22nd Parliament · 3rd Session
The House met at 3 p.m., pursuant to the proclamation of His Excellency the GovernorGeneral.
The Acting Clerk read the proclamation.
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. John McLeay) took the chair, and read prayers.
The Usher of the Black Rod, being announced, was admitted, and delivered the message that His Excellency the Governor-General desired the attendance of honorable members in the Senate chamber forthwith.
Mr. SPEAKER and honorable members attended accordingly, and having returned,
Resignation of the Honorable Howard Beale - Issue of Writ.
– I have to announce that during the recess I received from the Honorable Howard Beale a letter resigning his seat as member for the Elec toral Division of Parramatta, in the State of New South Wales, the resignation to take effect from 11th February last. On 14th February last, I issued a writ for the election of a member to serve for the said Electoral Division. The dates in connexion with the election were fixed as follows: - Date of nomination, Friday, 28th February, 1958; date of polling, Saturday, 8th March, 1958; date of return of writ, on or before Saturday, 12th April, 1958.
– As honorable members know, we have, since the House last met, suffered the loss of two very old colleagues and friends. The first one to whom I desire to refer is the Honorable Herbert Claude Barnard who died on 6th December, 1957, at the age of 67 having been, as all honorable members know, a well-known and very popular member of this Parliament and of the Tasmanian Parliament.
Claude Barnard was first elected for the federal division of Bass in 1934 and he held that seat for fifteen years. That was, in itself, a notable achievement because the seat was not one that we would describe as a “ blue ribbon “ seat, and I am sure that his long occupancy of it had much to do with his own personality and sound character. He was chairman of the Social Security Committee from 1941, and Minister for Repatriation from 1946 to 1949. He was defeated at the election of 1949, and was elected to the Tasmanian House of Assembly for the division of Bass in 1950.
Our late friend was a man with a variety of interests. He had great experience in the trade union field and was of high standing in union office. He had great experience in parliament and he was a Minister with the goodwill and, indeed, by the choice, of those who sat with him in his own party. In his private life, as I think most of us knew, he was a man of great family devotion and of great religious sensibilities. In other words, he was an all-round man.
I should like to say all this on behalf of honorable members to his widow and to his two sons, one of whom represents the same seat in this Parliament and is here to-day. It may perhaps give some comfort to the present honorable member for Bass to know - realizing, as he does, how hard the blows can be that are exchanged in this chamber - that his father enjoyed the friendship of honorable members on all sides of this House. I was amazed, surprised and grieved when I heard of Mr. Barnard’s death. I had no notion that, at so comparatively early an age, he was to leave us. He leaves behind him an honorable tradition of public service, and it is upon such accumulating honorable traditions of public service that the whole strength of this Parliament depends and the whole future of the Constitution itself will rely. I move -
That this House expresses its deep regret at the death of the Honorable Herbert Claude Barnard, a former member of this House for the Division of Bass and a former Minister of the Crown, places on record its appreciation of his long and meritorious public service and tenders its profound sympathy to his family in their bereavement.
– I have the honour to second the resolution that has been proposed by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies). Claude Barnard was a very close friend of many honorable members who are still in the House. As the Prime Minister has said, Mr. Barnard had distinguished service in this Parliament for a very considerable period. He was prominent as a trade unionist and was one of a band of men who, having been locomotive engine drivers, finally became members of this House. Ben Chifley was another. So also were Arthur Drakeford and Tom Sheehan, and one who is still with us is the honorable member for Blaxland (Mr. E. James Harrison). It is an extraordinary fact that so many of those men, who were among the very elite of the skilled workers of Australia, ultimately served in this House. As the Prime Minister has said, upon being defeated in an election for the House of Representatives, Claude Barnard stood again in the identical electorate and was elected to the House of Assembly in Tasmania. Later, he became a Minister of the Crown in that State.
I should like to make some special reference to the remarkable contribution that was made by the Barnard family to the war effort because it may be of some comfort to his widow and to his many friends. One son of the late Mr. Barnard was killed in New Guinea. Another son became totally and permanently incapacitated during World War II. and the other, who is now the honorable member for Bass in this House, had a distinguished war record.
The late Mr. Barnard’s work on the Social Security Committee, which was representative of all the parties in the Parliament, extended over five years and was most important. Much legislation that was passed during World War II., and since the war, has shown what a great service was performed for the people of Australia by that committee. Mr. Barnard became Minister for Repatriation and served Australia well in that difficult and responsible position.
In conclusion, I wish 1 could describe the personality of this remarkable man to those who did not know him. He was a kindly, gentle man, but when a question of principle arose he was most determined to fight it out. He was always a loyal, helpful member of the Labour party. We lament his death, and hope that what we say will be some little comfort to those he leaves behind.
– As Claude Barnard was a personal friend of mine during the time I have been in this Parliament, and indeed was the first friend I ever had in this Parliament, I think it is my duty to associate myself with this motion submitted by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) and seconded by the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt).
Mr. Claude Barnard befriended me when I first entered this Parliament and gave me advice that I have never forgotten. That advice helped me during those first critical months of my parliamentary career. That was typical of Claude Barnard. He was always helping people. One of his great characteristics was that he was a man of the people. He worked amongst the people as an engine driver before entering this Parliament. He strove to understand the people and their point of view. His work in his electorate during his fifteen years as a member of this Parliament was characterized by a detailed care of people’s problems and attention to the electorate itself.
If a man can hold a seat in this Parliament for fifteen years he must have a secret. Claude Barnard’s secret was his love of the people. He was always calm in a crisis, and there have been many crises, not only in Australia, but in the Labour party, but Mr. Barnard was always present with sincere and considered advice. He was steady and reliable; absolutely loyal to the Labour movement in which he grew up and which he loved. He built his life on the highest moral and spiritual standards. I know that from personal contact with him ever a period of twelve years or longer. He was an active member of the Baptist Church in Launceston. He was a man of character and integrity, and was held in such great respect by the people of Bass that, during his first illness a little over a year ago, at the time of the last State elections, Mr. Barnard topped the poll out of thirteen candidates in the electorate of Bass, without moving from his bed in Launceston General Hospital. He did not make an election speech. He did not appear on a platform, and did not campaign per medium of wireless. That is an example of the tremendous regard the people had for him. I pay a tribute to the way he stood up to his last illness, which persisted for more than twelve months. I admire his great courage and his concern for other people, attributes that he displayed right to the end.
Honorable members are glad that his son is in this Parliament to carry on the tradition of the Barnard family. I know that I shall always benefit from the friendship and advice that Claude Barnard gave to me during the time I knew him.
– I wish to associate myself very briefly, though none the less sincerely, with the motion that has been moved. Like a number of other members of this Parliament, I had the pleasure of serving with the late Claude Barnard. I was associated with him on the Social Security Committee, of which the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) spoke. Undoubtedly Mr. Barnard’s work on that committee is a memorial to him because it did, in many respects, lay the foundation of some of the great social service reforms that we are enjoying to-day. I feel that he made a notable contribution to the development of social welfare in this country. He also made a notable contribution to the Labour cause by the sincerity that he showed in carrying out his work and by his devotion to the party that sent him to this Parliament.
I join sincerely in the remarks that have been made by both the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) and the Leader of the Opposition, and sincerely extend my personal regret to his widow and family at the passing of a man who was a very close friend of mine and a very great member of this Parliament who served the people and his party with such great distinction, integrity and sincerity.
Question resolved in the affirmative, honorable members standing in their places.
– Our other loss is that of our friend, George James Rankin, a member of this House for Bendigo for twelve years from 1937, and subsequently a member of the Senate. He was a member of the Public Works Committee from 1943 to 1951 and chairman of that committee from 1950 to 1951. He was a member of the War Expenditure Committee in earlier years from 1943 to 1946, and Temporary Chairman of Committees in the House of Representatives from 1940 to 1949. While he was a senator, he was a member of the House Committee from 1950 to 1956, Chairman of Committees from 1951 to 1953, and a member of the Senate Standing Orders Committee from 1951 to 1956. He retired from the Senate and from active politics on 30th June, 1956.
His military career is very well known, I think, to all of us. He was first commissioned in the Light Horse in 1909. He was wounded at Gallipoli in 1915. He served through the Palestine campaign. He was awarded the D.S.O. and mentioned in dispatches in 1918. He was awarded a Bar to the D.S.O. and again mentioned in dispatches in 1919. I need not go through all the details. He was, I suppose, the perfect embodiment of the fighting man,
He came into Parliament after his private activities, principally as a farmer and as president of the Victorian Country party as far back as 1937, and he brought to Parliament the same vigour and exuberance that he obviously had displayed most of his life. In his bluff and forthright way, he occasionally made all of us extremely familiar with some of our less desirable and less admirable attributes. So heartily did he do this, so much was he the real man, that I do not think anybody nursed a grievance about it, because he was just as likely to say something equally undeserved of an approving kind.
George Rankin was a great character, a robust human being. He made many friends. He sometimes thought he had many enemies, but I venture to think that he had very few. And so, Sir, we miss him. We miss him in this House, and they miss him in the Senate. My mind can run back to many occasions, some of them serious, some of them exciting, and some of them downright hilarious, with which I associate my memory of him. By that I do not mean that he was merely a cheerful fellow and a good companion. What he believed in, he believed in actively, and he was willing to defend it, argue about it, and, if necessary, fight for it. It is out of such robust, strongminded, honest material that a great deal of what is good in Australia has been fashioned.
We would like the late senator’s widow to know that while we speak of him with great respect, and really feel great sorrow that he has left us, our chief feeling is one not simply of sorrow, but of pleasure that we knew him and had something to do with him, and had grown to appreciate him so much. I move -
That this House expresses its deep regret at the death of Major-General George James Rankin, D.S.O., V.D., a former member of this House for the Division of Bendigo and a former senator for the State of Victoria, places on record its appreciation of his long and meritorious public service and tenders its profound sympathy to his widow in her bereavement.
– On behalf of the Opposition, I support the motion. There is no doubt whatever that in his parliamentary career General George Rankin reproduced some of the greatness of his military career. He was a very tough and very rugged fighter, and those fighting against him always knew it. There were occasions in this House - and, I have no doubt, in the Senate also - when that was very evident. I think it is right to add, as the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) has done, that after the encounters were over one felt that, after all, these things were part of the give and take of political life.
General Rankin was a remarkable man, not only in character, but also in appearance, as those who remember him well are aware, and as those who were not acquainted with him are able to see from the portrait of him as a soldier, which is one of the best portraits in the great Australian War Memorial in this city. George Rankin’s record of service on Gallipoli and later in the tremendous campaign in Palestine, which was outlined by the Prime Minister, indicates the significant personal contribution that he made in World War I. His efforts in this House and in the Senate for his party and what he believed to be right were of the same splendid character.
– I desire to associate the Australian Country party and myself with the sentiments that have been so well and sincerely expressed in memory of our late member and mate, General George Rankin. George rendered great service to the Australian Country party, both as an organizer and as a member first of the House of Representatives and later of the Senate. As the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) and the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) have so aptly said, he had a rugged personality. George had a spectacular personality. He truly personified Australia and Australianism. He could never be accused of ambiguity, and he never lacked frankness. As I told him on more than one occasion, he would rather fight than eat. George Rankin had a great war record, and he carried the traditions, the discipline, and the finer elements of that record into the service of his party, and later of the Parliament and the electorate that he so honorably and for so long represented.
George made a fine contribution in time of war, and he was not altogether fond of peace away from war. We all will miss him. He was a great friend and a loyal mate. He was a great Australian, and I am sure that he has been, and will continue to be, appreciated and missed by all those who had the privilege and pleasure of knowing him and holding him in the respect that has been so sincerely and appropriately expressed in the motion. Not only every member of the Australian Country party, but, I am sure, each and every one of us associates himself with this expression of sympathy to General Rankin’s fine widow, who was a wonderful helpmate to him through the years. In the very nature of things, she must have made great sacrifices during his absences, which were occasioned by his political activities and his military career. We all associate ourselves with the sentiments that have been expressed.
– May I, as one of the war-time colleagues of the late General George J. Rankin, add a few words to the very fine tributes that have been paid to him? We served together, in peace and in war, in the same fields but, as it were, in different units. He was, of course, a member of the Australian Country party, while I am a member of the Liberal party. In World War I., we fought side by side in Gallipoli and Palestine. I as a member of the 8th Light Horse and he as a member of the 4th Light Horse, of which he ultimately rose to be the commanding officer.
The passage of time is, perhaps, clearly marked by a glance around this chamber. I think I am right in saying - I apologize if I am in error in any way - that the honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Brimblecombe) is the only other member of this House among those who rode stirrupleather to stirrup-leather with General
Rankin over the shifting sands of Sinai, across the rather more pleasant plains of Esdraelon, over the rugged ranges of Judea, down into the scorching heat of the Jordan Valley, on to Amman and Damascus and, in some cases, even as far as Aleppo,
In World War II., the first appointment I had was as a member of General Rankin’s staff when he was G.O.C. 2nd Cavalry Division. The division went into camp at Torquay in Victoria for what might be aptly termed, I think, the last ride of the Light Horse. General Rankin was born and bred a country man and, as such, he always insisted on first things first. Perhaps I may be permitted to relate one little anecdote in this connexion. The first important manoeuvres that we were to carry out with the 2nd Cavalry Division commenced on a day when there was a very hot north wind, and a bush fire broke out at about midday. It had nothing to do with the troops - we had not started it - but the late General Rankin called off the complete three-day manoeuvres and turned out a welltrained, well-disciplined, efficient force of fire-fighters which, after a two-hour struggle, put out the bush fire.
I hope that these reminiscences will not be taken as meaningless meanderings in the wilderness of memory by another old fogey, because they have an important bearing on the tributes that we are paying to-day. Recently we paid tribute to another politician, soldier and airman, Sir Thomas White, who rose to even higher eminence than the man to whom we pay tribute to-day. He also was one of the old brigade, and it is very easy to forget what the members of the old brigade have done. People like the late general in some ways outlive their generation. That this can be so is one of the hardest facts of life for us to remember as we grow older and older. All of us when we are young are inclined to be scornful of the older generation. We look at them through the eyes of youth. Members of the younger generation probably look at us in like manner and say, “ The outward and visible frame has been battered by the winds of life; they cannot see things : as we see them “. Others have spoken of the general’s political life. All I ask is that younger generations try to view the lives of those who pass on in the full perspective of the whole life and not one portion of it. If we do that, we will then pay full and just tribute to people such as the late general, who was referred to only recently by some one of the highest importance as being one of the many but for whom we would probably not be sitting in these seats to-day, and but for whom this land we all love as our homeland, Australia, might be a very different and much more difficult place in which to live.
To his relatives, to his family and particularly to his widow, I join in extending heartfelt gratitude as well as deepest sympathy. I say “ heartfelt gratitude “ because I am sure that all of us here realize that, despite public opinion, the life of the wife of a politician is not an easy one and that the lives of those who in war-time kept the home fires burning may not have been as dangerous, but were very often much more difficult than the lives of those who served overseas. So, as another Anzac passes on his way, may we pay our tribute after our own fashion, hallowed by time and honoured by tradition, “ Lest we Forget “.
– I support the motion, with brevity. General George Rankin would understand that; he was a man of brevity. It so happens that I am the president of the Government exServicemen’s Committee. General George Rankin was a particularly active member of that committee. There are on the statute-book, in the Repatriation Act, improvements coming from that committee which were of his own design. I should like that to be placed on record because, as one knows, these things happen rather in the background. General George Rankin was one of those who were in the main responsible for very important provisions being written into the Japanese peace treaty. I knew him, I believe, as well as did any member of the Parliament. I had great admiration for him. As has been said, he was a tough and uncompromising fighter, both as a serviceman and as a member of this Parliament. His was a page in history. There are few more glorious records in the history of man than the exploits of the Light Horse. He leaves us, but leaves us a wonderful example.
– As a colleague of the late George Rankin, I support the motion. For many years, I have represented an electorate adjoining his former electorate. I found that, as a friend, he was as true as steel. I had the honour to be at his funeral to pay my last respects to him. Any one who was there would realize how he was loved in the district that he represented and the neighbourhood in which he lived. The street was lined with: women and children and with people whom he knew so well and who respected him- I found that the closer I came to the part where George Rankin lived, the greater was the appreciation of him. Only about eighteen months ago I had the privilege of attending a social evening tendered to* him in his home district of Bamawn. The number of people who came was so great that many could not get into the local hall. The tributes paid to him on that occasion led me to believe that he was sincerely respected and loved in his own locality.
George Rankin was a rugged man. He was a successful primary producer. He was one of those we called the “ bush boys “ who joined the first A.I.F. and made this country a nation. He was never happier than when he was travelling through the Australian countryside. If he was in the great outdoors he was content. Only recently I came across a few lines of verse which until a few minutes ago I had not thought of applying to George Rankin. However, I believe he would have appreciated them and I think they tell us something of his life. These lines are as follows: -
Do you fear the force of the wind.
The slash of the rain?
Go face them and fight them
Be savage again
Go hungry and cold like the wolf;
Go wade like the crane.
The palms of your hands will thicken
The skin of your forehead tan
You’ll be ragged and swarthy and weary
But you’ll walk like a man.
Mr. Speaker. I believe that George Rankin walked like a man.
Question resolved in the affirmative, honorable members standing in their places.
- Mr. Speaker, honorable members have just heard you announce the resignation of the Honorable Howard Beale consequent upon his appointment as Australian Ambassador to the United States of America. As a result of this resignation I have to announce that the Minister for
Immigration (Mr. Townley) in addition to continuing the administration of that portfolio, has been sworn in as Minister for Supply and Minister for Defence Production. In this chamber, in addition to his representing the Minister for Civil Aviation and Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator Paltridge), he will represent the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) except for the War Service Homes Division which will, of course, continue to be represented by the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Roberton). These arrangements will be subject to review very shortly. Senator Paltridge has been appointed to the Cabinet.
– I desire to inform the House that Dr. G. S. Reid, SerjeantatArms, has resigned in order to take up an appointment with the University of Adelaide. It is proposed that Mr. D. M. Blake will be promoted in his place.
Motion (by Mr. Menzies) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act to amend the Judiciary Act 1903-1955.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
– I have to report that the House this day attended His Excellency the Governor-General in the Senate chamber, when His Excellency was pleased to make a Speech to both Houses of the Parliament, of which I have received a copy. As honorable members have copies of the Speech, I shall not formally read it to the House. It will be included in “ Hansard “ for record purposes.
The Speech read as follows: -
You have been called together to deal with matters of national moment. The second session of the Twenty-second Parliament having been prorogued, 1 am now opening the third session of that Parliament.
When I last addressed Parliament, 1 was able to speak of the happy visit to Australia by His Royal Highness, Prince Philip. It is more than pleasing to us all that this present occasion should coincide with the visit to Australia of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother. Australians everywhere have looked forward to her second visit to this land. We have a special and personal interest here in the national capital, because of Her Majesty’s particular association with the first sitting of the Australian Parliament in Canberra 31 years ago. It is the warm hope of all that Her Majesty may derive as much pleasure from her visit as her presence in Australia gives us. We remember with pride and thanksgiving the historic work, of Her Majesty’s late husband, the great King George VI., to which the Commonwealth and the world owe so much.
We congratulate the British Empire Service League on the honour Her Majesty has paid it in consenting to open its important conference here in Canberra.
Her Majesty’s visit allows us to demonstrate once more our affectionate loyalty to Her Majesty The Queen and to our Royal Family.
In addition to this, the visit of the Right Honorable Harold Macmillan, the Prime Minister of Her Majesty’s Government in the United Kingdom, has evidenced and strengthened our practical unity with the United Kingdom. By their reception of Mr. Macmillan, Australians everywhere have expressed their appreciation of his visit- the first by a British Prime Minister in office - which was made too at a time when world conditions might reasonably have dictated a postponement.
While our ties with the United Kingdom, and with the Commonwealth of Nations, have been strengthened, we have demonstrated further our neighbourly interest in Asian development. Last year, we were paid a most happy visit by His Excellency President Ngo Dinh Diem of the Republic of Viet Nam. More recently, His Excellency Mr. Nobusuke Kishi, the Prime Minister of Japan came to Australia to repay the visit made to Japan by my Prime Minister - visits which have greatly assisted in restoring co-operative relations between the two countries.
Delegations from this Parliament have recently visited India and Japan, and at this moment preparations are being made to receive a delegation from the Japanese Diet. My Government will continue the policy of friendly co-operation in Asia, and we may hope to receive many visits by distinguished citizens from Asian countries.
While we may take some satisfaction from the consolidation of our friendships in Asia, the international scene in general is no less complicated than when I last addressed you. The “ cold war “ against the unity of the free world continues, and my Government will maintain this nation’s contributions to the security of the democracies.
My Government considers that the disarmament proposals submitted last year by the Western Powers offer a basis for settlement of outstanding issues, and will, therefore, continue to give the fullest measure of support to these and similar efforts to achieve a controlled disarmament; for herein lies a major aspiration of the people of the world. While we may congratulate scientists upon their remarkable achievements leading towards the conquest of outer space, my advisers believe that it is necessary to point out that these advances make all the more urgent an understanding which may ensure that all activities in space will serve the purposes of peace.
The scope of the work being done during the International Geophysical Year demonstrates that scientific research can be conducted on a truly international basis. It is a matter for pride that
Australia has made, and continues to make significant contributions to the success of the International Geophysical Year, not the least spectacular being the use of special equipment at the Woomera Range for observing and tracking the artificial earth satellites.
Until there is agreement on disarmament, adequate defence measures of the free nations will continue to be a major factor in world stability. The meeting of Mr. Macmillan and President Eisenhower in Washington and the subsequent meeting of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization Council in Paris, have strengthened the common purpose and defensive capacity of the democracies. These consultations have, however, demonstrated a purpose beyond the preservation of collective military strength, for they have enabled the heads of member governments to formulate principles upon which agreement - great or small - may be sought with the Communist powers.
Last year, my Prime Minister outlined the programme whereby Australia would make he” contribution to the defence preparedness of the free world. The programme is proceeding satisfactorily. The Royal Australian Navy continues its ship construction and conversion scheme; the Army Infantry Brigade Group has commenced training as a composite force; and defence forces mobility will be greatly improved by the reequipment later this year, of the air transport element of the Royal Australian Air Force with modern four-engined turbo-propeller transport aircraft.
Meanwhile, the defence scientific establishments will maintain their efforts. In this sphere, the more spectacular work is performed, in collaboration with the United Kingdom authorities, in the development of deterrent weapons; but impressive work is being done in the whole field of defence science.
Outside Australia, components of the three Services continue to serve in Malaya as part of the Commonwealth Strategic Reserve, and later this year the Royal Australian Air Force component will be increased by two fighter squadrons and a Canberra bomber squadron. Our forces in Malaya are assisting in the action against Communist terrorists at the request of the Malayan Government.
We have been delighted to welcome Malaya into the Commonwealth of Nations as a free and independent partner, and while it is good that we should give assistance with armed forces, my Government looks forward to a continuing policy of co-operation with Malaya on a far wider scale.
In March this year, my Minister for External Affairs will lead the Australian delegation to the Seato Council of Ministers, which will meet in Manila. This meeting will review the progress made by Seato over the past year in preserving independence and assisting the development of countries of South-East Asia and will formulate the policy to be followed by the Organization in the coming year. My Government last year made the first delivery to Asian member countries of material supplied under Australia’s programme of Economic Assistance for Seato defence.
In South and South-East Asia, Australia is continuing to play an active role in the Colombo plan, and my Government has been gratified to know that at the annual Consultative Committee meeting held last October in Saigon, there were many warm expressions of appreciation from the other twenty countries represented for Australian help in training professional men, technicians and administrators.
Since I last addressed Parliament, there has been a pronounced change in world economic trends. In the United States of America in particular, business conditions have recently become less buoyant and in a number of other major countries the growth of demand and economic activity has slackened. We in Australia have felt the effects in reduced prices for a number of the commodities we export. Lower export prices have coincided with unfavorable seasonal conditions over a large part of our countryside.
My advisers report that, notwithstanding these adverse influences, a high rate of productive activity has been maintained. Industrial production has continued to increase, and investment, which is directed towards expanding our productive capacity, has also been at a high level. Fortunately, recent widespread rains have improved the outlook for rural production.
There has been some increase in unemployment, some part of which was undoubtedly attributable, to the less favorable seasonal conditions. It still represents a relatively small proportion of our total work force; nevertheless it is a development which my Government continues to keep under closest scrutiny. The decisions taken at the recent Loan Council meeting will result in some additional finance being available to the State governments and some increase in the borrowing programmes of the local government authorities. This should assist in providing additional employment opportunities.
My Government has continued to support the widespread research activities of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, which bear directly on many important national problems. Of particular relevance in recent months, has been the extensive programme of research concerned with water resources and the mitigation of the effects of drought. A comprehensive research programme in rain-making is being pursued and during the latter part of 1957, the organization was able to achieve some success in rain-making operations in several areas of Australia. My Government is considering methods of providing a proper legislative basis for the continuance of this most important work.
It has been found possible to ease further the controls on imports, thus permitting a considerably greater inflow of goods than was possible in the previous financial years. These relaxations have been of particular benefit to users of imported machinery who have thus been able to help in the modernizing of Australian production methods.
Throughout last year my Government increased its activities in the international trade sphere and discussions and negotiations on trade matters have taken place with many countries. My Government will continue this policy in its aim to consolidate and expand Australia’s exports in a world in which trading conditions are more difficult and the protective policies of some countries becoming more stringent.
The most important trade negotiation that has has been conducted in the past year culminated in the signing of a trade agreement with Japan. This agreement has already provided benefits to Australia and it is hoped that greater benefits will ensue in the future.
Following the signing of the agreement steps were taken to ensure that Australian industry would not be damaged following the concessions given to imports from Japan.
My Government has agreed to take part in a Commonwealth Trade and Economic Conference which is being convened on the suggestion of the Canadian Government. Certain preliminary work is already under way and the conference later this year should provide an opportunity for Commonwealth countries to discuss mutual trade and economic problems to the benefit of the Commonwealth as a whole.
The inauguration of the European Economic Community on 1st January, 1958, is of historic importance. The implications for Australian export trade are being closely watched.
The development of our primary industries is, of course, vital to Australia. My Government will continue to support this development, notably through a number of research schemes to which the producers themselves are contributing.
There are special financial problems which confront the Western Australian Government in the development of the northern part of that State, and my Government has announced its decision to make available, over the next five years, £2,500,000 to promote development in that area of Western Australia lying north of the 20th parallel of latitude. Legislation authorizing the grant will be introduced during this session.
In order to accelerate the search for oil in Australia, my Government has offered to subsidize on a pound-for-pound basis the cost of approved exploratory drilling. There has been an encouraging response to this offer from private oil exploration companies and, in addition, my Government will itself take an active part in a programme of shallow drilling.
The recent discovery of bauxite deposits in Arnhem Land and on the Cape York Peninsula will prove to be of historic significance. These deposits are still being tested, but there is no doubt that by world standards they are very large, and we can look forward to a most successful development.
Past activity in the search for other minerals will be continued, using the most modern techniques.
Last year, my Treasurer spoke of the decision to assist in the standardization of the rail link between Melbourne and Wodonga. When agreement on detail with the State Governments concerned is reached, appropriate legislation will be placed before Parliament.
The programme of planned migration will be continued. Parliament will be asked to consider a complete revision and consolidation of the
Immigration and Emigration Acts, and an amendment to the Nationality and Citizenship Act, which will seek to banish certain discriminations between Australian-born and naturalized citizens in the matter of loss of citizenship.
During the past year there has been a remarkable record of freedom from industrial disturbance; in fact, measured by the time lost due to disputes, there has not been a better year since 1942. An important contributing factor has been the smooth working of the conciliation and arbitration machinery, following the changes made to it in 1956. Experience suggests that further improvement could be made, and for this purpose my Government proposes shortly to introduce amending legislation. There has also been marked improvement in shipping turn-round. My Government, in co-operation with other responsible organizations, will continue to work for the reduction of industrial accidents, which at present cause far greater loss to industry than do industrial disputes.
The progress made in territorial development can be properly described as exciting. In Papua and New Guinea, agricultural advances in the production of copra, cocoa, coffee, and rubber have reached the’ point where the Territory is beginning to enjoy an attractive export trade. The emphasis has been, and will in increasing measure be, placed ah developing production by the native people themselves. At the same time, steady progress is being made in educating the people towards greater participation in the administration of the Territory. This challenging work, however, must be measured against plain facts. There are still areas in Papua and New Guinea classified only as “ penetrated by patrols “. The time that must elapse between the establishment of administrative controls and health services and provision of basic education, and the achievement by the completely primitive inhabitants of some degree of political maturity cannot be predicted.
In the Northern Territory further areas are being opened for settlement as a result of active pastoral and agricultural research. In developing such a vast area, however, there must inevitably be encountered social problems tending to discourage comfortable family life. My Government is giving increasing attention to these problems, and will provide, for example, facilities for secondary and technical education. The health and education of the aboriginal people and their children will continue to be regarded as of the greatest importance.
The development of all of the remote areas of the Commonwealth demands the provision of rapid transport, and the fostering of those aviation services which are such an essential to life in the out-back will continue. At the same time, my Government will pay no less attention to the general development of civil air transport. We have all been able to take pride in the negotiation of air agreements which have enabled Australia’s international operator, Qantas, tq establish a globe-circling service through the United States and the United Kingdom.
On 1st April, 1958, a reciprocal agreement with the- United Kingdom oh matters relating to social services will come into operation. This agreement was signed in Canberra on behalf of my Government and on behalf of the Government of the United Kingdom during Mr. Macmillan’s visit. It will replace the 1954 agreement. Both Australia and the United Kingdom have made important concessions in the qualifications for benefits when residents of one country move to the other for temporary or permanent residence.
My Government is also negotiating with the United Kingdom and New Zealand Governments for a trilateral agreement to provide that residence in any one of the three countries may count as residence in any one of the others for the purpose of qualifying for social service benefits.
The Parliament will be aware of the inquiry, recently conducted by a committee under the chairmanship of Sir Keith Murray, into the problems connected with Australian universities. My Government has studied the report, and has announced its intentions. Appropriate legislation will be placed before you during this session.
My Government will continue its review of the functions performed by the Commonwealth Public Service and of the organization of the various departments. A committee, under the chairmanship of Sir Leslie Morshead, has already made two reports on its review of the defence group of departments. Those reports are under active consideration with a view to increased efficiency and effecting economies. Review of other departments will be made as rapidly as possible.
Last year this Parliament enacted legislation empowering the establishment of a National Capital Development Commission. I have already appointed a commissioner. Within a few days I shall appoint two associates who will assist the commissioner in the further development of Canberra as a city which will grow to be a living symbol, for all Australians, of our nationhood.
During the last session of this Parliament, bills connected with banking were rejected by the Senate. In this session, my Government will reintroduce the Reserve Bank Bill, the Commonwealth Banks Bill, the Banking Bill and the Banking (Transitional Provisions) Bill.
In the earnest hope that Divine Providence may guide your deliberations and further the welfare of the people of the Commonwealth, I now leave you to the discharge of your high and important duties.
Motion (by Mr. Menzies) agreed to -
That a committee, consisting of Mr. Malcolm Fraser, Mr. Anthony and the mover, be appointed to prepare an Address-in-Reply to the Speech delivered by His Excellency the Governor-General to both Houses of the Parliament, and that the committee do report this day.
Motion (by Mr. Harold Holt) agreed to -
That the House, at its rising, adjourn until Thursday next, at 11 o’clock a.m., or such time thereafter as Mr. Speaker may take the chair.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for External Affairs. 1 refer him to the present situation within Indonesia. Has he any information for the House on that important subject? Has he considered the possibility of the Australian Government’s interesting itself in that situation, by way of conciliation, in order to prevent, if possible, the fighting which might take place in the course of a bloody civil war, and to save life?
– The situation in Indonesia has, I think understandably, been attracting the intimate attention of the Government now for a considerable time. I do not believe that any intervention by Australia on the lines suggested by the Leader of the Opposition would be in any way welcome to the Indonesian Government or, I expect, to the individuals on Sumatra who have, in a sense, rebelled against the Government at Djakarta. I do not believe that any intervention in that sense is called for by any outside body or country. It is a domestic affair, and I believe it has to be so regarded by all countries other than Indonesia itself.
– In directing a question without notice to the Minister for Labour and National Service I refer to police evidence in recent proceedings in Sydney, when it was revealed that a wellknown Communist, who is the general secretary of the Australian Seamen’s Union, when arrested and charged with drunkenness, was carrying inside his shirt £1,125 in banknotes, which he stated was union funds.
– He struck the jackpot.
– The unions do not think so. In view of this happening, and of numerous cases in which trade union funds have been mishandled by officials, will the Minister inform the House whether the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act requires trade unions to file audited balance-sheets? If so, are those provisions being observed, and are they being enforced by the Commonwealth Government? If such is not the case, will the right honorable gentleman consider giving rank and file members of trade unions registered under
Commonwealth laws the same protection as shareholders and members of other public bodies enjoy in having regular and informative balance-sheets published indicating how their money has been spent? In this event, will the right honorable gentleman consider whether such balance-sheets and books of account of the unions should be audited by the Commonwealth AuditorGeneral?
– The question put by the honorable gentleman covers a fairly wide field. The incident in which Mr. Elliott was involved, which the honorable gentleman mentioned in the first part of his question, I have regarded as being part of an earlier inquiry, made by the Australian Council of Trade Unions, into the question of payments in lieu of the engagement of Australian crews on ships either coming to this country after purchase abroad or leaving this country after sale to overseas buyers. The Government has taken the view, generally, that on matters which are the proper concern either of an individual union or of the trade union movement the responsibility should, in the first instance, rest on the union, or body of unions, to put its own house in order. That does not mean that we have been regardless of what has gone on. I have asked my colleague, the Attorney-General, to give some advice as to whether or not, on the facts disclosed to the Government, there has been any breach of the law. A final reply has not yet been received by me from him, but the indications are that there has not, in fact, been any breach of the law which would invoke the attention of this Government. The other aspect raised by the honorable gentleman - the filing of audited accounts of trade union funds - is a matter which I wish to study in detail, and I hope to be able to give him a detailed reply subsequently.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether, in view of the growing army of unemployed in this country, the Government will consider making special grants or subsidies to local-government bodies for public works in districts where there is unemployment. I mention in that regard that a scheme of this nature operated successfully to a limited degree in New South Wales during the economic depression. In view, also, of the big drop in the number of com pleted homes in the last year can the right honorable gentleman hold out any hope of an early release of credit to overcome the lag in housing as well as to help solve the unemployment problem generally?
– As to the first part of the honorable member’s question, he will be interested to know that at the recent specially called meeting of the Australian Loan Council we, the Commonwealth, promoted some consideration of the position of local government bodies, because we felt, as no doubt the honorable member feels, that it is local authorities which can very frequently institute certain works if they can get the necessary financial accommodation, and produce a result more quickly than would be produced by larger works involving long planning. In the result, the proposals we put forward were adopted by the Premiers. They included an increase in the borrowing permission of the local government authorities, for the remainder of the current financial year, of no less than £3,000,000.
– Not enough.
– Of course, if I had said “£300,000,000” the honorable member would have said, “ Not enough “. But I point out to everybody else in this House that this is done at a time when, we are told, local government bodies can raise the money and effectively spend it. The sum of £3,000,000 added to the year’s programme beyond the already existing programme of £13,000,000 is not inconsiderable, because it is to cover a period of four months - so that it involves, in net result, the doubling of the amount available to local government bodies in the last four months of the financial year. We put that forward, and it was agreed to by the Premiers at the same time, and at the same meeting of the Premiers. Now I come to the second part of the honorable member’s question. The Commonwealth, discussing the problem of the States, having regard to some unemployment - not great unemployment, but some unemployment - adopted the attitude, very properly, with which the States agreed, that what was needed was something which would serve its purpose in preventing a small unemployment from becoming a big one - in other words, to head off any suggestion of recession. In order to do that we did not go through any of the formalities of saying to the States, Well, we will increase your borrowing permission. We will increase your loan programme “. What the Commonwealth did was to say, “We will provide you, in these last four months of the financial year, with an actual cash grant of £5,000,000 “. That £5,000,000 was divided in this fashion: £1,000,000 of it was divided equally between Queensland and New South Wales, because it is in Queensland and New South Wales that the effects of the drought have been felt most severely. The other £4,000,000 was divided between the States on the same basis, or formula, as applies to the tax reimbursements grants distribution. So every State got a substantial amount of money some, of course, very much more substantial than others, out of this £5,000,000 grant - a grant, I repeat, existing for this year and therefore covering, and looking forward to, a period of four months. At the time of making that grant the Commonwealth Government indicated that it would like the States to apply as much of it as possible to housing. Honorable members will be interested to know that the last report coming before me stated that New South Wales was appropriating £1,000,000 for housing from its share of this grant, Victoria £400,000, and South Australia the whole of the amount that was allocated to it. So, in the result, quite a substantial amount of cash in these four months goes into housing. Of course, the honorable member pursues that further and I should like to tell him one or two other things.
In the first place, as he knows, the Commonwealth is not the sole authority in housing. We have no direct authority over housing, as we have been reminded many times, except in relation to war service homes and matters falling under defence and the civil service. But, in point of fact, the Government will have provided, by the end of this financial year, not less than £77,000,000, by one means or another, for housing. It is as well to recall that in this very financial year we have increased the vote for war service homes from £30,000,000 to £35,000,000. Honorable members will be glad to know that it is now reported to me that this has affected the position so much that an ex-serviceman who wants a war service homes loan now gets one without any waiting time. (Opposition members interjecting) -
– Of course, when members of the Opposition are blown out of the water with one shot they go away to another bit of water.- They are experts at that. But that is the simple fact. It is true - as I was about to go on to say - that those who desire to buy houses still have to wait about eighteen months for a loan.
– They have to wait for fifteen months.
– I said eighteen months, and that is better from your point of view. The longer the better, from the point of view of honorable members opposite. They would die of inanition if the waiting time disappeared altogether. I want to mention another point: It is a fixed principle of the Government that housing problems must always be given the closest attention, not only by the Commonwealth Government, but also by State governments, by banks, and by lending institutions, all of which have responsibility in this field, so that current demand can be met and arrears steadily reduced. That is the whole purpose nf any housing policy.
It has been suggested by many people, including the honorable member for Reid, no doubt, that there is some restriction of bank credit. I therefore take the opportunity to point out that the central bank, last December, indicated to the private trading banks that there was scope for increased lending for home building. There is no restriction upon them in that field. The truth of the matter is that all banking institutions have had to have regard to their resources. The Commonwealth Savings Bank is a big lender for housing. The private savings banks are big lenders for housing and are becoming greater lenders for housing.
I think, and in this I speak for the Government, that whatever problems there are in the financial field would be well on the way to removal if those institutions which traditionally used to lend for housing, such as the big insurance groups and the private lending institutions, once more directed their attention in a full way to this problem. In the long run, the housing problem, which is largely a problem of getting people into their own homes, will not be solved by Government action only, but will be solved primarily by restoring the capacity and willingness of people to engage in private building with private finance. If all these things are pursued and pressed at the same time I venture to say that the calamity howling implicit in the question will die away.
– I wish to ask the Minister for Defence a question without notice. I understand that, recently, an agreement was signed between the United Kingdom and the United States of America relating to the establishment of launching bases for intermediate-range ballistic missiles. I also understand that it has been suggested that those missiles and, possibly, the atomic warheads for them, should be tested in Australia. I ask the Minister whether any discussion between the United Kingdom Government and the Australian Government has taken place on that subject and, if so, what the proposals are.
– With the consent of the honorable member, I shall answer that question myself because I have been the recipient of the communication on this point. We have been informed, through a communication to myself, that an agreement has been made between the United Kingdom and the United States of America with reference to the establishing in Great Britain of bases for intermediate-range ballistic weapons. In their discussions, the question arose as to whether it would be possible or permissible to negotiate with Australia to allow these things to be tested in Australia. One assumes that this does not mean that they would be tested with actual atomic warheads, but for ballistic purposes. The United Kingdom notified me about that and said, “ We are not binding you to this. All we are saying is that if any such arrangement is proposed Australia must be consulted and Australian approval will be necessary.” That is the present position. We will be very willing to discuss such a proposal on appropriate terms but, so far, that stage has not been reached.
– Is the Postmaster-General aware that reports are current that it is the intention of the Government to separate the Postmaster-General’s Department from the rest of the Commonwealth Public Service and to set up a board of commissioners to control and run the department on a similar pattern to the State railways? As this would lessen the promotion opportunities for members of the PostmasterGeneral’s Department in other Commonwealth departments and vice versa, public servants generally are interested to know the facts of this matter. Can the PostmasterGeneral give any information about it?
– The question obviously involves what would be, if it were discussed, a matter of Government policy. I remember stating in this chamber some considerable time ago that I, myself, and the department, were giving some consideration to a general proposal along the lines suggested by the honorable member for Banks. So far, no definite proposal has been developed and, as yet, I have not put any suggestion before the Government. That is the present position.
– Does the Minister for Primary Industry know that it is the desire of Australian wheatgrowers that the wheat stabilization legislation should be re-enacted? I believe that he is aware of this fact and I should like to ask what steps are being taken towards this end.
– I am aware that the wheat industry is desirous that the stabilization scheme should be continued for a further period of years. The industry itself has asked, first of all, that a review of the financial aspects of the industry be carried out. That is now being done. As well certain proposals have been submitted to me by the Australian Wheatgrowers Federation. They have been considered and I am now making arrangements with the secretary of the federation to have discussions with him and with the committee of the federation. I hope to have the meeting within the next two or three weeks. As soon as I am able to announce the result of the meeting I shall do so, either in this House or directly to the honorable gentleman.
– Will the Minister for Defence Production make a statement on the future of the aircraft industry in Australia? In particular, will he inform the House whether there is any truth in the very strong rumours that the government aircraft factory at Fishermen’s Bend is to close on 30th June, 1958? If the answer to that question is in the affirmative, will the employees be given adequate notice? If the factory is to close down, will that be considered as a retrenchment in connexion with the payment of pro rata long service leave?
– 1 am sure the honorable member will appreciate that it is difficult for me, at this stage, to give an adequate answer to the series of questions he has asked. I will consider all the points he has made and furnish him with a reply as soon as possible.
Portrait of Lord Forrest
– I wish to direct a question to you, Mr. Speaker. Will you inform the House who authorized the removal of the portrait of Lord Forrest from King’s Hall in Parliament House and on what principle the decision was made? Where is the portrait now? In view of the high place in the history of Australia, and particularly of Western Australia, that was earned by the late Lord Forrest, as is evidenced by the name of the electorate I represent and in other ways, and in view also of the high respect and affection in which the name of Lord Forrest is held by Western Australians, will you. Mr. Speaker, take action to restore the portrait to a position in keeping with its historical importance?
– I shall study the request that has been made by the honorable member for Forrest. Portraits are hung in the King’s Hall in accordance with the importance of the office held by those so represented and not in virtue of personality. I shall study the position and furnish the information sought by the honorable member. So far as I can recall, the order of precedence in which portraits qualify for hanging in the King’s Hall is, first, a member of the Royal Family, then a Governor-General, a Presiding Officer, a Prime Minister or a “first”. I am inclined to believe that, although Lord Forrest gave great service to Australia, he did not come within the categories I have mentioned.
– Will the Treasurer inform the House whether the Government considers that the additional advances it has made to the States are adequate to provide for the absorption of the large army of unemployed in Australia to-day? If the Government has other plans, when are they to be announced? Finally, does not the Treasurer regard it as the responsibility of the Commonwealth Government to ensure that money is provided at reasonable rates of interest to home seekers when there are skilled building workers unemployed in Australia and adequate materials are available for the construction of the homes that the community requires?
– The matter that has been raised by the honorable member is one of some complexity and requires consideration in its full context. It is not solely a matter of whether the Government considers that the funds that have been made available recently are adequate or not. The fact is that the States, which were represented by the Premiers, and the Commonwealth Government, represented by myself in my capacity as Treasurer, considered that in the scheme of things and having regard to the fact that unemployment exists in pockets, thus being of a marginal nature, the position could be served best in the manner that was agreed upon. That was, in effect, that local government authorities were best equipped to meet expeditiously the position, which is marginal and temporary. Secondly, as the Prime Minister has said, it was agreed unanimously that, so far as the remaining portion of this financial year is concerned - that would be an effective period of four months - local government authorities, which are instrumentalities of the States and are not under the direct control of the Commonwealth, would be given extra borrowing power. In other words, the ceiling that was agreed upon by the Australian Loan Council and, therefore, by the Premiers themselves, for their own semi-governmental authorities, would be lifted by £3,000,000 in respect of that period of four months. The amount of £3,000,000 was allocated between the States, according to the defined local authority borrowing, on a pro rata basis, on the distinct understanding that such borrowing power was to be utilized for the absorption of labour and not for the provision of equipment or in any way which would minimize the effectiveness of such expenditure in absorbing labour. As the Prime Minister has said, the amount of £5,000,000 which was approved was a straight-out grant and as such was of far greater advantage to the participant States than an increase in the borrowing permitted under the loan programme would be. An increase in the loan programme would have meant that the States would have to pay interest and sinking fund on the loans. As I have said, an amount of £5,000,000 was provided as a straight-out grant. The Premiers grabbed it with both hands and returned to thenStates more pleased than when they departed from any previous meeting of the Australian Loan Council.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Labour and National Service in connexion with the lamentable decision on last Wednesday by the Australian Council of Trade Unions to withdraw from the Ministry of Labour Advisory Council. The Minister made a statement last Thursday following that decision by the A.C.T.U. Has he received since then any further and more convincing reasons for the withdrawal of the A.C.T.U.?
– This was a very unhappy development, as I am sure most honorable members will agree. I had regarded the formation of a Ministry of Labour Advisory Council as one of the most hopeful signs in what is, for Australia, a major problem - that of improving our industrial relationships. The history of the council since its formation at the end of 1954 had been one of useful co-operation, frank exchange of views and information in the work of the council and a collaboration which I am quite confident was regarded by at least the overwhelming majority of members present, irrespective of whether they came from management or unions, as being in the best interests of all concerned. I have no doubt in my own mind that the majority decision to withdraw from the work of the council was not supported by any considerable number of those who had participated regularly in the work of the council but was, for the most part, the decision of men who had had no practical experience of it in operation. As to the published reasons which were given for the withdrawal, I felt that they were patently absurd, and I am sure that view was held by all those who had any experience of the working of the council. No suggestion had been made at any time that the council was not performing work of value or that the quality of the papers supplied and the information given were not of the highest order.
The honorable member has asked specifically whether any further reasons for the withdrawal have been communicated to me. In point of fact I know nothing, apart from what has appeared in the press. I have had no further communication from the office of the A.C.T.U. or any of its officials. I should expect to receive a communication and hope to have an opportunity at some times to discuss the decision. I do not despair of seeing a revival, at some point of time, of the teamwork in this matter which meant so much to Australia. In the United Kingdom, since 1939, despite the political changes that have taken place, a corresponding body known as the National Joint Advisory Council, comprising representatives of the Government, management and trade unions, as was our body, has functioned successfully. I believe that it was a misguided and retrograde decision to destroy teamwork which had proved of such value up to the present time in Australia and could only have meant work of continuing value to Australia in the future.
– I ask the Prime Minister a question without notice. Has the right honorable gentleman yet had his promised look at the point - described by him as significant - in the question asked by me three months ago? I refer to the Commonwealth’s refusal to accept the same responsibility for the negligent acts of motor drivers in its employ as the State governments have accepted in respect of their own employees, and have compelled the owners of private vehicles to insure against, in respect of those who drive their vehicles?
– I know that the matter has been examined, because it was put in h&nd. I cannot say at present what the result was. I shall endeavour to give the honorable member an answer to his question on Thursday, if possible, but failing that in the very near future.
– My question is directed to the Treasurer. In order to stimulate employment, particularly in the building industry, will the right honorable gentleman make funds available for the building of houses for occupation by members of the defence forces? Has lack of such accommodation in the past been responsible for considerable hardships to members of these forces, and is it not at present responsible for low rates of reengagement and consequent difficulty in retaining skilled and experienced men in the forces? Would not such cottages be suitable for tender by builders who are at present seeking contracts, so that if funds were made available the work could be put in hand virtually without delay, thus affording immediate relief to the building industry and making an immediate contribution to the reasonable comfort of members of the defence forces and the effectiveness of these defence forces themselves, and also, at the same time, helping to relieve the overall housing shortage in Australia?
– The question raised by the honorable member comes within the jurisdiction of my colleague, the Minister for the Army, but I should like to give the honorable member a few facts. I do not want any one to think that this Government has done nothing with regard to the supply of houses for members of the services. Under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement, if my memory serves me correctly, it was stipulated that an allocation of 10 per cent, of the loan money should be made available for dwellings for servicemen. This Government has been actively engaged in the matter, and I have signed many documents in connexion with the acquisition of homes in favorable localities for servicemen. It is not actually a responsibility of the Government to find homes in the way it has done, but the Government has undertaken the responsi bility and a great deal of money has been expended, and in addition large sums have been appropriated. The points raised by the honorable member are, of course, matters of policy that will be taken into consideration, and I am sure will have the attention of my colleague, the responsible Minister for the Army.
– I ask a question without notice of the Minister for Trade. Was the restriction applied to the importation into this country of printed textiles from Japan due to the fact that under the Japanese Trade Agreement such large quantities of these materials were being imported as to endanger the industry and the employment of people in this country? Further, who initiated the action for the restriction of the importation of these particular goods under the agreement, and what success has been achieved to date?
– -No specific action that I can describe has yet occurred in this regard. The industry concerned has a panel that can, through officers of the Department of Trade, be kept aware precisely of the actual level of imports of printed cotton textiles into Australia, and also, on a confidential basis of the forecast of future possible imports as evidenced by import licences taken out. Quite recently, after an investigation by the advisory authority, it was decided that no particular action was required. Since then, officers of the department, and I, myself, on behalf of the Government, have been watching the situation very closely in order to make sure that the Japanese Government is aware of the level of imports and the implications for this particular Australian industry, on the understanding that the Japanese Government will, in the terms of its undertaking under the agreement, take appropriate action. At the moment that is all I am able to say, but 1 think we may soon reach a stage where I may be able to make a more precise statement.
– Has the attention of the Prime Minister been drawn to a disastrous fire that completely destroyed the science building of the University of New England on Sunday morning last, together with a great deal of very valuable equipment and, unfortunately, a great deal of the results of research over the past twenty years? In view of the Government’s most sympathetic reaction to the report of the Murray committee and its recommendation concerning this university, and in view of the fact that this particular disaster - because it is a disaster - could not have been foreseen, I should like to ask the right honorable gentleman whether any request has been made to the Government for special assistance to enable a speedy replacement of buildings and equipment. Also, has the Government had an opportunity of making any decision in this matter so that the work of reclamation and replacement might proceed, and so that the students and staff who have risen to the occasion, but are faced with almost insuperable difficulties, may be able to carry on the important work of expanding science training?
– This morning, I received a letter with regard to this matter from the Chancellor of the University of New England, the right honorable member for Cowper. I need hardly point out to the honorable member for New England that my leisure time since then has not been sufficient to enable the matter to be examined, but it will be examined as soon as possible.
– I direct to the Minister for Supply a question relating to St. Mary’s filling factory and to the Auditor-General’s report on it. It will be remembered that a debate on the factory was held last session. I might add that those honorable members who attended the opening of the factory and saw it in action were very much impressed. I understand that a private firm of what could be termed “ efficiency experts “ was asked to make a comprehensive examination of the whole St. Mary’s project, paying particular attention to those items which had been mentioned by the Auditor-General. Is it a fact that this report is a very favorable one, and will the Minister make a copy available in the Library so that honorable members may read it?
– Yes, it is true that my predecessor arranged with a firm of management and engineering consultants in Sydney for a report on the lines that the honorable member has mentioned. This report has been received. It is most comprehensive, and I shall be quite happy to put a copy of it in the Library.
– I redirect the Prime Minister’s attention to a proposition he stated in answer to a question asked by the honorable member for Reid. The right honorable gentleman said that the housing problem would be solved if private lenders, banks and insurance companies would resume their traditional role of lending for home-building. I ask the Prime Minister whether this is not a completely unrealistic proposition, in view of the fact that the traditional lenders can invest a huge volume of funds to return from two to four times the amount that they can make out of lending for housing, and that this is illustrated by the fact that for five years there was a fall below £170,000,000 in the value of homes under construction - a figure again only recently attained - whilst the value of other building has risen from £90,000,000 to something like £250,000,000. If the Prime Minister’s proposition is completely unrealistic under present conditions will he give consideration to taking some action to ensure that the traditional lenders do come into this field?
– The details involved in the question I did not entirely absorb, and I would be glad to have a look at them and see whether some further answer might be made. It is all very well to urge that some compulsion should be put on people who normally lend money; I frequently wish I knew how.
– Why do you not do something about hire purchase?
– The gentleman from Western Australia says, “ Why do you not do something about hire purchase? “ He overlooks the fact that there are quite a few things I would like to do about hire purchase, but they do not happen to fall within the Commonwealth’s jurisdiction. They happen to fall within State jurisdiction. Therefore, he might, when he goes back to Perth next time, ask my distinguished friend, the Premier of Western Australia, what he is going to do about it; or he might ask Mr. Cahill.
– Surely you are not suggesting it should not be done on a national basis?
– I hesitate to accuse any honorable member of folly, but really! He asks, “ Why do you not treat it on a national basis? “ The answer is perfectly simple: It does not come within our legislative powers, but it does come within the legislative powers of the States. We have on more than one occasion discussed this matter with the State Premiers at Premiers’ conferences. We have directed their attention to it, and asked them to take action, but action has not been taken. Indeed, I remember that one State, which will be nameless, enjoying the benefits of a Labour government, so far from making the position a little more stringent, having been shown how important it was, made it a bit easier. That was New South Wales, was it not?
– Yes. That State made it easier from the point of view of the hirepurchase finance companies, and therefore increased the very competition to which the honorable gentleman now refers with such tearful regret.
Mr. Malcolm Fraser, for the committee appointed to prepare an Address-in-Reply to the Speech of His Excellency the Governor-General (vide page 14), presented the proposed Address which was read by the Clerk.
– I move -
That the following Address-in-Reply to the Speech of His Excellency the Governor-General be agreed to -
May it Please Your Excellency -
We, the House of Representatives of the Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia, in Parliament assembled, desire to express our loyalty to our Most Gracious Sovereign, and to thank Your Excellency for the Speech which you have been pleased to address to Parliament.
His Excellency the Governor-General made reference to the visit to Australia of Her Majesty the Queen Mother, and he spoke of the loyalty which the Australian people are always very willing and eager to show for any member of the Royal Family. We all have, in our hearts, a very warm place for members of the Royal Family, not merely because they are members of the Royal Family, but because of the devotion and dedication which each and every one of that family shows to his or her people, of whom we in Australia are a part. They remind us that there is always something more than the material in this world which is worth living for, and for that I think we should thank them very much indeed.
His Excellency ais:, made reference to the recent visit to this country of the Prime Minister of Great Britain. It is true, as he said, that the practical unity between Australia and the United Kingdom has been strengthened very greatly by this most recent visit, and I sincerely hope that future British Prime Ministers will follow Mr. Macmillan’s example and will at least once, if it is possible, during their five-year term of office, visit various dominions throughout the Commonwealth. I believe this to be especially important at the present time, when the character of the British Commonwealth is changing so very greatly. Mr. Macmillan’s visit will, I believe, have farreaching results and reactions on Commonwealth relations. He impressed Australians by his frankness and friendliness and by the way he spoke on outstanding international problems. He showed a wide understanding of Commonwealth affairs and this is particularly important at the present time, when the membership of the Commonwealth is changing, and when we are coming to the stage where the Commonwealth is not so much British as a membership of nations not owing any hereditary allegiance to the United Kingdom. In this respect Mr. Macmillan made some pertinent remarks regarding India.
There have been in the past some people of importance who have felt that India would be better off outside the Commonwealth and they have had, in large, two reasons for that. The first is that India does not recognize the Crown, and the second is that on many international problems of importance India takes a view which is contrary to ours. I regret India’s decision in respect of the Crown as much as does any other person in this place, but I emphasize that that is her own decision as a selfgoverning nation. It is a decision which only India can make. Secondly, in regard to questions of international affairs, we should remember India’s background, her past, and her very recently acquired status of selfgovernment. We must remember that she is a part of the great land-mass of Asia and that her people are a different colour from ourselves, and have different religions and a completely different history. With this in view, it is very difficult to see how India could, on all international problems of importance, have the same view as ourselves. When I say, “ ourselves “ I mean very largely the United Kingdom and Australia. As opposed to hoping, as some people do, that India will withdraw from the Commonwealth, I believe that these two differences between ourselves and the people of India are reasons for hoping and praying that India will always remain inside the Commonwealth, because of the example that the Commonwealth, by reason of its diverse and friendly membership, can give the world.
At the present time, the British Commonwealth includes people of all colours and all races, and of almost every religion. There are more black people than white in the British Commonwealth. At conferences of Commonwealth Prime Ministers the views of all are advanced, and at this stage in the history of the British Commonwealth I do not believe it necessary or possible for any unified central view to emerge from those conferences. The important thing is that the leaders of the various Commonwealth countries should meet in friendliness, and learn to respect the views of the other members of the Commonwealth. Respect is the important thing. In the United Nations, all too often we see countries putting their views, with one country having no respect for the views of others. By promoting respect for the views of others, the British Commonwealth, with its greatly diverse membership, sets the United Nations a good example. Mr. Macmillan showed, when he was in Australia, that he realized this. Speaking of India’s neutralist views, he said that even if we cannot agree with those views we must at least respect them.
It would serve greatly to increase the understanding between Commonwealth countries if all the dominions in turn were afforded an opportunity to act as host to the Prime Ministers of the other Commonwealth countries. This would be of the greatest service not only to the British Commonwealth but also to the rest of the world.
With more than a little diffidence, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I want to express a few thoughts on international affairs. I say this because I believe that it is difficult to say something useful in this field. Very often in the past too much has been said and too little has been done. Too much has been said purely as propaganda in order to attract the eyes of the uncommitted nations. In international affairs there is a great need for statements made on behalf of all countries to be objective. I realize the immense difficulty that there is in being entirely objective in the making of any statement. All people are governed to some degree by their environment, and this is understandable; but others, of whom there may be some in this House, lean over backwards to be fair to the other side. I should like to explain what I mean by that observation with a short analogy. When T was at the university, a new young tutor was chosen to set the examination in one subject for all the students of the university who were in a certain year. The young tutor was terrified at the thought that the older dons might say that he had set a paper that was specially designed to make it easy for his own students to pass. Therefore, he set a paper containing questions about aspects of the course on which he had not coached his own pupils. There was not one question it it that his own students could answer. That is what I call leaning over backwards to be fair to the other side.
It may be wrong to be governed too much by environment when one is trying to be objective in discussing major problems, but it is a betrayal of trust to go too far towards the other extreme. The tutor whom I have mentioned betrayed his students. Any politician or statesman who acts similarly in major political matters betrays his own people and his own background.
Recent exchanges between some of the major powers have indicated the harm that lies in playing to an audience in important international exchanges. Playing to an audience makes it impossible to be objective, because, in public exchanges, statesmen are always thinking of the uncommitted nations, and trying to attract them a little more to their side, or at least a little further away from the opposing side.
The Polish proposal to denuclearize - to use another new word that modern science has given us - certain European countries is an illustration of the kind of international exchange of which I have been talking. It means nothing, because, as the Russians themselves have indicated, they have rockets that can hit a target anywhere. A narrow belt of countries free of nuclear weapons means nothing, because the inter-continental ballistic missiles that are now a reality can readily pass over it. On the other hand, the United States proposal to use outer space only for peaceful purposes is fraught with great difficulties, chief among which is the problem of definition. What is outer space? Where does it begin? Do only Sputniks and other earth satellites travel in outer space, or do rockets with a range of 1,500 miles and inter-continental ballistic missiles also use outer space? I am not a scientist, but I would think that these weapons use, and have been using, outer space. If this is so, much more is involved than the question of what we are to do with Sputniks and other earth satellites, and whether they are to be used for peaceful purposes alone. If any useful purpose is to be served, negotiations between the great powers must be conducted behind closed doors and an announcement made only after success or failure has been recorded. Fear may play a much larger part in negotiations in the present international situation than any of us would like to think, or would admit. The extent of its influence depends on the character and courage of international leaders, and it is impossible to gauge, because no world leader could ever admit to fear. Nevertheless, it is a very real emotion, and I am sure that it exists among international leaders. We have the basic fear of militant or subversive Russian communism. Traditionally, Russia has had a fear of the West. This, even at the present time of Russia’s occupation of eastern European countries, in addition to being based on the Communist philosophy, could be motivated by Russia’s very great fear of a revival of a united Germany, which could dominate Europe as firmly and vigorously as Germany has done in the past.
I believe that fear enters greatly into negotiations over disarmament. There is the fear that an agreement would not be kept, because it could not be adequately supervised or enforced. At present, we have the protection of our own known strength and deterrents. These are known. But after an agreement following negotiation, which must be a clear and plain objective, there would be many things that were not known and were perhaps a matter of value judgment or of opinion. For this reason, it will take great courage to sign an agreement with the Communist powers. These fears are legitimate, because the position of the world would be infinitely worse if an agreement were signed, and then proved to be a failure. The signing of an agreement on disarmament will take great courage also because an agreement cannot be based entirely on fact. Many fears arise from ignorance, and these can be destroyed by research into fact and by knowledge. But other fears arise because value judgments or matters of opinion are involved, and these things can never be absolute or certain. Here the human element constituted by the strength, the character, the integrity, and the determination of national leaders becomes of supreme importance. Any agreement with the Soviet Union will be based almost wholly on fact, but there will be an element of opinion or value judgment in it, and on this element the fate of the world may well hang.
I should like to deal briefly now with domestic matters. I was very glad to see the emphasis in the GovernorGeneral’s Speech on the real understanding of the nation’s problems which this Government has shown, and will continue to show, in dealing with the difficulties and the growing pains of Australia’s development. The Governor-General’s Speech envisages a vigorous legislative programme, which will include legislation dealing with the development of Western Australia, rail standardization, immigration, conciliation and arbitration and universities. I would like to say a few words about two of those matters. An amount of £2,500,000 is to be granted to Western Australia to help that State develop its northern areas. This is an extension of a policy that has been followed in the past by this Government, which has aimed at a balanced development of the whole of Australia. It is of no use to have a densely populated and highly industrialized corner in south-eastern Australia if other areas are left completely neglected. Sometimes those in the eastern States find it difficult to understand why contributions must be made towards the development of remote areas of Australia. I believe that instead of grumbling about what is done in this way, we should take pride in the fact that we are contributing so much towards the development of remote areas of Australia, while at the same time developing our own States.
I should like also to say a few words about universities. I am very glad to find that legislation will be brought down to give effect to the recommendations contained in the report of the Murray committee. This is a major step forward in higher education in Australia. But there is one warning that I should like to give to this House. Perhaps it will be said that I am old-fashioned. We have heard a great deal - very largely from scientists - of our great need for more scientists. We have been told of the competition that Russia is giving us in this sphere. We have been told what Russian scientists are paid. We have been told of the great achievements of the Russian scientists in the fields of satellites and intercontinental ballistic missiles. Competition between the Great Powers has extended into the scientific field, and the unhappy aspect of the situation is that the competition is not so much in the sciences that benefit mankind, such as medicine, as in the sciences of destruction. I sincerely hope that when the university authorities in the various States receive their shares of the additional finance that will be made available, they will not concentrate their activities entirely in the scientific field. We must remember the important study of the art of learning to live together. This is not a science but a study and an art. Many of the world’s major problems have arisen in recent years because our scientific knowledge of methods of destruction has completely outrun our knowledge of the art of living and of how to get along together. I believe that the universities can play a major part in correcting this unbalance.
I hope, too, that the study of the humanities - again an old-fashioned term and an old-fashioned subject - will be encouraged. I refer now to studies of the philosophies and of ways of living that can add richness to our lives. A satellite moving around the skies does nothing towards adding one jot to the sum of human happiness, but studies of ways of living can add very greatly to that sum. The only real purpose of life is human happiness.
I take great pride in supporting the Government that has presented dynamic and enduring policies to the people of Australia over a great number of years. It has been said of other governments that after three or four years they have lost their initiative and drive and have become stagnant, and that then the pendulum has swung and the Opposition has come to power. This Government, however, has never for one moment lost its drive and initiative. We have now a health scheme far wider than any we ever had before, a voluntary scheme covering more than 60 per cent, of our population. Social services have been extended in many directions. We have a record of industrial peace unparalleled in Australian history. The standard of living of our people is steadily rising. Employment has remained at a high level throughout the period of office of this Government. The level of employment compares more than favorably with that of any other country in the world. We have seen unsurpassed industrial and agricultural development, promoted very largely by this Government.
I have spoken of the achievements of the past, but there are many proposals for the future. Two or three of them I have already mentioned. The banking legislation will again be introduced, including that section of it which provides for the establishment of the new Development Bank. Legislation will also be presented with regard to universities, immigration, conciliation and arbitration and rail standardization. These are matters that many other governments have talked about, but about which this Government is doing something. Legislation will also be introduced concerning the development of Western Australia. It is with great pleasure, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that I commend to this House the Speech of His Excellency the GovernorGeneral.
.- I am honoured to be chosen to second the motion. We will, at a later stage, cast our votes on the motion for the adoption of an Address-in-Reply expressing our real sentiments and our traditional and unalterable loyalty to the throne and to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. The Address-in-Reply is the traditional way of expressing the deepest sentiments in the heart of all true Australians.
We have been honoured by having three royal visits to Australia within a very few years. First, we had the unprecedented honour of the visit of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. and the Duke of Edinburgh in 1954. Then we had the visit of the Duke of Edinburgh in 1956, when he opened the Olympic Games, and now in 1958 we have a visit from the Queen Mother, a gracious and charming person, who renews in us the lustre and splendour of our faith in and loyalty to the throne and all the royal family.
The Speech of the Governor-General is an assurance to the people of Australia that Her Majesty’s Australian Government will continue courageously and unfalteringly to focus its attention on national security and national development. This nation, unlike the other countries of the western world, has had, through a two-fold policy, to stretch and strain every muscle to make itself strong and secure, and I am proud to say that it is succeeding in doing just this. Australia has, on the one hand, had to build up and maintain armed services as her contribution to the western world against possible aggression. On the other hand, she has had to increase her population in order to build up internal strength. This has been accomplished with the help of an immigration policy unparalleled in Australian history. The credit for this belongs not only to the present Government, which has pursued a vigorous immigration policy during its eight years in office, but also in part to the government that preceded it.
Never before has there been such a period in Australian history as that which we have seen during the last ten years, in which a continuous stream of immigrants has come to this country to enjoy our opportunities and to share our responsibilities. In ten years this continuous stream of immigrants has added more than 1,000,000 citizens to our population, while the increased fertility of Australian families has increased our native-born population by another 1,000,000. In ten years our population has grown from about 7,500,000 to more than 9,500,000, and it is now rapidly approaching the 10,000,000 mark. This increase of our population is of the profoundest significance to the wealth and prosperity of the nation. It is, further, of vital significance and basic importance to our capacity as freedomloving Australians to hold our heritage, this country of 3,000,000 square miles in peace and concord. Yet to-day many purblind critics are trying to destroy our faith in immigration. They are seeking to create disunity and discord in a policy that has been accepted by all Australians for the past ten years or more. Why destroy faith in such a vital policy? Must we allow ourselves to be spoiled by success when we are reaching real heights and developing real national strength and capacity to defend ourselves against aggression? I deplore the criticism and congratulate the Government on re-affirming our faith in a continuing vigorous immigration policy.
We have attracted to this country not only large numbers of people but also vast amounts of capital - capital needed to provide equipment, work places and homes for the tremendous growth of nearly 30 per cent, in our population during this fabulous decade. These are the facts. Despite any demerits in our national policy, the total inflow of overseas capital into this country during the past ten years has been in the vicinity of £1,000.000,000. Best of all, not less than £700,000,000, or 70 per cent, of that vast sum, has been private capital inflow and only £300,000,000 has been on government account. This is evidence of a vast surging growth of private capital development overshadowing anything ever attained in our history. So, both our human wealth and our material wealth are growing at a gigantic pace.
Having gained this great wealth, and the additional wealth we have in this country, we must protect it against economic deterioration. In seconding the motion for the adoption of the Address-in-Reply. I feel it fitting to emphasize the weight which the Government attaches to the battle against what is commonly called inflation. In very truth and in its simplest terms, that battle is a fight to uphold the age-old principle that a nation must live within its means or eventually lapse into bankruptcy - the bankruptcy of chaos. That is just as true of national affairs as it is of individual affairs. With an admirable sense of responsibility, the Government has chosen the unpopular path of prudence and has set reasoned limits to credit expansion so that stable progress may be maintained. At the recent meeting of the Australian Loan Council, and elsewhere in recent months, the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) and the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) have been at great pains to silence the Jeremiahs and the prophets of doom who are prepared to use any text to justify a spendthrift policy.
Certainly there are problems. There always will be, but they will not be solved by the apostles of panic whose only method of reviving minor business fluctuations is to advocate a shot-in-the-arm credit injection of such magnitude as would restart the whole inflationary spiral. This country cannot afford any more inflation. Internal price rises have slowed down. They have not only slowed down, but, indeed, have been brought to an end, surely and positively. Any further rise in internal costs will smother most of our food exporting industries and destroy the economic stability of all Australian industries. Large sections of rural industry cannot be allowed to languish, without spreading the languor, and worse, slowly but surely through all industry like creeping paralysis.
Too much credit is to-day a graver danger to Australia than is too little. There is no reason why we should have either too much or too little. The golden rule for the present is to follow a middle course and at all costs to achieve price stability, and, having achieved it, to hold on to it as the very lifeline of our prosperity. I repeat that we cannot afford to indulge in more inflation. That is the easy road to economic hell and has been throughout history. It may take courage; it may take restraint but it is wisdom to exalt stability as our supreme goal, for it is the essential foundation upon which our future progress and stability must rest. Lavish credit expansion is overspending and is living beyond our means. It causes inflation of costs and prices. It is therefore regressive and destructive of the very basis of prosperity and development. Some persons with the minds of Machiavelli say, “ Let inflation go on until it bursts and then it will come down to earth and find its own level “. That level will not be the level of stability but the dead level of depression, misery and unemployment.
Why should we, who are sent here faithfully to serve and lead our electorates, let our mentality fall to the level of the Chinese youth who obtained roast pig by burning down the pighouse with the pig inside. The disguised inflationists - they are in all walks of life - are nothing better than windfall profiteers preying on the slow destruction of the country and its basic industries. Either that, or they are manufacturers of roast pig, Chinese fashion. No apology is needed for forthright words on this subject to-day. Too many persons are either misguided, selfish, uninformed or lacking in judgment. They have lost sight of realities and are popularizing the catchcry that inflation is the only way of life and that we must have a little bit of inflation all the time; it is the safe way of life - like the young lady of great prudence who always wanted to be just a little bit pregnant. That may be a bad joke, but so is inflation and so, too, is overzealous expansionism. They represent the easy way to national ruin, and if it takes courage to say so and to act prudently, then let us have prudence and courage.
The Government has seen signs of malaise overseas and has refused to be stampeded by the agitation of scaremongers. It has said that now is the time to consolidate all our gains of the past ten years of unparalleled prosperity. Let us hold what we have won and build further on a solid foundation. Let us not inject financial air into the Australian sphere lest it blow up like a balloon, for balloons will burst. Above all, now is the time to give all our basic primary industries a chance to hold their overseas markets and to sustain and expand production so that they can meet the fiercer competition that they are experiencing in overseas markets. Would we neglect them at our peril? I have every faith that, given internal stability, with no further rises in costs, both our primary and secondary industries will justify the high faith placed in their competitive capacity.
.- This debate has been opened so expeditiously by the Government in an effort to take advantage of circumstances that exist throughout the country at this period. But that fact will not cause members of the Opposition any discomfiture or prevent us from raising in the Parliament issues that are vitally affecting the people. His Excellency’s speech is pregnant with a distinct party political flavour having regard to the by-election that is to take place in the Parramatta electoral division on 8th March. This Parliament is to be closed down within the next 48 hours until after that by-election so as to silence the Opposition and prevent it from acquainting the people of its approach to the major issues which are facing Australia to-day.
Members of the Opposition join in extending a warm and heartfelt welcome to the Queen Mother on the occasion of her visit to Australia. The Australian Labour Party, above all parties, recognizes the important ingredient represented by the monarchy in the maintenance of our democratic way of life in the British Empire. We recall that the Queen Mother visited this very Parliament 31 years ago. Now, in making a second visit, Her Majesty has paid a distinct compliment to the Australian people. Members of the Opposition join in acknowledging that compliment and we trust that, as a result of the Queen Mother’s visit, Her Majesty will have lasting happy memories of her re-assocation with this great country. We wish her well and we trust that her future will be one of continued happiness and great pleasure.
So far in this debate, Government members have spoken about all manner of things - “ cabbages and kings “ as it were - without touching upon the real issues facing the Australian people. The major matters of concern in this country to-day are bread and butter issues - matters of vital domestic concern. They affect the right of men to work, the right of families to eat, the right of people to be housed and the right of people with insufficient economic return for their efforts to secure adequate social service payments. We, of the Opposition, are concerned about those major issues. We are concerned also about the broader questions of development in this country and a defence policy that is real and not ambiguous - one from which we will receive an adequate return for expenditure from the public purse and not a hollow-conditioned defence, such as this Government, after seven years of administration, has handed to this country.
Australia is in a most vulnerable position - an absurd position from a defence point of view. After the expenditure of £1,200,000,000 of the taxpayers’ money, we have an army of 24,000, of whom 13,000 are of ranks above that of corporal. That is an absurd position; it does not indicate that this country is in any way prepared to meet any situation which, due to international pressures, may develop overnight, but which we hope will never develop.
Another important aspect of the total failure of this Government which its supporters have not touched upon in their speeches, and which subsequent speakers will undoubtedly shy clear of as this debate develops is that of international relations. This Government has not exercised the power available to it through its diplomatic channels to build up friendship with the Asian peoples. The Government has followed a policy of negation. It has flatly contradicted the policy of Great Britain in respect of the Asian peoples, and we have much to do to make up that leeway. On this matter, the Australian people are very much concerned about our relations with our neighbours who in their teeming millions occupy the lands to the north of Australia. We should establish proper relations with those great nations. This is a matter which extends far beyond the consideration of pounds, shillings and pence, as measured by trade. It goes much deeper, but a proper policy is not being fostered or developed by the Government.
However, on Labour’s ascension to power later this year these conditions will be corrected. A Labour government will bring about a balanced international policy. As this debate proceeds these big issues will be developed and traversed in more detail and there will be no room for any carping critic to level any accusation against the Labour party’s proposals in respect of these great problems which are not merely domestic matters.
Reverting to the Speech of His Excellency which was delivered in another place to-day, I wish to quote from passages that relate to unemployment. The Speech stated -
There has been some increase in unemployment. . . .
What a breakdown that is - “ some increase!” Only a few days ago the press of this country, when referring to the figures released by the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Harold Holt) said that unemployment in Australia had soared to a level higher than had ever been reached during the last five years. The Speech continued -
That has been the parrot cry of the Minister for Labour and National Service in this House and elsewhere. The unemployment which has increased from month to month has gravely concerned every man in the work force of this nation, every businessman, every farmer, and every producer of any commodity. These people have been as vitally concerned as the trade unionist - the man who is dependent upon his hands to earn his Hying. They have been concerned that this drift has been going on. Members of the Opposition do not accept, in any circumstances, the statement that growing unemployment has been caused by less favorable seasonal conditions. Nor do we accept the suggestion that it is attributable to the drought. The present unemployment has developed as a result of the economic administration of the Government. It is the sort of development that is .inherent in capitalism. . I have seen it ever since I was a boy. These conditions have prevailed in varying degree in every place where capitalism has been in control. The Governor-General’s Speech continues -
It still represents a relatively small proportion of our total work force.
That statement is made as though it does not matter that 75,000 people are registered throughout Australia as unemployed, according to Government figures. The Government does not seem to worry that some 30,000 of those people., next Sunday, will enjoy their dinner off the dole. The attitude of the Government as represented by that statement in the Governor-General’s Speech, is utterly contemptuous of these people. The attitude of the Australian Labour party is that if one man, woman or child is able to work and cannot obtain employment, that fact is an indictment of the Government and its policy. It is not a matter simply of referring to statistics, as the Minister does, of suggesting that there is no need for anxiety or of stating that the Government will approach the situation with great calm and careful scrutiny and will watch k carefully. The. Government has been watching the position carefully for the last twelve months - indeed, for the last five years - but it has done nothing about it. The drift has been going on month by month and year by year and the unemployment figures have been steadily increasing.
The great steel industry of Australia is centred in my electorate. Capital exceeding £150,000,000 has been invested in that industry, yet to-day 1,100 people in Wollongong are registered as unemployed. We have something like 600 of them on the dole. They come into my office day by day seeking work - good types of young Australian manhood, good types of immigrants who have been struck off the pay-roll in one part of Australia or another. They include men who have drifted down from Mount Isa by way of the sugar industry, men from the mines in Central Australia and Western Australia who are now seeking work in the mecca of the great steel industry. We ought to be absorbing them in that industry. The capital investment is there, the means of production are there, to enable them to be employed. Yet we will have lines of unemployed outside the gates of the steel-works at Port Kembla to-morrow morning, the morning after and every morning for the next twelve months for all that the Government will do - lines of men seeking to sell their labour. While all this is going on we are confronted with the inertia of the Government, its failure to take action to meet this great problem.
I challenge members of the Government to put before this House, as the debate proceeds, tangible evidence of what they have done in the last five years to correct this iniquitous situation which, I claim, should never exist in this great country. We have ample opportunities, we have ample needs, crying needs, wherever we look, for great developmental works. We have the men, we have the skill, we have the materials in abundance. The ingredient that is missing is the ingredient of finance - and the control of finance is vested in the Government opposite. We only need a proper, intelligent use of the financial powers of the government .of the day in order to correct the unemployment position overnight. Such a position would never develop under a Labour government The Labour government had a policy pf full employment, and this Government gained office by deluding the people in 1949 with its published statements that it would maintain full employment, lt has failed utterly to do so. The Government has no intention of maintaining full employment. Unemployment is the economic whip that the Government and its supporters think is necessary to keep people down, to make them accept sub-standard conditions, to break down industrial activities among the workers, in order that more profits may be made and in order that the workers, as a body, will remain subservient to their masters at all times. So the Government deliberately and callously told the people something that is now exposed as complete and utter falsehood.
There is no question about the remedy for the present situation. When I was a boy unemployment was inherent in this country’s economy. It was accepted as a normal condition. It was no abnormality for a number of people to be out of work. But it is an abnormality to-day. The great mass of our people are far more mentally alert than were people twenty years ago. They are not prepared to accept a subservient and depraved condition caused by periods of unemployment, whether due to an odd drought or two or to some seasonal development. I say in this House, as I said to the sugar industry in Queensland, that the time is long overdue in that industry for a guaranteed wage to be paid to every person who contributes to its profits. The fact is that employment should be at all times, under all circumstances, available to every man and woman who needs it.
– That is the policy of full employment.
– Yes, it is the policy of the Labour party, and under our great leader, Ben Chifley, we had reached a golden era in this country. But that has passed into the limbo of the past. We are now approaching a condition which, for many people, is tantamount to servitude. It would not take any great effort of imagination on the part of this Government, if it had the will and the kidney to do it, to correct the weaknesses that have developed in our economy. Yet at this time of serious unemployment we have the Government bringing in 150,000 or so people from overseas every year, and not providing for them after they arrive. The result is that we now have in the industrial field in our larger cities great numbers of immigrants from Britain and Europe competing with Australians for the right to earn a living.
These are facts, and not statements about an imaginary position. If any honorable member for Boolamakanka or anywhere else does not understand the simple facts of the matter all he has to do is to go to Port Kembla, or Newcastle, or the industrial areas of Sydney, where he will see men queuing up and being denied work. That is happening to thousands of people every day.
– What about the bananagrowers?
– The banana-growers are not happy in the present situation, either. They have been squeezed by the financial policy of the Government. They have been forced to buy tractors and other machines through hire-purchase companies instead of through legitimate banking channels, because of the restriction of credit. They are being driven into the dirt by their own representatives in this Parliament, who are linking themselves with the reactionary government of the day.
These things are important to the people of Australia. They are the things about which we are concerned, and it is no wonder that some of the great newspapers of this country have recently flogged the government for its inertia in respect of this important issue. This matter is important to those who control the press, not because they are worried about the fact that 75,000 people are on the dole, but because the falling off in demand has reduced the profits of their advertisers through decreases in sales compared with six months or two years ago. I know business people in Wollongong who are concerned with the slump in retail trade - and my electorate is not the worst hit by a long stretch in regard to unemployment because, as I have said, we have £150.000,000 invested in the steel industry there. If there is any part of Australia in which every man and woman should be employed, it is the south coast of New South Wales, with its great steel industry.
The latest official figures show that there are 74,765 people in Australia who have reported themselves out of work. The “Sydney Morning Herald” of 20th February, had this to say about that position -
The ranks of the unemployed, as measured by the 74,763 reporting themselves as out of work to the Government bureaus at the end of January, are fully comparable with the extreme trough of the 1952-53 recession. And still we have had no word that the Government proposes to do anything about checking the drift . . . Here we are with mid-February behind us and with the news of a record monthly leap in the unemployment figures, but still not a word as to what the Cabinet’s findings were.
These are not my words. They are the words of a great press organ of this country, which normally heaps encomiums on the present Government. The “ Sydney Morning Herald “ cannot be said to be sympathetic to the views that the trade union movement and great sections of the people have expressed on this issue.
In the Speech with which the session was opened to-day, the Government carefully avoided mentioning housing. Any one would think, after hearing about the Government’s intentions and policy as outlined this afternoon that there was nobody now domiciled in a hostel or a tent, but there are thousands living under such conditions, and that fact alone is an indictment of the Government if ever there was one. Every married man should have a home; without it there can be no proper family life. A home is the very basis, the fundamental of every person’s ambition. I ask any person who to-night is going to a warm, snug home to think where he would be if, through some change of circumstances, he lost his security and had to live for the next year or so in a tent on some isolated beach. I challenge people who do not realize the circumstances in which some people in this country have to live to go to some of the camping reserves not far distant from here where they will find people who are forced to live in tents, and in circumstances in which nobody in Australia should be asked to live. Only a tew weeks ago, I visited the Berkeley hostel in my electorate and met a group of immigrants from the British Isles. One woman with six children, who had been living in a hostel for three and a half years, said that she had come to this country, as any normal Britisher would come, in order to find a better way of life for herself, her husband and her family. The basis of that way of life is the right to a home, but she has been denied a home and she is only one of hundreds. Thesepeople have sold their homes and their possessions in Great Britain to come to Australia. Yet they have been forced intothe circumstances that I have described and have been completely discarded by the Government! Those circumstances need tobe looked at. Whether the Government has cognizance of them or not, thousands of people are looking hard at the position.
Sitting suspended from 5.56 to 8 p.m.
– This afternoon, I. submitted initially the case of the Opposition! as an indictment of this craven Government which has long since lost the confidence of the great mass of the Australian people. I repeat now my assertion that the Government has turned its back upon the immigrants who have been brought toAustralia and, in particular, upon the British immigrants. The Government hasdenied great numbers of British and other immigrants their dearest wish - the possession of a home. That has been denied tothousands of Australians as well. While the Government has pursued its policies, there has been no opportunity for thousandsof persons in Australia to get a home, and they can see no chance of getting a home in, the future. The entire economic policy of” the Government must be changed. We need a different mental approach to this problem. As that cannot be expected from thisGovernment, the only hope for many Australians and immigrants lies in thereturn to office of a Labour government.
The proportion of British immigrants - coming to Australia is dangerously low. Official figures show that the proportion of British immigrants has fallen below 40 per cent. It might be as low as 30 per cent.,, but the important fact is that the position in this respect has deteriorated. That does not auger well for the future development of Australia. We are British in character and in outlook, and we must maintain that tradition. The Government’s immigrationpolicy requires an immediate overhaul. There is an urgent need for the review of many other aspects of national life but, in the face of that need, the Government’ proposes to close down the Parliamentneedlessly. We are being denied the right to express our views on great national issuesduring the next few weeks. The reason is obvious. On 8th March, the by-election for the Parramatta electorate will be held and this Government hopes to usher into this House another supporter while the electors of Parramatta will be denied the facts. I am sure that the figures cast at the poll in that by-election will indicate what the people are thinking.
It is indicative of the muddling policy of the Government on migration that it is denying to relatives and friends of many Europeans admission to this country. We believe that immigration should be based on family units. Employment is being denied to immigrants from the United Kingdom and other countries and to the ordinary Australian citizen. At least 150,000 persons are unemployed in Australia. Of thai total, at least 30,000 are living on the dole. The position is iniquitous and must disturb anybody who has the welfare of Australia at heart. The present position has been created by this Government. Its policy has brought about a set of circumstances which can be described only as a crime against the people. We have ample opportunities in Australia for every man and woman and every child above school-leaving age who can work to engage in a productive occupation. That is the essence of our future.
There is no excuse for the present situation. The test of the Government’s policy is whether there are people in the community who want work and can work but cannot get employment through no fault of their own. Applying that test to this Government’s policy, we find that it has failed lamentably. This Government wants to create a pool of unemployed and to maintain such a pool. The impact of its policy is directed against the interests of the average worker.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– In addressing the House on the Address-in-Reply, I should like to direct my attention to those statements in the Governor-General’s Speech which relate to the economic and financial policies of the Government and to what might be called the economic state of the nation. In particular, I should like to address myself to what might be regarded as the two main issues that have been raised by the Opposition, both at question time to-day and this evening. Honorable members opposite regard these as the critical political issues that are facing Australia. Before I do that, and before I touch upon the issues themselves, might I state to the House what I consider is the objective or policy of the Commonwealth Government. I believe that I can state that objective or policy clearly in a few words. It is to maintain a healthy economy in which we can expect that all our resources will be fully employed, and in which we can hope for expanding avenues of employment in the future.
The means by which the Government hopes to achieve that policy are expounded from time to time as the Government finds it desirable or necessary to take action. The point I wish to make to the House is this: It is our objective to maintain a healthy economy because we know that if we keep the economy healthy, there will be expanding avenues for the employment of our resources, both human and material. We have never argued, as a government, that we can completely even out the ups and downs. What we can argue, not only forcefully but also conclusively, is that we have had few downs during the time the Menzies Government has been in office. On the contrary, during most of the period that we have been in office, there has been overfull employment and excess demand. Only on two occasions has there been slight unemployment, and again we can say that to-day the position may be characterized as a period temporarily of some unemployment. We should put the problem in that general context. We have not argued that we can perform miracles but we have said - and we will argue this and prove our case - that no other government has done as well as the Menzies Government in terms of increasing prosperity and opportunities for employment. As part of increasing prosperity, it has sustained a full level of employment in the Australian economy. That, Mr. Speaker, is the proposition that I want to put to the House. Unless the whole of the debate is couched against that background of an economy in movement, we are in danger of misunderstanding the position completely.
May I turn now to those paragraphs of the Governor-General’s Speech that have been highlighted by the Opposition. First, I would turn to the problem of unemployment and then to the problem of housing. Subsequently, I should like to put to the House a proposition that was put this afternoon by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) in reply to a question, because I think that unless this proposition is understood and appreciated there is a grave danger that our critics might create a position that the Australian Labour party would like to see created for its own political purposes. It is perfectly true that there is some unemployment, but the best description of the situation is this: We are a little below the point of balance but within a tolerable distance of it. Most sane and sensible members of the community would agree that that description fits the case perfectly. But there are several aspects of the employment situation upon which 1 should like to touch.
The honorable member for Cunningham (Mr. Kearney), who has just resumed his seat, attempted to create an impression that because we have a certain number of persons registered for employment the implication, necessarily, is that twice as many persons are unemployed. That is a fantastic argument and I do not believe that the honorable member can find any evidence to support it. In fact, the technical experts will argue that if a census were taken of the applicants for employment, it would probably show that the real level of unemployment was somewhere between the number of applicants for employment and the number of those who are receiving unemployment benefits. Accepting that as the position, if the technical experts were to be believed the actual level of employment would be substantially lower than the figure disclosed by registrations for unemployment. Leaving that aside for the moment, the Government is prepared to accept the figures presented by the Government Statistician as realistic. This means the Government is unable to accept the argument of the honorable member for Cunningham who opened the debate for the Opposition.
A considerable amount of this unemployment is seasonal, and is due to dry conditions. For example, some people who do work of a seasonal nature, such as fruitpickers, were unable to find employment.
Another aspect of the problem deserves mention. If one takes the employment figures, the number of jobs vacant, and the figures relating to those in receipt of unemployment benefit a substantially different conclusion may be reached from that reached by the Opposition. As the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Harold Holt) has pointed out, the number of unfilled vacancies has increased to 16,000. During the period between 24th December and 31st December the number increased by 1,594. The number of people in receipt of unemployment benefits during the week from 18th January to 25th January fell quite substantially by 1,017 males - the total figure, including females, was 1,076. A perusal of the figures relating to the larger private factories regularly surveyed by the department reveals that employment increased by 4,036 during January, compared with a decrease of 717 in December and an increase of 897 in January, 1957.
What do these figures indicate? They show that there is an increasing level of employment in Australia, and that the number of people receiving unemployment benefit is decreasing. The conclusion to be drawn is that the picture is not all black. The economic picture cannot be painted wholly in black or wholly in white. What does emerge is this: To those people at present in employment, numbering about 4,000,000, the Government says that they can con.fidenently expect to retain their jobs. In addition, the number of jobs available in the future can be expected to increase. The real problem is for the Government and the private sector to increase the number of jobs to meet the needs of the increased population and increased work force, both natural born and immigrants. The important point is that those now in employment can expect to retain their jobs, and the Government expects that employment will increase in the future. The problem is how quickly can the Government and private employers increase the number of people in employment and create additional employment opportunities. That is an immensely important matter, and one that the Opposition, if it has any decency, will quickly recognize.
I turn now to the subject of housing, which has already been mentioned this afternoon by the Prime Minister. If we look at the figures I am sure we must come to one conclusion, which I shall put in the form of a proposition: The Government thinks that the number of houses now being provided is certainly sufficient to cater for the increase in population. What we must think of is how quickly are we eliminating the back lag. As the Prime Minister said this morning, the back lag is being reduced, in the Government’s view, fairly quickly.
Another important aspect of this matter is that at least we are getting stability in costs, even getting a reduction in the cost of private homes. Better quality homes are being built at lower prices. This is an objective the Government has consistently sought to achieve. We have to choose between an increased number of homes of probably lower quality and higher prices, or a reasonable number of homes of better quality at lower prices. My personal conviction is that in this respect the Government has done an outstandingly good job, and, for my part, costs are important for many reasons.
– What utter rubbish!
– The honorable member for Herbert will giggle at anything, even his own leader. 1 have frequently seen him giggle at his leader behind his back.
The Prime Minister pointed out this morning that to a considerable extent the problem of housing is a State responsibility. Nevertheless, the Government is providing large sums of money. I think the sum mentioned was more than £70,000,000. The Prime Minister stated that as a result of the recent Loan Council meeting the New South Wales Government has provided an additional £1,000,000. the Victorian Government an additional £400,000, and the South Australian Government an additional £368,000 for housing. In addition, all the major lending institutions, whether they be banks or private lending institutions, are lending at a rate at least as high as last year. So the Opposition is not justified in claiming that the situation is wholly black. There are good signs, and if the good signs are looked at, sensible people will give the Government credit for its achievements.
May I now turn to the economy as a whole? Most thoughtful people realize that demand has not increased as substantially as we would have wished it to increase to meet the needs of our growing population, first, because of the dry conditions internally, and. secondly, because of factors beyond our control - the fall in commodity prices overseas, particularly all agricultural products, and the difficulties of other countries due to their balance of payments problems and the fact that they cannot buy as freely as they would like. Most of these matters are outside the control of the Government. In the 1930’s - the Labour party is still living in the 1930’s - it would have been difficult to control the economy and keep it at a balance as level as it is to-day. But since then we have learnt a lot in terms of control by means of credit and finance, budget policy, and special measures by the Government and by various departments, so much so that it is not an exaggeration to claim that those who look at this problem objectively will be compelled to admit that it is almost unbelievable that the Government could have sustained the economy in such a healthy state under such very difficult conditions.
What has the Government done? The Government has stated that this problem of employment is a marginal one, and consequently it has taken and is prepared to take marginal action. The Government has stated that the greatest amount of unemployment is in New South Wales and Queensland, and is centred to a large extent in the rural areas. That is understandable when we realize that, because of the dry conditions and the fall in prices overseas, the rural section of the economy will be the first to show any fall in income. The Loan Council has said that £3,000,000 can be allotted for local government and semigovernment purposes, and it was confidently hoped that most of that money would be spent in the rural areas where manual labour could be taken up - the kind of labour that is more available. So there was action, selective action, taken by the Government to overcome a particular problem in particular areas. Secondly, it made £5,000,000 available out of its own cash funds to the State governments to permit them to carry on their activities. As the Prime Minister said, the Government did urge that a considerable amount of this money be made available for housing, and much has in fact been done. Therefore, Sir, you see that the Government is prepared not only to look at the problem from day to day, but also to take anticipatory action when it can, and when that is not practicable it will quickly take remedial action to overcome any problems that may emerge.
I am not one of those who feel that this is the end of it. We know it is not the end of it. We have already taken some action. There will be other opportunities for taking action should it be felt that the necessity has arisen, or should be anticipated. We shall have another Loan Council meeting in May of this year. Our budget will be brought down fairly early, and if any difficulties appear to be emerging action can be taken to chop them off. Sir, you will see that this Government is not taking action today in the thought that that is the end of the matter. It will take any other action that is considered to be necessary or wise to maintain the economy in a healthy state.
Now, may we just look at the bright features of the economy? I personally am of the opinion that as expenditure is increasing while prices are falling slowly, an increase in demand is indicated, and that therefore there can be real expectation of good future prospects. Let me for just a few moments examine some aspects of the economy. First, government spending will increase by £108.000,000 this year, and a great quantity of that will be concentrated in the second half of the year, because the State governments have not been spending as much as they should have been spending during the first six months of the financial year. Secondly, consumer demand is increasing. The last statistics we have- those for the September quarter - show that retail sales rose by a little over 6 per cent. Indeed, sales of items such as television sets and motor cars, rose quite spectacularly. This improvement is evident also in other sections of the economy. In terms of production we find that a healthy trend exists in the economy and there is no reason whatsoever why we should feel any grave misgivings.
The Government will look at this problem whenever it is necessary to do so. I am glad to see my colleague the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Harold Holt) in the House, because no one is more sensitive than he and the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) are to the problems of full employment and housing. I am glad to see the Minister here, because he. too, will testify later, not only to what action the Government has taken but to what action it can take in the future. We have reason for confidence. If the members of the Opposition want to create unemployment, let them destroy the essential condition of full employment, and that is the confidence of the community that the economy can be kept healthy.
– Why do you not face up to the problem?
– We have faced up to it. We have every reason to think that there are grounds for confidence in the future. If it is necessary to take anticipatory or remedial action, we shall take it. I have pointed out certain factors to you, Sir, and I would like to sum them up in this way: First, as a generalization, those in employment can be assured that their employment will be retained. Secondly, the increasing population can be assured that it will receive homes, and that the backlog of homes is steadily being wiped out. Thirdly, there are many bright features in the economy. I am sure that the Australian manufacturer does not want the members of the Opposition to be crying “ wolf “ and saying that there might be unemployment and disaster, because he knows only too well that the basis of success is confidence in the future of this country. Whilst the Labour Opposition lacks that confidence - it always has lacked that confidence - this Government will sustain it. We give our pledge not only that we will sustain confidence, but also that Australia can look forward to continuing prosperity and, I am certain, increasing avenues of employment.
– We have heard a rather remarkable speech to-night by the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. McMahon), who is the first Minister to speak in this debate. This Minister carried on a queer kind of argument. He reminded me of a person who was suffering from a complaint known as verbal indigestion. While suffering from this complaint, he seemed to overlook, and wanted the House to overlook, the fact that thousands of people are suffering to-day from starvation, not because they refuse to work, but because this Government has refused them the right to work. That is the charge that the Opposition levels flatly in the face of the Government and it is the charge that we expect the Government to answer effectively and to the satisfaction of the community.
All that we got from the Minister was a lot of words - words, words, words and more words! However, I must congratulate the Minister on one thing. Of all the Ministers who are trying in this Parliament to emulate the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), the Minister who has just spoken is the most successful, because he has been able for 25 minutes to make a speech consisting of hundreds of meaningless words and all kinds of empty promises, and to sit down with a look of smug satisfaction, believing that he has done a really good job. To that extent, I congratulate him upon his effort to-night - but only to that extent and no farther. The Minister’s speech reminded me of the best-seller in America to-day. It is called, “ What did you do? Nothing. Where did you go? Out “. That is about what is going to happen to this Government. If members of the Government were to answer truthfully the question, “ What did you do? “ they would have to say “ Nothing “. If the public is asked where the Government is going at the next election, the answer will assuredly be “ Out “. And so it ought to go out. The thing that amazes me is the way Ministers and back-benchers laugh when one talks about their going out. They do not remember that in 1953, when there was a Senate election, but no election for the House of Representatives, and the very same issues about which we are talking to-night were raised, the Government would have gone out had there been an election for the House of Representatives. The electorate, right throughout the Commonwealth, with the exception of the State of Queensland, voted overwhelmingly in favour of the Australian Labour party, simply because at that time there was unemployment similar to that which exists to-day. At all periods of crisis in the history of the Australian nation the people have turned to the Australian Labour party for help, and I believe that we are facing a crisis again to-day. I am certain that, just as in 1953 the people turned to the Labour party in the economic crisis of that time, and just as they turned to the Labour party in the national war-time crisis of 1941, they will turn again to the Labour party now knowing full well that it is the only party that can meet the crisis that we are facing.
The Minister told us to-night that we had unemployment now because of falling prices and dry conditions. Are we to assume from that that the only reason why the Government has not had unemployment before is that it has had high prices and good seasons? That is the only part of the Minister’s speech with which I agree. The only reason why the Government has not had widespread unemployment before is that there have been high prices and good seasons, for neither of which the Government was responsible. If it had not been for high prices and good seasons, unemployment would have been much worse to-day. Full employment can be maintained in the face of the difficulties presented by dry seasons and poor prices only if the Government adopts a financial policy of releasing credit to a degree sufficient to ensure that works can be undertaken to absorb those workers who become unemployed as a consequence of the dry seasons and poor prices. That is precisely what the Australian Labour party believes ought to be done now. We are certain that the reason for the unemployment that is asserting itself is that the Government has not released sufficient credit to take up the backlag of unemployment directly due to falling prices and the dry season.
The Government cannot truthfully say that it has not the money, or that the works that would give work to the unemployed are not needed. One can think of a host of works that ought to be undertaken without delay. Let us go no further for the moment than the housing situation, to which the Minister for Primary Industry referred. It is idle for him to tell the House that the construction of houses is keeping pace with the increase in the demand for current housing, and that all we have to do is to take care of that demand. That is not true. Even if it were true, it is not nearly good enough merely to keep pace with the demand for new houses, and do nothing about the backlag. If the Minister were aware of the facts, he would know that there are hundreds of thousands of people still waiting for homes, despite what he says to the contrary. The Minister may shake his head if he likes. It is all very well for one who occupies a comfortable flat, and boasts of being the most eligible bachelor in this Parliament, to say that there is no housing problem. There is a housing problem, and it is very serious. The Government must attack it.
Government supporters cannot say that there is not enough man-power available now to meet the housing requirements of the people. Nor can they say that there are not enough materials, because many brick yards, timber yards, and tile works are closing down altogether, or working on half time, simply because the people cannot afford to buy the houses that they require. Why can they not afford them? It is because the private trading banks have refused pointblank to lend money for home building. Why should they not refuse to lend money for home building when this Government allows them to use their money to finance their own hire-purchase companies? Can the banks be expected to lend voluntarily to homeless people for the building of homes while the Government sits back, does nothing and allows them to obtain 17 per cent, or 1 8 per cent, simple interest on the money that they lend for hire-purchase? What a stupid and ridiculous situation we have drifted into because this Government allows hire-purchase companies to lend money at high rates of interest to buy all the household articles that one can think of, without deposit, but does nothing to ensure that those who buy these goods have homes in which to put them! The Government is allowing the situation to drift on and on. It has done nothing about it, and it intends to do nothing.
The number of people registered as unemployed throughout Australia at present totals 74,000. I emphasize the word “ registered “, because I want to make the point that there are thousands of workers who, for various reasons, are not registered as unemployed.
– The Government confesses that 74,000 are registered.
– As the honorable member has reminded me, the Government confesses that 74,000 people are registered as unemployed. It does not deny that. However, to those who are registered must be added the huge number who are unregistered, for various reasons, of which I shall mention only two. Many unemployed workers are unregistered because they hope to be able to get work for themselves. Many more have not registered because they think it is a sheer waste of time to go to the employment offices when they know from the experience of their friends that the employment centres have no work to offer, except for skilled men. Then there are the 26,000 people who are on the dole. I should like every one who hears me this evening to understand that it is not necessary to be without a penny in the bank before applying for unemployment relief. Many unemployed people who have saved some money believe that they are not entitled to register for unemployment relief because they have money in the bank. That is the only reason why the Government can boast as it does that there are only 26,000 people on the dole. There should be no one at all on the dole. I should like every Government supporter, drawing his remuneration of £3,000 a year and having everything he wants in life, to try to imagine what it would be like to be in the position of any one of the 26,000 people on the dole. How would any Government supporter in this House like to face the task of trying to pay the school expenses of his children, medical expenses, and general household expenses, on a miserable pittance of about £4 10s. a week? That is the sort of problem that honorable members opposite do not understand. The man who is unemployed, and on the dole, is suffering from a depression as bad as the worst depression that this country has ever experienced.
– So are his wife and children.
- His wife and children are suffering, too. So we have 26,000 people on the dole, and 74,000 who cannot find work, and are therefore living on a starvation budget. In addition, there are many who have been thrown out of work, but have not registered because they were able to get the age pension. In my own electorate there are thousands of men personally known to me who have been dismissed from their employment but have not registered simply because, at their age, they were able to obtain the age pension from the Department of Social Services - and there are 124 Federal electorates in Australia, in each of which there would be many others. Had they been given the right to work, those men would have had another five or six years of useful work ahead of them.
To this growing total of unemployed, we must add the members of that huge and inarticulate section of the community known as the migrants who, simply because they cannot speak our language and have not the vote, remain in a plight that is unknown to many. If we add unemployed migrants to the total that we already have, we get for the first time some real conception of the enormity of the present situation. Is it any wonder that the business community is losing confidence in Australia? Is it any wonder that people are buttoning up their nurses and refusing to spend because they wish to keep what they have for the rainy day that they know is coming? Yet the Government continues to bring in thousands of migrants although it cannot provide employment for those who are already here. At a naturalization ceremony at Thebarton, South Australia, last Monday evening, which was attended by Senator Hannaford and myself, a priest who represented the Ministers’ Fraternal said that he knew one Italian migrant family in which the bread winner had been out of work for twelve months, apparently with no prospect of finding a job anywhere.
In spite of these things, the Minister for Primary Industry and the Government adopt a smug attitude and say that there is no crisis in housing, and no unemployment crisis. They say that everything is all right because there are only 74,000 workers registered as unemployed. Ministers and supporters of the Government should try to imagine how every one of those 74,000 workers feels. They should try to imagine how the neighbours of an unemployed man feel, knowing that what has happened to their neighbour to-day can happen to them to-morrow. All workers who are not highly skilled know that the axe may fall at any time, and that they may have to go home to their wives and families to tell them that they have lost their jobs and that the family will have to go on the dole.
It is ridiculous for the Minister for Primary Industry to say that whatever unemployment there is exists mostly in New South Wales and Queensland. That remark shows that the Minister has a deplorable lack of knowledge of the Australian community. He lives in New South Wales, and I am satisfied that he has never left that State except to go to Surfers Paradise; hence his supposedly great knowledge of Queensland. It is obvious that the Minister knows nothing of conditions elsewhere in Australia. I could take him to Adelaide, and if he would get up early enough in the morning, I could take him with me along the Port-road and show him men lined up at the gate of every sizable factory hoping that a vacancy will arise and that they will get a job. I invite the Minister to come to Adelaide and to stand with me in Currie-street and consider the number of people who line up every day at the office of the Commonwealth Employment Service, hopelessly looking for work. Is it any wonder that the people of South Australia are at last realizing that their future is at stake, that they stand at the crossroads, and that unless this Government wakes up or is removed very soon they will be in a position similar to that of the 74,000 who are registered as unemployed, and the other thousands who are not so registered, although they also are unemployed.
The Government’s thinking is exemplified, 1 believe, pretty accurately in the attitude of mind displayed to-night by the Minister for Primary Industry. His attitude can be summed up in these words, “ Because I am getting £6,000 a year and have a luxury flat in which to live, and have not any one to maintain - or, if I do have any one to maintain I can do it in grand style - I believe that everybody else must also be favorably situated “. The trouble with the Government is that it is drunk with power. It has been in office too long. It has become completely unrealistic. The members of the Government adopt an attitude of smug satisfaction, despite the fact that they are misgoverning the country, and they tell the people that everything is all right and that there is nothing to be desired.
I want to-night not only to criticize the Government for what it has not done, but also to tell it what it ought to do in order to remedy the situation with which we are faced. The Government must make more money available for the purpose of absorbing the unemployed. For example, if we have not sufficient developmental work in progress we should increase our works programme so as to absorb the unemployed. I could give the Minister a host of suggestions, but let me got no further at the moment than the matter of rail standardization. In the spech of the Governor-General, the Government has expressed complete satisfaction at the fact that it has. commenced, or at least has started a survey with a view to commencing, the standardization of the railway gauge from Melbourne to Wodonga.
– Hear, hear!
– A very good thing! But can the honorable member give me one logical reason why the standardization of railway gauges should not be carried out on all the lines on which the committees set up on both sides of this Parliament recommended that it should be carried out? Can any one give a logical reason why rail standardization between Port Pirie and Adelaide and between Fremantle and Kalgoorlie should not be given first priority? I am pleased to see the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) nodding his approval of my suggestion. In South Australia to-day enough man-power is available to commence immediately the standardization of the northern railway lines in that State, and I have been told by the honorable member for Stirling (Mr. Webb) that there are sufficient unemployed in Western Australia to commence immediately the bridging of the gap between Fremantle and Kalgoorlie. It is perfectly true, as the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) has frequently said, that if you have the man-power and the materials it is a crime to keep the two apart simply because you claim you have not sufficient financial resources. We showed in war-time that when we have the man-power and the materials we can do almost anything. We should be able to do as well in peace-time as we did during the war. lt is not only rail gauge standardization that one may mention in this connexion. Let me refer to some other great national schemes that could be commenced. First, there are the Clarence River schemes and other schemes involving northern rivers. For years now the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) and honorable members on this side of the House have been pointing out to the Government the need to carry out these works for the purpose of controlling flooding and producing hydro-electric power, but nothing has been done about those schemes. I may also mention the Burdekin River scheme in Queensland. In that State there are tens of thousands of unemployed persons. The Minister has admitted that the level of unemployment in Queensland is higher than in most other States. Why not put some of those unemployed persons to work on this great national undertaking that I have mentioned, or employ them on developmental work of some other kind? At least give them the right to work and so build a bigger, stronger and healthier Commonwealth of Australia.
The Government sits back and, I believe, sits back deliberately, believing that it is a good thing to have some unemployed. The Government believes it is a good thing always to have more men available than there are jobs, so that economic pressure can be brought to bear to force men to work for less than they would normally accept, and to accept conditions that otherwise would not be accepted. We all know of the famous theory put forward by Professor Hytten, who, by the way, has now been appointed to the Commonwealth Bank Board for the purpose of giving effect to his theories, such as the one he enunciated in Launceston, involving a permanent pool of unemployed amounting to 10 per cent, of the work force. This is the pattern of the policy favoured by the Government and its advisers.
In every State there is a great need for increased expenditure on arterial highways and other roads. There is a great and growing need in every State - except, perhaps, Queensland - for more hospitals and schools, but we are again told that no money is available to build them.
I believe that one of the most important points to remember when we are considering releasing credit is that it is of no use to release credit unless at the same time we introduce a system of capital issues control. If we release credit without being in a position to control the way in which the credit is used we will not achieve the best results.
Before I conclude I wish to deal with the matter of defence. One matter that should be considered immediately by a government that is mindful of the welfare of the people is a complete overhaul of the defence system. If we could eliminate completely all the waste and extravagance in the defence departments we could reduce the total expenditure on defence in this country by at least half and at the same time achieve far better results. I deplore all the unnecessary nonsense that one sees at national service training camps. All the money that we pay to brass hats to parade around, waving batons and trying to look important, and all the money that we pay to the eleven, or perhaps fourteen, admirals who have never moved away from Collins-street in the last five or six years, could be better used in defence measures designed for the kind of warfare in which we may be involved in the future. Any possible future war will not be fought with the old kinds of guns and tanks, and with old-fashioned frigates and corvettes, but that is the kind of warfare that the Government seems to envisage. If our defence programme was brought up to date we could save £90,000,000 or £95,000,000 a year in defence expenditure alone.
I turn once again to the matter of immigration. While on this subject, I think it is as well to state the policy of the Labour party, which, it will be remembered, is the party that inaugurated the immigration scheme just after World War II. We had, I believe, an entirely justifiable reason for doing so at that time, because there were then thousands and thousands of displaced persons in various countries who had nowhere to go. Adopting a humanitarian approach to the matter, the Labour government inaugurated the greatest immigration scheme that we have ever seen in Australia. Since then, however, there has been a change of government and a change of attitude towards immigration. The Government’s approach to the question is no longer based on humanitarian reasons. As the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) so aptly remarked at the recent Citizenship Convention, the Government’s policy now is to supply to the employers of Australia, at the cost of the community, cheap labour for the purpose of keeping down wages and conditions, because the Government knows that the interests of the employers whom it represents - it does not represent any one else, and in any case it represents only the big employers - can be best served by bringing to Australia more men than it is possible to find work for. The Government believes that it will be worth while keeping the surplus on the dole if the rest of the employees can be made to submit to the demands of the employers. We have an example of that policy. The conditions of the working class, which have been built up after years of struggle, since the last war, are gradually being whittled away. First, we have the example of the quarterly cost-of-living adjustments. Fortunately, I can discuss this matter because judgment has already been given and this question is no longer sub judice. On this point, the Government had the cheek to tell the judges of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission that the Government believed the workers were not entitled to any cost-of-living adjustments and that it was necessary for the workers to forego those adjustments to prevent inflation. The Australian Labour party says that the workers are as much entitled to quarterly cost-of-living adjustments to enable them to buy the necessary fuel to keep their bodies going as the employers are to obtain higher prices for the goods that they sell because of the increased cost of the fuel that they need to keep their factories going.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- We are now debating the motion for the adoption of the Address-in-Reply to the speech delivered this afternoon by His Excellency the Governor-General. As this speech was being delivered in the last year of the life of a Parliament elected for three years, it had to contain a reference to the past background, a reference to the present, and a reference to the future. As we would expect, it dealt with most of the problems that confront this country, directly and indirectly. It referred to world conditions and to the impact of those conditions on Australia. It referred to some of the internal problems and to some of the actions that the Government proposes to meet the problems that constantly arise in any community.
We have heard speeches from Opposition members. The speeches of my friends, the honorable member for Cunningham (Mr. Kearney) and the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron), were in the main directed to one problem now existing in Australia - a degree of unemployment. That point, if not all the burden, was the main burden of both speeches. The honorable member for Hindmarsh, no doubt because of lack of time, made only passing reference to defence problems. Any one who has listened to the honorable gentleman with the attention with which most of us have listened to him over the years know that, if he has a case that can be substantiated by facts and figures, then he does substantiate it. I remind the House that in his remarks on defence the honorable member said that he could reduce defence expenditure by £90,000,000 or £95,000,000. He said that there was much waste in the Department of Defence and that a number of officers walked around trying to look important. I should say that none of them has done that as successfully as has the honorable member for Hindmarsh. However, none of his allegations were supported by one fact and all we had was the bare assertion of the honorable gentleman.
In the last two minutes of his speech, the honorable member for Hindmarsh made a passing reference to immigration. If I recall his words correctly, he said that one purpose of the immigration programme was to bring cheap labour into this country. Again, the honorable gentleman knows the facts. He knows very well - though he would probably find some difficulty in admitting it in the House - that over the years we have built an arbitration system and a pattern of industrial and social legislation that are equal to anything in the world. That legislation is designed to protect, and has effectively protected, the labour force from the very thing that the honorable gentleman suggests will happen. He knows - and this is indisputable - that during the life of this Government, when the arbitration system has been under attack in this House and outside by the friends and allies of the party that he represents, this Government has upheld the arbitration system, has maintained it and has strengthened it. That sort of criticism, as most people will agree, does not help and, in fact, does much damage to his case.
The honorable member for Hindmarsh and the honorable member for Cunningham referred to unemployment and gave some figures. My distinguished colleague, the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. McMahon) answered them with facts and figures.
– Not facts. He forgot the facts.
– Indisputable facts. The Minister put a case that people will find quite understandable, quite logical and quite reasonable. The broad and general picture is that during the eight years that this Government has been in office employment has been maintained at a higher level than at any comparable time in peace in this or in any other country. There is no question of that basic significant fact.
– What has that to do with it?
– The honorable member for Herbert will have an opportunity to speak later. The honorable member for Cunningham mentioned the reference in His Excellency’s Speech to the unemployment situation. That reference included the words - …… which my Government continues to keep under closest scrutiny.
That is the point to which I shall direct my remarks. I have mentioned the background. I suggest to the House that here is a record of performance which, in itself, is worth while considering. Here is a record which, one might well argue, reveals that the Government means precisely what His Excellency said it means - that it will keep the position under the closest scrutiny. Further, the Government will, as it has in the past, take such measures as are necessary to deal with the position.
– Those who are unemployed will be pleased to hear that!
– My friend from Herbert merely forces me to raise my voice. I do not want to do so because other honorable members are sitting near me.
The honorable member for Hindmarsh spoke of the factories in Port Adelaide and of the men waiting at the doors every morning to be picked up. Throughout Australia to-day there are immensely more factories than there were when the party which the honorable member for Hindmarsh supports was the government. In general, there are fewer unemployed to-day that there were in the days of the Labour Government that preceded this Government. Those are the facts of the situation. My final point is that, considering the alternative methods of dealing with the economic situation in this country - on the one hand, the approach that this Government has made in the past and will make in the future and, on the other hand, the close, rigidly-controlled socialist economy that my friend from Hindmarsh indicated - no reasonable person would doubt that what the Minister for Primary Industry said was true. He said that not only was their evidence of more jobs being available in the future than there were in the past, but also that there were more jobs available now as a result of the process of dynamic development that has being going on over the years than would be available under the close restrictionist policy of a socialist government. There are the two alternatives. We have not alternatives of perfection or something else; we have as alternatives this Government, imperfect as it may be, or a government led by the right honorable member for Barton, who no sane person would think could handle the economic problems of this country better than this Government can.
My friend from Hindmarsh, in a jovial mood, referred to a best seller of which he said the Minister for Primary Industry reminded him. Standing in my present position and looking down at the front bench of the Opposition, I am reminded of a book which I understand is at present a best seller in Australia. If any honorable member has not heard of its title I will give it. It is “ They’re a Weird Mob “. Those who care to take a realistic view - and, as responsible people we must take a realistic view - will see that there is some unemployment to-day, as the Minister has said. But on all the evidence available, the incidence of that unemployment is being reduced at the moment and will continue to be reduced as remedial measures are implemented by the Government.
I wish to make one further point. The honorable member for Hindmarsh, I take it, is the spokesman for his party on these matters. I pay him that compliment. He referred to developmental works and suggested an extension of the programme of standardization of railway gauges. My reply to the honorable member is that this Government has started that work. However, when the honorable member’s party was in government in the immediate post-war period, when there was no shortage of labour or material, it did not even make a start on the standardization of railway gauges. There is one answer to the honorable member. It is not a complete answer, but in an imperfect world, dealing with imperfect people, it is an answer. A second answer is that no sane person would envisage a government, beset with the admitted problems which any government of Australia must encounter in existing circumstances, endeavouring in one undertaking to standardize all railway gauges throughout Australia. Such a project would place too great a strain on the economy of this country. Consequently, a steady and careful approach to this problem will be most effective in the long run.
The proposition of the Australian Labour party implies that there will be a large number of unemployed in this country for a considerable period. That is Labour’s proposition; otherwise no sane government would undertake works which would take a considerable time to absorb all the labour that was available because, even on the general arguments put forward by the Opposition, that would mean that development of the country in other directions would be slowed down. It would not be possible at one and the same time to undertake the standardization of railway gauges and develop essential industries. No man can be in two places at once, even under the most energetic direction of a Minister in a Labour government. Even my honorable friends opposite could not achieve that miracle.
His Excellency, in his Speech, referred to legislation to be brought down later this year which, in effect, will grant to the Western Australian Government a sum of £2,500.000 over a period of five years for the development of the northern part of Western Australia. Some people might say that £500,000 a year is not very much in these days, but the reply to such a suggestion is that it is at least something which will enable a start to be made on development that has not hitherto been attempted. Any one who has seen the northern part of Western Australia - and many know it far better than 1 do - even a casual visitor, will agree that anything that is done by a government in that area will serve the interests of the community as a whole. As a community we must accept some responsibility for the development of that part of the country. Of course, speakers on the Opposition side have made no reference to mat proposal.
My friend, the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Malcolm Fraser), who opened this debate, referred, among other things, to the position of India within the British Commonwealth of Nations. Following the reference contained in His Excellency’s Speech, the honorable member for Wannon, having discussed the matter at some length, came down with a logical argument that it is desirable to keep India within the British Commonwealth, i could not agree more with that suggestion. Two or three months ago, this Parliament was good enough to send me, with other representatives, to attend the conference of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association in New Delhi. There we had an opportunity to see many things which were new and very educational to us. There can be no doubt about three things. The first is that India is the greatest stabilizing force in the East to-day. Whether or not we agree with the policy of the Indian Government is beside the point. The fact remains that India, with a population of 370,000,000, is one of the greatest stabilizing forces in Asia to-day. There are other groups that are not so powerful or so significant.
It is true, also, that although in different countries the same words may have different meanings, nevertheless on the broad basis of the things we stand for, India is our ally. When I attended the conference of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association at New Delhi, where the coloured representatives outnumbered the whites, I realized the immense and vital significance to Australia and to the free world of keeping India within the British Commonwealth of Nations. We should do everything possible in Australia to strengthen the friendships we already enjoy with India and Pakistan and with other countries to the near north of Australia.
The second thing is that throughout India, Pakistan and Ceylon, and in Singapore, Australia and Australians are held in high regard. Aust~alia is far more highly regarded by them than is any of the older countries. The reason for that regard is the effectiveness of the Colombo plan. Almost every person with whom I spoke during my trip abroad referred to Australia’s part in the plan, to the contribution that the plan is making to their well-being, and to the friendship between Australia and the countries concerned.
In the final analysis of our international policy - whatever factors may modify this statement - I think it is fundamentally true that we must maintain a strong and firm friendship with the countries which lie to our near north. In that regard, my friend the honorable member for Cunningham (Mr. Kearney) spoke with the complete lack of knowledge of a man who has never even seen those countries and, I am sure, has made no endeavour to understand international affairs. Even in Indonesia, a country about which so much malicious stuff has been written of late, the fact that you are an Australian means the difference between being met with a cold face and being met with a smiling face. There are 90,000,000 people in Indonesia, to our near north, and we have friends there.
I wish to mention one significant thing in conclusion. The two names of Australian men most frequently mentioned by all the people with whom I spoke in India were the names of my friend the right honorable member for La Trobe (Mr. Casey) and of the late Ben Chifley. The right honorable member for La Trobe is, and Ben Chifley was, very highly regarded in India. But one of the men who have some effect on the destinies of India to-day said to me, in all friendliness, that he deplored the decline in the strength, the outlook and the prestige of the Australian Labour party since the death of Ben Chifley. That is of significance in our own affairs; it is of significance in the world picture.
To-day we heard from His Excellency the Governor-General a speech which dealt with the third and last year of this Parliament’s term. It dealt, by implication, with a record of which we, as a government, have little to reproach ourselves. It gives us a picture of development and expansion throughout this country, from the production of bauxite in Arnhem Land and the Cape York Peninsula to development in Western Australia and increasing industrialization in Victoria. AH these things are parts of a basically sound economy. The Opposition has referred to pressures of population and immigration, but those things mean that we have, in essence, an expanding economy and that the progress of development is being expedited, not retarded. So, in spite of the dismal prophecies of the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron), we who heard the Governor-General’s Speech this afternoon know that we have nothing to reproach ourselves with, and know that we can look forward to the future with every confidence.
– The honorable member for Deakin (Mr. Davis), the fourth member from the Government side of the House to speak in this debate, has expressed his support for the Government’s policy as enunciated in the Governor-General’s Speech this afternoon. The honorable member made a speech that was so weak and incompetent that one almost felt that it was not the honorable member for Deakin who was making it. However, it was not surprising that such a speech should fall from the lips of any member on the Government back benches, because all honorable members opposite have their worries. They know that the unemployment problem is a real problem. They know that a certain Sydney newspaper was right when it referred in a cartoon the other day to “ Wake up, Susan “. They know that it is not just a question of “ Wake up, Susan “ but, unfortunately, a question of “ Wake up, Australia “, because things have happened in the last two years under the regime of this Government which are setting this nation back.
I am glad to see the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Harold Holt) at the table at the moment, because at the outset I want to comment on some of the things he said quite recently, particularly about the withdrawal of the Australian Council of Trade Unions from the Ministry of Labour Advisory Council. I want to deal with that because the Minister seems to hold the view that the withdrawal of the Australian Council of Trade Unions from that body is a retrograde step.
– Do you approve of it?
– I approve of it, yes, and I will tell you why. I approve of it because over the last few years you have had the complete advice of this council without its having had any authority whatsoever. It was set up by the Minister to give him advice and, whether or not the advice has been good, this nation has walked backwards during the last two years because of the type of machinery that the Minister has set up. The Australian Council of Trade Unions has a responsibility not only to this Government but also to the Australian people and if the Australian Council of Trade Unions and the whole Australian trade union movement knows its job - and I believe it does - it knows that its first responsibility is to help in the advancement of Australia. We have seen lots of figures showing that so many people were registered unemployed, so many were unregistered unemployed and so many were drawing the dole. The real facts about unemployment are contained in the figures given by the Commonwealth Statistician.
– Can you tell us of any country that has made more progress than Australia in those two years?
– What I am concerned about is what the Minister should be concerned about but obviously is not. I am concerned about what has been happening to Australia during the last two years. To strip aside all the baloney used by the Minister let me give the House the statistics regarding employment.
The best test of whether or not we are advancing, the best barometer of all, is the number of males in private employment. The Minister is Minister for Labour and National Service in a government which professes to believe in private employment, private investment, private enterprise and so on. If the Government does believe in these things, there is a tremendous responsibility resting on it to see that the financial structure is such that private enterprise is allowed to expand in a way that will aid the development of the nation. The first real test of the ability of the Government to measure up to the present requirements of Australia is how employment is going in private enterprise. The Commonwealth Statistician’s Monthly Bulletin for February, 1956, showed that in November, 1955, there were 1,417,000 males in private employment. The November, 1957, figures showed that that figure of 1,417,000 had fallen in two years to 1,413,000. So there has been a fall of 4,000 in the number of males in private employment in this country in the last two years, under the regime of this Government. For the Australian Council of Trade Unions to remain on the advisory council under this Government would have been traitorous.
When unemployment was being discussed an this chamber on 29th August, 1957, the Minister said -
The Government’s measures to correct such slack as has already appeared in the economy- that refers to the unemployment problem - and to provide an overall environment in which next year we shall be able to absorb successfully an additional 60,000 people whom we expect will become available in the work force in this country will be revealed
Those are the words that the Minister used in August of last year. Yet, to-day, the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) told the House that things were not so good and that this Government had made available £5,00,000 to the States. For what? According to the address that we heard to-day, it was for the purpose of doing something on a State level. I want to underline the following comment because it is the Government’s comment: -
This should assist in providing additional employment opportunities.
Actually, the Government is depriving those people who have come into the work force of this country of opportunities to produce for the community. During the last two years the natural increase in man-power in Australia has been at a rate of between 13,000 and 15,000 a year. On top of that, at a conservative estimate, immigration has provided us with an additional 50,000 people a year. That figure, added to the figure of 13,000, gives a total increase in man-power of 63,000 a year. Last August, the Minister said that the figure was 60,000, so let him have his figure. Let us leave aside all the claptrap about employment figures. According to the Commonwealth Statistician - the statistician of this Government and not of a Labour government - in the last two years, instead of an additional 120,000 people being placed in employment in Australia, there has been a fall in employment of 4,000!
The Minister asked whether I had seen a situation anywhere else in the world resembling our own position. I put it to him that throughout the Free World attempts are being made by governments that believe in private enterprise to meet a situation similar to that which exists in Australia. This situation has come about because of something else which is mentioned in the address that was delivered to us to-day by the Governor-General. His Excellency said -
Industrial production has continued to increase
Why has industrial production continued to increase when, in point of fact, the number of employees in private enterprise has fallen? This has come about as a result of the introduction of more modern machinery. No member of this House nor of the trade union movement will set his face against modern machinery. But when industrial evolution causes machines to take the place of men in a country the government of which is dead on its feet, that country is heading for disaster unless its economy is expanded quickly enough to take up the resulting slack in man-power. That is where this Government and the Minister have fallen down on the job. This situation has been developing for two years. Machines are taking the place of men in every industry.
The honorable member for Deakin (Mr. Davis) was correct when he spoke about the increased number of factories. But despite the fact that there is an increased number of factories and increased production, as indicated in the Governor-General’s Speech, there are fewer men in employment than there were two years ago. What would the Government say if the Australian Council of Trade Unions demanded a shorter working week in order to take up the slack in man-power? Let us not be deluded by some unemployment figures that the Minister or the Government may have prepared. The great test is whether the Government is capable of expanding the economy quickly enough to take advantage of the modern age of the machine. It should have employment ready for every man or woman who is displaced by the advance of machines.
The Minister pointed to other countries. Everybody knows, from press reports, that the United States, at the present time, has a great army of unemployed. It is great because a government of the same kidney as the present Australian Government is in power in America at the present time. But the American Government, in the last few weeks at least, has done something to try to arrest the drift. The American Government, being of the same kidney as the Australian Government, believes in private enterprise. So, it immediately slashed interest rates from the already low figure of 3i per cent, to 2i per cent. In other words, the American Government has put private enterprise on its metal, it has made cheap money available to private enterprise. Because the American economy is on a higher level than our economy, an interest rate of 2i per cent, in that country would be equivalent to a rate of less than 2 per cent, in Australia. As the interest rate in Australia under this Government is 51 pei cent., it may be said that that rate is more than 100 per cent, higher than the American interest rate. That is the American Government’s answer to the unemployment problem. What did the German Government do when it found a nutter in its economy? lt cut the interest rate by one-half of 1 per cent, because it could see what was developing.
But this Government, tied as it is to the wheels of those who are interested only in profit making, cannot see beyond its nose. If the Government believes in a policy of private employment, if it believes in private enterprise, it cannot refuse the reduction of interest rates that is necessary to put money back into industry and to make jobs for those who have none. It is not sufficient for the Government merely to say that it has looked at what has happened in America. The Governor-General’s Speech stated- -
In the United States of America in particular, business conditions have recently become less buoyant.
They have also become less buoyant in Australia, and for a similar reason. There are talks going on in America to determine whether or not a 32-hour week should be introduced even before 1965, because it is known full well in that country that unemployment, be the number ever so small, reduces the purchasing power of the people. The reduction of purchasing power starts the snowball of unemployment which gathers force as it goes. What is happening in America is happening here. 1 was astounded to find that although the Government was paying some attention to unemployment in America, no mention was made in the Governor-General’s Speech of any consideration being given to the necessity to make money available to assist the Australian economy. I suggest that the Government could make money available to private enterprise as well as to the State govern ments. If we provided money at 2i per cent, interest as is being done in the United States of America, there would be an upsurge of housing construction.
I support the statement of the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron) on unemployment. I would go one step further and say that, in addition to the great public works that must be undertaken, we must give a shot in the arm to private enterprise. That should be done by this Government if it believes in support for private enterprise. If the Government wants to sustain private enterprise and employment, it must provide for an addition to the male work force of 75,000 workers a year in the next two years. I warn the Government thai in five years and, possibly, in only four years, Australia will move out of the phase where the natural increase in the male work force has been only 13.000 a year as a result of the effect of the depression on the community. Within the period I have stated, 30,000 males of Australian birth will be entering the work force each year. When we realize that, in the last two years, this Government has allowed the number of persons in private employment to fall by 4.000, it must be obvious to every man and woman who is concerned with the future of Australia that we must change the Commonwealth Government as quickly as possible in the interests of the nation.
Housing is a problem of prime importance. To-day, the Prime Minister told the House that the New South Wales Government would set aside £1,000,000 of its recent grant for home building. The expenditure of that money will step up the home-building programme in New South Wales at the rate of 60 houses a week. That is only a drop in the ocean. I was astounded when the Prime Minister, the leader of this Government which pleads constantly for private enterprise, attempted to lay at the door of the banks and the insurance companies the responsibility for providing houses. The right honorable gentleman knows that interest rates are determined by this Government. No insurance company could attempt to lend money at 5i per cent, as a first step towards home building, because the wage levels that have been determined by the Arbitration Court set up under this Government’s legislation will not enable a worker doing 40 hours work in any week, even a tradesman, to meet rent and other payments based on that rate of interest. The answer to the problem is to put into circulation cheap money for home building and for those things that will provide employment.
The basis of the unemployment problem is not the number of unemployed that was quoted to-night by the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. McMahon). On the figures that were given previously by the Minister for Labour and National Service, we have a work force of 60,000 coming on to the labour market each year. In the last two years, we have been down 120,000 in employment. Therefore, we must catch up with that figure and, at the same time, provide for the normal yearly increase of at least 60,000.
I do not believe that this Government is capable of achieving that objective. In the end, it will be thrown out of office for its ineptitude. The Government cannot set the nation back in such a way without the people understanding what is happening. I wonder what the insurance companies and the banks are thinking to-night if their leaders listened to the Prime Minister when he took the opportunity, during questions to-day, to make a policy speech on housing. It can be said, of course, that after a number of years in office, the Prime Minister and his colleagues have become lazy and immune to criticism. They think they are secure, but surely no political party worthy of the name will allow Australia to suffer such setbacks.
The current problem is not so much entirely one of unemployment. The problem is to provide jobs in the next four years at a speed that has never been attempted before in Australia. In the last three years, there has been an increase of 180,000 in the work force, including private and other employment. We must make bigger plans for the future. Work must be found for well over 60,000 additional workers each year if we are to take up the slack that has been brought about by the ineptitude of this Government. It is a question of the machine age catching up with the employment that is offering. This problem goes deeper than the statistics that have been cited to-night on behalf of the Government. The way that figures have been bandied about by the supporters of the Government so far in this debate indicates that the Government has no answer to the current problems of unemployment and of meeting the challenge of the machine age. We must not only expand employment to provide work for those who are now out of employment but must also meet the needs of those who are entering the employment field. National expansion depends upon a solution to those problems.
The Prime Minister and his supporters have criticized bitterly the numbers of public servants. One of the promises made by this Government was that it would reduce those numbers. The New South Wales Government has before it at present a report by a bunch of Americans who were brought to Australia to make a survey. They reported that a saving of £11,000,000 could be made on the New South Wales railways. What will happen if that Government saves £11,000,000 a year on its railways? It will do so at the expense of 5,000 employees who will be thrown out of work. That might be good business, but when we have a government in Canberra which makes no provision for the re-employment of those workers, national expansion will be thwarted. Therefore, the problems that have been touched upon in this debate go deeper than the mere statistics that have been cited by the Minister for Primary Industry.
These problems go to the root of proposals for the immediate future of Australia. The pinch is already being felt in Germany and the United States of America. Great Britain has not yet felt it because Great Britain has been trying to get along with old-type machinery.
– What rot.
– I suggest that the honorable member examine the situation. The interest rate in Great Britain was raised to 7 per cent, to stop expansion. That was the sole purpose of the increase. Therefore, Great Britain has yet to face the problems that are facing other nations. It has to meet keener competition, particularly from Germany. Great Britain will be in difficulty within twelve months because of the inauguration of the European common market.
– Order! The honorable members time has expired.
.- I join with other honorable members in expressing pleasure at the visit to Australia of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother, both for myself and for those I represent in this House. In these days when we are facing international tension, it is fitting that we should be reminded of those ties, deeper than the material things of life, which bind our British Commonwealth of Nations together and which have made us, and will continue to make us, a force in the international fields for generations to come. Turning to the Speech of His Excellency the Governor-General, I should like to congratulate the Government on its achievements in the international field. At a time when we are facing difficulties, it is good to be able to read of the friendships we have made and the links that have been established. It is good to read that those in charge of our foreign affairs, including the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Casey), are taking steps to protect our interests overseas. The Governor-General said -
While we may take some satisfaction from the consolidation of our friendships in Asia, the international scene in general is no less complicated than when 1 last addressed you. The “ cold war “ against the unity of the free world continues, and my Government will maintain this nation’s contributions to the security of the democracies.
Those words remind us that while this Government has taken active steps to promote the interests and the defence of this country, we must not rest on our laurels but must face up to those problems and difficulties that confront us with the same courage and the same faith as we have in the past.
I was slightly disappointed with one aspect of the Governor-General’s Speech. As I read it I felt that it was, in one way, a negative speech; that it spoke about much of what the Government has done and did not speak in sufficiently positive terms of what the Government will do in the future. For example, His Excellency said -
Throughout last year my Government increased its activities in the international trade sphere and discussions and negotiations on trade matters have taken place with many countries. My Government will continue this policy in its aim to consolidate and expand Australia’s exports in a world in which trading conditions are more difficult and the protective policies of some countries are becoming more stringent.
I think that is something that has been obvious for some time past, and as the representative of one of the strongest primaryproducing areas in the Commonwealth, I hope that those words will become more than words in the future policies of this Government. His Excellency continued -
The programme of planned migration will be continued. Parliament will be asked to consider a complete revision and consolidation of the Immigration and Emigration Acts, and an amendment to the Nationality and Citizenship Act, which will seek to banish certain discriminations between Australian-born and naturalized citizens in the matter of loss of citizenship.
I also hope that this Government will consider other matters with respect to our immigration policy. In recent months there has been a great deal of criticism from both sides of the House of the immigration policy. I for one am not happy about our intake of British immigrants. I realize the difficulties confronting the Government in this regard and I hope that in the near future this Parliament will be given an opportunity to discuss this matter fully and to receive a complete report from the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Townley) so that, ultimately, not a citizenship committee or any other committee or private organization, but this Parliament, as custodian of Australia’s future, may make the decision that is vital to the progress, the development and the future of our country. So in His Excellency’s speech I was disappointed with what I might call a degree of negation and I hope that at a later stage honorable members will be shown a more positive approach by the Cabinet, particularly at a time when this country is facing difficulties. As I have often said, Australia’s future is unlimited. We have a marvellous country. There are great opportunities for the future and if we grasp them we will go forward in greater and fuller strength.
Much of the criticism that has been levelled at the Government this afternoon by members of the Opposition has been, I believe, with one particular aim in mind. It is obvious that 1958 is what is called an election year. The Opposition will make attacks and suggestions in an endeavour to prepare the minds of the people for something in the future. That note has been obvious in the speeches of Opposition members to-night. Mention was made of the economic difficulty now being faced by the United States of America. In recent months the United States has drastically changed her armaments programme. The aircraft industry has been reducing production of aeroplanes because of the development of nuclear weapons, space missiles, and intercontinental ballistic missiles. Owing to this changeover there has been some unemployment. The honorable member for Blaxland (Mr. E. James Harrison) spoke of the Government of the United States of America as being of the same political colour as this Government. I assume that he meant that the Government of the United States is a government of Republicans, but I would remind the honorable member that the Republicans are not in power. They are the administration, but, not being in power, legislation cannot be passed virtually without the agreement of the Opposition in the United States political field.
The honorable member for Blaxland also stated that if Australia were to adopt the United States interest rate we would take up the economic slack. This statement appeared to me to be a contradiction of his own argument. Previously, the honorable member had been talking about the economic recession in the United States; then he said that if we adopted the same interest rate as the United States, everything in the garden would be lovely!
– The interest rate referred to related only to housing.
– That is so. The honorable member for Blaxland seemed to be arguing against himself there.
In a recent American magazine a casewas quoted of a man who had a good job and no prospect of being dismissed. He was in receipt of good wages, but because of talk, of recession and of slackening off, he would not buy the new motor car that he had intended to buy. I remind members of the Opposition of my remarks last year with regard to the Japanese trade agreement. I said that this was the type of thing that could happen; that by the constant reiteration of a line of argument, certain desired conditions could be created. In my six years in this House the Opposition has sought to do this on a number of occasions. When my colleague the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) was speaking about inflation, members of the Opposition interjected to say that more money should be released. My colleague reminded them that the releasing of finance was not the answer to our problems. I noticed that on occasions members of the Opposition laughed at the suggestion made by the honorable member for Richmond that money was not the complete answer and that inflation was a danger. Surely honorable members of the Opposition could see that the point made by the honorable member for Richmond was valid. If an inflationary spiral is created, the effect upon the worker and his wages is just as bad as if his wages were reduced, because his purchasing power is reduced and the end result is that he is not able to buy those things that he desires to buy. So, in the creation of inflation, the man on wages is hurt far more, perhaps, than is anybody else, with the exception of the people in primary industries who have no one to whom they can pass on increasing costs of production.
The honorable member for Cunningham (Mr. Kearney) said that this Government had gained office on the promise that it would maintain employment. He said that we wanted to enforce sub-standard conditions upon the people, and that month by month the ‘unemployment figures were steadily increasing. He spoke in dire terms of doom. If his statements are correct, why has this Government been returned on so many occasions? If, month by month, the figures have been increasing as the honorable member for Cunningham suggested, they would have been now far greater than they were intimated this evening to be. I remind honorable members opposite that the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) said that with an unemployment figure of 5 per cent., the position was still good.
The main thought behind the speeches of the members of the Opposition this evening was revealed when they spoke about this Government being put out of office and Labour retaking the treasury bench. They live in hopes that that will happen. The honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron) made a typical speech. He spoke first of the thousands of people in this country who are facing starvation. That, in itself, is indicative of the exaggeration in the remarks of the honorable member. He revealed the desire to transfer to the treasury bench when he said that because these thousands of people were facing starvation this Government would be turned out of office and Labour would be re-elected.
– To complete the starvation.
– As my friend and colleague, the honorable member for Gippsland, has said, possibly Labour would complete the starvation about which the honorable member for Hindmarsh speaks but the existence of which Government supporters deny. We remember that not so very long ago some newspapers suggested the honorable member for Hindmarsh as the future leader of the Labour party, and as the future leader of the Labour party he might have ideas of wearing the mantle of the Prime Minister of this country.
Continuing his remarks, he proved the complete fallacy of his argument when he spoke about the tremendous rates that were charged by hire-purchase companies. The honorable member, like everybody else in this House, knows - if he does not know he shows an amazing lack of investigation and perhaps he should not be here - that hire-purchase rates are in the control of the State governments and that this Government has no control whatsoever over them. He said that we have arrived at a stupid and ridiculous situation. That was a condemnation of the State governments. He said that we were allowing people to buy things to put into homes that they have not yet got. The New South Wales Government has paid £1,800.000 for a coal mine to supply coal to produce electricity to put into the houses that the honorable member for Hindmarsh says we have not got anyhow! The State Government can afford to spend £1,800.000 on the purchase of a coal mine which will not give us any more coal than is now available in New South Wales. The honorable member’s statement about hire-purchase rates, which are under the control of the State governments, proves conclusively that his arguments were made purely with the coming election in mind and the pious hope that the Opposition party, discredited as it is, would be able to bluff the people on an emotional issue.
We on this side of the House admit that for any one man who is unemployed the position is not good. Does the honorable member for Hindmarsh think that he is the only man in Australia or in this Parliament who has any thought for the man who might be unemployed? Realizing that this is something upon which they can launch into great emotional tirades, honorable members opposite raise this matter because they are looking ahead to what they hope will happen towards the end of this year. The honorable member spoke about people receiving the age pension because they cannot find employment, although they have years of service before them. If I understand correctly, members of the Opposition say that when a man reaches the age which will qualify him for an age pension he should retire. So here again the honorable member for Hindmarsh is putting forward a fallacious argument.
If the honorable member for Hindmarsh had any authority, power or influence over the New South Wales Labour Government and persuaded it to finish some of the dams and other public works that it has commenced, he would have made a far greater contribution to the development and progress of this country than he has made by making the type of speech he made this evening. It is obvious that the Labour Government in New South Wales is fighting for its very existence, because it knows it will be defeated at the next poll. The Labour Opposition in this House, realizing that at present it has no chance of ever occupying the treasury bench of the Commonwealth Parliament, seizes upon something which is minor in itself, although, as 1 say, we concede that if only one man is unemployed it is a major problem for him. In the overall picture the problem is a minor one, but because the members of the Opposition think that it has some sentimental or emotional aspect, they come into this House and make a great charge, hoping that they will be able to cover their mistakes and difficulties.
The honorable member for Deakin (Mr. Davis) mentioned one other matter. I would not have referred to it had not the honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie) said that these people must have been reading Liberal party propaganda. In my recent trip overseas I found, not amongst conservative people but amongst strong Labour, union people, a fear of what might happen because of the weakness of the Labour party in Australia under the leadership of the right honorable member for Barton (Dr. Evatt)!
Let me say again that this country has a great future. It has a potential which is unlimited, and it reflects little credit on honorable members to make speeches such as those which were made by the honorable member for Hindmarsh and others, to say things that they must know are not correct, merely to try to gain a political point because of what might happen at the end of the year. I congratulate the Government on the presentation of this policy and of these proposals for the coming year, and I hope that we may see a more positive approach in the months ahead.
.- 1 have not the slightest doubt that the unemployed of this country would be deeply appreciative of the sympathy of the honorable member for Lyne (Mr. Lucock), but they would be more grateful to the members “of the Labour party who believe that the unemployed are entitled to more than sympathy and, in fact, are entitled to jobs in this community. I remember that when I last addressed this House, the matter before it was the Japanese Trade Agreement. I then said that that trade agreement, coupled with an easing of the restrictions upon imports from other parts of the world, would result in increasing unemployment, a depreciation of our overseas funds, and an inability continually and increasingly to absorb more workers smoothly into our economy. During the last few months unemployment has increased. In this very wordy document that contains the text of the GovernorGeneral’s Speech, unemployment is referred to in the following terms: -
There has been some increase in unemployment, some part of which was undoubtedly attributable to the less favorable seasonal conditions.
The Government is trying to blame the unemployment upon seasonal conditions.
Let us see from the official statistics prepared by the Commonwealth Statistician just what has occurred. During the sevenmonth period from July, 1956, to January, 1957, imports totalled £422,000,000. During the period from July, 1957, to January, 1958, the total was £472,000,000 - £50,000,000 more than in the previous period. Exports totalled £543,000,000 in the period from July, 1956, to January, 1957, and £526,000,000, or £17,000,000 less, in the period from July, 1957, to January, 1958. Any one who understands arithmetic can see the implications of those figures. Imports were £50,000,000 greater in the second period, and obviously the goods imported were sold.
– The honorable member may think thai I am talking nonsense, but I remind him that the increased flow of imports was the result of the easing of import restrictions and the signing of the Japanese Trade Agreement, which permitted the import of manufactured goods from Japan to the great detriment of Australian industries and of manufacturers in other countries.
– The honorable member knows thai that is not true.
– I remind the honorable member that this afternoon I asked the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen) whether it was true that action was being taken by the Australian Government and the Japanese Government to restrict the import of Japanese printed textiles, because the flow of imports of those goods was causing unemployment in the Australian textile industry, and hampering the progress of that industry. The Minister begged the question and said that later he would give me a more detailed answer. He stated that various committees kept under constant review the flow of imports from Japan, and he added that the committee that dealt with printed textiles had advised that the number of import licences being obtained indicated that imports of printed textiles might be greater than was good for the Australian industry, and that action was being taken to protect the industry.
Any one who has the interests of Australia at heart realizes that if sales of an Australian product are reduced by competition from a similar commodity imported from another country, unemployment in an Australian industry must result because factories will have to close down. The Government should not bring into the country thousands of immigrants at a time when it is not using to the best advantage in promoting Australia’s development the people who are already looking for work here. I know that the tories who sit on the Government benches like to talk about overfull employment. They have claimed on many occasions that Australia is suffering from over-full employment. What do they mean by “ over-full employment “? They mean that there are more jobs than there are workers. In any expanding economy, as in the United States of America in its time of great expansion, and in Britain when Britain was exporting goods to every country of the world, there were more jobs than men to fill them. The ideal situation is one in which there are not merely sufficient jobs for the workers of a country, but also enough to provide work for immigrants from other countries.
I have already pointed out, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that our overseas funds have deteriorated as a result of the actions of this Government. During the last few months, the deterioration has been particularly grave. Our overseas reserves declined by more than £10,000,000 in one month and, very shortly, we shall again face a position similar to that in 1952, when the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) announced that we were facing insolvency with respect to overseas funds. We were in a similar position towards the end of 1955, and at the beginning of 1956, and the Government, in a panic, imposed import restrictions in order to protect our overseas funds. There is no doubt that our overseas funds are diminishing. A good government should not let this happen. Experience should enable us to ensure that our imports and exports are so related as not to cause serious deterioration of our overseas reserves. But this Government does not care about that. It continues as it has gone on for years. As the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) said once, it has created a kangaroo economy, which leaps forward a little, then halts, and perhaps even leaps backwards a little. This has been the situation over the last nine years.
– What does the honorable member suggest should be done?
– During the last nine years, Australia has enjoyed greater opportunities for advancement than any other country has ever known. No other country has ever had such a golden opportunity to develop an economy that would permit the absorption of vast numbers of immigrants and provide security in this great land. Yet the Government has declined to seize the opportunity. It has been content to fumble on from day to day. As a result, our progress has not been one fraction as great as that of the United States. Where are the gigantic development schemes that we should have under way? Where are the great irrigation projects and dams that would provide water to make our fertile land productive and able to support a greater population? Where are the great power schemes that we need? The Snowy Mountains hydro-electric scheme, which is the only one in progress, was inaugurated and taken much of the way towards completion by the Labour government. Government supporters may laugh about it if they wish.
I see in the Governor-General’s Speech a reference .to primary production, in the following terms: -
The development of our primary industries is, of course, vital to Australia. My Government will continue to support this development, notably through a number of research schemes to which the producers themselves are contributing.
What a statement! During the nine years of office of this Government, farmers have left the land, and land workers have drifted to the cities. During this period great schemes of land development could have been carried out. Although the population of Australia has increased by 2,000,000 during this time, there are fewer farms to-day than there were when the Government first took over the treasury-bench. That is the position in connexion with primary production.
Government supporters may talk as much as they wish, but, fundamentally, the development and progress of this country depend first on primary production and, secondly, on secondary industries. Those are the two essentials without which we cannot carry out developmental works, and without which we cannot carry on a successful immigration programme. The extent to which we are able to develop our land and our secondary industries determines the extent to which we can carry out developmental schemes, such as gigantic irrigation schemes for the north of Australia, hydroelectric schemes and various other undertakings that will enable the country to increase its production still further.
Let us consider the example of the United States of America. That country has undertaken a vast programme of road construction. In the U.S.A. there are now excellent arterial roads from one end of the country to the other. In places one finds stretches up to 400 miles in length without any intersections.
– What is the revenue of the United States?
– I am merely pointing out the incapacity of this Government.
– How much older is America than Australia?
– What I am trying to show to honorable members opposite who are interjecting is that the policies adopted in a country like the U.S.A., which is by no means a socialist country, are policies that the tory Government of Australia dare not introduce into this country. The U.S.A. has a tariff system that protects its industries and has protected its industries through the ages, as no tariff system has protected industries in this country. The U.S.A. has protected the employment of its people. It sends its machinery to other parts of the world. Its capacity to produce was built up behind trade barriers, not by policies of freer and freer trade such as those that are propounded by our purblind Country party, the party that is determining the policy of the so-called Liberal-Country Party Government of Australia to-day and thus destroying our capacity to develop.
I think I have made certain things clear. I think I have demonstrated the unemployment position in Australia, and I have shown how our overseas balances have deteriorated. I have shown our inability to absorb increasingly greater and greater numbers of immigrants. I have shown that all these things are due to the policies adopted by the present Government. It is of no use for honorable members opposite to hold their hands over their hearts and say, “ We stand for immigration “, or “ We stand for full employment, but we regret that factors over which no government could have control are causing increasing unemployment “. It is clear that this Government could pursue policies that would protect our overseas balances. It is not protecting them and they are deteriorating. On that score, therefore, the Government obviously stands condemned.
Unemployment exists in Australia and is increasing. At present there are 70,000 registered unemployed. It may be said that from a national viewpoint this is an insignificant number, but if the person who makes such a statement were one of those 70,000 and suffering the consequences of unemployment, the significance of the position would appeal strongly to him. There are 70,000 unemployed, and the number is increasing. Therefore the Government stands condemned on this issue also.
I have heard honorable members of the Country party and of the Liberal party proclaim, “ We stand for an immigration system; the Labour party does not stand for an immigration system.” If we could not assure a person who came from another country that he could obtain employment in Australia, it would obviously be a crime against him to bring him here. If we bring him to Australia and can give him employment only by putting an Australian out of work, then we are committing a crime against the Australian. But we of the Labour party, of course, say that such are the opportunities that exist in Australia, and such is the opportunity for development in the 3,000,000 square miles of our country, that we can absorb people from overseas. We believe that we can create economic conditions that will ensure employment for every man in this country.
– What does the honorable member think this Government has been doing?
– Let me tell the honorable member that in 1952 there were 100,000 unemployed, and that now there are more than 70,000 unemployed, with the number increasing. In the near future that number will inevitably increase still further.
– Certainly that is the trend.
– That is the trend, and the only way by which we can curb that trend is by following the policies enunciated by the Labour party. Those policies involve protecting our secondary industries and developing our primary industries, putting men on the land and making more farmers.
– What are the State Labour governments doing?
– What can any government do that is limited by the amounts handed out to it by this Federal Government? The capacity of any State to settle people on the land is determined by the amount allotted to it by our niggardly Country party Treasurer.
– Do the States want their taxing rights back?
– I do not know, but I do know that the question of land settlement is unsolved in every State, whether it be New South Wales, with a Labour government, or Victoria, with a Liberal government, or South Australia, which has had a Liberal government for many years because this Government does not approach the matter in the way in which it should be approached and does not provide sufficient finance to settle people on the land and to subdivide the vast areas that are available for settlement. In reality the only contribution that this Government made to settlement on the land was by relieving the land-owners of tax. It relieved those with vast areas of land of a tax which, if it had been continued, might have caused the subdivision of large estates.
– Did that tax ever cause such a subdivision?
– Of course it did. The Labour Government introduced it in 1910, and within three years 30,000 extra farms were created in Australia, and hundreds of thousands of acres of land went under the plough. But then an anti-Labour government came to power and immediately whittled away the land tax, reducing its effectiveness by cutting down the amounts payable and increasing the exemptions. In this way it negatived the good results that had been achieved in the early days of that tax. Vast estates such as Ercildoune and others in the western districts of Victoria, around Ballarat, went under the plough as a result of that 1910 legislation.
– Those estates were broken up by land acquisition.
– They were not. That was done before land acquisition was introduced. It was the result of a land policy adopted by a Labour government, just as all those things upon which the prosperity and development of this country have rested were the result of Labour administration. All those measures are being whittled away; they are being white-anted by the political termites that occupy the treasury bench to-day. Whether it be the land tax, the Commonwealth Bank, a shipping line or an interest in an oil refinery to keep down the price of oil, it must go in the interests of rugged private enterprise which wants to exploit the people and to impede the development of the nation. That is occurring here. Of course, one could talk to some people in vain; they are not capable of understanding. However, some honorable members on the treasury bench are capable of understanding and do understand. They know the truth of my statements and realize the force of the points that I put before this House; but they are the servants of big business. They are put there by certain financial interests - the banking interests, the big insurance corporations and the squatters. As those interests dictate so those honorable members act.
– lt is a wonder the people vote for them.
– Of course, it is a wonder. I become more and more amazed.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Chaney) adjourned.
House adjourned at 10.23 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 25 February 1958, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1958/19580225_reps_22_hor18/>.