization was extended to 70 years for brick homes and 53 years for timber homes. It is perfectly clear, from the figures provided by the Department of the Interior, and from examples provided by the Commonwealth Actuary, that the rentals paid by the people of Canberra for the homes they occupy are more than adequate to meet all costs and charges for construction and maintenance of these homes. The honorable member for Bennelong, who has some knowledge of those affairs, should know that a loan of £100, borrowed at an interest rate of 4 per cent., can be repaid in 40 years by an annual payment of slightly over £5. The annual payment required to cover interest charges and sinking-fund repayment on a loan of £100 in order to discharge that loan completely in 40 years is £5 ls. 0-Jd. But in connexion with Canberra’s housing we are dealing with amortization periods of 53 years for timber homes and 70 years for brick homes.
If the honorable member for Bennelong seeks to give some praise to the present Minister for the Interior for having improved the housing position in Canberra, let him look at the facts, because the plain fact is that during the Minister’s term of office we have been building annually fewer homes in Canberra-
– That is nonsense!
– It is not nonsense, as the honorable member will discover if he gets the figures from the Minister. The figures in relation to homes built last year and handed over to the Department of the Interior for letting show the total as 373. Applications for new houses increased by something over 400, so we are not even keeping pace with the present demand. There are at present more than 3,000 people in Canberra who are waiting for homes, and the present waiting-time is about two years and four months. Let the honorable member’s praise of the Minister be tempered also by some other considerations. Here again are some figures provided over the Minister’s signature. In 1946, when the present Minister was not Minister for Works, the present honorable member for St. George (Mr.
Lemmon) being then the responsible Minister, the cost of building a brick home in Canberra, was £148 a square. In 1947 the cost had risen to £160, in 1948 to £195 and in 1949 to £233. In 1950, the first full year of this Government’s administration, the cost rose to £285 a square from the £233 a square, which was the figure when the Government took office. In 1951, it rose to £315 a square. Figures provided by the Department of Works show that the cost in 1952 was £325 a square ; in 1953, £350 a square; in 1954, £360 a square; and in 1955, £375 a square - a constant progression upward in costs under the administration of the present Minister, and the administration of the Government of which the honorable member for Bennelong is so vocal a supporter. The honorable member, of course, appears in this chamber now as the great attacker of Canberra. In another capacity, as chairman of the Public Works Committee, his views may have a very disastrous effect on the future of this national capital, and therefore the honorable member should seek to keep his personal interests apart from his parliamentary interests in this matter. Far from it being true that Canberra is being subsidized by the rest of Australia, the position is quite otherwise, as an examination of some of the facts will show. It is worth while reminding the honorable member for Bennelong that everybody in this Australian Capital Territory pays income tax and all other federal taxes in the same way as everybody else in Australia does.
– So does everybody else.
– Through the taxes that they pay the people of the Australian Capital Territory contribute to the payments to the claimant States, including Western Australia, from which the honorable member for Moore (Mr. Leslie) comes, and Tasmania and South Australia. We also contribute our share of income tax reimbursements to the States, under the uniform income tax formula. We give our full share to all special Commonwealth grants to the States. We also contribute to every subsidy paid by the Commonwealth to any form of primary industry in any, or all. of the States, yet we are denied many of the benefits that accrue to the States from income tax payments. An editorial in the Canberra Times of the 26th September states -
The Budget papers presented to Parliament last month show that the citizens of the Australian Capital Territory lead all Australia both in the percentage of taxpayers to population and in the average amount of income tax paid in relation to population. In New South Wales 37 per cent, of the population comprises income tax payers, and in Victoria the percentage is 41. The average individual income taxation and social service contribution paid by all Hie people in New South Wales was £37 and the average for Victoria was only a few shillings more. In the Australian Capital Territory, more than 45 per cent, of the population paid income tax and the average spread over the population of the Territory was £53 a head.
Lest honorable members think that those figures show an undue state of prosperity in the Australian Capital Territory, let us consider along with them the figures in respect of savings bank deposits issued by the Commonwealth .Statistician, which, so far as they can be taken as a reflex of prosperity, show that the average savings a head of population in the Australian Capital Territory are the lowest in Australia, with the exception of the average savings a head of population in Western Australia - and I would not rob that State of that distinction. In New South Wales, the average is £103.6; in Victoria, £146; in Queensland, £95.1; in Western Australia, £83; in Tasmania, £115.1; in the Northern Territory, £93.5; and in the Australian Capital Territory, £84.5. South Australia has the highest average of £162.9.
I suggest that the people of this Territory are far from being subsidized by the rest of the people of Australia. Far from their being pampered and spoon-fed, as so often is stated by honorable members on the Government side, it is perfectly clear, and it can be easily substantiated by the officers of the Department of the Interior, that the rentals being paid by tenants of government homes in Canberra are completely adequate, and more than adequate, to meet all the charges and all the costs involved in the provision of those houses which, since the war, have been built, not from loan funds, but from revenue.
.- I would like, temporarily, to change the subject from one Commonwealth territory to another. I wish to refer to the Territory of Papua and New Guinea. When one approaches the task of considering the money that the Australian Government proposes to spend in that Territory in the coming year, one cannot help thinking, what a great pity it is that there is such a lack of knowledge of it on the part of members of this Parliament, and the Australian population generally. I regret especially the lack of knowledge on the subject in this chamber. That is not altogether the fault of honorable members because their opportunities of visiting the Territory have been considerably curtailed. Though Parliament normally has the responsibility of voting on matters pertaining to the Territory, its members have not, in their own right as members, facilities for visiting it. I believe that honorable members should have that right. It is true that every year one or two official visits are paid by honorable members on the invitation of the Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck), but this is not sufficient. Under this system an honorable member would have an opportunity of visiting the Territory only two or three times in the course of twenty years or so in this Parliament. That is completely wrong. I realize that it is no fault of the Minister that honorable members have not the right, as members, to visit the Territory and I know that he will give his backing to a proposal that honorable members should have the right to visit that area at least once during the term of each Parliament.
I should like to pay a tribute to those wonderful men and women, who, throughout our administration of the territories, have done such great initial developmental work. I do not think that any tribute paid them could be too high. At the same time, it is a great pity that considerable numbers have left the territorial service in the last seven or eight years. One of the reasons given was that there had been too much vacillation in policy, especially under the previous Labour Government, and that the territorial Public Service was being brought each year more and more into line with the Commonwealth Public Service. From ray own visits to the Territory, that appeared to, me to be happening, and I cannot believe in my own heart that it is in the interests of that area. In a country which is in such an early stage of development it is essential to have a public service that is permanent, and whose members remain there and grow to love the Territory because their interests are in it. I do not believe that we can build up a territorial public service, if its members, and especially the heads of departments, are continually being shuttled between the Commonwealth Public Service and the Public Service of Papua and New Guinea. The two services call for different types of men. The territorial public servant must have a different outlook on life, and an effort should be made to combat the present trend of bringing his service more and more into line with that of the ordinary Commonwealth public servant.
I should like for a moment to discuss the duties of the Administrator and to ask the Minister whether he considers that they are not too heavy, and indeed almost impossible for one man to carry out successfully. The Administrator must implement Government policy and preside over both the Executive and the Legislative Council. He must, if time permits, make tours of inspection. By virtue of his office he has a vast number of social engagements to fulfil. I believe that the time is ripe for considering the possibility of appointing a lieutenant-governor, leaving the Administrator free to carry on the real work of administration. 1 realize that that would be accompanied by considerable difficulties; that more money would have, to be spent, that extra staff and accommodation would have to be provided, and that possibly the existing set-up of the councils would have to be revised. I may say, in passing, that I believe such a revision could well take place. I cannot, in my own heart, believe that a legislative council, a majority of whose members are more or less bound to vote in accordance with government policy on most occasions, can really be effective. It must be even more frustrating to the members of that council than it is to the members of this Parliament, where we have greater freedom of speech.
– Does the honorable member mean that they have not freedom of speech ?
– In fact, they express themselves very clearly.
– But they cannot back up their opinions by votes, and they should be able to do so. The appointment of a lieutenant-governor is well worthy of consideration if only because of the tremendous importance of the Territory to Australia. The only real representation that Papua and New Guinea have in this Parliament is through the Minister. I do not believe that it can truly be called parliamentary representation, for it is really representation on a government level. The Minister must, of necessity, obtain most of his information through his department. It would be quite unnatural if the officers of his department were to say to him, “ These are the things that we think are quite wrong up there. You can do something about changing them, but what are we going to do about public opinion? Will we tell the public that these things are wrong and should be changed?” Virtually, those vast territories, with a non-native population of some 18,000 and a native population of perhaps 1,700,000, have no actual voice in this Parliament. Their only representation is through the Minister, and, as I have said, it would be against human nature for the Minister to be their direct representative, in the sense of being a member representing a large body of constituents. We must, either now or in the very near future, give consideration to the question of having in this Parliament, as a member, a representative of the Territory of Papua and New Guinea. The Northern Territory, which has a European population of about 17,000, in addition to about 13,500 natives, has a representative in this Parliament. New Guinea ha.s a non-native population of about 18,000, of whom approximately 12,000 are Europeans.
– It is more than that.
– Should the representation consist of Europeans or nonEuropeans?
– That is a matter which would have to be considered. My point is that there should be some repre- sentation of that Territory, which is of such vital importance to Australia - an importance which appears to be ignored by many honorable members.
– Who should have the franchise?
– Personally, I would not be averse to having one European and one native as representatives. However, I am chiefly concerned that the Territory, which is so important, should have its representatives in this Parliament.
– I agree with that.
– Whoever is appointed to represent that Territory should be free to bring up matters regardless of whether they be favorable or unfavorable to the existing Administration and Government. I realize that there would be difficulties in giving effect to my proposal. It could be said that the time is not ripe to give representation to a native population of over 1,000,000 persons whose education has not reached a very high standard, and who have no national spirit among themselves, as the people belong to numbers of separate and isolated tribes. Those arguments, and others, could be advanced, but in view of the present state of world affairs and the trend of international events, the closer we can bring New Guinea into line with Australia, and include it in the Australian framework, the better. One real step would be the provision of some form of representation other than through the Minister. In saying that, I am not criticizing the Minister himself. I merely say that there should be another channel for giving effect to the opinion of the people living in the Territory, such as there is in respect of the Australian Capital Territory, which is administered by the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Kent Hughes) and also has a member representing it in this Parliament. A similar arrangement should apply to Papua and New Guinea, which contains more human beings than do the other territories which I have mentioned and which already are represented in this Parliament. If the Government is not prepared to act along the lines of my suggestion, I strongly urge that members of Parliament be given the right to so to the Territory and see for themselves what is taking place there.
– I propose to direct my remarks to Part 4 of the Estimates, which deals with payments to or for the States. This section of the Estimates contains the greatest single item in the budget, as it makes provision for nearly £220,000,000 to be paid by the Commonwealth, out of revenue collected by it, to the States, either as grants towards their general revenue or, in some instances, for specific purposes. Honorable members will see details of the proposed payments on page 147 of the Estimates. An examination of the Special Appropriations will show that, of the £220,000,000, reimbursements to the States under the uniform taxation arrangement amount to £157,000,000. We on this side believe that the uniform taxation system is the best method of collecting revenue in Australia, but of course, the collection of revenue is not by any means the end of the story. The distribution of that revenue i3 still the central problem facing the Commonwealth Government as, indeed, it is in every federal system. The question to be decided is how the revenue collected by one government shall be distributed among other governments so that the best use will be made of the country’s resources, and satisfaction given to all governments.
It cannot be said that, at the present time, there is satisfaction on the part of all governments about the reallocation of the moneys collected. Dissatisfaction with the present system has been expressed by the Premier of Victoria. He has complained that Victoria is not getting a fair deal under the uniform taxation system, and has drawn attention to the very real difficulties that face his government. He is able to say, perhaps with some justice, that many more millions of pounds are collected from taxpayers in Victoria than are ultimately redistributed to that State. That argument, however, ignores the fact that through the Commonwealth there is no equality of distribution of economic resources. The State boundaries have been drawn rather arbitrarily on geographical lines, rather than on the basis of population and resources. We have compact States with large populations, such as Victoria, and also sparsely populated States, like Western Australia. In addition, we have territories, such as the Australian Capital Territory, which is the creation of governments, the Northern Territory, another large area, and also the Territory of Papua and New Guinea. The last-mentioned territory is under Commonwealth control but, so far, it does not provide all the revenue required for its administration, and the balance has to be made up by the rest of the Commonwealth. Many real problems exist in that area, and they are reflected in this budget.
When the federal compact was arrived at, there was written into the Constitution a provision, known as the surplus revenue section, under which it was envisaged that, if the Commonwealth did have any surplus revenues, those revenues would be re-distributed to the States. In the early days of the Commonwealth, surplus revenues which were not very large, were distributed among the States, but for a long time, particularly during the last ten years, the surplus revenues which have become greater and greater, instead of being returned to the States, have been transferred to accounts known as trust accounts. Apparently, that meets the constitutional provision, but it is mere camouflage to say that, because certain moneys have been placed in trust accounts, there are no surplus revenues. These budget papers show that large sums of money have been disposed of hi this way. I suggest that honorable members should give this matter their consideration. The Auditor-General has drawn attention to the fact that in two years £20,000,000 has been placed in Defence Trust Accounts, and that the money is still there.
– The same system was followed when a Labour government was in office.
– The practice of putting surplus moneys into trust accounts is growing. Particularly since this Government has been in office, the system has been abused. In the guise of patriotism, the true position has been camouflaged. It suggests that this money is being spent on defence but, in fact, that i= not the case. It is being taken from the bodies which could use it, to some extent, for purposes that might well be regarded as having defence value, such as provision of transport and power facilities, which fall within the province of the States to provide.
Uniform taxation is the most compact method of collecting income tax in Australia, and because it is done through a central authority, the rates are uniform in all States, and there is a more equitable sharing of the burden. It is important, however, that there should be a flexible method of distribution of taxation revenue in order to meet the needs of the Australian Government on the one hand, and the real needs of the States on the other. Financial power has gravitated to the ‘Commonwealth, but the Commonwealth has not yet devised a sufficiently flexible or just scheme of distribution between itself and the States. There should be a co-operative partnership instead of the Commonwealth always calling the tune. The Commonwealth looks after its own service very well, and grudgingly makes an allotment of taxation revenue to the States. It is beginning to tie the States hand and foot, through the administration of its services. For example, the Commonwealth-State Housing Agreement imposes conditions on the States relating to advances which are much harsher than the conditions that the Commonwealth imposes on building societies. That does not indicate the kind of co-operation or partnership or friendliness in the relations between the Commonwealth and the States which should exist if federation is to continue as an effectivemethod of government.
I now turn to a particular problem in the Northern Territory. A month or two ago, I was fortunate enough to visit the very fine town of Alice Springs. I stayed a week or two, and during that time talked with a number of residents who told me of their problems. The population of the town is only 3,000 or 4.000, which is not large compared to the population of Australia, but the citizens are trying to develop their town as part of the national development. One of their greatest burdens is indirect taxation in the shape of freights, and they want some relief. They receive a special income tax allowance because they live in that area, but freights impose a very heavy burden. The cost of carrying goods by rail from Adelaide to Alice Springs, a distance of about 1,000 miles, is high, and if people are to be encouraged to make their homes in Alice Springs some reduction should be made in the cost of transporting already expensive building materials to that centre. The local people consider that some measure of justice would be given to them if freight subsidies were granted, because freight charges constitute a form of heavy, indirect taxation, due to their great distance from a large city.
I am pleased to say that the Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck) has circulated among members a detailed statement of what his department is doing in both the Northern Territory and New Guinea. That has saved honorable members from having to ask many questions, and has also provided them with valuable information about the Defence Estimates. I commend the Minister for his action, and suggest that it is an example that his ministerial colleagues might follow. Instead of having only a long, skeletonlike list of figures relating to a department, it is far more helpful to have some flesh on the bones in the form of facts.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
Silling suspended from 12.43 to 2.15 p.m.
– I have noticed in the last two or three years a convention growing up in this place which tends to limit the amount of time which Ministers should take from the business of the House during the discussion of their departmental Estimates. When an allotment of time has been made, it necessarily means that a limited time is available for members to express their views. Perhaps, I do not exaggerate too much when I say that there is always something of a feeling of, perhaps, resentment when a Minister steps in to take ur> too much of the available time. Ministers are caught in a dilemma between the. desire to give honorable members sufficient time in which to make their comments on the various items of the
Estimates, and the necessity for Ministers themselves to explain what the departmental Estimates contain, and to answer any criticisms, particularly those based on a mistaken understanding of information, which may be made during the course of the debate.
This afternoon I do not propose to take up an unusual amount of the committee’s time, nor do I propose to explain the Estimates in detail. As I am intervening early in the debate, I shall more or less forgo the privilege, and perhaps the pleasure, of answering particular criticisms that may be made by subsequent speakers; but at the outset I wish to assure honorable members that any statements they may make on what is contained in the Estimates for the territories will be very carefully noted, both by myself and the officers of the Department of Territories, and that we shall attempt, after the conclusion of the debate, to circulate to honorable members who have made those comments the additional pieces of information, and further comments, which may help to a better understanding of the particular Estimates.
There are two or three broad statements that I should like to make regarding the Estimates in general, and there is one subject upon which I wish to speak at perhaps greater length, because I think it is of particular importance to the Australian people. By way of broad comment I would direct attention to the fact that the various divisions of these Estimates relating to the territories of the Commonwealth, but not including the Australian Capital Territory, cover an expenditure of between £15,000,000 and £16,000,000 a year.
– Not enough !
– It may not be enough, but for reasons which I shall presently develop, it is not only an increased amount, but, in my view, it is perhaps the largest amount which at this time can be efficiently spent. The point I wish to make is that the whole of the post-war problem in our two large territories, the Northern Territory and Papua and New Guinea, has concerned methods of building up locally the capacity and the resources to enable things to be done.
It is quite vain and useless for any body of men, or for any Minister or government, to put down pronouncements of policy on paper, or to sketch great plans for the future, unless there are on the spot, in the place where they can be most effective, people who can do the job. Pronouncements on policy mean nothing unless policy is put into effect, and the main part of my endeavours since I took over this portfolio has been, steadily and purposefully, to build up in both those territories the local capacity to do the job, the administrativeefficiency which will enable the job to be well done, and, over and above that - indeed, beyond that - to try to create locally those conditions which will enable the community, by its own efforts, to share in the task which the Government first assumed in these territories. We on this side of the chamber at least believe that there is a limited ability on the part of governments to do the business of the nation, and that a great’ part of the business of the nation must be done by the citizens of the nation, and not by government instrumentalities. It is, therefore, very encouraging to find in both these large territories the growing signs that private industry, or the local community, is doing more and more of the local tasks. If we turn to the Northern Territory Ave can see, I think for the first time in the Territory’s history, the beginnings of private investment on a substantial scale, both in the pastoral industry and, more particularly in recent years, in the mining industry. We have reached the stage at which not governments but the citizens of the country are putting both investment and effort into the development of the Northern Territory. Whereas one could say two or three years ago that the Government, in its developmental activities, was far and away in advance of privateenterprise, the position in the Northern Territory to-day is that private enterprise is pushing ahead of the Government ; and the problem administratively, which Ave face and recognize quite frankly as a government, is to try to keep up with private enterprise instead of trying to drag private enterprise at the heels of the Government.
If we turn to Papua and New Guinea, wl,ere the problem is much more complex and made more difficult by the circumstance of having a dependent, primitive population, we find, in such indexes as the trade figures and in such information as we have about investment and land settlement, that there, too, the private people, the citizens of the Commonwealth, are beginning to share to a far greater extent than hitherto in the great task which we as a nation have accepted. On the side of social effort in Papua and New Guinea, which must necessarily be so great a part of our work there, we see, both on the part of the missionaries and of the ordinary citizens - if I may call any one an ordinary citizen without disrespect - a disposition to share more and more this burden of social effort which we as a nation must be obliged to bear in that Territory.
The point that I wish to emphasize and bring home as clearly as I can, both to members of this Parliament and people outside, is that when we talk about the Australian nation - and in respect of the territories surely we have to talk of the Australian nation and a national responsibility - for heaven’s sake do not let us think of the Australian Government and the Australian Government alone. Do not let us think that the Australian nation is composed of only a loyal band of public servants or of a particular Ministry, or that it is composed only of the members of this Parliament. When we speak of the Australian nation having responsibility in these territories, and having a duty in regard to both the social and the economic progress of these territories, let us think of the nation in the broader sense as comprehending all of the people in the Australian community, and let us hope that both the private and the public sectors of the nation can co-operate in discharging our very great responsibility.
Turning now to the particular proposed votes for the territories, the financial provision made this year for the Northern Territory, under various headings, amounts to a little over £6,000,000. Of this amount, a little more than £2,000,000 is provided for the maintenance of general services, which means the general provision of administrative services for the community in the Northern Territory; £760,000, in round figures, for works services, which covers the maintenance of services on the works side that havealready been established; and £598,000 for the maintenance of health services. These amounts total £3,386,000, and provision is made for expenditure of £2,640,000 for capital works and capital purchases. That is the provision that we have made for the Northern Territory in the Estimates before the committee.
For the purposes of comparison I shall quote, seriatim, the provision that has been made for this purpose since the present Government took office. In the year preceding the first budget that was introduced by this Government, the provision for the Northern Territory was, in round figures, £2,060,000. Year by year since then, commencing in 1950-51, the provision has been, in round figures, £3,100,000, £3,250,000, . £3,560,000 and £3,970,000. Then, the process of building up having made some headway, we raised the amount to £4,500,000 and, in this year, to £6,000,000. Whilst I think that no member of the Government would disagree with an interjection that even £6,000,000 is too little for the Northern Territory, it is an amount which can be efficiently and practically spent to good purpose without waste in the Northern Territory at this time. It would not be advisable to spend more than that until we have built up, more and more, our local capacity in works and administration.
– What are the main items of that expenditure?
– Broadly, the main items are: General services, £2,000,000; works services, £781,000; health services, £598,000; and other capital expenditure, £3,000,000. Those general services include native welfare as well as administrative purposes.
The provision that we have made this year for the Territory of Papua and New Guinea is an increase on last year’s figure, and amounts to £8,750,000.” The Territory of Papua, and New Guinea prepares its own Estimates in detail, and they are presented to the Legislative Council of the Territory. Such Estimates are financed partly by the Australian
Government grant, which will amount to £8,750,000 this year, and partly by local collections of revenue which, this year, for the first time in the history of the Territory, will be well above £3,000,000.. Again, as in the case of the Northern Territory, I should like to illustrate the progress that has been made in the Territory by mentioning the increases in the amount of the grants to the Territory of Papua and New Guinea for each year since this Government came to office. Commencing in 1950-51, the amount rose from £4,300,000 to £5,200,000 ; in the two subsequent years the amounts were £4,600,000 and £5,400,000; then the process of preparation having been completed, the grant rose to £7,100,000; and the amount for this year will be £S, 750, 000. With the general economic development of the Territory, local revenues have risen similarly, and, in themselves afford an indication of the way in which the Territory is being developed so as to bear, more and more, some of the cost of that great body of economic and social expenditure which is necessary in such a country. Local revenue has risen, year by year, commencing in 1950-51, from -£1,S00,000 to £2,300,000, and then to £2,400,000, £2,900,000, £3,000,000 and £3,100,000.
I do not want to detain honorable members by dealing with all the details of the Estimates for the Territories, but I do want to make one or two comments on particular matters. First of all, I want to say, in respect of Papua and New Guinea - and in this regard it is in contrast to the Northern Territory - that what we do in Papua and New Guinea is necessarily governed, to a very large extent, by the circumstance that we have there an indigenous population of possibly 1,750,000 people. That population is increasing. It is a population a large part of which is still living at a very primitive level, and towards which we have very solemn responsibilities. On account of those circumstances, there is a need to keep a balance in Papua and New Guinea between material progress and the social progress that we make in respect of the indigenous people. If these two things get out of balance - if we push ahead in a ruthless and alto gether careless fashion, merely exploiting the resources of the country - we could easily find ourselves facing great problems which, perhaps, might even destroy our administration there. We could also set up conditions which would be contrary to the welfare of the indigenous people.
On the other hand, if we devote the whole of our attention to what might be termed the social advancement of the indigenous people, and not enough attention to the economic development of the country, we shall develop a country which will have a whole lot of fancy trimmings without any solid basis on which to sustain them. So we have to keep the balance between economic development of resources and social welfare so that that country will not simply have a lot of fancy trimmings but will be a solid, wellconstructed economy, capable of sustaining the social services that are necessary for the advancement of these people. It is the necessity for that balance between the development of resources and the social welfare of the people that we try to keep steadily in mind, and I think that honorable members will agree that it must be maintained. Neither one can be allowed to run ahead of the other. They must go together side by side, as a team in harness, or they will pull against each other.
The honorable member for Bowman (Mr. McColm) made a good point about the right of honorable members to visit Territories. I am in complete sympathy with the view that he expressed. Limitations on the visits of honorable members to the Territories are not of my choosing, nor of the Government’s choosing. They are the result of the adoption of the proposals that were made by the Nicholas committee, which inquired into members’ rights and privileges. As a result of the wholesale adoption of the report of that committee, the only members who are able to make official visits to the Territories are those who are included in formal parliamentary delegations. They do not, as individual members, have the privilege, as I think they should have, of visiting the Territories in the course of their duties, as they can visit other parts of
Australia. Nevertheless, the arranging of parliamentary delegations has resulted in more honorable members visiting the Territories in recent years than ever visited them before.
One of the most pleasing results of sending parliamentary delegations to the territories has been noticed in the debates in this chamber. I looked up the records of the debates on the Estimates that took place a few years ago and found practically no reference to any territorial matter. To-day, Mr. Temporary Chairman, I think that your speakers’ list will confirm that there is a pressure on the part of honorable members to get into this debate.
The honorable member for Bowman also referred, in passing, to the Public Service. I should like to support him - and I am sure that every honorable member will join with me - in supporting his statements concerning the value of the services that are given by the public services in Papua and New Guinea and other Territories. They are doing a job on behalf of Australia. They themselves would be the first to agree that they have not yet reached 100 per cent, perfection, yet, by and large, they are doing a remarkably good job, in which a great deal of personal devotion is given to the country, and a good deal of personal discomfort and, sometimes, personal sacrifice are endured.
Having said that, I want to turn to a single broad subject which I feel has been somewhat neglected in this chamber and on which there is a good deal of misunderstanding in the country at large. That is the question of native welfare - the welfare of our aborigines living on the Australian mainland. It seems to me that native welfare - that is, the welfare of the aborigines or persons of mixed blood whom we have on the mainland of Australia - is one of the very great social problems facing this nation. I use the term “ social problems “ advisedly, because I do not think it is a racial problem. I do not think it should be considered as a racial problem. It must be considered as a social problem. The distinction I make is this: A social problem is one that concerns the way in which people live together in one society. A racial problem is a problem which confronts people of two different races who live in two separate societies, even if those societies are side bv side. I feel that by the necessity of the situation and by its historical background we cannot treat this as a racial problem, but we have to treat it as a social problem. We have to reject the idea of the separation of the two races because, in order to carry out the policy of separation, we would have to do either one of two things. We would have to segregate these people in a particular part, away from the rest of the Australian community, or we would have to have an Australian society in which there were virtually two castes. I am sure I interpret the wishes and thinking of the whole Australian people when I say that in Australia we do not believe in a society - if I may say without offence - such as exists in India, where there are castes. We do not want a society in Australia in which one group of people enjoy one set of privileges and another group enjoy another set of privileges. We are against a caste society - high-caste and low-caste. Because Australia would reject segregation in the long run, and because we have to reject the idea of a caste society, we have to work on this problem as a social problem, a problem which has as its ultimate objective the way in which all the people on the mainland of Australia, all the people who, under our immigration laws, are entitled to be on the mainland of Australia, will live together in one society. At the present time, of course, the remarks I make could not be applied rigidly to existing circumstances. There are still on the mainland of Australia a few - a surprisingly few - aborigines who are still living a fully tribal life. There are still aborigines who, by their lack of opportunity, or because of the circumstances in which they live, do not, and indeed cannot, at this moment live in our society. There are others who are fully fit to live in our society and to take full advantage of every privilege and every right that exists in our society, but v h 0 through one circumstance or another, ito not do so. But irrespective of the fact that there is this diversity of the conditions of the natives in Australia today, I believe we have consciously and deliberately to set our minds on tackling this social problem so that ultimately all of them - it may take three or four or more generations to achieve the goal - can live in the one society on the mainland of Australia. If we do not succeed in doing that, even if we allow ourselves several generations to do it, I feel sure that we will present ourselves with two evils. One will be an evil in society itself because, as I indicated earlier, if we do not do it we will have either a segregated group of people, or a two-caste society, in which a lot of low-caste people live their own lives, and another lot of highcaste people live their lives. That is an evil for society. Perhaps more serious than that would be the evil for the individual. I believe we would also inflict a great injury on a number of individuals. We would be denying a number of people who are entitled to be on the mainland of Australia and, in the strictest sense of the word share with us everything good on the mainland of Australia, that which we as Australians think every individual should have - an opportunity to live a happy and useful life. Unless we tackle this social problem, we will continue to deny to a section of our people an opportunity to live a happy and successful life. Our ideals about life in Australia are to give the opportunity to all. That applies to those who may be a bit dusky in their skins as much as to residents of the poorer parts of our cities, or to any other under-privileged persons in any section of our community.
Although I have spoken broadly up to date, I want to emphasize that this question of native welfare is not only a Commonwealth responsibility. There are about 75,000 aborigines in Australia - both full-blood, and mixed-blood people classed as aborigines. Of that 75,000, only about 13,000 are the administrative responsibility of the Australian Government. Most of those 13,000 are in the Northern Territory. There is a small group in the Australian Capital Territory, at Jervis Bay. The first comment which might reasonably be made is : Should not the Commonwealth take over the whole responsibility? This, of course, is a matter that is governed by the Constitution, and the position could not be altered without altering the Constitution.
But leaving aside any theoretical and constitutional question, I would make this comment on purely practical grounds: I would say, first of all, that the diversity of the circumstances in which these coloured people live on the mainland is so great, and the social problem differs so much from point to point in the Commonwealth, that the problem of native welfare is susceptible to so many variations that it is better handled by persons with local knowledge and local understanding, who will act in order to meet local situations, than it would be by any sort of authority acting along uniform lines from Canberra. I believe in any social problem the important element is not the class but the individual. Unless we deal with these social problems by approaching them through the individual, they will never be dealt with satisfactorily. The other point to be borne in mind is that so much of the welfare work necessary in order to advance the interests of these people is under departments controlled by State governments. When one engages in the work of the advancement of native welfare, one uses departments such as the Health Department, the Education Department, the Child Welfare Department, the Lands Department, the Agriculture Department, the Department of Justice, and the housing authority, whatever it may be. Even if there were constitutional changes, the administrative tasks would still have to be done by State departments.
– The Minister admits that the Constitution is a barrier?
– I do not think that constitutional change would in itself bring a great deal of difference. Even a constitutional change would mean that the actual work would still have to be done by authorities under the control of State governments. Over the past twenty years or so, since I have been personally taking an interest in the subject, there have been very great changes in outlook regarding native welfare. I think the position to-day, as compared with the position twenty years ago, could be summed up by saying that to-day there is very much more sympathy and interest in the subject of native welfare, but possibly much less knowledge and understanding than was formerly the case. Twenty years ago, most of the people who took an interest in the subject, whether they were pastoralists or people in rural districts, people in missions or people engaged in administration, necessarily were persons who knew the problem pretty thoroughly because they were in touch with it. There are still people closely in touch with the native welfare problem, but unfortunately, in only one sense, throughout the Commonwealth to-day there are a great many people sympathetically interested in this subject who have a very scant knowledge of it and a very small understanding of it. I think we are at a stage where exceptional efforts have to be made to ensure that those people who set themselves up as analysts, or expositors, of native welfare questions know something about them. I suppose those honorable members .who come from rural areas where there are native people, either of mixed blood or of full blood, have been exasperated, as I confess, I myself, in respect of the Northern Territory, often have been exasperated, by the foolish comments and suggestions, and the illinformed statements, that have been made by people who are rich in sympathy, but who have not had the opportunity to get a very close understanding of this difficult question.
I shall not develop that theme any longer, but shall make, in passing, the comment that one of the unfortunate results of this is that the native welfare question is always surrounded by a good deal of distortion. The unfortunate aborigine in Australia has reached a point where, perhaps like those of us who follow the profession of politics, he has become news, so that anything out of the ordinary that he does is liable to be reported, while the normal things he does are not reported. The unusual and exceptional are reported because that is, apparently, the definition of news. In the strange arithmetic of journalism today, one native who drinks a bottle of wine is far more important than are, say, 5,000 natives who are going to school. One action taken in order to prevent the corruption of natives gains far more attention than do, say, 50,000 natives who need protection. We suffer a little to-day from that distortion of the whole problem.
In my view, when we get down, both in the Commonwealth and the States, to the practical tasks of native welfare and try to tackle this social problem that is before us, we have two great responsibilities, which can also turn themselves into two great opportunities. On the one hand, we have to help the members of this under-privileged section of our community to live like other members of the community, and in practical terms, that means that we have to give attention to their health. So long as there are native people subject to leprosy, or any other so-called loathsome disease, so long will there be exclusion. We have to give attention to hygiene. So long as natives are not living in a way that makes them physically acceptable - to put it crudely, so long as natives live in a way that makes them smell - then there is no hope for them. We have to improve their hygiene in order to make them acceptable. We have to give them education. Unless they can speak English well, and also express their thoughts fairly well, there will be no acceptance. We have to give them jobs. Unless they can earn their living, unless they can sustain the sort of life to which we are attempting to raise them, the attempt to raise them to that higher life will be in vain. It is of no use educating them, teaching them hygiene, and attending to their health, unless, at the same time, we bring them to a. situation where they can get occupations which will enable them to sustain the standard of living that the rest of the community sustains. And over and above that, one of our most urgent problems, I think, is to make sure that those who have reached that desirable level also can get housing, because so long as natives, even if they have occupations, and even if they do live in an acceptable way, after the manner of the rest of the community, have not the opportunity to live in a house, they will have to live in a humpy and suffer the exclusion that comes from doing so.
So, we have these practical tasks in order to help these people to fit themselves to live in the community to which we are inviting them. The other great opportunity and responsibility we have is to do something that will give thora an interest in making this change themselves. You cannot pour individuals into a mould. Some of these people - and every honorable member who knows the problem will agree with me on this - are going to wait for generations before the old tie of the bush, the tie of the tribal law, the vie of the tribal kinship, is loosed sufficiently for them to come our way. We have to be patient, in those cases, for generations. But behind it all is the problem of the aborigine’s own mind, and unless we do something more than take material welfare measures, unless we do something that makes it attractive to the aborigine himself to become a member of nur society, he never will become a member of it, no matter what else we may do for him. The natives are subject to the same feelings to which we ourselves are subject in regard to being accepted by the rest of the community, and unless they feel that sense of acceptance, they are going to live as strangers, or as excluded people, amongst us. We have to take great care, I think, in all the measures of social welfare that we take, to indicate to the native peoples that sense of acceptance, the sense that they will be free from prejudice, that they will not suffer from exclusion and that they will be welcome.
I have noticed, in the last year or two, the growth of what I consider an undesirable tendency in native welfare matters in Australia, and that is a tendency towards the growth of race consciousness among the aboriginal people themselves, particularly among those who have advanced a little in the world, who had had a European type of schooling, who have got European occupations, and who have got into the habit of living after the European manner, but who are still not accepted. They are withdrawing into racial groups. If, as a result of a failure on our part to ensure acceptance by the community, they withdraw into racial groups, the whole of our policy will have been defeated. I deplore, and I think it should be deplored, that these slight indications of the growth of race consciousness are visible in Australia to-day. I think it is a tendency in the wrong direction, and that the native people are denying themselves some of the opportunities which they might have if such tendencies did not develop.
In conclusion, I invite the attention of the committee to the provisions in the Estimates now before us regarding native welfare in tha Northern Territory. In this year’s budget, we are providing the sum of £241,254 for capital works in the Northern Territory. Those works will be mainly in the form of buildings, either on settlements or in the shape of schools or houses. Then, under the heading of maintenance, we are providing £266,800. That covers the maintenance of native? in government, settlements, which accounts for £.160,000, and the maintenance of natives on pastoral properties - because, on the pastoral properties, we maintain dependants who are not waspearners - which accounts for £.”>:>, 000. Under an item called “Economic Enterprises “, which covers efforts at various settlements to provide these people with occupations, £31,500 is being provided, and £20,000 is being provided under miscellaneous maintenance votes. Then, under “ Assistance to Missions “, we are providing £169,000. For the special schools for full-blood children we are providing £62,100, and for the schools on pastoral properties, an innovation which has been made so that the natives will not be attracted away from the stations towards the towns, but will remain in the places where, eventually, they are sure to find a useful and happy occupation, we are providing £78,000, making a total provision, on this year’s Estimates, of £817,154.
In addition to that provision, there is, under other divisions of the Estimates, provision for salaries of officers engaged on this work, and there is also provision for health measures, for, in the Northern Territory, the natives participate, on exactly the same terms as do other members of the community, in benefits from health services. I should say that although they cannot be isolated exactly, the sums represented by the salaries of officers and the provision we have made would bring the amount we shall spend ou native welfare in the Northern Territory this financial year to a total of at least £1,000,000. The actual provision itemized for native welfare is £817,154.
I have developed these matters at length because I feel that this is one of the great social problems in Australia. Unfortunately, it has been neglected, and it is certainly very much misunderstood by those who make a great deal of the public comment on it. I apologize to honorable members who are waiting to speak for having detained the committee so long.
– I have not been able to follow the line of argument advanced by the Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck). The time available to me in this debate will not permit me to follow him through the different subjects that he touched on; so I shall confine myself to a few every-day matters that affect the community in the Northern Territory and are provided for in these Estimates. Before I proceed, however, I should like to say that I agree with the Minister that the visits of parliamentarians to the Northern Territory have had a marked effect on debates on territory matters in this chamber. I also consider that members should visit the Australian territories, not only as members of delegations, as they generally do at the present time, but also on individual trips, as was the common practice before the presentation of the now famous Nicholas report. The Government should accept its responsibilities in this regard and remove the restrictions that at present prevent honorable members from visiting the Australian territories in the same way that they may visit the various States in order to see for themselves that the business of the nation is conducted as they think fit. There should be no impediment to the free movement of honorable members anywhere within Australia or the Australian territories.
I wish to refer now to statements made by the Minister about the Estimates for the Northern Territory. When one considers total estimated expenditure of £6,026,000, which the Minister mentioned, one might be led to assume that government spending in the Northern Territory has increased commensurately with private investment. However, if we look more closely at these Estimates, we shall find that, although money is voted from time to time by the Parliament, the votes are not by any means completely expended. We should search for the reasons why money voted by the Parliament for the development of not only the Northern Territory but also the Territory of Papua and New Guinea is not expended. There must be something radically wrong if the moneys voted by the Parliament from time to time are not expended and revotes are included in subsequent estimates. For the information of honorable members, I should like to quote some very illuminating evidence that was given recently in Darwin by the Administrator of the Northern Territory when he appeared before the Public Works Committee which investigated certain public works in the Territory. This evidence illustrates the concern of the Administrator about this matter. He stated -
A much greater stimulus is needed than has been the experience in the past in the endeavours required to complete works. Our concern is not only to frame a realistic programme based on needs but to get the programme carried out.
The serious impact which present methods impose is clear from an examination of our approved works programme of recent years. This will show that the lag in the completion of works is so severe that 70 per cent, of our programme now is made up of revotes from former years.
I ask honorable members to note the very high percentage of revotes in the Estimates approved by the Parliament from year to year. The Administrator continued -
Prospects for new works, therefore, while such conditions exist, are extremely limited. Urgent needs, such as new abattoirs, new high school, new fire station and permanent town hall, may be considered as often as we like but with the limitations imposed by the system used cannot be retained on the programme. I could furnish many figures to illustrate my point but it is perhaps sufficient to say that the percentage of revotes to the programme approved so far this year -
This refers to the Estimates that we are now discussing - is approximately 70 per cent. The actual revotes as at the 30th June, 1955. in both Divisions, totalled f 2,948,1 40 while our approved design programme for this year for new works is a little over £1,250,000.
The lag in completion of some of our important buildings is up to two years beyond the originally proposed completion date.
That is a serious state of affairs.
Before the Parliament votes funds, irrespective of the amount, it must tackle the basic problem of attracting tradesmen to the Northern Territory to undertake the works for which it provides the money. Until it tackles that problem, it will not get anywhere in respect of either the Northern Territory or the Territory of Papua and New Guinea. That requirement is basic. The Government made a terrible mistake when, some years ago, it abolished taxation concessions in the Northern Territory. We all are aware that at the time many anomalies in the system of taxation concessions existed. However, the complete abolition of the system was not the remedy. Anomalies should have been removed and the concessions should have been extended to all sections of the community. Honorable members will recall that income from primary production was not taxed. Doubtless this exemption presented some anomalies. For instance, the earnings of wage-earners, contractors, storekeepers and others associated with primary production were taxed to the full. But the Government made a terrible blunder when it abolished the concessions entirely. We hoped that the position would have been made easier since and that taxation concessions would have been granted in the current budget in order to induce workers to go to the Territory and help complete the works that are so urgently needed. The housing shortage also must be overtaken. Not enough is being done to provide homes for the community, altogether apart from the requirements of public servants in the Territory, in an effort to hold people who are attracted to the Territory. Also, wages and conditions are not good enough. The Director of Works for the Northern Territory, in one instance, gave evidence that the award rate for carpenters was less in the Northern Territory than in the southern States. Those problems are fundamental to the development of the Northern Territory and are more important even than the voting of funds by the Parliament from time to time. The Go vernment should concentrate on those problems before it turns its attention to other matters.
I direct the attention of the committee, and especially of the Minister for Territories, to the failure of the Administrator of the Northern Territory, who is overseas at the present time and has left a deputy to act in his stead, to call the Northern Territory Legislative Council together to make ordinances and to consider the day-to-day grievances and problems that arise in the Territory. The Legislative Council has been in recess since last March, when the new building was opened. Not much business was transacted then because it was a formal occasion. That was the only time that the Legislative Council has met to transact any business since the last election. I agree with the honorable member for Farrer CM.r. Fairbairn 1. who stated recently that the Legislative Council of the Northern Territory was nothing more than a farce under its present constitution. That is true. The members of the Legislative Council are not given any work to do, and the resulting sense of frustration is such that the people are in danger of losing interest in the legislature.
It is not that there is not work to be done. Many matters need urgent consideration. I direct attention, in particular, to the Licensing Ordinance. It needs amending to prevent a repetition of the cases that occurred in Darwin recently when two lads, members of the Royal Australian Air Force, were sent to gaol’ for a first offence of supplying liquor to an aborigine. Commenting on those cases, the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) stated that, because of the importance of the matter in the Northern Territory, the Minister for Territories had conferred with him, and they were in full agreement with the recommendations made to the Governor-General, Sir William Slim. The recommendations were that portion of the sentences be remitted. The Prime Minister also stated -
The Government will initiate an amendment of the Licensing Ordinance, under which the Supreme Court would have a discretion, in the case of a first offence, either tn reduce the prescribed penalty or to substitute for it a fine of not less than £30, if the Judge is satisfied that, by reason of the youth of the offender or other extenuating circumstances, it is proper so to do.
Every day that the law remains unaltered, there is a danger that other persons will suffer the punishment that was meted out to the two lads I have mentioned. The matter should have the attention of the Legislative Council immediately. It is so important that it warrants the calling together of the legislature for that purpose.
The Companies Act has not been amended since 1892. The Crown Lands Ordinance requires amendment to facilitate the transfer of titles. At present, if a person has a lease in a town in the Territory and wants a title to land after subdivision, it is very difficult to complete the business because of legal details that have been overlooked in the past. The Real Properties Act needs revision. Under the Criminal Proceedings Ordinance of 1933, the jury system was abolished in the Northern Territory, except in the case of criminal offences. The people of the Northern Territory, as citizens of a British community, believe that they suffer a great disadvantage because they have no recourse to a jury except in criminal proceedings. The relevant ordinance should be amended to restore provision for juries in the Northern Territory.
The Lotteries and Gaming Act, the Machine Act and many other measures urgently require amendment, but members of the Legislative Council cannot amend them because of the failure of the administration of the Northern Territory to call the council together. ‘Some consideration will have to be given to this matter if the Legislative Council is to justify its existence. I agree with the honorable member for Farrer that at present it is a farce.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- Unfortunately, I have not time to comment upon the observations of the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson), but I should like to pay +hat the enlightened attitude of r!>”
Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck) and the policies that he has outlined in the committee this afternoon in regard to native affairs deserve the unqualified praise and support of all honorable members. I am sure that we wish the Minister well in applying those policies with the assistance of the able and enthusiastic officers that he has appointed to that end.
The matter that I wish to discuss particularly is the development of the pastoral industry in the Northern Territory, and I propose to cite important passages from the Payne-Fletcher report that was made after an investigation into land industries of the Northern Territory and the potentialities of that region.
I ask honorable members to bear in mind that the size of holdings, provision of water through bores, and adequate fencing are matters upon which emphasis was laid in the report. The commissioners stated -
Increased settlement and production in the Territory will come from the following processes : -
The greater development of existing leases by the provision of more water, fencing and other improvements on the holdings.
The voluntary sub-division and sale of parts of holdings by the lessees.
The exercising of crown rights of resumption in the case of larger holdings in accordance with the terms of the leases, and the making of such resumed land available for new settlement.
The surrender by some of the present lessees under arrangement with the administration, of their present leases in consideration of their obtaining longer leases of so much of the land as they may be capable of improving and working to advantage. This will enable the balance of the land to be made available for new settlement.
The provision of new transport facilities to serve the Barkly Tableland a.nd the northwest so as to permit the development of holdings and increase production therefrom.
The commissioners go on to say - . . After rain falls, the stock are concentrated on any natural waters that may exist and, as these dry up, the stock are graced around the bores and wells and the country becomes overstocked and is badly eaten out.
Grossly overstocking the country in this manner is fraught with real menace. Repeated year after year, such continual eating out of grasses must inevitably do permanent damage to productive lands. The remedy is more water, more fencing and better stock management
Referring in particular to the Barkly Tableland, the report stated -
A large percentage of cows is lost every year. Speying has not been carried out to any extent. The running of the whole herd and the heavy stocking of the waters do not give the cows the best chance to survive, while the breeding of heifers when too young is one fruitful cause of loss.
Speaking of the north-western area towards the Kimberleys, the commissioners stated in their report -
Generally, the holdings are insufficiently improved for effective management. The existing methods will never produce creditable results. . . . The system now in vogue is no doubt largely responsible for the appalling number of cleanskins of all ages on some of the runs. On some stations, the number of cleanskins runs into thousands. These cleanskins comprise scrub bulls, “ mickies “, heifers and cows of all ages. With such a large number of scrub bulls and “mickies” on the properties, the percentage of brandings must suffer . . . With herds in such a state the introduction of new blood would be merely a waste of money. The scrub bulls and the “mickies” must first be destroyed and the herds properly cleaned up before any improvement can be attempted.
It might be said that the disclosure of that state of affairs in 1937 may have no relevance to-day. But the fact is that Mr. J. W. Fletcher, one of the commissioners, speaking at the summer school of the Australian Institute of Political Science at Canberra, in January, 1954, repeated precisely the statements that appeared in that report. He said -
The great majority of properties are so large that there would always be sufficient young, cleanskin bulls missed in the musters to get the cows in calf. It would need much smaller holdings and thorough management to perform the job properly, and such a situation may be a long way off.
On the same point he said -
On the very large holdings, say from 4,000 to 10.000 square miles in area, especially when they are isolated and the country itself is difficult to work, I very much doubt in existing circumstances whether the best imaginable man could fully succeed. It is better to have a 1,000 square mile property completely developed and fully controlled than a 5,000 square mile lease under-developed and badly controlled with innumerable cleanskins scattered throughout the herd. Even a 1,000 square mile holding takes a lot of handling, and only a first-class man can do it well.
There are other references in that paper, but they all bear out what was said by the royal commission in 1937.
During last winter, I went to the Territory and made inquiries myself. I know nothing about these matters, but I made inquiries from people who are well qualified to speak, and I have no doubt that what was said in 1937, and repeated in January of 1954, is the truth to-day. Surely something should be done to remedy this situation.
I know the Minister will have his answer. His answer will be that the Administration is entering into arrangements with large lease-holders of the sort referred to by Mr. Fletcher; that it is making arrangements for them to surrender part of their holdings to be cut up into smaller blocks, and is imposing conditions on them with regard to that part of their areas they are allowed to retain, such as the putting down of bores, providing fencing and so forth. Of course, in return, the Administration is giving these people a longer lease of the areas so retained. But when we start on the assumption that on no account must there be resumption of these leases; then, of course, it is necessary to bargain, and get the best bargain possible. The Government must give something and get something in return in order to effect its policy which, according to the Payne inquiry, is the correct one. I have no doubt that it is correct.
But I do not know why these leases should be regarded as sacrosanct. In New South Wales, Victoria, or any other part of Australia it is regarded as perfectly proper to resume freehold land for the purpose of providing for closer settlement. Why then, should it be impossible to resume leasehold areas and cut them up accordingly, as was recommended by the Payne commission?
I would say that the case for resuming leasehold property was a fortiori. If it is legitimate to do that with freehold land, it is even more correct to do it with leasehold properties. Before the war, of course, there was no great urgency. We knew that there was a pressure of population to the north of Australia and we knew that we must populate this continent. Now, however, the tempo of things has changed and the urgency of the matter is entirely different to-day. What was then nothing more than a cloud the size of a man’s hand on the northern horizon is becoming something menacing. There have been great developments in South-East Asia and the urgency of populating this continent has correspondingly increased. The old process of bringing this land into greater production simply will not do to-day. Effect will have to be given to the report of the Payne commission by the establishment of smaller holdings. I hope that consideration will be given to that process by a much shorter means than is at present being adopted.
All honorable members know that there are in Australia hundreds of young men, active and keen, with pastoral experience in areas not dissimilar from the Northern Territory. These young men have been trained in our agricultural colleges and are progressive in mind. If given the opportunity, they would develop this frontier region. I may be wrong, but the impression I gained in the Northern Territory was that there is extreme conservatism in evidence in all respects. There is not only a conservative attitude towards strangers - that would be of little consequence - but this attitude is also adopted towards the development of their industries. The infusion of new blood, of people with pastoral experience and with progressive minds as a result of their training in our agricultural institutions, could bring about the development of these holdings which have remained undeveloped for too long, and whose development to-day is more urgent than it ever was before. The right men are available - good Australians - who should be given this chance right now.
The Government has, in line with its policy in recent times, made it possible for the small man to obtain finance. Maybe, these facilities should be still further extended. But the real capital that should be invested in these areas is young men with progressive minds who, given financial support, would carry out the policy that the Payne committee laid down, a policy which has never been disputed but which is being put into effect lar too slowly.
Another point that was raised by the Payne commission was the provision of transport, particularly to serve the Barkly Tableland and the north-west. The air beef experiment is going forward and I hope that the Government will continue to give every support to that experiment which is being carried out by really progressive men with ideals and vision. If anything can be done in that area, they are the people to achieve it.
It is imperative also that the Government should press on without undue waste of time with the provision of a railway from Dajarra to Rankine to link up with the stock route to the Barkly Tableland. The distance involved is not groat, but. every mile a railway along that route is pushed out can save stock in the arid region between Rankine and Dajarra. That railway would enable stock to be brought far more expeditiously to the seaboard or to fattening areas in the channel country and with fewer losses on the journey.
The Government should reorientate it* policy towards the needs of the people in these areas and reconsider its leisurely policy of cutting up these large holdings. It should accelerate that process and without hesitation resume large leasehold areas that are being run in the manner described in the Payne commission report. It is not a question of whether the people doing these things have done a good job in the circumstances that confronted them. It may be true that pre-war, when the price of meat was low, they had no alternative but to carry on as they did. It may be true that they were unable to do anything or very much by way of effecting improvements, or that since the end of the war they have not had time to do those things. However, apart from those considerations, surely it is imperative that people should go to the Territory and settle there and put their roots in the soil rather than that, as happens to-day, people should go there merely as birds of passage to manage properties and leave the Territory as soon as they can. Bv that method we shall not establish real settlement of that province. We may establish occupation of it, but not real settlement.
However, apart from the economics of the pastoral industry in that area there is a good reason to establish permanent settlement by proceeding as quickly as possible with the cutting up of large holdings. I am not suggesting that all of the holdings should be 1,000 acres in area. Naturally, the measuring stick to be used will be the number of cattle that can be carried on particular areas, and whether the holdings will be sufficient to provide a living, and perhaps something better than a living, to the men who work them. If we expect young men with progressive minds to go to the Territory, they must be given an opportunity to gain some compensation for the hardships of life in the Territory. The time has come when we can no longer delay regarding this as a matter of great urgency. Therefore, I trust that the Government will get on with the job of implementing the recommendations of the Payne report which, so far as I know, have never been questioned.
, - I desire to speak to the Estimates for the Northern Territory and for the Territory of Papua and New Guinea. At the outset, I commend the addresses we have heard this afternoon. They have rightly been placed on a national plane, as befits this committee and this Parliament. I was indeed pleased to hear the remarks of the honorable member for Bradfield (Mr. Turner), who pleaded for the Northern Territory to be made available to progressive young men who are anxious and willing these days to go on the land for the purpose of developing our country.
The honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson) submitted a number of points, as he has done on previous occasions, relating to the development of the north and the speeding up of those activities which we believe to be necessary. As the Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck) has pointed out, the central and most important consideration is population. It is of no use our speaking about population and the need for development, or about the votes passed by this Parliament, unless some practical steps are taken to attract people to the Northern Territory. In this connexion, it seems necessary to me that the Minister for Territories should confer with his colleague, the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Holt), with a view to attracting to the Northern Territory that labour force which is necessary for the development of that area. Concurrently with that, there should be a vigorous programme for the development of the land, indeed of all rural pursuits in that area, along the lines suggested by the honorable member for the Northern Territory and the honorable member for Bradfield.
We have to make the Northern Territory attractive, but we must not be content merely with attracting people there to visit Alice Springs, Darwin, Tennant Creek, Katherine, or some other place. It is essential that, after attracting people there, we keep them in the Northern Territory; but we cannot hope to encourage them to stay there unless drastic changes are made in our approach to this problem. It will be necessary to give them such amenities and services as will encourage them to come to the area, and to stay there. It is necessary also that we realize that, whereas the pioneers of the southern States had the advantage of low costs and low taxation, those opportunities will not be available to the people who wish to go to the Northern Territory to-day. Consideration must be given to those matters.
Again, we do not want in the Northern Territory the type of person who wishes to go there merely to develop some wildcat venture, to try to make money quickly, or to plunder the land, and then leave because he has no further interest in the area. We want permanent population in the Territory. We want people who feel that they belong to the Territory, people who feel that, “ This is my land, this is my home, this is my place “. Just as the people in such places as the Murray, New England, Bathurst, the western districts and elsewhere feel that they belong to a specific area, so we want to encourage the people who go to the Northern Territory to develop a feeling of awareness, a feeling of belonging there. The only way by which we can hope to do so is to provide opportunities for the people who go there, so that they will want to stay. In my opinion, the most pressing and important needs are the provision of housing and such amenities as schools, water and other facilities. Transportation should also be given a very high priority. In this Parliament, special attention has been drawn to the need for developing our railway system from Dajarra through to the Northern Territory, to Newcastle Waters, and to link it up eventually wilh the railway from Darwin to Birdum. These tasks are urgent and real, and they should be carried out immediately. They are not works that we can put off for years to come.
The one thing that is holding the people back is the inertia on the part of this Government towards such important matters as this. If the Government would really face up to its responsibilities in connexion with the Northern Territory and set about carrying out the works to which the honorable member for the Northern Territory has referred - roads, railways, harbour installations, and the amenities and services required to attract and keep people in that area - we should have that development which is most necessary and important.
To-day, however, we are told the melancholy story that although money is voted by this Parliament for certain works, it is most difficult to carry out those works. We are told that it is easy to vote money, but to expend that money on carrying out the works intended to be performed, is another thing. The Minister should face up to his responsibilities there. Attention should be given to these problems without delay. It is the Minister’s duty to ensure that the works determined upon by this Parliament will be undertaken, and that the decisions of this Parliament are respected in every way. But I am not at all surprised to find that these works are not carried out when I realize that the Legislative Council for the Northern Territory has not met since the official opening ceremony took place in March. Such a long recess does not encourage the people of the Northern Territory to believe that their area is making progress, or that Canberra is actually interested in them. They cannot be expected to have that feeling if their own Parliament is not permitted to function and deal with urgent and pressing matters that require attention from time to time.
One of the great problems of the development of the Northern Territory is the remoteness of the area from Canberra, and the failure of the authorities at Canberra to appreciate the problems of the north. It would seem that to the people at Canberra, the Northern Territory is just a place to which reference is made, and that it is a nice place to read about and talk about. It would seem that the people at Canberra have no comprehension of the actual problems facing the people of the Northern Territory. I believe that the only way in which we can really get lasting development there is to give the people of the Northern Territory a much greater say in their own affairs. They should be given a greater measure of local government.
As a beginning, the Legislative Council, with all its faults, ought to be called together without delay so that it can deal with those matters mentioned by the honorable member for the Northern Territory. This remote control is certainly destructive to the welfare of the area. In the Auditor-General’s report on the Northern Territory we read scathing references to the failure of those in authority to account for their various stores or to account for the assets of the people in the Northern Territory in the way in which they should be accounted for. Taking the position all in all, 1 feel that this is a local question. If we were to give the people of the Northern Territory authority to deal with those matters on the spot, I am confident that we should not see such remarks as are now contained in the Auditor-General’s report with regard to stores and equipment, internal check, electricity undertaking, the Beswick cattle station and a number of other matters.
I know it is not wholly the fault of the Minister, but I make a plea to him, as I do to the Cabinet, to separate the authorities relating to the Northern Territory. The Department of Works should not control any of the undertakings of the Northern Territory. Those matters should be under the control of the Minister for Territories, and his department, so that there will be a single controlling authority. So long as the Department of Works at Canberra has the say as to what should be done at Darwin, so long as a Director of Works at Darwin, Alice Springs or somewhere else has greater authority than the Administrator of the Territory, then just for so long shall we have reports such as the one furnished by the AuditorGeneral, because remote control means neglected control, indifference, waste and carelessness. The most serious complaint contained in the Auditor-General’s report deals with such matters as- these, because the Northern Territory is remote from Canberra and the watchful eye of those in authority. The Cabinet should grasp this nettle and face the realities of the situation. I know that heads of departments are most reluctant to give up any job which they hold. They are most eager to expand and develop their departments, but it is most necessary that those persons who actually develop the Northern Territory should be heard, in relation to policy. The Auditor-General’s report is scathing indeed. It calls for some reply, and should either the Minister for Territories or the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Kent Hughes) later speak in this debate, some reply ought to be made to the very serious statements which the report contains. I hope that the Government will regard the development of the north as a matter of the utmost urgency. When debates on defence are in progress in this chamber, stress is laid on the great urgency of providing for Australia’s defence. We are told why we should expend £23,000,000 at St. Mary’s, and of the need for a reactor on the shores of Botany Bay, near George’s River. We are told of development which is required in a thousand and one other places. All these matters are important and honorable members on this side of the chamber, to no less a degree than honorable members opposite, are seized with the importance of providing for Australia’s growth, development, and defence, but this country cannot be defended unless we defend the Northern Territory and unless a resident population is established there. It would be far better for Australia to build an atomic reactor at Tennant Creek, Katherine, or elsewhere in the north, in order to provide cheap power for that area, bereft as it is of coal and other means of generating energy. An atomic reactor should be located adjacent to northern uranium resources to facilitate development and enable the establishment of industries which should exist side by side with that rich mineral wealth.
Some time ago in this chamber I referred to certain happenings in the Territory of Papua and New Guinea. Since making my protest and expressing the point of view of my constituents, nothing lias happened in regard to the plea which I and other honorable members made for a full investigation into the affairs of that Territory. Its problems are complex and very difficult indeed ; nobody will underestimate them. Recently we have read in the press of the killing of natives and of clashes with patrol officers. I think that our policy has been quite wrong. It should bc directed towards bringing the maximum service and assistance to the native peoples with whom we have made contact over the years. It is most disturbing and quite wrong to take patrols into mountainous, remote areas, merely to make contact with the people, disturb them, upset their native customs, and then leave them alone. It would be far better to proceed with a worth-while plan of bringing health and education to them, of overcoming the problem of pidgin English and of developing a self-reliant community. With regard to the great problem in relation to those boys who were killed at Telefomin, even now the Minister should direct a complete, thorough and searching investigation into the cause of their deaths, and into the administration generally, and he should ask some pertinent questions as to why the district officer did not visit that district from time to time as frequently as he should have done.
– I address my remarks to the debate on the proposed vote in relation to the Australian Capital Territory. I say at the outset that I was very intrigued this morning to hear the honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory (Mr. J. R. Fraser) lay great stress on the fact that the residents of this Territory, like all other residents of the Commonwealth, pay income and other taxes into the revenues of the nation and he claimed that, by virtue of that fact, they were entitled to have expended in this Territory the whole amount which this committee is now called upon to approve.
– I made no such statement, of course.
– The honorable member depicted as a virtue the fact that people here paid income and other taxes, as did the rest of the people in the Commonwealth. Speaking to this vote last year, I pointed out, and I repeat now, that the Australian Capital Territory needs the establishment of some authority which would bring to the people themselves a share of the responsibilities which they should carry as residents of the Territory and which are normally carried by every other section of the community.
– And which they want to carry, too.
– I am very glad to hear it. I am wondering how sincere that want really is. If that authority is established, the people of this Territory will be called upon to dip very deeply into their pockets, in the same way as do all other Australians. I have lived in my own house in one district for 30 years, and as yet I have not a footpath, and only this year has the road past my hou=e been surfaced with bitumen.
– That happens in Canberra, too.
– Oh, yes, but to a very minor degree.
– The provision of that amenity was dependent entirely on the extent to which we as ratepayers and residents could afford it. It took us a long time to get it. Canberra has a magnificent hospital. It would be interesting to ascertain how much members of the local community have provided individually, not by way of income and other taxes, towards the construction and maintenance of that hospital. In my own district, we have a hospital which cost approximately £90,000, of which 80 per cent, was provided by voluntary contributions by residents, and more than 80 per cent, of the maintenance cost is required to be found by them every year, quite apart from general taxation. In the local newspaper 1 have seen reference to the fact that Canberra needs halls. Who is to provide these halls? Is it the national treasury ? Certainly not. Why not let the local community do the same as do residents in every other part of the Commonwealth? By their own voluntary efforts and by rating themselves, they build and maintain their halls. That is done in every other wart of Australia, but not in this august land of the Australian Capital Territory. Let the national treasury provide these things! At the present time I have a request before the Treasury that voluntary contributions and donations made towards the cost of providing public halls in my district be considered as an allowable deduction for income tax purposes. That is a very small burden which the national treasury is being asked to bear towards providing other communities with this amenity. Quite recently I asked the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) for a contribution towards the cost of construction of a swimming pool, and I was told that it was not a national responsibility, but in this Territory a sum of £143,000 is being provided by the Commonwealth for the erection of a swimming pool.
– What is wrong with that?
– There is nothing wrong with it, but the people of the Australian Capital Territory should appreciate that they are not contributing towards amenities for the rest of the people of the Commonwealth, whereas the rest of the people are contributing substantially to the amenities provided for the people of Canberra. In my electorate, swimming pools are being constructed, but they are being paid for by contributions from the local residents. The rest of the Commonwealth is not paying anything for them.
Now let us consider the difference between what the people of the Australian Capital Territory pay in respect of amenities and benefits, and what is paid by other people throughout Australia. Both groups of people have to pay taxes.
However, people outside the Australian Capital Territory, in addition to being required to pay rent for the land and dwellings they occupy, are called upon to pay rates for the maintenance and construction of roads. They are also called upon to pay health rates, to pay for the destruction of vermin, to pay special loan rates and to pay cemetery rates, none of which dues are paid by the people of the Australian Capital Territory. I again remind honorable members that in addition to paying all the taxes levied by the Australian Government, people outside the Australian Capital Territory have to pay all the dues and rates that I have mentioned, whereas the people who live in the Australian Capital Territory do not have to pay any of them.
Now let us consider the benefits that the people of the Territory receive free of charge, but which have to be paid for outside the Territory. On page 141 of the Estimates, honorable members will see that the Government has provided £25,000 for general land services, although I do not know what they are, and for the maintenance of parks, gardens and recreation reserves the Commonwealth has provided £250,000. In every other part of Australia the local people have to pay for such amenities. For the eradication of noxious weeds in the Territory the allocation is £3,000. Elsewhere the money for the eradication of noxious weeds is raised by local government authorities through a special rate on the local people. For rabbit and dingo extermination £16,000 is allocated out of revenue. Elsewhere, funds for that purpose are raised from the local people by the local authorities. For bush fire prevention there is an allocation of £13,000, but outside the Territory such funds are raised by local authorities. For ambulance maintenance £3,000 is paid in the Australian Capital Territory, but in every other part of Australia ambulances are maintained by purely voluntary effort.
Within the Territory the people benefit by £6,000 for swimming pool maintenance, but everywhere else the people wlm use the swimming pools have to pay for them. For the Canberra City Band £2. WO is provided, but. elsewhere bands are supported by voluntary contributions. For cultural and community activities £4,200 is provided, but, as honorable members are well aware, everywhere else in the Commonwealth people have to pay for their own cultural and community activities. Pre-school centres will absorb £22,200. How delighted the people of Western Australia would be, and I am sure the honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull) will agree with me, if we could get a contribution from the Federal Treasury for pre-school centres. All the activities and amenities I have mentioned are paid for by the people who use them in the rest of Australia, but for this select group, the people of Canberra - and members of the Parliament are condemned for not understanding and mixing with them - the Government pays for amenities.
The honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory chided me on the last occasion that I spoke about this matter for not becoming sufficiently informed about the Territory. I inform him that the story will be quite a different one when members of this Parliament really do concern themselves with the affairs of the Australian Capital Territory, because the sort of thing that has been going on here for a long time must end some time. It will end only when a body is appointed with the responsibility of raising from the residents of the Territory the money that is required for the facilities and amenities that they enjoy, and which are now provided by people who do not live in the Territory and do not enjoy them.
On the last occasion that I spoke about this matter I said that I would rather see Canberra a city with a soul than as a city of magnificent structures. I reiterate that, and indicate that I meant that I would prefer to see a city where local residents would take a pride in showing tourists what they had achieved through their own personal sacrifices of tune, money and effort. I do not want to see a city in which the people spend their time condemning the National Parliament because it will not recognize all the claims for free amenities that they put forward. Canberra needs a sense of civic pride and citizen responsibility, which would make the residents provide for themselves those things that other people throughout the Commonwealth have to pay for without subsidy from the Commonwealth Treasury.
.- J do not’ desire to enter into any dispute with the honorable member for Moore (Mr, Leslie) about the Australian Capital Territory, The honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory (Mr. J. R. Fraser) will be the next speaker from the Opposition in this debate, and he is quite capable of looking after the interests of those he represents.
I wish to direct my remarks to Papua and New Guinea, particularly to the 1,500,000 natives, as well as the Europeans, who live there. I always give credit where it is due, and I personally believe that the people of the Territory have received sympathetic consideration from Australian governments. However, I am not prepared to say that the Go- eminent has not failed in regard to other matters concerning Papua and New Guinea, an area so vital to the well-being of Australia because it is the gateway to this country. It has often been said that who controls New Guinea will ultimately control Australia. I believe that some of the £200,000,000 or so that has been expended on defence each year over a period by this Government, might have been used to develop New Guinea as a defence base for this country. I suggest that money would be far better used if it were directed to that objective, rather than to the construction of a filling factory at St. Mary’s, and certain other activities.
History has shown the interest that many countries have taken in New Guinea. Before World War I., Germany was most interested in the island, and in World War II. we all know the efforts that Japan put forth to take it. At present, Indonesia is looking towards New Guinea with anxious and envious eyes. I, personally, believe that Russia has been whipping up hate against us over the past few years in respect to New Guinea, and that aspect of the matter must not be overlooked by the Government.
When we were given a trusteeship over New Guinea in 1946. we were entrusted with a great responsibility. Australian men have shed blood in New Guinea in two wars. The first of our 60,000 dead in World War I. gave their lives in New Guinea, and 15,000 Australian servicemen in World War II. also died there. The Government should not fail those men, and at present we are not doing enough to ensure the safety of this land. As we sow, so shall we reap, and according to our present sowing the people of New Guinea may react against us in the near future. Very little has been done in regard to the defence of New Guinea, and 1 hope the Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck) will demand greater assistance from the Government.
The main matter about which I wish to speak is the manner in which the 1,500,000 natives of New Guinea are being treated. The ill treatment of these fuzzy-wuzzy angels, as they were termed during World War II., could be used as an argument against us by Communist countries at meetings of the United Nations and in other places. On the other hand, I feel that there are pleasing aspects of the administration of New Guinea, and that the district commissioners and patrol officers act with some honesty and decency towards the natives. When I was in New Guinea two years ago, I met a number of white people who warned, not only me, but also the rest of the delegation, that the worst exploiters were the missionaries. Let me say now for the benefit of everybody that, if ever kindness has been shown in New Guinea, it has been shown by the missionaries. Some of those, persons who are attempting to exploit the unfortunate natives to the hilt have stood in the way of the missions.
Yesterday, I asked the Minister a question about the corporal punishment of natives. I accept his explanation that corporal punishment is not meted out in a dangerous manner, but I ask the Government to abolish it altogether, because Communist countries and their supporters are using against us reports on the administration of Papua and New Guinea that have been circulated amongst members of the Parliament. Reports issued by the United Nations Trusteeship Council indicate that that body has requested that corporal punishment he abolished. I know that the natives are not being harshly treated, but let us not give to other countries information that they can use as a weapon against us in the United Nations organization. Let us get rid of corporal punishment and avoid the possibility of any hostility to us.
It is about time the Government carefully examined the activities of the so-called professional labour recruiting officers in New Guinea. Some of them are not much better than the blackbirders about whom we read in the history books. [ believe that representatives of the Australian trade unions should be appointed to assist in the recruiting of labour in the Territory. That is the only method by which we can ensure humanity in recruiting and confidence in the native people towards us. I have seen poor unfortunates taken hundreds of miles from their own districts under deplorable conditions. Such treatment does not redound to the credit of the Australian people or of this Government. People may scoff at me for suggesting tha! representatives of the Australian trade unions should assist government officials in recruiting, but I believe that the kindness that they would display would pay in the long run. The treatment that is now being accorded to the natives by the recruiting officers borders on slavery. When I was in the Territory, I travelled on what was known as the “ boona: run “, which was conducted by Mandated Airlines, and which left Madang at approximately 8.30 a.m. That small craft carried twenty natives, eleven whites, car parts, luggage and other cargo. I saw officials of Mandated Airlines walking all over these unfortunates in a manner that was repulsive to every, member of the delegation. We spoke about the matter at some length, and it was suggested that I might stay off the craft at one of the distant islands in order to make room for some of those natives about whom I was so concerned. They did not receive a meal between 8.30 a.m. and 5.30 p.m., when they arrived at the point of disembarkation. I do not know where they went from that point. It is’ unfortunate that natives who are taken from their home islands have no form of redress. It is completely hopeless for them to think about getting back to their own areas.
Union organizers could ensure that proper conditions were provided for the 30,000 or 40,000 natives who are working in New Guinea. I know that provision is made for the observance of certain conditions, but in some instances those conditions are not observed.
– No native may be employed unless he is paid the prescribed amount.
– The prescribed working rate is 15s. a month. It is true that some natives, as they become more efficient, obtain better rates and conditions. Provision is made for rations of a certain quality, for barracks to sleep in, for a blanket to sleep under, and for l£ yards of cloth a month to ensure that each native is properly clothed. I have discussed this matter with some of the picked natives of New Guinea - I think the Minister will agree that the native soldiers are in that category. I was told that it costs ls. 6d. a day to feed those men in the barracks and that they are fed on a very scientific basis. I assure the Minister that natives employed by some of the planters are not receiving anything like the rations that the soldiers are receiving. I am not raising these matters in condemnation of the administration, but to ensure the operation of a more effective and more efficient organization. I know that if the administration believes that natives are being ill treated, it takes certain action, but, on the other hand, some of the planters exercise a great deal of control over certain administrative officers.
I now wish to direct the attention of the Minister to conditions that obtain in the production of copra. When I was in New Guinea, I observed the primitive methods that are being employed. Those methods, in an industry which is returning huge fortunes to some of the plantation owners, must be abolished. I suggest to the Government that the planters should be required to pay adequate taxation on the huge incomes they are deriving, and that the use of modern scientific methods in the copra drying process should be enforced.
– What methods does the honorable member suggest ?
– I saw copra baked in tin sheds that were approximately 5 feet high.
– But what method does the honorable member suggest as an alternative?
– I am suggesting that the more modern and scientific form of drying which is used in many places in New Guinea should be enforced on all the wealthy planters.
– Would that not increase their wealth?
– I could give the Minister the name of one plantation on which tin sheds about 5 feet high were being used for the drying of coco-nuts. The unfortunate natives were crawling in and out of the fires to change over the coco-nuts at the various drying stages. Et was claimed that five such stages were necessary. Some of the biggest planters in New Guinea, who are receiving as much as £70 a ton for copra - before the last war they were receiving £4 a ton and were paying taxation - to-day are fleecing the unfortunate natives. It is no wonder that malnutrition and disease, particularly tuberculosis, are rife. On the other hand, we saw natives who were employed in the sawmilling industry and as drivers of motor vehicles, soldiers, policemen and teachers who were capable and efficient. As I stated earlier, the cost of feeding soldiers in the barracks was ls. 6d. a day. That comes from the officers in charge. The soldiers in New Guinea are paid £1 16s. a month. I believe that something should be done to protect the uneducated natives when they draw accumulated pay, because at present much of it is taken from them by the Chinese and other people who run businesses. These natives have no knowledge of the value of money, and I believe the Administration should give them greater help to look after their money.
I felt that hospital accommodation was very bad. I know that the Administration is looking into these matters, but one source of wastage of money was very apparent. The Australian Government was paying £100 a month for land upon which the Rabaul hospital was built. I hope that that has been altered. I believe that taxation should be such as to give some incentive to work.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- I address my remarks to Part 4- Payments to or for the States. Those payments are charged to general revenue, and this year will amount to £219,000,000, or practically one-fifth of the total budget. That item seems to me to highlight the irrationality of the uniform taxation system. The sum of £219,000,000 covers, not only reimbursements to the States under uniform taxation, but also a whole series of special grants for such things as flood relief in New South Wales and grants to universities. Although the amount is so large, it still is not sufficient to meet the demands that people are making upon the Commonwealth. Already there have been complaints that the amount will be quite insufficient. Whilst there is no doubt that the uniform taxation system suits some of the State governments, it is nevertheless a system which is undermining not only the authority of the States, but also the power and independence of the Commonwealth.
I am moved to say something about this question, not because I adopt a sort of die-hard attitude to it, but because I think it is important that the uniform taxation system should be brought into the light and analysed, in order to see what it means. Some statements have been made by the State Premiers. In Victoria, Mr. Bolte has complained that hi3 State i3 not getting what it would be entitled to if there were a fair distribution of the taxes collected under the uniform taxation system. I had the opportunity a few weeks ago to sit on a platform with the New South Wales Minister for Education, Mr. Heffron. On that occasion, he told the teachers that he looked forward to the day when it would be possible for him, as Minister for Education, to go to his Premier and say, “ Because you have command of this amount of revenue, I want this sum for building schools, for training teachers, for use on lending libraries and that sort of thing”. I told him that I sympathized with him entirely, but that I wondered whether he was saying those things only for the sake of saying them or whether he was really prepared to go the whole distance and move, if not for the abolition of uniform taxation, at least for the institution of some other system which would bring home to each State government its responsibility for the things it wanted to do and give it an opportunity to accept that responsibility.
I want to say at the outset that I still regard myself as a federalist. I feel that the scheme of uniform taxation, with its various ramifications, will lead to the undermining and destruction of the federal system. I feel that, if we carry on as we are doing at present, we shall eviscerate the federal system. The uniform taxation system tends to cultivate utter irresponsibility on the part of State cabinets. It tends to foster financial extravagance and to undermine the authority of the Federal Government by causing constant allegations that the Federal Government it starving the States of money - that the States cannot build schools and hospitals, provide water supplies or expand transport systems because of the parsimony of the Federal Government. There may be some truth in the complaints of the State governments. But the Federal Government cannot easily cut the amounts it gives to the States without assuming a responsibility for the activities of the States that it ought not to assume - a responsibility, for example, that is indicated by the activities of the Australian Loan Council. On the other hand, the Federal Government cannot unduly increase the amounts that it gives to the States without itself raising additional money by means of taxes.
So the system is satisfactory to no one. The Commonwealth, because it has to raise the money, wishes to keep its payments to the States down as much as possible. The States, because they have to perform the ordinary day-to-day functions of government, want more and more money, yet they are not prepared to accept the responsibility for raising it. When the Commonwealth vacated the fields of land tax and entertainments tax, we found that the States were not altogether willing to go into those fields, and probably it was a good thing that they did not do so. Therefore, we see that there is a lot of shadow-sparring by all governments in this matter, and that no government is prepared to face the consequences of what it ought to do. There is no doubt that it has become not so much a financial matter as a political matter, and one, from my point of view, of administration - not so much financial as political, and not so much political as administrative.
During the last few days, the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) has promised to constitute a parliamentary committee to examine some of the problems that are affecting the Commonwealth and see whether we can find ways and means to make more smooth the path of governments under the federal system. I doubt very much whether anything satisfying could flow from the deliberations of a committee which included members from each side of the Parliament, if they were divided by strong feelings about the matter. There are those of us who would be quite content with a system of unification, and there are those of U3 who believe in the federal system. I feel that it would be very difficult to reconcile those points of view and write into the Constitution either the distribution of resources or the distribution of functions which would be necessary for any effective alteration of the existing system. But even though we cannot expect any great results from a parliamentary committee, I still think that we ought to press on with that proposal, and I still think that it is necessary for all of us, with our different political philosophies, to put our cards on the table and see whether we can evolve some methods that will retain the benefits of the federal system and at the same time provide opportunities for the development that is desirable.
A federal system means that all the partners to it are equally sovereign, one with the other. Under a real federal system, there cannot be a situation in which the Commonwealth can dictate to the States, as it tried to do, for example, in relation to bank nationalization, or as it tries to do in the Loan Council. We cannot have a system in which the Commonwealth dictates to the States, because such a system would no. longer be a federal system. The States, and the Commonwealth, must have co-equal powers, particularly in the field of finance. Therefore, we have to seek some way through the trials and difficulties, mainly political and administrative, and only indirectly financial, that confront us, because the abolition of the uniform taxation system would not alone solve the problem of the relationship between the Commonwealth and the States in the field of finance. The reason is, as the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Crean) said this morning, that, ever since the passage of the Surplus Revenue Act of 1910, the States have been in a worsening condition financially. They have not been able to get the full amount of revenue that they have wanted to enable them to perform their various functions. The position will not be altered merely by reversing the trend that was begun in 1910. The Financial Agreement Act of 1928 was, in itself, a further instrument shackling the States, by its establishment of the Loan Council. The operation of this legislation meant that the States had to relinquish a good deal of their sovereignty and, in effect, had to follow the dictates of a body external to the whole scheme of parliamentary government. It meant, therefore, an acceleration of the trend that started in 1910, in that it further worsened the position of the States. In the uniform income tax provisions which commenced to operate in 1942 we introduced a system which the business people of the community would be glad to have retained, and yet one which is not satisfactory from the point of view of constitutional financial relationships.
For the reason I have given I wish to plead for an investigation of this matter so that we can maintain all the advantages of the federal system ; because the political advantages of the federal system arise from the fact that the Federal Government is limited by the Constitution. Federal governments can do only the things that they are specifically allowed to do by the Constitution, and may not do things that they want, to do if they are not specified in the Constitution as within the Commonwealth’s legislative powers. Because, in these days, we are threatened with etatisme, that is, over-government, I feel that any limitation of the powers of government is to be encouraged, instead of any expansion of the powers of government.
The honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron) was last night conjuring up bogies about the tapping of telephone lines, from which he drew a doleful picture of an attack on democracy and freedom, because here was an example of a soulless instrument tapping telephone lines and therefore trying to intimidate the people using those lines. Whether or not there was any truth in what he said does not matter, but the implication of his remarks is of very great importance - that is, the extent to which official power is penetrating into the whole of our lives. Anything which will limit the powers of government is to be encouraged, and that is the reason why I want the retention of the federal system ; because, in the federal system, we have greater freedom than we would have in the unitary system, under which a government can do what it likes when it wants to, if it happens to have the necessary parliamentary majority. Under the federal system, a government, whether or not it has a majority, is limited in its actions by the specific provisions of the Constitution. I believe, therefore, that we would be very wise indeed to retain restrictions on the powers, of government so that there will be greater liberty for the individual under the protection of the Constitution.
From that point of view I think that any one who has sat in this chamber at question time cannot but help having felt somewhat oppressed by the magnitude of the operations of government that are under constant review during parliamentary sittings. The functions of government are extending more and more, and the Ministers who are responsible for the conduct of government departments find themselves completely submerged in a mass of routine. In consequence, we are getting a bureaucratic machine which runs along without parliamentary restraint from the political side. In those circumstances it is necessary for us to evolve a scheme, from the administrative side, to ensure that the functions of government at any rate will be susceptible to control and will not be carried out with complete irresponsibility, as is sometimes suggested by the questions asked in this chamber by honorable members.
I am in favour of another principle, the principle of empowering the Federal Government to do the thinking for the whole of the Commonwealth, though not necessarily to do all the administrative work for the whole of the Commonwealth. In other words, I would limit the Commonwealth’s functions to what the old political scientists used to call the “ constituent functions of government ‘’, things like defence, foreign affairs and so on. But I would not give to the Commonwealth control over day-to-day functions like education - although schoolteachers are pleading for Commonwealth control over education - or social services which to-day are a function of the Commonwealth. I should prefer those matters to be dealt with by the States. This would enable administration to be decentralized. The Federal Government should be the body that is doing the thinking, the exploration and the research necessary-
– Order ! The honorable gentleman’s time has expired.
– It is always very interesting to hear a speech by the honorable member for Moore (Mr. Leslie). Within recent days we have heard the honorable gentleman, while discussing the proposed vote for the Department of Immigration, give us a dissertation on crayfish tails and the export thereof. Last night, during the discussion on the proposed vote for Broadcasting Services, his theme was the “ Kindergarten of the Air “ and the Argonauts Club of the Australian Broadcasting Commission. To-day, he has chosen to join the ranks of those who attack the national capital and the people who are required to live within the national capital. Of course, it is not new to find honorable members from States other than New South Wales still harbouring resentment against the establishment of the national capital in this locality, and still seeking every opportunity to deride and belittle it, and to deride and belittle the people who live here and who, by living here, serve their country. The honorable member for Moore has been on record as saying that the people of Canberra regard members of the Parliament as foreigners in Canberra. He has said that they make no effort to meet the members of Parliament who come from the States. I am wondering what the honorable member expects. Surely he does not expect the people of Canberra, when he walks along the street, to come up to him and say, “ You must be a member of Parliament! Would you come along to our homes ? “
-*- Yes, he does.
– If he expects that, then it accords with the level of his contribution to the debate.
– Have not the people of Canberra something besides homes? Have they no other amenities?
– The honorable member is one who notoriously spends very little of his spare time in the national capital. I do not know in what part of the great State of Western Australia he resides, but I know that he leaves here as soon as the sitting finishes each week. I know that he departs from here by air, but whether or not he finishes the journey by camel train I have yet to learn. But, wherever the honorable member lives, his great complaint is that the cottage in which he has lived for 30 years still has no footpath outside it and he cites that as being, somehow, an argument against, the development of the national capital or against the provision of facilities in it. If the honorable gentleman likes to give some of his time at the week-end and journey from here down to the Causeway, which is a short distance beyond the Canberra railway station, he will find there a considerable suburb of something like 121 houses, which has been in existence for more than 30 years and is as yet completely unprovided with proper drainage, road surfacing, or footpaths. Therefore, his argument is worthless. He complains that Canberra is not like other places and that its people are not like those of other centres of population in the Commonwealth. Canberra, of course, is not like other towns in the Commonwealth. It is not meant to be, and it should not be. The honorable member, and other honorable members who are inclined to criticize the national capital and belittle the activities that are carried on here, should keep that in mind. The residents of Canberra have come from the honorable member’s State of “Western Australia, from Victoria and from every other State. They are not in any way different from the people who. live in Manjimup or any other little town; but the national capital is vastly different from any other centre.
Ours is not a community that has grown from economic necessity, in the ordinary way. It would not have been here had we not decided to establish a national capital. It has not, because of commercial activity, or the buying and selling involved in satisfying the needs of a. community, grown outwards from a main street. It is essentially a planned city, though sometimes I wonder whether we are yet entitled to call it that. Canberra has a population of about 30,000. Despite what the honorable member for Moore may say, I believe that the people of Australia accept the idea of a national capital and want to see it developed along the lines originally planned. Indeed, the severest critics of departures from proper building standards are those who come here in the role of tourists. Because Canberra is a planned city and exists only for the purpose of carrying on government, it must be a city in which ordinary living costs are much, greater than elsewhere.
– There should be a sense of citizenship and responsibility.
– Presumably the honorable member comes from a place that is governed by some form of local authority.
– That is so.
– Also, he comes from a State that has a government. The people of the Australian Capital Territory have no municipal council, shire council, or State government, so that anything that is provided for them here must be gained through this Parliament, which is the only authority open to them. The point that I tried to make this morning was that, so far from being subsidized, the people of Canberra contribute to the subsidies paid to the States. I shall take the point a little further for the benefit of the honorable member for Moore. The people of the Australian Capital Territory pay the same taxes as are paid by other people in the Commonwealth.
– They get the same benefits.
– They get nothing like the same benefits. The Australian Capital Territory does not receive an income tax reimbursement, as do the States. Canberra people contribute the highest rate of income tax per capita in the Commonwealth and if they received a tax reimbursement at the same per capita rate as do the people of Western Australia, Tasmania or South Australia, there would be a surplus of revenue over expenditure in the accounts of the Australian Capital Territory. That can very easily be seen from the figures that are before this Parliament, and from the reimbursements that are made to the various States. As the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Bland) pointed out, the reimbursements to the States account for about one-fifth of the budget. The people of this Territory have constantly sought some form of local government and their request has just as constantly been side-stepped. If we had local government and received a per capita reimbursement on the same basis as applies to Western Australia our accounts would show a substantial surplus, despite all the facilities that are provided here.
– The people here would ha ve to pay rates.
– We pay rates already. The facilities provided are no more adequate than they should be. The national capital is not the responsibility of merely the people who live in Canberra.
– It should be.
– Order ! The honorable member for Moore (Mr. Leslie) must cease interjecting.
– That is completely wrong. As a planned city, Canberra is necessarily widespread. Indeed, it is already more than 7 miles in a direct line from the northernmost point to the southernmost point of the city. Because it has been planned to meet the purposes of government, vast open spaces have been left in the centre of the city. Ultimately, I presume, these will be filled by public buildings, but the widespread nature of the city must make every public service more expensive. The cost of constructing and maintaining roads, footpaths, kerbing, glittering, water supply, sewerage, electricity and every other service must obviously be much greater here than it would be in a normal community of 30,000 people. Honorable members can doubtless think of centres with a similar population in their own States which they could use for purposes of comparison.
– What about the new swimming pool here?
– It is not beyond the function of State governments to provide finance for the construction of swimming pools.
– They cannot afford it, and do not do so.
-The honorable member live.3 in Western Australia. I have not been there but hope that I will get there in due course. No doubt it would be a delightful experience. When the honorable member says that State governments do not provide money towards the cost of swimming pools he is talking through his hat.
– The money is provided in the capital cities only.
– Would the honorable member for New England (Mr. Drummond) suggest that Mudgee is the capital of New South Wales? The New South Wales Government provided £25,000 towards the cost of constructing an Olympic swimming pool at that centre. Would the honorable member suggest that the citizens of Armidale have never sought, from the State Government, funds for the construction of a swimming pool or other facilities?
– They have a privately owned swimming pool.
– Does the honorable member for New England suggest that none of the towns in his electorate has ever applied for assistance of that kind ?
– They have applied, but they have not received it.
– The honorable member well knows the situation in Glen Innes and the extent to which the New South Wales Government contributed to the cost of a new magnificent hospital there. Of course State governments and municipal governments provide these things but in Canberra there is no State government or municipal authority. This Parliament represents, to the people of the Australian Capital Territory, not only a national parliament but also a State and municipal authority as well. The people here are no different from people elsewhere in Australia. Indeed, it may be said that they are the people of the rest of Australia. They have come here only because their jobs have brought them here. I have heard honorable members who support the Government describe as economic conscription the transferring of people from one district to another in pursuance of their occupations; but in the next three years thousands of citizens of Melbourne will be transferred here as members of the Public Service. Many of them will be middle aged or elderly people who will have to leave established homes and associations and come reluctantly to this city because their jobs in which their lifetime has been spent and on which their superannuation and other rights depend, will have been transferred here. It will mean the breaking up of their family life. In this matter we must maintain a right perspective. Canberra is the national capital of the Commonwealth of Australia, and it is the responsibility of the people of Australia to build and maintain it. The people who com prise the population of this Territory should be required - and I believe they are required - to pay rates and taxes on the same basis as would maintain the ordinary civic services of any other town with a similar population, but not necessarily of similar extent. I believe that that is the position to-day, and that the people living here are no more reluctant to accept responsibility than are people elsewhere. A proper recognition of that fact should be understood by honorable members. I hope that honorable members generally will continue to take an interest in thu development of Australia’s national capital, and that when the report of the Senate Select Committee comes before this chamber there will be an intelligent and informed debate on it.
.- The territories of the Commonwealth have received increasing attention from honorable members during recent years, due largely to the fact that, owing to the policy of the Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck) and his colleagues, members nf all parties have had opportunities to -ee fir first hand something of the territories with which this debate is concerned. I am one of the members of this Parliament wlm have visited some of the territories. About two years ago it was my privilege to visit the Territory of New Guinea, in the company of the honorable mein:,pi for Macquarie (Mr. Luchetti). It (is not until about three months after our return that I read in our newspapers of tin- hair-raising experiences of a journalist who had visited that Territory, and realized that members of Parliament must have been more repulsive, edibly and otherwise, than journalists were, because it appeared to me when I was in the Territory that we ran very little physical risk. Unfortunately, much is said both in this chamber and outside it, and much is written about our territories which does little credit to those responsible for such statements. It is a fact that, in a very large measure, the future of Australia lies in the administration of its territories. If we are wrong to-day, as I believe those who preceded us 40 or 50 years ago were wrong, those who will follow us in the future will pay the price for the errors as we now pay the price for the errors of those who occupied positions of responsibility in the early day of federation.
This Parliament has three territories under its control - the Northern Territory, the Australian Capital Territory and the Territory of Papua and New Guinea. If we examine these Estimates carefully, we shall see that they disclose a tendency that has received increasing acceptance over the years. I was impressed, as were other honorable members, by the remarks of the Minister when he spoke of the progressive po! icy of development that has been followed in the territories. Those who have visited the territories will not disagree with what he said, although they may disagree about the degree of development that has taken place. It is true that there has been development, and that the Minister and his officers have done a good job, but it is also true, as I think the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson) said, that one of the problems still confronting the Administration is how to bring to the Northern Territory the trained workers and professional men required to assist in its development. I listened with interest to the Minister, as well as the member for the Northern Territory, because I realized that they speak with a wider knowledge of the Territory than is possessed by other honorable members.and I have tried to reconcile their two points of view. I now desire to bring to the attention of the committee certain facts that prevent their reconciliation. 1 direct attention to the portion of the Estimates dealing with territories of the Commonwealth. In round figures, the total .vote to which we are asked to agree for the provision of services in these territories is £6,106.000 for the Northern Territory and £8,134,600 for the Australian Capital Territory. The honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory may be somewhat annoyed at my subsequent remarks. I point out that the Northern Territory comprises an area of over 500,000 square miles, and that the Australian Capital Territory comprises an area of about 1,000 square miles. I remind the committee that in the Northern Territory there are vast potential resources of minerals and agricultural wealth. It is true that some attempt is being made to develop those resources, but we have as yet hardly tapped the great riches that exist there. Despite the great wealth awaiting development and exploitation in the Northern Territory, the proposed vote for that Territory is only about three-quarters of the vote for the Australian Capital Territory. I do not criticize the present Government or the member for the Australian Capital Territory, but I drawattention to the tendency on the part of all governments which have been in office for the past 40 years to encourage in the community a body of public opinion which supports such fallacious reasoning. It is beyond question that, in addition to being the storehouse of riches not yet tapped, the Northern Territory is one of the keys to the defence of Australia. Yet the expenditure proposed for its development is less than the amount shown on the Estimates for the few square miles which comprise the City of Canberra.
It is true, as both the Minister and the member for the Northern Territory have said, that one essential requirement for the development of the Northern. Territory is that we shall settle there men who, in the first place, are capable of carrying out the tasks which modern civilization demands, such as engineering and building projects, and developments in the fields of agriculture and mechanics. It is also true that, until those men can take to the Territory their wives and children, the Northern Territory will not develop as it should, and must, develop if we are to hold this country. I shall demonstrate the effect of ignoring the justifiable claims of the north of Australia and expending large, sums of money on this pampered place called Canberra. I shall quote from the Estimates. It must be obvious to all that one of the conditions associated with permanent settlement in any territory is the provision of adequate educational facilities for the families living there. For the moment, I shall not deal with Papua and New Guinea, but shall confine my remarks to the other territories. I am sure that no honorable member will disagree with me when I say that the lack of educational facilities is one of the real problems facing the family man in the Northern Territory to-day. He is unable to obtain for his children education services comparable with those in the larger cities of the southern and eastern States. From a survey of these Estimates, I find that the vote for education services in the Northern Territory is £124,500, whereas that for the Australian Capital Territory is £479,000 - approximately four times as much. The importance of the Northern Territory transcends that of Canberra a thousand times.
Medical services play an important part in keeping families happily settled in remote areas. It is interesting to notice that the medical services vote for the Northern Territory is £598,000, as against an aggregate of £233,000 for the Australian Capital Territory. On the face of it, that seems to be a recognition of the greater needs of the Northern Territory, but an analysis reveals that the enormous and varied expenses involved in items such as transport, both by road and air, to relatively isolated communities in an area of more than half a million square miles, absorbs a great proportion of the vote. The net result is that the practical value of the Northern Territory vote compares poorly with that for medical services in Canberra. The honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory (Mr. J. R. Fraser) naturally contended that facilities which have been provided in Canberra are necessary. I do not agree, but the honorable member is entitled to his point of view. A comparison of the votes for the Northern Territory and the Australian Capital Territory inevitably leads to the conclusion that, however well intentioned the Minister and the Government may be, pressure on governments over the 50 years of federation has produced widely differing results in these two territories. Modern writers still use the phrase, the ‘ dead heart of Australia “, but honorable members who have been privileged to visit Alice Springs know that there is no more of a “ dead heart “ there than there was at Mildura 60 years ago. If only a fraction of the money that has been spent in Canberra during the past 40 years had been spent in various parts of the Northern Territory to provide a water supply, roads and transport facilities, the most extravagant journalist would not dare to-day to describe it as the dead heart of Australia.
The Estimates contain a vote of £250,000 for the maintenance of parks and gardens in the Australian Capital Territory. Every visitor to Canberra exclaims about the loveliness of its trees and buildings. I do not dispute their opinion, and it may be that £250,000 will be well spent on parks and gardens in the capital city of the Commonwealth. But I refer the committee to the vote under this heading for the Northern Territory - £14,000 - approximately one-twentieth. In a relatively mild, temperate climate in Canberra people can enjoy its natural beauties, but the sum set aside for the provision and maintenance of parks and gardens in towns in the Northern Territory illustrates again the damage that pressure on governments during 40 or 50 years, in the interests of Canberra, has done, because more needy areas have been neglected.
The most amazing comparison is provided by the provision of £230,000 for the maintenance of roads and bridges in the Australian Capital Territory. These are essential and they are wonderful, judged by the standard of the roads and bridges in the electorate which I represent.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
Mr. NELSON (Northern Territory) 1 4.51]. - One of the most gratifying features of this debate on the Northern Territory Estimates has been the constructive contributions by honorable members on both sides of the committee. I appreciate the forthright statements by the honorable member for Deakin (Mr. Davis). 1 do not propose to argue the merits of, or compare the votes for, the Northern Territory and the Australian Capital Territory. I merely express the view that although the Australian Capital Territory may be receiving sufficient money to meet necessary requirements, the Northern Territory is lagging far behind.
Earlier in the debate, when dealing with another item, I referred to the Legislative Council of the Northern Territory. The suggestions I am about to make are supported by statements that have been made by the honorable member for Bennelong (Mr. Cramer) and the honorable member for Farrer (Mr. Fairbairn), that the time has arrived when a far greater measure of selfgovernment should be granted to the Northern
Territory. To achieve this the Legislative Council should be reconstituted so as to provide for a majority of the elected members to represent the people, and not a minority as at present. They should be given also some absolute powers in certain matters. If the Government is not prepared to grant them absolute power in all matters which affect the Northern Territory, at least they should be given the right to make, in regard to some matters, decisions that cannot be vetoed by an authority in Canberra. For example, the Estimates now under consideration, those for the Northern Territory, have never been seen or discussed by the Legislative Council. None of its elected members had an opportunity to discuss them or to make any proposals, or counter-proposals to those made by heads of various departments. They have no say in the Estimates before they are presented to this committee, yet those Estimates vitally affect the well-being of every citizen in the area.
Members of the Legislative Council who are nominated by the Australian Government are, in every case, Commonwealth public servants. I am not reflecting in any way upon the capability of the public servants who serve on the Legislative Council as nominated representatives of the Commonwealth, but 1 believe that the proper function of a public servant is to administer and not to legislate. Before we can achieve a sense of responsibility in the Northern Territory we shall have to remove the public servants from the Legislative Council, and put in their places citizens of the Territory who have been elected by the people. There are nominated public servants on the Legislative Council in New Guinea also, but that council has full authority over the expenditure of public moneys, including the annual grant voted by this Parliament. It is time that the same right was granted to the Legislative Council of the Northern Territory.
Again I find myself in agreement with the honorable member for Farrer, who said that the member representing the Northern Territory in this chamber should have more positive powers than he has at present. When the honorable member advocates that the member for the Northern Territory should have a vote in this Parliament, he is advocating something the merit of which is obvious to quite a lot of responsible citizens of Australia. If we consider the matter fairly, we must conclude that the people of the Northern Territory are not Australians in the full sense of the term. Although they belong to a Territory of Australia, they are denied certain rights that are enjoyed by other citizens of Australia. Even the aborigines can aspire to the rights that are possessed by the other citizens of the Northern Territory, but those citizens cannot aspire to the full citizenship rights enjoyed by the rest of the Australian community. People who were our enemies in World War II. come into Australia, become naturalized, and are now making the laws and formulating the instructions that the citizens of the Northern Territory have to obey. It is not good enough. We of the Northern Territory are subject to all the Commonwealth laws, and have to accept the obligations arising therefrom. We pay taxes. We are required to defend, and indeed have defended, Australia, and we have paid pretty dearly in the process. We have had our towns destroyed. Some of our citizens lost their lives, and many of them their property. The proper way to rectify the position initially is to give to the member for the Northern Territory, whoever he happens to be, a full vote in this Parliament, because at present he enjoys few privileges here. I know that there is an impression that the member can vote on matters that affect the Northern Territory. No one in the Northern Territory, either myself or any elected member of the Legislative Council, can influence in any way by his vote any part of the Estimates that come before this Parliament. I can speak on the Estimates, I can try to persuade the Parliament, but T have no direct influence, by vote, over anything that comes before this House. I have a nominal right to vote for the disallowance of an ordinance, but I may not vote on any of the ordinary legislation that comes before this House affecting the Northern Territory.
– How many votes has the honorable member cast since he has been in this House?
– The same number as the previous member. The vote has never been exercised. If we wish to attract people to the Northern Territory from other parts of Australia, we should at lea3t allow them to take their citizenship rights with them, and they should be allowed the right to elect to this Parliament a member who has full voting rights. The power of the Legislative Council should be widened, so that its members will have a more direct voice in, and more control over, matters that affect the welfare of the Territory.
Now I wish to make a few observations regarding the settlement of the Northern Territory, and I shall refer particularly to the subject of lands, which has previously been discussed in this debate. The honorable member for Bennelong referred to the case of a young man who took eight months to secure a piece of land in the Northern Territory. There are 523,000 square miles of land in the Northern Territory, but it is a very difficult matter to secure even one square foot of it. No pastoral lands have been made available in the Northern Territory for two years, and in that time 2,000 acres of agricultural land have been made available. I believe that land settlement forms a basis of development in the Territory, just as the mining industry does, and it is time that more positive steps were taken to throw open some of that land. The honorable member for Bradfield (Mr. Turner) suggested that some of the larger properties should be cut up. That is one approach to the problem, but in order to use the land more effectively railways would have to be built to afford access to markets. I agree with the honorable member for Bradfield when he says that positive action must be taken if we are to develop the country effectively, and put it to its fullest use. If we have not sufficient land available for agricultural purposes, then steps must be taken to acquire land that is now being used for pastoral purposes. The Minister knows the agricultural possibilities of the Northern Territory. Although I have tried, I have been unable to secure from the appropriate department in the Territory information concerning areas upon which acquisition notices have been served. Under the present ordinance it lakes two years to acquire land, and I do not know whether any steps have yet been taken to start the process of acquisition. If that process has not yet been started, then it should be started immediately.
I now refer to the mining industry in’ the Northern Territory. That industry has a wonderful future. We have our uranium mines, and there is an amount of over £1,000,000 on the Estimates representing advance payments to the Atomic Energy Commission against the proceeds of the sale of uranium. That was for last year, and I say nothing about the estimated sales for this year, except that as production continues to flow from the uranium mines at Rum Jungle that figure could easily be doubled. We have rich uranium deposits on the Alligator River area which are only now being exploited. There are the copper and gold deposits at Tennant Creek, where the value of production is about £250,000 a month. That amount is increasing every month, and should be about £500,000 a month in the very near future. There are mining settlements at Pine Creek, Maranboy and Hatches Creek, where gold and other metals are being produced. Action should be taken to develop the deposits at those places in the way that they should be developed.
– What sort of action would the honorable member suggest?
– I suggest that batteries should be provided now. The battery at Tennant Creek has been out of order for some time. I hope that it will start again this year. With the exception of a small battery at Hatches Creek, that is the only battery in the Northern Territory. It is inefficient, and I understand that £23,000 has been provided in the Estimates for its reconstruction this year. If that work is undertaken, it will be to the advantage of Tennant Creek ; but there are many other prospects that require some assistance.
I should now like to mention another matter which is very serious for the Northern Territory, and that is the maintenance of the north-south road and the east-west road in the Territory. I understand that the financial provision for the maintenance of the north-south road has been so reduced that a strip only 12 feet wide down the centre of that magnificent highway - the main defence highway - is to be maintained this year.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- The planters of New Guinea and Papua will always be interested in the sale of margarine in Australia because coco-nut oil, which comes from copra, is probably the largest single component of margarine. Consequently, it is important to the planters and to the economy of New Guinea that they should know what happens when margarine and cooking fats are sold in Australia. There are other components of margarine such as beef fat, and peanut oil, and other ingredients which are used to improve margarine; but normally copra is an important component. Copra is produced with cheap labour, and is brought into this country as a very cheap cooking fat or edible oil. It is sold in direct competition with other cooking and edible fats. I do not think that it is in competition with butter, largely because most Australian housewives would never put, margarine on the table to be used in place of butter. I have never seen margarine on a dining table. I do not know whether honorable members have done so. I know that margarine is used as a cooking fat, but I believe that Australian housewives, whatever their income group, realize the importance of the high quality fat which is separated from the milk taken from cows fed on rich dairy pastures, and which is used in the manufacture of butter.
This subject is important at present because some changes have been made in the sale of margarine which contains the product of the planters of New Guinea and Papua whose affairs are being dealt with in these Estimates. We know that the dairy industry, which employs a tremendous amount of labour, quite properly resents a product of cheap labour coming into competition with butter. Competition of this kind has been opposed by a great number of people in Australia. If an industry is producing a rich food, we should not allow its market to be Hooded with a competitor that is the product of cheap labour. I am sure that that statement meets with the approval of honorable members on the Opposition benches. Labour principles have always embodied that idea. I think that honorable members on both sides of the chamber would hate to see Australian food standards degenerate to such an extent that people would take margarine instead of butter. So the margarine situation is important, and it is important, too, in the consideration of these Estimates.
In the past, the dairying industry has endeavoured, on various grounds, to prevent large-scale sales of margarine containing copra and edible fats which have been produced by cheap labour outside Australia. One such ground is that the dairying industry provides employment for a tremendous amount of labour. Another ground is that the components of margarine, coming from New Guinea, are the product of what is, perhaps, the cheapest labour in the world. It has been suggested in the dairying industry, at times, that the wholesale importation of copra should be prevented. That is a matter of concern to New Guinea planters. But the suggestion has never been accepted in this country because the Territory of New Guinea has been given to Australia to administer under a United Nations trusteeship, and it would be improper to impose a very restrictive embargo on a product which means so much to the economy of such a territory. It was requested that a. tax should be placed on copra, but such a tax has never been imposed. But the restriction of the sale of copra as an ingredient of margarine has been undertaken by the State governments. In the last few days, we have learnt that State governments, particularly the New South Wales Government, have increased the quota of margarine that may be manufactured. In New South Wales, the quota was increased from about 2,500 tons to 9,000 tons.
– That will not be as much as the quantity that was manufactured last year.
Mi’. JEFF BATE.- I thank the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Luchetti) for reminding me that the quota for this year will be less than the quantity of margarine which was manufactured last year, and which was four or five times as great as the quota. That is to say, the manufacturers of margarine ran free. They operated without restriction, because litigation was proceeding in the High Court of Australia on the question of whether the control of margarine sales was valid or invalid. The court found that the States could quite validly place a quota on the manufacture of margarine. The court found that Section 92 of the Australian Constitution did not prevent the State governments from controlling the manufacture of margarine or any other commodity. An appeal from that judgment to the Privy Council is pending.
While that litigation has been proceeding, margarine firms have been running free, and putting enormous quantities of margarine on the market. I am glad to say that the consumption of butter has not fallen while that has been happening. The Australian people recognize the value of butter, and continue to buy it. The consumption of butter is slightly increasing as the population grows.
May I say, with respect to the quotas of margarine, that the State Government is to blame for the breakdown of the quota system. When the State Government prosecuted the margarine firms for exceeding the quota, those firms, quite properly, asked for the departmental files dealing with the quota allotted to various firms in Sydney. The department, under the direction of the State Government, would not, produce the files. That leads us to believe that there was impropriety in the allotment of quotas. As soon as it appeared that that was so, the quotas were disregarded by the margarine companies. By some corrupt dealing, the State Government broke down its own power in this respect, and the manufacture of margarine ran free. Consequently, we have a situation in which the honorable member for Macquarie is able to say, by interjection, that even if the New South Wales Government has raised the quota from 2,500 to 9,000 tons, it is still less than the quantity that was manufactured in New South Wales last year.
– It was illegally manufactured.
– The Minister for Social Services (Mr. McMahon) says that it was illegally manufactured. He agrees with my contention that there was illegal manufacture of margarine. But the New South Wales Government was afraid to take further action. When litigation arose, it refused to produce the departmental files which, if produced, would have shown that the department objected to the very large quota that was given to the Meadow-Lea Margarine Company Proprietary Limited, which is run by Mr. Triggs, who was at Joe Arthur’s wedding - and we know what happened to Joe Arthur. The New South ‘Wales Government was afraid that the departmental files would confirm the belief that an unjustifiably high quota had been given to Mr. Triggs and his product. But the files were not produced and the barristers who were present, including the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Whitlam), asked the magistrate to state a case for the High Court to show whether section 92 of the Constitution should operate to permit the unrestricted movement of margarine between the States. The High Court decided that that section did not apply and that the States had power to impose a quota on margarine. Because the State Government was corrupt - I believe that one of the Ministers of the New South Wales Government who had assured the Meadow-Lea concern an unjust quota disappeared from the Ministry - the State Government lost one of its powers. I do not know for how long it will be deprived of that power, and I do not know what will happen before the Privy Council. For a number of reasons, the States should impose a quota on margarine: first, because it is manufactured from a. commodity produced by cheap labour in the territories; and, secondly, because of the need to retain a. market for dairy-farmers for the rich butter manufactured from butter fat produced by cows grazing on sunlit pastures, which contains ingredients beneficial to children of which there is no equal. The New
South Wales Government set out to restrict the production of margarine, but it failed to do so because it could not bring its departmental files into the court when requested by the magistrate. That Government is powerless to carry out its wishes, and at this very moment, as the honorable member for Macquarie has said, margarine is being manufactured in excess of the quota, and will continue to be so manufactured. If that makes the New Guinea planters happy, all right; but it will not make happy the people of New South Wales,, who ought to see that, balance is maintained and that dairy products shall not be swamped by products manufactured from commodities produced with cheap labour. I hope that people who are aware of the situation will say to the New South Wales Government, “ Let us have no more of this corruption in the allocation of margarine quotas. Make certain that a fair thing is done, and make certain that, by improper practices, you do not break down the power which the High Court says that you have “. We cannot anticipate what the Privy Council will decide in this matter, but I expect that the State Government will have to retrace its steps and act properly in accordance with the wishes of the people and the wishes of the Australian Labour party, which should be shocked by the departure from its established practice. Here is a product of cheap labour being sold in competition with the products of Australian labour. As you well know, Mr. Temporary Chairman, an enormous volume of Australian labour is engaged in the dairying industry. No one knows better than you do that a lot of people are needed to look after cattle, manufacture cream into butter and get it on to the breakfast tables in perfect condition’ for consumption by Australian families. I am glad to have been afforded an oportunity to direct the attention of the committee to this matter, which is of considerable importance to the New Guinea planters. They should know that our traditional policy of fairness would preclude us from preventing the importation of copra and edible oils from a territory over which we exercise a trusteeship granted by the United Nations.
– The speech of the honorable member for Macarthur (Mr. Jeff Bate) shows up in its true light the contribution of the honorable member for Phillip (Mr. Fitzgerald), who made a very strong appeal to the Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck) to do something about the production of copra. I think there was general agreement between the honorable member for Phillip and the honorable member for Macarthur in relation to the employment of cheap labour for copra production in a territory which we administer under a trusteeship granted by the United Nations. He made a very strong appeal to the Minister to do something about the way in which the native workers on the copra plantations are being exploited by people who are making profits out of the copra industry. It may be that we shall obtain uniformity of thought on the matter. No other speaker during this debate has contradicted the opinions that have been expressed by the honorable member for Phillip, that copra, which is the basic ingredient for the manufacture of margarine, is being produced by cheap labour. What are we doing about the matter? The honorable member for Macarthur has stated that something should be done at the State Government level in respect of the manufacture of margarine from copra produced with cheap labour. Let me say quite frankly, as one who was born and reared in the dairying industry, that I know full well the great value of the dairying industry of this country, and the volume of work that is involved in its various sections. So we reach agreement in respect of the question of cheap labour being used in the production of copra. But what is the Government doing about the matter? In my opinion, it is not sufficient for the honorable member for Macarthur to rise in his place and talk about the corruptness of a State Minister. He had no proof of his allegations; he merely resorted to innuendo. Such practices do not help our parliamentary system. There is present on the Government’s side of the chamber an honorable member who was formerly a Minister in a State government. I am sure that he would agree with me that it is wrong for a supporter of the
Government to attribute corruption to Ministers or former Ministers of State governments without pinpointing the allegations.
– Even if the whole industry is in danger?
– I shall come to that. I want to point to where the real difficulties lie. The honorable member for Macarthur has stated that the trouble is that cheap labour is used to produce copra from which margarine is manufactured. What has the Government done to protect the native workers engaged on the plantations? What is the Minister or the Government doing about the matter? Do not let us at this point condemn either the people who are manufacturing margarine or the people who are using it if, in point of fact, the whole matter comes back to the employment of cheap labour in the production of copra. I am glad that the honorable member for Phillip has returned to the chamber, because the statements of the honorable member for Macarthur strengthened most forcibly his contentions in relation to the treatment that is extended to the natives who are engaged in the production of copra. The honorable member for Macarthur has my sympathy in seeking to protect the dairying industry. In my opinion, that industry should be protected as much as is possible by governments of all political colours. Let us come to the basis of the problem. If cheap labour in New Guinea is responsible for even a part of our troubles, as it is claimed it is, then let us approach the matter from that angle and deal with it at that point. It may be that that is the complete answer to the problem. If decent conditions were to be provided in the copra industry, then the cost of producing margarine might more nearly approximate the cost of producing butter, if the price of margarine approached more closely the price of butter, I suggest that there would not be so much margarine on the breakfast tables, because it is only the considerable difference between the prices of the two commodities that induces people to buy margarine. I understand that margarine costs about 2s. 8d. per lb., whereas the price of butter is 4s. 3d. per lb.
If, as the honorable member for Macarthur stated, the difficulty arises in the islands from which the copra comes, because of the availability of cheap labour, the Government should attack the problem at that point. If that is the cause of the trouble, then the blame lies, not with some New South Wales Minister who, it has been suggested, failed to do his job, but with the Australian Government for not having considered this matter before. Indeed, if that is the case, strong support is given to the remarks of the honorable member for Phillip, which were made here earlier to-day.
I wish to refer now to arguments that were advanced this afternoon by the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Bland). In dealing with the proposed votes at present before the committee, he stated that he was present at a function at which the New South Wales Minister for Education said that he hoped to live to see the day when, as Minister for Education, under the federal system, he would have sufficient money to provide all the educational facilities required by the people of New South Wales. The honorable member for Warringah expressed the view that we should maintain our federal approach to education, and he also said that the time had arrived for a new attitude towards the distribution of finance between the Commonwealth and the States, in order to place on the shoulders of those who spend the money the responsibility of collecting it. I do not agree that education should be a State responsibility. If any honorable member has occasion to take his children from one State to another, in the middle of their education, he will appreciate the great setback that the children suffer as a result of the change. A friend of mine, who has just left Tasmania, has three children of school age who are now going te school in Victoria. Even at this early stage, it is obvious that it will take those children until the end of the year to find their feet and adjust themselves to the change of educational systems.
I agree with the honorable member for Warringah that serious consideration must be given to development of the nation, whether it be development of the Northern Territory, the Territory of Papua and New Guinea, or certain States rather than other States. In my opinion, however, future governments will need to do something better than we are doing at the present time. The honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson) advanced sound arguments in support of his contention that that Territory should be developed and that its people should have more say in the administration of their affairs. I think that that attitude is becoming Australiawide. Perhaps it is due to the system of uniform taxation which, incidentally, we of the Australian Labour party support, despite what the honorable member for Warringah may say. We offer no apology for supporting that policy.
– Order 1 Uniform taxation has not very much to do with the proposed votes before the committee.
– I am answering the honorable member for Warringah, who has just returned to the chamber.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Order! The honorable member should make only a brief reference to that subject.
– The honorable member for Warringah said that we of the Labour party did not believe in uniform taxation, whereas he did. He also said that he believed in flexible control of development, so that the States and the Commonwealth would have unity of action, whether in relation to developing the Northern Territory or any other part of Australia. I agree with him that this matter of the copra industry in New Guinea, and also the question of developing the Northern Territory, illustrates the need for a great change in our outlook towards national development.
It is well known that the Northern Territory needs to attract population. I believe that the people of Australia would be only too happy to open up the great potential wealth of the Territory, provided that they were given transport facilities to enable them to move to and from that area. Until such facilities are provided, the Government cannot blame Australian people if they are not prepared to go there. Even the VicePresident of the Executive Council (Sir Eric Harrison) cannot be blamed for wanting to stay in Sydney instead of going to the Northern Territory, where he might not find the comforts to which he is accustomed.
– There must be something very strange about it, if I cannot be blamed for it.
– The right honorable gentleman prefers to stay here, as he is entitled to do. As I say, private enterprise could develop the Northern Territory, as it developed New South Wales in the early days. After all, who provided the railways to places such as Moree and Inverell, and to areas represented in this Parliament by the honorable members who sit in the Australian Country party corner? The New South Wales government of the day did so.
– The people did so.
– Yes, through the government of the day. The provision of those railways enabled towns such as Inverell and Tamworth to grow. The advent of the steel rails brought them into being. Inquiries which have been made about whether people would be prepared to go to the Northern Territory and settle on the land indicate that they would do so, provided that transport facilities were available.
This debate casts upon every one who sits in the National Parliament the obligation to ask: What is to be done about developing our undeveloped areas, particularly the Northern Territory which, whether we like it or not, must be regarded as the key to the future defence of Australia ? I know everything cannot be done in one day or one year. I believe that, as the honorable member for the Northern Territory pointed out, the first need is to consider-
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– A feature of the debate that has rendered it, in many respects, rather remarkable is the number of honorable mem!bers who have expressed concern, directly or indirectly, with the form of government of the Australian federation and the need to continue or to alter the existing form. It is true that the debate has centred upon the need to develop the territories and give them proper representation, the allocation of money for expenditure in the territories, and the effects of uniform taxation upon the general conduct of affairs in Australia. The honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Bland), as always, made a very constructive and far-reaching contribution to the debate. He discussed the grants made by the Commonwealth to the States, the uses to which those funds are put, and the impact of the present system of hand-outs upon the sense of responsibility of the States. I agree with most of what the honorable member said.
I note that the Estimates provide for grants to the States for various purposes of £219,977,000, which represents about one-fifth of the total Commonwealth revenue. A further two-fifths of the revenue will be absorbed by defence and social services. Honorable members can see that those three items absorb threefifths of the revenue. We are concerned about the system of uniform taxation and its implications in the light of its effect on the States. It has been stated by a very eminent authority that, if one government provides more than one-third of the revenues of another government there is a tendency towards irresponsibility in the expending of that money. The Commonwealth now provides for the States considerably more than that proportion. Consequently, I think it can be claimed, with a good deal of justice, that there is a tendency towards irresponsibility on the part of the State authorities which expend the money. It is a more or less natural human tendency that, if someone other than the user pays the electric light bill, electric power is apt to be wasted, to use a homely simile. In financial matters, the tendency is towards degeneration of power and of the sense of responsibility in a way that is far from beneficial.
The honorable member for Blaxland (Mr. E. James Harrison) discussed education. If I understood him correctly, he considers that education should be wholly controlled by the Commonwealth. 1 have no doubt that he could give very much more cogent reasons than he did advance for the policy that he has in mind. He at least indicated a tendency to think that children who move from one State to another find adjustment difficult owing to the varying standards of education. I might say that, during my term as Minister for Education in New South Wales, I was able to remove many of these anomalies between the New South Wales education system and the systems of the other States. I have no doubt that the difficulty should be overcome, but it is not sufficient to take one or two straws that blow in the wind. One must apply broad principles. Perhaps I may speak with some authority on this subject. We could adopt no policy more vicious or more retrograde in its effects upon the Australian economy than to give to a centralized government complete control over education.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Order! The honorable gentleman is getting a little away from the group of Estimates under consideration.
– I am referring to the purposes for which the States expend a great proportion of the funds that the Commonwealth provides for them. A great deal of money is spent on education, which is a tremendous drain on the revenues of the States. If the level of expenditure on education is not, maintained, Australia will suffer severely. That is the point I really wish lo make. I did not intend to develop a discussion on the theory of education. 1. intended only to point out that, during this debate, it has been made clear that, by making these grants to the States, the Commonwealth raises the question whether the money might be spent with better effect in other ways. It could be much better spent in other ways.
It has been suggested that the Northern Territory should have a form of responsible government so that it might more effectively expend the funds that it receives. The honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory (Mr. J. R. Eraser) has advanced a certain viewpoint. One of the finest statements that I have seen in a condensed form is that recently issued by the hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church in Australia, which has given a lead to the nation. Every member of the Parliament and every Australian citizen should note the leadership given by this great and ancient church in resuming one of its old functions. In that respect, the Roman Catholic Church in Australia is like the Church of Scotland, which, for many purposes, was virtually the Parliament of Scotland. The Commonwealth has responsibilities. The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) acknowledged those responsibilities, and the difficulties inherent in the discharge of them, when he promised to appoint an all-party committee to examine the Australian Constitution. I profoundly regret that it has not been possible to undertake even the exploratory work that must precede constitutional reform. Suggestions of some weight have been made that the Australian system be altered. I am not greatly concerned about a modification of the balance of power between the Commonwealth and the States, provided that the people have the right at all times by referendum to determine whether the States and the Commonwealth have exercised their powers rightly.
I turn now to the Territory of Papua and New Guinea and to the position of the Chinese citizens of that Territory. Considerable numbers of them were born in the Territory. That is their home. They speak and think in English. They have been left suspended, in effect, between the native population and the European population. I say with all seriousness that that is not the way to gain the permanent loyalties of those people who are to be left in the Territory. While we, for our own purposes, have excluded certain people from this country, we have found that those who have been given rights have not abused them.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Order ! The time allotted for consideration of the proposed votes for the Northern Territory, the Australian Capital Territory, Norfolk Island, Papua and New Guinea, Part 4, Payments to or for the States, and Part 5, Self-balancing Items, has expired.
Proposed votes agreed to.
Motion (by Sir Eric Harrison) agreed to -
That the following resolution be reported to the House: -
That, including the sum already voted for such services, there be granted to Her Majesty asum not exceeding £441,645,000 for the services of the year 1955-50, viz.: -
Part 1. - Departments and Services - Other than Business Undertakings and Territories of the Commonwealth.
Resolution reported and adopted.
Motion (by Sir Eric Harrison) agreed to -
That towards making good the Supply granted to Her Majesty for the service of the year 1955-56, there be granted out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund the sum of £278.568,000.
Resolution reported and adopted.
That Sir Eric Harrison and Mr. McEwen do prepare and. bring in a bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented by Sir Eric Harrison, and passed through all stages without amendment or debate.
Sitting suspended from 5.52 to 8 p.m.
Debate resumed from the 15th September (vide page 695), on motion by Mr. McMahon -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– I heard with astonishment on the midday news to-day that the Government proposes to defer the payment of this small increase in social services rates until the 27th October. I cannot imagine why the Government proposes now to defer this payment which we all very clearly understood was to have been made this week and which the Government has had ample time to prepare, and which the Opposition was prepared to facilitate in every way. Since the pensioners of Australia have had no increase whatever in their rates since 1952, in three years of galloping inflation, except one miserable 2s. 6d., it seems shocking indeed that when the Government is finally forced into giving an increase it should now, at the last minute, defer it for still another fortnight. That is very shamef ul indeed.
The speech which the Minister for Social Services (Mr. McMahon) made in moving the second reading of this bill was the most naked party political speech which I have ever heard a responsible Minister make in this chamber when introducing legislation of this kind. The Minister threw responsibility and accuracy completely to the winds in asserting this Government’s generosity - I should like honorable members to mark the word “ generosity “ because it was the Minister’s own word - in its treatment of social services. At the same time he continually belittled the Labour Government’s record in this respect. That a social services bill ought not to be presented to the National Parliament as an unashamed bid for votes did not in any way deter this Minister. Nor was he deterred by the fact that the picture which he painted in his speech was entirely false and unreal. I thought he might at least have been deterred by the knowledge that almost every one who heard him, both .in this chamber and outside, already knew only too well of this Government’s complete betrayal of its solemn social services pledges made to the people of Australia during successive election campaigns. But even the fact that most people knew that what he was saying was false did not deter him. Apparently, some people could still be deceived. To my mind it was a most remarkable performance indeed. It resembled nothing so much as a man with a bad conscience endeavouring to brazen it out; and that, of course, would be true, because in their treatment of the aged, the infirm, the widows, the families and the fatherless of this country the members on the front bench opposite - the Government of this country - are guilty men, and every private member who sits behind them, and who has supported them by his vote, has politically perjured himself by betrayal of the specific pledges he made to the people of Australia.
Social services are an essential part of the structure of the modern state and, therefore, the many associated questions in this problem ought to be examined carefully in the light of the ascertained facts; aud that is what, to the best of my ability, I propose to do. However, in view of the remarkable form of the Minister’s speech and the extraordinary nature of the misstatements which he made, it is necessary to clear the decks a little first by disposing of some of the most outrageous of the Minister’s misstatements. I propose to do that by quoting those statements specifically in. their exact terms and then stating the correct facts with the official authority for the facts which I shall give. It is not a difficult task to dispose of the Minister’s statements in this respect because the truth of these matters is so apparent. The Minister said -
This is the fifth general increase in pensions granted by this Government.
Could there be any statement more misleading or more irrelevant? What does it matter whether there are five or 55 alterations in the pension rate? What really matters is whether any of them has measured up to the decrease in the purchasing value of money during the inflationary years in which this Government has been in control of the treasury bench. The answer is that not one of the adjustments made by the Government has had any effect other than to reduce the living .standard of the recipients of social services benefits as compared with their position before this Government came into power.
The second statement of the Minister with which I wish to deal was that “ The total increase is 37s. 6d. a week or 88 per cent, above what was paid when Labour was last in office. This, in itself, I suggest is a spectacular achievement “. It is a spectacular piece of nonsense because the actual reduction in the purchasing value of money during that time has been far more than 88 per cent., as official figures show, since that time. Therefore, no matter what the nominal increase has been in terms of money, there has been no increase whatever in the purchasing power of social services payments. Then, the Minister went on to say - and this, I think, is something for which he ought’ to be held responsible -
The only satisfactory yardstick available for comparing the purchasing power of the pension at different periods is the C series price index
And he added -
The Commonwealth Statistician agrees that this is so.
Either the Minister is completely careless of what he says in this House or he is completely ignorant. The C series index is not the only satisfactory yardstick; in fact, it is not a satisfactory yardstick at all, and the Commonwealth Statistician does not agree that it is. On the contrary, the Commonwealth Statistician says that it is not so.
– The honorable member should quote him.
– I am going to quote him. I have his letter here.
– Read it accurately.
– I am prepared to give the Minister a copy of his statement. There is no doubt about it. The Minister is a responsible man and he speaks on behalf of the Government; and when he speaks to the people of Australia they have a right, at least on matters like this, to be able to accept as truthful the statements he makes. In addition to saying that the C series index is the only reliable guide he went on to say that the increase to which pensioners ought to have been entitled, in accordance with, this index, would be Sd., and not the 10s. which the Government is giving them, and that the real pension to-day, based on the C series index, should he £3 10s. 8d., and not £4. In the first place he approaches the problem by taking the C series index as his basis, which is an inaccurate yardstick in this matter: and in the second place, he adopts the wrong dates. He compares September, 1949, with June, 1955. I do not know why the Minister chose those particular dates. The adjustment made by the Chifley Government took place in September, 1948, and the correct comparison should therefore have been between September, 1948, and September of this year. Every one knows that a further adjustment of the pension rate was necessary in 1949, and every one knows that Mr. Chifley at that time decided that, as a substantial increase had recently been made, the task of deciding the amount of the new increase should be left to the incoming government. Every member on the antiLabour side-
Honorable members interjecting.
– Order !
– Every honorable member on the anti-Labour side who was in the House at that time in 1949 agreed that a further increase in the pensions rate was necessary.
– But the honorable member’s Government did nothing about it.
– No, but honorable members of the anti-Labour side at that time agreed that a further increase was necessary. That being so, they cannot possibly justify now making their comparison with 1949 on the assumption that the rate in that year was adequate.
Government supporters interjecting,
– I can understand that this hurts honorable members on the Government side a little, but it is obvious that we must go back to the last adjustment in September, 1948. The Minister said, “ If any one doubts these figures I invite him to take up the matter with the Commonwealth Statistician who has no axe to grind and can be relied on to state the facts without fear or favour “. “Will the Minister accept the Commonwealth Statistician’s word in this matter? He invites us to take it. I have obtained it. When I have read a statement that I have from the Commonwealth Statistician, will the Minister acknowledge the error that he has made and do justice to the pensioners by correcting the pension rate? Here are two letters from the Commonwealth Statistician. The latest is dated the 6th October, 1955 - to-day. The first is dated the 7th September of last year.
– Of 1954?
– Yes, and the second one is dated to-day. It is signed by Mr. Carver and reads -
Dear Mr. Fraser,
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 income expenditure in Australia over recent years.
– What did you ask him?
– Never mind. His letter continues -
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 cost of services, I believe that reasonably reliable results would be obtained, for purposes of your calculations, if you worked on the basis that the pound (£) as at mid lf)54 would have purchased what cost approximately 12s. in mid 1949.
There is a further passage in the letter in which he gives some illustrative calculations.
– Read your letter to him!
– The Commonwealth Statistician, in his letter to me to-day-
– Read your letter to him!
– I telephoned him. Here is his letter -
Dear Mr. Fraser,
Pursuant to your telephone request of to-day and with further reference to my letter (54/1528 of 7th September, 1954) I advise as follows: -
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 cost of services, I believe that reasonably reliable results would be obtained, for purposes of your calculations, if you work on the basis that the pound (£) as at mid 1955 would have purchased what cost approximately 10s. fid. in mid 1948.
That letter is available to the Minister. At least it will show that he made no proper inquiry from the Commonwealth Statistician before he fixed the amount of the increase and claimed that the Commonwealth Statistician would back what he had done on the basis of the C series index. The fact is, of course, that since mid-1955, the cost of living has further increased, the value of money has further declined, and, in any case, the Statistician, as he has shown there, has had to take into account actual wage rates - that is, frozen rates - and has made no allowance for the increased cost of living, which is not reflected in those frozen wages rates. The Minister also said : “ The Government has acted generously “ - generously, mark you - “ in enabling those afflicted by age, ill-health, widowhood or other reason to enjoy their share of the general increase in prosperity “. It has been argued against the acceptance of the basic wage as the proper measuring stick that the basic wage contains a prosperity loading. In his own speech, the Minister declares that the Government recognizes the right of these people to enjoy their share of the general increase in prosperity. He says it in words, but does not translate it into action.
He goes on, in that most remarkable of all speeches, to say - “ We must recognize our responsibility to all sections of the community, including the needs and claims of our children “, and he brings down a social services bill which leaves child endowment rates unaltered since 1948 for the second and subsequent children since 1948. This pious-mouthed Minister says, “We must recognize the needs and claims of our children “. Yet he leaves widows with young children to struggle along on the rates which were paid in 194S, the value of which has since been destroyed by inflation !
– Does the honorable member know that some age pensioners recommend that child endowment should be abolished, or, that a means test should be applied to the recipients?
– I do not know what some pensioners recommend. I am quoting what the Minister has said. Let him not quote some aged pensioners. Let him stand up to what he himself said. Only a few weeks ago he said : “ We must recognize the needs and claims of our children “. He made that statement when moving the second reading of this bill, at a time when, for the fifth or sixth successive year, his Government had refused to give any relief at all to families in the form of increased child endowment rates.
– The Labour party opposed the payment of endowment for the first child.
– OrderI Interjections will have to cease, I think that if the honorable member for EdenMonaro will address the Chair instead of addressing other honorable members, we shall be able to proceed better with the business of the House.
Honorable members interjecting,
– Order ! If honorable members will not obey the Chair, I shall deal with them, irrespective of which side of the chamber they are sitting.
– Finally, the Minister said : “ The Government has every reason to be proud of its record in the field of social services “. In the light of what I have said, I can only say that that statement by the Minister defies all description. Here is a government which accepted office at the hands of the people on a solemn undertaking that it would maintain the value of all social services payments, indeed that it would increase their true value. That was a solemn promise given in 1949, again in 1951, and no doubt made again in 1954. Yet, in five successive increases to the age pension rate in five inflationary years, this Government has invariably fixed a rate of reduced, not increased, value.
In this Parliament, as a Labour party, we have pointed out the facts year after year. In recent months, no increase except 2s. 6d. having been given since 1952, the plight of the pensioners had become so terrible as to constitute an absolute public scandal. Ministers of religion and social workers in every capital city of Australia and in country towns throughout the Commonwealth had directed attention to the pitiable plight of these people, yet last year this Government gave nothing at all. “We asked at that stage for a minimum increase of 10s. It was not enough, and we said that it was not enough, but it was the most that we could hope to get from this Government. The Government gave nothing. I suggest to you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that the whole of the Australian people were shocked by that callousness on the part of the Government. The newspapers of Australia could not ignore the conditions which then became obvious and the poverty and misery of these people-. I believe that every newspaper in Australia joined in the demands upon this Government for a substantial increase in age and invalid pensions, and other social services benefits. Of course, as we know, the Government has been forced to capitulate. In this legislation it is providing for the 10s. increase, for which the Labour party last year asked as a minimum, but once again it is giving too little, and it is giving too late. It is capitulating with a very bad grace indeed and is making some grudging redress for the injustice which it has done to age and invalid pensioners. I put this proposition to the Minister, and again the figures that I quote are official: In order merely to preserve the minimum terms of the Government’s pledge, merely to maintain the value of the pension in relation to the true basic wage, that is, the unpegged wage, the rate of age and invalid pension to-day would have to be £411s., and not £4. So, once again, the pensioners of Australia are being bilked by this cheating Government.
– Strong words!
– It is very nice for the honorable member to laugh. I understand that he has just received a substantial increase in his own electorate allowance, no doubt because he needed it. He knows what the cost of living is. He has just made a special case to have his electorate allowance increased from £600 to £750, and the increase has been made retrospective to the 1st July last year, so he can laugh. He is doing well.
– Who is he?
– The honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Freeth). It is all very well for him to laugh. As I say, he is doing quite well, but he should not laugh unless he wishes to invite attention to his own position. Here are the official figures concerning pensioners, and they have nothing to laugh at in this situation. In August, 1948, the basic wage for the six capital cities was £5 16s. a week. The pension rate was £2 2s. 6d. a week, or 37 per cent, of the basic wage. In August, 1955, the unpegged wage, including the cost-of-living loading which has not been added to it, was £12 5s., 37 per cent, of which is £4 lis. I invite any body to check the accuracy of those figures. They show that the age and invalid pensioners of this country are still being cheated out of lis. a week, even including the proposed increase. I suggest, therefore, that it is beating the air for the Minister once again to quote the C series index. I have shown that that is not a true guide, and the Commonwealth Statistician does not accept it as a true guide for this purpose.
It is noteworthy, however, that in relation to age and invalid pensions the Minister merely asks which is the correct measuring stick. He does not argue that the pensioners are not, and have never been, entitled to any increase at all. He does not say that they have not been entitled to any increase ever since this Government came into office, and of course it would be utterly ridiculous for him to advance such an argument. He admits in his speech that the considerable fall in money values in six years has made necessary a substantial increase in age and invalid pension rates, but he argues as to the correct measuring stick to apply. We say that the comparison should be with the basic wage; he says that it should be with the C series index. We say that the rate should be £4 lis.; he says that it should be £4, but he does not deny for a moment that the inflation in those six years has made necessary a substantial increase in those rates. As that is so, how does the Minister, how does any member of the Government, or any honorable member who sits behind the Government, defend the Government’s conduct in connexion with child endowment? I repeat that there has been no increase in the rate of the child endowment for second and subsequent children since 1948. The Government is pocketing £39,000,000 a year, which would be the increased amount received by the families of Australia if child endowment rates were altered in relation to the decreased purchasing value of money.
– Did the honorable gentleman not oppose the payment of child endowment in relation to the first child?
Mi-. ALLAN ERASER.- This Government is putting into its own pocket £39,000,000 a year, which it owes to the people of Australia.
– The hypocrisy of it!
– Let not the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Sir Eric Harrison) mumble and grumble away there. He was a party to this pledge. He knows that he pledged himself to maintain the full value of child endowment payments.
– The honorable member was a parly to refusing to support the payment of child endowment in respect of the first child.
– The VicePresident of the Executive Council pledged himself to the people of Australia to maintain the full value of child endowment payments. Has he done so?
– Of course he has not.
– That was never said. That is a characteristically false statement.
– Order ! Honorable members must remain silent while the honorable member for EdenMonaro is speaking.
– The honorable member should explain what he means when he says that the Government is putting this money into its own pocket.
– The Government is putting the money into its own revenue.
– That is better.
– I shall choose my own form of words, which I imagine are nor very acceptable to the honorable member who interjects.
– The honorable member will address the Chair.
– Child endowment rates have not been increased by Id. to compensate the mothers of Australia for increases in the cost of living and decreases in the value of money. There has been no increase even in the miserable, 5s. which the Government offered as election bait in 1949 in respect of the first child.
– And which the honorable member opposed.
– That amount has not been increased in all those years. Therefore, on behalf of the Opposition, I propose to move an amendment.
– I rise to order. As foreshadowed in my speech on the budget, when I indicated that I proposed to move an amendment-
Honorable members interjecting.
– Order ! Honorable members must allow the point of order to be stated.
– I foreshadowed that I would move an amendment to make provision for the establishment of a royal commission to ascertain and inform the Parliament of suitable amounts which should be payable for the comfort and needs of various recipients of social welfare benefits.
– The honorable member for Eden-Monaro has the floor, and he has priority in moving an amendment.
– The honorable member is about to move an amendment, and I ask for your ruling on my point of order.
– The honorable member for Eden-Monaro has just said that he is about to move an amendment. I shall hear his amendment and I shall decide on any subsequent amendment thereafter.
– I cannot believe that the leader of the party in the corner wishes to prevent the moving of this amendment. I move -
That all words after “That” be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof, the following words: - “the bill be re-drafted to provide, as from the 1st July, 1950, in the light of the declining purchasing value of money, increases in the rates of social service payments to the maximum extent that the national economy will permit, and, particularly, to ensure as a minimum that each of these payments is restored to the same percentage of the (unpegged) basic wage as it was under the adjustment of rates by the Chifley Government in 1948 “.
– That would have the effect of reducing the pension.
– I rise to a point of order. I should like to know whether the moving of the amendment by the honorable member for Eden-Monaro will prevent me from moving my own amendment in due course.
M!r. DEPUTY SPEAKER. - The amendment of the honorable member for Eden-Monaro is quite in order. I shall call for a seconder in due course.
– The second part of my amendment does not represent what the Labour party itself regards as the necessary increase in various social service rates. A succeeding Labour government will itself make appropriate increases in those rates when it has the financial responsibility for what it does. We are, therefore, not putting forward an amendment irresponsibly since it merely requires this Government to live up to the specific pledges made in its name to social service recipients throughout Australia; that would merely require this Government to do what the Chifley Labour Government was already doing before it left office, and at the time of the last adjustment of pension rates in 1948. 77onorable members interjecting,
Sir Eric Harrison. - I rise to a point of order. Is it in order that the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) should be vociferously interjecting from a place in the House that he does not normally occupy?
– It is certainly not in order for him so to do, but I did not hear his voice among those of the many other interjectors.
– The amendment that I have moved is confined to that specific requirement in minimum Terms and in maximum terms is a request to the Government to re-examine the position and to make such further increases as the present state of the economy, which the Government claims is so extremely prosperous, will permit. In committee, we shall bring to the attention of the Government several glaring anomalies in the existing legislation, and will seek their rectification, which we hope we shall obtain. We shall not propose matters which we know it is quite hopeless to expect this Government to give effect to. Those are matters that we, as a succeeding Labour government, will give attention to in due time.
When we pause to look at the road of social security in this country, we must be equally impressed with the very long distance that we have come in a comparative handful of years, and with the still very long distance that we have to travel to reach the heights of social security to which we would aspire. If honorable members look back even half a century, they will see that at that time there were far greater disparities in income, and far greater differences between extreme wealth and dire poverty, than anything that exists to-day. Even as brief a time ago as that, there was very little social conscience at all, and little recognition of the obligation of the community to make even minimum provision for those who were unable to provide for themselves. When we sometimes tend to become discouraged by the rate of social progress in this country, I think it i« very inspiriting indeed to look back over the course of recent history and see the great improvements that have been made. As I said on a previous occasion in this House, it is often possible to measure the rate of your progress as a political party by judging the change in your opponents. While the Minister for Social Services (Mr. McMahon), who is now at the table, is in our minds quite a hopeless reactionary, he would have been regarded by his predecessors of the same political colour 50 years ago as being an extraordinary radical. We have come a long way since that time.
The Labour party, even when it has not been the governing party, has exercised a tremendous and continuing influence on social progress, and has had an influence on opposing parties bv forcing them reluctantly to travel the road of social progress. That fact may be seen in social reform after social reform. However, notwithstanding that, there are some honorable members on the Government side who apparently have no sympathy at all with modern trends in social service legislation. Honorable members quite recently heard the honorable member for Indi (Mr. Bostock) declare that we had reached the end of the road in the financial provision of social services, and that the proper course to take now was to compel, by law, children to support their parents, and to introduce a system of parent endowment in which the aged parent would be dependent on his or her child - even if that child had a family of half a dozen - and in which the Govern ment would subsidize that child toward* the cost of keeping the parent. That wasgoing back with a vengeance, and I was horrified to hear the “ Hear, hears ! “ that came from the honorable member’? fellow back-benchers. No member of th, Ministry was foolish enough to give hi.-? approval to that proposal, but apparently the idea represents a type of thinking that has some strength on the Government side, and it is something that the people should be well aware of and be ready for.
I believe that there is still a tremendous distance to be travelled along the road of providing adequate social security for the people of this nation. For tinpresent we seek, through the amendment, to obtain lis. a week more for age and invalid pensioners, and 10s. a week more for the second and subsequent children in any family by way of child endowment. We want, in this legislation, corresponding increases for widows and other recipients of social services, and a rectification of glaring anomalies. Bur all that would merely restore the POS tion that we had established as a government, and give back £39,000,000 of child endowment money that is now being improperly withheld by this Government, and £15,000,000 of age and invalid pension money now being improper!* withheld by this Government from the old and infirm people of the community. We want these things as a rectification of the position.
We believe that there is an immense journey upwards yet to be made, and that with a proper organization of society there is practically no limit to the progress that we can make. If we are fortunate enough to avoid another war then we can, as a community, concentrate the whole of our resources in a war on poverty, ignorance and disease in this country, and we can engage with tremendous success in a battle for security, social and economic, for knowledge and for health. I believe that with the tremendous progress in science and invention and with the development of automaton and electronic control of industry, if we can learn to produce for use instead of profit and cut out of our rigid and inadequate distribution system the barriers which at present prevent the full products of industry from reaching the people, there would be scarcely any limit to the increase in the living standard of all the people. Particularly would there be an increase in the economic and social security that we could give to those who are unfortunate enough not to be able to provide for themselves.
– Will anybody do any work in this paradise?
– Yes, to the extent that it is necessary, and we shall work for ourselves. What is produced will belong to those who produce it. If the honorable member for Paterson (Mr. fairhall) has any objection to that, I suggest that he should go and live on another planet as soon as interplanetary travel is available, because such a state of affairs will come in this country and it will come throughout the world. The provision of social services benefits is inseparably linked with production, because they can be- provided only from the proceeds of the toil of the people, with that toil lightened as much a3 possible and as much as it certainly will he, and with hours of work shortened as much as posible and as much as they certainly will bc with the development of new industrial methods and the progress of science and invention.
It is necessary to remind honorable members that social services benefits cannot be provided out of any magic treasure chest, by the raising of loans, or by the use of national credit. Social services benefits are a redistribution of national income. The provision of the larger part, of social services benefits, once appropriately high taxation has been imposed on high incomes, must come from the mass of the people - from the workers themselves. For that reason, people are to be commended when they propose the granting of further social services benefits. They themselves foot the bill. When the Minister claims credit for the generosity of the Government in this direction, he shows a complete misunderstanding of the position. As I have stated, the people themselves pay for social services benefits and, in that sense, they can have whatever scale of benefits they choose. I always think it is pitiful to meet some poverty stricken old man who feels a sense of shame in applying for the age pension, and who refuses to do so because he believes that if he accepted it he would be living on public charity. It is necessary to explain to such folk that they are merely receiving from the community a return of what they themselves have provided during their working lives.
The Australian Labour party believes that it is essential to place social services finance on a secure basis. We need, principally, the establishment of a fund similar to the National Welfare Fund which this Government has destroyed, and to give to people an assurance that, in return for the contributions they have made from their incomes according to their ability to pay, they will have a right in due time to payments on the scale provided. The Labour party believes that priority should be given to what it seeks to do in moving this amendment - the giving of some basic security to those persons who have to depend entirely upon social services benefits. It believes, secondly, that, if social services finances are to be maintained in a healthy condition, and if people are to continue to have an incentive to be thrifty and to save, the swiftest possible progress should be made towards the abolition of the means test. Government supporters once believed in the abolition of the means test. 1 1 was part of their programme in 1949. In that year they promised to give effect fu it within three years. In 1951, they indicated that they intended to abolish the means test in the sweet by and by; but in 1954 they made no reference to it. The Labour party is the only party that han ever taken a step towards the abolition of the means test. All the steps that have been taken by this Government in relation to the means test have not been steps forward but have merely represented a correction of inflationary changes in money and property values. Only by electing a Labour government will the people of Australia obtain the abolition if the means test.
Honorable members on this side of the House believe that the Government and its supporters who sit on the back benches should be stood up to the pledges that they have given to the people, and should be required at least to restore the purchasing power of social services benefits to what it was when the Chifley Government was in office. They also believe that social services benefits will not be on a healthy financial or social basis until the Labour party is again in office and has an opportunity to give effect to its policy.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired. ls the amendment seconded?
– I second the amendment, and reserve my right to speak later.
.- The House has just listened to what I consider to be the most unctuous speech that I have heard during my parliamentary career, and it was followed by the most hypocritical amendment that it has been my misfortune to hear.
– I rise to order. Is the use of the term “ hypocritical “ not out of order? ifr. DEPUTY SPEAKER. - Order ! r think that several of the words that have been used since the resumption of the debate to-night have not been very happily chosen. To apply the word “ hypocritical “ to an honorable member is not desirable parliamentary conduct, but in the light of the words that have boon used by the honorable member for
Eden-Monaro, I do not intend to ask the honorable member for Capricornia to withdraw the term.
– I was referring to his description of the amendment.
– If the honorable member for Melbourne presses his point of order, I shall raise points of order on every matter that he brings up.
– Very well, then. 1 shall move that Mr. Deputy Speaker’s ruling be dissented from.
.- I move -
That the ruling be dissented from.
If the list of unparliamentary terms that has been circulated to honorable members is examined, it will be seen that the word “ hypocritical “ is included.
– Mr. Deputy Speaker has given his ruling.
– I am speaking to somebody with intelligence. 1 was about to point out to you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that previous rulings against the use of this word have been upheld. If anything that the honorable member for EdenMonaro (Mr. Allan Eraser) said was regarded as objectionable, action should have been taken at the time. The fact that no such action was taken does not justify you, sir, in permitting another honorable member to use the word “ Hypocrite “, which is included in the list of unparliamentary expressions that has been circulated to honorable members.
– I rise to order. When a point of order has been raised and you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, have given a ruling, can your ruling be debated without a motion of dissent being submitted ?
– The honorable member for Melbourne is now speaking to the motion that he has submitted.
– I rise to a further point of order. I contend that the honorable member for Melbourne is completely out of order in stating that the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Pearce) used the word “ hypocrite “. In point of fact, he applied the word “ hypocritical “ to an amendment that had been moved by another honorable member.
– My understanding of the position is that the honorable member for Capricornia applied the word “ hypocritical “ to the speech of the honorable member for Eden-Monaro and not to the honorable member himself. If the word had been applied to the honorable member, I would have ruled it out of order.
– I, too, rise to order. What I said was that I had just listened to the most unctuous speech that I had heard during’ my parliamentary career, and that it was followed by the most hypocritical amendment that I had ever heard.
– The honorable member for Capricornia, for the information of the House, has repeated the words that he used. I should certainly rule the expression out of order if it applied to the honorable member personally.
– I have moved that your ruling be disagreed with. I am grateful to the honorable member for Capricornia for his admission that he used the words “ hypocritical amendment “. I have a document here, circulated by Mr. Speaker Cameron, or under his authority, which is headed, “Unparliamentary Expressions “. The document states -
Hereunder are some of the general principles which have been declared on this subject, together with a list of words and expressions representative of those which have been considered unparliamentary in the Federal House.
Among the words and expressions listed are “ hypocrisy “, “ poli tical hypocrites “, “hypocrites and shams”, “hypocritical amendment” and “hypocritical pretence “. As you, sir, have ruled that your predecessors were in error in ruling that the use of the term “ hypocritical amendment,” was out of order, I have moved that your ruling be disagreed with.
Mr. Calwell having submitted his objection to the ruling in writing,
– le the motion seconded ?
– I second the motion.
– I call the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Sir Eric Harrison).
– I should hate to-
– As the seconder of the motion, am I allowed to speak to it?
– The seconder may speak to the motion.
– I rise to order. In view of the information conveyed to the House by the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell), I withdraw the words “ hypocritical amendment “.
.- I am seconding the motion of dissent moved by the honorable member for Melbourne Mr. Calwell). I was astounded by the utterances of the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Pearce). I think that the term he used was degrading to the Parliament, particularly in view of the fact that other occupants of the chair have ruled that such a term is unparliamentary. You, Mr. Deputy Speaker, like your predecessors, insist that the dignity of the Parliament shall be maintained. T know that Mr. Speaker Cameron did not act without due consideration when he issued the list to which the honorable member for Melbourne has directed attention. From the length of the list, it is obvious that it must have taken many weeks to compile. I feel that the use’ of the term “ hypocritical amendment “ is contrary to the best usages of the Parliament. It is certainly offensive to the Labour party, because we are not-
-Order! That has nothing to do with the motion of dissent.
– In view of the fact that the honorable member for Capricornia has withdrawn his remark, I withdraw my motion.
– I am prepared to accept the withdrawal.
– I rise to order. L refuse to allow the honorable member for Melbourne to withdraw his motion. The motion is before the House, and the honorable member has spoken to it. Surely he can withdraw it only with the consent of the House. I suggest that he is afraid of the repercussions from this side of the House. He is afraid to face up to the motion that he has moved. I submit that the motion can be withdrawn only with the consent of the House, and £ ask you to put the question accordingly.
– The motion stands.
– The honorable member for Melbourne endeavoured to co-operate with the Government by withdrawing his motion, so that the honorable member for Capricornia could proceed with his speech, but the matter has been taken out of our hands by the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Sir Eric Harrison).
I point out that the words to which we object are contained in the list of unparliamentary expressions issued by Mr. Speaker Cameron. I say quite frankly that, if one reads through the list, one wonders what words can be used in the House. The list covers about a dozen pages. Clearly set out, for every one to read, is the term “hypocritical amendment “. That was the term used by the honorable member for Capricornia. He used it deliberately in an attempt to belittle the excellent speech made by the honorable member for Eden-Monoaro (Mr. Allan Eraser) a few minutes ago. He withdrew the expression only when he realized that, if he did not do so, his speech, though it would have been of little use to the Parliament, would have to be deferred indefinitely.
We on this side of the House are not used to abusive language. I feel that the expression used by the honorable member for Capricornia was very offensive to the honorable member for Eden-Monaro. I regret that, after the honorable member for Capricornia had withdrawn the expression, having had the good sense to see that he would not be able to continue with his speech unless he did so, the VicePresident of the Executive Council, with all his old-time arrogance, said, “We refuse to allow the honorable member for
Melbourne to withdraw his motion “. The right honorable gentleman, like other members on the Government side, does not want to hear the honorable member for Capricornia, because he knows that the honorable member will add nothing to the debate.
– Order ! The honorable member for Grayndler must confine himself to the motion of dissent.
– I rise to order. I understand that the motion before the House is a motion of dissent from your ruling, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I do not think that the question is whether the term used by the honorable member for Capricornia was unparliamentary. You said that it was unparliamentary, but you would not order it to be withdrawn. Therefore, the motion is a motion of dissent from your action in not ordering a withdrawal. But the honorable member for Capricornia has withdrawn the expression. Therefore, I submit that the remarks of the honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly) about the unparliamentary nature of the expression are completely out of order, because that is not the matter that the House is called upon to decide.
– Why don’t you get out your machine gun?
– If I had one, brother, I should get it out and use it on you, and thereby earn the gratitude of most honorable members.
– I have nothing more to say concerning my ruling. The honorable member for Grayndler may continue.
– My point, Mr. Deputy Speaker, is that you have ruled that the expression “ hyprocritical amendment “ is unparliamentary. In the list of unparliamentary expressions to which reference has been made, numerous words are set out, the use of which would bring the Parliament into disrepute. I shall mention a few of them hurriedly.
-Order! Keep to the motion.
– The list contains many expressions which undoubtedly would cause offence, not only to members of the Parliament, but also to members of the public if applied to them. Any expression that imputes hypocrisy to an honorable member has been categorized as unparliamentary by Mr. Speaker Cameron. Among the expressions contained in the list are “ hypocritical amendment “, *’ hypocrites and shams “, “ hypocritical pretence “, “ idiotic question “ and “ ignoramus “. All of those expressions are unparliamentary.
– Order !
– The Vice-President of the Executive Council and the Minister for Social Services (Mr. McMahon) can get as excited as they like. The fact is that the Vice-President of the Executive Council is responsible for the continuation of the debate on this motion. The Labour party, anxious, as always, to bring harmony into the Parliament, offered to withdraw the motion. We realized, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that you could have made a genuine mistake, not remembering at the moment, as most of us did not, all of the unparliamentary expressions contained in the dozen or so pages of this document. The Labour party was anxious to allow the debate on the bill to proceed, and was even prepared to put up with the speech that the honorable member for Capricornia was going to deliver. But the Vice-President of the Executive Council, believing that be was back in the Army, decided that the debate on this motion should go on, irrespective of the circumstances that had arisen. 1 do not want to prolong the debate further. It has gone far enough. I should not have spoken if I had not been goaded by the Vice-President of the Executive Council and the manner in which he endeavoured to stampede the House. I am sorry to say that the time for the discussion of this motion has terminated the speech of the honorable member for Capricornia. However, I suppose that we will have to put up with his speech at the committee stage, if he misses making it at the second-reading Stage. He can attribute his predicament to the fact that you, sir, made a genuine mistake through not remembering the list of words which had previously been declared unparliamentary. The VicePresident of the Executive Council is to blame for refusing to accept the generous offer of the honorable member for Melbourne to withdraw his motion. I was astounded when you, sir, said that the term used by the honorable member for Capricornia was not unparliamentary.
– I rise to order. I ask, Mr. Deputy Speaker, whether there is noi a standing order of this House which prevents an honorable member from indulging in tedious repetition. The honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly) has used the same words over and over again, and is now about to turn over the record. We know what is your mind on this matter.
– There is a standing order which prohibits tedious repetition. I ask the honorable member for Grayndler to say something new.
– This is not a matter to be treated lightly. It is a matter for debate.
– Order !
– I shall not speak at length. Indeed, I have said all that 1 want to say on this question. I am noi disturbed by the suggestion of the Post master-General (Mr. Anthony) that 1 have been guilty of repetition. He himself, when sitting in Opposition, was h pastmaster at such a practice.
– Order ! I shall have to ask the honorable member for Grayndler to resume his seat if he persists in that strain. The point of order has been dealt with, and he must refrain from discussing it further.
– In deference to your ruling, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I shall shortly resume my seat, but before doing so I wish to join with the honorable member for Melbourne, who has moved dissent from your ruling. At the risk of again being interrupted by the Post master-General, I say that but for the action of the Vice-President of the Executive Council in not allowing the withdrawal of the motion, after you had unconsciously made an error, the debate would not have been held up. As I have said, I join with the Deputy Leader of the Opposition in dissenting from your ruling. I do not know whether the motion will be carried, but I take this opportunity to register my protest, together with that of other honorable members, at the action of the VicePresident of the Executive Council in endeavouring to stand over members of this Parliament and insisting on the motion being dealt with. I hope that the situation which has arisen will indicate that the right honorable gentleman cannot at all times dictate to the House what it shall do, and that it will make him realize that when the Labour party makes a generous gesture, as it has done in this instance, he should not treat it with arrogance.
– Honorable members generally and “those people who are listening to the debate can get some idea of the sincerity of Opposition members after hearing the remarks of the previous speaker, who has -acted as a buffoon and burlesqued the procedure in this chamber.
– I rise to order, and ask for the withdrawal of the word “ buffoon “ used by the Vice-President of the Executive Council.
– Order ! T am not concerned about any list of words to which the honorable member for Grayndler referred; but if the VicePresident of the Executive Council has applied the word “ buffoon “ to the honorable member for Grayndler, he must withdraw it.
– The honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly) has not objected to the remark I made, but the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) has done so. However, if I have offended the honorable member for Grayndler - although he does not seem to be offended - I withdraw the term, lt -seemed to be an apt description. When you, sir, gave your ruling you said that the language that had been used by a previous speaker in this debate was of such an unrestrained nature that it was not happy for the Parliament that such expressions should be used. You then gave your ruling. The honorable memoer for Melbourne, on whose sensitive ears the observation made by the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Pearce) grated, moved dissent from your ruling, after taking a point of order. In the course of his remarks the honorable member for Melbourne said that if a previous speaker had said something that offended against the rules of the House, the Chair should have taken notice of it at the time. What he did not- say was that although he sat on the front bench, he thoroughly enjoyed and applauded every one of the unparliamentary expressions of the previous speaker. Indeed, he urged that speaker on. Then, in a manner which is characteristic of him, he rose in his place, and in the most unctuous tones - like a famous character in fiction, Uriah Heep, he wrung his hands - moved a motion of dissent from your ruling. That action was a prelude to the remarks to which we have listened from the honorable member for Grayndler, and together those honorable members gave some indication of what was behind the action of the honorable member for Melbourne. Did he object to a term that he himself has used repeatedly in this House? Of course not. Did he object to the unparliamentary expression used by a previous speaker? Of course not. He objected to the honorable member for Capricornia having full time to answer the scurrilous remarks made by the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Allan Fraser). He rose in his place in an endeavour to prevent the honorable member for Capricornia from answering that speaker in fair debate. That is the basis of the motion that he moved. Knowing full well that he would be exposed, he sought in a servile manner to withdraw the motion, because he feared what would happen, and that he would be exposed in his unashamed nakedness to the people who have been listening to this debate. Therefore, let me say to the honorable member, who sits on the front bench applauding unparliamentary and nasty expressions made by a preceding speaker, that he has used ForCe expressions in this House and has endeavoured to prevent freedom of speech when he seeks to with draw his motion in such a servile way. This House will have none of such behaviour, and therefore. I move - That the question be now put.
Question put. The House divided. (Mr. Deputy Speaker - Mr. C. F. Adermann.)
Majority . . . . 10
Question so resolved in the affirmative, Question put -
That the rulingbe dissented from.
The House divided. (Mr. Deputy Speaker - Mr. C. F. Adermann.)
Majority . . . . 11
Question so resolved in the negative.
(No. 2) 1955.
Debate resumed (vide page 1373).
The lime allowed to Mr. Pearce by Standing Order 92 for his speech on the original question having expired,
Suspension of Standing Orders.
Motion (by Sir Eric Harrison) proposed -
That so muchof the Standing Orders he suspended as would prevent Mr. Pearce from concluding his speech without limitation of time.
.- I wish to support the motion. The Opposition believes in freedom of speech.
We want to hear the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Pearce). Whatever happened in the recent debate was on a question of procedure. The Opposition does not offer any objection to the honorable member for Capricornia having the advantage of the 30 minutes that he is allowed under the Standing Orders.
Question resolved in the affirmative with the concurrence of an absolute majority.
.- The honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Allan Fraser) in the opening remarks of a speech, which I have already described, made some play upon the delay in the payment of the increases which this Government is giving to age, invalid and widow pensioners.
– The “ hypocritical “ amendment !
– The honorable member saved me the trouble of saying it. The honorable member for Eden-Monaro well knew what was happening because the extension of the debate on the Estimates by three full days was made by arrangement with the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) after repeated requests by Labour supporters. When the honorable member for Melbourne entered into that arrangement he knew full well that it would push the payment date of the new pensions beyond the next pension pay day, and so delay the payment to the pensioners in the community.
– I rise to order. The honorable member’s statement that I made an arrangement-
-Order! The honorable member may only make a personal explanation.
– I made no arrangement to rob the pensioners of their pensions.
– Furthermore, Opposition members knew full well that the net result of the frivolous urgency motions with which they have come forward day after day would be to deny the pensioners a fortnight’s increase. So, any adjectives that I may have used about the previous speech were well justified. These moves by the Labour party, which were sanctioned and negotiated by the honorable member for Melbourne, were deliberately designed to stop the payment of the higher pensions for an extra fortnight.
– I rise to order. The honorable member for Capricornia has now made the statement that the a r rangements
– Order ! That is not a point of order. The honorable member will resume his seat.
– I want you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, to hear my point of order. The honorable member for Capricornia has said that the members of the Opposition deliberately arranged with the Government to delay payment of the higher pensions, and I say that that is not true.
-Order! No point of order is involved. On the contrary, there seems to be an attempt to prevent the honorable member for Capricornia from speaking, and if it continues I will have to take action.
– The second point made by the honorable member for EdenMonaro related to the application of the C series index to the present rate of pension. No Opposition member will deny that there is a C series price index, that the last index number before Labour left office was 1428, and that the maximum pension rate payable was then a miserable £2 2s. 6d. It is beyond controversy that the C series price index figure for the last quarter was 2375, and that for the ratio between the index figure and the pension rate to have been made the same as it was when the Chifley Government left office, the pension rate need have been increased by only 8d. That is what Labour means by this amendment. The honorable member for Eden-Monaro said, in effect, “ Let us disregard the C series index and look at the basic wage “. He sought, by some wriggling of figures, to show that if the ratio between the basic wage and the pension were the same to-day as it was under the Chifley Government, the pension would be £4 lis. To prove once more that the Labour party speaks, with two tongues - and perhaps more- on this matter, I propose to refer to a broadcast by the honorable member for Melbourne, who is deputy leader of the federal Labour party, over station 3KZ on Sunday, the 21st August, 1955. In the course of that quite recent broadcast, he said -
It is hard to see just what benefits can be expected in the forthcoming budget-
He was referring to the budget that has just been debated in this chamber. He said further -
Old age and invalid pensioners may get n rise of 5s. or 7s. fid. a week but-
And here he was speaking as the deputy leader of the federal Labour party - if the 1955 budget is no better than the 1954 one they will get nothing. To bring age and invalid pensions up to 36 per cent, of the basic wage would necessitate a pension increase of at least 10s. a week.
The pensioners are getting that 10s. a week and to-night Labour’s official spokesman on this bill has wriggled the figures around against those of his deputy leader. Therefore, it is hard to rely upon anything that Labour says, but if we go back to the information allegedly supplied to the honorable member for Eden-Monaro by the Commonwealth Statistician, to the effect that the 1948 £1 is worth only 10s. 6d. now, I point out that we are ahead of that issue also. In the June quarter of 1948, which was quoted by the honorable member for Eden-Monaro, the pension rate paid bv the Chifley Government was only £1 7s. 6d. so, even if that amount is doubled there is still a surplus of 5s., which this Government has given to the pensioners.
The honorable member for EdenMonaro also made some play on child endowment, but history has recorded his opinion - and indeed that of all members of the Labour party - on child endowment. In 1949 they followed their leader and said, “ We will not give endowment to the first child “. The late Mr. Chifley (escribed the proposal of the present Government parties to endow the first child of a marriage as “ a political fraud “. He went on to say -
Payment of endowment for the first child could result in a reduction of 9s. a week in the basic wage.
That was the opinion of the then leader of the Australian Labour party. The speech of the honorable member for EdenMonaro, to which I cannot apply tff)jectives, was to the effect that the
Government should have done somethingabout child endowment, yet when we did* do something, despite what Mr. Chifley had said, the measure received no real support from the Labour party, and the honorable member for Eden-Monaro was one of those who opposed payment of” endowment for the first child. How, then, are we to take the Labour party’s stand for the pensioners? Are we to accept what the party promises now, or whatit promised at the elections in 1954? There is a vast difference between those two stands by the Labour party. Itsmembers, have watered down, a lot of the rash promises that they made in 1954. Or should we look to Labour’s record and recall how, time and time again, it has frustrated attempts by this Government to do worth-while things for thepensioners? Indeed, as I have said, the Labour party has now, by the method that I have described, delayed payment to the pensioners.
What happened to the pensioners under the Labour regime? How were they placed in 1947 when the Labour party, flushed with victory at the 194ft poll, was in office. The poor pensioner who wanted to have a cup of tea - and much has been said by the honorablemember for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) about the pensioners’ cup of tea - was allowed to purchase 2 oz. of tea a week.
That was Labour’s gesture to the pensioners - 2 oz. of tea a week and they had to have coupons in order to purchase it. If they wanted sugar to put in their tea, or with which to make a. cake, or toput in their porridge, they were allowed 1 lb. a week in 1947. That was the beneficence of the great AustralianLabour party to the invalid and age pensioners ! If they wanted to use butter they had to get coupons for it. The maximumquantity of butter that a pensioner wasallowed for spreading on his bread was ft oz. a week in 1949 when the present Government took office. There is the record of Labour and its desire to help the invalid and age pensioners ! Two miserable ounces of tea a week, 1 lb. of sugar,, and 6 oz. of butter - and the pensioners had to line up at a post office for a coupon book before the poor creatures could buy their 2 oz. of tea.
Let us judge Labour on what it has done; and let us judge the speech of the honorable member for Eden-Monaro on what Labour has done. The pensioners were neglected by the Labour party which, in 1949, refused to increase the age pension. The Labour party would not do anything about the derelict pensioners in the street. It would not do anything to provide homes for them; it would not provide homes for the aged; it would not provide homes for the invalids ; it would not do anything to help them in their plight. This Government has introduced a scheme which, this year, will provide beds, homes and living quarters, under good conditions, for 2,000 of these people who would otherwise be homeless or uncared for. But when the Labour party had the power to do that, it did nothing.
When the Labour party was in office, it sent the age pensioners, the invalid pensioners and the widow pensioners to Une up in a queue at an out-patients’ department at some benevolent hospital, or sent them to become mendicants at the doctor’s door and rely on his good nature and good humour to treat them and not send them a bill. The Labour party -made these people, who could not afford to pay for proper medical attention, suffer the indignity of becoming mendicants, going to an out-patients’ department, and waiting in a queue for treatment, or throwing themselves on the mercy of other people. This Government hae been able to introduce a medical benefits scheme which has proved to be immensely worth while to the age pensioners, the invalid pensioners and the widow pensioners in our community. That scheme has proved to be of immeasurable benefit to them, if for no other reason than that it has restored to the pensioners some of the dignity that the Labour party cruelly took away by its wicked approach to the pensioner’s problem.
Now I come to the bill before the House. The Minister, in his secondreading speech, has pointed out the various benefits that will come to- the aged, the invalid and the widowed pensioners by virtue of this legislation. What does it mean? It means that the pensioners in the community will receive an extra 10s. a week. That is in accordance with the record of this Government through the years. When this Government introduced its first budget, the rate of pension payable to age, invalid and widow pensioners of £2 2s. 6d. a week, which Labour had given to them, was increased by 7s. 6d. In 1951 came the record increase in age, invalid and widows’ pensions of 10s. a week, a record which has been equalled this year. In 1952 the Government granted a further increase of 7s. 6d. a week, and in 1953 au increase of 2s. 6d. a week. This year, as I have said, the increase will be 10s. a week, making a total increase in pensions of 37s. 6d. a week since this Governmenttook office, an increase of 88.2 per cent, on the pension paid by the Labour Government. No government since federation can claim to have bestowed on the pensioners any benefits equivalent to these benefits.
In addition to these real benefits in cash, have come other benefits including the pensioners’ medical benefits scheme, and the pharmaceutical benefits scheme. Sympathy and understanding have been brought to the problem of pensioners. The means test has been relaxed over the years, and thousands of people who were excluded by the Labour Government from enjoying any sort of pension, are now eligible for some sort of pension. I como to the property means test - the property limit beyond which no pension is payable. In 1951, when this problem was tackled by the present Government, it found that the property limit, as determined by a Labour government, was £750. Anybody who had property, the value of which exceeded £750, had no right to a pension. In 1951, the present Government increased that limit to £1,000, and in 1953 to £1,250. Last year, the limit was increased by a further £500, and now stands at £1,750.
In 1951, the Government also came across the problem of people who were denied a pension because they owned property in certain circumstances. These people owned houses which were rented to somebody else, and they could not get the tenants out of them, though they had tried hard to do so. Because such persons owned homes of which they could not get possession, the Labour Government had reduced or cancelled their pensions. In 1951, the Government gave to the DirectorGeneral of Social Services discretionary power to disregard the ownership of property in certain cases. This direction has given much-needed relief to pensioners who have had to leave their homes through ill health, or for some other reason, and have been unable to regain possession of them. But the Labour party did not give that discretionary power to the DirectorGeneral of Social Services. I have heard Labour members praise the Director-General for his wise, sympathetic and understanding use of this discretionary power which was given to him in 1951.
When the present Government came to office in 1949 and examined invalid pensions, it found that the means test had been screwed down upon invalid pensioners so that they could earn only 30s. a week. In 1953 the amount of permissible income was increased by 10s. a week, thereby raising the limit of income plus pension to £5 10s. a week for a -ingle man and to £11 a week for a married couple, both of whom were pensioners. Look at the various other benefits that have been brought about by this Government ! The Government examined the problem of young people to whom the Labour Government, during the eight and a half years it was in office, had denied the right to receive social services, making their parents responsible for them because the parents happened ro receive a little more than the basic wage. In 1951 this Government, examining the problem of young people under the >?e of 21 years, decided that the. amount i»f income that an invalid pensioner under 21 years of age would be permitted to receive, should be increased from £3 to £4 a week. In 1952, the Government carried on the process of bringing the greatest amount of -benefit possible to the needy, vear by year, and the adequate maintenance provision in the social services legislation was repealed, and the circumstances of parents were disregarded entirely in the determination of a claimant’s eligibility for an invalid penton. This move in the field of social services is one of the great things that this Government has done for invalid, »ae find the widow pensioners. The
Labour party, although it was in officefor eight and a half years, did not dothose things. So the words of the honorable member for Eden-Monaro can be judged against his deeds when he was a supporter of the Labour Government in the clays in which that Administration could have done the things about which he spoke to-night.
The present Government looked further afield, and found that the wives of invalid, pensioners and age pensioners who werenot entitled to a pension themselves werein a parlous plight. The wife’s allowancein 1949 was £1 4s. a week. It was raised to £1 10s. a week in 1951 and, as a further part of the process of helping these people, this amount was raised in 1952 by another 5s. to_£l 15s. The Government found that children’s allowances were at the rate of 9s. a week. Immediately after this Government came to office, it set to work to consider the allowance and, as soon as practicable, it was raised to lis. 6d. a week. In 1952, we looked at the problem of the blind pensioner in our community in order to find out how best we could help him, and a measure was introduced to provide him with a pension of £3 a week free of the means test. In 1954, as a part of the gradual process of helping the needy in the community, for the first time in the history of Australia, the means test was completely removed from the section of the community eligible for blind pensions. Blind persons were given a full pension, irrespective of their means. Going through the various benefits, it will be seen that, progressively, year after year, this Government has reviewed the needs of the people in the community. In relation to the unemployed and sick persons in the community, what do we find? Iti 1949, when this Government came to office an unmarried person under eighteen years of age who was sick or unemployed was paid a benefit of 15s. a week. That was all that Labour, which claims to be the friends of these unfortunate people, paid them. Only 15s. a week for an unemployed or sick ,boy or girl under eighteen years of age! In 1952, that benefit was increased to £1 10s. a week,, and the allowance payable to sick or unemployed persons who were ‘ overeighteen, but under 21 years of age and unmarried, was raised from £1 to £2 a week. In 1952, the allowance payable to adults and married minors in that category was raised from £1 5s. to £2 10s. a week, and the additional benefit payable to the spouse of an unemployed person in that category was raised from £1 to £2 a week. These increases were of considerable assistance to the unemployed and sick members of the community. It is to the great and lasting credit of this Government that it has been able to tackle these problems progressively so that, year after year, thousands of additional persons have been brought within the ambit of our social services scheme, which is without equal in the world, and of which this Government and the people of Australia have every right to feel jusifiably proud. We are proud of what we have been able to do for these people.
I come now to the pensioner medical service, which was introduced by this Government, and which has been of tremendous benefit to the pensioners.
– Order ! The discussion of medical benefits is not permissible during this debate.
– Then I shall leave that subject, because the benefits speak for themselves.
– That is right - they do!
– I turn now to the various provisions of the bill before the House. The increase of age, invalid and widows’ pensions by 10s. a week, for which provision is made in the bill, will be paid as from the 27th October. I refer to widows with children under sixteen years of age, whose pension will be increased to £4 5s. a week. Other widows who have dependent children in other categories will receive £3 7s. 6d. a week. We have lifted the pension to a rate that has increased its purchasing power to an amount of 9s. 4d. above what it was when Labour was in office.
– Rubbish !
– The percentage increase has been at the rate of 88.2 per cent, over the period of less than six years that this Government has been in office. “We have subsidized the provision of homes for aged persons, and as this year progresses more and more charitable and religious institutions will be providing worth-while home3 for the old people in our community.
It is not my desire to trespass unduly on the generosity of the House, which has kindly afforded me an opportunity to make this speech, but I want to say how much I appreciate the privilege of supporting a government which, year by year, has built up such a splendid record in the field of social services, a record which is not equalled in any other country of the world. ~No other country has made such progress in the field of social services as has Australia under the MenziesFadden Administration. It is of no use for supporters of the Australian Labour party to utter platitudes in relation to social services benefits ; they tried that in 1954, but the people did not believe them. The pensioners know that they cannot trust Labour. They remember that when the Labour Government was in office it gave them 2 oz. of tea and 1 lb. of sugar a week, and if they wanted butter to put on their bread they could buy 6 oz. of that commodity each week. Those niggardly provisions have been removed from the statute-book. The pensioners have been relieved of those limitations, imposed by a restrictive government, and they are now receiving the benefit of the best social services programme iri the world.
– I rise to make a personal explanation. I have been grossly, most improperly and most unfairly misrepresented by the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Pearce). He made the outrageous statement that I had asked the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Sir Eric Harrison) to grant an extra three days for the debate on the Estimates in order that the pensioners would not be able to get the increases that the Government proposes to give them for a fortnight later than the Government intended.
Government supporters interjecting,
– He said that. The truth is that in my negotiations and deliberations with my esteemed colleague, the Leader of the House, the question-
– It is no use trying to square off now.
– I am not squaring off at all; I am paying the right honorable gentleman a compliment that cannot be paid to him by those in his own ranks. At least I can esteem his qualities where bis colleagues cannot do so. I was told by the Leader of the House that it was bis intention to allow ten days for debate on the Estimates this year, compared with eight days last year, because he thought - and I agreed with him - that honorable members should have more time in which to debate the departmental Estimates. Now, that was the arrangement. T agreed with what the right honorable gentleman suggested. I certainly did not go to him and say, “ Give us an extra three days so that we can deprive the pensioners of their increase “. As a matter of fact, if I had done that, I should have been guilty of a wrong.
– Order ! The honorable gentleman is going beyond the scope of a personal explanation.
– I am saying that that is what I was accused of having done. If I had done it, I should have been guilty of a wrong, and so would the VicePresident of the Executive Council, who would have to agree with me in order that the extra time could be granted. Whatever arrangement was made was mutually satisfactory to the Government and to the Opposition. Therefore, it is most unjust, most improper, and most unfair of the honorable member for Capricornia to make the irresponsible suggestion that something I did, in consultation with the Vice-President of the Executive Council, was designed to prevent pensioners from getting the benefit of this legislation, and had the effect of depriving them of their pension rise for a fortnight longer than the Government originally intended. I am sure that, as the Vice-President of the Executive Council, imitating Solon and Nestor, and other great figures of wisdom, does not dissert from what I have put to you, Mr. Deputy Speaker.
– I wish to make a personal explanation. As one who supported the previous Labour Government, I have been misrepresented, as far as my actions are concerned, by the utterances of the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr.
Pearce). The honorable member stated, that I was a party, with other honorablemembers, to giving the pensioners a couple of pounds of butter, a few poundsof tea-
– Order !! The honorable member will resume hia- seat. The honorable member for Capricornia did not mention the honorablemember for Grayndler (Mr. Daly).
– I know, but he referred to me-
– Order ! The honorable member will resume his seat while I am speaking. If he refuses to obey, he will have to leave the chamber. I call the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. Joshua).
– I rise to order, regardingyour calling the honorable member for Ballarat, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I understand that the arrangement is that members of the party which the honorable member for Ballarat leads shall receive one call in seven in the Parliament. Only one speaker from the Opposition has so far taken part in this debate, and I maintain that the honorable member for Port Adelaide (Mr. Thompson) should now be called, and that the honorable member for Ballarat should wait until the honorable member for Port Adelaide has been heard.
-Order 1 The honorable member knows quite well that there are other parties in the House besides the party to which he is attached. I call the Leader of the Anti-Communist Labour party.
– The honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Pearce) repeated, in his usual fluent style, most of the things that the Minister for Social Services (Mr. McMahon) stated in his speech, and his remarks call for no special comment, except that he referred frequently to the Labour party led by the late Mr. Chifley in 1949 and seemed to be under the. misapprehension that the honorable members who now sit on the Opposition benches represent the same party. Some of those honorable members look like the honorable memberswho were in Mr. Chifley’s Government,. but it is by no means the same party. If it were, I should not now be the Leader of the Anti-Communist Labour party.
As I foreshadowed in my speech on the budget, I wish to move an amendment in order to eliminate the practice whereby welfare payments have become the subject of political bargaining. Before I do so, I should like your ruling, Mr. Deputy Speaker, whether I shall be in order in proceeding to move the amendment.
– No, the honorable gentleman will not be in order.
– I felt that perhaps that would be the case. Nevertheless, [ want to refer to what this party wishes to put forward, and I foreshadow that, probably at the committee stage, I shall move that the bill be withdrawn and redrafted to make provision for the appointment of a royal commission to ascertain and inform the Parliament of suitable amounts which should be payable for the comfort and needs of the various recipients of welfare payments.
We have before us now the amendment of the party led by the right honorable member for Barton (Dr. Evatt). The speech of the honorable member for EdenMonaro (Mr. Allan Fraser), in which he moved that amendment, was given in his usual manner, which I have always found extremely interesting, but his speech did not seem to have the same sincerity as his work usually carries. It appeared to me to be the work of some one behind the scenes. I felt that his amendment and his speech represented a transparent move to do what has been done for so long: to secure votes by means of political bribery. We see in this sort of thing the bad and unsocial practice of making welfare payments the subject of political bargaining, and an inducement to vote for a certain political party.
We should bear in mind most seriously that we are dealing with a subject which calls forth the most generous feelings of honorable members. We are dealing with a subject which requires the utmost sympathy and understanding on the part of honorable members, as well as the greatest sense of responsibility. Yet, in the amendment moved by the Opposition. we find the old stale political procedure being’ adopted in which the Government grants an increase and the Opposition says, somewhat like a parrot, “ Not enough “. So this cruel and calculating juggling with the vote-catching factor goes on. In a matter of profound importance to half a million people, we see this kind of thing, when those people are waiting for some comprehensive and practical thinking about their position.
In this social services debate, we find another suggestion coming from honorable members who sit behind the right honorable member for Barton, to be tried out like a garment, on the sorry political figure that his party is cutting at the present time, to make it look a bit better. We should think, for a moment, of the earlier suggestion of the right honorable member for Barton, thought up by him and foisted on the Labour party: abolition pf the means test. That has been thrown into the rubbish bin because it did not suit. It was thin and revealing. It allowed no room for the bulging inflation that would have occurred. Its only purpose, despite the warnings of more thoughtful members of the Labour party, was to secure the support of the people at the general election. It can be seen that, in the hands of the unscrupulous, pension benefits and welfare payments can be a cruel and callous bait with which to gull the people into the belief that they are voting for their own welfare. Instead, they are tricked into placing their whole security and hope of progress in the hands of men like the right honorable member for Barton, whose real objectives become clearer every day.
The abolition of the means test has been discarded, and the amendment that is now before the House will be thrown out and discarded in the same way, because of this callous procedure of the Parliament. As a means of bringing social justice to the people, it can only be described as an inhuman, insincere and unworthy method of making a bit out of the pensioners. What is necessary is a new and enlightened approach. Anything that makes some progress towards decreasing this tendency to go vote-catching in the field of social services is new. That is why, in my speech on the budget, I gave notice- that I would move that a royal commission be appointed to ascertain and inform the Parliament concerning suitable amounts which should be payable to meet the comfort and needs of various recipients of welfare payments.
There is a considerable number of groups of people who fit into fairly clearly defined sets of circumstances, but up to the present, no attempt has ever been made to assess accurately what is necessary for their respective needs. By way of a distinct group, we might take the ease of the age pensioners, who, at present, are supposed to be able to get by on one type of pension. Is there not an important distinction to be recognized between the pensioner who lives by himself or by herself and those who live together? Surely, those who share the same rent, the same fire and the same light have an economic advantage over the man or woman who must live alone. A royal commission could examine this aspect and inform the Parliament properly. Its conclusions would be helpful, and the evidence given before it could be the basis of much sounder progress than is possible under the present method. Rule-of-thumb methods are quite unsuitable for important and complex matters, and our suggestion is that there should be a more sympathetic appreciation of, and a more systematic approach to, the needs of pensioners.
Similarly, the particular needs of women require special consideration. Whereas all the age pensioners are supposed to be the same and to need the same things, we know that women vary vastly. Indeed, women are looked at in a great variety of ways by the Department of Social Services, and also by the Minister. For instance, there is an extraordinary degree of variation between the rates of pension given to different classes of women. An aged or an invalid woman receives a pension of £4 a week. A class A widow receives £4 5s. a week, whilst classes B, C and D widows receive £3 7?. 6d. The wife of an unemployed man, though still a woman, gets £2 a week, and a woman who is unemployed gets £2 10s. the repatriation wife’s allowance is £1 15s. 6d. a week. An allowance is paid to a wife who cares for her pensioner husband. She, for some reason or other, receives £1 15s. a week. The variations are extraordinary and very considerable. It is high time a properly considered and informed report was submitted to Parliament for its consideration. Such a report could be made by the royal commission to which I have referred.
– How long would it take the royal commission to make the report?
– Royal commissions take their time. There is no reason why a royal commission should not be appointed at once. Its report would be of great benefit to the community.
There is also the matter of child endowment, which is particularly subject to political bargaining. That was most apparent in 1949, as no one can deny. At the present time, there is a very pressing need for close attention to the subject, and the first essential is adequate information. There is no doubt that the pattern of our future will be beaten out on the hearth of the family home. It is essential that family life be in fact the happiest and the most desirable way of living, and that the home be to young people a place of happiness, comfort and security, free from the anxiety and drudgery of trying to make ends meet. A variety of influences have recently introduced some unharmonious colours into the picture of contented married life. Young people in families in which there are three, four, five or more children find that the wage of the father alone is all too small to provide much comfort, and that life in the home -entails sacrifices for both mother and father, who willingly deny themselves for their children. A.= a result, the whole family has a thin time. The present rates of child endowment, which sire supposed to remove this kind of difficulty, are not based on a sound knowledge of reasonable standards of living and comfort. These rates are out of date and the usefulness of child endowment has been diminished by the great deterioration of the purchasing power of money. For years no attempt has been made to maintain the rates at a level adequate for the real needs of the family. Full employment has provided a partial remedy. Those wives who can arrange for their children to be cared for in their absence go out to work. Too often, the mother of a family of three or four children goes out to work by day and has to do the housework at night and wash at the week-ends, if the weather is dry. I do not deplore the opportunities afforded to housewives to supplement the family income, but the position of those who are unable to do so, or who feel that their duty to husband, children and home prevents them from taking employment, should be understood and they should be helped.
The case for a complete overhaul of all our welfare payments is overwhelmingly strong, and we of the AntiCommunist Labour party wish to make it perfectly clear that neither the Government nor the party led by the right honorable member for Barton has proposed measures that we think will provide a complete and proper answer to the perennial problems of social services. The appointment of a royal commission to ascertain, and inform the Parliament of, the amounts that should be paid to provide for the comfort and needs of the various recipients of welfare payments would remove from the election arena the subject of social services payments and would enable pensioner societies to place their case before an independent and impartial body. The royal commission would be able to report to the Parliament the true present position and could relate its findings relative to the needs of the various recipients of welfare payments to some real standard such as the cost of living. It could ul.’o report its findings in relation to additional standards of comfort and could relate the additional amounts to he paid to provide comfort, as distinct from those for the satisfaction of needs, lo some indicator of productivity such as the basic wage. The function of Parliament would not be usurped, because it would decide how the findings of the royal commission should be implemented. At the very least, all the parties repre-‘ ser.ted in this House would have a reliable report on which to work, and as a result certain standards of comfort would become established and could be maintained.
We know that the rates of pension provided for in the bill have been formulated on an unsound basis, and we have reason to believe that they are quite inadequate. As a result, for the present, we support some pensioner societies in their request for an age pension equivalent to half the basic wage. This term connotes a pension based on a defined proportion of a real standard of productivity. We know, also, that, owing to the deterioration of the purchasing power of money, some welfare payments have become hopelessly out of keeping with the costs they were meant to cover. In short, many benefits are being reduced so that others may be increased. In addition, we know that for years the whole subject of welfare payments has been the plaything of politics and has been exploited as a vote catcher. The combined result of all these factors is an erratic and inconsistent application of this huge sum of £218,000,000, which is one of the most important item* of expenditure in the budget. We should not be frightened of, or concerned by, its mounting size. We should recognize that we are muddling with it. The sooner we introduce a proper starting point such as the royal commission that. I advocate, the quicker shall we overcome hardship and injustice. The Australian Labour party could have supported my proposal. Instead, it has chosen to throw in its amendment in advance.
The report of a royal commission of the kind that I advocate is most desirable. Every one knows what an enormous business it is to budget for our huge expenditure on social services. Surely the Government should be properly advised on this item of expenditure as it is on other items in the budget. I believe it has the best possible advice on most items, but I am certain that it has no advice about which social services are really necessary. If the report of a royal commission were submitted to this honorable House, all parties would exhibit a considerable degree of unanimity about necessary reforms, some of which would be major and some minor. These reforms could be agreed to in the Parliament and the social services legislation would become an instrument of much greater value to the community and would dispense a greater measure of social justice than at present. We might have some differences about the major matters, but at least we should have the best possible advice and we all should know what we were talking about.
Before I conclude, I wish to mention some of the social services that are provided by the Government. At least one of them must be commended. Any one, whether a member of the Opposition or not, who does not commend the allocation of funds for the provision of homes for the aged, does not look at the problems of the aged with the eyes of a true man who likes to see social justice done. The funds provided by the Government for the provision of homes for the aged have been of great benefit to aged people in my electorate and a great many other areas. Now that grants are made for the provision of homes for the aged, many organizations that care for aged people are considering how they can best use government grants, and they have found that in many instances the scale of the grants does not allow them to extend their homes in the most economic manner. I know of organizations that have made plans for development, for which the Minister for Social Services (Mr. McMahon), on behalf of the Government, has provided certain funds. This assistance will be extremely helpful. However, if they had the assurance of further assistance, they could plan for twice the expansion and could undertake it in the most economic manner. Therefore, it would be a good thing if the Government introduced a supplementary measure to provide more money for homes for the aged. I am sure such a bill would receive support from all quarters of the House.
I wish to conclude by commending to the House this proposal of mine, and I hope that we shall have an opportunity to put it before honorable members for debate. I hope, also, that it will come into being, because it is important that we should avoid the deplorable practice under which the Government makes a proposal and the Opposition claims that it is not enough. When an election is held, the same practice is followed. I look forward to the general election which will be held in due course, and I have no doubt that the Government will make proposals for social services. A day or two later, the Leader of the Opposition will give his policy speech on behalf of the Australian Labour party, and will make an offer a little better than that put forward by the Government. Then I shall be expected, when I make my policy speech, to offer something better. That is the wrong way to approach social services. Honorable members should have proper information before them when discussing this matter. We should achieve unanimity on social services, and place the matter in the proper perspective. The people would know then what was considered best for the recipients of social services payments, and for the community as a whole.
.- The honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. Joshua), speaking on behalf of the AntiCommunist Labour party which he leads, has intimated to the House that that party believes that a royal commission should be appointed to consider social services benefits and make recommendations to the Government as to suitable amounts that should be paid for the various forms of social services relief. That proposal might sound all right theoretically, but I listened with interest to the honorable member’s speech to see whether he would indicate what should happen in the meantime. It is notorious that a royal commission takes some time to make an investigation. The inquiry proposed by the honorable member would be very complex, and it would be months before the commission would be in a position to submit its recommendations to the Government. Therefore, I waited with interest to hear what the honorable member had to offer in the meantime. Perhaps some of his supporters will indicate just what they propose to do about the bill that is before the House, because that is the question honorable members are debating. The bill has been submitted by the Government, and honorable members will have to vote on it. I hope that honorable members who support the honorable member for Ballarat will realize, even though they may not succeed in having a royal commission appointed, that the hill before the House is by far the best that has been offered, and that it merits their support.
The honorable member for Ballarat referred to one point which indicated his party’s present line of thought. He said that his party had decided to support the recommendations of the pensioners’ leagues that the rate of pension should be increased to half the basic wage. That is a nice, easy, popular sort of statement to make, but no Government and no party should advocate such a proposal unless they are satisfied that it is within the economic competency of the nation to carry such an increase. Therefore, the first thing to be done in looking at such a proposal is to discover what will be the cost, not to the Government but to the taxpayers. I have done that, and I have found that the cost of an increase of pensions from the present rate of £3 10s. a week to an amount equal to half the present basic wage - about £6 a week- would be £67,500,000 a year. All people who approach these matters in the light of the knowledge that consideration must be given to the claims of all sections of the community will concede that any suggestion to extend social services expenditure by £67,500,000 a year at present is quite untenable.
I make this comment about the statements that have been made by the honorable member for Ballarat: They were offered in a commendable spirit. I detected no insincerity in his remarks, and it was pleasing to see him applying himself to this problem without making any insincere charges against the Government, or advancing meaningless proposals. 1 am sorry that I cannot say the same of the one speech that has been made so far from the Opposition benches on behalf of the Australian Labour party. The speech that was delivered by the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Allan Eraser) showed, once again, that the Australian Labour party is endeavouring to woo the pensioners by submitting proposals and suggestions to the House which are completely insincere, utterly impractical and, in some cases, meaningless in their vagueness.
After the experience of the Labour party in the last general election for the
House of Representatives. when it tried the same thing with singular lack of success, one would have thought that the Labour party’s supporters would have learnt their lesson, and would have endeavoured to put forward reasonable and sound proposals. Apparently, however, the Labour party is still prepared to say anything if it thinks it can get away with it, and is still trying to persuade the pensioners that it supports them.
Honorable members will recall that the honorable member for Eden-Monaro began his speech with a statement uttered with almost bated breath to the effect that he had heard with astonishment over the radio network to-day that the Government proposed to defer the increased rates of pensions until about a fortnight’s time. The statement of the honorable member was designed to appeal to people outside the House. Obviously, it was a piece of acting, because the honorable member must have known that all his hearers in this House would realize that his speech came within the category of hardy annual. With horror in his voice, the honorable member added, “ This is something shameful ! “ I cite these remarks of the honorable member for EdenMonaro as an example of the insincerity which runs right through the proposals of the Australian Labour party. As I have said, this is becoming a hardy annual. The terms in which the honorable member for Eden-Monaro expresses himself on social services benefits are becoming more and more extravagant as he has more practice in submitting proposals on behalf of the Opposition.
Honorable members who have been in the Parliament for two or three years know that this is not the first time that the honorable member for Eden-Monaro has moved an amendment in almost exactly the same terms. He moved one on the 10th September, 1952, and another in 1953. His amendment of 1952 was moved during the debate on a social services measure put forward by this Government to increase rates of pensions by 7s. 6d., and to apply the increase from the first pension day after the passing of the bill. Let us consider the statements of the honorable member for EdenMonaro on that occasion while we keep in mind what he said to-night on a similar motion. I remind honorable members that he claimed to have heard, with astonishment, that the Government proposed to carry out its proposal to defer the increased rates for a brief time, and that he described the proposal as “ shameful “. Three years ago, in moving a similar amendment on the 10th September, 1952, the honorable member said -
The Opposition urges the Government to agree that the proposed increase of pensions, whatever it may be, should operate from the 1st July last. It is true that it is not the practice to make increases nf social services payments retrospective.
Honorable members heard with amusement to-night that it was “ a shameful thing” that the Government proposed, but three years ago the honorable member admitted that it was not the practice to make payments of social services retrospective. In his statement of 1952 he continued -
It must bc admitted that the general rule is that an increase shall operate From a date subsequent to the passing of the relevant bill.
Therefore, in view of those statements, how can he now contend, two years later, that this present Government’s proposal is something shameful, something new? His own words two years ago completely contradict what he has said to-night. He said more than that; he went on -
It is all so true, and in fairness it should be admitted, that when the Chifley Government increased the rate of pension by 5s. a week in 1948, the payment was not made retrospective, but operated from a date subsequent to the passing of the bill.
Does not that quotation from the actual words of the honorable member for EdenMonaro two years ago show exactly what a hollow sham is this amendment which the Opposition has moved to make the payment of the increase now proposed retrospective to the 1st July. The honorable member for Eden-Monaro also indicated that the amendment seeks to provide for an increase in the pension rates to the maximum extent that the national economy will permit. I am paraphrasing his words. He said that the minimum rate so determined should bear the same percentage to the unpegged basic wage now as it did in 1948. The honorable member has been very careful to avoid making any precise statement as to what the Opposition really does mean. It is the sort of thing that might possibly go over quite well with the unthinking who may reason as follows, “ These people are going to give us the maximum that the national economy will permit; they are going to preserve the same percentage that existed in 1948 between the basic wage and the pension rates “. What does that mean? He has failed to quote any definite figures. He has failed to say what the Opposition really mean3 because he is afraid to commit the Opposition to any definite figure for fear of repercussions in the future.
Apart from that, his figuring during his speech indicates how unsatisfactory his statement was. He set out to quote some figures to substantiate his claim that the increase of 10s. in the pension rate which this Government is now proposing will not bring the rate up to a figure which compares favorably with the rate payable in 1949 when the Chifley Government was in power, if increases in livingcosts are taken into account. We say very definitely that it is now at least Ss. a week better than was the comparable figure when Labour was in office. But he said that the basis of comparison should be the present value of the fi and its value in 194S. He told us that the £1 in mid-1948 is now worth only 10s. 6d. and that on that basis the rate of pension to-day would, be higher than this Government is now providing. That is entirely incorrect, because in mid-1948, as the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Pearce) has already pointed out, the rate was £1 17s. 6d. a week, and therefore the proportionate figure to-day would be only £3 lis. 6d. Some may say that we should take the £2 2s. 6d. rate which prevailed at the end of 1949; but even if we take that figure and apply the honorable member’s formula, we would still get a figure only a few pence above the £4 to which this Government now proposes to raise the pension rate.
– That is not true.
– It is perfecly true. If the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) wishes to combat my figures he can attempt to do so later on. By using some other figures he will probably be able to prove what he wants to prove; because the point I am making is that any one can take a certain set of figures and use them to prove his own particular argument. When the honorable member for Eden-Monaro says, “ We will strike a rate which will bear the same percentage to the basic wage now as it did in 1948 “, he is saying simply nothing, and is promising nothing whatsoever to the pensioners. That is where the vagueness of the Opposition’s present proposal arises.
I desire for a few minutes to say something about the actual provisions of this bill. I think it is time that was done. There are two main provisions in the measure. The first is that age, invalid and widows’ pensions are being increased by 10s., so that in future the rate will be £4 a week. Secondly, the ceiling limits that have applied since 1948, and under which ex-servicemen have been suffering, are to be repealed. Those are the two main provisions in the bill. Regarding the first, I make the significant comment that the 10s. a week increase is a flat rate increase. That is something which is not yet properly understood, possibly by honorable members, and certainly not by the people outside. It means that it will materially assist those who are at present on a low pension rate, and we all know that those who are on a low pension rate are those who have shown some thrift during their lives and possess some property or are earning some income. As a result, their total pension rate is low. If the increase of 10s. were applied pro rata, as has been the case previously, the actual pension rate payable to those people would be still lower relatively. However, this Government has seen fit on this occasion to give a flat increase and, consequently, those who are at present receiving a low rate of pension will gain a very material increase.
All honorable members should welcome the repeal of the ceiling limits that have applied since the Labour Government introduced them in 1948. The position until now has been that, because of the imposition of the ceiling limits on what were known as consolidated pensions, the ex-serviceman was in a distinctly unfavorable position compared with pensioners who were able to obtain the full social service pension. He could receive only £5 12s. 6d. a week, whereas an age or invalid pensioner obtained the full pension of £3 10s. a week and, at the same time, was able to earn £3 10s. a week, thus giving him a total of £7 a week. Previously, a single war pensioner was not able to obtain more than £5 12s. 6d. a week, and a man and wife, both receiving a war pension, could not previously obtain more than £9 12s. 6d. a week as a consolidated pension. This amendment will allow the married couple to have £14 a week, which will put them on a comparable basis with ordinary age and service pensioners. So, as an exserviceman, I welcome it very heartily indeed. I think it is one of the finest things we have done in our social services legislation for some time.
I shall now answer some of the challenges that were issued by the honorable member for Eden-Monaro in an attempt to belittle the work which this Government has done for pensioners, and particularly what is being done in this budget. I draw the attention of the House to a significant feature of the budget. In doing this, I shall not go back to the budget debate, but I do want to point out that the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden), in his budget speech, drew the attention of the House and of the nation to the fact that threats were developing to the stability of the national economy. He pointed out that in certain aspects of our economic life, definite signs of inflationary tendencies were developing. He stressed the fact that the nation was still very prosperous, and that, indeed, it was as prosperous as any nation in the world, so far as the living standards of its people are concerned, but, nevertheless, it was imperative because of these developing tendencies that some caution should be exercised during the next year or two. Because of that, the Treasurer refused to provide any further reductions in taxation of any type, or to give any financial relief which could be, and which would be of an inflationary nature.
I pass now to the negotiations which the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) has had in recent weeks with many of the bodies representing the various elements that make up our economic life, and to the statement on the present economic situation which he made to the House. In that statement, the Prime Minister called for a realization of the dangers confronting the country, and for the cooperation of all sections of the community. Following those expressions by our leaders, the Government gave a lead to the community. It cut the defence vote by £10,000,000, and agreed to cut the capital -works programme by £10,000,000 and to provide for a reduction of £19,000,000 in departmental import licences. Finally, the Government announced that the action which it was proposed to take to bring the salaries and allowances of honorable members on to a more equitable basis would not be pursued until some time in the future, when the position became sounder. I point out these things as indicating the approach of the Government to the situation which is developing at present. The significant point I am leading up to, and the one to which I should like all those who say that the increases in pension rates have not been enough to listen, is that despite the cuts to which I have referred, in this year in which the Government, to put it colloquially, has to “ tighten up “, we have seen fit to increase the whole of the pensions range, and that is the only section of the community which has received relief. We have given relief, which, in this taxation year, amounts to £11,200,000 and which will amount to about £14,500,000 in the full year.
I put these matters to the House because I submit that there is no more telling proof of the sincerity of this Government in its relations with the pensioners and of its determination, under any circumstances to do the utmost which it considers fit and right for that section of the community. I say that the provisions which have been made round off a very fine record on the part of this Government since it took office. The honorable member for Capricornia has already given that record in detail. I did not propose to repeat in detail just what that record is, but it is so fine that it is worth while repeating in view of the charges made against us from the other side of the House.
I repeat that during its tenure of office since the end of 1949 this Government hasincreased the age pension rates from £2 10s. a week to £4 a week. It has increased the permissible income from 30s. a week to £3 10s. a week. The income which is derived from property can now be disregarded entirely. That is an innovation brought about by this Government. As I pointed out a few minutes ago, the ceiling limit of consolidated pensions has been abolished. We have lifted the property limit, which determines eligibility for a pension, from £750 to £1,750.
Without going into further detail, I point out that we have provided similar concessions and similar benefits on the scale I have just mentioned in the realm of ‘wives’ allowances, family allowances, unemployment and sickness benefits, child endowment, pensioner medical services and homes for the aged. That is a record which, I submit, cannot be matched by any other government in the history of Australia; and I say that it is to the credit of this Government that, in doing that, it has had, at the same time, due regard for keeping that proper balance between all sections of the community which is essential if the country is to continue on a, stable economy. It must be admitted that any legislation which provides benefits for one particular section of the community, and which, in doing so, penalizes other sections of the community, is bad legislation. We have avoided that mistake, and, as a result, we can say that we have now widened the scope and lifted the level of the whole of our social services scheme to a point where we can fairly claim that justice is being done to the pensioner section of our community.
I stress that, because the honorable member for Eden-Monaro, towards the end of his remarks, wandered off into a world of fantasy. He started telling us about the time that should be ahead of us when automatons would do most of the work, when it would be necessary for men and women to do practically no work at all,when all the work done would be - this is an old significant phrase - “ Work for use and not for profit “. He told us, in fact, that we should be approaching a socialistic Utopia and he suggested that then we should be able o do a great deal more for the pensioner section than is being done now. I have always confessed that, in many things, I am a little bit old-fashioned. I still believe that there is the greatest of virtue in a decent day’s work. I still believe that we shall not get things for nothing, and I still believe that any legislation which plans for the development of a society in which the children are taught to believe that they no longer have any obligation to their parents is rotten legislation, and that such a society would be a rotten society, and must perish. Therefore, I say that our plan should be one which, while giving justice to the pensioner section of our society, at the same time should not be such as to create the impression that the sacred obligation of young people to have some regard for the well-being of their parents should not be maintained.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Daly) adjourned.
Motion (by Sir Eric Harrison) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
– I propose to raise a matter relating to the Australian National University, and I raise it now because only to-day has the report of the council of that university come into our hands. The point about which I wish to speak is the rapid completion of the particle accelerator which is being constructed In the School of Physical Sciences at the university. I may remind the House that I raised this question on the 10th November last, and at that stage I had the support of the honorable member for Oxley (Dr. Donald Cameron), and also the right honorable member for Barton (Dr. Evatt). I do believe that it is very important that we should complete this particular machine as soon as possible. It is a machine which seemed, at the time I spoke, to be the first that could be completed in the world which would have the vital power to enable two experiments of consequence to be conducted, experi ments which apparently could not be conducted on the less powerful machines which exist in other parts of the world and which, it seemed then, would not be stepped up in power for some time. These two experiments related to the creation of matter, perhaps hydrogen atoms, from pure energy, and the verification of the existence of the negative proton. Time was of the essence of this contract. The importance of this machine being constructed here in Canberra was that it was likely to be the first in the world and, as such, would have an interest for all physicists and would make this a centre of prestige research in a sense which no other machine in Australia was likely to be capable of doing. It was for that reason that I urged the Government, through the House, to make some special allocation for the quick completion of this machine. I pointed out that something like six technicians at £1,500 a year - I was quoting information which I had obtained from Professor Oliphant - would significantly advance the rate of construction. I thought that something like £9,000 or £10,000 a year extra was involved, and I suggested that as the university obviously would have difficulty in allocating its funds to one section rather than another andas, even within the school of physics itself, there might be difficulty in the allocation of funds to one section rather than another, we should be making a special allocation, through the Australian Atomic Energy Commission, or some other body, of something like £50,000 to cover this entire scheme. I want to read to the House an extract from the report which has just come to hand. It is as follows : -
The work of this department–
That is, the Department of Particle Physics - continues to be devoted exclusively to the design and construction of the 10,000 million electron volt proton-synchrotron. Considerable progress has been made, but the limitations of activity imposed by shortage of staff and of technical assistance have made the achievement less than had been envisaged or thought desirable. The accelerator is of unique design, should be capable of producing particles with energies greater than any other machine yet under eon struction, and its cost will be about one-tenth of that of the6-7 GeV machinenearing completion in Berkeley, California. When design and construction began it was thought that an opportunity existed to show that Australia was capable of carrying a pioneering research project of considerable magnitude to a successful conclusion. However, it turns out that it bikes on an average twice as long to carry out any task of complex construction in Australia as is needed in the United Kingdom. This is so despite the remarkable co-operation wo have received from leading Australian industries, such as Broken Hill Proprietary Company Ltd. and Metal Manufacturers Ltd., who have done better work more vapidly than is possible in the United Kingdom. Delays in receiving supplies from overseas, due in part to shipping difficulties and in part to the problems of technical correspondence over large distances, have contributed to the disappointingly slow rate of progress. But the main cause is lack of manpower, due to lack of funds.
It is believed that expenditure of an additional £10,000 each year on salaries and wages for this project would ensure more rapid progress in the future which would give this School the advantage of remaining in the forefront in a most important branch of modern physics.
I do not comment on that report. I simply quote it for what it is worth, and, of course, I am not in a position to say anything about the internal arrangements in the university or the internal arrangements in the Department of Particle Physics itself. If that report be accepted, it does seem to me regrettable that the suggestion that I made nearly a year ago has not been acted upon, because it is essential that this machine, if it is to have its full value, should be completed as soon as possible. Since November, 1954, new information has come to hand, particularly at the Geneva Conference, where the Russians revealed that in Moscow they have nearing completion, and expect to complete in June, a 10- billion volt accelerator, which will have a faster pulse rate than the accelerator at the Australian National University, but which will have only the same power. It still seems as if another eighteen months or two years will elapse before our Canberra machine is completed, if the present rate of construction continues.’ It looks as though Russia will be ahead of the free world, and will be able to conduct experiments which cannot be conducted in the free world. It is true, of course, that there is a project at Geneva to build a 25 Bev. machine by the combined European Research Institute, and in the United States of America a 25 Bev. machine is also being projected, but the completion of both of those machineslies a fairly long time in the future, and if the free world is to have the benefit of a powerful accelerator in the next year or so,, it will get it at Canberra and nowhere elseMuch time has been lost, and much water, which cannot be retrieved, has flowed under the bridge^ but if we are to accept this report, which I quote without comment, it would appear that even to-day there could be some significant acceleration of the construction of this vital machine if a little - not much - more money were specifically allocated to this vital project. I do believe that this is something which stands out as being of unique importance as far as Australian prestige in physics is concerned. It would seem to offer to the free world the possibility of obtaining an instrument which cannot be obtained elsewhere within the same time. It is true that our machine is of light, and relatively cheap, construction. It will have a slow pulse rate, and will possibly cost not more than one-tenth of the comparative cost of the machine which is being built in Moscow, which would have a higher pulse rate, but only the same ultimate energy of acceleration. I urge the Government even now to adopt this suggestion, and if any financial impediments are holding up the rapid completion of this accelerator - and I quote without comment the official report of the Australian National University, which states that an amount of £10,000 a year would make a great difference - I think we should be allocating the money. If that is not so, something should be done to correct the very definite statements which are made in this report. The report is quite specific on the point I have mentioned, whether it be right or wrong. The value of this machine will really depend upon the speed with which we complete it. If we do not complete it quickly, more efficient machines will be in operation in other parts of the world and, once that happens, the unique value of the machine, and the unique prestige which might come to Canberra, will both be lost. It is an opportunity which, if this report be correct, the Government should be taking.
.- 1 propose to raise a matter that concerns a very serious situation which exists on the Australian waterfront in respect to the employment of labour. I had hoped that the responsible Minister might have been present while I mentioned this matter. There was a time when the discussions on the motion to adjourn the House were regarded by the Government as being of some importance. Therefore, i regret that it has now become the practice for the Government to send in one Minister usually not the Minister concerned with the matter being discussed, and that Minister merely adopts a bored attitude and then gives us an assurance that our remarks will be conveyed to the responsible Minister. That is the situation to which this Parliament has been brought by the present Government, which is completely disdainful of the matters raised by honorable members, even by the back benchers on the Government side of the House.
Here is the situation that has arisen on the waterfront out of a breach of faith on the part of the Government, and the shipowners. I particularly refer to the port of Sydney, because that is where the problem is most acute. Honorable members will recollect that, as recently as a few months ago, the Government presented to this Parliament legislation to discipline the Waterside Workers Federation of Australia because the Government said that the federation was not recruiting sufficient labour to bring the port quotas to what had been decided on, and as a result was delaying the turnround of ships. The Waterside Workers Federation of Australia, which had been keeping up the supply of labour to the industry, and was supplying all the needs of the various ports throughout Australia, was then castigated and held to be responsible for the slow turn-round of ships in Australian ports.
Some years ago, the Waterside Workers Federation of Australia, after a conference with shipowners and government representatives, decided to accept what was known as the gang system. That was designed to create some form of stability for labour on the waterfront. As a result of their acceptance of that system, the waterside workers were given an undertaking that their employment would be stabilized; that is, that as long as they were willing to work, work would be provided for them. But because of the nature of their employment, it was also recognized that there might be periods, due to ships being delayed, when employment would not be available, and it was decided that attendance money would be paid to the men. That was a reasonable proposition. The attendance money was originally fixed at 12s. a day, and it has since been increased to 16s. a day.
But what is the exact situation now? If the men receive this attendance money for Ave days in the week - it is not payable on Saturday or Sunday as the men are entitled to receive penalty rates on those days - they receive the paltry amount of £4 a week. Now, in Sydney, we find that from the 1st July until the 16th September of this year, a period of not much more than two months, there have been 39 days during which the minimum surplus labour has been 644 men, and the maximum surplus 2,924. Those men who have not received work have lost, from January to September, £250,000 in wages because the shipowners and the Government have not honoured their undertaking to provide stability in the various ports of Australia. As a result we now have the anomalous position where shipowners are once, again charging the waterside workers with not honouring the agreement to recruit sufficient labour, and the Waterside Workers Federation of Australia has received letters from the Australian Stevedoring Industry Board to the effect that in the existing circumstances the board does not expect the federation to recruit additional men into the industry ? In any case, how could the union obtain the men ? No man will offer to work in an industry where he has to stand aside for a great proportion of the time and receive only 16s. a day.
Now the Waterside Workers Federation of Australia has put forward a proposal that if a man reports for work on any day, and no work is provided for him, he should be given the equivalent of a wage for four hours work. That would be £1 15s. 4d. a day as against the 16s present attendance money. I suggest that that would not he asking too much because, based on a five-day week, a man who did not receive employment for a week would get £8 16s. 8d. in attendance money, which is below the prevailing basic wage. Instead of attracting men into the industry, every week the federation is losing 30 men by resignation, because they can see no prospect of being able to earn a decent livelihood on the waterfront.
There was a time when honorable members talked much of the high earnings of the waterside workers, but they should obtain the records of the industry to understand just how they exist. For the twelve-monthly period mentioned in the last report of the Australian Stevedoring Industry Board, the average earnings of the waterside workers was £14 a week. That is not an extravagant wage, having regard to the cost of living in Australia, and, as a result, the shipowners who are asking the waterside workers to increase their quota in Sydney to 6,900 men know that because of instability in the industry there is not sufficient labour available. That is in spite of the fact that the federation has recruited 19,000 men in five years. The shipowners want these men to stand aside and be .prepared to accept 16s. a day attendance money, and do the bidding of the shipowners whenever there are ships to be discharged or loaded.
If the Government and the shipowners want these men to remain in the various ports, they will have to arrange to pay a rate of attendance money which will at least enable the men to exist until such time as suitable work is available. Unless that is done, there will be a continuation of unrest in the industry. Men will continue to drift out of the industry, and when the time arrives for shipping activity to resume, labour will not be available to meet the demand. “What is the situation that faces the industry in the future ? The Government, because of more rigid import restrictions, will accentuate the difficulties, and there will be long periods of unemployment on the various waterfronts throughout Australia. The waterside workers will not be able to live under existing conditions on a paltry 16s. a day. What is mon1, the Warm-side
Workers Federation of Australia, and the trade union movement, will not ask or expect them to do so.
Unless the Government and the shipowners do something to ease the situation unrest will continue. Therefore, I ask the Minister for Supply (Mr. Beale), who is at the table, to ask the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holt) and the Cabinet to examine immediately this situation, and to meet the request of the waterside workers that they should be paid £1 15s. 4d. a day appearance money instead of 16s. a day. There are many awards in Australia to-day which provide that if a man reports for work, and work is not available for him, he is to receive the equivalent of four hours’ pay. If the volume of labour in our important waterfront industry is to be maintained, the proposal of the Waterside Workers Federation of Australia in respect of appearance money should be accepted.
– I think it would be appropriate if I were to add a little to what the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) has said about the School of Physical Sciences at the Australian National University, because I am a representative of the Parliament on the council of the university and also a member of the finance committee of the council. I should like to point out to the House, first of all, that the report to which the honorable member has referred covers the period of twelve months ended December, 1954, and that the council has under constant review the problem that the honorable member has raised. I hope, sir, that it will be possible for some action to be taken to supplement the council’s resources in this direction, but it should not be assumed by the House that nothing is being done.
At the same time as this project is being undertaken, the council has another very large project on hand - the building of the Medical School. The Medical School will cost approximately £2,000,000, and it will be readily appreciated by honorable members that, as construction is proceeding at a rapid rate, a great deal of finance must be devoted to it. It will be appreciated also that, although the council has made considerable re-arrangements within the ambit of its budget and has done its best to give what priority it can to the School of Physical Sciences, it is limited to a degree by the very large tasks that it has before it.
The construction of a national university, especially one like the Australian National University, with extensive projects for scientific research, is immensely expensive, and it is not easy to apportion the funds between the various schools so that all receive what they think is justified. I think I should point out that that part of the report which the honorable member for Mackellar quoted was written by the Director of the School of Physical Sciences. The council, in its turn, appreciates the problems of the Government in making finance available. I should point out to the House that government finance is virtually the only finance that the university has. It is not like a State university which can draw on fees received from a body of students or on endowments received from persons who have interested themselves in the university over the years. After all, the Australian National University is a new university, and one may say that it has almost no endowments at all. The fees that are received from the comparatively small student body - I think that, at the present time, there are approximately 66 students, most of whom are scholars engaged in research work - amount to nothing. So the council must use for its budget the funds that are provided by the Parliament. Those funds have been quite considerable over the last few years, and they have steadily increased. In fact, for the current financial year, the council will have at its disposal for running expenses the sum of £877,000, and for capital works the sum of £898,000, a total of £1,775,000. I should not like it to be thought that the council feels that the Government has merely been ungenerous in making funds available. As I said earlier, the pursuit of scientific research on the scale on which it is being undertaken at the Australian National University is immensely expensive.
I agree with the honorable member for Mackellar when he stresses the importance of this particular project.
It is very important. It is a branch of science which, of course, is a closed book to most of us, but, when we think that it is concerned with such remarkable problems as the production of mattei from energy, which is perhaps a conception that is a little difficult to grasp, we realize that it is scientific research of the very greatest magnitude. Perhaps there are other avenues through which finance can be made available. I note that the Minister for Supply (Mr. Beale) is at the table. May I suggest that perhaps it is possible that some of the funds that have been made available for other atomic projects that the Government has in hand could be made available for this project? May I also suggest, sir, that perhaps it is not altogether beyond the bounds of possibility that some financial interests in Australia could take sufficient interest in the Australian National University to endow it on a fairly reasonable scale? We have in Australia many great and wealthy industries all of which, indirectly, and some directly, over the years, will benefit greatly from the work that is now being done, and which will be done in the future, at the National University. I think it is not unreasonable to mention in this House that an endowment of perhaps £200,000, £300,000 or £400,000 might suggest itself to some of those great industries as a worthy means of promoting scientific research in Australia.
– I should like to direct the attention of the House again to the subject that was raised by the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward). However, I do not intend to speak at very great length. The waterside workers are engaged in a breadandbutter occupation, and I think the Government should do something for them in the immediate future. As has been stated, attendance money is 16s. a day. Some of the men who are employed on the waterfront, at least in Sydney, must take a train and then possibly a tram to go down to the wharfs. Fares cost them perhaps 3s. or 4s. a day, and they must also buy a meal. That means that half of the attendance money is spent before they bring home anything to their wives and families.
The Government has announced the imposition of import restrictions. The men who work on the waterfront will be the first to be hit by those restrictions. The House will remember that in 1954, the stevedoring levy was reduced from lid. a man-hour to approximately 6d. a man-hour. In addition, the Government and the shipowners, in collusion, promised that fares and freights would be reduced, but, if my memory is correct, on two occasions since then the shipowners have increased freights by 10 per cent’. Only recently, freights were increased by another 7^ per cent. The amenities recommended in the Basten report have not been provided by the shipowners. I do not intend, however, to talk about past history, but to direct attention to the present plight of the waterside workers and their families. The payment of 16s. a day for five days a week would mean that no more than £4 a week would enter the home of a waterside worker. That is less than he would receive in the form of social services payments, which, for a man and his wife, would amount to £4 15s. a week. The blame for this state of affairs lies at the door of the Government.
Twelve months ago, the Government introduced a bill to provide that the employers would have the right to enlist labour for the wharfs. Later, the shipowners and the “Waterside Workers Federation agreed that the federation should be allowed to provide the labour. The quotas were then filled, but now no work is available for the waterside workers. If they are allowed to drift into other avenues of employment, nobody will be available to unload ships when they enter port. I strongly protest to the Government about the present state of affairs, and I hope that within the next week something will be done to alleviate the position in which these men and their families find themselves. It is too late to-night to go into the history of waterside disputes. There is a dispute now about a bread and butter principle. I notice that the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holt) is not here to-night, but I hope he will be here next week to deal with the waterside workers and their families in the humane manner in which every section of the community deserves to be treated.
.- I shall not take up the time of the House for more than two minutes. We have heard to-night a sort of squeal about the lack of work on the waterfront. If that is the case, it is a prime example of people loafing themselves out of a job, and we might just as well say so bluntly. The fact is that the waterfront in Australia works for fewer hours and at a greater cost than any other waterfront in the world. If there is no work, it is because the Australian waterfront is avoided by ships and shipping companies from all over the world. It is the most inefficient waterfront in the modern world. That is the truth.
The present situation has arisen because the waterside workers have been bemused by people like those who sit on the benches opposite. They have been encouraged to loaf, to do little work, and to produce little. Consequently, there is not sufficient customs, one might say, for them. They can thank their leaders for that. They are led by Communists. I was surprised to hear the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Minogue) speak about the waterside workers, who are led, as we all know, by the Communist Healy, whose business it is to hold up the work and trade of this country at every possible point.
– What has that got to do with the industry?
– It has a great deal to do with the industry. The watersiders are in hands of Communist-led and Communistinspired people, notably the Communist Healy. It is all very well for honorable members opposite to come here and weep crocodile tears for these people, hut they misled the men and put them in this foolish situation. I have not the faintest sympathy for the watersiders in the situation in which they find themselves, nor have the great majority of the people of this country. The fact is that the waterside workers held this country to ransom for as long as they possibly could. If anybody imagines that this
Government, or any supporters of it, will subsidize that sort of behaviour in future, he is merely wasting his time.
– I am amazed that the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett) should utter such sentiments. Of course, there are faults on the waterfront. Some of them can be attributed to the Waterside Workers Federation, because no body of men is perfect. But quite a lot of the trouble on the waterfront in past years has been due to the action of the shipowners and those who controlled the stevedoring companies in trying to get labour as cheaply as possible, with a complete disregard for the human dignity of the people working on the waterfront. I remember that in 1928 the shipowners determined to smash the Waterside Workers Federation. Because of a number of stupid tactical blunders made by the watersiders in Melbourne at that time, most of them were left to starve. It was a time when preference was supposed to be given to returned servicemen. I saw burnt-out returned soldiers trying to get work on the waterfront, and I saw that young, healthy fellows, who had not been born in this country, were preferred by the stevedoring companies because they had more animal power than tha men who had served their country. In that way, bitterness was created, and it has continued to this day.
Nobody wants bitterness to exist on the waterfront. The only way in which the trouble there can be cured is to decasualize the industry and make it the same as most other industries. Let us have permanent employees on the waterfront. Let us pay them a regular wage. Let them know that they will have so much take-home money each week and that they will be able to provide for their families.
– Healy will not have it.
– No man, Communist or non-Communist, can stand against the considered opinion of any body of workers, if the workers see something to their advantage and have an opportunity to grasp it. It is up to the Government to do something more in the way of decasualization of the waterfront industry in every part of Australia, right from Port Douglas in the north of Queensland round to Geraldton in Western Australia.
There is an inquiry proceeding into conditions on the waterfront. Why the inquiry has not yet concluded its labours, I do not know; nor does anybody else. We ought to be told, by a body of competent people who have examined all facets of the case, what is wrong with conditions on the waterfront. Then we should know what ought to be done. The honorable member for Henty, in a very partisan speech, has attacked the watersiders, as though they are responsible for all the troubles in regard to the turnround of ships in Australia. Anybody who knows the waterfront knows that that is not true. Whatever may be the faults that can be ascribed to the waterside workers, they are few compared with those that can be charged against the shipping companies, the stevedoring companies and the carriers who take the stuff away from the wharfs. Each, in turn, complicates the situation. It is so easy always to blame the waterside workers. The more horse-power we put at the disposal of the people working on the waterfront, the quicker will our cargoes be handled. Some time ago, I was on a ship in Pyrmont Harbour in Sydney. Conditions there are so antiquated that the men cannot even use a fork-lift. They still have to use hand trucks. How can we have cheap loading and unloading under those conditions? The port at Melbourne is highly mechanized. That is a tribute to the officials of the Melbourne Harbour Trust. But all ports ought to be highly mechanized. We must move with the times. If we want big ships to call here, we must have efficient and modern handling equipment.
I support the case presented by the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) and the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Minogue) for a higher rate of attendance money than is being paid now. Imports are diminishing. The waterside workers are being hit by the fact that fewer imports are coming into the country. I have been told that about 19,000 men have left the waterfront. industry over a period of years. I have been told that men are leaving it at the rate of about 100 a week. That is bad. Let us try to do something to make this an industry with regular employment.
– “Why does not the honorable member give us a bit of help to do that?
– I want to help. It is not the fault of the waterside workers that the industry has not been decasualized. They have been advocating that for years. I represent many of them in this Parliament - good citizens and good fellows, who served in a couple of wars. As a matter of fact, most of the men on the waterfront in Melbourne to-day are returned servicemen. They want regular work, and so do those in Brisbane and elsewhere. If there is discontent on the waterfront, it is not because the Communists are stirring it up. The discontent is due to conditions in the industry. Communists, in accordance with their philosophy, will always go where there is discontent and take advantage of the situation. It is the people who allow those conditions to exist who are responsible for the discontent, not those who take advantage of it. I hope the Government will double the attendance money paid to a waterside worker.
Finally, I want to say something about what the honorable member for Oxley (Dr. Donald Cameron) said. I hope that private enterprise, which is always talking about its opportunities in this country and boasting about the prosperity existing here, will do something to assist research work in the physical sciences in the Australian National University. Very few of us on. this side of the House have been through a university, but we believe that knowledge is power, and that the more knowledge we can disseminate among our people, the better it will be for this Australian democracy. The great beneficences of the past are, of course, not being equalled to-day because of two world wars and the cost that was involved in paying for them. A lot could be done by those who are boasting about making profits of £2,000,000, or £3,000,000, or £4,000,000 a year, to help the Australian National University to carry out the research that would, in the final analysis, help in the development and expansion of our industries, and thus in achieving greater progress for the nation generally.
.- I wish to address the House on the subject of the position on the waterfront, and I should like to say at the outset that, although I agree with a great deal of the opinions expressed by the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell), I do not agree with him completely, and I do not support his demand that attendance money for waterside workers be almost doubled.
– More than doubled.
– All right, more than doubled. I think it should be borne in mind that in Brisbane, if I remember correctly, the average pay of waterside workers during the last twelve months was something like £19 a week for 28 hours’ work. I may be slightly wrong in the number of hours I have stated. It might be 36 hours a week.
– It is wide of the mark.
– It is not wide of the mark. The figure was given in a report only a few weeks ago. I think that if the honorable gentleman from Watson (Mr. Curtin) knew as much about the waterside workers as I do he would keep quiet. I was about to say, and probably the honorable member for Watson will disagree with me, that probably 60 per cent, or 70 per cent, of the waterside workers are first-class men. I have, said that consistently in this House. There is not the slightest doubt, however, that their present leader, Mr. Jim Healy, is a Communist, and there is not the slightest doubt that there are few men in Australia who know the conditions of the waterfront as well as does Mr. Healy. I think that it is one of our tragedies that a man of his undoubted knowledge and ability on the waterfront is in control of this trade union. People who attempt to claim that he has not ability are burying their heads in the sand. His ability must be realized before the fruits of it can be combated. Another thing that quite a number of trade unions might well do is to stop allowing the domination of union meetings by tough groups of strongarm men. That is what happens at meetings of waterside workers, because moderate waterside workers are not prepared to run the risk of getting a bashing for expressing their opinions. These are things that must he done if the. waterside industry is to be placed on a proper footing. My personal belief - and I agree with the honorable member for Melbourne that stability will not come to the waterfront until there is some form of government employment - is that the answer to the problem is that the Government should run the wharfs. I think that a great number of the wharfies themselves would like to see put into practice my idea for the establishment of stevedoring cooperatives to be run by the waterside workers themselves. When the watersiders have the responsibility of running their own job I think we would see an end of Communist domination, and a lot more work done on the waterfront.
Some weeks ago in this House I mentioned the things that could be done to speed up the turn-round of ships on the Australian waterfront. The Brisbane Courier-Mail did not accurately report my statement. It interviewed representative?! of some of the shipping companies and on the morning following my statement some of the companies claimed that I had been completely wrong in what I said. Strangely enough, at eleven o’clock that morning the manager of another steamship company rang me up and said to me, “What you said was perfectly right, and I am prepared to give you all the evidence you want to prove it, and to take yon round and show you the places that bear out the truth of what you said “. What I had said was that the problem of the waterfront did not entirely depend on the wharfies, but that to a considerable extent the shipowners were responsible for it. I said that to a considerable extent the problem arose from poor wharfage facilities, poor handling equipment and poor warehouse equipment, which all play their part in the delays in turn-round. I am not saying that the Waterside Workers Federation does not also have a considerable amount of responsibility for the slow turn-round, but I do say that watersiders are not the only people respon sible for it. I think it was at dinner to-night that I heard one of my colleagues discussing the way in which some of the Communist-dominated trade unions were attempting to convert what is at the present time a slight recession into a depression. There is nothing they would like to see more than a depression. Anybody who studies the way in which these Communist-dominated trade unions are continually attacking and undermining our economy, or attempting to do so, would agree that that statement is very accurate.
I should like to say, in conclusion, that I do not think we should forget that the present excesses of the Waterside Workers Federation are, as has been mentioned, to a large degree directly derived from the excesses ofthe shipowners some years ago; nor should we forget that the ideal our trade unions and our employers should bear in mind is that we will be able to assure the best future for this Commonwealth of ours only if we get co-operation between employer and employee.
.- Mr. Deputy Speaker, I wish to join briefly-
Motion (by Sir Eric Harrison) put -
That the question be now put.
The House divided. (Mr. Deputy Speaker - Mr.c. F. Adermann.)
Majority . . 25
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned 11.32 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
s asked the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
What was the average cost of land allotted to each of the 55 ex-servicemen settlers in South
Australia, sixteen settled in Western Australia, and 33 settled in Tasmania, during the year 1954-55?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows:-
Nearly all holdings allotted in South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania during the year 1954-55 were from large scale developmental projects. As has been explained to the House, the cost of such projects is averaged over the holdings developed. Expenditure to date includes capital items, e.g. plant, stores, camp accommodation, &c, which will have some residual value for crediting to the projects. Further, it will be a few years before these projects are completed and final costs known. I am therefore unable to supply the average cost of land as requested, but an examination of estimates suggests that it will bear a reasonable relationship to present market values for comparable land. Settlers’ commitments are being assessed on a productivity basis and due to the very favorable terms granted to settlers under the war service land settlement scheme, some writing off of cost will probably be necessary in many instances. The Commonwealth and the States concerned consider the bringing into production of what was formerly virgin or useless land fully justifies some writing off of cost.
Australian Prisoners of War.
s. - On the 21st September, the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Falkinder) asked the following question : -
Can the Prime Minister confirm or deny strong rumours current among ex-prisoners of war associations that the further payment to ex-prisoners of war from the proceeds of the sale of former Japanese assets will be made very soon to ex-prisoners of war of the Japanese? Is it yet possible for him to give any indication of the probable amount of the payments ?
The situation at present is that the Japanese Government some few months ago paid £4,500,000 sterling to the International Committee of the Red Cross in full settlement of its obligations under Article 16 of the Japanese Peace Treaty. In addition to this sum, the Red Cross also holds an amount of 2,500,000 United States dollars paid to it under an agreement between Thailand, the United States of America, and the United Kingdom, on Japanese assets in Thailand, which was signed on the 30th July, 1953. The Red Cross cannot distribute these moneys as it has not yet completed its check of the lists of former prisoners of war submitted to it by the countries concerned. There is another difficulty in that although the Philippines has submitted, a complete list of former prisoners of war it has not yet ratified the Peace Treaty, while Indonesia has neither ratified the Treaty nor submitted lists of former prisoners. At the moment, therefore, it is impossible to forecast the extent of. the Australian share of these moneys or when it will become available for distribution. Australia, in common with the other nations that have completed their claims, is rendering the Red Gross all possible assistance in an effort to resolve the difficulties as soon as possible. You may rest assured that as soon as these moneys become available there will be no delay whatever in making a final distribution to the prisoners of war.
PRICE of Gold.
asked the Minister Acting for the Treasurer, upon notice -
Is it a fact that an increase in the price of gold would increase production and, conse quently, increase the value of Australia’s export income?
– The answer to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 6 October 1955, viewed 6 July 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1955/19551006_reps_21_hor8/>.