22nd Parliament · 3rd Session
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. John McLeay) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– I desire to know whether the Minister for Immigration will explain why two statistical bulletins are issued by the Department of Immigration, one apparently being for public distribution and the other one being marked “ Restricted “, in the right hand corner of the cover, and including a note at the head of the table of contents stating -
The tables indicated in red below have not been incorporated in the general issue of this bulletin but are included herein for the information of officers only.
– The honorable member for East Sydney has answered his own question in the concluding words of his quotation - “ For the information- of officers only “.
– Why the secrecy?
– Because the set of statistics that is presented for the information of the public is not necessarily the same as the set which is useful in the department. For instance, to honorable members or the public, the letters “ G.A.P.S.” would not indicate anything, but to the people in the department “G.A.P.S.” means, “General assisted passage scheme”. It would be quite pointless to put that sort of departmental jargon out to the general public. So we have two versions of the publication, one for use in the department and one that we distribute to the public. The essential figures in each are exactly the same.
– I wish to ask the Minister for Labour and National Service a question concerning indemnity payments to maritime unions by overseas purchasers of Australian ships. Can the Minister inform the House whether there have been any developments since the investigation by the Australian Council of Trade Unions into the affair which would give rise to the need for a public inquiry? Will the Minister say whether there is any truth in the report that he told the president of the Australian Council of Trade Unions that the Government would not hold an inquiry?
– Dealing with the second part of the question first, a weekly journal did publish a report to the effect that Mr. Monk, the president of the Australian Council of Trade Unions, had told some trade union group that I had given him an assurance that there would be no Commonwealth Government inquiry into what the honorable member has described as indemnity payments in respect of the purchase of ships in Australia by overseas buyers. There is no truth whatever in that as a statement of anything that I have said to Mr. Monk, and I am assured by him that there is no foundation in it as an account of anything that he has said to any trade union body. Certainly, at no stage have I given any person an undertaking that there would be no government inquiry into this matter. Indeed, we have not dismissed the possibility of an inquiry if facts which appear to disclose more information than we have so far received can be brought to our notice; and I extend an invitation to any interested persons who claim to have knowledge of facts that indicate that there has been a breach of Commonwealth law, or that there is warrant for Commonwealth intervention, to bring those facts to my attention. If they are made known to me they will be promptly investigated.
This unhappy business has given a great deal of concern, not only to the Government and its supporters, but also, I know, to responsible members of the trade union movement itself. What have been described as indemnity payments might more accurately be described as extortion payments, because, undoubtedly, an implied threat of industrial pressure has been brought ,to bear in order to obtain payments that, in the present state of the law., would not otherwise be payable. I think it should be mentioned, in order to keep the matter in perspective, that an award made by Mr. Justice Foster some time ago did prescribe that ships bought overseas by Australian shipping interests, and ships sold in Australia to overseas buyers, should be manned on the voyage to or from Australia, as the case may be, by Australian crews. That decision was later upset by the High Court of Australia, which held that Mr.,
Justice Foster did not have jurisdiction to make such an award. Subsequently, pressures of the kind that I have indicated were brought to bear.
The whole matter has been examined by a senior body within the A.C.T.U. I feel satisfied, from my own discussions and investigations, that a responsible and conscientious inquiry into the facts was made. The investigations have disclosed that the payments were made. The practice has rightly been condemned by the A.C.T.U., and I am informed that it has now prohibited payments of this kind to any of the unions affiliated with it, and that the unions concerned have accepted that decision. I think it is proper that the trade union movement should carry its own responsibility in this matter for putting its house in order. Although my inquiries of my colleague, the Attorney-General, have shown that, so far, no breach of Commonwealth law has been disclosed, if any subsequent development indicates a need for official inquiry on our part, we shall not hesitate to undertake it.
– I address a question to the Minister for Social Services, who, in this chamber, represents the Minister for National Development in war service homes matters. A fortnight ago, the Prime Minister indicated, in answer to a question, that the waiting time for applicants for war service homes finance varied according to whether the applicant wished to build a new home, in which case he could obtain the funds immediately, or whether he desired to buy a standing home, in which case he still had to wait eighteen months for his money. What is the reason for this differentiation between ex-servicemen, since the War Service Homes Division was established, not to force ex-servicemen to build homes, but to assist all ex-servicemen to obtain homes in return for the service that they had given to their country? Will the Minister see that this policy is modified so that there will be no differentiation between ex-servicemen?
– I have no doubt that the information given to the House by the Prime Minister was accurate in every particular. I am not familiar with the explanation why a person who proposes to build a home under the War Service Homes Act does not have to wait so long for financial accommodation as does a person who wishes to buy a home under that act. It will be my pleasure to make the necessary representations to the Minister for National Development. When I obtain the information I shall make it available to the honorable member.
– I ask the Minister for Labour and National Service a question. Is the right honorable gentleman aware that recently two members of the Waterside Workers Federation in Tasmania were expelled from their union because they refused to pay a special levy to the union for the purpose of a grant to the political funds of the Australian Labour party and the Communist party? Does the Government consider that this is an abuse of trade union principles? If so, what protection can the Government give to members of this union in order to prevent victimization, such as preventing a member from working at his customary occupation?
– The matter referred to by the honorable member raises two separate issues, I think. The first is that which concerns the two waterside workers themselves - Mr. Hursey and his son. While I might have my own views about the course of conduct that has been pursued by the union in relation to these two men, I feel some difficulty about discussing the matter at this stage in view of the legal proceedings that are now in train. Mr. Hursey and his son have taken action in the Supreme Court of Tasmania, claiming damages, and the case has yet to be heard.
A further consequence of the union’s action is that the Australian Stevedoring Industry Authority has called upon more than 60 waterside workers of the branch in question to show cause why disciplinary action should not be taken against them for preventing Mr. Hursey and his son exercising the right of working on the waterfront, which they are regarded by the authority as possessing. Legal action on that matter is being deferred pending the outcome of the case in the Supreme Court.
The other issue that I think this whole episode raises is the question as to whether this Parliament should not legislate so that those whose sole offence in the eyes of the union is that they have failed to meet a compulsory levy imposed upon them for political purposes of which they do not approve should be protected from disciplinary action taken by the union. Legislation of that character exists in other parts of Australia and in other parts of the world. Indeed, a provision of that general character exists on the statute-book of New South Wales.
I am having the whole matter closely examined, and an investigation made of the legislation operating inside Australia and elsewhere, with a view to bringing to Cabinet the issues that are raised, so that a Government decision can be taken on it.
– Is the Prime Minister aware that last Friday 200 men - almost the entire labour force - engaged on the construction of the Lucas Heights atomic reactor project were sacked? As a great deal of construction work remains either uncompleted or uncommenced, will the right honorable gentleman explain the reasons for this ruthless mass dismissal? Is the Prime Minister aware that the apparent indifference of the Government to the great challenge of the atomic age is retarding the prospects of scientific research, improved industrial processes, and improved living standards for the Australian people? Can the right honorable gentleman justify the virtual closing down of this great national project, when unemployment is causing such tremendous concern throughout the Australian community?
– The second part of that question really puzzles me, because the suggestion is made, and no doubt intended to be accepted, that we are closing down this project at Lucas Heights and that we are indifferent to it- The fact is that we began it, we are continuing it, we are going to complete it, and I hope to be able to open it before I am many weeks older. We have, in fact, during the last few days been giving close attention to the future programme so that there will be continuous research work and activity in this field. So far from having anything for which to apologize, we are rather pleased with the work that has been done up to this point. The honorable gentleman says that some people were paid off. He represented it as sacking them with the result that the work will stop.
– Two hundred people.
– Only a couple of hundred!
– Order! I ask the right honorable gentleman to take his seat. If these interjections continue I shall have to take action against the various honorable members responsible. It is very difficult to hear the answers, and question time is a very important period in the House. I direct the attention of honorable members, particularly on the Opposition side, to that fact.
– The work referred to by the honorable member is being done under contract, and as the contractor concludes a portion of the work he does not continue to have the same staff, because that work is finished- This is a pure case of a private contract. It is a novel suggestion that a contractor who makes a contract to erect a building should continue to engage his staff when the building is completed. That is the whole implication of the question put by the honorable member.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Social Services. I may say that the policy of setting up district offices of the Department of Social Services is greatly appreciated. Will the Minister give consideration to establishing such an office at Mildura, Victoria, where it would serve many thousands of people who reside in north-western Victoria and who at present come under the administration of officers of the department at Ballarat and Bendigo, which are as far distant as 300 miles or more?
– This is not the first occasion on which the honorable member for Mallee has raised this question with me, nor can I suppose that it will be the last time. If I were left to my own devices, I would evacuate the administration of the Department of Social Services from all the capital cities. Unfortunately, it does not rest entirely with me. For the decentralization of the department I have to put up a case to the Public Service Board and to the Treasury, and on the amount of business likely to be transacted at these decentralized offices the question of decentralization is resolved one way or the other. The matter of a decentralized office at Mildura has been investigated on a number of occasions. I myself made an investigation only a few weeks ago, and I regret to inform the honorable member that the business at present likely to be done in Mildura does not warrant the case being submitted either to the Public Service Board or to the Treasury. But as soon as there is a sufficient concentration of population in that locality, the strongest representations will be made by me to both the Public Service Board and the Treasury for an autonomous office of my department at Mildura.
– Has the Treasurer studied the decision of the High Court of Australia that fares should not be allowed as a deduction for income tax purposes? If so, has he read the remarks of the Chief Justice, Sir Owen Dixon, in the course of which he said -
If the whole subject is to be ripped up now, it is for the legislature and not the court to do it.
In view of this decision and the comments of the Chief Justice, what action, if any, does the Treasurer intend to take in order to give justice to workers by allowing amounts paid in fares to be included with deductions for income tax purposes?
– The subjectmatter raised by the honorable member will be considered in conjunction with the Budget.
– My question to the Minister for Primary Industry relates to the poultry industry. I ask the Minister whether the Commonwealth Government’s financial practice and policy precludes it from giving a particular State or a particular industry any assistance when it is in distress, although the Commonwealth may give special assistance when there is a national crisis such as a drought or flood. Could the recent large grant to New South Wales, known as drought relief, be used by the Government of that State to assist the poultry industry, which has suffered so much from a reduction in receipts as well as from higher costs? I point out that the New South Wales Government has imposed a slug on the poultry industry of 4s. 7d. a bushel for wheat and comparable increases in the price of offal, which it would otherwise have had to pay itself.
– As a matter of principle and as a matter of practice also, the problem of drought relief is one for the various State governments to handle themselves. At the last meeting of the Australian Loan Council the sum of £500,000 was given to New South Wales because it was one of the two States that had suffered as a result of the dry conditions. I think it can be said that that State received that money unconditionally, and there is no reason why it could not apply this fund, if it thought fit, to helping the poultry industry. As to the increase in costs and other factors, I point out to the honorable member that the Egg Board of New South Wales controls the egg industry in that State. It is a State government instrumentality over which the Commonwealth Government can exercise no influence whatever.
– In view of the fact that the Australian Loan Council has given permission to local government authorities to raise an extra £3,000,000 during this financial year to relieve unemployment, will the Treasurer make financial assistance available to the Brisbane City Council? That authority is trying to float a loan on the market, but it appears that its effort is likely to fail ignominiously. The purpose of the loan is to raise the hygienic level of the old and important Brisbane suburbs of Toowong, Bulimba, Morningside, Cannon Hill and Murarrie, to that of Canberra, which city to-day is celebrating “ Canberra Day “. The citizens of Canberra enjoy sanitary amenities which are being paid for by other citizens of Australia. The purpose for which this loan is being raised is to provide similar amenities for the citizens of Brisbane.
– The question raised by the honorable member involves a State responsibility. The Brisbane City Council is a State instrumentality, and the matter raised is one for the Queensland Government to handle.
– My question, addressed to the Minister for Trade, concerns the widely circulating reports that the recent action of the Government in restricting the importation of printed cotton textiles will result in the dishonouring of contracts between many importers and their principals overseas. Can the Minister say, in particular, what the position will be regarding contracts which have been entered into in pursuance of import licences already granted?
– I have stated, publicly, what the position will be, but I think there has been some misunderstanding owing to the use of shorter words by journalist’s in headlines to reports dealing with the matter. The fact is that an announcement was made of the suspension of the issue of new import licences for printed cotton textiles as from 27th February until the end of the present licensing period, which is 31st March. It was explicitly stated that all licences already issued would remain valid. At the same time it was explained that, with regard to licences issued in respect of importations from Japan, the Japanese Government would itself, in the terms and the spirit of the trade treaty, and as the outcome of consultations with the Department of Trade, limit exports from Japan to Australia, until 30th June, to an agreed amount. That will undoubtedly inhibit the importation of a certain quantity of printed cotton textiles from Japan. This will be done as a result of a. decision of the Japanese Government. It was always contemplated as being a possibility, and,, as such, was given great publicity at the time the Japanese trade treaty was entered into. 1 mentioned the possibility on almost innumerable occasions subsequently. There is one further point that I wish to make. If an Australian holder of a B category licence has placed an order in Japan for printed cotton textiles which cannot be fulfilled because of the decision of the Japanese Government, we will be prepared, as I have publicly announced, to convert that category B licence to enable the holder to import other goods within, the B category. The licence will not, however, be converted to allow for the import of printed cotton textiles from a country other than Japan.
– I address a question to the Minister for Trade with regard to the very large distribution of profits made by the P. and O. company recently. Does the Minister keep himself informed, through the statutory committee or otherwise, of freights charged on our primary products (hat are sent overseas? Has he looked into the question whether the overseas shipping combine is increasing freight rates? If this is found to be so, and if it is related to the increase in profits of shipping companies, will the Minister take action under the act dealing with the special transp’ort committee?
– I do keep myself aware of what goes on in respect of overseas, shipping freights, and I am. kept informed by the Australian Oversea Transport Association, a body which has statutory authority, and which is the meeting point between the shippers and the shipowners.. I am aware that the Australian export interests, after protracted negotiations here, a visit by their representatives to London and further negotiations here, did reach a formula for determination, of freights which was acceptable to them. That is exactly the. outcome that the statute has always contemplated. It was realized that there should be a statutory meeting, point for the conflicting interests, those who pay freight and those who receive the payments, and this body was, therefore, recognized by the Commonwealth Parliament. I do not believe that the single issue of profits made by a shipping line which conducts, its operations internationally should be the determinant of the freight rates it. should charge on particular commodities transported to Australia, any more than that the losses incurred by a particular trading concern should be the determinant of the wages paid by that concern.
– WQ1 the Minister for Primary Industry inform the House whether any reply has been received to the application made by the. Australian Meat Board to the British Government for an additional free quota of meat? The meat industry is very concerned about the large quantity of low grade meat that it has on hand, and any increase in the free quota would be very much appreciated.
– Strong representations were made to the United Kingdom Government by the meat industry for an increase in the free quota of meat available for sale outside the United Kingdom. Yesterday, a cable was received from the United Kingdom Government regretting that it was unable to agree to the request.
– My question, which is directed to the Minister for Trade, is supplementary to the question asked by the honorable member for Wentworth and refers to the Minister’s recent instruction to refuse the issue of additional licences to import cotton textiles. I ask the Minister whether he has also considered the representations made by the textile mills for identical protection in the woollen industry in order to prevent a similar position arising and to avert the further unemployment which would be inevitable.
– I am certainly not aware of any representations made by the woollen textile industry that there should be any suspension of the issue of import licences. I am sure that, if such a request had been made, I would have heard of it. The truth of the matter is that the question of protection for the woollen industry is at present before the Tariff Board and my recollection is that over a very wide range of woven woollens, the Australian industry enjoys from 90 per cent, to 99 per cent, of the Australian market. I would be quite astonished if the Australian woven woollen textile industry were to make any representations for action on the lines mentioned by the honorable member.
– My question is directed to the Postmaster-General. Some months ago I asked him whether he was aware of the dangers inherent in a new form of television advertising called sub.liminalism. I think that at the time the honorable gentleman thought that I was simply trying to be facetious, but I assure him that I was very much in earnest. Has the honorable gentleman, meanwhile, in vestigated this matter? Will he take steps to ensure that this dangerous form of publicity is not practised in Australia?
– I remember the question directed to me by the honorable member for Angas on the subject of subliminal advertising. I take this opportunity to assure the honorable member that, although the question was one of which I knew nothing at the time, I did not consider it to be in any way facetious. I promised the honorable member then that I would have the Australian Broadcasting Control Board keep an eye on this possible development because, if the reports concerning it were true, it could prove to be a danger throughout the community. The board has kept in touch with developments. It has made some inquiries regarding the possibility of the use of this new medium of advertising in television and has reported to me from time to time. My latest reports suggest that recent experiments carried out in both the United States of America and Great Britain reveal that the possible effects of this form of advertising on the subconscious mind of the viewers have been considerably overstated and do not suggest that the results which at first appeared likely will be obtained. However, the matter is still in its infancy and I have had the Australian Broadcasting Control Board inform the television licensees that the Government would not be prepared to allow this system to develop until we were certain that it could be properly’ controlled and that, therefore, any experiments which might be carried out would have to be made with the knowledge and the agreement of the board.
Honorable members might like me to explain the meaning of subliminal advertising. This is a new medium that has been tried in the United States of America. A message is flashed on to the screen at such high speed that the eye is not capable of conveying that message to the brain of the person who is viewing it, so that he is not conscious of what was flashed on to the screen.
– That will do us.
– It could have some very undesirable results. I can think of one or two messages I could flash on the screen regarding the honorable member for East
Sydney. If the message is flashed a sufficient number of times, it is claimed that the subconscious mind does register the message and the person acts according to the message without knowing why. My inquiries have indicated that one of the commercial television stations in Melbourne made some experiments with a message which was flashed on to the screen for a very short period, but that experiment did not come within the scope of the matter we are discussing because it was on the screen long enough to enable the message to be registered. Apart from that, no use has been made of this method in Australia, and if any attempt should be made to use it, I can assure the House that sufficient protection is afforded already in the Broadcasting and Television Act through the issue of licences, and through programme standards laid down by the Australian Broadcasting Control Board to enable the Government to exercise any control which it may deem to be desirable.
– Is the Minister for Trade satisfied that the recent decision of the Government to speed up the operations of the Tariff Board is adequate to meet the needs of the Australian nation? Is it a fact that, whilst the staff of the Tariff Board has been increased, the single chairman system has been retained, and this is likely to cause a bottle-neck which will prevent early completion of inquiries conducted by the board?
Mr. McEWEN__ The Government is conscious of the desirability of a reasonably expeditious system for Tariff Board hearings and decisions. At present, a study is being made to determine what action may properly be taken to achieve that result. The study of this matter has not yet been concluded. It could result, perhaps, in amending legislation being brought into the House if that were thought desirable and necessary. At present there is concentration on strengthening the structure behind the Tariff Board members themselves to enable the more expeditious assembly of material, and to evolve better and more expeditious processes for use by board members of the material that has been assembled or is to be used.
The honorable member said that the single chairmanship system had been retained. That is true. I think we can have only one chairman of one board, but the system of having two committees of the Tariff Board in operation is being continued. Consideration is being given to the desirability of having, in addition to a chairman, perhaps a deputy chairman and, possibly, an arrangement under which the chairman and deputy chairman may each be free to chair the so-called committees of the board which are, in fact, operating as separate tariff boards, and to have them working at the same time. That is one of the ideas at present being considered with a view to the speeding up of Tariff Board procedure.
– Will the Minister representing the Minister for Civil Aviation convey to his colleague the great concern of municipalities, schools, churches and other institutions, in addition to that of a very large number of residents of my electorate and adjacent areas, regarding the probable enlargement of the present Melbourne airport to accommodate large jet airliners, consequent upon the proposal to use the airport as an international terminal? As this was a built-up residential area, particularly on the southern approaches, for many years prior to the previous enlargement of the airport ten years ago, and as any further acquisitions in the area for airport purposes will not only prevent progress in residential development but will also adversely affect existing residential and industrial areas, will the Minister request the Minister for Civil Aviation to give due consideration to an alternative site, in the general area on the Melbourne side of Laverton, for the international terminal, particularly weighing the cost of a new establishment against the disadvantages to the residents that I have mentioned?
– I can quite understand the pressure that is on the honorable member in his electorate regarding this particular matter and, I think, on other honorable members also who live in that area. With the change of status of Melbourne airport to that of an international airport, undoubtedly the runways at the Essendon Airport will have to be lengthened. They are now 6,100 feet and 5,200 feet respectively, and if they are to cater for such big aircraft as are used by Pan-American Airways they will have to be lengthened to about 8,000 feet. But there are factors other than the length of the runways which have to be considered in -relation to the operation of big jet aircraft. One is noise. This is a quite serious problem. It is not just a matter of the noise made during the departure and arrival of aircraft, but also of the noise made at times when aircraft are being serviced or are undergoing full power trials and testing, when the noise is quite deafening. The Department of Civil Aviation, with .this in mind, has already given thought to using some other area. It would cost money to extend the existing runways, and it will cost money to acquire another area a little out of town. Possibly by cutting the existing Essendon airport into building blocks, we would recoup ourselves for some of the expenditure. That is the sort of thing that is going through the minds of the department’s officers who, in conjunction with officers of the Victorian Lands and Survey Department and of the Public Works Department, are closely examining various areas in the vicinity of Melbourne, including the Laverton area which ‘the honorable member mentioned, with a view to enabling the officers to prepare a recommendation to the Government - which I expect will be made through the Minister for Civil Aviation - concerning alternative plans and proposals. ‘One thing is, of course, established and sure - that Melbourne airport is to be maintained as an international .airport. I shall convey the honorable member’s comments to my colleague in another place.
– Is the Prime Minister able to say what progress has been made in talks with the South Australian Premier on the contemplated building of a standardgauge railway link between Port Augusta and Whyalla? I ask this question bearing in mind the importance of Whyalla, which has the largest shipbuilding yard in the southern hemisphere, and the further contemplated development of Whyalla by the expenditure of £30,000,000 by Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited on the building of steel-works at this centre.
– I am delighted to find that the honorable gentleman approves of that proposal. I thought that last night it was referred to by one of his neighbours as a case of “’ B.H.P. getting a stranglehold on the people “. Well, let it go at that. As I said yesterday in answer to the honorable member for Barker, I have had no discussion with the Premier of South Australia on that matter. However, the Premier was here on Monday, and before he left he told me that in respect of this matter he would be sending me a document containing what the proposals were and all the relative material that could be provided. I said that if he did that, naturally we would give it very close consideration. Until that document arrives and is studied, of course, we shall not be in a position to conduct any discussions.
– I desire to ask the Minister for Trade a question, again concerning this matter of printed cotton textiles. Reports indicate that there have been fears of unemployment in the clothing trade resulting from the Government’s decision to restrict the importation of printed cotton textiles. Can the Minister state what were the imports of printed cottons last year and what they will be in this financial year? Cam he assure the House that this volume of imports should be sufficient to maintain full employment in the clothing trade?
– I am glad to be able to give an unequivocal assurance that there is no likelihood or possibility whatever of unemployment in the garment making or textile manufacturing industries arising from a shortage of printed cotton materials. I substantiate that statement by quoting these figures: Last year, with full employment in the industry, 38,500,000 square yards of printed cotton textiles were imported, and 9,000,000 square yards were manufactured in Australia, a total quantity of approximately 48,000,000 square yards. This year, on a single-shift basis, it is estimated that the Australian industry will produce 13,500,000 square yards; and, on the licences issued at the present time, and allowing for the modification of future licensing, calculations indicate that not less than 63,000,000 square yards of printed cotton textiles will be imported this year as against 38.500,000 square yards for last year. Putting the local production and imports together, there will be, on the restrictions announced, 76,000,000 square yards of printed cotton textiles available this year as. against 48,000,000 square yards last year, so there is no likelihood, of unemployment arising.
– by leave - Yesterday, the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Luchetti) asked me to make a statement on the principles which, govern the release of funds held in the special accounts of the Commonwealth Bank. This is a matter of considerable importance and indeed considerable misunderstanding and I propose to reply in some detail.
The Commonwealth Bank of Australia, like central banks elsewhere in the world; has a general responsibility to promote the economic welfare of the community and to do so, in particular, by regulating monetary conditions. These include, of course, the total supply of money for the community, the level of bank lending and the broad direction of bank lending- In carrying out this responsibility the central bank naturally takes account of factors such as those the honorable member has suggested, including the level of employment, the state of industries such as. the rural industries and building, and changes in our overseas balance of payments. The central bank influences the economic situation principally through the’ various powers it has to regulate the volume of bank lending and, in certain respects, the distribution of such lending between various sectors of the economy.
For the purposes of regulating the total volume of bank lending, the principal instrument available to it is the system of special accounts established under the Banking Act.. At times, the central bank calls upon the trading banks to deposit money with, it in the special accounts and at other times it releases money from the special accounts, to the trading banks. These calls or releases affect immediately the liquid reserves of the trading banks - that is to say, their- holdings of cash, treasury-bills, clearing balances with the central bank and so on - and the ability of the trading banks to lend is thereby influenced in the one direction or the other. For example, during the financial year 1956-57 the liquid assets of the trading banks were increased very greatly by several factors, amongst which the most important was the great inflow of funds from, exports. The trading banks, had they been so. disposed, would have been able at that stage to increase, their lending very considerably. But it was the judgment of the central bank, in which the Government: fully concurred,, that there should be some restraint on total bank lending. Therefore, during the middle months of that financial year, the central bank made substantial, calls to the special accounts.
Towards the end of 1956-57, it appeared that there was no need to carry restraint on bank lending any further and indeed that there was some reason for increasing the amount of new lending by the trading banks. Moreover, in the current financial year 1957-58, it early became apparent that, during the year as a whole, there would be considerably smaller export proceeds and that no serious problem of excessive liquidity on the part of the trading banks was likely to arise. Accordingly; the central bank has not this year made calls to special account at any stage and lately it ha& released an amount of £15,000,000 from the special accounts to the trading banks. Although the liquidity of these banks is at present, reasonably high it can be foreseen that, for a number of reasons, liquidity will run down during the coming, months.
Thus, as I have shown, the object of special account action is primarily to- influence overall lending by the. trading banks. I want to make that aspect perfectly clear because there has been far too much misunderstanding about it. The special accounts system has been designed specifically for that purpose and not for any other purpose. There have from time to time been suggestions in some quarters that, because balances were held in the special accounts, it would be possible for money to be released from them for special types of expenditure such as housing or rural credit. Suggestions of that kind are either illinformed or mischievous. They would cut across and confuse the proper purpose of special account operations which is to regulate, in a general way, the state of liquidity of the trading banks and hence their general level of advances and other, investments.
In making calls to special accounts or releases from them the central bank aims to ensure that the trading banks have enough liquid funds to provide the credit necessary to enable agriculture, industry, building and commerce to work at a high level of activity. At the same time it tries to avoid leaving the banks in a position where they would be encouraged, through unduly high levels of liquidity, to make loans on a scale that would produce inflationary conditions. What particular amounts the centralbank calls or releases from time to time depends on a number of considerations, the most important of which are the volume of lending which the central bank considers appropriate in prevailing economic circumstances, current and previous changes in bank liquidity and the standards or conventions on liquidity currently being observed by the banks.
To put the matter in another way, the special accounts are used, on the one hand, to offset influences which, on occasion, add largely to the liquid assets of the trading banks and, on the other hand, to add to those reserves at times when it appears necessary to support or increase the level of trading bank lending. In no sense do they represent a fund from which money may be drawn to spend here or to spend there as some one or other may think fit.
Of course, besides regulating the total volume of bank credit, the central bank does at times seek to influence the general direction of trading bank advances. It has certain legal powers for this purpose but in the main it prefers to operate by advice given to the trading banks, usually after discussion with them on the general monetary situation and the condition of the economy.
In some periods, the central bank has requested the trading banks to refrain from, or to moderate, lending in certain directions. Under present circumstances, however, where it is considered that some expansion of advances is appropriate, there are no specific restrictions on trading bank lending, except on increased lending for hire purchase or instalment selling. With this one exception, the trading banks at present have full discretion concerning the purposes for which they lend. In its advice to the trading banks over recent months, the central bank has encouraged them to increase their advances above the 1957 level, and to give their attention to such important objects as housing and the needs of the rural industries. It has also made clear to them that, in addition to the £15,000,000 recently released from special accounts, it will continue to take any special account action necessary to maintain the liquidity of the banking system at an appropriate level after providing for a reasonable expansion of advances.
– I should like to move that the paper be printed, and to ask for leave to continue my remarks at a later date.
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. John McLeay).Order! Such a procedure would not be in order.
– Could the matter be dealt with by the Treasurer moving that the paper be printed, and the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Luchetti) then obtaining the adjournment of the debate?
– I have no objection to such a course. It might afford an opportunity to remove a lot of misunderstanding. I move -
That the following paper: -
Commonwealth Bank Special Accounts - Ministerial Statement, be printed.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Luchetti) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 11th March (vide page 194), on motion by Mr. Malcolm Fraser -
That the following Address-in-Reply to the Speech of His Excellency the Governor-General be agreed to: -
May it Please Your Excellency -
We, the House of Representatives of the Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia, in Parliament assembled, desire to express our loyalty to our Most Gracious Sovereign, and to thank Your Excellency for the Speech which you have been pleased to address to Parliament.
Upon which Dr. Evatt had moved, by way of amendment -
That the following words be added to the address: - “ But we desire to inform Your Excellency that Your advisers have failed to realize the urgent necessity of putting into effect positive policies and measures aimed at -
the prevention of unemployment and the securing of full employment;
the building of sufficient homes;
an immediate and substantial reduction in the migrant intake until the serious deficiencies present in the existing programme are removed;
the provision by the Commonwealth to State Governments and local governing authorities of funds necessary for the building of public works and housing, roads, schools, hospitals and services essential to public health; and
effective defence administration and organization.”.
.- I support the motion for the adoption of the Address-in-Reply to the Governor-General’s Speech, and oppose the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt). I should like to support the remarks that have been made by all previous speakers concerning the recent visit of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother. Her presence in this country gave me, as it did all members of the Parliament, a great deal of pleasure, and I express the hope that it will be possible for other members of the Royal Family to visit Australia in the near future. Visits of this kind should become a more regular feature of Australian life than they have been in the past. They have a great and real value for Australia in human terms, and they are of great political significance to the British Commonwealth of Nations.
I move on now to deal with the topic that has been taken up by the Leader of the Opposition and Opposition members generally as their main field for an attack on the Government. I refer to unemployment. In this debate, I follow the honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly), who attempted to create an atmosphere that was not compatible with his words. He adopted a rather jocular tone, and you, Mr. Speaker, will recall that his entire speech consisted of an attack upon the Government, arid Mr. Howard Beale, the former honorable member for Parramatta, who is now Australian Ambassador to the United States of America. In addition, the honorable member for Grayndler made some critical comments about the Liberal party of Australia, the Parramatta by-election, and the candidate who was elected to succeed Mr. Beale. I think that we should place on record in this place the behaviour of the honorable member for Grayndler and his colleagues in trying to use economic movements for their own political advantage over a number of years. I have taken the trouble to read in “ Hansard “ statements of their views made when Labour was in government, and I think it is reasonable to assume that their views should have shown some consistency. The behaviour of the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward), of course, can be taken as a classic example, among the leading Opposition members, of the kind of conduct to which I refer.
Having in mind the fact that the honorable member for Kingsford-Smith (Mr. Curtin) has said that we are now approaching a period akin to the depression years of the 1930’s, I have browsed through speeches made by Labour supporters at that time, and I have discovered some real gems in “ Hansard “. Naturally, it follows that there are not many members in the Parliament to-day who sat in this place in 1931, when there was a Labour government led by Mr. Scullin. At that time, the honorable member for East Sydney belonged to a group within the Australian Labour party known as the Lang group. He and four or five of his colleagues, including the present honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James), crossed the floor of this House, voted with the conservative Opposition, and broke the Scullin Government.
In order that honorable members may understand clearly the influence of time upon the ideas of these gentlemen to whom I refer, I should like to read one expression of the views of the honorable member for East Sydney made in 1931. The reports of the speeches made by him at that time give me some reason to suspect that the honorable gentleman was then an even more robust debater than he is to-day, and that his ideas were even more elastic then than they are to-day. For other considerations, also, his words will be of interest to honorable members. The passage to which I refer occurs in the report of a speech made by the honorable member on the afternoon of 25th November, 1931, in a crucial debate that was followed by a vote that broke the Labour government, of which the honorable member was, in his own opinion if not in that of all his colleagues, a very important supporter. Referring to the late Mr. E. G. Theodore, who, honorable members will recall, was the Treasurer of the day, the honorable member for East Sydney said -
The Treasurer stated that not a tittleof evidence has been adduced in support of the charges against him.
The honorable member then made a rather unkind remark, as I am sure the House will agree. He continued -
We know from his past career that a lot of evidence is required to convict him of wrong-doing.
The point of interest is contained in the next words -
A government could not be guilty of anything more contemptible than to exploit the unfortunate unemployed to gain a political advantage.
– Who said that?
– I repeat that those were words used by the honorable member for East Sydney in the crucial days of 1931. I should like the House to bear in mind that they were a statement of principle.
I defy any member of the Australian Labour party to substantiate a denial of the fact that the Opposition is now doing all it can to derive the maximum measure of political advantage from the present economic situation. This fact is well known to members of the press gallery, members of the public who have witnessed the proceedings in this place from the public galleries in recent days, and members of the Parliament. This situation has been made clear again and again. We saw it in the recent by-election in Parramatta when, as the honorable member for Grayndler said last night, the effect of economic tensions in the community were reflected in what he called a shock to the Government and a grave reduction in the majority of the Liberal party’s candidate.
During the by-election members of the Opposition said that the events of 1929, 1930, and 1931 were being re-enacted. They said that depression and unemployment would be created deliberately by this Government. The Opposition set out to create a condition of mind that would enable them to derive the maximum political advantage. I do not think any member opposite would refute that. As the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) said last night, such propaganda constitutes their stock-in-trade. They depend upon it to derive political advantage which, they hope, will ultimately lead to the defeat of the Government. Those members who can cast their minds back to 1949 will recall the phrase, “You will all be cool in Menzies’ pool”. That phrase was repeated again and again throughout all electorates during the 1949 campaign. It was used by members of the
Labour party as a weapon of propaganda, a weapon of fear, against the people of this country. Now we have an expression of opinion by the honorable member for East Sydney, an expression of opinion that would be supported by the majority of his colleagues who, in their actions, ignore what they know to be the right principles.
The New South Wales Minister for Transport has recently been applying a policy of retrenchment of railway workers. I am told by those qualified to know that he is known as the “ Minister for Retrenchment” in New South Wales. It may be thought by people of a more malicious frame of mind than myself that there is some political association between the desire, on the one hand, to create unemployment, and on the other hand the retrenchment of government employees in New South Wales where there is, after all, a Labour government, which does not quite enjoy the familiar affection of the Leader of the Opposition in this Parliament.
As the Prime Minister said last night, the Australian economy is a balanced economy, and the effect of drought and a fall in the overseas prices of our exports will be temporarily reflected in the economy. It is sad if such a situation is to be seized upon by members of the Opposition as a -weapon with which to attack the Government in order to derive political advantage. I have no doubt that the honorable member for Grayndler would only, with tongue in cheek, be guilty of saying that this Government riad set out deliberately to bring about unemployment. It must be apparent to the honorable member, after his recent trips overseas, that national prosperity is the result of hard work, co-ordinated effort, and understanding between capital and labour. Everything that is said by members of the Opposition is aimed at preventing understanding between capital and labour. The Opposition is politically interested in preventing a situation from arising in which labour and capital can advance side by side to our economic benefit. That is perfectly illustrated by the comment of the honorable member for East Sydney last night when he reflected on the capacity, and in one sense upon the character, of the president of the Australian Council of Trade Unions. When it was pointed out that Mr. Albert Monk had said that there was no economically significant unemployment in Australia, the honorable member for East Sydney said -
What would he know about it?
Before next September, perhaps by July or August, the present economic tensions will have eased. By the end of the year, the economy will be more buoyant. That is my prediction, and it is in the Government’s own interests that this should be so. I believe, therefore, that the Government will direct its efforts towards this end, and that members of the Opposition will find themselves without a political horse to ride.
I do not believe that it is necessary to deal with the Parramatta by-election at any great length, because the honorable member for Grayndler, who spent some time discussing this subject last night, created a jocular atmosphere, an atmosphere of levity, which was rather different from the words he used in his speech. I should have thought that economic tension was a subject for solemn discussion. After all, honorable members are aware that the honorable member for Grayndler has been under great strain in his own electorate recently, and if it were not for the fact that a relatively small majority of people supported him, he might have been in that unfortunate position, as is one of his colleagues, of having a member of another faction endorsed in his place, But knowing the honorable member as I do, and being familiar with his charm, I would regard such a state of affairs as sad. I would sooner have the honorable gentleman in this place to remind me from time to time that there is at least one member of the Opposition who is not without some slight sense of humour. I have never been able to associate a sense of humour with the Leader of the Opposition or with the more solemn members of his party.
Before the new member for Parramatta takes his place in the chamber, I think honorable members opposite should be reminded of certain facts about the Parramatta by-election. In December, 1955, when the last election took place, there were about 44,000 people in the electorate. At that time the political fortunes of the Government had risen to their highest possible level - a wonderful time to hold an election. I am happy that the election took place then, because it resulted in my return to this place. Two years later, due to a revision of electoral boundaries, 7,000 people had left the electorate, but 11,000 others had taken their place, so that the total number of electors was then 48,000. This means that there was a movement of 1 8,000 people in a total of some 55,000, which represents a very considerable percentage. As the former member for Parramatta, the present Ambassador for Australia in Washington, told me himself, the character of the electorate was undoubtedly changed as, no doubt, the character of certain other electorates is changing. I mention that merely because I feel that it is necessary to put some of the facts side by side with the rather extravagant statements of my friend, the honorable member for Grayndler, last night.
I should like to conclude by turning to what is, in my view, one of the more important matters mentioned by the GovernorGeneral in his Speech. It concerns the Services, in relation to which the Leader of the Opposition made a comment which was typical of those generalizations and rather vague statements that the right honorable gentleman utters. He quoted from a newspaper report about Government inertia and said -
We have seen it in connexion with the defence administration, which has gone from bad to worse. Finally, Sir Leslie Morshead has been brought into the picture and is now engaged in making certain recommendations to the Government. The position in all the defence services must, as previous debate has shown, be regarded as unsatisfactory. The same kind of complacency is found in the Speech to which we are replying.
That type of vague comment makes no con:tribution to the solution of the problem. We are passing through a stage in defence thinking when we ought to devote ourselves to creating a defence organization which will give us the maximum efficiency for the minimum outlay in cost and personnel. By that, I mean that we should look very closely at the matter of reducing redundancies in the Services.
The honorable and gallant member for Indi (Mr. Bostock), who has been in this Parliament since 1949 and is well known to have been a very distinguished commanderinchief during World War II., has, since 1951 at least, spoken on this matter on many occasions. I believe that the Government should give very serious consideration to the point of view that he has put forward; and which I would like to support this afternoon. We are looking for an integrated defence force, and our view is that in Australia, having regard to the enormous increase in the cost of defence services, we shall ultimately be forced to adopt some system of this kind. Honorable members are all familiar with the facts which have been stated in relation to costs. They know, for example, that the type and class of aircraft that cost £15,000 or £20,000 before the war costs £250,000 to-day. There seems to us, on looking at this problem, to be no reason why medical services, equipment, training organizations, and personnel administration for all three Services should not be handled by single groups of people specially trained for the purpose.
We want a united control of the Services. We need a person who will be, in effect, a commander-in-chief, although we cannot use that description because of the GovernorGeneral’s title. I would use the title “Chief of Defence Forces”. If such a commander had a chief staff officer who had, beneath him, a senior staff officer for each of the Navy, the Army, and the Air Force, it would be possible to have an integrated staff organization to handle all the operational functions of the three Services This would result in a co-ordination of thought and result which would be of great benefit to us.
I do not think that there is any great argument about the fact that much of the administration and planning could be done by one group organization. Communications and administration of personnel and supply and equipment for all three Services could be controlled by one staff. We would then not have the situation, which I believe existed during World War II., wherein the Navy had a surplus of blankets while the Army was short of them. There would undoubtedly be much saving of effort and effecting of economies if this system were adopted.
On the political side, I hold the view that it is better for one man, the Minister for Defence, to be responsible to the Cabinet for defence, having as his main functional adviser the Chief of Defence Forces, who would in truth be the commander-in-chief.
I am sure that if the Parliament decided that this was a sensible approach to the defence problem our friends opposite would be happy to agree to the passage of legislation to that end. I should not like to see an assistant Minister responsible for the Navy, the Army and the Air Force. I should prefer to have an assistant Minister who was responsible for equipment for the three arms of the services, and an assistant Minister responsible for administration relating to personnel of the three services, and so forth. The point I make is that we do not want a position in which there would be assistant Ministers occupying virtually the same position, vis-a-vis the Minister for Defence, as do the present Ministers for the three services- I suggest that in this way we would achieve co-ordination and elimination of redundancies and have a more flexible and mobile organization which would be able to take part in hemisphere defence as an efficient, co-ordinated Australian group. It seems to me that this will be the trend in most defence services throughout the world. In the clash between the United States Navy and Army in the intercontinental ballistic missile field, the Parliament has before it the classic example of inter-service jealousies in the twentieth century.
– Why does the Minister allow it?
– I am talking about the United States. I should not like to go into the political problems of the Chiefs-of-Staff Committee in the United States. It is a human problem, and the people in charge of the Army and Navy programmes for ballistic missiles have clashed on human grounds and co-ordination has been lacking, with the unfortunate results of recent months.
– Order! The honorable gentleman’s time has expired.
.- His Excellency the Governor-General, referring to the visit of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother said -
Her Majesty’s visit allows us to demonstrate once more our affectionate loyalty to Her Majesty the Queen and to our Royal Family.
That statement, I believe, expresses the sentiments of every one, not only in the
House but also outside it, and I have very much pleasure in associating myself with that expression.
Last night the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) replied to the censure motion of the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt), which is based on the Government’s failure in respect of immigration, unemployment and housing. The Prime Minister tried to prove that there was a difference of opinion in the ranks of the Opposition on the subject of immigration and that there was a difference of opinion between the Opposition and the trade union movement on the matter of unemployment. Any one who is content with his answer to the criticisms that were made of the Government’s housing policy is very easily satisfied. The Prime Minister, trying desperately to answer Labour’s criticism of the Government’s immigration programme, sought to make it appear that there were inconsistencies in Labour’s attitude. According to him, the Leader of the Opposition, referring to the immigration programme, had said, “ Make it smaller “, and the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Cairns) has said, “ Make it bigger “. The honorable member for Yarra has examined what the Prime Minister said and has authorized me to say, immediately, that the Prime Minister’s statement is incorrect and misleading. Both the Leader of the Opposition and the honorable member for Yarra have enunciated the policy of the Australian Labour party that the Menzies Government immigration programme must be cut.
In the broadcast to which the Prime Minister referred, the honorable member for Yarra said that the Menzies Government immigration programme could not be accepted because it was a miserable failure. It had been turned on and off like a tap and it had not reached anywhere near the objective of the Labour immigration programme of 1 per cent, a year. He added that, because of its failure, the Menzies Government was discriminating not only against British immigrants but against southern European immigrants also. He said, further, that the Menzies Government immigration programme had failed because the Government had failed to take the necessary steps to provide adequate employment, housing and services for immigrants. He said that Australia can, and must maintain an immigration programme far larger and better than that of the Menzies Government, but that this immigration programme depended, as Labour had stated in 1946, upon adequate employment, housing and services being provided for immigrants. Only a Labour government can provide these things because only a Labour government will take steps to give directions to banks and others with money to ensure that the money is applied to housing and so on and not to hire-purchase and other profit-making purposes such as lending and investment. I hope that I have done the honorable member for Yarra justice in making that statement.
I turn now to the Government’s attitude on unemployment. The Government claims that the Opposition is making capital out of the situation. I do know that there is an extraordinary state of unemployment in this country and the attitude of the Government is extraordinary as shown by the way it answers criticism made against it. It appears to me that every criticism levelled against the Government is immediately answered by Government members saying that the Opposition is playing politics in this matter. What is the Opposition to do? Are we on this side to close our eyes to unemployment which is growing in our country? Are we to sit idly by and do nothing about it, or are we to attempt not only to bring the Government’s attention to the condition but also to suggest remedies for it? We have been directing criticism against the Government for this situation and we have also suggested remedies. But these efforts by members of the Opposition have been met with criticism and scorn from Government members.
Judging by some of the things that they have said, the attitude of some honorable members opposite is that they have very little concern for this matter although it is of paramount importance to the people of Australia. They seem to think that people outside this House are not affected by growing unemployment and that they are not gravely alarmed about it. I invite members on the Government side to apply their minds to the result of the recent Parramatta by-election. Parramatta is an area least affected by unemployment. But the fact that unemployment does exist in Australia was obviously very much in the minds of the electors of Parramatta last Saturday, and their opinion of the Government’s attitude to it was dramatically expressed in the result of that by-election.
The honorable member for Bradfield (Mr. Turner) said that although the Opposition was making suggestions as to what should be done to create more employment, such as giving a boost to the building of more houses, if our proposals were carried out the result would be to add to existing inflation. The honorable member went on to make a plea for the people who are suffering the greatest as a result of inflation. I remind him that inflation exists to-day only as a result of the policy that this Government chooses to follow. It has been in office continuously since 1949, and as a consequence we have seen that the cost of almost everything has doubled. It is idle for any honorable member on the Government side to make a specious plea for some people who are suffering as a result of the policy which he supports.
On the question of unemployment, the Prime Minister tried to draw a red herring across the trail by quoting a statement that was allegedly made by the president of the Australian Council of Trade Unions last Sunday evening. Personally, 1 believe that that statement was taken out of its context. I am certain that the A.C.T.U. is alive to the unemployment position, and if anybody is trying to misrepresent the attitude of that body let me quote a statement that was made on its behalf, as reported in the “ Canberra Times “ of 22nd February last.
– Was this a statement by Mr. Monk?
– This article is headed “ A.C.T.U. Attack on Australian Unemployment “, and the text of it is as follows: -
Unemployment figures released by the Department of Labour and National Service revealed a situation which justified the condemnation of the Federal Government, the interstate executive of the Australian Council of Trade Unions declared to-day.
The executive said the Government had failed to take every measure to arrest the increasing unemployment in Australia.
A resolution carried by the executive said, “ The present Federal Government, while maintaining it subscribes to the policy of full employment, has consistently rejected the representations of the Labour rv” movement en this vital principle. “ It has failed lamentably to appreciate Australia’s economic difficulties, and has disregarded the well being of the Australian people. “ We reject the concept that unemployment is inevitable. There is a great need for mobilizing the scientific and skilled labour available to develop our natural resources, build up our industries, and provide more homes, hospitals, schools and other public works.”
The executive said, “ Unemployment benefits were not sufficient to meet the barest subsistence required for an unemployed worker and his family.” lt urged the Federal Government to double the present rate.
The executive declared that as the total work force subscribed through their “ pay packets “ each week to the social benefit fund, unemployment benefits should be regarded as a right not subject to a means test, or discrimination because of race or colour.
Members on the Government side have attempted to play down the unemployment situation existing in this country. The statement that was issued on behalf of the A.C.T.U. last month - the body of which Mr. Monk is president - adequately conveys the opinion and the attitude of the A.C.T.U. on this question. It should be, in itself, a complete refutation of the claims which the Prime Minister attempted to make last night. It would appear that Government members are trying to make out that the only people who claim there is an unemployment problem are the members of the Opposition. I shall quote further from the article which I have just been reading to the House. It contains a statement made by Mr. N. Curphey, who is the general manager of the Chamber of Manufactures. He said - “ While the present unemployment situation was no cause for any great alarm, it was far worse than the recent official figure of 75,000 indicated. “ It seems odd that only a short time ago the Government was afraid that the country was enjoying too much prosperity for its own good “.
This is a statement not by a Labour man, but by the general manager of the Chamber of Manufactures. The newspaper report goes on -
Mr. Curphey said the Federal Government should release credit and review taxation to reduce unemployment. It should act now before the position became too difficult to remedy.
This Government has always talked about reducing costs. The conventional approach of Government supporters to such questions is that in cost reduction there is a readymade panacea for all economic ills. That opinion has been expressed by Government supporters in this House. Yet one of the factors that has contributed to increased costs has been the financial policy adopted by this Government, under which money has become dearer. Interest rates have been permitted to rise higher and higher, and every increase in interest rates necessarily causes a spiralling of costs. So, while members of the Government tell us that the fundamental approach to the problem is to reduce costs, they are committed to a policy that is continually pushing up interest rates. How inconsistent can they get?
The Prime Minister has told us that the Government’s method of solving the problem is to increase the finance received by State governments and semi-government instrumentalities by £8,000,000, and to arrange for the release of £15,000,000 from the special account in the Commonwealth Bank. It appears that the Prime Minister has adopted the usual approach to the problem, and he has sought to give the impression that, having taken the steps 1 have mentioned, the problem is solved. Why is it that every time a crisis of this character develops in Australia, Government supporters and spokesmen, particularly Ministers and the Prime Minister, are quick to deny that a crisis exists and are always too late in controlling its effects? Let us consider some recent crises that have developed in this country. We had a crisis in the mining industry about twelve or eighteen months ago. Although it became apparent to almost everybody that a crisis existed, the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) told us that there was no crisis in the mining industry. Weeks went by, and it became quite obvious that a crisis did exist, as a result of which radical changes and transformations have taken place in the mining industry.
I remind honorable members of the Government’s attitude towards the housing crisis. I do not think any one will ever forget the classic statement of the Prime Minister that there was no crisis in housing. Having made this pronouncement, the Prime Minister was forced to come into the House a few weeks later and make a full statement on the matter. I think his statement that there was no housing crisis is on a par with his promise to put value back into the £1.
A few weeks ago Senator Spooner told us that there was no crisis in unemployment. This was, of course, before the meeting of the Australian Loan Council, and we all know what happened at that meeting. The Prime Minister and the members of his Government believe that, having made £8,000,000 available to State governments and semi-governmental bodies, and having secured the release of £15,000,000 from the special account in the Commonwealth Bank, they can sit back and let the difficulties resolve themselves. What is going to happen to the £15,000,000 that is being made available to the trading banks? Let no Government supporter try to convince us that that money will be used to ease the housing crisis. It certainly will not. This is not only my opinion. Let me read portion of an article that appeared in the “ Australian Financial Review “, a “ Sydney Morning Herald “ publication, on 6th March -
The main unsatisfied area for bank credit at the moment is housing, with some rural producers needing carry-on finance. But there is little evidence so far to suggest that the banks are any more interested in housing business now than they were a few months ago. Accordingly, there is still little reason for believing that the Central Bank’s request will receive more than scant attention from the trading banks.
That is the opinion expressed by the “ Australian Financial Review “, and I believe it is precisely correct. The private trading banks have shown very little interest in any attempts to relieve the housing situation. I recall that one of the reasons advanced for permitting them to enter the savings bank field was that they would make a substantial contribution towards relieving the housing shortage. But what has happened? They have contributed almost nothing in that direction.
The Prime Minister had absolutely no defence to the criticism levelled at his Government on the matter of housing. The only way in which Government supporters attempt to answer such criticism is by denouncing State Labour governments. The Prime Minister attempted to take refuge in the Constitution and said that it was doubtful whether the Commonwealth had any authority in the field of housing. The honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Whitlam) set him right on that issue by pointing out that there was nothing in the Constitution to prevent the Commonwealth from making money available to the States for housing.
This Government’s record in the housing field is not an impressive one- If I were a Government supporter, instead of devoting my time to disparaging the efforts of State Labour governments I would try to take some positive action to solve the problem. Let us consider the Government’s record with regard to war service homes. This is a field in which the Commonwealth has unlimited authority, and in which the Government cannot hide behind the Constitution. The Government’s record in this field is by no means impressive. In the smaller States the position may perhaps be considered satisfactory, but in the larger States there is still a tremendous lag. Let me also remind honorable members that although the Government has boasted that it increased the allocation for war service homes last year by £5,000,000, it was merely restoring the position that had obtained in the previous year. The Government deserves no congratulation for making available that £5,000,000. Rather should we ask why it reduced the allocation by £5,000,000 in the previous year.
– That is a new one!
– Last year the Government claimed that it had made available an additional £5,000,000 for war service homes. If the honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull) cares to peruse the records, he will find that the allocation for 1957 merely equalled the amount made available in 1955.
– But the honorable member claimed that the Government cut down the allocation.
– It cut it down in 1956, and in 1957 it restored the allocation to the 1955 level.
Let us now consider the treatment accorded by the Commonwealth to civilians in territories under Commonwealth control. A few weeks ago I visited Darwin, as a member of the Public Works Committee. I do not propose to give honorable members a travel talk, but I do wish to tell the House of the shocking treatment meted out by the Commonwealth Government to civilians in the Northern Territory in the matter of housing. I believe that Government members should interest themselves in this question. However, I shall pass from that matter because there are other subjects to which I wish to refer. If I have an opportunity at a later date I will deal with the matter of housing in Government territories.
Some reference was made in the Governor-General’s Speech to shipbuilding for naval purposes. I am sorry that no reference was made to maritime shipping. There is a general lack of shipbuilding orders in the eastern States. This is a serious situation. The shipbuilding industry is declining and I bring to the notice of the Government once again the importance of this industry and stress that it is languishing almost to the point of extinction. I hope that the Government will do something to stimulate the shipbuilding industry, particularly in the eastern States.
The Governor-General’s Speech did not refer at all to the St. Mary’s project. I wish to draw the attention of the House to a statement that was made after the completion of an investigation, which was made following criticism of the St. Mary’s project by the Opposition. Honorable members may not be acquainted with the report which was then furnished, and one can base any observations only on what appeared in the newspapers. However, I shall read from a report in the Sydney “ Daily Telegraph “ of 28th February, 1958. In some respects, the report attempted to whitewash certain people connected with the St. Mary’s project. Following the report, Mr. H. D. Calderwood, who was formerly employed as an auditor with the central control agency on the St. Mary’s job, said -
After ignoring our warnings the Government appointed W. D. Scott and Co. to make an investigation at the end of the job.
Certain parts of their report are based on wrong premises.
There should be an open inquiry into the whole thing.
I say the Government including the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) and the then Minister for Supply (Mr. Beale) ignored our warnings for political reasons.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- In considering the Governor-General’s Speech, I associate myself with others in thanking Her Majesty, the Queen Mother, for having honoured us by giving us the pleasure of seeing her here on a visit. The visit is now over and it was a very great success from beginning to end. Our thanks are due to Her Majesty for her untiring energy, her charm and for her acceptance of every invitation. In that way, the maximum number of people saw her and will remember her. Her Majesty’s visit has done us all good. May God spare her and other members of the Royal Family so that they may make further visits to this our country.
I congratulate the Government on the work that it has done during this Twentysecond Parliament, and I should like to refute the allegations contained in the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt). It is unfortunate that this should be an election year, because we are being subjected to a deluge of propaganda. The honorable member for Dalley (Mr. O’Connor) made a sincere speech, but it was stereotyped, as all other speeches made by Opposition members have been. However, his speech was helpfully moderate, for which I congratulate him. I should like to refute one comment that he made. He said that the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) was wrong or that he took a remark out of context when he mentioned that the president of the Australian Council of Trade Unions had said that there was no serious unemployment in Australia. Almost all those in Victoria with television sets not only heard but also saw him say those words, and he was sincere all the way through his interview, which appeared on television under the title, “ Meet the Press “. I saw it myself and am able to confirm that he did make the comment that has been referred to.
It is unfortunate that we have heard nothing but propaganda from Opposition members; we will probably hear still more propaganda in the speeches that will follow. All that they have dealt with is housing and unemployment. I recall that at this time last year housing was a major contention. It was then introduced to draw a red herring across the trail and to distract attention from the Brisbane Labour conference and the results that flowed from it. To-day, this subject has been included again for good measure and to cover the fact that the Leader of the Opposition is distasteful to most citizens of Australia. Unemployment is another subject that is being hammered very solidly, and we have heard about the threat of a depression. I am only young in the service of the House - perhaps I am not so young outside - but, I remember this very argument about a depression being raised during the Senate election in 1953, the combined Senate and House of Representatives election in 1954, and the combined election in 1955. And here we have it again! It is despicable to sow fear and, by causing a lack of confidence, to produce the very thing that is being prophesied by Opposition members, with their wishful thinking. I shall not deal further with this subject because last night we heard the Prime Minister most adequately and emphatically deal with the whole situation. I have great confidence in the way that this Government is handling the problem, lt is a sound, easy handling, without sudden changes and sudden upsets that would cause shocks to the economy and make it less balanced than it should be.
I am very glad to see that the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Roberton) is here. We all know how sympathetic he is in dealing with his tasks. Sometimes his duties may be invidious, but that is caused, possibly, by lack of agreement at high levels, and chiefly by lack of money. When one first looks at the Governor-General’s Speech it may perhaps appear to be a slightly dull document. However, on closer inspection one can detect that we have a sound government that will not be stampeded. We have a government that has not been afraid to make unpopular decisions and a government that has brought Australia to a state which is perhaps unique in the world. We have our little troubles, but we are prosperous, we are looked up to and we have a great place in the world.
I was rather surprised to observe that social services were not mentioned in the Governor-General’s Speech. This is possibly a big omission. This matter is very important to me and, I think, to many other members on this side of the House. I believe that honorable members opposite should fight harder for social service benefits on occasions like the present when we can submit our views to the House, instead of using this debate for propaganda purposes. I regret that scant attention has been given to social services in this debate.
The division of Flinders is not exceptional. It has a good climate and, for that reason, many people retire there. Nevertheless, many deserving cases can be found in Flinders as well as cases of dire poverty. I congratulate the Government and the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Roberton) on the subsidy provided for homes for the aged, and on the increase of the Government’s share to £2 for every £1 provided by approved organizations. In Flinders, three homes have been completed. A large war veteran’s home is gradually being filled and is providing a valuable service. I emphasize, however, the dire need of unmarried pensioners. Many of these pensioners have no family and must exist on their pension of £4 7s. 6d. a week. If they have no family, relations or home, it is difficult for them to get lodging for under £1 10s. a week. When people grow old, they often get crochety or develop bad habits, and many single pensioners have to pay comparatively high charges for what can be described as outhouses. They are left with very little to provide for clothing, warmth and cooking.
Recently, I came across the case of an old pensioner of two wars who lived in a small derelict structure which had been used while some persons were building a house. He lived on tinned food. He could not be blamed for wanting a party at Christmas for which he bought himself four bottles of beer. Obviously, he had been starving himself for some time to pay for his little party and, to put it mildly, the beer went to his head. When he came to, he looked for food and went to the tin from which he had had his last meal. As a result, he suffered food poisoning. He was too sick even to crawl, but luckily people who lived in a nearby house noticed that he had not been seen for some time and went to his aid. Now, he is safely in a home. He is one of many similar cases. I know a married pensioner whose wife is aged only 41 years and cannot get a pension. The husband had brain trouble, possibly from over-work. He is now a cripple on crutches and has blackouts. He gets an invalid pension and £1 15s. a week for his wife, so he is not receiving half the basic wage and is incapable of earning any more. The ordinary pensioner who is hale and hearty is in a better position.
Some pensioners with a wife who is not eligible for a pension can earn up to £3 10s. If both are earning, their total income with the pension is £11 7s. 6d. a week. They are much worse off than those with private means or with two pensions who can do a full day’s work. Some who earn too much are penalized by a reduction of pension. There are many anomalies in the social service system and they should be investigated. When the Budget is presented, the pensioners are given increases by the Government and the Opposition tries to increase the amount. We should revise our thinking on these matters, even if we start with a scheme within a scheme, until we can improve upon the system. An honorable senator once said that a country which looks after its young, its aged and its brave has nothing wrong with it.. We can say that we are helping the young and the brave, but can we honestly say that we are looking after the aged?
I congratulate the honorable member for St. George (Mr. Graham) on his excellent and well-prepared speech. I was interested in his references to the defence services, and I should like to associate myself with his statements. To-day, more than ever, we must look to our defences and see that our house is put in order. At this moment, Indonesia is practically falling into the hands of the Communists. Probably, before long, Russia will be supplying aid to Indonesia, and Indonesia will then stand in exactly the same position as Egypt and Syria stand in relation to Russia. They will be arsenals of the Soviet Union. Distance is no consideration to-day; Russia could easily fly technicians and equipment to Indonesia to help one side or the other.
We must seek a more complete state of preparedness. The cost is high and we must get the best value for our money. On that point, I agree entirely with the honorable member for St. George. In time of war, armies, navies and air forces are grouped under one supreme commander who is able to get the best out of every unit under his command. It is time we considered whether our forces would be more efficient if they were grouped under one commander. It might be said that such a man might favour the branch of the services from which he was drawn and neglect the other branches. As supreme commander he would be responsible for each service under his command. He is the man who is responsible. So I think we should look into this. As it is, the moment peace comes we go back to having three service chiefs, three separate services, five defence Ministers and five defence departments, each one of the individuals concerned quite rightly fighting for his own department or service. It is a top-heavy system which needs the introduction of some co-ordinating element. It is not good to have each service fighting for its own advantage. We should have all services co-ordinating in a combined effort. Under the present divided system we achieve compromise between departments and services rather than an overall plan for the efficient defence of the whole of Australia. Cur forces are small and can, therefore, be easily integrated under one command. The answer to any one who might ask why the United Kingdom has not adopted that procedure is that the three services there are vast compared with ours, although the United Kingdom Government may be cutting down its armed services now. However, it is interesting to know that in various parts of the world British forces drawn from all three services are working as a complete unit under a supreme commander.
I am interested to know that we are to send another fighter squadron to Malaya. I mention that matter because it has been said that perhaps we are not doing all we should be doing for the defence of this part of the world in which we live. I am also interested in the fact that that fighter squadron is to be sent because I was privileged to spend the best part of a week recently at Williamtown, where I saw two fighter squadrons and a training squadron at work. I should like now to pay a tribute to all ranks of the Royal Australian Air Force for what I saw of the work of the highly efficient body of men at that station. Sometimes when we are debating the estimates for the defence services we wonder whether the services are making proper use of the very expensive machinery with which we supply them. The Sabre aircraft, one of the pieces of machinery supplied for our defence, is no toy. I was interested to see that Sabre aircraft are being used for training at Williamtown in three shifts a day, from breakfast until tea-time. Those aircraft, and the men using them, are doing a wonderful job. We saw them doing bombing, rocketing and every other form of defence or attack of which the aircraft are capable. The precision was first class, and I pay tribute to the men concerned.
I know that the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Roberton), who is now at the table, will pay heed to my words, and I hope that he will have success in forming his schemes and getting them implemented. I shall be only too happy to help him when the time comes. Although none of the Ministers of the defence service departments is in the House at the moment, 1 trust that they will acquaint themselves with what I have said and will look into my suggestions speedily, because there is not much time to lose.
I saw a report in a newspaper this morning to the effect that the Morshead report is to be scrapped. I hope the press report is wrong, because it is imperative that we should have the best defence organization possible to meet any threat to our security, and that we should get going on it immediately.
.- Before coming to my main remarks I should like to tell the House that several weeks ago, in company with the honorable member for Kingsford-Smith (Mr. Curtin), I visited a convalescent home in Sydney to see the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James), who is ill. While we were there the matron told us* that about a fortnight prior to our visit Mr. Speaker had also called to see the honorable member for Hunter, but, unfortunately, the honorable member was too sick on the day of Mr. Speaker’s visit to receive visitors. It is very refreshing, Mr. Acting Deputy Speaker, that Mr. Speaker shows such an interest in all members of the House and their welfare, irrespective of their party affiliation, and I entirely agree with my colleague, the honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie), who on Thursday, last week, thanked Mr. Speaker for paying him a similar visit during his recent illness.
The Governor-General’s Speech shows the Government’s negative and lackadaisical approach to the two major problems confronting Australia - the critical housing shortage and the unemployment position. The failure of the Government to tackle those two important problems will not be condoned by the Australian people for very much longer. This is evidenced by the great swing to Labour in the Parramatta by-election last Saturday. The result of the by-election in this blue-ribbon Liberal seat shows that if a general election were held next Saturday, the Government would be swept from office and replaced by a Labour government dedicated and committed to a policy of housing for the people, full employment and improved social services.
The Parramatta result showed that, whereas the Liberal party’s candidate in the 1955 general election polled 62.322 per cent.” of the total valid votes cast in the electorate, against the Labour party candidate’s percentage of 37.678, in the byelection, the Liberal party candidate’s vote slumped to 54.652 per cent, of the total valid votes cast - a decline of 7.67 per cent. - while the Labour party candidate’s votes jumped to 43.147 per cent. - an increase of 5.469 per cent. The independent Lang Labour candidate received the remaining 2.2 per cent, of the valid votes cast. I recall a statement by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), reported in a newspaper recently, to the effect that it could be assumed that the second preferences of the voters who voted for an independent in the by-election would go to the Liberal party’s candidate. That is not so, because I am led by the scrutineers to believe that well over 50 per cent, of these preferences would have gone to the Labour party’s candidate.
It was amusing to see in the Sydney “ Sunday Telegraph “ last Sunday an attempt to persuade the readers of that newspaper that the Liberal party candidate had obtained a good vote. This newspaper purposely falsified the report in an endeavour to cloak the implication of this by-election. It said that, in some respects, the improved vote for Labour was due to a great industrial development within the electorate and also to boundary changes. The writer of this article knows full well that the boundaries which operated in 1955 were exactly the same as those which existed last Saturday. But I suppose that if the boss of this newspaper wants to be included in a future honours list he has to keep on side with the Government. The “ Sun “, the “ Sydney Morning Herald “ and the “ Truth “ newspapers gave a fairly accurate picture of the result and the swing to Labour was indicated in those newspapers.
Let us examine the housing position in Australia to-day. In New South Wales, for example, there are over 23,000 applications for Housing Commission homes and there are 25,000 people on the waiting lists of the co-operative building societies. Also, 200 fresh applications for Housing Commission homes are received every week. In addition, many thousands of immigrant families are awaiting homes and are registered as applicants with the two authorities mentioned. A conservative estimate would be that at least 60,000 families in New South Wales urgently require housing. The fact that the average Australian family comprises 3.7 persons means, in effect, that there are over 200,000 men, women and children in New South Wales without proper housing. Yet during the financial year 1957-58 the grant to the New South Wales Government for Housing Commission homes was only £11,000,000! This amount was supplemented recently by a further £1,000,000, but 20 per cent, of the original £11,000,000 had to go to the co-operative building societies.
– Quite right.
– It is absolutely right. But the only reason that the money went to those societies was that the banks would not lend the money to the societies to build homes to the extent that they were lending it prior to their entering the field of hire purchase. As I have said, of the grant of £11,000,000, 20 per cent., or £2,200,000, had to go to those societies, which left an amount of £9,800,000 for the Housing Commission. This amount will build only 3,266 homes at an average cost of £3,000 each. That number of homes will not even keep pace with the number of young couples who are married each week, let alone assist in catching up with any back lag.
At various places in my electorate at which I interview constituents, many married couples, particularly young fathers and mothers and newly-married couples, approach me in order to see whether I can assist them to find a home in which to live. Some of them are endeavouring to raise families in one room. Some have children who are sleeping on the floor on mattresses. Some even find it necessary to have children in their early teens, of different sexes, sleeping in the same bed because of lack of space. Surely not one member of this House would tolerate such conditions in his own home. The great theoretical academists who build nations from behind office desks should learn, and learn quickly, that the first step in building any nation is to provide adequate homes in which mothers and fathers may raise children.
To illustrate the frustration of many young married couples I shall read an extract from the “ Pix “ weekly magazine of 21st December, 1957. The heading is -
60,000 YOUNG AUSTRALIAN COUPLES WITH A PROBLEM.
Now that the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Whitlam) is not present I shall be able to read this article. I believe that he lived with his father-in-law for some considerable time. The article states -
In Australia to-day more than 60,000 young married couples are trying to cope with a national problem - how to live with their in-laws and still stay happily married. And the tragic experience of barristers, psychiatrists and divorce judges gives them no better than a hazardous chance of succeeding.
Giving judgment in the N.S.W. courts recently, Mr. Justice Dovey, one of Australia’s most widely experienced jurists in divorce, said, “ It’s a sad thing to have to say, but of all young couples whose marriages break-up in the first three to five years, sooner in some cases, the fact that they have been living with one or another of their in-laws is responsible in the great majority of cases “.
The tragedy lies in the fact that, in most cases, neither party is directly to blame. Both the host parents and the newlyweds are forced to cope with economic circumstances, accommodation problems and psychological developments with which neither, generally, is emotionally or psychiatrically schooled to cope. The result is frustration, pin-pricking incidents, mounting tension that almost inevitably ends in a breakdown of what, under normal conditions of marriage, would have been an affectionate, companionable relationship.
Recently, the financial editor of the “ Sydney Morning Herald “ described the housing situation as an “inexcusable fiasco”. He went on to say - in the relapse of the Australian homebuilding figures for the December quarter, we have a final demonstration of one of the most appalling social and economic botches of our day.
Some very interesting facts relating to housing are contained in a report issued by the Master Builders’ Association of Australia in January last. One part of this report reads as follows: -
It can be seen that the situation is of such a critical nature that, unless some radical step is taken to effect improvements speedily over the next seven years to catch up the lag in dwelling construction, Australia will be faced with a permanently rising deficiency of dwellings. Unless the nation can raise its production of dwellings to a yearly rate sufficient to make appreciable inroads into this lag prior to 1965 when the actual need will become at least 65,200, and will thereafter commence to rise very steeply, then the chance of eliminating the deficiency within a reasonable time probably will have been lost.
That this task is not beyond the physical capacity of the country is indicated by the Commonwealth Bureau of Census and Statistics figure of 81,854 dwellings completed in 1952. What we do regard as critical, however, is that there must be a conscious planned effort made over these next seven years to steadily increase the production rate to the minimum target figures, and preferably higher.
Most building materials are readily available for early delivery in all States. Most industries report that unskilled labour is readily obtainable and that adequate skilled labour is available. With regard to labour in the building industry itself, our members are unanimous in declaring a ready availability of labour in all trades and a heavy over supply of unskilled labour. Our members similarly report that there is no dearth of building equipment.
There remains of the three essentials needed for the industry - namely, men, money and materials - only money, and we regard the shortage of this commodity to be the main cause of the slump in dwelling construction.
However, from both our own observations and those of the bodies quoted above, we are convinced that a relaxation of the stringent finance restrictions at present existing within the building industry would not result in a further burst of inflation. There are readily available both building materials and labor, sufficient to absorb the purchasing power of greater funds being injected into the dwelling sector of the building industry.
We repeat that, in our view, the availability of materials and labor is not a problem, and that it is shortage of finance which is the basic reason for the slump in dwelling construction.
It is always interesting, Mr. Acting Deputy Speaker, to hear the views of such an eminent Australian banker as Mr. C. R. McKerihan, president of the Rural Bank of New South Wales. At a people’s housing conference held in the Sydney Town Hall, on 2nd November of last year, Mr. McKerihan said -
I think it is a national problem and we should tackle it as such. I do not in any shape or form agree that the Federal people can wash their hands of housing, and say it is not my problem. After all I suppose the major difficulties associated wilh housing have been brought about by reason of immigration.
Now in housing there are, in my opinion, three ingredients - . . . manpower, material, and money. Now we all know that we have sufficient manpower in the building industry . . .
Secondly, I think we will all accept that there is no shortage of material today . . .
The third ingredient - money, and I have no hesitation in saying that our housing problem is with us today because of the shortage of capital supplied for building purposes . .
First, in comparison with the Commonwealth Bank, because I think you’ve got to deal with these things on a factual basis: In 1955-56 we made 587 advances on fixed loans and the Commonwealth Bank made 1,163; in 1956-57 we increased our number by 71 to 658, but the Commonwealth Bank decreased by 445 to 723. In the June quarter of 1956 we made 162 advances and the Commonwealth, 254, but in the June quarter of this year we made 178 advances and the Commonwealth Bank 171. In other words we went up 16 in the quarter by comparison and the Commonwealth went down 83.
In N.S.W. the Trading Bank advances for housing loans declined from £49 million in June 1955 to £40 million in June 1957, and from 14% of all advances in June 1954 to 10% of all advances in June, 1957.
– I remind the honorable member that it was said by Mr. C. R. McKerihan, one of the most able bankers in Australia, whose excellent administration has made such a great success of the Rural Bank of New South Wales, of which he is president.
I come now to the serious unemployment that exists in Australia to-day. From time to time, the Opposition is accused, particularly by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) and the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Harold Holt), of mentioning unemployment only for the purpose of creating a fear complex and causing more unemployment, but I remind the House that unemployment has been a principal topic in newspapers throughout Australia for the last six months. Most people know how frequently and regularly this matter has been mentioned in the press, but probably the Minister for Labour and National Service does not usually look at the newspapers to see the disclosures of alarming unemployment that are being made. He and the Prime Minister seem to have discarded the term “ full employment “. Now, they mostly use a new term - “ high and stable employment”. There is no accept able substitute for the term “ full employment “, Mr. Acting Deputy Speaker. It simply stands for a job for every Australian man or woman who is willing to work. The term “ high and stable employment “ is very vague. It could mean, for example, that the Government would be satisfied if 94 per cent, or 95 per cent, of the workers were in employment, and 5 per cent, or 6- per cent, unemployed. That, of course, would conform with Professor Hytten’s plan for a permanent army of unemployed, and that is the policy of the Liberal party of Australia. In any event, it would be very interesting to hear the Prime Minister’s interpretation of the difference between “ high and stable employment “ and “ full employment “, which is Labour’s policy.
The Watson electorate, which I am honoured to represent in this House, is perhaps the greatest industrial district in Australia. About two years ago, outside many factories, there were signs indicating that vacancies existed for tradesmen, process workers, and labourers, but at the present time one can make a tour of the electorate and find no vacancies indicated on signs outside the factories. Indeed, many undertakings are retrenching staff instead of looking for more workers. Recently, an establishment at St. Peters, in my electorate, advertised a vacancy for one unskilled worker, and more than 150 men arrived the next day looking for the job. Yet we are told by the Government and its supporters that there is no serious unemployment in Australia!
The slump in employment is due to the stringent credit-restriction policy adopted by the Government. It is a deliberate policy of deflation. As the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. O’Connor) has pointed out, there is no guarantee that the £15,000,000 of credit to be released will be devoted to housing in order to give jobs to the workless. This is pointed out also in an article that appeared in the Sydney “Sun-Herald” on 2nd March last. It stated -
Banking experts said in Sydney yesterday that banks receive a return of about 54 per cent, on money they lend for home building.
They receive about 6 per cent, on money they lend for industrial development.
But hire-purchase companies, in which some banks have substantial interests, receive up to 15 per cent, and more on the money they lend.
– What does “ Joe “ Cahill say about it?
– It should be obvious to the honorable member that the Commonwealth Government is running away from the hirepurchase problem. It is a national problem, and the Commonwealth Government should ask the people for power to control hire-purchase activities in Australia. The Opposition would support a referendum seeking power to control hire purchase, and I suggest that such a referendum would be carried overwhelmingly. I know that there are some members of the Australian Country party who would like to see some restrictions on hire purchase, but they will not come into the open and say so. It is of no use for Government supporters to try to pass the buck to the State governments. The problem of hire purchase is similar to that of prices control, and can be dealt with only on a national basis. If one State wanted to do the right thing, and were to restrict hire-purchase interest rates, money would be driven out to the other States that had no such restrictions.
The exorbitant interest rates being charged on hire-purchase finance are one of the principal causes of the worsening economic situation. They are one of the reasons why we cannot fill loans. People want to invest in hire-purchase companies in order to get a big return for their money, which can be invested on most lucrative terms at the present time. The exorbitant interest rates being charged on hirepurchase amount to downright usury. Until the problem is tackled on a national basis, nothing can be done about it. It is of no use for us to run away from it and say, “ It is a matter for the States “. If we do that, we may as well go home to bed. We come here to represent Australia, not a particular State, and if we think that we can do something that will promote development, encourage subscriptions to national loans, provide homes for the people, and make jobs for them, we should act instead of sitting back content to toady to certain interests, as this Government is doing.
I conclude by saying that the results of the by-election in Parramatta show conclusively that if a general election were held next week this Government would be overthrown to make way for a Labour govern ment dedicated to finding employment and homes for the people and improving social services.
.- I support the Address-in-Reply to the Speech delivered by His Excellency, the GovernorGeneral, on 25th February last, and I oppose the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt). This amendment is practically the same as the one moved about this time last year. I am particularly surprised that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) has seconded this amendment, particularly that portion of it that relates to cutting down our intake of immigrants. AH honorable members are aware of the magnificent job that was done by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition with relation to immigration, and due credit is given to him in that regard.
The main theme that has occupied the attention of members of the Opposition has been unemployment and housing. I was relieved to hear the honorable member for Watson (Mr. Cope) at long last stand up in this House and in a small measure at least attack the States for their part in the present system of hire purchase. I say at the outset that I am not opposed to hire purchase as a system, but I am opposed to the way in which it is being operated at present to the detriment of the people. Honorable members will recall that a few years ago I said that unless something was done about the system of hire purchase my patience might be exhausted and I might be tempted to vote against the Government if it continued to augment loan raising for the developmental programmes of the States. Now, we hear members of the Opposition talking about unemployment. They follow their leader, who said that the unemployment figures during the Chifley regime were tiny compared with the figures for 1952-53, and those of the present period. The Leader of the Opposition did not even exclude 1949, when the coal strike was on.
I recall that long before Labour’s second doctor entered this Parliament the leaders of his party were continually referring to the period from 1946 to 1949 as the golden age. One would be pardoned for imagining that in such a period there would be no unemployment whatever. I remember the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen), in dealing with the question of full employment, saying that as long as we got down to a figure of 5 per cent, unemployed it could be taken, for all practical purposes, as full employment- Last night the honorable member interjected to say that he was speaking about the employment of returned soldiers. I sincerely hope that he is not now switching from general unemployment to 5 per cent, unemployment of returned soldiers.
Last night the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) cited figures prepared by a former Minister for Labour and National Service, Mr. Holloway, which appear in “ Hansard “ of 2nd October, 1947. The Prime Minister was taken to task by the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Whitlam) for having cited those figures, but they are figures prepared by a Labour Minister. They show that during the period, September, 1946, to August, 1947, as many as 17,000 people were receiving unemployment benefit. They also show that large sums were being paid out in unemployment benefits. I am quoting from tables on page 477 of volume 193 of “Hansard”. Similar figures appear in volume 191, pages 1293, 1589, and 2271.
– To-day 100,000 people are unemployed.
– The honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) often adopts tactics such as that. Members will recall that on one occasion when the honorable member for Kingsford-Smith (Mr. Curtin) cited a certain figure as the numbers of unemployed, the honorable member for East Sydney, in a few minutes, increased that figure by 100,000. The same trick was employed last night by the honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly) when he said, “ The official figures are given as 76,000, but I reckon they are 176,000 “. That is an old stunt. It is a stunt Labour has played ever since the turn of the century. The Prime Minister said that the idea behind this stunt was to create panic and fear in the minds of the people so that unemployment would be aggravated and the unfortunate unemployed would be the sufferers. On 23rd April, 1947, Mr. Holloway, the then Minister for Labour and National Service, in reply to a question said that 38,805 people were listed as disengaged and seeking employment. Would they be unemployed?
– That is different from 75,000.
– It was not until after October, 1947, that this House granted a. sum of money to New South Wales to help it over its agricultural difficulties. This country during the last twelve months has gone through one of the worst droughts since the 1930’s, and some unemployment as a result must be expected. I have the greatest sympathy for those who are unemployed, but I have no respect for members of the Labour party who treat unemployment as a hobby horse upon which to jump at any time and parade throughout the country with the idea of creating fear in the minds of everybody.
The Opposition is also criticising the Government on its housing record. Housing is tied up with unemployment. To-day, an honorable member of the Opposition said that this Government had reduced the amount of money made available for war service homes by £5,000,000. What utter rot! Such a statement is definitely misleading. I think he mentioned 1955-56 as the year in question. My inquiries at the Treasury show that the actual expenditure on war service homes in 1954-55 was slightly more than £30,000,000, and this year it is expected to be £35,000,000. It is well known that in previous years the amount appropriated by this Government for war service homes was £28,000,000 a year. Prior to the 1955 elections this Government had made sufficient money available to build more homes in its period of office than the War Service Homes Division had built since its incorporation in about the year 1919. Yet, honorable members opposite rise in their places, having been here during the presentation of the Budget, and allege that these things have happened. They do so with ulterior motives.
Whose fault is it that more money is not available for housing? It is Labour’s fault, as the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Bowden) reminds me. When the Premiers meet in the Australian Loan Council and start to cut up the turkey they decide how much will be set aside for housing. In their respective States they are little tin gods, and they are not going to stand behind this Government in an effort to raise more money for housing. In the last few days both Senator Spooner and the Prime Minister have said that they would like to see the banks and insurance companies re-enter the field of lending money for housing. The idea was pooh-poohed by the honorable member for Stirling (Mr. Webb) and other members of the Opposition. But what happened last week? The Premier of New South Wales, Mr. Cahill, called the same people together and put up the same story to them in an endeavour to get them to lend more of their funds for housing. Yet honorable members come into this chamber and talk about the banks not doing these things! Why do the banks not lend money for housing? For the simple reason that they are not getting the funds. Honorable members opposite talk glibly about the banks putting money into hirepurchase, and one would be led to believe that the banks were using their depositors’ funds for this purpose. We all know that they are not doing any such thing. The banks are not getting the deposits, because the people who have money to lend are investing it in hire-purchase companies which return 6 per cent., 7 per cent, or 8 per cent., rather than depositing it in banks to earn interest, or investing it in Commonwealth loans.
Three years ago the Prime Minister issued a warning, not only to the Parliament but to the country at large, including the hirepurchase companies themselves, that unless these companies put a brake on their activities they would finally collapse, as I believe they will if they are not very careful. The Prime Minister also asked the Premiers to do something about the matter, but each and every Premier, irrespective of his political faith, has run away from the issue. Has any State ever given any hint of its preparedness to transfer its powers to the Commonwealth even for a limited period, so that the Commonwealth may control hire-purchase investment, interest rates, and capital issues? Anybody who troubles to study the Constitution knows that the States can hand these powers over to the Commonwealth, either together or separately. Of course, if only one or two States conceded these powers, capital would be chased away to other States. There has been no concerted move by the States to control investment in hire-purchase, with the result that the loan market does not provide the amount of money required for development, and the balance has to come from taxation collections.
Then we heard a speech from this eminent gentleman from Yarra, this new doctor. I do not know which doctor is correct, the one in the front or the one in the back.
– What about Doctor Menzies?
– Order! The honorable member for East Sydney will cease interjecting.
– The new doctor told us this story about luxury spending being permitted by this Government for the building of luxury hotels, service stations, shops, factories, and so forth. No one knows better than he that this Government has no control over that sort of investment, and that this control is a job for the States. The honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Cairns) and anybody else who cares to look at the figures will find that the greatest spending on luxury hotels, service stations and shops, has been in those States that are governed by Labour, where the governments claim to look after the underdog. Yet honorable members opposite criticize the Government in this way, knowing all the time, as did the honorable member for Watson, whose speech has just concluded, that it is not within the province of the Government to do anything in respect of these matters. Did the honorable member for Watson noi suggest a few minutes ago that we should hold a referendum on these matters? Let us hear his colleagues support him. That was the first time that this has been mentioned. The only other member of the Australian Labour party whom I have heard criticize the States’ control over hire purchase is the Deputy Leader of the Opposition. More money can be made available for housing and other development if the States play their parts in respect of this private investment, over which the Commonwealth Government has not one atom of control.
I turn now to the subject of immigration. If my memory serves me aright, the Leader of the Opposition charged the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Townley) with being disloyal, or something to that effect. It was said that the Minister did not want British immigrants here, but that the Leader of the Opposition did. I have yet to learn that any Government supporter has, by either word or deed, inside or outside the Parliament, given any indication that he does not want British immigrants; but I have heard that sentiment expressed from the Opposition side of the chamber. Now, because honorable members opposite realize that they have made a mistake in this regard, we find the Leader of the Opposition saying that he wants British immigrants. I wonder how many honorable members have taken the trouble to read the words used subsequently by the right honorable gentleman. Why does he want British immigrants? He wants them because they are trade unionists. He himself said so. He believes that they, being accustomed to trade unions, would, upon coming here, fit into their little grooves or niches; that they would immediately be within his grasp, and that they would vote Labour. This belief is rather strange. He should do a little more thinking, because for years and years the working man of Britain has returned conservative governments. The right honorable gentleman went further to make what I regard as being one of the most horrible criticisms of any people to emanate from any man in this . Parliament. He said that these other European immigrants know nothing about trade unionism, because they come from countries where they have lived under tyrannical rule and unionism is not allowed.
– How much do they know?
– I ask the honorable member for Wilmot: What about France, Holland, Germany, Denmark and Norway? Do members of the Opposition claim that the people of those countries know nothing about trade unionism?
– Very little.
– The honorable member says that they know very little. If my memory serves me correctly, the Government of Norway is a trade union government, and there are many trade unionists in that country. That was the most damning statement about immigrants that has ever come from the lips of any honorable member. I warn British immigrants not to permit themselves to be led into a trap by the Leader of the Opposition, because members of the Australian Labour party have got themselves into such a state that they cannot think straight.
As all honorable members will remember, when His Excellency the GovernorGeneral delivered his Speech in the other chamber, he concluded with two paragraphs which caused a laugh amongst some people. The second-last paragraph dealt with the reintroduction of the banking legislation and in the final paragraph - this is where the laugh came - he said-
In the earnest hope that Divine Providence may guide your deliberations . . .
Members of the Opposition laughed. I really think that the reason for their laughter was simply that they have reached such a stage in tearing one and another to pieces and in their warped thinking that even Divine Providence cannot save them, and that they know it only too well.
On every occasion when we have an Address-in-Reply debate the same old subjects are raised. When I commenced my few words, 1 said that I was surprised that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition had put his signature to this amendment, particularly that part of it that refers to a reduction in the intake of immigrants. Knowing the honorable gentleman as I do, I am still more surprised to learn that he supports the suggestions of his leader about British and European immigrants. Those of us who have had some association with the honorable gentleman know that he did quite a good job in respect of immigration, in the days when he was the Minister in charge of that portfolio. The time has arrived for the Australian Labour party to get off these old vehicles that it has been riding to death for the last few years and endeavour to do something for the benefit of this country. Opposition members should not continue to get onto band waggons. They should cease endeavouring to create chaos and misery for those unfortunate people who are unemployed because of adverse seasonal conditions. If we have good seasons - and this season looks like being a good one - many of the people at present unemployed will quickly be absorbed into employment.
Finally, I want to say that although I agree with much of the Governor-General’s Speech, I am again surprised and disappointed to find that it contains nothing about the defence of the western seaboard of this continent. For years I have put this matter forward. The people all along the Western Australian seaboard are not asking for some grandiose scheme to be commenced. They are asking that some small docking facilities should be built. I am convinced that until something along those lines is commenced there will be no encouragement for the establishment of heavy industries which should and could be established at various- points along the Western Australian coast. I have pointed out on many occasions in this Parliament that the Western Australian coastline is 4,350 miles in length, and that should a ship be damaged in the Indian Ocean it would have to be hauled a distance equal to that from New York to London to bring it to the eastern coast of this continent to have the damage repaired. I admit that at Whyalla, in your State, Mr. Speaker, shipbuilding is developing apace; but that centre is a long way from the Western Australian coast.
I am confident that it will be a long while before this Government loses control of the treasury bench, but I hope that before it is much older it will make a start to provide docking facilities or something in the nature of a naval establishment on the Western Australian coast, apart from what exists at Leeuwin. Such an establishment would serve two purposes. It would provide assistance to the shipping which is our life-line across the Indian Ocean; and it would also give some encouragement to the establishment of heavy industries in Western Australia. Unless such facilities are provided, heavy industry cannot develop at the pace at which it should and could develop in view of the potential that exists in Western Australia. I support the motion for the adoption of the Address-in-Reply, and disagree entirely with the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition.
– In taking part in this debate on the motion for the adoption of the AddressinReply to the Governor-General’s Speech and the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) I wish to say at once that I have been struck by the lack of positive proposals to deal with the many problems which affect Australia, particularly the Northern Territory. Such pro posals as do appear are very sketchy and brief. I have listened carefully to the speech of the honorable member for Canning (Mr. Hamilton). He sounded like a person whistling in the dark because he is haunted by fears that have arisen from the result of the Parramatta by-election. He said that there was no cause for alarm about the unemployment position in Australia, but I think he was indulging in wishful thinking. The electors of Parramatta made full use of their right and opportunity to record their verdict on this issue at the recent by-election. The result of that by-election was a considerable shock to the Government. Government members have not said much about it, but the public have pronounced their judgment.
The honorable member for Canning to-day, and the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) in his speech last night, played down the unemployment position in Australia to the best of their ability. They made excuses for it and suggested that the official figures are insignificant and give no cause for concern. If one heeded the excuses or reasons given by the Prime Minister and the honorable member for Canning one would feel that there was no reason for worry at all. But what are the facts? I have here a letter from the Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck) in reply to a series of questions which I addressed to him on this matter. The unemployment position in the Northern Territory is causing considerable concern. On 28th January last, which was not very long ago, the Minister forwarded the following reply to my request for information about the unemployment position in the Northern Territory -
Although detailed information is not available, His Honour the Administrator considers that the increase in unemployment at Darwin is due in part to reduced employment opportunities in Queensland and a resultant movement into the Territory of persons seeking work or better wages.
That is an admission by a responsible Minister of the Crown. He agrees that, owing to the limitations of work in Queensland because of retrenchments that have taken place there, workers are forced to seek employment in other parts of Australia. I direct particular attention to the fact that people do not normally drift into the Northern Territory seeking work unless they are in desperate straits indeed. It is- a hard country and everybody knows that the opportunities for employment in the Territory are rare at any time. It is only as a last resort that those seeking employment turn northwards. They have aggravated the unemployment position in the Northern Territory, although to a limited degree only because the main cause of existing unemployment in the Territory is the curtailment of the government works programme and delay in commencing another project after one is completed. Another cause has been the slump in the prices of base metals produced in the Territory. A third cause is the influx of unemployed persons from other States. The unemployment position in the Territory is serious.
The Minister, in his letter of 28th January, admitted that the number of unemployed males at January, 1958, was nearly 100 per cent, higher than it was at January, 1957. Those figures are for Darwin alone because Darwin is the only place, as the Minister points out, for which unemployment statistics are available. It is hard to say how many unemployed are at other main centres in the Northern Territory, such as Tennant Creek and Alice Springs. However, we know that many are out of work as a result of retrenchments which are taking place from day to day. At Tennant Creek retrenchments have had to be made following a slump in the prices of metals. But the Government has the remedy in its own hands. It could step up its plans for public works. It could complete and open the orecrushing plant which is now under construction and create employment for people in the mining industry. The work on this plant has been dragging on for the last eighteen months or two years, and it looks as if another six month3 will elapse before it will commence to operate.
At Alice Springs the shutting down of road construction work has already created considerable unemployment at that centre. It is true that work has been offered to some of the people who have been retrenched in other areas of the Northern Territory. They are to be given jobs on public works that are about to be commenced. If men accept work on these jobs, they will have to uproot their families or maintain two homes. The proposition -would be sound if it were not for the fact that developmental work, such as road construction, remains to be carried out in all parts of the Northern Territory. A case in point is the main north-south highway. This has been the life-line of the Northern Territory, and, in fact, it was of vital importance to the defence of Australia in World War II. It is steadily crumbling through neglect and because of lack of funds for maintenance. Large sections of the 800 or 900 miles of that highway will have to be completely reconstructed because water seeps under it, and the pavement has deteriorated in many places to such an extent that it is beyond repair.
Millions of pounds will be required to bring this highway up to first-class standard again. However, the work should be proceeded with immediately, because it would provide jobs for a large number of persons who are at present unemployed, particularly those in the unskilled group, who seem to be a drug on the market at the present time. It is true that vacancies are available for skilled workers, but there are no opportunities for the unskilled. Road construction is one kind of enterprise which will provide jobs for unskilled workers. In this way they will be usefully employed on developmental work of a national character.
As well as the north-south highway there are other roads that are of vital concern to the development of the Northern Territory. Let me mention the road to the mining field on the South Alligator River, where substantial quantities of uranium ore are awaiting treatment. That ore cannot be moved until a road of reasonable standard is built. The mines in that area last year sold to the Combined Development Agency uranium to the value of £400,000. That represented quite a substantial quantity of ore. It gives an indication of the amount and the grade of ore awaiting treatment in these fields. The development of that area is held up because of the absence of a suitable road to transport the ore to a railway siding or a treatment plant where it can be converted into oxide and sold. The increased production that could result from the construction of such a road might amount to many millions of pounds a year. It would assist not only the mines in existence at the present time, because we know that the road traverses a mineralized belt of country, and it is difficult to say just what metals might be discovered in the prospecting that would follow as the mining area was developed.
I may refer also to the road leading from Alice Springs to the South Australian border, work on which was recently suspended because of lack of funds. This is an essential road, being part of a great highway leading from Adelaide to Alice Springs and connecting with the northsouth highway. At present it is an ordeal to travel that road in any kind of vehicle. I suggest that at least the Commonwealth Government should be prepared to put its section of the road in order. Then, when the South Australian Government has completed its section, we would have a highway linking Adelaide with Darwin. After all. South Australia relies to a large extent on the Northern Territory for the disposal of its products, and it would be in that State’s own interest to get on with the job.
There are other roads that are in need of reconstruction, leading from the interior to the various rail sidings, such as the Finke siding. All the materials for the Giles weather station, for other weather stations and for the rocket range reserve in Western Australia are sent through that siding, but the road connecting the siding with those centres is open only when weather permits its use. These are matters that I believe should be seriously considered by a government that finds it has a number of unemployed on its hands,
I pass now to the matter of housing. It is strange to find, when there is such a keen demand for housing in the Northern Territory, that the Government is interested in building houses only for its own employees, and only for those of its employees who are classed as key personnel. The position is different, of course, in the States, each of which has its own housing authority. These bodies are engaged in building houses not only for government employees but also for members of the general public. They build houses not only for direct sale, but also for renting by persons who, for one reason or another, are not in a position to purchase homes outright. In the Northern Territory no such authority exists, and the only houses that the Government builds are for its own employees in Darwin, Katherine and Alice Springs - and then only for those who are classed as key personnel. I know of a man in Alice Springs, employed in the Welfare Department of the Northern Territory Administration, who has been unsuccessfully seeking a house for seven years. He has a wife and family and is employed as a truck-driver. A truck-driver in the Welfare Department is a very important man, because he deals with the coloured section of the community as well as with white persons. He is in a position of great trust and considerable importance. Because the authorities will not classify him as a key employee, he has to go without a house. Eventually he will be forced to forsake his employment and try to get a job elsewhere in order to obtain a house.
Although the Commonwealth Government makes funds available to the States so that they can build houses for direct purchase or for rental, it is not prepared to make similar provision for the Northern Territory. In the “Adelaide Advertiser”, of 18th February, there appeared a significant article, which read, in part -
The South Australian Government will allocate its special £368,000 Federal grant to the Housing Trust to house people who cannot afford to pay an economic rent. The Premier (Sir Thomas Playford) announced this yesterday. . . . The rents for the houses would be one-sixth of the total family income, with a minimum of £1 a week.
If the Commonwealth Government can make funds available to a State to implement a scheme of that kind, surely it can make similar provision for the people in its own Territory. I suggest that it could make a substantial grant of, say, £500,000 to implement a similar scheme for the people of the Northern Territory. I feel that although the Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck) himself may be sympathetic towards such a scheme, difficulties apparently arise in the Cabinet to prevent a housing scheme of this nature being implemented. Be that as it may the Government is prepared to make funds available to enable the States to finance such a scheme. As the Commonwealth is the guardian of the people of its territories, it should be prepared to do the same for them.
A similar position arises with soldier settlement schemes. In the Northern Territory no scheme has ever been implemented to look after the ex-servicemen who came from those areas. The Commonwealth has. made funds available for soldier settlement schemes in the States. I believe that in many States it has cost up to £30,000 to settle an ex-serviceman on the land. In the Northern Territory, which is the sole responsibility of the Commonwealth, no such scheme has ever been implemented. The same situation obtains in the Australian Capital Territory and probably also in the mandated territories of Papua and New Guinea. Why cannot the Government do the same for ex-servicemen in the territories as it is prepared to do for ex-servicemen in the States? There is no answer to that question, because no action has been taken and no action is contemplated. The Commonwealth says to men in the States, “ If you serve your country in times of war, we will look after you in times of peace “, but that assurance does not apply to the people in the territories who are prepared to make sacrifices for their country. It is time that the position was rectified. Therefore, I ask the Minister to make strenuous efforts at this stage to introduce a housing scheme and a soldier-settlement scheme in the Northern Territory. The Government should do for the people in the territories what it is prepared to do for the people in the States.
I should like to comment briefly on other portions of the Governor-General’s Speech. His Excellency referred to the discovery of bauxite deposits in Arnhem Land and on the Cape York Peninsula, and said that they would prove to be of historic significance. I feel that that would be true, but the Commonwealth Government seems reluctant either to prove or to exploit the deposits shown to be in existence in its own territory in Arnhem Land. These deposits were found some eight to ten years ago, but still remain in the virgin state. Except in one area, no attempt has been made to mine or prove the extent and quality of the deposits. “When these deposits are proved - as they undoubtedly will be proved - to be of considerable significance and richness, what does the Government intend to do to exploit them, both by mining and processing? At one time it was thought that sufficient hydroelectric power would be available in New Guinea to process bauxite ore transported from the mainland. The processing of aluminium requires a substantial supply of cheap electricity, and hydro-electric power is the cheapest that we have at present.
I ask the Government whether it has considered using atomic power in these areas. There are no possibilities of developing hydro-electric power and no alternative means of obtaining cheap power in these areas. This would be a wonderful opportunity to establish Australia’s first or second atomic power plant. If that were done, a substantial part of the coastline of the Northern Territory would be opened for development, and this area is most vulnerable from a defence point of view, as was demonstrated in the last war. The mining and processing of bauxite in Arnhem Land would be one way to develop the area and increase the population along the coastline. We could take advantage of the deposits on our mainland and thus create wealth and production in an area that otherwise might remain for many years unproductive and vulnerable. I ask the Government to consider seriously the development of these deposits. The development of the deposits on the Cape York Peninsula must, of course, be handled by the Queensland Government.
His Excellency the Governor-General stressed that, in developing such a vast area as the Northern Territory, there must inevitably be encountered social problems tending to discourage comfortable family life. I do not know that any great move is being made at the present time to overcome such problems. The people of the Northern Territory in every respect, with one exception, are treated no differently from people in other parts of Australia. The exception is a zone allowance for taxation purposes of £120, which does not help much. In all other respects, the people of the Northern Territory are in a much worse position than people in the States. They have not the same opportunities of employment and other phases of social life are restricted. As the Government apparently recognizes the situation, some effort should be made to ensure that people living in a pioneering community such as the Northern Territory are in no worse position than those living in the southern States.
Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
Sitting suspended from 5.53 to 8 p.m.
.- The Governor-General’s Speech has, in the course of time, come to follow a standard pattern. There is a narration of events of the immediate past, an appraisal of ruling conditions, and an expression of hope for the future. Having regard to the general tone of the Speech, I think we will all admit that in spite of some increase in unemployment, and falls in the prices for our goods sold overseas, our economy is still fairly stable, and the future looks infinitely brighter than was the case six months ago.
One comment 1 have to make on the Governor-General’s Speech, which I think is nearly always applicable, is that action under a democratic form of government, which is a slow-moving thing, usually lags six to nine months behind the times. I feel that, too frequently, the tendency is to deal with what has been, rather than what is. This is a particularly acute problem in Australia, where Canberra, the National Capital, is, as it were, located on a billabong, remote from the main stream of national life and the Administration does not appear to have established adequate listening posts in many of the important parts of the nation.
Although I am not pessimistic, I believe that there is every reason to regard present trends with a great deal of caution. The relief from drought has been patchy, and if, for currency reasons, Japan withdraws its support from the wool market, we shall be sorely pressed. In addition, there has been a fall in our base metal income, which cannot be passed over lightly. Our development is geared to our wool cheque, and our wool income is falling. I believe we must adjust ourselves to those factors, and now, before the Budget is framed, is the time to do some serious thinking about our immigration and defence programmes. If we are attempting to do more in either direction than our finances will stand, we shall defeat ourselves. I repeat, our income from exports is heavily reduced. In such a period loan raising must be difficult, and defence and immigration programmes on the present scale can bc financed only from extra taxation - a disastrous expedient. I think it would be a wiser policy to gear our expenditure down now to our lower income and hasten slowly, at any rate for the time being.
Yet I must confess that one of the most pressing problems, to me, is the mismanagement of our credit supply, presumably by the theorists in Coombs’ Castle, that most remote of ivory towers. Surely it has been obvious for some time past that restriction of credit was being overdone and would have serious effects. You just cannot turn the supply of money to industry on and off like a tap and expect the economy to respond the way you wish it to. Industry must plan ahead, and to do so it must know what money is available to it. If there is to be continuity in its operations there must be continuity in the supply of money. The Commonwealth Bank uses the supply of credit to regulate the purchasing power of the consumer and the rate of employment, and it is so preoccupied with those things that it loses sight of the side effects and the after effects of its policies. By clamping down on the trading banks and forcing them to curtail loans to industry during the prosperous period a few years ago when industry needed to expand in order to cope with demand, the Commonwealth Bank created a rod for the Government’s back.
A part of industry’s working funds has always come from the banking system, but when supply from this source was cut off industry had to raise money by issuing fresh capital. Dividends and taxes had to be paid on this. Not only’ did the exorbitantly high rate of company tax have to be paid on this fresh capital, but the dividends were taxed in the hands of the shareholders. This restriction of bank credit increased the cost of production of goods, and up went prices to the consumer. In other words, there was increased inflation, the very thing that the credit restrictions were supposed to curb.
Because of the restrictions, businesses were forced to find other methods of financing themselves, the most popular being the issue of notes and debentures. One of the advantages of this was that these were not subject to company tax, and it shows how muddled our thinking has become after several years of this kind of credit management that some people think that companies had actually found means of outwitting the Commissioner of Taxation. Sometimes it is even suggested that the law be altered to tax interest paid on these notes and debentures. Actually, the companies never paid: tax on interest paid on overdrafts, and it would be monstrous had they had to do so. What industry is doing now is to borrow, by means of notes and debentures, the money that the central bank will no longer allow it on overdraft, and interest paid in this manner is an expense and not a profit.
I doubt whether the economic wizards of the central bank were very disturbed by the fact that companies raising extra share capital to replace their lost overdraft accommodation were involved in the payment of extra taxes. But the central bank’s policy had another and more serious effect. It raised the rate of interest which the governments must pay on loans, as well as reducing the amount of money governments could borrow. The result is that governments must now compete in the fixed interest market with company note issues or company debenture issues which offer more attractive rates of interest to the investor. The principle of having higher rates of interest is, of course, not all bad. Higher interest rates encourage saving, and if Australia is to expand without incurring a great volume of overseas debt some one must save the money which will provide industry with capital.
I know that our socialist friends opposite delude themselves with the idea that you can have cheap money all the time. Experience shows that in a period of rapid expansion interest rates must go up, and attempts to evade this law usually result in runaway inflation. It may be an old-fashioned concept, but nothing can be accomplished without thrift, which is the basis of our national growth and development, but sufficient encouragement must be given to people to save. I think that one of the best incentives would be to raise the savings bank interest rate to a reasonable level. This would benefit the workers and those on fixed incomes, who would be encouraged to save money because they would have a simple and familiar means of getting an acceptable return without tying up their money, which would be available to them at any time.
I emphasize that the present low returns on savings bank deposits are purely artificial. They are the result of measures brought in years ago by governments which wanted cheap loan money. For many years before that, the standard rate of interest given by savings banks was 3i per cent. I think there is much to be said for offering 3± per cent, or 4 per cent, at the present time. There have been campaigns and publicity to encourage thrift, but people will not save more unless they are offered a recompense. Interest is a recompense for giving up to somebody else, for the time being, the purchasing power of one’s money. With a savings bank rate of 3i per cent, or 4 per cent., a thrift campaign might bring real results in increased savings.
I believe that this would provide all the money that could be economically employed for housing and it would provide it more cheaply than government loans. It would also give us the chance to tackle the problem of excessive interest rates on hirepurchase finance which worries most thinking people. There are social implications in the idea of giving real encouragement to thrift which I commend especially to the churches and religious bodies. In New South Wales, recently, there has been a good deal of agitation about the amount of money which the community is spending on drink and gambling. However, the approach has been purely negative. All that the sponsors of this campaign seem to offer are proposals that the State governments should use legislation and the police force to reduce gambling and that higher taxation and restrictions should be used to make drinking unattractive.
I suggest that if we could show the people a better way to spend their money, if we could offer them terms for the use of it which would be really rewarding and which would put them on the path to a higher standard of living, we might get better results. Higher interest rates on the savings of the workers would be an essential element in such a programme, although it would only be one element. It would be necessary to show clearly how people might obtain advantages from higher savings in the form of worth-while amenities which they could enjoy.
It seems to me that the amount spent on drink and gambling is roughly proportionate, in any community, to the rise in the amount of spare cash in the hands of the people. There is no chance of realizing the full benefit of wage increases and a higher standard of living unless we have a carefully conceived programme for educating people as to how to spend their money and how to invest their surplus funds; and unless we give them a proper reward for the thrift which the community needs to ensure and improve Australia’s prosperity.
It might be objected that increasing the savings bank rate would mean increasing the Government’s bond rate, but that is not so. We would merely be restoring the normal relationship between the two which was artificially disturbed when the Commonwealth Bank, having obtained a savings bank monopoly in some States, lowered the deposit rate. Before that happened, a savings bank rate of 3i per cent, was combined quite easily with a Government loan rate at about the present level. The extra money that would be obtained for housing by fixing a savings bank rate of 3J- per cent, or 4 per cent, could not be obtained as cheaply elsewhere. It would, of course, cut back savings bank profits on housing loans. I would not like to see any increase in the interest charged to home-owners. However, this need not trouble the trading banks if only they are given, in compensation, some semblance of a fair return on the large proportion of their funds now impounded by the central bank as special deposits upon which they are given the unheard of low rate of f per cent.
Without a doubt, the Government faces a very difficult time in the loan field. Its redemption programme is a formidable one. By the end of this calendar year, £428,800,000 will fall due for redemption. In the calendar year following, an amount of £367,700,000 will fall due for redemption, making a total in two years of £796,500,000. I fear that the Government’s plea for conversion to new loans will not meet a very good response and that new loan money will be difficult to find. The Treasury may take a comfortable view that if people will not subscribe to loans it will “tax it out of them”. But this would be a dead-end way of raising finance and would only lead to killing the taxpayer in the long run and creating unemployment. I am confident that part of the answer to securing loan money lies within the suggestion that I have made with regard to the people’s savings. If we went out after these funds in a business-like manner I am sure that we could do much in that direction.
I now turn to the question of housing, which is bound up with the savings of the people and with the loan programme. Undoubtedly, more finance is needed to solve the housing problem but I point out again, as I have done previously in this House, that more finance is only one of the things needed to solve the housing problem. We also need cheaper construction because, even if unlimited finance were available, many people who heed houses would not be able to afford them. The root cause of the shortage of finance is not that there is less money available for housing but that the same amount of money will now build fewer houses. It would, I think, be true to say that the shortage of finance is a result, not a cause, of the trouble and that the root of the matter is the rise in construction costs. A fruitful avenue for the reduction of costs would be a better code of building regulations. Experts assure us that hundreds of pounds are added to the cost of each house because of the unnecessarily restrictive requirements of regulations. These are controlled by the States and by local government authorities.
In Sydney, recently, Mr. Cahill, the leader of the New South Wales Government which, with its Labor predecessors, has bungled the State’s housing problems for the past fifteen years, called a conference about housing. This conference made a recommendation about regulations, but that point is now being kept very much in the background and it is doubtful whether anything will be done about it. All the State Government’s public announcements since the conference have re-echoed its theme song while the proceedings were on - “ Blame the Commonwealth Government “ - and it has produced no solution except to make demands on the Commonwealth for more funds.
I suggest that the time is ripe for the Commonwealth to call a real housing conference - not a pre-election propaganda stunt like the Sydney one, but an Australiawide affair at which experts would discuss this problem of building specifications and regulations. By getting the departmental experts from all States together, and also those outside experts who have studied this problem, we may be able to gain the benefit of the best experience of all the States on each point and evolve a code which will give a maximum of satisfactory building at the cheapest price.
It should be possible, also, to devise machinery so that these regulations could be quickly and efficiently adapted to take advantage of new techniques and riper experience. If we could get such a code I think the Commonwealth could fairly say to the States, “You want us to provide the money. We must have a say in calling the tune. You will have to see that your regulations do not stop the homebuilder from getting value for his money “. There has been talk about this matter for many years, but because of the conflicting interests involved, not nearly enough has been done. What I am suggesting is that, in view of the urgency of the problem, the Commonwealth should try to cut through the red tape.
The Commonwealth has done some very valuable work in building research with a view to speeding up building methods and reducing building costs, but it is plain that there is sometimes a very big time lag before the fruits of this research are obtained in practice. That is one of the evils that we must try to cure. A conference such as I have suggested might well bring forward some fruitful new lines of research. For instance, I notice that Professor C. H. Munro, research director of the Water Research Foundation of Australia Ltd., said recently in Sydney that a very big saving in plumbing costs could probably be effected by inexpensive research that his organization wants to have undertaken. Those are the kinds of opportunities that we should investigate. I repeat that an even greater need than research is a mechanism for putting the results of the research into general practice more speedily.
More finance is becoming available for building as a result of the opening of new savings banks, although the flow may not yet be as great as we shall need. I think that we should examine very closely the housing finance provided by the Commonwealth Savings Bank. This bank recently issued a publicity statement giving details of the funds advanced by it during the last ten years. The figures looked quite impressive, but when compared with the huge total of that bank’s deposits, they are perhaps a little disappointing. There is need for investigation of the reasons why the Commonwealth Savings Bank suddenly reduced the flow of finance for housing between June, 1956, and January, 1957. It will be remembered that this was the time when there was a sudden recession in the building industry - a recession from which the industry has not yet fully recovered. It is impossible to avoid the conclusion that the controllers of the Commonwealth Bank deliberately cut housing funds at that very critical time, just when, from the national stand-point, they should have been increasing them.
What we want from the bank is not a statement of its total advances but details of its advances month by month. However, the Commonwealth Bank has obstinately refused to give me this information. It is ludicrous to hear officials of the bank describing it continually as “ the bank you own “ and “ the people’s bank “ and to have the bank refusing to make this information available to an elected representative of the people. I again appeal to the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) to have the bank make these figures available on a monthly basis, for this detailed information is vital to any consideration of housing finance and the rate of home building. The monthly totals of the advances made by the private banks are freely made available to any one who wants them, and I cannot understand why the Commonwealth Bank clothes details of its advances in secrecy.
I conclude by saying that all our troubles of the last few years have been growing pains. This Government’s term of office has been characterized by unexampled progress in Australia. Although there is room for two opinions as to how fast we can safely go, there is no doubt about the fundamental soundness of the policy to which this Government has held throughout its term of office.
.- It might well be appropriate for honorable members to join in singing, “All our troubles will be over when we build our happy home “. The speech made by the honorable member for Mitchell (Mr. Wheeler) undoubtedly was prepared in expectation of his having an opportunity to debate the Government’s banking measures. I understand that the honorable member’s trip abroad denied him that opportunity, and there is no doubt that he was anxious to avoid wasting the script that had been so carefully prepared. Perhaps, he is anxious also to succeed the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden). As honorable members are well aware, the Treasurer is at present thinking of the possibility of leaving the sinking ship, and many members on the Government benches are engaged in rivalry and jockeying for position in a contest to take his place, because it is expected that, in the near future, he will assume the managing directorship of the proposed Commonwealth Banking Corporation, a prize that he will be given as a pay-off for the support and co-operation of the Australian Country party, which, as most honorable members know, was most reluctant to support the Government’s banking policy. Had the honorable member for Mitchell been present during the debate on the banking measures last year, he might well have learned that the theories advanced by him this evening were exploded a considerable time ago.
We are now debating the motion for the adoption of the Address-in-Reply to the Speech delivered to the Parliament by His Excellency the Governor-General on 25th February, and an amendment to the proposed Address moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt), which directs attention to the problem of unemployment, the shortage of homes, immigration, the deficiencies of public works, and the great “ shemozzle “ associated with defence.
It was most appropriate that the Parliament should have honoured the visit of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother. After the official opening of the session, which coincided with the Queen Mother’s visit, the Parliament sat for only one more day before going into recess for almost a fortnight. It is very difficult to understand why it was decided that the Parliament should go into recess for this period. The decision, of course, was taken by the Government. One would have thought that, after a long summer recess, many members would be anxious to grapple with the great problems that now beset the Australian people. Members on this side of the House were not weary. They were fresh, and eager for the fray. By contrast with this Parliament, the New South Wales Parliament, which also paid fitting tribute to the Queen Mother during her visit to New South Wales, immediately proceeded with its work, and has already placed a great deal of progressive and important legislation on the statute-book.
Why was it decided that the Commonwealth Parliament should go into recess for a fortnight at a time when it could well have occupied itself with the great problems of the day? Was the real reason something to do with the Parramatta byelection? Was the Government anxious to prevent Opposition members from ventilating most pressing problems, as they would certainly have done? Where is the Government’s sense of responsibility that it has stooped to stealing such a miserable, paltry, partisan political advantage? Where is its sense of responsibility in regard to unemployment, the housing crisis, and the associated deterioration of the health of age pensioners and young families who are forced to live in slum conditions in humpies, shacks, tents, and garages throughout Australia? Where is its sense of responsibility with respect to the wasteful expenditure of £190,000,000 on defence year after year? The myth of that expenditure has been exploded many times. Where is the Government’s sense of responsibility in relation to the problems of education and the urgent need of local authorities for additional funds, and where is its sense of responsibility with respect to public works and many other things? Obviously, the additional recess was designed to suppress the ventilation of these matters in this Parliament in the hope of keeping them from the eaTS of the people of Parramatta. But, unfortunately for the Government, democracy has won out in the long run, and sufficient knowledge of these things seeped out to influence the decision of the people of Parramatta at last Saturday’s by-election.
Because so many news mediums suppressed the important considerations during the Parramatta by-election campaign, I should like to take this opportunity to mention some statistics, which may be the cause of the concern evident in the faces of Government supporters. At the general election of 1955, the Liberal party of Australia obtained 62.322 per cent, of the votes cast in Parramatta, and the Australian Labour party received only 37.678 per cent. Last Saturday, the figures were rather different. The Liberal share was reduced to 54.652 per cent., and the Labour proportion increased to 43.147 per cent., a further 2.2 per cent, going to the independent candidate. In other words, whereas the Liberal vote dropped by 7.6 per cent., the vote for the Australian Labour party increased by 5.469 per cent. Naturally, there is great cause for concern on the part of Government supporters. The byelection in Parramatta showed the electors’ disturbed state of mind. This tendency is spreading throughout the country. The people are concerned about the unemployment position. The great economic crisis is not confined to Australia, and this should cause so-called responsible members of the Government to apply themselves with great vigour to this problem. The problems besetting Australia also beset a number of other capitalist countries. We have seen no evidence of concern on the part of the parliamentary leaders of the Liberal party. In other countries where these tendencies are prevalent one can observe some frankness and genuine concern on the part of government leaders, but in Australia there is an ostrich-like tendency among Ministers to put their heads in the sand and not see any of these great problems. Surely it is no time for self-righteousness on the part of the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies).
The Prime Minister and his henchmen cannot take all the blame, because they are not completely responsible for the present state of affairs. The application of the principles for which this Government stands is responsible for Australia’s economic position to-day. That is also true of the Governments of Great Britain and the United States, Canada, Japan and many other capitalist countries. This Government should learn a lesson from history, because all capitalist countries are to-day facing similar problems. For generations we have alternated between war and recession, as each decade goes by. The resources of this country and, indeed, of the world should be directed to- serving the interests of the people rather than to the making of profits. This Government has learnt nothing from the depression days, even .though in 1952 another sharp downward trend was only arrested by the stimulus of the cold war.
Has any honorable member heard of a Government plan to combat unemployment? Figures released by the Commonwealth Statistician show that, at the end of January this year, 74,765 people were registered as unemployed. That is 22,000 more than in January, 1957. The honorable member for Canning (Mr. Hamilton) this afternoon engaged in some unimportant hocus-pocus. He said that anybody who asserted that there were more unemployed than the official figure of 74,000 was trying to create panic and fear in the community. As a matter of fact, the figure is closer to 140,000. I have with me a statement issued by the Painters and Decorators Union of New South Wales, pointing out that although large numbers of their members are unemployed, it is common practice in the industry not to register. Members of the union seek jobs in the painting trade. They go from house to house, and from builder to builder. Other tradesmen do the same. The problem is a very serious one. In January of this year, there were 15,000 more persons unemployed than in the preceding month, and if anybody says that that does not indicate a serious trend, then something is wrong with him.
In addition, the unemployment figures to-day include a greater number of male family wage-earners than they ever did before. The only proposals by the Government to combat the crisis appear laudable at first, but become laughable upon reflection. The release of £15,000,000 to the trading banks by the central bank, with which it is hoped to rejuvenate the building industry - at present languishing in inactivity and despondency - is a good case in point. Last night an honorable member, by way of interjection, asked the Prime Minister how far that sum of money would go towards relieving the housing problem. In his typically smug way the Prime Minister said, “ Listen to them. They are concerned with how far it will go “. Of course, honorable members on this side of the House are concerned, because there is no guarantee that the £15,000,000 will go towards housing. Is there any serious likelihood that the banks will co-operate this time, when they have failed for so long to place the welfare of the homeless before that of shareholders at home and abroad? They are certainly not bound to invest in the field of low economic return, and will doubtless go on in :… same old way, working the hire-purchase rackets, with a catch-as-catch-can attitude and, gaily treading the airy-fairy path, they will press on to self-destruction and economic damnation. What of the urgent need to take up the slack through a realistic public works programme? After all, the speculators and investors in Australia, and in a number of other places, have demonstrated declining confidence. They have let the economy down in these times, as they have so often done in the past. They constitute no protection against the storm, because they refuse to use the umbrella when it rains. Doubtless, if a more reckless investor were prepared to run the gauntlet at the present time, and invest in some building construction job the trading banks would exercise some discretion and they would say: “ Away with your over-dose of confidence. We will not allow you the funds to do what you want to do “. Public works should be used to take up the slack in unemployment, but this Government is prejudiced against public works because they interfere with lucrative profit-making opportunities. The Government is incapable of availing itself of a readily available, homespun remedy for the present situation.
I was interested in some statistics provided by the Commonwealth Statistician. These figures show that building operations in the metropolitan and provincial areas, so far as public buildings are concerned, have declined. Even to-day, when public works should be increasing, and expenditure on public buildings should be increasing, exactly the opposite is taking place. In November, 1957, the expenditure on public buildings was as low as £3,700,000. That figure is well below the monthly average for any year since 1952-53, and almost as low as in that year. It is well known that 1952- 53 was a most desperate year. In 1953-54, expenditure on public buildings averaged £4,600,000 a month. In 1954-55, the amount was £5’,900,000; in 1955-56, it was £5,800,000; and in 1956-57 it was £5,100.000. Yet, for November, 1957, the last month for which figures are available, expenditure was only £3,700,000. Those figures relate to building contracts let and day labour work commenced. This is completely unjustified at the present time.
Let me give the House another illustration of the great prejudice which this Go vernment has against public works and government enterprise. The latest example is the sell-out, as recently as last week, of the Commonwealth Handling Equipment Pool to private operators at an undisclosed figure. It is an incredible fact that the employees’ co-operative organization contends that it offered a higher figure than did the successful tenderer and this has not been denied by the Government. It would appear to me that the Government has taken the view that a co-operative is just as undesirable as is any socialized or nationalized undertaking, because it takes away something from a private operator. This lucrative public enterprise has always accounted for itself in a most effective fashion. Disposal of the pool could not be justified in any way, particularly as it has been such a profitmaker for so many years. Since the war years, for example, when this project was first established, it has continued to develop and it has returned from 8 per cent, to 13 per cent, on Treasury advances. I understand that as a result of its activities about £2,000,000 has been returned to the Treasury. But the Government has shown prejudice against the undertaking, simply because it is taking toll of the capacity of some private operators to make a great deal of money.
This irresponsible and unjustified sell-out has taken place at a time when unemployment is increasing, and nobody from the Government side of the House has even expressed concern for the future of the employees of the organization. Many hundreds are involved, the vast majority being ex-servicemen. Only last week I addressed a telegram on the matter to the Minister concerned, and to-day a reply came to my office in Sydney. I sought an assurance that these employees would be placed in the employment of some Commonwealth instrumentality. They have given years of service to this enterprise. The essence of the reply was that the Government could not care less and that it declined to give the assurance that I sought. This is a shocking state of affairs.
I lay at the door of this inept and inefficient Government the charge that it has shown appalling indifference to the great challenge of the atomic age by its failure to afford high priority to the construction of Australia’s only atomic reactor project, which is located at Lucas Heights in my electorate. Everybody but the Minister responsible for the project seems to appreciate that the maintenance and improvement of the living standards of the Australian people are associated with the early completion of this great scientific apparatus. Although the St. Mary’s project was afforded a high priority for expenditure, the Lucas Heights reactor has been like a drowning man, desperately clutching for something with which to sustain its hazardous existence. At this time every year for at least three years, hundreds of employees have been laid off for three or four months, until the Budget provided sufficient funds for the job to carry on. This is indicative of appalling organization, and is completely unnecessary and unaccountable. The labour force has been left unemployed for those long periods. The economical way of completing a job of this nature is to press on as quickly as possible, but the project has been allowed to crawl at snail’s pace, while the rest of the world has spiritedly participated in the great race for atomic superiority, recognizing that atomic energy is so vital to new industrial techniques and concepts.
Last Friday, this Government stood idly by while 200 men were sacked from thi? project. The Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) stood by, sphinx-like, immobile, firm and useless, at the time of crisis. He failed to do anything about it. He displayed complete unconcern for the plight of 200 Australian families whose breadwinners were thrown out of work. Yet, the Government claims to be sincere in its stated intention to do something about unemployment. The mass dismissal from this job of hundreds of employees is unnecessary, unjustified, and irresponsible, because a great deal of work remains to be accomplished on Australia’s only atomic reactor. If the Government were concerned about unemployment, it had no better opportunity to show its concern than by doing something to keep these men on the job.
Our scientists and physicists have been waiting long and patiently for these new experimental facilities, in order to develop new processes to assist industry and medical science, and to open up a new field of scientific exploration. Among the products of this reactor will be isotopes to assist agricultural and industrial projects to compete efficiently and effectively on overseas standards. Most honorable members have seen something of the Australian Atomic Energy Commission’s exhibitions, and have been inspired by the great potentialities for the use of isotopes in industry. We shall never be able to provide them in Australia until this reactor is in operation.
It is intended to put the atomic reactor into operation sometime next month, but only a part of the project is completed, and the ancillary establishments are either incomplete or uncommenced. A great deal of work remains to be done, certainly sufficient to have kept in employment the 200 men who have been ruthlessly thrown on to the end of the long, hungry, dole queue. Included among the uncompleted works is the emergency control centre, which will not be in operation when the reactor starts to function. It should be in operation then, because, in the opinion of the designers of the reactor, it is necessary for the safe operation of the plant. Great disaster has already overtaken reactors of this type. The Chalk River reactor is one that comes most readily to mind. The anxiety of the people in my electorate, where the reactor is located, and of the Sutherland Shire Council, which is the local government instrumentality concerned, was placated by the Government’s assurance that everything possible would be done to give effect to every safety precaution, but to-day the Government is denying that assurance.
The physics laboratory has not been commenced. A chemistry and chemical engineering block is without equipment, while essential, extensive, protective concrete cells are not even under construction. A lecture theatre to be used for the training of atomic scientists has not been commenced. Another incompleted section is the engineering workshop and the metallurgy block. This is to be one of the largest establishments on the £6,000,000 project, but it is not even fully under construction. Among other half-built and uncompleted works are the staff cottages and the inflammable materials store. More roads remain to be constructed, and the plant designed for the disposal of effluent radio-active waste is still not completed.
In the face of all this factual and statistical information which I have obtained from good authorities on the job, the Minister and the Prime Minister have to-day endeavoured to justify the retrenchment of 200 men, although Australia is crying out for some opportunity to participate in the peaceful use of atomic energy. I urge the Government to get on with the job of completing this reactor which is intended to use the medium of atomic energy for the upliftment of mankind rather than for its destruction. The Government should reprieve the 200 men who were sacked last Friday from the prospect of a miserable future and give them one of the most worthwhile jobs that the country could give to anybody at the present time.
– Order! The honorable gentleman’s time has expired.
.- I rise to support the motion moved by the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Malcolm Fraser) and to oppose the amendment proposed by the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt). I gladly associate myself with previous speakers when I refer to the inspiration afforded by the visit of Her Majesty the Queen Mother. Once again a gracious representative of the Royal Family has been amongst us, and the spontaneous welcome and acclaim by the general public have not only stirred our hearts but also impressed other peoples and nations with the solidarity of the British Commonwealth and the influence of the Throne upon our democratic way of life. In my own State of Western Australia last week, the Queen Mother received just as loyal a welcome as she received anywhere else, but it was our privilege, too, to farewell her from Australia as she commenced her journey home. We are, -of course, disturbed to learn that her return journey has been interrupted. We will be relieved to know that she is safely back home. I assure honorable members that the farewell extended in Western Australia in the City of Perth was handled most adequately. Fortunately, the weather for the two days was perfect. The civic welcome was outstanding - just as outstanding, I trust, as was any other civic welcome extended to Her Majesty in Australia. The youth parade and the children’s display were thrilling and it was noticeable how stirred and moved Queen Elizabeth was when that farewell, which was typically Australian and not parochially Western
Australian, was extended to her. So, I offer my congratulations to all who have been associated with the planning of the royal tour.
In this debate, unfortunately, not all utterances with reference to the Queen Mother have been in good taste. The honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward), in his speech the week before last, criticized the gift of a brooch from the nation to Her Majesty. It is a pity that this self-seeking member, always anxious to associate himself with the sensational announcement, irrespective of its accuracy or truth, should not hesitate to raise this matter while our royal visitor was still with us. We deplore the comments which he made. We consider that the honorable member’s action was despicable and not in line with true parliamentary procedure. I am sure that the public recognized the dignity and sincerity of the Prime Minister and the Government in respect of all aspects of the Queen Mother’s visit to this country. I am sure, too, that the general public will see, in the attack made by the honorable member for East Sydney, nothing more than the cheap tactics which he so frequently uses in this House. Although this honorable member held cabinet rank in a previous government, surely the day will never come again which might give him opportunity to exercise similar leadership. His status, if it ever were high, has declined to. such a level that he is almost nationally and ingloriously known as the ranting red rebel from East Sydney. Honorable members opposite cannot deny that fact.
The debate on this motion provides an opportunity for helpful review and also for forecast. The Governor-General’s Speech presents a summary of the work and current programme of the Government. The Government, of course, claims a creditable record, and this claim I strongly support to-night. Believing, as I do, that the speech is based on a theme of progress and that progress should be the constant objective of this young nation, I wish to deal with a number of items under the heading of “ Progress “. The first of them is progress in international affairs and relations. We, of course, take pride in Australia’s contribution in this field and we claim a world-wide recognition of the statesmanlike leadership of the Prime Minister and of the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Casey). Even at the present time, we are participating in the Seato Council meeting. Let it be clearly understood that we and our partners in Seato have no aggressive intent. The alliance is for the purpose of mutual assistance and defence and the promotion of peace which will prove to be the greatest factor in raising the living standards of the people in the Asian area.
I suggest, to-night, that we need a vehement statement of the purpose of Seato because of misleading Soviet newspaper reports, one of which a few days ago said that the South-East Asia Treaty Organization aimed at preparing for an atomic war and at enslaving independent countries. In recent statements by Soviet leaders there were direct contradictions and evidence of what I might, I think quite rightly, refer to as a “ blow hot, blow cold “ attitude. Only recently, Khrushchev, the Soviet Communist leader, claimed in a speech to a cottongrowers’ conference in Russia, that we must all live in peace. He said that Russia wanted good relations with all the capitalist countries. But we find it difficult to reconcile that speech with his other utterances carrying threats and abuse to the free world. Particularly is it difficult to reconcile his statement on peace with the speech of his defence minister, which virtually coincided with his own. Marshal Malinovsky told Soviet armed forces that they must be ready to deal a crushing blow to any aggressor who launched a surprise attack on the Soviet Union or on its allies.
In Australia we seek sincerely for progress towards world peace. We need to enunciate and to continue to enunciate just what we believe and what is the target or objective to which we are moving. We believe, surely, that we are pledged to the solving of the problems which exist between the east and the west. Disarmament is, to us, more than a vital question; it is positively essential. But surely we look for controlled disarmament. Just as we expect a sensible father not to endanger his family by driving his car foolishly at break-neck speed, so we believe that he have a stewardship to fulfil in our moves towards disarmament. A reduction in nuclear armaments, removing a powerful deterrent, must, in our opinion, be accompanied by a will ingness to reduce conventional weapons also. Those who love real freedom have had good cause to be suspicious and to doubt the reliability of those who speak of peace so often in one way or another.
May I turn to the very excellent recent utterance of the Prime Minister. It was last week that he spoke under the title of “ Modern Science and Civilization “ when he delivered the Sir Henry Simpson Newland Oration in Hobart. I quote the following extract from his speech: -
It is hard for me to understand those who would seek to abolish nuclear and thermo-nuclear weapons as the first step to disarmament and peace. In common with most democratic leaders, I am convinced that, uneasy though the peace may be which the existence of these weapons protects, their disappearance to-morrow would dreadfully increase the dangers of war. With their marked superiority in other forces and arms, the Soviet Union could overrun Europe almost at will, sweep into Africa, and become the terror of the world. Unless disarmament affects all forces and all weapons, it can be a snare and a delusion.
I believe that the Soviet instead of widening the area of controversy should provide better evidence of its desire to achieve peace through trustworthy international agreements. I submit that our own hopes are pinned high upon the proposed summit talks. Progress should result if the talks proceed upon an acceptable programme. But can that acceptable programme or agenda be agreed upon? Marshal Bulganin, in his letter to the President of the United States of America, only within the last couple of days, shuts the door against any discussion of the situation of eastern European countries or of German reunification. He leaves the rift, therefore, as wide as ever, and one wonders whether the summit talks are closer at all.
I would now like to move on to the second of my thoughts about progress, and to deal with progress in relation to our immigration programme.
– The honorable member is the only Liberal with two thoughts on progress!
– By the time I have finished, honorable members opposite who are interjecting will see that we on this side of the House are convinced of Australia’s progress in many fields. The Governor-General said in his Speech that the programme of planned migration will be continued. I am sure that most of my colleagues on this side of the House believe, as I do, that Australia’s future, and its progress as a developing nation, are bound up with this scheme of immigration. The Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) chose the inappropriate occasion of the Citizenship Convention in January to attack the Government and its immigration policy. His outburst, therefore, was sensational. We did not expect it. He planned to make it sensational, but it was entirely unconvincing. His statement showed a complete turnabout, for, in being so insistent upon unachievable quotas of British immigrants, and also expressing concern about the composition of the Australian population now and in future years, he has turned against the southern Europeans. Let me remind honorable members that he and his government established a policy of heavy foreign immigration from the refugee camps of Europe. In this regard, I remind honorable members that in June, 1947, the late Honorable J. B. Chifley said -
First we must face the problem of bringing here hundreds of thousands of people from other countries. If British people are available, so much the better, but man-power in Britain is much needed to-day, so we must turn to Europe.
I was pleased to hear my esteemed leader, the Prime Minister, last night quote a passage from a recent statement by the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Cairns). Let me also quote some of the remarks of that honorable member. He said, only last month, when broadcasting in Melbourne in a session called “ Labour Hour “ -
We say that it is a disgrace that southern Europeans have been discriminated against to the extent that only dependent relatives, those engaged to sponsors and unmarried women between the ages of 18 and 35 will be admitted.
The Prime Minister, of course, quoted further during his speech last night, and there is no need for me to repeat what he said.
Evidently the Leader of the Opposition has found a nigger in the woodpile with regard to his own thinking on this matter. As a recent article put it, the right honorable gentleman is finding that with the antiCommunist attitude of the majority of new Australians, the policy established by the Chifley Government is turning out, from the Labour party’s viewpoint, a monster which bids fair to destroy everything that the honorable gentleman and some of his colleagues hold dear. In this connexion let me read to the House an interesting paragraph from an editorial in “ The Bulletin”, of 29th January -
It is the new Australian vote - it is said to be likely to number 400,000 by the end of this year - which will be exercised in strength for the first time at the next election, and which it seems may give the final coup de grace to the curious agglomeration of Communists, trade-union bosses’, publicans and careerists which now masquerades under the name “Australian Labour Party.”
While dealing with the progress of the immigration plan, let me say that the Government rightly claims real progress, not only with regard to population, but also in industry, and in our contribution to world problems in general. These are some of the fields in which we can see distinct progress.
Western Australia is the largest State in the Australian Commonwealth. Its area of 975,920 square miles is approximately one-third of the total area of the Continent. Western Australia is, however, sparsely populated with a total of 691,000, and the bulk of this population is concentrated in a relatively small area in the southwest of the State.
Much of the exploratory work in the search for oil has been conducted by this company in the extensive, arid and thinly populated north-western areas of the State. I think we should take notice of the fact that the company has spent no less than £13,000,000 in the search for oil in our State, and it says that the end is not yet in sight. I therefore suggest to-night that the search for oil must be accelerated in the interest not only of Western Australia, but also of the development of Australia as a whole. Having in mind the situation in Indonesia, we should all be mindful of the value of locating commercial quantities of oil and of opening up the north-western area of our continent. Western Australia, with its peculiar problems, must continue to receive Commonwealth grants and other encouragement.
I submit that overall progress has been registered in developmental projects, but that the potential in Australia is still tremendous, and achieve further progress we must.
I wish now to make reference to progress in respect of roads. I suggest to the House that we have not very much to be proud of with regard to road development generally. In January last it was my privilege to drive, for the first time, over the many hundreds of miles of road from Perth to Adelaide, and from there to Canberra. I travelled over what is known as the Eyre Highway, which title, I suggest, is a misnomer, for it is certainly no highway. I would like to have all members of this House travel across that road. I am sure that I would then have their support when I say that the Government needs to do some specific thinking and planning with regard to the 1,729 miles of road linking Adelaide and Perth. At present only a short length of road at each end is sealed in such a way as to be called all-weather road. These two stretches comprise 434 miles between Perth and Norseman, and 216 miles from Adelaide to slightly west of Port Augusta. As one travels this so-called highway, it is quite apparent that no recent maintenance has been done on it.
I turn to the available figures to find whether responsibility for this state of affairs can fairly be laid at the door of the State Governments of Western Australia and South Australia. I remind honorable members that, under the Commonwealth Aid Roads legislation, £3,700,000 is available this year to South Australia and some £6,400,000 to Western Australia. In addition, there are specific grants that are being made annually for the maintenance of this highway. They now total many hundreds of thousands of pounds. It would appear to me, as one who travelled over the highway so recently, that maintenance lags far behind. If both these State governments expect us as a Commonwealth Government to contribute further to the sealing of this highway, as we must at some reasonably early date, they must do more of the sealing over stretches reaching out from their respective capital cities. There is not enough progress in this sphere. It is foolish for any one to ask first, “ What is the density of traffic on the Eyre Highway? Bring us the density figures and then perhaps we will be convinced that something should be done “. It should be apparent to all honorable members that, when a road such as this is bad, it must be given a better surface before vehicular density will increase. I. do not think that it would take more than a moment to point out the advantages of a good all-weather highway between these two capital cities. It would undoubtedly have a strategic value and would open up the transport of perishables between the two cities and between the west coast and the east coast.
In the time remaining to me, I should like to suggest that, notwithstanding all the criticism by Opposition members in this debate, we have registered a very good achievement in the employment field. The Opposition has attempted - and will probably continue its tactics - to raise a panic about unemployment. In this debate, we have heard more about unemployment and the housing situation than we have about anything else. The sane, balanced judgment of Mr. Albert Monk, the president of the Australian Council of Trade Unions, is refreshing to me and to my colleagues, and a relief also to the people who have listened to so much of this panic talk. What was it that Mr. Monk said at the week-end? He said -
There is no serious unemployment problem in Australia.
– Do you not think it is serious?
– We do not consider it is serious, as the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) clearly announced last night.
– You are quite happy about it?
– We should certainly not be worried about you and your bleating. The Prime Minister delivered a telling speech last night and made quite clear that there is no need for frantic measures. We live in a comparative paradise, when we think of the unfortunate peoples in other parts of the world, particularly in Asia. We must not be downhearted when perfection is not reached in this field of employment and in other areas of responsibility. With firm resolve and dedication, we should strive for perfection but still be thankful to God for the prosperity and the happiness that is ours in Australia.
– I support the amendment to the AddressinReply moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt). At the outset, I desire to say in direct contradiction of the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Cleaver), who has just resumed his seat, that the major problems facing Australia to-day are those of housing, unemployment and immigration. It is true to say that home-building is the hub around which the economy of this or any other civilized country revolves. It is also true to say that, when the building industry is slack, all other industries suffer and unemployment soon rears its ugly head. I should know that because for many years I was employed in the building industry and I know what fluctuations mean in terms of employment and unemployment. When housing is mentioned in this House, the Government is quick to inform us that housing is not a Commonwealth responsibility. That is most probably true; the actual building of homes is not the responsibility of this Government, but the main ingredient is - and that is finance.
The honorable member for Swan mentioned some of the remarks that were made by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies). Recently, when replying to a question, the Prime Minister said that at the recent meeting of the Australian Loan Council the Government had provided the States with a cash grant of £5,000,000 for the last four months of the financial year. The Prime Minister added that the Commonwealth Government had intimated to the States that it would like them to apply as much of that money as possible to housing. He informed us of the amount that the States would be appropriating for housing, and said that the amount allocated in Victoria would be £400,000. That sounds a lot, but when reduced to terms of bricks and mortar, timber and scantlings or - in other words, the finished product - and assuming that a house now costs about £4,000 to build, it means about 100 extra homes iri Victoria. Victoria has 203 municipalities, comprising 43 cities, 5 towns, 18 boroughs and 137 shires. If the £400,000 is divided between them, they will not receive one house each. They are good words when one refers to £400,000, but, reduced to the number of houses involved, they do not mean a ripple in the surface of the hardened economy which the workers are facing to-day due to the tight credit policy of this Government.
This formula can be extended on a national basis to every State. Analysed, it means that it is all the Government is prepared to do to overcome the social evil that exists to-day. It is small comfort indeed! Despite all the claims that this Government may make and the statistics to which it refers, the Government admits that there is a shortage of 32,000 homes in Victoria alone. In 1945, the estimated deficiency of homes in Australia was 300,000. Since then, the population has increased by 2,250,000. Therefore, since the war, we have done no more than build houses for the actual increase in population. The deficiency of homes has not been touched. To overcome this deficiency and to cope with the annual population increase, we need to build 120,000 houses a year for the next five years. Yet, despite the increase in population, the rate of home building has decreased! In 1950-51, 80,000 houses were constructed, but in 1956-57 the figure was only 60,062. How can the Government claim that it is meeting its obligations in respect of housing?
What is the cause of this decrease? The answer to that question is that money has been diverted into other channels, into hotels, large offices, big stores, big industry and, worst of all, hire-purchase. Official figures show that, in 1949-50, £116,000,000 was spent on dwellings. That figure rose to £187,000,000 in 1951-52, but fell to £174,000,000 in 1955-56. Over the same period, for other buildings £61,000,000 was spent in 1949-50, £125,000,000 in 1951-52 and £220,000,000 in 1955-56. The cause of this diversion is a change of policy by banks and insurance companies. This change has meant a loss to the wage earners and, consequently, they have less to spend on houses. Business has gained, so more is spent on hotels, big buildings, hire-purchase and the like. In 1951-52, wages and salaries were 49.2 per cent, of the national income. In 1955-56 due to the wage freeze, they fell to 47.4 per cent, of the national income. In the corresponding period business income rose from 28 per cent- to 31.8 per cent, of the national income. So, business increased its profits at the expense of the workers- In 1952 personal savings were 12.1 per cent, of the national income but in 1955-56 they were only 5.3 per cent. On the other hand, business savings rose from 8.7 per cent, to 14.3 per cent, during this period. At the same time, interest rates had become exorbitant, which meant dearer money which, in turn, meant fewer houses.
This brings me to a further statement made by the Prime Minister in which he said -
The Commonwealth Savings Bank is a big lender for housing, and private savings banks are also big lenders for housing.
I agree with that statement insofar as it relates to the Commonwealth Bank, but I give no credence to it in relation to the trading banks, which are prepared to lend money only at interest rates far beyond the resources of workers, and through such money-lending subsidiaries as Customs Credit Corporation and Esanda Limited. The Prime Minister admitted this fact when he said -
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 big insurance groups and private lending institutions, once more directed their attention in a full way to this problem.
The Prime Minister might well have added that instead of investing their money in these lending companies at an interest rate of from 10 per cent, to 20 per cent, they could have made it available for housing. The only way for home-building to be encouraged is for private funds to be made available for home-building at low interest rates which the wage-earner could meet out of his weekly wage.
This brings me to the 19th annual report of the Victorian Housing Commission, some of the facts contained in which are very enlightening- In one paragraph the report says, in referring to the agreement entered into between this Government and the States -
The new agreement has resulted in a substantial reduction in the number of housing units constructed by the Commission and after making provision for the allocation to the Services of 242 units, resulted in a net total of 2,338 units being available to eligible families, as compared with 4,152 in the previous year.
It goes on to say -
The 1 per cent, increase in interest rates has resulted in an increase in rent of lis. to 12s. approximately per week.
Later it has this to say -
These factors have contributed to a record high in rents which have reached the alarming level of £5 per week for a three-bedroom house in the country.
The following statement by the Victorian Housing Commission highlights our arguments about the housing shortage during this debate. The report says -
The Commission continued to be embarrassed by the steady receipt of applications for housing. At the close of the year, some 17,000 unsatisfied applications were on hand.
It is interesting to note that this report was drawn up by the agency of a Liberal State government. The report also lends weight to the censure that was passed on this Government by the State Ministers for Housing at their conference last year. Contained in the report is the text of the telegram that was sent by the conference to the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) and the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner), which read -
The housing position continues to be a serious social problem in all States.
The rate of building is declining at a time when material resources and manpower are becoming unused and idle. It is essential therefore that more money should be made available to the States to carry out their housing programmes at an enhanced rate and to prevent a recession in the building industry with a consequent serious effect upon the economy of the nation. . . .
This was a censure on the Government by State Ministers in March, 1957, and that censure is still on the Government. The fact that the people think so was shown in no uncertain fashion at the Parramatta by-election last Saturday, when the Liberal party candidate’s majority was heavily reduced in spite of the fact that he was the most .glamorous candidate who has appeared on the hustings for many a day.
One notable feature of this debate is that not one member on the Government side of the House has seen fit to mention the Parramatta by-election. Are they afraid that the newcomer to their ranks will cut across the path of their ambitions for Cabinet rank? Or do they think that the result of the by-election is a severe censure on the Government for its inability to use the resources of Australia to solve the housing problem? I say that the answer is that they regard the result as a censure on the Government, and therefore are not prepared to mention the election figures in this debate.
I know that the Government has claimed that extra money has been made available to building co-operatives. But what it does not tell the people is that the extra allocation to these organizations has resulted in a reduction of the funds for housing commission activities. I want to say, on behalf of the Opposition, that we do not begrudge the building co-operatives this extra money; but we point out that the restriction of housing commission activities reduces the chance of accommodation of those desiring to rent a house, and intensifies the appalling shortage of 32,000 homes in Victoria. The Government has taken much credit to itself because of the money made available to the building co-operatives; but let me point out that the great majority of people in this country cannot afford to buy or build a house. Under the new agreement which the Government practically forced on the States, the Government is depriving people of a chance to live in a decent manner in a civilized country.
Summing up, it does not matter how the Government may argue; it stands condemned for its failure to provide the finance and the legislation necessary to overcome what is undoubtedly the greatest social scourge in Australia, and one of the prime causes of the fact that 75,000 in Australia are unemployed. The Government admits that 75,000 people are unemployed, and such a level of unemployment warrants more than a close scrutiny, whether or not it represents, as honorable members opposite have said, a relatively small proportion of our total work force. Two-thirds of the unemployed are, most probably, married men with dependants. Add the wives and children to the 75,000 and the resulting figure of those affected by unemployment does not make a very pretty picture. Keeping the matter under close scrutiny will not prevent unemployment from spreading, nor will close scrutiny off-set the impact of automation, which is undoubtedly making itself felt in no uncertain way in this country, and has already been the cause of two large automotive plants in Victoria being closed down. Coming events cast their shadows before them. More plants will close their doors or reduce their staffs in the near future, if one can take any notice of the re-tooling and rebuilding programmes being carried out by the automobile industry at present. I agree with the opinion expressed by the Victorian secretary of the Vehicle Builders Union who said -
To cope with automation I believe that in any future transition of plant in any industry the Federal Government should, as requested by the A.C.T.U., immediately give consideration to taking action to avoid dislocation of the labour force which causes social hardship and labour displacement, and not leave it to the employer and the unions to endeavour to find suitable employment for displaced persons.
Seventy-five thousand unemployed, the impact of automation, and intense immigration are problems that are national. Our unemployment and automation problems are consistent with what is is happening in other parts of the world, though in a degree much greater than in Australia. It is interesting to note that in spite of the fact that we are told that we should not be alarmed by the rate of unemployment in Australia, it is estimated that in the United States of America there are 3,000,000 workers on relief. Add to this number the number in partial employment, and the figure would be nearer 6,000,000. It is estimated that in the next few months those on unemployment relief in the United States will increase to 5,000,000. With a corresponding increase in partially employed, the figure could reach 10,000,000.
Let us look at what is happening in other parts of the world. It is true to say that the United Kingdom is facing a similar unemployment problem. In Japan, millions of Japanese are facing dire poverty as prosperity crumbles. The Melbourne “ Age “, of 22nd February, 1958, published the following report: -
Only a few months ago, Japanese workers were floating on a prosperity bubble and enjoying their highest living standards in history. But the bubble has had to be pricked. . . . More than 11,000,000 Japanese workers may be thrown on the dole by January as an expected wave of unemployment sweeps the country, a Government official said.
– The Australian Government should bring them here.
– It would like to do that. Hie article continued -
Official figures showed 1,835,000 persons were an the dole in October.
The article went on to say that between 3,000,000 and 7,000,000 Japanese were employed for only one hour a week and that they would soon be completely unemployed.
These things were predicted. An article in the “ Japan Times “, of 16th December, 1957, was headed, “ MITI Foresees Depression During Next 12 Months-“. “MITI” means Ministry of International Trade and Industry. Part of the article under this heading reads -
During the coming January-March period, when money shortage will be keenly felt, MITI authorities are reported to foresee that price1; -“ill generally drop, and such industries as steel, nonferrous metals and textile machines will be compelled to adjust their production with the result that some of them may go bankrupt.
Another article which appeared in the “ Japan Times “ on the same day was headed, “ Industrial Recession Seen in U.S.”. I regard all these things as signs of the times1 as far as Australia is concerned. This article stated -
A business recession “ at least as severe as in 1949 and 1954,” with unemployment possibly topping 5,000,000, was forecast Saturday by the Research Director of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
Another article in the same newspaper, of 17th December, 1957, was headed, “U.S. Economist Predicts 1958 Business Decline “. The article read -
A top economist Sunday predicted a business decline in 1958, and a rise in government spending because of increased national security expenditure. . . . The business expert called for a program of antirecessionary fiscal policy, including a tax reduction and some promotion of urgently needed nondefence programs. He said the government could hold this program in readiness until a decision had been reached about the magnitude of additional programs needed in the interests of national security.
The correctness of that statement has been confirmed by reports which have just been released about action which President Eisenhower has taken to try to offset unemployment.
The articles that I have cited refute the statement that depression talk is nonsense. I say it is nonsense to think that what is happening overseas cannot happen here. I say, further, that the Government cannot neglect these happenings. It cannot fail to heed the warning and it must do more than give problems such as these constant scrutiny. An article which appeared in the Melbourne “ Sun “ on 4th of this month was headed, “ Depression Talk Nonsense “. It stated -
Labour party talk of unemployment in Australia was “ psychological warfare “, the Prime Minister, Mr. Menzies, said to-night.
However, in spite of the fact that the Prime Minister was telling the electors of Parramatta that talk of unemployment was “ psychological warfare “ and “ nonsense “, another article which appeared in the same paper on the same day read as follows: -
GOVERNOR TO CONFER WITH TRADING BANKERS.
General managers of the eight Australian trading banks will confer with the Governor of the Commonwealth Bank (Dr. H. C. Coombs), on Thursday in Sydney on banking policy. Doubtless, they will be told the reason for the sudden decision of the Central Bank to ‘ release £15,000,000 from the special deposits held by it from the trading banks. With this release, these deposits will then aggregate £325,309,000. The amount of £15,000,000 is a small amount to be spread over eight banks, but if it is to be specifically channelled it could be felt.
The final paragraph absolutely refutes all the statements that Government supporters have made that they are not alarmed about unemployment. It read -
The Federal Government and the Central Bank are perturbed with the recent rise in unemployment, with the market fall in wool and metals and with the effects of the recent drought in northern States. To help offset this position more credit relaxation will be needed.
This is identical with what is going on overseas. The fall in the price of wool and metals, and other factors including the tight credit policy, have combined to bring the workers in other nations to the breadline. They will also be brought to the bread-line in this nation if this Government does not do something to release more credit to the local councils and the States. The Government must make more money available for housing which is the hub of industry, otherwise we cannot fail to have in Australia unemployment similar to that which is occurring in the United States, the
United Kingdom and Japan. The Government must not ignore the trend of overseas events. In view of the signs of the times in this nation, the Government should sit up and take more action and not talk of psychological warfare. Those signs appeared in 1928 before the last depression. They appeared throughout the world and gradually extended to Australia. They will extend to Australia again if the Government is not prepared to release more money for housing and to clean up the unemployment position before it deteriorates too much. The emergency is with us and all the credit releases that this Government has made have only been made as a stop-gap measure in the hour of trial to try to ward off the more severe censure which will be directed against the Government at the next general election.
.- One of the pessimistic remarks made by the honorable member for Gellibrand (Mr. Mclvor) was that the great majority of people could not afford to buy a house and that the release of more government money would permit a number of those people to buy their own homes. There is a very good reason why a large number of people are unable to buy homes, but the problem certainly will not be cured by a release of Government finance. The reason is the tremendous rise in construction costs that has taken place in recent years. To release more money to potential home-owners will not reduce the burden on them when they build homes and have to pay more for them.
In the last two years, the price of building materials has risen by 11 per cent, and 15 per cent respectively. Those prices are still going up. The efficiency of the building industry is deteriorating as the need for homes increases. The cost of housing has risen by about 400 per cent, since before the war. In the same period, the wholesale price of building materials has risen by 367 per cent., while general retail prices have risen by less than 200 per cent, and nominal wage rates have increased by 253 per cent. I believe that that shows conclusively that the building industry is one of the least efficient industries in Australia. To suggest a release of capital to enable people to saddle themselves with a debt which they would find it extremely hard to wipe off and which could not be justified on the grounds of value, is to dodge the question.
The real cure for the housing problem lies with the building industry itself, which must adopt more efficient methods in order to reduce the cost of homes.
The arguments of the honorable member for Gellibrand are typical of the hollow and trite arguments used by Opposition members in this debate in trying to substantiate their case against the Government. We have heard this sort of thing year after year. It convinces no one in this House, and it does even less to convince people outside the Parliament. Evidence of that is to be found in the ranks of Labour supporters outside this House. Mr. Monk, a prominent union official, has often been quoted in this debate. His views are directly contrary to those expressed by the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) and his supporters in this House. The unions, which are now pressing before the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission their claims for higher rates of pay, are busily telling the commission how stable Australia is, how confident in its future they are, and how easily industry could afford to pay higher wages in the country’s present prosperous condition. That argument is completely contrary to the pessimistic arguments that have been advanced by the Opposition.
A demonstration of the Australian Labour party’s sincerity was given recently by Mr. Cahill, the Labour Premier of New South Wales, who bought for approximately £1,800,000 the Newstan and Newcom coal mines in New South Wales. That transaction did not provide one more job for the unemployed or build one more house for the homeless in that State. There we saw a Labour Premier spending precious loan moneys on a book transaction that will be completely unreproductive. That action indicates how much Mr. Cahill thinks of the unemployed and the homeless in New South Wales. Only yesterday, he told a meeting that he believed the future of New South Wales was very rosy. He said -
I believe our development in the next 10 years will eclipse the phenomenal progress of the last decade.
There is a Labour Premier whose words are completely out of tune with the views of members of the Australian Labour party in this House.
Who is telling the truth in these matters? Are we to believe that the country is going downhill, or are we to believe, with Mr. Cahill, that it is steadily progressing, and that its economy is expanding?
– Does the honorable member know what gathering Mr. Cahill was addressing when he made those remarks?
– He was addressing the members of the Sydney Rotary Club - prior to his departure for overseas, I take it.
More satisfactory evidence of the confidence of the public in this Government, and in the stability of Australia’s economy, is given by the figures for savings, which have recently increased to approximately £1,250,000,000, a record level, as well as by the high level of purchases. There have been record purchases of many goods. During last financial year, purchases of washing machines increased by 22.6 per cent.; of vacuum cleaners, by 30 per cent.; and of radiograms, by 33 per cent. Those figures indicate the confidence of the public in the stability and continuing progress of this country.
– From what document is the honorable member taking those figures?
– They are the official figures published by the Commonwealth Statistician.
– At what date?
– This is a comparison between the figures for the period of five months from July to November, 1957, and those for the corresponding period of the previous year. The consumption pattern, the level of savings, and the rate at which people are entering into hire-purchase commitments - whatever we may think of hire purchase - are indications of general confidence among the people in the stability of the economy. This evidence is supported also by the rate of private investment in mining and manufacturing, and by proposals to establish new steel works, as well as by activity in the aircraft industry and shipbuilding. On every hand, there is evidence that the general investing public, and members of the trade unions also, are confident that the Australian economy is on an even keel, and that the country is making rapid progress.
I turn now to a graver matter. Although we are progressing so rapidly, and the Australian people have every reason to be confident in the country’s future, we are suffering from a serious shortage of capital. This is a world-wide problem, but it is more pressing in Australian than in the older countries, because, as a young country, we have very much to do in order to develop the potential of our land. Some indication of the dearth of capital was given in the budget papers presented by the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) last September. To take the figures for only one year, in 1956-57, the Commonwealth found from its own resources about £92,000,000 of the £192,000,000 spent under the loan programme of the States, and of the amount spent by the Commonwealth on capital works, some £108,000,000 was provided from taxation revenue. A total of approximately £200,000,000, which should normally have come from loan raisings, was provided by the Commonwealth from revenue. We are compelled to get that money from the taxpayers, and from other sources, in order to supplement the loan programme, and undertake capital works which will benefit future generations. Those figures indicate the extent of the shortage of capital for public works.
There is a shortage of capital in the private sector of the economy also. In this period of rapid expansion, private industry is finding it difficult to tool up for new processes and methods, and many firms cannot undertake capital expenditure at the rate they desire. The primary industries are seriously affected. The trend of trade figures indicates how desperately short of developmental finance the primary industries have been for some time. Since 1938, the volume of exports per head of population has dropped by 14 per cent., and the volume of imports has risen by 29 per cent. That is a measure of our lack of development in the primary field, because the primary industries make up “?e bulk of our exports. We have not conformed to our pre-war pattern, and our primary industries are lacking in developmental finance.
There are three things to which I suggest the Government should give consideration during the coming year with a view to correcting this situation. The first essential is to prevent waste. I wonder for how long the country can tolerate a position where the States use all the loan raisings, plus the supplements that the Commonwealth is able to give them, according to their own plans without any overriding national plans of co-ordination. The present system is wasteful in the extreme. New South Wales is an example of a wasteful, unco-ordinated national works programme. That State continued to use steam trains long after it was proved that they were uneconomical, and it is now wasting millions of pounds in electrifying railway lines when it is more economical to use diesel-electric locomotives. That is a waste of public funds and cannot be tolerated for much longer. This Government should take some action during the current year to stop that wastage. It should endeavour to bring about a coordinated national works programme. ‘
I should also like to see the Government encourage savings in this community by abolishing the means test in respect of age pensions at the age of 70. In my opinion that would be a practical step. The cost involved would be about £38,000,000, but such a step would do much to encourage the thrifty in the community and to maintain a high level of private savings. Also, the question of productivity should be given more attention than it is receiving from the Government at present. Productivity can be raised by means of new machinery, new equipment and better communications, but that would entail the expenditure of muchneeded capital. Productivity can also be raised by the introduction of better management methods in industry. Very little increased production per capita is required to bring about a substantial overall increase in productivity. If the output per capita increased by only 1 per cent, each year, it would take 70 years to double our standard of living, but an annual increase per capita of 3 per cent, would double the standard of living in about 24 years.’
The Government should give a lead in this matter. It is all very well to hold conferences and to institute study groups, such as the one that was conducted at the Ministry of Labour, but some stimulus must be given so that a new code will be adopted widely in industry as a general practice. We must have better management all through industry if we are to get somewhere in a short period of time.
There may be many ways of approaching this problem, but one way the Government could give a lead in the matter would be by exempting all bonus payments, and all additions to award wages from calculations for purposes of pay-roll tax. That would cause managements to pay some heed to the value being obtained from their staffs. The fact that productivity can be raised substantially by better management methods is exemplified by the work being done by the Lincoln Electric Company (Australia) Proprietary Limited, for which I hold no particular brief. I have mentioned this firm on previous occasions. I believe that it is a wellrun and well-managed concern. In the last five years the bonus per employee has averaged a total of about £2,100. That figure does not include production bonus payments, which average 25 per cent, to 85 per cent, above normal wages, sales commissions, or superannuation. These are paid in addition to wages. That is an indication of how much can be paid by a company and yet still yield value for the money it expends. The proof that this firm obtains value from its staff and its system is that it is selling its commodity in eight different countries against world competition. If that can be done by one manufacturing concern in Australia, it could be done by the majority of them. I ask the Government to take this initial step towards increasing productivity in Australia.
Another matter that relates to this question of capital shortage in the monetary controls that we have instituted as temporary expedients in order to maintain full employment and to keep a check on inflation. In these days when world prices are falling, when world stocks have been reduced, and when the buyer’s market has returned, there is a great danger that temporary controls might become permanent. An added danger is that these controls might breed further controls and further restrict the liberty of the individual. Australia is not the only country to apply controls. It is a common practice now, but an exceedingly dangerous one. The electorate finds it hard to distinguish between -controls applied by a free-enterprise government as temporary expedients, and full regimentation under a socialist government. That is a political danger. An even more serious aspect of a political kind is that by applying these controls, by restricting the freedom of the individual, we are letting down those people behind the iron curtain who cherish the ideal of freedom. Those people who look to the West for inspiration are being denied it at the present time because they see us moving away from liberty towards more stringent controls on the freedom of the individual. I believe that we in this country can find a way to maintain the benefits of the welfare State, to maintain stability, and to maintain freedom from arbitrary restrictions, while at the same time building up our capital, so that our country will continue to expand at a fast rate. If we can do that, we shall be doing a service not only to our own people in Australia, but to the whole of mankind, and I believe that we can do it if we apply ourselves to the problem.
.- I rise to support the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt). Last evening I listened to the innocuous speech of the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), who went to great lengths to tell the House how much had been provided for housing. He told us also that £3,000,000 had been allotted to the States for the purpose of bringing immediate relief to the unemployed. Listening to him, one would have thought that by the mere granting of £3,000,000 to the States unemployment would disappear. The unemployed and the small business men can draw very little consolation from the Prime Minister’s statement. He said that the numbers of unemployed were very small. It is quite obvious from that remark, and from the cavalier fashion in which he disposed of the problem, that he knows nothing of the trials and tribulations of those people who are unfortunate enough to find themselves unemployed and on the dole, otherwise he would not have swept the subject aside in that fashion.
The Prime Minister referred to the psychology of fear. He said that the Australian Labour party had created a scare in relation to the numbers of unemployed. We have to bear in mind that this Govern ment was swept into office as a result of a fear fostered by its supporters in 1949 and again at subsequent elections - the fear of communism in this country. Immediately the election was over the “ corns “ and communism were quietly forgotten, only to be revived in the next election campaign. In the 75,000 unemployed we have the field in which the Communists can sow their seeds. Communist agitators can infiltrate and try to persuade these unfortunate people, who obviously can have none after listening to the Prime Minister, that hope may be found in the doctrine of communism. The Government is not concerned about the unfortunate 75,000 registered unemployed. During the Parramatta by-election campaign, and again in this House, the Prime Minister referred to the scare campaign in which the Australian Labour party is supposed to have engaged. It is quite obvious that Government supporters know more than we do about creating scares. They know more about political psychological warfare than does the Labour party. If the Labour party knew as much about the subject as does the Government, the Labour party would not be on this side of the House, because this Government has succeeded at election after election only by exploiting the psychology of fear.
The Government knows, apparently, that it has not the capacity to deal with the unemployment problem which confronts it. This Government has been so concerned about fighting inflation that it has followed a policy of deflation, without knowing how to apply a brake to the deflationary process. In 1928 and 1929 we saw the misery that followed in the train of deflation. We saw the results of such a policy implemented by a government of the same political kidney as the one that occupies the Treasury bench to-day.
The Prime Minister last night made much of the £3,000,000 provided for the relief of unemployment. On an average, this amounts to about £500,000 for each State. Queensland and New South Wales, because of extraordinary conditions resulting from drought, are to get a little more. Queensland will receive about £750,000. Spreading this amount over sixteen weeks, we find that it represents about £40.000 a week. If the whole of that amount were paid out in wages, it would create work for only about 3,000 men, because the basic wage to-day is £12 a week or more. Nearly as many people as that are unemployed in Townsville alone! For the Prime Minister to talk about what this £3,000,000 will do to reduce the number of unemployed in this country is to show how completely out of touch he is with conditions of employment in this country. This Government is following the old, old policy of too little, too late.
The Prime Minister said that employment was a matter for the private employer. That is true, under the economic system by which we work and live. One difference, however, in the points of view of this Government and the Labour party is that when we form a national government we are conscious of our responsibility in the field -of employment. During the war the Labour party recognized that if we were to ask our young men and women to put on uniforms to shoulder rifles or to assist otherwise to defend the shores of this country, we could not expect them to come back to unemployment and the dole. From that realization was born the policy that has come to be known as the policy of full employment, to which this Government says it also subscribes. The Chifley Government, in fulfilment of the policy of full employment, even amended the Commonwealth Bank Act to instruct the Commonwealth Bank to play its part in the implementation of the policy of full employment. But the reference to the Commonwealth Bank’s responsibility in regard to full employment was deleted from bills introduced not long ago in this Parliament. Fortunately, those bills were rejected in another place. Apparently the Prime Minister, when speaking of the small number of unemployed, subscribes to the policy enunciated not long ago by a professor, that to make the system work we must have a pool of unemployed. If this Government was interested in maintaining full employment and in carrying on the work of real development in this country it would have followed the lead which the Chifley Government gave. The Chifley Government said, in effect, “We must organize, immediately, development of projects in each State so that we can take up the slack of employment in the post-war years in the event of any falling off in private employment.” But this Government, confronted with 75,000 regis tered unemployed cannot point to one developmental project which it has put in hand for the purpose of taking up the slack of employment.
The Prime Minister has said that employment is the responsibility of private enterprise. But there is also a national responsibility reposing on the back of this Government to take up the slack of employment when it is created in the field of private employment. But what are immigrants now coming to this country for? Unemployment and the dole await them. Behind the policy of full employment of the Labour party we find the great Snowy Mountains project, the opening of which was boycotted by the members of the present Government who were in Opposition at the time and the present Prime Minister was Leader of the Opposition. That project was originally started for the purpose of taking up the slack in employment and creating work for men in New South Wales and Victoria who might need it. Then the Australian Aluminium Production Commission was established in Tasmania. That was another project which, as in the case of the Snowy Mountains scheme, was conducted, in association with the State Government, for the purpose of taking up the slack in employment in Tasmania. In South Australia there were the Leigh Creek railway and the development of the Leigh Creek coal-field. In Western Australia there was the Great Southern water supply, and in Queensland, the Burdekin River dam. Those projects were started not only for the purpose of taking up the slack in employment, but also because the government of the day accepted its responsibility to begin works of development of a worthwhile nature for the nation.
Fortunately, there was no slackening of private employment. The present honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell), in his Capacity of Minister for Immigration, introduced the immigration scheme for which he has received praise, time and again, from present Government members. Work was created for these newcomers and there was an effective link between development and immigration. But where are the new jobs that this Government has started or proposes to start? The Government is not interested in finding work for the unemployed or in the work of development. lt is not interested in the solvency of small businesses. All it is interested in is in seeing that the private banks, particularly, are given an open go in the field of hire purchase.
This country stands on the brink of a chasm. To substantiate that statement I cannot do better than quote from the Melbourne “ Sun-News Pictorial “ of to-day’s date. On page 1 an article appears under the heading “ Worry on Workless “. The article states -
Australian manufacturers were becoming increasingly concerned at the trend disclosed by employment figures, the Federal Director of the Associated Chambers of Manufactures, Mr. R. W. C. Anderson, said tonight. “Economic indicators disclose that we are on the edge of an abyss - and far too close for our peace of mind,” he added.
On page 11 of the same issue, under the heading “ Manufacturer warns on jobless “, this appears -
Australian manufacurers were becoming increasingly concerned at the trend disclosed by employment figures, the Federal Director of the Associated Chambers of Manufactures, Mr. R. W. C. Ander-son, said tonight. “ The figures indicate a deterioration which calls for corrective action before the situation becomes really serious,” he said. “ We have been told that the Government has a flexible fiscal policy well able to deal with changing circumstances. Time alone will establish whether that is a fact.”
The article continued - “The grants to the States and local authorities would not provide the booster action necessary to stimulate consumer spending,” he said. “ The £15 million easing in credit was commendable, but reflected a far too cautious Government financial policy. The £15 million could easily have been £50 million.”
Could any one say that Mr. Anderson, the federal director of the Associated Chambers of Manufactures, wants to create uneasiness, or that he is a party to the Labour party’s alleged scare tactics? Is it not obvious from this article that Mr. Anderson subscribes to the very same conviction that is held by this party when he says that we are on the brink of an economic abyss? Yet, the Prime Minister has spoken about £3,000,000 which the Government has provided for unemployment relief and about £15,000,000 being made available to ease credit. The Prime Minister accused the Labour party of calamity howling. Can he say that Mr. Anderson is a calamity howler? In this matter Mr. Anderson is in the same category as the Labour party. Can the Prime Minister accuse him, as he does the Labour party, of attempting to undermine business confidence? I say to the Prime Minister that it is about time this Government woke up to its responsibility to the nation, lifted credit restrictions and took a more active part in easing the incidence of unemployment.
Surely, the Government is conscious of what is happening in other parts of the world. I find in this evening’s edition of the Sydney “Daily Mirror”, under the captions, “ Jobless up in U.S.” “ Worst for 26 years “, the following article -
Unemployment in the U.S. reached 5,173,000 in mid-February - a rise of 700,000 since January, the Secretary of Labour (Mr. James Mitchell), reported yesterday.
This means 6.7 per cent, of the nation’s working force is jobless. The figures are the highest in 26 years.
Mr. Mitchell was speaking at an emergency meeting of the merged American Federation of Labour-Council of Industrial Organizations.
I ask honorable members to appreciate the significance of that article. There are more than 5,000,000 unemployed in the United States of America, including an increase of 700,000 between January and midFebruary, and the figure represents 6.7 per cent, of the total labour force in the country. Can we not see some similarity between these, conditions in 1958 and those which prevailed in 1928-29? In “The Sydney Morning Herald “ yesterday the following report appeared under the heading “ Depression Pattern Seen in the United Kingdom “ -
Unemployment in Britain is following the pattern of the depression of 1930 and 1931, the Deputy Leader of the Labour Party, Mr. James Griffiths, said last night.
He was speaking in support of Mrs. Mary McAlister, Labour candidate in the Kelvin-grove by-election.
Mr. Griffiths said: “The shadow of unemployment is beginning to creep over the land once more “.
Mr. Griffiths added that those who remembered and had studied the depression would not have missed the significance of one thing - that everywhere the prices of primary products were falling. “ Look back and search the history of the 1930’s and the depression of 1930 and 1931, and it begins in this way “, he said. “ It begins with the peasant and the primary producer. As they start tumbling down, all the rest of us tumble down after them”.
As the Prime Minister himself admitted last night in this House, the prices of metals had fallen and the prices of primary products had fallen overseas. Conditions now prevail similar to those which existed in 1928-29 and were responsible for precipitating the economic depression which hit this country in the early 1930’s. I have just quoted a report that an increase of 700,000 occurred in the number of unemployed in the United States of America within a fortnight. And there are about 500,000 unemployed in Great Britain. Yet, the Prime Minister talks about the Government’s provision of £3,000,000 for the relief of unemployment and the easing of bank credit to the extent of £15,000,000.
The attitude of this Government is the same as that adopted by the Bruce-Page Government in 1928. Even the Prime Minister, last evening, quoted the fall in prices of primary products. Surely to goodness he is conscious of what happened in the past, prior to the early 30’s. He should have learned something from the vicious lesson taught by the economic depression of that period. It is all very well for the Prime Minister to talk about calamity howling; there are the portents and the signs. They are similar to the portents and the signs of 1928-29. Surely to goodness we have learned something from the savage lessons of the not-so-long ago.
In north Queensland unemployment is rampant, as it is in other parts of the Commonwealth. Only last week, when I was in the far north, I met quite a number of young fellows carrying their swags on their backs - another portent of a return to the conditions of 1928-29. Four of these men were from Victoria. They told me that they had walked through New South Wales and had been as far afield as Mount Isa looking for work. To-day the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson) referred to a letter dated 28th January, 1958, that he had received from the Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck) in which the Minister said -
Although the detailed information is not available, His Honour the Administrator considers that the increase in unemployment at Darwin is due in part to reduced employment opportunities in Queensland and a resultant movement into the Territory of persons seeking work or better wages.
What a shocking admission by a responsible Minister! Yet we hear Government supporters brushing the matter aside in cavalier fashion, saying, “ Seventy-five thousand unemployed - a mere bagatelle - a tiny number “. When a Labour government was in office, it inaugurated such great public works as the Snowy Mountains scheme, the comprehensive water supply scheme in Western Australia, and other works to which I have referred, but to-day men are walking into the Northern Territory from north Queensland looking for work. This is admitted in a letter by the Minister dated 28th January, and it is obvious that they would have been moving into the Territory for a long time before that date.
The Queensland Labour Government approached the Commonwealth Government, asking for financial assistance in the reconstruction of the line from Townsville to Mount Isa. American experts had inspected the line and reported favorably on the proposal. But everything in connexion with the scheme is hush-hush. However, the grapevine in Queensland tells us - and on pretty sound authority - that money for the project has been approved by United States of America financiers. However, the only action we have seen so far with relation to the scheme has consisted of conferences. If the Government was interested in the development of the far north of Australia, and in providing work for the unemployed, the scheme would have been put in hand. It is quite obvious, from the tactics adopted by the Government, that it is not interested in the matter. In north Queensland there are thousands of unemployed persons.
I think the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) knows the Angliss family, which owns large cattle properties in the north. Mr. William Angliss made a statement in Townsville last Sunday week to the effect that because of drought conditions the number of fat cattle that will be turned off this year will be much lower than has been the case in previous years, and that the season for the meat works in Townsville will be very short. In other words, north Queensland is in for a pretty bad time, because the meat industry is very important to the economy of the far north. Businessmen as well as workers will be adversely affected.
In the minute or so that I have left I wish to refer to the matter of housing. An article in the “Sydney Morning Herald” of 11th March, informs us that in
December of 1955 there were 95,600 persons employed in building and construction; in December, 1956, the number was 99,900, and in December, 1957, there were 87,000 persons so employed. The falling off during the last twelve-months’ period gives some indication of where this Government is going in the field of housing. I say that the Government is deserving of the censure not only of this Parliament but also of the people of Australia.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Wight) adjourned.
Message received from the Senate intimating that it had agreed to the following: -
That the Senate concurs in the resolution transmitted to the Senate by message No. 1 of the House of Representatives relating to the appointment of a joint committee to examine problems of constitutional change.
That Senators Kennelly, McKenna, O’Sullivan and Wright be members of that joint committee.
That Senator O’Sullivan be the chairman of the joint committee.
That the resolution, so far as it is inconsistent with the Standing Orders, have effect notwithstanding anything contained in the Standing Orders.
Message received from the Senate intimating that it concurred in the resolutions transmitted to the Senate by the House of Representatives relating to the appointment of a Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and that Senators Cole, Gorton, Maher, Pearson, Robertson, Vincent and Wordsworth be members of such joint committee.
Motion (by Sir Philip McBride) agreed to -
That Mr. Downer, Mr. Drummond, Mr. Joske, Sir Wilfrid Kent Hughes, Mr. Lucock, Mr. Mackinnon, Mr. Timson and Mr. Wentworth he members of the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs.
That, until such time as the five remaining vacancies for members of the House of Representatives on this committee are filled by members of the Opposition, Mr. Chaney, Mr. Failes, Mr. Turner, Mr. Wheeler and Mr. Wight be members of the committee.
That the foregoing resolution be communicated to the Senate by message.
Message received from the Senate intimating that it concurred in the resolution transmitted to the Senate by the House of Representatives with reference to the appointment of a joint committee to examine and report on certain matters relating to the Australian Capital Territory and that the provisions of that resolution, so far as they are inconsistent with the Standing Orders, have effect notwithstanding anything contained in the Standing Orders.
– I wish to inform the House of the following appointments of senators and members as members of the Joint Committee on the Australian Capital Territory.
Senators McCallum, Vincent and Wood have been appointed by the Leader of the Government in the Senate, and Senators Poke and Ryan have been appointed by the Leader of the Opposition in that House.
Mr. Anderson and Mr. Howse have been appointed by the Prime Minister, and Mr. Coutts and Mr. J. R. Fraser have been appointed by the Leader of the Opposition in this House.
Newspaper Report - Hire Purchase - Com munist Propaganda - Television - Public Service - Royal Australian Navy - Telephone Services - Social Service Insurance - Baron Krupp - Japanese War Criminals - Communism.
Motion (by Sir Philip McBride) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- In to-day’s Sydney “ Daily Mirror “ there is a statement that in what the paper calls the secrecy of the Fremantle Electorate Council - by which, I take it, it means the Fremantle District Council of the Australian Labour party - I made an attack on the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt), and that the whole of the Parliament and the parliamentary lobbies are buzzing with the news of this attack. Every member of the Parliament will be in a position to know the falsity of at least one aspect of that report. No one in this Parliament, including myself, had heard about this speech until the report of it appeared in the Sydney “ Daily Mirror “, and there was no buzz going around the corridors of this building. So, in the first instance, that is an example of false reporting. To speak of the secrecy of this body is absurd. It has 7,000 people affiliated with it and 170 delegates, so what is said there has no particular secrecy.
The statement is wholly untrue. I have not attacked anybody in the Fremantle District Council. I do not speak to it as of right as a delegate; I go there to speak by invitation on issues. I have not attacked the leader of the Australian Labour party in a speech to the Fremantle District Council. The report is untrue in every aspect.
Mr. CLYDE CAMERON (Hindmarsh, [10.31]. - I wish to draw attention to a matter that has been mentioned on quite a number of occasions. It concerns hirepurchase companies and the rackets in which they are engaged, and which, unfortunately, the Government is unable to defeat by frontal attack. After explaining briefly what is happening and giving factual evidence by reference to newspaper advertisements, I shall suggest to the Government how it might, by indirect means, deal with the problem perhaps as effectively as would a frontal attack, if constitutional power for a frontal attack existed.
As a consequence of the release of £15,000,000 from frozen accounts, arrangements are already being made by the private trading banks to lend money to their clients on overdraft at 6 per cent, interest. This money is to be re-lent, with the knowledge of the private banks, to hire-purchase companies at interest rates as high as 10 per cent, in some cases and ranging down to 7 per cent, in the case of a hire-purchase company owned by one of the banks concerned, or substantially owned by it. What is happening is that, in anticipation of this extra money becoming available, clients of the banks are being tipped off by the managers that they will be accommodated with this extra finance at the ordinary overdraft rate of interest so that they may re-lend the money to the hire-purchase companies at the higher rates of interest. This, of course, will circumvent the intention of the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) and of the central bank, that the money shall not be channelled into the hire-purchase companies. By this indirect means, the companies will achieve that end. Therefore, this action is contrary to the policy of the Government, as announced by the Treasurer, and of the central bank.
I can give the names of companies which are advertising in the daily newspapers that they will pay 10 per cent, interest for money that they borrow. They are the Finance Company of Queensland Limited, Latec Finance Proprietary Limited, Sydney Guarantee Corporation Limited, H. G. Palmer Proprietary Limited and another company, Associated Securities Limited, which is abbreviated to A.S.L. I shall not refer to the advertisements which appear in the daily press because that would take too much time. However, when I say that a large number of companies is offering 10 per cent, interest on money borrowed for hire-purchase purposes, I am sure that honorable members will accept that statement as being correct.
I turn now to the interest that the private banks already have in hire-purchase companies. I shall refer to a brochure issued by the Sydney Guarantee Corporation Limited. Although it was issued in 1956. it indicates that the Bank of New South Wales lent directly to the Sydney Guarantee Corporation Limited £103,476. The honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) has informed me that that amount has now been converted into ordinary share capital. The fact is that this is going on and something must be done about it. I have here an example of what the hire-purchase companies are doing to entice people into hirepurchase finance. On page 39 of the “ SunHerald “, of 3rd November, 1957, the following advertisement appears: -
If you have £500 in the bank, the interest you receive for three years will be £41 5s., but the same £500 deposited with the Sydney Guarantee Corporation for three years earns you £150. Your money earns you £108 15s. extra.
Though these figures may seem to some people to be merely academic accounting, they show the extent to which those who borrow money are being robbed. Those who buy appliances through hire-purchase companies pay more than they ought to pay. The companies offer these high interest rates, but the workers’ pennies meet the additional amount offered by the companies. In addition to that, we find that one company has the cheek to offer openly 8 per cent, to any one who will lend money to it for the purpose of financing the building of new homes. Can any one imagine anything more ridiculous? This company, which offers 8 per cent, interest, has to relend the money for home-building at an even higher interest rate. On page 89 of the “Sun-Herald” of 10th November, 1957, appears an advertisement from Dwelling Finance Limited, which offers 8 per cent, interest on money lent to it. Imagine the rate of interest that that company in turn must charge to those poor unfortunate people who are compelled to rely on this form of finance for home building! How on earth can a working man afford to pay 8 per cent, interest on a home, much less the 10 per cent, or 12 per cent, that is probably charged by the time he borrows the money?
I believe that the central bank should examine the possibility of directing the private trading banks to use for homebuilding purposes a portion of the £15,000,000 now released. That amount would be reflected in an increase in the total of outstanding advances for home building purposes. It may be that the central bank cannot do that. The power of the Commonwealth Parliament in respect of hire purchase is very limited indeed; some people believe that it does not even exist. However, the central bank may have power to direct the trading banks to apportion to home building purposes a certain part of the extra money that is to be made available. Two very important results would follow the release of money for home building. First, the unemployed in that industry - and it is the greatest of all industries - would be absorbed. Secondly, more homes would be provided. Thus, two birds would be killed with the one shot.
The Government should also examine the possibility of calling together all the Premiers to see whether it is possible for the State governments, acting in concert, to bring down legislation to control the interest rates charged by hire-purchase companies. If the Commonwealth Government cannot exercise this control - we know that it cannot - then it is up to the State governments to act as one body. It is useless for one State to do it. That was shown when the State Labour Government of New South Wales introduced a bill which fixed the hire-purchase charges for new motor cars at 7 per cent., for usedcars at 9 per cent, and for domestic appliances at 10 per cent. The State Government knew that, if lower rates were fixed, the hire-purchase companies would use their finance in the States which did not have a fixed maximum rate of interest. However, the maximum rates of interest fixed in New South Wales are so unreal that the Industrial Acceptance Corporation Limited is already lending money for the purchase of new cars at 1 per cent, less than the maximum rate fixed by legislation. Custom Credit Corporation Limited is offering money for used cars at 8 per cent., which is 1 per cent, less than the maximum rate fixed by legislation. I understand that money is available for the purchase of domestic appliances at less than the maximum rate of interest fixed by legislation. That shows how hopeless it is for one State government to act on its own without the support of all State governments.
Another effective way to deal with this menace - it is a menace - is for the Treasurer to amend the taxation laws so that interest payable on loans is no longer a deductible allowance for income tax purposes. Hire-purchase companies which borrow money so that they can lend it to others should not be allowed to claim as a deduction for income tax purposes any of the money that they pay in interest on the amounts they borrow for re-lending.
– How do you discriminate between them and all other companies?
– It is quite easy to discriminate, because the tax laws of this country can discriminate. It is simply a matter for the Parliament to decide whether, for the purpose of assessing income tax, in respect of hire-purchase companies
– Order! The honorable gentleman’s time has expired.
.- I do not intend to endeavour to answer the arguments presented by the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron) other than to say to the honorable gentleman that I detected in his remarks a steady and unwavering expression of regret that he was not a substantial holder of hire-purchase stock. The honorable gentleman’s statements about hire purchase are characteristic of him. He has endeavoured to convince the people of Australia that this Government is basically at fault for not having controlled the various excesses - I daresay there are excesses - in hire purchase, but he knows perfectly well that this Parliament possesses no power to control hire purchase. He did not point out, emphasize or underline the fact that the various States have refused, point-blank, to surrender to the Commonwealth the necessary power to control hire purchase. I leave the matter at that, cheering the honorable gentleman up by saying to him that I think there is a degree of merit in his proposal that there should be concerted action by all States in relation to hire purchase.
Now I turn to a rather grave and profound matter. Since I have been in this House 1 have on various occasions - I hope with unabated vigour and conviction - endeavoured to present to those in this Parliament willing to listen and to those outside willing to observe, the fact that one of the major aspects in the fundamental conflict between the upholders of Western civilization and those who subscribe to the core of Marxism and Leninism is that the West to-day has no idea of effective propaganda. I mention again this evening the fact that in 1957 the Soviet Union spent three billion dollars on propaganda. I also mention the fact that the Soviet Union and its various satellites to-day are occupying some 1,675 hours in international broadcasting. I also mention that the Tass newsagency is the chief source of world news in an area encompassing approximately 800,000,000 people. Now we are told by various people that we are on our way to a summit conference. I take the view that we are continuing to jump from one crag of ignorance and indifference to another on our way to the summit.
I want to present to the House this evening a typical example of distortion by the Soviet Union and those who subscribe to its grim form of government, and of the propaganda that they put out. During the Olympic Games there was in this country a gentleman by the name of Bures. He came from Czechoslovakia, and on his return to that country he wrote a book called, “We Meet Under the Southern Cross “. I have a copy of that book in my hand. The book has been banned for transmission to Australia. This is the only copy of the book in Australia.
– Oh! How did you get it?
– I shall answer that. A new Australian friend of mine gave it to me. What is more - no doubt this will disturb the honorable member for KingsfordSmith - he has made translations of some passages in the book for me. This is the first book written about Australia by a Czechoslovakian since, I believe, 1934. when a Mr. Kisch wrote a book called “ The Fifth Continent “. This book by Bures is a sample of the sort of tripe and vigorous distortion of Australian life and history that we expect from the other side of the iron curtain. Here is quotation number one from the book: -
The chairman of the Olympic Committee, General W. Bridgeford, was the commander of the Australian Army fighting the people of Korea.
Here is quotation number two -
Prime Minister Menzies went to Egypt to persuade Nasser that the Suez Canal does not belong to Egypt.
Quotation number three reads -
The short Australian history is full of cruel human tragedies. One of them is the fact of imported white slaves from the refugee camps in Western Europe. Far away from his own country, where he cannot return because he has no money for the passage, the new migrant slaves for bosses who only despise him. (If he would slave in Czechoslovakia like he must here, he would be a rich man.)
Your freedom finishes here with your last spent penny. You can drink freely, you can spend your shillings and that’s it. You like an Australian girl. She would not even go to the pictures with you. Dad would not allow her to date a new Australian.
Here - and this will ring a bell, I am sure - is quotation number four -
Russia has no diplomatic relations with Australia since 1953. The Federal police led an insulting, provocative attack against the Soviet Union with the intention to discredit the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics in the eyes of the Australian people. For this purpose they used V. Petrov, an official of the Russian embassy who was an alcoholic addict. Petrov became a dirty rag in the hands of the police. Since then you can read renewed attacks against Russia. The Press may lie as it wants to. After all, we are in a “ free “ country.
Quotation number five reads -
In this “ hospitable “ country a young girl who came as a visitor to this city disappeared in daylight. A progressive Australian author, Frank Hardy, reveals the kidnapping of Nana Paranyuk a stewardess of “ Gruzia “. She has been kidnapped by Australian Secret Police. It is a new provocation against Soviet Russia.
Now for quotation number six, which reads -
You are easily blinded by the glittering Olympic Games. It is only a made-up, smiling face for foreigners. Do you want to know the other side of this country? Catch a train at Spencer Street and go to Richmond-
I believe Richmond is in the electorate of the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Cairns). Quotation number seven reads -
Old Australians will not go to the Snowy River to work. Old Australians are a dignified caste. They work in business, where you must have a cunning head and plenty of connections.
Now, here is the punch-line. Quotation number eight reads -
Australia has a conservative government ruling in one line with England and the United States of America. The Government’s Opposition is the labour party. Its leader is Dr. Evatt, who is a progressive man.
Bear in mind the technical connotation of the word “ progressive “ in the mind of Mr. Bures. The quotation continues, referring to the Leader of the Opposition -
It is to his merit that the Communist party of Australia has not been declared illegal.
I have given, necessarily in brief, an example of the propaganda that comes from behind the iron curtain.
This is a book which has been banned from transmission to Australia. I have given to the House excerpts from it which were translated by a friend of mine, a refugee from Czechoslovakia, one of the so-called “ slaves “ who have come to this country and who is most grateful to be in a free country. I repeat that the Western world, vis-a-vis the Soviet Union, has not a clue on propaganda. I believe that there is a crucial, critical, and demanding need for this country, together with other countries in the Western and Free World, to set up in their own countries a directorate of psychological warfare. This is the sort of tripe being written about a free country by a journalist - a Communist - who came to this country during the Olympic Games. He has returned to Czechoslovakia. He has gone back behind the iron curtain. He has insisted on writing as vigorous a distortion of life in Australia as one can imagine. The only single fact that I can find in the whole book, according to the translation that I have read, is the excerpt to the effect that the Leader of the Opposition is “ a progressive man “, and I use that expression with all the emphasis, all the meaning and all the significance that is attached to this word, “ progressive “.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- I cannot produce such a dramatic speech as that which has been delivered by the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Killen). I should like to know who banned the book to which he has referred. I agree with the remarks that the honorable member made about the lack of knowledge of propaganda in the Western nations. I also agree with him on the need to establish a bureau of psychological warfare. However, I would call it ideological rather than psychological warfare, although admittedly those terms are somewhat interchangeable. Until the West does come to understand the true significance of Communist ideological warfare we shall fail in our attempts to influence the uncommitted nations. The honorable member for Moreton has done a service in bringing that fact to our thoughts to-night. We could have a Pacific bureau of ideological warfare, or psychological warfare, which could train men in the art of ideological warfare which the Communists know to perfection and have been applying to perfection for many years since the war.
The matter that I want to raise concerns the establishment of booster stations for television in Australia. I make an urgent plea to the Government, through the PostmasterGeneral ((Mr. Davidson), who is in the House, for the approval of booster stations, first to extend television reception to the marginal areas of the two places in which television is established, namely Melbourne and Sydney; and secondly to provide clear reception in towns which are surrounded by hills.
I have been in correspondence with the Postmaster-General since July, 1957, on this important matter. It is eighteen months since the Australian Broadcasting Commission set up its first television station in Australia. It was established on 5th November, 1956. I do not know whether it preceded or followed the establishment of commercial television, but television has been in Australia for at least eighteen months and there are now 73,908 television viewers, including 1,546 pensioner licensees. The unforgiveable and inordinate delay by this Government in introducing the leglisation necessary to establish booster stations in Australia is turning hundreds of television sets into expensive, surplus, household furniture. People are receiving the programmes only on very rare occasions although they should be getting them continually as they are received in the cities of Melbourne and Sydney where the spoilt people of Australia live and enjoy perfect reception. But there are people in marginal areas surrounded by hills who are denied the very right to which they became entitled when they paid £5 for a television licence. It is for these people that I am speaking to-night.
The tremendous value of booster stations for television was demonstrated most spectacularly on the night of the state ball in Canberra a fortnight ago when television viewers in Sydney, 120 miles away, saw this ball with the assistance of a booster station between here and Sydney. It has been stated on many occasions in Australia that the booster station is technically possible. About fifteen television licences are held in the northern part of Tasmania and on clear days the holders of those licences have perfect reception from Melbourne stations which are nearly 200 miles away. As far as I know, that is a record distance for more or less regular television reception in Australia.
At Latrobe, near Devonport, on the north-west coast of Tasmania, a man by the name of Mr. J. Davis has made a 2 horse-power transmitter. He has a television licence and a television set. He is an expert on these matters and he has built a small booster station on a hill 400 feet high above Latrobe which is entirely surrounded by hills. He is beaming a Melbourne television programme from the booster station down to his set in Latrobe with perfect clarity. He has been forbidden to use this booster station by the Government because, so far, the Government has not officially approved of booster stations being set up in Australia. I ask the Government, through its Minister, to move in this matter for the sake of people such as Mr. Davis.
Most folk who live in Tasmania will never see television without a booster station. Even one station in Launceston would be of assistance. Many folk who are living, tucked away in hills throughout Australia, will never have the advantage of television unless booster stations are approved by the Government. The PostmasterGeneral has been most patient with me on this matter during the last few months but I have got precisely nowhere. In a letter dated 19th February, he said -
Proposals for improving reception come from various places and several remedies have been proposed, some of which have much to commend them. It is important, however, that television should be developed in an orderly way, decisions being based on general principles rather than individual cases no matter how convincing they may appear to be. I think we must accept the view that if 1 were to agree to give Mr. Davis authority to establish a “ booster “ station in Latrobe, I would receive numerous applications from other areas for permission to use boosters or other remedies for poor reception, some of which cannot be authorised under the existing laws.
In the circumstances, I still think it is desirable that approval for the establishment of booster stations should be withheld until a uniform policy is determined in respect of the various means whereby satisfactory reception may be ensured. . .
There has been delay on this issue for about nine months. The latest development is that Hobart is to have television in a year’s time, and the Australian Broadcasting Commission is to establish a television transmitting station on Mount Wellington. When Mr. Hadfield, the television expert of the commission, was in Tasmania a few weeks ago, he stated that Launceston and northern Tasmania would not get reception from Hobart, about 123 miles to the south, that no booster stations would be established, and that Launceston, therefore, would not get television for many years to come. That is a terrible thing to hear in this modern scientific age when it has been proved possible to transmit scenes at a State ball direct from Canberra to Sydney. I appeal to the Government to approve the establishment of a television booster station at Oatlands, about 60 miles from Launceston.
– The honorable memberdid not want television once.
– I did not want it, but I am prepared, now that it has been introduced, to support those who do want it.
In conclusion, I point out that if booster stations are not approved when television, broadcasts begin in Hobart, Launceston and the northern parts of Tasmania will be in a television no man’s land for many years to come.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- I wish to discuss briefly a matter relating to the Public Service Board. It has been brought to my notice recently that an ex-serviceman in receipt of a 50 per cent, war disability pension applied for a clerical position in the Public Service, and obtained it, his qualifications being satisfactory in every respect. Before the appointment became effective, however, the department to which the appointment was being made asked that the man’s military medical records be produced in order to establish his medical condition. Following the submission of the medical history, the Public Service Board’ did not proceed with the appointment, on the ground that the applicant was not physically fit to undertake the duties of the position for which he had applied. It was, as I have said, a clerical position. The gentleman concerned is of “big physique, and is at present doing very onerous and laborious work. Up to several weeks ago, he had given excellent service in his present occupation, and had suffered no undue sickness.
It appears that this man is being penalized under the regulations of the Public Service Board because his war service resulted in a disability for which he receives a 50 per cent, pension. I submitted the case to the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) with a request for his personal intervention. Subsequently, I received from the Prime Minister a telegram stating that the decision of the board still stands. I then asked that the report of an independent specialist be obtained in order to determine whether the Commonwealth Medical Officer has erred. Considerable delay has occurred, and still no decision on the obtaining of an independent report has been made. I have been advised that, in 1955, the man in question was accepted for a similar position in the Public Service, was passed as fit, but did not take up the appointment because the salary then offered was not satisfactory to him.
Here is an ex-serviceman in receipt of a 50 per cent, disability pension who is accepted by the powers that be for appointment to a clerical position in the Public Service, and then rejected after his medical history has been submitted by the Repatriation Commission. The man has been doing much more laborious and exacting work than the clerical work of the position to which he seeks appointment, but the Public Service Board is standing pat on the report of the Commonwealth Medical Officer, based on the medical records supplied by the Repatriation Commission, and refuses to allow an examination by an independent specialist. Fair play dictates that an independent specialist’s report should be obtained. There is no reason for the government of the day to penalize an ex-serviceman, and probably appoint to the position that he seeks some other person in sound health who did not have to suffer as the man for whom I speak evidently suffered on military service, on which he sustained a war disability. Such a disability should not be allowed to penalize him and prejudice his position in society.
I ask the Leader of the House (Mr. Harold Holt) to bring the case again to the notice of the Prime Minister. Many weeks have passed since it was first referred to the Prime Minister, and it is not too much to expect that the Government, in justice to this ex-serviceman, should at least allow him to be examined by an independent specialist in order to justify the decision given by the Commonwealth Medical Officer on the basis of his medical history. It is of no use to delay a decision indefinitely. The Prime Minister said that he was still looking into the matter. He has had many weeks in which to look into it. The man involved requires a decision urgently so that he may set the pattern for his future life and work. For these reasons, I consider that the Government should reconsider the case, and I urge the Leader of the House to ensure that it is investigated. I am prepared to give him the name and address of the person concerned, and the file of papers, if he requires them. At this stage, I do not wish to mention the man’s name. I conclude by appealing again to the Government to reconsider the matter in justice to an ex-serviceman who undoubtedly has suffered severely in the service of his country.
I turn now to another matter that concerns the administration of the Minister for the Navy (Mr. Davidson). In certain cases, men accused of petty crimes and misdemeanours involving property of very little value are discharged on the basis of “ services no longer required “. This means that they forfeit their long-service pay. I have been informed of cases in which men accused of defrauding the Navy of only £5 or £10 have been discharged in this way. The result is that they suffer an ultimate penalty of perhaps £300 or £400.
I think that this is a matter that the Minister ought to investigate. Again, I have in mind a particular case, but I shall not mention the name of the person involved. For a very minor offence involving property to the value of only £5 or £6, he has been discharged from the service, with the loss of rights worth more than £300. The penalty is out of all proportion to the offence. I ask the Minister to investigate these matters and to prevent the imposition of such heavy penalties, which are out of all proportion to the offences for which they are imposed, and which would not be inflicted in any other civil or military service. I shall be happy to give details of the case to the Minister, and I hope that he will investigate it in order to prevent the imposition of such severe penalties in other cases in the future.
– The Postmaster-General’s Department has recently adopted a policy that change shall no longer be given by telephonists at exchanges at which multi-coin attachments have been installed. This policy is causing a great deal of annoyance, and, in many instances, injury, to people who have to make telephone calls at night in country towns. It is a matter that is well worth while bringing to the notice of the Postmaster-General (Mr. Davidson), who I am glad to see is now in the House. Furthermore, the department is omitting from its plans for new post offices provision for a pay hatch of any kind. The absence of a hatch will make it utterly impossible for a person intending to make a call to speak directly to the telephonist, or to obtain change from her. If the policy is to be changed, therefore, now is the time to change it.
I agree that, in the capital cities, probably no great hardship or difficulty would be experienced, because a person intending to use the telephone could find nearby an allnight cafe or some other establishment from which he could obtain change. The PostmasterGeneral is himself a country man, and he will know that, frequently, in emergency, occasion arises for a resident of a country town to make a trunk-line call at midnight or even later. At such times, the necessary change cannot be obtained anywhere in a country town. Whether or not telephonists are busy during the day, they are usually not busy in the early hours of the morning. Often, the charge for a trunk-line call is, say, 6s. 9d., 7s. 3d., or some other sum that can be made up only with shillings, small silver, and odd pence. Under the application of this new policy the intending caller is quite unable to use the service unless he can awaken some one in the town and obtain the necessary change. In the first place it causes considerable delay; and, secondly, it is likely to prevent the use of the telephone for emergency purposes. This applies not only to trunk line calls but also to local calls of an emergency nature.
I ask the Postmaster-General to look into the matter not only from the angle of administrative convenience, but also from the viewpoint that the customer of the Post Office has some rights. I agree that the customer is not to be regarded as always right, especially when he is dealing with a public department, but he should be regarded as having some rights. In country towns it is an infuriating and abominable nuisance to people and can cause considerable hardship. I ask that the matter be investigated and if possible that telephonists should be authorized to give change at country exchanges at night time.
.- When the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) made his policy speech in 1954 and dealt with social services he pointed out that retired people could have an annuity which would return to them £3 10s. a week, and that the return would not prejudice their pensions under the means test. At the conclusion of the last session of the Parliament the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) placed a question on the noticepaper directed to the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Roberton). In his question the honorable member asked whether it would be permissible for an aged person to purchase from a relative or friend an annuity of the kind that was referred to by the Prime Minister in his policy speech. The Minister answered that question and indicated that if the instrument was a satisfactory one and if the annuity purchased was in conformity with an annuity that could be purchased from an insurance company or other such organization, the Department of Social Services would find it acceptable.
This question opens up a wide field, and also raises questions of taxation which, I think, should be clarified. An annuity from an insurance company for a person 67 years of age would normally cost about £1,000, to give a return of £97 a year. I use that figure because that gives1 an indication that an investment of £2,000 would return an amount that approximates the maximum allowable under the act, namely £182 for each person. In the case of an aged couple who have been debarred up to now from receiving the pension because they had in their possession between £4,000 and £5,000 worth of government bonds, for which they received a very meagre return, they are no longer debarred from receiving a full pension if they are prepared to entrust to their son or daughter the full amount of the £4,000 or £5,000 in return for an annuity that will be paid by the son or daughter to the parents, which means that they could then receive an annuity plus the pension, which would return to them approximately £15 a week. They would be debarred from receiving the pension until they purchased the annuity. Having purchased the annuity, they would be entitled to the full rate of pension, plus the full rate of the annuity up to £182 each per annum, making their income approximately £15 a week. If they are prepared to do this, and the son or daughter is prepared to accept the purchase of that annuity, it means they would avoid paying estate duty on this estate of approximately £4.000 or £5,000. It also means that if the Taxation Branch-
– They both have to die.
– There is no estate duty payable on anything under £5,000.
– They would have other property. Combined, this would mean their estate could well attract estate duty.
There is another point about which 1 should like some clarification from the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden). If the son or daughter who accepts the responsibility of paying this annuity invests the money that is paid, or, if they have government bonds, he or she receives the money payable by way of interest on those, and if the Taxation Branch is going to regard the interest that is received by the son or daughter as income, then would not the Taxation Branch have to recognize that the £182, or whatever the amount is that the son or daughter pays to the parents, should be exempt from tax? Should not that be a taxation concession? If that is not recognized as a taxation concession, will not the Taxation Branch have to recognize that the interest that accrues on the money or the bonds which the son or daughter has received to pay for the annuity cannot be taxed as income?
I think that these points, having arisen from the Prime Minister’s policy speech in 1954, followed by the questions asked by the honorable member for East Sydney, call for explanation by the Treasurer, an explanation that must be given to the Parliament so that honorable members will be in a position to advise their constituents how best to take advantage of the loopholes that exist in the act.
Some time ago another loophole was discovered in the act when it was ascertained that a person could own flats or even an hotel, and under certain circumstances receive a full pension if they resided on that particular property, because income from property was not subject to the means tes:. That avenue was substantially closed by a regulation introduced by the DirectorGeneral of Social Services. I sincerely trust that no similar regulation will be introduced to close the loophole that has now been exposed. If such a regulation were introduced it would immediately contradict the full terms of the policy speech made by the Prime Minister in 1954, and which was implemented in the ensuing Budget.
– Honorable members have continually been advised that the greatest care is taken by the Australian authorities to see that no criminals are admitted to this country, whether for a short stay or for permanent residence. I remind honorable members of a- recent widely publicized case of a British man named Billy Hill, who had convictions, and who was a gambler and confidence man. He- was; refused permission to land in. Australia. I should like to know whether this restriction on. the right of people to enter Australia is so wide that anybody who- is regarded as undesirable is not permitted to- land- in this country’. I should like to know by what stretch of the- imagination a permit or vise was- granted’ to Baron Krupp to- enter Australia. This1 man is a convicted war criminal’. Not only has he been- admitted to this country; but he is also being welcomed, by the Government forces. He is being treated like an honoured visitor: It is not a case of merely entering the country and travelling around in order to make investigations; he is- being welcomed and honoured by the Government. Is is not a fact that in- another place the Attorney-General (Senator O’sullivan) declared that he would be delighted to- meet Baron Krupp if the latter came to Canberra? When Krupp comes to Canberra, he is to be located at no other place- than the Governor-General’s residence. Evidently he is being treated as a. special’ emissary. He is not a direct representative of any Government. He is a war criminal, convicted after a fair trial by the, American War1 Crimes Tribunal and sentenced to twelve years’ imprisonment, of which he- served only two and a half years.
If seems to me to be rather peculiar whenconvicted’ war criminals are treated in this way. We are- continually being reminded of the number of ex-servicemen who sit on the Government benches.. In my opinion, it is remarkable that not one of those men, who- are. always talking about; what they did to defeat Nazism, has raised his voice on one occasion against the action of their Government in permitting- this war criminal, convicted of the most hideous crimes against humanity, to enter Australia. Do not accept what they are trying to put up now. Krupp says,. “ I am not personally responsible “. Not at all! He. joined’ the Nazi Party in 1938, the year before the war commenced. He was not forced into it.
– Is that a crime?
– All I can say to thehonorable member, who has been in this House for only a short time, is that he brands himself as a- Nazi’, but I do not suppose that that is any surprise to- the people in- his electorate who know his viewpoint.
It is no wonder that the Australian people are disturbed’ at the attitude of the Government in permitting; this war criminal to come to this- country and te move about freely. But what is the purpose or this visit? Is it merely to have a look around the country? Or does1 he want to invest millions of pounds of Germany money - Nazi’ money - in Australia? Would not that be rather a. serious thing for Australia? People who invest their millions in this country, naturally, through that- medium, have a great measure of control- over the destiny of the country and a measure of control over this Government, but evidently this Government does, not mind, because it is a Nazi-minded Government. This war criminal employed 75,000 foreign men, women and children - slave labourers - in his establishments during the war. They were people from allied countries which had been occupied. They were torn away from their homes and their families were broken up. Twenty-five thousand prisoners of war were used in his establishments. There- were thousands of people from concentration camps’. These people were compelled to work seven days a week, twelve hours a day. No medical attention was provided and they were given inadequate clothing and1 food. When they were too weak to work, into the gas ovens they went. That is the reputation and the record of this man whom1 the Government is now honouring and welcoming to this country.
It fits into a pattern. It is not sufficient to say that it was the Americans who eventually released Baron Krupp. He was released on certain conditions. One of those conditions was that lie was to break up or dissolve the great empire built up in the. coal and steel industries. What happened about those conditions? We now find that the conditions for his release have been completely disregarded by Krupp, and that lie is- now restoring the empire which he agreed to dissolve as a condition- of his release. General Speidel, who is now the officer commanding the Nato forces, was. a Nazi’ who served with the Nazi forces under Hitler.
Let me show that the actions of this Government are consistent. By its own act if released Japanese war criminals. That was arranged by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) during a visit to Japan and after a conference with Mr. Kishi. Mr. Yeo, the New South Wales Secretary of the Returned Servicemen’s League, condemned the Government for having broken the pledge given to the R.S.L. when the Government sought the approval of the R.S.L. to the shifting of Japanese war criminals from Manus Island to Japan. The league was given an assurance that those men were to be obliged to serve their full sentences. They were not released by the Japanese, but they were released with the approval of the Australian Government and the Australian Prime Minister. It is no wonder that, during the years when we were actually at war, one of the enemycontrolled radio stations made some very complimentary remarks about the Mr. Menzies who is now the Prime Minister of this country. The Japanese knew his calibre. They knew his outlook in regard to these matters.
Now let us consider for a moment whether there is any basis for my statement that the Prime Minister arranged for the release of these Japanese war criminals. We have been advised that Japan is now a different country, that it is our ally, and that the Japanese have been converted to the cause of democracy. If the men in charge of Japan to-day were democrats, they would not want the release of the war criminals who brought them to the state they are in to-day. They would be just as concerned with keeping them in prison as every decent-minded Australian was at that time. Therefore, it is quite .obvious that this Government did not worry about war atrocities and the sacrifices made by the ordinary people. It was prepared to forget these things because it wanted a market for its surplus wool. This is what the “ Daily Telegraph “ said at the time about this matter -
The Japanese Foreign Ministry said Australian Prime Minister Menzies had sent a message to Prime Minister Kishi promising to release the men. . . . This was in response to an appeal by Mr. Kishi when Mr. Menzies visited Japan early this year. . . . The message from Mr. Menzies according to the Japanese Foreign Office said - “ At our meeting in Tokio I outlined to you the policy we have been pursuing for some time whereby all sentences (of war criminals) have been kept under review
Since we discussed the question then, some more of these men have been released and all of them will have been released by the end of June. . . . Eight Japanese still serving jail terms fixed by Australian Courtswill be released. . . . All - except one- - are serving life terms. . . .
– Order! The honorable gentleman’s time has expired.
– I think that not many members of the House are likely to mistake the honorable member’s vehemence for a measure of sincerity. He has made a very passionate speech. He has succeeded in thumping the table. He has worked himself up, I would say, into a synthetic passion about this matter. But let us measure his sincerity by what he does in parallel circumstances. Has he said anything against the Russians? The Russians have committed and are committing atrocities far worse than those which he reprobates in the case of the Germans. Has he said anything against the Chinese Communists? He is an advocate of an alliance with the Chinese Communists, who to-day are committing, on a tar wider scale, that same kind of atrocity.
What is the reason for this extraordinary difference of approach? On the one hand the honorable member works himself into n passion about atrocities which the Germans undeniably committed. He is strangely silent. He is full of, not disapprobation, but approbation, when he contemplates the Communists in Russia and the Communists in China. Why? What is the reason for this difference? Why does he not come out and say honestly, “ We will have nothing to do with these people who did these things against us in Korea “? But no, he is half on their side, and the half is a generous estimate on my part.
Whatever the crimes of Nazi Germany - I would be the last person to whitewash them - Krupp, after all, was acting as a citizen of his own country. That being so, is he as bad as the person who, in Australia, acts as an agent of a foreign power? Krupp may have committed many crimes. Of that I say nothing, but at least it is not said that he committed the crime of treason.
This is very relevant because at the present moment Australia stands in not a little danger. We need allies. We need them desperately. The free world needs an alliance. It is no coincidence that the Communists are trying to break up the alliance of the free world which means safety for Australia and which is vital to the lives of Australian men, women and children, and the existence of the Australian nation.
Is it a coincidence that once again we find the honorable member for East Sydney doing the things which the Communists want him to do, becoming once more the mouthpiece of the Communist party, following once more the Communist line? Is my memory at fault when I recollect that in 1941, when the Nazis and the Communists were still allied, and when the Communists in Australia were sabotaging the war effort in the interests of Stalin’s ally, Hitler, the honorable member for East Sydney took at least a lukewarm attitude towards the whole affair and was, I think, one of the staunchest defenders of the Communist traitors Ratliff and Thomas? Is my memory wrong on that? I must say I should like to check the records, but I think my memory is correct, and I know that many members of the Labour party - not all of them - did at that time co-operate in Communist treason. Nor is it to be overlooked that this campaign is being waged by the Communists against Australia, and those who co-operate in the Communist design at this moment- (Honorable members interjecting) -
– Order! The honorable member will take his seat. The honorable member for Darebin and the honorable member for Yarra will cease interjecting.
– I say, in conclusion, that those who co-operate at this moment in Communist designs when events in Indonesia are menacing the safety of Australia come very close themselves to co-operating in treason.
.- Mr. Speaker-
Motion (by Mr. Harold Holt) put -
That the question be now put.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. John McLeay.)
Majority . . . . 28
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 11.41 p.m. 1
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
b asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
b asked the Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
Very little systematic work -has been done along the remainder of the coast, and if information which is necessary for the successful development of the fisheries industry is to be obtained this exploratory work must be extended to the areas round the Australian Bight, and the coasts of Western and Northern Australia.
m asked the Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
Secretary, Department of Commerce and Agriculture and to the Fisheries Departments of New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia and Tasmania that consideration be given to the application to the school shark fishery of the following conservation measures: - (a) Restriction of boats and gear; (b) restriction of areas; (c) restriction of season (closed season during months of October, November and December); (d) limit of catch; (e) limit of size (minimum length of 3 feet). It was also suggested that a conference of Commonwealth and State authorities be called to discuss these measures.
d asked the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
e asked the Minister representing the Minister for National Development, upon notice -
– The Minister for National Development has furnished the following replies: -
d asked the Minister representing the Minister for Customs and Excise, upon notice -
– The Minister for Customs and Excise has now furnished the following answers to the honorable member’s questions: -
d asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: - 1, 2 and 4. This information was given on 24th October, 1957, in an answer to a question by the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Crean).
m asked the acting Minister for External Affairs, upon notice -
What international treaties, agreements and instruments has Australia signed in the last ten years but not yet ratified or accepted?
– The answers to the honorable member’s question is as follows: -
Since 1st January, 1948, Australia has signed, but not yet ratified or accepted the international treaties listed below. (The list contains particulars only of treaties which, in order to bind Australia, by their terms require ratification or acceptance. Many treaties become binding merely upon signature and in these cases ratification or acceptance is not required) -
International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (London, 10th June, 1948).
Convention on the International Recognition of Rights in Aircraft (Geneva, 19th June, 1948).
International Convention for the Protection of Literary, Scientific and Artistic Works (Brussels, 26th June, 1948).
The four Conventions (generally known as the Geneva Red Cross Conventions) dealing with: (a) the treatment of prisoners of war; (b) the amelioration of the condition of wounded, sick and shipwrecked members of the armed forces at sea; (c) the amelioration of the condition of wounded and sick in armies in the field; and (d) the protection of civilian persons in time of war (Geneva, 12th August, 1949).
Universal Copyright Convention and Protocols annexed thereto (Geneva, 6th September, 1952).
Convention on Damage caused by Foreign Aircraft to Third Parties on the Surface (Rome, 7th October, 1952).
Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the event of Armed Conflict (The Hague, 14th May, 1954).
Protocol amending the Convention of 12th October, 1929 for the Unification of Rules relating to International Carriage by Air (The Hague, 28th September, 1955).
Universal Postal Convention (Ottawa, 3rd October, 1957).
The action necessary for ratification of the conventions set out under item 4 in the above list has been initiated following the passage in the last parliamentary session of the Geneva Conventions Act. As for the other treaties listed, I am informed that, with the possible exception of the convention shown under No. 9 in the list the passage of enabling legislation or the making of relevant regulations must precede their ratification by Australia.
t asked the Minister for Immigration, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
m asked the Minister for Health, upon notice: -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 12 March 1958, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1958/19580312_reps_22_hor18/>.