22nd Parliament · 3rd Session
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. John McLeay) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
Mr. CURTIN presented a petition from certain citizens of Australia praying that the House will -
Petition received and read.
– Can the Minister for Labour and National Service give the House particulars of the number of men and women killed or injured in industry each year, and also the number injured in traffic accidents? Will the right honorable gentleman give to industrial losses through death or injury the same publicity as is given in the case of death or injury through traffic accidents, and will he take the same action in regard to them? If this is a State matter, will the Minister contact the respective Ministers in the State parliaments in view of the fact that death or injury through industrial accidents means the loss of tens of thousands of man-hours to Australian industry?
– Since it took office, the Government has indicated its recognition of the importance to the community of losses in industry through accidents and sickness, and has given prominence to this aspect of policy at all times. When the Ministry of Labour Advisory Council was established, one of the first items placed on the agenda was this question of industrial safety, and it received consideration at several meetings of that council. There was general support from employers and representatives of the unions on the council for the suggestion that a wider campaign of publicity should be conducted throughout Australia. It is a fact, as the honorable member has implied by his questions, that the States give attention to this matter through their own departments of labour. In some States, a good deal of useful activity is conducted. I think the degree of activity varies as between the States, but certainly in New South Wales, to take one example, the work done on industrial safety is highly commendable.
Because we attach so much importance to this matter, the Prime Minister gave me the opportunity a.t. the last Premiers conference to place before the Premiers, of the various States the fact that we would be organizing a national conference on this question and to invite the co-operation of the various State governments to make that conference a complete success. Arrangements for the conference, which will be held towards the end. of September, are well in hand. I hope to give the House more details about the conference possibly to-morrow or some time, next week. I can assure the honorable member that we do recognize that there is an unnecessarily heavy loss in Australian industry through avoidable accidents, and it is our purpose to do what we can as a government to reduce the loss and suffering that are. thereby caused.
– Will the Minister for Supply inform the House whether it is a fact that the Government aircraft factory at Lidcombe has been transferred to De Havilland Aircraft Proprietary Limited? Is this a result of recommendations in. the Fitzgerald report? When does the Minister propose to table that report? What steps has the Government taken to ensure continuity of employment for those engaged at the Lidcombe plant?
– =Fi rs t of all, to clear up one point, I wish to explain that the Fitzgerald report does not apply to the aircraft industry in New South Wales. As I explained to the House yesterday, I asked Sir Alexander Fitzgerald to assist me on some rather complex problems related to the aircraft industry in Victoria. The
Lidcombe factory is an engine works where the Commonwealth used to build RollsRoyce Merlin and Pratt and Whitney Wasp engines. We have been carrying on maintenance work there and also work on army tanks, but because of the relative obsolescence of the Rolls-Royce Merlin and Pratt and Whitney engines, the work load at the factory has been going down.
The position was that the Commonwealth Government owned the Lidcombe factory but paid a management fee to a Melbourne firm - Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation - to run the factory as its managers. Now we have made an arrangement with the De Havilland company to lease the factory from us and continue the work. The De Havilland company was established at Bankstown, where it did a lot of work for the Navy on Sea Venoms, and also operated a propeller annexe at Alexandria. The De Havilland company, by leasing this factory from us, will maintain the work load there and consolidate its interests. It will rationalize the aircraft industry in and around Sydney by consolidating everything at the Lidcombe factory. I am sure that employment is one of the most important considerations exercising the mind of the honorable member just as it has been exercising my own mind. I can assure him that there is no likelihood of any unemployment resulting from this new arrangement. Indeed, I am assured by the manager of the De Havilland company that he hopes to get more work for the factory and thus increase employment.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether it is correct that some replanning of major engineering works in the Snowy Mountains scheme will result in a reduction in the designed capacity of one of the major storages of the scheme. If so, what is the storage affected? What was its first proposed capacity and to what capacity will it be reduced? What are the reasons for the change, if any?
– This matter is a very complex one. It has been under discussion recently, and it involves a great number of engineering considerations. I think the best thing for me to do is to refer it to my colleague, the Minister for National Development, and see whether at this stage some full statement should be made.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Works and is supplementary to a question I asked him during the previous sessional period of the Parliament. Have tests been carried out on samples of building stone that were submitted from Western Australia? If so, what were the results of the tests? If the tests were satisfactory, will this ensure that stone in future will not be brought from New South Wale& for use in the construction of Commonwealth buildings in Western Australia?
– I did have an approach, I think, from a certain Mr. Lyne, of Northam, some little time ago, drawing my attention to the availability of building stone, which he thought to be quite good. My department submitted it to the normal tests, and I recall writing to Mr. Lyne to suggest that the stone appeared to be good and that my department would seize an early opportunity to incorporate it in a building for actual test. The opportunity to do so has not yet arrived, but we will keep the matter in mind.
– Some months ago I wrote to the Minister for Territories, following his announcement of the creation of a land-settlement scheme for exservicemen in New Guinea, asking if he would extend the provisions of the scheme to ex-servicemen in the Northern Territory who, up to the present time, have been denied these benefits. In his reply, the Minister stated that he would ask the Minister in charge of war service land settlement whether he would extend the scheme, now in operation in all States of Australia, to the Northern Territory so as to allow landsettlement benefits to be given to exservicemen in that Territory. I now ask the Minister whether he has had a favorable reply to the representations that he made.
– I am grateful to the honorable member for reminding me of this matter. I will pursue it and let him have an answer.
– Is the Minister for Immigration satisfied with the present rate of recruitment of boys and girls coming to Australia under the Fairbridge farms scheme? Is it a fact that the United Kingdom authorities discourage the migration of children to Australia? Will the Minister consider giving greater assistance to the Fairbridge farms scheme so that more children can be brought from the United Kingdom? Will he say whether there is any hope for an improvement in the rate of recruitment in the future?
– I can well understand the interest of the honorable member for Calare in the whole subject of the Fairbridge farm schools, because he has one in his constituency. One of the difficulties about child migration under the auspices of the Kingsley Fairbridge scheme has been the discouraging attitude of the United Kingdom authorities, to which my honorable friend refers. This is particularly true of local governing bodies in all parts of Great Britain. I myself, shortly after I had the honour of assuming this office, was hoping to extend those activities, and I had in mind, if possible, trying to arrange a Fairbridge farm school in my own State of South Australia. But the position now is that most of the Fairbridge farm schools are only half-occupied, wherever they may be situated, and unless there is quite a pronounced change in the attitude of the county councils and other local governing authorities in Great Britain, T think it would be idle to be optimistic about the future of child migration.
I may say that, lately, I have been in correspondence with Sir Charles Hambro, the chairman of the Fairbridge farms scheme, in England. He is contemplating visiting Australia early in the new year, and I hope that it will then be possible to undertake with him conversations that may enable us to induce a fresh, more progressive and more helpful attitude of mind among people in Great Britain.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Air. Is it a fact that the Royal Australian Air Force has been withdrawn from Manus Island? Is it a fact, also, that this action by the Government would leave Australia defenceless in the event of an outbreak of hostilities in the north? In view of the report that a rapid build-up of arms is taking place in Indonesia, what action does the Government propose to take to ensure that Australia is fully protected against possible attack?
– In the sense that the Royal Australian Air Force has never had any operational squadrons at Manus Island in peace-time, it is not true that the Air Force has been withdrawn from the island. It is true that the maintenance units of the service, which have been keeping open storage facilities and maintaining the airfield, have been withdrawn, because their responsibilities have been taken over by the Department of Civil Aviation. But I emphasize that no squadron has been withdrawn from Manus Island, because no squadron was there.
As to the operational importance of Manus Island in the present state of the world, and in view of Australia’s responsibilities for the defence of South-East Asia under our obligations to the South-East Asia Treaty Organization, if the honorable member will glance at a map of the area, he will see that, in that context, Manus Island is of no particular importance. As to the general background of the island, and the relations of Australia and Australia’s allies with it, I suggest that the honorable member’s own leader can inform him very much more fully on that subject than I can.
– I direct my question to the Minister for Health. Can the honorable gentleman give the House any information about progress being made in the treatment of cancer by the use of chemicals?
– For a considerable time, experiments have been conducted, and trials made, with various chemo-therapeutic substances in the treatment of cancer, mostly, I think, for the treatment of blood dyscrasias, lymphosarcoma, and diseases of that sort. So far, the results have not been very encouraging, but these substances do represent another weapon in the armoury built up for use in the treatment of cancer.
– My question is directed to the Prime Minister. Can the right honorable gentleman say what progress has been made with the preparation of the report of the Constitution Review Committee? Will it be presented during the current sessional period? If so, will the right honorable gentleman recommend to the Parliament that a referendum be held in conjunction with the next general election in order to obtain the people’s views on recommendations made in the report?
– Obviously, the last part of the question can hardly be answered until we have had a look at the report. As to when the report will be ready, frankly, I do not know. But there are Opposition members who sit on the committee. I have always had the understanding that the report should arrive within the next month or so, and I am hoping that it will.
– I preface my question to the Minister for External Affairs with a reference to world youth festivals which the Communists have organized in recent years to exploit young people for propaganda purposes. In order to protect misguided Australian youth from being influenced to attend the Seventh World Youth Festival to be held in Vienna in 1959, will the right honorable gentleman make a public statement denouncing the festival and indicating the sinister influence behind it?
– In respect of the last youth festival, which I think was held in Moscow last year, I issued, after some research into the .purposes of the conference, a statement which was designed to bring its true nature to the notice of the Australian public. I shall certainly be glad to do the same again after mature consideration of the .purposes of the forthcoming conference.
– I direct to the Minister for Immigration a question concerning the Fairbridge ;farms scheme, which is supplementary to that asked by the honorable member for Calare. As the Minister has indicated the intention of the Department of Immigration to continue pressing for child migration, I ask him whether the department has considered the greatly increased valuation that has been placed upon English children in the United Kingdom which has been used by the United
Kingdom Government as a ground of opposition to the continuance of child emigration. I also ask him whether the whole concept underlying the Fairbridge farmsscheme, which is that children should be directed to farms although over a long period of time it has been shown that many have other abilities and interests, is appropriate to a really sound form of migration.
– I should be sorry to think that, merely because of temporary difficulties, we will take a different look at the whole concept of child migration. Quite frankly, I find the United Kingdom attitude rather difficult to understand. One hesitates to criticize the government of our Mother Country, but in this particular case I like to feel that of all the many varieties of migrants whom we can attract to Australia, those who show the greatest hope for the future are those we can get here when they are of an early, impressionable, age and can so easily be moulded to the general Australian way of life. I can think of nothing better than the idea that was propounded by that quite great man in his own generation - Kingsley Fairbridge - and I hope that the honorable member for Fremantle, with the best will in the world, will not pour cold water on the scheme merely because of difficulties which, I hope, will be of only a transient nature.
We still need, and I hope that increasingly in the future we will need, more rural workers in this country as we proceed with our many developmental schemes that are in -embryo. As far as I can see, none of those workers is likely to be so effective, or to fit so easily into the Australian way of things, as those who can be brought out in their tender years and imbued with our own ideas in these farm institutions. .1 hope that in his own way, and in his own State, my friend from Fremantle will give warm support to the cause of child migration, and, within the limits of his own capacities, will see that the farm school at Pinjarra is filled to overflowing.
– Can the Minister for Trade say whether the department under his administration has given any thought to the expansion <of our markets for primary products, particularly dairy -products, in Asia or South-east Asia by exporting them ready packed or tinned in small quantities? By way of explanation, I point out that competent observers believe that there would be a ready sale amongst people on low incomes for a package containing, say, a few ounces of butter or flour, or a very -small tin of condensed milk.
– I thank the honorable member for his interest in this matter. I can assure him that the Department of Trade is aware of the apparent advantage of packaging small quantities for this very vast market, numerically speaking, of people in the low income bracket. Australian export merchants have conducted many discussions on this matter over the years. Attempts have been made to exploit the market by selling, in small packages, processed milk products, flour, butter and, more recently, canned meat. Broadly speaking, the outcome has been rather disappointing. The only explanation that I have been able to obtain is that packaging in small quantities raises costs per unit and rather tends to price the particular commodity out of the market, instead of the reverse. Also, I am told that merchants in eastern countries prefer to sell small quantities from bulk, rather than in original packages. However, this is a matter which we are never content to regard as having been disposed of. It is under constant examination by the Government and the exporters, working together.
– My question, which is addressed to the Minister for Supply, concerns a reply which he gave earlier this week to inquiries regarding aircraft production. Has consideration been given to the position in South Australia, especially to that of. the Chrysler works at Finsbury, where most of the employees have been put off, and where more and more skilled men are being lost every day? I raised this matter with the Minister some months ago. He said that he would let me know as soon as he had some information upon it. I ask him now whether the claims of South Australia will be considered in allocating the proposed work, or whether that State will be left out of calculations altogether.
– In reply to a question yesterday on this subject, I said that we were concentrating first on the aircraft industry in
Victoria, and that when. I was in a position to do so I intended to submit a paper to Cabinet on the industry in that State, and, as well, in some of the South Australian annexes. The main work carried out in South Australia is concerned with the production of the Jindivik target aircraft. As I said yesterday, we can look forward to three or four years’ production of this type. The honorable member may rest assured that, the claims of the South Australian aircraft industry will not be forgotten.
– I ask the Minister for Air whether the Australian bomber and fighter squadrons have yet completed the occupation of the new airfield at Butterworth, in Malaya. Will these units be used for security operations which are being conducted against Communist terrorists at the request of the Government of the Federation of Malaya? Is the Australian Airfield Construction Unit, which was responsible for the work on this airfield, now returning to Australia?
– The first of the three Australian squadrons has gone to Butterworth. It is No. 2 bomber squadron, which is equipped with Canberra aircraft. The squadron flew to Butterworth from Amberley last month and is now operating from that field. Butterworth is under the command of an Australian officer of air rank,, who is responsible, not only for the operations at the base, but for all Commonwealth air activities in the area. The scheduled departure date for the fighter squadrons has not yet arrived. One squadron is to go within about two months and, on present planning, the other will go early next year. The bomber squadron certainly will be available for use against Communist terrorists in Malaya. I do not imagine that any call will be made upon the fighter squadrons in that capacity. I might mention that No. 2 bomber squadron will replace No. 1 bomber squadron, which was for eight years based on Singapore and did very notable work in the campaign against the terrorists. . I point out that any work undertaken by the bomber squadron against the Communists will be under the operational direction of an officer who is himself directly responsible to the Malayan Government. I refer to the general officer in charge of anti-Communist activities during the emergency period. In that sense, in its operations against the Communist terrorists, our squadron will be acting not only at the request, but also under the operational control of an officer of the Malayan Government.
– My question, which is addressed to the Minister for the Interior, relates to the failure of the radar station at Garbutt, in the Townsville area, to record and report the approach of the cyclone which caused terrific damage in north Queensland last wet season. Has the Minister taken any steps to ensure that there will not be a repetition of such a lack of warning during the coming wet or cyclonic season?
– I think that, at the time of the occurrence, I directed the attention of those interested to the fact that cyclone warnings to the Bowen district, issued earlier in the year, were not based upon observations made at the Garbutt station. It is true that some doubt exists as to the efficiency of the Garbutt station, because it is to some extent shielded by, I think, Castle Hill. The difficulty, of course, is that Castle Hill is already occupied by ultra high-frequency equipment providing services used by the Department of Civil Aviation and various other services. That precludes us from establishing our weather radar there. An alternative site is at present being investigated. Towards the end of next year our two additional stations at Cairns and Mackay will come into operation, and the scanning pattern of those two stations will overlap that which is already available from Garbutt. The honorable gentleman may be assured that we are leaving no stone unturned to have the best possible warning system available for next year.
– ls the Minister for Primary Industry aware that a great extension of the production and an increase of the population of the Murray valley should result from the additional water and power that will become available from the Snowy Mountains scheme? Will he convene a conference of Federal and State authorities and the Murray Valley Development League with a view to early co-operative action toassure the best use of this water and power in the fertile Murray valley?
– Already the Murray Valley Development League has submitted proposals to me and I have written to the league setting out the reaction of the Government. I shall be only too happy to make a copy of my letter available to the honorable gentleman. I am sure that hewill then have full information on the matter.
– I desire to ask the Prime Minister a question. Was Australia consulted prior to the completion of an agreement between the United Kingdom, the United States of America and Japan,, whereby the latter nation is to be provided with nuclear reactors and fuel? If so, what was the nature of the opinion expressed by the Commonwealth Government? Is it a fact that in the case of a highly industrialized nation like Japan such assistance substantially advances her progress on the way to becoming a producer of atomic and nuclear bombs? Finally, is the Prime Minister’s faith in the goodwill of the Japanese war-lords so great that he does not regard the latest developments as a threat to the future security of this country, particularly as the present ruling clique in Japan is the same as that which proved such a brutal, inhuman and ruthless enemy in the last war?
– This supposed question is such a mixture of assertions and abuse that I think I would like to see it on the notice-paper.
– I ask the Minister for Immigration whether the Government has given any further consideration to the relief of some of those tragic cases known as the “ hard core “ cases in Europe.
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is, “ Yes “. Some months ago, when Dr. Lindt visited Australia, he made strong representations on this point, and I am glad to tell my honorable friend that the Government is prepared, experimentally, to admit 50 of these cases to this country. On the basis of our experience it will then be possible to determine our future attitude. I should like to assure the honorable member that the Government is well aware of the difficulties of these unfortunate people in this category abroad, and that we are quite determined, within the ambit of our own problems and difficulties, to play our part in the international scheme of things by providing reasonable relief.
– My question, addressed to the Prime Minister, relates to the Murray Committee report and, in particular, to one of its most important aspects - its recommendation that a permanent Australian university grants committee be established. Will the Prime Minister state why the Government has delayed for some eight months in appointing such a committee and whether it is likely to function before the life of this Parliament expires?
– The selection of a committee of such an important kind is not easy, I assure the honorable member. This has taken a lot of time - longer than I had hoped - but I am very familiar with the difficulties involved. We must get the strongest possible body because of the responsible nature of its work. It will function well in time and perform its duties under the general scheme which I propounded to the House. I am, perhaps, more anxious than anybody else to bring this matter to finality, but we must get the best possible committee.
– I ask you, Mr. Speaker, whether it is a fact that, some months ago, you received an expert report on the ventilation and lighting of this chamber? Is it a fact, also, that the report on the lighting was adverse and stated that it had a soporific effect on members? Do you, Sir, consider this state of affairs desirable, or do you propose to take some action in the matter?
– The subject-matter of the honorable member’s question is under consideration and, when a final decision is arrived at, I will inform the honorable member.
– Will the Minister for Territories call for the papers relating to the withdrawal of charges of double murder against a native at Rabaul, in the Territory of Papua and New Guinea? Is it a fact that at the time the charge was preferred against the native, he was, in fact, serving a twelveyears sentence for an attack upon a European woman? If the charge was levelled against the native, on what grounds was it levelled? Was the native, in fact, out of gaol at the time of the alleged offence? In any case, will the Minister call for the papers, make a review of the case and subsequently make a statement to the House setting out the whole of the circumstances?
– If the honorable member will supply me with the name of the alleged offender and the date and place of the offence I will certainly examine the papers.
– They should be before you now.
– I have no knowledge of the case.
– Has the Minister for External Affairs any information which would indicate that the Communist Chinese Government has received, or is about to receive, nuclear weapons?
– I regret that I have no information on that subject. I will see whether any is available, and if so I will be glad to let the honorable member know.
– In reply to a question that I asked the Minister for Trade recently, he stated that licences for the importation of rayon were given because the rayon imported into this country was blended with wool. An expert in textiles informs me that rayon imported into Australia is not blended with wool but is used in knitted products in direct opposition to wool. Would the right honorable gentleman tell me whether the licences for the importation of these synthetic tops were given under a misunderstanding?
– I think that the honorable member for Scullin might with advantage refresh his mind by reading his own question, because it did not mention rayon.
It was a question concerning synthetics, and I said in my answer that if the honorable member was referring, for instance, to orion, then I did understand that orion was imported to meet a consumer requirement and so on. If the honorable member will refresh his mind by reading his own question and my answer he will find that there is nothing to his present question.
– Has the attention of the Minister for Trade been drawn to a statement made a few days ago by President Eisenhower of the United States of America that, although the United States disposed of £500,000,000 worth of farm commodities overseas in the first six months of this year, at least four or five years will elapse before it will clear all its farm surplus?
– I have to confess that I am not familiar with the statement to which the honorable member for Gwydir has attracted my attention, but I will make it my business, with his aid, to find the statement and study it. It is true that the United States of America, with internal price support policies, has generated, over the years, enormous farm production which has been greatly surplus to its own requirements. There have been embarrassments in the disposal of some of that surplus, just as there have been embarrassments, I am sure, in the existence of the surplus without disposal. This Government has quite consistently followed a policy of making it quite clear that we would never seek to obstruct the United States in the exercise of its generosity in giving away surplus commodities or selling them on concessional terms to needy people, or to needy countries, who otherwise would not be in a position to acquire them; but that we would voice a vigorous protest against the normal markets of countries such as Australia being impaired and, perhaps, destroyed by the disposal, freely or on concessional terms, of American surpluses to people who were in a position to buy commercially and who would buy commercially if these concessional trade arrangements did not prevail. This is a quite clear statement of our policy which is understood internationally, understood by the United States, and understood by the beneficiary countries. I am able to stand here and say that no one in the world has .protested against the policy line taken by the Australian Government in this regard.
– Yesterday, the honorable member for Werriwa asked1 when certain reports would be available and I undertook to find out such information as we have available and to give it to-day. I now give it, as briefly as possible. It is not complete because there has not been time, perhaps, to examine all these instances. There are many of them. The annual report of the Tariff Board is unlikely to be forwarded to the Minister, I gather, before the end of this month. The Minister is required to table the report, of course, within fifteen sitting days of receiving it. The report of the Commonwealth Grants Commission is being prepared with the utmost despatch. The chairman and the members of the commission are aware of the need to have the report completed quickly. Indeed’, we need it for our own purposes here. The major problem confronting the commission is the printing of the report. It is hoped that it will be ready before the end of September which will be, in fact, earlier than last year.
The annual report of the PostmasterGeneral will not be ready before the end of the session. Because of the widespread nature of post office activities, both in Australia and overseas, it is not usual for this report to be available until about February of the year following the year covered by the report. That has been the general experience in the past. It is possible, however, that on this occasion last year’s report will be available well before February, but I am afraid that it will not be before the end of the session.
The report of the Director-General of Social Services is complete and ready for tabling except for one. or two important statistics that are to be included in it. It is expected that this report will be available very shortly.
Two factors have caused some delay in the preparation of the report of the Repatriation Commission. One is the receipt of overseas returns, and the other is printing. However, it is hoped that the report will be ready before the end of the session. I may say that for past years reports have not been ready until January, February or March of the following year, but on this occasion the report will be expedited as much as possible.
The report of the Australian National Airlines Commission is still subject to audit - the commission’s accounts must be audited. The report should be ready for tabling in about one month from now.
The report of the Commonwealth Railways should be ready in the first week of next month. Delay is caused in arriving at revenue figures as inter-system settlements with the States are necessary.
The reports for 1 956-57 regarding Papua, New Guinea, Nauru and Cocos Island were tabled in April and May this year. The report for the Northern Territory will soon be ready for the printer, as will the latest report for Norfolk Island.
The report of the Commonwealth Bank is expected to be completed by the middle of September.
As for reports from other authorities, it was not possible in the time available to get firm replies, but when I can I will inform the honorable member about these.
– I should like to ask a question arising out of the reply the Prime Minister has just given. In view of the unsatisfactory nature of the reply, will the Government consider adopting a new procedure whereby honorable members will be fully advised of the contents of all these annual reports before the finance policy of the nation is finally decided upon in future years? I do not need to elaborate the point, but only to mention it. It is most important that honorable members should not be asked to vote vast sums of money without having the latest information about the departments concerned, and the Prime Minister acknowledges that.
– 1 said that I followed that.
– And I hope that the right honorable gentleman will follow what I have said by appropriate action. I admit that in other years matters have been almost as bad in this respect as they are to-day, but the present position has been aggravated by the fact that the Budget was brought down earlier this year than usual. Honorable members are entitled to have a proper procedure established, and not be forced to stick to an old one.
– I shall treat what the Deputy Leader of the Opposition has said as a question, and I shall answer it. In the first place, the report I have made to the House is not unsatisfactory. It is true that most of the documents referred to are not yet ready; but it is equally true that in practically every case I was able to indicate that they would be ready very much earlier this year than in previous years. So, it is not intrinsically an unsatisfactory state of affairs.
What the Deputy Leader of the Opposition is leaving out of account is that it is more feasible to have a great number of these reports available to the House if the Budget is delivered late, because there is then an opportunity, after the closing of accounts for the financial year, for audits to be made and for reports to be completed. But that is not possible with an early Budget. It is much more feasible to produce the general accounts that do not need to be audited and found correct, as in the case of last year’s figures, than it is to have last year’s figures and records put into form.
The Government has to decide, as other governments in the past have had to decide, whether there is some advantage to the community in having an early Budget. If the Budget is brought down late, there is a better chance of having these documents ready. If the Budget is early, as it is this year, there is not the same chance to have the documents ready. The Government decided this year to have an early Budget. Up to now, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition has sought to convince us that he is eager to get to the electors, and therefore he should be delighted with an early Budget, and should be philosophic about some other documents not being available yet.
Precedence. Motion (by Mr. Harold Holt) agreed to-
That Government business shall take precedence , over general business to-morrow.
In Committee of Supply: Consideration resumed from 12th August (vide page 277), on motion by Sir Arthur Fadden -
That the first item in the Estimates under Division No. 1 - The Senate - namely, “ Salaries and allowances, £27,450 “, be agreed to.
Upon which Dr. Evatt had moved by way of amendment -
That the first item be reduced by £1.
.- Before proceeding to deal with the Budget, may I join with other honorable members in conveying congratulations to the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) on the presentation of this, his eleventh Budget, and on the record that he has established in this Parliament, not only for the number of budgets presented, but also for the manner of their presentation. He has stood firm for those things that are in the interests of the economy of this country, and against pressures, from outside sources. Sir, I commend to honorable members the Treasurer’s words about his record term in this Parliament, when he said -
But there is another record of which I am far prouder. Time and again in these difficult years the Government has had a choice of doing the thing that might have been popular or of doing the thing that appeared sound and responsible. Each time it has taken the harder but more responsible course and I present this, my final Budget, happy in the thought that, once again, the decision falls the same way.
Honorable members will recall, perhaps, that I entered this Parliament at a byelection in 1952, after the presentation of the Budget of 1951. That by-election, which gave me the privilege of becoming a member of this honorable Parliament, was fought on the very principles laid down in the 1951 Budget. Against all opposition, and against all criticism the Treasurer stood firm by those things that he believed were for the safety and security of this country, rather than for those things that would have made him personally popular, that would have made the Government popular and won votes, but that would have been to the detriment of our economy. Events since the presentation of that Budget have proved that the attitude of the Treasurer was correct. In these days when a great deal is spoken about politicians, and about statesmen, I think it is well that we remind ourselves that we have had a Treasurer and other Ministers who have been prepared to play the roles of statesmen rather than the roles of politicians, and who have been prepared to put forward fiscal measures which are in the interests of the economy of the country rather than fiscal measures designed merely to pander to certain sections of the community. In these days, too, we supporters of the Government are proud to have taken part in the making of this record.
I feel that the Parliament and the country are singularly fortunate, at the time of the retirement of the Treasurer in having a man so able as the present Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen) available to take the Treasurer’s place as Deputy Prime Minister and Leader of the Australian Country party.
There are one or two matters that 1 desire to mention briefly in my speech on the Budget. First, I should like to suggest to the Minister for the Army (Mr. Cramer) that serious consideration be given to making the appointments of senior chaplains in the States permanent instead of part-time as they are at present. I feel that if the senior chaplain’s appointment were permanent it would be of advantage to both the chaplain in the course of his duties and the members of the armed forces amongst whom he is working. In my opinion, the appointment of part-time senior chaplains mitigates against the value of the work that can be done by them. I emphasize that, in saying this, I do not suggest that the senior chaplains are not doing valuable work at the moment; on the contrary, I am sure we all will agree that they are. I make the suggestion because I feel that if their appointments were permanent the value of the work they are doing to-day would be enhanced greatly.
Another matter to which I should like to make reference is the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization. This organization is doing magnificent work for the development and progress of the Commonwealth, and particularly for the primary industries of the country. Wherever I have been in my electorate, I have heard nothing but commendation of the work being done by the officers of the C.S.I. R.O. Research stations have been established in two areas and even though we are as yet unable to assess the ultimate value of the work in which they are engaged, what they have done to date has been of immense value, and for that reason I am happy to see that on this occasion, just as in the past, consideration is given in the Budget to the work of the C.S.I.R.O.
I feel sometimes that we are inclined to overlook one of the major industries in our country. I refer to the timber industry. Frequently we think of the timber industry as an industry that has been going forward without many difficulties, and as one which, owing to the circumstances created by the war, was able to build real and lasting foundations. Unfortunately, that is not the true position. At the moment, the timber industry is in a rather difficult situation. I know that its leaders are investigating the position and endeavouring to do everything they can within the framework of the industry to bring it out of the difficult position in which it is placed. I know that the industry has made certain recommendations and requests to the Treasurer. I ask that those requests be given very careful consideration because this industry has a very far-reaching effect upon the economy of our country, and if it can be given the assistance which it desires, I am certain that it will continue to make its full contribution to our economy. One suggestion 1 offer for consideration is that, up to a certain stage, the timber industry be classed as a primary industry. After all, when one looks at certain aspects of it, I think, with reason, that it can be classed as such an industry.
A great deal of criticism has been levelled at the Government’s defence expenditure and the results of that expenditure, but two factors have not been mentioned. One is that a huge percentage of the money spent on defence has been paid out in wages and salaries. I fail to see how it would be possible to carry forward the defence of this country without granting remuneration to the members of the forces and services who are making their contribution to Australia’s safety. The other factor relates to the work that has been done at the Woomera rocket range. This has not received the publicity which I feel it should have had. A good deal of the work that has been done there has not been noticed by the public, nor even by members of this Parliament at times. It should be appreciated that some of the expenditure there cannot be pin pointed as it can be in the production of aeroplanes or naval vessels, but at the same time, we can see much for most of the expenditure at the Woomera rocket range in recent years, and I am sure that we will see even greater results in the future.
In his criticism of the Budget, the Leader of the Opposition referred to it as the Budget of a tired and lazy government. In my opinion, any one examining the Budget cannot help but realize that it is the exact opposite, that this is a Budget of courage and faith. It is a Budget of courage in that a degree of courage has been shown by the Treasurer and the Government in allowing for a deficit. It is a Budget of faith because it expresses faith in the future of this country and because it expresses a consciousness that, even amid all the difficulties with which we are confronted in the present world situation, Australia, by hard work and vision, can maintain the progress and development in the future that it has made in the past.
Let us examine some of the criticisms of the Budget by the Leader of the Opposition. He compared what was done by members of the Labour party when they were the government - that is some considerable time ago now - with what has been done by the present Government. One of the examples he gave to illustrate how much of the public’s confidence the Labour Government enjoyed compared with the public’s confidence in this Government was the fact that the Labour Government was able to raise all the loan money it desired at interest rates ranging between 3 per cent, and 4 per cent. One of the things he overlooked - whether accidentally or deliberately is another matter - is the fact that when Labour was in office, money for investment in other industries was in short supply. Restrictions had been imposed on the investment of money in anything outside Commonwealth loans. Therefore, any money the people had available naturally went into the Commonwealth loans; there was nothing else in which they could invest it. Furthermore, in a time of war, the patriotism of the people is such that they will contribute to loans, even at a cost tothemselves, as an expression of their loyalty and pride in their own country and out of a desire to help defend the country with money if they are unable to defend it physically.
I feel that the Leader of the Opposition really gives credit to this Government because, by his statement, he has admitted that we have so established and so strengthened this country, and have so opened the opportunities for development and progress - and therefore the opportunities for investment - that there are so many other avenues open for investment that money is not available for the Commonwealth loan market.
He spoke also about a record overseas credit, but that the existence of credit was due largely to the fact that we were at war and therefore our commodities had an easy and ready overseas market. Our exports were high and our imports were low, and consequently we were building up our overseas balances. The Labour government made a profit out of the sale of surplus war materials which also naturally assisted its financial arrangements.
The right honorable member mentioned the matter of State finances. A great deal was made, and has been made in recent debates in this chamber, in regard to hire purchase. That is purely and simply a State matter. People may throw up their hands and say, “ For you to say, ‘ That is a State matter ‘ is the easy way out “. We either adhere to the provisions of the Constitution of this country or we throw it down the drain and say it is of no value at all. This criticism of the hire-purchase position should be directed not at the Commonwealth Government but at the State governments which have not taken the action they should have taken.
Realizing that education is something that touches the life of every individual, I regret to say that the Labour Premier of New South Wales has played politics with education to the detriment of the advancement and progress of the children of that State. I remind those people who constantly listen to the cry of the Premier of New South Wales that his Government does not get sufficient money from the Commonwealth, that if were to hand out money without any regard for the manner in which it is spent, this country would soon find itself in economic difficulties. If the government of New South Wales had directed the moneys it received from the Commonwealth into those channels which would have afforded the greatest value, education in that State would not be in the desperate position it is in to-day..
– It stinks!
– I am conscious of the fact that the honorable member for Parkes refers to the present position of the Labour party, but I did not think he would so describe it in this chamber. An examination of the Budget presented by the Labour Government of New South Wales, reveals that the percentage of total revenue spent on education is less now than in previous years. After all, that is the only basis on which the matter can be judged. Although the Commonwealth increased the grants to the States, it also accepted certain financial responsibilities that were previously borne by the States.
On the matter of road’s, I hope that at some stage we may reach the point where a Commonwealth-wide conference is held at which this national problem may be given national consideration. When the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) suggested that a Commonwealth committee might be set up to consider matters of development so that certain works could be undertaken in certain priorities, the suggestion was rejected out of hand by Mr. Cahill, who said that he would not have anybody dictate to him what was to be done in his State.
No development has taken place in the area of Port Stephens, the third best harbour in the world, and while the present Labour Government remains in office in New South Wales that state of affairs will continue. It is a tragedy that this magnificent harbour is not being used. The State Government has completely ignored its possibilities. I hope that development of the area will start after a Liberal-Country party government is elected to office next year.
Dealing with our exports, the Leader of the Opposition said -
There are no proposals for vitalized export drives, subsidies or other concessions to help them-
Meaning the primary producers - over what is a desperately lean period.
That matter need not have been referred to during the Budget debate because it has been mentioned, constantly in the House by the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen) and the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. McMahon). Part and parcel of the programme is development of our overseas markets which, in turn, will assist the men on the land.
The paucity of thought of members of the Opposition is evidenced by certain of the petitions they have presented and the statements they have made on the matter of pensions. Last night the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Casey) described the tears shed by honorable members opposite as crocodile tears. They are constantly crying out for an increase in pensions to 50 per cent, of the basic wage. Let us be honest and ask ourselves what such an increase would mean. The basic wage is assessed for the upkeep of a man, his wife and one child. This Government has increased the pension paid to a single person to £4 7s. 6d., and to a married couple to £8 15s. Added to that amount, the pensioner couple could each earn an amount of £3 10s. a week, making a total joint income of £15 15s. a week. lt might be said that all pensioners are not in a position to earn that additional amount of £3 10s. a week. The Commonwealth Government is conscious of that fact. As I mentioned during the Budget debate last year, it is difficult to legislate for a .small portion of a section of the community. The Minister for Social Services (Mr. Roberton) has foreshadowed the presentation of legislation designed to help to solve this problem by increasing the pension of those .pensioners who pay rent. Honorable members opposite are saying, “ A magnificent amount “ but that is purely a .catch-cry used in an effort to secure votes. We know the proposed amount is not magnificent, but social services will involve considerable .expenditure - an amount of approximately £274,000,000 in a .Budget of £1,142,000,000. The same argument cannot be used to sustain, as well as to destroy, a proposition. The Opposition asks that the pension be 50 per cent, of the basic wage, but a married pensioner couple now receives £8 15s., which is in fact more than 50 per cent, of the basic wage.
The Leader .of the Opposition said this is the Budget of a lazy and tired government, but no mention is made of the inclusion in it of millions of pounds for State public works or of the millions of pounds to be
expended on Commonwealth public works for the .development and progress of Australia. This Government has shown that ii has faith in the future by being prepared to bear part of the burden of cost involved in developmental works so that future generations will not be faced with a huge public debt. Let any honorable member opposite who criticizes that plan, and who says, “ Let us reduce taxes “, stand up in this chamber and say that we should not think of the future generations, and should refuse to .accept a certain portion of the financial responsibility for the progress of Australia, but instead, should load future generations with an increased public debt. The people who returned this Government to office at the last election, and those who will return it to office at the next election, have shown that they share with the Government .that faith in Australia’s future.
Opposition supporters talk about a £71,000,000 increase in expenditure, but they fail to point out that £45,000,000 -of that increase goes in age and invalid pensions and in repatriation assistance, and that the total expenditure on social services amounts to £274,000,000. I believe that the Minister for Social Services and this Government can be justly proud of their record in this field. Let me also point out that there is an added income tax reimbursement of £15,000,000 to assist the States in their various developmental works, while £2,600,000 is to be provided as additional finance for the Commonwealth Aid Roads programme. This again indicates a faith in the future of Australia.
I now wish to mention, Mr. Chairman, the dairying industry. I sincerely believe that -.the future of this industry is not as black as it sometimes may appear, but I also believe that primary industry is passing through a transition period, lasting perhaps four or five years, during which a great deal of assistance must be given to the primary producers, .particularly those in the dairying industry.
Some assistance has already been given, as those who are on the land are aware, by way of the many concessions that have been granted by the Government. Perhaps “ concessions “ is not the right word, because it may imply something to which the recipients are not entitled. Much assistance has, however, been given to dairy farmers to help them in the valuable contribution they are making to Australia’s economy.
It was pointed out by one honorable member that only 30 per cent, of income and employment in this country is attributable to primary industry, and that the other 70 per cent, is attributable to other industries, but he went on to say that primary products represent 85 per cent, of our exports from the point of view of value. The Opposition supporter who made these statements was endeavouring to show that our primary industries are not of great value to Australia. This is an example of the muddled thinking that is being indulged in by honorable members opposite. If our primary products represent 85 per cent, of the value of exports from Australia, is it not obvious that primary industries are largely responsible for the continued existence of our secondary industries, and that if we reduce our exports of primary products we will immediately undermine our secondary industries? When members of the Australian Country party say that they support primary industry, they are well aware of the value of this industry to the economy of Australia. When they say that our economy depends on primary industry, they are making a statement that is basically true. When they make this statement, they do not demonstrate that they have only sectional interests, because they are conscious of the fact that our primary industry has an important economic effect on every person in Australia. We are, therefore, interested in the basic welfare qf every individual in this country. Arguments advanced by honorable members opposite, to the effect that the primary industries of Australia are of no great value, immediately fall down.
I believe that the matters I have mentioned should be considered in relation to our dairying industry and its value in our domestic economy, because the volume of exports of primary products must have a great effect on our domestic economy. 1 hope that further consideration will be given to the provision of assistance to primary industries. Let me say also that the industry itself must become conscious of the problems facing it. Many factors within the industry have, unfortunately, contributed towards increased costs. I hope that in a further debate I will have the opportunity to make some more remarks about the dairying industry.
Let me conclude by saying that I support wholeheartedly the Budget presented by the Treasurer. He has again shown the courage of his convictions. He has shown that he is prepared to stand firm for those things that are in the interests of the safety and security of Australia’s economy. To those who would criticize, let me point out what happened in New Zealand. Having lived in that country for a number of years, I think I may be allowed to make some comments in criticism of the Labour party of New Zealand, whose supporters made extravagant promises to the people during an election campaign. They promised the people everything, and it has been proved conclusively that the economy of the country would not stand the expenditure necessary to keep those promises. The overseas marketing situation was such that the Government could not keep its promises without grave detriment to the country’s economy. Unfortunately, however, the Labour party bluffed a gullible public into returning its members to power, and now the Government has to admit that its supporters were wrong in making those promises, and it has been forced to tax the people to a much greater extent than the previous government did. I remind the people of Australia, in case they should be lulled into a false sense of security by the promises of the Leader of the Opposition, that if we had not had a Treasurer with the courage of his convictions, and with the safety of our economy in the forefront of his mind, and if we had not had a Cabinet and a government prepared to back him up, we would not have been in a position to lend1 our friends in the sister dominion of New Zealand £10,000,000 to help them solve the economic difficulties that confronted them as a result of the rash promises made by the Labour party.
I am proud to be a supporter of a government that is prepared to present a Budget of this kind, not seeking votes but desirous of making the Australian economy sound, so that we may go forward with faith in the development and progress of this country, and our children may inherit the great potential of this land.
– It is refreshing to Opposition members to hear Government supporters criticize the Budget. It is a very simple matter to criticize it, because there is very little in it to encourage the development of this country. I have been in this Parliament for quite a number of years, and I suggest that this is one of the most uninspiring Budgets ever to have been presented to it. I believe that the Government should not, because of its present great majority, take advantage of the position and produce a stop-gap Budget of this kind, in view of the possibilities of expansion and development that are available to us. Developmental opportunities are available which would allow us to build up our population to a figure of 30,000,000, which, I believe, is the ultimate estimate. But this Budget gives us no encouragement whatever, and a government that produces such a Budget is unworthy of support.
Looking through the Budget, I find that nothing at all is provided towards the development of the north-west of Western Australia. For many years Western Australian members, both of the Opposition and on the Government side, have done their utmost in this Parliament to direct the attention of the Government to the necessity to develop the vast areas of our northwest, but without avail. There is available in the records of this Parliament and of various departments an abundance of material compiled by men with great knowledge of that country, who have lived there and who understand its disabilities and possibilities. But all those valuable reports have been ignored or pigeon-holed, with the result that no action has eventuated.
I pay a compliment to the “West Australian “ newspaper for the vast publicity it has given, particularly in the last couple of years, in an effort to encourage the development of that area. That newspaper financed a visit to the north-west by a contingent of federal members, so that they might see for themselves the potential wealth of the region. That visit was followed by a visit by the “ big-feller boss “ - the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) - and his lieutenant, the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner). Later on, His Excellency the Governor-General made a visit to that area. Great publicity was given to these visits. The Prime Minister was pictured nursing a couple of picca ninnies. Of course, that being his first visit to the north-west he knew nothing of the lingo of the tribe. As a consequence, the photographer complained, the Prime Minister could not make the piccaninnies smile.
However - to be serious about the whole matter - it was expected that, as a result of these visits and the attendant publicity, the Budget we are now discussing would announce some definite plans for the development of the north-west. But search as one may through the Budget, one finds there nothing whatever of that character. These visits, and the work of the “West Australian “, built up the hopes of the people, who fully expected that something tangible would eventuate during the session.
The Government’s assistance in the search for oil is welcome, but the alteration of the zone allowances, of which the Treasurer made so much in his speech, is only delayed action. The zone allowance for the north-west was introduced by the Curtin Government in 1945. In 1947 it was adjusted in accordance with the variation in the cost of living, but no further increase was made notwithstanding that attempt after attempt was made to induce the Government to appreciate that the cost of living had increased. The adjustment being made on this occasion brings the allowance only to the level at which it would have been if the procedure adopted by the Labour government had been followed. The allowance is to-day worth little more than it was worth when it was first introduced.
Developmental plans for the north of Western Australia are the concern not only of Western Australia but of the whole Commonwealth. As long as the region remains unoccupied, unpopulated, and with its great wealth potential undeveloped, a menace to this country will exist. I hope that in the very near future plans for northern development will be put into effect. The present position is a sad reflection on the Commonwealth. It would be superfluous to make further suggestions for development because, as I have already said, an abundance of evidence is compiled and available in the various departments, showing what is necessary and how it is to be achieved.
I shall now deal with the gold-mining industry, which is carried on under this
Government on a basis- of rationing. Little or no-assistance has been given. The meagre subsidies provided over the years have done little more than keep the mines- going. We expected that, as a result of the Prime Minister’s visit to Kalgoorlie, and his discussions with persons in- the gold-mining industry, the Chamber of Mines, and the captains- of industry, some steps would be taken in the Budget to ride the industry over until such time as the International Monetary Fund could- be induced to increase the price of gold, which has been pegged’ for many years. The subsidies granted by the Government have not been sufficient to give a reasonable chance to marginal mines. Prospecting is a lost art. Men will- not go out prospecting, because costs of production are increasing so rapidly that they- are unable to make a living-. Hopes for. the salvation of the gold-mining industry centre on an increase of the price of gold; I have no doubt that the Government has sought such an increase. It has representatives at the International Monetary Fund. Great influence must be brought to bear to influence the International Monetary Fund to increase the price of gold. Figures showing that the gold-mining industry is in a parlous condition have been supplied to the Government by competent and reputable -men. The pegged price, coupled with ever-increasing costs, makes it impossible for mines which are not very rich to- make ends meet.
I wish to speak of my long association with the Australian Labour movement. As, in all probability, this will be my last speech in this Parliament, I desire to place on record a few facts about that association. This year I shall complete 51 years of continuous membership of the Australian Workers Union. I have complied with every call that that union has made on me as a member, in both compulsory and voluntary levies. Further, I have conserved in my home every one of the tickets I have held, and records of all those levies, and I can produce them to anybody. But the records of the union do not expect me to do that. I had the privilege of serving under the great industrial leaders, John Barnes, Ted Grayndler, Clarrie Fallon, Arthur Watson and others. I was associated with them for very many years. The Australian Workers Union was my union; it was everything that I wanted- to live for.
I commenced my official association with that union in 1916 as an organizer, and I occupied the position of State secretary later. I also occupied the position of general president, which is the highest position that the Australian Workers Union can offer to any of its members. I gave of my best to the union and I think the union recognized that.
The Australian Workers Union has played a very important part in the democracy of Australia. Both the people of Australia and this Parliament have much to thank that union for. I feel, Mr. Chairman, that if there is one man in this Parliament who is not entitled to be critical of the Australian Workers Union, he is the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron). I was disgusted to learn that the honorable member, under privilege, took the opportunity of discussing the administration of that great union. The honorable member was succoured and cared for by the Australian Workers Union, which put him into a position that made it possible for him to graduate to the elevated position that he occupies to-day. Therefore, I say that if there is one man who has no justification for attacking that great union, it is the honorable member for Hindmarsh.
I served my apprenticeship with the Australian Workers Union for many years and eventually, in answer to the call from the Australian Labour movement, I came to Canberra. I may say that I came here against my own wish. I answered the call of the movement and of its then leader, John Curtin. I left my position as secretary of the Australian Workers Union, and I left my family to come here. I had no desire to do that, but- I felt - and I was told by my comrades and mates that they felt - it was my duty to do so. So I came to Canberra for that one purpose, and I had the honour and the privilege of serving under the inspired leadership of those two great men, John” Curtin and Ben Chifley. I was happy to serve under them. I got great pleasure out of serving under them and I struck every blow that I was able to strike in order to assist them. That was an unforgettable experience for me, Mr. Chairman, and I shall ever remember and cherish the events associated with that period. Curtin and- Chifley were- very great men, and they deserved well of Australia. Their like may never be seen again. Many of my colleagues of those days have left the political arena and are dead and gone. I shall always remember them kindly.
In recent years I have been very unhappy and distressed as a result of certain events. They have placed me under great strain, and have affected my feelings towards the Parliament. Although there are matters I feel I should mention, I will leave it at that. In my wisdom, I think they are best left unsaid. I shall leave this Parliament with a clear conscience, with the knowledge that on every day that I have been a member I have tried to do my best and to be a friend to those who worked for the betterment of this great country. I hope to see the Labour movement once more united and able to occupy the Treasury bench.
In conclusion, I should like to say “ Thank you “ to the electors of Kalgoorlie, and to the very many friends I have had over the years, for their loyal support. I thank both those who supported me politically and those who were opposed to me politically. I have had very few enemies during my life. Some people may say that it is not good for a man to avoid making enemies. However, I have endeavoured to attract friendship and a feeling of respect from people, as I have given them my respect. I take this opportunity to thank this Parliament - all members of all parties - and all sections of the community for the assistance that has been extended to me during my period in public life. I also thank the staff and all persons associated with the conduct of Parliament House for the very many kindnesses that they have shown me during the period that I have been privileged to sit in this chamber.
.- There are three subjects to which I want to devote my remarks in this Budget debate. They are: The problems of local government finance, the incidence of double taxation on shareholders, and the hire-purchase problem. I hope to show that these three subjects are all closely related and, indeed, interdependent.
The system of government which this country enjoys is shared by the Commonwealth, the States and the local government bodies. Each of these instruments of government has responsibilities to the com munity, but since the war the raising of income- tax has been solely in the hands of the Commonwealth Government, and the States and the local government bodies are to a great extent dependent on the Commonwealth for their revenue. Since the introduction of uniform taxation, the Commonwealth has had complete control of income tax and, as it is the only body that has the right to raise customs and excise duties, and impose sales tax, it is in possession of the most lucrative forms of taxation. The States have to depend on stamp duties, land tax, entertainment tax, death duties, licence fees and other minor forms of taxation, and they are dependent on tax reimbursement from the Commonwealth in order to balance their budgets, after providing the many services which State governments have to provide.
Local government bodies are dependent largely on rates from real estate properties for their revenue. From this revenue they have to provide many services which benefit the community as a whole, not only the ratepayers. Most councils and shires, in addition to expenditure on the construction and maintenance of roads, spend quite a lot. of money on social services. They provideinfant welfare centres, pre-school kindergartens, municipal libraries, elderly citizens’ clubs, recreation centres and, in some instances, swimming pools, and they have to carry out health immunization campaigns. Many councils are struggling to make ends meet, and many others would be prepared to extend the range of their present activities and, indeed, introduce new ones, if they had the necessary finance.
Most councils in Victoria are of the opinion that they have reached the limit in respect of the amount which ratepayers can reasonably be expected to contribute. The State governments say that they are giving the maximum financial assistance possible to local government bodies, and the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) this year is budgeting for a deficit of £110,000,000. Where, then, is the money to be found? I shall not refer to the petrol tax formula, which comes up for review in 1959 and which no doubt will’ be referred to by many other speakers. I want to deal with the principle of financing capital works from revenue.
At the present time, between” 15 per cent, and 20 per cent. - or between 3s. and 4s. in the £1 - of every £1 raised by the income taxation of individuals and companies is being spent on capital works. This year, the Estimates provide for an expenditure of £129,000,000 on Capital Works and Services, in spite of the fact that farm incomes are down by nearly one-third. The principle of financing capital works from revenue may be correct in times of high incomes and periods of inflation, but can it be justified in to-day’s conditions? If public and private companies are not allowed to debit capital expenditure to revenue, can this principle be regarded as good accounting when applied to government expenditure? It is argued, of course, that these works must be financed from the proceeds of taxation, because the necessary money cannot be raised by loans. This is probably true, and that is where I believe the problem to be related to double taxation and to hire purchase. If loans can be made more attractive, I am quite sure that the money will’ be forthcoming, and thus enable greater assistance to be given to local governing bodies. The honorable member for Sturt (Mr. Wilson) consistently has suggested that bonds should be accepted in payment of federal estate duty. I believe that it is the practice in the United Kingdom to issue special tax certificates carrying a nominal rate of interest, which can be used to pay any form of tax. Perhaps the Government could consider the issue of a special loan or loans on these lines.
The Government, by its policy of taxing profits in the hands of companies and again in the hands of the individual when those profits are distributed as dividends, is drying up a supply of money which could be available for Commonwealth loans. This policy is forcing companies to seek loan capital rather than what might be called risk capital. Loan capital is better for the lender because he is assured of a return from his investment and receives preference over shareholders in regard to the return of capital in the event of liquidation. This form of investment is also better for the companies in times of prosperity because they are allowed to claim as expenses interest on the loan capital, although they have to pay tax on their profits, and this must be costing the Government revenue.
This is an unhealthy type of capital development because the issue of deben tures and unsecured notes constitutes a continually rising proportion of capital investment in Australia. Let me quote the figures for the last four years. In 1954-55, the amount of new cash capital, not bonus shares, was £59,700,000, while the amount raised by debentures, notes and deposits was £27,500,000 - somewhat less than half the amount of share capital. In the following year, 1955-56, share capital was £59,200,000 - approximately the same as in the previous year - ‘but the amount raised by loan capital rose to £50,000,000. In the next year, 1956-57, share capital fell to £43,700,000 and loan capital rose to £51,400,000. Quarter by quarter, for the financial year which ended on 30th June last, the figures were: For the September, 1957, quarter, £10,100,000 contributed in new share capital and £19,400,000 in loan capital. For the December, 1957, quarter, share capital fell to £8,200,000 and loan capital rose to £20,100,000. In March, 1958, share capital was £7,400,000 and loan capital was £18,100,000. The figures for the June, 1958, quarter were not available to me at the time I made my inquiries, but the figures I have cited should be sufficient to prove my point.
In plain fact, whereas four years ago new capital raised by various forms of loans was approximately only 50 per cent, of new share capital, to-day it is equal to 250 per cent, of new share capital and is still rising. Surely this is worth investigating. The Government is assisting to defeat its own loan programme by permitting companies to offer up to 10 per cent, for loans for five years or more, and up to 6 per cent, for loans for such short periods as six months. What inducement has the public to take the rate of interest offered on government bonds? They are unable even to pay estate duty with Commonwealth bonds and if they are forced to realize on their bonds they find that the market value is considerably below par. By investing in first-mortgage debentures, they receive 5i per cent, interest and the full amount of their investment on demand. This is all wrong.
It can be proved that the cost to a company of the payment of interest at 8 per cent, is no greater than the cost of paying a dividend of 5 per cent, on an equal amount of share capital, but while in good times companies can afford to pay high rates of interest on debentures, when they are not making profits those rates of interest become a burden. High interest rates are also extremely inflationary, as the interest paid on borrowed capital becomes a part of the cost of production and, as such, is passed on to the public. At the same time, the Government receives less than twothirds of the amount of tax which would be paid if the deduction for interest were not allowed. In this respect, I am working on the basis of a rate of interest of 8 per cent., which I previously quoted. This is the reason that more and more companies are raising debenture capital instead of share capital.
There is ample scope here for the Government to allow companies a deduction for dividends paid by them, so that company tax virtually would become an undistributed profits tax. If tax were paid after the distribution of profits, there would be a greater amount available for distribution as dividends, which would be taxed in the hands of the recipients. In addition, this would enable the companies to retain more money as working capital, which also would be subject to taxation. Even though a higher company rate had to be struck to make up for any possible loss of revenue, companies would still benefit by being able to build up reserves after paying good dividends in times of prosperity, while the public would benefit from lower prices. In time of adversity, the finances of the companies would not be strained by having to meet interest bills on debenture capital, since they could pass the payment of a dividend, whereas interest must always be paid. By being enabled to retain more money for reserves, companies would not be draining the loan market for debenture capital, and this money would be available for government loans.
There has been quite a lot of talk by honorable members opposite on the subject of hire purchase. Much that has been said obviously has not had regard to the facts. I hold no brief for hire-purchase companies, but I do believe that the public should understand the true position and that the facts should not be distorted. Undoubtedly, it costs a lot more to purchase goods on time payment than it does to purchase them for cash. This difference in cost is loosely entitled “ interest “. I think that this is all wrong. The correct description should be “ terms charge “, because, in effect, the amount is the cost of buying goods on time payment. The term that is used, of course, does not affect the amount which the purchaser has to pay, but ( suggest that “ terms charge “ more truly describes the position.
When one works out the “ per annum n rate of interest, on a flat rate of 6 per cent to 8 per cent, for motor cars and up to 10 per cent, on household appliances, the result is staggering if the amount is wholly attributable to interest. Whereas hire-purchase companies allow purchasers from two years to three years to pay for the goods they purchase, and make a flat charge over the term of the transaction, they actually pay cash to the manufacturers or merchants. Taking each transaction separately, the companies make no profit at all during the first year, because in that period they do not even receive back the money that they have paid out, and they may make very little profit in the second year.
I believe that no-deposit and low-deposit transactions are the biggest factor in the purchaser having to pay high terms charges. At the same time, it is not good business for the hirer if the purchaser does not have equity in the goods he purchases right from the beginning of the transaction. Let us take the case of a television set sold on no deposit, payments to be made over two or three years. There is plenty of this kind of business being done in Melbourne to-day. Let us say, for example, that a buyer purchases a television set for £200 and pays no deposit, and let us assume that he wants the transaction to extend over three years. The terms charge probably will be 10 per cent, flat, which works out at £60. His repayments would work out at a little more than £7 a month. If, after three months, he does not wish to go on with the transaction and allows his payments to lapse, and the set is repossessed, all that it has cost him for the use of the set for three months has been £21. Either the hirepurchase company or the dealer is left with a second-hand article which probably has depreciated by a great deal more than £21. If, on the other hand, the purchaser had contributed an initial deposit of 20 per cent, which in that case would have been £40, his terms charge would have been £48 instead of £60, and his monthly repayments would have been less than £6. He would have been better off. At the end of the three months he would have been less inclined to lose the £58 that he would have paid than the £21 that he in fact paid on the no-deposit transaction. He would have been more inclined to keep up his payments. The necessity to pay a reasonable deposit would also deter the dishonest person who has no intention of paying for the goods but intends merely to make use of them for as long as he can get away with it. One way in which to reduce terms charges is to insist on reasonable deposits. 1 know that hire-purchase companies make big profits, but I have just read the report of the chairman of one of the prominent hire-purchase companies to the annual meeting of shareholders. This company showed a profit of nearly £500,000, but as its turnover was £20,000,000, this profit represented less than 2i per cent, on its turnover. Actually, it was 2.37 per cent., which is less than the 30 days cash discount allowed in most commercial transactions. These figures are fairly typical of all the large hire-purchase companies and show that only their great turnover enables them to make good profits.
As banks are discouraged from granting overdrafts to hire-purchase companies, they have to raise their capital largely by debentures. This field is so competitive that the hire-purchase companies have to offer ‘8 per cent, to 10 per cent, to get the money required. While this money is lying idle, it is costing the company a great deal, and when it is used, high terms charges have to be made to cover the cost of borrowing. These high borrowing rates are actually no good to the hire-purchase companies. They are no good to the public which buys goods on hire purchase because of the high terms charges which must be made. They are no good to the Government which cannot fill its loans as it cannot meet the competition in rates of interest offered. So the vicious circle begins. The Government, being unable to raise loans, increases taxes to finance its capital works programme, and those members of the business community and the public who do invest in Commonwealth bonds have less money available because they have to meet the higher taxes. The ultimate sufferers are the local government bodies.
That brings me back to the point I made at the beginning of my speech: The financial problems of local government, double taxation, company profits and hire purchase are all related. So a second suggestion is that, in addition to deleting double taxation, the Government should legislate to bring debenture interest rates more into line with the bond rate.
Before passing from the subject of hire purchase, I should like to refer to the credit bureau system which is operating in the United States of America. This scheme, 1 believe, protects the rash purchaser against his own inclination to over-commit his pay envelope. It must also lessen bad debts and so result in a lower terms charge to users of the hire-purchase system. The scheme operates on a voluntary basis so far as it applies only to those persons who wish to purchase goods on time payment. Once an individual establishes his credit, each succeeding hire-purchase transaction is known to the various firms extending credit to him. As his income and his security are known to intending creditors, those creditors will not allow him to commit himself to regular repayments which are likely to embarrass him having regard to what he has to do with the balance of his income.
I am afraid that many persons enter into hire-purchase transactions completely beyond their means. If sickness happens to any member of the family and doctors’ and hospital bills mount, they find themselves in real trouble. Many traders also contribute to this state of affairs by overselling. When business is inclined to be on the tough side, they seek to increase their turnover by looking ‘for easy marks without having due regard to the risk involved. In the big cities of the United States of America, people cannot obtain credit unless they belong to the credit bureau, and risky business is largely discouraged. The Government may care to examine that scheme.
I referred earlier to the high rates of interest being offered by some credit organizations, such as 5± per cent, on demand and up to 10 per cent, for 5-year loans. Bank managers have told me that persons are withdrawing money from their savings bank accounts on which they received 2i per cent, or 3 per cent, and are depositing it with the companies to which I have referred. As a bank’s capacity to lend depends largely on its deposits, this must affect the amount of money available for housing which many banks finance through their savings bank departments. This is a tragedy, because banks are already too reluctant to advance money for homes. I do not know why the trading banks do not regard housing as their type of business; but from what 1 have been able to gather, they are reluctant even to advance temporary finance to- ex-servicemen who have been notified by the War Service Homes Division that the loan for which they applied would be through in fifteen months. Some banks will grant temporary accommodation for war service homes if the waiting time does not exceed nine months; but this eliminates most ex-servicemen. 1 had one case brought to my notice of an ex-serviceman who borrowed £2,750 for a period of fifteen months until his war service homes loan came through. He paid 10 per cent, flat in interest which amounted to £344’. His insurance cover for the period was £14. He paid £14 procuration fee, £39 for legal costs covering the preparation of a- mortgage and the registration fees, and a further £14 legal costs in connexion with the discharge of the mortgage. That was a total of £425 for his temporary accommodation, or an additional cost of £8 3s. 6d. a week for the period of fifteen months. For any one paying a high rental, this is probably preferable to waiting until the loan is available, and any attempt to prevent the serviceman from obtaining this type of finance would be an interference with his rights. But why should, one section of the. community live off the eligible war service homes borrower? The Liberal party does not believe in controls unless they are absolutely necessary and neither do I, but I do suggest that the banks be asked to treat favorably applications from’ ex-servicemen for temporary housing finance where the War Service Homes Division gives its consent to’ the transaction.
I am pleased to see that the Government has recognized the principle of a special needs or hardship pension for single pensioners without other sources of income who have to pay rent. The payment of an additional 10s. a week is a step in the right direction, and the Government is to be congratulated. I hope that future Budgets will, extend this concession in accordance with the actual needs of the individual.
I am pleased also to see that World War I. nurses are: to be treated more liberally with- regard to hospitalization in repatriation hospitals. This is a right they richly deserve. The Government is also to be congratulated on increasing the special rate war pension by 10s. a week, and on liberalizing the property means test for age and invalid pensions. I am also pleased that encouragement is to be given to oil exploration.
This has been called by unkind critics s contemptuous Budget, but in an election year, when most governments would be wooing votes by large-scale concessions and when most incomes are considerably lower than they have been in recent years, J believe it to be a courageous Budget. My mind goes back to the last New Zealand elections when the Labour party was returned to office on a promise of greatly reduced income tax assessments. I think the figure was £100, but allow me to quote the stark details. The honorable member for Lyne has referred to this. Less than twelve months later when Labour introduced its first budget, tax increases lifted the tax bill per head of population from £109 to an all-time high, for New Zealand, of more than £125. A new “ excess retention tax “ was introduced for companies. Sales tax on motor cars was raised from 20 per cent, to 40 per cent. Petrol tax was increased by ls. a gallon for Consolidated Revenue. Estate and death duties were raised. Excise duty on cigarettes, tobacco, cigars, beer and spirits was doubled.
Do we want that to happen here by carelessly giving concessions in an endeavour to win votes at the forthcoming elections? I hope that the public will not be fooled but will recognize this Budget as an honest endeavour on the part of the Treasurer and the Government to do the right thing by the Australian people. I congratulate the Treasurer on his very fine record of service to Australia, and I am sure all will wish him well in the years ahead.
.- I, like the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Fox), hope that the public will not be fooled and will not allow this barren Budget, which seems to have sprung up somehow in a period of drought, to mislead them when the elections take place at the appropriate time. The people have no cause to thank the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) for this document, which he presented to us just over a week ago. Very few people receive any benefit from it and, in the Treasurer’s own words, there is evidence that the large companies will now reap the benefit of the reduction in company tax which was granted a year ago.
The people of Australia look to the Budget each year because it has a big impact on their lives. It is, perhaps, the most important business of the Commonwealth Parliament each year. Everything with which a man is concerned in his daily life is affected by the Budget. I am appalled, and have been for the past two years, by the fact that the socalled temporary imposts made by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) in the “ little “ Budget in March, 1956 - almost immediately after the 1955 elections - has been retained in successive Budgets. Honorable members will recall that the retiring Treasurer was not asked to present the “ little “ Budget speech; the Prime Minister, who is the Leader of the Liberal party, did that. In that Budget, excise duties were raised to a very high level and sales tax was increased alarmingly. Honorable members will recall that at that time the sales tax on motor cars, for instance, was raised from 16 per cent, to 30 per cent. There was an iniquitous increase in the petrol tax, an additional threepence a gallon being exacted.
AH these taxes have been retained in the successive Budgets presented by the present Treasurer. At the time they were imposed, it was generally agreed that they fell very heavily on the working man and that they would have a disastrous slowing-down effect on industry generally. We have seen the effect on transport costs of the added charge of threepence a gallon on petrol, which the Government apparently intends to retain as long as it remains in office. I am afraid that the public has now accepted as permanent the very heavy increased excise charges on beer and spirits and on tobacco.
As the Treasurer has apparently fully endorsed the imposition of these taxes and, what is worse, the retention of them, I feel that the general public will have no cause to regret the right honorable gentleman’s retirement from his office. The fact that he is retiring because of ill health grieves me. I am sure that all honorable members regret to see a man compelled to retire from office because of ill health when he should normally be in the prime of life, but it illustrates the great strain that is placed on members of the Federal Parliament, particularly by the amount of travelling that they have to do in the performance of their duties. However, the pleasing feature is that the right honorable gentleman is vacating the office of Treasurer. I hope that the next Treasurer will not be a member of the Australian Country party. I sincerely believe that he will be a member of the Australian Labour party. If he is not a member of the Australian Labour party, the best that I can hope and pray for is that he will not be a member of the Australian Country party. We have had experience over the years of Australian Country party treasurers. They have both qualified for titles of rather doubtful quality. A title has already been conferred on one, and posterity will confer a title on the other. The right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) became known as the “ tragic Treasurer “ and I am sure that in a very short time the retiring Treasurer will become known by the title of “ Barren Fadden “.
The Government has dealt with social services in a most niggardly way. It has done nothing to aid the family man. Child endowment and the maternity allowance have been completely overlooked, and I am sure that that has been done deliberately. There is one certain way of killing the effect of social services, and that is by not permitting their value to be maintained. We know that, since this Government took office in 1949, no alteration has been made to the rate of maternity allowance paid to mothers or to the rate of child endowment paid to mothers for their children. Other social services have not been altered, the most notable one being the funeral allowance. That allowance is so insignificant to-day that it is of no consequence. The intention of the Government which introduced this allowance in 1946 - a Labour government, of course - is being completely ignored. The value of the allowance has gone. To-day it is still only £10, as it was in 1946. We all realize how much £10 will buy now, when compared with what it would buy in 1946.
In 1949, the Government solemnly promised the electors that it would put value back into the £1. When such an undertaking is given to electors, I regard it as most sacred. In effect, the Government has made the same promise during each election campaign since 1949, but on each occasion it has broken its promise. In 1949, we were told that value would be put back into the £1, and later we were told that inflation would be curbed. But none of these things has happened. As a result, social service benefits are gradually losing their value. Who is suffering because of this? Firstly, as the maternity allowance has not been increased, the mothers of young Australians are being attacked in a nasty, mean way by this Government. They can see the value of the maternity allowance being gradually whittled away because of the policy of the Government. Similarly, as their children grow up, the mothers can see the same thing happening with child endowment. Child endowment has not been increased at the same rate as the value of money has decreased. It has been suggested that the value of the £1 has dropped by 50 per cent, since the present Treasurer assumed office in 1949. That being so, the value of social service benefits has dropped by a like amount.
The Treasurer has made great play on the proposal to increase, in some measure, one of the social service benefits by paying a rent allowance to age, invalid and widow pensioners. He seems to think that the proposal for a rent allowance entitles him to wear a halo on his head and to be remembered by posterity as the great man who gave this wonderful benefit to the people. But the amount to be paid is so small, and it will affect so few people, that it is nothing for the Treasurer or the Government to boast about. The right honorable gentleman told us that the rent allowance for pensioners will cost the Government £3,925,000 - in a Budget that provides for an expenditure of more than £1,300,000,000. The allowance is to be paid to only a small section of the community - to pensioners who are not married couples and who pay rent. This will cause a lot of heartburning in the community, and also a lot of confusion.
– The allowance will be paid to those who are most in need.
– Not necessarily. As I have said, Mr. Temporary Chairman, it will cause a lot of confusion and a lot of heartburning among the people. The state ment made by the Treasurer in announcing this allowance - a statement that was later amplified by the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Roberton) - means that married couples who both receive the pension and who pay rent will not receive the allowance. Single pensioners who own their homes will receive no benefit from the allowance. Single people who pay rent and who earn a small sum in addition to the pension will receive no benefit from it. As the proposal affects only pensioners who, in the Treasurer’s words, “ are deemed to be entirely dependent on their pensions”, married couples who pay rent will not receive the allowance if the wife is not old enough to receive the pension and receives what is called a special allowance. So you can see, Mr. Temporary Chairman, that the proposed allowance will apply to very few people.
The principle behind the rent allowance is completely opposed to the professed policy of members of the Liberal party of Australia as enunciated from time to time by the Prime Minister, who has told us repeatedly that it was the Government’s policy to proceed towards the elimination of the means test by first reducing its effect. But the present proposal amounts to an intensification of the means test, and will make it even harder for old people to exist You, Mr. Temporary Chairman, know that many people spend almost all of their working lives in acquiring their homes. That applies particularly to the present generation. It seems to be a natural desire in the heart of Australians, and particularly of Queenslanders, to acquire their OWE homes. Many people who, throughout their lives, have denied themselves not merely luxuries but often some of the necessaries of life in order to acquire their own homes will find themselves penalized for their thrift by the Government’s latest proposal. The retiring Treasurer, in the last throes of his activity in that office, has imposed a penalty on thrift.
In recent months, Queensland has suffered from a blight and a curse - an Australian Country party Government. Since that blight descended on the State, the benefits given by Labour governments over the years have disappeared. Price controls have been eliminated almost entirely; rent controls have gone; and meat, which has always been a most important part of the diet of the average Queenslander, is rapidly disappearing from the tables of the workers. One of my constituents told me only recently that a very short time ago she went to a butcher’s shop to buy topside for her pet cat, as has been her custom. The butcher told her that he no longer had topside for her cat because, as a cheaper cut, it was in demand for the meal table. That shows that the people are being forced to buy meat of poorer quality as a result of the great increase of prices under the administration of the Australian Country party Government in Queensland which, I believe, has the support of the smiling members now seated on the benches on the Government side of this chamber. But let me remind these alleged lovers of democracy, Mr. Temporary Chairman, that, thank goodness, the present Queensland administration is what may be termed a minority government, in the sense that, although it was legally elected, it represents only a minority of the Queensland electors.
As a result of increases of prices in Queensland over the last twelve months, the Queensland basic wage has increased by 1.3s. a week - a greater increase than in the other States. The sole cause of this increase of the basic wage has been increased prices. It has not been due to any loading for prosperity or for anything else. Although the workers are protected by the Queensland Industrial Court, which, operating under Labour legislation, has refused to peg the State basic wage and has granted the workers wage increases according to increases of the cost of living, with the result that the State basic wage has increased by 13s. a week in the last twelve months, as I have said, pensioners, who are compelled to buy their goods in the same market as is patronized by workers and professional men, are denied by this Commonwealth Government any increase of the pension that would allow them to maintain body and soul in decent fashion as is their right. The purchasing power of the pension is steadily decreasing. This “Government is not even ensuring that it keeps pace with the increasing cost of living in Queensland, my native State. The increase of the cost of Irving in other States, of course, has not been so -great as in Queensland, where the real value of the peopled pensions has “rapidly decreased over the last twelve months. The people, of course, Mr. Temporary Chairman, will have an opportunity to remedy the situation and to strike a blow for justice in the very near future. In their own interests, they must defend themselves in the only way open to them - it is such an easy way, too - by voting out of office the present Government, which insists on imposing these hardships on them.
– Wait till VIncie Gair is chasing you!
– Judging by the latest developments in the Australian Democratic Labour party and its allies in Queensland, 1 am sure that it will be the other way round.
The Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) has .mentioned conditions in primary industries, and particularly in the wool industry. As the representative of a city constituency, I am deeply concerned about the degree of unemployment throughout Australia, and especially in Queensland. The leading meat works in Queensland and the second largest ship-building enterprise in Australia are situated in my electorate. These industrial undertakings face the future gloomily. We know that, recently, there have been negotiations in the United Kingdom over the meat agreement between that country and Australia, -and that these negotiations have broken down, despite what the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen) asserts. The negotiations have broken down as a result of the attitude of the Conference shipping lines, which are insisting on increased freights on beef shipped from Australia to the United Kingdom. They demand an increase of 30 per cent. The breakdown in negotiations over the meat agreement presents a disastrous outlook for the Australian meat industry and all those dependent on it. For all, from the waterside worker who loads the meat, to the meat workers, and the primary producers who graze the stock, the prospect is anything but bright.
The prospect for the shipbuilding industry in Queensland is far from bright. Walkers Limited, which is the principal industrial undertaking in the town of Maryborough, has no orders for ships. The industry in that town is on the verge of closing down. At Kangaroo Point, in my own electorate, Evans Deakin and Company Limited, apart .from two small tugs which will be built for the Kwinana oil refinery, is building -the last of the vessels for -which it has contracts. Except for tenders .that are now .being called for the construction of ships for overseas owners, that :firm has no prospect of further orders. Since that shipyard commenced operations in 1940, it has constructed 41 ships. The tragedy is that all but five of those vessels have been built for the Commonwealth or for the State ^government.
The .Commonwealth privately owned steamship lines are not supporting the Australianshipbuilding industy. Although .the Government rnakes .provision for a subsidy to, enable the industry to compete with overseas shipbuilders, it .should .be doing more to insist on Australian owners having their ships built in Australian yards. In the final analysis, the Government .holds the whip handle, because every ship .that is imported for use on the .Australian coast can be .imported only under direct licence issued by the Minister for Shipping and Transport. -I look at the prospects of the shipbuilding industry with dread. This Government is not displaying any great anxiety about the troublesome times that appear to be ahead of -the industry. The leader of the Australian Democratic Labour party in the Senate has stated that Australia could import from Japanese yards ships to be used on the Australian coastal run. So we know that, if by any mischance the Democratic Labour party were to hold the balance of power in the Australian Parliament, the Australian shipbuilding industry would be doomed. The .leader of that party in the Senate would rather see. those ships coming from .Japan than see them built in Australian yards with the .consequent scattering to the four winds of the boilermakers, ironworkers and shipwrights who constitute the efficient band. of Australian shipbuilders.
Employment prospects in the .northern State are, not altogether bright. We know that the Premier ,qf Queensland, Mr. Nicklin, urgently asked for loan moneys totalling ,£35,000,000, but that he received only £2 1,250,000 from the Australian, Loan Council. Because .of the attitude of the Loan Council, the Queensland education system will suffer severely. Mr. Nicklin stated that of the f.35,000,.000 that he sought he urgently needed more than £3,000,000 for the construction of schools. So, as he has not received all the money for which he asked, obviously the State’s education system will suffer.
I now wish to touch upon what, perhaps, will be the most important matter that 1 shall mention in my speech. A tour of Queensland is being arranged by the Democratic Labour party. The spokesman for the party - this applies to the Queensland Labour party, too - is spreading the gospel that any one who advocates trade with Communist countries is naturally a Communist agent. Many members of the Government parties have followed the same line in this chamber. In the light of the latest trade returns with which I have been supplied by the Commonwealth Statistician, .1 wonder how those honorable members sleep at night in their comfortable beds at the Hotel Kurrajong and -whether their consciences worry them.
The Minister for Trade, who has loudly proclaimed that he will spend an extra £1,000,000 this year on the boosting of Australian .products ,in England - a declining market - is embarrassed by the fact that the only markets on which the sale of Australian exports has increased are in Communist countries. The figures supplied .to me reveal that the value of imports from mainland China, Czechoslovakia, Hungary - where the patriots were slaughteredPoland and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics rose from -£4.914,000 ‘for the eleven months ended in May, 1957, -to £6,407’,000 -for the corresponding period ended in May, 1958. That was an increase of slightly more than 30 per cent. The returns do not include hidden figures under the heading “ Other foreign countries “. The value of our imports from those countries, which are not members of the British Commonwealth, for the relevant period ended in May, 1957, was £7,572,000.
I refer now to the export figures, which will embarrass members of the Australian Country party. In the. eleven months. ended in May, 1958, we exported to mainland China goods worth more than £9,000,000. The value of our exports to Czechoslovakia for the same period was £6,753,000, and to Poland almost £13,000,000. The value of our exports -to Communist countries in the last financial year rose by 40.6 per cent., whereas the value of our exports to the United ‘Kingdom declined by 20 per cent.
For a long time I have been advocating in this chamber that we look to Asia for our markets, because Australia is the nearest country having a European civilization to the Asian continent, lt is being proved that this Government is following the line that I have advocated. I wonder how happy the wool-growers on the other side of the chamber feel about the fact that they are supplying wool to the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, and how the wheatgrowers feel about the fact that we are selling wheat to mainland China. I suggest that honorable members opposite should be honest and no longer brand any one who advocates trade with all countries as a Communist. Let us be honest and not hypocritical in this matter.
The Government fully approves trade with Communist countries, as is exemplified in these trade returns that I have before me. The Lysaght organization, a subsidiary of Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited, has just accepted an order for 26,000 tons of steel, valued at £1,500,000, to be exported from its steel mills in New South Wales to mainland or red China. I conclude by pointing out again that apparently the Government approves this trade with Communist countries.
.- Mr. Deputy Chairman, I should not like to speak this afternoon without referring first to the speech of the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. H. V. Johnson). I think every one who listened to it realized that, for very many reasons, it was a memorable speech. It may be one of the last speeches that the honorable member will make in this place. Every honorable member on this side of the chamber was moved by his sincere statements. We appreciate particularly the restrained and factual manner in which he spoke to the committee. I should like to pay my personal tribute to one who has devoted so many years of his life to parliamentary service; I wish him well in his retirement at the end of this Parliament, and would like to acknowledge in full measure the way in which he has maintained the parliamentary tradition over the years.
The honorable member for Griffith (Mr. Coutts) referred, in the main, to the need for retaining value in the £1 but at the same time recommended that various taxes should be reduced, and that payments to a large number of individuals should be increased. One wonders how we could hope to achieve all these things simultaneously.
The opposition to this Budget has been directed, in the main, to two matters. The first complaint has been that there will be too much inflation because the Government is budgeting for a deficit of £100,000,000, to be financed largely by the issue of treasury-bills. The second objection, which has been raised by both the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) and the honorable member for Griffith, is that it provides insufficient incentive. These members complain that there has been no tax relief, and that inadequate payments are to be made to pensioners and other needy classes. I cannot see how the Government can be wrong on both counts. Surely, acceptance of everything that the Leader of the Opposition suggests would send the nation well along the slippery road of inflation. Surely, above all else, Australia needs, for a period at least, a stable economy. That fact is realized by almost every citizen. The Government has achieved that state in the last twelve months, but against much opposition. No one would want to wreck such a stable economy, yet that would certainly happen if the Government accepted the policies advocated by the Leader of the Opposition.
– That is rubbish. His policies would not wreck anything.
– The Leader of the Opposition recommended large decreases in tax rates. He wanted the Government to give greater loans to industry. He wanted it to increase expenditure on all sorts of other things as well. I cannot imagine how he hoped the Government could do that and still maintain a stable economy.
I pass now to the very constructive proposals contained in the Budget itself. The Treasurer has helped certain deserving classes of citizen in three ways. First, he has said, “ Let us get away from the socialist idea of equality for all, and introduce an entirely new concept. We will pay 10s. a week to help pensioners living in rented premises, and entirely dependent on their pensions “. The Government’s policy is to help those who are in the greatest need in their day-to-day living. I believe that this assistance will benefit as many as a quarter of a million people. All I can say in answer to some of the complaints of the honorable member for Griffith is that the proposed payment has been tremendously well received in my own electorate of Fawkner.
– Wait until you go back this week-end!
– I went back last weekend, and a large number of people came in each day to obtain application forms. I am glad to say that I was able to help them fill in the forms and claim the proposed payment. Many of them informed me that this was one of the most constructive and helpful measures which this Government had instituted in the last ten years.
Some pensioners have expressed fears that the increased payment will prompt unscrupulous landlord’s to increase their rent by an equivalent amount. In Victoria, which is so fortunate as to have a LiberalCountry party government, a rent investigator has been appointed. He is available to investigate these matters, and I hope that he will be approached immediately any pensioner feels that his rent has been increased because of this pension. I know that the rent investigator will examine the matter at once. However, I am certain that rents will not be increased as a result of the payment.
The Budget has given effect, for the first time, to some of the matters set out in the Downing report, which was published about a year ago. That report drew attention to the matters in respect of which particular classes of pensioners needed help. Rent assistance was, by far, the most important matter mentioned, and the Government’s recognition of this has been received with due acclaim. I hope that now we have recognized the concept of departing from socialist ideas of equality, and, instead, helping those who most need help, we shall, in the years to come, see the further implementation of the recommendations of the Downing report.
The national health scheme has been widened to include people who suffer from chronic and pre-existing ailments. In the past such people have suffered unduly as a result of the regulations governing the health scheme. For many years I expressed the hope that it would be possible to offer them some form of insurance, and I am tremendously pleased to see that the Government is now making it possible for them to insure with medical benefit societies. Here again, as always, the Government has adopted a liberal principle - that of helping those who are prepared to help themselves. Some five or seven years ago, when voluntary health insurance was introduced, it was said that chronic sufferers could be taken in only when the funds of the various societies had reached a certain level. That stage has been reached, and it is now possible for every one in the nation to insure against sickness. I am very pleased to be able to point to yet another way in which the Government has helped those in need.
I should like, also, to refer to the wise help which is to be given to those who are trying to find oil in Australia. Each one of us knows that the best way in which we could help to solve our chronic balance of payments problem would be to find oil somewhere within this Commonwealth. If we could discover oil in sufficient quantities, we could save ourselves an import bill each year of at least £90,000,000. The proposed scheme will encourage people to prospect for oil to a greater extent than is the case at the moment. What I like particularly about the scheme envisaged by the Treasurer is that funds are to be provided for Australian citizens and Australian companies. Those are the people whom we should aim to help above all others. I think there will be a substantial increase of investment in oilprospecting companies during the coming year, and I hope that the decision of the Treasurer to allow money so invested to be deductable for income tax purposes will be given the widest publicity.
Having dealt with the ways in which various classes of citizens have been helped by the Budget, I should like to look at the more general question of savings and investment. This Budget, even more than any previous Budget, shows us how the whole field of investment in this country is tied up closely with the general budgetary proposals. The honorable member for Petrie (Mr. Hulme), in his address last night, showed how the problem of savings is the major item in this year’s Budget. Items relating to expenditure are important, but they cannot be considered as major items. I know that certain people have criticized the Budget because they say that Government expenditure is too high. I agree that every economy should be practised by a government in- the spending of its money, but the sum of money that would be saved by such economies, although important, is small compared with the sums that could be made available from savings carried out by the community generally.
The first principle to be recognized is that Australians as a whole - certainly the majority of Australians - are in agreement with the immigration programme. We believe that we should continue to encourage immigration at’ least at the rate of 1 per cent, of our population per year. We believe also that we should endeavour to develop this country as rapidly as possible. I think that the majority of Australians consider that to be extremely important - probably more important than any other matter which affects our general economy - but if we are to continue to develop the country at the present rate we must save more and invest- much more than 25 per cent, of the national income.
It Has been found in most countries of the Western world that it is difficult to secure the investment of more than 25 per cent, of the national income on a voluntary basis. Therefore, it is natural that there must be some self-denial on the part of Australian citizens, some recognition of the fact that they will have to go without certain things which they would like, in order to provide the money needed to maintain the present high rate of development.
Until now this self-denial has been forthcoming voluntarily, and the Government has carried out the policies which the majority of the people have wished it to carry out. This Budget raises the issue very clearly. It is important that we try to invest more than 25 per cent, of the national income, but, as I have stated previously in this chamber, those people who are compelled, through taxation, to contribute to making up the £300.000,000 of trie national income that is spent on public works each year should receive in years to come some credit for the money they have invested compulsorily. I have referred previously to the system of post-war credits operating in the United Kingdom. I believe that We should institute some system under which people who are now contributing, through the payment of income tax, to the cost of public works would - possibly when they came to retiring age - receive some form of credit for their contributions.
So much for the general subject of investment. If we agree on the rate of investment necessary in this Commonwealth, the next, important matter to decide is the balance to be achieved between public and private investment, or between money raised by government, loans and money raised by private enterprise. It is important that as industry develops- rapidly - as is the case in many States of the Commonwealth - public works- shall- keep pace with that development. There is no point in establishing factories in an area if no roads and railways have been provided to transport goods to and from those factories. Sufficient power must be available to drive the machinery in the factories and, above all, there must be enough houses to accommodate the people working in the factories. There must be a degree of balance in the economy. We can see how important that is by considering the position of Victoria, which probably is developing more rapidly than any other State. More than 40 per cent, of the immigrants coming to these shores go to Victoria.
– Not according to the Statistician’s figures.
– I am taking the Statistician’s figures. More than 40 per cent, of the immigrants come to Victoria.
– I was not talking about the numbers; I was talking about development.
– The rate of establishment of factories has been greater in Victoria than in any other State, although some honorable members opposite may disagree with that statement.
– What about South Australia?
– South Australia is almost on a par with Victoria. In order to provide for these immigrants, Victoria needs public loan moneys to build roads, railways, schools, hospitals and so on. I hope that Victoria will be able to obtain more money for its public works than it has received in past years.
I wish now to deal with the total amount of investment money that is being raised by taxation. I think it is in the region of £300,000,000 a year. It is important to ask. ourselves whether the amount of investment money being raised by taxes is increasing. I do not believe it is. I believe that what is happening is that as the need for loans required for private enterprise increases, the moneys that usually went into government loans are going into private enterprise. Therefore, less money is available for investment in government loans. Looking very quickly at the figures, we see that in the past private enterprise money was raised by shares. But the funds which usually went into government loans are now diverted to debentures, unsecured notes, and so on. In the December-March quarter of 1956-57 the amount raised by way of shares was £24,700,000, and the sum raised by fixed debentures and so on amounted to £30,100,000. In the corresponding period in 1958, the amount of money raised by share issues dropped to £15,600,000 but the amount raised by debentures and other fixed-term interests rose to £38,100,000. In fact, the amount of fixed money rose from 58- per cent, of the total in 1957 to 7-3 per cent, in 1958. As a result of money from traditional sources going away from government loans into private enterprise investments, taxes, have, had to be kept high in order to offset that loss.
The question which should be asked is: Has all the money raised by private enterprise been necessary? I believe, that it has been- to a great extent, but we must look at the change in the way money has been raised. Possibly the growth; in fixed interest money investment’ has been partly due to the Government’s taxation policy. What happens, at the moment, is that tax is assessed on profit after fixed interest payments have been made. A different system operates in the way in which a company’s profit is assessed for the purpose of bounty payments. Under that system all profits are assessed as a proportion of the rate of total money being used in a company before any payment on fixed interest is made. Possibly we might introduce a similar system for company taxation under which a lower rate of tax would be paid by companies but the rate would be assessed on all the- money which is being used in a company on which interest over the bank rate has actually to be paid. In this way one might take a look again at the way in which large amounts of fixed interest money are being raised, and there might be a flow back into government loans of money now going into private enterprise.
We should have a look also at the people who are responsible for this change of investment from government loans to private enterprise. They are chiefly the directors of life assurance and insurance companies and large pension funds. What is the reason for this swing of investment by these bodies? There is no doubt that it has occurred. Probably they wish to provide a hedge against inflation or, possibly, to get a better return for their money, although that is not always the case. I do not believe, as might have been thought originally, that in many cases they are getting a better return to-day. Certainly, this is the reason why the share market is so high at the present time, and it is certain also that, as a result of this policy, less money is being provided by these bodies for housing. The Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) has referred to these matters recently.
I believe that instead of having an argument in the press as to the reasons why these changes have taken place, it would be wiser if a meeting could be arranged between the Minister for National Development and the directors of these large investment organizations to discover the reasons for the change in investment policy and to see if there is any way in which a flow-back into government loans could be assured. Possibly the time has come when the Government, in the same manner as a rebate is made to those who invest in government loans, could provide a rebate of tax to investors who invest in housing. If that were done I think there would be a flow-back of loans into housing and thus an easing of the strain on moneys that have to be raised by taxation.
The main point I wish to make is that every £1 required by private enterprise draws loan money away from the Government; and, through the need for public works, that money has to be replaced by taxation. To my mind, private enterprise sets the pace. This is quite correct and should be encouraged in our economy, but I think that industrial leaders should recognize the effects of their capital, requirements on the national economy.
One final point to which I wish to refer is that the Treasurer mentioned the amount of war loans which have to be redeemed in the coming year. That amount determines, to a great extent, the size of the deficit. What has to be decided is how much of these loans will have to be converted and how much redeemed. If £100,000,000 worth of government war loans are redeemed, what will happen to the cash proceeds that come into the hands of the investors? I believe that it will not go into consumption but that a large amount will go into private investment. It will be these funds which will provide the necessary stimulus to the economy which is needed at the present time, but which the Leader of the Opposition could not see, according to his speech last night. This shot in the arm will provide the stimulus to the business economy which will be required in the coming year.
Unlike the Leader of the Opposition, I think there is no need for panic measures such as he suggested. We need a stable economy as a first priority. We have to provide help in the community where it is most needed and I think that by a redemption of government bonds a stimulus to business will be provided in the coming few months.
I consider that the way in which the Treasurer has approached this problem has been extremely wise and 1, for one, congratulate him on the way in which this, the last of his Budgets, has been received by the nation.
.- The best thing that can be said about this Budget is that it is dull and disappointing; and the worst things that can be said about it are unprintable. In view of the prevailing condition of the economy the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) had a heaven-sent opportunity to deliver a Budget which would offer a challenge to our present economic circumstances. Unfortunately for the people of Australia, that challenge has not been made. The Treasurer, no doubt wearied by his long term, adopted an attitude of abject acquiescence in the current economic winds. At a time when a bold and courageous Budget would have resuscitated a flagging economy, the nation has been given a dose of typical conservative medicine which will have no effect upon the body politic.
For some extraordinary reason the Budget does nothing to help the family man - and this at a time when Australia is more urgently in need of population than ever before.
The assistance given to a section of the aged is certainly welcome, but the remaining section has been treated with a callousness which is almost incredible. Nothing has been done to take the burden of unfair indirect taxation off the shoulders of many deserving sections of the community. No plan is contemplated to ease the unfortunate lot of those whose opportunity of procuring a house seems further off than ever. The mounting unemployment rate received two lines in the Treasurer’s speech, and it is apparently the Government’s intention to ignore it completely. No plan is envisaged to strengthen the loan market by restoring public confidence in it so that government, semigovernment and local government bodies can get sufficient funds to perform vital and necessary tasks. Whilst recognizing that lower export income is serious, the Treasurer put forward nothing worth while to increase overseas income. In short, this Budget offers no tangible stimulus in any shape or form to the national economy.
As is customary, the Treasurer prefaced his Budget statement by giving a survey of the state of the economy. His first claim - certainly a most ludicrous one - was that our economy as a whole had made notable progress. If this is a fact, why have some of the benefits of progress not been shared by the majority of the population? The Government is intent on sticking inexorably to a financial policy that is quite inadequate to measure up to requirements. Because of this allegiance to an out-dated and out-moded set of ideas, many deserving sections of the community are denied relief from undeserved conditions. If the economy has made notable progress, as alleged by the Treasurer, why have not some of the emergency taxes of the “ little Budget “ of 1956 been removed?
Surely the time has arrived for a decrease of the vicious imposts perpetrated in the “little Budget” of 1956, particularly those relating to sales tax. When we look at the taxes imposed on the automotive industry, it is clear that despite the fact that there has been and* will continue to be a large number of motor cars purchased monthly, still more cars would be purchased and more employment would be provided in the automotive industry if the sales tax were decreased, perhaps, from 30 per cent, to 25 per cent, or even to 20 per cent. The Government appears to think that this tax, which was put on as an emergency tax, is here for all time.
The increase of 3d. a gallon in the petrol tax in 1956 should be reviewed immediately. In view of the condition of Australian roads, the Government has missed a golden opportunity. If it did not wish to reduce the petrol tax, at least, instead of giving Id. out of the extra 3d. to the States for road purposes, it could have given the entire 3d. to them. If the Government wished to reduce the spending power of the people and devote the revenue to a more important purpose I know of no more important purpose than the construction and maintenance of Australian roads. But again, the Government has missed the bus. The emergency excise duties and other measures of 1956 have definitely retarded production in the industries in which the imposts were made. If honorable members make inquiries in the brewing or tobacco industries they will find that, as a result of the imposition of these excise duties in 1956, output has flagged and has not regained its pre- 1956 figure.
The Treasurer, in attempting to apologize for this Budget, said he would have been glad to make concessions had the revenue been stronger. But in view of the contemplated revenue weaknesses, one would have thought that the Government would have encouraged an expansionist trend in primary and secondary industries to restore the declining revenue returns. Apparently that did not enter the heads of Ministers. Other governments throughout the world do that kind of thing, but apparently this Government, bent on retaining the old conservative idea, has decided to do nothing. Quite evidently, the Government is doing its thinking in terms of the discredited financial theories of yesterday.
The Treasurer’s thinking is paradoxical, because in recent years of high incomes the people were taxed in every direction to prevent inflationary spending. Now, in a year of lower income, the policy of the Government is to retain the taxes imposed because of higher incomes. The Govern ment cannot have it both ways and remain consistent. Of course, consistency does net mean a single thing to this Government. This conception of keeping taxes up in a year of low income is symptomatic of the whole muddled thinking actuating all the Government’s policy. The people of Australia can expect nothing while the composition of the Government remains as it is.
We were told by the Treasurer that no new tax concessions or social service concessions would be possible for two reasons. I would like to examine those reasons. If there were two reasons for this, one would have thought that an objective and intelligent policy on the part of the Government in the past - the reasons did not spring up overnight - would have made those two reasons less formidable. The first reason, we were told, was that there has been a heavy fall in exports and farm income. The Treasurer said that there had been a fall in exports in the previous year of £164,000,000 and a fall in farm income of £180,000,000. In the period of bountiful prices for primary products a few years ago, no effort was made by this Government to look ahead. Everybody, except the Government, knew that those prices could not last. Everybody, except the Government, knew that, sooner or later, there would be a decline in overseas prices. Despite this incontrovertible fact, no worthy effort was made to seek new markets.
Only a few months ago, despite the fact that this has been on the cards for some years, the Government realized that a really big concerted effort would have to be made. So it pulled a rabbit out of a hat and appointed the Exports Development Council. The council has the very good purpose of finding fresh markets, but it has been formed three or four years too late. The Government has belatedly recognized that continued national development depends on selling more abroad. But it waited until there was a catastrophic fall in overseas income before it decided to do very much about it. From many points of view, Asia offers the best possibility of acquiring new markets. Australian exports to Asia last year were capable of vast improvement.
Every nerve should be strained to trade with all Asian countries, irrespective of their political philosophy. For example, if
China follows the pattern of Japanese industrial development, with a large expansion of textile manufacturing, it could become a colossal buyer of Australian wool. The volume of trade with China, unfortunately, is much less than it was in 1939, as the honorable member for Griffith (Mr. Coutts) mentioned. It certainly went up in the last twelve months, compared with the previous twelve months, but there is much to be done in that direction. We must expand our exports. But being selective in our choice of customers is the height of national folly. Surely we can accept the fact that there is no room for an emotional attitude in trade and that trade and political policies are not .necessarily interdependent.
The second reason given by the Treasurer for not giving taxation or social service concessions was that the Government will have to pay maturing war bonds which are expected to total about £80,000,000. The reason why the Government will have to pay those bonds in cash is not hard to fathom. The honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Howson) attempted to advance reasons for this and suggested “that an inquiry should be ;made into the. question. But I can tell him, without the aid of a. committee, why. the lenders want their money back and are not .prepared to trust the ‘Government any further. It is because there is a marked lack of public confidence in government loans. In the war and post-war years, people deposited their money at 3i per cent, interest. They were told that they .could get their money back, at face value at any time, but over the past few years, as a result of Government policy, there has been a progressive rise in interest rates, which depreciated the value of the savings of those who invested their money .in government loans. Those people will never again trust this Government. That is why the Government must find £80,000,000 in cash to -redeem maturing war bonds. The- investors have been caught once, and do not want to be caught again. It is not hard to understand their feelings in that regard.
– They. can get 7 per cent, from hire-purchase companies.
– Exactly. The Government has made no attempt to restrict hirepurchase interest .rates. This, the Government says is a matter for the States,: but ‘if the Government were interested it would approach the States, which are also concerned with -the problem, and together they could deal with the -matter on a national basis. I am satisfied -that something could be done -to reduce hire-purchase interest rates. At present, governments and public authorities cannot compete with hirepurchase companies for loan money. We have that situation to-day in Victoria. Only recently, the so-called progressive Government in Victoria .could <not raise money for gas and electricity ‘improvements, and it has placed an -impost on -the people to pay for that developmental work. I think -the Victorian electors have now seen the error of their ways in electing that government to power. The people of Victoria are also being called upon to pay big increases in tram and train fares. I know that some of my constituents will resist these ‘increased charges as much as they can, and will -welcome an early opportunity to express their feelings via the ballot box.
The Government’s attitude to the States has been most cavalier and offhand. The difficulty confronting State .governments and local .government bodies to-day is partly due to the .Commonwealth’s immigration policy. I am not opposed to- immigration - I have .never been opposed to it - but I realize that because of the Government’s immigration policy, State governments and municipal bodies are called upon to perform services which, in the ordinary course of events, they would not be called upon to perform, and they find that more schools, hospitals, roads, and ancillary services are required.
But what do we find? The State, governments are starved for money. Nobody can speak with more.practicaI.experien.ee about the needs of municipal councils than I can. In my municipality the council asked .for £90,000 for the coming year, and its request was whittled down. to £.40,000 by the State Co-ordinator ,of Works. However, its efforts to raise the additional .money from financial institutions .were not successful. Our town clerk has been trying to raise it for three weeks, but so far he has not raised1 one penny -Mr. Leslie. - It-must. be. a poor council. “Mr. ‘BIRD.- The people of the municipality -have every confidence in the council. four out of five of the councillors were returned unopposed. In my area, the erection of a hospital was .commenced 15 years ago and it is still under construction. To-day, because of the large increase in population in the area, mainly due to immigration, that hospital is more necessary than ever before, but at the present rate of loan allocations by the State Government -it will take another five years to complete the hospital. That will be twenty years in all! The Government should recognize the difficulties of the ‘States in matters such as hospitals. It should provide more money, because -in many cases the increased -services have been made necessary through the Government’s immigration policy. It is time that there was a top .level ‘recognition of the services .performed !by local government bodies. I know that the Commonwealth Government is apt to say that these are a State responsibility, but local government bodies need more -loan fund’s. In addition, councils should not be required to pay pay-roll tax. They are performing a public duty. They make no profits, yet they -have all -sorts of imposts heaped upon them. The Government should have recognized the services rendered by local government bodies. It should have assured them of a reasonable amount of loan money, and should not call upon them to pay:payroll tax.
Another matter about which I want to take the Government ‘to task is the f acf that the basic pension rate has not been increased. That is extraordinary, because I ‘believe, irrespective of what honorable members opposite -may say, that more could be bought with the pension:in 1948 than can be bought with the present pension. In recent -years, the basic pension has been less than one-third of the basic wage for Melbourne or Sydney. It is the pensioners who have to; bear the main burden of suffering caused by the declining value of the £1. Pensioners are a minority, and a particularly helpless minority. This does not take the edge off their sufferings, however, lt is all very well for the honorable member for Moore (Mr. Leslie) -who is interjecting, .and who ..enjoys .a ..substantial income. as.a member .of this .Parliament, to make. flippant remarks ..about the .sufferings of pensioners. That is .cheap! This is a -serious .matter, sand if the .honorable member wants to see .the plight .of pen sioners living on their present meagre allowance, I shall be happy to show him around Melbourne next weekend. Common humanity should ensure that those who cannot fend for themselves shall receive special consideration in the Budget. It is all very well to say that this is an economy Budget, but the need for national economy springs .from the same source as the pensioners’ special hardships - the fall in .the value of money caused by the maladministration of this Government over the last eight or .nine years. Pensioners have been singled out by the Government to set an example in self-denial to the more fortunate in the .community. -I am pleased to see that pensioners who pay rent are to receive an extra 10s. a week, but those who live in Victoria .will lose some of ;that increase owing to the fact that gas. and electricity charges have risen, and although they .pay only half fare on trams .and trains, those fares will be increased .as from 1st October next. So the increase of 10s. will be whittled away because of the policy of the Victorian Liberal -Government. This Government is not concerned with the plight of the pensioners. Like Pontius .Pilate, it washes its hands of them.
The :Budget shows that the -Government believes ‘that the -problem of unemployment -can be solved .by ignoring it. Last January, ‘the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Harold Holt) said that the Government was well placed to take further economic .measures should they be considered necessary to check unemployment. But since :that very statesmanlike announcement nothing has transpired to indicate that unemployment is decreasing. We all know that it is slowly-increasing. ‘No corrective measures are contained in the Budget, in spite of hopes expressed- by leaders of industry and of trade unions before the Budget was introduced. Not only is total unemployment increasing, but part-time unemployment is also increasing. Recently, the Victorian Branch of the Textile Workers Union, which was very concerned about reports regarding part-time employment,- sent a> questionnaire to its shop stewards .in 313 factories. The result -of that questionnaire showed that out of a-total union membership of 1-3J,640, i approximately 2-,660 -were -working only 24 to -32 hours a .week, and 367 had :been dismissed.
Of course, those figures do not appear in the unemployment statistics because these people have some employment, but when a man receives only three-fifths or four-fifths of his normal wage he is not impressed by the grandiloquent statement of a Government spokesman that there is no need to worry about unemployment.
The Budget omits any mention of the housing problem. I thought that the Government, through its Budget, would make a statesmanlike approach to the reduction of this problem to reasonable dimensions. I know we are accustomed to periodical handouts from the Minister tor National Development (Senator Spooner) assuring us that the housing shortage is being systematically and effectively tackled, but little has been done to catch up with the postwar lag; and now a new situation is arising which threatens to make the position desperate within the next few years.
I want to refer now to the changing pattern of Australia’s age groups. The overall population of Australia is increasing at the rate of 24- per cent, a year, H per cent, being due to natural increase and 1 per cent, to immigration. At this rate, the population should increase to 12,000,000 within the next ten years - an increase of 24 per cent. This increase, in itself, will cause great social changes; but when we analyse it in relation to the changing pattern of age groups the full implications become clear. The most singular change of all will be in the number of people between the ages of 20 and 24 years. In the next ten years, this group will increase by 55 per cent. We are about to commence an era in which there will be a terrific increase in the number of people of marriageable age. Because we are to confront this problem in about four or five years’ time, every effort should be made to make up the present backlag in housing immediately. It is essential that something be done, for, if we allow this backlag to continue for the next four or five years, there will be a terrific increase in the number of applications for housing.
I submit to the Treasurer that in the realm of housing the need for courageous, massive planning is imperative. Despite this, the Government has given no lead at all in its paltry Budget. The nation has looked in vain for a lead. The Government is prepared to dither along, hoping that in some miraculous manner the problem will be resolved. Men and materials are in abundant supply, and I submit that the Government should use the resources of the Commonwealth Bank to finance the building programme. When the Leader of the Opposition put forward this policy, he was sneered at by the Government spokesmen, but it is of no earthly use expecting private institutions to provide finance, because they have given the task away. This is admitted by even the Minister for National Development, who was reported, the other day, in a press article as having said -
The rate of home building depended largely upon the amount of finance which private institutions were prepared to invest in home building.
The Government hoped that these various institutions would be willing to increase the number of individual loans they made and thus finance the erection of a greater number of new homes.
In other words, people who are suffering the great handicap of not being able to obtain homes have to depend upon private lending institutions for finance. That is indeed a sorry state of affairs; in fact, it is a hopeless state of affairs, because the private lending institutions have demonstrated beyond any doubt that they prefer to lend money in other directions where the interest rate is higher. That being so, the Government must depend upon the resources of the Commonwealth Bank. If it depends upon the resources of private lending institutions, the housing problem will get worse instead of better.
The Australian people should be made aware of the present Government’s proved incapacity to govern. The people hopefully awaited, with anxious hearts, the announcement of provision in the Budget indicating that the Government had the vision, courage and enterprise to tackle the wide variety of problems confronting it. This hope has been completely dispelled, and at this vital stage in Australia’s history this Government, because of its lack of resolution to face up to its responsibilities, has proved itself to be totally unfitted for the task of governing this country.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
– Mr. Chairman, the Budget before the committee is the last which the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) will present to this Parliament. It is the last in what has been a record term of office as Treasurer of this Commonwealth, and over recent weeks my distinguished colleague has been showered with congratulations from all parts of Australia and from all sections of the people on his splendid record of national service. I wish to join, both in a personal sense and as a colleague in the Government, in the congratulations which have been extended to him.
It may surprise some members of the Opposition to know that these congratulations have not been merely of a personal character. Some have been related to the Budget now before us. But whether or not they have referred to the contents ov the Budget, political friends avid foes throughout Australia are agreed that our Treasurer has never shirked a Budget decision, however unpopular, which he believed to be in the best interests of the nation. In saying that, I add that it is no mere coincidence that his record term as Treasurer has been associated with the most remarkable period of industrial expansion and national development in Australia’s history.
The Treasurer knew that this would be his last Budget. He would not claim that it was a vote-catching Budget, but it is typical of the honest and responsible approach which he has consistently made to Australia’s economic problems. I confess that members of the Cabinet and the Ministry had hoped, when we came to Canberra for our Budget talks, that we would have been able to offer more in the way of tax relief and other benefits to the public, but after days of close discussion and careful analysis of the facts of Australia’s economic situation, we came to the firm conclusion that this Budget, as now presented, is the best that we could devise for the country’s present needs. In deciding this, we had the benefit - a benefit not available to our critics - of the most comprehensive and authoritative official and statistical information, and the expert advice of our most experienced senior officials, not only from the Treasury, but from other departments of State as well. So we can fairly claim that we produced this Budget on the basis of the best and most authoritative information which could have been available to any body of experienced men in this country.
We paid regard, in particular, to the drastic drop of £164,000,000 in our export income last year,* the future uncertainty of commodity prices; the likely considerable drain on our overseas reserves; the abnormally large programme of war loan redemptions ahead of us; the need to sustain the employment demand in this country by making more funds available for Commonwealth and State works and for governmental programmes and, associated with this, the desirability of some stimulus to private industry by a calculated expansion of the credit base.
This Budget, like others in the series which my colleague has put before the Parliament, should not be considered in isolation. It should be considered as forming a part of a continuing process of steady national expansion. It does, however, immediately disprove two of the propaganda criticisms levelled against us in earlier years. Honorable members will recall that one such criticism was that the Treasurer had refrained from passing on tax relief in the past because he was saving such benefits for a popularity-seeking pre-election Budget. As I pointed out last year, if that had been our intention we would not have adopted then measures forgoing tax revenue of £56,000,000 in a full year.
The second criticism was the charge that this Government was too reactionary to indulge in deficit financing. On this occasion, because we believe Australia’s circumstances warrant the risks involved - and there are risks in a credit creation of this magnitude, as the authoritative “Financial Times” of London has pointed out, and despite those risks, because we believe the circumstances justify it - we have budgeted for a cash deficit of £1 10,000,000- the biggest deficit in the Commonwealth’s history.
Before I leave the subject of tax relief, I hope it will not be forgotten that current rates of personal income tax - I think it is necessary to remind the committee of this in view of what the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) said last night - are not only, on an average, about half those which obtained at the peak of war-time taxation, but are also considerably lower than those ruling in the final Budget presented by the Labour government when in office in 1949. For example - I take this particular example because we are frequently told that we ignore the family man, in particular the family man on the lower income: - 1 shall take the case- of a family man on a comparatively small income these days, a married taxpayer with an income of £800 maintaining three children. At the time the last Budget of the Opposition was presented, he would have been required to pay tax of £53 15s. To-day, the tax liability of the same person on the same income is £20 3s. - a reduction of over 60 per cent. That reduction in the amount, of tax applies not only to those people on smaller incomes but also on the same scale over the whole range of incomes. The deductions which taxpayers can claim for various family expenses have been considerably increased since this Government took office. I give the illustration of deductions for medical expenses, then £50, now £150; dental expenses, then £10, now £30; life assurance payments, then £150, now £300; education expenses, for which no claim was allowed when the Labour government was in office are now allowed at up to £100 per child; payments to medical and hospital benefit funds, for which no claim was allowed previously, are now allowable as a deduction without limitation.
I come now to what I regard as the test of the success of the Government’s financial policy. The Government’s economic programme has had these principal goals: National development at the highest rate the economy can sustain; a continuing, wellbalanced programme of large scale immigration; full employment - jobs for all able and willing to work; a stable level of costs and prices; social justice for all sections of our community, and adequate provision for our national defence. I have stated those matters as goals, and I do not think any honorable member in this committee will quarrel with them. The real test of how we have governed Australia’s affairs during what is now approaching nine full years of office, is the state of the nation to-day compared with the position when we took over from our predecessors, the Labour government, in December, 1949.
The task of keeping all these elements in balance at any one time is not easy. It is obviously difficult, for example, in a dynamic and expanding economy, to hold costs steady. The task is made more complex in Australia by the fact that we are a great trading nation and that we rely principally upon export of our primary products to finance the heavy import bill we must meet for the needs of our rapidly growing manufacturing industries, and the raising of our living standards.
I put that as a background, because with those thoughts in mind a survey of the nine-year period since we took office in December, L949; will show how successfully, in the main, our policies have measured up to these objectives. There are always differences of opinion, of course, as to whether enough has been done in one direction or another. We would not claim that we have done as much in any direction as we have wished. We certainly would not claim to have been as successful always as we have wished. But where- we have erred it has usually been because of our desire to maintain a rate of growth in Australia which, in the result, proved more rapid than we could comfortably manage, or because of the priority we have, given to ensuring jobs for all able and willing to work.
But looking back over the period, it will be found that industrial growth has proceeded rapidly. More than 1,300,000 new settlers have been successfully absorbed. Costs have been stabilized over almost the whole field of the economy. Confidence - and this is vital in a period of fluctuating economic fortunes - on the part of the domestic and overseas investor has been strengthened; certainly it has never flagged. It can be fairly claimed that the base of our economy has probably never been stronger in the history of Australia than it is at this time.
Against that background, the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) on behalf of his party has launched what is, in effect, a motion of censure against the Government on this Budget. There is nothing novel in that. Our present Treasurer has presented nine Budgets, from 1950 onwards. The first was brought down in 1950, when the late Mr. Chifley was Leader of the Opposition. No censure motion was moved by him, but in each of the eight years since the right honorable member for Barton (Dr. Evatt) became the Leader of the Opposition he has’ moved to censure the Government- on the Budget. Each year we have had from him and those who sit behind him the same dismal prophecies of depression and economic disaster. Under his leadership Labour has become a party of woe-mongers.
The Leader of the Opposition used some colourful phrases in what he would describe as his attack last night. I prefer to rely on facts. Let us look at some representative results. Although a recital of figures may be dreary to the listener, there are times when even the most colourful phrases are not as exciting as a revealing set of figures. I remind the committee of the situation that existed when we took office in this Parliament. Australia was a country of shortages. It was a country of black markets, a country of rationing of even the most essential items in daily use. Butter was being rationed four years after the war had ended. Under the Labour government butter was still rationed and tea was still rationed. Petrol also was still being rationed. The Labour government told us that it could not lift petrol rationing. One of the first things that the Treasurer did when he came to office was to abolish petrol rationing. In the last year of office of the Labour government the Australian consumer of petrol products, the motor-user, used 460,000,000 gallons. In the current year he will have used, on latest estimates, 1,000,000,000 gallons. Let me consider a few other items. The number of motor cars in use is surely a test of prosperity and of standards of living. On 30th June, 1949, there were 655,000 motor cars in use in Australia. By 30th June, 1957, that figure had increased to 1,569,000, and, of course, it has increased further since then.
I heard an honorable member opposite say a while ago that we had not been able to build houses. I hope the Labour party will not try to throw that charge at us. In the last year of office of the Labour government 52,684 houses were constructed. Last year 73,000 houses were constructed, and the June quarter of this year has seen more than 19,000 commencements and completions.
Let us consider a few of the basic items that reveal the strength of the economy. When we came to office there was a desperate shortage of coal in this country. In fact, one of the first things we had to do was to import coal from overseas. In 1949, the last year of the Labour government’s term, 14,900,000 tons of coal were produced. Now we have literally coal to burn. In the -1956-57 year 19,700,000 tons of coal were produced. Instead of importing this commodity, we are exporting coal at the rate of. about 900,000 tons a year, and we are looking for further overseas markets so that we can export more.
Steel is a basic requirement in any industrial economy. When we came to office there were acute shortages of steel. In the last year of office of the Labour government 1,200,000 tons had been produced. In 1957-58 steel production amounted to 3,100,000 tons. Far from having shortages, we are actually exporting steel, so healthy and strong and well run is this particular industry. Last year we exported steel to the value of more than £22,000,000. This proved a very valuable addition to our export income.
Nor have primary industries failed to flourish during this period. In the 1948-49 year 1,030,000,000 lb. of wool was produced in Australia. Last year, despite the effects of drought, wool production totalled 1,428,000,000 lb. That showed a slight reduction from the total of 1,565,000,000 lb. in the more favorable season of the previous year.
I heard the Leader of the Opposition talk about the plight of State governments. Of course, no government has all the money that it wants. This Government certainly has not all the money it wants to enable it to do all the things it would like to do. But I suggest to the right honorable gentleman that before he attacks us lie should consider what has happened over the years in the matter of financial assistance to the States. In the last three years of office of the Labour government £221,000,000 was made available to the States as loan moneys. In the last three years of this Government’s term, £582,000,000 has been made available in this way.
I believe these facts are quite compelling and that they destroy any basis for a motion of censure directed against this Government or, indeed, against this Treasurer. Before I pass from these achievements, which constitute evidence of what has happened in Australia during our term of office, let me mention what has occurred in the field of industrial disputes. It was always urged, before we took office, that only a Labour government could maintain industrial peace in Australia. I am happy to report that last year the number of working days lost through industrial disputes was less than half the number lost in the final year of Labour’s term of office.
– That was when the coal strike occurred^
– I was hoping the right honorable gentleman would mention that. I thought he might try to use the coal strike as an alibi. Unfortunately for him, in the year before the coal strike an even greater number of days was lost through industrial disputes. The respective figures were: 1,334,000 days in 1949, 1,663,000 days in 1948- as against 630,000 days last year under this Government, a figure that we hope to improve on as we go along.
Let us now come more directly to the Budget under review. This is a Budget for what I am sure every fair-minded observer will acknowledge to be a difficult period. Australia, in common with most other countries, has been going through a difficult period. The United States of America has been in a state of recession, and its influence on the economies of other countries does not need any stressing by me. It was once asserted that when America sneezed the rest of the world caught pneumonia. Fortunately, on this occasion, the United Kingdom, Western Europe generally, and Australia, have built up a better resistance to recession germs. But a feature of the period has been a marked decline in commodity prices. I have already mentioned that we experienced a drop of £164,000,000 in export income in 1957-58, and that no significant lift in export prices has yet come into view.
In these circumstances, the noteworthy fact is not that we have a small degree of unemployment but that, in a year when our export income has fallen so sharply, we have still managed to keep in regular work at least 98 out of every 100 people seeking work in Australia, whether they be old or young, whether they be men or women, and whether they be sound or infirm. The physically handicapped are included among the registrants for jobs; so also are elderly people, women, and the young who have just left school. We have managed to keep 98 out of every 100 regularly employed during this most difficult year, and I am glad to report to the committee that, far from going into a rapid slide, as is sometimes the case in the winter period of the year, the employment figures for July, which have just become available to me, show that our registrants are fewer by 1,231 than they were at the end of June, whereas in the same month last year the number of registrants rose by 883. The trend in employment this year has been better than the trend last year, as is shown by these figures. Between the end of January and the end of July, 1957, there was an increase of 479 in the number of registrants, but between the end of January and the end of July, 1958, there was a decrease of 8,852.
I mentioned a little earlier the important effect on our economy of our export of primary commodities, in particular. An important aspect of lower commodity prices is that our situation in the last financial year has been parallel with that of the 1930’s, when we suffered our worst economic depression. In those days, unemployment was not held to less than 2 per cent, of the work force. It extended to 32 per cent, of registered trade unionists. The Labour government of that day, under Mr. Scullin, proved incapable of handling the difficult situation. The Labour party split seriously - so seriously that it was twelve years before the Australian electors voted Labour into office again.
But this time there have been some significant differences. We have a more diversified economy. We have had better planned public works programmes. I believe that we have employed a more skilful handling of central banking techniques, and industry has been operating actively as a result of the sustained consumer demand which these techniques have permitted. But the most difficult problem in a situation of this kind is not to sustain demand internally but to pay our bills overseas. That is sometimes forgotten by the advocates of easier money policies in this country. It is in that respect that our present position differs most significantly from that of 1931.
I invite honorable members to examine the speech which Mr. Scullin made to the conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers on 6th February, 1931. I shall quote a set of significant passages from that speech, if my time permits. Mr. Scullin said -
The causes underlying the position confronting Australia are … in part . . . world-wide in their operation; in part they are of Australia’s own making. . . . The fall in prices has been much heavier in the case of raw materials and foodstuffs than in regard to other goods. Thus, the position of countries like Australia which depend for their prosperity upon the export of raw materials and foodstuffs is much worse than that of manufacturing countries. . . . For a trading country like Australia, the sudden decline is in itself a catastrophe of the first magnitude. The sudden fall in prices of the principal primary products upon which Australia relies largely for her natural income has reduced the value of our exports by approximately £40,000,000.
Compare that figure of £40,000,000 with a corresponding decline of £164,000,000 last year. I concede, of course, that in the meantime the value of money has changed quite substantially, but at least the situation is comparable. Mr. Scullin continued - and I ask the committee to dwell on this point -
This loss from exports and the loss resulting from the complete cessation of loan moneys from overseas, average £30,000,000 annually, together represent a reduction of £70,000,000 a year. . . . Public works . . . may relieve, but will not solve the unemployment problem. To provide a solution, it is necessary to stimulate, as far as possible, the conditions that will lead to a revival of industry, and thus to the employment of workers on production. This is the fundamental task before Australia.
He recognized the fact, which is so often forgotten by honorable gentlemen opposite, that at least three out of every four jobs in Australia are provided by private industry. It is only in a climate where private industry has confidence and can flourish that we can have the full employment to which we all aspire. It was a loss of confidence in a Labour-governed Australia which led to the catastrophic depression of those years. That can be illustrated by bond prices at that time. I quote another statement by Mr. Scullin, appearing at page 7 of the official record of that conference. He said -
Commonwealth s per cent, stocks are quoted on the London market at £74, and State stocks as low as £62, whilst South African stocks are at a premium, and New Zealand stocks are quoted at £99.
The effect, therefore, was not world-wide. Stocks in South Africa were at a premium and those in New Zealand were quoted at £99, while our Government stocks were valued at £74, and State stocks were as low as £62. Mr. Scullin continued -
It is obvious that Australia has no chance ot floating another loan while such timidity and lack of confidence continue.
The whole point of my remarks is to show the contrast between that period, when there was lack of confidence in the government, and the present time when, in this country and overseas, investors have had a sustained confidence in this Government and its policy. With confidence remaining strong, bond rates have been firming, domestic investment has continued at its high level, and we have had the benefit of a good flow of private investment and loan money from overseas. This has reduced the drain on our overseas reserves which our smaller export income would, but for this, have produced.
I have recited the achievements of this period. I do not claim them as achievements of this Government. They are achievements of the Australian people, and we give credit to the great generation of Australians who have contributed to the results I have mentioned to-night. I know that all fair-minded Australians will say that the work of the Government has played a part in these happy results, and I am quite certain that when the history of this period comes to be written, not only will credit be given to the Government, but a very substantial and just share of that credit will be given to my colleague, the Treasurer, who has attended to the nation’s housekeeping during nine of those most eventful years.
.- I am very pleased to have the opportunity of supporting the motion of censure against the Government. Particularly am I pleased to support it after having heard the speech of the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Harold Holt). He has become a sort of black and white artist, in this respect: When things are black, he tries to paint them white, and when they are white he tries to paint them black. That is true of his speech this evening. He pointed out that there are 1,231 fewer unemployed workers than there were last month, but he did not tell us that there are now well over 11,000 more unemployed persons than there were at this time last year. The only way to compare the unemployment situation this month and in the corresponding month last year is to cite the present figure and the figure for this time last year. That is the only way to find out the trend in unemployment.
It is clear from what the Minister has said that this Government is not very much concerned about unemployment. At one time, the Government said that it would maintain full employment, but it has departed from that principle as time has gone on. The figures that the Minister quoted are not fair figures; they are not dinkum figures. If I understood the Minister correctly, he said that these figures included aged persons and young people leaving school. That is not right. It is well known that a man aged 65 years who wants work cannot be registered amongst those who are unemployed. Furthermore, we know that children aged between fourteen and sixteen years, who leave school, are not registered, because they cannot get the unemployment benefit. That is the actual position. But apart from that, the Minister does not include in his figures a person whose wife may be getting a couple of days work a week and because she is getting more than the allowable income the husband may not register for employment. There are a lot of factors.
– That is completely untrue.
– The Minister very clearly leaves them out of his assessment for a position. As a matter of fact, the Child Welfare Department of Western Australia has to look after quite a lot of these people who are unemployed because the Commonwealth department for which the Minister, not an officer of the department, is responsible will not register them as unemployed for the reason that for a period they were not employed previously. Those are the facts of the unemployment situation. I suggest to the Minister that the true unemployment figure is well in excess of the figure he has quoted to-night. I shall deal with this matter as I proceed.
The Minister made the remarkable statement that the period since this Government has been in office has been a period of national expansion but that this Budget was the best the Government could devise for the country as it had been a very bad year. What a remarkable statement! This Government has enjoyed eight years of pros perity and favorable seasons, when good prices were obtained for our wool. Now, when there is a bit of a set-back in one season, the Government has to introduce a miserable Budget such as this. The Minister went on to refer to the situation that existed when this Government assumed office. Let us consider that situation. Did not Mr. Chifley warn us time and time again, both in this chamber and in other places, that we were mainly a primary producing country and that if there was a fall in the overseas prices of wheat, wool and other primary products, we had to be ready to do something to take up the slack? I» that not the very danger that is occurring to-day? The Chifley Government built up overseas reserves so that it could cushion the effects of any fall in overseas prices, particularly of wool. If honorable members look at the records, they will see that in 1949 our overseas reserves amounted to only slightly less than £500,000,000. To-day those reserves would’ have been worth - taking the relative value into account, though the Minister did not do so in the figures he quoted: - something like £1,500,000,000. Those reserves were dissipated after this Government took office, so that it has been necessary to impose import restrictions every now and again. Our reserves overseas are now at a dangerous level. The latest figures show that our overseas reserves total only £515,000,000. However, in terms of 1949 values they are worth only about £170,000,000. That is the state of our reserves to-day under this Government. Some day somebody is going to write a book about Australia’s guilty men. Some honorable members opposite will figure prominently in that book, as they deserve to do.
Let us go a little further back than when this Government assumed office. Let us go back to the start of the economic troubles with which we are faced. Those honorable members opposite who are not biased will acknowledge that when the Chifley Labour Government was in office Australia had an economy more stable than that in any other country of the world. This stability was the envy of every country, and was due to the economic controls which existed at that time, and- which were necessary to get us over those difficult periods.
What did the opponents of Labour do when the Chifley Government wanted to continue prices control? They advised the people to vote “No” at the referendum to continue prices control and said that the States could control prices as effectively as the Commonwealth had done. Of course, those people knew that what they said was wrong, but they wanted prices control to collapse, in the interests of profit-makers. Their campaign succeeded and prices control did collapse. A second grave catastrophe overtook Australia, when this Government was elected to office in 1949. That was the beginning of the end. The “ World Economic Report “ of 1953 was very critical of this Government’s first three years of office. It stated that during that period prices in European countries, including the United States of America, rose on an average, by 15.6 per cent. But in this country, under the mismanagement of this Government, they rose during that period by 48 per cent. Since then, of course, the figure has gone up to over 130 per cent. That is what this Government has done for Australia. The publication to which I have referred was issued by the United Nations, and that is possibly the reason why we hear gibes about that organization from the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), whenever he has had an opportunity to make them. The fact is, as one of my colleagues interjected a little while ago, that this Government has been responsible for pricing us out of the overseas markets. We are not in a position to compete in them at the present stage. That is the troublous situation this Government has brought us to, but I am not suggesting by any stretch of the imagination that a government of this kind would not have a plan. It has a plan all right. Its plan is to let the little people carry the burden of the economic recovery. That is why it supported the discontinuance of the basic wage adjustments. Since September, 1953, workers coming within the ambit of federal awards throughout Australia have lost over £120.
– I shall prove it to the honorable member if he wants me to do so. According to figures prepared by the trade union movement; in 1956-57 it would have cost £8,000,000 to- grant the unions’ claims for basic wage adjustments. The. claims were refused, of course, but the companies! during that period made’ a profit of £68,000,000. In 1957-58, it would have, cost £13,000,000 to adjust the basic wage. But this was refused and in that year company profits increased to £100,000,000. Those are facts that cannot be disputed. That is not the only contribution that the little people, the ordinary people, have made to the efforts of the Government to bring about economic recovery. This Government has the unenviable reputation of taking portion of the national income that should go to the little people and transferring it to the coffers of big business.
I am sorry that the Minister for Labour and National Service has left the chamber, because I have another matter that I want him to answer. The right honorable gentleman referred to taxation and quoted the figure of £800, indicating the amount of tax that a man with an income of that sum must pay at the present time. If we take an income of £829, which is £150 more than the basic wage at the present time, a man with a dependent wife and one child would pay £38 19s. in tax. In 1949, the same family group, earning £480 a year, or £150 more than the basic wage at that time, would have paid £15 15s. in tax. Therefore, the family man in that position pays £23 4s. more to-day than he would have had to pay in 1949. Those figures can be checked at any time. The Minister rambled on and dealt with quite a lot of other features of this matter, but it is not possible for me to reply to all of them in the short time available to me.
Let us consider another way in which the people’ have missed out since this Government has been in office. Let us take the child endowment that is paid to-day and’ compare it with the child endowment that was paid in 1948. A family with two children actually receives £20 less in purchasing power to-day than did a family of the same size in 1948. A family with three children to-day receives £54 less, a family with four children receives £88 less, and so it goes on. As- far as this Government is concerned, the bigger the family the greater the loss. Yet this is the Government that says it has done so much for the people.
Using the same scale - loss of purchasing’ power - we find- that the age and invalid pensioners have lost more than £26 in actual purchasing power. Every civilian widow loses from £31 to £46 in purchasing power; depending on whether she is in class A, class B or class C. The plight of the pensioners to-day is deplorable. They can barely exist on the pensions that are paid. It is amazing to think that the Government has not granted an increase in the general rate of pension.
– And in the funeral benefit.
– Yes, quite a lot of other aspects should have received favorable consideration when this Budget was being prepared.
It is said that the standard of civilization of a country is judged by the way in which that country treats its aged and its poor people. If that is so, the standard of civilization of Australia must be pretty low, having regard to the way in which this Government treats such people. Not only is it paying less by way of child endowment, in terms of purchasing power, -than was the case when Labour was in office, but it also requires families to pay more in taxes. I have given one instance of that, but in order to answer the statements of the Minister for Labour and “National Service even more decisively, let us consider the position of a man on the basic wage, with two children, in 1948-49. Such a man paid 16s. a year in income tax. To-day, he must pay £14 12s. Yet this is the Government that claims to have reduced taxation!
Deliberate misrepresentation of the facts, such as that, must be refuted. After all, the facts cannot be disputed. While all that has been going on, while the little people have been robbed, £57,000,000 will be returned to big business this year by way of reduced taxation, according to the Treasurer’s Budget speech. That is just another illustration of the way in which this Government is making the poor poorer and the rich richer.
Let me turn to another matter which gives a clear indication of what has happened. Under the Chifley Government, the Australian people were entitled to free hospital treatment if they entered the public ward of a public hospital. What must they do to-day to receive the full Commonwealth benefit? As we know, the full Commonwealth benefit is £1 a day, for which everybody subscribes by way of tax, but to be entitled to that benefit a person must insure with an approved society so that that society may be able, in the event of the insured person becoming ill and going to hospital, to pay 16s. a day towards his hospital account. If a man insures in that way, the Commonwealth will pay the full £1 benefit, but if he does not insure he does not get the full benefit. The full benefit, plus the payment by the approved society, amounts to £1 16s. a day. But the charge for a public bed in a public hospital at the present time is £2 8s. a day, so that the patient has to find an additional 12s., either from his own pocket or by the payment of increased insurance premiums. If he wants additional insurance coverage it costs him approximately £7 a year, plus an additional 12s. a day for the period during which he is in hospital. All this for something that was free under Labour in 1948-49! This is the Government that says it has done so much. In fact, it has done practically nothing.
Let us take another illustration and consider interest rates. In 1949, the rate of interest was 3$ per cent. At the present time, the lowest rate at which money may be borrowed is 5i per cent., so that if a person wishes to borrow £3,000 to build a house, repayments to be made over 25 years or 30 years, he must pay approximately 1 2s. a week more in interest because of the increase in the interest rate. Why has that imposition been put on the Australian people? Obviously, to benefit those who have money to lend.
The Treasurer stated in his Budget speech that the Government intended to keep up the immigration quota in order to sustain demand. The best way to overcome the shrinkage which has occurred in demand is to restore the purchasing power of the little people. If they received increased child endowment and pensions, and cost of living adjustments of the basic wage, they would spend the increased income on the things that it is necessary for them to have. A complaint was made in this chamber recently that butter production had dropped, while production of margarine had increased. It was stated that sales of margarine had increased from 37,000 cwt. to 47,000 cwt. last year. It is not hard to discover why that was so. It is only necessary to look at an extract which I have in my hand, from the National Bank of Australasia Limited publication, “ Monthly Summary of Australian Conditions “, to see the reason. It is stated in that publication -
Despite a rising population, consumption of butter in Australia has shown a declining trend since 1954-55, when a total of 122,457 tons was available for the home market and approximately 30.2 lb. was consumed per head. Per capita consumption fell to 29.3 lb. in 1955-56 and has been estimated officially as likely to have fallen still further in 1956-57.
It did fall still further, and it is falling at the present time. Another article from the same publication, directing attention to the fall in the consumption of meat, states -
Australians are, by world standards, large fresh meat eaters. During 1956-57, approximately 126 lb. of beef and veal, and 69 lb. of mutton and lamb were consumed per head, in each case about 7 per cent, below the pre-war level. Pork consumption has declined but consumption of offal has risen.
I do not know what is meant by the last few words, but that is the position.
I also have an extract from the “ Bank of New South Wales Review “, which deals with the same matter - declining consumption - but 1 shall not read it at the present time. It is available if any honorable member wishes to have a look at it. I say to the Minister for Labour and National Service that the best way to keep up the production of essential commodities, and to increase their consumption, is to provide the people with more purchasing power. If they have the purchasing power they will buy those things. Do not tell me that the people would eat margarine if they could afford to eat butter. Do not tell me that they would eat less meat if they could afford more. The unfortunate truth is that so much of the national income has been transferred from the little people into the coffers of big business interests that the little people are very definitely feeling the pinch. I do not want anybody to think that the Labour party is opposed to immigration. We are not opposed to it and never have been. We started the great scheme which is now in operation, but we believe that people should be brought to Australia only within our capacity to absorb them in production.
If the Australian Labour party’s policy of development had been continued we would have been able to absorb many more immigrants but, unfortunately, the defeatist policy that has been adopted by this Government has made the absorption of immigrants very difficult. It is estimated by the Child Welfare Department of Western Australia that 40 per cent, of those on its list receiving benefits are persons from other lands. Does not that indicate that about 40 per cent, of those who are unemployed in Australia to-day are immigrants? That is tragic. People have been uprooted in their homelands to come here and have been guaranteed work, but they are not getting it. This Government must answer for that situation and the sooner we introduce the policy of full employment, which was first sponsored by the Labour party, the sooner we will be able to get somewhere.
In my opinion, this Government merely wants to keep up the present standard of immigration in order to swell the unemployment pool. Unemployment is higher now than it has been since the Second World War at this season of the year. The figures can be checked, and I have already answered the Minister for Labour and National Service on the latest figures that he cited. I am sure that this is part of a great plan to keep a pool of unemployed in Australia. I have directed the attention of the committee to a statement that was made by the Prime Minister in Western Australia in 1945 during a byelection campaign. The right honorable gentleman said then that there should be a pool of unemployed in order to discipline the workers. That was recorded in the “ Wheatgrower “ of 24th April, 1946. Has the Minister at the table checked it?
– I have never seen it.
– The Minister for Health should look at that statement for himself. This Government was elected on a promise of maintaining full employment, but it had no more intention of doing so than it had of jumping over the moon. I almost said “ flying to the moon “, but I refrain from doing so because that might be a possibility. This Government wants to see in existence a pool of unemployed in order to discipline the workers.
Australia was a signatory to the Declaration of Human Rights which provides, under the United Nations Charter, in effect, that every person who needs work should toe provided with work. We have approximately 67,000 registered unemployed in Australia now. As I have said, the real figure is nearer 100,000 than 67,000 when we take into account those who cannot register because they have casual work, those under age who cannot register, those who are over age and ineligible for unemployment benefit, and those who have not had a job previously and are not permitted to register. The true figure is easily 100,000. When we take into account the wives and children of those persons, the number of those who are affected directly by unemployment in Australia -is nearer 250,000. “Surely ‘that situation must be regarded seriously and must be treated accordingly. When .does unemployment get <serious in the opinion of this ‘.Government? When the problem is referred to the Prime Minister, he ‘says that it >is .not serious; but it is serious to those >who are out of -work, the small businessman .and the farmers because unemployment .has .a snowball .effect. If there is :a loss of income in households, whether -due to a reduction in value of social ‘Service benefits or .as a result df unemployment, it simply means that every family has less ito spend at the corner shop. That means that ‘the ‘shopkeeper does ‘.not purchase as much stock from the manufacturers and the manufacturers do not ‘buy as much raw material. The effect is felt all round.
A report tabled in this chamber only a few months ago revealed that there were more bankruptcies last year than at any period during the great depression. That indicates where we are going under this Government’s direction. The fact is that unemployment is getting out of hand because ‘the Government will not take up the slack. The position is worse now than it was when the last “Budget was presented; and it was worse last year than during the preceding year. If this Government will not do something, it is time the Government was replaced by one which will act.
Let me direct the attention of honorable members to the situation in Western Australia. Last June there were 6,308 unemployed registered in that State and 3,005 were receiving unemployment benefit. In 1956, the unemployment situation was so serious in Western Australia that this Government gave an additional grant of £2,000,000 to that State for the relief .of unemployment. -Now, although the position is much worse, no special grant has been given. The last official figures show that unemployment is worse in Western Australia than it is in any other State, and represents 2.3 per cent, of the work force. Actually, the .position is worse even than that. Western Australia, being mainly a primary producing State, feels the effect of the decline in overseas prices for primary products more than the other States do. As a result, unemployment occurs there much more quickly.
The position has been made worse by this Government’s policy of restriction. That is why some special steps are required to relieve the situation in Western Australia and in other parts of the Commonwealth. There should be no unemployment in a young country like Australia. Many more houses are required. We need many more schools, because our schools are overcrowded. Hospitals and roads are needed. We require big development schemes, such as the Ord River scheme to which I have referred in this chamber on many occasions. We need hydro-electric schemes, possibly not as big as the Snowy Mountains scheme, but big projects. Railway standardization is an example of work that requires attention urgently. It is true that standardization has been started between Wodonga and Melbourne, but what about doing something of that kind in other States to relieve unemployment? What about the Kalgoorlie-Fremantle link or the links between Port Pirie, Broken Hill and Adelaide? All these projects would take up the slack of unemployment and put our economy on its feet.
I have referred to housing. The fact is that fewer houses are being built now than there were a few years ago. The fall in five years has been from over 80,000 houses a year to just over 60,000 a year. Why is that? Of course, the banks will not invest in housing at 5i per cent., which is about the rate .of interest they could get on housing loans, when they can get 15 per cent, to 30 per cent, by investing in hire-purchase finance companies. The Government authorized the private trading banks to enter the savings bank field. Prior to that, the Commonwealth ‘Bank had the sole rights. The trading banks were allowed to enter that field on the understanding, as we were told in .this chamber, that 30 per cent, of the deposits had to be used for housing, but statistics show that not 5 per cent, of savings bank deposits are being used for housing. The reason is that the private trading banks have large holdings in hirepurchase companies. Bank overdraft rates of interest are controlled by law, but that is not the case with hire-purchase rates of interest. The hire-purchase companies charge what they like. It is time this Government did something about hirepurchase charges.
Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- There is only one statement of the honorable member for Stirling (Mr. Webb) that I intend to correct. That is his claim that the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) said on one occasion that a pool of unemployed was necessary in Australia. That statement has been denied many times in the past. The honorable member for Stirling omitted to tell the committee that, and he also omitted to state something that has never been denied: That the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen), as a Labour member of Parliament, claimed that 5 per cent, of unemployed represented a condition of full employment.
– It has been denied a dozen times. Do not talk such damned rot.
– Order! The honorable member for Parkes will withdraw that statement.
– Do you not think it is damnable? I withdraw it.
– There are two schools of thought in the Labour party about employment. The Premier of New South Wales, a Labour Premier, appreciates that a good deal of capital is required to provide employment in this country. That is why he recently visited America to “ sell “ Australia and to attract American capital to this country. In selling Australia, he used not his own record, but the record of this Government to convince the American people that they should invest in this country.
The Budget that we are discussing is an honest and blunt one, like the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) himself. There would, as the quibbling critics know, be a cheap and easy way of earning popularity, but the Treasurer, following the course that he set many years ago, adopted the honest and courageous way of not mortgaging the future to pay for the present. I remind those people who may be influenced by headlines that honesty does not make headlines.
I wish to draw the attention of the Government to-night to an aspect of economics that I believe transcends all others at this time. I refer to a problem that we in Australia face and share with the governments of all other western nations. It is exposed more clearly this year than it has been for some time, but it has been evident for some years. It is the inability of our governments, with the structure that they have, to maintain a high degree of social services, full employment and a steep rate of investment and expansion in our free way of life without having periodic checks to our rate of expansion. Every five years or so, it is necessary under our present system for the brakes to be applied and for our rate of expansion and progress to be temporarily interrupted. We have fared pretty well in Australia. Thanks to the Treasurer and to the Government, we have maintained a fairly stable currency, in recent years at least, and we have carried a very heavy burden of social service expenditure and a high rate of expansion. But we are subject to the effects of this checking procedure when it is applied in other countries, particularly in the United States.
Currently, we are suffering from the very severe repercussions of the application of the brake on inflation for domestic reasons in the United States. Our export income, which is derived chiefly from such commodities as wool and wheat, has fallen sharply in the past year. We thus find the problem compounded in Australia. We have not only to solve it domestically but have also to digest the effects which reach us from other countries. The Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen) is shortly to go overseas to try to persuade the United States Government and European governments to put a floor under commodity prices so as to prevent these very sharp fluctuations. I am sure that the United States Government in particular is just as aware of the danger of pursuing a “ stop-and-go “ policy as we are. It is equally alive to the risks of such a policy. Under this system, we are not making full use of our resources. The process of expansion is not continuous and at intervals there is a serious dislocation of long-range plans, and a general upsetting of the economy.
There is a remedy for this negative policy. The remedy lies in productivity. That is a much used word now which means very little more than the efficiency of our industry, looked at from the productive point of view. If we can raise our productivity, we will find a remedy to the stop-and-go economic policy that we have been pursuing. I believe that this problem is so urgent that we must apply ourselves to it now in a most definite way. I ask the Government to consider the creation of a Ministry of Productivity. Only by the creation of a full department can productivity be accorded the weight and dignity that its importance warrants. It is no use at all discussing productivity in the pious and academic way that it has been discussed for some years; we must move into the field of action. It is no good wrestling with the mists of productivity indexes and so on. No productivity index, unless it is in a very restrictive field, is of any value as a basis on which to found a judgment.
If we were to form a Ministry of Productivity, staffed with production engineers and cost accountants, it could take over some of the functions and powers of the Tariff Board and absorb some of the agencies of the Department of Labour and National Service. If it were to make surveys of selected firms, in much the same way as the Bureau of Agricultural Economics now makes surveys of farms, we would have a mass of reliable and useful facts and figures which could be used by the Arbitration Court, the Tariff Board, the Treasury and the central bank as a guide in making decisions on the problems that face them. The matter is one of vital importance to Australia. Indeed, it is of vital importance not only to this country but to the whole of the Western world, because it is imperative that we greatly increase our efficiency and our productivity in order to keep ahead of the Communist countries, which derive certain advantages from being slave states with centralized and compulsory savings. They are able to devote their resources to capital works and to forcing their countries ahead at a much faster tempo than that at which we can proceed in our free economy.
I urge the Government to consider this matter now even though we are facing an election, within the next few months, because there is no time to be lost. The Minister for Trade is going overseas to discuss the levelling off of commodity prices, and it would be of some advantage to him to know that we had at least put our house in order in Australia. It is cold comfort to know that, in tackling this problem, we have shown ourselves to be no more clever and no more active than the governments of the United States of America and the other countries of the free world have been. If we tackled the problem now, we might produce worth-while results in a very short time.
Unless we take this matter seriously, Mr. Chairman, we shall not guarantee Australia’s security. Field-Marshal Lord Montgomery has given the free world 15 years. The Chinese Communists also have set a date - I think it is 1975 - by which they expect their economy to be level with the British economy in the production of goods, particularly capital equipment. We in this country have to move fast, if we are to justify the holding of this island continent with a bare 10,000,000 people. With the aid of information of the kind that I ask the Government to arm itself with, we could see that the whole economy was geared to provide the right kind of machines to increase productivity, the right kind of skills, and the right kind of working conditions. If we had the right information on which to base judgments, we could make one Australian equal to ten men in a Soviet slave State. That must be our target if we are to preserve Australia for future generations of Australians.
– I wish to make a personal explanation. The honorable member for Gwydir (Mr. Ian Allan) repeated a statement that has been made ad nauseam by Government supporters about a remark, relating to unemployment that I allegedly made as long ago as May, 1945. That is a very vital matter for a Labour man. It isalleged that I said that 5 per cent, of unemployment was the minimum target of” unemployment at which to aim. I would expect the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) - that great hunk of moral rectitude - at least to be faithful in these things.
– Order! The honorable member will withdraw that statement about the Prime Minister and proceed with his personal explanation.
– He did make that statement, Sir, but I withdraw my remark if you consider it to be wrongly phrased, and I stick to the subject-matter that, in his place, he rose-
– Order! The honorable member claimed that he had been misrepresented by the honorable member for Gwydir.
– And by other Government supporters.
– Order! That is not in issue now.
– Apparently, we must rise on every occasion on which it happens. The remark that has been taken up was made in May, 1945 - thirteen years ago. It is amazing that the man who prepared the bromide of the century in relation to the value of the £1 should have something to say about this.
– Order! The honorable member will correct the misstatement and then resume his seat. Under the Standing Orders, that is all I can allow him to do.
– I bow to your ruling, Sir. I do it under great stress, feeling that I have been wretchedly treated. But I know that that is due to the Standing Orders, and that there is nothing personal in it so far as you are concerned.
I return to the allegation made by the honorable member for Gwydir. His was a gentle statement in that it had not the weight of the others, but it does bear on my integrity in the matter. It is going a long way back in this matter to go back thirteen years. There was then no White Paper on Employment; there was no United Nations plan; and there was a great deal of flux about planning. I rather closely edited my speech, which may have led to the misinterpretation. That speech was made during the consideration of the Re-establishment and Employment Bill 1945, which dealt with the rehabilitation of servicemen. If one goes back a few paragraphs before the remark in question, one finds that my remarks implied that the question of servicemen and their disabilities had nothing to do with employment. What I said has been misrepresented by this Government in the most cowardly way.
– It is in “ Hansard “.
– 1 do not ….-.. what the restitution of conjugal rights has to do with it! That is the subject of my personal explanation, Mr. Chairman.
– I support the amendment proposed by the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt). First, I should like, Sir, to express my disgust at the ill-mannered and rude action of our so-called cultured Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) in walking out of the chamber last evening when the Leader of Her Majesty’s Opposition was replying to a very important speech made by the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden). The Prime Minister’s action was in direct contrast to the very courteous attitude that the Leader of the Opposition has always displayed towards the Leader of Her Majesty’s Government.
For the purposes of my remarks, Mr. Temporary Chairman, I shall have to refer back to the days of the Chifley Government. In 1949, the present Liberal partyAustralian Country party coalition Government took office under the leadership of the present Prime Minister. Two minority parties were able to coalesce and defeat the expressed will of the people, who had cast the substantial majority of their votes in favour of the great Australian Labour party. It is interesting to note that, in December, 1949, when this Government took office, Australia was in a very prosperous position. Full employment was the order of the day. Our overseas balances showed a surplus to the tune of £800,000,000. We had no external debt, and the Labour Government, under the brilliant leadership of Ben Chifley, who was ably assisted by his deputy, the present Leader of the Opposition, had just accomplished the remarkable feat of transferring 1,000,000 service men and women into civilian life with the minimum of inconvenience. This was one of the greatest feats in political history. The basic wage was pegged at £6 12s. a week. Prices were pegged to prevailing wages, the economy was very stable, a huge home-building programme had been inaugurated in conjunction with the States and was smoothly taking up the lag, and everybody was confidently looking to a prosperous future. Then the tragedy occurred.
During the 1949 election campaign, the Liberal and Australian Country parties joined in a vicious and insidious attack on the Chifley Government. They were aided and abetted by the big business monopolies - the banks, insurance companies and oil companies - with the assistance, as usual, of the yellow press and the radio chain, which printed and broadcast all sorts of distorted statements about the great Labour Government. They finally prevailed upon the electors to give the two parties enough votes to form a government under the leadership of the present Prime Minister. How the electors have regretted their mistake!
Let us look at the results of their foolishness. This Government has completely wrecked our economy and is at its wit’s end to know what measures to take next. This is nothing new to our Prime Minister, who has a wretched record as an administrator. Was it not the same Prime Minister who was faced with a crisis in 1941? Who can forget it? The Japanese hordes were at our gates, threatening our very existence as a nation, threatening Australia, our native land, for the first time in history. There was a great opportunity, a wonderful opportunity, for a man of courage to show leadership and statesmanship and to rally the nation around him in one big organized sweep in order to fight back. But the Prime Minister did not have the courage. What happened? The right honorable gentleman proved to be an utter failure and was thrown out by his own colleagues. He left Australia to its fate.
However, he was again elected to be leader in 1949, and again he proceeded to lead Australia on the downward path. The first thing we find him doing was unconcernedly handing out the assets of the great Australian people, which had been built up during the Chifley regime. His wealthy followers demanded their pay-off for the financial support they gave to this motley crowd that they elected. Who can forget the dismantling of the Glen Davis mine, situated on the richest shale oil-field in the world, and the sale at bargain rates of the cracking plant - one of the few in existence - to the same interests to whom the right honorable gentleman sold our very valuable Commonwealth Oil Refinery shares? Our drilling equipment, bought at great expense by the Chifley Government for oil drilling on a national basis, was given away. I doubt the legality of all this. These same oil interests, despite the weakened state of our economy, were recently granted, by a vote of honorable members, £500,000 to allow them to go deeper in their drilling for oil. The oil interests are certainly doing well!
Then we have what happened in regard to the huge electrical interests - British General Electric and Australian General Electric. They received their hand-out of the valuable shares in Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited. That gave them open sesame to the television industry, and they did not forget to take advantage of it. After the phoney inquiry into the question of granting television licences, this Government, through the stooges it elected to the commission of inquiry, granted to those lucky people a television licence. They were the very same interests who were lucky enough, through knowing, following and supporting this decrepit Government, to be granted the valuable A.W.A. shares. What a racket!
– Order! The honorable member must not use that term.
– It is too late, Sir. It has gone.
Order! If the honorable member uses the term again, he will have to withdraw it.
– Now we come to the scandal of the Nor’-West Whaling Company Limited. That project was given away to more supporters of this Government. Those lucky people were allowed to pay their instalments out of their profits. I wonder whether any ordinary person ever has an opportuniy to pay his instalments out of profits. The Government was kind enough to these very gentle people to double their yearly quota of whales to make it easier for them to realize greater profits and to pay their debt to the Government.
Quite different, Sir, was the case of the Commonwealth Handling Equipment Pool.
That is a story in itself. When the Government decided to sell the pool, capable and loyal employees of the pool, who had worked with it since its inception, formed a co-operative and tendered on a reasonable basis, because they did not want to lose their jobs. But this Government and some of its wealthy foreign supporters had other ideas. Nobody would have been in a better position to know the value of the pool than would the employees who had been running it for years. Some of the wealthy supporters of this Government wanted the pool, so they conspired with members of the Government to defeat the employees’ co-operative. How did they do it? They did it by the simple means of forming a number of small companies which tendered individually from different States. Strange to relate, these newly-formed companies were successful. Were not they lucky? We find that, immediately upon completion of negotiations, they all combined under the name of Bramble.
I invite honorable members to listen to what the financial expert of the Sydney “ Sun “ said about Bramble. Under the heading “ Another Deal for Bramble “, he wrote -
We haven’t heard the last of developments in W. E. Bramble. It is understood that another large United States corporation may soon join with the company.
Brambles proved to be the market’s glamour stock last week with its sudden 3s. jump to 20s.
This followed the complete acquisition of Commonwealth Handling Equipment Pool from the company’s co-owners, Dickson Primer (Consolidated) Ltd., Breckett Pty. Ltd. and Development Finance Corporation Ltd.
In all, the deal, with some accompanying arrangements, meant a more than doubling of Bramble’s capital.”
This is an American corporation. How our loyal Government loves to embrace the big corporation! A little further research reveals that Bramble is controlled by a prominent American investor who is always favorably received and treated by this Government. What a scurvy trick to play on your fellow workers! How low can you get? Our Prime Minister must indeed be proud of this particular piece of trickery against the employees of the co-operative.
Order! The honorable member will withdraw that statement.
– What statement?
The statement that the Prime Minister was engaged in trickery.
– I will withdraw it and will substitute the words “ political trickery “. We come now to the infamous Ansett-Australian National Airways stunt. Ansett was the dummy name put forward by another foreign group. This Government - if I am in order in referring to it - failed in its attempt to destroy through Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited the famous Trans-Australia Airlines set up by Labour to provide employment for our Royal Australian Air Force members on their return to civilian life. What did the Government do then? It used another snide approach.
Order! I have warned the honorable member that he must not use such expressions. If he uses another such expression I will name him. He will now withdraw the word “ snide “.
– On a point of order-
No point of order is involved.
– There is a point of order-
The honorable member for Parkes will resume his seat and the honorable member for Kingsford-Smith will withdraw his remark or I will name him.
– What did the honorable member say? You ought never to be in. the chair.
Government Supporters. - Chair! Chair!
– I shall withdraw and replace the word “ snide “ with the word “ queer “. The Government used another queer approach, and after protracted negotiations with this foreign group set out to deceive the taxpayers of Australia.
– You ought never to be in the chair. You are the most hopeless chairman who ever sat there. There is always trouble when you are in the chair.
Order! I name the honorable member for Lalor.
– On a point of order, on what grounds have you named the honorable member for Lalor?
No point of order may be raised.
– Will you not allow the honorable member to speak to his point of order?
Not until Mr. Speaker comes into the House. (In the House)-
– Mr. Speaker, I have to report that I have named the honorable member for Lalor for reflecting upon the Chair.
– That was a snide decision.
– Order! The question is, “That the honorable member for Lalor be suspended from the service of the House “.
– Is such a motion before the House?
– No motion is needed.
– May I interpose to ask that, instead of the House taking this somewhat drastic action, an opportunity be given to my colleague, the honorable member for Lalor, to withdraw the expression that he used. I ask the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Roberton), who is in charge of the House, to see if that can be done. It has been done frequently on previous occasions when there has been a reflection on the Chair. We are in the House now and I do not think that you can depend upon the discretion of the Temporary Chairman of Committees in this matter.
– I am unable to intervene.
– On a point of order-
– No point of order arises. The Chair is obliged to put the question. The question is “ That the honorable member for Lalor be suspended from the service of the House “. I think the “ Ayes “ have it.
Opposition Members. - Oh!
– Is a division required?
Opposition Members. - Yes!
– Ring the bells! The House will divide.
Question put -
That the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) be suspended from the service of the House.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. John McLeay.)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
In committee: Consideration resumed.
Order! Are you raising a point of order?
– Yes. As we were out of committee and in the House during that period of interruption, I ask whether the time so taken up will be counted against the honorable member for KingsfordSmith.
– The time must be counted.
– I should be prepared to move that so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the honorable member for Kingsford-Smith-
Order! The Minister need not do that. The honorable member’s time has not expired yet. We can deal with the matter at the appropriate time.
– When I was rudely interrupted I was saying that this Government failed to destroy, through A.N.A., the famous T.A.A. airline, which was set up by a Labour government to provide employment for former R.A.A.F. personnel. As I said before, the Government used the name of Ansett to deceive the Australian taxpayers. It was aided and abetted by the yellow press, which seems to revel in conspiracies to defraud.
An illustration of a further handout by the Prime Minister to his friends - and I think one of the most blatant - is the Weipa bauxite proposition. This story has yet to be told. Officially, of course, it will be held over until after the elections, because it represents the greatest present that this Government has ever given to any of its supporters. The Weipa bauxite proposition surpasses everything. It appears, according to the official report brought down in the Queensland Parliament recently, that the Commonwealth Government sold its half share in this bonanza to British Aluminium and Consolidated Zinc. When I say “ bonanza “, I mean it. It appears from the official report that the area is estimated at 1,500,000 acres, with a production of 4,000 tons of bauxite - 55 per cent, pure - to the acre. It does not have to be mined - just shovelled up from the surface in some parts, and other parts have an overburden of up to 18 inches. So we see it is easy to procure. It goes to a depth of 25 feet. I obtained my information from the “ Hansard “ of the Queensland Parliament, which discloses that there was enough bauxite to last for 300 years. The profits are beyond dreams and enough to pay the national debt.
When our Prime Minister is criticized and taken to task for his lack of administrative drive and business acumen he immediately takes refuge behind an old catchcry. [Extension of time granted.] He uses the old technique of the smear. He uses the old catch-cry of “ fellow-traveller “. He cries “ Communist tactics “, which is childish, to say the least. But the Prime Minister himself is childish and petty. He will not say anything, but merely accuses the Opposition of Communist tactics and generally carries out a smear campaign against good Australians - better Australians than he has ever proved himself to be throughout his lifetime.
We all remember one famous occasion, somewhere around 1952, when our Prime Minister brought down the anti-Communist legislation. When presenting the bill the Prime Minister, in what he thought was a flash of genius, read out a list of names which he solemnly told the House had been prepared by his most responsible, top-level security officers. He assured the House that those whom he had named were the most dangerous and cunning members of the back-room of the Communist party. He gave the names to the House. It was found later that three of those people - allegedly the most dangerous Communists in Australia - had been dead for more than twelve years. How can we depend upon the Prime Minister when he tells us that we are in a secure position? So much for our security measures. It was humiliating to see Australia’s great genius placed in the position of coming to the table of the House the following night to apologize humbly and eat his words. However, the Prime Minister had served his purpose. The damage had been done by his irresponsible statement of the night before.
After summarizing the list of offerings the Prime Minister has made to his wealthy supporters, let us look at the other end of the economic measuring stick - the Arbitration Court. All honorable members must remember the measure that was brought down to reconstruct that court. Pains and penalties were imposed on members of productive unions, with provision for fines to be imposed up to £500 per day. The legislation also contained provisions relating to the cancellation of the right to strike and interference in the domestic affairs of the unions. All this was done in an endeavour to stir up industrial strife for political purposes. We must, never forget that this legislation was suggested to the Government, drawn up and brought down to Parliament by the then Attorney-General (Senator Spicer). After the bill was piioted through this House and another place and became law, he was immediately appointed Chief Judge of the Commonwealth Industrial Court, with unlimited powers. Honorable members might recall that similar action was taken in 1941 by Hitler when he appointed Dr. Ley as his leader of the labour front in Germany prior to World War II. The Commonwealth Industrial Court in Australia to-day has become the plaything of the Liberal Government, due to its control over the Chief Judge. I say that without reservation. What has the yellow press to say about impartiality in our courts, in the light of that appointment?
Let us have a look at another subtle move by the Prime Minister - the increase of retirement pensions of judges. This was brought about by a very sweet little measure. It was brought down in the dying hours of the last sessional period and increased the pension up to 50 per cent, of the judges’ salaries on retirement. We must remember that although public servants contribute to the superannuation fund, the judges’ pensions scheme is non-contributory. The judges are favoured people. That measure resulted in an immediate increase of £14 a week to the judges. I remind honorable members that almost immediately Mr. Justice Webb, an old and close friend of the Prime Minister, retired on the Thursday after the bill became law - he must have got sick in the meantime - on a pension of £60 a week. He was the first judge to retire and take advantage of that provision. I would like all the age pensioners who will receive a 10s. supplementary increase to note these facts and also to bear in mind that the judges do not contribute for their pension. Despite his ill health, this retired judge became a director of a Brisbane television company. What a joke!
But that is not all. The Prime Minister immediately appointed his cousin to the vacancy created on the High Court bench by the retirement of Mr. Justice Webb. We can be assured that he will be a liberalminded nian in more ways than one. It is time that the people of Australia woke up to the Prime Minister and the stunts he has conducted. He is becoming really Americanized in his ways and methods, and we all know what happens in the courts in the United States of America. By that measure, which was brought down during the last sessional period, the Prime Minister has already started on a course similar to that followed in the United States of America. Where will it end?
It is well for us to note that a judge of the Arbitration Court, after receiving notice of his pension increase of £12 a week - he was a bit unfortunate - when the court declared a basic wage increase of 5s. a week remarked -
It would be dangerous, very dangerous to the stability of the Australian economy if we increased the basic wage more than 5s. a week.
What a mentality! There was no instability about his financial position with a pension increase of £12 a week to which he contributed nothing. I hope he returns it when he receives it.
Under the control of the Menzies Government, wages have been frozen and quarterly cost of living adjustments abolished. This leaves the worker in an unenviable plight as prices shoot higher and higher. Huge profits are being made by big business. I understand that over a period of nine years General Motors-Holden’s Limited has paid dividends amounting to £22,250,000. In the meantime our great work force is tied hand and foot by inflation. The value of the £1 is now in the vicinity of 6s. The Menzies blight has settled on our community; it is apparent on the faces of Liberal members opposite. Recently, the Prime Minister was invited to open the new Sydney head-quarters of Elder Smith & Company Limited.
Order! The honorable member’s extended time has expired.
.- If there is any gloom on the faces of honorable members on this side of the chamber, it is because of their despair as a result of witnessing the degradation of Parliament-
– I rise to order. I understood that a motion was carried granting an extension of time to the honorable member for Kingsford-Smith. There was no stipulation as to the duration of that extension.
Order! The Standing Orders provide that an extension of time shall be limited to ten minutes.
– I rise to order. May I move that the honorable member for Kingsford-Smith be further heard?
Order! I call the honorable member for Macarthur.
– I said that if there were unhappy looks on the faces of honorable members on this side it was because of the degradation of the Parliament for which the honorable member for Kingsford-Smith (Mr. Curtin) has just been responsible.
– I rise to order. I ask that that remark be withdrawn.
– . Order! The remark made by the honorable member for Macarthur was not unparliamentary.
– But, Mr. Temporary
Order! I ask the honorable member to resume his seat, or I will deal with him. The honorable member for Macarthur will proceed.
– The honorable member for Kingsford-Smith went as close to infringing the Standing Orders without actually doing so as I have known any honorable member to go. Standing Order 77 reads -
No Member shall use offensive words against . . any Member of the Judiciary, . . .
The honorable member for KingsfordSmith went as close to infringing that standing order as it is possible to go without actually breaking it. I should like to apologize to any people who feel that his remarks were offensive to members of the judiciary. I believe that most members of the Aus tralian Labour party believe that we have a very fine judiciary and are proud of it.
The honorable member mentioned the Weipa concern, which most Australians are proud to know is being established in northern Australia. He said that there is something wrong about our actions in respect of Weipa. He made an attack upon investors and upon profit-making. Very often we hear remarks from the other side of the chamber which lead us to believe that members of the Opposition hold the view that profit-making is a crime.
– Hear, hear!
– One of them says, “ Hear, hear! “
– Hear, hear!
– Mr. Cahill, the Premier of New South Wales, has just been to America and he is hopeful - and so is everybody else in New South Wales - that, as a result of his visit, there will be increased American investment in that State. But if what the honorable member for Kingsford-Smith has said is true of Labour policy, a good many hard-headed American investors will have another look at the situation before they risk their hard-earned cash in a place where such conditions exist. Any person who is guilty of making remarks like that is a traitor to the people in his own party who are trying to get-
– Mr. Chairman, that term is offensive to me and I demand that it be withdrawn.
– Did the honorable member for Macarthur refer to the honorable member for Kingsford Smith?
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN__
The honorable member for Macarthur will continue.
– Australia, in this Budget, has had a merciful deliverance from an economic fate which is shared by many other countries. This is one of the few countries that can pay their way in the world to-day. We have been warned of the consequences of a dry season; yet we have just had a record dry season in Australia. We have been warned, too, of the disaster that will befall us if overseas prices decline; yet at this time last year we were facing probably the greatest fall in overseas balances in our history because of the decline in the price of wool, dairy products, and other primary produce resulting, in some measure, from the release of stockpiles of these commodities. Consequently the Budget which the Government introduced last year was a courageous Budget because it provided about £100,000,000 in increased social service payments and income tax concessions to the taxpayer.
I regret very much that the Treasurer is about to leave the Parliament because he has given magnificent service to the country. He has said that last year’s Budget was a generous one because of the conditions under which it was introduced and that it was aimed at preserving buoyancy. As I have said we were, in the middle of a record dry season. By the middle of August the New South Wales wheat crop was already a failure. That cost us £50,000,000. The reduced wheat crop coupled with the fall in the price of other commodities overseas meant a total loss of £200,000,000 in export income. In fact, at Budget time last year an even greater fall than that could reasonably have been expected. It is magnificent, indeed, that Australia has been strong enough and well governed enough to come through as it has.
I have heard some people say that it is a miracle that we have got through without having had to contract the national economy through this Budget. However, not only has the Government been able to withstand the effects of what happened last year, but also it has been able to grant concessions which will be welcomed in almost every needful home in Australia.
There is no need for me to refer to matters that have already been dealt with by my colleagues in this debate. I am delighted that this Government’s social services committee, led by the honorable member for Sturt (Mr. Wilson) has been able to induce the Government and the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Roberton) to continue to liberalize the property means test on pensions and so reduce the penalty on thrift. That is a good thing because in many electorates around Sydney, including my own, there are numerous retired people living on competencies. Because of the movement in costs many people who have retired in the last decade have been faced with a difficult situation. Liberalizations of the means test have enabled a married couple to have an income of £7 a week and still to receive full pensions totalling £8 15s. a week, so that their total income is over £15 15s. a week. Thus pension and superannuation are greater than income on a capital of £6,000. Now the raising of the property bar is further recognition by the Government of the needs of these people. The social services committee led by the honorable member for Sturt is one of the many committees of this Parliament which have done good work since 1949. I think that every honorable member in this chamber will be grateful to the honorable member for Sturt for the contribution that he and his committee have made.
I turn now to the 10s. a week increase for single pensioners who pay rent. That need has long been felt and has now been filled. The chronic sufferer who has been refused participation in hospital and medical benefit schemes is now to be brought into these schemes. I know that honorable members on both sides of the chamber will be delighted about that because it is now generally realized that that phase of the national health scheme is now working very well. Because the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page), as Minister for Health for some years, was able to win the confidence of the doctors of this country, we now have a practical health scheme in operation, and from now on some of its most important benefits will be extended to chronic sufferers.
The Government intends to help those who invest in the search for oil. Tax concessions amounting to about £300,000 will be allowed for that purpose. The paramount importance of that action is obvious to those who realize that we are becoming geared to oil. both in our huge transport network and in our defence system. So, if we can find oil in Australia we will be safe and self-contained.
The special depreciation allowance for primary producers will be continued. Most people who know anything about taxation are aware that primary producers have generous taxation concessions in relation to investments in their properties and plant. People who perhaps have burned themselves out in the professions, and who have something to invest, realize that if they go on the land they will be assisted by generous taxation concessions. This will encourage further investment in this vital section of our economy. It is well known that the primary industries particularly in America, constitute the greatest field of investment and provide the greatest purchasing power to the community. Unfortunately, our primary industries are already suffering from the effect of declining overseas prices. Should this trend continue there could be a serious check to the economy.
We are pleased that fisheries have been included in taxation concessions. It seems that the Government is beginning to regard those who are engaged in fishing as primary producers for taxation purposes. The Liberal party organizations on the New South Wales coast - particularly the south coast - have worked hard for this extension and we are grateful that the Government will give the fishermen a 20 per cent, depreciation allowance on plant acquired after 30th June this year.
How is it that Australia, this year, has confounded all the economists? We have been told over and over again that if there was a serious decline in primary production or if anything happened to the receipts from our export commodities, Australia would have another depression. Colin Clark and all the other great Australian economists of modern times have said that we are geared to rural production and to sales of primary products overseas, and that if those sales were to fall substantially Australia would be in trouble. Anybody who, a year ago, tried to prophesy what would happen in the ensuing twelve months would have said that by now there would be as many unemployed in Australia as there were in the great coal strike of 1949, when half a million people were out of work, or as many as there were in the dreadful upheaval of 1932. In other words, if the accepted economic theories were valid Australia would be in serious trouble this year. I believe, with a good deal of justification I think, that the Menzies-Fadden Government’s encouragement of private enterprise has created new fields of employment in this country and has enabled us to reduce our imports. A reduction in imports is almost as good as increased export earnings.
I am sure that you, Mr. Chairman, representing a rural area, will agree with me that all the prophets have been confounded and that Australia has come through with flying colours. Manufacturing industries not only provide a large proportion of the national wealth, but they also give a great stimulus to employment. If it were not for them, the employment situation would not be so buoyant. I remind you, Sir, knowing your interest in food production, particularly butter production, that the men who work in these industries - the steel industry and allied industries - demand butter on the bread in their lunches and so provide a demand that somewhat makes up for the losses we have sustained in our overseas markets. The Department of Trade, ably administered by the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen), has encouraged Australian commerce and industry, providing a market for our primary products - for the butter which comes from the electorate of the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony). I saw butter going out from Wollongong at the rate of £750,000 a year. This expansion of Australian industry not only provides a market in Australia for Australian primary products, but provides employment at very good rates of pay. I think the average wage in Australia, including all components such as overtime, &c, is about £20 a week. The worker, therefore, provides the purchasing power which keeps this country going and which prevented the terrible fall that would have occurred if we had been geared to rural production. We might have found ourselves in the same plight as New Zealand.
May I make one plea for industry itself? Industry can only continue to buttress the economy if it is not frustrated by a shortage of finance due to excessive government spending. There is no doubt that government spending has increased. It had to increase because of arbitration court decisions and other factors. Quite properly, the Minister for Trade is pressing industrialists to increase their exports. They say that, with the exception of the steel industry and a few other lesser industries, Australian raw material costs, and power and labour costs, are such as to make competition on overseas markets well nigh impossible. But in spite of that, many industries are proudly getting export markets abroad and assisting to maintain our very important export income.
I have with me some figures relating to costs. Let me take the building industry. Housing is very important to all Australians. Aluminium is produced in Australia. The Bell Bay price is £271 a ton c.i.f. Sydney. The price of imported aluminium is £225 Sydney. In other words, Australian produced aluminium is much dearer than imported aluminium. The Bell Bay plant produces 45 per cent, of our requirements and most firms try to take 45 per cent, of their requirements from Bell Bay and 55 per cent in imported aluminium. However, in the long run it means that firms are paying about £25 a ton more than overseas people are paying. The manufacturers of aluminium products in Australia say that they cannot be expected to export aluminium with any degree of success in tough overseas markets.
I understand that copper costs £295 a ton in Australia and £255 in London. Copper is an important component of brass taps, plumbers’ brassware, hot water systems and many other things that are used in houses. If manufacturers of copper goods were to export their products, they would be up against low overseas prices for copper compared with the high price of copper in Australia.
The Opposition has said that the Government has had a difficult year. All honorable members are aware that it has been a difficult economic year, and I think that the Opposition’s attacks on the Government in this regard have been most unfair. The attitude of honorable members opposite is different from that of the Premier of New South Wales, who has just returned from a visit overseas. I feel sure that he painted a glowing picture of conditions in Australia under the Menzies-Fadden Government. Mr. Cahill has been telling the Americans that New South Wales is a place where they could earn profits, a place where they would be free of socialism. It would have placed him in a difficult situation if, by some mischance, some of the Opposition statements about the Budget had come to the ears of American investors. Mr. Cahill would perhaps have thought that his trip had been wasted if they had heard some of the things that have been said here. He says - and we in New South Wales hope that he is right - that his visit will have beneficial results for New South Wales. I hope that what has been said here to-night will not destroy every vestige of chance that Mr. Cahill had of encouraging Americans to invest in New South Wales. It is obvious that the two wings of the Labour party - the one we have been listening to here cracking down on this Budget, and the one in New South Wales - have different views about the future prosperity of this country.
Last night the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Allan Fraser) made a convincing speech based on very false premises. If my remark is objected to as being offensive I shall withdraw it and say-
– Nobody has objected to it.
– Very well. I want to refer to a number of things in the honorable member’s speech. First of all, he strongly supported the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt). That is something new for him, because he is very quiet about his support for his leader in the great rural electorate that he represents. He does not support him so much there, but last night in this place he did. The honorable member told the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Casey) that the computations on pensions were utterly false. Nobody objected to that remark last night. However, I object strongly to it. That statement was untrue. The figures given by the Minister for External Affairs were correct. The Minister pointed out that a computation based on the “ C “ series index shows that the present pension of £4 7s. 6d. is worth 6s. 5d. more than the Chifley pension would be worth if it were brought into line with the current “ C “ series index. Where the honorable member for Eden-Monaro made a mistake was when he related the pension to 36 per cent, of the basic wage, but forgot that under the Chifley Government, when things were not as good as they are to-day, the basic wage was based upon the merest needs. To-day. it is based upon the ability of industry to pay as well as on needs. It must be admitted, therefore, that the figures quoted by the Minister for External Affairs, a very distinguished member of this Parliament, as supplied to him by the Treasury, were correct and that those put forward by the honorable member for Eden-Monaro were incorrect.
But the honorable member for EdenMonaro said something much worse and much more terrible. He said that we were spending £190,000,008 a year preparing for the kind of war which will never be fought in this world. I point out that we are spending £190,000,000 a year upon traditional weapons. Perhaps the honorable member for Eden-Monaro and other members of the Labour party have forgotten that recently there was a war in Korea. Perhaps they have forgotten that another war seems to be starting in Formosa. An attack seems to be developing there. Perhaps they have forgotten the war in Malaya in which Australian troops have been involved, and no doubt they have forgotten that Australian servicemen have been in the Middle East. Apparently the honorable member bases his prophecy on the belief that the next war will be fought exclusively with atomic weapons. I put it to the committee that if the next war is to be an entirely atomic war, then it will be between only those nations which have atomic weapons.
– You .are a mutton head.
– The words just used by the honorable member for Herbert apply more aptly to those who believe that in future the only wars will be those fought with atomic weapons. Surely it is obvious to him, and those who think like him, that there are little wars going on all the time in the Pacific and in South-East Asia. Such people must admit that the country must be prepared. Twice now we have gone into great wars unprepared.
– You are not prepared now.
– The honorable member takes a different view from that expressed by his colleague. He says we are not prepared; the honorable member for Eden-Monaro says we are preparing for a war which will not take place.
– You are not prepared.
– At least we have restored the morale of the forces, and we have modern aircraft. When -Labour was in office it made a profit out of defence. The revenue it derived from disposals sales was almost as great as the amount it spent on defence. In other words, the Labour Government destroyed the defence forces of Australia, just as it did in the early 1930’s when the Royal Military College at Duntroon and the Naval College were almost closed down. When the present Government assumed office, at least it had the courage to tell the people that it proposed to continue national service training. At that time we were hampered by men who would not have had the courage to do anything like that, and who would have destroyed our defence forces had they been given the opportunity to do so. I submit that if men who talk as the honorable member for Herbert does were entrusted with the handling of Australia’s affairs, they would break down the Seato pact and establish a new pact with India and perhaps Indonesia and red China. That would indeed be a lovely set-up! Of course, criticism such as we have heard from these people is only to he expected of them.
We are entitled to be friendly with many elements in Indonesia, but at the same time we must take note of the statements made by the radicals there who claim for their country a right to take over New Guinea. I remind honorable members that the late William Morris Hughes insisted that New Guinea is really the northern gateway to Australia, and attached so much importance to it that men fought and died to retain it for Australia. I repeat that, whilst being friendly with those elements in Indonesia who want to do the right thing, we must at the same time keep a close eye on those other elements there who have greatly strengthened their air force with Russian planes. For that reason this Government is justified in continuing to spend at least £190,000,000 a year on defence.
– It ‘has been interesting to hear the honorable member for Macarthur (Mr. Jeff Bate) talk about the Labour party’s defence policy and the heed for keeping our defences up to date. I had no intention of going back to the years before the last world war, but when an honorable member speaks in the way the honorable member for Macarthur did, it is time to put a few facts before the people. I ask the honorable member to tell me ‘ about the modern air force we had when Australia entered the war and the Japanese forces were making their way down to our shores. Why, we had only a few Wirraways?
– We had seven of them altogether, did we not?
– I think we had seven. There may have been one or two more. To hear the honorable member for Macarthur speaking, one could be lead to believe that the Labour party did not favour a strong air force. I remind him that at the Labour conference two or three years before the outbreak of the second world war Mr. Curtin advocated the provision of an efficient air defence for Australia. When he became Prime Minister, Mr. Curtin insisted that we should have a defence perimeter to the north of Australia. Yet men like the honorable member for Macarthur would have the people believe that it would be a sorry day indeed if the defence policy of Australia were at the mercy of the Labour party. I remind the honorable member for Macarthur, and those who speak like him, of the fact that in the days when this country was in dire need the Menzies Government, not a Labour government, fell down on the job. We all know that at that time the present Government parties could not agree as to who should be’ leader. The present Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) was Prime Minister for a few days or weeks. The late William Morris Hughes wanted to be the leader. I repeat, the Government parties could not agree amongst themselves, yet those in the present Parliament who are of the same political colour have the audacity to ask which is the true Labour party today. They forget what happened amongst their own parties only a comparatively few years ago. We have been told that in 1932 an anti-Labour government recognized what was necessary for the defence of the country. Yet within six or seven years, when war broke out, a government of the same political colour as that in office at the moment did not know how to run the affairs of the country. That government was condemned for its failure to implement a policy of real defence for Australia by the “ Sydney Morning Herald “, the “ Melbourne Age “ and other leading newspapers which had never supported the Labour party. They simply tore the government of the day to pieces.
So it came to pass that Labour assumed office. The people turned to the Labour party, as they always do, in that time of extremity. The people, as I do, look upon the Labour party as their sheet anchor, not as a party that is capable of governing only during periods of prosperity and then saying, “ Look at what we have done “. The people look upon the Labour party as a party that can govern when things are black, that can govern in times of extreme danger, that can bring the country together in a united effort to fight and put matters right. Why, we have only to think back to the crisis facing us in 1928 when this country was drifting into the greatest depression the world has ever known, to realize this fact. Yet to-night, the honorable member for Macarthur and the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Harold Holt) have asked us to compare the position now with that which obtained when the present Government assumed office. Yet at the same time the Treasurer, in his Budget speech, said, in effect, “ This year we are £110,000,000 short, and we are going to the Commonwealth Bank to obtain that £110,000,000 in treasury-bills to enable us to keep people in work “. We support the Government in that object. But the Treasurer did not mention that when the Scullin Government was in difficulties in 1928, 1929 and 1930 and wanted to increase the note issue by the issue of fiduciary notes - which is the same thing as going to the Commonwealth Bank to-day - the Opposition of the day would not agree to that course of action. At that time the Scullin Government was faced with a hostile Senate that refused to allow it to increase the note issue in that way.
What happened then? The anti-Labour Opposition of the day tried to draw down the Labour party. During the election campaign in 1931 posters were placed on hoardings in South Australia depicting an awful-looking hand outstretched, and underneath it were the words, “ If you vote for the Labour party it will grab your savings. It will take your insurance policies. It will destroy you “. The electors believed what was printed on those posters and were afraid to vote for Labour candidates, with the result that the Scullin Government was defeated. This Government also, if it had the power, would destroy the Labour party.
Which party tried to make this country safe when the depression hit us? The Labour party! Which party introduced the banking legislation in 1945? The Labour party! The late Mr. Chifley, in presenting that legislation, said that in future the Government which had been elected by the people, and not the bank board, would determine the needs of the country, and the Treasurer of the day would have the right to direct the banking institutions to make money available if it were needed. That position still exists. Despite pressure from Government back-benchers to amend the banking legislation, and despite the alterations that have been made to the banking act, Parliament still retains power over the big banking institutions of this country.
When I hear statements that are detrimental to and derogatory of the Labour party, I feel I must raise my voice and inform the people of Australia of just what the Labour party has done. Being a member of Parliament is not just a professional job to me. Its greatest attraction is that it gives me an opportunty to speak on behalf of the people whom I represent, and I will shout from the house-tops the things that the Labour party has done in the interests of the people of Australia.
The honorable member for Macarthur, in dealing with the means test, said that the Government is raising from £1,750 to £2,250 the amount of capital a person is permitted to hold before being ineligible for a pension. If honorable members refer to “ Hansard “ they will see that when the Government brought down legislation last year increasing the pension I showed very definitely that a person with a capital of £1,750 would receive a pension of £72 10s. a year, but a person with capital of £1,751 would receive nothing. On that occasion I pointed out the inequality of the proposal and suggested a sliding scale by which a person’s eligibility for a pension might be measured. The Government would be wise to go further than the amount of £2,250 now proposed because the same state of affairs will exist. A person with capital of £2,251 will not be eligible for a pension. The additional £1 ought not to make that difference. The capital limit should be abolished altogether.
The proposed 10s. a week increase in pension will be a wonderful boon to a lot of people. I know that many men and women who receive a pension of £4 7s. 6d. have to pay room rent of £1 10s. or £2 a week, as well as provide for themselves food, clothing. light and warmth. They have a terrible time trying to exist, and the proposed increase will help them considerably. Therefore I am glad that the Government has gone at least that far.
I said last year, and I repeat the statement now, that under the existing pensions system the invalid pensioner suffers the greatest inequality and hardship. A married invalid pensioner receives £4 7s. 6d. a week for himself and £1 15s. a week for his wife. Fancy keeping a wife on £1 15s. a week! The Government, in effect, says to the unmarried pensioner, “ If you have to pay rent and have no other income, you cannot be expected to keep yourself on £4 7s. 6d. a week, so we will increase that amount by 10s.”. Last year I pleaded with the Government on behalf of the invalid pensioner who is expected to keep his wife on 35s. a week, but nothing was done. Under the proposed legislation by which the single pensioner will receive an extra 10s. a week, the margin of the married invalid pensioner will be reduced to 25s. a week. He, like the single pensioner, may be paying rent but because he is receiving the allowance of 35s. for his wife he will not come into the scheme. This matter will be dealt with more thoroughly when the proposed legislation is before us. I am merely pointing out that the social services committee, of which the honorable member for Macarthur spoke, should have considered the case of the married invalid pensioner.
Another anomaly is apparent in the proposal. In answer to a question the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Roberton) said that the extra 10s. a week would be paid to married pensioner couples who pay rent provided they receive no income other than the pension. That means that a married pensioner over 65 years of age, whose wife is under 60 years of age, and therefore ineligible for a pension, will receive the allowance. I do not think that married pensioners in any other category will be eligible to receive the extra 10s. That phase of the matter should be looked at very closely. However, the Minister said that if a pensioner is paying off his home, he is building up an equity in the property and the allowance will not be granted. It is common knowledge that this Government wants people to own their own homes. We do not object to that. We of the Labour party fight for the principle that a person should be able to purchase his own home. We are told to-day by competent authorities that the cost of housing is so high that the ordinary working man cannot pay for a home in 25 years, and that he must be allowed 40 or 45 years in which to pay for it. A man might reach the qualifying age for a pension and still be paying off his home. As a matter of fact, many of them will still be paying for their homes when they die. Such a pensioner will not be eligible to receive the rent allowance because he is not paying rent but is paying off his own home. If the Government wants to encourage home-ownership it should do something about this position.
Government supporters have spoken of the wonderful job they have done in the field of housing. A statement was issued, I think yesterday, by the Commonwealth Statistician on this subject, and some of the figures mentioned in that statement have been used in this debate. When honorable members look at the number of houses constructed in 1952, let me remind them that the Government was able to achieve this result only because of the assistance given in that year by the labour force brought to Australia under the immigration scheme instituted by the Labour government. It appears from the document I have mentioned that 79,000 houses were constructed in 1952. But what has the Government done since then, particularly having in mind the large numbers of immigrants who have come to Australia and increased our work force? One might have reasonably expected that we would be building 100,000 houses a year by now, but the figures have remained pretty well static. In 1952 there were 79,000 homes constructed. In 1953 the figure slipped back to 76,000, and it remained at that level in 1954. It went up to 78,000 in 1955, dropped back to 70,000 in 1956, and dropped back still further to 67,000 in 1957. This Government boasts that it is progressive, and that it continues to meet the needs of the people. I suggest it is about time that it stopped boasting about its achievements in the field of housing.
We hear propositions being put forward by different bodies to the effect that money for housing should be lent at an interest rate of y per cent. I invite honorable members to look at the report of the Commonwealth Housing Commission issued in 1944. They will find there a minority report by one of the members of the commission. It was my minority report, and it recommended subsidization of interest rates. Other members of the committee recommended a subsidy on capital, but I suggested that the interest rates should be subsidized. I proposed that the interest rate should not exceed 3’ per cent, per annum, including the cost of administration. This suggestion of an interest rate of 3’ per cent, is not something new.
The Commonwealth Housing Commission was appointed’ by the Chifley Government. I was the only member of it who was a member of Parliament. The others were mostly professional men. We suggested that by the end of the war - the report, as I said, was issued in 1944 - we should have 50,000 houses either constructed or in course of construction, and that within a further three years the figure should be increased to 80,000 a year. We said that within< ten years we might thenbe able to catch up with the lag, although we also stated that we made no provision for any large increase in population due to immigration.
I- suggest- to Government supporters, therefore, that the propositions that some of them have put forward as being novel are by no means new. They were envisaged years ago by members of the Labour movement and by officers in government departments. I repeat that when this Government succeeded in having 79,000 houses built in 1952, it was merely complying with a recommendation made by the Commonwealth’ Housing Commission seven years previously.
I appreciate what this Government has done, but I suggest that in preparing a Budget we should not consider merely how much money we are going to get in and how much we are going to spend; we should, ensure that the revenue we receive is spent in the best interests of the people as a whole, and not of only one section of the community. Having gone through this Budget, I do not think that sufficient consideration has been given to the distribution of revenues in such a way that the people as a whole will reap’ the benefit. I realize that I cannot use the word “ snide “, because another honorable member got intotrouble for doing so. I must say, however, that I do’ not agree with what has been done with- regard to the method- of distribution of loan moneys.
We are told that we can expect to raise by loans in Australia no more than £1 15,000,000 this year. That was the figure mentioned by the Treasurer, who went on to say that £95,000,000 would’ have to be taken from taxation to make up the amount of loan moneys required by the States this year. There is a remarkable aspect of the system of providing loan moneys to the States. The Leader of the Opposition referred to it in his speech, although in rather a different way from the manner in which I am putting it. The Government says to the people of Australia, most of whom, of course, are residents of the various States, “ You must pay taxes to provide us with a certain amount of revenue. We must keep the taxes at a high level’ so that we will have enough money to lend- you about £100,000;000 from taxation revenue. Until you repay that £f00,0Q0’,000’ you will have to pay interest on it “. That appears to me to be rather rough on the States. The people in the States have to pay the piper. They have to find this amount of approximately £100,000,000 this year. Having already paid that money to the Commonwealth in taxes, they are allowed to borrow it on condition that they repay it with interest.
We on this side of the Parliament, of course, are unificationists. We believe that Australia should be one big community. When considering the matter of defence, honorable members opposite also contend that Australia should be one big community. Likewise, with regard to postal and other such services they believe that we should be one big community. When other matters are being discussed, however, they want to divide the country up into States. However, I do not wish to pursue that aspect to-night. I merely say that the policy of honorable members on this side of the Committee has always envisaged an equal distribution of benefits and equal responsibilities for all members of the community, no matter what State they reside in. In levying taxes and then lending the money back to the States and collecting interest on it we do not show ourselves to be Very big’ Australians.
I wish- to- refer to another matter connected’ with taxation. I have already’ mentioned the Government’s failure- to dosomething for the dependent- wives of invalid pensioners. I believe- it has made aslip in that regard-. It has made another slipwith regard to taxes- to be paid by the family man. This matter has been mentioned previously in the debate. I brought it up last year in this Parliament. Honorable members will recall that last year, or perhaps two years ago, the deduction for a dependent wife was £130’, for the first child £78 and for other children £52 each. Similar deductions were provided for dependent parents. Several years ago I proposed to the House that those amounts be increased by £52 a year. I suggested that the allowable deduction for a wife should be £156. The Government raised the amount by £13 to £143. Last year I’ said I hoped that this year the Treasurer would- see his way clear to raising by £13 the allowable deduction for each of these classes of dependant. The effect would’- be to assist not merely the man at the bottom, because the man with the higher income, on which he would be paying tax at a high rate, would also benefit by a reduction in his taxable income. Indeed, he would benefit considerably in comparison with a man who received a high income and had. no dependants.
Even in a year such as this, I think that the Government could have increased the deductions allowed for dependants. It could have increased the deduction for a wife from £2 10s. to £3 a week, and for the first child from £91 to £104 a year. I hope that what I am saying now will register, and that some thought will be given to it in future. If the Government does that, it will be doing something for that section of the community which is in greatest need.
Last year I advocated a big increase in child endowment. We say that the Government is not doing enough for the children. People in all circumstances, church organizations, and welfare workers - not only Labour supporters but also Liberal supporters - advocate that something more be done for the man with a family. When a child grows up, the deduction ceases, but while the child is growing the Government should give every possible assistance.
The Leader of the Opposition moved that, as a censure of the Government, the first item in the Budget be reduced by £1. I feel that we are justified in censuring the Government in view of its conduct of the affairs of this country. I should have liked to discuss the Treasurer’s contention that our internal financial position is pretty right, but that externally things are not so good. When I commenced to speak, I intended to take that as my theme, but the honorable member for Macarthur really got me a little annoyed by his reflections on my party, and so I was occupied for ten minutes with something about which, until he spoke, I had no intention of talking.
Honorable members opposite decry Labour. At the end of 1949, when this Government took office, one of the Treasurer’s first acts was to wipe out import licensing. He said, “ Bring in everything you like. We do not believe in controls.” Yet, a week or so ago, the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen), speaking in Perth, said, “We cannot do away with import licensing. We must retain it.” The Government is just following along the trail that we laid. It is just carrying on with policies which we said should be followed. Had the Government followed those policies when it took office, it would not be in the position in which it is to-day. The Government should have maintained control over capital issues. It says that it has no control over hire-purchase interest rates. Government supporters know very well that one of the first things the Treasurer did when he took office was to do away with the need to obtain permission for capital issues. If the Government had that control to-day, would it permit newspaper advertisements offering 10 per cent, or 12 per cent, interest on money invested in hire-purchase finance companies? It would not. Government supporters said that we were wrong and that capital issues control should be relinquished, but we are now shown to have been absolutely right.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
Accident at Air Force Station - Import Restrictions - Political Parties.
Motion (by Mr. Fairhall) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- I want to raise a very important matter which con cerns the Minister for Air (Mr. Osborne). It relates to a child who was injured at the Royal Australian Air Force station at Pearce in Western Australia. On 12th December, 1956, a Christmas party was held there for staff members and their families. At the party, for the entertainment of the children, was a miniature train comprised of gun carriages, on which the children were riding. Barbara Kosky daughter of Corporal Kosky of the Royal Australian Air Force, had her foot caught in a wheel of this miniature train, and unfortunately a portion of her foot was cut away by the wheel. For the following nine months she was in and out of hospital, but there was no great improvement in the condition of her foot until she underwent plastic surgery. After that, some recovery was made. Now, she has to undergo another very expensive operation and she also has to have specially built shoes.
As honorable members will realize, this involves the Kosky family in tremendous expense. It is a big family, and honorable members will appreciate that not much is left from a corporal’s wages to meet the heavy expenses associated with an unfortunate injury such as this. I have been reliably informed that the Royal Australian Air Force authorities at Pearce recommended to the Air Board in Melbourne that liability for this injury be accepted by the Air Board. The point is that, although this accident happened one year and eight months ago, no decision has yet been made by the board. Although the doctors looking after this child have written to the board, the board has not had the courtesy to reply.
– Have you taken it up with the Minister?
– Yes. It was referred to me in January of this year by the doctors concerned. Despite repeated representations by me to the Minister for Air, I cannot get a final reply on the matter. As I say, the doctors have written to the Air Board, but they have not received even the courtesy of a reply. All I have got from the Minister is an acknowledgment indicating that the matter is still being inquired into. Naturally, indecision on this matter, apart from the worry caused to the family by the unfortunate accident - it has caused a great deal of concern to the family itself - is very distressing, and I think the Minister should get down to the job of arriving at a decision with respect to it. Surely it is not too much to ask him to arrive at a decision in regard to this matter! I think it shows a careless disregard of the interests of this family and of the kiddy concerned not to deal with the matter very quickly indeed. As the” Minister for Air is not present in the chamber, I ask the other Ministers who are here to refer the matter to him and ask him to see that it receives attention.
– It is a compensation case.
– I do not know about that. I cannot get a final decision from the Minister. All he has told me is that he is having inquiries made, and he keeps on putting it off. I leave it to the Ministers who are present to contact the Minister for Air-
– You could see him yourself.
– I have seen him time after time, and it is as little use talking to him about it as it would be talking to you.
I wish to raise another matter which concerns the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen), who also is not present in the chamber. I received this letter from the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Trade within the last day or two -
T refer to your further personal representations on behalf of G. and N. Pisconeri Pty. Ltd. of Perth, who wish to import olive oil and cheese from Italy.
Departmental officers who have examined this matter again have reported that there is still no provision for granting direct importing facilities in cases of this kind. The shortages of olive oil and various national foodstuffs are due to restrictions which have had to be placed upon the activities of the regular importers because of the balance of payments position. In these circumstances, it would be inequitable to grant import licences to persons who normally obtain their supplies through the established importers. Some price differences inevitably occur when supplies are restricted, and it is not practicable to treat price as a reason for allocating additional funds for imports of any particular commodity.
If this firm were permitted to import its requirements of olive oil and Italian cheese direct, it would be able to obtain these commodities at a cheaper rate than is available by getting them through the big importers. That would mean that the firm could sell at cheaper prices to its customers. That is a big factor in these days of high prices.
It is admitted in the letter from which 1 have read that the price factor comes into the matter, but the Department of Trade will not consider it from that angle. The point is that this firm cannot even get supplies from the regular importing authorities. Restrictions were placed on the regular importers, who, consequently, could not give this firm the supplies it required. The Department of Trade stated that these restrictions would be lifted from 1st August and that the regular importers would be given the right to import more of these goods. I ask the Minister: Why does he not give the little man a chance to import these goods at a reduced cost? What purpose is served by the present system under which the big importers take delivery of these goods in Sydney and the goods have to be transported to this firm in Perth, involving additional cost? Of course, this Government is interested in big business, not the little man. But for God’s sake, do something about the little people and cut down on big business interests a little bit!
.- Last month, the Waterside Workers Federation conducted elections throughout Australia. Communist party candidates in that election met with characteristic success. The first thing I want to say about that is that success did not stem from the inherent capacity of the Communist candidate. It stemmed from a source that many people in Australia have identified in the past - and no doubt still do - a device known as unity tickets.
During the course of the election campaign, some members of the Australian Labour party played a rather sad, strange and shameful role, and it is my intention to indicate to the House to-night precisely how far some members of the Australian Labour party are (prepared to compromise with those whose first affection and first loyalty is to Moscow.
I have in my hand a photostat of various unity tickets and various documents associated with the Brisbane branch election of the Waterside Workers Federation. The first document that I cite is the unity ticket - a unity ticket, Mr. Speaker, which includes the names of ten members of the Australian Labour party and six members of the Australian Communist party. It is a ticket which is headed, “ How to vote for unity and progress “. “ Return a united federation Brisbane branch executive “ is the exhortation in the unity ticket. Further to be noted in the unity ticket is the fact that it was printed at a printery that for many years now has undertaken the printing requirements and demands of the Australian Communist party in Brisbane.
The second document to which I refer is a “ how-to-vote “ card put out by what I describe as the right-wing element in the Waterside Workers Federation in Brisbane, and it is headed, “ How to vote the genuine Labour ticket”. Not one Communist’s name appears on the ticket. Immediately that was produced there was issued a denial of the genuine Labour ticket, headed “ Denial “. This is a repudiation of the so-called genuine Labour ticket. It is signed by ten members who are involved in the unity ticket, and this is what it has to say -
We, the undersigned members, do hereby deny that any authorization whatsoever was given to A. E. Salter to issue the pamphlet under the guise of the Australian Labour party, the reason being that it is a strict ruling of the Q.C.E. that any A.L.P. member who knowingly links his name with that of any Q.L.P. member or any person who was expelled for his activities in assisting the Q.L.P. is liable for expulsion from the A.L.P.
The significant feature, quite clearly, is a condemnation of the activities of the rightwing element in the Waterside Workers Federation, but not one peep of protest about the unity ticket. That is bad enough, in all conscience, but, understandably, many A.L.P. members of the Waterside Workers Federation were disturbed, so much so that the Waterside Workers Federation branch executive brought out this notice which appeared in the branch “ News “ under the heading “ Unity Ticket “-
Many members are asking what is the position of members belonging to the A.L.P. being put on unity tickets in the forthcoming branch election. On inquiring of our Q.C.E. delegate, Mr, P. Healy, I am informed that on the same question being asked at the Q.C.E. meeting it was ruled that their decision referred only to political elections and not industrial elections.
Well, Sir, if that is not an inglorious piece of humbug, I do not know a piece when I see it. Surely to heaven the Queensland central executive of the Labour party in Queensland realizes that the Communist party works first and foremost through the industrial wing. The fact that they may run candidates for parliamentary elections is surely an exercise gallop for them. They are not particularly concerned. Their strength has always been sought, and to-day it lies predominantly in the industrial sphere. The continuation of unity tickets in Australia will have disastrous consequences for this country because, believe it or not, there is sitting opposite the alternative government of Australia, and as long as there are members -on that side prepared to condone or tacitly approve of a continuation of the unity tickets, this country and the whole fabric of responsible government in this country is exposed to serious danger. It is perfectly true that the federal conference of the Australian Labour party last year ratified an executive decision on unity tickets. The decision declared -
Any member of the Labour party who agrees to join with members of the Communist party and/or any other party opposed to Labour on any how-to-vote tickets commits an offence against the party. We direct the State branches to protect the policy of the party by taking action against any member who so offends.
I invite the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) to use his influence with his federal executive to see that those members of the Australian Labour party who were involved and associated with the unity ticket in the Brisbane branch election of the Waterside Workers Federation are expelled from the Australian Labour party.
– The position was worse in Melbourne.
– That may be perfectly true, too. A continuation of this circumstance is not only incredibly stupid; I believe it is dangerous; I believe it is an extremely desperate practice. If the right honorable gentleman wants to assure the people of this country that there is still a degree of responsibility resident within the Australian Labour party, here is his opportunity to make that characteristic plain.
– I would like to speak about this matter and make the attitude of the Australian Labour party very definite and very clear. With regard to the illustrations given by the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Killen), it is not easy to follow them without looking up the papers. I am going to deal with the more important question and state, for the information of -the honorable member and the House, what is the authoritative view in the Australian Labour party, governing members in every part of Australia. As I say, I am not familiar with the incident in Queensland to which he referred - or said he referred - because some of his statement was hearsay.
The attitude of the Labour party has been consistent ever since 1948. In 1948, this was the decision of the conference of the Labour party -
Conference reaffirms its repudiation of the methods and principles of the Communist Party and the decisions of previous Conferences that between the Communist Party and the Labour Party there is such basic hostility and differences that no Communist can ‘be a member of the Labour Party.
That is, membership is absolutely excluded. There is no case that I know of in which a Communist is a member of the Labour party. I do not believe there is one in Australia, and none has been pointed out. The decision continued -
No Communist auxiliary or subsidiary can be associated with the Labour Party in any activity, and no Labour Party Branch or member can co-operate with the Communist Party.
That has stood as the ruling, in principle, since 1948, but as the honorable member knows - he stated it clearly enough and frankly enough - the question of the unity ticket was given attention by the federal executive in September, 1956, and that decision was subsequently endorsed by the Brisbane conference last year. At the meeting of the federal executive held in Canberra on 10th September, 1956, the following question was referred to the officers to make a recommendation: -
Docs a member of the Labour Party commit an offence against this party if he permits his name to appear on a How-to-Vote ticket with a member of the Communist Party or any other party opposed to the Labour party?
The honorable member for Moreton referred to another party which is opposed to the Labour party, but I am giving special attention to the reference to the Communist party although the words that follow are “ or any other party opposed to the Labour Party “ The recommendation of the officers of the federal executive was as follows: -
The answer to this question lies in an interpretation of the decision of the 1948 Federal Conference which reads as follows: - -I have just read it, but I shall read again this sentence from it - “No Communist auxiliary or subsidiary can be associated with the Labour Party in any activity and no Labour Party Branch or member can co-operate with the Communist Party.
Then the interpretation follows: -
The Executive’s interpretation of this decision is that any member of the Labour Party who agrees to join with members of the Communist Party and/or any other Party opposed to Labour on any How-to-Vote tickets commits an offence against this Party.
– Is that for political or industrial elections?
– It obviously includes industrial elections, because that is the very matter that is in point. So far as the political aspect is concerned, I do not think that any such occasion has arisen; but it clearly refers to industrial elections. I am not suggesting that it could not refer to political elections. It is intended to deal with this question of the unity ticket, and the unity ticket that is relevant and important is the unity ticket in elections for offices in trade unions. So that it does include those.
The executive’s interpretation was that - any member of the Labour Party who agrees to join with members of the Communist Party and/or any other Party opposed to Labour on any HowtoVote tickets commits an offence against the Party. We therefore direct State Branches to protect the policy of the Party by taking action against any member who so offends.
The enforcement of it is committed by the federal executive to the State branches. At the federal conference in Brisbane the matter was brought up again. The ruling of the federal executive that I have read out was affirmed in Brisbane by the federal conference, which is the supreme governing body of the Australian Labour movement. Most recently of all, only three weeks ago at Adelaide, the matter coming up again before the federal executive in view of recent complaints and criticisms, the federal executive again re-affirmed its ruling, and State branches and executives have been instructed accordingly.
The honorable member for Moreton claimed that there had been some breach of that ruling in Brisbane. I cannot express any opinion on that, on the statement of the facts, and it is not for any individual member to do so. If there has been an offence by some member of the Australian Labour party who has broken that ruling, it is a matter obviously for the Queensland branch. The federal executive reviewed the matter again only a few weeks ago, and I think the ruling is plain. It seems to me that it is clear and beyond doubt. I do not think there is any question of what it means. In New South Wales, members of the Australian Labour party who, in the opinion of the State executive, have joined with members of the Communist party on a ticket in trade union elections, or with members of other political parties on a joint ticket have been dealt with. Members have been expelled for doing so within the last twelve months. There are a number of charges pending in that executive at present, and I do not think it is proper to discuss those particular charges.
The ruling is clear and binding. It governs every part of the Labour movement. It has been in force in principle for many years. I think that that is a complete answer to what the honorable member for Moreton has said.
.- I listened with a great deal of interest to the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt), and I have no reason to doubt the accuracy of his reading from the book that he had in his hand. We are all familiar with that. The question that is before the chamber, and the one that agitates Australians, is whether the Australian Labour party means what it says in regard to this matter.
– Of course it does.
– If it does, perhaps the right honorable gentleman can be excused for not having dealt with this waterside workers’ election in Brisbane which was held last month. It is perfectly true that the Queensland Central Executive of the Australian Labour party gave instructions to the delegate of the waterside workers union that this ruling of theirs, as the right honorable gentleman read it from the book, applied only to political elections and not to industrial elections. In accordance with that, in an advertisement it was stated clearly that there was a fine for not voting. It told them all that they had to vote and urged the men who had to be on the job for a 9 a.m. start to come early and cast their vote. There was a straight out direction to the members of the Waterside Workers Federation. There, in black and white, they were told that unity tickets did not apply to industrial elections. Does the Australian Labour party intend to prosecute the ten men who were involved in this matter?
If it is said that this is a recent thing, what has the Australian Labour party done about the elections in the Victorian branch of the Australian Railways Union in 1955? There is quite a gap between 1955 and 1958. There is no doubt that Brown gained control of that union through a unity ticket on which Australian Labour party men placed their names. What action has been taken against them? That was three years ago. The right honorable gentleman said that the book from which he read dated back to 1948. Seven years after that resolution was passed, according to the book, at a union election Australian Labour party members linked with Communists in a unity ticket, and no action has been taken against them during the three years since then.
Where does Labour stand in regard to that matter? We are gravely concerned, as Australians, about coming events. There is no doubt that the Communist party is out to smash Laurie Short in the ironworkers’ union. We know of the spectacular victory that he gained there when he ousted the Communists from their control of the union. Will any honorable gentleman opposite deny that the Communist party in Newcastle is actively operating a unity ticket to oust Laurie Short from his position there? L. J. McPhillips - Jack to his friends if he has any - is now engaged upon a campaign to bring in a unity ticket that will put Laurie Short out of office at the elections in November.
If the Leader of the Opposition is sincere in this matter, I urge him to take up with the executive of the Australian Labour party the charge which I now make, and which can be substantiated, that the Communists are planning a unity ticket campaign in the ironworkers union at its elections in November. Will the right honorable gentleman take action this time before the elections are held and not try to shut the door after events have happened, as was the case with the Australian Railways Union election in Victoria in 1955, and as happened more recently in the case of the Waterside Workers Federation in Brisbane a month ago?
We must look on this matter as Australians. Who would have dreamed when Sharkey came back to Australia and said, “ We must have a united front with the socialist party “ or the Labour party, whatever he called it, that this would happen? He said, “ There are points of unity. We must get together.” We know the dire results that have already taken place because of the unity ticket and those that have now cast their shadows before.
For a long time, the people looked on the Australian Workers Union as a bulwark against communism. There are honorable members in this House who took that stand. One is the honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Edmonds), who suffered insults and went about in peril because of his stand against the Communists as an organizer of that union, and I pay tribute to him for that. But those days are gone. The Australian Workers Union, which is Australia’s most powerful union and was once its most strongly anti-Communist union, is disintegrating as a result of Communist activity through the use of the unity tickets and a common front with the Communist party. Members of that union are not only divided over the leadership of the Australian Labour party; they are divided also in their allegiance to their leaders and among themselves. It is the Communists’ greatest triumph and our greatest industrial tragedy that this split should have occurred in the Australian Workers Union.
In Queensland, before this month is ended, the Australian Workers Union Executive must decide whether to yield to Communist control or fling the union into a catastrophic fight in the Australian Labour party against the Communists. Whatever decision is reached, the split must widen and the union will be weakened. The prospects are that unless some action is taken now, that union can expect no support from the ironworkers after their elections in November, because they, too, will be Communistcontrolled through the use of the unity ticket. This union, which arrested Communist control with the help of Laurie Short and his followers, undoubtedly will be the next Communist victim. If present plans are followed through, and if the rank and file in the ironworkers union do not awaken from their lethargy, believing that they are safe because Laurie Short is in the saddle, the Communists and the left wing unionists who want a unity ticket will sweep Short out of office at these elections.
Before the year is out, the Communists may succeed beyond their wildest dreams. They may have the Australian Workers Union in chaos and the ironworkers union again under Communist control. I warn the House and the country that if that happens, from then on Communist control of industry in Australia will be a forgone conclusion. The executive of the Australian Labour party in this House has a dreadful responsibility to discharge in this matter. If Australian industry comes under Communist control, it will be because the Australian Labour party, for the sake of expediency or perhaps because of lack of courage, has not been game enough to resist the unity ticket in trade union elections.
.- I was given some consolation when I heard the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Pearce) say. that at least at one time in my life, I was not a Communist. Over the past few years, anybody who attempted to express a view that conflicted with the views of the Liberal party was a Communist or a “ fellow traveller “ or something associated with communism. There are no good tory members from Queensland, Mr. Speaker, but to-night 1 am satisfied that anybody who listened without bias would realize that the two honorable members on the Government side who have spoken are not tories but pure fascists.
– Mr. Speaker, the word fascist is completely offensive to me. I ask that it be withdrawn.
The honorable member for Herbert will withdraw that term.
– Yes, Sir, I withdraw. I can say that the discussion that has taken place to-night is a repetition of what occurred previously with no great credit to the Government or its supporters. This is a repetition of what occurred when we had members of the Democratic Labour party sitting in a corner in this House after their conflict with the Australian Labour party. On those occasions, Mr. Speaker, it was not the Mullins, the Keons or the Joshuas who introduced these matters relating to communism but members of the Liberal party. On each and every occasion, the members of the Liberal party would1 start the debate by arrangement with the corner group. They would come in on the motion for the adjournment, night in and night out, and’ supporters of the Australian Labour party would then have to answer the charges made against them.
– Tell us about the unity tickets. That is what we are waiting to hear.
– Here is the maestro - the Minister for the Army - waiting at last to hear something from somebody intelligent. The Leader of the Opposition (Dr.. Evatt) read out in clear, concise and intelligent terms exactly what the Labour party’s attitude is to unity tickets. If the Minister for the Army, consistent with his administration of that arm of the forces, was not able to understand all the right honorable gentleman said, he should leave the chamber, because he has no interest in this debate at all.
Personally, and with respect to my leader, I believe the right honorable gentleman may have wasted his time in reading the rules, the policy and the platform of the Australian Labour party in relation to unity tickets. I cannot use the word “ fascists ‘ and I do not know a better ten in this case, but the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Killen) and the honorable member for Capricornia are determined that, irrespective of what is contained in the rules of the Australian Labour party, they will bring into this chamber continually, from now until the general elections, the question of communism in the hope that they will once again convince the people that Labour party candidates are Communists or are associated with Communists.
I think that the Leader of the Opposition - with due respect to him - wasted his time at least on honorable members opposite from Queensland. It is a pity that the Standing Orders will not permit me to say exactly what I would like to say about the honorable member for Capricornia. I will not say what is in my mind because one of my colleagues was thrown out. of the chamber to-night, and I do not want to follow him. The honorable member for Capricornia has expressed, great, concern that something, has happened to the great Australian Workers Union. He hates that union just as he hates the ironworkers union. He hates every union. He hates unionists. He hates people who work for aliving. What is the good of the honorable member coming here and trying to save the Australian Workers Union. Let me tell both honorable members that neither the Labour party nor the Australian Workers Union wants any advice or assistance from men of their calibre so far as their rules, their future and their activities are concerned.
I do not propose to repeat what the Leader of the Opposition has said. However, we can get a slant on exactly what we must expect in the future from this man who with tongue in cheek is determined to emulate the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) wherever he goes. He comes into the House with a photostat of what is alleged to be a trade union ballot paper. I want to know from the honorable member for Moreton what real interest he has in the trade unions, other than the political capital he can make from the fact that somebody somewhere has been associated with a unity ticket.
I put it to the House that the rules of the Australian Labour party are clear and that whatever action is necessary will be taken by the State Executive of the Labour party. I can tolerate the honorable member for Moreton, Mr. Speaker, but the honorable member for Capricornia makes me vomit. Every time he speaks in this House he confirms what everybody in Queensland thinks of him - that is, that he is insincere, that he is dishonest in his political approach and that he does not care what he says in this House. My advice to both honorable members is to mind their own business. The Labour party and the A.W.U. are quite capable of governing their own affairs. They do not want any assistance from either of those people who, if they are not fascists, have delivered fascist speeches in the House to-night and previously.
– The honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Killen) has raised a subject of very considerable interest and importance to this country. .If honorable members opposite are sincere in their protestations that they, too, wish to check the influence of communism inside industrial and political movements in this country, I think it is a great pity that they should vent their abuse on men who seek to bring these matters to the light of day and let the Parliament and the people know just what is going on around Australia.
I am not going to allege that honorable gentlemen opposite have welcomed this growing development inside the Australian Labour party, but 1 do say that, unless they are blind to what is happening inside this country and inside their own party, they must know that the Community party of Australia has set out to take advantage of the divisions inside the Labour movement, to infiltrate as far as it can into the Australian Labour party and deliberately to employ the popular front technique and in particular the unity ticket device in order to strengthen its influence inside both the industrial movement and the Labour party. Let us agree on those points, because they are the facts and they cannot seriously be challenged. They have been made public by the Communists in their own publications and they have been made evident in elections. I could mention the Australian Railways Union election in Victoria.
– They are as great liars as you are.
– Order! The honorable member for Herbert will withdraw that remark.
– I withdraw, Mr. Speaker.
– The tactics were made evident in the Australian Railways Union elections in Victoria not so very long ago. I think it was in 1952 that the grouper element in that union succeeded in dislodging the Communist leadership, but by 1955 the unity ticket was established. If my information is correct - and I believe that it is - the unity ticket covered 58 positions inside the union. There was not a conflict between one Labour party member and one Communist member in that election. Of course, with those combined forces, there was a return of Communist leadership to the Australian Railways Union. Can any one deny that in the recent waterfront elections the unity front technique was pursued with equal success?
The running of a unity ticket has been a standard tactic with the Communist party as part of its unity front campaign since 1952, but until late 1954 it was mostly confined to Communist-dominated or Communistinfluenced unions. Since the split in the Australian Labour party over the industrial groups, the use of unity tickets has become more widespread.
– You must have had all this prepared.
– I assure the honorable member that I have done a lot of research on this matter, because, like him, I want to check the influence of communism in Australia, if that is what he professes to be his political intention. I think it is well that, when we are dealing with a subversive political movement, we should go to some pains to find out what we can about it and about its activities. I believe that this information is well based.
The united front policy, under which unity tickets are organized, was well expressed in the following resolution, which was adopted at the 1952 conference of the New South Wales branch of the Communist party of Australia: -
The incorrect approach to the United Front expressed in willingness to unite only with Communist’s and militants must be replaced by correct United Front work with A.L.P. and non-Party workers who do not as yet accept our ultimate aims but can be won to united action in defence of living standards, defeat of Menzies, and for peace.
– That last bit sounded all right!
– Yes; as the resolutions at the Hobart and Brisbane conferences are very much in line with Communist policy, I have no doubt that much of what the Communists say has found a sympathetic echo not only with the honorable member for East Sydney but also, apparently with the majority of representatives at both those Labour party conferences.
In the August, 1955, issue of the “ Communist Review “, L. L. Sharkey, who will be well-known to any one who has studied these problems, spoke of - the united front of the working class which leads, as the workers become more radical and as the Communist party waxes stronger and the Australian Labour party wanes, to something more than a united front between the Australian Labour party and the Communists, that is, towards a merger, a fusion, the organizational unity of the Communists and the Australian Labour party masses to form one great mass party of the toiling people based upon the practicing Socialist principles.
Subsequently, the Communist party warned its members that it must not be allowed to appear that the party was using the Australian Labour party for its own ends. The Communist party described that as the pitfalls of “ Tight opportunism “. Similarly, personal attacks on Labour party members were to be avoided and care taken that the presentation of the Communist case did not go over the heads of the workers. The influence of bourgeois ideas to which even Communist party members were subject often clouded a situation leading to false analysis and “ deviationist “ action which the reactionary forces of capitalism turned to their advantage.
Unity tickets are set up by the Communist party through its fractions in the trade unions. The fraction first meets in its capacity as a party fraction and determines who shall be included on the unity ticket. The next step is for the fraction leaders to organize a “ broad “ meeting of the union rank-and-file. This is done through Communist shop stewards and other Communist activists operating in the factories and workshops. In organizing the “ broad “ meeting, care is taken to obtain sufficient numbers of non-Communist but militant trade unionists to ensure that the meeting does not appear too Communist in composition. However, the Communist party always makes quite sure that the resolutions adopted by the “ broad “ meeting are those which have been determined beforehand by the party fraction. The next step is usually the formation of a rank-and-file committee to actively promulgate the unity ticket throughout the union.
One could go on indicating the way in which these techniques are employed, Mr. Speaker. On more than one occasion the Communists have even given away their own first choice in order to secure the election of an official who may be amenable to their influence, and thus attract nonCommunist support. A classic example of this was the election of the Amalgamated Engineering Union Commonwealth Council, No. 1 Division, when a well-known Communist who had been selected to stand for the position withdrew in favour of another member, who was not a Communist, but who was expected to be sympathetic to the Communist viewpoint, and who, on my information, has since so demonstrated himself.
– The Minister does not know what he is talking about.
– Yes, I do. I recognize that the honorable member for East Sydney is one of the best informed members of a parliament in Australia about what the Australian Communist party is doing and how it employs its techniques, but he is not the only one who has some knowledge of these matters.
I have given illustrations of what has happened in recent elections in the Australian Railways Union and the Waterside Workers Federation of Australia, Sir, and those illustrations could be multiplied. But the real test of the sincerity of the Australian Labour party in this matter is, first: Does it recognize this process that is going on - and going on successfully - in its midst at this time? I say that it knows it, but because of the divisions in its ranks and the support it needs from these powerful trade unions with their affiliated membership, it cannot afford to stand up and fight these influences which are active at this time. Another test of the sincerity of the Labour party is the way in which it has disciplined those of its members who have stood on these unity tickets. The Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) said that some disciplinary action is being taken in New South Wales at the present time. What action was taken in Victoria after the Australian Railways Union elections? What action was taken in Victoria after the Waterside Workers Federation elections? My information is that leading members of the Labour party went down to the wharfs to speak in support of the unity ticket as recommended there.
-Order! The right honorable gentleman’s time has expired.
.- Mr. Speaker, the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Killen) and the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Pearce) were certainly not motivated by any genuine concern for the future or the well-being of the Australian Labour party when they raised this issue to-night in the hope that they would be able to obtain the benefit of a certain amount of propaganda in the forthcoming federal election campaign. As members of the Liberal party of Australia, they are entitled to do that, but they are not entitled to pretend that they are not doing that, and that is what they have pretended.
The Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Harold Holt) has told us what the Australian Communist party wants to do and what it is trying to do.
– What it succeeded in doing.
– And, he claims, what it is succeeding in doing. Then he adds the charge that, in the recent election campaign in the Waterside Workers Federation of Australia prominent members of the Australian Labour party in Victoria went to the waterfront in that State and supported the unity ticket. As far as I am concerned, and as far as my knowledge goes, that charge is completely false.
– You were there.
– The honorable member knows nothing about it, of course. He merely repeats what he has read in letters to the editor of the Melbourne “ Age “. I have been maligned over that matter. It has been alleged that I went to the waterfront and supported unity tickets. I went to the waterfront and spoke once in connexion with the Victorian State election campaign. I spoke in support of Mr. Shepherd and his colleagues, and made no reference to the election within the Waterside Workers union. My position in regard to Communists, communism and unity tickets - and I think it is the position of all other members of the Australian Labour party - has been made very clear on many occasions. Speaking for my own part, I have, in television interviews, in press statements and in debates in this House, made it clear beyond all question that in every election campaign in which I am engaged, whether it is a trade union campaign or a political campaign, I always put the Australian Communist party candidate last. I do not hate Communists, but I do hate communism.
In Victoria, we are confronted with a peculiar situation in this respect: We have 70 unions affiliated with the Victorian branch of the Australian Labour party. Only seven of them have leading officials who are Communists. In only seven unions in Victoria affiliated with the Australian Labour party could this issue of unity tickets arise. But we have quite a number of unions which are affiliated with the Australian Democratic Labour party in Victoria. That is the only State in which unions are affiliated with the Democratic Labour party, and that party expects union men, in contests in the Federated Ironworkers Association of Australia and the Waterside Workers Federation, to back its candidates against Australian Labour party candidates and Australian Communist party candidates. What they want us to do is to take part in the campaign and denounce Labour men and Communists who are standing together. And the Labour men who are standing with Communists in trade union campaigns are, in my view, violating the rules of the Australian Labour party and will have to be dealt with at some time or other.
– When are you going to deal with them?
– It is not for us to say how members of the party shall be disciplined. That is for the State organization. We play our role in this matter, but the rules of the party are enforced, perhaps after some delay in some cases. I invite the Minister to wait and see. He may not have to wait very long. We are quite capable of handling our affairs and of dealing with the crises which .arise in our ranks when money from big interests in this country is used to engineer disputes in the Australian Labour party, split its ranks and then get the preferences of break-aways in order to keep anti-Labour governments in office.
To return to the Australian Democratic Labour party, it expected us to back their candidates against the other candidates. In my own union - the Federated Clerks Union of Australia - there is always a full slate of Australian Labour party candidates against Australian Communist, party candi-dates and a full slate of Australian Democratic Labour party candidates. The honorable member for Scullin (Mr. Peters) was for years the president of the Victorian branch of that union. As was done while he was president, we organize as far as we can inside the union a full slate of candidates against the Democratic Labour party. We vote the Labour ticket, and we hope that ultimately we will destroy the influence of the Democratic Labour party in the trade unions, as well as destroy the influence of the Australian Communist party. My solution for our troubles, as I have advanced it from time to time, is for the practice followed by Labour men in the Federated Clerks Union to be followed everywhere.
The question of the ironworkers has been raised. In New South Wales, the Federated Ironworkers Association is affiliated with the Australian Labour party. In Victoria, it is affiliated with the Australian Democratic Labour party. In New South Wales, there is no chance of any Labour man doing anything but support Short and the officers of the union. But in Victoria, we have to wage a campaign to get the Federated Ironworkers Association to cancel its affiliation with the Democratic Labour party and return to its proper home, which is the Trades Hall in Melbourne, and not this other bogus show which is being financed by our political enemies. Again I say that, if it pays them to do that, I suppose they are entitled to do it, but when they start to chide us about co-operating with the Australian Communist party, let me remind them that the numbers in the Senate are now evenly divided because the preferences of Communist Jim Healy elected Senator McCallum to the last vacant position in the last Senate elections.
The Minister, speaking for himself and his party, said “ We are not blind to what is going on “. Nor are we blind to what is going on. The Communist party, which says it is doing certain things in its conference decisions, has such a contempt for bourgeois morality that it might be proposing to do precisely the opposite, and in the coming election campaign it might help the Liberal party back into power to create the situation out of which the Communists hope to get a revolution.
Sir, I take advantage of this opportunity to refute the complete distortions of fact, the gross misrepresentations and. the lying statements that are being made in the Victorian press and, in particular, that awful, scraggy, miserable little rag called “ News Weekly “ that: members of the Australian Labour: party have gone onto the waterfront to support’ Healy or any other Communist candidate. I hope I live to see. the day when the Communist party will be as strong in trade union elections as it is in political elections. It receives 1 per cent, of the votes at. political elections, and that is about, all. it. ought to get at trade union elections.
Very often Communist candidates are very efficient men and are very good trade union workers and leaders. They receive support from quite a number of trade unionists who vote for the Liberal party or for the Australian Labour party or who might be classified as being a group of political agnostics. Those trade unionists vote any way at political elections and at their trade union elections they vote for the individual who will do the best job for them. We are quite capable of looking after our own affairs and solving our own’ problems. We know as well as does anybody else that this problem has to be solved. When it is solved, the Liberal party and the Democratic Labour party will lose one of the best election issues which they hope to use against us at the next federal election.
.- Mr. Speaker, to-night we have listened to speeches reflecting the rather flippant attitude of the Australian Labour party towards a most important matter which the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Killen) has raised. It is a matter of which I think all true and thinking Australians, will take heed. It displays the attitude of the Labour party, both politically and industrially,, which has been demonstrated effectively, too, by the right honorable member for Barton (Dr. Evatt). We have listened to his recital of what happened at the conference of the Labour party. That we all knew about. Then we saw the honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Edmonds) stoop to the lowest possible personal attack upon my colleagues the honorable member for Moreton and the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Pearce).
– It was not half as far as I should like to have gone.
– We can all understand the sensitivity of some members of the Labour party on these matters. Unfortunately, although the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) condemns the “ scraggy little rag “ called “ News Weekly “, he omits any reference to- the stand of the “ Tribune “ when it refers, in its issues, to the Communist party standing handinhand with the Labour party on unity tickets.
Unity tickets are not new. they are as old as is Bolshevism itself. Since 1952, they, have become more. or. less standard practice in-Australia. The number of times that these tickets, have been, used for the Communists to gain control of unions in cohesion with the Labour party has been indicated by the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Harold Holt) and by my friends from Capricornia and Moreton.
This is all part of a unity front campaign. It is all very well for members of the Opposition to say, “ We do not know of any Communists in the Labour party”. My goodness, if that is so, Opposition members have not looked too far! I have in my hand an important statement made by Dr. Lloyd Ross, the secretary of the New South Wales branch of the Australian Railways Union, and published in the “ Sydney Morning Herald “ of 9th June last. Dr. Ross said that _ the Communist party had given up hope of ever governing Australia itself, but believed it could control Labour party policy. He added -
In the long run the Communist party will rely on a left wing Labour Government rather than succeeding in- governing by itself.
He further said, and this is the important part, if you people say you can control your own affairs -
I am sure the Communist party is sending its people into the. Labour party.
That statement was made by a man who has had a life-long devotion to trade unionism’ and is now secretary of the New South Wales branch of the Australian Railways Union. Opposition members show, by their interjections, that they do not like what I am saying. I can understand their sensitivity in this matter.
Those men of integrity who. had. the fortitude to object to the continued co-operation of the Labour party with the Communist party, not only in regard to unity tickets, but also in regard to foreign policy and secret ballots, have been referred to this evening as “ this despicable corner party “. What did they do in 1954? They split the Australian. Labour party asunder as it had never been split before. They objected to it continually being led into the wilderness by no less a person than the right honorable member for Barton who,- unfortunately for Her Majesty’s Opposition, is leading it further and further into oblivion. That is a sad thing for Australia, becauseany government needs an opposition worthy of the name.
Unfortunately, the people of Australia are suffering as a result of the shortsightedness of those who are in control of the Labour party to-day. Those men who were referred to by the Leader of the Opposition were expelled in October, 1954, for having the courage to stand up for their convictions. I am sure that at the present time there are many others who would like to adopt a similar attitude but who have not the fortitude to do so. The removal of those men from the party was- hailed with delight’ by members of the Communist party. The Leader of the Opposition has said that they were guilty of disloyal and disruptive tactics. If fighting the Communists in the unions of this country, or in any party, is disloyal and disruptive, I am all for it.
The Minister for Labour and National Service quoted a passage from the August, 1955, issue of the. “ Communist Review”. In that issue Mr. Sharkey spoke of “the united front of the working class which leads, as the workers become more radical and as the Communist party waxes stronger and the Australian Labour party wanes, to something more than a united front between the Australian Labour party .and the Communists, that is, towards a merger, a fusion, the organizational unity of the Communists and the Australian Labour party masses to form one great mass party of the- toiling, people based upon the practising Socialist principles “. The Communists have never had a greater opportunity to infiltrate into this divided but once-great party, and they are taking every advantage of that opportunity; This once-respected party which, as I indicated earlier, is at its lowest ebb, would do well to hearken to the .advice that has been given to it to-night by the Minister for Labour and National Service and the honorable members for Moreton and Capricornia, and to take some action against this continual white-anting of the trade union movement and the Labour party itself by members of the Communist party.
We witnessed recently in this chamber an attack by the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron) on Mr. Tom Dougherty, general secretary of the Australian Workers Union. The honorable member has a rather intriguing fight on his hands, and it will be interesting to see what the outcome of it will be. Was it a coincidence or was it by design that there should be an attack by left-wing members of the Labour party on a union which is led by probably one of the most rabid anti-Communists in Australia to-day - a union which, under its rules, will not allow Communists to hold office? I again ask: Was the attack by design or was it a coincidence? The Australian Workers Union will have no truck with unity tickets. We find, too, that there is a campaign to ridicule and oust Dougherty, and Bukowski from Queensland. The same thing is happening in New South Wales to Mr. Short, one of those who have had sufficient fortitude to stand up against the Communist regime. We have been given, this evening, an example of what happened in the case of Mr. J. J. Brown. We have had also the example afforded by the Waterside Workers Federation in New South Wales.
Let us return now to Victoria. When Mr. Tripovich was asked what the Victorian executive intended to do about the people who stayed on unity tickets he said - and he was challenged by Mr. Jack Little to debate the matter - that this was a political stunt. He has also been known to state that the unity ticket does not apply to union affairs. Here we have a difference of opinion between the Leader of the Opposition, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition and the person to whom they look to take action against those concerned. Where do they stand? Do they really wish to get rid of the Communists who are in control of the trade union movement? Have the Leader of the Opposition and his deputy used such influence as remains to them to see that action is taken against these people? Ever since 1948 the rules of the Australian Labour party have stated that no Communist can stand on a union ticket with members of the party, but those rules have been flouted.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– Let me say to the honorable member for Phillip (Mr. Aston) and the so-called - I use the word “ honorable “ in each instance advisedly - right honorable member for Higgins, the Leader of the House (Mr. Harold Holt) that I took part in the Victorian elections by speaking to members of the Waterside Workers Federation. I did so with a full knowledge of the facts and of the desire of the Victorian Labour party to propagate its policy in the trade union. I, and those associated with me, did so with due regard to the fact that we had no right to interfere in the internal, domestic affairs of an industrial trade union, just as honorable members opposite would have no right to interfere in the elections of the Chamber of Manufactures, a chamber of commerce, or any such body. I recall something that was said by a friend of mine who was a member of the executive of the Chamber of Manufactures when a motion seeking the restoration of the 44-hour week was brought forward. He said, “Yes, gentlemen, I will agree entirely to the restoration of the 44-hour .week if every member of the executive who has spoken in favour of it will forego his mid-week golf afternoon and will be present on Saturday morning until 12 o’clock with his men”. He told me that he was sat down to cries of, “ Sit down, Commo! “ If this is one of the last things that I say in this Parliament, T hope that it will be understood as being much more sincere than anything that has been heard from the other side. The principle involved is purely and simply one of freedom of association. Our civil liberty of freedom of association is being impeached by Government supporters who are prepared to use any device, no matter how low, and who are ready to wallow in offal and filth in order to attain their ends. 1 refer particularly to the statement made by the so-called right honorable leader of the House.
-Order! I must ask the honorable gentleman to withdraw that remark.
– In deference to you, Mr. Speaker, I will delete the word “ socalled “ and say as sarcastically as possible the right honorable the Leader of the House.
– I direct the honorable member to withdraw unreservedly.
– I withdraw unreservedly the word “ so-called “, and leave the rest. The principle of freedom of association is being denied because the Liberal party is trying to capture the control of the trade union movement. The Australian Labour party was established to achieve, by political and constitutional means, what the trade union movement could not, after 1891, achieve by direct action. The party can, therefore, speak with authority on behalf of the trade union movement. What do we find? The Liberal party, through its satellite - its Sputnik - the so-called Australian Democratic Labour party, is attempting to interfere in, and obtain control of, the trade union movement.
I defy the Minister to answer a question on this subject which I shall put to him shortly. A demand was made for a courtcontrolled ballot in connexion with the recent election of the Amalgamated Engineering Union. It was held, and Mr. Garland’s election as secretary cost £4,000, instead of only £400. Court-controlled ballots will have the effect of crippling unions and denuding them of funds. When a court-controlled ballot is demanded by the industrial groupers, the Australian Democratic Labour party, or the Liberal party’s stooges in the Amalgamated Engineering Union we find that Mr. Fitzpatrick does not nominate in time. He then seeks from the industrial court an injunction restraining Mr. Nance, the gentleman appointed by the Government to control the ballot, and declaring the procedure laid down by Mr. Nance and the determinations he has made, to be invalid and of no consequence. All possible pressure is brought to bear upon Mr. Nance to stand up for Mr. Fitzpatrick and the Australian Democratic Labour party. Does the Minister deny that either he personally, or Mr. Bland, or a member of his staff got in touch with Mr. Nance and attempted to influence him in the discharge of his independent duty? If he denies that he is not telling the truth.
– 1 certainly deny it.
– Very well. I shall listen for the cock to crow a third time, for the Minister’s denial is quite empty. As one who has attended the Waterside Workers Federation and has spoken at the pickup on behalf of Victorian electors, I can say that the principle involved is that of freedom of association. Am I to say that I must not belong to the Chamber of Manufactures or to the Australian Workers Union - as I do - because a member of the Communist party also belongs to those organisations. Am 1 to say that I cannot belong to the Liberal party because a Communist also belongs to it? I may say here that I know of one Communist who is also a member of the Liberal party. Am I to refrain from attending the Presbyterian Church - my own church - because a member of the Communist party, however misguided he may be, also attends it? That is the logical conclusion to be drawn from the Government’s assertions in this matter of freedom of association. I am convinced that the Government will delve into any sectarian, political or other morass in order to get what it wants. The Australian Labour party, and the Victorian executive in particular, believe in noninterference in the trade union movement. Similarly, we expect the trade union movement to refrain from interfering with the Liberal party, the Australian Democratic Labour party, or the Communist party. If we place the Liberal party in the same category as the Communist party, is that any reason why we should run away from our principles. I cannot distinguish between liberalism, so called, as it is practised to-day and fascism. T also see no difference between fascism and communism. The principle involved is the same. If members of the Government have failed to distinguish between fascism and communism, I cannot be blamed for that.
Let us look at countries where there is no free trade union movement. I refer, for instance, to Russia and Hungary. What democracy exists in those countries, in which there is aboslutely no free trade union movement? Members on the Government side will agree with me, I think, that there is no freedom where there is political control of the trade union movement. Then let us look at countries with governments with similar political affiliations to those of this Government. In Spain, the Dominican Republic and Portugal there are no -free trade union movements. Fascism is in the saddle. ‘In -Portugal, the Minister for -Colonies -has languished in gaol for six years because he dared to criticize the policy -of -the Portuguese Government. In ‘Portugal the people are privileged to vote, but at an election they can vote for .only one party. The Portuguese Minister for Colonies -was -kept for -six -years in gaol, without being- charged, because he presumed- to criticize the government of that country. That is the type of government ‘that honorable members opposite ‘desire. That is the’ type of thing they would -seek ‘to ‘bring into the trade union movement of this country. They want to split: the Australian trade union movement three-ways.
– Order! The. honorable member’s- time- has expired.
– Several honorable gentlemen on the other side of the House have asked why members on this side are interested in the subject of unity tickets. There are several answers to that question.
– You do not want to talk about the Budget.
– Let me say in reply to the honorable member for East Sydney that for a number of years we have been talking about the evil that unity tickets can do. We have waited for members of the Opposition to put a stop to them, and we are- still waiting. Let me get back to the question that has been asked by honorable gentlemen opposite. Why are honorable members on this side of the House interested in this matter? There are several reasons. The first reason is that there are many trade unionists who have lost their faith in the once great Australian Labour party and who are coming to Government members, asking them to take up the cudgels, on their behalf. That is a fact. They come to us and ask us to try and sort out the mess into which the Labour party has allowed some of the trade unions to get.
There is another -reason -why we are interested in this matter. I do “not think that honorable gentlemen on the other side of the .House would deny that they consider themselves, ,as members of the Opposition, to be an important part of :the machinery of government of this country. I think it is tragic that they are under the domination .of an outside .executive, but we must not forget that that outside executive is, in fact, elected by trade unionists - the very people who are being affected by the use of unity tickets to permit Communists to infiltrate ‘the unions. -With the exception of the question to which I have referred, the only thing that I have heard any honorable gentlemen on the other side of the House say -that was at all pertinent to this matter was that they regretted that it had been brought up in the House. There can be no question that unity tickets -have been used most effectively by the Communist party in its efforts to gain power. I am quite prepared to say that the great majority of the members of the Australian Labour party hate the fact that their party has an association with the Communist party. I think it is tragic from their point of view that their leaders have allowed them to get into a position where that association is becoming .even closer.
There is no doubt at all about the use of these unity tickets. The honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Killen), who raised this subject, showed us a photostat copy of a unity ticket. I have here one of the actual tickets that was circulated on the Brisbane waterfront. I am quite prepared to show it to the .Leader of the Opposition if he wishes to see it - that is, if he has not already seen it. It was published by the Coronation Press - a Communist press in what formerly was .a part of my electorate.
One of the most interesting features of this subject is that several honorable gentlemen, including the Leader of the Opposition, have more or less indicated that they knew nothing about the use of these unity tickets. However, I understand from information I have received that at the Adelaide conference that was held between 1st and 4th Jury the federal executive of the Australian Labour party decided to bring ‘to the notice of its State branches1 the resolution of the 1957 Brisbane conference ‘prohibiting members of the : Evatt party from standing on unity tickets with members of the Communist party. This particular document - quite frankly I do not know the origin of it - goes on to say that Joe Chamberlain, the president of the federal executive, is obliged to see that the decision is enforced in Western Australia. That gentleman must be an interested listener to this debate to-night, because he is in the House, or within the precincts of the House.
On 23rd May, 1958, a statement appeared in the Brisbane “ Courier-Mail “ saying that in future any Australian Labour party candidate who knowingly permitted his name to be used on any Communist party ticket would be expelled from the Australian Labour party. That was announced after a meeting of the Labour party’s Queensland central executive by the secretary, Mr. Schmella, who is in the precincts of the House to-night, and who, I am sure, is listening to this debate with considerable interest.
Despite that statement, a unity ticket was published and used in this election. So far, the ten members of the Australian Labour party whose names are on that unity ticket have not been expelled from the party. What are the intentions of the Australian Labour party? I believe that Government members are entitled to ask that question, in the interests of the Commonwealth, and also in the interests of decent trade unionists who wish to rid themselves of Communist domination. I repeat: What are the intentions of the Australian Labour party? Is it going to stick to its own rules and regulations? Is it going to stick to the recent statements to the effect that it genuinely wishes to get rid of the Communist element in the trade union movement, or does it wish to have the support of the Communists?
– I do not propose to get very excited in this debate, because I happen to know what is behind it. This is the preliminary gallop of the young Liberals - the men with fascist tendencies - for the federal elections. I am able to tell the House what is behind this move this evening. There is a secret organization in the ranks of the Liberal party, the members of which have been meeting under the chairmanship of the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Bland). They are worried about their prospects at the election. After they had viewed the Budget, and after they had done their best, without success, to get the Government to make certain changes, they knew it was going to be curtains for those of them who represent borderline electorates. So they had their meeting and decided that the only chance they had of winning the next federal election is to trot out the old Communist bogy once more - to give it another gallop in the hope that they will be able to save their Government.
If they are worried about communism, I guarantee that the Budget that the Government has produced in this Parliament will create more Communists in this country than any unity tickets in the trade union movement. Did you ever hear such impudence in all your life as that of the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Killen), who, prior to his entry into Parliament, when he was a jackeroo on a Queensland station, was known as “Killen the Comm.”? Now he comes forward and wants to tell the Labour party whom it should expel. Not only do they want all who are known to be members of the Communist party to be expelled from the Labour party, but also everybody whom they believe has views which they regard as Communist views. Have honorable members forgotten that when we were dealing in this Parliament with the Communist Party Dissolution Bill, the Labour party had a majority in the Senate, and the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) complained about the obstruction of the Labour majority in the Senate? He tried to indicate that there was some alliance between the Labour party and the Communist party. I was sitting on the front bench in this chamber and, in my usual helpful way, I said to the Prime Minister, “Well, you can declare, some of them “. They were Labour senators, mind you, not members of the Communist party. He said, “ There is one Labour senator I would have no difficulty in declaring “. The Prime Minister’s words are on record in “ Hansard “. He added, “ And there is a Labour member of this House who would escape, but only by the skin of his teeth “. He did not mention who that member was, but I have a strong suspicion whom he meant. The Government wants us all out, all those whom they term “ left wing “ who would attack the privileged, the combines and monopolies. They are Communists in the eyes of the Liberal party and should be put out.
What is the position in the Labour party to-day? We do not have to depend on unity with any other party, whether it is the Communist party, the Australian Country party or the Liberal party, because we are the party of the mass of the people in this country. The trade unionists are intelligent, and they can make their choice in electing their trade union officials. What the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) has said is perfectly true. Many trade unionists who vote for officials who are Communists do not vote for them because they are members of the Communist party but because they have proved to be efficient as officials of their organizations. But at parliamentary elections, the same trade unionists vote straight out for Labour party candidates and have no hesitation in doing so.
Any one would imagine that this Government has always been consistent in attacking communism. However, I ask honorable members to go back and read the records of this Parliament, particularly about the famous slush fund which was established by an anti-Labour government. What was that slush fund for? That Government was dealing with officials of what it termed the Communist-controlled miners federation. Did members of that government collaborate in any way with Communists in that organization? That government established a slush fund to be used to bribe trade union officials to betray their members. That is the discreditable record of this Government and earlier anti-Labour governments in their dealings with the trade union movement.
I say, unhesitatingly, that what has been said by Labour members in this debate is perfectly true. If it were possible, overnight, to eliminate the Communist party, the most disappointed party would be the Liberal party. It does not want to see the end of the Communist party. What would its members have to talk about? What argument would they have to try to divide the people on the great political issues which confront them to-day? There have been occasions when the Liberal party has worked in collusion with the Communist party and has helped it financially. Take the case of Mr. Sharkey, a prominent Communist who has been mentioned in this debate. I invite honorable members to go back a few years and obtain a copy of the “ How-to-vote “ cards at the elections when Mr. Sharkey ran as a Communist candidate. It will be seen that the Liberal party “ How-to-vote “ card gave its preferences to Sharkey before the Labour candidate. That happened in 1943.
That is not the only occasion on which that occurred. Senator McCallum was elected on Communist preferences. The honorable member for Robertson (Mr. Dean), now known as the “ red1 dean “, would not be sitting in this House to-day if it were not for Communist votes. Instance after instance could be cited to indicate exactly where the Government stands in regard to this particular issue.
The Deputy Leader of the Government, on an earlier occasion in his history when, no doubt, he was inclined a little to the left, and probably if circumstances had not changed at that time his outlook might have led him to join the Communist party, wrote a treatise on socialism. This is the man who to-day stands in his place in this House and says there is no difference between socialism and1 communism. Let me tell honorable members on the Government side that they cannot escape their fate at the forthcoming elections by this particular tactic. They have ridden the old nag of communism too long, and it cannot win another race.
The Government will have to fight the next elections on the Budget issues. Honorable members heard the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Casey) say the other evening that he would not like to live on £4 7s. 6d. a week. Of course, he would not. That would not be enough to pay for one shout by him at the parliamentary bar. Yet, the unfortunate pensioners in this country are expected to live for a whole week on £4 7s. 6d. Do honorable members on the Government side think that these people, when they go to the polls, will worry about the Government’s talk, about unity tickets in trade union ballots? They will want to know why the Government is not doing something to assist the unfortunate pensioners. The man on the land to-day is in a desperate position, and he will not be worried about all this baloney that Government members have been talking about unity tickets in the trade unions. He will want to know what the Government is doing for primary industry and will want the Government to answer for its nine years of utter neglect, which has brought the country almost to the brink of ruin. The Government cannot use communism once again as a means of preventing the people from asking these questions.
The honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Killen) and the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Pearce) wanted the Labour party to expel certain members to whom they object. Did any one ever hear such impudence? What are they trying to do? Are they trying to improve the Labour party, and do they want us to strengthen our organization? Perhaps, I could give them some advice. I could nominate a few people in the Liberal party who ought to be thrown out because it is an utter disgrace to see some of the representatives whom that party sends into this Parliament. They are on the parliamentary pay-roll, but they are not earning their money. They waste their time in certain amenity centres around this building and they are not doing the work they are paid to do.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– I am indeed glad that the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) did not become excited. He made a clever - or shall I say cunning - speech which was designed to cover up for the Communist party, and he opposed any attack on Communist interests. What has been notable in this debate has been the attitude of members of the Opposition who have taken part in it. We have not heard very much from them in denunciation of the Communist party. Neither have they said that they will take action to see that members of the Communist party do not get into the Australian Labour party or co-operate with it - not for a bit.
We even heard the honorable member for East Sydney taking the point that the honorable member for Robertson (Mr. Dean) was elected on Communist preferences. The truth of the matter is that of the Communist preferences, something like 90 per cent, went to the Labour candidate and 10 per cent, to the honorable member for Robertson. Apparently, Labour is complaining because its candidate in that instance did not get 100 per cent, of the Communist preferences. Members of the Labour party know to-day that there is an axis of unity between the two parties. They are saying that they do rely and that they have a right to rely upon the Communist vote. It was obvious from the speech of the honorable member for Melbourne that he hated the Democratic Labour party more than the Communist party. Honorable members on this side of the chamber, however much they may dislike the tenets of any other political party in this Parliament or elsewhere, do not hate it in the same way as they hate the Communist party. We, here, believe that the Communist party is the real enemy of all Australians, and that all decent Australians should be united in hatred of communism and in active work to get rid of communism. If honorable members opposite do not subscribe to that view they ought to remain in opposition.
The attitude of the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) was also very notable. He did not know these things. He did not know them! Perhaps they might be true! He correctly quoted the resolutions of the Labour party but the point is this: Under his leadership, are these resolutions being implemented? He knows very well that there was in the Labour party at one time, an active organization which was endeavouring to get rid of the Communists from the party and was succeeding. As the penalty for its success it incurred the implacable and effective enmity of the Leader of the Opposition who destroyed, in his own party, the only organization that was working effectively against the Communist party. He opened the door for the Communists to come back. It is true that the Labour party has not been consistent in its attitude towards communism. There was a time - a short interval - when, inside the Labour party, there was a genuine effort to remove communism. But the Communist forces were too strong and they were able to mobilize, as so often they can, members of the Opposition behind themselves for the destruction of the organization which was working against communism in the Labour party. The right honorable member says that he does not know. He does not know! Is this not the thing that he should be most interested in? If he had any sense of responsibility, would he not regard this as a most important problem which he should be on top of at all times? He does not know! He adopts the attitude of a judge who says, “ I do not know anything that has not been brought before me by way of evidence in my court “. But the right honorable gentleman is not a judge. He is the responsible leader of a political party who is charged, or should be charged, with the responsibility of seeing that traitors to Australia do not infiltrate into that party. But he does not know! These are things of which he is ignorant! I think that he can only be likened to that celebrated character who was playing the piano in a brothel but said he did not know what was going on upstairs. (Honorable members interjecting) -
– Order! The honorable member for Wentworth will resume his seat. I call the House to order. The interjections are completely out of order and if they do not cease I will have to deal with somebody.
– I rise to order, Mr. Speaker. I should like to know whether you did hear clearly the reference that was made by the honorable member for Mackellar, and whether you regard it as a proper statement to make in the National Parliament. If you did not hear the remark, I think you should find out from the “ Hansard “ reporter exactly what was said because it was a most improper thing to say in the National Parliament.
– I did not hear the comment, but I presume that if it was not worthy of the honorable member for Mackellar, he will withdraw it. I leave it to him to withdraw voluntarily.
– If the comment improperly described the attitude of the right honorable member for Barton, I shall withdraw it. I now draw the attention of the House to the issue of “ The Worker “ dated 15th April, 1958. In that paper appears the refusal of the Australian Workers Union to attend a conference called by the right honorable member for Barton because it alleged, whether rightly or wrongly, that the Australian Council of Trade Unions which was to be represented at that conference was itself under Communist control. Surely this is something which the right honorable member for Barton knows about. But he says to the House that he does not know. I put it to you, Mr. Speaker, that the Labour party, as such, is living a lie. It has in its constitution the things which the right honorable member for Barton read out to this House but he is doing nothing about them. All he is doing is pretending that Labour is an antiCommunist party. If honorable members want to know something about Labour’s vacillating and wavering attitude on this matter I suggest that they should look, for example, at the Labour paper “ Standard “, now defunct, which was edited by a Mr. Ormonde who is shortly to take his place in this Parliament as a member of another place. Mr. Ormonde would have been responsible, I think, for the comment which was made some time ago in that paper pointing out that there was this fundamental division between Labour and communism. One of the most important things is the use by the Communists of weak men inside the Labour party. The Communists use people who are not themselves Communists but who are beholden to the Communists; people who are under some obligation to them; whose selection as Labour candidates or whose election to this Parliament was in some way due to members of the Communist party.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– I rise to make a personal explanation. I have been misrepresented by the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth). I will not go into the metaphor about the person who did not know, which seems to be so familiar to the honorable member for Mackellar. However, the honorable member said a dozen times in his speech that I had claimed that I did not know. I said nothing of the kind. I said that I knew nothing of the circumstances in Brisbane to which the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Killen) had referred. As an illustration of my knowing what happened in New South Wales, I cited the fact that members of the Australian Labour party had been expelled, to my knowledge, for breaches of these rules. Therefore, the basis of the honorable member’s metaphor, which was apparently familiar to him, has gone altogether. I do not know whether to ask him to withdraw it, or to return to the area that he knows so well. (Several honorable members rising in their places) -
Motion (by Mr. Harold Holt) agreed to - That the question be now put. Original question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 12.40 a.m. (Thursday).
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
a asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
Is he able to furnish the following information in relation to the State railway systems as at 30th June, 19S8: - (a) What is the capital indebtedness in each State? (b) What is the annual amount of interest payable on loan moneys in respect of each system? (c) What percentage of the total railway earnings does this interest represent?
– The latest available information on the matters referred to in parts (a), (b) and (c) of the question can be found on page 421 of “Hansard” of 18th March, 1958. The information sought in parts (d) and (e) of the honorable member’s question is not available.
d asked the Minister for Supply, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: - 1 and 2. St. Mary’s factory was designed to meet war needs and it would operate at full capacity only in the event of war. As a percentage of full designed capacity, the normal peace-time production is relatively small. This is the normal peace-time situation in respect of ammunition and explosives establishments where capacities are created in anticipation of expanded war-time needs.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 13 August 1958, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1958/19580813_reps_22_hor20/>.