22nd Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. Archie Cameron) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– As the Easter recess this year falls during the last ten days of the national service training camps, will the Minister for the Army take up with service leaders ways and means by which the trainees may be marched out of camp for the completion of their training period on a day before Easter, instead of bringing them back again after Easter for a period of five or six days ? In that way expense would be saved, whereas the trainees would gain little from the few days’ extra training.
– I have already given some consideration to this matter, and I fear that, if the change were permitted, it would lead to a good deal of confusion. Undoubtedly, a majority of the trainees would welcome an opportunity to be marched out prior to the Easter holidays but, because of the varying dates on which trainees went into camp - some of them went in on the 2nd January, and others at later dates - it would mean a loss of from five to nine days in their basic training. Moreover, the question of whether the days off would be with pay or without pay would arise. I do not think that days off with pay could be justified, because the trainees would not have to make up the time in later training. Loss of pay would be unfair to many who could not go back to their ordinary occupations until some time after the Easter holiday. Moreover, they would have to make up the time at a later date. If they had not received their full training, it would be unfair to the Citizen Military Forces units to which they will be transferred. Their instructors are already overloaded with work and it would be unfair to them if we tried to cram the remainder of the training programme into the days before Easter. In short, although I appreciate that this is a matter to which consideration should be given, I do not think that it would be right to do as the honorable member for Isaacs has suggested.
– I wish to refer the Postmaster-General to representations that have been made to his department for better postal facilities at Bankstown. Has he yet considered this matter? If he has not, will he take into account the fact that the population of Bankstown is now 116,000 and that the present post office was built in 1922, when the population was only 10,000? I ask him to expedite a decision on this matter and to ensure that a new and bigger post office, in keeping with the needs, dignity and importance of the biggest municipality in New South Wales, is built at Bankstown.
– I will give attention to the matter that has been referred to by the honorable member for Banks. I can assure him that it is already under investigation. The provision of new post office buildings will take place in accordance with the priorities drawn up after considering the numerous requests of this nature which have been received by the department.
– I ask the Minister for Health whether it is a fact that the World Health Organization recently reported that a panel of doctors from nine countries had recommended the use of Salk-type poliomyelitis vaccine in countries where that disease was a major health problem. Was one of the doctors concerned from the United Kingdom and, if so, does this now indicate the official attitude of the United Kingdom Government? Has the World Health Organization issued a public statement regarding this vaccine?
– The World Health Organization did recently hold a meeting as the honorable member has suggested. It was attended by a doctor from Britain, and the British medical authorities have since announced the production of a Salk-type vaccine for mass immunization. The World Health Organization has also issued a statement on this subject to the effect that in Canada 900,000 children have been immunized without mishap, and have enjoyed a high incidence of protection. In continental countries such as Denmark and Germany, and also in South Africa, another 800,000 have been immunized. In the United States of America 9,500,000 children were immunized without mishap, and with a high incidence of protection. Another 15,000,000 children have now been immunized in the United States, but the period that has since elapsed has been too short to permit the degree of immunity produced in the group to be assessed.
-I ask the Minister for the Army whether Australian soldiers who are serving in Japan and Korea pay no income tax, are classed as being on active service, are entitled to unconditional repatriation benefits, enjoy reestablishment and re-employment rights, and receive operational deferred pay amounting to 2s. 6d. a day. Is it a fact that Australian soldiers serving in Malaya, where last week a sergeant from East Brisbane, Queensland, was killed in action, pay income tax, are entitled to conditional repatriation benefits only, are denied re-establishment and reemployment benefits, and lose the Malaya allowance of 6s. 3d. a day when in hospital ? If those are facts, will the Minister immediately arrange for soldiers serving in Malaya to be given the same benefits as those given to soldiers serving in Japan and Korea?
– The matters raised by the honorable member are in much detail, and, whilst I know that our troops serving in Korea and Japan are subject to the conditions that he named, some of his statements about our forces in Malaya are not quite correct. “When a member is on active service, as was the serviceman who lost his life in Malaya in the unfortunate occurrence last week, or goes into service in Malaya, he is entitled to full repatriation benefits. It is only when he is in garrison that he is not entitled to the full benefits. However, I shall have prepared - because this is a wide subject - a full statement, for the benefit of the honorable member, in relation to the important matters he has raised.
– I direct to the Minister for Air a question which relates to Eagle Farm aerodrome, and refers to an incident that involved a commercial airliner carrying passengers from Sydney, which was unable to land on the strip owing to adverse weather conditions and, as a result, was required to return to the Sydney terminal. I ask the Minister whether such an incident is likely to be frequent or usual, and whether his department considers that the provision of additional navigational aids is warranted so that commercial aircraft will be enabled to land in weather conditions which are at present considered adverse enough to make necessary the return of aircraft to their starting points, or their diversion elsewhere. If such additional aids were installed, would aircraft be able to land in weather conditions now considered too adverse to permit of landing, and does his department intend to install such aids?
– .1 have no knowledge of the incident to which the honorable member has referred, but I shall make inquiries in order to ascertain the full facts of the case. I do not think that it would ever be possible to select a place where, for 24 hours of the day, for 365 days of the year, aircraft could always be landed under any weather conditions at all. The new strip at Eagle Farm will be equipped with instrument landing system and distance measuring equipment devices, and other navigational aids, but occasionally in Queensland, as occurred at Townsville yesterday, conditions occur in which no aircraft could land with any degree of safety. That was why we stopped aircraft flying in northern Queensland yesterday, before an accident happened.
– in directing a question to the Minister for Labour and National Service 1 refer to discussions he has been good enough to have with me on the employment situation and on national productivity. I ask the Minister now whether he has yet issued a statement on the employment situation. If he has, does he intend to issue a paper also on national productivity? Lastly, if those statements or papers are to be issued, may they be made available to members of this House?
– During several of its meetings, the Ministry of Labour Advisory Council, on which are represented the major employing organizations and senior members of the Australian Council of Trades Unions, has been discussing some of the problems which arise in the full employment situation, and has held discussions on th general question of productivity. A subcommittee of the council has been dealing with the productivity question and has presented a report to the most recent meeting of the council, and that report has been adopted. Yesterday, I issued a statement setting out the views of the advisory council on full employment problems. I hope to-morrow to release a statement which has been approved by the council on the question of productivity, and I hope to have in my possession by Thursday afternoon, or by Friday, printed or roneoed copies of the sub-committee’s report which was adopted by the council. They will be made available to honorable members, as will also the text of the other statement, if honorable members are interested to secure them.
– I address a question to the Minister for the Interior. At what stage are the negotiations between landholders and the Department of the Interior, regarding the acquisition of certain lands at Hexham, near Newcastle, for the purpose of establishing a civil aerodrome? Has the Commonwealth made any firm offer to the landholders for the land concerned?
– We have had considerable difficulty in getting adequate valuations made by independent valuers. Apparently the vendors of the land secured the services of four or five people to make valuations, and they could not be employed by the Commonwealth. During the last few days, we have re ceived another valuation, and in the course of the next week or ten days 1 should think that we may be in a position to make overtures.
– Has the Commonwealth yet made any firm offer?
– No firm offer has yet been made.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Immigration. Before any married man is accepted as an immigrant to Australia, are steps taken to ensure that all the members of his family, whom he may require to follow him at a later date, are also suitable immigrants?
– The answer is “ Yes “, insofar as the question relates to those immigrants who require special permission to come to Australia, or who come under some assisted passage scheme. That answer would not apply to the British immigrants who pay their own fares to Australia, and in relation to whom no special checks are made. We are now taking the precaution of examining other members of the family of those who come into the country under our assisted passage scheme, or for whom authority must be secured before they come. That was not done at an earlier stage of our programme, but it was found that sometimes a husband would establish himself here, only to find later that other members of his family could not satisfy our normal immigration requirements. The present procedure eliminates those difficulties.
– Is the Minister for Health aware that in most cases patients admitted to private hospitals are charged for the day of admission and the day of discharge, irrespective of the time spent in the hospital on each of those days? In view of this practice, will th”. Minister give consideration to amending sections 27 and 28 of the Hospital Benefits Regulations which restrict the payment of benefits to only one of the days that I have mentioned ?
– If the honorable member will let me have particulars of any special cases that he has in mind, I shall have them investigated.
– Will the Treasurer inform the House whether the last Auditor-General, prior to relinquishing office, prepared and submitted to the Treasury suggested substantial amendments of the Audit Act? If those amendments have been suggested, what action has been taken? Have they been considered by the Treasurer and officers of his department? If so, when is it proposed to take appropriate action to introduce any amendments that are acceptable? If such suggestions have been submitted, is the Treasurer prepared to make them available to the Public Accounts Committee ?
– The honorable member for Moore mentioned this matter to me some time ago and, anticipating a question in the House, I have had the matter investigated. The former Auditor-General proposed to the Treasury a large number of amendments to the Audit Act, as he recorded in his last annual report, and these are being considered. At the same time, he asked for the opinion of the Solicitor-General on certain sections of the Constitution which, he said, might require a reconstruction of the audit legislation. In December last, the Solicitor-General confirmed the interpretation currently placed on the relevant provisions of the Constitution. Consideration of the other suggestions is proceeding, but I cannot give a firm estimate of the date upon which the necessary legislation will be brought down. I have already informed the chairman of the Public Accounts Committee that Treasury officers will be ready to discuss with the committee the substance of any major alterations which may be considered desirable.
– Is the Minister for the Army aware that only a very small percentage of national servicemen join the Citizen Military Forces when their period of compulsory service is completed, some even leaving while their units are in camp, and that this is very discouraging to the officers and non-commissioned officers who conduct Citizen Military Forces units ? Does the Minister consider that this may be because of the poor facilities in some Citizen Military Forces camps which discourage men from soldiering on? Will the Minister inspect camp sites, and particularly that at Scrub Hill, Puckapunyal, with a view to improving its usefulness as a training centre in such essential things as water supply, food storage, eating and cooking facilities ?
– I have not had time yet to move around and see the conditions in each of the camps, but I will take the first opportunity to make myself acquainted personally with the conditions, and seek to determine whether some of the matters to which the honorable member has referred have the effect that he suggests. One factor that has an important bearing on the situation is the condition of full employment in industry. In my opinion, that has the greatest effect, but I shall investigate the matters raised by the honorable member, and perhaps I shall be able to reply to him in detail later.
– I preface a question to the Minister for Supply by stating that it has been made known that the development of the Mary Kathleen mining field will not be commenced until 1959. In view of the intrinsic defence value of the Mary Kathleen mining deposits, and the relief that would be afforded by them to Australia’s balance of payments, will the Minister cause inquiries to be made to determine whether commencement of production can be advanced ?
– The Government shares the views of the honorable member as to the desirability of the treatment plant being completed before 1959, if possible, but that is largely a matter for the companies concerned. It is not correct to say that the treatment plant will not be completed until after 1959. In a common statement subscribed to by the British Atomic Energy Authority and the Mary Kathleen company, as well as by this Government, it was made clear that the treatment plant would commence early in 1959, or before that if possible. The advantages of an earlier commencement are so obvious that the honorable gentleman can be sure that the company will commence earlier if it can, and this Government and also, I am sure, the Queensland Government, will do everything in their power to make that possible.
– The question that I direct to the Prime Minister relates to the proposed all-party constitutional committee, which he mentioned in the last Parliament, and has again referred to in this Parliament. The matter was referred to in the Governor-General’s Speech as to one aspect, that is, the relationship between the two Houses of the Parliament. Will the right honorable gentleman inform the House whether he contemplates that the proposed committee shall investigate matters in addition to those that he mentioned earlier; and secondly, whether he has decided upon his suggestions? If so, will he forward them to the Opposition?
– The answer to the first question is “ Yes “.
– The committee’s activities will extend beyond that matter?
– Yes. As to the precise constitution of the committee and what it should do, I should be very glad to have a talk with the right honorable gentleman himself, because I want the committee to have a thoroughly all-party character. I have not been able to direct my mind ‘to that matter during the last few days, and until I have prepared the statement that I intend to make next week, I am afraid that I shall not be able to. But immediately thereafter I will take advantage of his offer and have a talk with him about it.
– Is the Minister for Civil Aviation aware that commercial air freights have been increased substantially, in some instances by as much as 50 per cent. ? Will he inform the House whether ministerial approval for the increases was given to the operating companies ?
– I do not know to which freights the honorable member refers. If he will let me know precisely what they are, and on what services they are being charged, I will make a check to see whether they are appropriate.
– Has the Minister for Labour and National Service noticed that the impact of automation is causing concern to the representatives of employers and employees in both the United States of America and the United Kingdom because it is realized that this second industrial revolution will cause displacement of labour and consequent loss of purchasing power? In these circumstances, will the Minister arrange for the Ministry of Labour Advisory Council to consider the methods that should be applied in order to cushion the shock of automation in Australia?
– There have been very interesting developments industrially as a result of the introduction of some degree of automation - as the honorable member puts it - in the United States of America and the United Kingdom, and that process has a tendency to spread to other industrialized countries. I am not aware that there is so much concern among the employers and representatives of the employees as there is an awareness of the possibilities for better living standards which arise from an extension of this process; that is, assuming that the governments of the countries mentioned continue to apply policies designed to maintain a high and stable level of employment. In America, for example, although automation has been proceeding quite rapidly, my information is that the level of employment in that country is probably at the highest point in its history. Of course, in the United Kingdom, subject to some very recent modification, there has been virtually full employment for a considerable time. In a country such as Australia, where so much remains to be done, and where national development calls for the best use we can make of our limited resources of man-power and capital equipment, I am quite sure that automation will come, and that when it does, it will be a blessing to this country. I myself have seen some manifestation of it in the works of the General Motors-Holden’s organization in South Australia, and far from there being unemployment, the situation there, as the honorable member probably knows, is one of economic buoyancy; the company concerned is enjoying very considerable prosperity. On the honorable member’s final point, I do not think we have advanced in Australia to a stage at which the matter is of real consequence to us. But I assure the honorable gentleman that, if the matter does become of topical importance here, it will be considered by the body to which he referred.
– Will the PostmasterGeneral, because of the special circumstances in the Australian Capital Territory in relation to the developmental work being undertaken and the outward extension of residential suburbs, consider relaxing, within the Territory, the present departmental restriction on overtime, so that employees of the department may offer for overtime work in an endeavour to reduce the waiting time for the installation of private and business telephones? If the Minister is not able to do that, will he consider increasing the labour force available for this work, as the waiting time is constantly extending ?
– I have already given some attention to the matter, which will be determined largely by discussions at present taking place concerning the national economy and its effect on the department. Until those discussions are completed, I cannot undertake to give effect to the honorable member’s suggestion.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Social Services. By way of explanation, I should like to point out that all Commonwealth social services benefits, except the age pension, are payable to any person who is a naturalized British subject and who has resided in Australia for five years or, in some instances, who intends to become a permanent resident even though he is not a naturalized British subject, whereas a claimant for the age pension must have resided in Australia for at least twenty years. Will the Minister inquire into the possibility of reducing this Ions: qualifying period so as to bring the age pension into line with the other benefits?
– The Minister for Social Services, on a question of policy.
– I do not know whether the honorable member for Yarra was giving information or asking a. question. In general terms, social services pensions are exclusive to British subjects, and social services benefits are not. The question raised by the honorable member is essentially a matter of policy, and at the appropriate time, it will receive the consideration that is its due.
– I address a question to the Treasurer. What steps, if any, does the right honorable gentleman propose to take to protect applicants for wai1 service homes who obtain temporary finance pending the expiration of the waiting period of eighteen months or two years, and to ensure that the interest exacted from them by private lenders will not in future be excessive, as it is at the present time?
– I have already answered a similar question.
– I direct a question to the Prime Minister. As the right honorable gentleman has stated that the Government has no power to impose a ceiling on interest rates on hire-purchase transactions, will he call a meeting of the State Premiers at once, and request them to have the State governments take immediately the action necessary to correct this iniquitous position?
– This and other aspects of the problem are being very carefully considered at the present time.
– I again bring to the attention of the Minister for Customs and Excise my representations regarding the import restriction policy of this Government and the fact that at least one industry in my electorate, namely a clothing factory at Lithgow, will close unless he reverses the departmental policy. I ask the Minister whether he will give immediate sympathetic consideration to my representations, in view of the fact that at least one factory will close within a week, causing much unemployment and hardship in the Lithgow district and, at the same time, striking a blow at the decentralization of industry.
– The honorable member’s question obviously raises a matter of policy which I cannot deal with in detail at question time. I am aware of the representations he has made, and I am giving serious and sympathetic consideration to the problems of the particular industry he has mentioned, but 1 would remind the honorable member that at a time when it is necessary to reduce the overall imports into this country, it is not possible to do so by extending import quotas.
– I direct a question to the Prime Minister. As considerable time has elapsed since the passage of legislation to make the Blue Ensign the Australian National Flag, will he explain why no regulations have yet been issued concerning the flying of the flag in an appropriate and dignified manner at all times, and protecting it from defacement by advertisers and from any other form of insult? If the regulations have not yet been prepared, will he ask his departmental advisers to adapt, as far as possible, the regulations in force in the United States of America for the protection of the American flag, with a view to their application by regulation in part or in whole by his Government? In the meantime, will he make an appeal to advertisers to discontinue the insults that they render the flag by defacing it, particularly when such actions occur as they did recently at the motor show at the Melbourne exhibition, and in newspaper advertisements authorized by Qantas Empire Airways Limited ? “Will the right honorable gentleman take action also in an endeavour to curb certain other malpractices associated with the flag, as perpetrated by the Victorian Chamber of Manufactures ? ifr. MENZIES.- I had thought from, I admit, a somewhat distant recollection, that the act itself dealt with the problem of defacing of the flag, but if regulations are needed and have not been made, I shall pay prompt attention to the matter.
– I direct to the Minister for Labour and National Service a question which follows closely upon one asked earlier to-day. Can he indicate the basis of the Commonwealth Labour Advisory Council’s report released by him last night, condemning certain practices said to be reducing the effective working time of the standard 40-hour week? “Was the report based upon comment by the Australian Council of Trades Unions, or upon comment by employer organizations, and can the right honorable gentleman say whether the three grounds particularly enumerated, namely late starting, early finishing, and progressive extension of crib time and smoko, related to award provisions or lack of supervision on the part of management? Finally, is there any reason why such reports, together with all the available information attached thereto, should not be released to honorable members of this House simultaneously with their release, as occurred last evening, to the public?
– Dealing with the last part of the question first, I do not know that the House will particularly welcome my advising it every time [ propose to release a statement on some matter which is regarded as of public interest. I can assure the honorable gentleman that there would be very many occasions in the course of the parliamentary month when statements of the kind are issued. I do not wish to take up the tin:-) of the Parliament unnecessarily, but I shall do my best to ensure that honorable members have as much information as I can give them on the work of the two departments which I administer. Dealing with the particular points raised by the honorable gentleman, the statement itself stressed that the special responsibility for dealing with some of these problems and, indeed, evils, which arise in a full-employment situation was in the hands of management, and that, in relation to the matters mentioned by him - ineffective working of the full week, extension of crib times, extended smokos late starting, and that kind of thing - it was not so much as a result of some special award provision that complaint was made, as of the fact that management itself either was not exercising the necessary supervision, or was not taking action to enforce discipline. The answer of management to that probably would be that, in a situation in which labour is in short supply, attempts on its part to enforce discipline might lead, as they have led in so many cases, to stoppages of work and loss of some of the work force in the establishment concerned. I think there was a general agreement among members of the council, irrespective of their affiliations industrially, that these were evils working against the interests of the community as a whole. For their part, I think that the trade union representatives wanted management to feel that if management exercised a proper and reasonable discipline, then it would not be prejudiced from that action by anything the representatives of the trade union movement might do in relation to it.
– Can the Minister for Social Services say whether it is the policy of the Government to discourage Australian pensioners from travelling abroad to places such as America by cancelling their pensions while they are living outside Australia? If that is the policy of the Government, does the Minister know that, in many instances, pensioners are able to make trips only with the financial assistance of American exservicemen who have married Australian girls? Will the Minister explain how pensioners visiting such countries aTe expected to live, when they have no form of income? Does the Government expect Americans to keep Australian citizens in such circumstances? Will the honorable gentleman examine the possibility of amending the relevant legislation in order to provide for pension payments to continue in all cases in which pensioners, prior to leaving Australia, indicate the approximate date on which they will be returning to this country?
– The Minister for Social Services, on a matter of policy.
– The honorable member for Shortland raised this question with me some few weeks ago, and it was then explained to him that, whereas there was an arrangement for reciprocity as between the United Kingdom and this country, and. the Dominion of New Zealand and this country, there was no such arrangement with the United States of America and that, for that reason, his request could not be acceded to. The remainder of the honorable gentleman’s question concerns matters of policy which will be determined at the appropriate time.
– I ask the Treasurer whether, in view of the heavy losses which have been suffered by many taxpayers in the recent floods, particularly of household fittings and equipment which are not income-producing, he will permit such taxpayers to deduct from their income for this financial year the amount of money required to replace their losses. I point out to the right honorable gentleman that it is not possible to insure against flood damage and, further, that the Commonwealth might well recover as much in sales tax on goods bought to replace those damaged by the floods, and in payroll tax from the manufacturers of such goods, as it would forgo in income tax from the flood victims.
– There is no novelty in the suggestion of the honorable member. This matter has come before successive governments over many years, including governments of the party with which he is affiliated.
– I direct my question to the Prime Minister. Is the right honorable gentleman aware of the fact that six members of the Liberal party, six members of the Australian Country party, and ten members of the Australian Labour party are obliged to do all of their work in their respective party rooms because there is no separate accommodation available for their use? Does he know, also, that many of the honorable members who have office accommodation outside party rooms are crowded three to each small room, whilst most ministerial secretaries and typists are provided with rooms to themselves ? Does he know that certain members on the Government side of the House recently were forced to take basement accommodation, because the accommodation previously occupied by them had been handed over to ministerial staff? Does he know that the secretary of the Opposition, and his secretary, have been forced to work in one tiny basement room instead of being given accommodation on the main floor level? Does he agree that members of Parliament have stronger rights to Parliament House accommodation than have the members of ministerial staffs? Fs it a fact that in the days of the BrucePage Government and of the Scullin Government, only the Prime Minister had his office and staff situated in Parliament House ? Finally, will the Prime Minister state what he intends to do about the suggestion that was put forward by the Leader of the Opposition that an all-party committee or body of inspection should be appointed at an early date to inspect the whole of the accommodation at Parliament House in order to ascertain at firsthand the amount of accommodation that is being monopolized by Ministers and their staffs, and the conditions under which members of Parliament have to do their work, with a view to taking steps to find accommodation for ministerial staffs other than that which they are now monopolizing in this building?
– It requires a singular feat of memory to remember all the bits in that question, but no doubt it will be in Hansard, and I can have a look at it. I quite agree that the problem of accommodation in this building is very serious, but when I look back to the time when I first came to this place 22 years ago, I recall that private members, badly off as they may be to-day, were much worse off then, because I do not recall that there wa3 any private room for any private member at all.
– And they were a much happier lot.
– Well, that goes for the other side. I think that the proposition that Ministers ought not to have accommodation as such in this building goes much too far. I have never been able to understand why it was that back in the 1920’s, a Minister could occupy an office in one of the secretariat buildings and be present for divisions at two minutes* notice, because, speedy as some political people I have known have been, I do not think any of them were in the fourminutemile class. Consequently, it is essential, when the House is sitting, that every Minister should have room here. Very well! The honorable member for Hindmarsh will see at once that if a Minister is to be in this building during the sittings of the House, he cannot be just twiddling his thumbs. He has a lot of work to do, and he had better get on and do it. Therefore, some minimum staff ought to be accommodated in this building, for each Minister. I am not suggesting that there ought to be a great staff. I have heard stories about one typist occupying one room. All I can say, so far as my staff is concerned, is that there are about four to a room.
– Why not build the new Parliament House ?
– Whoever made that interjection provides the ultimate and dazzling answer. We will go on patching away at this building, I believe alleged to be a temporary one, trying to cope with these problems, which are very real problems. I am all for people having suitable accommodation for the work they have to do, and that includes Ministers as well as private members. They all ought to have the necessary accommodation for doing their work; but, really, I do not think we shall get the perfect answer to this matter until there is a new Parliament House. It would take a much bolder man than T profess to be to prophesy when that lovely dawn will be seen.
– I direct a question to the Minister for the Army following upon a question asked earlier this afternoon in relation to national service trainees who will be completing their training a few days after the Easter vacation. The Minister’s reply was not very favorable to the suggestion that provision might be made for these trainees to terminate their training prior to the Easter vacation. I think it would be in the interests of the country, in the interests of the Department of the Army and the interests of the national service trainees if it were possible between now and the vacation, which is some twenty days ahead, for the training to be completed; that is to say, I was wondering whether it would be possible for the trainees, during the next twenty days, to complete the four or five days’ training they would have to do after the vacation. The Minister knows that once a camp breaks up for a vacation, almost two days’ training is lost before the men start their training again. This means that after Easter the trainees would lose the value of two days’ training out of the four remaining days. Reference has been made to the payment of the trainees. If the training was speeded up during the next twenty days so as to include the extra four days’ training, the trainees could be paid for the full 90 days’ training. I am certain that if this could be done the department would be satisfied, the servicemen would be satisfied and there would be some saving to the country. Furthermore, the training would not be restricted in any way.
– Whilst I appreciate, as I have said before, that many people would be very happy about the suggestion, at the same time a tremendous extra load would be put upon the instructors if they were asked now to speed up matters so as to complete the 98 days’ training between now and the vacation. It was attempted last year, but then it was a question not of five to nine days, but of only one or two days. We are still experiencing the repercussions of that attempt. There are always some men who cannot afford to have leave without pay. I have had a very good look at this question. I would have been very happy to accede to the request, but I think it would be unfair, as I have said before, to both the service trainees and the organization. Further, the trainees would not receive enough training to enable them t<> take their proper places with other fully trained trainees in Citizen Military Forces units.
Address-in -Reply .
Debate resumed from the 6th March (vide page 542), on motion by Mr. Chaney -
That the following Address-in-Reply to the Speech of His Excellency the Governor-General be agreed to: -
May it please Your Excellency:
We, the House 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.
Upon which Mr. Pollard had moved, by way of amendment -
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 debate on the Address-in-Reply to the Speech delivered by His Excellency the Governor-General a. few weeks ago affords me the opportunity of dealing with an answer given a few moments ago by the Minister for the Army (Mr. Cramer) to a question relating to national service training camps. I think his answer was most unsatisfactory. I propose to show clearly why the suggestion should be adopted, and how it could be put into effect. Before doing so, I want to make perfectly clear my own views on national service training so that there will be no misrepresentation or misunderstanding about national service training as a whole. I believe that national service training has been of immense value to Australia and to Australians, particularly those who have been national service trainees under this scheme. I believe that the money it has cost has been well spent during the period of its operation. As honorable members will remember, the scheme was introduced by this Government, and has been carried on by the services departments without a great deal of fuss and bother, but certainly with a great deal of success. The youths who have passed through these camps have gained a better appreciation of their responsibilities and the need for good citizenship than they had before entering. The Commonwealth has played an important part in overcoming juvenile delinquency by the discipline and training which these young men Iia ve received under the national service training scheme. Although the incidence of juvenile delinquency is high, it would be higher still but for the training which these young men receive. National service training is of tremendous importance not only in the basic defence of Australia, but also in teaching discipline to thousands of youths. It is a cardinal principle that before any trainee can l>e expected to know anything about the fundamentals of technical defence he must know something about personal self-control, and that is exactly the knowledge they gain during their military training. Although the scheme involves considerable expense, both directly and indirectly, we should not hesitate to incur it. The indirect costs are out of proportion to the benefits received, because under this scheme a large, working force is drawn away from industry, and consequently the economy of the country suffers. Nevertheless, every opportunity should be taken to improve national service training whilst at the same time practising all possible economy.
My question to the Minister for the Army (Mr. Cramer) suggested that because the Easter period came within a few days of the end of the training period, it might be advisable to reckon the training of these troops now in camp completed on the day before Good Friday instead of bringing them back for a few days after the holiday break. The Minister’s answer was completely unsatisfactory, and although he has given me some notes on his reply the more one examines them the more one is convinced that he has either been given wrong information or has not a complete appreciation of what is involved. Any one with experience of army life knows that a considerable amount of expense is involved in railway transport and other necessary arrangements to take men away from the camp. If they are brought back again for only a few days after the Easter break, little will be accomplished and wasteful and unnecessary expense will be involved. Obviously, responsible officers at Army head-quarters made a mistake in drawing up arrangements for this period of national service training by failing to take into consideration the fact that the Easter recess fell so close to the end of it. No one is impressed by the Minister’s suggestion that the trainees would suffer because of the loss of a few days’ training. From time to time, when emergencies have arisen during these training periods, troops have been taken from the camps to other parts of the State to help. I am certain that ways and means could be found in the present situation to avoid unnecessary expense.
Employers, generally, are most cooperative in these defence training projects, but it must be remembered that many factories will commence new timetables and work schedules after Easter, and it is important that employees, who have been absent at national service training camps, should be able to resume their duties immediately after the holidays. A considerable improvement of industrial relations would result from that arrangement alone. Two questions have to be considered: the cost involved in returning trainees to camp after Easter, and the advantages to industry by terminating the camp before Easter and allowing the trainees to resume their normal occupations immediately after the holidays. The Minister made no reference to the fact that these trainees will go into camp next January for a further period of training, and surely the few days that they might miss at the end of the current period could be added to next year’s term. Honorable members know that university students are marched out of camp in time to enable them to comply with the university calendar. T urge the Minister to give further consideration to the present unsatisfactory proposal, and to take advantage of the suggestions that I have made in the interests of both national economy and industry.
The Address-in-Reply debate has been unique because of the number of maiden speeches that have been delivered. They will be remembered for their quality and sincerity. The only other similar occasion was in 1950 after many new members had been elected to this House. It has been interesting to observe that many of those who spoke on that occasion have, during this debate, criticized the Executive for whittling away the rights and privileges of private members. One example has been in regard to the accommodation for members in Parliament House. If Parliament is to function as intended, a close watch must be kept on the rights of members, otherwise the character of this institution will soon be changed. Like the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron) I am concerned with the fact that ministerial staffs have invaded private members’ quarters and taken possession of rooms which were previously assigned solely to private members. With all respect to what the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) has said on this subject, the situation at Canberra has no equal in any other parliament in Australia or at Westminster, or anywhere in the British Commonwealth of Nations. Every honorable member is forced to share a room with somebody else. Canberra is becoming an increasingly important centre for business conferences. Business people are eager to discuss matters of great public importance with private members, but members have no room to which they can take them. As you, Mr. Speaker, know very well, a private member is in the unfortunate position of having to ask his colleagues to leave the room so that he may talk with his constituents, or, alternatively, he must talk to them in the King’s Hall. I believe that the only way to force action to be taken is for private members constantly to agitate for a reduction of the size of ministerial suites so that they may once again enjoy some of the privileges that were enjoyed years ,ago.
Another rather interesting point about the debate on the motion for the adoption of the Address-in-Reply is the amendment that has been moved by the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard). In 1948, the Chifley ‘Government very wisely decided to set up the Australian Whaling Commission to show that fishing for whales in Australian waters could become a profitable industry. The establishment of a whaling station by the commission proved to be a very great inducement to private enterprise to enter the industry. Whaling has been very profitable, not only to the governmentowned station, but also to private enterprise. The private whaling stations have demonstrated that in this industry a good job can be done by private enterprise much more economically than the Government has been able to do it. For that reason, I believe that the time has come when the commission’s assets should be sold and the Government should withdraw from whaling activities. The commission has served its purpose. When the undertaking is sold, I think that the money should be used to encourage the establishment of another new industry. From time to time, I have heard the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. H. V. Johnson) refer to the resources of the Kimberley area of Western Australia and to the fact that for ten or fifteen years he has been fighting for financial assistance to open up new industries in that area. If that is so - and I believe it is - he should not be supporting the amendment, because he must recognize that the sale of the whaling station at Carnarvon would help to provide money for the establishment of other industries.
The attitude of the Opposition is that, because this is a profitable undertaking, it should be retained. That is the socialistic approach. Honorable members opposite believe that, even though the undertaking does not pay income tax, it should remain under government ownership. I do not subscribe to that view. Thi3 undertaking has earned profits, but that does not represent an achievement. After all, any one of us could make a profit out of industry if we were not obliged to pay income tax. The private enterprise whaling station at Point Cloates, which is adjacent to the Whaling Commission’s station at Carnarvon, is making a very handsome profit on less capital after paying a considerable amount of income tax to the Government. In 1954, the government-owned station at Carnarvon, on a capital outlay of approximately £1,300,000, earned, relatively, a very much lower profit than did the Nor’- West Whaling Company’s station at Point Cloates, which employed a capital outlay of approximately £250,000 and which was allotted the same quota of whales. Those facts demonstrate that the station at Babbage Island is one which might well be disposed of and that the money received should be used for the development of another new industry in the same way as was the whaling industry in 1948. I sincerely hope, and I believe, that the amendment will not be agreed to, and that the Government will carry out its original intention, sell the station, and make the money available for the development of new industries.
.- The subjects that have been discussed during this debate have been many and varied. They have ranged from child delinquency to housing, municipal affairs, the sale of the whaling station at Carnarvon, the economic situation, and international affairs. I do not intend to deal with any of those matters other than to pass a few remarks about foreign affairs. Many speakers on both sides of the House have dealt with aspects of this subject. Some supporters of the Government have made speeches that would have been more appropriately made by a field marshal, standing stiffly to attention, with his swagger cane held under his arm. Those speeches have reeked of war. Honorable members opposite have interpreted the Government’s foreign policy in the same manner as would many other countries. I do not imagine for one minute that those honorable members want to cause a war any more than does Russia or its satellites. The Government has said, in effect, “ We are willing to allow you to live your own lives and to govern your country in the way you wish. We offer you the hand of friendship “. But the hand that the Government offers is the mailed fist of military might and atomic weapons.
The Government has rushed to participate in the Seato pact and the Anzus pact, it has sent troops to Malaya, and in other ways it has bred mistrust. I feel certain that the Government would like to reach an agreement for peaceful co-existence, but its actions have had the opposite effect. When the time comes to take a firm stand and to place Australia’s views before the representatives of our northern neighbours or the United Nations organization, Australia’s voice is not heard. Honorable members on this side of the House go to the opposite extreme. We criticize the sending of troops to Malaya, the Anzus pact and the Seato agreement ; we support the so-called nationalist movements in various countries; and we desire to recognize red China. We do all those things without giving due thought to the effect that they may have on the future of this great south land of ours. We desire to attain the same goal as does the Government - peaceful co-existence - but the policy of the Australian Labour party will fail, as assuredly as will that of the Government, unless we are willing to show a firm determination to fight for our rights. If Australia is to have a successful foreign policy, it must adopt a policy that lies somewhere between the two policies to which I have referred. We must develop a policy that not only will give the necessary rights to other countries, but which also will always demonstrate a sound and determined Australianism. I do not wish to dwell on this subject any longer, because the subjects that I wish to discuss are of far more interest to the man in the street.
While we are devoting so much time to foreign policy and to the economic situation, we are neglecting to safeguard and to foster the most important aspect of our way of life - the welfare of our families. In these days of high prices, high cost of living, restricted credits and other costly items that families cannot afford, this Government, since 1950, has failed in its duty towards the families of Australia. A happy, contented, healthy family is the foundation of a happy, contented community; but this
Government, since 1950, has neglected to do anything at all about child endowment. In 1941, when child endowment was first introduced in this House by the then United Australia party Government, it was said that the need to do so had become of national importance. Its introduction was supported by many speakers from both sides of the Parliament. In 1948, the endowment was increased from 7s. 6d. to 10s. by the Chifley Government. In 1950, the present Government introduced endowment for the first child, and fixed the rate at 5s. a week. So, in 1950, parents were receiving 5s. for the first child and 10s. for each subsequent child.
In 1950, the basic wage was £5 16s. In 1956, child endowment is still payable at the rate of 5s. for the first child and 10s. for the second child, but the basic wage, unpegged, would to-day be £12 Ss. There has been an enormous increase in the basic wage and in the cost of commodities but there has been no increase at all in any payments which might go towards helping parents who are trying to rear, educate, clothe and feed their children. No consideration at all has boon given to these people.
– How about the tax concessions that the Government has introduced?
– Admittedly, there have been some tax concessions, but the wage structure in Australia does not take into consideration the needs concept. Chief Judge Beeby, in 1941, said that the basic wage was not intended to take into account the needs of a family. In 1945 and in 1950, the same thing was said; and in October, 1953, the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration, in a judgment, said that the basic wage was based on the highest amount that industry can pay. It also went on to say that as a result of the 1946 interim addition to the basic wage and a decision of 1950, the needs concept had no part in the current assessment of the basic wage. The court seemed to envisage that the time would arrive when the basic wan should be fixed on a true needs basis. It stated -
The question of whether such a method is correct in principle and all questions ns to the size of the family to be selected remain open.
The Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Harold Holt) admitted in this Parliament on the 27th March, 1941, that the then present basic wage was adequate for a family unit of three but offered only meagre existence for a family unit of four; and that when the family unit exceeded four, hardship was experienced. Tax concessions might have relieved that hardship, but they have not gone nearly far enough to give assistance to the young couples who are trying to rear a family in these days. I number among my friends many couples who have two, three, four and five children. In order to increase the family income to provide for those children the man of the house has to work overtime two nights a week, and, quite often, do another job on Saturday and Sunday. The Government, if it is sincere in the belief that child endowment is an investment, as was said not so many years ago by the Minister for Labour and National Service, must surely appreciate the need now to do something for parents who are trying to rear children on an average wage of £16 a week. That wage may be adequate for a family of two, or even a family unit of three in instances in which arrangements can be made with some one to look after the children while the mother as well as the father goes to work. Young couples who found a family soon after marriage, and add to it as the years go by, find that they are not in a position to put anything aside from wages for the purchase of a home or any of the modern conveniences that are so necessary to gracious living to-day.
It is useless to hark back to the dark days and say that our parents did will a lot of things in their generation which we enjoy to-day. Australia is a yonation. We are proud of the development that has taken place, but we do not want to remain static. While we talk about, helping the Indonesians and other underdeveloped nations, our first concern should be the parents of this country and their children, and through them, future generations in this great south land. Until such time as the Government realizes its responsibility towards the parents of Australia, it will fail miserably in its duty. Tn 1941, the late John Curtin declared -
Every contribution we can make to the improvement of the health and welfare of the children now growing up is a definite contribution to the stability of the national structure in the years to come.
The same thing applies to-day but even more so than it did in 1941. If credit restrictions, hire purchase, finance, and other economic details are considered to be imperative in order to ensure national prosperity, the people who will suffer most as a result of that approach will be those who are trying to rear families. I make an earnest appeal to the Government to do something for the families before it introduces restrictions of the kind I have mentioned. Endowment should be increased in respect of not only the first child hut also all subsequent children.
Another matter to which I wish to refer is federal aid for education. The Australian Government controls the purse strings of the country. Although I direct my argument mainly in respect of New South Wales, what I say will apply equally to the other States. In New South Wales by 1960, school enrolments will have increased by 77 per cent, over the 1946 figure of 339,400. In 1955, there were 500,000 pupils in schools in that State, and by 1960 the figure will have reached 600,000. The lack of school facilities in New South Wales has been caused by the depression, two world wars and by the neglect of State and Federal governments. The State Government is unable to make the adequate money available for education, but the Australian Government, which, as I said, controls the purse strings of the nation, has during the last four years had surpluses totalling over £238,000,000. In 1954-55 its surplus was £70,151,000. If we believe in Australia and want to educate our children adequately, surely it is up to honorable members to urge the Australian Government to give extra assistance to the States.
Secondary education in New South Wales is in grave danger. Enrolments in secondary schools to-day number 104,000, but in five years’ time that figure will have increased by at least 46,000. If needs are to be met on the basis of 600 children to each school, 77 new schools will have to be provided. On present pupil-teacher ratios, 2,300 four-year trained teachers will be required. The influx is at present about 100 a year. That means that between £10,000,000 and £15,000,000 of loan money is required. The States cannot provide it. The Commonwealth can and should do so. In New South Wales, in the last year, £34,000,000 was spent on education. That grant was made up to the extent of 55 per cent., by tax reimbursements to the State of New South Wales; and 11.8 per cent, of the amount represented loan moneys available in New South Wales. The State Government is unable to make the sacrifice and find the necessary money to increase its allocation to the schools of New South Wales.
Perhaps the objection will be raised that the Constitution prevents the Commonwealth from taking any action in the matter of education. But let me quote an extract from a speech made by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) on the 3rd August, 1945. At that time, of course, he was in the Opposition and when one is in the Opposition, one looks at things from a different aspect. But the Prime Minister said at that time -
NOW I turn to the position of the Commonwealth with regard to education. There is an agitation in some quarters for the transfer to the Commonwealth of the constitutional power to make laws with respect to education. 1 do not propose to discuss that, because, in my view, the problem is urgent, and it should not be considered upon the basis of some more or less remote constitutional possibility. After nil, education was not included among the subjects referred to the people at the recent referendum, and therefore, the constitutional aspect does not at present arise. There is, however, no legal reason why the Commonwealth should not come to the rescue of the States on the matters that I am discussing. Either by appropriations under Section 81 of the Constitution, as to which I agree that there is some constitutional doubt, or by conditioned “rants to the States under Section 96, as to which there is no constitutional doubt, the Commonwealth could make available substantial olims in aid of educational reform and development.
The Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) has also stated that there is no constitutional barrier to prevent the
Commonwealth from coming to the aid of the .States in the matter of education. If we want Australia to become a great nation, we must devote more finance to education. The States cannot provide it. The Commonwealth can, and it is the bounden duty of the Commonwealth to see that the State governments are given greater amounts of money to spend on education. I have extracts here from speeches by State Ministers for Education. Speaking on the position in Victoria, Professor Brown said -
This is a social crisis of the first magnitude.
In Western Australia, the Minister for Education said -
On present indications it would appear that, with the exception of the completion of a few unfinished building contracts and the erection during the coming twelve months of prefabricated buildings, there could be no building programme for improving school accommodation, or for providing staff quarters.
While I am on the matter of education, may I say also that the payment of salaries to teachers is far from adequate? Teaching has been described as the art of arts and the science of sciences. If we want young people to come into the teaching profession, we must give them conditions that will attract them. At the moment, they are fighting all the time to obtain increased salaries; they are fighting to obtain better amenities in the schools ; they are fighting to obtain better accommodation for teachers at country schools.
The class position in New South Wales is a big problem to the teachers. The number of pupils now attending some of the classes is much larger than can be adequately catered for by any teacher. Professor McRae, of Sydney University, and Dr. I. Turner, now principal of Sydney Teachers College, stated, in a programme broadcast by the Australian Broadcasting Commission in 194’3, “ If a teacher’s class numbers more than 30 the teacher simply cannot give education a.« it is now conceived “. In New South Wales a survey was made of 505 classes classified by the department as secondary schools. This revealed a very unsatisfactory state of affairs and showed a rapid deterioration since i!)54. The following figures indicate the number of pupils in New South Wales school classes in 1954 and 1955 : -
These are the problems that confront the State governments of this Commonwealth. They are unable to face up to the problems because of the fact that inadequate finance is made available; that tax reimbursements are not sufficient to meet needs; and that the money made available from the loan council is not sufficient to meet the needs of the Departments of Education, electricity commissions and other departments and utilities. Until such time as the Commonwealth does something to alleviate the position, and until it says to the State governments, “ Education is a federal matter and the States deserve large-scale federal financial assistance “, we cannot expect to give to our children the education that we would like to see them have. With a deep regard for the future of the children of Australia, I earnestly request the Government to consider the two matters that I have raised’ - child endowment and education.
Mr. CLEAVER (Swan) [4.3 J. -I rise to speak in opposition to the amendment, which has been moved to the motion for the adoption of the Address-in-Reply. I want to suggest, at the outset, that we have been subjected to some muddled thinking and to most irrational statements regarding the proposed disposal of the assets of the Australian Whaling Commission at Carnarvon. The evidence of the muddled thinking and the irrational statements to which I refer have been heard in this House, and read in the press of Western Australia, and have also come from the Labour Premier of Western Australia. Believing that there are some very clear facts that should be stressed and that the soundness of the Government’s plan for the disposal of the assets of the Australian Whaling
Commission should be supported with enthusiasm, I am keen to make this contribution as one of the Western Australian members of the House.
The honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Cairns), speaking to the proposed amendment the other evening, accused the Government of adopting a doctrinaire attitude in this respect. We who support the Government claim that there is no evidence of any doctrinaire attitude, and Ave bring facts and figures to support the announced policy of the Government. The honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. H. V. Johnson), only a few days ago, became quite prophetic when he went so far as to name the company that would purchase the assets of the Australian Whaling Commission. I want to answer some of his points in detail a little later. The honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Whitlam), only last evening, occupied considerable time in commending the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) for bringing this proposed sale - as he claimed - to the light of day. I was concerned when the honorable member for Werriwa went further and misquoted - I trust not wilfully - figures regarding the return of capital advances to the Government from the Australian Whaling Commission.
I feel that it will be helpful if we. consider briefly the early history of both the Nor’- West Whaling Company Limited and the Australian Whaling Commission. The Nor’-West Whaling Company Limited has operated from Point Cloates since 1949. Its operations, therefore, commenced just before the Australian Whaling Commission commenced operations at Carnarvon, because the Australian Government began to investigate the possibilities of whaling in 1948, and equipment was installed at Carnarvon in J 950. A trial run with a few whale.0 was made in 1950, but full operation for a season was not possible until 1953. The operations of the Australian Whaling Commission were financed with a Treasury advance of £750,000, but a further advance, for operation purposes, of £625,000 was made available when whaling operations began on a commercial scale. Therefore, the total capital advance by the Commonwealth for this project at Carnarvon has been £1,375,000.
I now direct attention to the purpose for which this project was commenced. The purpose, as announced, was to demonstrate the opportunities in Western Australia for a modern, adequately capitalized, well-equipped whaling enterprise. Because of that defined purpose, and because at that time in Western Australia there was no successful exploitation of the whaling industry by private enterprise, members of this Government, who were then sitting in opposition, supported the project. There was no strong opposition raised, because here was an industry that needed Commonwealth guidance. It needed to be established, for there was no evidence of successful exploitation at that stage by private enterprise. We are glad, on this side of the House, to join with others in commending the good results obtained by, and the able administration of, the Australian Whaling Commission. We have always believed that when a task has been well and conscientiously done our congratulations should be extended to those responsible.
I should like to deal with what we might term the plan for the disposal of the assets of the Australian Whaling Commission. In September-October, 1952, a discussion took place between the then Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. McEwen) of this Government and the Minister for Fisheries of the Western Australian Government. The proposals outlined at that discussion were fully considered by the Western Australian Government, and that Government subsequently informed the Australian Government that it was not interested in the purchase of the assets of the Australian Whaling Commission, and, furthermore, because of its natural interest in the activities of the people of Western Australia, it strongly recommended that the whaling establishment should he disposed of to some private enterprise company situated in, or to operate only in, Western Australia. The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, upon receipt of that advice from Western Australia, issued a press statement to that effect on the 6th November, 1952.
I should like to direct specific attention to the fact that on the following day, the 7th November, 1952, the West Australian newspaper announced quite fully the results of these negotiations. The Western Australian Government may have changed. It changed from a Liberal government to a Labour government, but the present Labour Premier would not only be aware of the negotiations to which I have referred, which, of course, would be recorded in the official files of the department in Western Australia, but, if he was aware of the press announcements of that time, he would also have had at least the same opportunity as certain civilians in Western Australia have had who, reading this announcement, promptly contacted the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture of this Government, asking that they should be considered when the Australian Whaling Commission’s undertaking was eventually sold. This would cause us to ask the questions : “ Was the Western Australian Government, during these last few years, fundamentally interested in the proposal to purchase the assets of the Australian Whaling Commission?” Why was there any necessity, if that were so, for the Premier of Western Australia, within the last few days, to announce that he would appoint a departmental committee to consider the purchase of the undertaking? I am wondering whether there is any possibility of sufficient finance being found by the Western Australian Government to purchase this or any such project at this time.
The matter becomes of importance in Western Australia, because on the 7th April of this year there will be a State election, and the seat of Gascoyne, in which Carnarvon is situated, can be of vital importance to the Labour Government of Western Australia. Now that the undertaking of the Australian Whaling Commission is established, and because it should not be competing with a. successful private enterprise in the ba.me industry, we on this side of the House believe that now is the appropriate time for its disposal. The whaling industry bristles with difficulties and problems not associated with very many other industries. A private company engaging in this sort of enterprise would be forced to observe every economy, and in a moment or two I wish to draw particular attention to the achievements of the Nor’- West Whaling Company Limited, which has been operating so successfully at Point Cloates. We claim that government control, either Commonwealth or State, is undesirable in this industry. The sale of the Australian Whaling Commission’s undertaking to the company already operating would tend to create a monopoly. There is, therefore, from this side of the House no insistence that the establishment should be offered for sale to the Nor’-West Whaling Company Limited. The honorable member for Kalgoorlie, as I have said, ventured into the prophetic realm the other day when he stated unequivocally that the sale would be made to the company already operating. There are other applicants for the purchase of the undertaking, and I am recommending to-day that they be given every consideration. I have said that the honorable member for Kalgoorlie named the Nor’-West Whaling Company Limited as the company that would be favoured in the sale. The same honorable member forecast the sacking of some 150 employees if the sale were made to the Nor’-West Whaling Company Limited. The general manager of that company immediately replied to the honorable member by stating that if his company’s bid to purchase is successful, the Point Cloates station would not automatically be closed down, nor would staff be drastically reduced, it is significant that all the employees at Point Cloates are imported . each year from the City of Perth, and they return to ti - city at the end of each season. The general manager also claims that if it is found subsequently that the Point Cloates station can be absorbed in or merged with the establishment at Carnarvon, and the consequent transfer is made, not more than one-third of the shorebased personnel of the company will bc affected. The number affected would not total more than about 30 employees.
It is extremely interesting to consider the financial costs and results of both the private enterprise company and the Australian Whaling Commission. I shall refer, first, to the Nor’-West Whaling Company Limited. In the years from 1951 to 1954, that company paid income tax of no less than £306,000. The amount of depreciation set to reserve was £106,000, and the dividends paid to the shareholders of the company in each of the four years of operation amounted to the magnificent figure of 20 per cent, each year. All of that was done on a subscribed capital of only £270,000. I submit that there is proof positive of the successful control of whaling operations by private enterprise.
Now let us analyse the figures for the Australian Whaling Commission. The amount of income tax paid to the Commonwealth as a result of four years of operation by the commission is nil. For depreciation set to reserve, the amount is £379,000, which is fully justified because of the larger amount invested in equipment and buildings. The total claimed net profit of the commission in the four years is £727,000. It is important to bear that figure in mind, because we want to compare it, after certain deductions have been made, with the figure that I have given for the private enterprise. It is necessary to deduct £347,000, being the initial developmental expenses in the years 1950 and 1951, when n distinct loss to that total was registered. In all company operations, developmental expenses must be absorbed by operating profits. Then we must deduct the amount of £127,000, which was paid to the Commonwealth as interest on capital advanced. That is shown, as I understand i.s the case in most sets of Government accounts, as an appropriation off the net profit. It is for that reason that I draw attention to the fact that it must be deducted. If we deduct those two figures, we get a claimed net profit of £253,000. But if this were a private, company income tax would amount to £220.000, winch would leave available for distribution to shareholders only the rather small sum of £33,000. Let ‘us be fair. We have already commended the administration of the Australian Whaling Commission, but we should like to announce that it has been estimated that, in a normal year of operation, the project nt Carnarvon, if it were under company “octroi, would return to shareholders a dividend of approximately 9 per cent. So there is a distinct contrast between the private enterprise and the Australian Whaling Commission, which is under government control.
Let me deal, finally, with the socialization of industry. I trust that I have made it quite plain that we do not stand for the socialization of any industry. We believe that, throughout this country over the years that have passed, the record in the field of socialized enterprise has been very poor. In Western Australia, the State steamship line has incurred a loss in excess of £1,500,000. The vessels purchased were acknowledged to be quite unsuitable. In 1911, a “State implement works was established in Western Australia by a Labour government. What was the result? The result was the loss of at least £285,000. Then there is the Western Australian meat works at. Wyndham. At one stage, the trading loss alone, without writing off capital and interest unpaid, approached £2,000,000. If I had enough time, I could point to many other ventures in socialized industry in every State of the Commonwealth that have resulted in loss and disappointment time and time again. I understand that the Queensland Government established State cattle stations, which incurred a loss of about £2,000,000.
We oppose the amendment. The people of Australia are well aware of this Government’s opposition to socialized industry. They have given it a clear mandate to follow its announced policy. There has been no hole-in-the-counter attitude in relation to that policy. I have produced evidence to show that the Premier of Western Australia should have been - in fact, I am sure that he was - fully aware of the Government’s proposal to dispose of the whaling undertaking at Carnarvon. I believe that the return to the Commonwealth of the money used to establish that industry will enable funds to be channelled to meet other important needs. Furthermore, in the broad view, the whaling industry will be consolidated better under private enterprise than under any form of government control.
– I wish to make a personal explanation. When I entered the House a little while ago, I heard the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Cleaver) state that I had misquoted figures in relation to the Australian Whaling Commission and express the hope that I had not done so deliberately. The honorable member’s hope was, of course, well founded. I would not misquote figures deliberately. Furthermore, I did not quote any figures on this subject. I quoted figures relating to the capital of Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited and Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited, and to the profits of those two companies, as well as of the Commonwealth Engineering Company Limited, Trans-Australia Airlines and the Commonwealth Bank; but I did not quote figures for the profits, capital or income tax of the Australian Whaling Commission. My view was this -
In every year in which this enterprise lias been conducted, it hae returned a handsome profit, and already two-thirds of the original capital has been paid back.
True it is that in the daily Hansard there then occurred the words “ at least twice”. This inelegant addendum does not correctly state the position; it will not occur in the weekly Hansard. ‘ I said that two-thirds of the original capital had been paid back because I accepted, statements which had been made by many honorable members that the Commonwealth had invested £1,250,000 in the commission and had received a return of £850,000. In the ten minutes since the honorable member for Swan made his suggestion, or allegation, I have been unable to check either the profits or the capital. I did not refer to the income tax paid by the commission or by any other socialized - if one may dare to use that word - or public enterprise, because in the case of a public enterprise the Australian people and the Australian Government receive, not merely the amount of tax which normally would be paid on the profits, but the profits themselves.
.- I had intended to reply to some of the remarks made by the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Cleaver) about the Government’s proposal to dispose of the assets of the Australian Whaling Commission, but my colleague, the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Whitlam), has already covered the ground fully in his personal explanation. The Australian Whaling Commission was, and still is, a highly profitable venture. It was started by the Commonwealth for the purpose of developing the whaling industry in Australia on a proper scale. The commission has achieved its purpose, and there is no reason why its assets should be disposed of.
The Speech delivered by the GovernorGeneral at the opening of a session of Parliament usually contains, so to speak, a blueprint of the Government’s plans for the welfare of the people of Australia. Although I have read this Speech through again and again, I have been unable to find in it any passage which indicates that the Government proposes to do anything of a substantial nature to improve the lot of the Australian people. There are promises of statements that will be made and there are nebulous references to what the Government proposes to do during this session of the Parliament, but I am certain that the Government’s plans will get the country nowhere. Early in the Governor-General’s Speech, His Excellency said -
In the session of Parliament which 1 am now opening, there will be two important groups of matters which will call for consideration. The first embraces foreign policy and the related defence measures which can make that policy effective.
Foreign policy is a matter which should be approached on the basis of personal contact and negotiation. Not only in Australia, but also in most other countries, far too much attention is given to the building of armaments. Indeed, there is a race in this field. At no time in the world’s history has an armaments race brought peace. On the contrary, it has always had the opposite effect, because the piling up of armaments tends to develop a militaristic outlook, and that, in turn, leads to war, not peace. Most people in the world desire to be happy, to live in peace and contentment, and to work out their own destiny free from interference by others. That state of affairs can be achieved only by fostering a spirit of goodwill among nations. There should be more discussion of problems, more desire to understand the other fellow’s outlook, and more tolerance for the views of others. Unfortunately, there is at present too great a disregard of the views of other nations, not only by the Government of this country, but also by the responsible leaders of many so-called democratic countries. I know that there are larrikins on the other side of the fence, but the larrikin spirit cannot be overtaken by indulging in an armaments race. The encouragement of a spirit of goodwill and friendliness will do much more to bring about peace. That has always been my view, and I see no reason to alter it now. Therefore, I urge the Government to endeavour to understand other people’s problems, and to do its utmost to bring about better relations between people holding different opinions.
We in this country have a full-time job in trying to get the Government to carry out the policy desired by the people. It is foolish for the people of this country, or its Government, to try to change the policies of the people and the governments of other countries. Any changes there, are the responsibility of the people of those countries. If they have governments that suit them, all I can say is, “ Good luck to them “. If the government is regarded by them as a bad government it is the job of the people of the country to change it. It is not our responsibility to try to change the government of any other country. We have enough to do at home. I repeat that the best approach to international problems is an approach along the lines of friendliness and goodwill.
The Governor-General went on to say -
The second can be described broadly as the economic problem. It has particular relation to internal development; the increase of production; restraint upon the rising costs of production which threaten to impair our international trading position; the encouragement of our exports; the control of our imports; the restoration of a sound balance of trade: the preservation and building up of our international financial reserves; and the protection of our currency.
Those high-sounding phrases read well, but the point I emphasize is that the Government is doing nothing practical to bring those things about. His Excellency said that the economic problem had particular relation to internal development. The present Government has been responsible for adopting a dictatorial attitude at conferences with State Premiers, and meetings of the Australian Loan Council, in matters affecting the granting of money to the States to carry out public works. Apart from defence matters and the Snowy Mountains hydro-electric scheme, no major works are carried out by the Commonwealth. Most of the public works undertaken in Australia are carried out by State governments. Therefore, if the Commonwealth Government desires to assist in the development of Australia, as it claims to do, it should give every assistance possible to the .States to construct schools and hospitals, and other essential public works and developmental undertakings. Australia is a vast country with great resources, and many developmental undertakings should be proceeded with without further delay. For that purpose, adequate loan moneys should be provided.
One important public work that should be undertaken as soon as possible is the standardization of our railway gauges. For a great many years there has been a good deal of talk of standardizing tinrailway gauges, but nothing practical has been done. When a Labour government was in office, an agreement was entered into with the States to complete the standardization of the railway systems connecting Brisbane and Perth. That involved the conversion to the standard gauge of sections of railway lines in New South Wales, South Australia and Western Australia. During the war the different railway gauges proved a menace to the defence of Australia. In my opinion, much of the money now spent on defence could be better expended in standardizing our railway gauges. It is a work which the Commonwealth Government has a right to undertake. In South Australia, instead of converting the line connecting Port Pirie with Broken Hill to the standard gauge, money is being expended in converting sections of 3-ft. 6-in. to the 5-ft. 3-in. gauge, with the intention later to bring all the lines in that State to the standard gauge of 4 ft. 8£ in. I believe that that will result in a great amount of money being wasted in South Australia. The action being taken certainly is not in keeping with the policy of the Labour party. I have had the pleasure of reading the report of the Commonwealth Railways Commissioner on this subject, but I shall not inflict it on the House by reading it again. In that report, the commissioner emphasized the necessity, from the points of view of national development and defence, as well as transport economy, of standardizing the railway systems connecting Perth with Brisbane through South Australia and New South “Wales. Indeed, he regarded it as a matter which called for urgent consideration. This Government, however, has disregarded such reports. That is, indeed, unfortunate.
Throughout Australia schemes for the proper utilization of our water supplies are being neglected. As honorable members know, Australia is short of adequate, water supplies in many country districts, with the result that production is limited and development retarded. This field of enterprise has been sadly neglected. The Government should make money available for such undertakings, as well as for matters already referred to, such as the construction of hospitals and schools, the development of our mining and agricultural resources, and the provision of homos for the people. Many of our country centres lack proper supplies of water and electricity. The people have asked for these amenities to be provided, but their requirements have not been considered by the Government. The result is that not sufficient money has been made available through the State governments for the carrying out of these works. The Commonwealth Government too often adopts a dictatorial attitude at meetings of the Australian Loan Council.
When I entered this Parliament in 1934 we were told that public works r,0111(1 not be carried out because money was not available. To-day, we are told that public works cannot be proceeded with because there is too much money in circulation, and that the construction of public works would increase the inflationary trend. That is, indeed, a curious state of affairs. If we cannot carry OU public works when there is no money available and cannot do so when there is too much money available, when is an opportune time for them to be carried out? These works will be undertaken, only if there is in office a government with the will and the determination to carry them out. I have always believed that what is physically possible is financially possible. At times, there is a scarcity of man-power and material whichmakes the carrying out of even essential works difficult. It is easier to provide finance than it is to provide labour, but that was not so in the depression years. Since those days, public opinion has changed, but the Government has been dilatory in laying down a sound and progressive policy for this country. I should like the Government to tell the House of any progressive action that it has taken since it has been in office. It is, I am sure, following the dictates of the United Kingdom and trying to shape an economic and financial policy that will suit other parts of the Empire. The United Kingdom is highly developed. It has railways and many other facilities on a scale unknown in Australia. It is an old country in which many of these services have long been provided; but Australia is a land of wide open spaces. Though Australia’s population is only 9,000,000 its area is as great as that of the United States of America, which has a population of 160,000,000. If we are to hold Australia we must develop it, but we shall not develop it unless the Government gives keener consideration to that subject.
Recently I had the opportunity to visit the Northern Territory and other part? of Australia. I was surprised to learn of the resources available in those areas, and of how little the Government had done to develop them. In the more populous areas, too, tremendous tasks are crying out for attention. I appeal to the Government to present us with a. definite and progressive plan of development and not continually to try to create a condition of stagnation and restriction by the curtailment of finance.
At the Loan Council meeting last year, this Government refused to make available to the States the money that they sought. The Treasurer (Sir Arthur’ Fadden), in presenting the 1955-56 budget, said that we were facing such economic conditions as to prevent the Government from carrying out proper development and much-needed public works. The Government planned for a higher revenue from sales tax, which hits at the young folk and bears very heavily on those least able to pay it. The Government should be assisting young married couples, but, instead, of every £500 that is spent in furnishing a home £60 is taken by the Treasury in sales tax, which is at the rate of 12^ per cent. This is a very unsatisfactory state of affairs.
The Government lias a long record of procrastination in economic matters. Honorable members will recall the secrecy that surrounded the financial conference of representatives of British Commonwealth countries held here in 1954. Security officers around the conference building prevented honorable members from, entering aud obtaining information about what was going on. The Parliament and the people could not get any official information about what actually took place, but honorable members were told that the conference was dealing with a restrictive financial policy which would be put into effect throughout the British Commonwealth, and that Australia had pledged its co-operation. In the last year or two there has been continual talk of financial restrictions. All this has had a detrimental effect upon the development of Australia, which His Excellency said was one of the prime matters requiring attention. After the British financial conference the Treasurer took a trip abroad and attended further conferences overseas. These, also, considered restrictive finance policies for the British Commonwealth of Nations. Recently we have had experience of the Government’s dillydallying in producing a definite economic policy. When it presented the budget last year, it was afraid to tell the people what it had in mind because it had to face an election in December. Now we are told that the Government is still holding back because certain State elections are pending. Two were held last week-end and shortly we will have elections in Queensland and Western Australia. I have been given to understand that the Government will soft-pedal on its financial policy until after these elections have taken place. It should have the courage to tell the people what it proposes to do.
I hope that it will not be guided by its long-haired friends, headed by Professor Swan, the economist, who recently issued a statement on the financial policy that they considered ought to be adopted. Apparently those people were flying a kite for the Government. The Government had them issue the statement on its behalf, and eventually something along those lines will be adopted by it. It is rather significant that Professor Swan has been appointed to the Prime Minister’s economic advisory panel. If the Government had not agreed with his point of view it would not have seen fit to promote him as it has done. I am quite certain that the Government is grateful to him for flying a kite and relieving it of the necessity to take its courage in its hands and telling the people what it is about to do.
As was stated in His Excellency’s Speech, the greatest problem facing Australia is that of internal development. This problem has been gravely neglected and I hope that the Government will view it from an entirely Australian point of view and realize that our vast country can be held only by populating and developing it; and that we cannot attune our policy and ideas to what is decided in Great Britain or anywhere else. The guiding factor must be the benefit that will be derived by Australia and by those who are to come after us.
I turn now to the subject of increased production. We have surpluses of many primary products and the Government is making a very sorry fist indeed of disposing of them. It asks for increased wheat production, and so on, but what is it doing about finding markets in which to dispose of the increased production? New Zealand and Canada have gone to Russia and China in order to make longrange plans for the sale of their commodities in those countries. When Australia eventually decides to try to sell its commodities in those areas, it will probably find that salesmen have been there before it and that local demands for many years ahead have been catered for. In this country we cannot always get the government that we want. I am sure that many Australians feel that they have not in office to-day the government that they want. It is not easy to change one’s government. It is certainly not easy to change the government of a foreign country, and we must accept that fact. The Government should, on behalf of Australia, be trying to find new markets.
What is the Government doing about imposing restraints on rising costs of production? Last year the budget provided for an increase of the tax revenue derived from the great body of workers of this country. The Government, by increasing sales tax on numerous items, added to the burdens already being borne by that section of the community; but it did nothing at the same time to tax further the profits from industry, although I believe that a substantial proportion of present costs of production is represented by the very high profits made by many companies. Something should definitely be done in that regard, [f the continuing increase in costs of production in Australia is to be halted, we must have a sounder economy, not an economy such as we now have.
Another important matter which requires the attention of the Government is the protection of our currency. To my mind, that means protecting not only our foreign exchange position, but also the internal value of our currency. Yet, we have the sorry spectacle of government bonds, which are supposed to represent an absolutely secure investment for the people’s savings, tumbling in value day after day; but the Government is doing absolutely nothing to stabilize the value of its bonds. Instead, it is intent on increasing interest rates, although an increase of interest rates will place a further great burden on the community at large. It will affect people who are buying homes, people who want to borrow money to buy or build homes and, in addition, people who have already borrowed money for that purpose, because not only new borrowers will have to pay higher interest rates. After the rates go up people who have existing mortgages and overdrafts will also have to pay the increased rates. The fact that business people and members of other sections of the community will have to pay the increased rates will inevitably “add to costs of production generally. It i3 undeniable that an increase of interest rates would be an important factor in future increases of costs of production. I can recall that when, in 1934, a report on the wheat industry was debated in this Parliament, it was disclosed that the largest component in the costs of production of the primary producer was the interest bill. An increase of the interest, bill borne by all sections of the community will mean that a heavier burden will be placed on the consuming public.
The Government has told us about the difficulty of raising loans for the financing of public works. I believe that anything which is physically possible is financially possible, and that the money necessary for public works and development could, and should, be made available by the Commonwealth Bank. The time has arrived when we should cease to borrow money for national development by the methods at present adopted, and thereafter pay toll on it, in interest, because we have no less an asset and security for money advanced for development purposes that the nation itself and its potentialities. I believe that money for public works could be made available by the Commonwealth Bank, for redemption by the Government, under a scheme which would save us the burden of interest that we now carry for all loans. However, it is the Government’s policy to raise money for development by way of loans; yet the value of government bonds, as I have said, is tumbling. That is happening now because it is believed that the Government intends to increase interest rates.
.- The Governor-General referred, in his Speech, to two groups of matters as being urgent. The first is foreign policy and the second is the economic problem. I hope to touch constructively on both of those problems. I shall deal first with our foreign policy and the defence measures associated with it. Our foreign policy is subordinated, as I think isgenerally understood, to the policies of the major Western countries - the United States of America and Great Britain. Toa great degree we follow their lead, as we must do because they are infinitely more powerful and wealthy than we are. We must echo their words and follow their policies. We must follow their lead. But we must not forget that our interests and their interests are not identical. Although we follow their lead, we must not be led into following it too closely. We must look after our own interests first, just as they look after their own interests first. Our interests are not identical with theirs because America is like a Janus who faces both the Atlantic and the Pacific and, dependent upon the way in which any given situation is viewed, America’s concentration of attention and resources will be thrown into either the European theatre or the Pacific theatre; similarly, Great Britain lies in the cockpit of Europe and it may happen, as it has happened in the past, that Great Britain regards that particular scene of activity as being more important than some of the farther reaches of the British Commonwealth. We, in this country, must be conscious always of that fact. In spite of the treaties and alliances we have with our friends, the situation can alter from time to time. It is altering now, and I believe that we are doing nothing about it. It is altering because there is a tremendous pressure of population building up to the north of Australia. The Colombo plan countries, which we are encouraging through our membership of the plan, are increasing their populations at the rate of 10,000,000 a year. If China’s increase of population be added the figure becomes astronomical. That tremendous pressure of population is inevitably leading to the need for economic expansion by those countries. They are seeking avenues of expansion, and sooner or later Australia’s strict control of immigration standards will come under fire from those Asian countries which are our neighbours to the north. Obviously, such a move will be planned by the Communists in whose interest it is to embarrass the democracies.
We do not hear very much now about the White Australia policy, so-called. Our neighbours are letting us down lightly at the moment. They are not playing up the existence of that policy, but for one reason only, which is that we are helping them under the Colombo plan, and in many other ways, and it would obviously be most ungrateful of them to attack our immigration regulations at a time when they are receiving benefits from this country. But that position will not continue forever. A time will come when it will be necessary, or will appear to be necessary, for those countries to have extra space for their people; and the only extra space available is obviously in the north of Australia, a type of country which can be developed by their people. If we have done nothing about developing Australia by the time that that, pressure for expansion mounts, then we shall lose the sympathy of our friends, the United States and Great Britain. We have only 25,000 people, mainly pastoralists and public servants, in the Northern Territory and in the Kimberleys, which comprise very rich country, and if we do not do something active now to encourage industry and settlers to move to those areas and develop them, then all we shall have there in 25 years’ time, when the pressure from our Asian neighbours can be expected to be extremely heavy, will be 25,000 people, or very little more than that number. I believe that the development of northern Australia should be regarded as an integral part of our defence policy and our foreign policy. We cannot justify the strictness of our immigration regulations unless we aTe already using the immigrants we bring here in order to develop this country. Within a short time our immigration policy will be under fire, so now is the time to lay the foundations for the proper development of our northern areas.
Il has been suggested that one way in which we could encourage people to settle in the northern part of this continent would be to have a tax-free period for people living north of the 26th parallel, in the Northern Territory and in the Kimberleys. Whether or not that would be a sufficient attraction to overcome the natural disadvantages associated with pioneering in that country, I cannot say. But it is obvious that some attractions must be provided to get people to go to the northern parts of Australia in the same way that attractions were provided by nature to get people to emigrate to this country during the last century. The great gold discoveries in Australia in the nineteenth century were the real cause foi- the tremendous increase of our population at that time, and, lacking similar natural attractions in the Northern Territory and the Kimberleys, we must provide artificial attractions to induce people to go there and put up for a certain time with the lowest standard of living, as all pioneers have to do. I regard the development of our north as an integral part of our foreign policy.
The economic measures which are to be taken to preserve our prosperity are being considered by the Government and its advisers at the present time, and they are creating a great deal of public interest. It is to the Government’s credit that there is such widespread interest in the current economic situation. The Government has gone out to discuss the economic problem with businessmen. It lias met with checks and failures, but that is no discredit to it. I hope that it has not been discouraged, but will continue to take leaders of all sections of industry into its confidence from time to time so that those leaders may spread a knowledge of the Government’s problems throughout their particular sections of industry.
It has been suggested in many quarters that higher rates of income-tax and interest would be a method of curing the present inflation. In my. opinion, increases of income-tax and interest rates would rather aggravate our position, because they would cause an increase of costs all round, and costs are the very thing that we are seeking to reduce at the present time. Our cost structure is too high. As income-tax applies to all sections of the people, increased rates at this time would apply most unfairly, because, whereas a deflationary effect is being felt throughout our rural areas, inflation is taking place in the great industrial centres. At any time income taxation stifles initiative and reduces the incentive to work harder and produce more. It is a common fallacy that the Government can do more with one’s money than one can do with it oneself. An increase of our level of income-tax would not be a cure for our present economic position ; nor would higher interest rates, because they would destroy confidence in Government bonds, which we must at all times protect. His Excellency stated that the Government is seeking to protect our currency, and I suggest that the best way to do that is to restore confidence in the bond market.
The proper remedies for our situation lie primarily in the industrial field and in increased personal savings. Savings may be compulsory or voluntary, and of the two I prefer the voluntary system at any time. For many years, indeed, since the end of World War I., there has ‘ been talk in Australia of a national insurance scheme. At one stage before World War II. we approached very closely to the establishment of such a scheme. Great Britain has instituted a national insurance scheme of a sort, and probably other countries have done similarly. The fact that other national insurance schemes have failed, or have not been the success that it was thought they would be, is noreason why a national insurance scheme of some sort could not overcome all our troubles and cure the evils that at present beset our economy. I believe that the time is now ripe for such a scheme to be instituted - a voluntary system to draw off surplus savings which could be made more attractive than other forms of spending such as spending on consumer goods through the hire-purchase system. Such a scheme would attract money from the people which could be used for investment and ultimately for building up and strengthening Australia.
A voluntary insurance scheme would also tend to do away with the unfairness of the operation of taxation. No matter how perfect a system of taxation is devised here in Canberra, it must hit some sections of the people harder than others. But if it is left to the individual voluntarily to tax himself and contribute to an insurance scheme, there can be noinequity, unfairness or hardship. I believe that it is quite possible for a national insurance scheme to be introduced along the lines of the national health scheme which has been devised’ chiefly by the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) and has been such an outstanding success. Perhaps, we could apply some of the principles embodied in that scheme to a scheme of old-age benefits. I do not know whether the scheme that I envisage would be practicable. Its feasibility is a matter for a statistician or an actuary; it is far beyond my capacity to assess. However, about 500,000 people in this country are now contributing to superannuation schemes. That is, a modified national superannuation scheme is already in existence. Perhaps, the Government could make certain contributions and could ensure that employers also made contributions to be added to those of the subscribers. Also, the benefits under the scheme could be made transferable as the subscribers moved from one job to another. Such a scheme would encourage thrift, because it would be so attractive that every one would want to participate in it. The funds would accumulate at such a rate that the scheme would encourage other forms of saving. Ultimately, when benefits were being paid it would, perhaps, be possible to relax the means test in respect of age pensions so that in addition to the normal superannuation benefits under the scheme the subscriber would be eligible to receive the normal age pension. The amount that he would then get from both sources would be quite substantial. Several benefits would flow from such a scheme, which would be very different in effect from the normal superannuation schemes to which we are accustomed. The ordinary superannuation scheme is not designed primarily to benefit the subscribers, but to retain them in their field of employment. After a certain time, an employee who is subscribing to a superannuation fund realizes that it would be very undesirable to leave that field of employment because he would sacrifice all the contributions that had been made by his employers.
In a scheme such as I propose, in which benefits would follow the employee from one employer to another, a skilled person would be able to move freely. Skill would find its own level in1 the community, and it would be valued much more highly than it is at present. A proper evaluation of skill is very important to an economy such as ours in which we are seeking to find ways and means to achieve a higher degree of efficiency. We shall attain that objective only by striving for more skill. I believe that the present is an ideal time to institute a scheme such as I have outlined, and that it would, if instituted, have a profound effect upon the social fabric of the country.
The age pension scheme as it operates at present, is not encouraging qualities of self-reliance, initiative or saving, which are very valuable virtues. (-) ,11 forebears brought those virtues to thi-: country. They were the foundation upon which Great .Britain was built, and Australia was famous for them until recently, but they are not being encouraged and developed by the present system of age pensions. I hope that the Government will consider my suggestions’, which I put forward as a solution to the problems that were outlined in the Governor-General’s Speech.
We want to find a way to develop .Australia into a powerful and rich land. We can do that by actively seeking ways to develop it by settlement, and by actively encouraging thrift and investment in Australia. If we fail to do those things. Australia will go down before more vigorous countries. It will not be able to maintain the force it had in previous years, and will not retain the sympathy of our friends - the United States of America, and Great Britain. We must have a clearer idea of the need for tindevelopment of Australia - a full and balanced development. We must have » clearer idea, also, of the need for personal thrift and self-reliance as against control of the individual ; of saving for individual welfare, as against saving undertaken on behalf of the individual by some central bureau. The individual is the important unit in Australia, and we should find ways and means of encouraging individuals to develop themselves to the fullest possible degree.
That could be done in the industrial field if the socialist ideologies were thrown overboard - those ideologies that have been thrust clown the throats of the workers in industry for many years. It could be done if we had collective bargaining in industry, if the union leaders would co-operate with employers, as they do in other countries, to raise the standard of products, and produce more at a lower price. This makes for more jobs and more pay. The real solution to the economic problem is to be found in the industrial field. Those who have defeated efforts to reach that solution, and have confused the issue in the minds of the workers, are the worshippers at the shrine of socialist ideology.
Let nobody think that that ideology is a good old British one. It is a foreign ideology that was planted in Australia by Jock Garden. I express my feelings strongly on this matter because I believe that all our troubles in the economic field can be laid directly at the door of the Australian Labour party. It has been following a socialist ideology for more than 30 years. It has not had a new idea since 1921, and is rapidly going to ruin, tied firmly to its socialist millstone.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- L wish to speak to the motion and not to the amendment, and I direct the attention of the House to the claim made in the Governor-General’s Speech in the following passage: -
Our ties with the Asian members of the British Commonwealth are particularly close. The influence and importance of India, Pakistan and Ceylon in world affairs is growing daily.
If His Excellency’s Speech were intended to convey that, at a governmental level, there are correct relations between Australia and the Asian members of the British Commonwealth, I have no doubt that that is a statement of fact, but if it is intended to convey that there are very close ties at other than a governmental level between this country and the Asian countries, that is not a fact. We have close ties, culturally and in other ways, with the United Kingdom, the United States of America and New Zealand, and with other peoples with whom we have a common language, a common literature and a common exchange of ideas, but I should be interested to hear what impact any thinking in Australia has had on the mind of India comparable with the visit to India of Marshal Bulganin and Mr. Khrushchev. What impact have we had at all on the mind of India comparable with the bid that is being made now for the mind and the leadership of India by the Communist party? What idea, if any, is really conveyed to Asian students who visit Australia, under schemes toassist them in their studies? The honorable member for Batman (Mr. Bird) made a vital point in the course of thisdebate when he said that the motive underlying the policy of the West towardsAsia was fear of communism, and that until there was a powerful Communist bid for Asia we were not very interested in things like the Colombo plan. I want to stress that point, because I think that it is the most important one that has been made in this debate. What the Asian people are interested in about thiscountry is our motives. They are interested in the motives of the West in general, and that is the subject that I wish to discuss. The Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen) gave an extremely interesting revelation of inadequate motives,, to which the honorable member for Darebin (Mr. R. W. Holt) referred in the course, of his speech, and the honorable member for Darebin made, I think, the second important point that has been made in this debate. It was on the subject of the representations made by the Minister for Trade asking the United States of America not to make gifts where that would disturb the normal course of Australian trade.
– That was the Minister’s statement ?
– -Yes. The protest of the honorable member for Darebin was, in effect, a protest which revealed in the honorable member for Darebin a motive which, if lived out, would really enable us to win the mind of Asia. What Asia objects to, in the long history of Western contact with Asia, is that we have always tended to subordinate the Asian people to our material interests. It is not only that there was a wrong motive in. the Minister’s statement; it was that there was a fallacy in his reasoning, because American gifts have enabled people to buy from Australia things that they would not otherwise have been able to buy. It is not of much use complaining about some particular American gift to Asia cutting off our trade, when the undergirding of Japan’s economy by the United States enabled Japan to buy from us £83,000,000 worth of goods, whilst we bought from Japan only £4,500,000 worth. As a matter of fact, a great many European countries would never have been customers of Australia at all if it had not been for the action of the United States of America, and it is blind as well as insensitive to make representations against this policy. Furthermore, the economic resources of many of those Asian countries are so low that no gift disturbs their buying with whatever foreign credit they still have in hand, because they do not have to use that credit to pay for the American gifts. Thirdly, trade is not just unilateral; it is tripartite or multipartite. If something is given to Pakistan which we do not sell, it does not follow that trade is lost. For instance, Pakistan may use the credit it still possesses to buy goods from Britain, and consequently, Great Britain makes increased purchases from other countries. That is something that exporting countries should appreciate.
The future of Australia depends upon capturing the mind of Asia. If the only idea we have to transmit to Asia is that a gift to Asian countries will disturb trade, notwithstanding the fact that the Asian material standard of living is desperate and ours is high, then it will not be of much use our complaining that Asia is not attracted towards the “West. There is a distinct possibility - and it is the aim of world communism - that by 1965 there could be a ring of States hostile to this country, especially if that is our attitude, extending in width from Tokyo to Cairo, and in depth from Peking to Singapore. That is the difficult question that faces this country to-day. It is more important than any matter that is usually discussed in this House. If we fail to win the mind of Asia over social reform, everything done in this country to bolster the wheat industry or the wool industry, or something else that engages the attention of this Parliament, is akin to painting the cabin while the ship goes down. Cyril Falls, one of the most distinguished writers on strategy, said in an article in the Illustrated London News of the 14th January -
The events which have stuck most firmly in the public mind have been the “ two Genevas “.
He referred to the Geneva conferences. The article proceeded -
In the first the waters of Leman provided a bath of sentiment and hope which swept over the world. In the second those waters turned bitter. Perhaps the essence of the lesson to be learnt from the two is that the likelihood of a major war has been lessened, but that the war of ideologies is in no way diminished; indeed that we are now in a phase when the Communist offensive has reached its height.
Marshal Bulganin quoted the Russian legend of the whistling shrimp, which is roughly the equivalent of “ pigs might fly” in our legendary expression, in describing Western statesmen who imagined that communism would change in its basic aims.
When I was in the United Kingdom the year before last, I attended the Scarborough conference of the British Labour party. Sam Watson, one of the most distinguished trade union leaders in Great Britain, explained to the conference how he had tried again nad again in both Russia and China to get from Malenkov and Mao-Tse-Tung an answer to the question, “ What is meant by coexistence “, in order to bring it out of the stratosphere and down to an exact definition. Finally, he got the reply that there could be diplomatic co-existence for a time, trade co-existence for as long as it suited Russia, but ideological co-existence - never! Cyril Falls, adding his comment in the same issue of the Illustrated London News that I have mentioned, said -
The most sensational political event of last year was undoubtedly the tour of Krushchev and Marshal Bulganin.. It was a very bold, cold war offensive and its importance cannot be denied. The evidence about the success is, however, conflicting. It is also uncertain whether the effects of the direct contact between that very formidable demagogue, Mr. Krushchev, and the Asian masses, will be permanent, or if so, in what degree. What is clear is that we have seen the emergence of a dynamic force, with special appeal to the ignorant, the hungry and the depressed, who are also themselves a great force in the world to-day.
I think that is a true statement. I also think that it is an inadequate one, because from what I saw of India - and I am not going to pose as an expert on India - the appeal of the power of communism was not to the people dying in the streets, but to those who would be the leaders of Indian thought. As long ago as 1919.
Lenin made no bones about such an assertion -when, in his revolutionary handbook, What is to he Bone, he said this -
All those who talk about exaggerating the importance of ideology, about exaggerating the role of the conscious element, imagine that the pure and simple labour movement can work out an independent ideology for itself if only the workers take their fate out of the hands of their leaders. But this is a profound mistake.
He went on to say -
Modern Communist consciousness cun arise only on the basis of profound scientific knowledge. The vehicles of science are not the proletariat but the bourgeois intelligentsia.
Then he went on to explain that it was bourgeois intelligentsia who - communicated it to the more intellectually developed proletarians, who, in turn, introduced it into the proletariat class struggle where conditions allow that to be done.
Communism, as I see it, is bidding in Asia for those who will be the leaders of their countries - particularly the students of the universities and, sometimes, the trade union leaders - those who are in government positions and those who occupy posts in university faculties. In November, 1954, 3,000 Indonesian students were taken for training in Peking. Mao Tse-tung and Chou En-lai were themselves trained at the Sun Yat-sen university, in Moscow. The need to create a leadership that could take over those countries is the basic conviction of communism. The Communist appeal to the minds of the students is being made on grounds totally different from those imagined by this Parliament. In the parliamentary Library, one can see evidence of one of the things of which India is most conscious. If one cares to go to the tables on which the periodicals are kept, one will see copies of Pix, Australasian Post and the rest of the publications that are spread about the place, with half-naked women in salacious poses as the main feature on the cover. Then, among them, one will see Soviet Union, a magnificent publication, which is beautifully printed. One idea runs solidly throughout its pages. It depicts the work of the Soviet Union in reconstruction and concludes with studies of an art exhibition showing sculptures of proletarians throwing stones at the Czarist police, and the like - all conveying a clear idea, in a way that is not an insult to the intelli gence of the reader. Throughout India one will see beautiful publications of thu kind sold for a few annas and, displayed alongside them, at cheap prices, the great classical works of Russian literature. That is part of a bid for the mind of India. Beside those publications, one will see some of the deluge of trash that is poured out by the “West in order to make money in India. This includes third-rate, rotten films, upon which the Indian.comment, showing, shall we say, in cowboy and indian style, what happened t<> the aboriginal inhabitants of the North American continent. Films of this type are compared by the Indians with, for example, a great newsreel showing the reception accorded to Nehru when he visited Moscow.
It is not of much use for us to complain about losing the war of ideas if we have not a single idea to put into it. When we talk about our close contact? with Asia, what idea do we think we shall take to Asia. Is White Australia an idea for us to talk about in the Indian villages? We know that we cannot talk about it there. We know also that Bulganin and Krushchev can talk abou? their idea in the Indian villages. Until we reverse that advantage held by the Communists, all the talk about defence, and everything else that we are going to do in this Parliament, will simply be nullified by the Communist idea, which captures the mind of Asia.
Saunders Redding, who is an American negro writer of considerable note, was sent by the United States Government to India as a person likely to be more acceptable to Indians than European United States citizens would be. He had an experience similar to mine, although in a different way, with Indian students. In his book An American in India, in which he described his experiences in lecturing on literature at an Indian university, he wrote of the attitude of an Indian student as follows: - “ It is necessary to compose the question,” he said haughtily. “ You have not considered the communications of those vicious -writers whose obscene books are in our stalls. You have not considered the immoral moving pictures which are shown in our cinemas! Why? Why do the Americans send such vulgar and worthies* books and pictures to us?” He stood defiant, challenging and dramatic. “ You should not accuse all the American people,” i said, “ when it is only the enterprises who do this. But,” I continued, “ if these enterprises did not find a market in India, and if the people of India did not buy the hooks and attend these moving pictures they would not be distributed here.” “ Sir - That is an aspersion ! You insult the people of India.”
A clamor arose and with it many hot eyed young men - “ Insult.” “ We wish an apology.” “ He accuses us of obscene tastes.” “Americans go home! Americans go home! “
That is an interesting passage, because it shows the standard defence of the West : “ We are not responsible for the ideas we pump out - it is free enterprise that pumps them out; besides, it is really your fault “. That defence ignores the ideological fact that, to-day, Asia is looking for an idea to live by. From us, it gets nothing but a soft materialism of drink, sex and self-indulgence as the idea put out by the West in films and books: whereas, on the other hand, a clear ideology of class war, anti- West continent, anti-colonialism, anti-racism, discipline and power is disseminated by commu nism. That is put out intelligently and by degrees Asians can accept. For instance, if one analyses the speeches made in India by Bulganin and Krushchev, one will see how extremely interesting is their approach. To begin with, there are speeches in adulation of Ghandi. Any one who has read Palme Dutt’s book India Today, written by a Communist before the war, knows that, for many years, the Communist parties of India and the world poured contempt on Ghandi and his idea. But his ideas were successful, and, therefore, there has been a switch. Bulganin and Krushchev almost turned him into one of their own, so that communism could then mediate, through his pacifism, an attack on the West and the hydrogen bomb. This attack was mediated to India by the use of Ghandi’s name. In other words, the Communists took the trouble to ask themselves, “ What or whom do the Indian people value?” We have never taken the trouble to ask ourselves this question. Having asked themselves the question, Bulganin and Krushchev embraced the cause of India in its dispute with Portugal. Honorable members know that the Australian Government dare not comment in this Parliament on the merits of the dispute between India and Portugal over certain territory. Bulganin and Krushchev moved to win the minds of 400,000,000 people by embracing their cause. They embraced India’s cause in the dispute with Pakistan also.
Finally, there was an incident in Bombay, at a civic reception, where one of the two Soviet leaders was introduced to a gentleman who he was told was the secretary of the Communist party of that province of India. The Russian said immediately, “ I am not interested in the Communist party of India. I am not interested in your local politics. If this man is an Indian then he is my brother “. He moved straight to that point. I am aware, of course, of the camouflage and I know that itis the Communist technique to maintain close ties between the Communist parties throughout the world. But the point is that theSoviet leader was seeking, in India, to remove his own position from such a narrow political ground and to identify the Soviet Union with Asia. The Communists, in the advancement of their ideology, do not make our mistake of imagining that the only things that matter, and the only things that can counter communism, are food and a job. That was never the belief of Lenin. I think it was the greatest of British historians who said, long before Lenin’s rise to importance, that revolutions are born not of despair but of hope. The French revolution is an instance of the truth of this saying. The French peasants were far better off than were those of Poland. They could see the possibility of getting their own land, and that was the hope that lay ahead of them It is from those elements which have hope - not from the people dying in the streets of Calcutta, but from the students - that the Communists expect revolutionary action, and to those people they go with an idea. We, having no idea to offer them, are constantly on the defensive and are making apologies.
A minor incident in one country dropped into ideologically prepared ground can have tremendous effect. The effect of the exclusion of the negress Autherine Lucy from the University of Alabama will be, and has been, very great in Asia, and has been interpreted, particularly in an attack on the United States of America, as showing the West’s racism and claim to superiority. One can say with absolute truth that, since the decision of the United States Supreme Court, the universities of Virginia, North Carolina, Kentucky, Arkansas, Louisiana and Texas have admitted negro students without incident. But all these thousands of cases without incident, ideologically, are not as important as that one incident dropped into the prepared ground - sensitivity to race discrimination.
Last year there went to Asia, in connexion with moral rearmament, a mission of statesmen from Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, Britain and Africa, who were warmly accepted by the masses in Asia for four simple reasons: They treated the Asians with respect; they dropped our Western pretence that we have nothing to put right and apologize for in our relations with the East; they did not go there as anti-Communists, trying to use Asians in a strategy against Russia for our purposes but not for theirs; they simply put forward values which were clean and right and to which the Asian people responded. Above all, I desire to stress again that they did not seek to use the Asian masses in a conflict with communism. That is the Asians’ suspicion of us in the West, that we do not care for them, that we have no respect for them, and that we merely wish to use them in our diplomatic strategy. Everything that this Government, or any parliament, or any individual member, can do to re-orientate the attitude of the West to Asians in that respect, to show that we do value them, will be a step towards winning the mind of Asia for sound values which, both for ourselves and for themselves, is the biggest question of the twentieth century.
.- 1 rise to support the motion for the adoption of the Address-in-Reply, but I am opposed to the amendment to the address moved by the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard). The Address-in-Reply is as follows: -
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.
It is fitting that in this day and age all honorable members should express their loyalty to the Crown, that is, to Her Majesty The Queen, in a positive and forthright manner, for these are times when the Crown - and when I say “ Crown “, I mean, of course, the nation - needs the support of all good and true Queen’s men. There is trouble in Cyprus. There is grave danger in the situation in the Middle East. Malaya is fast approaching that stage of democratic progress which will see self-government established in that country. Malaya, in a strategic sense; is of the highest conceivable significance to the future of Australia. If we look round the world to-day, we see much to cause us concern, and thus I say at the beginning of my speech that the support of all loyal patriots should be fostered, encouraged and developed. We must be united and vigilant if we are to protect our heritage and support our monarch and our nation.
Beginning with these general references to loyalty and the essential homage of the . members of this Parliament, I should like now to thank the electors of St. George who voted to return me to this place on the 10th December, 1955. I was first elected as the original member of Parliament for St. George on the 10th December, 1949. Again in 1951 I was privileged to return here, but in 1954 my friend and opponent, the honorable Nelson Lemmon, was victorious and I returned to the commercial world. The pendulum of political fortune having swung against Mr. Lemmon, a distinguished member of the Australian Labour party and a former Minister of State in the Chifley Government, I am now back in this place to pursue my destiny.
Now, may 1 turn to the Speech of His Excellency the Governor-General and its two important groups of subjects, matters related to foreign policy and defence in the first group, and matters related to the economic problem in the second group. The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) and his colleagues, on the 10th December, 1955, received the clearest mandate to continue with the foreign and defence policies which they had been following since 1949. As the Governor-General has pointed out, the keynote of Australian foreign policy has been the building up of friendship and mutual understanding with other nations, and surely it must be clear to every Australian that, as the years go past, because the whole structure and position of nations in the Pacific have altered and the military significance of the might of Her Majesty’s Navy has changed, it is vital that the policy of building up friendship and mutual understanding with other nations must be followed assiduously .by Australia and Australians.
To-day, through the pact between Australia, New Zealand and the United States, the South-East Asia Treaty Organization, and the United Nations Organization, Australia, which is also, of course, a proud member of the British Empire and Commonwealth, has powerful friends, so that the effect of Australia’s foreign policy is measured by the actual result. The fact of the matter is that, to-day, we have powerful friends allied with us and committed to war if Australia should be attacked. The Australian Labour party, still led by the right honorable member for Barton (Dr. Evatt), has espoused a foreign policy clearly defined on many occasions, and clearly defined this afternoon by the honorable member for Lang (Mr. Stewart). This foreign policy is identical with the foreign policy of the Australian Communist party. Recognition of red China is peddled in Australia by no one other than the Australian Communist party.
– Does not the British Government recognize it?
– I am talking about Australia now. No one else in Australia, except the Australian Communist party, recommends the recognition of red China. No one else in Australia, except the Australian Communist party, is prepared to recommend a policy of non-participation in the essential South-East Asia strategic military reserve. Labour is also opposed to national service training. It joined in the clamour to prevent the experimental work on atomic and hydrogen bombs. It is all part and parcel of the same pattern which is to be seen throughout the world, as was so clearly indicated by my friend, the honorable member foi Fremantle (Mr. Beazley), when he was addressing us a few minutes ago. It is not difficult to understand that for those reasons, on issues of foreign policy alone, the right honorable member for Barton is unacceptable to the majority of Australians. Let us be certain that if we seek to retain and develop our heritage, this land of Australia, our foreign policy must achieve the objective of securing powerful friends and retaining them in military alliance. The enormous significance of power politics should be clear to every adult Australian who looks at his children and ponders on their future. The possession of Australia is a blessing of great magnitude to those who live in this country. The Australians who appreciate this country most are those who have some means of comparing it, and its great blessings, with other countries. The people who appreciate Australia least, obviously are those who have no means of comparison, and it is to them that I say, “Remember that a blessing of great magnitude carries with it an essential responsibility “. We have i» great responsibility to maintain this heritage and, at least, to pass it on to our children, and to their children, in relatively the same state of preservation - allowing for advancement, development, and increased population - as we received it from our ancestors.
Now it is time to turn to the second of the groups of matters referred to in the Speech of the Governor-General when His Excellency was discussing economic problems. Here, we see a most interesting position. We have, in Australia, widespread prosperity, a 40-hour working week, full employment and, in fact, many thousands of vacant positions available in industry but which cannot be filled. There are many reasons why those vacancies cannot be filled, but significant among those reasons is the fact that since the socialists have been peddling the theory that something can be secured for nothing in this world-
– Since they have been doing that, with great efficiency, particularly in the post-war period, we have had a falling-off in what my friend the honorable member for Gwydir (Mr. Ian Allan) referred to as the rewards of sacrifice and real labour. In other words, there has been a distinct tendency in Australia for people to say, “ Why should I study? Why should I sacrifice something in order to equip myself mentally, when I can go out and do an unskilled job, receive high wages and coast along in a magnificently prosperous country ? “ That kind of reasoning is human enough. I believe, however, that when the time comes, when the competitive aspects of the commercial life of the world are brought home to the average Australian, he will understand quite clearly that, in order to win, he must make a greater effort to compete, and that that is the essence of the economic problem which faces Australia to-day.
There is no doubt, as I have said, that to-day we are living in most prosperous times. We have heard my old friend the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James), and, more recently, the honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Chambers), speaking - I thought with some histrionics, but nevertheless with some degree of sincerity - about the coming depression, and of the sad spectacle of the evil tories casting thousands of unfortunate workmates of these so hard-worked members of the Australian Labour party into the abyss of unemployment. We have heard all about that from honorable members opposite. There is a perpetual tirade of misery about the depression that they hope will overtake this Government. They hope that such a set of circumstances will come about because, if it were to exist, they believe that it would lead to the return of the Australian Labour party to the treasury bench in this Parliament. If that were to occur, I say that there would be no one in Washington or New York who would be nearly so well pleased as would some of the other gentlemen we have been discussing to-day.
The statement made in the GovernorGeneral’s Speech is of a general nature and ought to be considered by the House in segments.
– Has the honorable member finished with the economic position ?
– No, not yet. His Excellency stated -
The second can be described broadly as the economic problem. It has particular relation to internal development; the increase of production; restraint upon the rising costs of production which threaten to impair our international trading position; the encouragement of our exports; the control of our imports; the restoration of a sound balance of trade; the preservation and building up of our international financial reserves; and the protection of our currency.
I think that, so far as the average Australian is concerned, all of those problems may be resolved by appreciation of the fact that the national effort must improve if we are to compete with the growing economic strength of other countries which were devastated by the war and which, since the war, have rebuilt and re-strengthened, and so re-vitalized their capacity to take part in the economic race. It is vital for us to increase our efforts if we are going to compete for markets overseas, and if we wish to maintain, let alone increase, the markets that we have. We cannot possibly do that if we intend to coast along at half speed. Surely it is reasonable to ask the members of the Australian Labour party to understand that principle and to support a drive for increased production.
I want to remind honorable members opposite that in the United Kingdom there has been a classic illustration of this position in recent years. The capacity of the unionists, particularly of the union leaders, in the United Kingdom to understand the vast importance of Britain’s export trade to the welfare of the nation was such that they supported the leadership of the Government. As honorable members know, little tags bearing the words “ for export only “ were very common in Britain. Those tags were familiar to both workers and management. Everybody was happy to see them placed on so many goods because, collectively, the result would mean an improvement in the national economy. We believe that the Government of Australia is making the same kind of appeal to the people of this country, and we hope that the supporters of the Australian
Labour party will understand that their welfare, and the welfare of their children, is as much involved in the growth, development, improvement and maintenance of the Australian economy as is the welfare of the families of those who sit on this side of the House. Therefore, if we in Australia can achieve an effort equivalent to that put forth by the tories in the United Kingdom, supported by the Trades Union congress, I believe we shall have taken a step forward towards solving the economic problems that have been referred to recently in this House.
To my mind, this is not only a matter of politics; it is also a challenge to the fundamental integrity of those who are in this Parliament. Surely, if honorable members believe that the interests of the nation can best be served by the adoption of a particular policy, it ought to be possible for them to get together and support such a policy.
– But the honorable member thinks we are Communists. How could we get together ?
– I did not say that.
Sitting suspended from B.5U to 8 p.m.
– Let me repeat the two main points round which I had built the bulk of the speech, which I delivered before the suspension of the sitting. The first point is foreign policy. The Prime Minister and his colleagues have, as I have said, the clearest mandate, for the continuation of their policy of securing powerful friends and maintaining military alliances with them. Of course, we must understand that in securing powerful friends and maintaining military alliances with them, we accept responsibility to carry part of the burden ourselves. It must never he accepted in Australia that it is a reasonable thing for Australians to believe that their share of the burden in South-East Asia or anywhere else in the world can be carried by somebody else. As I indicated earlier, that suggestion was implicit in the foreign policy recommendations that the right honorable member for Barton (Dr. Evatt) put before the people of Australia on the 30th December, 1955. Through the Anzus pact, the South-East Asia Treaty Organization, the United Nations, &c, Australia has established beyond all doubt its policy of having powerful friends and maintaining military alliances with them.
I also made it clear earlier that the Australian Labour party stands for something which is abhorrent to most Australians, something with which Australians do not agree. We do not believe in the recognition of red China. W” have said again and again that only the Communist party in Australia and. the Australian Labour party have ever recommended that course. We believe in. and are participating in the maintenance of this strategic military reserve in SouthEast Asia. The Australian Labour party doe3 not want to participate in that strategic military reserve. As I said before, the Labour party wants somebody else to do the job for and on behalf of Australia, so that its people can be brought home. Ultimately, the remainder of the Australian Labour party who arc still in this place will have to decide when: they stand on foreign affairs. They will have to come to a clear policy which will show their future intentions. Whatever they do, they can rest assured that there will be some one in this world who will not approve of it. All I can say is that they must decide what their plans are to be, make them clear to everybody, an;! stick to them. I only hope that those plans will be prompted by the patriotic instincts to which I referred earlier in my speech.
Now I wish to make a brief review of the economic problem which has been discussed so much during this debate and which has been referred to specifically by my friends the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) and the honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Chambers). I have mentioned the existing state of prosperity, with which I think most Australians will agree. Very few people will contend that at the present time we are doing anything other than living in the most prosperous times, but whatever our economic problem may be, however much reason they may be for the fears that were echoed by the honorable member for Adelaide and the honorable member for Hunter, the fact of tin; matter is that the solution to Australia’’ economic problem is fairly clear. Tt. is greater national effort. Work, work, and still more work is the answer to this problem. Let us all combine to achieve our objective, which is to maintain the prosperity of Australia and develop the national heritage. This could be achieved if the members of the Australian Labour party would only appreciate what we of this side know - that practically any policy that is supported by both political sides would be accepted and understood by the Australian people and supported by them. Surely then, the Australian Labour party will be prepared to give serious consideration to the economic problems confronting Australia, and to advise us of what steps it believes should be taken in the meantime. In war-time the national effort is seen at its most effective level, naturally, with a great number of burdens, encumbrances, controls, regulations and so on. If we could achieve the same level by direct, combined effort in peace-time, the present economic problems would vanish. We are coming into a period in which those nations which were decimated by the war are becoming more and more effective in their participation in commerce in this world, and if we are to compete with them we shall need to improve our output, and the quality of our work generally. That is our simple problem, and the answer to it as well.
.- It is rather interesting to note that the honorable member for St. George (Mr. Graham) devoted just on two and a half minutes of his time to dealing with the economic crisis. Honorable members on the Government side have talked about child delinquency and various other matters, and no doubt it suited the Government speakers to skate round this most important subject, about which the Australian public want to know something. I refer to the present economic crisis, and the pending depression. The public of Australia wants to know what the Government proposes to do about the present serious position. At least, we can say that neither the honorable member for St. George nor any other honorable member on the Government side has followed his usual practice of blaming the Communists for the present economic crisis.
The fact is that there is an overseas balance of payments difficulty, and the Government has pledged itself to correct the position by the 30th June of nextyear. Up to date, it has been unsuccessful with the proposals it has submitted to various sections of the community with a view to bringing about this desirable result. This has been a most fortunate government. No doubt, it would have experienced difficulties earlier but for the fact that, due to the wise and prudent administration of the Chifley Labour Government which preceded it, enormous financial reserves were built up overseas. Those reserves have now been largely dissipated by the mismanagement of the present Government.
The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) promised to deal with inflation. No one would argue that inflation is not one of the factors that has led to the depletion of our overseas reserves, yet, during the State election campaign which concluded recently in New South Wales, the Prime Minister - this same Prime Minister who promised in 1949 that he would put value back into the £1 - addressed a public meeting at North Sydney and admitted that since his Government had taken office, there had been a depreciation of 60 per cent, in the value of currency. This is an admission by the Prime Minister of complete failure to carry out an undertaking given to the Australian community in 1949.
The Government cannot blame the workers for the trouble that confronts this nation to-day. The honorable member for St. George repeated parrot fashion what every anti-Labour speaker in this country -.-is accustomed to say, that our difficulties are brought about because the workers are not working hard enough, and because they are not taking the advice of the anti-Labour speakers to produce more. As a matter of fact, an examination of statistics will disclose, and it is one of the proud boasts of this Government, that since it took office, production has been rising, and shortages of commodities have been eliminated. Does that indicate that the workers in industry have not increased production? What is more, production per employee in this country has been rising. The report of the Australian Industries Development Association for July, 1955, states that since pre-war days there has been an increase of 10 per cent, in employment in certain manufacturing industries, while the output in the same time has increased by 40 per cent. According to the Governor-General’s Speech - I do not blame His Excellency for it because he merely read what was prepared by the Government as a statement of its policy - working days lost through industrial stoppages had been at a minimum. Consequently, it cannot be argued that the troubles of the community are due to industrial stoppages.
I invite honorable members to examine how the Government proposes to handle the present situation. Every honorable member will recognize that Australia is in a most serious position because its overseas reserves are disappearing so rapidly that the country could soon be faced with a financial and economic collapse unless something is done to correct the situation. For the week ended the 29th February last, Australia’s overseas reserves were down to £285,900,000. During the year, they had diminished by £88,000,000. In the same period last year, they were down £96,200,000. In spite of all the Government’s efforts to restrict imports, the adverse balance between those periods was reduced by only £8,200,000. It must be obvious to any thinking person that up to this point the Government has not succeeded to any great extent in correcting the situation. The stage has been reached where Australia is being governed not by the elected representatives of the people, but by a committee of economists - a group of professors who are called “ experts “. The Prime Minister said that he would make a statement on the economic situation after the Easter parliamentary recess, but so critical has the position become that the right honorable gentleman has now announced that he will make a statement next week on what the Government proposes to do.
Let us examine the position in regard to items that must be taken into account in dealing with the unbalancing of Australian payments overseas. In the last financial year imports exceeded exports by £173,000,000. To that there had to be added the cost of freight, insurance, payment of dividends overseas and the payment of interest on loans which, it was estimated, had in total cost Australia £83,000,000. The total adverse balance covering all items was £256,000,000. If the Government had really wanted to do something of a practical nature to deal with this important problem it could have combated the efforts of overseas shipping combines to increase shipping freights, which have become an enormous charge upon Australian industry. A great deal of marine insurance is written by overseas insurance companies. If the Government were serious about remedying the position in respect to overseas balances, it would not be a bad idea to apply the slogan “Buy Australian” in regard to insurance.
Regarding dividends, every honorable member will recognize that in recent years there has been an inflow of foreign capital to Australia to develop Australian industries, but that has created a charge which the Australian community has to meet. The more dividends that have to be paid to overseas shareholders the greater become the difficulties which the Australian community have to meet. The same argument applies concerning loans. The Chifley Labour Government applied a policy of reducing Australia’s overseas indebtedness, and it must be obvious to every thinking member of the Australian community that that was a contribution to the solving of a difficult problem. One result was that less interest was payable overseas. However, this Government thought it would be a great thing for Australia to reverse that policy and raise loans in any part of the world wherever they could be obtained, irrespective of the conditions.
All these things have created difficulties for Australia, and the Government proposes, as one means of overcoming them, to impose import restrictions. In April, 1955, and again in September of that year, the Government cut imports, but it has not achieved much, and as I have shown our trade balance overseas has improved by only a little more than £8,000,000.
How does the Government apply its policy of import restrictions? It has established B category licences. Certain people in the community who are able to get the ear of the Government and obtain these licences, which they do not require for their own businesses, are able to traffic in them. There is a black market in E category licences. They are interchangeable because if a licence is not required for the particular type of good3 for which it was granted, and upon which the licensee’s qualification is based, he can import anything else contained in the B category. Consequently, cheaply produced Japanese goods are flooding Australia and more essential goods are being excluded, including those for defence requirements.
On the 27th September, last year, m a speech delivered in this House, the Prime Minister said -
Commonwealth Government departments have, with some justification, been seeking import licences this year to a total of £59,000,000 on both defence and civil account. We are restricting them to £40,000,000.
According to the Prime Minister’s own admission, imports required for the effective defences of this country have been curtailed to the extent of £19,000,000, so that the Government might be able to permit favoured people in the business community to import cheaply produced Japanese goods which are not essential.
The second phase of the Government’s policy is to restrict demand. It argues that it is of no use cutting down imports if the demand is not reduced; otherwise there will be an increased competition, for a reduced quantity of goods and this will produce further inflation. How does the Government propose to restrict demand without creating employment problems? If there is a large number of unemployed who are receiving what is termed the dole, obviously they are not consuming to the same extent that they would if they were fully employed. The Government’s policy of restriction will create widespread unemployment. It believes in a low wage policy because if wages can be kept down that will be a method of reducing the demand. According to the Prime Minister -
Great confusion exists in the industrial field because of conflict between the Commo) wealth Arbitration Court, the State industrial tribunals, and in some cases direct industrial legislation by the State Parliaments.
Surely there could be no conflict in the industrial field where the State Parliament reigns supreme. The Government is saying, in effect, that it would be happy if the State Labour governments, which control State parliaments, were to vacate the field of industrial legislation because it has been by the action of State Labour governments that the 40-hour working week has come into being and that the workers have been granted the benefits of annual leave, long service leave, sick pay, and so on. These are benefits to which the Australian Government objects, because it believes that they are responsible for undue costs, which add to the difficulty of meeting Australia’s overseas trade balances.
This Government applauded the pegging of wages. It now proposes to deal with hire-purchase finance; but in what manner? It proposes to deal with it by asking the hire purchase finance companies to exercise some restraint in the expansion or development of their business. When all is said and done, the expansion of hire-purchase finance is not the problem in which the Government should be interesting itself. It ought to be interesting itself in the unfair manner in which the hire-purchase companies are dealing with members of the public. The hire-purchase system is the worker’s method of obtaining amenities in his home that otherwise would be beyond his reach. These companies are charging exorbitant rates of interest. The method of dealing with the problem is not, as the Government suggests, to curtail the expansion of hire-purchase credit. To do that would impose hardship on the Australian community and would mean a lowering of living standards, because the people would not be able to obtain many of the things that are now within their reach. The Government proposes, moreover, to impose higher taxation, because it believes that the only way to prevent the public from spending more money on the reduced volume of imports is to reduce their income. It is of no use for the Government to appeal to the hire purchase companies to exercise voluntary restraint because, if the average member of the
Australian community needs something for his home, and if he has the money, he will purchase it.
To restrict imports must lead to unemployment, because most of our imports are not consumer goods but industrial equipment and raw materials to keep our industries in production. Only approximately 15 per cent, of our imports are consumer goods. Australia is becoming a great manufacturing country. The difficulty that arises is that only .approximately 2 per cent, of the output of our manufacturing industries is exported. The whole nature of our economy has changed in recent years. The 1933 census disclosed that 550,000 persons were employed in our manufacturing industries as against 670,000 in the primary industries. But now the position is the reverse, and 1,080,000 persons are employed in the manufacturing industries and only 550,000 in the primary industries. This is a reduction of 120,000 in the number of persons employed in primary industries. Australia has a greater degree of industrialization’ than has the United States of America. In America, 26 per cent, of the working population is employed in secondary industries, but in Australia the figure is 30 per cent. It will be noted, therefore, as I have stated, that Australia is becoming a great manufacturing country.
According to the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), Australia is not able to export the output of its manufacturing industries because costs of production are too high. The Government proposes to attack the industrial conditions and the living standards of the workers so that we may be able to produce our goods more cheaply and place them on the world’s markets. Although the Government is fated with the overseas balance-of payments problem, it pursues a stupid policy of unrestricted immigration. Over the decade from 1945 to 1955, the population of Australia rose by approximately ], 800,000. Although the production of our primary industries has risen by 20 per cent, since the pre-war period, that increase is not due to the fact that immigration has made available more labour, because those industries now employ 120.000 fewer persons than they did when the last war commenced. Eather has the great flow of immigration into this country meant an increased demand for imported goods, and decreased quantities of primary products for export.
The Australian Labour party believes that immigration to this or any other country ought to be based on scientific lines, and that no country should admit more people than it can adequately absorb into the community and for whom it can provide homes and employment. We can continue the present policy of unlimited immigration to Australia only by lowering the living standards of the Australian people. I invite honorable members to consider the problems that have been created in this country by the influx of immigrants. I invite them to consider first the problem of housing, about which so much has been said. The Government has been priding itself on the fact that it is providing an increased volume of money for war service homes. I have discovered that in 1954-55 advances to the War Service Homes Division totalled £28,888,000. But, in the same period, ^persons who were occupying war service homes repaid to the division £10,687,000. It will be noted, therefore, that the net advance made by the Government was £18,201,000. The estimated advances for the current financial year are the same as those for 1954-55, but it is estimated that persons occupying war service homes will, this year, repay £11,830,000. That means that, without having regard to the increased cost of building, the sum that really will be made available by the Government will be £16,462,000, or approximately £2,000,000 less than for last year.
According to those persons who claim to be experts on the matter, a capital outlay of between £2,000 and £3,000 is required for every immigrant if our living standards are not to be lowered. I think it will be readily recognized that the Government has been trying to inflate the population to the greatest degree possible in recent years and this policy has created more difficulties for the Australian community. Since the commencement of World War II., import demand has risen by 20 per cent, per head of population. On the other hand, exports per head of population have gone down by 6 per cent. Confronted by great difficulties, the Government now talks about expanding its export markets. It wants to increase its export income. Everybody knows that a trade-promotion campaign, which will be very costly to the people of this country, will not take us very far unless we are able to sell goods of the right quality at the right price. We must meet intense world competition. Wool prices have declined to a considerable degree. Although the Government is talking about seeking additional markets for our primary produce, it has chased out of the country representatives of a country that was trading with us to their own and our great benefit. It seems that some foolish Government members of the Parliament have the idea that if we trade with a country, it necessarily follows that we endorse the form of government that operates in that country. No greater rubbish than that could be uttered, because trade is beneficial to both countries involved. I repeat, that to trade with a country does not mean that we endorse its form of government or any of its past, actions. The benefits of trade are enjoyed not only by the country that buys butalso by the country that sells. The withdrawal of Russia from the Australian wool market, as a result of happenings that are well known, was a big factor in the collapse of wool prices, as a result of which we are now experiencing so much difficulty.
The honorable member for St. George (Mr. Graham) has spoken about greater wheat production. If we were to produce more wheat, it would become a great embarrassment to the Government, because we could not sell it, and we are confronted by the problem of storage. A leading member of the Australian Wheat Board told me not so long ago that members of the board have been praying for a drought because, he said, “Unless we have a drought we will not know where to put next season’s harvest”. The board has not the storage capacity for it.
What are the prospects for an improvement in the situation? The annual report of Lombard Investments - I do not think any one will suggest that Lombard Investments is either a Labour or Communist organization - states -
Authoritative opinion appears to hold out no hope of any improvement during 1955-56.
If there is to be no hope of improvement in respect of our overseas export income, what does the Government propose to do in regard to the present situation? This is what the Prime Minister said about the export possibilities for our manufactured goods -
I have always entertained hope of substantial export markets in processed and manufactured goods.
But it is quite clear that we can enter the great markets that are waiting for us only if we can do so at competitive prices. With our internal cost levels this is not easy, and, indeed it becomes more and more difficult as our domestic demands for more and more money and less and less work proceeds.
So, it is quite obvious that what the
Prime Minister is trying to tell-
-(Hon. Archie Cameron). - Order! The honorable gentleman’s time has expired.
– I do not think so; I think you have cut me two minutes short, Mr. Speaker.
– The honorable member has exhausted the time allowed under the Standing Orders, which is 25 minutes.
– In this AddressinReply debate we have heard some very fine speeches from the new honorable members in this House.
– Not the last one.
– I am coming to the last one in a minute. Prom the new honorable members we have heard as fine a level of speeches as has previously been heard in this Parliament; and it augers well for the future of the Parliament and the Government of this country that we are able to bring into this House men of the calibre and intellectual quality of those whose speeches we have heard during the last few weeks.
We have also heard another maiden speech to-night by the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward). It is a somewhat tattered and disreputable maiden, it is true; but in one sense it is a maiden speech because it is almost identical with the speech he has made in this House whenever a budget has been presented or an Address-in-Reply debate has taken place during the last 25 years. For the last 25 years he has been a member of this House, and it is a little sad to think that after all that time he still trots out the same hatred and misrepresentation, and the same talk about the pending depression, forgetting that his party has lost three elections in a row on that issue. He still engages in the same talk about unemployment and the pool of employed. Honorable members remember the slogan, “You will be pretty cool in Menzies’ pool “. We still hear from the honorable member the same talk about wicked combines, the same talk about exorbitant dividends and the same attack on the immigration policy established by his colleague, in a previous Labour government, the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell).
– His rival.
– A sort of rival. They are friends one day and the opposite the next. We have heard again from the honorable member for East Sydney the same talk about low wages; and a suggestion to-night that because the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) drew attention to the conflict and clash between State ..and Federal wage systems, that is an argument why the States should be asked to vacate the wage fixation field, forgetting that it was a government of his own party which, a few years ago, brought forward legislation in this Parliament for a referendum in an attempt to establish exactly that state of affairs. He is like the Bourbons - he learns nothing, and he forgets nothing. It is sad to think that after 25 years, honorable members to-day hear from him nothing different from what honorable members beard who sat in this chamber 25 years ago. I should have liked to have spent a little more time dealing with the honorable member for East Sydney, at the same time congratulating him with modified rapture upon his attaining his twenty-fifth year .of occupancy of one side or the other of this House, mostly the Opposition side.
However, I desire to draw the attention of the House to a statement in the Governor-General’s Speech which raises a matter which, I believe, is above party politics, but, nevertheless, of great importance, and about which a word should be said. After discussing defence and co-operation between the Australian and British Governments in defence measures, His Excellency said -
In addition, my Government is co-operating with the Government of the United Kingdom in the testing of nuclear weapons. They will, consistently with the safety of the civil population, continue to do so.
That statement was a clear indication to the people that the policy this Government adopted a few years ago in the field of atomic research would be continued. The House will see from that statement that the reference is to nuclear tests. No reference was made there to hydrogen bomb tests. I mention that because in the press from time to time the allegation has been made that it was proposed to test hydrogen bombs in or near Australia.. That is not true, and it never was trueIndeed, this Government has never been requested by the British Government to test hydrogen bombs in Australian territory and it has no intention of doing so. But the testing of atomic bombs on behalf of the British Government is another matter.
I tell the House, so that it may be referred to if necessary - because it has not all been set out in one statement before - what has happened in this matter. In 1952 the British Government was about to bring to completion its first atomic bomb which it had developed after much research and after spending many millions of pounds, when the secrecy curtain was put down in the United States of America. The British Government asked the Australian Government whether it would be willing to permit an atomic bomb to be ‘ tested at the Monte Bello Islands. This Government agreed. A good deal of assistance was given by the Australian Government, chiefly through the Royal Australian Navy, and that test took place, with great success, in October, 1952. In 1953 the Australian Government was asked whether it would also give assistance to the British Government and co-operate in the testing of a landexploded atomic bomb. The Australian Government agreed, and a site was chosen at Emu Field in the desert, faT to the west of the Woomera rocket range. The site was not part of that range and was not connected with it, as is sometimes erroneously stated.
In October, 1953, after a great deal of assistance by the Australian Government, which built the site and gave a lot of constructional and service assistance this land test was successfully carried out. Then, somewhat later, the Government was asked whether it would permit a series of tests to take place over the years at another more suitable site in Australia. The Australian Government agreed, subject to the overriding consideration that no tests should take place in Australia without the approval of a safety committee, composed of eminent scientists, and under conditions which, according to the Government’s advisers, would ensure the safety of all civilian life and property. That was freely agreed to, and so the Maralinga project was born.
Through the courtesy of the South Australian Government, an area of desert country in that State, unpopulated and quite remote, was set aside at Maralinga as a testing ground. In the meantime the British Government wished to carry out some small non-atomic tests, and they in their turn, were also carried out, again with the co-operation of the Australian Government at Maralinga, although the buildings and installations intended for the periodic tests were not completed. There will be some further tests about the middle of this year at Monte Bello, and towards the end of this year still further tests at Maralinga.
The whole point of this matter is that Australia has in this interior, desert, uninhabitated region wide areas of land which are suitable for this sort of scientific experiment, so, on the best advice, we have agreed to make this area available. The overriding consideration, as I said before, was that of safety. “We stipulated, and, of course, it was freely agreed from the beginning and at all times, that the Australian Government and its advisers should determine what constituted safety in the circumstances. So we have a very eminent body called the Safety Committee, consisting of Professor Martin, who is, the. Professor of Nuclear Physics at Melbourne University; .-Professor. , Titterton w.hp-5is the Professor Pit, Nuclear Physics , ali $fc Australias, National Uni-versity in Canberra; Mr. Butement, the chief scientist of the Department of Supply; Professor Baxter, the deputy chairman of the Australian Atomic Energy Commission and a celebrated chemical engineer ; and Dr. Eddy, who, as most honorable members will know, is head of the Commonwealth X-ray and Radium Laboratory. On occasions on which tests have been held those gentlemen have advised the Government as to safety matters. We will continue to rely upon their advice.
There is a concurrent aspect of this matter of safety. That is the question of radiation generally, to which I referred in answer to a question in the House the other day. This concerns the long-term effect of raising the level of radiation throughout the world. This is a problem that does not arise in connexion with atomic experiments in Australia or, indeed, anywhere else for a long time to come. It is, however, something to which attention should be directed, and precedence does demand that knowledgeable and thoughtful people should study it. They are doing so. Australia was, indeed, one of the promoters of a committee of the United Nations to study the subject of radiation throughout the world and, in particular, the results of the fluctuations in the level of radiation resulting from atomic experiments. I said in the House the other day that the best advice that the Government had from people such as Sir John Cockcroft was that if one took all the atomic experiments which had so far taken place in the world and lumped them together, one would have to multiply their radiation effects by about a thousand before any anxiety would be necessary. However, this is a long-term matter and scientists and statesmen throughout the world will be giving attention to it. None of these things is a reason why the free world should cease to conduct atomic bomb tests, and leave the field of experiment to what might be regarded as the potential enemy.
One may ask, “Why does Australia participate in this sort of test ? “ We make no atom bombs in this country. ,.We; ame,very remote..; We are ong , of the .lucky! nations ,; oft.,the world,; likely. -to b.e far; removed from -the; first impact of a, possible- atomic war. So it may be asked, “ Why do we bother to participate in these tests V I think that the answer was given by the Prime Minister in this House yesterday when he said that however deplorable this matter of atomic bombs might be, the tests being carried out were strictly related to the safety of free men. He added that it was one of the contributions which Australia could make in this line of research. There is the answer to the question. It is true enough that the whole matter of atomic bombs and their testing is, in one sense, deplorable. But the Government thinks, as the United States of America and the United Kingdom thinks, that however insane the whole thing is from one point of view, it is quite impossible for the free nations of the world fo cease having tests of this sort unless they can get some sort of working, enforceable and inspectable arrangement, whereby the other fellow ceases to conduct his tests, also. 1 remind the House of the words of the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom who, on the 1st December, was reported. in the following terms: -
Control of nuclear tests; was not a matter of emotion but a difficult technical problem. Britain could not agree to stop tests until there was international supervision and control.
He went on to say that his Government was ready at any time and at any place to have a discussion for the control and abolition of atomic bomb tests. He also disclosed that the British Foreign Secretary had had communications with the Russians about that very matter, and had received no reply. On the 6th December Sir Anthony Eden was reported as follows : -
Britain was not prepared to accept agreements which would put her in a position of decisive inferiority to other great powers. However, Britain was willing to discuss methods of regulating test explosions.
In the United States of America, Mr. John Foster Dulles made this statement on the 11th January -
The United States has not yet found a valid reason for suspending thermo-nuclear test explosions and the tests will he continued until a dependable international agreement has been reached.
Note that Mr. Dulles was speaking about the hydrogen bomb. How much stronger, therefore, is the case for continuing to test the less dangerous and less lethal atom bomb. President Eisenhower himself, on the 16th January, said this -
Pending a trustworthy agreement on atomic disarmament, we must continue to increase our nuclear weapons stockpile which, together with the means of delivery, is the principal deterrent to armed aggression in the world.
So Australia, like Britain and America, says that unless a working, honest agreement - with some sort of guarantee of inspection or otherwise - is arranged, it would be folly for the democracies to abandon tests of this sort. I was pleased to hear the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) say on the 22nd February, during a statement on international affairs, that no one-
– Order ! If the honorable gentleman is quoting from Hansard, he is out of order.
– Give it to me.
– I think that I can remember what was said. The right honorable gentleman can check it to see whether my memory is effective. He said, “ No one seriously advocates the cessation of these tests except by agreement “.
– I am applauding the Leader of the Opposition for that sentiment, which is also my own. I do not know why he should be so touchy about it, because I quote him with approval. It is rather unusual, but there it is ! He also said, and with this I also agree, “ Nevertheless, one must keep on trying to get agreement “. That is what we are doing and the policy of this Government as of the United Kingdom and the American Government, is that we should try, and should keep on trying to get, some sort of working arrangement which will make it possible to suspend tests of this sort. I said I believed that it would be folly to abandon the tests in default of any such agreement. It would be folly, of course, not to try to get agreement, but a worse folly would be to abandon our tests now, for this would mean, in effect, abandoning our only superiority - the only real deterrent that the democracies have for the prevention of a world catastrophe in the form of a third world war. I believe that the Australian role in this matter is simple. As I said before, and as I think the right honorable gentleman would agree, we should not cease from trying to work out some agreement with the potential enemies of the free world. Most of all, we must give support to our friends in their efforts to bring about an agreement. Being a small country, it is not always wise for us to blow out our bags and parade as if we are the big shots. In the meantime it is also our role to make the best contribution we can towards improving and perfecting these deterrent weapons. This is what we are doing and I believe that it is an honorable contribution for Australia to make. It is certainly a very valuable one for a country of this size to make in the cause of world peace.
– My, chief purpose in addressing the House at this stage is to foreshadow a very important further amendment to the Address-in-Reply. I shall indicate it at a later stage in my remarks. I must at once, I think, refer to the speech of the Minister for Supply (Mr. Beale) in connexion with nuclear weapons and nuclear experiments. He quoted me, in substance correctly, for the proposition that the stage has been reached in this matter that, in order to suspend the experiments, we must have agreement, and we must have agreement with Russia, which country is possessed of similar weapons. But what is happening? If we take the Minister’s words literally, his view does not differ from that of any one else. But it is the application of what he said that is important; it is the determination with which we try to arrive at a solution of this problem that is going to affect the world.
I should like to refer once again to a leading article in. the Times of London of the 14th January last, and I commend it for the study of the Minister.
– Is the right honorable member quoting from Hansard?
– I am quoting from the Times.
– But the right honorable gentleman is reading from Hansard.
– If the right honorable gentleman is quoting from Hansard of this session, he is out of order.
– I shall not read the quotation.
– I rise to order, Mr. Speaker. What is the number of the standing order under which you have prevented the Leader of the Opposition from quoting from *Hansard** The right honorable gentleman is entitled to quote relevant matter.
– My ruling is in accordance with the custom and usage of this House, as it was applied when the honorable member himself sat where I now sit.
– The essence of the newspaper article is that some effort must be made by the leaders of the Western Powers to rid the world of its sickness and its madness. The newspaper article referred to the continuance of these experiments, in circumstances which condemn all the leaders of the world, both East and West, for an inexcusable inability to push on with the attempt to reach agreement. The attempt is not being made with sufficient zeal.
The Minister has told us in this House that before these experiments are undertaken a committee of safety, as it is called, is consulted. The committee consists of a number of professors. I read correspondence in the Sydney Morning Herald in which one or two of these professors took part. Their arguments were not directed to the physical danger to the people through these experiments, but very largely to the political necessity of continuing the tests, which is another matter.
– Professor Oliphant disagrees with them.
– Whether Professor Oliphant disagrees with them I do not know, but I say that the nuclear weapons experiments will have to stop. The world is suffering from sickness and madness, and these weapons, used experimentally, may adversely affect the people of the world. Used without restriction they may destroy the very fabric of the earth. That is one of the propositions put forward by the Australian Labour party and embodied in the decisions of the federal conference held at Hobart, which honorable members oposite condemn but have never read. I am taking the opportunity of sending to each of them, for his information, a full copy of the decisions reached at that conference, and I shall challenge any of them, either to debate the report or to correct it. One by one these propositions, while they have gone ahead of public opinion, have gradually become more or less acceptable to all the leaders of the great powers, such as Great Britain and the United States of America. With regard to experimental weapons the conference had this to say -
The development of atomic weapons has reached such dimensions that the peoples of the world are now faced with the stark and terrifying spectacle of a possible atomic world war causing a danger to the very fabric of the earth, its atmosphere and all its inhabitants, which is so real that distinguished scientists refer to the prospect with a sense of “ desperation “.
The conference expressed the following view, with which I agree entirely: -
This desperation is partly due to the vacillation and delay in arranging high level political talks aiming at the effective prevention of the use of atomic and hydrogen bombs by any nation, whether for purposes of war or experimental purposes.
That is the view that appeals to 90 per cent, of the people of this country. Something must be done to keep the proposition moving. Everybody is waiting for the other person to start. The delay is like that experienced in connexion with the disarmament campaign between World War I. and World War TJ. Why were the disarmament talks at Geneva then unsuccessful ? “ Oh “, said the representatives of the various countries, “We cannot have talks on disarmament until there is greater mutual confidence”. I say the opposite is the truth - there can never be greater confidence between the parties until the talks are started. Only from talks can we get confidence and eventual agreement. The position is very like that which prevails in industrial affairs, as described by my colleague the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Clarey) in the splendid speech that he made in the House last night on the subject of the arbitration system. He contended that conciliation should be employed more often, although he did not suggest that it is the exclusive means by which industrial differences should be settled. He did not advocate giving up arbitration, but he advocated a system of collective bargaining under which the representatives of the differing parties could meet at the conference table. How much money has been allocated by the Government for the purpose of compulsory conferences? The honorable member told the House that the amount was £100. That meant that the Government thought there would not be any conferences aimed at settling disputes. It has adopted a similar attitude to international affairs.
That is all I wished to say about the Minister’s complete failure to ensure that, while continuing these experiments, the Australian Government would also seek to pursue the international talks to which I have referred. I say to the Government: Do not wait on every occasion for other countries to push us along. Australia can take the lead in these matters. It could, at least, endeavour to do something about the position. I believe that the Minister in failing to tackle this problem is blameworthy.
I wish now to refer briefly to the speech made by the honorable member for Bendigo. I endorse his remarks in full. I, too, agree that an emphasis on conciliation is needed in our arbitration system. The power of arbitration was used by earlier judges of the Arbitration Court only if the parties to a dispute failed to reach agreement at compulsory conferences called by a judge or arbitrator. That procedure seems to have been abandoned.
The honorable member for Bendigo rightly put the view of the party, and his own view, based on his vast experience, that there should be a return to the earlier practice.
I direct attention, as did the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley) this afternoon, to the contrast between some of the views expressed during this debate. First, let me say that the new members of this House are entitled to great credit for the quality of their maiden speeches. I cannot recall a group of more interesting and important maiden speeches having been made in a debate of this character. I want to emphasize what the honorable member for Fremantle has emphasized. The other evening, we listened to speeches in which the honorable member for Hughes (Mr. L. R. Johnson) and the honorable member for Darebin (Mr. R. W. Holt) stated their attitude to the tremendously important problems of international affairs - the limitations of regional agreements, the use of force, the limitation of force in the long run, and the failure of the peoples of Asia to understand the threat of force. Contrast those speeches with the speech made by the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen), in which he condemned other countries, including the United States of America, for making free gifts of their exportable surpluses to the peoples of the world who are in desperate need of them. That is an illustration of the difference between the approach to these matters by some, at any rate, of the representatives of the Government and honorable members on this side.
In connexion with the problem of Asia, 1. am strongly of the opinion that we are not moving with the times. Events are too quick for us. That applies particularly to the Government of this country. Paney the honorable member for St. George (Mr. Graham), with his previous experience, condemning the idea of recognition nf continental China in connexion with membership of the United Nations ! I do not believe that that is the present view of the Australian people. The view of the British Government and the British people is the very reverse of that taken by the honorable member for St. George, and T believe that their view is correct. As time passes our difficulties will increase unless we grasp the nettle firmly and do what is required of us. As ray colleague, the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. “Ward), explained, if we recognize continental China, that will nol mean that we accept that form of government or share the views that animate it. The world of to-day is not divided simply into free nations and slave nations. It is not so simple a proposition as that. There are variations ranging from one extreme to the other. There are many countries with governments of the extreme right. Those governments are just as much detested in this country as is a Communist government. Because governments range from those of the extreme right to those of the extreme left, we cannot look only at the internal form of government of a country when we are considering the question of recognition. I congratulate the honorable member for Hughes and the honorable member for Darebin on the spirit of their addresses. It is the spirit that animated the declarations made by the Labour party conference in Hobart, and I believe that those declarations will be justified by events.
At the outset of my speech, I referred to an amendment that will be moved at an appropriate stage of the debate on behalf of the Opposition. The amendment will propose that the following further addition be made to the Address-in-Reply to His Excellency’s Speech -
That this House deplores the deliberate policy of the Government in failing to provide sufficient market support for’ Commonwealth securities, thereby causing a sharp fall in the market price of such securities, a consequential increase in the interest yield, serious capital loss to the original investor in Commonwealth bonds and unfair gains to speculators; thus aggravating the inflation stressed in Your Excellency’s Speech and causing a rise in interest rates generally. Further, this House expresses the opinion that the Government should at once employ all possible powers to reduce interest rates for the general public welfare and so advance primary and secondary industry, home building, public works and national development.
Those statements are supported by facts that have been published in the newspapers and by the statements that were made yesterday by the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) in answer to questions. There is not the slightest doubt that support by the Government for Commonwealth bonds was either reduced drastically or was withdrawn on the two days referred to in yesterday’s Sydney Morning Herald, to take only one newspaper. There was a withdrawal of support. Whether the withdrawal was complete is not the point. As the. Treasurer knows, it has always been the practice to support Commonwealth securities, not to protect a. particular holder of securities, but to give confidence to the small investor, the patriotic investor of the war years, who invests his £100 in Commonwealth bonds at a low rate of interest. Practically all the great borrowing by the Chifley Government was at an interest rate of 3-§ per cent. I do not believe there was one moment of time during the regime of that Government when the holder of a £100 Commonwealth bond could not go to a bank or to the person financing a. home that he was buying and obtain the full £100, sometimes more, for it.
The attitude of the Treasurer now is that that is not a part of the contract. That is the attitude of Shylock. The Treasurer takes his stand on the letter of the contract and ignores the moral obligation which was recognized by the Chifley Government. That moral obligation still exists. It has been accepted to a large degree even by this Government, which has supported some bonds for a period of time. Alas, the value of 3-J per cent. Commonwealth bonds has long since fallen below par! But that is not sufficient for the Government, because it has. withdrawn its support from the bond market at a time when the withdrawal must cause a sharp fall in the market prices of the securities. So the speculators have come in and bought Commonwealth securities at a price which, according to the Sydney Morning Herald, will return a yield of 5 per cent, until the terms of the contract have been fulfilled and the full amount has been repaid. The financial editor of the Sydney Morning Herald made the following comment: -
The Government’s withdrawal of buying support, at a time when the tightness of bank credit and uneasiness about the future of interest rates have stimulated public selling, is obviously part of a deliberate and provocative policy.
I submit that the House can come to no other conclusion. “We have heard speech after speech in which honorable members opposite, particularly members of the Country party, have said - and we agree with them in this respect - that it would be a tragic error to allow general interest rates in this country to go higher. They should be lowered. We know that the interest charged on hire-purchase transactions is shockingly high. Our objection to transactions of that kind is that there is an element of exploitation in the interest rates. Hire purchase is often the only chance that the ordinary person has to buy the goods that he needs for his home but, as the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) has said, if one looks at the transaction carefully> one1 finds .that/ the rate “of interest ‘‘charged ‘ is ‘‘-very high indeed:-. » ;’« . * . ‘’ ‘…..
Why did the Commonwealth Bank withdraw from this field of business only a few months ago ? I suggest that it was forced to withdraw because it was competing to a substantial extent with private concerns running hire-purchase businesses. One course open to us would be to insist that the Commonwealth Bank re-enter that field so that, by competition - honorable members opposite say they believe in competition - it can force down the rate of interest charged for hirepurchase finance. If that interest rate is high, it is obvious that it will affect the general rate. That is only one aspect of this vast problem.
The Commonwealth Parliament has complete power to fix rates of interest in relation to all banking transactions. The power might be stretched much further if the intention were to bring down rates of interest or to hold them at the present level. It would be possible to subject incomes derived from interest to a graduated tax and to provide that the rate of tax should rise as the rate of interest rose. That would soon bring down rates of interest, even those charged by hire-purchase companies.
But let us look at the matter from a simple point of view - the point of view of the ordinary people - and disregard for the moment the hire-purchase system. As I understand the Constitution of Canada, the Canadian central parliament has complete power over interest generally, whether it be in respect of banking transactions or in respect of any other borrowings of money. We should have a similar power. I believe that that is one of the matters that should be considered by the constitutional committee to which the Prime Minister has referred. The present division of power in this country, under which the Commonwealth controls banking rates of interest and the States have authority over other aspects of the fixation of rates of interest, is really destructive of good government for both the Commonwealth and the States.
We shall show that there has been an increase of the interest yield from certain Commonwealth bonds . purchased ‘ by speculators. That means-that in future : it1, will be difficult)’ if not impossible, to restore the market without loss having been suffered, not only by the sellers of bonds, but also by those who hold on to them believing that the Government will support the market. What will be the position of those who desire to pay a deposit on a home? They will find that the bonds they hold will not have the value that they had even a few months ago. There will be a serious capital loss. The speculators were waiting their opportunity. How did this happen so suddenly ? Were there some in the community who knew that there would be a withdrawal of support? How could it have happened unless it was because certain professors said that there should be a withdrawal of support from the market, and that some people in the community came to the conclusion that the withdrawal would be made soon? It certainly did come soon, and with disastrous results. We on this side say that the Government should employ all possible powers, not only to prevent increases of interest rates, but also to reduce them.
Low rates of interest are necessary to all production, secondary as well as primary, and to home building, public works and national development. What chance will there be of building schools and hospitals, and performing all the activities involved in public works, if interest rates rise? Mr. Chifley, who is recognized as having had a genius for dealing with this problem, said that it was axiomatic that a country like Australia, in need of development, and in that respect different from the United States of America and Great Britain, cannot develop its physical resources, and make progress with planned public works, unless rates of interest are low. Interest rates constituted a problem in the United States when the test between East and West took place. The New York bankers wanted to have high rates of interest, but those who set out to develop the regions along the Pacific coast, including the district of California, which have sines become some of the greatest States of the Union, wanted lower rates of interest. Those who advocated low interest rates, instead of looking back to Europe, looked ahead and visualized the future of the United States. That was the view held by Mr. Chifley, and it was the right view. Development can take place only when there are low rates of interest. Unless interest rates are low, public works and development will be retarded. Higher interest rates mean that the family man who wishes to purchase a home for himself and family will have to keep on paying for an additional number of years. He will know the truth of the proverb, “Hope deferred maketh the heart sick”. This is a human problem as well as an economic one.
The Government proposes to put millions of pounds into the coffers of the great financial institutions of this country, which will give no return whatsoever for what they receive. No services will be performed by them in exchange. Like all profiteering, this action will have an inflationary effect. The House is familiar with the enormous increase of profits during recent years. The honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Cairns) pointed out in an able speech a few days ago that Australia had reached a stage of profit inflation. He told us that there was profiteering in all branches of industry. There are monopolies and combines in our midst, and they are making profits not dreamed of a few years ago. Profits must be controlled by this Parliament, because we should have regard to the inter-action of profits. They are inflationary in the highest degree. Unfortunately, that is the chief characteristic of our economy to-day. This House should protest against excessive interest rates before it is too late. Honorable members will be given the opportunity to vote on this issue. Profiteering has hecome a matter of desperation to certain people. They are not satisfied to use their own capital, but want to take the people’s capital, including that invested in the whaling industry in Western Australia, and make profits for themselves out of it.
I shall hand my amendment in writing to you, Mr. Speaker.
-I cannot accept the right honorable gentleman’s amendment at this stage.
– I take it that it will be competent for me to move my amendment when the question now before the Chair has been dealt with. I am obliged to you, sir, for permitting me to express my views at this stage. The procedure to he followed is well known to the House. I want the House to vote on this question, and particularly do I want members of the Australian Country party to realize its importance and show that they can measure their eloquence with their vote. The Government will take notice of nothing else.
.- Speaking from the Australian Country party corner of the chamber, I assure the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) that members of that party will want something stronger than he has submitted to us to-night to bring them into line with him. I propose to take no notice of the suggested amendment of the right honorable gentleman. It is nothing new to find the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) prepared to jump on to the bandwagon. He has done so all through his life, and I suppose he will continue to do so.
My first observation in speaking to the motion for the adoption of the AddressinReply is to extend my sympathy to the people of north Queensland who, in the last 36 hours, have gone through one of the most harrowing experiences that human beings can endure. They deserve the sympathy of all honorable members, and I feel sure that the Government will stand by the Government of Queensland, and assist in doing all that may be needed to make good the personal losses that these people have suffered. They are a brave people, and deserving of our sympathy and help.
Every election brings changes in the personnel of a parliament. That is true of the election held in December last, and, accordingly, we see new faces in this chamber, and have heard from a number of new members who have contributed ably to the deliberations of this Parliament. It is noticeable that the Labour party was returned with a considerably reduced number of representatives in the Parliament. We have only to listen to such speeches as have been delivered tonight by the honorable member for East Sydney and the Leader of the Opposition to know why the people of Australia continue to show their confidence in the
Government. Their conception of the Australian way of life makes them anti-communistic. Australians believe in freedom to work, freedom to earn a livelihood, freedom to enjoy home life, and freedom of religion. Labour cannot convince the people of Australia that Labour socialism is not a twin brother of communism. There we have the reason why the people of this country no longer trust the Labour party.
Honorable members interjecting,
– Order! I ask the House to come to order. If this interruption continues, some one will be named.
– Honorable gentlemen sitting behind the Leader of the Opposition know that Communist-controlled unions in Australia are being courted by Labour members. A large number of people in the Labour movement, including some of its leaders, are to-day greatly concerned about the influence within the movement of Communist-controlled unions. To realize this one has only to consider what the Honorable E. J. Walsh, a member of the Queensland Parliament, had to say last week at the Labour convention in Mackay. He said -
But I regret to say that ali atmosphere is developing that would suggest that the very effective activities and organization of the Communist Party are making inroads into the trade union movement and the Labour move ment in this State.
It shows that if Labour supporters are to describe themselves as antiCommunists, they must be careful to keep out this influence, which would destroy not only their movement but also the democratic life of this country. For instance, the Labour party should not encourage Healy, of waterfront fame, to bring meD out on’ strike to the detriment of Australia’s industry. I believe that Healy was endeavouring, by stopping work od the Australian waterfront, to break dowD this nation’s economy. It is strange indeed that in this debate Labour supporters have not mentioned that portion of His Excellency’s remarks which made special reference to the need to maintain a sound economy.
– The waterside workers’ strike was justified.
– The honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) now says that the waterside workers’ strike was justified.
Opposition Members. - Hear, hear!
– Honorable members opposite say, “ Hear, hear ! “, but I say that the waterfront strike had a damaging effect on - Australia’s economy. The goods with which we hope to maintain a favorable balance of trade could not be carried to the markets of the world. Labour supporters hoped, like Healy, for the breaking down of our economy. They expected thereby to gain political capital, just as Healy hoped to advance communism. Australia’s economic salvation is to be found in larger and still larger trade with other countries. Our only economic problem is how to balance trade and hold substantial monetary reserves overseas. If we can do this we can guarantee the continuance of prosperity and our high standard of Jiving. Surely no honorable member would deny that a balance of trade will ensure the maintenance of the high living standards that we now enjoy.
The people believe that the MenziesFadden Government will protect the Australian way of life and maintain our present prosperity, better than would the Labour party. They have expressed that confidence by returning this Government. It is useless for a minority party in this House to claim that it has the confidence of the people of Australia. The Government is directly responsible for our full employment, liberal social service benefits, and general prosperity. It deserves recognition for having achieved these things. Notwithstanding the claims of Labour leaders that economic difficulties beset us, we see all around prosperous living conditions. The people of this country are a happy race, and satisfied with the Australian way of life. Honorable members opposite are not alone in harping on this matter of an impending economic tragedy. We hear it also from Labour leaders such as Mr. Gair, the Premier of Queensland. At the Mackay Labour convention he said that there were plenty of indications that’ the financial position of Queensland; ‘in common with that of other States, would -be seriously - shaken in the very near future. Should a crisis arise, I suppose we shall be told - as is indicated by the further amendment foreshadowed by the Leader of the Opposition - that the present Government is to blame. Yet, in the States, Labour Premiers are themselves taking the blame ! One can confidently hope that our business-like Government will prevent a tragedy such as Labour supporters have predicted. There is, in our school of thought, a general belief that our economy must be protected. It would be disastrous if shortages of money prevented the development that prosperity and immigration demanded. We must continue our progress for the benefit of mankind. There are evidences that values of exportable rural products are falling, though wool is up both in quantity and value, as compared with the years between 1949 and 1955.
I want now to say something about, those industries which most affect our oversea.3 balances. In 1949, our wool exports were worth £313,000,000. In 1954-55, they were worth £353,000,000. The following table shows the comparative values of the chief commodities, other than wool, exported from Australia, in 1949-50 and 1954-55 :-
Those figures show that there has been a consistent advance in the value of our primary exports, the sale of which is so necessary to our economic stability. But the volume, . as apart from the value, of those commodities exported, has in many instances, shown a decrease over the same period. For instance, we exported 1,058,000,000 lb. of greasy wool in 1949-50, but only 959,000,000 lb. in 1954-55. Our exports of wheat and flour fell from. 114,000,000 bushels in 1949-50 te 94,000,000 Bushels in 1954-5-5. .Butter exports fell from 82,000 tons <ih 1949-50 to 63,000 tons in 195”4t55, but- over the
– Of course they are !
– The honorable member should recognize that fact, because we are forced to rely on our primary industries to carry us through. I deplore the fact that members of the Opposition, with the exception of the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) do not recognize that great truth. It is true that the Government has established a Ministry of Trade, which is led by a very strong man.
– He is making a horrible mess of it.
– Of course, the honorable gentleman would say that. I did not think he would be so jealous. Though he will wait a long time, what he says will never be true. The new department will be especially busy with a drive to increase our exports. If that does not interest the members of the Labour party, nothing would interest them. We must increase our export trade in both volume and value in order to offset the increasing value of goods entering this country despite import restrictions. It appears, on the surface, that many countries have adopted a policy of subsidies to assist their export trade. Even Great Britain itself is subsidizing the production of many commodities with which Australia has to compete. That is possibly the reason why we have heard from the Minister for Trade, warnings about what is happening to world trade in countries where we hope to establish a market for our goods.
We want to know what help the Government can give in finding markets for our primary and secondary products. I know that there are many Australian manufactured goods which could be readily marketed overseas if the cost of their pro duction could be reduced. We have sent, trade delegations overseas, and I believe that those which went to New Zealand, South Africa and to Eastern countrieshave had a marked success. I am aware that India and other Asian countries would take our manufactured goods if some help came from the Government in relation to costs. I believe the Government will help in that direction. I also know that sugar-milling machinery has a big potential market in India, which is at present engaged in developing its sugar industry. Australia’s modern methods of production and modern machinery appeal to Indian producers, but we have to face strong competition from Great Britain in the Indian market for sugarmilling machinery.
We have many products available for export at suitable prices, and I look forward to the plan of action to be used to establish markets for those products. In my opinion the Government should be encouraged in its campaign to assist our export industries. The Minister for Trade has indicated clearly that he hopes to increase our export trade to the extent of an additional £70,000,000 in the near future. I feel that all honorable members would like to support him in any plan he may submit for the purpose of increasing our overseas earnings.
– Would the honorable member sell to China?
– Of course I know after the speech that the honorable member for East Sydney made tonight, that he would sell to red China. He would sell this country to red China if he could do so. His whole attitude is to help the red cause throughout the world. He has consistently shown that attitude in this Parliament, so I suppose we must give him such credit as is due to him for his consistency. The Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt), has foreshadowed a further amendment of the AddressinReply which relates to interest rates. Naturally, Opposition members hope that the Government will be forced to increase interest charges and taxes. They hope that the Government will follow the recommendation of certain university economists that taxes be increased. I am quite prepared to leave the Government to deal with those matters, knowing perfectly well that it will not- do either of these things unless it is in the best interests of the nation. I know that, whatever this Government has done, it has done it in the best interests of industry generally and of the people of this country. “We pass through crises year after year in this Parliament. Everybody knows exactly how, when a crisis came when the Labour party was in office, the honorable member for East Sydney ran away from it, ran away from his responsibility. But we know that this Government will face up to its responsibilities, whatever they may be, and act for the benefit of this nation.
The arbitration laws of this country remain a first challenge in relation to our production costs. Since this Government has been in office it has provided an arbitration system that is second to none anywhere in the world; so much so that workers under the federal arbitration system today are better off than are workers under any other system in the world. To-day there is a feeling in union circles that if an arbitration tribunal makes a decision against the workers, the workers must strike. I believe that no section of the workers should be permitted to strike, and so affect other sections of the workers, unless they have first conducted a compulsory secret ballot on the question of whether they should strike or not. So many people to-day depend upon continuous work by all sections of the community, that no one section should be able to put other sections out of work by engaging in a strike without the safeguard that I have mentioned. Towards the close of last year we had the experience in Queensland of a certain ban imposed by engineers and boilermakers, which acted to the detriment of the working classes. If a vote had been taken on that occasion I believe that there would not have been a strike at all. It is unfortunate that to-day, strikes are called at the whim of union bosses, not at the wish of the workers in industry. So, unless we institute the system of the compulsory secret ballot in all strike issues we shall not have satisfactory unionism in this country.
Mr. ACTING DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr. Bowden).- Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- The honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Brand), spoke at length about the rural industries but failed to acknowledge that much of our economic trouble to-day is due entirely to this Government’s complete neglect of our primary industries.
I join with other honorable members in congratulating the mover and the seconder of the motion for the adoption of the Address-in-Reply, on the interesting nature of their speeches. I also congratulate those other honorable members who have made their maiden speeches in this House, and I acknowledge their contribution to this debate. I have no doubt that they will make similar notable contributions in future debates. I have listened with a great deal of attention to the remarks that have been made by honorable members on the Government side about the Speech of His Excellency the Governor-General. It is obvious from the conclusions that they have drawn that they think, as I do, that the Speech, which disclosed the Government’s intentions and its programme for the next three years, was more remarkable for what was left unsaid than for what we were told.
His Excellency’s Speech made no effort to explain to the House how we are to overcome the serious difficulties with which we are at present confronted. Everybody acknowledges our serious economic position, but little mention of it has been made by honorable members who support the Government. They have not given attention to the acute domestic crisis which is at present mounting in every direction in this country.
The honorable member for Hume (Mr. Anderson) referred to the shortage of homes in Australia, and suggested that that shortage is due to the attitude of Australian workmen. He indicated that bricklayers in particular, as workmen in one section of the building industry, were not making a maximum contribution to overtaking the lag in home building. That may or may not be so, but I am not prepared to debate it at this time. In any case, bricklaying is a trade in which I am completely unskilled, and therefore I am not able to say how many bricks should be laid by bricklayers on any particular day. However, I assure the honorable member for Hume that there are other more important and significant reasons for the shortage of homes in Australia at present. There is, for example, the rapidly developing credit crisis - a carefully calculated policy fostered in recent years by the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden). It is, of course, an artificial crisis, which has been brought about by the restrictive central bank policy of the Government. To-day it is practically impossible to secure credit facilities through the Commonwealth Bank on reasonable terms, either for home building or for business purposes. The worker who wishes to build his own home and who has saved sufficient money to buy the land and to pay a small percentage of the capital cost of the building as a deposit should be encouraged, but to-day, it is practically impossible for him to’ own a place of his own. He cannot secure finance from the Commonwealth Bank or from other approved lending institutions. His only hope is to secure a government.built home. But, such homes can be made available only after certain conditions have been complied with.
The allocation of a government home is conditional in the first instance on the size of the family, and that does not assist many thousands of young Australian couples who wish to get married and raise families. They are obliged to find homes through authorities other than State housing authorities. The pages of Hansard are filled, with reports of speeches on housing and the problems associated with it, yet at present many thousands of young Australians and their families are being compelled to live under semi-primitive conditions because of the shortage of homes.
Now, let me return for a moment to the programmes that are being carried out by the housing authorities of the States that are signatories of the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement of 1945. That agreement has, in my opinion, proved to be a magnificent success. Of course we do not agree with every clause of it. As a matter of fact, during the final sessional period of the last Parliament, we opposed the provisions relating to interest rates, maximum allowable advance and other matters. Nevertheless, the agreement has made homes available to families which, in ordinary circumstances, would have been denied them. However, the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement does not make accommodation available for all the people who are urgently in need of it.
As I remarked earlier, the position in Tasmania, and I have no doubt in most other States, is that the allocation of a home provided through the agreement is conditional on the size of the family. One of the requirements is that the family unit shall be of at least five people, and honorable members will perceive that that provision does not assist a family of three or young people who intend to get married. Persons in those categories are obliged to find accommodation outside the provision made by State housing authorities, but at present it is practically impossible for them to secure finance on reasonable terms from the Commonwealth Bank. House construction is now clearly beyond the means of those who have only moderate means, and I suggest that until this Government is prepared to alter its present restrictive credit policy there will continue to be many thousands of young Australian families who will not be able to acquire homes of their own.
At present, home seekers are expected to contribute at least 70 per cent, of the total final cost of the home as a deposit, with the Commonwealth Bank providing the remaining 30 per cent. I have no doubt that the Commonwealth Bank has received instructions from the Government to curtail its advances for home building, and that those instructions apply also to many co-operative building societies which, because of the shortage of funds, have had to limit their advances. The most’ effective means of curtailing advances for home building is to require the home seeker to provide £2,500 towards the cost of a £4,000 home, that is, approximately 70 per cent, of the total sum involved.
Housing is the most important matter in the social development of Australia, and it is generally recognized that a fundamental point of all Government policy is to “assist in the provision of homes for the people, even to the extent of making national credit available, if necessary. The housing situation to-day presents an opportunity for this Government to do something really worth-while for the people of Australia. The Government should ensure that adequate finance is made available for the purpose of home construction through the Commonwealth Bank and other approved lending organizations. I suggest that the money should be made available on a deposit of 5 per cent, of the total cost of the home, not 70 per cent, as is at present required. If the Government is to honour its obligation to the homeless families of Australia, it should give consideration to the proposals which I shall now submit to the House.
I suggest, in the first instance, that the Government should give the building industry a guarantee that a continuous How of finance will be available for the construction of homes, and that the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement will be continued for ten years more, with provision for the sale of homes to the tenants on a deposit of 5 per cent, of the capital cost, interest to be charged at the rate of 3 per cent, on the balance, and repayments to be made over a period of 45 years. That suggestion is in conformity with the proposals that were made by the Opposition during the last session of the Parliament when I be Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement of 1945 was under discussion.
The Government should also arrange for the Commonwealth Batik to make available over the next ten years £100,000,000 at the rate of £10,000,000 each year to people who desire to build homes for themselves. Those advances should be financed by Credit Foncier loans at 3 per cent. I suggest that, in addition, £100,000,000 be made available over the same period, and under the same conditions, through the co-operative building societies. This would ensure continuation of the work of the State housing commissions and provide increased finance on favorable terms and conditions for persons desiring to build homes.
The Government should arrange finance through the Commonwealth Bank to assist smlal building contractors so that they might develop their operations and become project builders instead of single-home builders. That would ensure proper job construction and more effective use of labour, resulting in cheaper construction and more homes.
The position in connexion with war service homes has not improved in recent months. Far too many ex-servicemen who want to buy homes are being forced to wait for periods of two to three years. To overcome this problem, I suggest that the War Service Homes Act should be amended to provide for the purchase of a home on a deposit of 5 per cent. The maximum advance for the purchase of approved existing properties or the construction of new dwellings should be increased from £2,750 to £3,500. Adequate finance should be made available under the act to remove the long waiting time to which ex-servicemen are now subjected. The act should be amended further to allow ex-servicemen, if they so desire, to transfer their present mortgages from private institutions to the Director of War Service Homes so that they may enjoy the full benefits of the act, including lower interest and insurance rates. If those proposals are given the consideration they merit, we shall be able to meet our obligations to the homeless families of Australia.
As I said at the beginning of my speech, 1 have no doubt that the GovernorGeneral’s Speech was most disappointing to the nation, because, although His Excellency referred in rather sweeping terms to what have been termed the “ problems of prosperity “, the Speech gave no indication of the steps .the Government might take to deal with them. Nearly seven years ago, the previous Labour Government handed over a sound and robust economy. During the ensuing seven years, this Government has brought the national economy to a very precarious position, despite repeated warnings from honorable members on the Opposition side. The Chifley Labour Government successfully negotiated the transition from a war-time economy to a peace-time economy. When it left office, production was increasing and homes were being built at a record rate. Prices were being held in check effectively, and consumer goods were being produced in increasing quantities. What is the position to-day? The Government quite frankly admits that while production is increasing, the rate of increase is fa too slowly to meet the demand. Inflation continues while prices are still rising, thus severely limiting our ability to compete on important overseas markets.
Several factors contribute to the present economic situation. One of these I shall call the rural crisis. Everyone acknowledges that there is a drift away from the rural industries. Not only have we ceased to export many of our most important basic items, but we may also have to start importing food; yet the Government failed to indicate in the GovernorGeneral’s Speech how it proposes to meet the rural crisis. I suggest that something should be done immediately to tackle that problem. The Government must assist the farmers to obtain more man-power while ensuring greater returns to the farmers in many primary industries to meet national needs.
In this connexion, I wish to direct attention to closer settlement, which could increase production and provide for a larger population. Any land settlement policy which ignores Australia’s vital need for population can lead only to disaster. There is a clear-cut choice before us to-day: Either we justify our occupation of this vast continent by developing it and continuing to increase production or somebody else will do it for us. Vast areas of land are being shut up in large holdings. This is keeping the country unpopulated and unproductivemaking for over-centralization in settled areas, and land-locking many country towns. Obviously there is disproportion between urban and rural populations.
During the past few years, there has been an alarming drift of population from rural areas to the cities. The honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) cited some telling figures to indicate what has happened to the rural industries during recent years. Before World War LT’.y there wis approximately one : family ‘ in 1 the’’ country “arenas 1 for one family’ in. the 1 ‘cities’: -‘In’ other’ words) -one ‘family was required in the rural area’s to ‘feed ‘ one family in the cities. The same ratio applied approximately to secondary industries in relation to primary production. Time and time again, the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) has stated that the more we build up our secondary industries at the expense of our primary industries, the more vulnerable we shall become as a nation, both economically and physically.
At this stage, allow me to return for a moment to the Government’s restricted Central Bank policy, and to emphasize that it is having far-reaching and detrimental effects upon primary industries. Far too many young, progressive farmers, who desire to expand their holdings by bringing new land into production, are unable to do sp because there is no recognized source from which they are able to secure finance to enable them to embarkon a programme of expansion. Quite recently, a young Tasmanian farmer approached me on this matter. He had a farm. He had gone out and developed new country, and was on the point of bringing the farm into production when he received a notice from his bank to thu effect that he had to sell the property. He applied to other banks and organizations from which he thought he might be able to obtain a temporary loan, but when these efforts failed I approached the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) on his behalf. The -right honorable gentleman was most unsympathetic. He told me that as far as he was concerned he knew of no other recognized source from which this man could obtain money. That is the position to-day. Consequently, this young farmer will have to sell his land, which could have been brought into production, and this country will be the loser. There are far too many young farmers in a similar position to-day. I ask the Minister for Health (Dr. Donald Cameron), who is sitting at the table, to urge the Government to give consideration to this matter. There surely must be some way in which the Government oan attack this problem so as to ensure that money will be made available to farmers who urgently need it in order to expand their activities or pay for their properties.’ .
Surely’’ the. Government can- do something ‘to attract new Australians tq undertake wheat-farming, orcharding and other forms of primary industry, in order to overcome the disproportionate spread of population that exists to-day. I ask the Minister to direct the attention of the Government to the matters I have mentioned, and particularly to make money available because, as I have said, it is very difficult to-day for young farmers to obtain loans from any source. This country is faced with problems of very great importance. They were emphasized by the Governor-General in his Speech. I agree with His Excellency’s statement that attention must be given to the peace and security of Australia, but we have also to consider matters relating to the economic well-being of our people. Australia needs a programme under which money will be provided to enable industries to he developed and so produce wealth. At the same time, the mass of the people should be assured of the highest possible standard of living. That, at least, is the spirit and purpose of the Labour movement. The Government should give immediate attention to stabilizing the economy. I am sure that the Opposition would be prepared to consider carefully any practical suggestions by supporters of the Government. However, it was evident from the GovernorGeneral’s Speech which, after all, was a statement of Government policy, that this Government has no constructive proposals to put before either the people or the Parliament.
.- After listening to the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard) explain his outlook on current affairs and say what he considered the Government should do, I am afraid that I can agree with only one of his comments, which was that the maiden speeches that have been delivered by the new members of this House have been of a very high standard. It was evident that the speakers had studied their subjects fully, and I am sure they will be worthy members of this House. Whilst we on. this side do not agree with some of the opinions that were expressed by the new members of the Opposition, we shall look forward with interest to their contributions to the debates in the months to come.
I cannot accept without qualification) the statements of the honorable member for Bass in relation to the conditions that existed in 1949, when the Chifley Government was still in office. The honorablemember would have us believe that during that Government’s regime a period! of unexampled and unequalled prosperity obtained without any of the shortages and rationing that we know existed at that time. The honorable member painted a picture of a wonderful housebuilding era, with high wages and prosperous conditions. However, those things were bought very dearly, indeed. K» many honorable members will remember, the prices that one had to pay for commodities were frequently much higher than the window prices. If that periodwas such an outstanding one, it is indeed remarkable that the people kicked out the Labour Government neck and crop whenthey had an opportunity to do so.
During the last six years, the criticsof the Government have repeatedly predicted calamity and gloom, which has had the effect of depreciating confidence in this country. The honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) exhorted the people to spend their savings, because he contended that money would become worthless. He appeared to gloat over a small percentage of unemployment that manifested itself, and criticized the Government on that score. He asserted repeatedly that we were endeavouring to create unemployment for a certain purpose. The honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell), who is the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, also advised the people to take their money out of the bank and spend it, because he knew that by so doing they would increase the inflationary pressures and cause- embarrassment to the Government. But we successfully withstood those attacks. The people have demonstrated their confidence in the Govern^ ment parties by returning them to office on three occasions since 1949. Having suffered three king hits through theballotbox, honorable members opposite are now more guarded in their criticism of this Government. It is true that the Opposition still criticizes the Government parties, but its criticism is tempered with reserve.
The Speech of His Excellency the Governor-General when opening the Twenty-second Parliament has been criticized by the Opposition as unspectacular and unrevealing; but the debate has revealed once again the sensitivity of the Labour party in relation to iis socialistic policy. No one could fail to «be impressed by the way that members of the Opposition have been threshing about like harpooned whales since it was suggested that the Government should free itself of the responsibility of conducting the whaling station at Carnarvon, in Western Australia. This has become a matter of crucial importance to the Opposition, which felt constrained to move an amendment in an attempt to prevent, if possible, the sale of the assets of the Australian Whaling Commission. There is a ^curious belief amongst honorable members opposite that the Government should establish certain industries and maintain them. When an anti-Labour government succeeds in establishing a profitable undertaking, there is immediately a clarion call from the Opposition that private enterprise can be outstripped by government control, and that, therefore, government control should be extended rather than restricted. It is not the primary function of any government to run a business. Its responsibility is to make it possible for the people to conduct their own commercial undertakings. They should be given an opportunity to obtain a reasonable return for their capital expenditure and personal effort. There is an uproar on the Opposition side whenever the sale of the government’s shareholdings in Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited and Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited is mentioned. In reality, the sale of those shares resulted in the return of the people’s assets to their rightful place in the community. That will be the position also if the assets of the Australian Whaling Commission are sold. Whenever governmentcontrolled ventures are operated profitably, the Opposition claims that that is proof that socialistic enterprises can succeed. However, I should like to emphasize that success is achieved in government enterprises mainly as the result of the enthusiasm and drive displayed by persons who are attracted to the government service from private enterprise. But, as the years go by, unknowledgeable political appointments, instead of appointments based on merit begin to slow down the wheels, and it becomes apparent that the machinery of government is not applicable to commercial undertakings.
The honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Whitlam), in a speech on this subject recently, gave as an illustration of the beneficence of State ownership the nationalization of. the Melbourne Gas Company. I remind the honorable member that the company was taken over by a Labour government after general elections in which the Labour leader, who, prior to the elections, was in opposition, had adopted the slogan, “ Tip Hollway out and keep prices down”. Prom the time the Victorian Labour Government took over the company gas prices rose. I should like honorable members to compare the position of the Geelong Gas Company, which is privately owned, and happily and efficiently managed, and is producing cheaper gas than is produced By the great nationalized undertaking. The Opposition’s furious resistance to the sale of the assets of the Australian Whaling Commission, and its amendment to the motion for the adoption of the Address-in-Reply to the GovernorGeneral’s Speech, are merely indicative of the anguish of a party which affects great displeasure at what it terms private monopolies and yet adopts as an outstanding plank in its platform the principle of establishing one great monopoly owned solely by the Government.
– By the people.
– Labour intends it to be owned by the Government, and, if it were controlled by people like the honorable member for East Sydney, it would soon show signs of a dictatorship that would otherwise be unknown. The Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement entered into by the Labour Government was an example of Labour’s policy, for it provided only for homes to be owned by the State and rented to the occupiers. State housing commissions developed into a tremendous monopoly, which completely disorganized private building. The agreement entered into by the present Government will restore the balance by requiring that a minimum of 20 per cent, of the funds made available shall be placed in the hands of co-operative building societies, so that private building may be undertaken on a considerable scale again. I have some knowledge of the increase of costs occasioned by government undertakings. The authorities at present conducting a certain inquiry in Victoria would do well to compare the costs of and the returns from government building with those of private enterprise. The change to government building was to promote efficiency in the collection of payments due, but government overhead charges are so great and so many government employees are* engaged that costs are much greater than those of private enterprise.
The Governor-General referred to troubles on the waterfront, and to their effect on Australia’s economy. It will be readily recognized, as was pointed out by the honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Brand), that, at this period, when we are adjusting our economy to changed conditions, waterfront delays have tragic effects upon our economy. If we, on this side of the House, say that the present waterfront trouble is Communist-inspired, as is obvious to every one, and is unjustified in our present circumstances, we shall be accused of prejudice. But the Australian Council of Trades Unions, which is a Labour organization, divorced itself from the conduct of the recent strike. One realizes why when one sees the waterfront trouble in its true perspective. Tt cannot be denied that it is inspired by a Communist a3 a Communist manoeuvre. When it becomes clear that this is the case, the people immediately ask what the Government is going to do about the Communists.
I think it is as well to remind the public, at this stage, that, once before, the Government did everything possible, by legislation and referendum, to deal with the Communists, but was fought bitterly by the Australian Labour party. We all recall that the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) was in the vanguard of the fight against that legislation.
A gallup poll taken at the time indicated that the public view was that action should be taken and that the Government should have the necessary power. However, efforts that could have been used in a far better cause, and would have been admirable in other circumstances’ from the viewpoint of the stamina exhibited, and distances travelled and the speeches made by one of the principal participants, tipped the balance against the Government and the referendum was rejected by the people. Coming eventsimmediately cast their shadow before, and we now see the Healys, Birds and O’Sheas in our midst busily sabotaging industry to the great detriment of Australia’s economy. I remind honorable members of the descriptive phrase used by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) when the results of the referendum to which I have referred became known: “ We are now fighting with one hand tied behind our back “. The opposition of the Australian Labour party to the referendum, and its criticism of the Government’s handling of the economic situation, have greatly contributed to our present difficulties.
The tying up of the waterfront is part of a Communist plan, and a study of waterfront statistics reveals the reason. It would be an excellent idea for those who are interested in the subject to read the comprehensive articles under the title, Australian Coastal Shipping, written by Arthur G. Lowndes, who is chairman of the Australian Institute of Political Science - an honorary office - and an agricultural economist and land development consultant. Mr. Lowndes has no association with the shipping industry, but, as chairman of the Institute of Political Science, he has, in his own time, made a very wide study of the problems of Australian shipping. Indeed, his is the first independent survey of the problems of sea transport, and it is completely impartial and objective. Mr. Lowndes pointsout that a small coastal ship carrying- 3,500 tons of cargo transports as much asdo fourteen goods trains or 300 semitrailer trucks. A ship has considerable advantages as a carrier, in terms of manpower, operating costs, and even capital costs. Ships do not require costly highways or permanent ways, and the cost of terminal facilities is small compared with the investment required in arterial roads for land transport. For example, ironstone is being shipped from Whyalla, in South Australia, to the steelworks at Newcastle and Port Kembla, a journey of approximately 1,300 miles, at an average freight cost of 21s. 3d. a ton or I96d. a ton-mile. The cost of loading and discharge, after allowing for capital and operating costs of plant, would bring the figure to about 29 1/2d. a ton-mile, shore , to shore. It may be that even this figure is not as good as .it might be. Nevertheless, it is only about one-sixteenth of the average freight charged by railways in Australia. As shipping was responsible for 49.13 per cent, of the total freight ton-mileage during the financial year 1953-54, it is the outstanding means of transport. These facts underline the importance of shipping to Australia and indicate why the seamen and the waterside workers are being incited to disrupt our cheapest means of transport.
The present position is not desired by all the men. I know well many waterside workers who do not want to strike. They deplore the control exercised over them, but they cannot get away from it. It is said that the job is uncongenial, but that is not so. Admittedly, it is an irregular job, but there are some persons who like employment of that type. From our own experience we know that sometimes we have been engaged in employment which was perhaps different from the average run, and was regarded by the average person as being irksome, but that employment appealed to us. There are thousands and thousands of workers who are attracted to employment on the waterfront, as is evidenced by the fact that on one occasion in Geelong, when only three men were registered as unemployed, almost 100 applications were received for 23 vacancies as waterside workers. That was just prior to the commencement of the recent waterfront trouble. All in all, despite fluctuations in the Australian economy and despite the stringent, awkward times through which we have passed during the last six years, I do not think that- any one could say that the nation’s affairs could have been handled better or more efficiently than they have been handled by this Govern ment. The Government parties have worked together in a consistent and cooperative manner, despite early suggestions that the coalition would not work. Criticism of such a government by an Opposition which is broken to pieces and has no straight and coherent policy, will have no great effect upon the Australian public.
.- I rise to support the amendment to the AddressinReply which has been moved by the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard). When it was proposed, it was received with a great deal of hilarity on the part of Government supporters. They thought that it had been put up as a sort of Aunt Sally and that they would derive some amusement from discussing it, but the honorable member for Lalor had not proceeded with his case for verylong before we could see evidence of growing concern in the minds of Government supporters, because of the splendid argument advanced by the honorable member in support of his contention that, for no intelligent reason, the Government was sabotaging a successful Commonwealth enterprise. That concern has grown to very large dimensions, because quite a number of Government supporters, particularly from Western Australia, have, one after another, put forward specious and fallacious arguments why the House should reject the amendment. I have not yet heard one valid reason why the Government should proceed with the sale of the assets of the Australian Whaling Commission. It is true that Government supporters have cited a number of instances of the non-success of government enterprises in other parts of Australia, but no legitimate reason ha° been advanced in support of the sale of this enterprise in the manner indicated by the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen). It appears to me the Government proposes to make this sale solely because of its obsession that there should not be any form of government enterprise whatsoever, irrespective of whether an existing government enterprise is achieving financial success or rendering a good service to the community. In the mind of the Government, the mere fact of its being a government enterprise is sufficient to justify its disposal.
The honorable member for Swan (Mr. Cleaver), in his apologies this afternoon for proceeding with this sale, confessed that in about 1946, when the enterprise was established, the Government, which then comprised the Opposition, supported its establishment. I suggest that the reason for that support was that private enterprise had fallen down on the job of establishing the industry. We hear protestations on the part of honorable members opposite of the virtues of private enterprise as against public enterprise. We are told that private enterprise is prepared to take risks, that men are prepared to invest money in an industry >n the hope that eventually it will pay dividends, that they are prepared to pioneer an industry and take a chance with their savings, and that therefore they should be rewarded. Such arguments could not be advanced in regard to the whaling industry, because in 1946 private enterprise was not willing to take a chance. It was not prepared to ascertain whether this industry could be a financial success. In 1946, private enterprise did not care whether or not Australia had a whaling industry; it was not interested. Therefore, I am not filled with a sense of wonderment that the Opposition of 1946 did not oppose the establishment of this industry. Had it done so, it would have bad nothing to support its case, because private enterprise was not interested in the proposition. Now, because this industry has been an unqualified success, the Government, with its unconcealed hate of all forms of public enterprise, with particular emphasis on successful public enterprise, has decided to dispose of this undertaking. No charge of non-success can be sustained against this public enterprise. Generally, when the sale of a public enterprise is contemplated, we hear arguments that the industry has failed to deliver the goods, that it is not giving service to the public, or that it is costing the taxpayers money. I have listened in vain during this debate for any Government supporter to make charges of that nature in relation to this undertaking. There has not been one tittle of evidence that it has been inefficient. The figures cited by Government supporters do not suggest that the undertaking has failed financially. The fact is that the Government is determined, in the long run, to dispose of every enterprise owned by -the people of Australia on a Commonwealth basis. It is sniping them off one by one, and I have not the slightest doubt that the turn of TransAustralia Airlines for disposal will come.
– Nonsense !
– I know that the Minister for Civil Aviation (Mr. Townley) is particularly proud of that undertaking and has been a good supporter of it, but he will have to toe the party line when the people behind the Government say that it is time for Trans-Australia Airlines to be disposed of. After all, why should that not be so? Why should TransAustralia Airlines be singled out for preferential treatment? The Government has, in the past, disposed of every successful public enterprise. Why should the Government airline be exempt from this process of elimination? I suggest that in the normal course of events its time will come, if the Government remains in power long enough. I hope that the Government will not remain in power much longer, but if it does so, the time will surely come when the Minister for Civil Aviation will have to rise, with an apologetic air, and introduce a bill to provide for the sale of Trans- Australia Airlines.
– Nonsense, unless I buy it myself.
– I know that the Minister will not do it with a great deal of enthusiasm. I remember when the Minister for Supply (Mr. Beale) had charge of a bill providing for the disposal of Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited. If ever a Minister did not have his heart in a job, it was he. Naturally, he had to carry out the Government’s policy. I forecast that what the Minister for Supply did two years ago, the Minister for Air will have to do a year or eighteen months hence. The Government’s attitude in this matter is extraordinary and indefensible. Not one legitimate argument has been advanced in support of the disposal of this wonderful asset of the people. This eminently successful public enterprise has excited the admiration of all sections of the community. Everybody has agreed that from every point of view it has been a wonderful investment for the Australian people. There has been no suggestion whatsoever of nonsuccess, because it has been extraordinarily successful. Therefore, the Government has had to trot out all kinds of specious reasons to explain its proposal to dispose of the assets. As a matter of fact, the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Cleaver) - whom I see looking at me with interest, as though he fully expected me to take him to task - made the extraordinary statement this afternoon that government control of the industry, in either the State or Federal sphere, was undesirable. Such control was not undesirable in 1946, when private enterprise did not have sufficient courage to pioneer the industry. At that time, it was most desirable that government money should be invested in this venture. However, when government enterprise, efficiency, and money have proved perfectly capable of establishing a successful Australian undertaking, we find no opposition on the part of Government supporters to the whaling industry. They find government control undesirable only when the industry has proved to be an unqualified success and is making large profits on behalf of the Australian people. Because the undertaking was successful, and looked like being successful for years to come, this Government decided that it would be contrary to its policy to allow the undertaking to carry on any longer. It seems to me that government control of the industry has only become undesirable because such control is contrary to the inclinations and wishes of those people who provide the funds for Government supporters at election time.
The Australian Labour party makes no secret of the fact that it stands, particularly, for the retention of public enterprises that have survived the test of time and have provided service and earned dividends. We believe in retaining such enterprises for the Australian people. After all, there is not much wrong with an enterprise making large profits, if some of those profits are to pay off the cost of the undertaking, and the remainder to go into Consolidated Revenue for the benefit of Australian taxpayers. I do not think any argument can be advanced against an undertaking that works along those lines. Consequently, we of the Labour party say that the projected disposal of this enterprise will have a deleterious effect on the Australian people, in that it will deprive them of the dividends earned by the enterprise, and, at the same time, deprive the Commonwealth of revenue.
This industry was dead when the Australian Government decided to revive it in 1946. The whaling industry, as we knew it in Australia during the last century, no longer existed at that time. Private enterprise had given it away because it thought there was not sufficient profit in the ‘industry. Apparently, private enterprise was not prepared to invest approximately £1,000,000 in the project, because it believed that sufficient dividends might not be forthcoming. In 1946, the Australian Government, on behalf of the taxpayers of the Commonwealth, had to be the milking cow. It was necessary for the Commonwealth to prove that this industry could be conducted profitably and efficiently in Australian waters. Therefore, when the Government established the venture in 1946, private enterprise organizations were sceptical and indifferent concerning the result. The project did not evoke a great deal of interest from them, hut they had reckoned without the organizational genius of the honorable member for Lalor, who was then Minister for Commerce and Agriculture. That honorable member was determined that, as in everything else he undertakes, this task of establishing the industry should be tackled with great energy and efficiency. The result of his application to that task, and of his undoubted ability, was that initial steps were taken which ensured the success of the enterprise in the years to come. For example, the honorable member went to great pains to ensure that only the most modern equipment was installed at the shore station. He did not tolerate shoddy, second-hand equipment merely because private enterprise was of the opinion that the venture would not succeed. The honorable member appreciated that the industry had great potentialities, and for that reason he said, in effect, “We shall start the industry off on the most modern basis “.
More importantly, he saw to it that great care was taken in selecting the personnel of the undertaking. Indeed, the honorable member deserves great credit for seeing to it that first-rate men were given positions in the industry, men who undoubtedly have contributed greatly to its success. I say that no strictures can be levelled against the commission or its employees. It cannot be said that the Government proposes to dispose of the enterprise because the employees have gone slow on the job, the excuse that is trotted out invariably when the Government is about to dispose of a public undertaking. These men did not loaf on the job. There is no doubt that the industry was efficient. Not a single syllable of criticism can be spoken regarding the men who were appointed by the Government. The employees were keen on their jobs and eager to see that the* venture was successful in all its phases. The employees certainly gave 100 per cent, cooperation to the management, and I have no doubt that that contributed greatly to the success of the enterprise.
In addition, the honorable member for Lalor, in consultation with experts in the industry, made certain that the station was located in the right position. The government of the day appreciated that, in the siting of the station, two factors were of paramount importance : first, the accessibility of whales, and secondly, the value of the station as a developmental factor. The honorable member for Lalor devoted much time and attention to these phases of the establishment of the industry. After discussion with the people concerned, he discovered that the northwest coast of Western Australia fulfilled both of those requirements.
In the brief five years of its operations, the Australian Whaling Commission has achieved a fine record of success. That, of course, is why the Government feels impelled to dispose of it to-day - the venture has been too successful. Its disposal will provide wonderful support for any future argument in this House concerning the disposal of public undertakings. I imagine that this is merely a prelude to getting rid of Trans-Australia Airlines. I think that the Government believes that, if it is able to dispose of the assets of the Australian Whaling Commission, that will lend force to a future argument that Trans-Australia Airlines should be disposed of, because both the Australian Whaling Commission and TransAustralia Airlines have been wonderfully successful from a monetary point of view.
So far as the operations of this venture are concerned, we find that capital expenditure of approximately £1,250,000 has been repaid to the extent of about £850,000. In addition, the returns from the commission have been sufficient to pay to the Government the full interest obligation on the money that was borrowed originally. All primage and payroll taxes have been paid during the years of operation in Western Australia. Not only has that been done, but also, the Western Australian economy has benefited considerably from the establishment of the station. The banana-growers of Geraldton have received fertilizers from the by-products of the whales, and that has been a boon to their industry. Whereas previously they were obliged to bring fertilizer long distances, now they have it almost on their doorstep. Stockfeeders, particularly poultryfarmers, have found the whale byproducts to be most worthwhile. Australia had long suffered a shortage of this type of stockfeed, but because of the initiative of the Chifley Labour Government, particularly that of the honorable member for Lalor, as Minister for Commerce and Agriculture in that Government, that shortage was alleviated by the availability of by-products of whales. It is safe to say that if the Government had not initiated this enterprise in 1946, there would have been no whaling industry in Western. Australia. As E have said, private enterprise was not prepared to go ahead with it, until it had been proved that the industry could be successful.
Whale oil from this station has been exported to the markets of the world, and this has brought us valuable monetary exchange. I, in common with other Opposition members, take exception to the methods adopted by the Government in disposing of this undertaking, methods which cut across the canons of all accepted business principles. It is well known that, in relation to government or municipal enterprises that are to be sold, the proper course is to call for tenders. Preferment must not be given to any section of the community. The proposal must be advertised in the daily newspapers, and prospective purchasers must be told that the project is for sale, and that tenders will close at a certain time. That gives every taxpayer and indeed every resident an equal chance of considering the possibilities of the enterprise, appraising its value and submitting a tender. That has been the accepted practice throughout Australian public life, irrespective of the political complexion of the people who happen to be in charge of the particular government enterprise.
But for some strange reason, which has certainly not been satisfactorily explained by any member of the Government to date, this practice has been entirely discarded.We have been told that the Government, through the Minister, wrote to certain whaling companies. Why on earth should it write only to certain whaling companies? People other than whaling companies have rights in this matter. They are entitled to an opportunity to say whether they would like to buy it. Why give preference to the whaling companies ? What have the whaling companies done to deserve preference? Why, in 1946, they had not the courage to put any money into the industry at all! They wanted the Government to do it. In those circumstances, if any one should be denied preference, it is the whaling companies. But, irrespective of the merits of the people engaged in the Australian whaling industry, and irrespective of their disservice to it when they were not prepared to go ahead with the venture in 1946, the Government has decided to give them first offer. Tenders should have been called for the purchase of this undertaking. The proposed sale should have been advertised in every Australian newspaper. I have not the slightest doubt that there are many people with money to invest who would be only too glad to have the oppor tunity of investing in what will undoubtedly be a very lucrative enterprise.
-(Hon. Archie Cameron). - Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
Motion (by Sir Eric Harrison) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
Motion (by Sir Eric Harrison) put -
That the question be now put.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. Archie Cameron.)
Majority . . . . 18
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 10.49 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
SER asked the Minister representing the Attorney-General, upon notice -
– The Attorney-General has furnished the following reply: - 1, 2 and 3. The Attorney-General is giving consideration to the matters referred to in the three questions and will write personally to Mr. Fraser on them.
s asked the Minister representing the Attorney-General, upon notice -
Did certain non-members of the union take part in the election in the following ways: -
s. - The Attorney-General has furnished the following replies to the honorable member’s questions: -
h asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -*
In view of the fact that the British Government is shortly to conduct atomic tests in Australia, and in view of the fact that the true significance and nature of this new development should be known to as many people as possible, would it be practicable, consistent, of course, with security, for representative members of the Australian community to have the opportunity of viewing these tests and certainly for honorable members of this House, I think preferably drawn from both sides of the House, to have the opportunity of viewing them?
– The honorable member has asked me whether it would be practicable for a party of members of the Parliament to witness the forthcoming atomic test at the Monte Bello Islands. I said that the idea commended itself to me, but that I would have to discuss the practicability with my colleagues. Upon examination, I find that there are a number of factors which make it quite impracticable to arrange for a party to witness this test. As the honorable member will know, such experiments are only made when certain specific safety limits have been met, and this could mean an indefinite period of waiting for the right weather after all other preparations have been completed. The problem of accommodation and sustenance for this period at such a remote location and the difficulty of chartering another suitable ship to take the party to a position where it could see the test both make it impossible to arrange the visit. These difficulties should not be present to the same degree for some of the trials scheduled to take place at the Maralinga Range later this year. Although it is, as yet, too early to say whether it would be possible for a party of members to witness a test at Maralinga during the year, I will keep in mind the honorable member’s request when arrangements for these later tests are being made.
n asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
What is the estimated loss in revenue for each year under the double taxation exemption provisions of the Income Tax Act in respect of (a) individual and (6) companies?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows : -
The double taxation exemption provisions of the Income Tax Act stem from the International Agreements Act with which the Income Tax and Social Services Contribution Assessment Act is incorporated. The Commonwealth has entered into two international agreements for the avoidance of double taxation on incomes, one with the United Kingdom which was sponsored by the Chifley Government, and the other with the United States of America, which was sponsored by the present Government. Both of these agreements follow a ‘common pattern and such differences in detail as do occur arise from the need to adapt in the agreement the differences in the -taxation law and practice of those countries. The several articles of each of these agreements are mutually concessional as between Australia and the country concerned and, provided the flow of income between Australia and “the other countries were equal, the gain to Australian revenue would offset any loss from the concessions given by Australia. At the time the agreements were entered into, it was calculated that if the capital investments of the United Kingdom and the United States of America in Australia remained static the possible cost to revenue might approximate £1,000,000 per annum. However, if, as was expected, the flow of capital from each of those countries was accelerated, it was anticipated that income tax revenue would, in fact, be increased as a direct result of the agreements. Statistics from which a reliable estimate could be made as to the precise gain to revenue as a result of the increased flow of capital have not been compiled.
b asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Navy, upon notice -
– The Minister for the Navy has given the following answers to the honorable member’s questions: -
H.M.A.S. Sydney’s developing boiler trouble which gave rise to the revised training arrangements.
n asked the Minister for Health, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
d asked the Minister for Works, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
n asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Telephone Services in Western Australia.
b 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 : -
e asked the Minister for the Army, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : - 1 and 2. No decision affecting the transfer of this camp has been made, nor has any proposal come before me.
t asked the Minister representing the Minister for Shipping and Transport, upon notice -
– The Minister for Shipping and Transport has furnished the following reply: - 1 and 2. The following bible sets out the vessels owned by the Commonwealth and operated by the Australian Shipping Board, together with their deadweight tonnage and the year built or date of purchase. The original value of the ships, in the books of the Australian Shipping Board, is also shown. This figure is in most cases less than the actual cost of the vessels to the Commonwealth, the book value depending on circumstances existing at the time the various ships were taken over by the board. The ships have since been written down in the books of the board at rates of depreciation which are in accordance with the usual practice in the shipping industry. It is not possible to state the present value of each ship. This depends in effect on what buyers are prepared to pay for the ships which, iri turn, would be governed both by the State of the market at the time they were offered for sale and by conditions which might be attached to the sale.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 7 March 1956, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1956/19560307_reps_22_hor9/>.