22nd Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. John McLeay) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
Mr. WARD presented a petition from approximately 100,000 Australian citizens praying the Parliament to give immediate consideration to the question of increasing pensions to not less than 50 per cent, of the basic wage as the minimum.
Petition received and read.
– I desire to ask the Acting Prime Minister, in his capacity as Treasurer, a question relating to the St. Mary’s munitions project. I have in mind the comments, in some respect very scathing, made by the Auditor-General in relation to the basic contract on which that project is being carried out, involving the possibility of enormous additional expense to the Commonwealth. Will the right honorable gentleman look at the position as a matter of urgency and report to the House whether anything is being done to remedy it, to make the obligation of the Commonwealth clear and to see that any extravagance or unnecessary expenses are immediately curtailed?
– I will certainly look into the matter as expeditiously as the Leader of the Opposition desires.
– I direct my question to the Postmaster-General. Some few months ago, during my absence, a raid was made on a private dwelling in Victoria, in which over 40 telephones were found installed in a flat for an illegal purpose. Was an exhaustive inquiry made to ascertain bow private persons could possibly have so many telephones installed, involving 40 different lines, without raising the suspicion of the officers of the PostmasterGeneral’s Department? If this inquiry was held, what was the result? What action was taken against the person or persons who granted the authority for this installa- tion? What steps have been taken to see that such abuse of the priority system does not recur?
– This is a subject which, as the honorable member acknowledged, was dealt with in this House some months ago. Actually, there were several police raids on premises in Melbourne, and I am not sure from the honorable member’s question to which one he referred. However, I can answer his question in general terms. Some of the raids were followed by charges levelled by the State authorities against the persons using the telephones, and convictions were obtained. In those cases, as always happens on such occasions, the police requested the Postal Department to cancel the telephone connexion, and that was done. The regulations at present provide that the cancellation must be for a period of six months. Other cases were investigated by the officers of the department immediately after premises were raided by the police. In some of them, without any further action being taken by the police, it was found that the occupants of the premises had in some way interfered with the department’s installation. That, in itself, is an offence against departmental regulations. In those cases, the telephones were disconnected because of the action taken in altering the equipment which had been installed by the department. The honorable member also asked what action has been taken to try to check on the practice of persons lodging false applications and obtaining telephone services as a result. For some time past, the department has been investigating cases where a number of telephones were installed in buildings, and in respect of which it appeared, particularly from the call rate which those telephones registered, that they were not being used during the week, but were used largely on Saturdays, particularly for inward calls. In those cases, the department asked the subscriber to show reason why the telephone should not be disconnected. In some instances, that action by the department was immediately followed by a request from the person concerned for the cancellation of his telephone service. So, it will be seen that the department has been actively moving, along all the lines open to it, to do its share in trying to ensure that departmental installations are not used for an improper purpose.
– Has the attention of the Postmaster-General been drawn to the statement by the Director-General of Posts and Telegraphs, Sir Giles Chippindall, that, in view of the serious accumulation of mail in Tasmania, the department considers it necessary, in the public interest, to take appropriate action to restore normal postal services and eliminate back-lag as quickly as possible? This action will include recruitment of additional staff and employment of postal officers in particular, subject to payment in accordance with the award conditions, which the department will ensure are not in any way infringed. Is the PostmasterGeneral aware that the introduction of personnel not normally employed on mail duties in the Tasmanian postal services will aggravate an already deteriorating situation, and will cause serious industrial unrest and have grave complications, which can result only in the permanent estrangement of the administration and staff in the postal services generally? Finally, in view of the policy of introducing part-time workers, additional and unnecessary overtime, and other labour, which could cost about £52,000 in a year, will the Minister ask the Government to consider meeting the just claims of members of the Amalgamated Postal Workers Union in Tasmania, bearing in mind that they submitted a comprehensive claim, based on Tasmanian disabilities, during a two-day hearing on 11th and 12th May, before the representative of the Public Service Board, and that no action was taken by- the union until 16th July, two months later?
– I am aware of the statement made by Sir Giles Chippindall, the Director-General of Posts and Telegraphs, to which the honorable member referred at the beginning of his lengthy question, and which related to the actions that the department would be forced to take to preserve the continuity of service which is demanded from the Postal Department by all persons in the community. It is not desired by the department to take any action which will in any way aggravate the unfortunate situation but, at the same time, every one must realize that the whole economy of Australia depends in a considerable measure on the preservation of communications through the Postal Department and that it is the obligation of the Government and the department to do their utmost to see that essential communications are kept open and moving. Therefore, if, as the result of some action which is not the departmental choice, it is necessary to employ other hands within the limits of the ceiling of the department and within the prescribed awards, obviously the department would eventually be forced to do so by reason of the just demands of the public. The remainder of the honorable gentleman’s question is outside my scope and is within the scope of the Minister for Labour and National Service. I, therefore, leave any further reply to him.
– Has the attention of the Treasurer been drawn to the proposal of the New South Wales Government to impose a land tax upon certain lands? As there is a certain lack of knowledge on the part of the public as to the effect of this in respect of federal taxation, can the right honorable gentleman inform the House whether the tax in question will be considered as a deduction for the purpose of federal taxation?
– As the law stands at present, all taxes paid to a State or otherwise are allowable deductions for federal taxation purposes and, consequently, any land tax paid under State legislation would be an allowable deduction.
– In view of the fact that the frequency channel of “ Admiral “ television sets is not in accordance with the recommendation of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board and of the grave doubts that now exist concerning the suitability of “ Admiral “ television sets for Australian conditions, will the PostmasterGeneral arrange for an independent expert inquiry into the question of intermediate frequency standards and other technical standards best adapted for use in Australian television receivers? Will he arrange that this expert body shall investigate the following matters: (a) the reasons for the choice by the Australian Broadcasting Control Board of the standards it has set and the appropriateness, in all the circumstances, of this choice; (b) whether any better standards could have been chosen, having regard to the channels that the board proposes to allot to television transmitting stations in Australia, and to other relevant factors; (c) whether, for such reasons as the standardization of servicing techniques and the protection of intermediate frequency channels from interference from other sources, there is any advantage in having a common national standard intermediate frequency, and, if so, the best frequency to use? Is it correct that the majority of manufacturers of television sets, both in the United Kingdom and the United States of America, have abandoned the lower intermediate frequencies initially used in television receivers and are now employing frequencies of the order of 40 megacycles? ls it a fact that the “ Admiral “ set is still continuing to use 21 megacycle frequencies? Has a change to higher intermediate frequencies been a conspicuous feature of television design over recent years? Finally, if the overseas tendency is to use higher intermediate frequencies, is this because frequencies at about 21 megacycles as used by the “ Admiral “ set, or lower, have been found to be interference-prone or, if not, what is the reason for the change?
– The honorable member has asked me a series of questions, to which I shall reply briefly. In reply to the first question, in which he asked me whether I am prepared to arrange for an independent expert inquiry, I advise the honorable member, and the House, that, as I have stated before, there has been a complete investigation made of this matter by the technical officers of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board, and that only yesterday I received the final report from the board on the investigations of these officers. 1 consider, therefore, that at this stage, at any rate, it is not necessary to carry out any further inquiry, because 1 have the information I require. The honorable gentleman asked other questions. He wanted to know the reasons for the choice by the Australian Broadcasting Control Board of the standard which it set. I advise him that those reasons are very fully covered in the report that I have received. They are much too complex and technical for me to deal with on the floor of the House, but I am prepared to allow the honorable member to examine the report in order that he may see what the reasons are. The honorable gentleman also asked whether any better standards could have been chosen. The answer to that question is “ No “. Those standards were chosen after very close collaboration with the manufacturers of television sets in Australia, who had been brought together by the Chamber of Manufactures. In the standards chosen consideration was given to all of the factors that bear on this very difficult and important question. The honorable gentleman also asked whether there is any advantage in having a common national standard intermediate frequency. The answer to that question is “ Yes “. Of course there is, because by having a common standard a great deal of the interference that would otherwise arise from the use of several different standards can be avoided, and the best frequency is obviously the one which the Australian Broadcasting Control Board has recommended. It is true that the majority of manufacturers of television sets in the United States of America particularly - I am not so sure about the position in Great Britain - have found it desirable, as a result of years of experience, to abandon the lower frequency, and there has been a movement into the higher frequency - about 40 megacycles - in the last year or so. I am also reliably informed that in the United States about 91 per cent, of the television receivers produced are using the higher frequency.
– I preface a question to the Minister for Immigration by pointing out that some ten years ago a citizen of Newcastle proposed that annual public ceremonies be arranged in our municipalities and shires to mark the graduation of young Australians to adult citizenship. In view of the great success of the civic ceremony of naturalization, which the Minister has organized, has he given consideration to suitable arrangements being made so that all young Australians may be publicly welcomed as citizens? If not, would he make such a recommendation to the Government? Would this be a good opportunity of informing our young people of the privileges and duties of a citizen in a democratic country? I believe that there is a great need for these things to bs widely known.
– The honorable member has put forward a very interesting suggestion. As a matter of fact, a similar suggestion came to me quite recently by way of correspondence, and I was so attracted by it myself as to think it worthy of examination, which it is now being given I in the Department of Immigration. We all, I 1 am sure, have been very favorably impressed by the atmosphere created at the civic naturalization ceremonies, to which the honorable member has referred, and it must have occurred to quite a number of people that we in Australia are apt to take our privileges of citizenship for granted and that there might be some advantage in having a ceremony at the time when young men and young women reach adulthood and begin to exercise their voting rights, so that the occasion may be marked in some appropriate way, However, I do not claim to have thought the matter out thoroughly or to have formed a firm opinion on it, but I welcome the suggestion from him and shall give it further consideration.
– As both of the Ministers to either of whom my question should be directed are not in the House, I direct i£ to the Acting Prime Minister, ls the right honorable gentleman aware that the Mitsui Bussan Trading Company of Tokio has concluded a contract with the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited for the sale of 942,000 tons of Australian steel, including 17,000 tons of shipbuilding plates? In view of the grave shortage of steel generally in Australia, which is affecting heavy industry, particularly shipbuilding, and is causing severe unemployment which, in turn, is giving rise to great concern within the trade union movement, will the right honorable gentleman give consideration to these factors before issuing the necessary permission for the export of this very essentia] product?
– I shall have the matter investigated and furnish the honorable member with a reply.
– Is the Minister for Immigration aware of statements that have been made concerning a practice that is improper and undesirable? 1 refer to statements that intending immigrants are being married by proxy to enable them to secure permits to enter Australia. If this be true, will the Minister tell the House whether steps can be taken to stop the practice?
– I assume thai the honorable member is referring to some comment which was published to-day. attributed to Mr. Justice Dovey in dealing with a case which came before him in Sydney. I point out that the practice of marriage by proxy is not a novel one, indeed, it is recognized as valid, particularly in Italy. In most of these cases a form of marriage is solemnized there by a member of the church and is recognized as valid by the civil authorities who also, I gather, participate in solemnizing the ceremony. Our experience is that marriages so entered into are no less successful than are more conventional marriages, lt has been, I believe, a matter of great convenience and advantage for southern European settlers who have come to Australia and established themselves here, to arrange subsequently for their fiancees to marry them by proxy in Italy, or some other country, and then come to Australia. I saw the remarks attributed to Mr. Justice Dovey and was concerned because he offered the view that this form of marriage might be used as a means of circumventing our normal procedures for the approval of the entry of immigrants to this country. 1 have had the matter taken up directly with him to make sure that his remarks were correctly interpreted. He is a member of our own Immigration Advisory Council, and he has assured us that his remarks were not intended to be critical of the general acceptance of women in this way for entry to Australia, but were concerned only with a few isolated cases in which he felt that this might have been a subterfuge for gaining entry which would not have been approved in other circumstances. No complaints of this character had been brought to us earlier, and indeed it would not be easy to devise procedures which would avoid any possibility of abuse. In a country such as Australia, which is attractive to immigrants, there is always the danger that our procedures may be abused in this way; but our own experience is that the advantages have far more than outweighed the disadvantages, and we do not see any reason, at this point, to prohibit a practice which has brought happiness and which, I believe, has been welcomed by good citizens of this country who have become established here and who have wished to be joined by their dear ones.
– My question is addressed to the Acting Prime Minister, in the unavoidable absence of the Prime Minister. Has the right honorable gentleman considered calling together the Minister for Trade and the Postmaster-General in order to satisfy his own mind about which of those Ministers was right and which was wrong in connexion with the television parts that are being brought to this country from overseas? Television sets are very costly and, at any rate in the early stages of television in this country, will be available only to the more fortunate sections of the community. How does he reconcile the attitude adopted and the answers given by the Postmaster-General with the announcement by the Minister for Trade that he has permitted faulty and unsatisfactory television parts to be imported into this country and, what is far worse, that he proposes to allow that to continue?
– The basis of the question asked by the honorable member is whether I can reconcile differences of opinion alleged by him to exist between two members of my party. I advise him that there is plenty of scope for the reconciliation of differences of opinion within bis own party.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Immigration. Is it correct, as is claimed in certain quarters, that only about 15 per cent, of all non-British immigrants to Australia in the post-war years have applied for naturalization, although a considerably greater percentage have become eligible for it, having been in this country for the requisite five-year period?
– It would not be correct to say that only 15 per cent, of immigrants eligible for naturalization, having qualified by a period of residence here, have sought to be naturalized. Whoever made that statement ignored two important factors: First, that a large proportion of the alien arrivals consisted of young children who are not yet of an age to apply for naturalization, and, secondly, that many immigrants have applied for naturalization but have not yet been issued with their certificates. The Department of Immigration has made an analysis. If we take the number of aliens over sixteen years of age who were registered five years ago, that will give us the number eligible for naturalization to-day. There were about 220,000 of those people. By 30th June of this year, 77,000 of them - or about 35 per cent., I think - had applied for naturalization. The significant thing is that the rate of application has steadily increased in recent years. In 1953, taking round figures, actual naturalizations totalled 4,700; in 1954, 16,000; in 1955, 32.500; and in the first six months of this year, 22,000. Applications are coming in now at the rate of 50,000 a year. We have encouraged our .new settlers to become naturalized. All honorable members will be aware of the changes of procedure that have been made in order to facilitate that process. The civic naturalization ceremonies are attracting the attention of many potential candidates for naturalization. The trend at the moment is certainly in the right direction, and I do not think it gives us any cause for concern. We must recognize, however, that there will always be some people who, for what they regard as valid reasons, will want to retain their existing nationality for years beyond the end of the qualifying period of residence in this country. Rather than give any impression of compulsion, we want our new settlers to regard citizenship as a privilege which they earn, not merely by residence here, but also by the qualities of character and the good conduct that they show, and by their willingness to become full members of the Australian community.
– Has the attention of the Minister for Supply been directed to a statement by Dr. John Wolfe, an American atomic energy scientist, concerning the potential hazards from radio-activity in fallout from atomic tests? Dr. Wolfe is reported to have said that the potential hazard in local areas can neither be calculated, estimated nor guessed. In view of that statement, will the Minister ensure that greater precautions are taken to see that there is no danger to the population. particularly those in my electorate, from the tests that are to be carried out at Maralinga in the very near future?
– Answering the last part of the question first, I assure the honorable member that the utmost care will be taken in the conduct of the forthcoming atomic tests. As to the first part of the honorable member’s question, I do not think I have seen the statement attributed to Professor Wolfe. There are odd professors and scientific men in various parts of the world who hold views of that kind. I am bound to tell the honorable member, however, that the overwhelming body of disinterested and responsible opinion is very re-assuring on the safety aspects of atomic tests. In any event, the honorable member may be assured that the Australian Government, advised as it is by very eminent scientists, will make sure that there is no danger to Australians.
– Has the attention of the Minister for Labour and National Service been directed to the proposed extension of the postal workers’ regulation strike to all States? What issues are involved in the claim for increased wages, and can the Minister advise the House what steps are being taken to settle the dispute?
– My attention has been directed to this latest development. In fact, my colleague, the PostmasterGeneral, and 1 have been keeping a close watch on this issue for a considerable time. 1 am sure that we all deplore this dispute, and particularly the fact that these development . are taking place in a government service that has earned the respect and, indeed, the appreciation of Australian citizens, because of the tasks that postal workers have carried out, frequently under difficult conditions, for very many years. It is important that the basic issue in this dispute be clearly known. When it is clearly known, I think the attitude adopted by this Government will be fully appreciated. I have been asked to define the issues in dispute. There are several, some being of a relatively minor character. The major issue, upon which I think the matter really hangs, springs from a sense of grievance felt by postal workers because the wage rates paid to them under appropriate federal awards are lower than wage rates paid for work of a comparable degree of skill or effort under various State awards. Honorable members will be aware of the policy of this Government to adhere closely and strictly to the awards of the appropriate industrial tribunals in relation to its employees. I am sure that even honorable members opposite will agree that it would not only be unwise, but would also tend to create a chaotic situation throughout industry generally in Australia if governments, particularly the Australian Government, were to attempt to fix out of hand, and without paying proper attention to the awards of the appropriate tribunals, the wage rates that should apply to their own employees. That would inject into Australia’s wage structure an element of uncertainty which, I repeat, would be chaotic in its implications and effects. So we are bound, in good sense, and by the requirements of good administration, to adhere precisely to what is prescribed by the appropriate tribunals. That is the principle we are following in relation to our own postal employees. I believe it provides the perfect illustration - if “ perfect “ is the appropriate word - of the disruption and dissatisfaction which can be caused by the serious disparity which exists at the present time between federal wage rates and the rates awarded by State tribunals which, in some instances, are still bound by mandatory direction from State parliaments to apply quarterly adjustments consequent upon changes in the C series index.
– Hear, hear!
– I know the honorable member for East Sydney will say, “ Hear, hear! “ He has not the first notion of appreciation or recognition of what is involved in this wage issue, and has no concern for the future employment of Australian wage earners who must inevitably be adversely affected if this process continues unchecked, and if we are faced with a real threat of unemployment should our internal cost structure rise to a point at which competing countries will have an advantage. Our position is plain. We abide by the award of the appropriate tribunal, the Commonwealth court, which has declared publicly and repeatedly that, in determining the basic wage, it applies the test of the highest wage industry can afford to pay. What fairer and more sensible test could be applied? That being so, we have no room in which to manoeuvre in this matter. We abide by the wage which the Commonwealth court has declared to be the highest that is within the capacity of industry to pay. Whatever inconvenience and damage are inflicted upon the community generally by these tactics of the postal employees, they cannot hope to shake such a principle, because any abandonment of that attitude by this Government would be a negation of responsibility and would invite industrial chaos throughout the community. I hope that, as these postal employees acquire a realistic recognition of what is involved in this matter, they will take the course, which 1 believe was recommended to them yesterday, of placing the matter in the hands of the interstate executive of the Australian Council of Trades Unions, and will allow that body to analyse fully and correctly what is involved in this unfortunate dispute.
– 1 ask the Acting Prime Minister whether the Government will give fresh and urgent consideration to the need to amend the Seat of Government (Administration) Act so as to incorporate in it the provisions of section 92 of the Australian Constitution, as was done with the Northern Territory (Administration) Act, in order that the residents of the Australian Capital Territory may be protected against the charges involved in road taxes which applied to goods transported by road from Sydney until a day or two ago, and will apply again, but do not apply to goods transported by road from Melbourne, because those goods are carried interstate and are already covered by section 92 of the Constitution.
– The question requires very careful consideration, and I ask the honorable member to place it on the notice-paper.
– Can the Minister for Health inform the House whether medical research has established any conclusive clinical evidence of a connexion between smoking and lung cancer? If so, will the Minister indicate what action the Government proposes to take to meet what in all conscience is a national calamity?
– 1 could not hear the last part of the honorable member’s question, but 1 do not think that the matter he raises has finally been resolved.
– I ask the Minister for Immigration whether it is a fact that, according to preliminary estimates recently released by the Acting Commonwealth Statistician, home building has fallen to the lowest level of activity for the past seven years. In view of this situation, and having regard to the tremendous lag in the availability of homes for people already resident in this country, does the Minister realize that, by stubbornly refusing to suspend temporarily, or substantially reduce, the intake of immigrants, he is largely responsible for the suffering and misery of many families who have been vainly seeking a home for many years?
– I suggest to the honorable member for East Sydney that he could usefully examine closely the housing situation in this country, and compare it with that in other countries of similar standards and he should then recognize how favorably situated Australia is. There may be a housing shortage in this country. I question whether there is a civilized country anywhere to-day that has not a housing shortage to some degree. But the fact of the matter is that, during the term of office of this Government, houses have been built in Australia - largely owing to the buoyant prosperous conditions and the availability of supplies which have existed in Australia during our term - at a rate of between 75,000 and 80,000 a year. That is a very high rate of house building, and is much higher than would be found, for example, in the United Kingdom or, for that matter, in almost any other country in the Englishspeaking world to which one could turn. The estimates are based on an average of four persons to a home, which is slightly more than the Australian average revealed in the last census and a very good average of occupancy, I suggest, by world standards. On the basis of four persons to a home, new marriages and net population growth through immigration require about 60,000 homes a year. If we are building between 75,000 and 80,000 homes a year, we are not merely keeping pace with population growth, but we have been eating steadily, over recent years, into the lag that occurred as the result of the relative cessation of home building during the war years. I can say, quite realistically, that people coming to this country to settle will have as good a prospect of gaining homes of their own as a result of their savings and their earnings and the availability of building resources and materials as they would in other countries.
– 1 ask the Minister for Immigration, supplementary to the question he has just answered, whether a housing shortage in the States has any relation to the intake of immigrants into those States. I think that he will be able to show that the States with the largest number of immigrants have, in fact, the lowest housing shortage.
– I welcome the supplementary question. I have not the precise figures with me, but I can supply them quite readily. As the honorable member will be aware, Western Australia has the highest proportion of immigrants to population and 1 think it can be fairly said that, at the moment, the housing shortage is less in that State probably than in any other State. I shall give the position regarding the two principal industrial States, New South Wales and Victoria. New South Wales has 37 per cent., and Victoria 28 per cent., of the total population of Australia, but the number of immigrants to settle in Victoria is comparable with that in New South Wales. Yet, it is common knowledge of all of us in this chamber that the housing shortage under a Labour government in New South Wales is much more acute than it is under a Liberal government in Victoria.
– I ask the Minister for Immigration to say “ Yes “ or “ No “ to this question. In view of the increased population during the last seven years, is it a fact, as the honorable member for East Sydney suggested to him, that there has been a considerable falling off in that period. That is one question the Minister was asked, but did not answer.
– Falling off in what?
– Falling off in the number of homes being built.
– The Leader of the Opposition should make up his mind, as should some of those who sit behind him, as to where he stands on the question of immigration. The other day, I read a remark attributed to the right honorable gentleman, in which he said that people were tumbling over each other coming into this country under our policy, during a period when the intake in that year was some 60,000 less than it was in the last year in which the right honorable gentleman was in office. I do not say that as a criticism of what happened then. Australia was glad to have those people. But at least let us have a little consistency and good sense in this matter! The Leader of the Opposition has asked me whether it is a fact that the rate of housing construction has decreased. It may have over comparatively recent months.
– The Minister knows it has. The Statistician’s figures show that.
– Very well! Over comparatively recent months it has, but it is still greater by thousands of houses a year than the rate that existed in the last year in which the right honorable gentleman was in office. Indeed, if the rate of house construction has dropped to some degree, 1 believe that confirms the point I was making a little earlier, that we have been eating so steadily into the war-caused housing lag that there is not quite the same pressure on our resources as existed then.
– I lay on the table the following paper: -
– That is solely due, I am afraid, to the pressure of work in the Department of External Affairs.
– by leave - I move -
That Government business shall take precedence over general business to-morrow.
I mention for the information of honorable members that this course of action would not normally have been taken so early in this sessional period, at a time when we are not influenced by considerations of urgency to put through our business; but an examination of the notice-paper will reveal the good sense of the course that I am now proposing. I understand that the first item in general business is the matter of war service homes, and an opportunity will be presented in the course of the budget debate for a discussion on that subject. The second matter deals with the papers relating to the double dissolution and, as the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) is aware, and in which sentiment I think he would concur, the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) has expressed a wish to be present when the debate occurs. The third matter relates to flood relief, on which subject there has already been some discussion on the raising of a matter of urgency earlier in this sessional period, and on which subsequent opportunities for debate will be provided. It was felt, in the circumstances, that we should proceed with the business before the House, without in any way removing the opportunities which may occur later for discussion on the matters appearing under “ General Business “.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
In Committee of Supply: Consideration resumed from 4th September (vide page 196), on motion by Sir Arthur Fadden -
That the first item in the Estimates under Division No. 1 - The Senate - namely, “Salaries and allowances, £26,500 “, be agreed to.
Upon which Dr. Evatt had moved by way of amendment -
That the first item be reduced by £1.
.- First, I should like to congratulate the Acting Prime Minister and Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) on the presentation of his ninth budget. That is a record for this Parliament. Until last week the record was held by the late Mr. Chifley, who presented eight budgets. I held the record for twenty years, with the presentation of seven budgets between 1923 and 1929. It seems to me to be rather a good augury for the members of the Parliament, because each officer seems to be living in his job a bit longer, which gives us all hope for the future.
The budget that the Treasurer presented was a very impressive statement at a most difficult time in the history, not merely of Australia, but of the world. Last week two very important budgets were presented in Australia. One was, of course, the federal budget, and the previous night was presented the budget of New South Wales, the State with the largest population in Australia. Both of the sponsors of those budgets used almost identical words in saying that their budgets had been designed to deal with the balance of payment problem which is facing Australia, and the problem of incipient inflation. The crisis that we are facing is rendered more acute by two factors with which we can deal in this Parliament and which I hope will be discussed before this debate concludes. One is the inextricably tangled Federal and State financial relationships, and the other is the unco-ordinated system of wage-fixing which obtains in Australia at the present time. It has long been realized by the general public, I think, as well as by politicians in the various parliaments of this country, that both of these matters are causing incalculable loss and waste, and especially causing trouble at a time when, most of all, we need competitive production. When one examines these budgets, which really must be considered side by side, one should ask whether they will assist competitive production enough, because, ultimately, the matter of the settlement of the balance of payments will be largely determined by that issue, and whether they will bring us through this crisis, not merely quickly, but permanently. It is quite obvious that we must not have, every few months, or every year or two, a recurrent imposition of restriction of imports, which dislocates external trade and many internal trade relationships also. If the answer is that these budgets do not really give us promise of such a successful result, then, in this Parliament and the other parliaments of Australia, we must get solidly down to work and determine the changes which should be made in our basic policies in these matters, in order to realize our ambition of placing our external trade and internal development ona satisfactory basis.
In studying these budgets, I have been struck by one outstanding point, namely, the excessive taxation for capital works in Australia, which is one of the main causes of many of our difficulties. By a strange paradox, this system, which gives to the States not merely all the loan raisings in the Commonwealth, but also a very substantial sum from our revenue taxation - and we derive all of the money that is used for capital works of the Commonwealth from revenue taxation - puts the most important organizations in Australia in a very bad position. 1 refer to the conditions applying to telephones and to railways generally throughout the Commonwealth. Because the Postal Department cannot get the amount of money that is necessary to make provision for all of the telephones that we need, there is a back lag in telephone installations. F or u similar reason, there is a back lag in the supply of rolling-stock, engines and trucks, in almost all of the States. I think that the Commonwealth Railways is lucky in this respect because of the foresight of the former Minister for Shipping and Transport, the late Senator George McLeay. A government monopoly, which operates the telephone system, is unable to give to the people of Australia, for two or three years and even longer in some instances, the telephones for which they are ready and willing to pay. These big organizations cannot continue to go on as they are going. They are trying to meet the position by increased charges and reduced services. This seems to me to be a retrograde step that they are forced to adopt.
I have therefore come to the conclusion that, it is absolutely imperative that the Australian Parliament should get down to a consideration of whether or not it is possible to amortize the cost of public works over the period of their useful life by a system of franchise or charter. When I was Treasurer, in the 1920’s, I brought into being a system under which we gave £25,000,000, which was a lot of money in those days, to the Postal Department for a five-year plan to put the whole of its services on a sound basis, and that was a very great advantage. To-day, we are financing these services on annual budgets. Although a department starts a venture, it finds that next year there is some trouble with the Treasury and the venture cannot be continued. Those conditions have prevailed, I think, ever since the conclusion of World War II. Therefore, it seems to me that if we can provide some means for a long-term development of these particular public works, we shall make the position easier in respect of all the works which can not be handled in the way 1 suggest, because more money will be available for them from our local savings, and that will make very much easier a settlement of the trouble in regard to tax collections by the Commonwealth and the States. We would have a reasonable chance of returning to the old conditions under which each government collected its own revenue and was responsible to its own Parliament and people for all of the money that it raised and expended. I am quite sure that New South Wales is, at present, perilously near to being unable to meet its commitments. I believe, too, that the Commonwealth will quickly reach a stage where the law of diminishing returns will operate if we impose further taxes and extra charges on many of the items with which we have to deal. Therefore, it is urgent that we seek a solution of this position.
My own proposal is that we should reduce excessive taxation and stimulate development by trying to have many of these projects handled as they are handled in Canada and the United States of America, which had a similar problem to deal with in the course of their development. 1 refer to a system of charter and franchise under which outside capital would come into this country to aid the local savings which, with our small population of 9,000,000 people, are not nearly enough to provide for the amenities that we desire ro have for immigrants. In fact, we have to look forward ten, fifteen or twenty years in order to provide these amenities on an economic basis. Therefore, I say that we should bring this system into being if we can.
Last year, £170,000,000 was provided out of the revenues of the Commonwealth for capital works which will last for from fifteen to perhaps 1,000 years in the case of the Snowy scheme. Yet the taxpayer has found the whole of that money in current taxation. This year it looks as if he may find an amount of the order of £200,000,000. For the last five years something like £800,000,000 has been taken out of revenue for the capital works of the Commonwealth and the States as well as £500.000,000 which has come out of loan raisings. Yet one cannot find any government which is satisfied with the amount it is receiving, because there is so much developmental work to do.
Therefore, 1 urge that the advantages of a self-liquidating public works system should be carefully examined and reported on by the Government in order to ascertain whether we could get the money from this direction. This system has a great many advantages, which I should like to enumerate. The first great advantage of a system of this sort, under which a charter or franchise would be taken for 50 years, is that it would be self-amortizing. All the works would come into the possession of the nation, fully paid for and free of any public debt. Because these people must get their return very quickly from money that they put into the projects, such works are commenced quickly and they are completed quickly. One of the main reasons why taxation is pressing on the people of Australia so heavily is that so many public works are unfinished. Progress on them is slow and they seem never to end. Interest and sinking fund payments on the money are considerable because the job is not completed expeditiously.
I have always felt very strongly that some system should be introduced which would get over the annual government budgetary method of dealing with public works. When I was Treasurer, I dealt with it on a five-year basis in regard to the Postal Department and other departments. If a State such as New South Wales, Queensland or Victoria decides to build a dam and, after years of pressure, undertakes the job, no other dam is contemplated in that State for many years while the work is going on. If an outside organization could be persuaded to undertake public works in the manner I have suggested, more than one dam could be under construction at the one time in each State. The construction of each public work is an urgent matter in the locality in which it is needed, and all the projects are urgent from the stand-point of the development of Australia. We could have many agencies carrying out these works, each one of which would accelerate the development of Australia, improve employment opportunities and make the continued absorption of immigrants possible. The natural consequence would be that the rate of development would be greatly quickened and the amenities would be provided. The urgent problem of increasing our population would be handled in a much more satisfactory way.
The system that 1 am advocating has been used in Canada and the United States of America over the years. During the early days of their development those countries had the balance of payments trouble that we have. For over 90 years, the United States of America did not have enough people to make its exports greater than its imports and it is only in recent years that America has got out of that trouble. I think that in the normal course we shall have the problem for another 50 years at least, so we should adopt some measure that will help us in this regard.
If these moneys come from overseas they will be accompanied by skilled men who will have the know-how to do those developmental jobs. Such projects are part of an ordinary day’s work for many of these experts, but they are very seldom done in this country. The experts would bring their equipment, and they would be a great asset to our country. The construction of the Snowy Mountains scheme shows the result of bringing skilled men such as mechanical engineers from overseas. The Commonwealth has arranged for two men from each State to be sent to the project in Denver, Colorado, which is run by the water power organization of the United States of America, and they will receive special training. They will come back, after a couple of years, to work in this country. We could get, as well, the men who have already been trained in the United States of America, the United Kingdom or Canada, or even some of the European countries, to help us.
The next advantage of this scheme would be the fact that local savings, instead of being insufficient to provide the amenities that we need, and especially to help the local government and semi-governmental authorities whose loan allocations are always cut down at Australian Loan Council meetings to much less than they need to carry out urgently needed work, would be supplemented from a very much bigger source of finance.
Another important advantage of this system is that facilities of development are paid for, year by year, as they are used. The people of this generation would pay their share as they went along. Then the people of the next generation would pay their share as they went along. Ultimately, in 50 or 60 years, according to the length of the charter, the undertaking would be paid for. The construction of works would be going on continuously. At the expiration of the time of the charter of each project, we would have a public work which would have no debt against it, and that would be a wonderful thing for us in Australia, because we have a great deal of debt against many of our works.
– We would use up the materials as we go along.
– We would also stimulate the production of materials as we go along - a snow-balling effect. A large part of the political and industrial malaise of this country is due to extra charges and taxation costs, which have undoubtedly had the effect of increasing the price of goods and lessening the real value of wages.
In connexion with the budgetary background to this matter, I have had a look at the budget of the New South Wales Government, and I think it is a very stiff budget. I find that the freight charges on the New South Wales railways have been raised. They were very high previously. The timber in my electorate enjoys a great reputation, and is sent to Malaya, New Zealand and other countries, whenever the boats can enter the river. I have been interested in saw-milling. In 1940 the rail freight on timber from Grafton to Sydney was 4s. 6d.; to-day it is 36s., which is eight times as much. Wages have not increased proportionately in that time. In an interview last week in Grafton with one of the representatives of the State government, a timber man pointed out that timber interests had been priced out of the Sydney market, to which they have been sending timber for 100 years. They have been priced out of the Sydney market by the State railways charges and their timber has been going to Brisbane on lorries, as the only place in which they could get rid of their timber at a profit. In fact, only a month or six weeks ago the New South Wales Government found it cheaper to buy 1,000,000 feet of coachwood timber from Malaya rather than pay the purchase price and the cost of transport of similar timber from northern New South Wales or Queensland for use in Sydney. That is too ridiculous for words, lt is easy to see from such occurrences as that what a mess we are getting into by continually increasing freights and fares. I am sure that increases of freights and fares will eventually be overdone, with the result that less goods and fewer people will be carried on our railways, so that the railways will not be of the use to us that they really should be.
The imposition of land tax by the New South Wales Government is having a very severe effect, in the long run, on the consuming public. A man whose business is in one of the main streets of Sydney told me that he is now paying ten times as much land tax to the State every year as he paid to the Commonwealth annually when land tax was a federal tax. He said quite frankly that the consumers would suffer because, in the last analysis, the prices that they would have to pay for his products would be loaded with the tax.
Hospital fees in New South Wales and elsewhere have been increased and many other things done which constitute a burden on the public. The New South Wales Government practically confiscated an electric light company in Sydney because it reckoned that the company represented much too fierce competition for the State electricity services, lt was certainly keeping the electricity rate down, and so was of advantage to everybody in the community. That organization was giving very notable service to the public. I know that during the war it operated very successfully, and when the war ended was ready to convert immediately to peace-time production, which was not the position with other electricity undertakings.
The people of New South Wales are called on to meet a tremendous amount of invisible tax as a result of annual budgeting. The New South Wales Government takes money from its taxpayers to launch its own schemes, and sometimes only a few years after a scheme has been inaugurated the equipment is sold, the employees are sacked, and the public has to meet a heavy loss on the undertaking. Another invisible tax is that which arises from the sabotage that takes place very frequently in many undertakings because of the refusal by trade unions to observe the terms of arbitration awards.
Now I turn to the federal budget, the main feature of which is import restrictions. Whilst those are necessary at the moment to save our credit, they should not be necessary in this country if we were carrying out a consistent and business-like policy designed to keep our long-term finances stable and keep us out of constant trouble with balance of payments. I am sure that there is little that could be worse for the economy than spasmodic restrictions of imports which dislocate local business and upset our overseas credit arrangements in some degree. Interest charges have also been increased as the result of Government pressure, thus increasing costs at a time when we are trying to get our costs ‘of production down so that we can compete in overseas markets.
The worst feature of federal finances is the extraordinarily excessive taxation necessary to find the money to enable State business enterprises to continue in operation. In many cases the provision of this money to the States by the Commonwealth leads merely to more nationalization in the States; and every additional nationalized industry in Australia tends to throw us into greater financial difficulties, because the losses that the taxpayers have to meet on the operations of nationalized industries increase with the number of such industries. This has the effect of making less capital available for use by local government and semi-government bodies whose job is probably just as important as that done by the central government itself. Those are matters that must be dealt with if we are to move forward with confidence.
To my mind, the wage structure in Australia is too inflexible. Years ago the Commonwealth attempted to obtain, by referendum, power for the Commonwealth Parliament to control wages, but although there was unanimity among the political parties on the desirability of that proposal, it was defeated at a referendum. I have always looked on the Labour party as being close to the industrial movement and therefore in a position to give the Parliament and the people advice on such matters as wages, but Labour governments have had no more luck than anti-Labour governments in getting people to take such advice. On the occasion that 1 mentioned the whole Parliament was unanimous on the desirability of having the referendum proposal carried - Scullin on the Labour side and Bruce and myself on the non-Labo’.ir side were in agreement about it - but the people refused the power to the Australian
Parliament. The wage problem is a problem .that must be met. Although we find difficulties in our arbitration system, however, it must be admitted that other countries, like the United States of America, which do not have that system, have similar difficulties.
It is essential that we attempt to prevent too much nationalization of business enterprises, because, in the first place, nationalized undertakings are not often conducted on a proper economic basis, and undoubtedly the capital swallowed by them means that just that much capital is not available to other people for enterprises which could be run profitably and be of benefit to the nation.
I have examined the figures given in the budget-papers, including those referring to public works. Table 3, appendix B, deals with the various public works, both State and Federal, that have been in operation in Australia. I find that the PostmasterGeneral’s Department has in the last eight years shown annual deficits ranging between £1,000,000 and £.4,000,000. I am sure that if the operations of the telephone branch of the department were dealt with separately it would be seen that the telephone services are a payable proposition. I am also sure that if an independent chartered body were allowed to operate the telephone services, and were enabled to obtain capital for itself, it could overtake the lag in the supply of telephone services from which the public is now suffering. The whole community would therefore benefit, because telephone services save a great deal of time and work, as country people know very well. I am sure something of thai nature could be done with the telephone services. A proper franchise could be given to a body to handle those services and. without doubt, it would improve the service and operate at a profit.
The railways, tramways and bus services of Australia have produced total annual deficits of £4,000,000 to £ 14,000,000 over the last eight years. I notice that Mr. Enticknap, the New South Wales Minister in charge of railways in that State, says that the State railways ought to be sold. My opinion is that there should be one great government corporation to run all the railways in Australia, with power to borrow money in any country of the world that it chooses.
The existence of such a corporation would give us, for the first time, real freedom of interstate trade, which has been destroyed because the State governments levy differential fares and freights.
The next services that need charters or franchises so that they can do their work properly are electricity and gas supply. I had placed in my hand recently a report which indicated that it is expected that in the next 25 years £ 1 ,000,000,000 will have to be found by governments in order to meet the demand for electricity generation. That is at the rate of £40,000,000 a year, which will make a tremendous inroad on local savings. Electricity projects could well be the objects of overseas borrowing, and thereby relieve the local loan market of the need to find that great amount of money through self-liquidating charter and franchise.
I now turn to water power conservation and irrigation. We have had blueprints galore, yet there is only one dam at the most being built in each State at one time and it never seems to get finished because, I have found from talking with the heads of State departments, the State budgets vary so much from year to year that no proper planning can be undertaken, and therefore little progress is made.
Then there is the matter of main roads. We have to keep the federal roads system a free system throughout Australia, but it would be tremendously helped by the construction of toll roads for heavy traffic. Such roads would result in the saving of the general roads system and the toll roads could be financed by the users. America, Great Britain and other countries already have such roads, and we must have them too.
Finally, I want to say a few words about the provision of homes for the people and of farms for settlers. It seems to me that one of the things we ought to do in this country is to liberalize, to a very great degree, the present Mortgage Bank Department of the Commonwealth Bank and encourage other banks to have similar mortgage banking departments associated with them. I found that, in Europe, before the last war, mortgage banks sold their bonds on very good securities, thus enabling them to raise many millions of pounds which are made available for home building and farm buying. The extension of that system in Australia would help us tremendously. Everybody is aware of the difficulties connected with the war service homes scheme. We all know that there are more applicants than the available funds can cover. I admit that, in respect of war service homes, we are doing a fairly good job, and that during the last six years or so, the tempo of providing homes for ex-servicemen has been increased. At the same time, the rate is not nearly fast enough. Therefore, I urge that we should prepare, at the earliest possible moment, for the activities of the next 60 years.
Order! The right honorable gentleman’s time has expired.
.- I congratulate the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) on his comments on the problems associated with railways and roads in Australia. I do not intend to deal with those matters during this debate, although we of the Australian Labour party are most interested in them, and, in fact, we have committees working on the problems of road, rail, air and sea transport. I appreciate the more or less forward thinking of the right honorable gentleman on the great difficulties that confront the transport system of Australia to-day. I wish also to congratulate him on being still able to play tennis, despite his age, when many of us on this side of the House, who are much younger, have long since given up tennis, cricket and football. In my opinion, that is quite a feat on his part.
To return to the budget, it is abundantly clear to honorable members on this side of the chamber why the 1956 budget of the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) is so barren of answers, objectives and concessions. Politically, there is a world of difference between the budget of 1955 and that of August, 1956. Politically, those two budgets are poles apart. Of course, there was a general election between them, and that is the crux of the whole situation. That is the basic reason that the budget now before the House can truthfully be called a stay-put budget, a status quo budget, or a mark-time budget. Never before in our Australian federal parliamentary history has a government so blatantly used the budget as a political weapon as this Government has done. The last budget set the pattern of government political propaganda for the general election of December, 1955.
After waiting patiently, doggedly and sadly for two years for relief, while all around them the prices of essential commodities were spiralling to record heights, the 460,000 pensioners of Australia got a 10s. a week increase in October, 1955. But two months later came the general election. No wonder the Government thought of the pensioners in October, 1955! There was a general election coming in December of that year. The budget that is now before the Parliament leaves the pensioners exactly as they were, with no sign of relief.
Going back a little further, the budget of: September, 1953, preceded the general election of May, 1954, again with benefit to many sections of the community. Again, it was a political budget of the kind that we have had from this Government ever since it came to office. Then, in March of this year, came the little horror budget by which the Government will take, in a full year, £115,000,000 from the community by means of increased sales tax, excise and customs duties and company tax. The . little horror budget came only four months after the last general election, a fact which T stress. Had the Government put the economy of the country before political considerations, the provisions of the little horror budget would have been included in the budget of September, 1955. But no! The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) waited until the election was conveniently over before he came in with £115,000,000 worth of tax increases.
– But we told the people, at the election, that something of the kind was going to happen.
– The budget has been blatantly used as an instrument of political propaganda. That is my first criticism of it. No previous government, though it may have been guilty of keeping the need to catch votes always before it, so consistently abused the true purpose of the national budget as has this Government. The true purpose of the national budget, like the “ State of the Union “ message by the President of the United Slates of America, is to make an all-round summing up of the economy of the country, lt should be a sane. reasonable, unbiased presentation of the views of the Government on the way in which affairs are proceeding on all fronts - the overseas front, the domestic front, the industrial front and the general economic front.
This time, the needy pensioners, the homeless, the ex-servicemen seeking war service homes, the land settlement applicants and the primary producers all have to go without additional assistance for another twelve months because this is not a preelection budget. It is a callous, cynical document based on the thought that the public has a bad memory and that the Government can catch up, in the next budget, what it has missed this time. The principle is, “ Wait until the time is politically ripe and then we shall give the concessions the people need “.
The reactions of the press to this budget were most interesting. The press, which has supported this Government most consistently through the years, on this occasion told the Treasurer what it thought of his budget. The Sydney “ Daily Telegraph “, on 31st August, said that it was one of the dullest and least imaginative on record. It went on to say that although the voice that made the budget speech was that of the Treasurer, the thoughts and theories behind it no doubt were those of the Government’s professional advisers. That is one thing that is becoming more and more obvious about this Government - its dependence on public servants. No previous government has been so dependent on public servants, good as they are, reliable as they are, consistently in office as they are, as this Government has been. We see that tendency throughout the economic statements of the last eighteen months. We see evidence of the hands of the men behind the scenes, the thoughts of the public servants who are becoming the voice of the people, who are not responsible to the people at all, and who are here all the time. Governments come and go, but the public servant goes on for ever. lt is he on whom this Government is leaning more than did any other government in our history.
The leading article in the “ Daily Telegraph “ continued -
He failed, though, to come up with one idea calculated to help Australia overcome the difficulties that undoubtedly confront the nation.
Further on, it stated -
If what they call the “private sector” - that is, private individuals or companies - spend the money they earn it’s inflationary. But if Governments which siphon money away from the people and companies do the spending then that is sound finance.
The final sentence is very pertinent -
It’s time he had a good idea or got himself a new team of professors.
We can give a better answer than that by saying that it is time we had a new government. A lot of people are coming to that conclusion. Every eight or nine years the Australian people have had enough of the government in the federal sphere. That has been the general average during the last 50 years. This Government is coming to the end of its political tether. According to the law of averages, it may last out this present term, but this will be its last term of office.
The “Sydney Morning Herald” of 3 1st August, in its leading article, also criticized the budget from many points of view. It said -
No attempt is to be made to redeem Mr. Menzies’s broken promise (made before the 1955 general election) to cut public works by £10,000,000. And what has happened to Mr. Menzies’s undertaking last March, when imposing fresh taxation worth £115,000,000, that a “ review “ of Government spending would be the main question to be studied when the Budget was framed? The statement is now seen to have been an empty gesture, and the “ review “ to have been governed by a totally inadequate sense of urgency.
The Melbourne “ Argus “, in banner headlines, referred to the budget as the “ Barren Budget “, and commented -
The Budget contains no cure for inflation - and no relief for inflation’s hardest-hit victims: - The average Australian family. Workers are given no incentive to work harder. Industry is given no incentive or assistance to produce more goods more cheaply. The Budget gives the people £3,004.000 a year in minor tax concessions - and takes away £9,000,000 by raising postage, telephone, telegraph and TV costs.
Mr. George Kerr, the Canberra representative of the “ Argus “, wrote -
For sheer cynicism the Budget is hard to beat . . Cabinet has no more come to grips with the chronic economic problem this time than Mr. Menzies did last March.
No government has a greater record for words and more words than has this one, or a lesser record for action. From time to time the Prime Minister has made economic staten ments to the Parliament, but, as far as we on this side can see, not one of them has contributed anything worthwhile to the solution of our economic problems. In the Melbourne “Argus” of 31st August, Sir Frank Richardson, one of the greatest supporters of this Government-
– I rise to order. Is the honorable member in order in reading continually from newspapers. I refer to Standing Order 74, which states -
No Member shall read extracts from newspapers or other publications . . . referring to debates in the House or in Committee except upon a matter of Privilege.
– It is generally conceded that in a budget debate comment is allowable, and I shall allow it.
– I am grateful, Mr. Chairman, for your impartial and just ruling. Apparently honorable members opposite are not eager to hear what Sir Frank Richardson had to say about the budget. He called it the “ Heartbreak Budget “. He said -
Sir Arthur Fadden’s Budget in August, 1955 was a dull, soulless affair; the little budget of March, 1956, is now down in history as the “ little horror “ Budget, but this one must surely be called “ Budget Heartbreak “. The Treasurer claims an all-time record collection of taxes, an all-time record per capita income tax, and an all-time record Government spending. Clearly, Sir Arthur Fadden wants us to do as he says, and not as he does.
I will not read any more of that article.
—Tell us something new.
– The Minister for the Army (Mr. Cramer) does not quote Sir Frank Richardson in his speeches.
– The honorable member should not believe everything that he reads in the newspapers.
– I shall read a little more from newspapers. Mr. M. J. Pettigrove, the Taxpayers Association secretary, stated -
If ever mounting taxation was a cure for Australia’s economic ills, the present Federal Government would live long in history as the great financial physician.
That is what Mr. Pettigrove thinks about the Government, but that is as nothing compared with what we think about it! In my opinion, this budget is characterized by various factors. It is a dreary repetition of the diagnosis of a disease given ever since this Government came into office. Dr. Fadden’s prescription, like myxomatosis, has lost any potency it might have had. The nation desperately needs a new economic doctor.
The budget represents a completely inadequate attack, on the problem of inflation. Heavy taxation is continued. Nearly £100,000,000 extra will go into the coffers of the Government during this financial year, without an increase of the rates of taxation. The budget is a confession that the Government has no long-range plan to cure the evil of inflation. We believe that inflation is the worst evil in. this country to-day, because it eats away our savings and reduces the purchasing power of pensioners, superannuated men and other people on fixed incomes. It is something that all of us must do our best to defeat. No relief is given by the budget to the family man. There is no curtailment of excessive profits. There is no attempt to institute federal control of prices, either through a referendum or by a transfer of power from the States. There is no relief for the defenceless 460,000 pensioners who are fighting against financial exhaustion to-day. There is no attempt to give wage justice to workers operating under federal awards. There is no serious drive to reduce the costs of government and, in fact, they will go up by £52,000,000 in this financial year. There is no attempt to give a blood transfusion to primary production, which this Government claims to support so much, and so boost production for export. Our exports must be increased in order to strengthen our financial reserves overseas. Lastly, there is no additional . financial help for the national roads plan that is so desperately needed.
I should like to deal now with several features of the economy. I shall deal first with federal prices control, the need for which is so glaringly obvious. The attempt of 1948 failed because the Government parties stumped the country, warning the people against federal prices control. I am convinced that if another referendum on the subject were held now, 80 per cent, of the people would vote in favour of the necessary powers being given to the Commonwealth Parliament. Why does not this Government tackle the problem in a statesmanlike way by taking a referendum of the people? We would give our full support to it. I believe that if it had the support of all parties in the Parliament, it would be carried. The reason why the previous referendum was defeated was because it did not have the full support of the parties on both sides of the Parliament. The press is swinging round to the conclusion that the failure of the referendum of 1948 was a bad thing. It was intended that the powers sought should be only reserve powers. The guilty men - those mainly responsible for the present inflation - are sitting on the Government benches. They are the men who stumped the country in 1948, urging the Australian people not to vote in favour of power to control rents and prices being given to the Commonwealth Parliament.
– The honorable member will find that the press opposes federal prices control.
– Some do.
– All of them do.
– They do not. The press of Tasmania is coming round to support prices control.
The next subject to which I shall refer is federal wage pegging. The philosophy of this Government in its attack on inflation is frighteningly simple. It can be summed up in the sentence, “ Peg wages and you peg prices “. Put in another way, the Government’s philosophy is, “ Fix wages and you fix prices “. The Government believes that if it encourages the courts to fix or peg wages, that action will prevent price rises. The Government has been adopting that policy for the last three years, but during that period prices have gone up. That shows how futile it is to argue that inflation can be checked by fixing wages without fixing prices. Not only have prices gone up, but also, in a period of just over two years, profits have jumped from over £300,000,000 a year to over £500,000,000. That is a result of wage pegging.
The Treasurer has done nothing to control the worst features of hire-purchase operations. We believe in hire purchase. All of us on this side of the chamber have availed ourselves of it from time to time. I bought a motor car on hire purchase. J call it the poor man’s mortgage. The wealthy man can get a mortgage from his bank, whilst the poor man can get a mortgage, so to speak, from a hire-purchase firm. But the interest burden on the family man is very heavy. Let me illustrate what 1 mean by referring to my own case. I bought a car that was priced at a little more than £1,200. After the deposit was paid, there was about £800 outstanding, and I had then to pay that amount over a period of three years at the rate of £26 4s. 4d. a month. If that car had been purchased with money borrowed from a bank at the rate of 6 per cent, compound interest, I should have had to pay thirty-six monthly payments of £24 6s. 9d. each. I should have been obliged to pay £79 15s. interest, instead of about £150 that I actually paid. We cannot stand by and let that kind of interest racketeering continue. Something should be done on a federal basis to protect the small man who has to use the hirepurchase system.
– Why a federal basis? Why should not the States do something?
– This is the worst buckpassing Government that has ever occupied the treasury bench. Government supporters are always passing the responsibility to the States. This Government will follow behind, but it will not give a lead. We are asking the Government to give a lead to the States. Why does it not have conferences with State governments, and have a hearttoheart talk with them about the problem.
The banking and credit restriction policy of this Government is having a very serious effect on farmers, on civilian home-builders, on the building of war service homes, and on primary industries. It is of no use for Government supporters to try to refute that statement. They may say that we must impose an overall restriction on spending by cutting down bank credit, but that policy is adversely affecting our efforts to expand in many fields, particularly those of building and primary production.
– Tt is even adversely affecting employment.
– That is so. Applicants for war service homes now have to go to private money lenders and pay interest rates of up to 15 per cent, for money that they need to pay a deposit on their homes. That is a fantastic situation. Before this budget was brought down we heard that the amount available for war service homes was to be increased by £5,000,000. Where is that provision in the budget?
– Who told the honorable member that?
– The statement was published in the press. Some Government members gave that information to newspaper reporters in this building. One honorable member opposite was even prepared to make a bet that the amount available for war service homes would be increased by £5,000,000.
Monopolization is having a detrimental effect on Australia’s economy. The amalgamation of banks, insurance companies, airlines, emporiums, and many other big businesses, is proceeding apace. Consider the case of the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited, one of the most powerful monopolies in the country. I do not doubt its efficiency or its importance in our economy, but I remind honorable members that its income each year is about equal to the income of one of the States of Australia. That indicates how big it has become. The profit of £10,000,000 a year that is made by General MotorsHolden’s Limited further indicates the size of some of our corporations. It is a sad story of large firms absorbing small ones, of huge farms absorbing smaller farms. That is happening throughout my State, and in every other State. So serious was the problem of monopolization in Great Britain that the United Kingdom Government set up what is called the British Monopoly Commission. We should have a similar authority in this country to examine the problem of monopolization. The United States of America has anti-trust laws. Australia appears to be the only country that is allowing great corporations and amalgamations of industry to continue unchecked. Centralized monopolies result in the control of private enterprise by fewer and fewer men. The freedom of private enterprise has become a mockery. Where is the vaunted free enterprise system under this Liberal Government? Freedom of private enterprise is being replaced by fear of private enterprise, a nightmare fear that the bigger, more powerful and wealthier business firms will swoop down and force the small man out of business, either by underselling him or by buying him out for a fabulous sum under some threat or other. The biblical text has been quite changed, and has now become, “To him that hath, much more will be added “. That is the result of the monopolization policy that this Government has encouraged.
The financial might of oil companies has become most impressive, and this Government has done nothing to control it. The oil companies are buying up homes, destroying them, and building palatial service stations in their place. Where does the money come from to carry out this policy? These are stark evidences of capitalism running to excess, and destroying the little man in the process. The little man who believes in capitalism, and who believes in private enterprise, is being crushed out by private enterprise. Selfish materialism has won thousands of new recruits under the administration of this Government. I say that quite deliberately.
The Government cries out against controls, but, as the Leader of the Opposition said last evening, it has encouraged the Commonwealth Arbitration Court to impose wage controls; it has imposed credit control, import control and taxation control. The high cost of living is forcing husband and wife in many families to go out to work in order to keep their homes going. A married couple may be trying to buy a home, furniture, and perhaps a car, and both partners must go out to work in order to do so. I know of one town in Tasmania in which both husband and wife in 60 per cent. of young families are working. In such cases, home life is being sacrificed, the raising of a family is being delayed, and where the couple already have children, their home life is imperilled, because the children are allowed to run wild. This Government should face up to these problems. It has been put here to govern, not to read homilies on the economic system, but to give a solution to our problems. If the Government will produce a solution that is adequate,would support it. We have said that time and time again.
Prices of all commodities have continued to rise. I shall give honorable members some instances of variations in prices of groceries as between Melbourne and Launceston. For a 2-oz. tin of coffee the Tasmanian housewife must pay1s. 3d. more than her Melbourne counterpart. The Launceston “ Examiner “ carried out a survey of these matters in July of this year. It rendered a good service to the public in revealing the injustices of price increases when wages had remained almost stationary.
What do honorable members on the Government side say about freight charges? Freight rates could not account for the difference of1s. 3d. in the price of a tin of coffee as between Melbourne and Launceston, because the freight charges paid by wholesalers who send their goods to Tasmania work out at a little more than1d. per lb. The freight charged for an 8-oz. jar of coffee is about1/2d. There are also other charges, such as wharfage, and charges for stacking and sorting, but these charges do not appreciably increase the cost of each pound of goods. Some goods made in Tasmania are cheaper in Melbourne than in Tasmania itself. A well-known brand of marmalade costs 2s.91/2d. in Tasmania for a 24-oz. tin, although it sells in Melbourne for 2s. 4d., and in Brunswick for 2s. 3d. Another Tasmanian product, a kind of food drink, was priced at 2s.41/2d. for an 8-oz. tin at Moonee Ponds, when the retail price in Tasmania was 3s. 3d. The same trend is noticeable with commodities other than foodstuffs. I have a more comprehensive list of them here, but I have not time to go through it. Even allowing for the cost of sea freight, the much higher prices in Tasmania are inexplicable. They amount to sheer exploitation, and provide a potent reason for price control of many commodities, which the Tasmanian Government is now introducing in the House of Assembly. Most of the difference in prices as between Melbourne and Tasmania represents higher and unreasonable profits for the wholesaler and the retailer.
I consider that the Opposition’s opinion of the budget and its suggestions for handling the present situation deserve the Government’s serious consideration. 1 conclude by emphasizing again that honorable members who sit in this quarter of the chamber constitute Her Majesty’s Opposition, and that they consider that Her Majesty’s Government has a responsibility to govern adequately, reasonably and justly in the interests of all the people of Australia. As I said earlier, the Opposition will support the Government to the hilt if it will tackle inflation in the way the Opposition proposes and submit to the people a referendum seeking power for the Commonwealth to control prices and rents. Unless the Government is prepared to control prices as well as wages it will never solve the problems of inflation.
– I hardly think it would be profitable to follow tha line of thought with which the honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie) opened his speech. He stated that, in his opinion, the Government was using budgets as political instruments. Whether or not that charge is correct to any degree, in the years during which I have sat in this chamber, we have never heard from the Opposition, which, as an alternative government, should, at times like this, present reasonable alternatives to the Government’s budget proposals, anything but proposals that would be purely of a party political nature. Time and again, we have heard Opposition proposals which, if carried to their logical conclusion, would leave the Treasury completely empty and allow inflation to run riot and which, according to Opposition members, would give every one in the community everything that was wanted. So far, there has been very little difference in the proposals made by the Opposition in relation to the present budget. Indeed, I think ihe honorable member for Wilmot himself was guilty of flagrant conduct of the kind he attributed to the Government.
I want to approach the problem of inflation, which, as everyone in Australia appreciates, is serious to-day, from the standpoint of the difficulties confronting the Government as a result of its relations with the State governments, and their financial requirements. The right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) mentioned this matter. I think that, on analysis, it can be shown that the poor financial relations between Commonwealth and State governments are one of the major factors influencing the present inflationary spiral. Many factors exert inflationary pressure in the economy. I think that any single one could perhaps be absorbed by the economy if it were not combined with the others. For example, if there were not many other inflationary pressures, we could probably solve our balance of payments problem; and, if it were not for the other inflationary pressures, probably we could overcome the wage and cost spiral.
We should carefully analyse these inflationary pressures and determine the basic causes in order of importance. I hope to demonstrate that the demands of the States, and their lack of financial responsibility in these days, contribute largely to the tremendous inflationary pressures that exist. 1 think there is probably a little more profit and advantage in this approach than in the proposition of Opposition members that the Commonwealth should control everything. They have suggested that we should peg prices and profits. That seems like dealing with, not the basic causes, but the effects. It may be compared to the methods of a physician who, instead of attempting to reduce the fever of a patient confined to bed with a temperature, merely takes the thermometer out of the patient’s mouth, puts it in cold water, and claims he has cured the fever. Prices control would have no better effect on the economy. I doubt whether it would give even the appearance of having temporarily solved the problem, and that is certainly the best it would do. In fact, it would not do anything effective. I do not believe that controls of the kind proposed by Opposition members can be effective or can achieve the results which Opposition members predict for them. They certainly cannot work either justly or fairly.
– Does the honorable member believe in capital issues control?
– I do not.
– Does the honorable member believe in wages control?
– I do not. Let us thrash this matter out properly. The honorable member for Wilmot stated that wages had been pegged. They have not been pegged in either the Commonwealth or State spheres. The plain truth is that, on one occasion in 1953, the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration refused to increase the basic wage. When it was next asked to increase wages, the court substantially increased^ margins for skill. That is not wage-pegging. Wages throughout Australia have been increased. I ask Opposition members to be fair in this matter. From that time onwards, State industrial tribunals have added to our burdens by making automatic adjustments of wages in accordance with changes of the cost of living. The situation is far different from that envisaged by Opposition members when they suggest that wages have been pegged.
The attempt by the Commonwealth court to limit automatic wage adjustments based on movements of the cost of living, and to introduce a new principle into the determination of wages, had important effects in stabilizing Australia’s economy. I propose to cite some figures to demonstrate to honorable members that when the economy has not been subject to violent wage increases it has been relatively stable. In 1946, the cost of living increased by 1.8 per cent, compared with the previous year. In 1947, it increased by 2.5 per cent. Those increases were not serious or dangerous. In 1951, after the Commonwealth court had increased the basic wage by £1 a week, the cost of living increased by 19.5 per cent. In 1952, it increased by 20.3 per cent, compared with the previous year, in which there had already been a huge increase. This demonstrates the spiralling effect of automatic wage adjustments, which increased costs and prices over the years. In 1953, when the Commonwealth court suspended the automatic adjustments, the upward spiral eased almost immediately. The cost of living increased in thai year by only 3.8 per cent. In 1954, it increased by only 1.4 per cent, and, for practical purposes, was as near to being stable as we could reasonably desire. In 1955, the cost of living increased by 2.2 per cent. At that time the State arbitration courts, which for a while had observed the federal Arbitration Court’s ruling, then had pressure put on them by their State governments, either by legislative direction or by suggestion, and with one exception returned to automatic cost of living adjustments. In 1956, the increase in the cost of living over the previous year was 6.4 per cent. The pattern can be traced quite clearly. If there is one large factor contributing to inflation to-day, it is the system of automatic cost of living adjustments which has been condemned by the Commonwealth Arbitration Court because it has no real relation to the desirability of fixing wages on the highest capacity of the economy to pay.
Action has been sought, and I think every one will agree that it is desirable to have action, to achieve some uniformity of wage levels throughout the Commonwealth. When I refer to the CommonwealthState financial relations, I believe that the lack of financial responsibility of State governments to-day has a direct bearing on the failure by the Commonwealth to get any agreement with the State go vernments on any action to achieve some uniformity of wages throughout the Commonwealth. There has been a direct refusal by some State governments to have anything to do with the course adopted by the Commonwealth Arbitration Court. Yet, those State governments that have taken this line of complete irresponsibility in wage and cost levels in their respective States are those which to-day are in the greatest financial difficulty. I am sure that there will be no disagreement when I say that New South Wales, the most populous State in the Commonwealth, and Western Australia, one of the less populous States, which have taken this very rigid line, today have the greatest degree of financial insolvency in their affairs.
That is one of the indirect results of the fact that State governments have no responsibility for raising their own finance, and it is one of the greatest sources of inflationary pressure internally in Australia. It is one of the major problems which should be tackled by any government, State or Federal, that has the well-being of this country at heart. The other direct inflationary pressure which is brought about by the bad financial relations between the Commonwealth and the States is the fact that the States use their public works programmes for political purposes. That has happened time and time again.
I can give a very good illustration from my own State, Western Australia. Last year, in the first seven months, the whole of its housing allocation was spent, and, indeed, was over-spent by £1,200.000 in order to create a good atmosphere for an election that was to follow shortly afterwards. The Minister for Housing in Western Australia, when reproached for over-spending his housing allocation said, “Well, that is a good thing; we will get more money out of the Commonwealth next year because I have over-spent this year “. That attitude is developing in the minds of State governments because they have no direct responsibility for taxing the people to provide the money that they spend.
A degree of inefficiency is to be found in the way in which money is allocated for public works. For example. Western Australia has a degree of unemployment to-day. The State Government is proposing to spend £300,000 out of its loan funds on a State enterprise, Wundowie, when that money could provide employment for 2,000 men at £.15 a week for three or four months. Yet the Government is proposing to spend this money on capital equipment for this State-owned enterprise, lt has no sense of responsibility in this matter because it has not to find the money. In Western Australia - and I make no apology for referring to that State - a remarkable display has been given by the Labour Government of deception of the people as to the responsibility for financial and employment difficulties in that State.
– That is why the people returned the Labour Government at the last election.
– I repeat that there has been a remarkable degree of deception. The Premier came to the Australian Loan Council and, out of consideration for his story, the Treasurer obtained the agreement of the other Premiers to the proposal that some provision might be made for Western Australia if there were special difficulties in that State. The Premier, Mr. Hawke, returned to Western Australia and boasted in the press that he would get special help from the Commonwealth, when, in fact, he had received no such assurance. Later, in the Legislative Assembly, having announced a public works programme of £4,000,000, which he was seeking from the Commonwealth, he was asked why he had selected a sum of £4,000,000 and not £1,000,000 or £40,000,000. He replied that there was no special reason for fixing on £4,000,000, except that that was what the State Government considered to be reasonable.
The plain truth of the matter was that the State Government had written out I O U’s for its previous year’s public works to the extent of £4,500,000, and it would be that amount of money short in its public works programme this year. It had not told any one what it had done. The plain truth was that it would be cut down in its public works programme to that extent because its promissory notes and deferred payments were catching up with it.
Why could not the Premier have been honest about that subject? Why could not he have told the people of Western Australia the precise position that occurred at the meeting of the Australian Loan Council and afterwards? Why can he not tell the people of Western Australia now that his is the only State in the Commonwealth that has any real degree of unemployment? The population of Western Australia is onefifteenth of the total population of Australia, but one-quarter of all the unemployed in the Commonwealth is to be found there. That, of course, can arise only from the incompetency and muddling of the State Government. It is said that it had to overspend its money to provide homes. If every government, State or Commonwealth, approached its public works problems on that basis, then we really would have some degree of inflation. Public works must be spread evenly over a period while funds are available and within the limit of our resources, so that the economy is not strained, no matter what the urgency of the position is. That is a view which the Western Australian Government has refused to face.
The Commonwealth has adopted the correct attitude in regard to the Premier of Western Australia in requiring him to give some assurance that the State Government will adopt a more responsible attitude in the future, and in requiring him to give some details of the way in which he proposes to meet these deferred payments and liabilities that have arisen and what action he proposes in future to avoid running into the same mess, because it is a very sorry mess. Commonwealth taxpayers have a right to require a responsible attitude from the Government of Western Australia. The electors of Western Australia require more in the way of ability from their elected Government than unsurpassed skill at screaming for help. There is a difficulty in returning taxing power to the States. I know that this suggestion has been made from time to time, but I should like the Government to examine very carefully the proposal made by two men from the Melbourne University, that there should be a limited return to the States of their taxing powers. It seemed to me that their proposal was entirely reasonable, and that there were no economic pitfalls and no great difficulties of administration. The suggestion was that the Commonwealth impose its own income tax rates and reimburse the States according to the formula, but that the States, provided they allowed the Commonwealth to assess taxable income - in other words, provided that they operated under the Commonwealth tax assessment legislation - should impose taxes to the extent they required, in substitution for the present supplementary grant that the Commonwealth now makes. In proportion to the budget figures, that is a relatively small area of the tax field. This year the States will receive in tax reimbursements, according to the formula, in round figures £153,000,000. The supplementary grant amounts, I think, to £20,400,000 or £20,600,000, so it leaves a relatively small area of the tax field for the States, but it does preserve the relative advantages that the States with the smaller taxing capacity now have, and it does repose some financial responsibility in State governments. If they were collectively required to raise £30,000,000 instead of £20,000,000, that would be their responsibility. The tax rates would be struck by the State governments themselves.
– As supplementary to the federal budget?
– Yes, and based on the taxable income of their taxpayers, as assessed by the Commonwealth. The field of company tax would be left to the Commonwealth and residence within the State would be the only qualification in liability for State income tax. Those conditions seem to me to be fairly reasonably easy of administration. They seem to be eminently fair, and at least a partial solution of the problem of the great degree of irresponsibility that is now displayed by State governments. The relative disabilities of the smaller States could well be met, in the main, by the activities of the Commonwealth Grants Commission. Until the Commonwealth takes some firm action along those lines, we shall never escape the continuous inflationary pressure under which this country finds itself because of the irresponsibility of the States. Liberal and Labour State governments alike adopt an attitude of irresponsibility in the spending of money which they have no responsibility to collect.
– Would it still be collected by the Commonwealth?
– That would be a matter for administrative arrangement. There should be no reason why, the State having supplied the Commonwealth taxation branch with its own rates of taxes, Commonwealth taxation officials should not issue an assessment of Commonwealth income tax and an assessment of State income tax. I see no difficulty whatsoever in such an arrangement and I feel quite confident that it could solve all the objections of the smaller States to their lack of taxing capacity relative to the larger States. They would then have some degree of responsibility to their own citizens, and there would be some test of the relative efficiency of State governments, having regard to the tax rates they impose inside their own borders.
– Would this be a tax on income from personal exertion only or on company income?
– On any sort of personal income assessed under the Commonwealth tax assessment legislation. It would not touch the incomes of companies. This would create a difficulty because companies frequently engage in activities in more than one State. Those are, I think, some of the main inflationary pressures to which the Commonwealth is subject. I do not think that prices or profit control does anything more than merely deal with the effects of the inflationary pressures. Prices and profit controls are inherently bad. They arise from a complete misconception of our economic structure. I defy any one to say what is a fair price or a fair profit in all the circumstances, because in any business there are always special considerations which must be taken into account. There are instances where the business is a risky one, or where it has to accumulate capital from its profits in order to replace its machinery and equipment, or where the type of business is less permanent, and the commodity supplied might go out of public demand in a short time. All of those factors, and an infinitely greater variety of them, must be taken into account, and no single individual or collection of individuals can say arbitrarily, with fairness, what should be a fair profit, whether it should be 5 per cent., 8 per cent., or 10 per cent., and the plain fact remains that the persons who say such things are usually not aware of the impact that is made and the repercussions that are felt, on factors in the market which have not been considered and cannot possibly be considered by them. In any event, the suggestion at this stage that the Commonwealth should assume prices control is quite fantastic in circumstances where we have different price structures in each State of the Commonwealth, and where we have different charges and cost levels. Surely the States, which have brought on themselves conditions of different prices and cost levels in their own areas, must face up to the proposition of having their own prices control, if they see any merit in it. It is their responsibility in their own area to say what they think is a fair price for a particular commodity produced in a separate set of economic conditions in each State.
– What about the flow of commodities between States?
– Of course, that is a difficulty that is bound to occur when we have an absurd position of different cost and wages structures in each State. The Premier of Western Australia is pleading for industries to go to Western Australia to make it an industrialized State, but what industry wants to go there when that State has one of the highest wage structures in the Commonwealth? Is that a method of encouraging industries to go to Western Australia? That is the sort of thing from which State Premiers are running away. They will not face up to the economic realities of the world in which we find ourselves to-day.
– The Menzies-Fadden Government has enjoyed nearly seven years of post-war office during which Australia has experienced bountiful seasons and high world prices for its primary products. This Government has unparalleled opportunities to build a healthy economy based on equitable distribution of wealth among all sections of the community. What has it done? It has committed tragic political blunders and has condoned price profiteering to a degree hitherto unknown with the result that it has the whole nation convulsed. Its hesitancy in facing up to problems confronting us is so marked that one wonders whether the expert advisers and planners with which this Government surrounds itself have the ability to gauge the immensity of the crisis with which we are now faced.
Australia is at the crossroads. While the profiteers become richer and richer at the expense of other sections of the community, the Government sits idly by. Our Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) has set a course of encouraging the huge monopolies to grow so powerful that they are really becoming a menace to the Government itself. Let us take a look back over the past six and a half years and analyse the development of private monopolies with the development of Australia from a public viewpoint.
The Prime Minister’s most notable and degrading achievement includes the handing over at bargain rates to the huge monopolies controlled by his friends and supporters such public utilities as Glen Davis shale oil works and very valuable shares in Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited. And do not let us forget that he handed to this particular group all the data gathered over the years at great expense by the various Commonwealth departments in connexion with the search for oil. That is not all. He handed over at bargain rates the oil drilling equipment which was procured at great sacrifice of very valuable dollars by the Chifley Government for the purpose of drilling for oil on a national basis. The equipment which was bought by Mr. Chifley for that purpose was just handed over to this wealthy group.
Who will forget the blatant sacrifice of the holdings of the people in Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited, another huge concern. The very valuable shares in that company were handed over at bargain rates. Was it a coincidence that the same group of racketeers were handed a very valuable licence for a television station by the selfsame beneficent government? It certainly pays to be a friend of this Government. Then came the infamous Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited and Trans-Australia Airlines so-called agreement which will operate for a period of fifteen years. The Government, of course, entered into an arrangement to lend at low rates of interest £4,000,000 of the taxpayers’ money to bolster up the out-of-date airline called Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited. The Government decided to wipe off debts owing by this company to the Taxation Branch and to forgo all moneys owing by this company to the Government and to put it on a basis to enable it to compete with the taxpayers’ airline, TransAustralia Airlines, on a basis which the
Minister was pleased to call “fair competition “. We also find that the Government, through the agreement which was prepared for the purpose, allowed this discredited airline to carry the bulk of Her Majesty’s mail. That was another concession, lt gave to the company the most select and best-paying air routes in Australia in an endeavour to cripple the wonderful service which was a credit to TransAustralia Airlines.
All this was done through a gentleman called Captain Holyman. This gentleman has a history of friendship with past Liberal and conservative governments. Again, it is wonderful to have friends in Cabinet. This gentleman is connected with a certain shipping company which is, in turn, controlled by the Peninsular and Oriental group. The Peninsular and Oriental group is very powerful, especially inside the Cabinet. Consequently, the Government took the very kind action of bringing down a bill to tie up all the ships of the Australian Shipping Board so as to prevent any competition with steamers trading around our coasts which belonged to the selfsame Peninsular and Oriental group or which are controlled by that group. Added to all the Government’s other favours to this group, a particularly favorable concession was granted by the introduction of the stevedoring legislation denying all industrial rights and curbing any freedom which remained to the waterside workers, and placing the union completely under the control of the overseas shipowners. The Government then set about granting the selfsame shipowners a complete monopoly of the stevedoring operations in Australian ports. We find that the Macquarie Stevedoring Company Limited and the Melbourne Stevedoring Company Limited are operated and controlled by the selfsame shipping company, all coming within the orbit of the Peninsular and Oriental group. It is certainly advantageous to overseas monopolies to support Liberal and other anti-Labour parties during elections. No wonder they make limitless funds available during election time through spurious organizations such as the Institute of Public Affairs and other bogus bodies whose only function is to collect funds to bolster up Liberal and anti-Labour governments.
We then come to the outrageous land tax scandal. The present Treasurer blatantly handed over to the landed gentry and large city property-owners a sum in the vicinity of £9,000,000 by the simple operation of abolishing the land tax some two years back. That fact cannot be refuted. This is the same loud-mouthed gentleman-
– Who is that?
– I refer to the Treasurer. He was also primarily responsible for instructing the court to freeze the basic wage. How the warped minds of these socalled legislators work! It means sacrifice, struggle and poverty for the workers and their families, but bigger and better handouts for the wealthy - greasing the fatted pig. Surely all members of the Public Service cannot forget the successful appeal by this Government against the Castieau award, when the Court made big reductions before the award operated. The members of the Public Service should remember this paltry action which reduced the supply of essentials to their families considerably. This Government cries out aloud for a further restraint of wages.
Now we come to another of the infamous agreements entered into by this Government. There seems to be no ending to the rackets in which it indulges. I refer to the CommonwealthNew Guinea Timbers Limited agreement by which Bulolo Gold-
– I suppose that the honorable member for East Sydney told the honorable member about that.
– I know that this hurts the Minister for Customs and Excise (Mr. Osborne) because he played a part in handing the assets of the Australian people over to his wealthy friends.
– I was a private member when the incidents which the honorable member mentioned occurred.
– The Minister voted for the measures, nevertheless. The company to which I have referred owns the town of Bulolo, in New Guinea. It even owns the government police station in Bulolo, lt was handed a timber concession which seems to be perpetual. This firm, by the courtesy of this beneficent Government, is allowed to participate in a concession to the extent of 49 per cent, control of a huge timber lease. Having visited this area recently, I know what I am talking about, and I know the vast resources around this town. This huge timber lease, on which unlimited timber is available, is handy to the modern plywood mill which has been established in Bulolo. The Government has also arranged for re-afforestation, so the lease promises to be perpetual. Of course, the Labour party will have a look into that when we get back into office. This is another instance of the Government’s maladministration. There is a great field for expansion in the production of plywood. World markets are available for Australian plywood, which has a great dollar-earning potential. No time, therefore, should be lost by the Government in taking advantage of this opportunity and operating the plywood-production industry as a national concern. After all, the timber belongs to the Australian people, and it should not be worked by any interest other than the nation itself.
We need dollars urgently. From day to day we hear the Treasurer crying about our balance of payments with the dollar area; yet we find the Government handing over 49 per cent. of the dollars earned by plywood to an American company which, by the way, pays no tax on those earnings because of the reciprocal taxation agreement with the United States of America. That agreement was placed on the statutebook in order to legalize the depredations of the great overseas monopolies in evading taxation. This agreement is adding a burden of millions of dollars to the burden already borne by the Australian people, by aggravating our balance of payments position with the dollar area. Think for a moment of the huge profits of General Motors-Holden’s Limited, for instance, whose shareholders, as a result of that measure, evade the payment of taxes at the earning source. The same applies to all the American operators in Australia. I repeat that! It applies to all of them. A little analysis by the Australian taxpayer of the reason why he cannot get such wonderful tax concessions would not be amiss. Another scandal! They come one after another.
Now being perpetrated on the longsuffering public is the scheme known as the St. Mary’s filling factory. This was born in the wonderful brain of the Minister for Defence Production (Sir Eric Harrison). He thought up this £23,000,000 scheme.
He is the man who predicted in 1951 that we would be at war within twelve months. That factory is fated never to be used for the purpose for which it is being built. And it is being built by another American company which also evades taxation under the reciprocal taxation agreement! I believe that if the present Government is in office when the St. Mary’s project is completed it will find that the plant is already obsolete and will use that as an excuse to hand it over to private enterprise, just as it has handed over most of the assets of the Australian people. Already the Government has wakened up to the fact that the plant will be of little use when it is completed, and has slashed considerably this year the money allocated for it. It would not be by any means the first occasion on which the Government has handed over a public enterprise to private interests, and if by any miracle a nonLabour government has anything to do with the St. Mary’s project when it is completed it, too. will be handed over. The people have found by bitter experience that Liberal-Australian Country party governments cannot be trusted with the people’s assets. That belief was reinforced by the Government’s latest action in disposing of an asset of the people a few weeks ago, when it sold the government whaling undertaking in Western Australia to private enterprise on the instalment plan - in effect on a pay-as-you-earn basis, which means that the Government will receive payment for the station from the profits made by the company now controlling it, instead of making those profits for itself. It allows the company to pay as it goes. Would not all companies in Australia like to have the benefit of a racket of that sort?
Now I think we should have a look at the Colombo plan, the brain-child of the former Minister for External Affairs, now Ambassador to Washington - Sir Percy Spender. It was later taken to the bosom of the present Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Casey) who loves to travel around the world, visiting Eastern countries and expounding his private policies, then returning to Australia once or twice a year to deliver a meaningless report to Parliament - then off again into the void! No one has any idea of what he is doing as this Government, after all, has no foreign policy to implement. We recently found that out in connexion with the so-called Suez Canal crisis. Parliament should have a good look at this Colombo plan. We all seem to be in the dark about it. We do know, of course, that it has cost us £30,000,000 in six years, and that the Government, which cannot see its way clear this year to increase age pensions, can increase expenditure under the Colombo plan. What are the results? We know that diesel locomotives, double-decker buses, rolling stock and other material required in Australia are being shipped to Colombo. To whom? The Ceylonese Government or to private operators? Some explanation should be given by the Prime Minister to allay the fears of the people about the expenditure of such large sums. Are the private racketeers in Colombo getting this equipment? Are they getting in for their cut like the private racketeers in Australia? An explanation is long overdue. Perhaps the Public Accounts Committee could have a look into it, and report its findings to Parliament. Its report surely would make interesting reading.
Let. us analyse this Government’s approach to housing. The previous Commonwealth and State housing agreement, which worked very smoothly for ten years, was scrapped by the Government, which forced a new agreement on the States. The new agreement was framed to meet the wishes of the master builder racketeers of the Commonwealth who, of course, will be receiving their pay-off for their support to this tragic Government. Project building by the State housing commissions will be drastically reduced, so that more building jobs will be handed over to the master builders, with the result that costs will spiral, making it extremely difficult for the working man to get a home for his wife and family. I venture to say that 50 per cent, of the people of Australia have sons or daughters who would be prepared to get married to-morrow if they could get homes to live in. But still the Government can send money abroad under the Colombo plan! It says, “Let us look after Eastern countries. Let us look after people in other parts of the world and starve our own boys and girls, and deny them homes to live in.” That is the Government’s policy.
The tragic handling of the uranium industry has been another instance of the failure of this Government to protect the interests of Australia. Our uranium industry has been sold at bargain basement prices to overseas interests. Control of one of the greatest of our mineral deposits, the Mary Kathleen mine, has been handed over to an alien company which, by the terms of the agreement, will almost be able to dictate to the Government how our uranium shall be used. The pathetic Minister responsible for this matter, the Minister for Supply (Mr. Beale), charged with the handling of valuable material, has been so incompetent and so naive in his efforts to create some kind of an attempt at administration that the Government has had to throw a security screen round activities connected with uranium and refuses to give this Parliament any information whatever in reference to them. What sins are committed in the name of security! A royal commission should be appointed to inquire into the production and sale of uranium. I suggest that such a commission would produce a first-class scandal, including the handing over of one of our greatest mineral deposits to an alien company. To make matters worse, it is freely rumoured that the Minister concerned is to be knighted in the very near future for his services in connexion with uranium mining.
I come now to the subjugation of the powers of the Commonwealth Bank in the interest of the private banks by the simple process of creating a Commonwealth Bank Board. The Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden), who is at the moment the Acting Prime Minister, deliberately handed to private interests his powers over the financial and economic structure of Australia. Private interests now control completely the economic welfare of the Australian people. What has been the result? Fear has replaced optimism in the minds of Australians. Decay has taken the place of development; restrictions have taken the place of expansion; unemployment has taken the place of full employment. Thus, we see the gradual destruction of a policy adopted by the Chifley Government, for the first time in the history of the world, as a result of which every one was free of the spectre of poverty through unemployment. Fear has gripped the hearts of the unskilled man in Australia. He thinks, “ What is going to happen next? Where is my next meal coming from? Does it mean the queue outside the dole office? Does it mean the soup kitchens of the 1930’s? “ I suggest that if this Government continues as it is at the present time, that is assured.
The private banks have adopted a restrictive financial policy as a result of which interest rates have been increased. Dear money is the order of the day. Thus, we see the spectacle of the primary producer endeavouring to increase his overdraft at the bank to enable him to purchase equipment, and we see the manufacturer doing the same thing. They are met with a blunt refusal and advised that equipment can be purchased through the hire-purchase system - at enormous rates of interest. The National Bank of Australasia Limited controls a hire-purchase house known as Custom Credit Corporation Limited, and the Australia and New Zealand Bank Limited controls one called Anasanda. So we see money that should be used for banking purposes and the development of Australia being channelled into the hire-purchase field for the purpose of imposing crippling rates of interest which surely will destroy our primary and secondary potential. Dear money means decay and unemployment. Let the Government take warning.
I should like honorable members to listen to a statement that was made recently by Sir Frederick Shedden in regard to the lack of defences in this country. It should be sufficient to force the Government to resign. The disclosures made by this gentleman sent a shudder through the people of Australia who had accepted the glib assurances of our Prime Minister and the service Ministers that Australia would be at full strength should a crisis develop. After the disgraceful waste of £1,200,000,000 on our defence services we find, on the word of the secretary of the Defence Department himself, that Australia is defenceless. Where has the money gone? How has it been spent? That is what the people of Australia want to know. The Government has failed to re-equip the Royal Australian Air Force. Great concern is felt over the high cost of the aircraft carrier H.M.A.S. “ Melbourne “. Our permanent forces are understaffed by 6,000 men, whilst Sea Venom aircraft from the aircraft carrier H.M.A.S. “Melbourne” have had to be grounded. All of this amounts to a public scandal, and a thorough investigation should be undertaken immediately. The fact that £1,200,000,000 of public money has gone calls for another royal commission.
It seems that, in regard to defence, we are in a position similar to that in which the present Government parties left the country when they walked out of office in the face of the Japanese invasion in 1941. Let me read one of the terrifying statements made by our Prime Minister after a visit to London in 1950. He said -
Over the next few years we must build up such defensive strength in all arms that we shall be able to say to Great Britain, as in the past, “ We are ready with you.” Not at some time in the future, but now. We must get out of our minds the idea that we can begin to develop a real army after a war begins. Australia must prepare for possible mobilization for hostilities by the end of 19S3.
This is 1956, in fact close to 1957, and we are defenceless. The Prime Minister has something to answer in that connexion. What a super-humbug the Prime Minister has proved to be! He should be removed from the treasury bench forthwith. He is not a fit and proper person to be in the Parliament, much less Prime Minister of the nation. If he had any principles at all he would resign. He has scuttled the ship “ Australia “. He is preparing to leave it as he did in the early days of 1942. Proof positive of this is given by the shocking elevation of his right hand man in another place to the Commonwealth Arbitration Court, an action that has brought the court into line as a political cat’s paw of the Government and discredited it in the eyes of the people of Australia.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- I find it most interesting to follow the honorable member for Kingsford-Smith (Mr. Curtin). After all, his whole attitude denotes opposition to private enterprise, or anything associated with it. He does not believe that the basic foundation of the prosperity and growth of this country, for a number of years, has been private enterprise. He attacked this Government for selling its shares in Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited. He attacked it for its association with the Trans-Australia Airlines-Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited organizational hook-up. He attacked the Government for its sale of the whaling station in Western Australia. He attacked it for its policy of building houses for private ownership.
I do not believe that the honorable member has any idea of the increase in oilrefining capacity that has taken place in Australia. It is true that the Government sold its shares in Commowealth Oil Refineries Limited but it is true also that without the expenditure of a penny of Government money, the oil-refining capacity of this country has been increased to a degree of which we can be proud. 1 do not know where the honorable member for KingsfordSmith believes the money comes from which is required to finance great oil refineries such as that which is being established at Kwinana in Western Australia at a cost of £46,000,000. It certainly does not come from the Domain in Sydney. I have no doubt that the honorable member has not the slightest conception of what private enterprise has done for this country in the past and will do for it in the future.
The association of Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited and TransAustralia Airlines has proved to be very successful. I am certain that any one who knows what Sir Ivan Holyman has done to build up Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited would be proud to acknowledge him as one of the leaders of industry in this country. I recommend the honorable member for Kingsford-Smith eventually to read a book which is now in the course of preparation. It describes what the Holyman family has done during the last 100 years to build up an industry in Australia. The founders of the organization worked night and day for seven days a week. They did not work a 36- hour or 40-hour week. It was in Devonport, my home town, that the Holyman family organization started and progressed to the great organization that it is to-day.
The honorable member for KingsfordSmith had something to say about the land tax. Probably he does not realize that the land tax was an unequal tax, a tax on only one section of the community, and a tax that was not being exploited to the fullest extent. In Queensland, which is a Labour-controlled State, a great deal of the land still belongs to the State. No land tax was imposed on that land. In some States, revaluations had not been completed, with the result that people in one portion of the State were paying a veryhigh land tax, whilst people in other portions were paying a very low land tax. That sort of thing cannot be avoided, because valuations are going on all the time.
The honorable member for KingsfordSmith attacked the Government for not permitting State housing authorities to carry on a system that has been in operation for a number of years - a. system which is making State governments the landlords of the people. The legislation introduced by this Government during the last sessional period will have the result of making better, cheaper and more houses available to people who desire to own their own houses. 1 believe it would be better if the notes of the honorable member’s speech were taken from him. Otherwise, he will probably go on making the same speech for a long time, and I do not think members of this Parliament should be encouraged to make speeches of that sort.
I shall refer to several of the desirable features of the budget proposals, particularly the proposal that the allowable deduction for income tax purposes in respect of expenditure on the education of dependent children shall be increased to £100 for each child. That is a great improvement of the position that existed a few years ago, when only £10 could be claimed in respect of each child. This is a step in the right direction, because the education of all children, not only those attending boarding schools, involves some expenditure which parents can claim as an allowable deduction for income tax purposes.
Another matter to which I want to refer is the tax concession given by this Government to people resident in isolated areas. I commend the proposal to extend the tax concession zones to include other areas. People who live in certain areas in Australia are entitled to further tax concessions. I believe that almost everyone will support the proposal to increase the concession from £120 to £180 in the case of Zone A, and from £20 to £30 in the case of Zone B. I suppose the members of the Labour party will say that those increases will not materially assist the working men in the areas concerned, but I am certain that they will be of value in attracting people away from closely settled areas to districts lacking the ordinary amenities of life, the development of which is so important to the country.
While I am on this subject, I propose to say a few words about representations in connexion with zoning that have been made by the people of King Island and Flinders Island. The Furneaux group of islands, of which Flinders Island is one, is in the Bass electorate. King Island is in the Braddon electorate. Both King Island and Flinders Island are situated in the Bass Strait, in the area of the “ roaring forties “. For a considerable period of the year, they are subject to strong gales and difficult weather conditions. In 1951, representations were made to the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden), who agreed that a case should be presented to the Commonwealth Committee on Taxation. That was done on 20th May, 1952. The committee heard the case in Melbourne and, I am certain, gave full consideration to it. For the benefit of honorable members, I propose to state some of the points that were made in the claim for taxation concessions for the residents of King Island.
At present, King Island is being developed mainly through Commonwealth assistance in the form of war service land settlement grants. A sum of approximately £2,000,000 is being spent by the Commonwealth to develop soldier settler farms on the island. There is also a mining industry. King Island Scheelite (1947) Limited has the only mine of its kind in Australia, and probably the biggest of its kind in the world.
The industries I have mentioned are the main contributors to the revenue of the island. Other developmental works are proceeding. Private individuals are endeavouring to develop the island in various ways. There are not many inhabitants, and the amount of money involved, if my proposal were accepted, would noi be very great. The island measures 40 miles by 16 miles. No part of it is more than 8 miles from the coast, and the wind that blows practically continuously from the west carries salt air and spray, which causes much damage by rust to vehicles, buildings and metal installations. The Tasmanian Government recognizes the seriousness of this problem, and accordingly allows its employees on the island an extra car allowance.
The only means of passenger travel to and from the island is the air service conducted by Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited, which company operates services on four days a week from Melbourne, Launceston and Wynyard. The cost per mile is probably greater than for any other air journey in Australia. One of the main difficulties associated with travel to the island arises because the Government has failed to extend the aerodrome to allow aircraft to carry full loads. Frequently, the aircraft have to take off not fully loaded. Operating costs are consequently increased, with a resultant increase of charges to the people of the island. The air fare from King Island to Melbourne is £4 17s. The amenities at the aerodrome are most unsatisfactory. The waiting room is inadequate, and can accommodate no more than half the number of passengers that can be carried by one of the aircraft that visit the island. In wet and windy conditions, which the island frequently experiences, the passengers have to take shelter wherever they can, mainly in cars and trucks. Very often newspapers, parcels and other goods consigned by air from the island have to be left behind because it is impossible for the aircraft to take off with a full load. A new abattoirs has been built close to the aerodrome, but because of the inability to carry a full load, the airline is unable to transport the meat to the Melbourne or Tasmanian markets.
The harbour facilities at King Island are inadequate. The only harbour available is that at Currie, which can accommodate vessels of slightly less than 300 tons. Most of these small craft trade between the mainland and the islands in Bass Strait, and during this winter at least two of them have run aground in storms. The freight rates are fairly high, mainly because of the conditions under which the vessels have to trade. Last year, the people of the island imported 2,740 tons of superphosphate, but they were still 600 tons short of their requirements. In order to grow grass and crops on the island it is necessary to use superphosphate, lime and trace elements. The lime is available on the island. Large areas of land are being brought into production in this way. The land is relatively cheap. Similar land on the mainland, the same distance from Melbourne, would cost at least five times as much as the land on King Island.
The population is not very great, being only a little over 2,000. There would be probably another 1,000 people living on the other islands in the Furneaux group, including Flinders Island. I suggest that the people of King Island should be given zone concessions in relation to income tax, in order to encourage the development of the island, to induce people to settle there, and to encourage the mining industry, which provides Australia with dollars from the sale of scheel ite.
Practically all commodities required on the island, except butter, milk, meat and fish, have to be imported. The imports last year amounted to 10,500 tons, and the exports to 5,000 tons. Much of the exports consist of empty drums. The petrol comes to the island in 44-gallon drums, and the figure I have given for exports includes the weight of the drums sent out. The people who purchase the petrol have to pay freight on the drums when they come to the island and again when they are sent back.
Educational facilities on King Island are inadequate, and do not provide for higher secondary or technical education. When children reach the stage when they need this education, they have to be sent to Tasmania or Victoria in order to obtain it. Their parents are burdened with the cost of transport from and to the island, and the cost of their board while they are being educated. In this respect the inhabitants of the island are no better off than those living in the far north of Australia. The men who work in the mine come from Tasmania or the other States, and they do not stay for any great length of time. Their rates of pay are quite good, the company being prosperous, but the same applies to other mining areas in Australia, such as Mount Isa and the mining areas in the Northern Territory. The wages paid in those places are probably higher than those paid on King Island, although I confess I have no relevant figures. In any case, there is no reason why the King Island company should not be in a position to compete for labour with mines in the towns on the west coast of Tasmania and in the inland parts of Australia.
The Commonwealth recognizes that the people of King Island should receive some consideration. They give to their employees a district allowance of £25 a year for married men and £15 for single men. The Tasmanian Government grants a district allowance of £30 a year, besides granting employees an additional car allowance. It also pays half the fares for its employees when they go to Tasmania on leave. I have mentioned these matters because I consider that the residents of King Island and the islands of the Furneaux group in Bass Strait should be given taxation concessions. The appropriate provision should be made in a taxation measure which will be considered later in this sessional period.
– The budget debate normally affords honorable members an opportunity to scrutinize Government policy closely, and, if they wish, to contest the statements made in the Treasurer’s budget speech and to rebut the arguments advanced in support of the budget proposals. This debate also affords the Opposition an opportunity to express its view of the weaknesses or, on occasions, the strength of the Government’s approach to various problems. On this occasion, the debate should be directed to the consideration of what will be done in the immediate future to improve production, and to increase exports by secondary industries, and all associated factors should be examined. We find in this budget, first, a policy of starving the pensioners. As the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) said last evening, this approach surprised every member of the Opposition. I am sure that it surprised most, if not all, honorable members on the Government side of the chamber also. Secondly, whether or not the Government admits it, it has adopted a policy of freezing wages, and, in point of fact, even of reducing them. Thirdly, it proposes to allow profiteers an open go. The fourth main feature of the budget is that it reveals that the Government’s immediate policy is one of stagnation.
Soon after the recent parliamentary recess began, I received at my home early one morning a telephone call concerning the condition of an invalid pensioner who was well known to my family. I immediately went to the place where she resided, and took her back to my home, where
I had arranged for my own doctor to attend in view of the information I had received about her state. The doctor examined her when I returned home with her at 7 o’clock. He visited her again at eleven, and again at four in the afternoon, because her condition was so serious. After fourteen days, the doctor said her trouble was due solely to malnutrition. Thousands of pensioners throughout Australia are being reduced to a condition of malnutrition by the Government’s policy. The pensioner that I have mentioned was not very elderly, but she would have been found dead in her bed from malnutrition had it not been for the kindness of the person who informed me of her condition. She would certainly have died within another three days if she had not been cared for, and her death would have been on the heads of Government supporters.
I wish now to discuss profiteering briefly. If any honorable member doubts the existence of profiteering, I invite him to read any newspaper on any day of the week. He will see reports of profits of 17± per cent., 20 per cent, and even 30 per cent, being made by every profiteering and racketeering business that calls itself a private enterprise.
– Including the unions.
– I shall come to the unions in a moment. They will not continue to carry this Government in the way it expects. Opposition members consider that something should be done about prices, and they are glad to welcome to their fold Mr. Playford, the South Australian Premier. I wonder what South Australians will say about this Government’s approach to the problem of prices. At the recent conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers, Mr. Playford said that prices control must be introduced at the federal level. He has closely watched this Government’s policy since it took office, and has seen South Australia gradually stagnate as a result of it. I do not propose to say more about that matter, because many honorable members on this side of the chamber are capable of discussing it effectively later.
I turn now to the fourth subject that I mentioned at the outset - the Government’s policy of stagnation. Any one who studies what is happening in Australia at the present time must stand aghast at the crumbling of Australia’s roads system, which cannot continue to carry the present heavy volume of traffic. Yet the Government has made no provision in the budget for the extension of rail services by the construction of standard-gauge rail links. It does not propose to do anything realistic about the transport system, but merely sits back and says that the job is one for the States. Any one in political life who dares to suggest that transport is a matter solely for the States is seriously damaging Australia’s welfare, and will be indicted for his poor statesmanship when the history of this nation is written. The entire framework of our transport system is crumbling through lack of foresight, because the Government is sitting back on its haunches and hoping that to-morrow will bring something better than to-day has brought. We who have studied transport affairs know what can be done by the electrification of railways and by the construction of railways with the standard gauge of 4 ft. 8± ins. We know, also, that, every day, the Hume Highway between Albury and Tarcutta falls into worse disrepair. We marvel at the Government’s audacity in introducing a budget that makes no provision for the improvement of Australia’s transport system. The day will come when this Administration will be branded for what it is - the destroyer of everything that really counts in the transport system.
Although the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) said nothing about the transport system in his budget speech, he did mention wages, costs and prices. If ever we have seen a defeatist approach to a problem, we saw it exemplified in the following words: -
We have no full and exact measure of cost and price changes over the whole field of the economy, but it is common ground that costs and prices have been tending to rise for the past couple of years and that latterly the rate of increase has become more rapid.
This statement was supported last evening by a would-be Prime Minister, the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Harold Holt). Both in this chamber and at the recent conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers, the Treasurer and the Minister have offered as a solution to our problems only the pegging of wages at what the Government considers is the capacity of industry to pay.
– Does not the honorable member believe in that?
– 1 shall deal with that matter shortly. Before any Government supporter makes such a statement, he should understand what the Treasurer meant when he said -
We have no full and exact measure of cost and price changes
The country is in its present condition as the result of seven years’ maladministration by the Liberal-Australian Country party Government. Let us then look at what the Treasurer said. He stated -
The Government has not proposed any freezing of wages. It does not believe in freezing wages or prices or profits or anything else.
What .is the fact? Last night the Minister for Labour and National Service, who is the leader of this Government on the industrial side, asked this question -
Does any honorable gentleman opposite challenge the principle of the capacity of industry to pay as being the right principle to apply to wage fixation?
I do challenge that, and I challenge it on the basic wage level. Since 1919 the basic wage has never been based solely on the capacity of industry to pay. Some provision for fluctuation has been attached to it. After all, what is the basic wage? When I became a member of this chamber, we had here a great statesman who originally came from this side of politics, the late W. M. Hughes. Let me give his description of the basic wage. He was speaking then as the Prime Minister, and he was going to do something about the system that became operative in this country. On 23rd November, 1920, he said -
A word now as to what “ basic wage “ means. The basic wage is not a wage determined merely by the value of the work done. It rests upon a principle established long ago in this Commonwealth, and, I think, very properly- and 1 agree with him - i hat a wage must be paid which will enable the citizen receiving it to live according to a standard of comfort fitting and proper in a progressive community.
In the opinion of the Labour party, that definition still holds good. The party to which I belong believes that profits and prices should not be allowed to run wild. Profits of 171 per cent., 30 per cent, or even 40 per cent, should not be allowed to remain unchecked so that the Government can say that the basic wage of the worker will be determined upon the capacity of industry to pay out of what is left.
I come now to another phase of the Government’s policy, which 1 oppose vigorously. What authority does the Government mean when it says, “ Let us have an impartial inquiry to determine in the future once a year the amount that shall be paid as the basic wage “? What authority is it? It is an authority that has one power, and one power only, within the Constitution, and that is the power to settle a dispute. Every time the basic wage is to be considered while this Government remains, a dispute must arise from one side or the other. So, the workers will be on one side and the employers on the other, in continual disputation about the living standards of the ordinary wage earner. I do not know of any other way to destroy completely, in quicker fashion, employeremployee relationships than to have a continual approach to this problem on the level of disputation, lt will destroy completely the approach to employer-employee relationship.
The court, in its last judgment - and I shall deal with that later - made it quite clear that it did not hope to satisfy either party. Surely the Minister for Labour and National Service does not think that in the year 1956 he can persuade the Australian worker to produce when he is involved in continual disputation in the court about the smallest amount that will go into his pay envelope as the basic wage! Margins and other payments above the basic wage are matters properly related to the capacity of the nation or the industry to pay, but the question of the amount that goes into the pay envelope as the minimum must not be left in the situation where it is a matter for disputation between employer and employee week in week out, and year in year out. The 1949-50 case cost the trade union movement £7,000 in legal fees. The 1952-53 wages and hours case cost the trade union movement £19.000. The last case, which lasted only seven weeks, cost between £4,000 and £5.000. Where does this Government think the trade union movement will get the money to pay legal costs in future? Or does the Government, in point of fact, want to break the trade union movement, first by smashing trade union reserves in this way?
The trade union movement has not the responsibility of government, but it has a responsibility to build employer-employee relations, to get the maximum capacity out of an industry and, in doing so, to build for this nation as well as for itself. Bui if the minimum amount that will go into the labourers pay envelope is to be a matter of continual disputation every year, then this Government will destroy completely any possible chance of establishing and maintaining good relations between employers and employees. I say that deliberately. The court itself admits that it cannot give satisfaction to both parties. The Minister says, in effect, “ What we want every year is an application by the unions for an addition of £2 a week to the basic wage, and an application by the employers to the same court to reduce the basic wage by £2. Out of the hurly-burly of the case the court will decide something.” I propose to show that in the hurly-burly, all the court will be able to do will be to pluck a figure out of the air. If that is the way this Government wants to build employeremployee relations, I suggest, with all the frankness and honesty of purpose that I have after twenty years in the industrial field, that it will destroy completely the progress of this country.
Sitting suspended from 5.58 to 8 p.m.
– Before the suspension of the sitting for dinner, I was referring to the Government’s policy, as indicated in the Treasurer’s budget speech, and the fact that that policy has brought us to our present position. We should never forget that from 1942 to 1948 there was applied in this country, by a government holding the views that we hold, quite the reverse policy to that which is now being applied by this Government. It should be borne in mind that in those six years, as a consequence of the policy that we are now advocating, of control of prices and profits as well as wages, the Chifley Government, in spite of all the impact of war, and all the inflationary tendencies that flow therefrom, was so able to control the economy of this country that there was a rise of only 4 per cent, in prices and costs. So, is it to be wondered at this point, after seven years of maladministration by this Government, that when we hear a budget speech of this character we look back and ask, “ What has happened since the Chifley Government was defeated? “ I said earlier that I wanted to say something about the basic wage problem which the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Harold Holt) is so eager to put in the hands of an authority, which he says is the proper authority to deal with it. Before dinner 1 mentioned also what the late Mr. W. M. Hughes had to say concerning the basic wage. It will be recalled that I said that the true test of a basic wage should be that it will enable a citizen receiving it to live according to a standard of comfort fitting and proper in a progressive community. We have never shifted from that interpretation since 1920. I invite Government supporters to examine the speech of the late Mr. Hughes on 23rd November, 1920, as reported in “ Hansard “ at page 6820. Dealing with the position in the Public Service at that time, Mr. Hughes said -
With the figures submitted for their consider: lion by the Basic Wage Commission, supported by the figures of Mr. Knibbs, showing that the purchasing power of the sovereign has depreciated from 1907 until the present time to the extent that 84s. 8d. will now only buy what 43s. Id would buy in 1907, we have to satisfy ourselves that the public servant can buy as much wilh his present wage as he could buy in 1907. In many cases he cannot do so, because his money wage has nol risen correspondingly to the increase in the cost of living.
I stress those words, “ his money wage has not risen correspondingly to the increase in the cost of living “. We might wonder how this Government acts in relation to its own servants. I have in mind, for instance, the fact that this Government, which always is so eager to say, “ Let an outside authority decide industrial matters “, recently had before it a decision of the Public Service Board, which was supported by the late Speaker, making certain recommendations for increases in the salaries of officers in the House of Representatives. Although the board’s report was in the hands of the Government on 5th January and the reclassification was made by the Speaker on the 17th January, the Government refused to make available the money to give effect to the reclassification. When this Government treats its own employees in that fashion how can we expect it to deal decently with the basic wage earners of this country? Let us bear in mind for the remainder of the time 1 have at my disposal these words of the Treasurer -
Wc have no full and exact measure of costs and price changes over the whole field of the economy.
Let us read the words of the Arbitration Court in its recent basic wage judgment, because they are all-important. The judgment covers no less than 74 pages. The Government has failed to achieve a decent code of industrial relations between employer and employee because of the policy which it has applied. At page 20 of the judgment, the court said -
The Court is satisfied that a basic wage assessed at the highest amount which the economy can afford lo pay cannot in any way be arrived at on the current price of listed commodities. There is simply no relationship between the two methods of assessment.
– Quite right!
– I am glad to hear a member of the Australian Country party say, “ Quite right “. If he were honest he would say that, in his opinion, because conditions in China and its economy are such that only a bowl of rice can be given to Chinamen, that is good enough for Chinamen and it is good enough for Australians. In his assessment, a bowl of rice is good enough for the worker in the area that he represents. If the late Mr. W. M. Hughes were still in this chamber he would be allied to honorable members on this side of the committee to-night, fighting for the things he spoke about in 1920, fighting for the principle that any man who works in this country is entitled as a minimum payment to sufficient in his pay envelope to allow him to live in decency. So, for the first time since 1920, the Government adopts the attitude of the court, and in the future there will be no relationship between the cost of living and what the worker shall be paid. The judgment continued -
The court is further satisfied that all the complex ramifications and money movements which are necessarily related to the economic stale of a trading nation such as Australia do not allow nf the fixation of a wage to vary according to any formula or index so that it remains from time to time the highest wage that industry can afford to pay.
That is the principle that the Government is asking us to accept. The court says that it is not possible to work out a formula which will give to the workers of this country even the amount which industry can afford to pay from day, to day and from month to month. That is the very sentiment which the late Mr. Hughes rejected in his policy speech at Bendigo in 1919. That is the very set of circumstances that created industrial anarchy in Australia prior to the advent of the 1921 government. - What this Government is doing now will bring about industrial anarchy, because there cannot be a situation where there are constantly before the court applications to vary the base, without there being disagreement between employer and employee. Let us examine the last paragraph on page 20 of this judgment -
An index related to productivity, if such were available, would not be suitable when the prosperity of the community depends so greatly as in Australia, on the prices obtained on the world’s markets for exports of farm products.
So the third admission that we have from this authority, which this Government says shall in future assess wages in this country, is that we cannot regard productivity as a determining factor. As I said before dinner. I have never known of anything done in this country which was so calculated to destroy employer-employee relationship as is the Government’s action in this instance. Disputation must always be in existence as between employer and employee! On the Government’s own say so, disputation is necessary before there can be an assessment of wage rates. The court says that, having regard to all the complex ramifications, it is not possible to have any basis at all upon which to arrive at a unanimous approach to this problem. This Government sets the clock back to 1918 and, mark my words, as the result of that action it will get industrial anarchy the like of which has not been seen before, because the Government is destroying completely any possibility of good industrial relations as, between the employer and employee.
There has not been one word in the budget speech, and not one word from any member on the Government side of the chamber, on any form of consultative committee for the purpose of bringing together the two factions which, in point of fact, do all the producing in this country. The authority to which 1 have referred has said that even if more is produced, it is no guarantee that the workers are entitled to an increase of their wage level. That is the last throw of the dice on the part of a government that is attempting to use arbitral authority to have this point corrected.
There have been great weaknesses in the Government’s policies in the last seven /ears. In that time, the Government has tailed to follow any plan that would give stability to the Australian economy. This Government has consistently run away from its obligations to do something about profits and prices. The Labour Government did not run away from that problem. From 1942 to 1948 we tried prices control and we made it succeed. In 1949, this Government - or people of the same political kidney - took over and found the best organized industrial arrangements anywhere in the world. Over a period of seven years, in one State and then in another, this Government has destroyed those arrangements.
When the 1949 judgment was delivered, there was a dissenting voice. The present senior judge of the Arbitration Court was the man who said that there was a responsibility on this Government as well as the court to do something about inflation in Australia. 1 refer to Mr. Justice Foster. To-day, he is the senior judge in Australia, ls it not significant that although he is the senior judge in Australia, he has been passed over for the presidency of the commission? He was relegated to one of the minor positions. Why? Because he had the temerity to tell this Government that it had the responsibility to do something about inflation, and should not leave the matter entirely to the court. Because he had the temerity to do so, he was displaced by the Government.
The Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Harold Holt) rose in his place last night and challenged us to deny the decency of the approach this Government is making towards wage fixation in Australia. 1 say to the Government that the only way in which one can get an alteration in the basic wage is by the employer organizations on the one side, or the employee organizations on the other, starting a fight. It is only in those circumstances that the Arbitration Court has the power to settle a dispute. So, for the future, every issue even with respect to a minimum wage level in Australia, in the court’s own dictum, under the authority now set up by this Government, can be settled only -as a result of a disputation between employer and employee.
I have never seen anything designed soclumsily. I have never seen anything which could have such bad effects on employeremployee relationships in any country. This has occurred at a time when we should be bringing our employer-employee relationships closely together so as to get that, increased productive capacity that will give us the right to build this nation in the way it should be built, not in the interest of a few profiteers, but in the interests of the people as j whole.
.- We have just listened to a speech by a gentleman who became a member of this chamber in 1949. I understand that prior to that, he was an advocate for the working man before arbitration courts. One can well and truly understand the conditions that were prevailing in this country prior to 1949 if the honorable member carried on in the arbitration courts inthe same way as he carried on in this chamber to-day.
Let me deal briefly with a few of hisremarks. He said that when this Government assumed office, industrial relations were better than at any time previously in Australia. What utter rot! What a stranger to the truth! This gentleman knows, and everybody else knows, that prior to 1949 this country was suffering from blackouts, industrial stoppages and trouble all over the place. Much of the trouble was within the ranks of the Labour party of the day. I need only recall thai a former Labour Minister for Labour and National Service, Mr. E. J. Holloway, is reported in “ Hansard “ as having said that working hours lost in the period 1946-49 were greater than at any time in the past.
I can only describe the speech of the honorable member for Blaxland (Mr. E. James Harrison) as an attempt to incite the workers to oppose this Government. I believe that the workers will not be so foolish. The honorable member said that Australia would suffer anarchy. Does he. who is a representative of the working man. mean to tell me that the workers would be foolish enough to have a repetition of conditions when Labour was in office and a person could not buy a packet of cigarettes unless it came from under the counter, and it was almost impossible to purchase refrigerators, motor cars, vacuum cleaners and so forth? No! The workers would not be so silly. Yet the honorable member who is the representative of a responsible section of the community mouths those threats here. To say the least, it is absolutely disgraceful.
I shall not waste much time on the honorable gentleman, but I must point out that he said that prices increased by only 4 per cent, from 1946 to 1949, when the Chifley Government was in office. If the honorable gentleman cares to refer to “Hansard”, he will find that Mr. Chifley himself stated in this very chamber that prices had increased by 9 per cent, in that period. But irrespective of whether they increased or not, what could people buy with their money in those days? Where were supplies of steel and coal, the horner and all the other things that people wanted? [“ney were non-existent, and from one ev.ii of this country to the other black-marker and all those unhealthy conditions that we abhor so much were rife.
The honorable member for Blaxland, when he began his speech, said that the Government had not taken any action with respect to transport. He was talking about the standardization of railway gauges, roads from Sydney to Melbourne and so forth. He knows perfectly well that the Commonwealth power with respect to those two matters is limited by the Constitution. When the States begin to carry out responsible government and really do something, we may be able to grapple with the problem. I notice that honorable gentlemen opposite are laughing. They will probably suggest that we put in turnpikes or toll roads because they have them in America. Opposition members should carefully consider population, wealth and other conditions in that country before they talk so blithely about that matter.
I shall not bother any more about the honorable member for Blaxland. I desire to take this opportunity early to congratulate the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden), on the introduction of this, his ninth budget. During the past few years, the right honorable gentleman has had to contend with sets of circumstances unknown in this country before, because as he has rightly said in his budget speech, Australia is enjoying a high level of prosperity and has a keen desire to expand, and one of the unfortunate things about it is that we are trying to expand just a little too quickly. 1 support this budget in general terms. 1 call it a “ hold-the-line budget “. It is unspectacular but my word it is solid! Once again Opposition members laugh. 1 remind them that they laughed about the so-called horror budget in 1951 and claimed that it would lead to our defeat at the following general election. Where did the Opposition get on that occasion? Again the Labour party was going to defeat us when we introduced import controls - unfortunately for the people - in 1952. Where did Labour get on that occasion? I say to Opposition members quite freely, candidly and frankly that this budget is unspectacular but my word it is solid! It will achieve things of which this country will be proud.
Let us examine some features of th’.’ budget. Increased provision is made for soldiers’ children’s education schemes. What did the Labour party ever do for returned soldiers or for their dependants? I hear the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) interject. The Labour government imposed a means test on the war pension and would not regard the war widow as a suitable or responsible person to have a war service home. The same gentleman had something very nasty to say about prisoners of war and so forth-
– That is a lie.
– Opposition members laugh when I mention those things.
– I heard it, but it does not worry me.
– You are a liar!
– Order! The honorable gentleman is not getting away with that. He will withdraw and apologize.
– I only said-
– Order! The honorable member for Lalor will withdraw his remark and will apologize for having made it.
– I withdraw and apologize, but I also take exception to the statement made by the honorable member for Canning that I had something nasty to say concerning prisoners of war, and I ask that the honorable gentleman withdraw his statement.
– The honorable gentleman may deal with that in a personal explanation.
– I rise to order. If an honorable member takes exception to a remark that he had something nasty to say about prisoners of war, is that a matter for a personal explanation or may the honorable gentleman who feels offended ask for a Withdrawal of the remark, at the time that it is uttered, on the ground that it is personally insulting to him?
Thi! CHAIRMAN.- Whether what the honorable member for Canning said was insulting is really a matter of opinion. As to whether or not his statement was correct is not for the Chair to determine. The honorable member for Lalor offended against the rules of the committee, and that is why I asked him to withdraw the term that he used.
– I rise to a further point of order. I ask that the honorable member for Canning be directed to withdraw the remark that he made, which was personally objectionable to me, as Acting Leader of the Opposition, that h member ot the Labour party had made nasty remarks about prisoners of war.
– The honorable member knows that it is not customary for any honorable member to take exception in a general way like that, or to expect that everybody who disagrees with something that has been said should have the right to have the statement withdrawn. The honorable member for Canning may proceed.
– If it will ease the minds of the two honorable gentlemen opposite I shall withdraw the remark, but I can refer other honorable members to the “ Hansard “ report containing the statement that 1 mentioned. I shall give them the page number and they may see for themselves the exact words used.
The Government has increased allowances under the Commonwealth reconstruction training scheme. It has increased the pensions of civilian widows. It has increased payments to the States by £23,000,000. Is there any member of the Opposition who will object to the Government’s finding another £23,000,000 for the States? No! They are all silent on that one. Is there any member of the Opposition who will object to the Commonwealth’s finding another £5,031,000 for Commonwealth air roads purposes, bringing the total up to £35,000,000 annually? Will anybody object to the War Service Homes Division spending £30,000,000 and to the Postmaster-General’s Department spending an extra £1,750,000 on works and equipment for postal services? Will any member of the Opposition object to this Government’s increasing the allowable tax deductions for residents living in Zone A and Zone B which are respectively above the 26th Parallel and west of the 140th Meridian? Does anybody object to the Zone areas being extended? Does any member of the Labour party object to the increase of the concessional allowance for expenditure on education of children?
– It is not enough!
– At least it is being increased. Will members of the Opposition object to the assistance given to the Australian timber industry?
Whilst this budget is not spectacular ii is a solid budget, and is tackling the jobs which have to be tackled. The main thing we have to remember in to-day’s circumstances is that we must be sure that we do not go backwards. Having dealt with that. I now wish to refer to the financial relations between the Commonwealth and the States, for the simple reason that I am a great believer in the federal system. I am, however, of the opinion that present circumstances operating within the States themselves will destroy the federal system in this Commonwealth. Let me quote from the budget speech. Early in the speech the Treasurer had this to say -
We have emphasized time and again that the ra’e of growth Australia has sustained in recent years and the state of high prosperity we have enjoyed are bo:h endangered by certain tendencies current in our economy. In part, these tendencies have originated abroad but, in the main, they are due to pressures created by our own efforts noi only to expand rapidly and in many directions but at the same time to achieve higher and higher consumption standards.
A few paragraphs later he dealt with the national income, detailing how it had increased, and how total wages and salary had also increased. He also stated - and 1 hope the members of the Opposition will get this into their skulls - that farm income on the other hand had fallen by £26,000,000, or 6 per cent. That is a very dangerous situation indeed. Now, members of the Opposition repeatedly criticize the Government for having imposed import restrictions. They know full well, all the time, that we cannot continue to buy goods overseas which we cannot afford to pay for. The simple fact is that unless the farmers can produce sufficient of our export requirements to pay for all the goods we buy we cannot hope to bring in all the imports that we want. Farm income has decreased solely because of the things that are happening within the boundaries of the various States. 1 say quite plainly that one of the main contributing factors, within the borders of this country, to the inflationary trends and the problems that confront us is the financial irresponsibility of the State governments, which have contributed to rapid secondary expansion and consequent deterioration of farming productivity. While State governments continue to increase freights, for instance, they will continue to contribute to the present economic imbalance. Those extra charges bear on the farming community and inhibit the efforts of the farmers to produce our export requirements. thereby decreasing our ability to pay for our imports.
Last night the honorable member for Petrie (Mr. Hulme) showed how the costs of government were increasing in Australia. He said that the cost of government generally throughout Australia had increased by 2.5 per cent, from 1950 to 1956, and the percentage of the national income expended by governments had also increased. He showed how the costs of the States had increased from 9.4 per cent, of the national income in 1951 to 11.6 per cent, in 1956, an increase of 2.2 per cent. If that sort of thing continues we shall find ourselves in very grave difficulties not long from now. On the other hand, the cost of government in the federal sphere has decreased by .3 per cent, between 1950 and 1956.
The State Premiers are all the time clamouring for more money from the Commonwealth. Where is the Commonwealth to find that money? Last night, the Leader of the Opposition was trenchantly critical of the Government for budgeting for a surplus of £ 108,000,000. But he knows quite well - he should know better than most people in this Parliament - that it is neces sary to budget for that surplus in order to find the extra money for the States and to pay loans which will mature in this financial year. Do the Leader of the Opposition and those who support him want this Government to repudiate the Commonwealth’s obligations to the lending public? If these maturing loans are not all converted to present security the Government must find the money to meet the position.
– Then the Government will not have a surplus at all?
– That is what it means. The Leader of the Opposition was very critical of the Government for budgeting for a surplus, but he knows the true position as well as anybody else. Returning to Commonwealth and State financial relations, over the week-end I did a little bit of reading. I read in the Western Australian “ Hansard “ of 1948 a statement made by a very prominent public man which read - i do not want to enter into a discussion at this stage on the question of what will be the final outcome of the Commonwealth-States financial relationships. However, it is clear to every public man in Australia that the present situation cannot go on indefinitely.
– Hear, hear!
– 1 am glad of the honorable gentleman’s agreement. The statement continued -
This State and other States cannot for all time be left in a position of having to depend year after year upon Commonwealth generosity, benevolence or whatever else one may like to call it to enable the States to function.
On the same page of the Western Australian “ Hansard “ the following statement appears-
– The honorable member is like Bob Dyer.
– That is better than being a funny man, or a rubber man, in Gladys Moncrieff’s show when the honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly) is in Perth. This same public man to whom I have referred also said - 1 know also that it is a very popular form ot sport or amusement among opponents of the present Commonwealth Government to abuse that Government and especially its Treasurer … in regard to the taxation which he and his Government have levied upon the people of Australia
– Who said that?
– This was the Honorable A. R. G. Hawke, who is now the Premier of Western Australia, but who was then speaking as a member of the Opposition. If there is any man in Australia who is engaging in the sport of criticizing the Commonwealth Treasurer and the Commonwealth Government, it is Mr. Hawke. We had one of his supporters, the honorable member for Stirling (Mr. Webb), last night mouthing platitudes that have been spoken in Western Australia by various people for a good many years. I am not attacking the Western Australian Premier and the Western Australian Government particularly. I have a few things to say of other Premiers as well. Mr. Hawke went on to say -
On the one hand we have the States, or most of them, demanding additional payments from the Commonwealth to the Slates. To the credit of our own Treasurer-
This is what he had to say about a Liberal Treasurer - it can be said that he is constantly making requests to the Commonwealth Government to make additional money available to the Government of this State, or to the industries of this State, for the purpose of enabling Western Australia to speed up its progress.
He continued -
These requests to the Prime Minister leave him in an extremely difficult situation because, if he accedes to them then to that extent must taxation be kept upon the people of Australia, or to that extent must it be increased. State Treasurers, as such, are not very concerned as to how much taxation the Prime Minister places upon the people of Australia, although, if they are Treasurers in other than Labour Governments, they lose no opportunity of heaping condemnation
Who is heaping the condemnation to-day? I suggest that is being done by Labour governments, in the main - and in some instances, abuse upon the Federal Treasurer and his Government for the fact that Federal taxation is high and, in their own words, is higher than industry can bear. 1 suggest in all seriousness that State Treasurers cannot expect the Treasurer of the Commonwealth to keep on increasing Commonwealth payments to the States, and at the same time be able to reduce taxation upon the industries and people of Australia to the degree which some of these State Treasurers and their supporters claim should be done.
Those statements may be found in the Western Australian Parliamentary Debates, volume 122, pages 1885 and 1886, of the 26th October, 1948.
If the States - and I do not care whether they have Liberal governments, Country party governments, Labour governments or any other kind of government - continue to make demands on the Commonwealth, eventually something must fold up, because the country simply will not be able to stand it. Recently, the Acting Prime Minister called a conference of the State Premiers, in the course of which the Premier of Victoria said, “We can fix this matter if Victoria gets ‘ £5,000,000”. When the point was taken by the chairman of the conference that if one State were to get £5,000,000 the other States also would be entitled to £5,000,000 each, which would be a total of £30,000,000 for the six Stale;,, ‘.lie Premier of Victoria said, “ Well, you are getting £1 15,000,000 from increased taxation. Let us have the £30,000,000 and finish the job.” It must be remembered that this Government has to find the money to meet the commitments of which 1 spoke a few moments ago, and it is a pity that the State Premiers do not appreciate the fac that the money has to be found somewhere
– We want a new Treasurer.
– To the credit of the present Treasurer, I point out that this is the first federal government that has wholly vacated the loan field so that the States may have the full benefit of it. This Government has gone further in this respect than did any previous government, it has taxed the people, to a degree, to supplement loan raisings, should the money not be available in this country. As we look through the budget papers, we find that from 1951-52 until the end of the financial year 1955-56, the Commonwealth, by way of taxation alone, found for the States, on top of loan raisings, the sum of £369,797,000. In addition, because of the constitutional position, when States approach the Commonwealth with deficits, the Commonwealth must meet those deficits. In 1953-54 there were no deficits in the States, but in 1954-55 the deficits of all the States amounted to £3,523,000. This year, however, the total deficit of the States is no less than £16,000,000. I say to the committee, and to the country, that if State Treasurers and State Premiers continue to manage their finances along the lines to which I have referred, something will happen that will crack our economy and we shall be in a very sorry plight indeed. Therefore, I maintain, I believe justly and correctly, that much of the blame for the inflationary spiral and our financial difficulties can be laid at the feet of the State governments, because their financial arrangements have represented the height of irresponsibility.
Now let me go back to my own State of Western Australia in order to take the matter a little further.
– I wish that the honorable gentleman would go back their permanently.
– It might suit some honorable members if I did so. Apparently, they do not like my visits to Canberra. Instead of going home every week, like many other honorable gentlemen, I stay here and hunt up a lot of interesting information. Another Western Australian spoke during the debate last night, the honorable member for Stirling, and in the course of his remarks he referred to unemployment in Western Australia. There is unemployment in Western Australia. I do not doubt that for one moment, but what was the fundamental cause of it? It was none other than our friend the State Minister for Housing and Forests, Mr. Graham. In the Division of my colleague, the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Freeth), sawmillers have been forced to put men off from their mills for the simple reason that there is no market for their timber. Why is that?
– Because of credit restrictions.
– The reason is that Mr. Graham had refused to allow the sawmillers of Western Australia to export any timber. He wanted it all to be used in the State housing programme. To use a golfing term, the saw-millers were stymied. They lost their markets, and they have had to put men off. A couple of thousand pounds was handed out here and a few more thousands there, and it was suddenly ascertained that the Premier of Western Australia was working on a system of deferred payments. The £4,000,000 for which he is asking is not to meet the immediate position but to catch up on contracts into which he entered some months previously- I do not make these remarks only in respect of the present Premier; these things went on previously.
On the very day that the honorable member for Stirling asked in this House whether the Treasurer would table certain correspondence, Mr. Hawke tabled papers in the Western Australian Parliament. In one letter the Treasurer had to tell the Western Australian Government that it was because of its activities and those of previous governments, that it found itself in its present unsatisfactory position. No Minister charged with the responsibility of running a government department should overspend by £ 1,500,000 as the Housing Minister of Western Australia has done. We hear now that the Premier of Victoria, discussing the possibility of attracting investors, says there are hundreds of millions of pounds overseas. Where are those hundreds of millions of. pounds?
– Overseas! 1
– In answer to a question I addressed to the Treasurer yesterday he said that if they are overseas, we cannot get them here. So long as those conditions apply, this country will be in difficulties.
A few years ago, this Government offered to the States a return of their taxing powers, but each and every one of the States ran away from that offer. Some of the Premiers made the most fantastic suggestions. The Premier of South Australia said, “ Give us the first £250,000,000”. The Premier of New South Wales said, “ You take the field of taxation of incomes up to £800 a year and leave me the rest”. Mr. Chairman, did you ever hear anything so stupid as that? The national debt amounts to £3,880,000,000. There are war and repatriation services to finance. War service homes must be attended to, ex-servicemen must be settled on the land, the defence programme must be looked after and so must the immigration programme. When the Commonwealth offered to return taxing powers to the States, the Premier of Western Australia of that day replied, “ If we find oil in Western Australia, we shall certainly take back our taxing power “. None of the States did take it back, but at various times since then State Premiers have said, “ If we had our taxing power, we could do this and that “, and other State Ministers have told the people that they would build schools, hospitals and other buildings if only they could get enough money from the Commonwealth.
I believe that the Commonwealth should refuse to support this sort of business any longer. Under the Financial Agreement, we are entitled to ?-0 per cent, of all loan raisings. I believe that this Government should take 20 per cent, of all loan raisings. This year, we have to find £190,000,000, 20 per cent, of which amounts to £38,000,000. Let us take our £38,000,000 and say to the States, “We have vacated the taxation field to that degree. Now you apply your own taxation “. Despite what the members of the Labour party say, we shall never have responsible government whilst the State governments do not have to find the money that they have the privilege of spending. That puts the problem in a nutshell. In any home where Dad hands out money to his son to go to races, parties and night clubs, does the son worry where the money comes from? He does not. But one day Dad gets a bill that sets him back on his heels and he says, “ That is the finish “. The same sort of thing applies to governments.
What has been happening while we have been finding this money for the States by taxation? Because the States have raised interest on internal loans for their electricity undertakings and so forth, we have been forced gradually to increase the rate of interest on new loans. There are in this year of grace a number of people who hold anything from £3,500 to £10,000 worth of Commonwealth bonds. They depend upon the interest for their livelihoods, yet they are receiving either much less or not much more than the age pension. They are the people that I have in mind. If this Government, or any other government for that matter, over a period of five years had increased the rates of interest paid on existing securities as it called for new money at a higher rate of interest, that would have cost only £125,000,000 over that period. But, putting those unfortunate bondholders in a very awkward position as regards their livelihood, in order to feed money to the States so that they can waste it on any tin-pot thing, we have found from the people £369,000,000.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- We have listened to the honorable member for Canning (Mr. Hamilton) very eloquently tell us a story. We have all heard of the phrase “ passing the buck “. If ever any one passed the buck, the honorable member for Canning did so to-night. Knowing full well that this budget will not meet the needs of the nation, the honorable member tried to get away from the budget by attacking the States and passing the buck to the State Premiers. He talked about finding money for the States in such a way as almost to lead us to believe that he regarded the States as foreign bodies with which we should not have any truck. He seems to forget that the States are a part of the Commonwealth of Australia. The State Premiers, like the people of Australia, are suffering badly from the effects of the inflation that has been caused by this Government. Because of its failure to halt inflation, this Government has placed the States in the position of having continually to ask the Commonwealth for money. They will continue to ask for money, because there will be no alternative, until a new government has assumed office and has put into effect a plan to halt inflation and stabilize the economy.
The honorable member, in passing the buck, talked as though the States were foreign bodies. He criticized Mr. Hawke, the Premier of Western Australia, and he lightly passed over Mr. Playford, the Premier of South Australia. As the honorable member for Port Adelaide (Mr. Thompson) revealed in a question, the Premier of South Australia has complained that his government has been forced to go to an importing agency and pay 15 per cent, extra to import goods from overseas. The South Australian Government was compelled to pay additional money to obtain goods urgently needed for the welfare of the State. The Premier of South Australia is a member of the Liberal party - not of the Australian Country party - but he is dissatisfied with this Government. He, like the Premiers of Western Australia, Queensland and other States, is forced to come to Canberra to ask for additional allocations of money by this Government. This Parliament controls the purse strings of Australia and it has an obligation to ensure that the State governments and the people will be given the support that they need.
The honorable member for Canning blamed a Minister of the Western Australian Government for some unemployment there. I do not know who was responsible for that, but there is no doubt where the blame lies for the fact that Chrysler’s, a firm of motor-body builders in South Australia, dismissed 1,500 people. The blame for that lies here in this Parliament, because of the savage little budget that was passed not many months ago.
The honorable member for Canning complained about how hard it was to look after the States and to deal with war and repatriation services, social services and so on. It would not be so bad if the Government fulfilled its obligations, faced up to the needs of the people and gave them their rights. In such circumstances, we could excuse some failures by saying that the Government cannot cater for everybody. But it is catering for nobody. The honorable member for Canning picks out one or two small items and then says, “ Look at what we are doing “. Why does not the Government pay some regard to the misery of the people to-day? Why does not it study the plight of age pensioners, repatriation pensioners and similar people? If the Government faced up to its obligations in some small measure, perhaps we could forgive it for falling down somewhere along the line, but all that it does is to pass the buck and blame others.
From the point of view of the honorable member for Canning, perhaps it is unfortunate that the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) is not in the chamber to-night. We know that the honorable member has been extremely disappointed at not being selected for the Ministry. To-night he showed what an asset he would be to the Government, putting out its fairy stories and blaming the States. But the honorable member has left his run a bit late. He will have to wait a long time to achieve his ambition, because the stocks of this Government are running out very fast.
I shall leave the honorable member for Canning. I notice that he has left the chamber, as honorable members opposite usually do when they are being criticized. I shall now make some remarks about the budget and its effect on the Australian people. Only a few short weeks ago the same State Premiers that the honorable member for Canning has attacked came to Canberra to confer with the Acting Prime Minister (Sir Arthur Fadden) on the economic ills of the nation, and to try to evolve a plan to solve our problems, because not only they but also the Acting Prime Minister knew what a serious plight we were in. He also knew that it was necessary to seek the cooperation of the State Premiers in the implementation of any policy designed to overcome our difficulties. The Premiers came here full of confidence. They went home, as they usually do, with their hopes dashed to the ground. As an honorable member has just remarked, they went home as the punters do after the last race on Saturday, with their pockets empty as usual. The people of Australia, who had looked hopefully to that conference, received no promises of any action, and so they waited for the presentation of the budget. They still entertained some hopes that the Treasurer, in bringing down his budget, would introduce or promise to introduce some measures designed at least to slow down, if not to halt, the inflation that is so ruinous at present. On Thursday evening last, the Treasurer delivered his budget speech. The galleries of this chamber were crowded. The people of Australia listened in most eagerly. They even gave Bob Dyer away for that night
– Bob Dyer gave the Treasurer away!
– Bob Dyer . gave the Treasurer away a long time ago. The people of Australia were really looking to the Treasurer, and to this Parliament, to give a lead. How dismally were they disappointed! After speaking for a long time, and warning us again about inflation, as he has done for several years past, he sat down without having given any relief to the people of Australia. He has not set out to rectify the mistakes that the Government has made in the past. The Government has not faced up to its obligations to the needy people of this community, and has done nothing to provide the homes, hospitals and other services that are so necessary to-day. The Treasurer spoke of the extra money that will flow in from taxation. Tax rates will not be increased, but he estimates that a huge, amount of additional revenue will be received from taxation because of wage adjustments under State legislation. I am wondering whether so much revenue will be available from that source, especially if unemployment continues to increase, as it has in Western Australia. The unemployed from that State will overflow into South Australia and the other States, seeking work there, and thus have a snowballing effect.
– You hope!
– It is not a matter of hope. I sincerely hope that we never see the misery of the depression repeated in this country. I probably had more experience of the depression than my honorable friend ever had, and that experience causes me to hope that we never see a repetition of those conditions. The honorable member for Hume probably never experienced the hunger and misery that were suffered by the people who had to line up for the dole during the depression years. He has never had to go without the comforts of life, and so one can understand his not having the same feelings and the same fears as the people who experienced the worst effects of the depression.
– What about his experiences in Malaya?
– I am talking about the experiences of the people during the depression, and I sincerely hope that we never see those conditions again. But we are rapidly advancing towards that stage. The Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Harold Holt) has said that several thousand people in this country to-day are on relief. Even if there are only several hundreds instead of several thousand, they are experiencing pretty grim conditions. I am not so much concerned at the moment about the actual number of people who are receiving government relief. Whether it be a hundred, a thousand, or many thousands, this Government has an obligation to see that those people are given work, or that they are granted a sufficient amount of money to provide for their needs and those of their families. But of course the Government has made no such grant, and the budget has done nothing to relieve the savage impositions of the “ little budget “ of a few months ago.
As the Leader of the Opposition pointed out last night, when the budget was presented last year all the blame for our economic troubles was placed on the hirepurchase companies. The Government appealed to those companies for cooperation. The hire-purchase companies agreed to do the right thing, and the Government said that all would be solved. As the right honorable member for Barton (Dr. Evatt) pointed out last evening, we do not object, to hire purchase because it gives the people of this community a chance of obtaining washing machines, refrigerators, and other amenities that may to-day be regarded as necessities, which they would otherwise have no opportunity to acquire. We do object, however, to the high rates of interest that are charged. How have the hire-purchase and finance companies proceeded since that appeal was made twelve months ago? They have carried on a deliberate attempt to attract as investment the money that previously went into the savings banks of this country. Those companies will not den> that. Officers of the finance companies will agree that they have set out on a planned policy to attract the money that previously flowed into the savings banks of Australia, or into government loans. They have done it very successfully, and they have exploited the needs of the people by lending money for the purchase of washing machines, refrigerators, motor cars and the like, ai interest rates of, ostensibly, 8 per cent, or 10 per cent, flat, but when the transactions are analysed, it is seen that the interest rates are really about 25 per cent.
The finance companies have reaped a huge harvest, and they have cornered most of the money that would normally have been made available for housing through various savings banks and government loans. They have now started on a new racket, although not as yet in a big way. They have started to lend money for home-building, home purchase, or home reconstruction, and of course they are lending the money at the same high rate as they did to those who wanted to purchase motor cars or refrigerators - 8 per cent, or 10 per cent, flat for short-term loans. Who are these hire purchase and finance companies? They are really the private trading banks of this country. Having been unable to obtain high interest rates in their normal transactions, such as the granting of loans for housing, the private trading banks are now making short-term loans, at rates of 8 or 10 per cent, flat, of money that they formerly lent for housing at rates of 43- per cent, or 5 per cent. The new charge of 8 per cent, or 10 per cent, will become the ruling rate.
What has this Government done to assist people who wish to buy homes, and to help the States to construct homes for rental? It has done very little. It is almost impossible for a worker to purchase a home of his own to-day. If a person wishes to buy from the South Australian Housing Trust a home costing £3,500, he can obtain finance only from the Commonwealth Bank, because the other banks have long waiting lists of applicants for advances. The most he can obtain from the Commonwealth Bank is £1,750, and he must put down a deposit of £1,750. I know of an applicant who had £1,200 ready to put down as a deposit on a housing trust home the other day, but could not get one. That is not the fault of the trust, and I do not blame it. It is primarily the fault of this Government for not providing enough finance to enable the people to buy their own homes.
The honorable member for Blaxland (Mr. E. James Harrison) discussed arbitration matters which vitally affect the wageearners in his usual informative manner. In the discussion of wages, we must come back to the consideration of cost of living adjustments, which are used by this Government to explain away our present problems. Just as the honorable member for Canning passed the buck to the States, the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) and Government supporters pass the buck and say that cost of living adjustments are ruining the nation and that the making of such adjustments by most of the States is the cause of our troubles. It has been explained time and again that the C series index merely reflects the increase of the cost of living during the preceding three months. Government supporters know this very well, but they refuse to admit it. When the wage-earner receives the cost of living adjustment, he is already three months behind. In many instances, prices increase again immediately he receives the adjustment.
It is futile to say that wage adjustments based on the increase of the cost of living are causing prices to rise. A classic example of the falseness of this statement is to be found in South Australia, which is unique, because Mr. Playford, the Premier, has refused to legislate to apply costofliving adjustments to State awards, with the result that wages under State and Federal awards are on the same level. In addition, a so-called system of prices control operates in South Australia. The futility of one State attempting to control prices when the other States have abandoned controls, or have tackled the problem in another way, is clearly demonstrated by the position in
South Australia. Although wages under State and Federal awards are at the same level, and State prices control operates, prices have increased just as much in South Australia as in New South Wales, Victoria, and Queensland, where State legislation provides for cost of living adjustments under State awards, and the same inflationary pressures are felt by all sections of the community in South Australia as are felt in the other States. The pegging of wages, which denies justice to the workers, is clearly not the solution to the problems of inflation. It is the same old story. This Government asks wage and salary earners to bear the brunt of the struggle against inflation and to make most of the sacrifices
I mentioned earlier, when discussing unemployment, that 1,500 workers had been dismissed by Chrysler (Australia) Limited in South Australia as a direct result of the increased sales tax on motor cars and the increased petrol tax imposed in March by the little budget. The increase of the petrol tax immediately forced up costs throughout Australia because transport charges rose at once. As a result of those measures. Chrysler (Australia) Limited has been forced to reduce production. This firm has been affected to some degree also by the Government’s reduction of the aircraft construction programme, for which it manufactured some components. However, most of the dismissals by the firm were the result of the measures taken in March, and there is no sign yet of an improvement in business. The effect on other smaller businesses which sub-contract with this great bodybuilding company has been serious, and it seems that further dismissals by those subcontracting businesses will be the order of the day.
The honorable member for Canning discussed roads, and particularly the Hume Highway. He mentioned an additional £5,000,000 to be devoted to road works this year, making a total estimated expenditure of £32,500,000. Why does the Government not spend all the proceeds of the petrol tax on the roads, as Opposition members advocate? Would it not be fair to do so? If ever there was a sound case for spending the entire proceeds of the petrol tax on roads there is a sound case now when our roads are in a deplorable state and need so much repair work. Surely no one would object to this proposal.
– What about the pensioners?
– I am not here to tell the Government where it will get the money for this or that scheme. This Government has an obligation to find the money to provide for the upkeep of the needy members of the community and to maintain the roads in proper repair, if only for defence purposes, and it must regard this obligation as a solemn one. If it fails to discharge it, it will fail in its duty to the nation, lt is not sufficient excuse for Government supporters to ask, at every opportunity, what the cost will be. That was always the cry during the depression of the early 1930’s which hit Australia so badly. Within a few years of the depression we were plunged into war. Where did we find the money needed for the war effort when we were led by the late Right Honorable J. B. Chifley, the greatest Prime Minister and the greatest Treasurer Australia has ever known? Was there then any question of not finding the money? If the war had continued to this day, we would have continued to find the money to supply the requirements of our forces. Money is not the overriding consideration at the present time. It is a matter of facing up to obligations.
In the few minutes that are left to me, I should like to discuss social services. This Government has not done the right thing by needy people who depend on social services. Tt should have afforded them some relief. I hoped the honorable member for Sturt (Mr. Wilson) would have spoken before me this evening. He is honorary solicitor for the Pensioners League in South Australia, and it would be interesting to hear his views on the demands of the pensioners in that State. Does he agree with this Government’s programme, and its treatment of the pensioners, or does he support the demands of the Pensioners League in South Australia, with which he is so proud to have his name associated? Does he believe that pensioners should continue to exist on £4 a week or does he believe that the pension should be increased? It will be very interesting to hear his remarks on those matters.
At one time the Prime Minister said in a policy speech that social service payments to the needy would be maintained at least at the level established by the Chifley Government and that in fact they would be increased. What is the record? When Labour left office, the age or invalid pensioner received a payment of £2 2s. 6d. a week. If the rate had been maintained, the pensioner would to-day receive a payment of £4 15s. 3d. a week. In 1948 the basic wage for the six capital cities was £5 1 6s. a week. To-day the unpegged basic wage for the six capital cities would be £13 a week. Pensioners should receive £4 15s. 3d. a week. To-day they get £4 a week and are denied the 15s. 3d. a week, although the Prime Minister at one time proclaimed that their margin would be maintained. In fact, they are not only being denied the 15s. 3d. a week but indeed age and invalid pensions have’ lagged behind by the amount of £39 13s. a year because the Prime Minister and those who sit behind him have not honoured the promise they gave during the election campaign.
The position with child endowment is even worse. Unemployment and sickness benefits are just as bad. Widows pensions have been increased slightly but not enough to bring them up to the rate that was promised. As the Leader of the Opposition mentioned last night, a pensioner’s funeral is not a nice thing to talk about, but only £10 is paid for that. The amount has not altered for many years. I wish that one could take from their positions in this chamber some of the people who have framed this budget and put them in a pensioners’ home for one week. Let them live like pensioners for one week, and, if they were unfortunate enough to have a death in the house, let them find the money necessary to pay for the funeral. They would not then be sitting so silent and allowing that payment to remain at £10 a week.
This Government has proved that it is incapable of managing this country. It has proved that it is deceiving the people and that it is unable to meet the needs of this nation. One can hope only that if the Government will not face its responsibilities, if it will not give to the people and the States the rights to which they are entitled, it will do the decent thing, as A has done in the past - leave office and let Labour take over.
.- I am pleased to have the opportunity to-night of following my good friend, the honorable member for Kingston (Mr. Galvin), who has just spoken. I am almost willing to suggest that he has given an unusually inflammatory speech, lt is most unlike the honorable member for Kingston to be so worked up that he has allowed his two feet to be lifted from firm ground. 1 speak for the first time in a budget debate and I want to say at the outset how disappointed I have been at the opening of the Opposition’s attack on the budget that is now before us. 1 was expecting that the Opposition would have a considered, wellreasoned and deliberate criticism of the Government’s programme, and I suggest now. with all the emphasis and all the earnestness of my being, that the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) failed miserably in his speech. Did he submit any sound alternative on behalf of the Opposition? There was no sound alternative!
Once again, the Leader of the Opposition failed to demonstrate that he has a grip of matters ot national economy. He has earned a reputation for presenting to the country wild and woolly schemes that run into almost hundreds of millions of pounds; they most definitely require millions of pounds. He gave us no convincing scheme for finding the finance necessary for the proposals he may have had in mind. The schemes that he touched on - and they were not clear; they were difficult to follow - would require careful planning and finance, but he did not indicate where these resources would be found. It is easy indeed to speak of increasing social services benefits.
The honorable .member for Kingston, like other Opposition members, again endeavoured to bring discredit upon the Government for a social services programme that stands unparalleled in the history of the country. The national welfare expenditure for this year is increased by £11,750,000 to almost £227,000,000. The Leader of the Opposition claimed that his party had a national view of the budget. The opening remarks of the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) contained an enunciation of the objective of the Government. It has been to promote understanding of the economic problems that confront Australia and to show what has to be done by govern ments and by all sections of the community if these problems are to be solved. Surely, that is a national view of any budget that may be presented, lt is a pity that the Leader of the Opposition has not been able to influence the anti-Liberal State governments to adopt his national view and to extend some co-operation to the Government.
It is significant that payments to the States are to be increased by some £23,228,000 this year to a figure of £243,770,000. Is this, then, a budget that takes no account of overall requirements in the national economy? Surely an honest analysis will reveal that the Treasurer’s budget speech is fundamentally a national view of the countrys needs.
Our critics do not want to face an honest analysis, and I shall prove by some of my comments to-night that there has been a distortion of statistics. There has been an exaggeration - a very wilful exaggeration - in some of the things that have already been said in this debate in an effort to discredit the accomplishments, as well as the future programmes, of the Government.
The honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) followed his esteemed leader last night. We would, of course, expect an inflammatory speech from him and we received it. It was a typical anti-Liberal, destructive speech with no content upon which the Opposition or any other group could build an alternative programme to this budget. Let me assure him that the public of this magnificent country of ours recognized not only last December but indeed still recognizes that the Opposition could not offer sound leadership in an alternative administration. The stability of Australia to-day is recognized across the world. It is accepted because it is under the administration of the present Government. Is it not true that the International Bank and overseas governments have been glad to accept the stability of Australia as it is to-day and to invest further funds to assist us?
With national development, this Government can say to the country, as it has - and as I trust it will continue to do because of its record - that in the last six to ten years we have accomplished development that surpasses the efforts of any previous government. Let me emphasize that I have claimed that our national welfare disbursements are without parallel and that our national development has been unequalled. This national development has called for an increase in taxation in this budget .to over £1,000,000,000. When taxation of that character is called for, it is a true indication that the country has been subjected to very factual development.
The honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) last night endeavoured to bring a piece of drama into the chamber, when he mentioned the isolated case of an unfortunate pensioner. To me the significant point about the illustration that the honorable member presented was, first, that the unfortunate man who died out in the elements had a pension card in his pocket. He had a Commonwealth pension card in his pocket. He may not have had a lot of the world’s riches, but it is also a significant thing to me that he had 12s. 5d. in his pocket. His fellows receiving pensions at ruling rates, and there are thousands of them, of course, across the country, have made provision for themselves and are grateful to God for a Government that has considered their needs and their plight. That man died out in the elements - why he was there, you and I are not told; we cannot govern the movements of every individual - but it is a significant fact, surely, that he was not a man deserted by this Government. Then the honorable member for East Sydney proceeded to pour discredit upon a government which has introduced an Aged Persons Homes Act, and I want to state categorically here that, within the relatively short period since this scheme was introduced by the present Government. £ 1 ,600,000 has been made available by the Government to organizations on a £l-for-£l basis. So we see that over £3,000,000-
– Chicken feed!
– The honorable member interjects that it is chicken feed. Can he show anything of a comparative value that was done while his party handled the administration of the country? Over £3,000,000 has been spent on these homes in the various States of the Commonwealth. Thi- honorable member may try to discredit the scheme, but he cannot evade the fact that hundreds of old folk across the nation are more comfortably accommodated than they were previously. That is an incentive to all of the organizations which do such a humane task in the interests of our aged people to go and do likewise. Their efforts are all the more deliberate when they know that they have a sympathetic Government prepared to support them in all of their organizations.
I have referred to two leaders of the Opposition group in this chamber. 1 must move on to comment on the speech last evening by our Western Australian representative, the honorable member for Stirling (Mr. Webb). Here again was another violent anti-Liberal attack. He talked of controls, including price control. What a recommendation to make to a young country such as Australia, with its potential for development! Let us say again that we on the Government side of the chamber, standing firm on Liberal policy, with eyes wide open for the future development of the country, do not in any way agree with the principle of prices and other controls which would press down and restrict the activities of private enterprise. Profits by a successful company are simply anathema to the honorable member for Stirling, and 1 am sure that they will always be. Will he at any time give due consideration, I wonder, to this important subject of industrial development? What about the welfare of the employees for whom he is supposed to be so vocal and helpful? What about their welfare in employment? What about increased employment? From where do we get these things? Do they not stem from successful business, and is there any successful business that does not face up to a profitable year? These are the things that are offered by our largest undertakings Private enterprise needs practical encouragement. There is ample room for us as a government to encourage and to go further in practical assistance to private enterprise. 1 move on to deal with this vexed question of the temporary problem of unemployment in the western State, of which I also am a representative in this Parliament. The accusations against the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Harold Holt) b> the honorable member for Stirling are quite unfounded and unfair. Distortion of facts can bi attributed to the speech of the honorable member for Stirling last evening. But this honorable member has earned n reputation for deliberately misrepresenting ;ind distorting figures in this chamber. These I will correct.
– Is there not unemployment?
– Of course I will admit that there is a temporary problem of unemployment. The honorable member for Stirling last evening said that the Minister for Labour and National Service had supplied him with some figures, and that he had admitted under a barrage of questions last week that not about 9,000 but about 5,000 persons had registered for unemployment benefit in Australia. That was not a statement of fact by the honorable member for Stirling, and 1 am suggesting that he knew it when he used those words. The Minister did not say that 35,000 persons were registered for unemployment benefit. As at 28th July last, 9,164 persons were in receipt of unemployment benefit in the whole of Australia. There were ‘35,243 individuals who had registered through the Department of Labour and National Service for work, but not for receipt of benefit.
– Only because they were not unemployed for seven days.
– Order! The honorable member spoke last night.
– These applicants come and go day by day. There is a distinct difference between registering for a job and finding that you are allocated to one tomorrow or the next day, and being in receipt of the country’s unemployment benefit. The department does an excellent job in finding positions for those persons who are not in permanent employment. There is no statistical relationship, therefore, between the numbers of persons registered for a job and the numbers of those who qualify, unfortunately, for unemployment benefit. The exact position in Western Australia at that time was that 2,082 persons were in receipt of benefit payments. There were 5.299. not as the honorable member for Stirling said, applying for benefit, but seeking a position, and there is a distinct difference. He may be pleased to know - and I doubt whether he has yet learned this fact - that this last week has seen a reduction in the total unemployment figure in Western Australia, and that is why with some confidence I am suggesting that we in Western Australia are passing through a temporary phase.
I move on to refer to a recent article written by the federal president of the Australian Labour party, wherein he claimed that the vacancies to which the Department of Labour and National Service referred in its reports included 50 per cent, suitable only for boys and girls leaving school. Here again we find a misrepresentation in a published article, designed without a doubt to discredit the Commonwealth Government. The correct statistics show that at that time only about one-third of the total related to the fifteen to twenty years age group. There is a distinct difference between the fifteen to twenty years age group and the reference to boys and girls leaving school.
In my State, there have also been some comments regarding the number of Italian immigrants who are in receipt of the unemployment benefit. These recipients in Western Australia comprise only oneseventh of the total, not the erroneous and exaggerated figure which has been used. Let us examine the Western Australian problem of unemployment in its correct context. In the first place, I draw attention to the fact that the Western Australian Government is getting the blame for the jobless, and rightly so. I have here a recent extract from the Western Australian press with this heading: “ Liberal Opposition attacks Government “. Within recent weeks. Liberal members went into the State Parliament and pointed out, in unequivocal fashion, the maladministration of the antiLiberal Government.
– How much was spent on houses?
– 1 shall soon tell the honorable member for Stirling. The overspending involved a programme which entirely outran its original design. When one operates a successful business one knows that he must keep within the budget for the year; and every State government is faced with the fact, surely, that it must budget to have a successful year. Budgeting in Western Australia was discarded, particularly by the Minister for Housing, who went beyond the means of the Government to the extent of £2,000,000 or more. Deferred commitments in the form of promissory notes were entered into by the State of Western Australia, to its discredit. How can the Western Australian Government expect private business, builders, and others engaged in the building industry to make a success of their activities and keep men employed if they are dependent on a deferred payment scheme?
One will find by analysis of the unemployment figures that the building industry people and those who are attached to the main operations of building are the ones who are most adversely affected by unemployment at this time. These figures, therefore, support my contention that bad planning and maladministration of State finances are the causes of the temporary problem which is with the State of Western Australia to-day.
Before I conclude, I want to say that I am glad to be a Western Australian representative. There is no keener advocate in this House for that area of Australia. But I want to keep my feet on the ground. I hope that I shall be recognized as one who is fair in his comparisons and his citing of figures. So that I shall not be misunderstood by those whom I am privileged to represent in this House, I want to say to Western Australia that this Government has, in recent years, extended most helpful treatment indeed to that State. I turn to the official figures and find that in the last financial year, 1955-56, Western Australia received from the federal Government £28,233,000, including the aid for roads grant which comes, of course, from the petrol tax.
The formula under which money is allocated to the States is designed definitely in favour of and for the encouragement of Western Australia, South Australia, and Queensland in particular. With 7.1 per cent, of the. total population of the country, our State of Western Australia receives 19 per cent, of the road tax collections. In the overall picture, Western Australia receives 13 per cent, of the total payments to the States, which is nearly double the average for each State. So, in reality, Western Australia, as a disability State, is substantially compensated for its disabilities from a comparative aspect. 1 am glad to have the opportunity of participation in this budget debate. Whether it be my first contribution or not, I want to affirm proudly that this Government - the Government which has control of the the administration of the country at the present time - has a record of achievement of which we can be justly proud as we present, yet again, another budget to the people.
I want to conclude by reminding honorable members and the people of Western Australia of whom I am a representative that the record of this Government has been one of encouraging treatment indeed, and it is left, as it must always be, to all State governments to recognize that there is a limit to what can be supplied by the Commonwealth. There is a bottom to the bucket. We cannot go on with wild . and woolly schemes as suggested by the Leader of the Opposition. Let us keep our feet on the ground and say to Western Australia, “ You must govern and exercise your responsibility as a State government according to the measure of the finance available to you. When you are guilty of maladministration and neglect, nobody can be blamed but yourselves as a State administration “.
– I think that the remarks of the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Cleaver) clearly define the difference between the outlook of the Government and the outlook of the Opposition. I have said here before that there is quite a distinction between the way we think this country should be run and the way the Government supporters think that it should be run. 1 believe that honorable members opposite are quite prepared to accept that statement. However, we have to judge on the results whether a policy is right or wrong. The honorable member for Canning (Mr. Hamilton) has said that the Opposition blames the Government for applying import restrictions. I want to say that I blamed this Government when it first came into office for setting us on the road which has brought us to the inflationary period that we now are experiencing. Our difficulties with our overseas balance of payments are due to the attitude of this Government when it first came into office.
I have remarked before that in my opinion this is a government that nearly always acts twelve months too late. It waits until we get right into the midst of trouble before it is prepared to take action. I shall go back to the time when this Government assumed office. At that time the Opposition was not objecting to import quotas or import restrictions. The Chifley Government, which was defeated in 1949, believed in ordered government. We believed that the country should be administered in the best interests of the people. We were carrying on in that way. We know what the parties now in office told the people during that general election campaign. They said then, before they were in office, “ We do not believe in controls. We are going to take controls off, and then the old law of supply and demand will meet the position and we will get on to a solid foundation and an even keel “. They did not use those exact words but that was the burden of what they told the electors in 1949 about their intentions. Now let us see how the actions of honorable gentlemen opposite, in accordance with that statement of intentions, affected the finances of this country and our overseas balances, after they attained office. In the budget speech the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) said that our overseas balances have to be protected to ensure that they will be sufficient to meet contingencies and protect the nation’s interests in the event of any unforeseen adversity affecting our income from exports. Honorable gentle.ment opposite inherited the substantial overseas balances built up by the Chifley Labour Government. Those balances in
London were sufficient to meet all our commitments, sufficient to pay for the imports that we required and were obtaining then; but directly honorable gentlemen opposite came into office the Treasurer said that he would remove import restrictions altogether. He lifted them - and what happened? The sad pages of history show us that in 1952, two years later, the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) made a statement, a day or two after the Parliament rose, stating the Government’s intention to reintroduce import restrictions. And it did re-introduce them, to such an extent that importers of many lines were subjected to cuts of as much as 75 per cent. That is to say, they were allowed to bring in only 25 per cent, of the total that they had imported in the previous year, which was regarded as the base year. It was not a Labour government which brought in those restrictions, but the present anti-Labour government.
What was the reaction in Great Britain to the sudden clapping on of those restrictions by the Government in 1952? Reports in the press told us that we were being accused in Britain of being repudiators of contracts honorably entered into. The fact was that various firms in Australia, having been told to go ahead as far as they liked with their ordering from overseas, placed orders for big quantities of English textiles. After the Government made its suddendeath determination on stringent import restrictions British textile firms had to put off thousands of employees. They were bitter about it, and called us repudiators
Why did that happen? If the parties now in office believed that it was wrong to have controls of any kind, that there should be complete freedom for private enterprise which would permit the law of supply and demand to keep things right, why was it necessary for them, within two years of coming into office, to impose almost blanket restrictions on imports? Simply because the Government knew that our balances in London were vanishing at such a rate that unless it instituted some control we were likely to be unable to meet our overseas obligations.
That is an illustration of the statement with which I opened my speech about the difference between the belief of the Labour party and the belief of the Liberal party and the Australian Country party about whether we require ordered business in this country or should leave the control of business affairs to the whim of anybody. The controls imposed by the Government continued for a time, and then the outlook changed. Because of threats of war, and other factors, the nations of the world wanted to augment their stocks of wool for manufacturing, and the price of wool rushed up in a manner that was unprecedented. Very soon we began to build up big overseas balances. Then what happened? The Government returned to its original credo regarding the freedom of the individual, and decided that there was no need to have any ordered control. lt removed the controls again. That position continued until a few months ago, when we had a recurrence of the Government’s performance in 1952. The Government suddenly realized that it was not possible to keep this country solvent and meet the needs of the people if it continued to let people buy what they liked overseas without limit, with adverse effects on our overseas balances. So once again the Government imposed restrictions.
The Treasurer deals in the budget speech with the problem of balance of payments. I shall not read all of his remarks on the subject, but merely those that will underline my point about the difference between the policy of the Government and the policy of the Labour party. I intend, as I continue with my speech, to dwell on those items and show what has been the result of the Government’s attitude in those matters. The Treasurer said -
In 1955-56 our exports were £773,000,000 and our imports £819,000,000. The adverse trade balance was therefore £46,000,000 and, after bringing freight payments and other net invisible transactions into account, we had a current account deficiency of £221,000,000.
That was the result of the policy of no controls, the policy of the freedom of the individual, the freedom of businessmen to buy what they liked and do what they liked, to use up our funds overseas. He then mentioned overseas borrowings and the foreign capital coming here and said -
Although this figure is somewhat higher than at one stage of the year seemed likely, it still represents an uncomfortably low level of reserves. Our external trade being, as it is, liable to wide fluctuations, we need always to have a good reserve of overseas funds to meet contingencies.
We need them! This is not the Labour party that is making these statements - it is the Treasurer saying what we need. The remarkable thing is that what the Treasurer said is the very policy that we were carrying out before we left office in 1949, and which the parties now in office said was wrong. But a little time after they came into office they changed their minds, and so we have had two series of import restrictions. 1 believe it to be essential, no matter what government is in office, whether it be Labour, Australian Country party or Liberal, to have an equalized flow of exports and imports. If the balance between them gets out of tune then occasions will arise when severe restrictions must be imposed. Those restrictions produce difficulties, and very often great sufferings, for many people in the community. But that is only one section of controls. Let me take another one. During the Chifley Government we had capital issues control. lt was the policy of the Labour Government to control capital issues, not for the purpose of trying to direct everybody along a certain road, but to ensure that the capital of the country was put into businesses or other avenues where it would be of most benefit to the nation. Immediately the Menzies Government took over at the end of 1949, capital issues control was abolished and people with capital to invest were permitted to invest it in any way they wished.
– That is right. It is constitutional.
– The remarkable thing is that, when the present Government parties were in opposition prior to 1949, they said that capital issues control should not exist, and when they came to office they wiped out the control. Yet. within eighteen months, the present Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) had re-introduced a certain measure of capital issues control.
– I have not heard of it.
– Then the honorable gentleman does not remember all that he should. I clearly remember reading the regulations concerning what should be done. A certain measure of control was required, and it was imposed.
I ask honorable members to cast their minds back to the meeting, last year, of the Prime Minister with the State Premiers, and also with some of the heads of the big hire-purchase and finance companies. It will be remembered that the right honorable gentleman wanted to restrict the amount of money going to those companies, the very thing that we of the Opposition say is necessary and in the best interests of the country. However, the policy of the Government is in disagreement with that course, because it is to the effect that private enterprise should not be interfered with, and that the law of supply and demand should be allowed to operate. When the Government gets into trouble, however, as it did last year, it appeals to the community to restrict hire purchase.
I remember addressing last year a question to the Treasurer concerning this matter of money going to finance companies which were advertising interest rates of up to 7 per cent, if people would invest capital in them and allow them to use the money to make large profits. I said then that that was preventing the filling of loans that the Government was placing on the market. The Treasurer afterwards came to appreciate that what I had said was correct, and he agreed that a method should be devised to divert such money into loans for public purposes. The difference between the supporters of the Government parties and the Opposition is that while they are prepared to impose such controls when it suits them, we say that there should always be such control. I think that it was the honorable member for Canning (Mr. Hamilton) who referred to interest charges here to-night and spoke of State electricity loans and other loans of that kind being offered at relatively high rates of interest and forcing the interest rate up. That also indicates that unless there is some measure of control, the finances of the country will get right out of hand. “First, import restrictions were removed “-by the Government; then they were reimposed and the door to unfettered imports was partly closed. It is still partly closed. The Treasurer hoped that the provisions of the little budget and the controls imposed in February last would remedy the situation: again, an attempt to control finances. T suggest that if the Government firmly believes that it is correct to have an open door for private enterprise, why introduce measures to prevent private enterprise from spending as it wishes to spend? The Government cannot have it both ways. Tt cannot say that it is the right of the individual to spend his money as he likes anc! then turn round and say, “ We are going to impose sales tax on certain items tha; we consider luxury items. We are going to pick out certain commodities because we think the people are purchasing too many of them, and we shall impose a sales ta. on them. In addition, we shall use import restrictions to prevent the importation oi goods from overseas and the drift of money into channels that are not beneficial to the community.” I am not blaming the Government for doing so. It is something that we on this side of the chamber would have done right through the piece. Bui we would have held to that course and noi chopped and changed as the Government has done. We may not have selected the same articles or dealt with the details oi the problem in the same way, but the general principles would have been the same. In this connexion I am speaking of ideologies - the ideology of the Australian Labour party and that of the Government parties. If the ideology of honorable members opposite demands that they must nol interfere with the rights of the individual, why do they now depart from it?
– Because they are humbugs.
– I do not say thai they are. I put it that they warn the people. “Do not put the Labour party into office. If you do, it will control you. Leave it to us and we will give you freedom.” Yet. they are doing exactly what they say the Labour party would do.
I referred a moment ago to the remark of the honorable member for Canning concerning interest rates. We on this side of the chamber believe that it is the obligation of the Government to see that interest rates are such that they do not retard the progress of the country. We know the attitude of the central bank, through the Commonwealth Bank Board, in regard to this matter. We of the Labour party have always believed that low interest rates are the best aids to developing the country. Interest charges constitute one of the greatest factors in the welfare of the primary producer who requires an overdraft from the bank so that he mav earnon until the money comes in from his harvest, as they are in the welfare of the man who wants to build a home for himself and his family. When we note how interest rates have increased in recent years we cannot be happy about the future prosperity of people who have set themselves up in small businesses, or on farms, or who are purchasing homes. The Government must have the confidence of the people. Yet, for the last two or three years 1 have not been able to advise people to invest in Commonwealth loans, although I was able to do so during the Chifley regime, when the rate of interest was only 3i per cent.
– What alternative has the honorable member?
– At that time I could advise them to put their money into government loans. In fact, I used money that I needed myself to invest small amounts in Commonwealth loans because I believed it was my duty to the country. I received H per cent, interest, and I was prepared to advise other people to do likewise. I was able to say to them, “ Put your money into the loan, and if at any time during the fifteen-year term you require it, you will be able to get it back”. But when the Commonwealth Bank decided to restrict its purchases of 3i per cent. Commonwealth bonds offered on the market, holders of those bonds discovered that all that they could get for a £100 bond was about £80. I felt that I could not conscientiously advise people who might need their money within three or four years to tie it up in Commonwealth bonds, because if they had to sell their bonds they might not get anything like the face value for them. That state of affairs was brought about by the action of the Government in raising the rate of interest. When that was done, I made a statement here. I said that, although I did not pose as a prophet, I believed that, very shortly, people who wanted to borrow money to build homes would have to pay an additional 1 per cent, for it. Unfortunately, that has turned out to be so. I believe that a policy of letting everything go by the board and refusing to impose controls would be to the detriment of the country.
Let me take the matter a step further. Suppose the control of imports were abandoned and goods were allowed to flow into the country at the old rate. We have been told that we have priced ourselves out of the world’s markets. I am not concerned for the moment with whether that is the fault of the workers, the Government or anybody else. If we cannot compete in the markets of the world with the goods produced by other countries, what would be the position of many of the new industries established here when the Government acted in accordance with its ideology and let anybody bring into the country what he liked? We were told last night by the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Harold Holt) that during the last ten years the net increase of our population due to immigration has been nearly 900,000 people. We know that, despite the natural increase of population and the increase due to immigration, fewer people are employed in primary production here now than were employed ten years ago.
– That is due to mechanization.
– I am not concerned with the cause. Honorable members opposite do not deny my contention that there are fewer people employed in primary production now. If people are not employed in primary production, they must be employed in secondary production. They must work in order to earn enough money to keep themselves. Honorable members opposite do not deny that there must be jobs in secondary industry for those people. What do they believe would happen if the Government gave expression to its ideology by permitting large quantities of goods produced in countries with a lower standard of living than ours to be sold on the Australian market? What would our people do then? If we go into shops in the cities, we see refrigerators and washing machines that have been produced overseas. I am saddened when I go into a worker’s home and see that he has bought a refrigerator which was made overseas, instead of one that was made in Australia. If the Government works on the ideology of absolute freedom in commerce, we shall find ourselves in great difficulties.
I hope that honorable members opposite do not think that I am treating them as a class of learners. What I am trying to emphasize to them, and to any one who may read my remarks afterwards, is the difference between the outlook and ideology of the Labour party and the outlook and ideology of the Government parties. Unless Labour is put into office to do the job, or unless this Government does what we would do, the country will not be in the condition that we desire. We are prosperous to-day. There is a lot of employment and people are buying things now mat they were unable to buy before. I recognize that to be so, and I am not concerned to argue now whether the credit for it should be given to this Government or to any other government. What I am concerned about is that we shall continue to advance. We do not want our prosperity to be undermined in any way. So I say again that [ hope the Government will see the errors of its ways and, once again, will adopt the policy of Labour in order to overcome its difficulties.
– I want to draw attention to a few of the aspects of this budget. First of all, I want to say a few things about social services because, in the first place, they have been referred to a good deal during the course of the debate, and in the second place, they form an important part of the consideration of any budget. Last night, my colleague, the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Harold Holt), clearly explained to the committee what this Government has done in the field of social services during the six years it has been in office. That amounts to a great deal. It amounts to much more than any other Commonwealth government has done - not only more in “terms of finance, but also more in terms of a real interpretation of social services.
The Minister referred in the course of his speech to two matters - the pensioners’ medical service and the Government’s assistance in the provision of homes for old people. I should like to say a few things about both of those matters. The first thing that I should like to say about the pensioner medical service is that it is something never thought of by any previous Commonwealth government. To me, the most important thing about that service is not that it provides a great range of medical services for pensioners - I remind the committee that it provides a range of medical services for 668,000 pensioners and their dependants - but that it is provided for the pensioners in their homes. that it is a domiciliary medical service, that it is the best kind of medical service that any one can think of. The pensioner, no longer able to afford the fees of private practice, can still enjoy all of its advantages, employing the doctor of his choice in his own home.
Another great advantage of this service is that it is administratively very simple. It is so simple as to require only a small Commonwealth staff and little expenditure for its administration. I should like to give the committee some indication of the way this service has developed in the last few years. It commenced in 1951, and because that was not a full year, the expenditure was low. Payments for medical services in that year amounted to about £75,000. In the next year, they increased to over £1,000,000, in the following year to almost £2,000,000, and in the next year they were over £2,000,000. In the financial year before the one just completed, the payments amounted to £2,500,000, and in the last financial year to almost £3,000,000. That is something of which this Government can be proud, and it is something that no Labour government ever thought of. Not only did the Government provide medical services costing £ 3,000,000 for pensioners last year, but in addition to the general pharmaceutical benefits, of which the pensioners received their share without cost, the Government provided another £ 1,500,000 worth of drugs for them. Those are social services of no mean order. 1 have referred to general pharmaceutical benefits, and I should like now to mention other aspects of the medical service. This Government provided, last year, in general pharmaceutical benefits, well over £10,000,000 worth of drugs for the people of Australia. That is a very solid contribution to the medical expenses of the nation, and a very solid contribution to the private citizens of Australia, who are thereby saved this enormous expenditure on drugs.
– They are paying for it themselves, are they not?
– Everything that any one receives in any country from the Government is paid for by taxation.
– Then the Government is not giving it to the people.
– If that is so, then no Labour government has ever given any pensions.
– The Minister is the one who is making the comparison.
– 1 am making the comparison not merely on a basis of finance, but on a consideration of practical, imaginative services. The services that I have mentioned were provided on an imaginative basis. In addition, the Commonwealth has provided medical and hospital benefits. Medical benefits, which commenced later than hospital benefits, in 1954, were provided by the Australian Government. 1 am reminded that child endowment, to which we had a reference to-night, is another assistance to private citizens. In 1954, this Government provided £1,400,000 worth of medical benefits. That was a contribution to the medical expenses of the people of Australia. In the financial year ended lune, 1955, medical benefits worth £4,000,000 were provided. In the financial year just completed, the figure reached almost £4,500,000. Hospital benefits have increased in proportion. From 1950, when the Government contributed £6,300,000 to what are virtually the running expenses of the country hospitals, the amount has steadily increased until last year it reached £9,500,000.
When honorable members opposite criticize the Government for its social services provisions, let me remind them that social services do not cover merely the provision of pensions. They include much more extensive assistance to citizens than the mere provision of pensions. But if we are talking about pensions, let me say something about the tuberculosis allowance, which is a similar benefit to pensions. In the provision of tuberculosis allowances, :md by way of contributions for the building of hospitals in order to make a national attack on the disease, this Government during its term of office has provided £37,000,000. We see the results of that expenditure all over the country, in the form of new hospitals that have been opened in every State to assist in the attack on tuberculosis. As a result, in the few short years since the scheme was commenced there has been a considerable decline in the death rate from this disease. It is true that a great deal remains to be done, but it is also true that no government has ever been able to make anything like the impact on the ravages of tuberculosis that this Governhas done.
If honorable members wish to talk about social services, then let us speak of some of the things that I have mentioned. Let me say something about the provision of financial assistance for homes for the aged. Once again, it is not merely a question of providing money. This Government hasrendered considerable assistance towards the solution of the problems of old age by providing money for the building of homes for old people. I have seen many of these homes. They are delightful places, well run and comfortable, in which old people enjoy amenities that they could not obtain elsewhere even if they received pensions much greater than those payable at present. When they can no longer look after themselves, because of physical disabilities, they are cared for in these homes. The important point is that the Government does nor merely provide the finance; it provides the money for the societies and institutions, whether churches or lay institutions, that arebest fitted, by experience and temperament, to run these homes.
All these matters should be considered when we talk about social services. It cannot be denied that no government in the history of Australia has been more aware of its social services responsibilities than the present Government. No other government has done anything like as much in this field as the present Government has done-‘ during its term of office.
– Tell us something abour pensions.
– It would not register with the honorable member if I did. I wish now to make a few remarks about government expenditure. Not only in this chamber, but to a large extent in the press, it has been said that whatever else the Government has done, it has not reduced government expenditure. Honorable members will not have failed to notice that those who are most vocal in the clamour for a reduction of government expenditure are frequently those who consider that the Government should accept more responsibility in other spheres. For instance, those who are most insistent that we should abandon the pay-roll tax are often those who consider that we should spend many more millions of pounds on roads. Those who are most eager that the Government should reduce other forms of taxation are frequently the ones who consider that we should spend more on defence, or social services or some other activity.
Let me say something also about payments made by this Government to the States. One honorable member spoke this evening about payments to the States as if this Government regarded them as something to be avoided or as something that it had no desire to continue. That is not the case at all. Every one realizes that payments to the States are necessary, and that they cannot be made except by the exercise of considerable ingenuity and the provision of large amounts of money by the central government. After all, what do the payments to the States amount to? They amount to the provision of money for the carrying on of developmental works and of purely State works which provide employment and promote business and commercial activity in all the States. Of course government expenditure on those works must be maintained and, of course, it must come out of taxation. Those who criticize this Government for not reducing government expenditure might at least consider the main avenues in which it is made. These avenues are, on the whole, inescapable. In the first place, government expenditure goes in defence or in social services - £226,000,000 is to be expended through the National Welfare Fund this financial year - or in payments to the States, which will amount to £190,000,000 this financial year.
To critics of this Government who assail it for not reducing government expenditure, I say, “ In what direction is it to be reduced? So far as I know, none of the Government’s critics have come forward with any reasonable proposition which would make a real and sensible reduction in Commonwealth expenditure. No one suggests, for instance, that we should cut down expenditure on the Snowy Mountains hydro-electric scheme. No one really suggests that we should limit expenditure through the National Welfare Fund. No one suggests that we should limit our payments to the States more than we have already limited them in accordance with the actual availability of finance. So. 1 think it is apparent that, in the modern State, high government expenditure has come to stay, and that the modern State cannot be conducted without it. If we want the amenities of a modern state, if we want social services, if we want to provide foi defence, and if we want to develop the country, we may as well make up our minds that we cannot do these things without high government expenditure. Those are the real avenues in which government money is expended. I have heard people say, “ The expenses of government departments ought to be reduced “. But does any one really imagine that, by some feat of legerdemain, we can reduce the staffs of the departments of the government of u modern state, or that we can make really substantial reductions in the activities ot government staffs and still maintain ali the essential and fundamental activities of the government of a modern state? Of course no one imagines it. The expenditure provided for in this budget is realistic. Theatre circumstances which make it essential for expenditure to be held within certain bounds.
The honorable member for Port Adelaide (Mr. Thompson), who has just resumed his seat, spoke about the prosperity that Australia has enjoyed and about the necessity to maintain it. It will not be maintained by central bank credit. I say with respect to the honorable member that it will not be maintained by low interest rates either, lt will not be maintained by imagining that, every time a budget is brought down, all sorts of expenditure must automatically increase merely because some index by which we assess these things has risen. This matter must be assessed in realistic terms, and the Government has assessed it in realistic terms. Some of the measures which were taken by this Government some months ago were not welcome at the lime, but it cannot be questioned that they have made, and are making, some impact on the inflationary situation with which the Government has had to deal. If we are afraid to take realistic measures against inflation and to take such fiscal action as we consider necessary, we shall have a situation in which social services will be valueless, and in which the promises made by the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt), in the last two general election campaigns, to expend vast sums of money without any realistic assessment of whether or not they could be raised - promises which have been twice rejected by the electorate - will become perhaps even more fantastic than the Australian electorate has judged them to be up to the present time.
Mr. Chairman, 1 have spoken about social services and government expenditure. I hope it is apparent that, in the first place, no social services, in either real or financial terms, in any way comparable with those implemented by this Government during the six years it has been in office have ever been thought of in Australia or effected by any government in Australia before. I think 1 have shown also that the various demands for the reduction of government expenditure which one hears so freely expressed to-day are based on vague and general assumptions. None of them is based on realistic assumptions.
These two questions are the only ones which have received any attention from the Opposition during this debate and I can only say that such attention as they have received has been entirely unrealistic. The Opposition has advanced no serious arguments which would enable the Government to increase ils expenditure and expand its social services; nor, indeed, has it given any indication that it has the slightest understanding of what social services really mean.
Trafficking in Liquor - Dr. J. W. Burton’s Booklet - Australian Labour Party.
Motion (by Mr. Harold Ho!t) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.-! have endeavoured on a number of occasions to get the Government to investigate serious allegations of trafficking in liquor through diplomatic channels.
– It is all very well for Government supporters to say, “ Ah! “ Since I last raised the matter in this House, and was told that it was now old and had been investigated, the man concerned has given evidence in court under oath of the circumstances in which he, with Dr.
Bialoguski and Mr. Petrov, was engaged in trafficking in liquor. Honorable members will recollect that I have raised this matter in the House repeatedly, and have been met with considerable evasion. Let us examine some of the reasons advanced by the Government for not investigating these very serious allegations. 1 was told that it was not the practice to make this information available through the Department of Customs and Excise. On another occasion, I was assured by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) that the matter was being investigated by the Royal Commission on Espionage in Australia, which was sitting at the time. But no one knew better than the Prime Minister did that the royal commission was not investigating this matter. What happened at the royal commission was that one of the counsel appearing before it questioned a witness about these transactions. But there was no investigation by the royal commission into this very serious matter.
The matter was referred to again on oath by Mr. Marue, who was engaged in work for the security service, according to his own statement, and that has never been contradicted either here or in the court. Mr. Marue said that his work was to watch Dr. Bialoguski, who in turn was watching Petrov, and in order that he might be able to gain their confidence, he was engaging in this liquor trafficking with Dr. Bialoguski. He is willing to name some of the people to whom the liquor was sold. Let me mention an amazing thing about this trafficking. In 1953, the security service had a Christmas party at its head-quarters. Who supplied the liquor for the security service’s Christmas party in 1953? Mr. Marue and Dr. Bialoguski furnished the liquor, which they had obtained by improper methods through diplomatic channels.
– What about the other party?
– Time will not permit me to deal with the other party, which took place later when the judges, witnesses, accused and everybody else joined in happy Christmas festivities. That was a most peculiar arrangement.
This matter was again referred to by Mr. Marue in court on oath recently, and I was rather pleased when I read in the “ Daily Telegraph” of 12th July, 1956 - only a month or so ago - the following article under the heading “Liquor Story to be Probed “:-
The Customs Department would examine the evidence of a taxi-driver in a valueless cheque case a Departmental official said yesterday.
After the examination, the Department would decide whether to follow up the driver’s allegations.
It is evident that there has been evasion after evasion by the Government and its officials in this matter. Here is a man who said that he was engaged in this trafficking and on oath swore that he was engaged in it! Yet the Minister has the audacity to argue that the matter has been thoroughly investigated in the past.
Let me relate an experience that I have had with the Minister for Customs and Excise (Mr. Osborne) on this matter. I raised the matter several times in this House and the Minister said he would have some investigations made. When the House went into recess on the last occasion, I wrote to the Minister and directed his attention to what I had said on the motion for the adjournment one evening in this House. I then asked him what he proposed to do, whether the investigation had been completed and whether he would advise me of the result of it. It was difficult to get a reply from him. I had to send a number of urgent telegrams to him on various dates. They were usually framed in a manner such as this -
When may I expect reply my letter dated 26th March regarding promised investigation alleged trafficking spirituous liquors obtained through diplomatic channels? 1 did not receive any reply. I waited awhile and sent another urgent telegram to the Minister. Eventually, after a great deal of probing by this method, I received a letter on 5th April, 1956, in which the Minister said -
Your letter of 26th March last, written shortly before Easter, on the subject of alleged trafficking in liquor obtained through diplomatic sources, and your telegram of 4th April, after the Easter holidays, both came to my attention to-day.
I expect to be ready to give you an answer when the House meets next week. 1 do not know why the Minister wrote that letter, because when he came into the House the following week and I wanted to know when I would be given a statement, he informed me that he had since discovered that an investigation had been held in the department and he was quite satis fied with the report that he had received. Evidently Mr. Marue is not accepting an assurance that everything was in order, despite the investigation. He went into court and swore on oath that certain things had happened. The department undertook to have an investigation made. Why has it not conducted the investigation, and why has it not produced the information to the Parliament?
All that I asked in the first instance was for the Minister or the Government to say how much liquor had been imported through this diplomatic channel. I was told that records of the amount imported through this source were not kept in the department. However, I was subsequently advised that the order forms were made out in triplicate and that a copy went to the department. It is recorded and the department can obtain the information in a few minutes from any clerk there mere, by ringing him on the telephone. The information can be supplied in a feu minutes. Yet the Government continues to evade this issue.
The question has not been cleared up to the satisfaction of this Parliament or the people of Australia. It is another instance of malpractice in the whole period to which I am referring. It is a matter that the Government would like to keep out of sight, or buried for all time, because of its sorry record of mishandling of the whole thing and its involvement in it in many directions.
I make another appeal, one of many thai I have made to the Minister, to have an investigation conducted and to inform the Parliament of the result. Let us examine the facts that are supplied by the department so that the matter can be cleared up to the satisfaction of the Parliament.
.- I am. of course, precluded by the Standing Orders of this House from defining in precise terms the affection that the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) has for facts, but I can perhaps approximate his stand by saying that I believe his affection for facts is almost the same as his affection for me. I venture to suggest that he would cut my throat for practice. I do not propose to follow him through the labyrinth of arguments that he has presented to the House this evening, but it seems quite clear to me, and 1 am sure to the House, that here is a case of a person caught. up in his own campaign.
I apologize for taking up the time of the House this evening. I would not have done so except that I want to raise a matter of some importance. That matter is contained in a small booklet recently written by one, Dr. John Burton, called, “ The Light Glows Brighter “. As one of my colleagues observed to me a few moments ago, it would be more properly described as “ The Light Glows Blighter “. Dr. Burton is, of course, at perfect liberty to write a booklet or a book, but when a person writes a book dealing with a matter of political substance, I believe that he is open to be criticized. I mention that because people like the honorable member for East Sydney and the right honorable member for Barton (Dr. Evatt) have in the past used the epithet “ Mccarthyite “ and similar unkindly expressions to another person who has dared to criticize some of the activities of their colleagues. There is a strong feeling on the left side of politics that a person is at liberty to write a book and at the same time enjoy a degree of political immunity.
I know that honorable members are busy. That is why I propose to read one or two extracts from this small booklet written by Dr. Burton. The foreword has been written by Mr. Chamberlain, the federal president of various sections of the Australian Labour party. The introduction to the booklet has been written by the right honorable member for Barton, who misleads the various sections of the party. The right honorable member for Barton, in the introduction, says -
I fully endorse Mr. Chamberlain’s foreword. Dr. Burton’s analysis of the present political trends and policies is designed to suggest positive action in the solution of many of Australia’s acute external and internal problems.
He proceeds -
His analysis should be of practical assistance to ihe thinking of the rank and file of political and Industrial Labour.
Let us have a few extracts from the booklet. Under the heading “ Democratic Socialism “, an extraordinary contradiction in terms, appears these words -
The world situation demands Socialism of us, whether we like it or not. We cannot survive unless we effectively meet the growing competition of the socialist and planned economies. The responsibility is on Labour. Labour must never be frightened away from its historic role, its responsibilities, and its declared aim of socialism, by accusations that it is following Communist policies.
Then comes what is possibly the most significant chapter in the whole booklet. Dr. Burton deals with communism and socialism with revealing headlines such as, “ Communism - the red herring “ - and, “ Communism not a real fear “, and he says -
The fantastic exaggeration of communism in the country, the misrepresentation of Communist policies, and the coloured propaganda about Communist aggression which fills our newspapers every day, are not an honest attack against a real enemy., but an attempt to make people fear socialism.
Dr. Burton then moves on to deal with the. question of common ground between communism and socialism. He writes -
Labour should welcome any common ground which can honestly be found between Communists and Socialists and which can make co-existence practicable and co-operation possible. The peace of the world may depend upon this co-operation being achieved by the statesmanship of western Socialists.
That, of course, is strictly in line with an observation made some years ago by the Leader of the Opposition, when he was a justice of the High Court of Australia. He declared -
In the ultimate ideal of a classless society, the Communist movement has much in common with the Socialist and working class movement throughout the world.
Dr. Burton, I remind the House, was the secretary of the Department of External Affairs when the right honorable member for Barton was Minister for External Affairs. He was the gentleman who apparently acquiesced in, and at any rate did not raise his voice against the open insults offered to the United States of America which led to that country relinquishing its base at Manus Island. It was Dr. Burton who left a diplomatic post in Ceylon and returned to this country without notifying the Government, creating a precedent that has never been known before in British diplomatic history. It was Dr. Burton, I remind the House, who went to the peace conference in Peking in 1952, and on 1st June sent a cable to the chairman of the press gallery in this Parliament calling for an investigation into germ warfare. That was a foul and wicked insinuation. The day after the cable arrived here, the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell), who is the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, said, “Dr. John Burton merits the highest distinction the Kremlin can bestow upon him “. That, of course, is a conclusion with which I wholeheartedly agree. Dr. Burton appears to be a devoted disciple of Moscow, and that the federal president of the Australian Labour party, and the Leader of the Opposition - the leader of the sections of the anti-Labour forces in this country, respectively - should write a foreword and an introduction to his booklet seems to me to be of the utmost significance. Without doubt it is and must be an acute embarrassment to the moderate sections of the Australian Labour party, which detest this unholy alliance of the left wing element of the Australian Labour party with the Communist party. They will come, as I and the great majority of Australians have come, to the realization that one of the main things wrong with the policy put forward by the right honorable member for Barton is that it suffers from a permanent dose of measles - it has red spots al! over it.
.- I am rather distressed to learn that the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Killen) should find anything so declamatory and alarming in the little booklet produced by Dr. John Burton. I read it, and I thought it was a fair statement of the general Labour plan with, perhaps, a leaning towards the left, and I could not see anything to be alarmed at in it. The man who wrote that book is a Labour man.
– I thought he was expelled from the party a while ago.
– It is very interesting to know that the Minister even thinks about anything.
– Was he expelled, or not?
– He was not expelled. 1 read this book and I read the introduction by Mr. Chamberlain and I read the foreword. The general conclusions were not by any means extravagant, and to pick out certain aspects of it, as the honorable member has done, and to highlight them, is to get on to that weary treadmill of “ red, red, red “, suggesting that everybody on this side of the House is a red, a potential red, or an enemy of the people. It raises the question, “ What is the next move for the Liberal party? “ Is it going to burn all the new books? Is it going to proscribe everything written which does not entirely agree with the Liberal party’s point of view? I think that honorable members opposite are themselves sadly in need of some propaganda on what they stand for, and to criticize a man who is courageous enough to say he believes that there can be co-existence is ridiculous. That is what honorable members opposite have come to. Do they think that they will forever divide the world into two armed camps? It is not possible, and if a young man, who has suffered a great deal because of his beliefs, is courageous enough to write that sort of book, I am all for him.
Government supporters interjecting,
– It is all very well for those old millionaires, sheep breeders and others in the Liberal party to behave in this fashion. There is a new world to-day. and we are living on the perimeter of Asia. Unless they wake up to themselves, not only the Liberal party but also all the things for which it stands will be as out-of-date, old-fashioned, and extinct as the dodo. 1 am rather shocked that a brilliant young man like the honorable member for Moreton should take such a reactionary view of these matters, and I commend to him the courage of Dr. John Burton in restating his views. True enough, for a young man, he held’ very responsible positions in this land. He was the secretary of the Department of External Affairs. He stated his case courageously there and got into trouble when the Labour Government went out of office, lt is true enough that he was a high commissioner with ambassadorial status in Ceylon, and that he came back to this country, not to make any profit out of it, but to run for a hopeless seat, which was only won once for Labour by an extraordinary member of this House who happens to be the honorable member for Parkes. I won it in a sweep. Let me perhaps break that down a little by saying that it was won during the Curtin swing and that it had not been held by Labour for 25 years. Would the honorable member for Moreton hold ii against Dr. Burton that because of the depth of his convictions he came home and decided to stand for Parliament? Was he driven by some fury or by some instinct for the preservation of’ his country? We have to look at these matters from both sides. If the Parliament is to adopt a one-sided argument, in which everything on this side is dangerous and subversive, and everything on the other side is good, pure and holy, democracy is due for a good bath, and the sooner the better. 1 read the booklet, and I have some judgment of books of all sorts. I think that it was a fairly moderate statement. The question of co-existence has to be faced. A leftist party must have some association with the literature of the past that has created the leftist movement amongst the people. We do not deny that; how can we? There is the old middle class gibe, of course, about Marx and all of those things.’ Of course, there is some derivation. We admit that; it is so silly not to admit it. This man has written what 1 consider is a good piece of Labour literature, lt is a pamphlet, not a huge book. It is well studied and short and useful to us, and we welcome it. 1 cannot see that there is anything in it to raise in the debate on the motion for the adjournment of the House. 1 hope that what has been done will improve the sales of what to me is a first-class piece of Labour literature. I subscribe to what has been written in it as being good, solid, practical, down to earth Labourism as we see it to-day.
– The honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) has been at some pains to talk about this book produced by Mr. Burton. I think that the only thing he has not said is whether he agrees with the views stated in it. The honorable member for Parkes referred to what he was pleased to call the reactionary views of my colleague, the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Killen). After that backhanded compliment to the honorable member for Moreton, whom he correctly described as a brilliant young member of the Government parties, he talked about his reactionary views. I think that the House may well ask what are the reactionary views of the Labour party about this book. If I have any judgment at all, 90 per cent, of the Labour party have recoiled in horror from the views expressed in this book by Mr. Burton. The honorable member for Parkes has, of course, been careful not to associate himself with the most extreme conclusions in this book. Speaking of its author, he referred in eulogistic terms to the man who deserted his diplomatic post without leave - without as much as even asking leave to come back to Australia - in the worthy cause, according to the honorable member, of contesting a hopeless sea: for Labour.
– The Minister knows how hopeless it was.
– I know how hopeless it was for him to stand for the seat of Lowe. But we all know and the honorable member for Parkes knows and I know that his intention when he deserted his diplomatic post in Colombo was not to stand for the hopeless seat of Lowe. The expectation of his friends in the Labour party that an obliging member of their party would resign from his blue ribbon Labour seat was not fulfilled. But that venerable holder of the blue ribbon Labour seat who was expected quietly to resign his seat and make way foi Mr. Burton had other views, and he preferred his own judgment to Mr. Burton’s. Mr. Burton came back to Australia and. instead of finding a vacancy in a blue ribbon Labour seat in Sydney he found, unfortunately for him, that all that was offering to him was a very hard-fought and well-held Liberal seat which he lost. If the honorable member for Parkes wants to give virtue to Mr. Burton for deserting his diplomatic post without leave and behaving in a way in which I hope that no senior Australian civil servant will ever behave again, he must be very disappointed
But that is not what I came into the House to talk about. I came into the House to-night during the debate on the adjournment, as is my custom, to find that the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) was engaging in one of his diatribes against my department and various other departments for various activities said, in various people’s imaginations, to have been indulged in by a gentleman named Petrov. It had something to do with the alleged illicit use of diplomatic liquor, 1 gather, lt recalled an occasion to me when I came into the House in circumstances rather like these and heard the same sort of thing going on. I rose in my place and said to the honorable member for East Sydney, “ The honorable member is making charges against my department and I shall have them investigated “. I had them investigated, and I found that there was a long history of these charges over a long period, and that a complete investigation had been ordered by my predecessor in the Senate, debated in this House on an adjournment motion, and finally disposed of, I thought, to the satisfaction of most people by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) himself, who said that the charges had been thoroughly investigated, that the law officers of the Crown had reported that there was no evidence on which to found a prosecution and that the matter, so far as the Government was concerned, had been disposed of,
– The Minister is not prepared to table the report.
– As I said at the time, I had come to the conclusion, on reading the file, that the only purpose of the honorable member for East Sydney was to discredit the findings of the royal commission into the activities of Russian espionage in this country. 1 said at the time that I had no disposition whatever to assist the honorable member in his purposes of discrediting the royal commission. What I said then still holds, and I do not propose to assist him in this purpose, lt is not surprising that he should take this line, because the findings of the Petrov commission were seriously to the discomfiture of many of the friends of the honorable member for East Sydney and many of the purposes that he has sought to serve during the six and a half years that I have been in the Parliament, and what 1 said then still goes. I have no disposition whatever, and no inclination, to assist him to discredit the purposes and the findings of the royal commission into Russian espionage in this country. I do not need to develop this theme in this House. My colleagues on this side of the House are very well aware of the political dispositions of the honorable member, of his political associations and of his desire to defend the extreme left wing of his own party which is so closely associated with the Communist party. We all know that on this side of the House and. indeed, I should say, at a rough guess, that about 80 per cent, of his own party are equally aware of it and share the feelings on this side of the House. As I have said, I do not propose to assist him.
But the honorable member for East Sydney went a little further. I think that he criticized me further for failure to answer his letters. One of the first things that I learned, following my appointment to this office was the particular technique of the honorable member for East Sydney in writing a letter to a Minister, following it up by a telegram before the letter had been delivered, following the telegram up by an urgent telegram before the telegram had been received, and then raising a complaint in the House that the Minister had not dealt with his correspondence. 1 told the honorable member in correspondence then that 1 would answer him in the House. To my surprise, shortly afterwards, he rose in his place and accused me of failure to make a statement in accordance with an undertaking. I had not given him any sort of undertaking. 1 had said that I would answer him in the House and whenever he asks me a question in the House J shall do my best to answer it. I repeat that I have no intention whatever of assisting the honorable member for East Sydney to undermine the findings or to whittle away the effect of the findings of the royal commission. 1 have no intention of assisting him in that way at all. Nor have I any intention of replying to his telegram which follows his undelivered letter, and his urgent telegram, which follows his telegram which has nol yet been received. If he asks me questions in the House 1 shall do my best to answer them, but 1 am not going to be provoked by the continuous flow of letters and telegrams.
Mr. WENTWORTH (Mackellar) [I0.58J. - Mr. Speaker, I think that the way inwhich the Labour party has been gradually shifting its front on this Communist issue and preparing new positions for itself, is quite remarkable. Only a few years ago. when anybody in this House suggested that there was any link between Communists and Labour policy there would be a screamof rage from all the members on that side of the House who would say that it was a. foul slander, that there was no link, that they abhorred the Communist party and that there was no greater enemy of the Communist party than the Labour party. Now that deception has been diced. They are coming out in their true colours - oi it might be more appropriate to say their truer colours. They are coming out almost as open allies of the Communist party, because what has been said in this House- by the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen), which is fully in line with what was said in the preface to the pamphlet by the Leader of the Labour party, the right honorable member for Barton (Dr. Evatt), and Mr. Chamberlain, the federal president of the Labour party, is a tacit admission of the underground alliance between the Communist party and the Labour party - or, shall I say, between the Communist party and certain people who lead the Labour party and determine its policy? That is one of the tragedies of this moment. The Communists are able to infiltrate us in Australia and all the democratic countries because they find in the Labour party blind obedience to a machine on the part of people who have votes but who do not understand what their leaders are doing or where they arc leading them. Because of this machine, and the way in which it is able to impose on Labour voters, it is possible for a small faction to mislead a large number. What is so dangerous is the fact that the Communists are able to get their friends into leading positions in the Labour machine.
I should say that a very large majority of Labour voters hate and detest communism, and they do not realize the way in which their leaders are dragooning them, bit by bit, and little by little, in a really artistic, gradual fashion, into support of a policy that is a Communist policy.
Now, sir, what Labour has done in relation to communism is really only important as showing us what Labour is doing, and what Labour is likely to do. I remind the House that this Dr. Burton, who wrote this book with the approval of Labour’s official leaders, is the same Dr. Burton who, in concert with these same people, was determining Australia’s foreign policy while Labour was in power, and that he would again be determining Australia’s foreign policy should Labour return to power while the present Labour leaders are in control of the party.
I do not believe that the most important influences of communism have been exerted towards espionage and minor matters like that. Communism has its real effect when it can influence top policy. We now can see clearly that the people who determined top policy while Labour was in office were
Communist sympathizers all the time. That charge is amply proved by the things they themselves have written, and by the published statements to which they have lent their names. This Dr. Burton, one-time arbiter of Australia’s foreign policy, repository of the secrets of our Department ot External Affairs while the right honorable member for Barton was our Minister foi External Affairs, is the man who went to Peking and issued from Peking a statement which may not have been technically treasonable, because of the defects in our federal law, but which was, in import, a treasonable statement. He must have done it with full knowledge of what he was doing, because you cannot think of a man who has been secretary of our Department of External Affairs as a man who would be ignorant of the import of a statement on a matter of foreign policy that he was signing. 1 think it may be time that we were looking backwards - looking once again at the way in which the Communist machine infiltrated the machine of Australian government while Labour was in office - because the Labour party, after all, is the official Opposition. It aspires to government again. And this incident is proving the truth of what I, for one, have been saying in this House for the last seven years. And when I was saying it earlier, the Labour party was getting up in indignant denial-
– A pack of lies.
– Yes, that is what members of the Labour party were describing my statements as - a pack of lies! Now they stand condemned out of their Owl mouths, because they are supporting officially pro-Communist views, and supporting them in a way which fits in admirably, if that be the right word, with overall Communist strategy. I do not believe that the average Labour voter wants this. 1 Jo not believe he understands it. We know that certain members on the other side of the House detest it. More shame on them that they are standing behind a leader who, they know, is leading them down the Communist road. There was a time when it would be quite easy for a Labour party supporter who was opposed to communism to stay inside the party, hoping that, by his presence in it, he would be able to take it away from the Communist courses. That time is now long past. That time has gone, because of the way in which the Communist faction has succeeded in liquidating the anti-Communists throughout the Labour party, and is going on doing it now, still purging them in New South Wales and other States. The New South Wales executive, in its anti-Communist days before it was itself purged in favour of a caretaker executive nominated by the friends of communism, only a few months ago summed the position up accurately when it said that the way in which the Labour party policy was following the Communist line was uncanny.
– Having heard the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) engage once again in one of his usual tirades against the Labour party and its socialistic objective, I feel it is necessary to state, quite clearly, that the Labour party always has been a socialist party and always will be, I hope, a socialist party, because unless it remains a socialist party it has no right to claim to be the alternative to the capitalist party that is represented on the Government side now. But the honorable member for Mackellar, like Mr. Rooney and the other people who have been purged, thank goodness, from the Labour party in New South Wales, believes that a socialist is a Communist in disguise.
– What does the honorable member mean by a “ socialist “?
– A socialist, as the Minister who has interjected no doubt knows very well, is a person who believes that certain undertakings ought to be owned by the people, controlled by the people and operated for the benefit of the people. The thing that remains to be determined is which undertakings are to be socialized - in other words, which undertakings are to be controlled by the people and operated by the people for the benefit of the people. The Labour party has repeatedly made it clear that it is determined, if ever it can obtain the constitutional power to do so, to socialize those undertakings which are exploiting the people for the benefit of a handful of private investors. At no stage if the history of the Labour party has any responsible spokesman for that party advo cated the socialization of any form of private property for the mere sake of socialization. The only socialization that the Labour party has ever advocated in its long and proud history is the socialization of those forms of industry, production, distribution and exchange which are being operated by monopolies for the benefit of a privileged few.
– That is not what the 1921 resolution said.
– That resolution said that the Labour party believed in the socialization of the means of production, distribution and exchange.
– It was qualified. Mr. Maurice Blackburn moved a resolution interpreting the socialization objective of 1921, to state quite clearly that it meant that the socialization of these things would only be carried out to prevent the exploitation of the people. In 1948, at Canberra, the federal convention adopted a resolution, moved by myself, re-affirming the Blackburn declaration, and nothing has been done since to alter that decision of 1948, which was a re-affirmation of the 1921 declaration. Mr. Chifley re-affirmed it.
– What about the Hobart conference?
– The Hobart conference did nothing at all to alter the re-affirmation of 1948. The Minister for Defence (Sir Philip McBride) is smiling quite cynically, because he knows that what I am saying is true. The Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Harold Holt), who wrote a thesis supporting socialism when he was at the university, knows what I am saying is true. The only people who query what I am saying are those who have not studied the Labour party. Every one else on the Government side knows that what I am saying is true, but they hope that if they can continue to put out this absolute untruth that the Labour party is a party which believes in absolute socialism - the socialization of every single form of property, including a worker’s home, his motor car, the canary cage, or the small backyard - they will have a chance of frightening the people away from Labour’s point of view. The honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) has carried out the kind of tirade that is usually expected of him when he decides to attack individuals under parliamentary privilege. To-night he has attacked Dr. Burton, who recently wrote an excellent book which every person in Australia ought to read.
– It is Labour policy?
– Yes, of course it is. It has an introduction by the Leader of the Australian Labour party (Dr. Evatt), and one by the federal president of the Australian Labour party, Mr. Chamberlain. There is nothing in that book to which any Labour man could take objection.
– Do you support it?
– Yes, I support every word of it. Dr. Burton wrote one paragraph to which the honorable member for Mackellar has taken exception. That is, that we had to decide between co-existence and non-existence. He did not say that we had to adopt communism. What Dr. Burton said in his book was that we had to learn to live alongside communism, because in this hydrogen-bomb era of the world we either must learn to co-exist or we would non-exist. That is the choice that we must exercise.
– Co-operation is the word.
– No, it is coexistence. Even if it is co-operation, I believe that, if co-operation is necessary to avoid a hydrogen-bomb war, no person who claims to be a Christian has any right to refuse co-operation. I think that it is about time that we in Australia departed from American McCarthyism and this business of trial by slander. Let anybody who knows anything about this subject read Owen Latimer’s book “ Trial by Slander “ and he will see the kind of thing that people like the honorable member for Mackellar can do. All that has ever been proved against Dr. Burton is that he has the courage of his convictions and is not the cur that some people would like him to be. He has always been prepared to stand up for what he considers to be right. When an attempt was made to smear him as a result of the Petrov inquiry, Mr. Justice Simpson, in the Supreme Court of the Australian Capital Territory awarded against the “ Daily Telegraph “, which published the smear, £100 for libel. If any person here wants to say about Dr. Burton inside this House the kind of things that the honorable member for Mackellar has said, let him at least have the courage to go outside also and say them, as the “ Daily Telegraph “ did. Nobody has ever been able to bring against Dr. Burton - certainly the Petrov commission, which had all the advantages of the security service was not able to do it - one tittle of evidence to prove that he has been subversive to this country. Always we find this kind of attitude being adopted towards men who have the courage to be radical.
What is communism? I believe in a lol of things that the Communist party believes in.
– Good for you.
– So do you believe in them. The trouble is that some of the people who condemn communism do not know anything about communism. For instance, in the “ Communist Manifesto “ by Karl Marx, one of the things advocated is free education. I believe in the Communist policy of free education, and so does every honorable member opposite believe in free education. I believe in the Communist policy of decentralization, as put out by Karl Marx in his manifesto, and judging by the Liberal party’s policy at the last South Australian election, Mr. Playford, also, believes in the Communist policy of decentralization. I believe in the Communist policy of graduated income taxation, as enunciated in the “ Communist Manifesto “ and as far as I can judge from the budget recently delivered by the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden), that right honorable gentleman also believes in the Communist policy of graduated income taxation.
– This is specious nonsense.
– What angers the Minister for Customs and Excise (Mr. Osborne) is that I am grinding home to him the truth of some of the things he talks about. He opposes communism, but he does not know what it is. Practically every person in Australia believes in some facet of Communist policy.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- Mr. Speaker-
Motion (by Mr. Harold Holt) agreed to -
Thai the question be now put.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 11.19 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
Gift Locomotives to Indonesia.
a asked the Minister representing the Minister for National Development, upon notice -
What number of war service homes was completed in Australia in the year 1 955-56?
n. - The Minister for National Development has supplied the following answers to the honorable member’s questions: -
b asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Navy, upon notice -
– The Minister for the Navy has furnished the following answers to the honorable member’s questions: -
t asked the Minister for Defence Production, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 5 September 1956, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1956/19560905_reps_22_hor12/>.