22nd Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. Archie Cameron) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
-Mr. MENZIES.- I desire to inform the House that in the absence of the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Casey), the Attorney-General (Senator Spicer) will act as Minister for External Affairs and Minister in charge of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization and I will represent him in this chamber.
– I desire to ask the Prime Minister a question which arises from the fact that it was recently announced by the Government that, following upon the publication of a Treasury information bulletin, a comprehensive statement on the condition of the economy would shortly be presented to the Parliament. Can the Prime Minister tell the House when it is proposed that he should make that statement? Will he try to make it shortly - at any rate, sufficiently before the Easter recess to permit of some discussion and debate in the House upon it?
– The proposal that I made was that I would, in the autumn - or whoever was Prime Minister in the autumn - make a general statement on the condition of the economy. I do not anticipate that it can be made before Easter. I have always had in mind that it should be made in April during th? sittings of the House.
– In view of the acute accommodation problem that has arisen in the House of Representatives, will you, Mr. Speaker, consider a recommendation to the Government for an early start to be made on the construction of the proposed permanent Parliament House? As you. Mr. Speaker, are aware, the present building is badly designed as a Parliament House and is now grossly overcrowded, hut it would be suitable as an administrative building in accordance with the original plan. In the meantime, will you confer with the President of the Senate to see whether some more equitable distribution of accommodation can be arranged between the two Houses; or, as an alternative, consider a suggestion for the early construction of extensions to the building on the House of Representatives side, for use as a ministerial wing?
– I may inform the honorable member for Darling Downs that at the House Committee meeting which took place last Thursday morning, it was resolved to have an inspection made by the Joint House Committee to see whether some more equitable distribution of space could be made. The number of members in the House of Representatives is more than double the number of senators. We provide all the Ilansard space and the space for seventeen of th« 22 Ministers. The theory always hai been that the two Houses are absolutely equal in regard to space and everything else, but it does not work out too well. It is true that we have one ministerial suite on the Senate side. The Australian Country party room is over there, and we have also three rooms in that part which is commonly known to honorable members by the delicious name of ‘monkey flat” because, it is said, one has to be a sprinter to get across to this House in the two minutes during which the division bells are ringing. I assure the honorable member that the matter has been taken up and that it will, I hope, be brought to a satisfactory conclusion. The question of a new Parliament House is hardly one for me to decide. I think that it is a matter for the Parliament, and one in which possibly the Government should take the initiative. Certainly it is not within my province to interfere.
– I wish to ask a question supplementary to that asked by the honorable member for Darling Downs. Is it not a fact that you, as Speaker of this honorable House, are the sole custodian of the House and of all accommodation adjacent thereto? If so, are you aware, Mr. Speaker, that certain newly appointed Ministers are demanding more staff accommodation than was provided for, or required by, their predecessors; namely three rooms instead of two - one for the Minister, one for his secretary, and one for his typist? As a result of this demand, many honorable members have been called upon to vacate their rooms. I have been informed that (he room which I have occupied for several years, and which was allocated to me for good reasons of which you are aware, Mr. Speaker, must be vacated in order to provide accommodation for the typist of the new Minister for Social Services, the honorable member for Riverina. 01’POSITION Members-. - Shame !
– Order ! “ Shame “ is out of order.
– In view of the fact that the previous Minister for Social Services was able to carry out the work of his department in two rooms, one for himself and one for his secretary and typist, do you, Mr. Speaker, believe that the demand of the present Minister is justified? Further, do you consider that the work and duties of honorable members, who represent many thousands of electors, are less important than those of a ministerial typist? In view of the inconvenience to honorable members, and the niching away of their rights and privileges, >vill you, Mr. Speaker, immediately take the matter up with the Prime Minister and Ihe Leader of the Opposition with a view to, first, ascertaining whether the accommodation demanded by a number of Ministers is justified, and secondly, protecting the rights of private members against the increasing and indefensible encroachment of Ministers?
– The honorable gentleman has raised a question of firstclass importance. The position in Parliament House has reached the stage at which it is becoming utterly impossible to carry on. Obviously, Parliament House should be the place in which members of Parliament are housed. Even before I became Speaker it had become an administrative building. Not only have we more Ministers now, but also more accommodation is required by each Minister. T can remember that when I took office in a ministry I had one room, and not a very big one at that. T had to have in that room my private secretary, typist, and any one else whom I wanted there. The most accommodation that I ever had as a Minister was the two rooms at present occupied by the Treasurer. I remember also that in the clays when I was a member of a government, the present Prime Minister, when Attorney-General, managed with two < rooms. That applied also to the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Casey). While I carried out the duties of Minister for Health and Postmaster-General, at the same time, I did not have more than one room in which to accommodate my staff. As I have said, the honorable gentleman has raised a matter of first-rate importance, but I think that it ought to be handled by an all-party committee of this House. There are many things that such a committee could investigate, and I am sure that it could produce a recommendation that would be well worth having. 1 would be very happy to see such a committee appointed and to assist it in any way that I could.
– If the Prime Minister, following upon what has been put forward by you, Mr. Speaker, wishes to take action, I am sure that the Opposition will co-operate in the appointment of a statutory committee to see whether the position can be improved.
– I will certainly give consideration to that matter.
– Has the Minister for Trade received any information to the effect that millers in the United Kingdom are able to purchase Australian wheat only in lots of 5,000 tons, which they are unable to take, although they would be prepared to purchase in lots of 200 to 300 tons a week ? Can the Minister give any information on this matter, and, if not, will he undertake to make inquiries and, if possible, arrange for sales of this important primary product to be increased ?
– I have seen something in the newspapers regarding this matter, which may or may not have foundation. The sale of Australian wheat is, by statute, completely controlled by the Australian Wheat Board, which includes among its members not only grower representatives, but also a very experienced chairman, a representative of the Australian flour millers, and a representative of other commercial interests. The board is so composed as to have the fullest representation of aD the interests involved in selling Australian wheat overseas. There is also established by the Australian Wheat Board in London a body which is known, I think, as the London Wheat Committee, which combines the wisdom, knowledge and authority of the Australian Wheat Board and of certain private interests, which are hired - I think that is the correct term - by the Australian Wheat Board. I think that the most important of those private interests is the firm of John Darling and Son Proprietary Limited, which has profound experience of wheat selling. I think that we can rely with confidence upon that arrangement to ensure that, from time to time, the best procedure possible for the orderly disposal of Australian wheat, to the best advantage of all concerned, is followed.
– Will the Minister for Supply tell the House the names of companies engaged in mining uranium in Australia? Are any of these companies controlled by overseas capital? If so, which ones are they, and where are their bead offices located?
– I could not undertake, without notice, to give the honorable gentleman the names of all the companies engaged in mining uranium in Australia, but if he will put the question on the notice-paper, I will give it consideration.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Primary Industry. Did the producers and packers make any representation to the Minister concerning the tax on export meat? If so, have any decisions been made as to the point of collection, and what is the attitude of the industry’s representatives to such decisions?
– As a result of an over-payment of what might be called deficiency payments due by the United
Kingdom, it was necessary to obtain reimbursement from the meat industry of amounts overpaid, and there was some difficulty as to the time when the tax would be imposed. It was a question of whether it would be imposed when the meat went into store or when the meat was exported, the difference in time amounting to from twenty days to four months. Some anomalies were created because of the fact that the tax was imposed at export centres. The two groups of people involved asked the Government if it would agree to the tax being imposed when the meat went into store. I am pleased to be able to inform the honorable member that the Government agreed to that joint request. I understand that now all sections of the industry are happy regarding the point of time at which the tax is assessed.
– In view of the large number of employees being dismissed from the coal-mining industry, I ask the Prime Minister whether it is a fact that at the Australian Atomic Energy Commission’s project at Lucas Heights, and also at the ammunition filling factory at St. Mary’s, oil furnaces are to be installed instead of coal-burning boilers. Is it a fact that in Britain similar projects are being equipped with coal-burning boilers, so that the coal industry may be protected and developed? If these are facts, does the Prime Minister agree that the British authorities, in taking steps to preserve the British coal industry, have shown greater vision than have the Australian authorities? Is it not true that ample stocks of good steaming coal are available at the new State mine at Oakdale for use at both plants? In view of the national importance attached to the preservation of the Australian coal industry, will the Prime Minister have inquiries made to ascertain whether it is desirable and economically sound to have oil used instead of coal at the projects now in question, and will he associate with his inquiry an investigation into whether coal or oil is being used in England in similar projects as well as what other action the British Government is taking to preserve its coal industry?
– These matters do not fall within either my administration or my knowledge, but I will refer them to my colleagues, the Minister for National Development and the Minister for Defence Production in order that the honorable member may have a suitable reply.
– I ask the Minister for Trade whether he has yet received from the Tariff .Board the report of an inquiry held by it into the importation of passionfruit pulp and juice into Australia. If he has not received it. will he please see what can be done to hasten the arrival of that report? I ask this question because it may be remembered that during the inquiry of the Tariff Board, it was said on behalf of the growers that it would be of great assistance if the report could be handed down prior to the harvesting of the present season’s crop. This is now concluded, and the prices have almost been determined for the selling of this season’s crop.
– In the ordinary practical usage of the term, I have not personally yet received the Tariff Board:s report, but I am under the impression that the Tariff Board has completed and presented its report. I think it is, at the moment, as is customary, being studied by departmental officers prior to being brought before me and eventually to the Cabinet. However, principally through what the honorable member himself has said to me on a number of occasions, I am conscious of the fact that the growers have a problem, and that there is an urgency in that problem. I assure him that there will be no avoidable delay whatever in carrying the report of the Tariff Board through all the procedural processes just as quickly as possible.
– My question is directed to the Prime Minister. Is the Economic Advisory Committee set up by the Government to he limited to those members whose names have been already announced by the Prime Minister, or will other sections of the community, such as manufacturers, retailers, consumers, housewives associations and trade unions be represented thereon?
– It is not proposed to add to the membership of this purely advisory and consultative body which, in point of fact, happens to represent in its personnel most of the groups of industry to which the honorable member has referred. When there is occasion for having some consultation and advice on a matter which falls within the particular knowledge of other groups in the community, we will not hesitate to enlist them.
– My question, Mr. Speaker, is directed to you. In your nomination of Temporary Chairmen of Committees, you did not on this occasion appoint any members of the Opposition. Is there any reason for this departure from, the usual custom?
– Yes. I understood that members of the Opposition did not propose to act unless they were able to select their own members. The right to select the Temporary Chairmen is entirely the prerogative of Mr. Speaker, and nobody else. Therefore, I have this time selected all members who are prepared to act.
– In the other chamber, the practice is that nominations come from the parties, and invariably the President acts upon them. It is that view that the Opposition has entertained, and we think it is proper.
– T am not concerned about, what happens in the Senate. I remind the House that, when I took over the Speakership in the 19th Parliament, an equal number of temporary chairmen from each side of the House was nominated, and every one acted. In the 20th and 21st Parliaments, the Opposition refused to allow its members to act unless I was prepared to allow the Opposition to choose its nominees. I am not prepared to allow the Opposition to do that.
– You raised an objection and vetoed one name.
– That is not correct.
– My question, which is directed to the Prime Minister, refers to rumours about the sale of the Australian Whaling Commission’? establishment at Babbage Island, Carnarvon. Is the right honorable gentleman aware that the Western Australian Government is prepared to purchase this whaling station and that the annual profits of £200,000 would be used vo improve and provide urgent facilities for the residents of the north-west, such a? water for banana planters at Carnarvon and the sealing of the 230- mile road between Northampton and Carnarvon? In view of the Australian Government’s expressed concern for the development of the north of Australia, will the Prime Minister assure the House that, if this profitable enterprise is to be sold. the. Western Australian Government will be given the first opportunity to purchase it?
– I call the Minister for Trade to reply.
– If the House will bear with me for about two minutes, 1 shall try to put this matter in its proper perspective. There is nothing mysterious, furtive or surreptitious about what the Government is doing with the whaling Nation at Carnarvon. I publicly stated, more than three years ago, that the Government considered that the Australian Whaling Commission’s station at Carnarvon had served its purpose - a very valuable purpose - in demonstrating that shore-based whaling operations, adequately capitalized, and with proper equipment and know-how. could be commercially profitable. This activity, which was commenced by the Chifley Government, has been successful as a demonstration unit conducted on a commercial scale. It has influenced the establishment of other shore-based whaling stations, so that, to-day, every whale that can be taken from the Australian coast, with due regard to conservation, is being processed. At this point, there is no further purpose in a government station continuing as a demonstration, unit. Its continued operation could be justified only on the ground that the Government itself should become an ordinary commercial producer. That is in accord with socialist doctrine, of course, but it is certainly not in accord with the doctrine of this Government. That explains why the Government is now, and for some time past has been, willing to sell the whaling station.
– Why does the Government not-
– Order ! I call the honorable member for Lalor to order.
– Of course, the Government would wish to sell the enterprise to Australians, and, of course, the price would have to be satisfactory. At the very outset, when I stated this position more than three years ago, I conveyed to the Western Australian government of the day the Australian Government’s willingness to enable the State government to make the first offer for the station. The Western Australian government of that time did not desire to do so, but I have not the slightest doubt that there exist records that would enable the present Western Australian Government to know now, and to have known since it took office, of this situation. However, it is only in the last few days that some indication has come from the Western Australian Government.
– It is not too late, is it?
– It is not too late. The Western Australian Government ha3 been advised, in reply to its representations, that, on the basis that I have just explained, discussions have taken place in good faith over a long period.
– With whom?
– With all the Australian interests that are, or could conceivably be, concerned to purchase the station. There has been nothing surreptitious about the matter. We have written to whaling operatives in Australia.
– What about others?
– Order !
– And, of course, others. Other people have made inquiries, and they have been given every facility to visit the station, to examine the books and balance-sheets, and to learn everything about it. There is no mystery about the matter. I have explained that to the present Western Australian Government and stated, in short, that, against that background, we cannot delay the sale indefinitely awaiting a satisfactory offer. The present Western Australian Government is as free as is any one else in Australia to make an offer for the station. During recent months there has been a renewed interest’ by a variety of companies in the possibility of purchasing this station. Every facility has been given to every inquirer to gain full knowledge of its operations. As I said, we Slave written to Australian operatives in this sphere. There are other resources of the seas off our coast which are not being exploited. Crayfishing has grown to a £2,000,000 export industry, largely through the assistance of this Government in finding markets, but the large resources of tuna, pilchards, prawn3, and other fish known to exist in commercial quantities in our waters, have never been commercially exploited. If the Government did sell the whaling station, it would certainly be sold on an absolute assurance of the continuance of its activities so that there would be the same volume of employment given, the same amount of wealth produced and the same amount of export income earned, as if the Government had continued to operate the station itself.
– I ask the Minister for Trade a question supplementary to that which he has just answered. As he knew these facts ten days ago, when the matter was brought before the House by my colleague, the honorable member for Lalor, who endeavoured to obtain suspension of the Standing Orders to discuss it, and as the Minister answered questions on the matter on at least two occasions since then, why were these facts not then placed before the House?
– When the honorable member for Lalor sought to take a political advantage, as he thought, of a procedural process, instead of seeking to get direct information, to twist it to political advantage, he encountered the problem of the Standing Orders. I take no responsibility for that.
– The Minister is an arrant humbug.
– Order! The honorable member will withdraw that remark.
– I withdraw it.
– If the Leader of the Opposition had couched a question soliciting the kind of information that he obviously needs, he would have got the information I have given to-day.
– 1 direct a question to the Minister for the Interior. Now that the new administrative building in Canberra is nearly completed and ready for occupancy after very many years, will he make arrangements for honorable members to inspect this building, which has been referred to as a monument to cost-plus ?
– I think that it might be a little too early to run an inspection of that type. At the present moment, of the three blocks only block A is ready for occupation and is, indeed, partly occupied. Blocks B and C are still about eight or ten months short of completion. A little later I shall have regard to the honorable gentleman’s suggestion to open the building for inspection.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether, in view of his many promises to set up an all-party parliamentary committee to consider the relationship between the House of Representatives and the Senate, he will now honour another promise to table historic documents dealing with the double dissolution of the Senate and the House of Representatives in 1951. I ask the right honorable gentleman to table those documents and papers, because I believe that all honorable members should be furnished with the fullest information dealing with that historic situation, so that we might be armed to discuss matters which will arise when the all-party committee is eventually set up.
– Yes, I propose to do that.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Primary Industry. Did the Australian cotton producers approach the Government recently for an increase in the price of seed cotton or cotton lint? If so, can he give any intimation of the result of such representation? ifr. McMAHON. - Approaches were made to the Government for an increase in the price of seed cotton. The Government is considering the problem at present, and will give an answer just as soon as it can. As the honorable gentleman realizes, this involves a policy matter. Therefore, I do not think I can give him a complete answer at thi3 particular moment. I certainly cannot give him an answer until the matter has been discussed with my colleagues.
– I address a question to the Minister for Trade. Will he call for tenders before he sells the assets of the Australian Whaling Commission?
– The answer to that question is that all engaged in whaling in Australia have been officially, and in writing, advised of the Government’s views.
– What about the taxpayers? Have not they got rights?
– Order !
– Do not get excited and become red in the face.
– This is important.
– Order ! The honorable member for Lalor must not interject.
– This is a matter of common knowledge in financial and industrial circles. I am amazed that the Labour party does not seem to know about it, although it is quite clear to me that, from some sources, the honorable member for Lalor is being fed with information. I have not the slightest doubt about that. I take no exception to it.
Mr. Pollard interjecting,
– Order ! The honorable member for Lalor must remain silent.
– Let me answer the honorable member for Hindmarsh directly. There is wide knowledge of this matter, founded originally on a public statement made by the Minister - that is myself - three and a “half years ago. The present intention is that, in a short time, I shall present to the Government whatever offers have been made. The Government itself will decide whether that appears to represent a fair opportunity for Australian interests to make an offer. If the Government feels that it represents anything less than a completely fair and total opportunity for Australian interests to make an offer, I have not the faintest doubt that the Government will call for tenders.
– Will the Minister for Labour and National Service say whether the department is taking active steps to assure that an adequate work force will be available on the Hobart waterfront, so that the already delayed movement of export apples can be carried out expeditiously? As the Minister will know, the port quota has been increased considerably recently, but the actual number of men available falls far short of the new quota.
– As honorable members from Tasmania know, there is a recurring problem each year in the provision of an adequate work force to deal with the shipment of apples, in particular, from the port of Hobart. I examined this question quite recently with officers of the department. I found that authority had been given for, if my recollection is correct, an increase of the port quota by about 3G0, making the total quota something over 1,100 people at that time. I was advised that special arrangements were being made for the accommodation of the additional men, who would be transferred from the mainland. I shall find out what the current position is, and see whether there is anything further which can be done to improve the general situation.
– Will the Minister for Primary Industry say whether there is any significance in the fact that Australia won the highest award at the Scottish Dairy Show held in Glasgow last week? Can the Minister tell the House the name of the factory that won this great honour, and the State in which it is situated ?
– The honorable member’s information generally is correct. I think it was not last week, but a couple of weeks ago that a Scottish agricultural society - 1 think it was the Edinburgh Agricultural Society - awarded two prizes in a competition for the best butter produced in Commonwealth countries and in the international field. The prize for the best Commonwealth salted butter and the international prize were both won by Australian companies. I do not remember the name of the town where the butter was produced.
– It was Warwick.
– My colleague, the Minister for Trade, who was formerly Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, doubtless remembers the name. He has a singularly good memory, and should remember his enthusiastic reception in Warwick some time ago. May I add, for the benefit of the honorable member for Maranoa, that in my opinion the judges at the Glasgow show displayed remarkably good taste. I have travelled fairly extensively, and I believe that the flavour of Australian butter is unequalled in the world. If the people of Glasgow, as members of a rather sombre race, are able to judge the good quality of Australian butter, I hope that other people throughout the world, too, will he able to taste it and to judge its quality.
– Will the Treasurer state how many dollars were taken out of Australia by artists who appeared for the Lee Gordon enterprises during 1954-55 ? Does the right honorable gentleman not think that those dollars- could have been better utilized in the interests of Australia and also in encouraging Australian artists ?
– I shall endeavour to obtain the information for which the honorable member has asked. I do not want him to he under the misunderstanding that such matters are not watched vigilantly, or that they represent only a debit entry. Certain credits emanate from the utilization of such artists and their dollar earnings.
– I desire to preface my question to the Minister for Labour and National Service by pointing out that the right honorable gentleman, when answering a question that I directed to him last week regarding the extraordinary delay that has occurred in the presentation of th-j report of the committee of inquiry into the stevedoring industry, stated that the committee had not had, at all stages of its inquiry, the co-operation that had been expected from the parties appearing before it. I ask the Minister whether it is a fact that the only instance of noncooperation has been the continued failure of the shipowners to furnish certain information regarding their finances which had been sought by the committee. Fs it also a fact that the committee has made no other complaint about failure of the parties to co-operate? If this is true, will the Minister now withdraw his statement and apologize for his baseless and unjustified attack upon the trade union representatives ?
– I did not seek to convey the impression that what I had stated to be the facts had come to me by way of comment from the members of the committee. My own view was formed from my knowledge of various industrial developments and from such perusal of the transcript of the proceedings before the committee as I was able to make from time to time. With regard to the particular matter to which the honorable member has directed attention, the transcript contains more than one reference to the failure of certain shipowners to comply with requests made by the committee from time to time. It was my impression that none of the parties had been as co-operative as desired in relation to the expeditious furnishing of evidence to the committee. That impression was fortified by the fact that approximately six months ago, I think, I was informed by the chairman of the committee that it was anticipated that a report in relation to part A of the committee’s inquiry would soon be furnished. I gather that there has since been some reference to this matter by the committee itself, following a protest received from the general secretary of the Waterside Workers Federation of Australia, in which the committee offered the view that it had received from him the co-operation it had sought. That is the committee’s view, and I accept it as such. My own statement is based on impressions which I have formed personally.
– Has the Minister for the Interior received reports of extensive damage sustained in orchards in the Jerrabomberra and Narrabundah areas of the Australian Capital Territory in recent storms? Does he know that individual losses arc estimated to be as high as £5,000, and that some orchardists are, in fact, facing ruin? In view of the fact that the leases in these areas are restrictive, and in view of the further fact that it is not possible for orchardists to take out insurance against damage by hail, would the Minister carry out an inspection personally of this small part of the Australian Capital Territory with a view to seeing whether some assistance could be given to the lessees concerned?
– I rather think the damage to which the honorable member refers comes under the heading of an occupational hazard. It is also news to me that it is not possible to insure against damage by hail ; but in view of the honorable gentleman’s statement, I shall certainly be glad to investigate the matter, although I should not, at this stage, anticipate that any great success, will result from the honorable gentleman’s suggestion.
– Can the Minister for Territories state whether it is the intention of the Government to make further contributions to the fund established for the purpose of making advances for home building in the Northern Territory? I ask the question because a large number of applications which have received the approval of the Northern Territory Administration are now held up because of lack of funds. As many intending Lome builders in the Northern Territory have already entered into commitments on the basis of the approval of finance, this delay has caused considerable hardship.
– If the situation is as the honorable member represents it to be I can appreciate the serious inconvenience it may cause to some individual?, and therefore I shall have inquiries made from the Administrator of the Northern Territory in order to see what can be done.
Mi’. CAIRNS.- Will the Treasurer say whether any of the recommendations of the economic advisory committee will be published and, if so, will he see that all the recommendations are published, and not only those which support, or are relevant to, any action decided upon by thu Government? Will the right honorable gentleman also see that machinery is set up, perhaps in conjunction with universities and government departments, so that economic research can be coordinated and extended, so as to enable the obtaining and publishing of details of private investment, income distribution, classes of bank advances and similar matters, in order that the recommendations of the committee may be based on facts which are, at the same time, available to the Parliament and the people ?
– I am afraid that the question asked by the honorable member for Yarra is biased on wrong premises. The committee that is being set up is of a consultative nature, as was amply explained by the Prime Minister. Its members will .not make recommendations. Their duties will be to have discussions and consultations with the Government.
– My question to the Minister for Supply has reference to the Mary Kathleen uranium lease near Mount Isa, Queensland. Has the Government been negotiating with the British Government and the Rio Tinto company regarding the sale of uranium oxide to be produced from what is known as the Mary Kathleen lease, such sales to be made to the British Government? Did the Bio Tinto company make overtures to the Australian Government nearly six months ago in reference to this matter? If so, what is the reason for the delay? Is the Government still interested, in these days of Australia’s falling overseas balances, in the increase of exports? Does the option of the Bio Tinto company on the Mary Kathleen lease expire to-morrow, the 29th February? If so, has the option been extended to cover the completion of the present negotiations? Does the Minister intend to make a statement to this House in connexion with the matter?
– As has been stated before, I think, in this House, negotiations have been proceeding with respect to the sale of Australian uranium. Those negotiations are still going on. If the honorable gentleman is complaining about the delay, without admitting that there is any delay, all that I tell him is that the delay is not on the part of the Government. If he will put the rest of his question on the notice-paper, I will have it carefully examined.
– I should like to ask the Minister for Trade whether he has made any discoveries concerning the incidence of racketeering in B class category priorities on the import side. I asked his predecessor about this some months ago, and got no reply. As a point of explanation, may I say that what really happens is that public advertisements are inserted for the sale of import licences of B category, and they are traded in at a marginal profit of between 20 per cent, and 25 per cent, for those who sell there. Of course, if that is an answer to the inflationary problem, I would like to hear more about it. The second point is in regard to the take-over policy of so many businesses. When these companies absorb other smaller companies, they take over the licences; and these licences have been used to increase their quota, but the customers belonging to the smaller companies are completely cut out. These are two most important things. I should like to ask the Minister whether he has made any inquiry at this stage, and reached any decision. I understand that the Minister for Trade is in charge of import licensing.
– The Minister for Customs and Excise is administering it until the end of March.
– Then the two Ministers, in collaboration, can prepare an answer, and let me know.
– As this matter of import licensing remains my responsibility until the end of March, I will attempt to answer the honorable member’s question. I am well aware, and the department is well aware, of complaints that have been made in this place and elsewhere of trafficking in import licences. I think that arises, in part, from a misunderstanding among many people of the very complex system of licensing imports which has arisen over the years ; but they undoubtedly arise from a real difficulty in ensuring that holders of import licences do not make unfair use of their licences. B category quotas are, of course, interchangeable for a wide range of goods, and the essence of the licensing system for the less essential goods which have been placed in B category is that the holder of the quota may take out a licence up to the extent of the quota over the whole range of B category goods. He cannot sell his licence. If he has taken out an import licence, the customs practice is that he must import goods, and put them through the customs in his own name. If he should sell his licence and the goods were imported by somebody else, his licence would be immediately cancelled. If he has complied with the regulations, and imported the goods himself and cleared them in his own name, the department has no control whatever over what he does with them. It is obviously impracticable to attempt to control what he does with them, because it is as old as trade itself that people should seek to find a purchaser for their goods before they seek to import them. When advertisements appear in the paper for a spare quota, the legal and practical basis of the matter is thai; they are seeking an importer who is in a position to import for them goods which they want. I am not aware of any means to control this. However, the department does very strictly look out for unfair uses of import licences, and deals with them accordingly. There have been a number of prosecutions of people who dealt with their licences not in accordance with the law. There have been two prosecutions of Customs officers over these matters, and a very large number of licences have been cancelled. A number of quotas have also been reduced because of practices which were thought to be unfair. I concede the necessity for the strictest surveillance of this matter, and that does go on to the best of the department’s ability. The second part of the honorable member’s question deals with what happens to licences for B quotas held by companies which are sold. Each one is examined on its merits, and the purchaser of the business is not necessarily entitled to take over the whole quota of the business which is purchased.
– As the previous PostmasterGeneral informed me some time, ago that consideration was being given to the issuing of the Victorian telephone directory in a more convenient size with printing that could be more easily read, I now ask the present Postmaster-General whether, in the near future, Victorians can hope to have a readable telephone directory, even if it means that the pink pages will have to be issued as a separate volume.
– In addition to the representations to my predecessor that were mentioned by the honorable member for Scullin, I have also had representations made to me regarding not only the Victorian directory but also the Tas.manian directory. I am giving attention to these representations and will advise those concerned at a later date.
– I ask the Treasurer whether he is aware that the provisions of the Income Tax Assessment Act - I think section 82h is the relevant section - provides that a taxpayer is able to claim for his or any other child in respect of insurance premium payments but is not entitled to a deductible allowance for a step child. As I see it, all other sections of the act make provision for a taxpayer to be able to claim for a dependent step child in the same manner as he would claim for his own blood child. I asls the Treasurer whether he considers thi> to be an oversight. If he does, has he examined the matter with a view to having the anomaly removed and, if it is not an oversight, will he do that anyhow?
– If the matter to which the honorable member has referred is an oversight, it ha3 been an oversight ever since the federal law was brought into existence and administered by all the governments that have occupied the treasury bench. However, I will look into the matter, and see what can be done, because this Government has been very generous always with regard to allowances for dependants.
– Has the attention of the Minister for the Army been drawn to the remarks of the commanding officer of the Australian Second Battalion in Penang, who has been reported a3 saying that Australians have a reputation for “ brutal and licentious soldiering “ ? Is it a fact that this statement was made in an area where there is already strong feeling against the stationing of Australian troops and, consequently, that it must cause more harm to Australia’s standing in Malaya? If the statement attributed to the commanding officer is correct, is he a suitable person to be in charge of Australian troops, and what steps are being taken to recall him?
– If the honorable member would bring himself up to date, he would know that the statement to which he referred has been refuted long since. The officer who wa! stated as being responsible has denied the statement. The report that wamade was a misreport with regard to the observations made by him. The Army is satisfied with his explanation.
– I should like to ask th* Treasurer whether it is a fact that in the last annual report of the Commonwealth Auditor-General it was disclosed that assessed but unpaid taxes as at the 30th June, 1955, amounted to £70,500,000. Is it a fact that a considerable proportion of this amount has been owing for a number of years? Will the Treasurer state why such a huge amount of taxation remains uncollected and what steps, if any, the Government has taken to reduce the total of outstanding taxes?
– The amount of taxes outstanding is not extraordinary, having regard to the accumulated nature of it and to the general assessments that have been made over the years. I assure the honorable member that the Taxation Branch is ever vigilant in the collection of taxes, recognizing, as it does, that it has the responsibility of getting the revenue in as expeditiously as possible, and to the greatest possible extent. I remind the honorable member that, proportionately, the arrears of taxes are less than they were when we took over this Government.
– I ask the Minister for Air whether Morna Point Beach, north of Newcastle, is Commonwealth territory. Is it used as a Royal Australian Air Force bombing range and is it closed to the general public? If it is used as a bombing range and is not enclosed Commonwealth property, do Royal Australian Air Force personnel scour the beach after bombing practice to see whether unexploded missiles, which could endanger the lives and limbs of people using the beach, are lying around? Is the Minister aware that on the 16th October last, two youths were badly burned and otherwise injured when a missile which had been kicked by one of the heys exploded? Can he say whether the Department of Air intends to compensate the youths or to meet the medical and hospital expenses incurred by their parents? Further, will the Minister take action to ensure that a similar occurrence cannot take place in the future?
– I have no detailed knowledge of the facts raised by the honorable gentleman’s question. Morna Point is, of course, a bombing range used by aircraft from Williamtown. I have been there and know that whenever there is a bombing or rocket “ run “ a very accurate cl.ei.-k is made of the number of missiles used, and that those found unexploded are dealt with. The honorable member’s question is too detailed for me to answer offhand. I will get the precise information that he desires and give it to him later.
– Have arrangements yet been finalized for the holding of a conference to agree upon the final statute of the International Atomic Energy Agency? Is Australia, as a foundation member, playing an active part .in this agency, and does there appear to be any prospect in the near future of additional membership ?
– My recollection is that the matter has not yet been finalized. Australia was very active from the start in supporting the idea which was initiated by President Eisenhower. There are great hopes that this body, when founded, will make a remarkable contribution to the peaceful uses of atomic energy throughout the world. Australia, as a foundation member, will continue to make ite contribution.
– I ask the Minister for Immigration whether the immigration policy of this country will be adversely affected by the increased shipping fares which are shortly to be imposed by shipping companies operating services to and from this country. Does the Minister know that these companies propose very shortly to increase fares by 15 per cent, on tourist vessels, and by 20 per cent, on vessels carrying two classes of passengers?
– I have heard something of this proposal. Yesterday I received an intimation from my department that there had been an indication of an intention to increase shipping fares.
On my instructions, the department will shortly reply, requesting full details of the proposed increase and the alleged justification for it. When we receive that information we shall consider what further action to take in the matter. Quite obviously, a substantial increase in costs such as this would be a heavy burden upon Australia’s immigration programme, as we normally avail ourselves of passages on these shipping lines.
– Is the Minister for Trade aware that the primary producers of Victoria are very anxious that an overseas shipping line should be purchased by the Commonwealth Government in order to prevent further exploitation of them through freight charges? Will the Minister, as a representative of primary producers, endeavour to see that their wishes are carried out by this Government?
– I am not aware that the primary producers of Victoria want the Government to own a shipping line. I do not know whether they would wish the Commonwealth to operate a shipping line at a prodigious loss, or would agree to pay overseas shipping freights comparable with those that are the outcome of certain coastal shipping standards here - seamen working 28 hours a week, as His Honour Judge Foster has pointed out. Such freight rates would break every primary producer in Victoria.
Bill returned from the Senate without amendment.
Debate resumed from the 23rd February (vide page 253), on motion by Mr. Chaney -
That the following Address-in-Reply to the Speech of His Excellency the Governor-General be agreed to: -
We, the House of Representatives 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.
.- The Governor-General’s Speech undoubtedly caused great disappointment to all who heard it. Certainly, it must have come as a grievous disappointment even to the Government’s most ardent followers. That, of course, is no reflection upon His Excellency who, after all, is only an instrument of the Government in the matter. One would have expected the Government, having come back from the people with a big majority, to have been like a giant refreshed, and to have come forward with a bold and positive expansionist policy for the development of this country and for social and economic justice for all sections of the community.
Instead, it seems to be more arrogant, self-centred and complacent than ever. The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) certainly made no promises in his policy speech. He said that he was relying upon his record - such as it was - and very effectively covered up the Government’s real intentions by bringing out the old smoke screens, catch cries and red bogies, which he has used so successfully in recent elections. One wonders what would happen if Soviet Russia showed some sincerity in its protestations that it is seeking peaceful co-existence. The Prime Minister would then lose his alibis and be unable to exploit the fears of the people to bolster up his reactionary policy both internationally and on the home front.
The Governor-General’s Speech was noteworthy, not for what it said, but for what it left unsaid, as though it had been written in invisible ink by some hidden hand. No doubt the invisible writing will appear in due course. It was most unfair to His Excellency, who is noted for his forthrightness and capacity for calling a spade a spade.It must have been extremely embarrassing to be called upon to read a document so lacking in frankness about the Government’s real intentions. When the Prime Minister announced the dissolution of the Twenty-first Parliament he gave in this Housecertain reasons, which he had proffered to the Governor-General, in seeking the dissolution. He stated that he would he asking for a mandate for the Government’s financial and economic policy. He was completely silent on that point in his policy speech delivered at Kooyong, and, for that matter, the GovernorGeneral’s Speech made no- mention of that point. No doubt the right honorable gentleman had his ankles caned by his party bosses for letting the cat out of the bag when he made that pronouncement in this House. No doubt he was told to pipe down, at least for the time being, and to rely upon the same old tactics that he had successfully adopted in the past. As a result, the campaign was fought, not on the Government’s economic policy - it really had none - hut on the old issue of Communism, with savage personal attacks on the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt), and by exploiting some temporary disunity in the ranks of the Labour party. The honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Cairns), in his brilliant speech the other night, referred to the recent statement appearing in the Economist in London, to the effect that that journal wondered when the Australian Government would have to rely upon its economic policy in order to be returned.
There certainly was a veiled threat in the Prime Minister’s speech of some bitter economic medicine which would be prescribed if he did not receive what he termed “ co-operative liberalism “ - whatever that might be. Perhaps he was expressing a pious hope that he would get some co-operation from the monopolists and the other hig business interests that financed this Government and put it into power, and that they may perhaps devote a little more of their energies to the interests of the community generally, and not so much to the pursuit of profits and dividends. I do not think, however, that the right honorable gentleman really expected that there would be a change of heart in that regard. That is obvious from the fact that his request was repeated in the Governor-General’s Speech, in which the following statement was made : -
The Prime Minister recently made an appeal not only to the public generally but to representatives of many sections of industry for restraint in expenditure: a restraint which would do more to preserve the value of earnings, by counteracting inflation, than any other single factor. It is not yet clear how far these appeals have been successful. But my advisers-
And here is the threat - want to make it clear that, limited as their powers may bc, they will be prepared to use them to the full to counteract an inflation which threatens to inflict deep injury upon our true prosperity. They believe that, prosperous though we are, we cannot sensibly seek to satisfy all our demands at the one time. There must be some balance between demands and resources. In our present state, either our resources must be materially increased, and that means a far more urgent understanding of the importance of increased production than is now visible, or the demands themselves must be reduced by appropriate fiscal and other measures. Government expenditure itself must be sedulously watched and, wherever possible, pruned. But there are limits to the extent to which public works programmes can be cut back, since those programmes, if properly chosen and planned, largely represent the foundation upon which expanding private enterprise builds.
That is the point, It can be taken to the point at which it might affect precious private enterprise, which, of course, must be sacrosanct. The workers do not count ! The Government is, in fact, emboldened to renew its de-socialization policy, which it put into operation some little time ago. According to some reports, the Commonwealth shipping line and the Commonwealth whaling station are to go the way of Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited, the Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited, Trans-Australia Airlines, and other great national undertakings. Why is the Government not frank with the people? Why did not the Prime Minister in his policy speech, and in the Governor-General’s Speech, take the people into his confidence and ask for a mandate in these matters? The whole thing is a gigantic confidence trick, and I venture to say that if the Australian Labour party ever adopted such tactics it would be derided by the press propagandists and others who are behind the present Government. Why should not the Government be more specific as to its economic policy? Here again the Government’s economic policy seems to have been written in invisible ink. Perhaps the Prime Minister is being a little more subtle than he has been in some of the methods that he has adopted in the past. In the Governor-General’s Speech the following statement appears : -
My Government lias decided that it should regularly make available relevant statistical information on the state of the economy. The first publication of this Treasury Information Bulletin was issued recently.
Before the Governor-General’s Speech was made, the first of these bulletins was issued, to be followed immediately by the publication in the newspapers of a plan propounded by eight professors or economists. The first of these bulletins came out on the Monday, and on the very next day, the Tuesday, this plan was issued by eight professors who were attached to universities all over Australia. The day after the Treasury Information Bulletin appeared, these eight professors come forward with sweeping proposals in regard to the economic policy of Australia. The real gist of their plan, when it is summed up, is that there has been too much prosperity for the ordinary folk in the community, and the gravy must be skimmed off, by increased taxation on the one hand, and by higher interest rates on the other. In other words, the Government bureaucracy is to be fattened by more revenue from increased taxation, and the financial institutions are to profit from higher interest rates, a t the expense of all other sections of the community. They are the sections to which the Government made its appeals during the recent general election campaign, and which in many cases were deluded. I refer to the primary producers, the workers, the industrialists, manufacturers, home-buyers, and other sections of the community, all of which will be paying toll through increased revenue to the Government bureaucracy, and to private financial institutions by reason of increased interest rates.
Certainly, this new plan has not been brought forward by the same people who have been the Government’s economic advisors in the past, and who propounded a plan for an unemployment pool of from S per cent, to 15 per cent, of the workingforce of the community. We have been told that the publication of the plan of these eight professors is a voluntary gesture on their part, and that it was not inspired by any Government source or outside influence. We have been told that it is purely a coincidence that they were ready to issue their plan the very next day after the Government’s first bulletin was published. I have before me a copy of a publication entitled The Retail Week, dated the 10th February, 1 956. This publication describes itself as “ The voice of the shopkeeper, retail trader and businessman “. It represents a section of the community that probably supported the Government at the recent general election, and yet it describes the plan that I have been discussing as an “ unsound attack on Australian economy”. It states -
We have devoted the major portion of this issue to what we believe to be the most unsoundly based attack made in recent years on the Australian economy.
It seems to me that either the plan of these professors and so-called economists has been hastily prepared and illconceived, or there is something behind it that does not appear on its face. Certainly, it poses some very pertinent questions. Did these professors have foreknowledge of the Government’s intention and of what was to appear in the Government’s first bulletin? Is there any connexion between their proposals and the campaign of international financial interests, which has been waged over the past year or so, for an increase of interest rates? It is very significant that only in the last couple of weeks the British Government has succumbed to the demands of international financial interests and allowed an increase of interest rates, which must be paid by the home-buyer, the businessman and others. We now find the same campaign being waged in this country, with private financial organizations demanding at least per cent, for the time being, their ultimate aim being 6-£ per cent, to 7 per cent. Whatever the motives behind this plan, the first reaction against it was certainly very unfavorable. No doubt it was the function of the professors, on the one hand, to fly the kite in order to enable the Government, on the other hand, to observe the public’s reactions. Certainly it has been very distasteful even to some Government supporters. No doubt, more bulletins will follow, and more of these professorized pills will be prepared for our alleged economic ills. No doubt a softening-up process will take place from time to time in the guise of a tougheningup process. Its real purpose will be to aim at softening up the workers’ stomachs.
We have had some of these economic pills in the past, pills propounded by professors and economists. I remember only too well the dark days of the depression, which was brought about by political economists. As recently as 1952 and 1953. there was a man-made depression or recession which resulted in an unemployment pool of up to 160,000 persons. It is all very well for these planners and economists to work these proposals out on paper quite coldbloodedly, but other factors must be taken into consideration. Human and psychological factors are involved. Very often these plans touch off forces that get completely out of hand. Once purchasing power is cut down, once there is a restriction of finance for public works, home building and so on, the whole movement gathers force, and in no time we have a vast unemployment pool. Of course, there is one section of the community - that particular brand of economist - which believes it is necessary at all times to have a pool of unemployed, to keep an economic whip on the backs of the workers and producers, in order to get the increased production that the Government claims is required so urgently.
Another thought that occurs to me is that the Government may intend to resurrect its abortive Defence Preparations Act. Perhaps the Government proposes to go about it more subtly and more stealthily by the flying of these professorial kites, by certains plans of economic advisers, and so on. If that is not the intention, what meaning can we give to the reference in the GovernorGeneral’s Speech to the fact that the Government will not hesitate to use its limited powers to the full ? If that is not intended, that particular paragraph is meaningless. Unless the Government has in mind something similar to what it attempted two or three years ago under the Defence Preparations Act, I can see no purpose in that passage. No doubt time will tell; in due course the invisible ink will appear and become legible.
The Governor-General’s Speech is silent on many other matters that have been of vital concern to honorable members on both sides of the House. For instance, there is no indication of the Government’s policy in connexion with national development. There is no mention of any proposal for national roads; there is no hint of increased social services, increased family allowances, increased pensions, higher repatriation benefits or general wage adjustments to enable some sections of the community to cope with the decreased value of the £1, that has resulted from the policy of the MenziesFadden Administration.
One real guide as to the Government’s insincerity is its failure to ensure justice to ex-servicemen, one section of the community whom one might be pardoned for believing would be given speedy redress for their grievances and whose problems would be attended to without delay. We find the reverse is the position. There are some things that we did not read about in the press during the recent election campaign. For instance, a perusal of the reports of the Repatriation Commission and the entitlement appeal tribunals show what is taking place. I have had the opportunity of perusing those reports, although I must point out that only one typewritten copy of the report of the entitlement appeal tribunals was tabled. It was not circulated, nor was it handed to the press. That report discloses that during the last financial year 50,000 applications for pensions were made to the Repatriation Commission by ex-servicemen and their dependants. Of that number, only 20,000, or 40 per cent., were granted. Thirty thousand, or 60 per cent, of the applications, were not allowed by the commission.
That is only part of the story. Of those who decided to carry the matter further and submit their claims to an entitlement appeal tribunal, 80 per cent, were unsuccessful. That is the real test of the Government’s sincerity. We have not heard one word of protest from the watchdogs of the ex-servicemen who sit on the Government back benches. If such a thing had taken place during the Labour Government’s regime, there would have been a tremendous howl from the anti-Labour forces, but we hear not one word from honorable members opposite. They have not spoken one word, nor have they made any attempt to ensure that justice is done to the ex-servicemen.
I do not blame either the commission or the entitlement appeal tribunals so much for this situation. The blame rests fairly and squarely on the shoulders of the Government itself. No doubt the commission knows that only a certain amount is to be provided by the Treasury each year for pensions and other exservicemen’s benefits. That is taken by the commission and the tribunals as a hint that only a certain percentage of claims can be granted in a particular year. All I can say about it is that if that is a typical example of how the Government treats that most deserving section of the community, then all other sections can give up all hope of ever obtaining a fair deal.
I do not propose to traverse the whole of the Government’s policy, or lack of policy. It is merely a negative, defeatist, restrictive approach throughout, whether it be the problem of national health, public hospitals, housing or anything else. It would seem that public hospitals are to be starved for finance, and that thousands of people, young couples in particular, will be unable to get into their own homes. The last matter to which I attended before leaving home to come here to-day was a most distressing case of a young couple who had been living with their parents. They were in a small room 10 feet by 8 feet. The wife is living there with three young children, and she is expecting another child in the near future. The husband has been compelled to live somewhere further down the line with his parents. This young couple is faced with eviction, yet the housing commission cannot provide any accommodation for them, even in an emergency home. That is the unfortunate plight of many people in the community, and it results from the Government’s economic policy.
That is where the Government and the Opposition differ. Labour’s outlook is expansionist, one of progress and national development. We believe that rapid development is vital to this country, because rapid development is really wrapped up with defence. We believe that decentralization of both population and industry is essential in this atomic age. The centralization in the cities of our industries and the majority of our population is our greatest danger, yet this Government is building more munitions factories in capital cities. As an example, I mention the costly munitions factory at St. Mary’s. The Labour Party advocates a national highways scheme, and a balanced immigration policy, together with social and economic justice. After all, if this country is allowed to get into the doldrums again, as it was at the outbreak of World War II., and if the present Government is still in office, the Labour party may not have the opportunity that came its way two years after the outbreak of World War II., when it had to take over, and harness the resources of this country to give an all-in war effort. The next war will be a push-button war. It will probably be all over before we know it has started, and that is the real tragedy of allowing the present Government to. remain in office.
The Labour Party also believes in utilizing the financial resources of the nation, and the Commonwealth Bank, as opposed to placing Australian in pawn to overseas bondholders. This Government has now raised about £300,000,000 during its five or six years of office, whereas the Chifley and Curtin Governments were able to finance a war costing thousands of millions of pounds without raising a single penny from overseas financial interests. If the Government accedes to the demand for high interest rates, it will further sacrifice our national assets to overseas interests. Some honorable members opposite and the leader of the Liberal party-Australian Country party Opposition in the New South Wales Parliament, Mr. Morton, echo the cry that our great undertakings, even the postal department and the railways, should be sacrificed to overseas financial interests.
– They would sell the lot.
– They would. We have heard a lot about imperialism in this House. Financial imperialism is the most insidious influence of all. The present Government is gradually selling out Australia. As an example of its administration, let us consider the double income tax exemptions, which have lost Australia millions of pounds of revenue and given overseas concerns an unfair advantage in competition with Australian industrial enterprises. In the attempt that was made by a large American company in recent weeks to steal a big Australian retail enterprise, we have had a clear demonstration of the tactics that would be adopted by some overseas companies which the Government alleges it wishes to attract here to invest their money in Australia. The Government should encourage local industries. By all means let it encourage people from overseas to settle in Australia, bring with them their know-how, establish industries here and accept the Australian way of life. They should not be encouraged merely to direct enterprises in Australia from overseas. The Government seems to have some sort of inferiority complex about our own Australian citizens. Under the administration of. earlier anti-Labour Governments, some of Australia’s best brains, and especially inventors and artists, had to go overseas to obtain recognition. The Government is drifting along on the return road to the bad old days of absentee landlords, shareholders, and bondholders who have no interest in this country, except to exploit it. We experienced their exploitation in the days of the depression between 1929 and 1932, when some representatives of those overseas interests, notably Sir Otto Niemeyer, came to Australia to collect the interest that overseas bondholders claimed on funds that had been raised overseas, and told us that we could stew in our own juice, and that we must tighten our belts so that we could discharge our obligations. [Quorum formed.)
-Order ! The honorable gentleman’s time has expired.
– Do I not receive consideration for the time occupied in forming a quorum?
.- As the member of the House with the longest service, may I be permitted to congratulate the new members on the maiden speeches that they have made. I have heard several of those speeches, and I have read them all. Undoubtedly, in these new members we have received a vey sensible addition to the debating power of the Parliament.
To-day, I wish to deal with very broad problems, not with parochial matters. The first is the problem of the growth of the Australian nation. Rapid growth always brings problems. The growth of a child causes tremendous problems. The child changes from year to year, and, in consequence, one must deal with it from time to time in different ways. The problems of the growth of a nation are exactly the same, but on a much larger scale. They are very definite problems. It has been found that one of the greatest problems of a growing nation is that of an adverse balance of payments. Obviously, if a country desires to increase its population from 5,000,000 to 20,000,000 or 30,000,000 in the course of 30 or 40 years, the savings of the original 5,000,000 inhabitants will not provide the capital required for the development needed for the provision of necessary amenities such as housing, and water and sewerage services. Therefore, imports of capital will be needed. Whether that capital comes in money or in goods, there must be fairly long periods in which the balance of payments is adverse. That adverse balance can be corrected only when the imports of capital have been digested and the work of the immigrants brought in to satisfy the demand for labour caused by the capital imports has built up tremendous assets, as happened in the United States of America. After 80 or 90 years with an adverse balance of payments, the United States was finally able to show tremendously favorable balances. In fact, when World War I. broke out, the position of that country was so strong that, during that war, it was able to pay almost all the old capital debts that had been incurred during the previous century, and begin to help the world in the magnificent manner in which it has helped, not merely during the period between the two world wars, but also since World War II. In this matter, we are guided by experience and, therefore. it is essential that we study the experience of countries with a history and problems similar to our own, in order to learn the manner in which they were able to deal with those problems.
We must be very careful not to adopt too many short-term policies. We must have long-term policies. As every honorable member who has served in this House for a few years knows, every short-term, solution of a difficult problem invariably causes a great many new problems which, sometimes, are even more difficult to solve than was the original problem. I, myself, have always tried to take that view, because, when I was only a growing lad, I read a story that greatly influenced me. It was Gibbon’s account of St. Simeon Stylites, who, perched on a pinnacle in the desert, and, thinking himself all alone, attempted to solve’ all the mystical, philosophical and theological problems by the contemplation of his navel. I have always considered it very bad to have too small an objective. It is much better to expand one’s objective. Later, I was told a story, which was vouched for, and which seems too good not to be true. It concerned a famous buccaneer of the Spanish Main, who, during the seventeenth century, had rather a good run in the Caribbean Sea for several years. Eventually, he was captured and thrown into a Mexican gaol, where he languished for seven years, longing for his freedom, until, finally, he accidentally pushed the window and found that it was open. He walked out. The window had been unlocked all the time, but he had never really tried to get out previously. It is essential that we examine all the windows that we can see in difficult situations in Order to ascertain whether one possible solution may be much easier than others.
I have always considered that the right thing to do, in dealing with the problems of Australia’s growth, is to examine very carefully the history of the United States since their federal union in 1788. It is necessary, to trace, decade by decade, exactly what happened there and what happened here, and if there has been, as there has been, a very much greater speed of progress there than here, it is necessary to find the basic causes. T was helped in this analysis by the fact that in 1924 I had the good fortune to be in Washington, where I met the commercial counsellor of the British Embassy, Joyce Broderick, who had given a great deal of study to this matter and had written a very elaborate article on the balance of payments of the United ‘ States. In his monograph he dealt with the period from 1S20 to 1896. but I shall go back still further when I have dealt with his statement. In the fiscal years ended the 30th June of each year from 1820 to 1837, when foreign capital was flowing to the United States to help its development and the settlement of its immigrants, exports averaged 82,000,000 dollars and imports 93,000,000 dollars, showing an average balance of payments., on the wrong side, of 11,000,000 dollars of exports in excess of imports. During the next ten years there was an attempt to digest this volume of capital and. during that time the United States was able, not merely to do without any addition to its resources, but to show an excess of exports over imports of 3,000,000 dollars a year. From 1850 to 1874, when its real growth started towards its present dimensions, the United States imported extraordinary amounts of capital as well as vast numbers of immigrants. During those years there was an average adverse balance of trade of 62,000,000 dollars. It then gathered its crop of results, and during the ten. years following 1874 it had a positive, favorable balance of trade of 4G1,000,000 dollars and, with the exception of two or three years late in the 1880’s and early in the 1890’s when the whole world was in depression, it has not since had an unfavorable balance of trade. The United States was able to build its exports over imports to the amount, not merely of hundreds of millions of dollars, but billions of dollars, and to do an extraordinary job of work throughout the last 70 or 80 years, especially since World War I. in helping a very war-sick world.
What were the basic conditions that the United States tried to establish during that period ? It had three fundamental objectives. The first was to try to achieve continuous decentralization and expansion of its population by continually creating new States. I shall enlarge on that shortly. Secondly, despite its very adverse balance of payments, it continued in bring in millions of immigrants, and from 1S00 to 1850, I think it is true to say, there was never less than an increase of 3 per cent, yearly in the population of the United States, of which at least half, I take it. would be attributable to immigration. Thirdly, the United States went to very great lengths to try r.o attract foreign capital by the grant of land and so on, and to assist in the building of railways, electric power undertakings, and all those other things which are the foundations of the amenities of the people and of the industries in which the people are employed, in a private and public sense. I shall examine that aspect to show whether it is not right that we should follow in the footsteps of the United States, because the analogy between the growth of the two countries is very striking indeed. When the federal union of the American States took place in 1788 the country’s population was about 3,900,000 people. When we federated in 1900 we had 3,857,000 people, virtually the same number. The population of the United States grew steadily until, in 1800, a census showed 5,308,000 people. The population in those ten years had increased by about 40 per cent. In 1810, it was 7,250,000; in 1820, it was just on 10,000,000; in 1830, it was 12,900,000; in 1840, it was 17,000,000; and in 1850, it was 23,000,000. Those years cover a period roughly equivalent to the time since our federation. The American States federated in 1790, and we federated in 1900. We have been federated for 56 years. During that period the population of the United States had increased by about five times. Our population has increased about two-fold, from 4,000,000 to 9,000,000. During that period the United States dealt with its balance of payments position on a longterm plan to make certain that it would be able not merely to settle all its people but to attract many more. From 1850 to 1878, its population was enormously increased. By 18S0, it had grown to 59,000,000 and by 1900 to 75,000,000. Since then it has continued to increase and is now about double that number.
Let us examine the method of progress adopted by the United States. It started with thirteen States - in fact, with twelve, but North Carolina came in shortly afterwards and had the Bill of Rights agreed to by the other States. In the first decade two new States were brought into being, in the second decade two more, in the third decade four, and in the fourth decade territories, with local government, were organized and later made States. In the fifth decade two more States were created, and in the sixth decade, five more. Fifteen new self-controlled centres of decentralized development were created during that period. By 1840, after a period of 50 years, the United States comprised 23 established States covering an area almost equal to the area of Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria, the three eastern States of Australia. Though it has been said very often by the pessimists that Australia is able to hold only 20,000,000 or 30,000,000 people, had the Americans taken that view they would not have achieved anything like their present standard of development.
The second step taken by the United States was to continue gathering immigrants. I venture to say that we will take a fatal step in this country, when such a great movement of people is going on as there is at present, if we slacken in our efforts to attract immigrants. I should like to congratulate the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell), who is the Deputy Leader of the Labour party, and the Government of which he was a member, for having had the courage to start the immigration programme as soon as the war was over. Unfortunately, during the 1920’s, we suffered largely by reason of the resistance of the trade unions to immigration. Now that there is a bigger movement, we should do everything we possibly can to secure to us the population which will assist us to build up industries, employment, and wealth in this country, which will enable us to develop to capacity so that we may sell more goods overseas, decentralize our industries, and really take our place in the world in a manner which is necessary for our advancement. I should sleep much more soundly in my bed if we had 20,000,000 or 30,000,000 people to defend this country, instead of 9,000,000.
– How does the right honorable gentleman propose that the additional people should be housed during the immigration ‘period ?
– I shall come to that later. The first step that the Americans took was to encourage new centres of development, with government on the spot, so to speak. The second step was to insist that their immigration policy be not interfered with, and they did not interfere with it for SO or 90 years. I think it was only at the beginning of this century that they made any change in their policy of free admission of immigrants.
In the early stages of the development of the United States, the Americans said, *’ We cannot handle this problem unless we get help from outside “. Our population of only 9,000,000 cannot save enough money to provide the finance required for the enormous developmental schemes necessary to provide the housing, water supplies, electric power and the other things we need. We must get help from outside. It is physically impossible to get the money that we need from the savings of only 9,000,000 people. If we try to carry on without outside help, it will be like asking a youngster of five or six years of age to do a man’s work and keep a family. That, in effect, is what we are doing now. In many quarters, a blind eye is being turned to the necessity to get outside capital. The Americans encouraged other people to come to their country and start new industries there. We are doing that to a largo extent now, thank God! Overseas companies have established themselves here and are producing many fine articles, the export of which, in some cases, is assisting us to adjust out unfavorable balance of trade.
But, unfortunately, we have persisted for too long with a policy that was forced upon us, by reason of our isolation, at the beginning of our history - a policy of nationalizing ‘practically all the facilities that do anything for the convenience of the public. We have reached the position that we cannot raise enough money for developmental purposes by means of loans floated here, and that we can borrow from overseas only a proportion of the money that we require. Yet there are many undertakings in the United States, Canada and other countries which have plenty of capital available and which would by prepared to establish here industries and undertakings which would help us to do the job of work that faces us.
Let us consider, for example, the generation of electric power. At the present time, we consume 1,100 or 1,200 units of electricity per bead of population each year. In America, the annual consumption per head of ‘population is 4,500 units : in Canada, 5,000 units; in Norway, 7,000 units; and in Great Britain, over 4,000 units. We are making available to our working men only about a quarter of the quantity of electric power that is available to the working men of those other countries. We expect to be able to compete with those countries, but we cannot do so. They have at their disposal, not only human workers, but also, so to speak, electric workers, who are much more easy to deal with than are men and women. It is much more simple to deal with purely material things than it is with human beings.
It is essential that we get on with the job of developing this country and that we bring here the additional capital that we require. In America, the great railway companies found that it was not possible for private railway companies to raise enough capital to purchase the rolling-stock that they required, so they hired it. I do not think there is a Pullman car in the United States, or anywhere else in the world, that has not been provided by the Pullman company. If honorable members go to a railway yard anywhere in America or Canada, they will find rolling-stock branded with the names of 50 different companies. In Rhodesia, where a government railroad is being constructed, the Government is hiring diesel locomotives and rollingstock from an American organization. If we sought the help of organizations of that kind, not only should we do something that, would help us greatly to solve our balance of payments problem, but also we should get the job done much more quickly.
One of the real troubles with government enterprises - I am not advocating that we should abolish all government enterprises - is that, because public money is involved, it is necessary to make a very detailed examination of any proposed project. We have been fighting for the Clarence River scheme for over 50 years. I think ten reports have been made on it, all of them favorable, but the Government still has not got on with the job. In the last few months, there have been three floods in the Clarence River valley, every one of which, according to the engineers, could have been prevented. Those floods have occurred simply because we have been so long in getting on with the job. That is true of every State.
With government enterprises, there is a great deal of delay; but private companies cannot afford to have their money idle, not earning. They have to get on with the job because ultimately they have to reckon with their shareholders, who find the money. If we will not go as far’ as to say that, in many cases, the works should be handled completely by private enterprise, I urge that we form corporations to run, sa.y, the railways, the post office and the electricity generating undertakings. They could be required to produce balance-sheets regularly. They could seek money in the loan markets wherever people understand how these projects can be made to pay. It seems to me that, sooner or later, we shall have to do that in order to build a decent roads system that will stand up to the tremendous loads that are being carried by road vehicles. Corporations of that kind could raise the money they required, because I am sure they would be able to show that the industries for which they were responsible were established on a satisfactory and stable footing. Tremendous development is possible here. “We must get the money we need to help us out of this trouble.
– Does the right honorable gentleman think that private enterprise would be interested in tha Australian railways?
– I have advocated for many years that we should take the whole of the Australian railways, capitalize them to the extent of, say, £300.000,000 or £400,000,000, and see if we i?an put them on a proper footing. if the Government wants developmental railways, it should do what the Liberal party and the Australian Country party did in New South Wales. They provided £1,000,000 a year for uneconomic railways for developmental purposes. Years ago, we had a very satisfactory telephone service. It was a paying proposition, anu it could be made so again. Surely every electrical undertaking eventually will pay its way. By means of the petrol tax, we are saying, in effect, that road users must, pay for the roads.
When I was the chairman of the Australian Loan Council in the 1920’s, we did not have the public clamour and quarrelling that we have now. At that time, we were building railways. We were faced with the practical problem of making up our minds about bow much money we could raise. We discussed the matter quietly amongst ourselves. Then we went out and got the money. At the same time, the whole of World War I. loans were converted from a non-taxable to a taxable issue. But now we are trying to get several gallons from a pint pot. All over the place we see works that have been started, but not finished. In every State, we see dozens of works, both great and small, which were started ten or twenty years ago, but which have not been finished yet. There are unfinished railways all over the country, and that adds to our costs.
It is essential for us to reduce costs. I remember that when King Edward VIII. caine here, as the Prince of Wales, in 1920 or 1921, he said he could not understand how this country could ever get anywhere when more than a half of the population was concentrated in a few coastal cities. Milk, vegetables and other commodities have to be carried for long distances before they reach the consumers in the cities. That must increase costs.
– The right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) was perfectly right in criticizing this Government for its’ policy of short-term solutions, which, in turn, create new problems. I agree with him most heartily. The Australian Labour party has consistently advocated long-range solutions of problems which affect the development and defence of this country. However, I was somewhat astonished when he advocated the handing over of our railways to private enterprise.
– I did not say anything of the sort. I suggested the establishment of a corporation, which could present its own accounts.
– The right honorable gentleman was loud in his criticism of government enterprise, but now, on his own admission by way of interjection, it is obvious that he does not suggest anything to take its place. If his suggestions were implemented, Australia would be the most exploited country in the world, and the Australian Country party would rue the day that the railways ceased to he government instrumentalities.
– I suggested the establishment of a corporation.
– If effect were given to the right honorable gentleman’s ideas, we would see private companies running short railways into the more densely populated areas where great profits could be obtained. The development of the States and of the nation as a whole, and the meeting of defence requirements would be secondary matters. The country as a whole would suffer.
The only point on which I agree - and agree most heartily - with the right honorable gentleman was his statement that the Government deserves to be condemned for its failure to seek long-term solutions of the problems with which the nation is confronted. The lack of policy and indecision of this Government were, clearly revealed in the Speech of His Excellency the Governor-General when he opened this Parliament. Not one word has been uttered by any Minister in explanation of the Government’s attitude or to indicate any worthwhile steps that may be taken to develop Australia. The Government has yielded to pressure groups - the monopolistic interests that have financed^ its election campaigns - and the professors, experts and advisers who furnish the blueprints of official government policy. Between those two pressure groups there is constant war. The professors and the experts have their point of view, and those persons who wish to take something from the people, whether it be a whaling station, a shipping line, Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited or Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited, come in for their pound of flesh. The result, as the right honorable member for Cowper has pointed out, is a lack of decision by the Government-
Government back-benchers know only too well how little their views count in the arena where policy is determined. During the debate on the Address-in-reply to His Excellency’s Speech, we have heard protests from Government backbenchers who, quite rightly, have directed attention to their position in the Parliament. Those honorable members have pointed out that the Parliament is of little account, that decisions are made elsewhere. They have pointed out that such matters as determinations in relation to membership of the Ministry, and ministerial allowances, are made by the Cabinet, and that all that is left for the Parliament is the passing of legislation which is steam-rollered through this House and through another chamber so that the full intent of the legislation will not become known. The clash of the Government official and the Government patron is responsible for the erratic zigzag course followed by the Government, and the lack of clear thinking and policy which has been revealed by the Speech of the Governor-General. The Government has constantly changed its line on such vital matters as capital issues control, credit restrictions, import restrictions, immigration and interest rates, with the bureaucrats and the benefactors each winning in turn, while the average person has been neglected.
It is not surprising, therefore, to discover that inflation has run riot, and that costs have spiralled despite the pegging of wages, while at the same time there has been an open season for profits and the expansionist tendencies of big business. In effect, this Government has disregarded the public’s point of view. What is said in this House matters little to the Ministry, which is now very clearly divided into two sections - the Cabinet and the “ also rans “. On the one hand, there is the group of twelve Ministers who make decisions and, on the other hand, ten Ministers who are merely the “ seconds “ - an ad hoc group of members who have been given the glorified title of “ Minister of the Crown “ but whose decisions will not count, because the final decisions on the nation’s affairs will be made by the Cabinet which will be subjected to pressure by the financial interests on the one hand and by the advisers and experts on the other. Just where the newly formed band of professors, advisers and consultants will fit into the picture is difficult to ascertain, because the part that they will play in the making of decisions has not been clearly stated. The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) has failed to give a clear-cut answer to that very important question.
The sale of the people’s assets represents one of the greatest scandals in the history of Australia. The sale of Amalgamated “Wireless (Australasia) Limited and Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited shocked the Australian people, and now the Government proposes, without any regard to its affirmations about the need for trade, to sell the successful whaling station in Western Australia and the Commonwealth shipping line. Public welfare comes a bad second when the voracious appetite of the Government’s friends is considered. The supporters of the Government come first. It is not concerned about public protest. Having won an election on specious promises and by playing on the credulity of the public, it feels that it has three years before it in which to take such steps as it desires. My colleague, the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. H. V. Johnson), who represents the area in which the whaling station i3 situated, together with other members of the Labour party, will continue to protest in this chamber against the sale of the whaling station. As my colleague has stated, perhaps our protests will be unavailing and we shall not be able to arouse a spark of conscience in this Government, which is bereft of any interest in the public good. When the Government’s financial supporters have to be satisfied they will be satisfied before anybody else. I can only hope that there will arise among backbenchers or, the Government side of the chamber The resolution to take a decisive step in regard to the great problems that face Australia, because I am .thoroughly satis fied that the. feeling of the House generally is that these problems should be dealt with. It does not matter whether we sit to the right of the chair or the left of the chair - we came here to represent the Australian people, and we have a duty, therefore, to put the viewpoint of the Australian people. That viewpoint is mightily in favour of the development and expansion of this country. It is in favour of action in regard to some of the developmental needs expressed by the right honorable member for Cowper only a few minutes ago, although it must be said that the pious platitudes of a former Minister of the Crown who failed to have these problems dealt with when he was in office are hardly sufficient at this stage when we should be proceeding to tackle the essential problems of development.
The right, honorable member for Cowper also mentioned the balance of payments problem. But what is the Government’s attitude to that problem? What practical steps is it taking to overcome it? The overseas shipping lines issued an ultimatum, with no thought of Using arbitrational means, demanding an increase of freight rates by 10 per cent. What sort of effort was made by this Government - the government of the people of Australia - to protect Australian industry so that it might have a chance to expand and to penetrate the world’s markets? The additional impost of 10 per cent, on freight rates charged by the shipping companies on goods leaving Australia for sale on the world’s markets was sufficient to drive Australian trade out of a number of important markets, resulting in an aggravation of our balance of payments problem and in more money from this country going into the pockets of overseas interests. This affects every person in the country, including many of the people whom I represent in this Parliament.
I am greatly concerned -over the growing unemployment in the coal-mining industry, as mine after mine closes, and people who, during the last war, were promised all sorts of rosy things in the future, find themselves out of work. Newspaper files of the war period contain appeal after appeal to the coal-miners to increase production, with details of how they did increase production, and continued to increase it, and of how, under the Labour Government, the Joint Coal Board was established, and open-cut mining was initiated so that the coal needs of Australian industry were satisfied. The nation was satisfied with that achievement; but how has it rewarded those hard-working constituents of mine who won the increased tonnage of coal? At the first opportunity they were thrown out of work with not an apology, not an excuse, not a word of comfort offered to them, not a word of gratitude for their services in the past, and not a promise about their position in the future. I put it to honorable members that the time has almost passed for us to have an opportunity to retrieve the position in the coalmining industry, which has resulted from the action of this Government in relation to the use of oil instead of coal. Serious damage has been done, but it is not yet too late to remedy the position. We must do so, because it is essential that we have at hand developed resources of fuel to enable us to meet any emergency that may arise. To have to attempt to develop our coal resources and to increase, let alone maintain, production of coal when a war or some other emergency is actually upon us, and which might come upon us suddenly, would be hopeless. In such circumstances we should be left in a most disastrous position. So I put it to honorable members that a full investigation ought to be made on the use of its own coal by this country. The Commonwealth should co-operate to the fullest possible extent in such an investigation, which should encompass not only the production of oil from coal, but also gas production by the Lurgi process a.nd the use of coal for the manufacture of briquettes and other similar products.
This country cannot stand still with its present small population. It must press ahead with the development of its latent industries and resources. By doing so, it will also be able to make an effective contribution to a solution of the balance of payments problem.
I am gravely concerned by some of the opinions uttered by experts who have been called to the Government’s aid. I am re ferring to experts such as those who have indicated in the press, and elsewhere, that they favour an increase of interest rates. We have been told repeatedly in this place, and in the press, that we must reduce costs and keep them reduced. Yet the very people who advocate getting costs down, and keeping them down, are the first to advocate a dearer money policy, which inevitably and eventually will mean an increased cost of living, because it will add to costs in every direction. If the advocacy of these experts were heeded, a person who wanted to buy a home, a new refrigerator, a farm, or a business, would have to pay more for it. The effect of an increase of interest rates would reach into the kitchen of every home in this country, because the cost of the smallest of household items would be increased by a rise in interest rates. Yet we have this specious nonsense, from socalled experts, published in the press. I shall quote to the committee a news item, emanating from Adelaide, which appeared in yesterday’s issue of the Sydney Mornivy Herald, as an example of the kind of utterance of which I am speaking. The item read -
The Australian Bankers’ Association wants a differential ranging up to 6½ per cent, for bank overdrafts.
The chairman of the Associated Banks in South Australia, Mr. A. A. West, said this to-day. He said the higher interest rate would encourage savings and act ns a deterrent to borrowers.
It would range up to (ii per cent., according to the purpose for which the advance was needed and according to the security offered.
Mr. West said the Australian Bankers’ Association had been pressing for the past two years for a review of the interest rate structure. He said bank interest rates were entirely controlled by the Commonwealth Bank, and were sadly out of line with the present economy.
The association thought that higher rates would ho offered for fixed deposits.
It is specious nonsense to suggest that interest rates should be increased in order to discourage people from borrowing, when we all know that it is the business of banks to lend as much money as they can and to derive as much profit as they can, and that they are ever too happy to receive the highest possible interest rates.
– They wish to increase interest rates on overdrafts, too.
– That is correct. I am concerned at the effect the adoption of the proposals of those experts would have on the ordinary family man, who is most harshly affected by spiralling costs and inflation. A policy of dearer money and higher interest rates will affect everybody in the community at a time when the basic wage has been pegged, and when people depending on wages are already suffering under a very grievous injustice. I can only hope that the Government will see to it that something is done about that particular aspect of the position.
I now turn to another matter dealt with in the Governor-General’s Speech. I refer to the Government’s proposal to establish an all-party committee to consider the overcoming of Senate deadlocks, and reform of the Senate. I affirm here that any action taken by this Government to deal with alteration of the Constitution which does not take into consideration, first, the abolition of the Senate, so as to allow the House of Representatives to reign supreme, represents the missing of an opportunity and a failure to fulfil our duty. Abolition of the Senate is an essential pre-requisite to any consideration of this kind. Those who oppose this point of view will argue that we may reach a state of affairs where such a committee would achieve a solution by evolving a formula that would overcome the problem of Senate deadlocks, and might also mean that eventually this House would be supreme, and that the point of view expressed here by bill would become law, eventually, after a certain period of time. I say that that is not at all satisfactory. It is not good enough. For if the Senate eventually is going to come to agreement with the point of view expressed in this chamber as to what is right and what is wrong, what is good and what is bad, then this chamber could frame legislation without the assistance of the Senate.
If we consider the long history of the Senate in dealing with matters of legislation which have come before that chamber from time to time, we find that some of the most notorious pieces of legislation which have been rejected by our courts and, eventually, rejected by the people, have been accepted in that august chamber, lt is not good enough, therefore, that we should tamper with this situation. The obvious and honest course to adopt is to accept the decision .that the will of the people shall be supreme and that the people shall rule.
I should like to go much further than that. I think that a full constitutional review is needed, and I am somewhatdisappointed and surprised to think that the Australian Country party, which professes to believe in new States and new areas of government, has not put forward this view to the House. It is necessary that that point of view should be examined and that we should consider new areas of government. The type of areas and the type of powers to be vested in these areas of government are allimportant. We should consider what powers we should transfer to them, and what powers we should retain in the National Parliament.
It is quite obvious to me that there are many important matters which should come directly to the National Parliament and, of them, the most important, are matters of health, transport and education. I shall deal, first, with health. It is true, at the present time, that the Commonwealth makes votes available to the States in order to enable them to perform certain duties with respect to health. The Commonwealth deals with tuberculosis allowances, the medical benefits scheme, and other matters such as mental care. I do not see the wisdom of dividing authority in regard to health. It seems to me to be clear that the whole of the matters affecting the health of the people should be subjects here for national planning and national policy. The administration could be decentralized and vested in those who would be called upon to govern the smaller areas of authority - provinces, regions, States or areas, whatever they might be called. The overall matter of health, which directly comes to this place, because we have the money, should be placed on a national basis.
The same conditions apply to transport. An urgent need has been expressed by numerous members of this House with regard to the development of this country. We cannot have development unless we have a carefully planned transport system. We need the standardization oi railway gauges for development and defence. It is idle for people to say thai the States should do this work or that work, when we know that the States lack the finance to do those jobs. The money that has to be provided comes, in the first place, from the Commonwealth purse - from the Commonwealth tax-gatherer - and since we have unification in finance, I think that we should have unified control in regard to the transport needs of the people. The matter of “ air beef “ and the problems of air transport indicate the need for national planning with respect to transport.
I also believe that, whilst administration should be decentralized, there should bc a clear-cut national pattern of education. Adequate funds, sufficient for the education of our people, should be voted by this, the National Parliament. These proposals are not visionary. They do not belong to a period some ten or fifteen years hence. The Constitution of this country is old, and needs patching. The time is long since past for a practical approach to be made to these matters.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
Mr. KILLEN (Moreton) [4.50J.- Mr. Deputy Speaker, on the occasion of my election to this House, I was sensible not only of the honour that I had attained but of the responsibility that I had assumed. I am bound to say that that responsibility weighs heavily upon me, and, if truth must out, I hope that it will continue to weigh upon me. In the deliberations of this assembly I cannot as yet be guided by experience. I can only be guided by plain good intentions. That, as the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Luchetti) would agree with me, may appear to be an imperfect charter but at least it is an honest one.
Since I came to this House, I have been greatly heartened by the advice and goodwill extended to me by honorable gentlemen on both sides of the chamber. Yet T was disturbed by one honorable gentleman, more solicitous in his behaviour than others, who impressed upon me the fact that there comes a time in the life of every member of Parliament when he plays the ‘role of fool, and that the most opportune time for that occurrence was the delivery of that member’s first speech to the House, upon his election. I would say that if this is the pre-destined time for that phenomenon to occur, 1 approach it with indecent equanimity of mind. It may be expected of me, with the newness of my arrival here and the attendance of but few years upon me, that I should proceed to identify all the legislative follies of this House and to instruct it in their correction. I hope that if I am so casual in my conduct as to fail to follow the course of expectation, the judgment of honorable members will not be too austere.
I come to this Parliament at a time when the question of peace and war is in close approach to the minds of most of the peoples of the world, and it is to this matter that I address myself, not that the House may have the doubtful value of my political sagacity on the subject, but rather that the House may consider the views of a young man with a vested interest in peace and in liberty. As ali honorable gentlemen are aware, despite the distinction in policy between the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and the free countries of the world, there is a notion that, in essence, no basic conflict exists. In the language of our day, the proposition is co-existence.
I am not unmindful of the fact that an unyielding insistence on a point of view in international dealings may well be the sire of disaster, but I confess without hesitancy that to me the concept of co-existence is not only repugnant but completely unacceptable. I sense thar. that view jars upon some honorable gentlemen, particularly those on the Opposition benches, so I hasten to establish some understanding in the matter. When I say I reject the concept of coexistence, it does not imply that I am resigned to the inevitability of armed warfare. The question of peace and war with the Soviet Union is a false dichotomy. We have no choice in the matter, not because of any unwillingness on our part to maintain peace, but because of their unwillingness.
About a century ago those forces which prepared to assert tyranny on the Russian people declared war on the rest of the world. Those forces which established that tyranny, and those forces that now preside over it, have never been persuaded to any abandonment of ambition. True, it has not always been a war in which armies coeval with the day have been used and true, also, that the Soviet Union has been an ally with us against other manifestations of tyranny, but the simple and incontrovertible truth is that that alliance, that partnership, has been only transient. What honorable gentleman in this House would attempt to deny that the Soviet Union used that partnership to gain immense strategical advantages?
I turn to an examination of three specific grounds upon which I reject the concept of co-existence. The first is one which, I suppose, on casual scrutiny would appear to be lacking in substance and yet the substance of it can be disturbed neither by theory nor test. That ground is morality. Not even a cursory examination of the philosophy which underlies the policies of the Soviet Union can let go unnoticed the fact that that policy is one of sheer materialism. It is one in which none of the great virtues of mankind - tolerance, love, a recognition for the individualism of man and the spirit and dignity of man - can find any place. It is a philosophy which is measurably promoted by force. Should there be some doubt in the House as to the exactitude of my assertion that the philosophy which underlies the policy of the Soviet Union is one of sheer materialism, I ask the House and the country to examine just part of the holocaust. Several years ago in the town of Czerverne in Lithuania inenarrable horror struck. Resistance to Soviet forms of control was crushed by the merciless slaughter of hundreds of men, women and children. That butchery in Czerverne is typical. In the adjoining and once-free country of Latvia, planned starvation and mass deportation was the Soviet answer to those who challenged its authority.
No matter what country one looks al that has been bent to the will of the Soviet Union, one finds evidence of unparalleled barbarism. I recall, and honorable members will too. such incidents as the Soviet, obduracy at Berlin, when the very existence of millions of human beings was thrown into jeopardy because of Russia’s insistence on a point of view. I recall the spiritual ‘ assassination of Jan Masaryk, who chose to die by his own hand rather than suffer the shame of seeing his people in subjection. I recall the cold-blooded murder of Nikola Petkov, who went to the gallows because he believed in liberty. The House will recall the persecution of Cardinal Mindszenty, and as one who has a filial reverence for a. communion other than that of the cardinal’s, I recognize in his great stand the portrayal of so many thousands of Christian ministers who have stood by their faith. It is a little difficult to disturb and dismiss all that as merely the play of political forces. Peculation and plunder, predation and murder, an l bashings and oppression and slave camps are the bloody and inhuman means of tv? ministers of darkness, who outrage every precept of civilized behaviour and every canon of moral law. What honorable gentleman is there in this place who can think of the horrors that go on daily at Lubianka gaol without some misgivings? This is no metaphysical consideration, or a problem to be decided and despatched by the application of precise political formulae. This is a challenge to our whole sense of fitness and to every sentiment of honour and decency. I would, I suppose, be the last person in this House to presume to advise honorable gentlemen in the exercise of their conscience, but I do inquire of them who, accepting the supremacy of spiritual values, can. in equity accept co-existence with evil.
The second ground upon which I reject the concept of co-existence is that of politics - not politics in some narrow, confined or partisan sense, but in a broad sense and, most decidedly, in a nonpartisan sense. One of the facts that cannot escape us is that the basic policy which has been fastened upon the Soviet Union itself admits of no co-existence. Certainly, it may pretend to countenance co-existence, but every pretence is but a stratagem. The rulers of the Soviet Union know perfectly well that from a doctrinal point of view they are at perfect liberty to enter into any sort of an arrangement, however unsteady, however changing, however vacillating or wavering, as long as in the ultimate their cause is pressed forward a little farther. Only recently we had the assurance of one of the gentlemen of the Kremlin - and I use the term “ gentlemen “ in a most disrespectful sense - assured the people of the world that the Soviet policy of smiles was not to be taken as being any departure from the strategy of his political ancestors. That, of course, is perfectly true. That gentleman knew perfectly well, and knows perfectly well, that the strategy that he and the Soviet Union promote cannot be concluded until the whole of Western civilization is smashed. That, to me, seems to be the core of the problem. If we elect to ignore it I” believe we arc guilty of a wretched error of judgment. Perhaps some honorable gentlemen in this House can balance themselves between these two extremes, but T confess that I know of no means whereby we may secure an equipoise of liberty with the elements of tyranny.
I ask the House now to consider what co-existence has meant in terms of strategical advantages to the Soviet Union. Since 1939 the Soviet Union, or its forces, has snuffed out liberty in the following countries: - Petsamo Karelia, Esthonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Konigsberg, East Germany, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Rumania, Bulgaria, Albania - if honorable members will permit a minor defect in exactitude, Yugoslavia - the Kurile Islands, Southern Sakhalin, North Korea, China, Mongolia, Tibet and half of Indo-China. What army that ever took the field fitted with the accoutrements of war gained more conquests than those achieved by Soviet domination in the name of peace? The truth is that not only has the extension of Soviet influence meant an appalling sum in human misery, but it has also meant that the free countries of the world have been seriously disadvantaged from a physical point of view, from a material point of view, and from a strategical point of view. AVe may command no knowledge of the science of war but I trust that we still command our senses. It is perfectly clear that the Western world has been seriously disadvantaged from a strategical point of view. To accept the doctrine of co-existence appears to me to mean that we are resigned to the continuation of circumstances that are inimical to our interests. Therein lies my third reason for rejecting the concept of co-existence. Having stated to the House the three principles upon which I reject co-existence, I make it plain that I am not compliant to a conflict of arms, the use of which may well obliterate all life. Peace is a noble eminence, and we can attain it, but never,’ I trust, by resigning ourselves to slavery.
A basic fact that I believe we should keep in our minds is that the forces which form the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, plan world domination, want our liberties, and they are prepared to wrench them from us by force, or chivvy them from us by chicane, and I believe that if we recognize that fact we shall bc measurably on the way to erecting a barricade against those forces.
There was a civilization, which long ago disappeared, which had a dictum, “ If you want peace, prepare for war “. When I say that we should prepare for war I hasten to add that our first preparation in the matter should be spiritual, or, if you like, ideological. I realize that that may be a quaint, and possibly a naive, point of view, but I propound it. So much of our struggle is a struggle for the minds of men. It is a battle of ideas, and the only possible armour against that is a superior idea, a superior way of life, and a superior mode of thinking.
Nor should the matter rest there. We must show those who want our liberties that we are not prepared to jeopardize the future by any reluctance to defend it. That requires of us that we strengthen ourselves, materially, militarily and economically.
There is the question of Soviet agents in this country. It would seem to me to be a tragedy of tolerance if we fail to expose them. These people have a malignant zeal for treason. They have but one purpose - to work from within this country, to weaken it and to assist in its destruction. That fact must be realized. The attainment of peace is a great enterprise. The easy and yet disastrous way for us to attain it would be for us to despise our responsibilities. The difficult and yet fruitful way for us to attain it would be to accept our responsibilities with a will and with high purpose, and, I trust, with a decent pride. What is our course to be? Is humanity to be blotted out because of an eclipse of faith on our part? Do we now reject the entire ethos of Christianity, abnegate its instructions and eschew its philosophy? Is the moral law to be cast aside as being too synthetic for our time and our problem? Is this century, with all its great victories, yet to be remembered as the one in which the whole conscience of mankind withered beyond response? Do we commit ourselves to the surrender of our ancient rights and liberties? To answer those questions affirmatively may well be the course of a people determined to repudiate their heritage. But is that our anxiety? Somehow or other, in the midst of this man-made maelstrom of human forces, I sense the past in communion with the future, challenging us, that no matter what our hopes and fears may be, our clear course and our plain duty is to re-ffirm the faith of our fathers, to vindicate their trust, to uphold their honour and to maintain our own.
on his very fine speech. He has got right away from matters connected with the Governor-General’s Speech, and he has concentrated on matters which he believes are fundamentally important to the people of this country. I listened very carefully to his speech, and I feel inclined to carry on from where he left off, but I have other matters on which I wish to speak. However, when the honorable member speaks of being opposed to the doctrine of co-existence he poses a very wide question. He asked, if I understood him correctly, how can people with a Christian heritage and a Christian belief co-exist with evil. I quite understand his point, but we must remember, when speaking of Christianity, that one of the greatest injunctions of Christ was, “ Love thy neighbour “. It is difficult to see how one can completely reject the idea of coexistence, while still believing in the Christian principle of “Love thy neighbour”.
I detest communism, and I detest the methods by which Communists have endeavoured to spread, and have largely succeeded in spreading, communism throughout the world. I believe that the successes that the Communists have achieved have not been due to the beauties of communism, but to the abuses practised previously by those in power in countries that have now embraced communism. Let us consider, for instance, China. If we go back through the years we shall find many books written, not by Communists, but by great journalists and others from America and other countries, who visited China and other Asiatic countries and recorded what they found. Conditions in those countries were so terrible that it is easy to believe that the people would have welcomed any political regime as promising something better than what they then had. Consider how the coolie population of China suffered under the old land laws. They lived in huts like animals, in much the same way as many Russians lived, before the revolution, under the Czarist regime. In many instances the ruling classes thought less of those people than they did of the animals on their properties. One can understand, to a degree, how such people would welcome a political philosophy that promised them something that they did not have before. The solution of the problem is beyond me, but I do agree with the honorable member for Moreton that the first consideration is to follow absolute Christian principles. If that can be done throughout the world it will prove well worth while.
I say again that I appreciate the way in which the honorable member has presented his views. I always expect a member making his maiden speech to present to the House some of his fundamental beliefs. I think the honorable member has done that to-day. I am quite concerned, as are many others, at Communist domination in some of the countries that the honorable member mentioned, but I. believe that the only way in which to deal with the problem is by providing better conditions for the people in those countries. Let us consider Nehru. I am not altogether a great lover of that man. I have not always felt that his attitude towards the community in general has been completely altruistic. I think his great concern, for which he cannot be blamed, is the welfare of the masses of the people of India. I believe that despite his objection to communism - and there can be no doubt about his objection to it - he would be quite prepared to live alongside Russia, as it were, and under Communist conditions, if he felt that it was to the interests and benefit of the people of India. I recognize the greatness of that man in hi3 own country, but I do feel at times that his expressions are more for the people, the great multitudes of India, than they are for what we term our democratic systems. We call ourselves democrats, but we could show that many of the things that happen in our own country are the very antithesis of democracy. I hope that the aspirations of the honorable member in regard to doing something to bring about more Christian workings and feelings throughout the world, and in Communistcontrolled countries in particular, will come to fruition.
Although the Governor-General spoke about several matters, he did not say much that would be of help to us. Perhaps some other honorable members felt sorry for His Excellency, as I did, when he read that Speech. I think they believed that he was regretful himself. If I had been in his position, I should have felt very sorry indeed at being required to read such a Speech. But I should like to deal with two or three matters contained in it. First, His Excellency spoke about the Government’s intentions in connexion with the powers of the Senate and the deadlocks that could occur between that chamber and this House. This does not surprise me at all, because I believe that the system we have evolved for the election of our senators brings about the creation of small parties and gives them an opportunity, after their representatives have been elected in some States of the Commonwealth, to dominate the Senate.
The present position is that we have in the Senate 31 members on the Government side and 29 on the Opposition side. After the 30th June, there will be 30! members on each side, and the Government is wondering what the position will be. We are told in the press and by other people that, because of the electoral system we have evolved, two men will be able to dominate the Senate. This is likely under a system that we believe to be the right one, a system that gives to every section of the community the right to representation according to its numbers. My personal opinion is that any system for the election of members to this House or another place which prevents our having stable government is of no benefit to any country. The only country that can hope to do things, and do them well, is the one in which the electoral system, whether it provides for elections every three, four or five years, permits of the election of a government that can govern according to the policy it has put to the people at the time of the election. Our system does not enable us to do that.
We of the Opposition together with our representatives in another place, have advocated from time to time that wc should have a proper control over deadlocks that arise between the two chambers. It has been suggested by some that when a deadlock occurs, and the other place will not pass a bill, we should have a joint sitting of both Houses and the issue should be decided by a majority of votes. If we are to have that system, then I suggest that the Government might just as well save a good deal of expense by adopting Labour’s policy and taking the necessary steps to abolish the other place, because the only time when a joint sitting would be practicable would be when the majority in this House was greater than its opposite number in the other place. The will of this place would then prevail, and we should have a true decision.
Every one knows that the abolition of the Senate is one of the planks of Labour’s platform. We have advocated it for years. If that is not acceptable, then we must have something that will make our government effective. My own personal view - I emphasize that it is my personal view - is that each State should be divided into five Senate districts. A senator elected for a particular district would then be responsible to the section that elected him. Under that system, we should have straight-out election to tho Senate just as we have to this House. One man would he elected each time for each Senate district, just as one man is elected for each electorate in the House of Representatives. In this way, there would be better representation of the people in the Senate. But even under that system, it might be necessary to provide for possible deadlocks between the two chambers. It seems to me that no matter what system we adopt, there is the possibility of deadlocks. The main point is that the Government should go ahead as early as possible with its proposal to appoint, a committee representative of the political parties in both chambers, to seek the solution of our Senate difficulty.
Some honorable members may think that, when I refer to my next subject. I am again raising an old matter; but when I think that there is a wrong that needs righting, when I think that certain people in our community are suffering something that is not equitable, I cannot help doing what, I can in an endeavour to have the matter adjusted. I prono.se to refer again to the recipients of social services, including age pensioners. Those people are entitled to more consideration. It is not my intention now to argue whether £4 or £5 is enough. I have said before that I do not think £4 is sufficient, but, that is not the point I want to bring forward. I wish to mention something that should receive the earnest consideration of the Government, and the Department of Social Services. I refer to the means test. Under the present system, a person is entitled to the full pension, provided his or her income does not exceed £3 10s. a week, and provided the value of the property of the recipient, apart from the home and personal effects, does not exceed £200. The position, as I have found it during the whole of my political history, and even before, is that the means test is inequitable. I am speaking now, not of the person who has a lot of money, or a lot of property, but of the person who has only a little. At the present time, a husband and wife can have between them in any one year property to the value of £3,500 before becoming ineligible for the pension. Each may receive £53 a year pension, after the deduction of £1 for every £10 by which the value of their property exceeds £200. In addition, each may have £3 10s. a week income without any effect on the pension.
Let us consider the position of the elderly couple who have a home of their own. Every day we have the plight of these people brought to our attention. Through the years, the sons and daughters have helped the old couple to pay off their home. It is usually nothing elaborate ; it is just an ordinary home. When one of the two old people dies, the position of the remaining one is very difficult. Suppose the wife dies and the husband is not able to look after himself in the home. The children usually cannot leave their own homes to live in the house with him, but they are able to provide a room for him if he will live with them. Immediately he takes up residence with them, if his property is valued at more than £1,750, his pension completely disappears. If the value of his property is less than £1,750, he may receive £1 or £2 a week pension.
There are also couples who marry late in life after previous marriages. After the death of the first partner, they are lonely, and they may marry at 65 or 70 years of age, or even older, rather than merely go to live with their children. They overcome their loneliness and provide company for one another. I should like to mention a specific case that I have had brought to my attention. It concerns a man of 74, and his wife, who is nearly 70 years of age. Both of them had lost their marriage partners a few years before they married one another. During their first marriages, they had both been frugal and provided themselves with homes for their old age. After marrying one another, they did not require both homes, and they lived in the house owned by the husband. At the time of the marriage he was still working, although he was more than 70 years of age. He wished to continue working, but he met with an accident and was unable to work any more. He received a lump sum in workman’s compensation which, together with the £400 that both husband and wife had in the bank, totalled approximately £1,300. After the accident had rendered the husband unfit for work, he applied for the age pension. He told me, “ I want a job, but I cannot get one. “When I applied for the pension, the Department of Social Services valued my wife’s house at £1,500 “. The value of the house, together with the £1,300 that they had in cash, made a total of £2,800. This was the equivalent of £1,400 each. As £200 in each instance was exempt from the means test, they were left with £1,200 each, which was taken into account in the assessment of the pension, £1 being deducted from the maximum pension for every £10 by which the value of the property exceeded £200. The result was that each of them received only £S8 a year pension, £120 being deducted from the full pension of £208 a year. The wife, after her first husband had died, had promised her children that she would leave her home to them on her death. As a consequence, she did not want to sell it and use the money that she might have obtained for it. In addition, she thought that, as her second husband had a family by his previous marriage, his house would go to his family should he die, and she wished* to retain her own home for her own use in that event. Therefore, she retained one room of her own house furnished, and let the remainder of the house at approximately 25s. a week. After paying rates and taxes, her net return was less than £1 a week. This was the total income of the couple, together with interest on their savings bank deposits at 2-J- per cent. However, because they had some property, which I have detailed, their pension was limited to £S8 a year each. 1 am sure we could very easily alter the situation to make things a little easier for people in this position. I have a proposal that I hope the Government will recommend to the Department of Social Services. I suggest that, instead of deducting from the pension of each £1 for every £10 by which the individual property exceeds £200, the department allow the £120 to be taken as income. If this sum were added to the income of approximately £25 a year each, which this couple had, it would give the amount of about £145 each. Each is allowed an income of £182 a year without any deduction from the pension, and, therefore, they would be able to receive the full pension.
Li is not too much to allow them the full pension, when their only other income is 25s. a week between them, and they have to keep two cottages in repair and pay rates and taxes on them.
I wish now to deal with another case. Suppose a man has been able to save £2,000, which he has deposited in the savings “bank or invested in bonds, this being the total savings of himself and his wife. Even at 5 per cent, interest, those savings would return them only £50 a year each. Although that was their only income, they would each lose £80 a year from the maximum amount of pension, because they had the equivalent of £1,000 each in savings. Had they invested the money in an endowment policy to return them a weekly income when they attained the age at which they could receive the pension, they could have received £3 10s. a week each without any effect on the pension. If savings are invested in property, a double deduction is made in the application of the means test. If a couple have a joint income of more than £7 a week, a deduction is made from the pension, and if they have between them more than £400 in property, £1 is deducted from the pension of each for every £20 by which the joint property exceeds £400. These conditions cause great hardship and are a burden to aged people. At present, if a couple have property of £2,000 between them, they each lose £80 a year from the maximum rate of pension, although their income may he insignificant. As I have pointed out, a couple who had invested £2,000 in an endowment policy could receive from it a joint income of £7 a week without any deduction from the pension.
It might be said that my proposal would allow people with a lot of property to obtain the full pension. That would not happen, because the £3,500 limit for property would remain. If £1 for every £10 by which the combined property exceeded £400 were taken as income, people with a considerable amount of property would soon exceed the permissible income limit of £182 a year. Therefore, people with much property would not receive any benefit. My proposal would not affect the couple with a joint income of £7 a week, who, at present, may receive the full pension. However, it would benefit those who have combined property of more than £400 and whose pension, therefore, is at present considerably reduced. The only persons to benefit from my proposal would be those with a small amount of property and a small weekly income. Elderly people with property up to the value of £1,750 each would benefit by being allowed to count £1 for every £10 by which the property exceeds £200 as income instead of having it deducted directly from the maximum pension. My proposal is simple, and I hope that it will hu given earnest consideration. I suggest, that the Department of Social Services should investigate the cost entailed. 1 am sure it would not be great, but the proposal would be of tremendous help to the people who so much need help at the present time. I wished to discuss several other matters to which the GovernorGeneral’s Speech referred, but my time has run out.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- like the honorable member for Port Adelaide (Mr. Thompson), I should like at the outset to congratulate the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Killen) on his maiden speech in this House. His earnestness, eloquence, and capacity to think, reflected the greatest credit on him, on this Parliament and on the party that he represents. Such qualities will indeed enrich this Parliament.
The honorable member for Port Adelaide took the new member to task for what he claimed, in. his remarks on the policy of co-existence, was a lack of Christian spirit. I do not for one moment doubt the sincerity of the honorable member for Port Adelaide. Indeed, I do not think any honorable member would, but I sometimes wish that he was able to inspire his own party with some more of that spirit, because I believe that the class war that has been waged by honorable gentlemen opposite over a long period, and that has become a tradition with them, reflects an attitude of mind that is most inimical to the welfare, betterment and progress of this country.
I agree with the honorable member for Port Adelaide that the means test should be liberalized, both for reasons of humanity, and because of economic considerations that I hope to have time to put before the House before I sit down.
His Excellency referred to several matters in the course of his Speech. He referred to constitutional problems arising between the two Houses of the Parliament, the problem of international relations, and conjoined with that, of course, the matter of defence, and also what has been called in the course of this debate the economic problem. It is quite impossible within the short space allotted to us to deal with all of those matters, important as they all are, so inevitably I must concentrate on one, and I choose the economic problem. If it is not more important than the others, it is at least more controversial and, perhaps, in the present context, more urgent.
We have had very evident symptoms of economic difficulty in the running down of our overseas reserves, in rising prices and costs within the economy, and these things have perhaps been the outcome of, or at least they have been precipitated by, the deterioration in terms of trade as between this country and the rest of the world. We do not receive in machinery and other imports as much as we did for, say, a bale of wool. Perhaps it may be that we are paying ourselves more than we are earning. It may be that wages and prices have gone higher than the increased productivity of the economy would permit, and the result of all this is, as it has been stated by various speakers, that we have a situation in which too much money is chasing too few goods.
There has been some dispute as to whether it is what might be called a consumption boom or a development boom. The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) has referred to it as a consumption boom ; that is, that we are trying to buy more consumer goods than are available, having regard to the surplus money available to the economy. Others say that it is rather a development boom. In particular, that very valuable publication put out by the Victorian Institute of Public Affairs has diagnosed the trouble as being much more deep-seated than the consumption boom that has been indicated by the Prime Minister. The able economists who write in that publication believe that it is a long-term problem, that we have been trying to develop Australia much too fast in the post-war years, and that the only remedy is a cutting down of immigration. There seems to be very little doubt that the two lines upon which a solution is to be sought, no matter what may he one’s view as to whether it is a consumption or n development boom, are an increase of production and a reduction of the volume of money within the economy. As far as increased production is concerned, some distinguished economists have put forward the view that it is impossible to expect an increase of productivity of more than perhaps 1 or 2 per cent, in the immediate future. Therefore, they have concentrated their attention upon the means to reduce the volume of money available for the purchase of the reduced quantity of goods available to be bought,
Certain remedies have already been applied to the situation in which we are placed. The Government has, of course, in order to restore our trade balance, imposed import restrictions, and I suppose that there is nothing else it could have done, but it is quite clear that the restriction in the volume of our imports reduces the supply of goods, and so exacerbates the lack of balance between the goods and money available. The Government has taken steps through the banking system and in other ways - by co-operation, for example, with hire purchase operators and others - to bring about what has been called a credit squeeze. Further suggestions have been made by the economists; for example, that taxation should be increased as the quickest short-run remedy to reduce the volume of money, and that higher interest rates should be charged in order to achieve the same purpose. May I say in passing that, if it should be necessary to increase taxation, I hope it will not be imposed upon incomes and upon companies, on account of the dis-incentive to production which results from such a course. If higher taxation should be necessary, I hope that it will take the form of sales tax upon goods that are regarded as luxuries in the present situation. If there is a move towards higher interest rates, I hope that some steps will be taken to protect the small investor, who will suffer very great hardship unless such steps are taken. The farmer too, has been in difficulty. He has suffered from the ill winds that have blown in overseas markets in recent times. lt seems to me that we face a very clear choice between reducing the volume of money by increased taxation, which I think most of us on this side of the House at least would regard as undesirable if it could possibly be avoided, or by saving, by holding out inducements which will result in people refraining from spending when there is a shortage of goods. I do not want to go through all the suggestions. Several excellent ones have been made in the course of this debate, and, indeed, in the press as well. We have had the suggestions that government loans could be made more attractive by making them tax-free, by making bonds legal tender for death duties and by inaugurating something in the nature of war saving certificates. The honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) has made some very valuable suggestions in regard to money being placed on deposit with the Treasury and being exempt, therefore, from taxation until it is withdrawn, and he made other suggestions as well. The honorable member for Sturt (Mr. Wilson) has suggested that saving can be greatly accelerated by a scheme of national insurance. I do not want to deal with all this. It is, to my mind, quite clear that rather than increase taxation, we should seek other means of inducing saving at this time, both to reduce the volume of money chasing too few goods, and also for purposes of development.
I should like to say a few words about that matter. I believe that it would be extremely valuable if very substantial tax remissions were made to people who were prepared to insure, under what are called endowment policies. At the present time, I think, a tax deduction of £200 is made for moneys paid in insurance premiums. I believe that the allowance could be increased very substantially, and that everything should be done to encourage saving in this way. Associated with that, there should be a liberalization of the means test, so that people, having insured in that way, will not find, upon their retirement, that they derive no benefit from the endowment policies for which they have paid by reason of the operation of the means test upon age pensions. So those two aspects of the matter go hand in hand.
I believe that if we used the instrumentality of insurance companies to collect very substantial savings, we should have very great results in respect of investment. I have in mind that the insurance companies constitute one of the most important sources of loan moneys. They are some of the greatest subscribers to government loans. More than that, I have in mind that the Australian Mutual Provident Society, for example, has taken a very far-sighted step in the development of the Coonalpyn property in South Australia. If insurance companies, through government policy, can have money poured into their coffers, and if those moneys can be invested in government loans, and if the companies can be induced to do on a large scale what has been done by the Australian Mutual Provident Society at Coonalpyn, we shall have increased investment, not only in government loans, but also in rural industry. That will lead to increased productivity and will enable us to earn the exchange in which, at the present time, we are so deficient. There are vast areas of Australia that could well be developed through the new scientific techniques that have been used at Coonalpyn and elsewhere. The coming into this field of private enterprise in that way, the taking over of large undeveloped areas and their development and sale, in farms, to people who are capable of operating them successfully, would make a real contribution, not only to the problem of savings, but also to the problem of investment, in ways that would increase our exports and earn for us foreign exchange.
The long-term problem is that of increasing productivity. The objectives of national policy, and the economic policy which should subserve those objectives, are to maintain our immigration programme, to develop the country, to look to the needs of defence and to improve our living standards. If those are the objectives, by what economic means can they be brought about? Immigration involves an expenditure for every man and woman of perhaps £3,000, to provide the person with living space and working space, whether it be in a factory, on a farm or in an office; with public utilities such as water, electricity, roads, and transport; and with other amenities such as hospitals and schools. Although it is true that after a certain period of years, the immigrant will have made his or her contribution to those capital requirements, for the time being somebody has to save in order that those things may be done. Yet we must press on with our immigration programme, lest indeed we perish. There is no need for me to emphasize that we must take immigrants while we can get them. We cannot turn the tap on and off as we please. We must take the immigrants when we can get them ; and we need them now and in the years to come.
I believe that there are many things that the Government can do to increase productivity. First and foremost is the matter of transport. This country, with its vast extent and scattered population, must have transport which is not merely as efficient, but, indeed, more efficient than the transport systems of our rivals who compete against us in the markets of the world. Through the improvement of our railways by the use of diesel-electric locomotives, through the improvement of our road systems, and through the improvement of our ports and our shipping, governments can do a great deal to increase the productivity of this country.
At this juncture, I should like to make a topical remark with regard to shipping. We have experienced, not only a strike on the waterfront, but also a delay in the loading of cargoes as a result of wet weather. Is it beyond the wit of man to devise some means of covering hatches and putting in specially devised cranes to load ships underneath such cover? In almost every major part of the world, except Australia, we find cranes on the wharfs. We have not got cranes here, because we rely very largely on the ships’ gear. So we have the advantage that, not having installed them in the past, it will be possible for us to devise new means of moving cargo under cover. In that way, we could save hundreds of thousands of pounds a year. I instance that as one of the ways in which government expenditure can increase productivity. But this is a matter, not only for governments, but also for private enterprise.
I believe that, if it were found desirable at some stage to increase company taxation, the effect could well be offset, as tar as progressive companies were concerned, by granting a really substantial depreciation allowance to encourage th. re-equipment of our industries. I know of no other way in which we could improve our living standards, in view of the enormous weight that rests upon- us in relation to immigration and development. Clearly, we cannot hope to shoulder all our obligations in regard to immigration, development and defence unless we increase productivity, through the direct actions of governments and by encouraging private enterprise to re-equip, increase mechanization, improve methods of production and so forth. Those arc the problems that lie before us.
Before I conclude, I should like to sa something about the human aspect of these matters. The arbitration system would appear to be in ruins about u.*. I believe that what has been happening is that we have been paying out wages that, have had little relation to the increasing productivity of the economy. I think th. real function of the trade unions is to co-operate with managements in increasing productivity, and then to ensure that, out of that increased productivity, they get their fair share. Surely it is possible for some agreement to be reached between management and labour to concentrate power in the Commonwealth Arbitration Court and to debate these matters before the court, always bearing in mind the productivity of industry and arguing the question of what is a fair share for labour, tjnless we do that, we shall have continual inflation. That will bring about a flight of capital from this country - or rather, we shall not have capital coming here. That, I think, would spell disaster for a country which must be developed if it is to survive. We need, not only all the savings that our people can be induced to make, but also the savings of people overseas. If, by continuing our inflationary course, we scare away overseas capital, we shall strike a. mortal blow at ourselves. Indeed, we shall commit national suicide.
The Australian Labour party has a very great responsibility in this matter. If it is not willing to co-operate, but is prepared at all times to play the political game and to regard the national welfare as being merely a political football, we shall not progress, those persons whom it professes to represent will not prosper, and the nation itself will bc in jeopardy.
Sitting suspended from 5.56 to S p.m.
Mr. L. R. JOHNSON (Hughes) S.0”. - With your permission; Mr. Speaker, I desire to participate in the debate on the motion for the. AddressinReply to the Governor-General’s Speech. May I preface my remarks by saying that it is with great pride that I take my place in this Twenty-second Parliament us the first representative here of the electorate of Hughes. The name of my electorate perpetuates the memory of one of Australia’s most celebrated statesmen, whose service to this country constitutes a tradition indelibly inscribed on the national annals. Similarly, the memory of the late Mr. Lazzarini, who for many years represented a substantial part of what is now the electorate of Hughes, will be cherished by many of the Australians whom he served so well. Within the boundaries of the Hughes electorate is Kurnell, where Captain Cook first planted the British flag on Australian soil. To-day, 186 years after that great event, although much has transpired since Captain Cook landed, the birthplace of British rule in Australia, like so many other parts of my electorate, desperately needs assistance in the great task of development. The tremendous programmes which require to be undertaken are beyond the scope of recognized local government capacity, having regard to the manner in which it is affected by relations between the Common weal th and the State. I look forward to pursuing, during my period of representation of the electorate in this Parliament, this highly pertinent subject.
The Governor-General made a brief reference in his Speech to matters that nome within the administration of the Postmaster-General’s Department. He stated that the public demand for postal and telecommunications services has reached record levels, and that the Government’s proposed programme of works is designed, as far as possible, to overtake arrears. An incredible decline of, and deterioration in our telecommunications services has taken place in the period in which this Government has occupied the treasury bench. The Government’s failure to keep developmental pace with the statistically established needs of the Commonwealth so far as these matters are concerned is retarding the progress of commerce and industry, and is also depriving many people of an amenity to which they are justly entitled.
In the electorate of Hughes, which was substantially a part of the old electorate of Werriwa, the number of outstanding approved telephone applications reads something like an election result. The honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Whitlam) referred to this matter in his maiden speech three years ago. On the 19th March, 1953, he said -
I believe that my electorate has the most unhappy distinction of having more unsatisfied telephone applications than any other electorate in Australia. Brazenly displayed on the sixth floor of the General Tost Office building in Sydney is a list nf telephone exchanges with the number of unsatisfied applicants shown against the name of each exchange.
The number aga inst Werriwa exchange is 2,.10O.
To-day, Mr. Speaker, just on three years since the information was disclosed to this House, the same chart at the General Post Office in Sydney shows the degree to which the position has deteriorated. Only four automatic telephone exchanges, which were previously in the Werriwa electorate and are now in my electorate, are now debited with a total of 3,789 outstanding applications - that is to say, those four exchanges alone show an increase of 1,289 outstanding applications above the number outstanding in 1953 when the figures related to a much larger area. Throughout the electorate of Hughes and, I believe, throughout the nation, we are reaching the stage where, due to shortage of junction cable, bottlenecks, and the effect of bad or inefficient planning and badly regulated capital works programmes, the process of lodging telephone applications and applications for transfers is fast becoming futile and abortive. It is clear that these problems must be treated more seriously by the Government, and that adequate finance should bc released to alleviate the position.
The enormous housing problem which has prevailed in this country from the war years shows little signs of abating. Difficulties incurred by any young Australian couple in their quest to settle down in a house of reasonable design and appointment are as great to-day as at any. time in the last sixteen or seventeen years. Whilst, on the one hand, it is contended by some that the flow of immigrants into the country is seriously retarding our economic stability, on the other hand, far too little is done to alleviate the population deficiencies of this country by creating circumstances conducive to the raising of young Australian families. Primarily, every young married couple holding, as they do, a great potential wealth both for themselves and their country, in their ability to work with brain and hands, should enjoy the assistance of adequate advances for housing purposes. The restrictive credit curtailment policy of the Government is making serious inroads into the prospects of such people obtaining housing loans, so that families are being forced, on an unprecedented scale, to live in unfortunate circumstances in rooms, settlements and temporary dwellings. In New South Wales, the State Labour Government has achieved highly appreciated results, having regard to the manner in which its policy is prejudiced by the integrated effect of the crippling and frustrating policy of the Federal Government. With many thousands - probably well over S0,000 - Australians deprived of adequate housing, I regret the highly aggravating fiscal policy of the Government and, in particular, the retarding influence of bank credit restrictions.
The November-December issue of the publication Australian Public Opinion Polls sets out clearly enough for the benefit of the Parliament the attitude of the people on this matter. The poll shows that 24 per cent, of the people questioned favoured tightening bank credit, 55 per cent, opposed it, and 21 per cent, had no opinion on the subject. This census of opinion was taken among 2,000 men and women throughout Australia considered to represent a reliable cross-section of the people. No doubt such a gallup poll should not be necessary for us to appreciate that the people desire the utmost expedition about the job of housing the homeless, and with my colleagues I shall do my utmost to achieve this end. I trust that the Government will see fit to do more to meet public opinion on this issue.
The book named The Forgotten People, by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), has something to say on the representative obligations of parliamentarians. The statement is worth remembering, since it may explain the Government’s comparative disregard for the great obligation to release more money for housing. The statement is as follows : - ft is notorious that many electors believe that the function of their Member of Parliament is to ascertain if he can what a majority nf his electors desire, and then plump for it in Parliament - A more stupid and humiliating conception of the function of a member of Parliament can hardly be imagined. 1 sincerely submit that the needs of the people provide ample justification for me to “ plump “ for the housing needs of the people. In the eyes of those who are desperately exploiting every avenue to secure decent living conditions it is unlikely that one would appear, as the author suggested, either stupid or possessed of a humiliating conception.
The chairman of the St. George and Cronulla Association of Co-operative Building Societies Limited, which operates substantially in my electorate, says in his annual report, submitted on the 12th December last -
Existing credit restrictions were severely curtailing the number of homes which the societies could finance, and whilst there were many hundreds of prospective home builders with” their own land in the St. George, Cronulla mid Sutherland districts ready to proceed with construction of homes, shortage of finance retarded progress.
The allocation of moneys to Building Societies during the year ended 30th June, 1955, was on a smaller scale and, in total, the lowest since 1948, when building costs were considerably less than the present day figure. Consequently, those who sought home building loans faced a long waiting period before they could obtain fiance and proceed with construction
I am advised that, resultant upon the policy of this Government, some 20,000 applications remain unsatisfied among the New South Wales building societies. Again, despite the creditable performance of the New South Wales Housing Commission, 33,000 families are still waiting for commission assistance. As each day goes by, the daily press attracts the quickmoving interest of the public to the urgency of many of these cases - an occasional photograph of a young family living in a single room with babies and bedclothes predominating; an elderly couple forced to spend the eventide of life in an old iron humpy; the unhealthy and inhuman overcrowding of some condemned inner city slum tenement. This is not just an impressive pictorial portrayal of gloomy or sordid social casualties, but, surely, a great challenge to the community and to those who represent the community to rectify the situation.
The central bank dogma on restrictions of credit for home-building should be repealed and the new housing agreement which is to be negotiated between the Commonwealth and the States should provide for lower interest rates and should generally improve the position rather than retard it. On every hand throughout the length and breadth of this great country, large sections of our community earnestly entreat the government of the day to loosen its purse strings, its surpluses and trust funds. A tremendous national plea is gaining strength day bv day for just and sympathetic consideration. The underprivileged members of our community - age pensioners, the widows, the invalid and service pensioners and many others who have given of their best to their country and countrymen - have never before been so impoverished from the point of view of purchasing power. The pitiful plight which has overtaken so many pensioners during the life of the present Government i3 demonstrated by the spontaneous uprising of citizens’ organizations similar to those functioning in my own electorate which are designed to arrange with business people for retail price reductions on essential food supplies and other commodities for the benefit of pensioners. On an everincreasing scale, we find that local govern- mental instrumentalities are left to contribute to the upliftment of pensioners’ standards by rebating rates on the unimproved capital value of pensioners’ properties, ordinarily due for services rendered. The Government appears to be content to neglect its own responsibility about these vital matters and pass the buck on to any one with a conscience or a sense of humane responsibility.
The budget for 1955-56, when presented by the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) last August, estimated a record revenue of £1,114,000,000, which was about £56,000,000 above actual revenue for the previous year. An amount of £119 Ss. 5d. is currently being derived per head of population. The collection of such a huge and unprecedented figure from the people of Australia can only be justified and condoned in circumstances in which the government of the day is inspired with a mature and human scale of values and imbued with a zealous love of peace through the furtherance of international understanding, co-operation and friendship. Rather than rise to such idealistic attainments, the Liberal party and the Australian Country party, which occupy the Government benches, have thumbed their noses at the prospect of peace and allocated an amount of £190,000,000, or about £20 7s. Id. per head of population to the various ministries associated with defence. When one considers that the six sovereign States, are receiving only about £23 per head of population from uniform taxation in order to discharge an enormous range of responsibilities and that the expenditure from the National Welfare Fund represents only £23 7s. lid. per head of population, we can appreciate that an allocation of over £20 a head for defence or, alternatively, for aggression, if we choose, is unreasonable, unrealistic, and undeserving of any government which claims to be obsessed by the prospects of peace through the upliftment of living standards. We should examine our scale of values on the basis of the contention that there is need for realization of the existing fact - the universal brotherhood of man.
Developmental priorities should be accorded on that basis and, if desirable, defence considerations may be linked thereto. Australia’s best contribution to defence would be the development of the unbounded resources and potentialities of this vast and wonderful continent. With inspired imagination and national enterprise, we can play our part in a great international endeavour to rid the world, and the human race, of the deficiencies that have plagued mankind to contribute to the scourge of war. Realistically enough, may we divert some of the defence allocation of £190,000,000 to genuine defence considerations; to the improvement and expansion of educational facilities, telephonic communications, construction of roads, bridges, railways, airports and hospitals throughout Australia; to the opening up of the inland, and the deserted coastal regions; to the encouragement of the decentralization of our fast-growing population. That we may become intent on the desire to build rather than to destroy, is the hope for our country and our people.
My electorate was highlighted not long ago when a deposed Liberal member of the Legislative Assembly, now an estate agent, disclosed to the people of Australia the previously closely held secret that the Government would build an atomic energy research establishment at Lucas Heights, some 20 miles from Sydney. Large numbers of my constituents have emphasized the need for placing the utmost importance on measures to ensure- the safe operation of the reactor, and the most stringent supervision of waste effluent disposal, and the many and complex safety considerations. Proper attention to these matters could well avert some unforseeable and adverse circumstances of a type that beset the Chalk River reactor. The community is enthusiastic about the development of nuclear physics for peaceful purposes. People do not appear at all impressed, however, with the news that the Government is building an atomic weapons proving ground at Maralinga, in the South Australian desert.
Disquietening enough is the announcement that further tests will be carried out in April this year on the Monte Bello Islands. The proposal to move over to the mainland later in 1956, however, will incur the wrath of the Australian people, who feel reluctant to play the role of guinea pigs in the wild and ruthless quest for the secrets of annihilation and destruction. So much remains unknown even to the most eminent of enlightened scientists and meteorologists that the speculative degree of danger that prevails remains an unknown quantity.
Purporting, as it does, to reflect the legislative and policy intentions of the Government, the Speech delivered by His Excellency the Governor-General is interesting in the manner in which it applies to this subject. An extract says-
No external policy will possess reality unless it is backed by adequate defence provision.
The Speech goes on at length, and declares that the Government has already expended large sums on research into and in the development of guided weapons in South Australia, and that nuclear weapons are being tested in this country with the cooperation of the United Kingdom. It is a matter of great regret that the foreign policy of Australia and many of the major powers of the world is considered to be unrealistic without the fearful and threatening support of modern methods of war, without well-tested and proved nuclear weapons of mass annihilation. It is no wonder that international prejudice and distrust are so rampant when we approach delicate international problems, not with the conciliatory wisdom of Solomon, or with the spirit of compromise, understanding and cooperation, which is so necessary, but with the dove of peace perched precariously on our shoulder and the menacing snub of an atom bomb protruding threateningly from our hip pocket. Australia will attain few friends, and the nations of the world can only become further divided, if the governments of the day continue to pursue intimidatory foreign policies bolstered and sustained by the billowing, belligerent, cloudy background of atomic and hydrogen bombs. Very worthy international pacts, agreements and plans designed to alleviate hardship, to eradicate illiteracy and disease and to raise the living standards of the people of Asia and others in the world, lose value in circumstances where democratic foreign policies are based on the degree of success attained with nuclear weapon tests.
There was a time when world tension was great. Tremendous national differences threatened to ignite a spark in highly inflammable controversies a:il so to plunge the world into yet another war. In these circumstances a distinguished Australian emerged to mount the presidential rostrum of the United Nations General Assembly. Australia was both honoured and proud to provide the greatest forum that the world has ever known with the leadership so necessary at that time to the accomplishment -»f peace and the advancement of mankind To-day, in the face of our new problems, there is tremendous scope for Australia to lead again - not to gain the futile, nerve-racking race for supremacy in the field of nuclear means of mass murder, but to lead the crusade for lasting peace through the outlawing of atomic and hydrogen bombs and the total abolition of war.
General Douglas Macarthur, of the United States of America, on the eve of his 75th birthday, declared that the alternative to the abolition of war was an arms race that could plunge the world into nuclear warfare, that the abolition of war was desired by the people on both sides of the iron curtain, and that only the leaders were laggards. His sentiments are typical of those expressed by church, social and welfare leaders, who express the feelings of millions of Australians. Professor Messel, who is the head of the Sydney University School of Physics, has said -
There is a very real danger of radio activity affecting the human race if too many atomic bombs are exploded. Too much radio activity will probably cause long or short-term effects on genetics - by that 1 mean it may make women sterile or it could result in malformed children.
The Rev. Alan Walker, leader of the Mission to the Nation, has said -
The world is in an awful. dilemma over the H bomb. But I do believe that Christians must repudiate hydrogen bomb manufacture and warfare.
The Most Reverend Dr. James Duhig, Roman Catholic Archbishop of Brisbane has said -
We should try to get the nations of the world together to utterly ban nuclear warfare. We cannot allow ourselves, the little children mid those yet unborn to he slaughtered.
I contend that the crystal-clear voice of the people is worthy of expression in Government policy.
Like other nations, we desperately need our hard-earned national income for essential development. Very worthy international pacts, agreements and plans designed to alleviate hardship, eradicate illiteracy and disease, and to raise the living standards of the Asian and other peoples, lose value when democratic foreign policies are based on the degree of success attained in nuclear weapon tests. The people of the world are being deprived of a great wealth which could be used with enormous benefit if the senseless and costly process by which nations seek to nullify each other’s preparation for war, could be halted. This and all other governments should face up to the stark reality that the horrifying prospect of nuclear war is feared and dreaded by every child-loving mother and father on the face of the earth, for the first malicious detonation of nuclear power could give rise to events that could exterminate mankind.
With millions of the world’s citizens, I humbly raise my voice in the cause of peace and survival and implore this Government to do its utmost to facilitate talks at the highest level aimed at effective international control of nuclear weapons and the total abolition of war by the process of disarmament, thus contributing to the most human legislative attainment mankind will ever know.
– By any reasonable test that could be applied, Australia has been enjoying a remarkable period of prosperity and development - a well-paid job for every one, profits for the farmer, th.fi manufacturer and the businessman, a record rate of population growth, a remarkable rate of industrial expansion, and tremendous development in the public sector of the economy as well as the private sector. And none of this is just a happy accident. The Government has really planned for prosperity and delivered the goods. Now, in the midst of all this, some economic worries are revealing themselves. At home, inflationary trends, which are not only to be expected but are, I am sure, inescapable in a phase of fast population growth and industrial expansion, are moving upwards at too acute an angle to be condoned, .«o we in the midst of our splendid prosperity have the paradox of economic problems, not desperate at the moment but which could become quite serious.
I believe that the existence of these problems can be largely, if not entirely, explained by the extremely high degree of confidence in the future which the entire community holds. It is natural that people who have no fear of unemployment and are in well-paid jobs, should anticipate their future earnings and use hire purchase and other credit facilities. lt is natural that traders should build great stocks with confidence, that manufacturers should plan to-day to meet the needs of the prosperous community of 10,000,000, 11,000,000 or 12,000,000 people which they are sure will provide them with a market in but a few years’ time. Who would criticize any of these things? No one should, but this supreme confidence and tempo of spending for consumption and development is producing strains on our overseas funds that we cannot meet. These funds have been running down too fast. At the same time, strains on our internal resources have been producing increasing inflation. So the Government is turning, not to rebuke any one, but to meet the situation of the moment, and planning to avoid any serious dislocation of our economy in the future. Therefore we have import restrictions under the inexorable compulsion of arithmetic. Plans for greater production are part of the answer to the problem of inflation on the home front. Earning more income overseas is clearly the answer to our balance of payments problem. It is not to bf> thought that we are just now realizing that. In 1952, 1 had accepted by the State Ministers of the Agricultural Council, a programme designed to bring about increased rural production. That has succeeded to the point where it can now be demonstrated that our export income is £.100,000,000 a year higher than it would have been had not the 1952 expanded production programmes been adopted and substantially achieved.
The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) has created the new Department of Trade to play a certain role, which is principally related to the overseas trading aspect of the problem. The responsibility of the department will involve handling the policies of protection of our secondary industries, which are the basis of our population-carrying capacity, the stabilization arrangements for our primary industries, and the organization and stimulation of our external trade, with all the negotiations that are involved. For a period - the shortest possible period - the department will have the policy responsibility of regulating our imports by licensing to avoid the development of any crisis in our balance of payments situation. In this speech I propose to deal with the need for expansion of exports and to give some general glimpse of the problems we are confronted with in thatobjective.
What are the problems? Let us look at (inr major problems separately and begin with the balance of payments problem. The import controls are designed, not only to limit expenditure to a level that, we can afford, but also to give essential imports a high degree of priority in our import programme. In other words, they are framed in such a way that we shall spend most of our available exchange on the goods which the economy needs most. As import restrictions operate at the present time, 51 per cent, of our imports are materials essential for production and 22 per cent, consist of capital goods. A further 15 per cent, consists of what, for convenience of expression, I shall call irreducible items. These include oil and tea. There is. only 12 per cent, left to cover everything else, including a wide variety of consumer goods, such as clothing, crockery, household appliances, books and personal requisites.
When we look at the break-up of our imports one conclusion is self-evident. We are not too far removed from a situation where additional cuts in our import spending can only be made at the expense of goods which are necessary to maintain the wheels of primary and secondary industry. I do not need to stress the effect that such a situation would have on employment and on our standard of living. A second and very important problem on the domestic side could be created by a situation of that kind. Import cuts lead to scarcity and scarce goods go under the counter. Under-counter prices follow not only for imported luxury goods but, more importantly, for imported goods required for production purposes. This leads on to inflation, and inflation to a result where a country cannot sell its goods competitively in world markets and thereby earn exchange to pay for its imports. So the problem becomes cumulative.
So much for the domestic side of the problem as it is and as it could be. We must now look at the other side of the coin which I shall call the overseas problem. The overseas problem is not ours alone. Other countries, too, have problems, but first let us look at our own. Some countries are limiting our export opportunities by over-protection of their own primary industries. This is especially vicious were manufacturing countries use subsidies and other devices to protect uneconomic agriculture and other primary industries. These practices are fairly widespread in the older-established manufacturing countries, which constitute our largest markets. These practices deny us or severely limit our export opportunities in important markets where otherwise we would be unquestionably able to quote competitively.
Then there is the effect on our export trade of the Government trading activities in which a number of countries are engaged. The great markets, for example, of Germany and Japan are being increasingly shut off by their government trading instrumentalities, which are frequently guided by policies which have little or nothing to do with commercial considerations such as price and quality.
Further, there is the effect of the poliral philosophies of the eastern European countries working on their trade policies. The eastern European countries have been conducting their trade through a variety of devices which, in the trade jargon, are described as switch, link and balancing deals. These deals, in effect, split the trade of the world into watertight compartments of commodityforcommodity barter deals. They often include goods which neither party wants, and therefore mean a departure from the principle of buying and selling in the market that suits you best. Wheat and other products are going into eastern
European countries on non-commercial terms. These practices close markets to us. .
This is by no means the end of the overseas problem for us. One of our chief problems arises from certain practices of the United States of America which are identified by many as entirely humanitarian. The United States is already disposing of significant quantities of its huge surplus stocks of primary produce through give-away programmes, through discount sales or through sales for payment in the local currency of the receiving country. It is also embarking on a programme of so-called three-way barter deals, these being the latest device. The objective of these surplus disposals is no doubt very laudable, but nevertheless they can be highly dangerous, as they obviously result in shutting out many members of the free trading world from markets in which they could compete on commercial terms, given no United States aid programmes. By the nature of the products concerned in the United States disposal programmes, it is clear that Australia, one of the steadiest friends of the United States, stands to get hurt more than almost any one else.
To add to our problems, some countries are resorting to one questionable trade practice or another. Such questionable trade practices may take the form of direct subsidy payments on exports - in fact in the case of one country we have had to compete with a subsidy of 10s. a bushel on wheat.
– What country is that?
– I should prefer not to name it.
– The honorable gentleman mentioned the United States, so I thought he might tell us what country is involved in this instance.
– I can say that it is not the United States.
– Well, why not mention it? The honorable gentleman mentioned one country ; why not the other ?
– There are a number of countries making export subsidies. Let me mention two - the Argentine and France.
– To which one does the 10s. refer.
– I think they both pay near enough to 10s. The questionable trade practices to which I have referred may take the form of indirect or disguised subsidies through the operation of different exchange rates, as is practised by the Argentine Government at the present time, or the imposition of import taxes to subsidize exports. In some cases they amount to plain, straight-out dumping. Whatever form they take, however, these doubtful devices, as resorted to by some of our competitors, are a menace to our export trade, which is based on commercial sales at prices reasonably related to costs of production.
Of course, other countries see this differently. Take the case of our own import restrictions. We know that they are logical and quite unavoidable. But some countries take the view that if we must, for unavoidable reasons, cut down our buying from them, they must cut down their buying from us. They fail to see that it is only by buying as much and more from a country in balanceofpayments difficulties that the country is enabled eventually to relax its import restrictions and import more goods from its customer countries. When import restrictions are introduced the axe bites deepest into consumer goods. We must tolerate this because, although it may cause some inconvenience and certainly lowers our standard of living, we are still able to import the goods necessary to keep the wheels of industry moving. But cutting consumer goods in our import programme could, nevertheless, seriously hurt countries like France and Italy, which have a very important export trade to us in those goods and are very good customers of ours.
I have spoken of what we regard as the questionable trading practices of some other countries and the menace they are to our export trade. Let us look at them from the other countries’ angle. Some countries have considered it necessary for strategic reasons to encourage the uneconomic production of foodstuffs. In other cases the urge for self-sufficiency has arisen from the balance of payments difficulties of the countries striving for selfsufficiency. These are matters which we cannot lightly dismiss ; they are very real to the countries directly concerned. The deliberate encouragement of regional trade, that is trade between two or more countries in a particular geographical area, has sometimes led to difficulties for us but we must remember that European reconstruction after the war was largely achieved by the creation of a tight regional preferential trading area among the principal countries of Western Europe.
In an effort to be fair, I have sketched both sides of the problem, the domestic side and the overseas side, for unless we see both sides of the coin, and can understand our problem at home and overseas, and also the point of view of other countries, we cannot hope to understand the difficulties which lie in the way of a solution of our problems. Overseas trade is most important to Australia.
Upon our international trade, in a way peculiar to Australia, depends to a large measure our standard of living, our level of employment, our ability to support a growing population and our very existence. Per head of population we arc among the first half dozen international trading nations of the world, or, if we take another test, in the absolute tenni of value of international trading, we are very little below the first half dozen on the list. Our first export problem is to produce more of what we can produce efficiently. Our second problem is to be able to contrive relationships with the rest of the world which will permit us to sell competitively what we can produce competitively.
– I rise to order. Is the Minister entitled in this debate to read a speech, copies of which he has distributed throughout, the chamber?
– Order ! I have no knowledge that copies of the speech have been distributed. Furthermore, if the standing order to which the honorable member refers were to be put into force, I think Hansard would be a very small document.
– The first problem is mainly the responsibility of our primary producers, manufacturers and exporters. The second problem can only be tackled on a government-to-government basis. Primary industry supplies over 80 per cent, of our exports. For obvious reasons, the production of primary products cannot be expanded quickly although very significant gains both in production and export have been made during the period of this Government. As I mentioned earlier, we have since 1952 achieved increased agricultural production running now at a rate worth £100,000,000 a year.
The position with regard to our manufacturing industry is somewhat different. Unlike the primary producers, our manufacturers have been largely pre-occupied to date with the home market and the shelter behind which they can develop it at an unhurried pace. This attitude is perfectly understandable and not stated as criticism. The time has come, however, when manufacturers must develop an export consciousness and earn exchange if capital goods, raw materials and other producer goods are to be imported in sufficient quantities to keep the wheels of their own industries turning. Big manufacturing interests have developed in Australia. Many of these require large and constant amounts of foreign exchange to import the materials they need and to remit dividends to overseas shareholders. These large scale enterprises must make a real contribution to the problem of increasing our exports to earn the exchange needed. It is obviously a matter of self-interest for them to do so. Not to do so must result in curtailment of their development.
Protection, as in many of the older industrial countries, is something which, while it enables the home market to be exploited, does not preclude a determination on the part of manufacturers to sell at competitive prices abroad. Indeed, the experience of other countries shows that protection at home is very often a very good starting point from which export beginnings can be made.
I take this opportunity to pay tribute to the very important Australian manufacturers who are increasingly directing themselves to the discovery and exploition of export opportunities, and who are increasingly earning for this country substantial amounts of overseas exchange. The Government is putting it to all manufacturers now that it is their responsibility to look at their own opportunities. There will be opportunities in some classes of manufacturing and in others, obviously, there will be no opportunities for export.
The new Department of Trade is geared to look at our trade position as a whole, lt is also geared to act in the light of our trade position as a whole. Exports and imports will now form one picture and export and import policy can be aligned. Primary and secondary industry will both be the concern of this department in tackling the problems of our external trade. The protection and welfare of industry is now the responsibility of a single department. Previously, while primary industry was the concern of the Department of Commerce and Agriculture, the Department of Trade and Customs with its responsibility for import licensing and the Tariff Board and the Division of Industrial Development of the Department of National Development, shared the responsibility in the primary and secondary fields. The necessary information for developing concerted overseas export drives and other aspects of trade promotion will now be centralized in one place.
L would like, at this point, to stress the valuable part which trade promotion can play in the development of our export trade, to outline what it has achieved and to give some indication of our present plans. An outstanding success, especially in the field of secondary goods, has been ir- the expansion of our exports to New Zealand. Our exports to that dominion are now running at the rate of £43,000,000 per annum. This is six times more than they were before the war. Moreover, they now cover a very wide range of manufactured goods. This expansion has received tremendous help from the activities of our strengthened Trade Commissioner Service in New Zealand, various special trade publicity measures, and the other export endeavours which we have undertaken.
We have demonstrated that we can sell in the New Zealand market in fair competition with other exporters of secondary goods. If we can do it in New Zealand, we believe we can also tap and develop other markets for secondary products. We have also sent trade missions to Africa, and we are hopeful of expanding o-i r exports of secondary goods to these markets when the shipping problem - the present major obstacle - is overcome. We have taken special measures to develop our trade with South-East Asian countries, but our main efforts at present in the export promotion line are being concentrated on our principal export market - the United Kingdom.
In July last year, the Government approved the launching of a large-scale trade publicity drive in the United Kingdom. During the first twelve months of this campaign, over £250,000 will be spent. This money is being contributed mostly by this Government but jointly by the Commonwealth Government and the marketing boards responsible for the export of canned, fresh and dried fruits, wine, meat and dairy produce, which are the major products being promoted. The programme also makes provision for assistance to those firms and industries which are prepared to stage their own advertising campaigns in the United Kingdom.
The campaign in the United Kingdom is already paying dividends, and is meeting with enthusiasm and support from the trade over there. We are also taking special steps to expand markets in the near-by areas. [Extension of time granted.’] Trade missions, special industry visits, particularly to enable our manufacturers to take part in development programmes, and other appropriate activities are under way. In all of these export undertakings, we have arrived at the conclusion that our manufacturers must be able to sell on the same terms as manufacturers in the United Kingdom and certain other countries. It is our intention, therefore, to introduce shortly an exports insurance scheme which will enable a potential exporter to protect himself against failure to be paid through any of a variety of reasons. This insurance itself establishes a basis for the exporter borrowing from the banking system. It will also permit our manufacturers to offer their customers credit terms comparable to those offered by United Kingdom and other manufacturers who can rely on schemes of a similar nature.
I have outlined our root problem of the balance of payments. I have outlined our other domestic and our overseas problems as we see them and as other countries see them. I have indicated our attitude towards these problems and the direction in which we are moving towards their solution. Let me now emphasize the steps that we must take. In the first place, we must produce more of what we can sell competitively abroad. We must have more of this production. Of course it must come from the action of the primary producers and manufacturers. It can come only if there is a real prospect of reasonable profit. There are already heartening evidences of willingness to produce more. That willingness will, I am sure, grow as the national need is made more clear. In the second place, we must, by sheer export promotion, sell to better advantage more of the goods that we have to sell. This area, also, is chiefly the responsibility of our primary and secondary producers, hut the Government will assist through its trade promotion services. If we are to escape from the stultifying results of chronic shortage of overseas funds, the whole nation will have to develop a more acute export consciousness. I suppose that, except for North America and, perhaps, New Zealand, there is not another country in the world which has managed its post-war reconstruction or accelerated its national development without going short of something for the purpose of earning greater export income. The post-war economic recovery of Britain and most other countries has not been achieved without their people becoming very familiar with the label “ Reserved for export only “. Fortunately, we can see through our problems without the need for any such arbitrary control.
The third, and most important side of our problem is to ensure that we have the right of entry into overseas markets on fair terms. This is an area for negotiation between governments. It touches, for example, the question of the mutual advantage of tariff preferences, and such things as trade arrangements that benefit our exports or protect them against disadvantage. Through negotiations with other governments, we shall try to ensure that the domestic subsidy policies followed in countries where we desire to sell our goods do not shut us out from their markets. We shall try to ensure, also, that state - that is, government - trading practices, direct or indirect export subsidies and other unfair practices, or non-commercial disposals of primary products, do not deny us markets to which we are entitled on the basis of competitive costs. It is clear that the problem of gaining entry to overseas markets on fair terms is by no means an easy one to solve. No decision of ours alone can solve it. Other governments, which have their own special problems, must join in the solution. This is clearly a job for negotiation with other governments. Of course, we shall never get everything we want for ourselves.
Australia is one of the very few countries that have never sought or received any special aid from our great friend the United States. It would be a wry paradox if the practices of the United States, in disposing of its surpluses or giving aid to others, should, finally, seriously impair our natural trading opportunities, weaken us economically and stultify our development. That is not a highly imaginative thought. We have already encountered not a few obstacles to our natural trade as the outcome of United States aid to others. There is a major problem also with our greatest trading partner, the United Kingdom. On the one hand, by provisions of the Ottawa Agreement and preferential policies which we have practised beyond the requirements of that agreement, Australia has been made the greatest single market for British products. Yet, on the other hand, I should be disguising the fact if I did not make it clear that we feel strongly that it is hardly in accord with that situation to find the United Kingdom impairing our opportunities to sell our natural food products in its great market. It did this in the earlier post-war period by State trading operated to deny us the market and price advantages that would naturally have gone with post-war shortages. Now the Ottawa advantages of free access to the great United Kingdom market are whittled down by the United Kingdom promoting its own high-cost agricultural production by subsidies. These subsidies have reduced the value of our Ottawa duty-free access, or low duty access, to United Kingdom markets for our food products. We feel really hurt “when, on top of this, we have our opportunities further reduced by imports into the United Kingdom of heavily subsidized products from the Argentine and other countries. Where no preferential arrangements exist we shall ask for no more than the opportunity to sell on fair competitive terms, hut we will expect to get it. Where two-way preferential arrangements exist we will not be content with less than a true and fair balance of trade opportunity.
There is no doubt that our present balance of payments problem is really serious. It is not one that will fade away in due course by the mere lapse of time. We have taken the drastic restrictive steps needed to bring our overseas payments position back to balance, but not without considerable inconvenience to our economy. No Australian must be content to let things rest where they are. This Government certainly will not. We are determined to maintain the tempo of national development in both the private and public sectors of our economy. We are determined also to maintain the population growth, through the immigration intake, and to maintain the high standard of living. These things are just not possible without substantially increasing our export earnings. To this end, we shall take the steps which are necessary and are within our own control at home. We shall aim at a new national export consciousness. Inflationary trends must not destroy our competitive position in export markets. We shall be active and aggressive in our trade promotion activities throughout the world. The Government will provide industry with all proper aids. We shall be fair in our own international trade practices. As I have pointed out all of this will not suffice unless overseas countries who sell to us give our products reasonableaccess to their markets. Given this, however, if we follow the courses I have outlined, our progress and stability will be protected and, I am confident, assured.
.- Other new members who have already made their maiden speeches in this House during the debate on the Address-in-Reply to the Governor-General’s Speech have expressed their appreciation to the electors who elected them as their representatives, and I should like to express my thanks to the electors of Darebin for the honour they have conferred on me in sending me here as their representative. A perusal of His Excellency’s Speech reveals several matters of major importance which appear to be worthy of more mature consideration by this House. One is the matter of foreign policy and the consequential adjustment of domestic policy necessary upon the acceptance of the foreign policy proposed. These two matters are significant, not so much for what was said, as for what was left unsaid, in the Governor-General’s Speech. The Speech stated that the Australian Government is determined, as it has been in the past, to adhere to the United Nations. This statement merely begs the questions of our obligation to the United Nations and of the practice adopted by the Government in the past. The objective of the United Nations, fairly and briefly, is the achievement and maintenance of world peace, based on justice, and this objective can be achieved only by two main methods - first, the settlement of disputes through the good offices of the United Nations, and, secondly, effective resistance to armed aggression. Unfortunately, we can see far too many focal points of incipient threats to world peace at the present time. But we can see also the success that has attended the bona fide exercise of the good offices of the United Nations in the past. I refer to the cessation of hostilities in Indonesia and Indo-China and, to a lesser degree, and, unfortunately tardily, in Korea.
As 1 have stated, there are a number of focal points that are causing concern to all who care for the welfare of the world. I refer briefly to some of them - Israel, Indo-China, the problem of the two Chinas still unresolved, the uncertainty of the moves towards independence of Malaya and similar South-East Asian countries, and the ticklish situation in Pakistan,India, and Kashmir. The Israel situation has been dealt with by the United Nations Security Council, we hope successfully. The trouble in Malaya is that, as this nation moves towards independence and as the protecting power moves out, a vacuum will be created in which, we hope, will grow a democratic government which will be determined by the people, the Malayans themselves, of their own choice. The danger, of course, is that into the vacuum created by the withdrawal of the protecting power will creep a totalitarian type of government, either of the right or the left, which is completely alien. Moreover, as far as Indo-China is concerned, the defection, shall I say, of Cambodia from the South east Asia Treaty Organization group to the India-Nehru group can be viewed with some misgivings, although there are those who regard India as a bridgehead between East and West - and I believe it can quite possibly bridge the gap between East and West through India’s policy. Then we find that there are some grounds for apprehension in regard to the effect which this will have on Cambodia’s neighbours. Exposure of the eastern boundary of Siam, which has been the theatre for the rehearsal of the Seato display of defence security recently, could conceivably induce a Vietminh and Communist infiltration into Siam which, in accordance with the Seato definition, would be interpreted as aggression, and a situation could develop which would constitute a threat to world peace. These instances could, unfortunately, be multiplied in far greater numbers than I have time to give this evening.
As far as the two Chinas are concerned, I have no doubt that from a defensive, strategic point of view, the retention of Formosa is desirable for strategic purposes, as is the harmony of national interests in Indo-China. But are we to place too great a reliance upon strategic and military or naval considerations? Is that our sole obligation under the United Nations Charter? I submit that it is not. This consideration leaves one wondering whether too much reliance altogether is being placed upon armed might as a means of preserving world peace. Can we say then that the existence of loosely knit regional defensive pacts, such as Seato, Anzus and Nato, which are organized outside the United Nations, while being legally organized within its framework- I hope that yon appreciate the difference, Mr. Speaker - are conducive in the long run to world peace? I submit that the experience of the system of power politics that prevailed before the two great world wars, which it has been our misfortune to experience in our generation, absolutely supports the contention that they do not, of themselves, conduce to world peace. I say not, because such systems of power politics must inevitably lead to the building up, by a process of readjustment of balance of power, of two armed camps which will eventually oppose each other and provide the tinder from which a third world war will eventually flame. I say also that these regional pacts of themselves are most insufficient, because they ignore all too clearly the second and most important aspect of the work of the United Nations and our obligation as member nations, and that is that they are not aimed at the prevention of disputes. The distinction which I am trying to make, both logically and from a common-sense point of view, is one of emphasis. The need for armed resistance to aggression springs, both in point of time and in the logical sequence of events, from an earlier stage which arises, that is, the causes which give rise to the threat of world peace. We have seen how most of these ugly incidents arise from the perpetuation of injustices which are allowed to rankle underneath and eventually break forth, with the Russian or Soviet system, or any other type of government alien to our democracy at all, trying to ride in on the back of it and exploit it for that Government’s own particular purposes. My criticism, therefore, is that we rely too much on the late stage of prevention of aggression, rather than meeting it right at its source, and I can only liken it to the metaphor wherein we, as a nation, are prepared to employ the highly skilled technique of the surgeon to remove the growth or ulcer from the exterior of the body politic internationally, rather than the preventive medicine of the doctor who removes the causes which give rise to these things.
I do not suppose that any one can place much reliance on these regional pacts when they are of themselves regarded as being sufficient. They are purely ancillary, and must be regarded only as a secondary means of maintaining world peace. Thus, when the United Nations and its charter of human rights have been unable to effect a settlement, we as a last resort have these military defensive pacts. Briefly, then, what are the causes of these threats to world peace which give rise to the alleged need for armed intervention? I suppose that the first is the hard, cold fact of human hunger, suffering and degradation, caused by starvation. With a third of the world’s population, shall I say, adversely affected by starvation or undernourishment, can we sincerely and honestly listen to the statement about food surpluses to which we have listened this evening? Experts have estimated that at the present rate of increase of population, namely 36,000,000 a year, by 1987 the world’s population will have grown to 6,600.000,000, which is quite beyond the known food resources of the world. Since 194S, we have had before the United Nations, and before the nations of the world, a plan for the storage of these socalled world surpluses, involving the equitable disposal of them in accordance with the greatest need, but so far no nation, ‘ particularly of the exporting nations, has, for reasons of national sovereignty and the like, seen fit really to give this plan its wholehearted support. The causes, I believe, are indecision and fear. As members of the United Nations, it is incumbent and obligatory upon us to have a national voice on all problems which come before that forum. To allow a decision of world importance to go by default, or to shelter behind others without making a real contribution, is a denial and a complete abrogation of our responsibility. I should like to refer to a statement made on behalf of New Zealand, our sister dominion, in relation to the Matsus and Quemoy, the offmainland islands of China. I quote from the Christian Science Monitor of the 4th March, 1955 -
New Zealand has put Washington on warning - politely, tactfully, but unmistakably - that if the United States goes to war with communist China over Quemoy and the Matsu, it will have to fight alone.” . . The New Zealand warning was voiced March 3 by Sir Leslie Knox Munro, Ambassador to Washington and chief New Zealand delegate to the United Nations, in a speech.
That is the type of statement which we owe to our great friends and allies, America and Britain. That is the type of unequivocal statement which we owe to friend and foe alike, so that they may know where we stand on these matters. We should not shelter behind the more influential nations. Indecision can only encourage the more unworthy elements to express their opinions in the councils of the world and give them a greater chance to get their opinions across to the peoples of the world.
Perhaps the two greatest causes of threats to world peace are ignorance and fear. Let me deal first with ignorance. If we, as a nation, were prepared, not only on the diplomatic and ministerial levels, but on all levels, to try to appreciate the points of view of other nations and understand their approach to these problems, I believe that our approach would be altered radically. Towards this end, I believe there should be an interchange of personnel at all levels - diplomatic, ministerial, commercial, manufacturing, technological, trade union, social and student. The Colombo plan, I believe, is motivated by such high ideals and considerations but, unfortunately, there are not enough Colombo plans, and there is not enough of the one Colombo plan. I say again that we cannot speak glibly of the Colombo plan and, at the same time, complain about the disposal of so-called food surpluses to our detriment, when we know that men, women and children, comprising about one-third of the population of the world, are affected by starvation. I think it is time that we had a restatement of our foreign policy. Rather than try to make an archaic law of supply and demand work and fit modern conditions, let the Minister ascertain the needs of the people and try to equate supply with their needs.
Our adherence, as a nation, to the policy of the United Nations means that we must of necessity make some consequential adjustments in our domestic policy. In this regard, I refer to the surrender of some of our national rights in favour of the international authority. The first task is to raise material standards in the under-privileged countries and feed the peoples of the world, lt is to achieve, to use the words spoken by the late Franklin Roosevelt in 1945. freedom from want and hunger. It is true that, at a time when we have an adverse trading balance, some import restrictions are necessary. Conversely, it is also true to say that our exports must be kicked up. While there is underconsumption, can we ever be heard to complain of over-production? The acceptance of our obligation, therefore, must involve adjustments of pur internal economy.
One of the first steps is to increase primary production. This can be done by more intense and more efficient cultivation of land already in use and by bringing under cultivation the large tracts of Crown land and hitherto unused land which are available in all States. Naturally, that will entail far greater assistance by the Commonwealth to the States than has been given so far. It will entail greater capital assistance for soldier settlement and closer settlement. The sole criterion upon which land should be made available is efficiency. The man who is likely to become the most efficient farmer is the man who is entitled to the land, regardless of class, colour or creed. The encouragement of light and heavy secondary industries and the exploitation of our mineral resources are necessary also.
All too often do we hear of scarce raw materials and scarce skilled labour being used for non-essential production. We must insist on the production of first things first. Food, clothing, housing, schools, medicine, transport, defence, irrigation and power are the aspects of our national life to which first priority must be given. We know that only a limited amount of capital i3 available, so the competition for the use of that limited amount of capital is a problem that must receive our first consideration. Priority for production is essential in an expanding economy such as ours. There are some who say that the economy is expanding too fast, but I do not believe that that is so. It is our failure to adjust ourselves nationally to the implications of an expanding economy that is causing the difficulties. The difficult must be done now and the impossible achieved tomorrow.
The present Government has seen fit to seek an order of priorities for the States’ works programmes. Why, then, is there anything wrong or unreal in asking that private investment also should work to a list of priorities based on national needs? If priorities should be applied to public investment, surely, in a wellmanaged economy, they should be applied also to private investment. I do not. believe for a moment that any one will argue seriously that scarce capital should be used for the production of cocktail cabinets, for the luxury garages that we find at every street intersection in our capital cities, for luxury offices, flats and the like, or even for television. Can we afford the luxury of television at this stage? I say that these matters of national importance can be worked out only by a system of priorities. Professor Karmel has admitted in the last issue of the Financial Review that this Government has power to canalize production, through indirect control of capital investment exercised through its budgetary policy and the power of the Commonwealth Bank. Such devices as a variable interest rate to penalize luxury production - which I admit would have to be highly selective in our expanding economy - and a variable sales tax on unnecessaries would canalize labour and essential capital into the production of first things first.
That brings me to the question of markets. Having got our increase of agricultural production and an exportable surplus, we should seek markets in places where transport costs and freights are lower. We have an unexploited market right at our back door. Can we say that we shall not send food to the starving millions of India because of religious differences? I think not. Can we say that we shall not export food to the starving men, women and children of Indonesia because of racial differences? I think not. Can we say that we shall not export food to the Chinese people and the 900,000,000 satellite peoples, who are also affected by starvation, because of political differences? I say not. It matters not where the need is. Our duty is to meet it. It can be met by negotiations with these countries. The Australian Wheat Board has independently negotiated markets there; so has the Victorian Wheat Growers Association. New Zealand even sent a trade mission to Moscow, with the result that Russia is now New Zealand’s best customer after Great Britain. In March, 1955, Sir Winston Churchill stated that trade through the iron curtain with the satellite countries was the one and only means whereby we can maintain world peace and live peaceably together with Russia. If markets are not available for our socalled surplus foodstuffs, we can dispose of them through the United Nations Food and Agricultural organization or the Cuban food plan for the storage of world surpluses and thereby help to satisfy the greatest need, even if it means giving them away. The criticism of America that we heard in this chamber to-night from the Minister for giving away surplus foods is a severe indictment of the national policy of a so-called Christian community.
In conclusion, I feel that, with a superior ideology and technology, we can win hack the people of red China and the Russian satellite countries, but they can he won back only if our legislation is dominated by the spirit and sentiment that pervaded a prayer delivered by Peter Marshall when he was chaplain of the Senate of the United States of America. He said -
Help us to see that it is better to fail in a cause that will ultimately succeed than to succeed in a cause that will ultimately fail. May Thy will be done here, and may Thy program be carried out beyond time and circumstance for the good of our country and the peace of the world.
.- The Government has just been accused of perpetrating acts of which it has not been guilty. A speech delivered earlier to-night illustrated the Government’s trade policy - the policy that it proposes to follow, the policy which it has followed, and the policy which has brought to the people of Australia a higher standard of living than they have enjoyed in the past. Speaking for the first time in this chamber, I wish to say categorically that I am devoted to the parliamentary principle of government. The parliamentary principle is the manifestation of democracy, and I feel that, by pursuing that principle, the potentialities of this nation may be made apparent, and we shall be able to bring to Australia a great increase of population, great wealth, a high living standard, and so be a force for good in the world. 1 was delighted to note two points in particular in the Speech of His Excellency the Governor-General. I was delighted to note, first, his reference to the Government’s intentions in relation to immigration. The immigration programme which was sponsored and has been so developed by this Government that, in November last, the millionth immigrant arrived in Australia, has done a great service to this country, and I should like to see it extended. I pay a tribute to the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Holt), to the permanent head of the Department of Immigration, and particularly to officials in Australia and overseas who are engaged in the formulation of the policy and in the selection and screening of immigrants to ensure that they are in good health and that their industrial capabilities are suited to Australian conditions.
The contribution that has been made to the development of Australia by immigrants is such that no person who rides in a tram, or train in Melbourne or any other capital city, or who lives in an outback town, can fail to observe it. Statistics reveal that 261 out of each 1,000 immigrants are skilled tradesmen, whereas the average for the Australian population is 169 per 1,000. The bringing to Australia of skilled tradesmen is creating further opportunities for employment. So true is that statement, that more than 50,000 vacancies are now registered at the Department of Labour and National Service. The contribution of immigrants to the Australian economy is very real. In the past, the economy has depended very largely upon a narrow field of primary exports. The introduction of skilled labour from overseas, allied with the labour that has grown up and been trained in Australia, has led to increased production. A particular example is the really startling increase of steel production. In the last five years, Australian steel production has risen by 83 per cent. That production, in terms of money, represents at current market price approximately £72,000,000. After all, that is not far short of the sum that our import restrictions are designed to save.
Because immigrants come to this country with the desire to save, they are able to contribute, to our capital stock of goods. The immigrant does not spend his money upon arrival, so that his contribution to the capital stock of goods is greater than the amount of his consumption. There is another facet of our immigration policy with which I should like to deal, and to which reference was made by the honorable member for Darebin (Mr. E. W. Holt). The honorable member referred to the Colombo plan. I see in our immigration policy a corollary to the Colombo plan which is earning goodwill for us in the nations of Asia, and particularly South-East Asia. We are proving to them that we want to live in amity with them, that we understand their problems, and that, having understood their problems, we are seeking a solution of them. By our immigration programme we are contributing towards the relief of the depressed areas of Europe in which overpopulation is so severe that the standards of living are depressed to a level that we cannot imagine. We are proving to the people of Europe, too, that we understand their problems, and that we are making a contribution that will encourage them, to maintain their alliance with the Western nations. In so doing, we are contributing once again towards world goodwill.
Perhaps the most important consideration of all is our population and the vastness of our country. Our population to-day is approaching 9,500,000, whereas at the conclusion of World War II. it was approximately 7,300,000, so that in ten years the growth of population has exceeded 2,000,000. This seems a very small increase really, although when related to the base, it is a very real increase. By increasing our population we can contribute to the policy of argument from strength. We have noted that in the international sphere argument from strength is the only argument that is understood by certain other nations whose eyes turn covetously on the whole array of nations throughout the world, and who have succeeded in gobbling up the nations to which the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Killen) referred this afternoon. With our population at its present level, we cannot contribute as we ought to contribute. I should like to see an overall strategic objective or plan - call it what you will - aimed at achieving a certain population by a certain date. The strategic plan may have to be altered occasionally for tactical purposes but having determined it we must maintain the annual increase so determined. We need to have an overall natural increase of 3 per cent, per annum on our present population figure in order to achieve a population of 20,000,000 people in 25 years. The percentage increase by natural increase is fairly stationary at 1.4 pei- cent., although this percentage, because of the propensity of immigrants to rear larger families, may increase. Therein lies another problem. The marriage rate is at present falling because of the reduced birthrate during the depression years. As the marriage rate falls the birthrate falls, and we must make up the leeway by immigration. To have an overall increase of 3 per cent, per annum would require an immigration intake of 1.6 per cent, to produce, in conjunction with our natural increase of 1.4 per cent., the required percentage of 3 per cent. Lt may be said that an annua! immigration increase of 1.6 per cent, of population would be too great. Objections have been levelled at such an increase. I should like to point out that those objections have been negated. It was at one time felt that the immigration intake would result in a reduction of our standards of living, of working standards and of wages. With the great intake of more than 1,000,000 immigrants since the end of the last war there has been no reduction in working standards, and there has certainly been no reduction in wages. Another objection was that the intake would possibly imperil our institutions. That objection has also proved to be ill-founded. Our institutions have never stood on safer ground than they do to-day. The new people from overseas who have settled among us have shown a very great capacity to learn our language and understand our institutions and when possible make a very great contribution to our civil activities.
I regard this problem as one to which we must all face up, as I regard the maintenance of the principles of parliamentary government as inherent in the duty of all honorable members here, because it was in order to maintain these principles that we were elected to this chamber. We must have more population, and, as a nation we must make our contribution in international affairs. But alongside the growing development of our country, alongside the increased population, we must have rationalization of our Constitution so that our political and social concepts can advance in concert with our growing population. I heard, therefore, with great delight, of the decision of the Government to establish a joint committee, representing all parties, to consider review of the Constitution, and particularly the relations between the Senate and the House of Representatives, because I feel that we have now reached the stage where our population will inevitably grow, and, with the increased population, rationalization of the Constitution is imperative.
I propose’ to refer very briefly to certain sections of the Constitution which I consider to be sharply in need of consideration by such a committee as that proposed. I’ may preface my remarks by saying that the last two decades of the 19th century were ones of limited horizon. The advances of the second industrial revolution had not yet had the effect of inducing in men a belief in their own contemporary limitations. Social and economic concepts were very formal, and were strictly ordered, played out under gas lamps and transported by horse-drawn buggy. There was, in course in Australia, n move towards federation, but that move was delayed by some 40 years by those limitations and by interstate jealousies. So when the framers of the Constitution came to the conventions they came with a whole set of pre-ascertained values and prejudices and, most important to their minds, imbued with the necessity to preserve certain aspects of State government. From these conventions emerged a compact which paid deference to the States of Australia, the price of joining themselves together federally for the attainment of common ambitions, but ambitions which were not common in all respects.
I feel that section 24 of the Constitution is the first one for consideration. That section ties the number of members of the House of Representatives to approximately twice that of the Senate. I feel that this very tying of the two Houses together in numbers fails to take account of the different functions to be fulfilled by the members of the respective chambers. While a senator is one in ten who represents, jointly with his nine colleagues, all the electors of a State, regardless of the population of that State, each member of the House of Representatives represents a distinct division in which there are a certain number of people. I believe that the average number of electors to a division is, at the moment, 42,000, but I may point out that in my case the number is more than 4S,000. If it should transpire that a disgruntled electorate requires “ a bit of his member ‘*’, to put it colloquially, it would require a very delicate operation by a skilled surgeon to divide my body, for instance, into 4S.000 parts. With the growth of population that I have advocated it would take an even greater effort . on the part of a surgeon to divide my body, or that of any other honorable member, into perhaps 70.000 parts. So the alternative would seem to be to increase the number of members of the House of Representatives; but, to-day, with the operation of section 24, it would also be necessary to increase the number.-; of members of the Senate.
I shall refer to sections 53, 54 and 55, which set out the powers of the respective chambers. Because of the attitude with which the framers of the Constitution came to the conventions, they decided they would have to ensure that the Senate had equal power with the House of Representatives, with one differentiation - the Senate would have no power to introduce or amend money bills, that is, bills which appropriated revenue or levied taxes. It was stated in the Constitution that the Senate might send a money bill back to the House of Representatives with a request that it be amended, but only a request. In all other respects the powers of the two chambers were to be equal. But. of course, in practice it has not worked out that way. We might ask why. The answer is. that when the framers of the Constitution came to the conventions they revered the constitutional monarchy, the bicameral parliament and the Cabinet system; but they also came with their minds committed to the necessity of protecting State rights. They therefore impinged upon an elected upper house a role it was inherently unable to play - the role of protector of States’ rights. Consequently, within a very limited time the Senate resolved itself on party lines, and has maintained that position ever since.
I refer now to part of the recommendation of the Royal Commission on the Constitution which delivered its report in 1929, in which it was stated - lt has been said of sections 53 and 55 that they represent one of the vital compromises of the Constitution whereby an adjustment was made so as to permit of responsible government as understood in British communities, that is, the responsibility of the Ministers of the Crown to the representatives of the nation considered numerically, and at the same time to guard the Senate from financial coercion in its representation of the nation organized in States.
The purpose for which the Senate was created, and for which it was given these co-existent powers with the House of Representatives, lapsed within a short period. I feel that the Senate should take on the role which it was historically designed to take before the impingement upon it of the additional role, that is, of a house of review, and because of its nature as a house of review its numbers should not necessarily be tied to the numbers of the House of Representatives as under section 24.
The next section to which I wish to refer is section .57, which deals, as the marginal note explains, with disagreement between the Houses. I do not propose to outline the procedure provided therein, except to say that before section 57 can operate there must be a double dissolution. I feel that that necessity throws upon the people and the machinery of government too much of a strain. This was part of the general rationalization of States’ rights as opposed to the true federal concept. I would not, at this stage, suggest how section 57 should be altered. I would say that the committee ought closely to consider it because, despite a very searching examination, I can find nowhere in the royal commission’s report a recommendation of a way in which the weaknesses of section 57 may be resolved.
I now pass to section 121 of the Constitution, which deals with new States. The marginal note there is, “ New State; may be admitted or established “, and the section reads as follows: -
The Parliament may admit to the Commonwealth or establish new States, and may upon such admission or establishment make or impose such terms and conditions, including the extent of representation in either House of the Parliament, as it thinks fit.
That, in itself, I feel, negates the principles of federation, in that it gives tha Parliament of the Commonwealth the power to say what representation in Parliament a State may have. There is i long line of cases in United States constitutional law in which it has been quite clearly held that to impose conditions or, alternatively, to allow lesser representation negates the federal principle, which is that all States must be equal. I therefore suggest that the attention of the committee could well be drawn to section 121.
Sections .123 and 124 of the Constitution deal with the creation of new States. Those sections attracted my attention particularly, because I am very much in favour of the creation of new States. I foresee the time when our population will be very great indeed and when this very large number, perhaps in excess of 30,000,000 or 40,000,000, is reachedcertainly within my lifetime it will exceed 20,000,000- six States will not be adequate for proper administration on the federal principle. That the framers of the Constitution had in mind the establishment of new States I think there can be no doubt. Upon reference to the convention debates, it will be found that it was considered that New Zealand, Fiji or other self-governing areas within reachable distance would join us. Rut with regard to sections 123 and 124, in one a dual consent is required, and in the other a unitary consent only is needed. I have been unable to resolve the apparent contradiction in terms of these two sections. I referred to notes on constitutional law taken some years .ago at university, and 1 find that the learned professor of the faculty was equally unable to resolve this apparent inconsistency. Until this inconsistency has been resolved, the creation of the new States will be considerably hampered.
I pass to section 12S, which deals with the alteration of the Constitution. I find, on looking through the report of the commissioners, that one of the less renowned of the commissioners has made this statement -
Only trivialities and press supported controvertialities could over get through a referendum.
I feel that the history of referenda amply proves the contention made almost 30 years ago by one of the commissioners. I therefore suggest that members of the committee very seriously consider section 12S, and see whether they can suggest to the Government some means of putting to the people of Australia a recommendation which will not be a mere triviality, a controvertiality, but one which, because of its recommendation by a joint committee, can obtain the support of public and press, as suggested by one of the commissioners and, therefore, enable its passage through the referenda trials as now prescribed by the Constitution.
On these matters I feel very deeply. At the moment, our population is too small. Our Constitution, at this time, is adequate for our population, but now is the time for constitutional reform, and now is the time for an overall plan to increase our population. I should like to point out that at the time at which the population of the United States of America was equal to our present population, there were 22 States in that country. That nation soon came to pre-eminence among the nations of the world, and there is no doubt that a great contribution towards that development was made by the federal concept of easy creation of new States. With a multiplicity of States, the very essence of the Senate role of protection of State rights will be taken care of by a multiplicity of interests in the Senate, so ensuring that the voice of smaller States will not be lost in the boom of their more populous partners.
Mr McIVOR (Gellibrand) [9.46 J.Before speaking to the motion for the adoption of the Address-in-Reply, I first desire to express my humble tribute to the electors of Gellibrand for returning me as their federal representative in this, the House of Representatives of the Commonwealth of Australia. Secondly, I want to add my congratulations to the congratulations already expressed by others to the new members on their maiden speeches. I feel sure that I reiterate the thought of each and every representative in this House when I say that such a high standard augurs well for the future of debate in this House of Representatives.
I have had the pleasure of listening to most of the speeches in this House and they have covered a very wide range of subjects, including inflation, a very fashionable word these days, which seems to cover a multitude of sins - juvenile delinquency, foreign affairs and the Constitution. All those speeches have been delivered with a good deal of sincerity. I want to make sincerity the keystone of my address to-night, because I feel it my bounden duty to say something about a matter which concerns the welfare of every man, woman and child in this great nation.
The matter to which I desire to address myself is the financial restrictions that are being imposed upon this country by this Government, their impact upon local government and semi-governmental institutions which supply essential needs to the public, and their relationship to the practical health scheme of this Government, as referred to in the Speech of His Excellency the Governor-General. The subject has been discussed by other speakers. It is a fact that the activities of councils and semi-governmental institutions which supply essential services to the public are being bogged down, due to the lack of finance. In every State there is a dangerous lag in capital works, and this lag does not just express itself in terms of a day. It is a lag that has accumulated since the cessation of hostilities in 1945. Social amenities, roads, private street construction and sewerage all have a definite relationship to the practical health scheme of this Government. Unfortunately, in the main, those who are suffering most are young married couples and their children. I have heard references to immigration and, of course, this problem is being further intensified by the flow of immigrants to this country. The Government, according to the remarks of a number of honorable members, has claimed that it has a practical health policy. It is somewhat like the captain claiming all the credit for the victory, and overlooking the fact that the rest of the team helped him.
The success of the health policy of this Government depends upon the authorities whom I have mentioned being able to attend to the basic health needs of the country. I refer to such services as sewerage, water supply, drainage and all the health amenities that this modern age demands. Of what use is a practical health policy when in an electorate such as Deakin or Darebin or Lalor, fringing the cities, one can find in undeveloped areas putrid pools of sullage water, sewage and waste from homes nearby. It is not uncommon to see young mothers having to drag prams through this putrid morass, which in summer is stinking and offensive, and in winter is a malodorous sea of mud. This sort of thing has arisen, of course, as a result of population growth and a greater demand for housing. It is causing a great deal of worry and sickness among the young families living in these areas. Already, it would appear, an epidemic of infectious jaundice, or hepatitis, is sweeping the nation. This is largely attributable to the lack of drainage and sewerage, especially in the rapidly growing outer areas. I have before me a cutting from the Melbourne Age which reads -
The New South Wales Health Department and doctors generally are alarmed at the spread of hepatitis. Alderman C. H. Ferry, who represents the city council on the Board of Health, said to-day. Hepatitis had become thu most prevalent infectious disease in the State, he said. An independent Labour alderman, Dr. H. J. Foley, said the medical world was worried about the after-effects of the disease. Although the immediate mortality rate was slight, complications from the disease could cause death up to two years after its onset he said. The committee decided to appoint a subcommittee, to include public health authorities, to conduct a campaign against hepatitis. The sub-committee will deal chiefly with educating the public by press and radio publicity on bow to safeguard against infection. Hepatitis is the medical term for inflammation of the liver.
The majority of councils can no longer meet the demand for social amenities, baby health centres, kindergartens, libraries and immunization. These amenities eat into the revenue of the Footscray City Council, in my electorate, to such an extent that the amount available for maintenance of roads and drainage has dwindled to about 4s. lOd. in each £1 of revenue raised.
To illustrate further the difficulties that face councils, I shall quote an extract from a report by the Footscray City Council. It reads -
A small amount of £3,120 was received by this council from the Motor Omnibus Licence Fees to recompense it for the damage to roadways. As an indication of the inadequacy of this allotment, it should be noted that a small section of a road in this municipality had to be reconstructed at u cost of £24,000. This road would have lasted years longer without repairing had it not been used by Tramways Board buses, and a further sum of £00,000 will bc needed to complete this road.
Further, a reconstruction of two main roads, which will cost £178,000, is taking place in the municipality. The council’s contribution to this will be £44,500.
In order to show honorable members some of the other disabilities under which councils are labouring, I should like to tell them of some of the difficulties of carrying out loan works such as the installation of traffic control lights, permanent road construction, drainage works, the purchase of quarry plant, improvements of reserves, and the provision of infant welfare and pre-school centres. For works such as these my council wished to borrow £224,000. Under the act it can borrow £1,500,000. However, its loan allocation was only £150,000. The town clerk immediately went on the market and wa3 able to obtain £50,000. He has since been to 60 financial institutions within the City of Melbourne and has not been able to get £1 of the other £100,000 that is needed. Therefore, all the works which are needed in a big city with a population of 60,000 must go begging. This is consistent with the position in practically every council area throughout Australia.
I want to mention now the position of the Melbourne and Metropolitan Board of Works, of which I am a commissioner. Without going into the details, I might say that the position of the Sydney Water Board is exactly similar. I should like to quote a statement made by the newly appointed chairman, Mr. Trickey, on the 14 th February, 1956. He said-
MayI invite the attention of Commissioners to the Board’s present financial position.
Owing to the adverse condition of the loan market this financial year the Board has only been able to borrow £2,300,000 of new money for capital works.
Up to date £4,300,000 has been spent this financial year on capital works, and the excess expenditure has been financed in two ways: -
At the present time the Board is on the market for a cash and conversion loan of £1,100,000, but only £.300,000 is new money for capital works, the balance being required to meet maturing loans, and Mr. Jessop has already advised the Premier that unless the amount the Board is authorized to borrow this financial year is made available to it either by public or private loans it will not be possible to finance the whole of the works provided for in this year’s estimates, and this will result in further serious delay in the provision of water supply and sewerage facilities. To enable the Board to carry out the capital works included in this year’s estimates it will be necessary to borrow (in addition to the amount of the present loan) a further sum of £3,000,000, of which £2,200,000 will be required for capital works, and as there is only one date available to go on the market after the Commonwealth Loan in March next, viz. in May, it would require this £3,000,000 to be raised in one loan, and no public authority has been able to get a loan of more than £1,000,000 underwritten during the past few months. Since the31st January the capital expenditure has been at the rate of £25,000 per day, and there is an estimated contract liability of £2,250,000 to bo met over the next five months.
Here is a board whose function it is to provide water, sewerage and drainage facilities, but which is unable to carry out its duties because money is not available, and consequently, as I have already said, in rapidly developing areas in many suburbs one can see the filth and chaos in which people are compelled to live. I listened to an address on juvenile delinquency, and my thoughts turned to those areas that I have seen all over Melbourne. In the position in which I was employed before I had the honour to come to this Parliament, I travelled throughout those areas, and I saw conditions of which this country, which we rightly call the best country in the world, should not be proud.
I want to refer to some remarks that were made by a member of the Country party in Victoria, in criticism of the Melbourne and Metropolitan Board of Works. This member said the board lacked vision and had failed to provide sufficient water for the metropolitan area. His remarks were published in the Melbourne Herald of the 23rd February, 1956. The newspaper report stated -
He also advocated replacement of “ this small Parliament of 50 part-time commissioners with three full-time members, similar to the CountryRoads Board “. Mr. Trickey said that urgent works originally submitted to the State Government by the Board totalled £8,0 12,000, but the Loan Council had authorized the borrowing of only £4,850,000 this financial year for new works. To date, the Board had been able to raise only £2,650,000, leaving £2,000,000 yet to be found, Mr. Trickey said. Present indications were that it would be impossible to raise the full amount of the authorized loans, despite “ the utmost efforts “. All avenues of borrowing had been explored already. Loans raised by public authorities in the past few months had rarely exceeded £1,000,000 a loan because of the stringent money market. Loan Council approval to raise £4,850,000 for capital works was of little value if the board could not get the amount required. Mr. Trickey added: “ The Loan Council should do something to ensure that public utilities providing essential services have adequate finance “.
The fact of the matter is that bodies like the Melbourne and Metropolitan Board of Works, can offer only 47/8 per cent, interest, and that, of course, is stifling any attempt by them to obtain money to carry out essential works.
It is also my opinion that the administration of health centres, the provision of social amenities for old age and invalid pensioners, and immunization against diseases, should be the responsibility of a central Commonwealth authority, because if that were so, standardization could be achieved. It seems very illogical that one council can provide social amenities such as pre-school centres, baby health centres, social centres for the aged and infirm, and can engage in a campaign of immunization, while a neighbouring council, whose ratepayers and citizens equally need such services, cannot do anything in that direction because it has not the money to engage in such activities.
I have heard much said about national development. This Government claims most of the credit for national development, both in industry and in the provision of housing, but I believe that- it is overlooking what is probably the most essential matter in Australia’s development, the decentralization of industry. Its policy of depriving local councils and semi-government institutions of the money necessary to provide essential services is forcing industrial and residential development in areas where those facilities are available.
, who has set a very high standard indeed, and which I hope he will retain throughout his period of service in this Parliament.
The Governor-General, in his Speech on behalf of the Government of this country, stressed two major problems that face Australia to-day. The first was the problem of Australia’s security, and in that regard he dealt with aspects of foreign policy and defence. Secondly, he stressed the economic problem with which Australia is faced. Under that heading there are various sub-headings, such as development tasks, trade balance, and protection of our currency. All of these problems are inter-related, and are part of a pattern which is of vital importance to the future of our country. In the atomic era, or what we might also call the era of the cold war, which has emerged since World War II., Australia’s security has developed a new significance. Time is very important these days, and modern transport has altered the conception of distance. We now measure distance in terms of time rather than in terms of miles. We must also consider the problem - because it is a problem from our point of view - of the expansion of nationalism in the Asian countries, and the rise of many new independent nations in the areas to the north of our shores. That poses problems associated with the development of our resources and the population of our country. These problems are much more important now than they were in the immediate post-war era. At this stage I think we should deplore any suggestion of relaxation or curtailment of our immigration programme. I have heard such suggestions made in this House, and I think that they are made by persons who do not realize the significance of the present situation, and who do not appreciate the direction in which we are heading. It is most important, perhaps more important than any other consideration, to ensure that our population is built up, because time is running short. Australia, in relation to its foreign policy, is a member of the United Nations, and subscribes to the principles of the United Nations Charter. It is interesting to know that it was only recently that Australia was appointed to the Security Council. In that position, this country will be able to lend its efforts in the important councils of the world. A new relationship is developing between Australia and the nations in the Asian sphere. That new relationship has been brought into being partly by the Colombo plan, which was initiated by Australia in the immediate post-war period, and which has shown some excellent results to date. I am sure that it has been one of the greatest factors in the post-war period in bringing about that better understanding, better feeling and better relationship between the nations, particularly those in the Asian sphere, which is so vital to us here.
We have also subscribed, in the postwar period, to new treaties and new pacts such as the Anzus pact between Australia, New Zealand and the United States of America, which gives a guarantee of security to Australia’s future that did not exist prior to the signing of that pact. We have also subscribed to Seato, the South-East Asia Treaty Organization, which will discuss, in the very near future, the furtherance of some definite efforts for the maintenance of security in this Asian sphere. All those things are important to our future, and all have been referred to in the Governor-General’s Speech.
We must never forget, especially now, that the advance of imperialist communism has been halted only a short distance from our shores. It was nol halted by any mere accident. It was not halted by a display of weakness. It was halted for the first time by a display of strength, by the definite stand which was taken by the western powers. We must also remember that subscribing to the Communist philosophy in this part of the_ world are many more millions of people than the populations of the nations that oppose the Communist, philosophy. All those things must be taken into consideration in relation to our foreign policy, for they are of vital importance to our immediate future. It is idle to suggest that peace can be maintained by weakness. Peace, under modern philosophy, can be maintained only by strength. That is the attitude that has been adopted by the Western powers. It is the attitude which has brought about a situation whereby the onward march of Communism has been halted. We have heard even in this House - and certainly it has been publicized in other parts of Australia and other parts of the Western world - the promulgation of Communist propaganda and the catch cries “ Ban atomic warfare,” “ban atomic bombs,” or “ban atomic armaments “. The wording, irrespective of what it may be, means exactly the same thing. I say to those people, especially those who come to this House representing constituents who are also Australians, and those who espouse this particular propaganda, that their efforts should be directed towards the Soviet Union. The purpose should be to impress on the Soviet Union and the satellite countries that they need have no fear of the Western Powers. The Western nations are not aggressors, and they never will be. The only threat of aggression in the world to-day, associated with the threat of atomic warfare, is that which comes from the Soviet Union or the satellite countries associated with the Soviet Union. That being so, propaganda of that nature is not to be directed towards the governments of Australia, the United Kingdom or the United States; it should be directed basically towards the government of the Soviet Union. If the Soviet Union is sincere in its so-called efforts towards world peace at the present time., as it claims in its propaganda, and as it seeks to establish through the actions and sayings of Bulganin and Khrushchev, then it should join with the United Kingdom and the United States in forming an international agency for the peaceful use of atomic energy, or display its real intentions towards the maintenance of world peace in the future.
As I said at the outset, defence is related to economic stability. The strength of our economy is the measure of our security. To-night, we heard a very interesting speech from the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen) with whom, as honorable members know, I am associated as his parliamentary under-secretary. He dealt with certain aspects of the economic situation and Australia’s drive for trade to improve our present overseas balance. In the short time at my disposal, I wish to deal with some of the particular aspects associated with the economic situation and our trade drive, covering some of the ground already traversed by the Minister, but dealing in more detail with certain important aspects.
At the beginning, I should like to quote a few figures to explain the situation as it exists at the present time. In 1953-54,
Australia’s exports were valued at £S2S,000,000. The imports for that year were valued at £6S2,000,000. This left a favorable trade balance, by process of arithmetic, of £146,000,000. In 1954-55, the situation changed drastically. Our exports were valued at £775,000,000, whereas our imports were valued at £S44,000,000 leaving an unfavorable trade balance of £69,000,000. That particular trend has continued throughout the present financial year. For the first seven months of this financial year, to the end of January, 1956, Australia’s exports were valued at £445,000,000 and its imports at £478,000,000. It will be seen from this that for this particular period of seven months, we show an adverse trade balance of £33.000,000, which is somewhere in line with the position for 1954-55. I think it will be agreed that these statistics reveal the existence of a serious trade gap at the present time and this, of course, must engage the urgent and immediate attention of the Commonwealth Government, State governments and all industries, both primary and secondary, throughout the country.
Remedial measures which can be considered are short-term import restrictions and long-term expansion of exports, or probably the application of both. As honorable members know, the Government has been forced to intensify import restrictions, and it is agreed that this is an undesirable practice. The Government understands that perfectly, and I think the people of Australia understand the position to-day. It has been indicated quite clearly that the present system of import restrictions will be continued no longer than is made necessary by the circumstances of Australia’s trade balance. Furthermore, as has been indicated quite clearly in this House on several occasions, Australia needs imports on an increasing scale to keep up our rapidly developing economy and our rising standard of living. It is essential to maintain a high volume of imports if we are to maintain our standards of living, and we must maintain the development of our national resources at the rate that is necessary to achieve this purpose both now and in the immediate future.
The obvious long-term solution is the expansion of our exports. The Prime
Minister said in this House on the 27th September, 1955 -
Unless we are to have a permanently unbalanced economy in Australia, we must do something to stimulate our export income; we must open up new markets and retain and expand old ones.
Since the Prime Minister’s speech, the tempo of the export drive has been stepped up. I shall refer to some details relating to that matter in a moment, but I think I first should draw the attention of the House to the fact that to-day primary and near-primary products produce 88 per cent, of the export income of Australia. In other words, manufactured goods produce only 12 per cent, of our export income at the present time. We must achieve a greater diversification of our export commodities, or we shall be continually faced with periodic crises due to fluctuations of world prices governing the few export commodities which provide the bulk of our export income at the present time. Of course that was, as the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) has said, the pattern in the past, when there were rapid fluctuations in the price of meat, wool, butter, egg# and other commodities. The same pattern emerged in the immediate post-war period, when rapid fluctuations caused an immediate reaction on industry and affected the situation as far as trade agreements or stabilization schemes are concerned. There are important problems within this country at the present time, and they must be dealt with in a realistic way.
To solve some of the problems which arise in relation to the stimulation of our export trade drive, with particular reference not only to primary products, but also to manufactured goods, an extensive trade publicity programme has been undertaken overseas, particularly in the United Kingdom, which is our major market, as well as in New Zealand and other countries, where we could have important markets again in the futureCoupled with this, trade missions have been sent to South Africa and South-East Asia. The results obtained by these trade missions have indeed been most encouraging, as any honorable member who is interested can see by checking the records showing their results.
At the same time, the Trade Commissioner Service has been expanded and strengthened. Exploratory tours of certain markets with potentialities from the point of view of secondary goods kavu been, or are being, undertaken in certain countries at the present time. Those countries are outside our major markets, but we consider that we can develop markets in them for manufactured goods, and in some cases for primary products. The countries to which I refer are Austria, Spain, Portugal, Mexico, British North Borneo, and certain countries bordering the Persian Gulf. In the “near future, investigations of those countries will be undertaken with a view to improving our trade there.
Coupled with this, there has been au added distribution of Austral News which, as honorable members know, is the Australian trade journal that circulates in India and other countries in the Far East, as well as in some countries in the Middle East. It has achieved the distinction of being well read by importing concerns there, and has been beneficial from a trade point of view in Australia. The circulation of the journal has now been extended to New Zealand, and in the near future it will be distributed in other countries.
As has been indicated, the Department of Trade, which was recently established, has been set up to streamline government administration affecting exports and imports. The organization established by this department is already functioning, and has undertaken an intensified trade promotion effort. A lot of the details associated with that effort were mentioned by the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen). in his speech to-night. The department is collaborating with chambers of manufactures, chambers of commerce, and various other industry groups throughout Australia in an effort to stimulate interest in the export of secondary goods.
Already it has encouraged manufacturers of sugar mill machinery to pool their resources for export. This, I think, is a significant achievement, and one which might be extended and applied to other industry groups. The Government has assisted this industry by sharing the co?t of sending a technical industry consultant to India and Ceylon to carry out investigations in relation to the sale of sugar ‘ mill machinery, and other heavy engineering equipment. As I said before, I am very hopeful that this activity will, be extended to other industries. I hope to be able very shortly to tell honorable members what has been achieved. The Government is willing and anxious to assist in this direction, and I think that other industry groups will take advantage of the service.
There will be an expenditure on this trade drive publicity campaign in the United Kingdom of £166,250 on the Government side during the fifteen months ending in September next, as well as approximately £100,000 by the various commodity boards associated with the drive in the United Kingdom. The programme for the publicity drive there is planned by the London Publicity Committee, which consists of representatives of the boards, and the trade commissioners, and is chaired by the Deputy High Commissioner in London. * Quorum formed.]* Prior to the interruption that was engineered by the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward), I was explaining the set up in relation to the publicity drive which has been undertaken in the United Kingdom. At the Australian end, the policy recommendations are formulated by the Overseas Trade Publicity Committee, which consists of representatives of the department and the boards concerned.
The Commonwealth has considered very carefully the problem of the trade drive in New Zealand, and has approved the expenditure of a considerable amount of money on it. As the Minister for Trade has explained, the trade drive in that country is of vital importance to Australia, because that country absorbs the bulk of our exports of secondary products. An expenditure of £17,500 has been approved for this financial year, and it is expected that a substantial addition to that amount will be made by private industry. These allocations, of course, will be followed by further allocations in the next two financial years. The success of this campaign so far is borne out by the results that have been achieved by the two displays that have been arranged in Wellington and
Auckland. More than 150 Australian firms and organizations participated in the Auckland display, which was one of the largest and most successful Australian displays sent overseas.
I refer also to the expansion of the Trade Commissioner Service. I should like to indicate to the House the importance of the work done by the trade commissioners. The service has been expanded and strengthened so that it can give adequate coverage in all the major markets that are of importance to Australia’s export industries. At the present time, there are 24 posts established throughout the world. In these posts, there are 27 trade commissioners and 22 assistant trade commissioners, who are actively engaged in promoting Australian export trade. Indicative of the results that have been achieved are the many letters and oral congratulations that have been passed on to the Government and to officers of the Department of Trade by exporters who have been highly satisfied with the service extended to them. Members of the Trade Commissioner Service are most carefully selected, despite what has been said recently in this House and elsewhere. They are carefully selected for their qualifications and experience. They include both career public servants and business men from the highest ranks of industry. I am sure the House will agree that the Trade Commissioner Service is a service of which Australia may well be proud. The pattern of Australia’s export trade, of course, is set to a large extent by the close ties of kinship, culture and tradition that unite this country with the United Kingdom. These ties have been reinforced in the past by trade agreements, the most significant of which was the Ottawa Agreement of 1932, which provided for the duty-free entry into the United Kingdom of most of Australia’s exports, and for the preferential tariff treatment in the United Kingdom market of most of our major commodities other than wool and wheat. Australia, in turn, granted substantial tariff protection to the United Kingdom.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- The Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen) addressed the House this evening during this debate on the motion for the adoption of the Address-in-Reply to the Governor-General’s Speech, but his discourse was an outline of the intentions of the new department over which he presides and the Government regarding the need to put Australia’s economy on a sound basis. It is most strange that the Minister, who has taken over a new portfolio, should use the Address-in-Reply debate to make a statement on the allimportant subject of trade. The usual practice in such matters is to seek the leave of the House to make a statement. Had the Minister sought leave, it would have been granted, as is invariably the case, the debate would have been adjourned following the Minister’s statement and members of Her Majesty’s Opposition and other members of this House would have been afforded the opportunity to express their opinion of the views expounded by the Minister.
– That should have been done in this instance.
– Undoubtedly that should have been done in this instance. The question of the need to solve the problem of the balance of trade and balance our economy is of profound importance, and should not be mixed up with the ordinary Address-in-Reply debate, which covers a multitude of subjects. After having listened to the Minister, and quickly read the roneoed copy of the statement he made, T very much doubt whether I can say anything about it except that it is one of the most disgraceful statements that have ever been made to this House. It breathes criticism of countries with which we have trade relations, in particular, the United Kingdom and the United States of America. I do not object to criticism of nations with which we have important trade relations, but I suggest that the observant representatives of the press will note that this statement was made by the same Minister who, in recent weeks, has been making most extravagant statements about our trade relations with the United Kingdom. I shall quote one of them. In the Melbourne Agc of the 25th February - a very recent date - the Minister is reported to have said -
We get positively angry when Britain is willing to buy wheat, subsidised by the Argentine Government, at Id. a bushel cheaper than our price.
In addition, the Minister referred this evening to the subsidy policy of the United Kingdom Government in relation to British foodstuffs. The point is that these statements indicate to the Parliament that, the Minister is not in the least diplomatically inclined and is the last man who should deal with these most difficult problems. Let us take, for instance, the subsidy policy of the United Kingdom Government in relation to wheat. The Minister will realize, if he is honest, with himself, that the United Kingdom Government has no alternative hut to encourage, by every means possible, the production of the maximum amount of grain in the United Kingdom itself. It is alleged, particularly by the Government to which the Minister belongs, that wai1 could break out at any time. The Minister knows full well that, if war broke out to-morrow, the United Kingdom’s overseas transport services might be interrupted almost, immediately, as has happened before, and that a period of months might elapse before grain could be delivered to the United Kingdom from the outside world. In those circumstances, the United Kingdom naturally adopts a subsidy policy. During World War I., the United Kingdom was cut off from the sugar-producing countries of the world, and for five years after the war it subsidized its beet sugar industry to the tune of £24,000,000. Does the Minister think the United Kingdom Government, with which he hopes to negotiate amicably, will accept kindly his criticisms of these practices? Both he and the United Kingdom Government know full well that, in existing world circumstances, the course of action taken by the Home Government is inevitable.
If the Minister were wise, he would approach these problems in a more diplomatic frame of mind. I suspected when I heard his speech this evening, that he had been told by his Cabinet colleagues to pipe down a little. He referred to a country that was subsidizing wheat to the tune of 10s. a bushel. After he had named the United States of America as having adopted some practices detrimental to Australia’s export industries, he refused to name any country that was subsidizing wheat production to the extent of 10s. a bushel, when I asked him to do so. He had probably been told by his colleagues in the Cabinet to be a little more discreet. In bis introductory remarks he also said -
The Government has really planned for prosperity and delivered the goods.
What goods has this Government ever delivered to Australia? The main problems with which we are now confronted are the result of the Government’s inability, owing to deliberate neglect, to prevent inflation. I have in my hand a graph published in the Melbourne Herald recently. It shows that, taking the value of the £1 in 1939 at £1, its value had shrunk to 12s. lid. by the time the Chifley Government went out of office in 1949. That was a considerable decline, but it occurred over a period in which we were engaged in a war and in which 1,000,000 men were withdrawn from civil production. The period also included the post-war years from 1945 to 1949. No doubt the Minister for Trade will accept this graph, because the Melbourne Herald is friendly to him and to the Government. The graph shows that, between 194’9 and 1956 - the period for which the present Government has been in office - despite peace-time conditions, the return to industry of 1,000,000 men, and the influx of 1,000,000 immigrants, the value of the £1 has declined further until it is now only 7s. 8d. Worse still is the effect of this decline on our export problems. In 1949, as a result of the success of the Chifley Government in controlling inflation, Australia was able to produce, and was producing, wheat at 17s. Id. a bushel. To-day, after six or seven years of administration by this gang of incompetents, it costs more than 13s. a bushel to produce wheat in this country. That is why the honorable Minister for Trade is pointing the finger at the authorities in the United Kingdom, and moaning because they are subsidizing the production of wheat in their own country. Talk about a minister suitable to control the Department of Trade ! The honorable gentleman is the last person to do that.
I invite honorable members to examine the prospects from the point of view of accelerating exports from this country, and I refer to secondary industries. The Minister is No. 1 member in the Australian Country party - a party notorious for its endeavours by political action to destroy and retard Australian secondary industries by every possible means it could devise. Its members are out and out traitors. They are tory free-traders. Now an agreement has been made so that this gentleman, in order to square his past activities with his newly created portfolio, is about to condition himself to become No. 1 man in the Government and join the Liberal party.
– The honorable member should not be extravagant.
– If I am being extravagant, will the honorable member who has interjected tell the people what his Government has done to restore value to the Australian ?1, and what action it is now taking to restore the economy of Australia? That Government is noted for its inactivity, and over the last five or six years there has been a succession of elections just when it should do something to remedy the position, even though it might hurt some members of the community. The Government dodged the issue until the elections were over. The position is so serious that some one must soon be hurt, and no doubt the worker will be hurt the most.
A speech was once described as “ a necklace of negatives “. No more apt description could be applied to the speech of the Minister for Trade. The only positive contribution in it is the proposal to send trade missions overseas. When the Chifley Government was in office, and Australian goods were selling freely, trade missions were sent to India and South Africa to assist financially and otherwise in promoting markets. Trade commissioners were appointed all around the world, and most of the men who occupy the positions to-day were appointees of the Chifley Government. The honorable member for Darling Downs (Mr. Swartz) need not be so proud about what this
Government has done in that direction. The way was prepared for it, but the achievements of the Labour Government were destroyed by the inaction of this Government to prevent inflation.
I have to digress at this stage, Mr. Speaker, because I wish to move an amendment to the motion for the adoption of the Address-in-Reply, in order to. let the people of Australia know that this Government has been engaged in a conspiracy to sell the people’s assets.
– How does the honorable member know that?
– If the honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. Mackinnon) would spend some time in the Library, as I have done, he would know that for weeks past the Western Australian press has been full of comment on the Government’s proposal to sell assets of the Australian Whaling Commission, and the very dogs in the streets of Perth have been yapping abont it. That is how I have come to know about it.
I move -
That the following words be added to the Address.- - “and we desire to add that, in the opinion of this House, the Government should at once terminate all negotiations for the sale or disposal of any of the assets of the’ Australian Whaling Commission located at Carnarvon, Western Australia.”
– The Western Australian Labour Government wants to buy it.
– We have no objection to that. Australia is faced with something in the nature of a conspiracy. It is the second conspiracy since this new Parliament was elected, and it highlights the strictures of the honorable member for Farrer (Mr. Fairbairn). That honorable member has suggested that Australia is being governed too much by the executive, and that back-benchers and private members generally, to say nothing of the people, do not know what is going on. Soon after this Parliament was opened, this House witnessed the disgraceful episode of the Ministers of State Bill being introduced whilst the people knew nothing about it.
-(Hon. Archie Cameron). - Order ! The honorable member may not refer to an act of this House as a “ disgraceful episode “.
– I will withdraw that statement, and be thankful that I made it. I wish to refer to the circumstances of the conspiracy regarding the sale of one of the people’s assets. I invite honorable members to consider the secrecy surrounding the transaction. On the 16th February, I asked the Minister for Trade whether the Government was negotiating to sell this asset; if so, with whom, and had it called tenders. I asked for a comprehensive statement relating to the financial history of the station, and also for the latest balance-sheet. Briefly, the Minister for Trade answered that the station had been conducted successfully and that its activities, techniques, layouts and general practices had been good in themselves, and were regarded as valuable examples to other whaling enterprises in Australia, having inspired, to some extent, their establishment, design and lay-out. Therefore, it had served its purpose. There was 110 answer to my question whether the Government intended to sell this asset or proposed to call tenders, although the Minister knew then that the Government was already negotiating with individuals and companies for the sale.
Why did the Minister deceive this House? The truth has to come out eventually, and members of this Parliament are entitled to know what is going on. The right honorable member for Barton, the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) asked on the same day for an assurance that no sale would be made without Parliament being consulted, and the Minister said in reply that no sale could be made without preliminary negotiations. The fact is that all these things had been done in advance without the public being advised of the proposed sale of an asset bought with their money.
To-day, in reply to a question by the honorable member for Stirling (Mr. Webb) the Minister confessed that special notices had been sent to interested parties. Who are “ interested parties”? Who are the special parties that he has chosen to bc specially informed of particulars of the station so that they might inspect its books and plant? Why should they be accorded this special privilege? Why were no notices published in the press that this station was to be offered for sale? Why were no tenders called? This is a most valuable asset. It cost the taxpayers more than £1,250,000 to establish, and it carries with it the monopoly rights essential to this industry - that is the sole right to fish for whales. It is not possible to fish for them without a licence. Not more than a specified number of licences can be issued for all Australia - perhaps six or eight. If more were issued all the whales would be in danger of being caught, and none would be left for breeding. But why was a special privilege extended to these gangsters-
– Order ! The honorable member must withdraw the word “ gangsters “. He has used it before, and if he persists in the use of it I will ask him to resume his seat.
– I withdraw that word. I meant “ political gangsters “.
– Order! The honorable member must withdraw that expression also.
-I withdraw it. The history of this station is that in 1945 the Labour Government recognized the potential value of an Australian whaling industry. The industry had been exploited before the pastoral, agricultural and mining industries were developed, but it was neglected for many years. It was known that there was great whale wealth in the antarctic waters, and also near to the Australian continent. When the Labour Government decided that this should be exploited it was discovered that a number of gangster companies were being floated by people who had no other interest than to obtain a licence to fish for whales. They wanted to obtain a licence from the Government and promote a company on the value of that licence. It was found that many of the persons seeking to obtain such licences were men of straw, with no resources or financial backing. The industry had been dormant for many years, and the Government decided to appoint an inter-departmental committee and invite experts from overseas to investigate the possibilities of pelagic whaling in antarctic waters and also coastal whaling in Australian waters. Another important matter for investigation was the establishment of a whaling station on the coast of Western Australia. After very mature consideration we did two things. We decided to establish a whaling station on the coast of Western Australia and to issue a licence to Moore and Sons at Point Cloates, because that engineering company had done some restoration work at the old Norwegian station in that locality. The result is that we have in Australia to-day the most successful whaling station in the world. It extracts more barrels of oil from each whale than does any other station conducted by any of the more experienced nations. It produces more whale meal and whale solubles, which are being used almost exclusively in Australia, and particularly in Western Australia, whale meal for fertilizer for the banana industry, and whale solubles, which have a very high protein content, in the stockfood industry. Now the Minister has the effrontery to say that this instrumentality has served its purpose. Let us look at its financial history. Costing approximately £1,250,000 in five years of full operation it has repaid to the Commonwealth Government about £850,000, paid an interest bill of £127,000, and paid sales tax, primage, whaling licence fees, and everything else. Its manager has been a positive genius. A former employee of the Disposals Commission, he knew where there was located in various parts of Australia a great deal of the essential plant and equipment necessary to set up this station. He worked like a tiger, as did his fellow commissioners. We sent him to Norway and he brought 48 Norwegians to this country to start the station. Of these, to-day only two are left, and the rest of the personnel are Austraiian. The company’s financial position is splendid. It made a profit of £434 in the first year, £223,000 last year, and it is said it will make another £200,000 this year, in regard to which we expect a report shortly. It will now be sold for a mess of pottage, a handful of coin, when, considering its profit of £200,000 a year on a capital of £1,000,000, it is worth not less than £4,000,000.
The Minister, in reply to a question to-day, said that the station would carry on as hitherto, and that certain conditions would be attachable to the sale. Paney attaching any conditions to it! It has capacity to handle 1,000 whales. Somebody will buy it and another station will probably be shut down and its employees dismissed. The new owner will process 1,000 whales and get the quota of the old company, and more profits than ever will be made. One can bet his bottom dollar that the Government will be selling the station to its friends on time payment. To say that the station has served its pur: Dose is no excuse. There are many other things in this country which have served their purpose but continue to operate. The railways, the posts and telegraphs services, and other government-owned instrumentalities, workers compensation, third-party insurance, all have served their purpose of thwarting the profiteering of private enterprise, but it has not been suggested that they be discontinued because their purpose has been served. One would not mind if this proposition had been open, fair and above board. When the Minister was asked a civil and courteous question in this House/knowing full well what was going on, and confessing today that letters had been written to interested parties, he at least owed it to this Parliament to disclose frankly and honestly the situation regarding this particular station.
My final word is about the staff. These men ha.ve spent nearly six years at this station. They have a pride in it. What is to become of them in their middle age ? Are they to be left, after having made a success of this great industry, to be the playthings of some private company which may pick up this great asset? It is an outrage to leave the matter at that. These people have done a mighty good job in the circumstances, and they are entitled to be left in the industry, to carry it on and make profits for the people of this country. It will be said by some honorable members opposite that the firm does not pay income tax. It does not, hut it pays the equivalent of income tax in the profits it puts into the Commonwealth Treasury. This situation sets a pattern for what will happen to the Commonwealth line of ships. I suppose notices have been sent out to selected persons about that instrumentality. That brings me to the point that there was not one word in the Minister’s speech tonight about shipping freights being one of the factors responsible for putting our trade balance in a very serious position. I leave the matter at that.
– Is the amendment seconded ?
– I second the amendment and reserve my right to speak at a later stage.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Hamilton) adjourned.
Motion (by Mr. Harold Holt) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
Motion (by Mr. Harold Holt) put -
That the question be now put.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. Archie Cameron.)
Majority . . . . 20
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 11.2 p.m.
The followinganswers to questions were circulated: -
z asked the Minister representing the Minister for Shipping and Transport, upon notice -
– The Minister for Shipping and Transport has furnished the following answers: -
z asked the Minister in charge of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Import Licences foe Television Equipment.
e asked the Minister for Customs and Excise, upon notice - ). What is the approximate number of import licences for television requirements issued to date from sterling and dollar sources to (a) Commonwealth television authorities and (6) private enterprise television companies?
– I now furnish the following answers to the honorable member’s questions : -
r asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
b asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Post Office at Beverley Hills.
a asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
ser asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
Is it considered adequate to-day?
n. - The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 28 February 1956, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1956/19560228_reps_22_hor9/>.