22nd Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon.. Archie Cameron) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Health, whom I should like to congratulate on his appointment, and wish success in his office. Can the Minister give the House any information regarding the progress made in providing additional accommodation for the mentally diseased out of the £10,000,000 granted last year - either what is being done immediately or what is being planned by the States ?
– The House will remember that last year a bill was passed to provide for the expenditure of £10,000,000 by the Commonwealth on the basis of fi by the Commonwealth for every £2 expended by the States on improving conditions at mental hospitals. All the States have now submitted programmes for the current financial year, amounting to a total of about £3,750,000. These have been approved by the Commonwealth, which will, of course, be responsible for one-third of this expenditure, and work is now proceeding on this scale.
– My question is directed to the Treasurer, in the absence of the Prime Minister. By way of preface, with the construction of the Adaminaby Dam, the township of Adaminaby will be inundated, and the site of the new township has already been chosen. Is the Treasurer aware that the Snowy Mountains Shire Council has unanimously passed a resolution that the name of the new township should be changed, and that the new township should be named Chifley in honour of the man who was Prime Minister and Treasurer at the time when the Snowy Mountains scheme was established? As that is the unanimous wish of the shire council of the area, will the Treasurer interest himself in the matter so that, through the Snowy Mountains Authority, the views of the residents of the township may be ascertained as soon as possible?
– My answer is an emphatic “ Yes “.
– Can the PostmasterGeneral tell us when the proposed national regional station at Albany, Western Australia, will come on the air, and what will be the frequency on which it will operate?
– I regret that I am not in a position to give the honorable member complete advice regarding this matter, on which he has been inquiring for several days. I can tell him, however, that it is proposed to commence this station’s operation about mid-April, although the date is not yet finally decided. I can also tell him that it will operate on 650 kilocycles.
– I desire to ask the Minister for Health whether it is intended, as reported, to remove all or any of such drugs as liver extract categories from the general pharmaceutical benefits lists. If so, is it intended to provide substitute drugs?
– The question of what drugs should be provided under the pharmaceutical benefits scheme is decided by an expert committee appointed to advise the Government in this matter. Drugs are either placed on or taken from the list in accordance with the advice tendered by the committee. 1 am sure the honorable gentleman will agree that there is no other suitable method for providing drugs under the scheme. This is a very expert committee. He can be assured that, when drugs are removed from the list, adequate substitutes always remain on it.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for External Affairs. What is being done to improve the quality and quantity of Radio Australia broadcasts to other countries? What publicity is being given to those broadcasts to ensure a maximum audience?
– Radio Australia shortwave broadcasts, particularly to countries outside Australia, have been going on for a number of years. Special efforts have been made in recent times, perhaps during the last year or so, to improve, if I may use the honorable gentleman’s own words, the quality and quantity of the programmes. The service is, of course, primarily an entertainment service, but it contains a good deal of information by way of news and comment on the news. The Postmaster-General’s Department, through the Australian Broadcasting Commission, is primarily responsible for the service, but the Department of External Affairs co-operates actively in respect of all matters that have what might be said to be a political content. At present, there are broadcasts in English, French, Indonesian and Thai. Quite shortly, there will be broadcasts in Mandarin Chinese. The number of hours occupied by broadcasts to each of the relevant countries is being increased constantly. At the present time, the Government is in the course of substantially doubling the transmitting equipment available to Radio Australia. It is a popular service, which is well received in all the countries to which it is directed. That is shown by the fact that, in a world-wide census taken during the last week or two to ascertain the popularity of various shortwave broadcasting services, Radio Australia came first, quite easily. Ten other short-wave broadcasting services throughout the world occupied various positions below that. I think the Australian Government, and perhaps the Australian Broadcasting Commission in particular, have considerable cause for satisfaction with the fact that this relatively young Australian broadcasting service has achieved such a high place among the broadcasting services of the world.
– I address a question to the Minister for Supply. Is it a fact that 90 per cent, of the world’s production of rutile is taking place in Australia? Is it also a fact that rutile is a base mineral used in the production of titanium, the world’s lightest, strongest and most heat-resisting material? Is it true that titanium for use in jet aircraft production is at a premium, and that, within a few years the metal will be of inestimable value in other fields of industry? What action has the Government taken to protect British Commonwealth industries from possible exploitation and discrimination by foreign manufacturers in the sale and distribution of titanium? ls the Government satisfied that Australian producers are receiving the best prices for their mineral? Is it the intention of the Government to assist this vital young industry financially by setting up in this country a treatment and rolling plant, thus enabling us to earn muchwanted dollars in the world’s markets? Or are we to be subject to the exploitation of foreign manufacturers for all time so far as titanium is concerned?
– I am quite sure that the honorable member really does not expect, me to be able to answer all those questions immediately, but I can tell him that, titanium is produced in Australia from beach sands on the east coast of Australia north of Newcastle and also in certain parts of Western Australia. I am also able to tell him that titanium is an important modern metal used in aircraft production. If the honorable member will place the remainder of his question on the notice-paper, I shall answer it in conjunction with my colleague, the Minister for National Development, who know s a great deal about this matter.
– Can the Minister for External Affairs say anything useful about the recently concluded conference between the Dutch and the Indonesians?
– The conference, which started at The Hague, in December, concluded at Geneva earlier this month. It was an attempt to find solutions to a number of outstanding questions between the two countries. Before the conference commenced, it was agreed that each country should maintain its attitude towards the sovereignty of Western .New Guinea. Unfortunately, after a very long series of meetings, no definite agreement was reached between the two countries although, in a joint communique issued at the conclusion of the conference, both countries expressed satisfaction with the fact that a great deal of ground had been covered in a very useful way. There is not very much more to say about the matter, but the press has reported - the information having- come from the Indonesian end - that the DutchIndonesian Union has been dissolved. W«. have not any definite information on that matter. As honorable gentlemen, I am sure, are aware, that union has been the subject of considerable what may be called dialectic dispute over the last several years, and I should not be surprised to learn that, unfortunately, the press report was true. If I may be permitted to express a personal opinion, I think it was a good thing that the conference was held, even although no particularly definite situations were arrived at by agreement between the two countries.
– I direct to the Minister for External Affairs a question arising from his answer to the last question. In view of the direct interest of Australia in the relationship of Indonesia, Holland and New Guinea, does the Minister or the Government propose to take up the matter afresh, or has the Government any policy other than looking on at what is taking place ?
-Order! Questions mi policy may not be asked at this stage.
– “With your permission, Mr. Speaker, I should like to reply without going into matters of policy. The Australian attitude on the subject, which is clearly in the mind of the right honorable gentleman, is well known, and no alteration has been made to it. I think 1 can say without boasting that I have not been inactive on behalf of the Government in relation to this matter in both New York and Djakarta, where I spent a considerable number of days about four months ago in intimate discussion with His Excellency Mr. Anak Agung, the Foreign Minister of Indonesia. We reached agreement on a joint statement, which I should like to believe expressed the policy, not only of the Australian Government, but also of Australia generally. Our attitude towards Indonesia is an outstanding desire for the best possile relations with that country, and I think that, as a government, principally through the Colombo plan, we have given material evidence of our desire to live on the best possible terms with our nearest neighbour, Indonesia. I think that progress towards a solution of a matter that is in such acute dispute as this would not be advanced by any public discussion of the matters that the Indonesian Foreign Minister canvassed in our many hours of meetings only a very few months ago. The Australian attitude is clear. We are not a principal party but we are a very interested third party, and I think I can assure the House that we have attempted to discuss this question with both sides in directions that we believe will be conducive to continued peace in this part of the world. I again repeat the point that the Australian attitude on these subjects has not changed at all.
– In directing a question to the Minister for Labour and National Service I refer to the continuing strike by waterside workers at Gladstone, where the men are refusing to work until their demands, made last November, are met. As this strike is causing unemployment and distress to meat-workers and others in the district, I ask the Minister whether he has been able to arrange a conference between the dissenting parties in an endeavour to end the present deadlock.
– I have been advised that a meeting of representatives of the shipowners and the Waterside Workers Federation of Australia will be held to-morrow. I think that the Australian Stevedoring Industry Board’s representative will also be present. That meeting was to have been held at 2.30 p.m. to-day, but I gather that it was postponed because of some indisposition on the part of Mr. Healy, the general secretary of .the federation. If I can gain any further information in respect of the matter I shall do so and let the honorable member have it.
– I direct to the Minister for Air a question relative to the fact that ten or twelve days ago a small Wackett aircraft, which was flying from Casino to Tenterfield, was lost, and that a search has been instituted for the aircraft by the Department of Air and the Department of Civil Aviation. I desire, at this stage, to express my appreciation of the efforts that those two departments have put into the search. Has the Minister any information as a result of that search? The aircraft carried three persons. My second question arises from the fact that there have been reports in the press, attributed to the Department of Civil Aviation-
-Order! Questions may not be based on press reports.
– Well, sir, it has been stated that the aircraft was overloaded, and that it was licensed to carry only three persons. I am informed, by friends of the missing pilot, that the plane, which he purchased, had been advertised by the firm that sold it as being capable of carrying, and licensed to carry, three persons. I should like that particular aspect investigated after the Minister has replied to my first question, because I rather fear that the answer may not be quite good.
– The honorable member has raised several points. I shall try to keep them separate when I am answering them. I am pleased in one way, and grieved in another, to inform the House that the wreckage of the aircraft has been found. Shortly before lunch to-day an aero club aircraft from South Grafton, flown by an instructor, Mr. Hayter, located the wreck about 15 miles north-east of Tenterfield, and was able to fly low and identify scattered parts of the aircraft. A ground party will probably by now have reached the scene. We know nothing more about that. It is true that the aircraft carried three passengers when it took off, but I do not think it would be proper for me at this stage to express an opinion as to whether or not it was overloaded, at the beginning of this tragic flight. I think it would be more proper for me to wait until officials of the Department of Civil Aviation have been able to investigate all angles of the circumstances that caused the aircraft to crash. When that stage has been reached, I will be pleased to let the honorable member know.
– In view of the fact that many young widows with children have less ability to pay taxation than aged persons, will the Treasurer consider extending to widows with children the same taxation exemptions and allowances as are available to aged persons?
– The honorable gentleman will appreciate that he is dealing with a matter of policy. I promise him that the aspect to which he has drawn attention will be considered on the next occasion of the review of the taxation laws.
– The question which I address to the Minister for Primary Industry relates to the activities of the Australian Whaling Commission at Carnarvon, Western Australia.. By way of preface, I point out that I have not been able to get the latest balance-sheet of the commission because it has not been presented to this Parliament, although I understand that it has been available for a long while. The latest report that I have indicates that the capital cost of the station was £750,000. It has already repaid £600,000 of the capital, cost and its net profit for the 1954 season was £223,000.
– Order ! Is the honorable gentleman asking a question or giving information ?
– My question is as follows: Is the Government negotiating to sell this splendid, profitable people’s asset? If it is negotiating, who is it negotiating with ? If the Government has decided to dispose of this great asset, has it called for tenders for the disposal of this asset? Finally, will the Government make available to this House a comprehensive statement relating to the history of the station, its capital value to-day, the amount of capital written off to date, and the profits accruing to the people annually since it was established by the Chifley Government in 1949 ?
– I have been administratively responsible for the Australian Whaling Commission’s activities and I think that my colleague, the Minister for
Primary Industry, agrees that I may be more in possession of the facts than he is. I am not aware why the balance-sheet has not been made publicly available, but 1 am sure that my colleague would agree that it should be available and it will be made publicly available as quickly as possible.
– “Will it be presented to this House?
– Yes. The commission is, in a sense, responsible to the Parliament and it is customary annually to present to the Parliament the report of the commission, including the balancesheet.
– It has been a great financial success.
– It is true that the commission has been conducted very successfully. I think that there is widespread ‘acknowledgment of the fact that the conduct of the commission’s activities, its techniques, its lay-outs, and its general practices have not only been good in themselves but have been regarded as quite valuable examples to other whaling industries in Australia and have inspired, to some extent, their establishment and design and lay-out. To that extent, the Australian Whaling Commission’s activities have served the purposes which the Government believes are desirable and useful.
– We want to know if the Government intends to sell it.
-Order! The position is that the Minister is entirely entitled to decide what answer he will give. Honorable members have considerable latitude in asking questions, and the honorable member for Lalor has used that latitude to the full extent. It is a matter for the Minister, to decide what the answer will be.
– Can the Treasurer inform us whether the Commonwealth Bank or the Commonwealth Trading Bank is refusing further advances for the purchase of motor cars? If this is the position, does he not appreciate the fact that this policy is just driving very highly profitable financial business into the hands of private financial institutions? I should like to ask him, if he has not given full consideration to this matter, and if the facts are as I have stated, whether he will take action to ensure that when people are able to get money from other institutions, the Commonwealth Bank will not restrict its advances in that way and give undue profit to those private institutions.
– The honorable member will no doubt recollect that last September the Prime Minister had a conference with the trading banks, the central bank and other institutions regarding Australia’s financial position in general, and hire-purchase finance in particular. A mutually satisfactory arrangement was arrived at between the central bank and the trading banks. The trading banks, whose advances had been expanded to such an extent as to endanger the economy, agreed to a policy which involved the curtailment of advances. This Government’s policy is not to interfere with, or direct - even if it could - the trading banks. It does not wish to determine to whom the banks shall make advances, or what the extent of those advances should be. It merely wishes to direct the general policy to be followed in deciding the nature of advances and the priorities to be observed in the interests of the stabilization of the general banking economy.
– Is the Minister for Territories aware that certain hydrographic surveys are being carried out in the waters surrounding Dutch New Guinea by a vessel of the Royal Netherlands Navy? If so, are the authorities in Australian New Guinea co-operating in this work, and is it known whether copies of the Dutch charts will eventually be made available to Australia?
– The matter to which the honorable member refers is, of course, an undertaking of the Netherlands Government, and not the Australian Government. It is not, therefore, within the scope of my administration.
– My question is directed, to the Minister for Works, whom I congratulate upon his appointment. Will he make a thorough investigation of the Department of Works, and especially its operations in the Territory of Papua and New Guinea? Has he received reports alleging waste, mismanagement and general laxity in the department’s organization in the Territory? If he has received such reports, what action does he intend taking? Finally, will he consider the wisdom of recommending the transfer of the department’s activities within the Territory to the Department of Territories so that there may be decentralized administration under the control of the Administrator ?
– I can assure the honorable member that I will be making a most thorough investigation of the operations of the Department of Works in New Guinea. I do not know whether he is basing his question on certain articles which have appeared in the South Pacific Post in recent days, but those reports came from a journalist who lied his way into employment with the department and lied in the articles which he wrote for the press.
Opposition Members. - Oh !
– Order !
– I am merely quoting the evidence that has since come out. There is not the slightest doubt about it. 1 1 is well documented and shows that this gentleman has deliberately set out to undermine the whole of the activities of the Department of Works in that area.
– I based my question on personal experience.
– If that is so, I shall withdraw my comments on the press article and deal with it on another occasion. I assure the honorable member that the operations of the department will be looked at carefully. The second matter raised by the honorable member is one of policy and that too will he considered carefully.
– I ask the Minister for External Affairs whether an invitation has been issued to the Nationalist Chinese to send observers to the naval, military and air exercises to be held shortly in the vicinity of Thailand. What is the significance of this invitation? Secondly, are the Nationalist Chinese still refusing to hand over the person responsible for placing a bomb on an aircraft in Hong Kong carrying Chinese Communists to the Indonesian conference ?
– It was reported in the press a few days ago that a Nationalist Chinese military observer was to be present at the joint operations under Seato, to be carried out towards the south of Thailand. I sent a telegram at once to our post in Bangkok, and I received information in reply that the press report was not, in terms, true, but that as Thailand was the host country for the carrying out of this joint Seato naval, military and air exercise, it would exercise its normal right of inviting the military attaches of all the friendly countries that had posts in Bangkok, including the Nationalist Chinese. That was a normal invitation. A country may always invite the military attaches of friendly countries to take part in, or to observe or be present at any naval, military or air exercise that takes place under the aegis of that country. That is what happened, and I think one can say with safety that there is no political implication to be drawn from those facts. With regard to the second question asked by the honorable member, I am not in immediate possession of information on that point, but I shall try to obtain it and advise him.
– As the Minister for Primary Industry is now engaged, with the Minister for Trade, in negotiations with representatives of the Australian dried vine fruits industry in an endeavour to reach agreement on a stabilization plan, will he accept an invitation to visit the Sunraysia district, which includes Mildura, Red Cliffs and Merbein, so that he may secure first-hand knowledge of the problems of the growers?
– I am only too happy to agree to the suggestion of the honorable member for Mallee to visit the Sunraysia district with him, and, 1 hope, to be his guest during the whole of the time I am there. He might also take me to inspect, not only the vineyards, but also some of the wineries.
– No !
– Perhaps I cannot go quite as far as that. If the honorable member will discuss the matter with me as soon as question time is over, I shall be able to fix a date for my visit.
– Having regard to the serious delays that occur in the installation of telephones in city and rural areas, for both business and private purposes, will the Postmaster-General make a statement to the House regarding the supply of essential materials, including cables and equipment for duplex systems? Oan he indicate when the supply shortages will be overcome, so that telephone installations may be effected within a reasonable time after application has been made?
– The PostmasterGeneral’s Department is pursuing the policy that it has pursued over a period of years; that is, to do all that it possibly can do to provide essential services, including telephones and other types of services, within the limits of the national economy. The department will continue to do so.
– In view of the obvious desirability of attracting savings from small investors, and to assist in providing necessary loan funds for public works, would the Treasurer consider reintroducing some form of savings certificates, in denominations as low as, say, £10 at maturity, and carrying an attractive rate of interest?
– Savings certificates are in existence now. They are called national savings certificates, and a good deal of organization and advertising has been carried out to encourage the purchase of these certificates.
The matter mentioned by the honorable gentleman, as with all matters concerning the raising of loans, has been consistently considered and canvassed at the appropriate place, namely, the Australian Loan Council. We are watching that all the time and using every possible endeavour to encourage savings.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Health. He will recall that at one time, and even as late as the termination of the previous Parliament, considerable doubt was freely expressed concerning the use of the Salk vaccine. It is noted now that the State Departments of Health, in conjunction with his own department, are to apply the Salk vaccine to children under fourteen years of age. In view of those earlier reports, will the Minister give the House, and in turn the parents of the children to whom this vaccine will be administered, an assurance that there is no longer any need to worry about safety in respect of the use of Salk vaccine?
– I hope, in the near future, to make a detailed statement in the House about the Salk vaccine. All I would like to say at present is that our arrangements for providing the vaccine are proceeding according to our schedule. So far as the safety of the vaccine goes, it is not, of course, possible to give absolute guarantees in matters of this nature. All that any one can say is that every step that is humanly possible to ensure the safety of this vaccine is being taken, and I have no doubt that when it is available there will be no risk attending its administration.
– I preface my question to the Minister for the Interior by saying that as one who believes in very pure drinking water as a beverage, I am quite sure that he himself would be concerned with the health both of the people within the area and his colleagues in Cabinet. Has the Minister noted from time to time the almost lethal effects of the Canberra water not only upon the general populace, but also upon members of the Cabinet and Ministers of the
Crown? If the facts are as stated - and I could almost bring documentary evidence on the point - will the Minister mobilize that vast body of science which is resident here with a view to ascertaining why it is that this water has that effect from time to time and whether or not it is associated with freshes or floods in the river? Finally, if he finds it impossible, through the mass of scientific experience and research at his disposal, to deal with the matter on any other terms, will he arrange for a supply of those blue bottles which are supposed to be exceedingly effective in the case of at least one of his colleagues?
– It might be a suggestion that the honorable member medicate the water slightly and suitably henceforth. I can assure him that the purity of the Canberra water supply has been examined on a number of occasions by the department administered by my colleague, the Minister for Health. Although somebody has christened this particular wog the “Canberra wog”, I find no evidence to support the fact that it is exclusive to Canberra, nor is there any circumstantial evidence that it exists in the water at Canberra. I am sorry for the honorable gentleman in his discomfort.
– I desire to ask the Minister for Trade a question arising out of his answer to my colleague, the honorable member for Lalor. In view of the Minister’s very frank answer showing that the Australian Whaling Commission has been a success in every way, including financially, will he give an assurance that no attempt will be made by the Government to dispose of the assets nf the commission until this Parliament has been consulted, in advance, about any proposed sale?
– Speaking with the authority of the Government, as long as several years ago, I stated publicly that the functions for which we believed the Australian Whaling Commission could he justified had been fulfilled, in that it had been established and bad shown that, adequately capitalized and technically well operated, there was opportunity to conduct whaling operations profitably in this country. That has been demonstrated. I said several years ago that the Government believed there was no purpose, other than that which could be derived from a socialistic doctrine, in the Government continuing to operate either a whaling station or a wheat farm. I made that perfectly clear, and that is the Government’s view at present. Of course, the whaling station could not be sold without the Parliament being aware of the fact and approving.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Social Services, who is in charge of the War Service Homes Division. In view of the elaborate promises to provide finance for home building, and in other ways to encourage home ownership by private individuals, given by the leader of the New South Wales Parliamentary Liberal party, in the policy speech made on behalf of his party for the New South Wales general elections, can the Minister explain why the Australian Government, which is controlled by the Liberal party, cannot make available sufficient finance to assist thousands of ex-servicemen who desire loans through the War Service Homes Division and are kept waiting for periods of up to two years ?
– This is one of the last questions that I shall answer as Minister for Social Services in this House. I should like to say how glad I shall be when my esteemed colleague the honorable member for Riverina is given the responsibility for answering questions related to war service homes. Shortly before the end of the last sessional period of the last Parliament, I circulated to every member of this House a document setting out the facts relating to the waiting periods and the number of homes being constructed by the War Service Homes Division. I think that if the honorable member will take the trouble to look at that document his question will be fully answered. Suffice it to say that this Government is providing unprecedented funds for war service homes. I think that something like 11,200 homes will be provided this financial year.
– I address a question to the Minister for Defence. During the last sessional period of the previous Parliament, the Minister advised me that consideration was being given to the possibility of establishing shore facilities for small naval craft at Cockburn Sound. Is the Minister in a position to advise mc of the result of his investigations?
– I have no further information on the subject, but I shall make inquiries. If any further information becomes available, I shall convey it to the honorable member.
– by leave - I feel it appropriate to inform the House of instructions that are being issued to the United Kingdom forces concerning the conduct of prisoners of war after capture. This matter has been the subject of study for some eighteen months by a special committee in the United Kingdom on which the Australian services were represented. Other Commonwealth countries were also represented on the committee. The general conclusions of the special committee are supported by the Australian defence and service authorities. The House is no doubt aware that the rules for the treatment of prisoners of war by civilized nations are laid down in the Geneva Prisoners of War Convention of 1949. In ratifying that convention the Russian Government made a reservation to the effect that the Union of Socialist Soviet Republics would not feel bound to extend its benefits to prisoners of war convicted under the law of the detaining power of war crimes and crimes against humanity. The potential effect of this reservation is illustrated by the Chinese contention in the Korean operations that all prisoners of war were, by the very act of having waged war against them, war criminals.
It has been decided that members of the forces shall be instructed that if they are taken prisoner in any future operations, that they can be required under the terms of the Geneva Convention only to furnish to their captors their name, rank, number, and date of birth. Experience has shown that any relaxation of this rule can result only in the divulgence by prisoners of war of information useful to the enemy. At the same time, members of the forces will be given knowledge of the conditions they may meet if taken prisoner, and the aim will be to strengthen, by various training and administrative methods, those military qualities which support a fighting man in the stresses of combat conditions and sustain him if he becomes a prisoner of war. These principles will apply in the Australian forces.
The problem has also been examined by the authorities of the United States of America, whose decisions were announced in August, 1955. The views of Britain and the United States are in very close agreement and the code of conduct of prisoners of war in their respective forces will now to all intents and purposes be identical. The United Kingdom Government considers that the only satisfactory solution of this problem would be for all nations to observe the code of conduct towards prisoners of war embodied in the 1949 Geneva Prisoners of War Convention. The Australian Government shares this view. I have been informed that the United Kingdom Minister for Defence is to make a parallel statement in the House of Commons to-day. I lay on tho table the following paper : -
Conduct of Prisoners of War - Ministerial Statement. and move -
That the paper be printed.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Chambers) adjourned.
Motion (by Dr. Evatt) agreed to -
That leave of absence for one month be given to the honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly) owing to his absence from Australia.
Debate resumed from the 15th February (vide page 48), on motion by Sir Arthur Fadden -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- I am pleased that the Government in its discretion has allowed further time to the House to debate this measure. A bill affecting the size of the Ministry is clearly one of quite considerable importance. It concerns the House in many respects very intimately and it should he adequately considered. I must confess - I say this in a friendly manner - that I was surprised last night at the attitude of the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden)_ and the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Sir Eric Harrison) and their tactics, which some of us on this side of the House felt, at first blush at any rate, were unfair in principle to members who have come here to deliberate and not to be stampeded, especially on the first night of the new Parliament. Therefore, along with my friends, the honorable member for Farrer (Mr. Fairbairn) and the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Falkinder), I pressed for the adjournment of the debate. But let me emphasize, before I go any farther, that our difference with the Government was a very transient one, because it was confined specifically to a point of procedure, and I hope that no honorable member or no body of opinion outside will misconstrue this attitude or try to read into it an interpretation which most certainly is not there. I venture to say that honorable members on all sides of the House may possibly agree that it will be an unhappy augury for the Twentysecond Parliament if members generally are to be treated with a disregard of their individual rights.
Opposition Members. - Hear, hear!
– I hear cries of approval from the Opposition, but let me remind honorable members opposite that, when they were in power, to my knowledge they were far more guilty in this respect than this Government has been. That is established by the records, and I think that outside the House it is accepted by common consent. On this matter, which, of course, is of supreme importance in the institution of Parliament, I should like to say that in my experience in the six years I have sat in this House this Parliament appears to be more machine-bound, whichever side, of politics is in office, than any other legislature of which I am aware. It is certainly far more party-bound than are the State parliaments of which I have some knowledge, certainly far more than the Parliament of South Australia, and less liberty is given to members than exists in the British House of Commons. So my plea on this procedural matter, which is confined not only to this bill but also to all future matters before the Parliament, is that I hope, whether my own side of politics is in office or whether, in a future which is so distant that we cannot foresee, the evil occasion arises when honorable members opposite come into power, that more latitude will be given to members of this House. If it is not given, then Parliament as an institution will suffer and it will lose very seriously in its main purpose.
Now let me come to the bill itself, and let me say without further ado that 1 support it warmly and whole-heartedly. I listened with interest to the criticisms of the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) and one or two other honorable members last night, and, if I may say so, I thought that they appeared to be superficial and purely of a debating character. After all, the criterion of any administration surely lies in its efficiency. So long as the numbers of a ministry are reasonable, there should surely be no substantial criticism of their increase. It is quite conceivable that in a crisis, such as a war or a very grave economic depression, imposing unexpected and heavy duties on the government of the day, the Ministry might have to be extended even further than the present total of 22. Nor should honorable members, I submit, cavil at what, in terms of the national budget, is a very slight increase in cost. Surely it is the falsest of economies to underpay men such as Ministers with the undoubtedly heavy responsibility they have cast upon their shoulders. One has only to compare the emoluments accorded to Ministers of State in this Parliament with those drawn by leaders of commerce and in business, and compare the responsibilities, on the one hand, of servants of the Queen and the nation with, on the other hand, the servants of purely private enterprise, to see in relation thereto how very much at a disadvantage are Ministers in this place. I think, too. that it could be fairly said - one could get general agreement in the House on this proposition - that most Ministers, at any rate those in the previous Government, have been overworked. Surely, with the pressing problems ahead of us, it is necessary to provide more time for Ministers to think, to plan and to evolve policies. One of the ways by which they can be given that extra time to deliberate, and thereby to make a more effective contribution to guiding the nation, is to increase their number.
I should also like - I think it is appropriate to the bill to say this - to express my approval of the action of the Prime Minister in following the British practice of dividing the administration into Cabinet Ministers and Ministers who are not in the Cabinet. After all, the British system is one of proven efficacy. The United Kingdom has had considerable experience of this separation, and I think all students of politics will agree that it has worked well, lt is quite true, of course, that there is a danger in arguing from conditions in the United Kingdom to conditions in Australia. Quite clearly, there is a very great difference between the ways of living and the problems of the’ two countries. But I do not think there is a very great difference in principle, and I think one can safely deduce that the experience of the Mother Country is a good augury for the success of this experiment in Australia.
As for myself - having, I hope, made it perfectly clear that my quarrel with the right honorable gentleman at the table and my friend the Vice-President of the Executive Council is a procedural one only - I support the bill wholeheartedly, without any reservation whatever. I wish the new Government well. To the new Ministers personally, I wish every good fortune in the discharge of their high offices.
Mr. POLLARD (Lalor) ] 3.28] .-The very small bill which the House is considering now is a natural corollary of the decision of the Government to make a change in the manner in which the administration of the country is carried out through Cabinet Ministers. For the first time since federation, we have a system under which there will be 22 Minis ters, of whom only twelve will be eligible to sit in Cabinet whenever it meets. The other ten Ministers will attend Cabinet meetings only at the call of their seniors, the permanent Cabinet Ministers. Surely that change, of itself, entitles the Parliament, particularly the members of the Opposition, to an opportunity to discuss and to criticize or applaud this measure. In view of the fact that the Government has departed from the policy practised for over 50 years, ample opportunity should be given to men of all political views in the Parliament to say what they think about such a change in the governmental direction and administration of the country.
For that reason, I was glad to see a revolt last night within the ranks of the Government parties. Even honorable members opposite could not stomach the arbitrary attitude and actions of the VicePresident of the Executive Council (Sir Eric Harrison). After a few minutes’ debate, in the course of which we were informed that the Government intended to push the measure through the House last night, we were told that we should be gagged if we endeavoured to exercise the right which the people have sent us here to exercise and which they expect we shall be given an opportunity to exercise. After all, the members of the Opposition represent a section of the public, varying from time to time from a small fraction under to a fraction over one-half of the total population of this fair country. Last night, we witnessed a sad exhibition. These dictatorial gentlement, fresh from the polls and flushed with victory, said, “Eight, boys; we shall put our feet down on the members of the Opposition. We shall close their mouths, so that we can get away with this change of administration without the public having had an opportunity to hear other points of view or form a judgment on whether the change is justified “. Even the backbenchers in the Government parties could not stomach that. I applaud them for “ revolting and, by so doing, giving people like myself an opportunity to speak on the bill. I did not rise because I wanted to talk, but because the people who sent me here are entitled to hear my views on this matter and to form their own opinions about whether my views or those of the Government are right.
Let us have a look at the facts surrounding the measure. Before the last Parliament closed its doors last year, we heard read in this chamber a statement on the economic condition of the nation. It was a most lucid statement. The phraseology was excellent and the figures were very informative. But, regarded from the point of view of a statement to indicate that something was to be done to remove the threat of continuing inflation and lift from the shoulders of the people the burden of ever-increasing prices, it was utterly barren. The statement indicated that there was a dangerous inflationary trend in Australia. It informed the people that the essential requirements were more work, more production, a reduced demand for imports from other countries and, consequently, under certain circumstances, a reduction of the standard of living of our people. “We were told that the Government had called into conference the great hanking magnates of this country - the heads of the private banks and the Governor of the Commonwealth Bank. We were told that the Government had made an appeal to the great captains of finance in this country to tighten the screw, to discourage the tendency to borrow too much money or be too extravagant and demand from a limited production more than the economy could stand. We were told that the Government had called into a conference the magnates who direct the hire-purchase organizations and loosen up credit. We were told’ that they had been appealed to-
– Order ! The honorable member is getting a long way away from the bill.
– I am coming right to the point. We were told all those things. The theme was, “More work, more production, less money and everything in the garden will be rosy”. But what do we find now? I propose to make a brief historical survey of the situation that preceded the present situation. I suggest that that is relevant to the question whether there is any justification for the appointment of more Cabinet Ministers. The most difficult governmental period, if I may so describe it, in the history of this country was from 1939 to 1949. For most of those ten long years the affairs of the country were directed by a Labour administration, consisting of nineteen Ministers. At no other time in our history were the burdens of office of so great a magnitude. During a period of war there are thrust upon this Parliament, in effect, practically all the powers that are normally exercised by the State parliaments. Consequently, those nineteen Ministers laboured long and arduously. From the outbreak of war till the end of 1941 there was an anti-Labour administration. Then for eight long years a Labour administration was in power.
We managed to do the job, although the volume of work was enormous. But something else was done. Under that Labour administration, the Parliament sat each year for double the time that it has sat under succeeding administrations. That indicates, not only that nineteen Labour Ministers were able to handle the administrative requirements of the country, although the volume of work had doubled, but also that they were good enough to see to it that the Parliament met each year for at least double the time thai it has met since Labour went out of office. Everybody knows that when a government shuts down the Parliament the burdens of the respective Ministers are substantially lightened and that their toil is not so arduous as when the Parliament is sitting.
Let me refer briefly to the first four or five years after 1945. The situation that then existed required the minute attention of every member of the Cabinet. The vast ramifications of post-war reconstruction, the difficulties associated with international trade, and particularly international finance, and the rehabilitation of ex-servicemen, required the close attention of Ministers. The volume of work of the Department of Commerce and Agriculture, which until recently was administered by the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen), was tremendous, yet it was handled by one Minister. The volume of work was greater then than it is now, because in the early post-war period it was necessary, not only to reshape, in many ways, the administration of the department, but also, week by week, and month after month, to introduce new legislation into the Parliament. The then Minister for Commerce and Agriculture coped with the reshaping of marketing boards and the preparation of all kinds of legislation. To-day we are in the calmer and more highly organized conditions of a peace-time era, yet this Government which, in the policy speech of the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) and in its economic treatise delivered to the last Parliament, called for greater productive effort, now requires 22 Ministers instead of nineteen. At a time when it is demanding more work and greater production from the nation, it proposes to provide, by the appointment of additional Ministers, for less work to be done by individual Ministers.
The Prime Minister has told the Australian Loan Council and the country that, to assist Australia to conquer inflation, Commonwealth expenditure is to be reduced by 10 per cent. ; but he now proposes that his Ministers, who are competent in the sense of being experienced administrators - as far as I am concerned, their type of administration is hopeless - shall do less work at higher cost. What an example to the nation ! This situation has arisen because the Government has been jammed into a corner by a section of the Parliament, to wit the Australian Country party, the members of which are interested more in place, pay and portfolios than in the welfare of the primary producers. The pages of the political history of Australia are riddled with examples of the struggle for place and power within tory cabinets by members of this rump party, the Australian Country party.
The rumour is abroad that the Minister for Trade occupies No. 2 position in the Cabinet, that shortly he will slip into the Liberal party, and that in due course he will become the Prime Minister of Australia. In other words, if that rumour is correct, he is prepared to sell “ down the river “ the views that he has held since his advent to political life. He has been successively a member of the Victorian Country party and of the Australian Country party, which broke away from the Victorian Country party. He has quarrelled with every viewpoint of the organization to which he belongs and has pushed over everybody who has got in his way so that eventually he might reach the zenith of power in this country. To satisfy that kind of greed, and to make room for more Australian Country party Ministers in the Cabinet, the Government is prepared to sell down the river every policy and principle it has enunciated as a means of placing Australia on an even keel financially. These highly skilled old-school-tie Ministers on the other side of the House are always telling the electors how much more suited they are for the administration of our public departments, and of the opportunities they have had to study administration, yet, to administer the affairs of the Commonwealth, ten years after the commencement of the peace-time era, they require a greater number than did the hobnail boot gang of the Australian Labour party, as they were once called by the opponents of Labour in the early days of federation. To describe the members of the Australian Labour party in that way was a disgraceful and horrible start, and I hope it is something I shall never hear again in parliamentary life. All I can say is that the consciences of many of the opponents of Labour must be pricked.
Last night, the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Chaney), in his maiden speech, referred to the importance of Her Majesty’s Opposition, and rightly so.
– ‘Order ! The honorable member must not deal with a speech delivered during the debate on the Address-in-Reply.
– I think you are right, Mr. Speaker. However, last night I heard supporters of the Government stress the need for more work. Probably implicit in that suggestion is less pay and longer hours. The Government has always opposed more pay and less work yet that is what it is now proposing for its Ministers. I leave the matter by expressing my disgust and that of the members of the Australian Labour party. If given the opportunity, nineteen good men and true on this side of the House would willingly perform the work for which 22 men on the opposite side of the House are now required.
.- I rise to support the bill, not completely, but to a large degree. Before proceeding to do so, I should like to refer to some of the comments of the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard). Honorable members will recall that, during the Labour regime, the honorable member was Minister for Commerce and Agriculture. A few moments ago, he said that members of the Australian Country party were more interested in personal aggrandizement than in doing anything for the primary producer. Let me remind him that, while he occupied that portfolio, he got away with selling wheat to New Zealand at 5s. 9d. a bushel when the international price was considerably higher. He is the same gentleman who entered into an agreement with the socialist government of the United Kingdom to tie down the Australian egg producer to a price variation of not more than 7i per cent. The same position obtained in relation to the meat producers, the dairymen, and other primary producers. He is the gentleman who was responsible for writing into legislation dealing with the Australian Dairy Produce Board the provision that, if the chairman of the board disagreed with the decision of the other members of the board and so reported within a certain period, he, the Minister, would determine the matter. During his whole term as Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, when lie was in a position to do something for the primary producers, he did more than anybody else to harm them ; yet in this House he now accuses members of the Australian Country party, who can lay claim to some of the monumental statutes of this country, of seeking personal aggrandizement rather than giving assistance to primary industries. Moreover, the honorable member knows only too well that he was one of those who supported the policy of introducing a homeconsumption price for wool - the one industry that carries this country on its back.
Mr. Peters interjecting,
– The honorable member for Scullin (Mr. Peters), who lias just interjected, has only recently been able to make up his mind about his political affiliation. His interjection justifies my statement that I would deal with the remarks of the honorable member for Lalor before I dealt with the bill. I support this legislation to increase the numerical strength of the Cabinet to 22 Ministers, and I disagree entirely with some of the comments made by members of the Opposition. However, I am not completely satisfied with the bill as it stands. Whilst I shall raise no objection to the bill being read a second time, I should like some more explicit information in respect of clause 4 before I shall he able to bring myself to vote for the complete passage of the measure. I refer to clause 4 because that clause provides for an increase of the Cabinet fund from £41,000 to £46,500, in order to provide salaries and allowances for two extra Ministers. On first thoughts anybody would think that the extra amount of £5,500 was to be divided between those two extra Ministers. That is not the position. The previous Cabinet fund for twenty Ministers was £41,000, an amount which, divided by twenty, gives a figure of £2,050. The proposed Cabinet fund of £46,500, divided by 22, gives a result of £2,113 ; but, again, that does not give a true picture of the real position. The man in the street, however, will see it that way. It is not so long ago that this Government appealed to the man in the street to exercise some measure of restraint because of the economic difficulties we are likely to encounter as a result of our prosperity. No matter what arguments may be advanced, as this legislation now stands we shall not be able to convince the man in the street that somebody, somewhere, somehow, will not be receiving extra emoluments. If it is good enough for the ordinary members of this Parliament to accept voluntarily the postponement of any increase of salary until the end of this financial year, or until some correction of our present economic position is achieved, then it is good enough for the same principle to apply to all members of the Parliament. I completely disagree with the failure of the legislation to make completely clear where this extra money is to go. Anybody who cares to study for a few moments the Nicholas report on parliamentary salaries and allowances, a copy of which I now have before me, can find out readily enough just what salaries and allowances the various Ministers receive. No matter how figures may be juggled it is impossible to dovetail that extra amount of £5,500 into the set-up that was recommended by the Nicholas committee. It would appear, on analysis, that an extra £2,000 will be divided among four Ministers who will be elevated to the rank of senior Minister. Further study of the Nicholas report will show that that allocation would dovetail snugly into a distribution under which extra salary is received by senior Ministers as against that received by junior Ministers. I do not suggest for one moment that any Cabinet Minister is adequately compensated for the work that he does in this Parliament, but I say that there is a principle involved in this matter and that 1, for one, shall not support the adoption of clause 4 during the committee stage unless we have more information regarding the destination of the extra money than we have at the moment, because it is definitely wrong to ask the people of this country to exercise restraint in the present economic position and then, as representatives of the people in this Parliament, to pass legislation which enables certain individuals to receive extra emoluments. What would be the charge levelled at us if we allowed this legislation to pass without raising any objection to it, or without obtaining at least some information on what is to become of the extra money? The charge could be rightly levelled at us that, despite what the Prime Minister said in his statement on the economic position only a few months ago, we believed that the only people who were not expected to exercise economic restraint were those conducting hire-purchase activities, and some senior members of Cabinet. As a member of this Parliament I do not intend to provide any ground for the levelling of such a charge.
Mr. WENTWORTH (Mackellar) ‘ 3.50] . - I rise to support the bill. I do so with a very great deal of pleasure, because I recall that in this House, on th? 38th February, 1952, I advocated the principle of an inner Cabinet, and of having Ministers in charge of departments but not being members of the Cabinet. Tt seems to me that this is a very great and necessary improvement following upon the evolving lines of Cabinet struc ture that have been determined by experience in the United Kingdom and elsewhere. It has been said that, in view of that speech, I am, to some extent, the originator of this bill. I do not think that that is true. My advocacy of four years ago was not original. I merely suggested the application to Australian conditions of a system that had been evolved in the United Kingdom as a result of experience, and I think it would be too much altogether to claim originality for me, because I had suggested the application here of a system that was perfectly well known in other parliamentary democracies. Indeed, sir, in some respects the movement in this direction, evinced in this measure, is not so great as I should have liked to see. It does not go so far along the lines of parliamentary evolution as 1 hoped it would. But perhaps that lies in the future. Perhaps one should not hope for much to be done quickly.
If I may now revert to my remarks of four years ago I shall perhaps be able to outline to the House the way3 in which I think the principles of which I have spoken may be further developed. The very good principles which are embodied in this measure should be carried to their logical conclusion. I am not attempting, in making that statement, to criticize the’ bill in any way. No doubt the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) has in mind a number of things which are unknown to me; no doubt ho has met many organizational difficulties of which I am barely aware ; and no doubt it would be unfair to expect everything to be done at once. Nevertheless, I think that we can see in this bill, at least in outline, the course of Cabinet evolution. First, I think that, in time, all major functions of government will be represented by senior Ministers who will be members of the Cabinet. Those senior Ministers will have, responsible to them in a sense, junior Ministers in administrative charge of departments - Ministers who will not be members of the Cabinet, but who will be brought into the Cabinet for consultation when their departments are under discussion. It seems to me that, eventually, the departments will be better grouped, because every function of government will have a senior Minister in Cabinet to represent it and to be responsible for it. For example, the important functions of health and repatriation are not at present represented by any Minister in the Cabinet who has direct responsibility for them The same would be true of social services or transport, the- Postal Department or the Department of Works. Surely, as the system evolved, we would find perhaps a Minister for Social Services in the Cabinet who would have under him the administration of social services proper, repatriation, housing, health and functions of that character. Or we might find in the Cabinet a Minister for Transport or Minister for Communications who would have under him the administration of the railways, shipping and the Postal Department. So the functions of government would be properly grouped, and in the inner Cabinet, or the Cabinet itself, there would always be a Minister responsible for, and representing, every major function of government.
This is the second point I make, and it follows on the lines that I suggested to this House almost exactly four years ago. If we were to do this the Cabinet would have a better organic structure. How, for example, can the defence functions be properly co-ordinated when the Minister for Defence Production (Sir Eric Harrison) is technically senior to the Minister for Defence (Sir Philip McBride) ? Surely we need in the Cabinet a Minister for Defence who has under him junior ministers who are responsible for the various functions of defence so that there is an organic structure throughout the whole system. I feel that while this new reform goes some way towards that objective, it does not yet go far enough. In saying that, I am not suggesting that there are not a great number of difficulties in the way of doing everything at once. I am not suggesting that the bill is inadequate to the present circumstances. I am saying it is inadequate to the future constitutional development of this country. It may be laying a. good foundation, hut it is not complete.
My third point is this : If one did have, as I suggested, inside the Cabinet a Minister responsible for the main functions of government, then that Minister would have his own Cabinet subcommittee consisting of Ministers who were not in Cabinet but who were responsible for the administration, of the various functions which came under his authority. It is quite natural that any Minister who is putting his hand to any original work or any difficult task -would like to have thrown upon it the light of the criticism of a colleague who was versed in ‘ its details and who would have an independent mind. Nobody has sufficient self-confidence to think that he could see everything at one glance. Even the most acute Minister will find some point eluding him. It is better that he should have another political mind turned upon the problem before a final decision is made. If one had, as I have suggested, an organic structure throughout the whole Cabinet, then there would be the natural Cabinet sub-committees, each member of which would be versed in his own subject ; whereas if one simply has an aci hoc collection of Cabinet sub-committees consisting of people who are not close to the problems with which they are dealing, the effect is a greater division of effort, more work will be thrown on to an already overworked administration and one will not necessarily get the best result.
Indeed, sir, one would hope that, under this system, senior Ministers would be free of administrative responsibilities to a greater extent. The prime example is, of course, the Prime Minister himself. If one looks at the estimates of his department, one will see that he still has to perform a number of irritating, small functions of government which must take up his time and interfere with the proper assessment of the many national problems that are his proper concern. The human mind has only a certain capacity. The day is only 24 hours long. It is a pity, I think, that a greater effort has not been made to cut away the smaller details of administration from the senior Ministers in the Cabinet itself.
I know, sir, the constitutional difficulties. In some ways, many of these functions would better be performed by under-secretaries but we know that, unhappily, under our Constitution, there are several impediments to that, and something else has to take its place. So, whilst I support this bill with a great deal of gratification, I hope it will only be the prelude to further constitutional developments upon the line3 that I described to this House on the 28th February, 1952, and which I still believe to be the soundest of all lines.
Let me just turn to one other point. I refer to clause 4 of the bill which, as honorable members know, seeks to increase the size of what is known as the “ Cabinet pool “. I, myself, am not altogether happy in regard to this. It is quite easy to see how it has been worked out in terms of the Nicholas report. The House has the details of that report which obviously underlie the selection of this figure of £46,500 because it does follow, in a sense, on things which are in the Nicholas report. There is a Prime Minister at £4,000; a Treasurer at £2,500; ten senior Ministers, in addition, at £2,250; and ten junior Ministers at £1,750. If one works out that sum, one will find that it comes to £46,500, which is the amount referred to in clause 4 of this bill.
– To what page of the Nicholas report does the honorable member refer?
– Pages 15 and 23 of the Nicholas report will be the relevant pages. In a sense, this can be technically justified by the Nicholas report. But if honorable members will look at page 15 of that report they will see that although the number of senior Ministers should be fixed at the Prime Minister’s discretion, a figure of six is tentatively suggested. That figure has been raised to ten in order to build up the members of the Cabinet itself to twelve - the ten senior Ministers, the Prime Minister and the Treasurer - and that gives the figure that I quoted.
I am a little bit unhappy about this provision. What the Government has done is technically in accordance with the provisions set out in the Nicholas report, because the report does leave within the discretion of the Prime Minister the number of senior Ministers who would be entitled to higher salaries. Yet I feel, in a way, having regard particularly to what the Prime Minister said to this House on the 27th September, 1955, that it might have been a good thing if the full technical range had not been given and if there had been a little restraint in that matter. After all, the two junior Ministers could come in at £1,750, the figure recommended in the Nicholas report. I feel that whilst it may be a small matter, it is perhaps something of a blemish on the bill although I can appreciate the technical foundations in the terms of the award - if one can call it an award. It does follow the letter of the award, but it does not follow, perhaps, as closely as it might, the spirit of the Prime Minister’s statement to this House on the 27th September, 1955. Perhaps I might read the House one paragraph from the Prime Minister’s statement. He said -
With good reason, we appointed an independent committee to examine Parliamentary salaries and allowances in the light of to-day’s circumstances. We now announce that we have requested the committee to make no report until the end of the current financial year. That this will involve many members of Parliament in veal hardship we do not doubt; but in a community co-operative effort to cure a national problem all must play a part if we are to achieve that balance which will not only make our prosperity completely sound but will give us confidence for the future.
I feel that those words of the Prime Minister were very wise and it might be a good thing if the Government considered reducing the new provision to the amount necessary to cover the salaries of two junior Ministers or, alternatively, did not make any greater sum operative until after, the 30th June, the date mentioned in the Prime Minister’s speech of the 27th September as that applicable to the general parliamentary remuneration. I feel that that is an important matter, but it is a minor matter compared with the very real advance which is being made in Cabinet structure, and the very real measure of further constitutional development which this bill envisages. For the reasons that I gave to the House four years ago, I support this bill, and hope that it will be the forerunner of further developments along the same lines.
– It is a matter for satisfaction that there has been an opportunity for further discussion of the bill, but I should have liked to see some investigation of the facts of administration, in the light of the changing functions performed by the Commonwealth. There has been no real examination of that at all. For instance, the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) is inclined to favour a smaller Cabinet. He points out that the Minister for Defence will be in the Cabinet. Other Ministers of State will not.
– They are to be mere apprentices.
– That is so. They will be in a subordinate position. Presumably, the Minister for the Navy, the Minister for the Army and the Minister for Air will have under them permanent secretaries and the normal bureaucratic extension of power, right down to those who really start recommending the decisions that ultimately percolate slowly through to the top level. The whole situation should be examined from a different point of view. First, the legal functions of the Coram on wealth, under the Constitution, are far less important than they wen; dining the war and the post-war period. The war gave the Commonwealth legislative power over virtually every activity within Australia that had any bearing upon the war effort of the nation. For instance, so far as primary industry was concerned, it was able to organize almost every aspect of marketing and to set up the great war-time pooh. These controls were exercised so that the nation could be better organized for war. That threw a tremendous burden upon the Commonwealth Government. The present Treasurer is an ex-Prime Minister and was for some years a war-time Minister and a member of the Advisory War Council. He will know that what I say is true. A heavy burden was thrust upon the Department of Commerce and Agriculture, which was for some time under the control of the present Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen) and then of my colleague, the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard). The burden on such Ministers was tremendous, for it was necessary to exercise what amounted to a combination of the limited functions of the Commonwealth and the generally unlimited functions of the States as though Australia had, for the time being, a unitary government like that of the United Kingdom. That is only one illustration. Industrial conditions, the control of employment and the direction of labour, are normally quite beyond the jurisdiction of the Commonwealth, but in war-time they were the very essence of its jurisdiction. That was because, under national security legislation, the Commonwealth had been given every power that might be necessary to further the war effort. How many Ministers were required to do this war-time job 1 The number fixed by the Menzies Government in the early stages of the war was nineteen, and that number continued to apply throughout the war and into the post-war period. It even continued for some time after the advent of the present Government in 1949. If nineteen Ministers, who were responsible to the Parliament and the people of Australia, were able to do that job, what case can be made out now for increasing the number to 22 ? It is not a matter of finance or of salaries. The Nicholas report has no bearing on the point that I am making. It deals with the particular question of persons in office and the salaries that they should receive. The real question is, what is necessary to preserve in this country democratic government which is responsible to this Parliament and leaves the real power in the hands of the people?
In war-time there was a War Cabinet of seven or eight Ministers directly concerned with war-time activities. That Cabinet sat almost continuously. That can be justified in war-time but not in peace-time, when the Commonwealth’s powers are limited. It is quite wrong to refer to the United Kingdom, practice because the Parliament of that country has supreme power over every activity within it. In Australia we have federal control and limited power in the hands of the Commonwealth Government. I do not know why it is that if there are nineteen Ministers it is thought that twenty will do a better job; that if there are twenty why should we not make the number 22; and that if there are 22 why should we not appoint another Minister and make it 23. The real question is, what functions are there and how many responsible Ministers should exercise them ? Personally, I believe that the proposed number is too great. I do not think that it will mean additional efficiency. Indeed, I think that it will create inefficiency.
I shall not refer very much now to the division between the inner Ministers and the outer Ministers - the two teams, as they have been called - beyond saying that nothing could be more inefficient in time of peace. It will mean that the permanent secretaries of some of the departments administered by Ministers who are not in the Cabinet will know more about the decisions of Cabinet than will their Ministers. How is an “ outer “ Minister to be informed? He is to be called upon to attend Cabinet when required. Under the Australian system, no Minister should be put in that position. It might be suitable in Britain because of the enormously wide area of power that is given to the United Kingdom Government. In that country there is unlimited jurisdiction as to subject matter and the number of Ministers is as high as 50, 60 or 70. Obviously, they could not all be members of the Cabinet. In Australia, however, the position is different. We have to govern a continent in respect of federal matters. The limiting of the Cabinet to twelve will mean that at the Cabinet level, which is the decisive level, important sections of Australian opinion will not be represented. Defence offers a sufficient illustration.
– The Minister for Defence is a member of the Cabinet.
– If the Treasurer would only listen to me, instead of gossiping, he would understand my point. The Minister for Defence is to be in the Cabinet, but if a ruling is wanted on an Army matter it should be given, there and then, by the Minister charged with the administration of the Army. It is absurd to create this artificial separation between those who are in the Cabinet and those who are not. I think that the present number of Ministers is sufficient. I believe that twenty Ministers could do the job efficiently. My own view is that they should be retained as a Cabinet, especially since this is a time of peace. I have already pointed out, following my colleague, the honorable member for Lalor, how different the position was in time of wa r.
What case has been made out for the increase of the number of Ministers by two? Why 22 rather than twenty? We would like to see some statement by administrators that this increase is essential. I submit that no case has been made out for it. If one looks at the matter from a departmental point of view one finds some extraordinary contradictions. Some of them have already been pointed out. The Minister for Supply is not in the Cabinet, and yet supply is the very life of the defence of this country. When matters of defence are discussed in the Cabinet, is that Minister to hear of them subsequently? Is he to be called from Sydney when Cabinet meets, and made to wait on the doorstep in case he is needed? Such a procedure would be the complete antithesis of a united effort by the Cabinet from the point of view of the efficient government of Australia. Some Ministers in the second group obviously have qualifications as administrators superior to some of those who are in the Cabinet. I think every one would agree with that. Reference was made to one Minister by way of criticism, when it was said that he had been a failure. I think, on the contrary, that he had been a great success. There is no need to mention his name and so introduce personalities into the debate. The Government has made a great blunder in this matter. I believe the time will come when the Government will quietly drop the distinction between the twelve Ministers in the Cabinet and the ten who might be .summoned, and that it will then have a Cabinet working together. But the real point is whether the number of Ministers should be increased to 22, and no case has been made out for such aif increase. There have been parliamentary under-secretaries associated with the Ministers for a number of years. Those under-secretaries have included the honorable member for Canning (Mr. Hamilton), the honorable member for Darling Downs (Mr. Swartz) and the honorable member for Calare (Mr. Howse). What has become of them? Were they not assisting the Ministers? Could not that system be of use if it was thought that those gentlemen could render assistance to Ministers ?
I believe that the whole idea of the second team will eventually be dropped. What does it mean, in effect? Who will have the greatest increase of power as a result of this change? Will it be the
Prime Minister ? Perhaps so, because lie will be able to say who is to attend Cabinet meetings. But I do not think that he will have the greatest increase of power. That, I believe, will be enjoyed by the permanent heads of departments - persons who are not in touch with the people of Australia. Members of this Parliament who, although they are Ministers of State, will be excluded from Cabinet, will not enjoy the same degree of contact with Cabinet as will be enjoyed by their own permanent heads. That will be a result of this scheme, which has been introduced on the principle that something that is good in the English system is necessarily good for Australia, where a Cabinet of nineteen or twenty is not too large for the great area of Australia. My complaint about this proposal has nothing to do with the additional expenditure involved, except by way of illustration of what will follow. Once we have two new Ministers then we have, in effect, two additional departments. Not only will there be the additional expense on salaries, but also each new department will draw additional power to itself.
I believe that the Government has blundered on this matter. It wanted the scheme adopted by Parliament, so it tried to have the measure rushed through yesterday in order to avoid an analysis of this kind. But such an analysis had to come sooner or later. What is the most efficient way of governing Australia at the federal level, remembering our limited powers, and remembering the area that is to be covered? Would the presence in the Cabinet room of ten more Ministers of State, members of this Parliament, interfere with the deliberations of the Cabinet? It is said that their presence would make the proceedings more lengthy. It is not numbers that make proceedings lengthy or short; the deciding factors are the wisdom, prudence and discretion of the members of Cabinet, and the self-control that is exercised at the Cabinet level.
I am not looking at this matter for one moment from a party point of view. I think that we, as a Parliament, should not merely express dogmatic assertions as to what will happen - one cannot be sure of these things - but I direct attention, by way of illustration, to the anomaly that will be created when two service Ministers are in the Cabinet and one is not in it. Why should that be so? That will put the service which is not represented in the Cabinet in an inferior position, and everybody will know it, including the members of the armed forces controlled by that Minister. It will be said, “He is not in the Cabinet, and so he does not enjoy equal status with the other service Ministers “. Cabinet is a body in which all the Ministers of State should be able to put their views, not merely in respect of their own departments, but also in respect of the general administration and policy of the country. There is scarcely any department the activities of which have not some bearing upon those of other departments.
I do not propose to carry the matter further. There has been a complete failure by the Government to show how this system will work, or to show the necessity for it. Of course, there was a desire to promote certain persons, and therefore it was decided to appoint another couple of Ministers, resulting in the juggling and shuffling which is now evident. I submit that some of the Ministers in the second group are more efficient than are some of those in the Cabinet. That is inevitable once an arbitrary division is made of twelve on the one hand and ten on the other. The parliamentary under-secretaries who were selected to assist the Ministers have been left out of the picture altogether.
Why can the matter not he looked at afresh? I suggest that that should be done. In the meantime the view of the Opposition is that the Government has not proved its case, and that the Opposition should not support a measure of this kind. The extra time that we have been given to consider this measure merely confirms our view that there has not been a proper approach to the matter from the point of view of efficient administration. I repeat that those whose power has in creased and is increasing will enjoy a still further increase in power. I refer to the permanent officials of the departments. As a result of this demarcation between
Cabinet Ministers and other Ministers, the views of high-ranking officials in the Public Service will have greater weight. They will be able to express opinions which will carry substantial weight, and they will be able to do so much more readily than is the case at present. They may be very able and efficient men-
– They are probably more capable than the present Ministers.
– They may be, but the j) resent Ministers, whatever their limitations, do represent the people of the country, and they should know what the democratic system requires. That is why we have Ministers. If we did not, we could pick out a dozen permanent official? and say to them, “ Govern Australia “. That is not the kind of system that any member of the Parliament favours.
Those are the views that I formed after listening to the case that has been made out for this change. What case has been made out by the Treasurer ? He has given us a short and summary statement, which I suggest is a perfunctory analysis of the position. There was no attempt to show the changes that have occurred since the war, or the limitation of Commonwealth powers. I think that more efficiency might have resulted from reducing the number of Ministers to nineteen rather than increasing it to 22. Nineteen Ministers were sufficient to provide a ministerial basis for the government of the Commonwealth during the greatest crises in Australia’s history, when there was no just complaint about administration. But of course ambitions have to be recognized, and so this change has been decided upon, and the problem then was to spread the departments among the number of Ministers to be appointed. I suggest that the position should be reversed. There should be an inquiry into the question of how many Ministers of State are required to do the job. If the matter were’ analysed logically I believe that the required number would not be found to be 22, and that it would not be any number in excess of twenty. For that reason I am strongly opposed to this legislation which has been introduced, I suggest, in a slip-shod way, and not in a convincing manner satisfactory to honorable members of this chamber.
.- This bill seeks to increase the membership of the Ministry from 20 to 22, and to provide for additions to the Cabinet funds for the remuneration of Ministers. The Opposition has attacked the measure on the basis that if it were possible to conduct the war with nineteen Ministers, who were all members of the Cabinet, it should be possible to attend to the country’s affairs to-day with at least the same number of Ministers as constituted the Ministry before the bill was introduced. The validity of that argument depends on whether the proposed reorganization of the Cabinet, which has been mentioned, will be satisfactory, and whether, under the new system, the affairs of the country will be more efficiently conducted. The original proposal was that, whereas in the past all Ministers were members of the Cabinet, in the future, of the 22, twelve will be members of the Cabinet, whilst the other Ministers will be outside it. It has been urged, in support of this new principle, that deliberations among twenty people take so much time that it is not possible to get down to matters of policy because so much of the time of Cabinet is occupied with details. The idea is to set apart a smaller number of Ministers who may have time to consider questions of policy.
The experience of the United Kingdom has been cited in support of the new principle to which this bill gives some consequential effect. Hie Parliament should be careful in applying the experience of the United Kingdom to Australian conditions. The honorable member for Mackellar has adopted, holus-bolus, the arguments which have been put forward in support of the United Kingdom system as it now exists. But there are some important differences in this country. The Parliament of the United Kingdom is called upon to perform many more functions than is the Federal Parliament of Australia. For example, this Parliament does not have to deal with matters such as policy relating to education and health, except in a comparatively minor degree, or fuel or power. Great Britain has its socialized coal and electricity industries and also socialized railways. I could mention other functions that the
United Kingdom Parliament has to perform which do not come within the concern of the Australian Parliament. Nevertheless, there they have a Cabinet consisting of fifteen or sixteen Ministers and another ten Ministers outside, as well as a large number of parliamentary under-secretaries and so on. The proposal in the measure is to reduce the present Australian Cabinet to twelve. In the United Kingdom it is evidently possible to conduct a great deal more business with sixteen Cabinet Ministers.
On the face of it a reduction in the number of Cabinet Ministers to twelve in the Australian Government is at least not justified by experience in the United Kingdom. Australia should be able to conduct its affairs satisfactorily with a Ministry of, perhaps, sixteen. I agree entirely with the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) that all sorts of anomalies are associated with the performance of their duties by Ministers inside and outside the Cabinet. One would suppose that the Minister for Defence in the Cabinet would have as colleagues outside the Cabinet Ministers concerned not only with the Army, Navy and Air Force, but also with defence production and supply. The strange position obtains, however, that the Ministers for the Army and Supply are now outside Cabinet, whereas the Ministers for the Navy and Air and Defence Production are inside. Looking at the matter more closely, one must come to the conclusion, that under the Commonwealth Constitution, which has so many difficulties associated with it, the personnel of the Cabinet consists of persons who are there not because of the great importance of the departments that they administer, but because of their prestige in their party or because they represent a particular State Or some specific interest.
To be logical, only those who represent the major departments ought to be in the Ministry. It is anomalous that the Minister for Defence Production should, as such, be in the Cabinet and the Minister for Social Services outside it. I hope, with the honorable member for Mackellar, that the proposed alteration represents only a transitional stage and that ultimately the Cabinet will consist of those representing the major functions of government, with others under them outside the Cabinet. It is to be hoped also that other considerations, such as the representation of a particular State or other interest, will not be, for those reasons alone, included in the Cabinet.
There is every reason why the Cabinet should consist of more than twelve members, because it must always have in it a certain amount of “ dead wood “. Reviewing the Ministry as at present constituted, and not dealing with the ultimate situation envisaged by the honorable member for Mackellar - which I hope will be reached at some stage - and also bearing in mind the fact that some members are in the Cabinet by reason of their administering an important department, the position arises that some Ministers in the Cabinet would be better outside it, and vice versa, under the conditions imposed by our federal system. Some new Ministers have been appointed who might bring fresh ideas to the Cabinet and so greatly stimulate it. That is perhaps the most valid criticism of this proposal. It has been suggested that the Cabinet has not been as active or as inventive as it should be. If new Ministers with fresh ideas are to be kept outside the Cabinet, this would amount to a sterilization of innovation, and I am concerned at that possibility. At this stage in the evolution of a new Cabinet 1 should be pleased to see sixteen Ministers appointed with others outside, rather than a Cabinet of twelve and some outside it representing departments that have greater justification for inclusion in the Cabinet.
The honorable member for Mackellar and other honorable members have mentioned the desirability of allowing Ministers inside the Cabinet some freedom from administrative responsibilities so that they might be able to brood on the affairs of the nation. It is argued that they should be freed from matters of detail that would distract their minds from, broad issues of policy. This suggestion has a long history of argument over the years, and dates back to the Haldane Committee on the Machinery of Government and the days of Lloyd George and his war Cabinet in World War I. The matter was considered again by Winston Churchill during World War
In direct contrariety to a strong current of opinion, I have now given full effect to my view that war Cabinet members should also he the holders of responsible offices and not merely advisers at large with nothing to do but think and talk and take decisions by compromise or majority.
He was greatly in favour, in those difficult times - and Australia is passing through difficult times now in other circumstances - of all members of the Cabinet being in charge of an important department of State because it brought them into touch with the day-to-day problems confronting the Administration, instead of their being aloof from what was going on. It also means that those who are responsible for the great offices of state, and being concerned with major decisions arrived at by Cabinet, will be all the more bound to stand together in their Cabinet responsibilities whereas, if quite important functions are left outside the Cabinet, then, although those Ministers outside Cabinet who have to abide by Cabinet decisions no doubt will do so with the utmost conscientiousness of which they are capable, there will no doubt be times of stress when they will feel that, not having been consulted, and not having taken part in the discussions, it is a little hard to expect them to abide by the decisions arrived at. So Mr. Churchill took the view that the Cabinet should consist of those who hold the great offices of state and who are not free of those administrative responsibilities at all.
I do not want to delay the House on this matter, but I think we may well see an important experiment carried out following upon this bill that I think will have good consequences. At the same time I should not be at all surprised also to find, just as the division of the Cabinet into two “elevens” recently was not found to work successfully, that it will also be necessary to modify the present reorganization by way of an enlargement of the Cabinet to perhaps sixteen members in the not distant future.
– First, I wish to reply to some of the remarks made by the honorable member for Canning (Mr. Hamilton), i think he was most unfair to the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard), tie stated that when the honorable member was Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, he sold wheat to New Zealand for 5s. 9d. a bushel. He also spoke about the sale of wool at the cost of production. He was endeavouring to convey the impression that the honorable member was a failure as a Minister. Let me point out that the honorable member for Lalor was not the Minister when that wheat was sold to New Zealand. Another point is that when the Labour Government took office in 1941 the outgoing Liberal Government had arranged to sell wool to the British Government at 13d. per lb. It was only after the right honorable member for Barton (Dr. Evatt) had intervened, and had made representations in London, that the price was increased to lod. per lb. I mention those matters to show that the honorable member for Canning, when he made those remarks, displayed a very poor spirit indeed. He should not have raised those matters. We all know only too well that one may sell something for a certain price to-day only to find in a month’s time that circumstances have so changed as to make one say, “ If I had only known, I would have hung on until now and got a higher price “. That was really the position with the sale of wheat to New Zealand.
We on this side are not happy about the proposed increase in the number of Ministers. Most of the knowledge we have of the question has been gleaned from what we read in the press just prior to the assembling of this Parliament. We know that when negotiations were taking place between the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Australian Country party (Sir Arthur Fadden), the question of how many portfolios should be allotted to the Australian Country party was discussed. The information we received, and I think it was fairly accurate, was that the Prime .Minister proposed that there should he four Country party Ministers and sixteen Liberal party Ministers.
– He never said that.
– I am not saying that he said it; I am saying that statement appeared in the press, and I think it was fairly correct. When the Australian Country party would not agree to the proposal that only four Ministers should be appointed from their ranks, the Prime Minister compromised. He suggested that five Australian Country party Ministers, and two additional Liberal party Ministers be appointed. The Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) and other honorable members on this side have stated that the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) has not put forward any justification whatever for an increase of the number of Ministers. The reason why he has not done so is quite simple to find. It is because he is not able to justify the increase.
When we are considering the justice 01 fairness of the present proposal, it may be of advantage to recall a discussion that took place a few years ago on the appointment of parliamentary under-secretaries We were told that certain men had been appointed parliamentary undersecretaries to understudy Ministers with a view to being given ministerial rank subsequently. But what do we find when new Ministers are appointed? The honorable member for Canning, who has done a great deal of work as a parliamentary under-secretary, is overlooked and somebody else is appointed. Day after day in the previous Parliament, the honorable member for Darling Downs (Mr. Swartz) asked questions of the various Ministers, and particularly of th* Minister for Commerce and Agriculture. They were what might be called “ Dorothy Dix “ questions, and were put with a view to demonstrating to the ‘people just how hard the Ministers and he were working. Every one was thinking that the honorable member for Darling Downs certainly knew the business of the primary producer. People were convinced that he was coming into the limelight, as it were, and that he was almost certain to become a member of the Ministry. But that did not happen. In the appointment of two additional Ministers, the honorable member for Darling Downs is overlooked. The men who were supposed to be apprentices, or understudies to Ministers and to be training for the Ministry, have been passed over, and others have been appointed in their stead.
Another important point is that if we are to have a Ministry that is truly representative not only of this Parliament but also of the people of Australia, South Australia should be given more than one representative in it. There are on the Government side more than one capable representative from South Australia who should have been elevated to ministerial rank. One cannot be blamed for thinking that there is a special reason for giving South Australia only one-twenty-second of the representation in the Ministry, although the State has one-eleventh of the population of Australia. There is a reason. These South Australian representatives are passed over not because they lack ability but because the Government wants to appoint to the Ministry men sponsored by powerful interests. In my view, the increase of the number of Ministers is proposed, not because 22 Ministers are required to carry on the business of government, but because the Government desires to please certain parties and the people who support it.
I was amazed to hear the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) say that he would support the hill because it could be the means of bringing about something that he advocated four years ago. At that time, he spoke of an inner or superior Cabinet. An examination of the bill will disclose that it does not contain power to do that. All it seeks to do is increase the number of Ministers from twenty to 22. Even without this bill, even with only twenty Ministers, the Government would have power to appoint an inner Cabinet. It is my opinion that honorable members on the Government side are merely taking advantage of the opportunity presented by this bill to air their views on that matter.
We are not debating whether there should be an inner Cabinet or a first eleven and a second eleven. The point we are debating is whether there should be 22, or only twenty members in the Ministry. As the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) has stated, this party will not vote for the measure. We shall oppose it because the Government has not put forward any sound reason why we should support it. I admit I believe that Ministers should have ample time in which to do their job. I know that some Ministers have enormous tasks, but when I consider who the proposed 22 Ministers are, and when I recall speeches they have delivered here, and their attitude to various matters that have been dealt with, I cannot understand how those 22 will be able to do any better than, or even as well as, twenty Ministers have done in the past. In my opinion some men who have not the necessary experience to do the job are appointed Ministers. What will happen, as I said years ago, is that as the number of members of Parliament is increased the rank and file in the Parliament will lose control, and the Parliament will come under Executive control to an increasingly greater degree. Likewise, as the number in the Ministry is increased the more the Ministry will come under Executive control. Some people think that is a good thing. The honorable member for Bradfield (Mr. Turner), who has just resumed his seat, said that he would sooner see a Cabinet of sixteen Ministers, all in the Cabinet doing the job, than twelve Ministers actually in the Cabinet with authority and another ten Ministers outside it. I agree with him to a certain extent. The effect of an enlarged Ministry can be illustrated by what happens in a large caucus of, say, 100 members. Every matter cannot be thoroughly digested and so must be left with a few in the Executive. So it will be with the Ministry. The larger the Ministry the more necessary it will be to have a hard core in that Ministry, and that core will be the deciding factor.
We desire to leave the position as it i» and allow the present twenty Ministers to carry on. I know very well that the Government has the numbers to put this bill through, but it was wise of the Treasurer last night to accept the motion of the honorable member for Angas (Mr. Downer) to adjourn the debate so that wo could consider it further. As a result we ll ave been enabled to look into this matter more fully. The honorable member foi Angas stated that even though he wanted more time to consider the matter, he unreservedly supported the bill. The adjournment has given us the opportunity to consider for ourselves what the results of this bill will be, and to place our view? before the people. I have no spleen, or animosity, in this matter, but there is no doubt in my mind that the result of this bill will be to create a hard core in the Ministry, and increase the power of heads of departments. Departmental control will become even greater than it is now. In Australia, a Minister, no matter who he may be, is dominated or influenced to a great extent by the department which he is supposed to control. That occurs whether a Liberal government or a Labour government is in power, although I make the observation that the Ministers in Labour governments have exercised a greater degree of control over their departments. Only to-day, the honorable member for Canning (Mr, Hamilton) said that when the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) was a Minister he stated that he would step in when the department did not do what it should do. I believe that is a wise attitude. We are elected by the people to govern and administer the country and, in that respect, every Minister should accept his full responsibility. To-day, we are getting away from the principle that if Ministers had direct instead of remote control, and were not influenced unduly by an inner cabinet and departmental heads, we would have a much better system. In those circumstances the Labour party is quite justified in objecting to this measure and in refusing to support it.
– I rise to support, with some reservations, this bill which seeks to amend the Ministers of State Act. I say at the outset that it is a matter for regret that the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) is not here to handle the passage of this bill because it concerns his department. Some matters have been raised to which he would have been able to give a very satisfactory answer. In his absence the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) has explained the meaning of the bill and what it proposes to do; and it is for the House in this democratic Parliament to make observations and decide whether the bill should become law. It has been said that one of the reasons for an increase in the number of Ministers of State is that in the preceding Parliament the Ministers were over-worked. I do not doubt that at all. I have every sympathy for Cabinet Ministers; I believe they have been tremendously over-worked. However, I do not think it was necessary for them to work so hard when such a position could be avoided. I suggest that Ministers, particularly those occupying high Cabinet posts, should be relieved of the necessity of signing letters regarding personal matters. As a private member I receive many letters asking that h certain matter be brought before a Minister, and I feel bound to place such representations before the appropriate Minis:ter. An honorable member feels bound to his constituents to do that, but if the constituents appreciated the tremendous amount of work that devolves upon Ministers I am sure they would be content to receive an assurance from a senior officer of a department, or from their own member on the authority of the department, that a particular matter would be considered without the Minister having personally to sign a letter.
It is incomprehensible that Ministers should be expected to do so, nor should they be expected to peruse every letter they are called upon to sign. That practice has grown up, but Ministers could be relieved of a tremendous amount of work if a suggestion along the lines I have indicated were adopted. They should not he required to sign letters referring to personal matters, but, naturally, they would be prepared to sign letters to organizations or letters dealing with policy. There is the man who is in the habit of writing to his member, “ I want a telephone and I cannot get it. Will you take this matter up with the Postmaster-General ? “ That type of man is still with us. We have to take the matter up with the Postmaster-General but the man would receive just as much satisfaction, and probably a quicker reply, if he were to go direct to the district telephone officer who would be in a position to tell him whether he could get an immediate service or not. In that respect, Ministers could be saved a tremendous amount of work and left free to devote their time to matters of policy which, after all, is the important function of Cabinet.
We find that in the proposed reconstruction of the Cabinet, Ministers other than the Cabinet Ministers, will be expected to be only administrative Ministers. In other words, they will have very little to do with matters affecting overall policy hut will be responsible only for policy concerning their departments. In the selection of the Cabinet Ministers has consideration been given to personal qualities rather than to the needs of departments? On looking down the list, one wonders why it is that the Minister in charge of such an important department as the Department of Primary Industry is not worthy of inclusion in the Cabinet. We are crying out for greater production, particularly from the primary industries, which provide some 90 per cent, of Australia’s export wealth. Therefore, one would think that the Minister in charge of that department could justifiably be included in the Cabinet. It has been said already that the Department of Supply is of great importance to us under present world conditions, particularly on account of its association with the atomic bomb. Yet the Minister in charge of that department is not included in the Cabinet. I find it difficult to understand how the Postmaster-General’s Department, for instance, can be expected to discharge not only its Australian obligations but also its international obligations, particularly with the expected introduction of television, unless its Minister sits in the Cabinet. I find myself wondering whether this is only an experimental arrangement. Is it proposed that, having seen how it works, it shall be improved ? No doubt that is so.
It seems to me that some Ministers are capable, and have proved themselves capable, of administering more than one department. I mention as an example the administration of the Department of Labour and National Service and the Department of Immigration by one Minister. If a Minister is capable of administering more than one department under the present set-up, in which he has the whole responsibility, I suggest that it is possible that the ministerial heads of all departments might be included in the Cabinet by allocating more than one department to individual Cabinet Ministers. If this were done, the Cabinet Ministers in charge of departments, as a Cabinet Minister, would have direct access to the source of policy, and could be freed of the administrative responsibility for the departments by the remaining Ministers, who could act as assistants to the Cabinet, if a Cabinet of twelve, including the Prime Minister and the Treasurer, is adhered to. That would leave ten Ministers, apart from the Prime Minister and the Treasurer, each of whom could administer two departments, with the assistance of the other ten Ministers who are at present classified as junior Ministers.
It is proposed to increase the number of Ministers to 22. I doubt whether, under present stresses, it is possible to carry on with fewer than 22 Ministers, although it might be possible to reduce the number by a reconstruction of the Ministry. But, as that is not to be done, it is necessary to provide for the remuneration of the two additional Ministers and clause 4 of the bill amends the principal act for this purpose. I agree with previous speakers that it is unfortunate that the bill provides not only for the remuneration of the two additional appointees but also for some additional remuneration to other Ministers which, I understand, is the result of the changes in the Cabinet. If the Ministers of State who comprise the Cabinet are selected because of their particular ability, I believe they are capable of administering more than one department. If they are not capable of administering more than one department, I fail to see why their remuneration should be increased. Therefore, Mr. Speaker, I support the bill with some reservations.
If it can be shown that, by this reconstruction of the Cabinet, the country will be administered better and the Cabinet Ministers will be able to give more time to policy matters and less time to detailed administrative matters, it will be a very good thing. If it is found that better administration is achieved by a Cabinet of ten Ministers, together with the Prime Minister and the Treasurer, it is correct that those Ministers should be promoted to senior Cabinet rank and given the remuneration that goes with that rank. But I do not consider the present is the appropriate time for such action. This is a time when we are asking people to button up their pockets and tighten their belts, to work harder and not ask for more money for the extra work, and in general to put their best foot forward and do their utmost. Members of the Parliament have given a lead by demonstrating that they are prepared to do what the people are asked to do. I refer to a report, which, we believe, indicates that many members of this House are not receiving remuneration commensurate with their costs. I emphasize that their remuneration is not commensurate even with their costs, as distinct from what they would like to receive. Ibelieve that, while increases of members’ remuneration remain in abeyance, it would have been wiser to allow the provision for increased remuneration of Ministers made in this bill also to remain in abeyance.
However, there the matter stands.I have stated that I support the bill because I believe it is a move in the right direction to give Ministers of State more opportunity to deal with policy matters. I suggest, also, that this is a suitable time for Ministers to indicate that private members will be given more authority to reply to representations from constituents, because Ministers should not be expected to reply personally to each individual letter written to them.
.- This sordid bargain-
Motion (by Sir Eric Harrison) put -
That the question be now put.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. Archie Cameron.)
Majority . . . . 26
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Question put -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. Archie Cameron.)
Majority . . . . 27
Question so resolvedinaffirmative.
Bill read a second time, and committed pro forma; progress reported.
Sitting suspended from 5.20 to 8 p.m.
Message recommending appropriation reported.
In committee (Consideration of GovernorGeneral’s message) :
Motion (by Sir Arthur Fadden) 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 Ministers of State Act 1052.
Resolution reported and adopted.
In committee: Consideration resumed.
Bill - by leave - taken as a whole.
.- On behalf of the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), I want to make an explanation in connexion with clause 4, which seeks to amend section 5 of the principal act. The clause provides for a sum of £46,500 to be set aside for the purpose of paying ministerial salaries. That sum represents an increase by £5,500 of the sum currently provided. By long tradition, of which honorable members will be aware, the sum provided is allotted entirely at the discretion of the Prime Minister. That tradition, of course, will be maintained. Notwithstanding that, I am quite prepared to explain to the committee, on the Prime Minister’s behalf, that since 1952, when the act was last amended, the Prime Minister has arranged the payments to Ministers in a manner completely within the spirit of the report of the Nicholas Committee, which sat in 1951 and reported in January, 1952.
I emphasize that, since then, no review of ministerial salaries has been sought or made. I desire to explain also that the increased sum now sought is still within the spirit of the report of the Nicholas Committee and is, in fact, the absolute minimum sum with which the salaries recommended by that committee can be paid to the new Ministers and consequent adjustments, arising from the new Cabinet arrangements, can be made in the payments to some other Ministers. In no case will a Minister receive more than was recommended by the Nicholas Committee.
– The Nicholas Committee did not say that more Ministers should be appointed, though.
– It did say that the matter should be at the discretion of the Prime Minister. On page 15 of the report of the committee, the following statement appears: -
We would suggest that the following distinction be drawn - that the Treasurer be paid a salary greater than that of other Ministers, and that other Ministers be classified as senior Ministers and Ministers. The number of senior Ministers would be at the discretion of the Prime Minister, but we suggest that there might be approximately six.
The Prime Minister, in his discretion, has decided that the Cabinet shall consist of twelve Ministers. It is in conformity with the re-organization that the extra money is sought.
Our friends opposite say that they agree with arbitration. They must recognize that the Government has accepted the award of the Nicholas Committee by introducing this bill.
for having given at this stage an explanation that ought to have been given when the bill was introduced last night. He has said that the amounts paid to the various Ministers are within the discretion of the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies). I suggest that that is a misstatement of the position. The only thing that is within the discretion of the Prime Minister is a minimum sum. The maximum aggregate sum that can be paid to the various Ministers is set by the Ministers of State Act 1952, which the bill proposes to amend.
That act provides that the total sum paid to Ministers, whether they belong to minor or major Cabinets, so to speak, shall not exceed £41,000. The bill proposes that that maximum sum shall be increased to £46,500. Apparently what ia to be done, although it was not explained to us, is that differential payments are to be made to Ministers, according to whether they are merely Ministers or are members of the body known as the Cabinet. As we said last night, there are certain courtesies to which the Opposition is entitled and there is certain minimum information that honorable members must have if they are to adjudicate properly on matters brought before them.
We resent the very cursory way in which this piece of legislation waa explained to us. I believe that the Government has been given a salutary lesson by honorable members on this side and also by some members of the Govern ment parties. We have shown that we do not want a repetition of this kind of conduct. This Parliament is a responsible body, with many years of tradition behind it. It is a body which has shown that it will not lightly abrogate the customs that have applied in the past.
The Treasurer, on behalf of the Prime Minister, has now, most belatedly, given ns an explanation. Whether or not he relies upon the Nicholas report, which is some years old, apparently the fact is that some members of the Ministry will receive increased payments as a result of this legislation. Whether he calls them margins for skill or payments to which they are rightly entitled I do not know, but certainly the explanation comes strangely from the mouth of the Treasurer, who is representing the Prime Minister, because during the last session he denied ordinary members an increase for the reason that the nation was facing some sort of economic crisis. We tried to point out to him then that perhaps there were some people in the community who were getting too much, but that also there were some people who we thought were getting too little. Apparently this measure provides for some small redistribution in favour of some of thos<? unfortunate people - those who have been admitted to the Inner Cabinet. I hope that this occasion will serve as a warning to the Government that in future it should not treat the Opposition lightly, and that it should not tread carelessly upon the rights and principles that have obtained in this place for 56 years.
.- The explanation of the clause by the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) bears out what quite a number of us have been thinking, and I must register my protest against the Government’s action on this occasion.
– The honorable member may do so when casting his vote.
– I do not want to be assisted by Opposition members. I had a verbal, battle with the honorable member for Scullin (Mr. Peters) earlier to-day, and I thought he would have remained quiet. The Treasurer has stated that this measure seeks to carry out the spirit of the Nicholas report. If that is so, the spirit of the Nicholas report means nothing less than paying out of the proposed sum of £5,500 the sum of £500 to each of four Ministers. The Nicholas report is a public document. The people of Australia can get it and see for themselves that members of Parliament receive a certain remuneration, on tcp of which the Prime Minister and the Treasurer receive certain emoluments. The reportalso deals with the salaries of six other senior Ministers and the junior Ministers.
This bill was introduced in the first instance to provide for the salaries of the two new Ministers who, as everybody knows, will be junior Ministers. In terms of the Nicholas report, they will receive a total of £3,500, leaving a sum of £2,000 for which provision is made in the bill. As the Treasurer has stated, that amount will be used to adjust the salaries of other Ministers. I do not say for one moment that the Ministers are receiving enough : they are not receiving enough. I am not quibbling about the payments that they receive or that they should receive, but I take exception to the action of this
Government, which I have loyally supported since 1949, in throwing away the principles for which it has fought for so long.
I feel very deeply about the step the Government has taken, because not very long ago, as I have already stated, the Prime Minister, in an address to the nation, pointed out its economic difficulties and asked the people to exercise restraint wherever possible. Honorable members on both sides of the House voluntarily agreed not to accept an increase of salary until at least the 30th June, 1956. It does not follow that we shall receive an increase even then, and, as we all well and truly know, some honorable members are finding it difficult to carry on. After a resounding victory, when the people endorsed the policy of a Government that had always claimed to be of the highest moral courage and integrity, and which they thought would not countenance underhand work, the first piece of legislation to be introduced is this bill. Now we are told that it provides for salary adjustments for some senior Ministers. That means that somebody somehow will receive something extra.
In view of our plea to the people to exercise restraint, and of the attitude that has been adopted by honorable members in relation to their salaries and allowances, I think that the step the Government has taken is a breach of faith. . If it would only say, “ “We will not put this legislation completely into operation until the 30th June “, that would suit me. In other words, if it were to say, “ We will only pay the two new Ministers the sum of £1,750 “, or whatever the sum might be, I would be satisfied. To use this measure as a means of adjusting the salaries of others - I do not care who they are - to my mind is disgusting and sickening. I make this protest to-night because I am positive that in the not too distant future, when probably we shall be forced to ask the people to tighten their belts further, the action taken by the Government on this occasion will be well, and properly thrown bac1– in its teeth. Consequently, I cannot support it.
– In view of the important contribution to the debate that has been made by the honorable member for Canning (Mr. Hamilton), I should like to ask the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) to inform the committee whether the facts that have been mentioned were known when it was decided to force this bill through all stages yesterday. The question of salaries arose only as the result of an analysis of the bill by my friend and colleague, the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Crean). Will the right honorable gentleman tell us which Ministers will be affected by the alteration? Let me remind him that the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) announced last year that the Richardson report in relation to the salaries of ordinary members, which was then before him or about to be presented, had been set aside. Why has provision been made for Minister’s salaries in a bill that has nothing whatever to do with salaries? It was presented, in the first instance, simply to make provision for the salaries of two additional members of the Ministry, but in fact, it is not entirely that kind of bill. The haste with which it was introduced was improper. Some person - I do not say it was the right honorable gentleman - must have known these facts. As I have stated, only at the last moment, as a result of an analysis of the measure by the honorable member for Melbourne Ports and the devastating criticism of the honorable member for Canning, have these facts been made known to the public. They are scandalous.
.- I am sorry that the honorable member for Canning (Mr. Hamilton) feels so deeply about the fact that in some way or other some one will get some money that he thinks that person is not entitled to. As I understand his complaint, the burden of it was simply that there was some relationship between this bill and the selfdenying action of honorable members in deciding that, they would not seek an increase of salary for the time being. If the honorable member for Canning and other honorable members would examine the position carefully they would realize that that, in fact, is not the position. I take it that, had the honorable member for Canning, or any other honorable member, been elevated to ministerial rank, he or any other so elevated would have expected to receive the ordinary remuneration that goes with that position. What has happened in the Cabinet re-organization which passage of this bill will regularize is that certain Ministers have been raised from junior status to senior status; in other words, to put it in common parlance, they have been promoted to a higher salary level. Does any one suggest that the fact that they have been promoted to more responsible positions which carry, normally, higher salaries, means that an increase of salary is to be given to Cabinet Ministers generally? Such a suggestion would be quite fantastic. I consider that the position has been misunderstood by the honorable member for Canning, and I hope that, on reflection, he will appreciate that fact.
The bill has been surrounded by a great deal of confusion, due to the unfortunate illness of the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), because it has always been the Prime Minister’s prerogative to distribute the fund available to Cabinet Ministers. I do not think that either members of this Parliament, or Cabinet Ministers themselves, have greatly concerned themselves with the method of distribution of the fund. The Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) has made quite clear the fact that this alteration in the standing of Cabinet has been in accordance with the Nicholas committee’s report. In fact, if the position is examined closely it will he found that the Prime Minister has used the discretion that the Nicholas committee recommended he should use from the outset, because I understand that the Nicholas committee’s report suggested there should be six senior Ministers. In fact, from the outset there were seven senior Ministers, and the fund available for only six senior Ministers was divided among seven. In other words, at that stage they received less than the Nicholas committee suggested they should receive. With this increase of the number of senior Ministers by the promotion of certain Ministers to senior status, which was left to the discretion of the Prime Minister. I imagine - of course, we have no detailed information on this, nor do we seek it - that the twelve senior Ministers will receive remuneration on a basis somewhat nearer (o the rate of payment for seven senior
Ministers than the rate of payment for the six suggested by the Nicholas committee; in other words, they will continue to receive less than was suggested by the Nicholas committee.
I suggest, therefore, that the honorable member for Canning has completely misunderstood the position. Further, I suggest that it is rather degrading for him to advance a case which suggests that the business of the government of this country, and the appointment of the Ministers to carry it out, could be made the subject of a bargain on the basis that we would be willing to authorize the payment of higher salaries to Ministers if they were willing to introduce legislation to increase the salaries of honorable members generally. That is a rather sordid and. degrading proposition to advance, and if the honorable member were to examine his argument he would see that that proposition is implicit in it. I think, therefore, that the committee can pass this legislation with a clear conscience and that the Government has not in any way tried to conceal or to confuse the issue. This legislation is perfectly in accordance with the Nicholas committee’s report. It is also perfectly in accordance with the discretion that that committee suggested should be left to the Prime Minister. Further, it is perfectly in accordance with the ideas of this chamber, as already expressed by its vote, that there should be a certain reorganization of Cabinet along the lines laid down in the bill.
.- I desire, in common with other honorable members, to register my protest at the unnecessary haste and the manner in which this proposed increase has been placed before us. I did not intend to rise because I thought that the speeches of the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt), the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Crean) and the honorable member for Canning (Mr. Hamilton) had put forward very effective arguments. But, because the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Freeth) has risen specifically to oppose the arguments advanced by those honorable members, I consider that I am forced to point out that he, alone of the 124 members of this House, has had his electoral allowance increased by regulation.
– Order! That does not concern this bil],
– It has some connexion with it.
– This is the Ministers of State Bill, and I ask the honorable member to confine his remarks to it.
– I should like to draw a distinction between the allowances paid to honorable members and those to be provided under this bill for Ministers of State. I should also like to point out that the electoral allowance of the honorable member for Forrest was the only one increased by regulation, a fact of which most honorable members were not aware. Now, he rises to defend the actions of the Government, more or less to say, “ Thank you “ to the members of the Government for their very generous attitude towards him. I understand his electoral allowance was increased from £600 to £750 and, as a colleague reminds me, the increase was made retrospective. So one would expect him to come to the defence of Ministers who are now to receive increased salaries at a time when the wage-earners and salary-earners of Australia have received shocking treatment from the various people who pay their wages and salaries. It is a pity we cannot import into this matter, not the Commonwealth Public Service Arbitrator, because he dealt fairly with Commonwealth employees in his last award, but the Full Court of the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration to examine the difference between the margins paid to the specially skilled Ministers and those paid to the semi-skilled Ministers in the second grade. I hope that the Treasurer will withdraw this bill and will see, at least, that the Ministers themselves are prepared to pull in their belts and do without increases of margins until the great mass of workers in this country receive their due rights.
.- Clause 3 is objectionable because it seeks to regularize an increase of the number of Ministers from twenty to 22 although, if the twenty Ministers were really competent, they could do all the work that the Ministry ought to do. Clause 4 is ob jectionable because it proposes to appro priate an additional sum of £5,500 for the payment of the salaries of Ministers. If the Government considers that more Ministers are needed, then it ought to be able to make provision for the ministerial salaries of the additional Ministers from the amount of £41,000 that the Parliament has already appropriated for that purpose. But, under clause 4, the Government wants to appropriate another sum of £5,500. This is the Government that is telling everybody in the community to tighten their belts. It is telling the people to spend less and work harder. It is telling the waterside workers that they have to do this and that. It is lecturing the primary producers. It is hectoring the manufacturers. It is telling the importers that they must reduce the value of their purchases abroad because the state of the economy is bad. We are suffering, as I said earlier, from what the Prime Minister, in a delightful phrase, termed “ the problems of prosperity “. Heaven help us if we did not have prosperity to-day. I do not know what the position would be like if we were in adversity. But the Government, which is lecturing everybody else, says in effect, “ Our new Ministers, who are not to be allowed to attend Cabinet meetings unless and until summoned for consultation, are useless Ministers “. But our useless Ministers, in effect, are to be paid an extra remuneration. It is all right for the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Freeth) to make a plea for the Government. He may be anticipating favours on some future occasion. He may be in the third eleven - the next lot who are going to be promoted. He may be expecting that at some time the qualities which he undoubtedly possesses will be recognized. Of course, none of us, not even the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Pearce), is accepted at his own valuation. The honorable member for Forrest made a specious plea in answer to the very telling case of the honorable member for Canning.
– Because his speed) suited you.
– Does the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Bowden) agree with his speech or disagree with it ? Come clean ! Tell us where you stand.
– I disagree.
– Then there is to be a brawl in the Australian Country party. I do not mind encouraging this defection in the ranks of my opponents.
– The honorable member should talk about brawls in parties !
– The Treasurer has been in a few in his time.
– Order! Let us get back to the bill.
– I was about to remark that the Treasurer once accused the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) of stabbing him in the back.
– Order! The honorable member will obey the Chair.
– The honorable member for Melbourne was accused of the double cross.
– Order !
– Do you, sir, call the Vice-President of the Executive Council to order?
– Tes, I call him to order as I call the honorable member to order. Return to the bill.
– Well, now that I am back to the bill, I want to know why the Government which is lecturing everybody else in the community to economize, to save, and to spend less, now wants the Parliament to agree to the disbursement of an extra £5,500 to two Ministers, an extra £30,000 in ministerial expenses, and the extra expenditure involved - and Heaven knows what it will be - in the creation of a new department of state incidental to this. I want to know why the Government is proceeding with this measure while telling everybody else to economize.
Of course, sir, the word “ hypocritical “, if 1 were to use it in this connexion, would not be parliamentary. But let me say that the honorable member for Canning is right, and the honorable member for Forrest is wrong. The honorable member for Gippsland is also wrong; the Treasurer is wrong; and the VicePresident of the Executive Council is wrong in suggesting that the Parliament should provide this sum. If the Government wants the people to economize, why does it not set an example? It is already telling every one else to do something that it will not practise itself. It is a spendthrift Government. It is a bankrupt Government. It is discounting treasurybills every day of the week, and while the country goes to ruin it is proposing to increase the size of the Ministry. It wants another two Ministers, and the two that it is appointing are not competent to be admitted to the Cabinet deliberations. Of course, I cannot reiterate in committee what I said in the House. I never knew a more incompetent government than this. I never knew a government that cared less than this one does for the public interest. I am just reminded of the advice that Madame Pompadour gave to Louis XV.-
After us the deluge.
.- Mr. Chairman, I feel that the whole story has not been told about this situation. 1! refer particularly to clause 3 of the bill which proposes to increase the number of Ministers from twenty to 22. Let us go back to 1941, when the present Opposition became a government. The next few years were probably the most desperate in the history of this country. The Parliament knows that we were at war. From 1941 till 1949, when the present Opposition went out of government there was a desperate period, and the government of the day had great responsibility. In the difficult post-war period, the Labour Government had to rehabilitate over a million Australian people, and effect a transition from a war-time economy to a peace-time economy. That Government was able to do so with nineteen Ministers.
What concerns me is that suddenly the present Government proposes to increase the number of Ministers from twenty to 22. It is obvious that if the Government used the twenty Ministers to the best advantage, and gave them more work, it would be totally unnecessary to increase the number from twenty to 22. I do not think that any one would say that the work and the responsibility of nineteen Ministers during the war period and the immediate post-war period was any less than the amount of work that has to be done by twenty Ministers at present. 1 am sure that no one would claim that except, perhaps, the Government itself including the two new Ministers.
I remember well, that in 1946, the then Opposition took up much of the time of the House in criticizing the Chifley Government for the appointment of nineteen Ministers. As I have said, that occurred in the important and very difficult period, less than a year after the cessation of hostilities, when a million of our people had to be taken from the various services and defence works and placed back in employment. It must be remembered, too, that in that period, when that transition was done so smoothly, not one person was unemployed. Not one person who wanted a job in 1946, 1947 or 1948 could not get a job. That work was done with nineteen Ministers, the appointment of whom was criticized for some time by the then Opposition which now forms the Government. I say that if it was necessary to condemn and criticize the Government then, surely we are entitled to criticize the Government and vote against this measure, irrespective of the financial side of it. The financial proposal, I think, is disgraceful; the honorable member for Canning (Mr. Hamilton) has already said so.
This Government went to the electors only a couple of months ago and pointed out to the people how necessary it was to economize. Why has the Government presented to the House, as its first bill, a financial measure which will involve the Treasury in the expenditure of an extra amount of money? It is the most disgraceful measure that has ever come before this House. It warrants the severest criticism. The proposed increase could easily have been avoided by giving more work to the twenty existing Ministers. I say most emphatically that if, in the immediate post-war period, there was no necessity to have more than nineteen Ministers, there is definitely no necessity to have 22 Ministers now, ten years after the war has ended.
– The Opposition, by the manner in which it has addressed itself to this bill, has missed an opportunity to do a useful service for this parliamentary institution. This is an important bill, and much more than a machinery measure. It enables us to reconstruct the method of Cabinet government in this country. Therefore, it invites the earnest consideration and analysis of all sections of this Parliament. If the Opposition -had been really concerned about the welfare of the parliamentary institution it would have attempted an honest analysis of what the Government was trying to do. Honorable members opposite could have offered their own views on the subject, and, if they felt that improvements in the method of Cabinet organization could be made, they could have put them before Parliament for consideration.
This country has, over the years, been working towards the evolution of a satisfactory system of Cabinet government here in Canberra. We are not entirely men of free will in this matter because we are bound by the provisions of the Constitution. I have no doubt that, in earlier times, Prime Ministers from both sides of politics in this country would have welcomed an opportunity to set up a system of assistant, or junior Ministers, somewhat comparable with that which obtains in the United Kingdom, but we in Australia have not such an opportunity. We cannot appoint an assistant to a Minister unless he is himself a Minister of State in the full sense, administering a department of state. I think we are all agreed that the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) has had a very long and practical experience of these matters in Australia, and has watched closely the operation of the British cabinet system. Consequently, when he had to face up to the problem on this occasion, he decided not to continue what, from our own experience, had proved to be a cumbersome cabinet structure. I refer to the practice of having twenty Ministers sitting around a table. He kept in mind the desirability of encouraging younger and less experienced members of Parliament to learn something of cabinet administration and thereby equip themselves for even more responsible cabinet duties. He realized that this could not be achieved simply by appointing junior or assistant Ministers who had not a department of state to administer. He sought a practical solution of the problem and decided to have a cabinet of twelve senior and experienced members of Parliament - from both Houses and representing all the States of the Commonwealth - and ten other Ministers who would gain valuable experience and would, in their turn, have an opportunity to serve in the Cabinet of the nation.
That proposal, which this Parliament has adopted by passing the second reading of the bill, has commended itself to most of the people of Australia. They feel that it will produce a more workable government, and result in speedier and more effective decisions at the Cabinet level. They realize, too, that it will provide valuable experience for junior members of the Parliament who can, while giving useful administrative service, equip themselves for the more responsible positions held by existing Cabinet members. For those reasons I do not think that there need be much argument about the structure which the Prime Minister has adopted. Indeed, at no stage of this debate has any one, so far as I am aware, challenged the fact that it will be useful and valuable for our purposes. The honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Chambers) says, “ Years ago Ministers dealt with certain problems. Why cannot the same number of Ministers deal with them to-day? “ In point of fact, fewer Ministers will be dealing with the matters to which he referred because only twelve will be sitting around the Cabinet table - not nineteen, as in his day. Moreover, ours is a rapidly growing country. Even since Labour was in office we have added 1,500,000 to our population, and the national income of the country has trebled. Industrial development is going on all over Australia. These things have created novel problems, and, I believe, justify the kind of Cabinet structure that the Prime Minister has established.
Let us leave that for a moment and look at what has been, for several honorable members, the real bone of contention. They hold the quite mistaken belief that members of this Cabinet who have not, for reasons which the Prime Minister has publicly indicated, been disposed to support an increase in parliamentary salaries, are in some way feathering their own nests by virtue of this legislation and the manner of its introduction. I should have thought that the remarks of the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) and the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Freeth), who followed him, would nave completely removed that impression, but if any one on the Opposition benches or, for that matter, in any other part of the chamber, is in any doubt on the matter, I can assure him from direct personal experience that no member of the Cabinet, so far as I am aware-
– So far as the Minister is aware !
– I think that I have a fairly good knowledge of what is going on among my colleagues.
– The Minister is not sure. He is qualifying what he is saying.
– Order !
– I am fairly sure. I know my own situation as well as that of my colleagues and far from receiving some payment in excess of what, was recommended by the Nicholas committee four or five years ago, members of the Cabinet are, in fact, receiving less than was recommended. Therefore, w« can hardly be accused of having in some way greased the pig on this occasion. As the Treasurer and honorable member for Forrest have pointed out, certain Ministers have, by virtue of the reconstruction of Cabinet, been raised in status. They are now to receive payment accordingly. No Minister who, before the passage of this legislation, enjoyed the status of senior Minister, will receive one penny more.
– But some of the old Ministers will get something. That is the point to be considered.
– That is nos disputed because such Ministers will henceforth undertake a heavier responsibility than they have in the past.
– It is only a shabby deal.
– The word “shabby” has been used. If it is put to me that the real burden of the Opposition’s complaint is that four or five
Ministers who have been raised in status are to receive for that status salaries in accordance with what was recommended by the Nicholas committee, honorable members opposite have no right to the title of official Opposition of this country. I should have thought that they could have found worthier objects for criticism. All the hullabaloo that has so far gone on has apparently been directed to that niggling point. There has been no serious attempt to criticize the Cabinet structure which the Prime Minister has constituted and the attacks of honorable members opposite have been directed to the fact that some Ministers’ salaries are to be brought in line with those of other colleagues with whose duties their own are consonant. That is the position as I see it. I hope that that explanation is clear, at least to those who sit on the Government side and support the Government, and that they will have no doubt as to where their support should be directed when the vote is taken.
Mir. ALLANFRASER (Eden-Monaro) [8.52].- Mr. Chairman-
Motion (by Sir Eric Harrison) put -
That the question be now put.
The committee divided. (The Chairman - Mr. C.F. Adermann.)
Majority . . . . 18
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Question put -
That the bill be agreed to.
The committee divided. (The Chairman - Mr. C.F. Adermann.)
Majority . . . . 17
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Motion (by Sir Arthur Fadden J proposed -
That the bill be now read a third time.
– I move -
That the word “ now “ be omitted from, and the words *’ this day six months “ be added to, the question.
The motion is seconded, in accordance with Standing Order 237, by the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Allan Fraser). It is in proper form, and I hand it to the Clerk for transmission to you, Mr. Speaker. The Opposition feels that this bill is unnecessary under any circumstances.
– Does the honorable member claim to speak on behalf of the Opposition ?
– I speak for the Opposition. If I did not, I would not presume to address the House. I repeat that I speak for the Opposition and I say that the bill is unnecessary and that the Nicholas report is no justification for it. It would not matter whether there were twenty Ministers of State or 22 Ministers of State. We say that the money proposed to be appropriated by the Parliament for the payment of extra Ministers is a waste of public money> that it should not be done and that it is a scandal that the Government is proposing
– Order ! The honorable gentleman may not refer to the acts of the House as a scandal.
– I refer to the acts of the Government as a scandal.
– Order ! The honorable gentleman cannot say that, either.
– If the noun is not in order, would the adjective be?
– The adjective will not be in order, either.
– I cannot put it adverbially, so I shall say that the Opposition regards the proposal to pay this money as a misappropriation of public funds. We say that there is not the slightest justification for the proposal, and that it is wrong for a government that has lectured the people to economize and save to propose to spend this money in a wasteful, extravagant and unnecessary fashion. The House should not pass the motion for the third reading of the bill. Consideration of the bill should be adjourned for six months, and so give the Prime Minister an opportunity for second thoughts. If he looks over some of the people he has collected in his Ministry-
– Can I not say that?
– It will not make any difference if the honorable member does.
– Of course it will not; I know that. If the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) sticks to the old guard and retains some of the new guard, he is doing a disservice to the Australian community.
Mr. ALLAN FRASER (Eden-Monaro> [9.5]. - I second the amendment. Three separate issues arise in the debate on this bill. Two of them are of considerable importance. The third issue which confronts the nation as the result of this debate is of the very greatest importance.
The first two issues are whether it is necessary or desirable to increase the number of Ministers of State from twenty to 22, and the propriety of Ministers who have been speaking as honorable men, warning the people of the need for economy and for not increasing their demands upon the total consumption of the nation, at the same time increasing by £5,500 the appropriation in the Cabinet pool. Both those issues are of considerable importance.
The third issue, I say, transcends them in importance, and ranks with the most important issues with which this Parliament has ever had to deal. The third issue is that an attempt has been made, by stealth, to increase the salaries of senior Ministers in a government without the knowledge of the Parliament which was expected to pass the legislation. I do not know whether an exactly similar situation to that has ever arisen in the history of the Commonwealth Parliament, but it is one that is shameful to men who should be a pattern of honour in the public life of this country.
I read the words which the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) himself used when informing this House of what was being done. The Ministers must have known what was being done because what was being done effected them personally, yet this is what the Treasurer said -
The increase of the number of Ministers will involve a consequential addition to the annual sum set aside for Ministers’ salaries, and the bill provides for this increase.
I ask every honorable member of the House to note this -
The amount of the increase is limited to the minimum needed to provide salaries under the arrangements now proposed, the arrangements proposed being the increase in the number of Ministers and the consequential addition to the sum. for their salaries. Those were the words used by the Treasurer.
– And the altered status of the Cabinet. Do not forget that
– Those were the words used by the Treasurer. I point, out to the House that that %vas the sole explanation given by the right honorable gentleman to the House for the increase in the Cabinet pool appropriation from £41,000 to £46,500. At the same time, an attempt was made to force the bill through the House at one sitting. The second-reading debate was not to be adjourned in order to give us an opportunity to consider the measure. The House and the nation were placed in this position. First, the servants of the Parliament, the Ministers, refused to the House a true explanation of the contents of the bill which they brought before it. Secondly, the nation itself was deceived by the trustees of the public purse as to the purpose for which the increased appropriation from the public purse was to be used. The shameful fact about it is that the deception was of this character, that the a ppropriation, about which the House and the nation were to know nothing, and which was to be forced through this chamber in one hour last night, was to be used to increase the emoluments of senior Ministers.
– Four of them.
– Four of them. The third point with which I am now dealing is not whether those increases are justified. That has nothing to do with it. Tt is not whether an increase of the number of Ministers is justified. That also has nothing to do with the matter. The point that .1 am discussing and emphasizing is that an attempt was made to deceive the House in the appropriation of public funds for the private benefit of men who are the trustees of those funds - the Ministers in this Government. That is something quite shameful. I am certain it is quite unprecedented in the history of the Australian Parliament and probably unprecedented in the history of any other parliament. There is a biblical saying about the man who cometn like a thief in the night, and I apply it to the manner in which this bill was presented to the House last night. If that manoeuvre had succeeded, four Ministers would have added to their own emoluments out of th, public purse at the cost of the taxpayers, without the House or the taxpayers having had any knowledge of the purpose for which that money was to be used. I believe that, in bringing this legislation forward as its first measure in the new Parliament, and in attempting by evasion and stealth to prevent the House and the nation from knowing the real purpose behind the bill, the Government has made an indelible blot upon its record - a blot which will not readily be forgotten or forgiven by the people of Australia.
– The House has never been subjected to such a hypocritical attempt as has just been made by the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Allan Fraser)-
– I rise to order. Is the word “ hypocritical “ in order ? If i t is not, I ask that it he withdrawn.
-Order! I did not insist a while ago on the withdrawal of the word “ scandalous ‘ “. I warn the Treasurer now that I will not allow him to repeat the other word that he has just, used.
– I do not desire to do so. The fact remains that Opposition members are trying to make bricks out of straw. They must have recalled the statement made to the House yesterday afternoon by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), when he dealt with the reconstruction of the Cabinet, gave the names of the members of the new Ministry, together with the departments to he administered by them, went to some trouble to explain their new duties and the reason for the reconstruction, and also announced that a bill would be introduced to give effect to the reconstruction of the Ministry. Honorable members opposite knew that the number of Ministers was to be increased from 20 to 22, and they should know what is contained in what is virtually the award governing Cabinet salaries and conditions - I refer to a report made by a committee appointed foi the purpose and presided over by the late Mr. Justice Nicholas. That report has everything to do with the matter. Honorable members opposite state that there has been an attempt to deceive the House. In the second-reading speech that I made last evening on behalf of the Prime Minister, in his unavoidable absence from the House, I stated that the purpose of the bill was to provide two additional Ministers, and to increase the annual sum provided for Ministers’ salaries by £5.500. I concluded by saying -
The increase of the number of Ministers will involve a consequential addition to the annual sum sset aside for Ministers’ salaries, and the bill provides for this increase. The amount of the increase is limited to the minimum needed to provide salaries under the arrangements now proposed.
The arrangements were, first, the appointment of two additional Ministers, and, secondly, a reconstruction of the Cabinet system by virtue of which twelve senior Ministers were to constitute the Cabinet. A t the first opportunity, when clause 4 of the bill was being considered in committee, I explained the provision of the additional £5,500 as provided for in that clause, which reads -
Section five of the Principal Act is amended by omitting the words “ Forty-one thousand pounds “ and inserting in their stead the words “ Forty-six thousand five hundred pounds “.
There is no deception in that. In accordance with the Government’s desire, the bill makes provision for the amount of £46,500 to constitute the new Cabinet fund, which provides for the salaries of the two additional Ministers and for a readjustment as a result of the altered construction of the Cabinet as explained in the statement made by the Prime Minister yesterday in announcing not only the members of the Ministry but also their duties and the respective presentation in this House and in another place. To-night, at the first opportunity available to me, I gave this information in unambiguous terms - surely they were unambiguous - before the House, in committee, agreed to clause 4. Where is the deception in that? How can it be said that the information given, was misleading or inadequate, when one bears in mind what I said at the second-reading stage, in conjunction with my explanation when clause 4 was under consideraton, tthat clause since having been agreed to in committee? I stated that clause 4 provided that a sum of £46,500 be set aside for the purpose of paying ministerial salaries, and that it represented an increase of £5,500 over the amount currently provided.
I stated also that it has been a long tradition, of which honorable members will be aware, that the sum provided is allocated entirely at the discretion of the Prime Minister. That has been a tradition of this Parliament throughout its history, whether under the administration of people of the political belief of the present Government parties or under the administration of the Australian Labour party. The Cabinet fund has always been appropriated by the Parliament, and the distribution and the administration of the fund has been the sole prerogative of the Prime Minister of the day. I have been informed, and have had the information checked and rechecked, that that was so in ministries to which some honorable members opposite belonged. I repeat that it has been a long tradition, of which honorable members will be aware-
– Keep going.
– It is necessary to keep going in order to knock it into the honorable member’s head.
– I rise to order. Is the Treasurer entitled to make a secondreading speech during the discussion of an amendment to the motion, “ That the bill be now read a third time “ ? I remind you, sir, if I may do so, with deference, that the argument must relate to the question before the House at the time. The Treasurer is rambling and ambling on in his usual way, is ignoring your position, the traditions of this Parliament, and your rulings. I suggest that the discussion be brought back to the question whether tho bill be read a third time now or six months hence.
– If I had applied that ruling, I am afraid that the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) and his colleague would not have got very far. I am simply allowing a little latitude on account of the peculiar circumstances applying to-night.
– If I may say so, the right honorable gentleman is going too far.
-Order ! The honorable gentleman knows that he should remain silent while the Speaker is on his feet, or at least I thought he knew that. I shall allow the Treasurer to proceed.
– I cannot understand the point taken by the honorable member for Melbourne, because the honorable member for Eden-Monaro, in the course of his speech in justification of withdrawing the bill accused the Government, and he accused me as representing the Government, of deceiving the House and the country in respect of the amount and the reason for the required appropriation as provided in clause 4 of the bill. It is my responsibility to say that there was no deception, there was no back-handed method, and there was nothing ambiguous in the presentation of this bill and the explanation that I gave of it when the opportunity was afforded to me. I repeat that it has been a long tradition, of which honorable members will be aware, that the sum provided is allotted entirely at the discretion of the Prime Minister. That tradition, of course, is maintained, but notwithstanding this, I am quite prepared to explain to the House, on the Prime Minister’s behalf, that since 1952. when the act was last amended, the Prime Minister has arranged payments to Ministers completely within the spirit of the report of the Nicholas committee, which sat in 1951 and reported in January, 1952. Since then, I repeat, there has been no review of ministerial salaries nor has any such review been sought. Furthermore, I explained also to the House that the increase of £5,500 now sought is still within the spirit of the Nicholas committee’s report and, in fact, is absolutely the minimum increase by which salaries recommended by that committee can be paid to the new Ministers and consequential adjustments made in the payments to some other Ministers arising from the new Cabinet arrangement. In no case will a Minister receive more than was recommended by the Nicholas committee. There can be no ambiguity about that explanation. There can be no deception about the provision, and the purpose of the provision, of the £5,500 that is sought under clause 4 of the bill.
– With great respect to the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden), I claim that he has not answered the case made against him. I do not think any honorable member last evening understood that, in addition to providing for the salaries of the two new Ministers, provision was to be made for an increase in the salaries of existing Ministers. Such an intention was not stated. My colleagues have read the relevant passage in the Treasurer’s second-reading speech.
The whole tenor of the speech was that two extra Ministers were required and because they were required the amount to be appropriated by the bill was required. Not one member of the House thought otherwise. My colleague, the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Crean), dealt with the matter and analysed it last night, and no attempt was made then by the Treasurer to answer his case.
– No answer could be made.
– Of course an answer could be made. Instead of the gags that were moved last night the facts could have been put to the House. We are in this position: The great point in the bill - the only point I discussed in the debate this afternoon - was whether it was necessary to increase the number of Ministers by two, having regard to the enormous reduction in functions since the war and the post-war period. My colleague’s have dealt with that matter. Then it emerged to-night, after the speeches of the honorable member for Melbourne Ports and the honorable member for Canning (Mr. Hamilton), following what the Treasurer had said, that by a side wind to the main purposes of the measure, the provision for two new Ministers of State, each of four existing Ministers of State was to receive an increase of approximately £500 a year. That might be a perfectly legitimate proposition to put to the House, but it was not stated to the House. That is the point, and the Treasurer will not deal with it. A committee was appointed by the Government to deal with the salaries of honorable members, and because of the economic situation in this country, the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) announced from the table of the House, towards the end of last year, that there was to be no increase in the salaries of honorable members despite the enormous increase in the cost of living. That was accepted by the House and the country. I do not know who will receive the salary increases. Will the Treasurer be good enough to tell us who are the four Ministers to receive the additional emoluments ?
– There are four out of twelve. The right honorable gentleman is not entitled to the information he seeks.
– Has the work of one of the four increased? There is no suggestion that it has. These increases in salary, with no extra duties, are to be made after the mandate was issued by the Government that there were to be no more increases in salaries of members and Ministers. That is what is objected to in this House. That was the point that was emphasized with considerable force by the honorable member for Canning. He said he was sick of it and disgusted with it. That is what we object to. It is not the main point of the bill. It is incidental to the hill, but it is a serious matter that this intention should be given effect in that way without frankness and openness. So we come to the main point. Has the Government made out its case? This amendment is designed to test the feeling of the House on that important point. 1 do not think that the conduct of the Government can be justified in this respect at all.
If the Government is to increase the salaries of Ministers, whose duties are not altered so far as we know, it should tell the facts to the House and the country and then we shall pass judgment on them. I do not think that anybody would have known of this intention but for the intervention last evening of the honorable member for Melbourne Ports, which produced to-day the speech of the Treasurer and the revelation of the surrounding circumstances by the honorable member for Canning. This is a very serious matter affecting parliamentary government and the duty which the Government has to be frank to Parliament and the country. It has completely failed in that duty.
.- Mr. Speaker-
Motion (by Sir Eric Harbison) put -
That the question be now put.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. Archie Cameron.)
Majority . . . . 16
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Question put -
That the word proposed to he omitted (Mr. Calwell’s amendment) stand part of the question.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. Archie Cameron.)
Majority . . . . 19
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Question put -
That the bill be now read a third time.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. Archie Cameron.)
Majority . . . . 19
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
Message received from the Senate intimating that the following senators had been appointed members of the Joint Committee on Public Accounts : - Senator Benn, Senator Seward and Senator Wedgwood.
Message received from the Senate intimating that the following senators had been appointed members of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works: - Senator Henty, Senator Maher and Senator O’Byrne.
Debate resumed from the 15th February (vide page 37), on motion by Mr, Chaney -
That the following Address-in-Reply to the Speech of His Excellency the Governor-General be agreed to: -
May it Please Your Excellency:
We, the House ofRepresentatives of the Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia, in Parliament assembled, desire to express our loyalty to our Most Gracious Sovereign and to thank Your Excellency for the Speech which you have been pleased to address to Parliament.
.- As I listened to the Speech of His Excellency the Governor-General yesterday, I felt that I had heard most of it before. However, the few introductory remarks in relation to the necessity to review the relationship of the two Houses of the Parliament were undoubtedly new. The difficulties with which the Government may be faced when the new senators take their places constitute a problem with which it is seeking to deal. As a member of the Parliament, I believe that the will of the people, as expressed at the election for the House of Representatives, should prevail. After June, we shall have two senators whose party affiliations, policy and practices have been absolutely rejected by the people of Australia. But they should not be in a position, either as the result of political manoeuvring or political blackmail, to determine the legislation that shall be passed by the Parliament. My attitude since soon after the present Government assumed office has been that, if governments are elected by the people, even though I may agree or disagree with them, the will of the people should not be frustrated by a legislative chamber that has not been elected broadly by the will of those people. I have no doubt that, in any review of the relationship of the two Houses of the Parliament, the Australian Labour party would seek to ensure that the desires of the people were not frustrated.
Although His Excellency made no specific reference to the matter, I believe that, if a committee consisting of members of both Houses were appointed to resolve the difficulty with which the Government is faced, it could consider a method of electing senators that would ensure that an immense number of informal votes would not be cast. The method of Senate voting should be simplified to avoid the casting of one informal vote in every five votes cast, as happened at the last general election. That should not occur, and it occurs, of course, because of the number of candidates who seek election to the Senate, because of the method of preparation of the ballotpapers, which means that the names of candidates are stretched across the papers, and also because the voters are not aware, from a study of the ballot-paper, of the identity of the particular party which each candidate is representing. That is also a matter which which could be considered by a committee of both Houses and comprised of members of both parties.
The Governor-General’s Speech dealt with two other matters, defence and the economic condition of the country. His Excellency said -
The first embraces foreign policy and the related defence measures which can make that policy effective.
The second can be described broadly as the economic problem. It has particular relation to internal development; the increase of production; restraint upon the rising costs of production which threaten to impair our international trading position; the encouragement of our exports; the control of our imports; the restoration of a sound balance of trade; the preservation and building up of our international financial reserves; and the protection of our currency.
Those two particular items had a very familiar ring. After I had left the Senate chamber at the conclusion of the Governor-General’s Speech I obtained a copy of the speech that a former Governor-General had made when opening the Parliament in 1950. I read that speech through carefully, and I found that a big proportion of it was devoted to the measures that were considered, essential to make the defences of this country adequate, and to other measures considered necessary to enable our economy to develop progressively in the interests of the nation. In relation to the economic position at that time the then Governor-General stated -
My Government views with grave concern the increase which has been taking place in recent years in the cost of living. It is realized that the solution of this problem is not easy . . . An intensive review is at present being made by my Government of the causes of present price trends, with a view to determining the most effective measures which can be taken to remedy the current inflationary situation.
Recently, by the grace of this Parliament, I visited our gateway in the north - Manus Island, our most northerly possession. There I found an air depot without an aeroplane, and a naval depot without a ship. I found also that, whilst the development of our northern areas may be slowly progressing, it is not progressing so rapidly as it should if this country is to establish buttresses between itself and people who, the Government alleges, are our potential enemies. After all, millions of pounds can be expended on military adventures in Asia and other distant parts of the world. Living between Malaya and Australia are 80,000,000 Indonesians and, if we are to believe some of the statements of the leading members of the Government on the danger from Malaya - and who am I to contradict them ? I do not contradict them - then, in a country with a population of the strength of ours, our first duty is to the people of the country. “We should mend our own fences before we embark upon military adventures in any other country of the world. We certainly are not doing so. There is every opportunity in Papua and New Guinea for development and improvement of our defences, as those members of Parliament who were with me on that visit overseas realize. They know that we can develop the industries and the resources of those territories, and give them the requisites for adequate defence so that our northern gateway will not lie open to any potential enemy that may care to attack us. However, I shall leave that matter in order to deal with the economic problems that confront the nation.
As I have already said, in 1950 the Government said, “We have problems, one of which is rising prices “. The problem of rising prices includes, of course, as members of the Government themselves pointed out, the problem of increasing production. Through the medium of the Governor-General’s Speech in 1950 the Government then said that it was intent on solving the economic problem. Honorable members will recall that, in 1950, the
Treasurer introduced a budget which, he said, was designed to remedy our economic ills and to destroy inflation. In 1953, the Commonwealth Arbitration Court decided, because the Government’s measures had proved inadequate, to suspend the operation of the quarterly adjustment of the basic wage and the hearing of the margins case. “Why did the court take that step? It did so in order to cure inflation, in order to remedy the problem that the Government itself said, in 1950, all its measures were designed to remedy. Now we have a position, nearly six years later, in which people outside these legislative halls are advancing the proposition that the Government can remedy inflation by certain drastic means. These people are learned professors. They are economists from all parts of Australia, and the solution they advocate is an increase of taxes, both direct and indirect. Of course, the Government will probably heed their suggestions. But who does not remember the horror budget which the Treasurer introduced in 1951, contemplation of the provisions of which filled the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) himself with horror? What were the measures proposed in that budget? Increased taxes, both direct and indirect! The Government on that occasion said that it intended to skim off the excess purchasing power of the community. So it increased abnormally the burden of both direct and indirect taxes on the ordinary section of the community.
– Is this the honorable gentleman’s election speech?
– If it were it would be a pretty good one. However, in spite of that budget, in spite of the fact that the Government had drawn off the excess purchasing power of the community, inflation continued to mount. But new problems then arose - unemployment and the danger of overseas insolvency. In 1952, the Prime Minister pointed out over the air that the nation faced international insolvency unless stringent measures were taken to obviate it. He said that we must impose the most rigid import restrictions. But we of the Opposition had been pointing out, month after month, the dangers that were facing this country. We had pointed out that overseas balances were diminishing month after month and that unemployment was mounting in certain industries. We told the Government that every action that it had taken would lead inevitably to the development of the position that did develop in 1952.
Of course, any government or any wise administrator in charge of the Department of Trade and Customs would have seen the position developing from day to day. A wise Treasurer would have been aware of the position developing from day to day and, in his wisdom, and in the interests of this country, he would have taken the necessary measures to prevent a catastrophe. The Government did take some measures. As a result of those measures, it claimed that it had conquered inflation, and that our overseas position was remedied. The Government then adopted a new policy in connexion with imports, and the depletion of the overseas balances began again. The situation deteriorated more and more rapidly, until, just before the last Parliament went before the people, the Prime Minister in an economic statement to this House, pointed out that we were again in danger of overseas insolvency, that we were facing an economic blizzard, that a crisis was looming ahead. He said that his Government had certain propositions for coping with the position and that if they were not successful, the Government would inaugurate, at a later date, more severe remedies in order to cure the economic ills of this country.
Honorable members will remember how the Prime Minister brought to Canberra the representatives of hire-purchase organizations. He said to them, “ The position that has developed to-day is due to the fact that you people are providing too much money for the purchase of goods on time payment “. Honorable members will remember, too, that he told the representatives of private banking institutions that he desired them to restrict credit to all sections of the community, because it was the credit that the private banking institutions were issuing to the public that was causing the economic blizzard, or crisis, that existed at that particular time. The crisis exists to-day. Of course, honorable members remember all those things. This Government has done nothing to remedy the position.
This country, from 1949 onwards, should have been making steady progress and the prosperity that existed should hare been shared by all. But that did not eventuate. I do say that the private banking institutions are, to a large extent, to blame. If taxation means the reduction of the living standards of the vast mass of the people; if it means the reduction of the capacity of the people to purchase homes; if it means the reduction of their capacity to purchase refrigerators and the reduction of their capacity to purchase the ordinary amenities of life, then increased taxation will not be a solution of the problem that concerns this Government and this country.
What is the solution of the problem? I believe that those who have a vast amount of money, those who, under this Government, have been getting increasing remuneration from dividends in companies and from investments in all types of undertakings, and who, in reality, despite what we call inflation have had their purchasing capacities increased by the economic and financial measures of the Government, should have their purchasing power reduced. But an increase in purchasing power should be given to the people to whom it justly belongs - the pensioners in this community, and the salary and wage-earners. When increased purchasing power is resident in that section, they will be able to buy the goods they need, and the development of essential industries in this country will be promoted by a reduction of luxury industries that now are sapping the employment resources of Australia.
I know that the Government will not take the measures that are essential to equalize the spending power of those who spend merely on luxuries and those who spend upon essentials to national development. I know, too. that this Government will not, because it dare not, take action against the banking institutions to curtail the credit that has been issued to the detriment of the vast mass of the people. Now there is a more general recognition of what is occurring, and of what existed in the past. Every one remembers what occurred in the early days of the last war. The present Treasurer,whowasalsoTreasurer at that time, promulgated a regulation to re strict the issue by private banking institutions of credit to a degree that would be detrimental to our war effort. I emphasize that a conservative government took that action because it realized that it either had to do so or allow the war effort of this country to suffer. The Curtin Government later embodied the regulation in legislation, and put it upon the statute-book of this country. When the present Government, in peace-time, came into office, it neglected to operate the power which it had to curtail the vicious issue of credit by private banking institutions. But it did more than that. In 1953, it introduced legislation to authorize the return to the private banking institutions of their unlimited power to create cheque currency for credit, whereby inflation is inevitably caused to extend, to the detriment of the development of the national assets of this community.
I point out these things, Mr. Speaker, because, not only did the Government do them, but as a result of its acts of commission and of omission, our overseas funds have been depleted. The Government encouraged imports. If honorable members will read the budget speeches of 1951 and 1952 they will see set out categorically by the Treasurer that his Government was desirous of bringing goods into this country because, he said, the more goods there were here, the cheaper they would be, and by that means risingprices would be checked. Having brought them to this country in stupendous quantities, he pointed out that our overseas balances were depleted and that we were in what he called “ danger of national insolvency “. That position has occurred twice during the life-time of this Government. It obtains to-day. In to-night’s press we read that the Government is determined to increase import restrictions radically in order to save our overseas funds. Import restrictions alone will not cure the problem. In my opinion they are desirable, and I believe that every incentive should be given to people to establish more and more industries manufacturing goods in this country.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Joske) adjourned.
– by leave - Since the armistice agreement in July, 1953, progressive withdrawals of United Nations forces serving in Korea have been possible, and in 1954 a balanced reduction of British Commonwealth naval, land and air forces was carried out. Since then the possibility of further reductions has been kept under review. Arrangements have now been made by the governments concerned for the further reduction of the British Commonwealth Force in Korea.
It is planned for the withdrawals to begin towards the end of next March and to be completed as soon as possible. The force remaining in Korea will include an infantry battalion drawn from the United Kingdom, with Australia, Canada and New Zealand providing supporting detachments and some representation in integrated units. The force will retain its Commonwealth identity and will be known as the “ Commonwealth Contingent, Korea “. It will continue to serve under the United Nations command.
The reduction in strength will permit the supporting base units for the Commonwealth Contingent, Korea, to be moved from Japan to Korea, thus enabling the present base in Kure to be run down and closed. This will effect a considerable additional saving in Commonwealth man-power. The 1st Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment, will be the first major unit to be withdrawn, and it should be back in Australia in April, thus ending a period of five and a half years unbroken service by battalions of the Royal Australian Regiment with the United Nations forces in Korea. All Australian Army personnel remaining in the base units in Japan after the formation of the Commonwealth Contingent, Korea will also be progressively returned to Australia over a period of some months. During the run-down of the Kure Base, the Royal Australian Navy personnel in Japan and the Royal Australian Air Force Transport Flight, Japan, will also be withdrawn.
I lay on the table the following paper : -
Commonwealth Forces in Korea - Ministerial Statement. and move -
That the paper be printed.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Chambers) adjourned.
House adjourned at 10.14 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 16 February 1956, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1956/19560216_reps_22_hor9/>.