22nd Parliament · 3rd Session
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. John McLeay) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
Mr. L. R. JOHNSON presented a petition from certain citizens of Australia praying that the House will give immediate consideration to the matter of increasing the rate of pension to at least 50 per cent, of the basic wage and also liberalize certain other social service benefits.
Petition received and read.
Mr. L. R. JOHNSON presented a petition from certain electors in the States of the Commonwealth praying that the House will take immediate steps to increase social service benefits for mothers and their children.
Petition received and read.
– Can the Prime Minister now inform the House of the arrangements made for the forthcoming dissolution, and the consequential general election?
– Yes. lt is proposed to recommend to His Excellency the GovernorGeneral that the House be dissolved on 14th October, that the writs be issued on 22nd October, that nominations close on 31st October and that polling take place on 22nd November.
Opposition Members. - Hear, hear!
– I am sorry that my distinguished friend, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, was a fortnight out. Still, I tried to do my best for him.
– I shall give you the reason next Sunday.
– The remaining date to be recommended to His Excellency is 20th January, next year, as the date of the return of the writs.
– I address a question to the Minister for Social Services. In view of the proposal to provide a special hard ship pension for those in need and to liberalize the means test, will the Minister do everything possible to expedite the introduction of the necessary legislation so as to enable the 250,000 aged people who are expected to apply for this relief to get it at the earliest possible moment?
– The honorable member for Sturt has been very active in relation to social services and is, indeed, the chairman of the Government Members Social Services Committee. I have pleasure in informing him that every consideration has been given to the question of the expeditious introduction of legislation covering the hardship allowance. It is a difficult matter. The legislation will not be easy to prepare, but I can assure the honorable member that everything that can be done is being done to expedite its introduction and, I hope, its unanimous acceptance by the House.
– I direct to the Prime Minister the following question: - Is it a fact that the Australian Broadcasting Control Board has made a recommendation to the Government regarding the allocation of television licences in Brisbane and Adelaide? If so, is it a fact that the Government has not made any decision in regard to the board’s recommendation? If no decision has been made, is that due to the fact that the Government wishes to hold the matter over until after the general election campaign is finished, or is it that the Government wishes to avoid offending too many people by granting licences to the present group of newspaper companies or to other groups which hold a monolithic monopoly of the press, radio networks and the television licences which have been allocated so far?
– I do not quite know why the honorable member refers to a “ monolithic monopoly “, because monopoly, in its nature, ought to be monolithic. Therefore, he is guilty of redundancy, I think. So far as I know, no report has been made. I have not seen one; and the matter has not engaged the attention of the Government.
– I ask the Minister for Health: Does a considerable time elapse between the consideration by the advisory committee of a recommendation for inclusion of a drug in the list of pharmaceutical benefits and on actual recommendation by that committee to the Minister for inclusion? Does a further time elapse before the Minister considers the recommendation and the drug actually becomes available as a benefit?
– The pro cedure is that the committee meets about every three months and considers such drugs as either have been recommended to it or which, in its own judgment, it considers should be investigated for inclusion in the list of free drugs. The committee does not necessarily make a decision straight away. It might defer a decision, perhaps, until its next meeting. Consequently, those who make recommendations to the committee may feel that quite a long time elapses before action ensues.
When the committee decides on a recommendation, this is then transmitted to the Minister. Some further investigations have to be made such as, for example, ascertaining whether there will be adequate supplies of the drug in the country when it is placed on the list. Members of the medical profession also have to be notified that they can prescribe this drug as a benefit, and arrangements have to be made for that. Further arrangements have to be made also to enable chemists to take the accounting and supply procedures which they have to engage in in order to supply the drug as a benefit. So, altogether, there may be some delay, but there is no avoidable delay. In fact, the time which elapses between the committee’s recommendation and action by the Minister is fairly short.
– I ask the Prime Minister, in the absence of the Minister for Territories, whether Cabinet has considered proposals on Northern Territory constitutional reform arising out of the conference recently held at Canberra between members of the Northern Territory Legislative Council and representatives of the Commonwealth Government. If these proposals have been considered, will the Prime Minister inform the House whether it is the Government’s intention to bring down legislation during the life of this Parliament to give effect to them?
– The matter is at present in submission to the Cabinet. The submission includes the full transcript of the discussions which occurred here quite recently. But until the matter has been discussed by Cabinet, it will not be possible to answer the second part of the honorable member’s question.
– I ask the Minister for Health: For how many years has rucide been in use in dealing with cattle tick in Queensland? Has its record been satisfactory up to the present? Have any cattle ticks been shown to be resistant to rucide? Do many Queensland cattle stations use rucide. and do they themselves pay for the filling of their dips? What proportion of cattle ticks have been found to be arsenic resistant in New South Wales and Queensland? Is the Health Department satisfied that in view of the percentage of failures to destroy cattle tick with arsenic in the last campaign, it may prove an unwise policy to put stock owners in practically clean country to the expense of compulsory dipping with arsenic?
– -Rucide which is a form of D.D.T., has been used in Queensland for most of the period since the war - at any rate, for about the last twelve years. Its use is fairly widespread in Queensland. Where it is used on private properties, it is paid for by the owners of the properties, who charge the dips with it themselves. It must be kept up to strength in the dips, and that is an expensive process. A few government-controlled dips in Queensland use rucide, but not many. Some resistance to rucide has been detected amongst ticks in Queensland, but I understand that such resistance is not very extensive, whereas there is a good deal of arsenic resistance.
The only instance of which I know where advice has been given against the use of rucide in clean areas is connected with the recent discovery of ticks in clean areas in the Grafton and Copmanhurst districts in New South Wales. Arsenic had been in use in the adjacent areas - not in the clean areas - and the decision was made by the Tick Control Commission that arsenic should be used in the clean areas. This. however, was done only after an investigation had been made to decide whether the ticks found there were or were not arsenic resistant. This was done by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization and, as the ticks were discovered to be susceptible to arsenic and as arsenic is infinitely cheaper than rucide both for the initial charging of the dips and for subsequent maintenance, it was decided that arsenic should be used in the dips in those areas.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether it is a fact that the Government supplies unlimited exchange to the oil companies to enable them to import oil on an import replacement basis. Has the Government any control over the method of selling petrol? Is the Prime Minister aware that it is sold in country areas on the basis of the capital city price plus mileage charges, and that the companies exploit the users in Broken Hill by charging the Sydney price plus freight, although the whole of the petrol supplies for Broken Hill are obtained from Adelaide? Will the Government make some representations or take some action to prevent the exploitation of petrol users in Broken Hill?
– Exchange is made available for the importation of oil. 1 am not aware that we have any control over the price at which petrol is retailed in various parts of Australia, though I can well understand that the cost of transporting it to various points of distribution is something that would be taken into account. Whether we have power to deal with that I would doubt very much, but I will have the matter looked at.
– I desire to ask the Minister for Air a question relating to an incident that happened during the last war. By way of explanation, I should like to say that in April, 1942, one of our Royal Australian Air Force Hudson aircraft was shot down in Koepang Bay in West Timor. The crew of four all got ashore and were helped by a native named Jermias Koenfora Two of the crew members were badly injured, and were eventually captured by the Japanese and executed. The other two crew members were guided by Koenfora to an escape point where they were eventually picked up and taken to safety. Subsequently, one died on active service. I ask the Minister whether any decision has been reached as a result of my representations that the valuable service rendered by Koenfora. at great personal risk to his own life, to the R.A.A.F. crew of the Hudson aircraft and, indeed, to this country should be recognized. Will the Minister take into consideration, when reaching a decision, that for the action he performed, Koenfora was punished by torture and imprisonment, an experience which has had a great detrimental effect on his health?
– Yes, this matter has been investigated. Some time ago, the honorable member for Isaacs drew my attention to the circumstances and to the fact that this incident had, for a variety of reasons, not been investigated in the years immediately after the war. Other similar actions which assisted Australian servicemen were investigated by the authorities. The facts as stated by the honorable member for Isaacs have been established. It is undoubtedly true that Mr. Koenfora. the Indonesian resident of Timor mentioned by the honorable member, performed invaluable services for the two Australians who escaped. Such services cannot be measured in terms of money, but I ‘have quite recently approved a recommendation from my department that a modest reward should be paid to Mr. Koenfora, and that he should be given an illuminated address, bearing at the top the arms of the R.A.A.F., recounting his brave and humane action in helping these Australians, which action cost him so much in imprisonment and discomfort.
– Has the attention of the Minister for Primary Industry been directed to a remarkable speech made in this House by the honorable member for Richmond, a member of the Australian Country party, in which the honorable member advocated an increase in the subsidy-
– Order! The honorable member is out of order in putting a question in this form.
– In what way, Mr. Speaker?
-Order! The honorable member is out of order. He will resume his seat.
– I address a question to the Prime Minister. Will the Government consider officially recognizing the remarkable mile run performed recently by Mr. Herb Elliott, which was perhaps the greatest athletic feat of all time by an Australian? As well as some personal honour to Mr. Elliott, might not such recognition properly include the provision of improved facilities for Australians who wish to train for, or compete in, various sports?
– As to the first part of the honorable member’s question, I, of course, take note of it. As to the remainder of his question, I remind him that when the Commonwealth found a great deal of money for the Olympic Games in 1956, one of the matters that we had in mind, as I made quite clear at the time, was that all such events should result, if possible, in improved facilities for amateur athletes. I am sure that, in the case of the Olympic Games, this result was successfully achieved.
– What is the Prime Minister’s time for the mile?
– My time for the mile would be, I think, ten minutes, but it would be a good five minutes faster than the honorable member’s time.
– My question is addressed to the Prime Minister. In 1955, the Government expressed its concern at the danger to the Australian economy represented by the national hire-purchase debt. It was stated1 that the Government would ask the banks to curtail finance for hirepurchase business, and that it was considering ways and means of dealing with the problem. Can the Prime Minister tell me what notice the banks have taken of this request? Has the Government considered the matter in the way that it promised to do, and what has been the result of its consideration of this problem, which it considered as being dangerous at that time? I remind the right honorable gentleman that the hire-purchase debt has now increased to something over £355,000,000.
– I am sure that the honorable member would appreciate a full answer to this question, which cannot be given offhand1. I will see that one is provided.
– Can the Prime Minister inform the House of the progress made by the Constitution Review Committee, which was set up very wisely by this Government? Is the committee’s report likely to be available before the end of this session? Because of the possibility of changes in the personnel of the committee after 22nd November, would it not be advisable to have the present committee’s report completed as far as possible, so as to avoid a new committee - which will undoubtedly be appointed by this Government after it is returned to power - having to go over some of the ground which has been covered by the committee now in existence?
– The Attorney-General, who is chairman of the committee, has told me that he hopes the report will be in our hands before the end of these current sittings. That is all I can say about it. When the honorable member refers to possible changes in the personnel of the committee, I hasten to say that I share his optimism.
– Will the Minister for Labour and National Service inform the House whether the Ministry of Labour Advisory Council has any definite figures about the number of persons killed or injured in industry during the period the council has been in operation? If so, will the Minister make those figures available to the House? When the proposed conference on industrial safety meets towards the end of September, will the Minister recommend to the conference that it give special consideration to an increase in the safety devices provided in al! industries? If the Minister could give his personal attention to this matter, he could help to bring about the speedy action that is required to deal with this important problem as it affects the economy and Australian industrial production.
– Last week, when the honorable member for Leichhardt asked me whether any action had been taken by the Commonwealth Government in relation to industrial safety, I told him that a conference had been arranged, and I promised to let him have some more details about the conference as soon as I could. 1 have those details with me and shall give them to the House. First, however, the honorable member asks whether I have any figures which would indicate how many accidents of this character had occurred in Australia during the life of the Ministry of Labour Advisory Council. I cannot give the honorable member figures covering that period, but the House will get some picture of the seriousness of the industrial accident problem when I tell honorable members that, on a conservative estimate, the annual casualty list in Australian industry is something like 400 fatalities, 3,500 maiming injuries and 350,000 other compensatable injuries involving absence from work for one day or more. I think the total bill for insurance premiums covering these eventualities amounts to about £29,000,000 which, of course, is itself a heavy cost.
Many individual undertakings have made, and are continuing to make, outstanding progress in reducing accidents, but it is true that much avoidable injury still occurs. On the governmental side, the primary responsibility rests with the State governments. The Commonwealth Government’s own direct responsibility is limited to its employees and to its Territories; but, as I said last week, the Ministry of Labour Advisory Council, from the time it was established, has been greatly exercised as to what could be done to improve the position. Whilst it recognizes the direct interest and responsibility on the governmental side of State governments, it feels that so serious a national problem calls urgently for action on a national scale.
The main purpose of the conference, which has been organized through the Department of Labour and National Service, is to focus attention nationally on this problem and promote the work of the States in their own sphere in arranging for suitable remedial courses to be conducted. That is the background to the conference. I arn glad to be able to tell honorable members that invitations have been issued to State Ministers of Labour, top level representatives of employer organizations, the Australian Council of Trade Unions, private and governmental undertakings and others interested in industrial safety such as insurance interests, the standards association and professional bodies such as the Australian Institute of Management and others. The response to those invitations has been very gratifying. It is quite clear that this conference is seen as a valuable opportunity for improving the position.
– Has the accident rate gone down since the first planning of the conference?
– The conference would not have had an opportunity to do anything in relation to that. The work which has been going on would not have had a public impact because it has been a process of conference and discussion and of relatively private negotiation. What has been going on around Australia in the major undertakings is a more elaborate process of precaution. Honorable members will appreciate that 90 per cent, of Australian factories contain 50 employees or less, and I believe it is in these relatively small establishments that a great deal of valuable educational work can be done. The conference will take the form of a series of papers read by leaders in their fields, and discussion will follow.
I am happy to say that His Excellency the Governor-General will open the conference. From the response already received, I have every confidence that from it will emerge a sharpened national consciousness of our industrial safety problem and a more practical approach to its remedy.
– I wish to ask the Minister for Supply a question concerning his recent visit to the Port Hedland area in Western Australia. Is it intended that any work will be undertaken in that area? If so, what will be the extent of it?
– I am aware of the keen interest that the honorable member for Perth has shown in scientific developments at Woomera. Since the range was extended into his own State of Western Australia his interest has become keener. Quite a lot of work will be done in the Port Hedland-Broome area this year. At the base camp at Anna Plains and at the impact area, a place called Tolgarno, expenditure this year will be somewhere in the vicinity of £1,000,000.
– I ask the Minister for the Navy whether it is a fact that ten of our Navy craft have been sold to Japan for scrap iron. Is it a fact that among this number were corvettes and frigates which were still capable of many years of valuable work and which could have been used in making a comprehensive and accurate survey of the Australian coastline? Can the Minister inform the House of the whereabouts of H.M.A.S. “ Hobart “, which was recently refitted at a cost of £2,000,000? Has she also been sold to Japan? If so, what was the price paid for her by the Japs?
– I am obviously unable to answer a compendium of questions of that sort, off the cuff. As to whether certain corvettes have been sold to Japan which could have been used in surveying the Australian coast, I point out that it is not only the vessel itself that is required to undertake a surveying service, but the complement that goes with her and all that lies behind the maintenance of a ship in commission. I am not aware that the surveying branch of the Royal Australian Navy is below strength or below standard at the present time. I know that very active surveys are going on in the waters to the north of Australia and at the other extremity of the continent, in the Australian Bight. As to the present whereabouts of “ Hobart “, the last time I saw her she was tied up in Sydney Harbour. I shall inquire into this matter and inform the honorable member shortly.
– I ask the
Minister for Territories a question. Would it be possible to obtain in the Territory of Papua and bring here a quantity of bird of paradise feathers sufficient to clothe the moulting cockatoos of the Australian Capital Territory who are feeling the chill winds of political adversity?
- Mr. Speaker, the exportation of bird of paradise plumes from the Territory of Papua and New Guinea is prohibited under the laws of the Territory. I shall make some inquiries to see whether it is possible or desirable to make any variation in the law.
However, 1 would ask the honorable member to consider very earnestly the feelings both of the birds of paradise and the people of the Territory of Papua and New Guinea, who set great store by those plumes. The plumes are customarily reserved for wearing by big men, and men in good standing with their own tribe. If those conditions were complied1 with, and if the honorable member has in mind somebody who is a big man and in good standing with his tribe, possibly something might be done. So far as providing a shield against the cold winds of political adversity is concerned, the custom in Papua-
– This is a pre-arranged question.
– It is not a pre-arranged question. The custom in Papua, when the cold winds of adversity are felt, is for men to huddle in a smoke-filled room, re-living their glorious past and contemplating their dismal future. I see no great difference between what they do in Papua and what they do here.
– I ask the Minister for Primary Industry a question. As the honorable gentleman is aware, heavy losses often occur in the dried vine fruits industry owing to adverse weather conditions during the sun-drying of grapes. Have investigations been made with a view to preventing such losses in this important industry, and it so, with what result?
– On at least two occasions the question has been raised in the House as to what assistance can be given to the dried fruits industry by way of minimizing losses during the drying period for grapes. I am glad to be able to advise the honorable member that a consulting engineer engaged by the Department of Primary Industry has been investigating the problem of the artificial drying of grapes. Within recent weeks, he has advised my department that he now thinks he has perfected the necessary plant to permit this to be done on a commercial basis. Now, with the co-operation of the industry itself, funds have been provided to permit a prototype to be built and field-tested, and then for any necessary modifications to be made. I think the honorable member would like to know that the engineers concerned with the project feel that there are reasonable grounds for thinking that the enterprise will be successful, and that future losses can be considerably reduced.
Killing of Natives
– Is the Minister for Territories yet in a position to inform the House, in pursuance of his promise to do so, of the arrangements made for the special inquiry into the recent affair in New Guinea in which two natives lost their lives by shooting?
– I have it in mind, if the House will grant leave, to make a statement to-morrow morning setting out the appointment, the terms of reference, and the arrangements^ made for the conduct of the inquiry.
– I ask the Minister for Health whether he can give the House some indication of the progress made in the Government’s nation-wide campaign against tuberculosis.
– In general terms, very great progress indeed has been made. During the last ten years, approximately £44,000,000 has been spent by the Government on a campaign to eradicate tuberculosis from Australia. About £8,500,000 was spent last financial year. The death rate from tuberculosis in Australia has fallen greatly over the last ten years, although the incidence rate has not fallen in comparison. This is probably due to the fact that far more cases are now identified and brought to early treatment. Another result of the campaign has been the construction of a great many chest hospitals for the treatment of the disease in Sydney, Brisbane, and provincial centres throughout Australia. Shortly, what I may describe as the last of this chain of hospitals will be opened in Perth. All over the continent, most extensive arrangements have been made for the treatment of the disease, and I am sure that the results will fully justify the expenditure.
– Can the Minister for Defence inform the House whether “ Hobart “ has been sold? If it has, to whom has it been sold, and for how much?
-“ Hobart “ has not been sold. It is held in reserve.
– I should like to ask the Minister for Territories a question. Can the Minister say what progress is being made with the rice project at Humpty Doo, and what acreage it is intended to sow next season?
– During the season which has just finished, considerable engineering progress was made at Humpty Doo by Territory Rice Limited. As the House will know, there has been a re-arrangement of the management of the company and, without entering into the affairs of the company, which are its own domestic business, I think I can say with accuracy that the management and the direction of this company at Humpty Doo are now of a kind that gives us the most optimistic hopes for the success of its operations. In the past season, it has concentrated on basic engineering works and has not attempted to harvest a great acreage, although it did harvest something like 200 acres. I do not think it has yet been decided - if it has, I do not myself know of it - exactly what acreage will be sown in the coming year, but, irrespective of what acreage may be sown, the basic work that is being done is of such a character that, administratively, we have the greatest confidence in the future operations of the company.
– I ask the Minister for Social Services: As forms for applications for the supplementary rent allowance to pensioners are available at post offices and offices of the Department of Social Services, will the Minister, in order to avoid applications from pensioners who are not -eligible for the allowance, state whether a widowed pensioner with no other income or means who, because of infirmity, is an inmate of a rest home, and whose family pays the difference between the rest home charges and the pension, would be eligible for the rent allowance?
– I am not in a position to give adequate answers to suppositional questions of this kind. If the honorable member has in mind a particular case, and if he will submit it to me, I shall be happy to measure the true circumstances against the spirit of the act, and, on that basis, eligibility will be accepted or rejected.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Primary Industry. I ask the Minister whether the Government will consider a plan submitted by the Australian Primary Producers Union for drought mitigation in general, and fodder conservation in particular. Would the enactment of the Government’s banking legislation, and, in particular, the establishment of the proposed Commonwealth Development Bank, have assisted farmers to take advantage of what are expected to be bumper harvests of grain and of grass?
– I think that I have already advised the Australian Primary Producers Union of the Government’s approach to both flood mitigation and fodder conservation. If I have not already replied to the representations, I shall do so immediately and let the honorable gentleman have a copy of the letter. On the second point, of course, it is regrettable that the Development Bank is not now in existence. It would be, under appropriate circumstances, of immense benefit to farmers. Whether it would cover the exact case mentioned by the honorable gentleman, I am not able to say, but I shall look up the legislation and let him have a reply.
Message recommending appropriation reported.
In committee (Consideration of Governor-General’s message):
Motion (by Sir Arthur Fadden) agreed to -
That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue be made for the purposes of a bill for an act to grant and apply out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund sums for the purpose of financial assistance to the States.
Standing Orders suspended; resolution adopted.
That Sir Arthur Fadden and Sir Philip McBride do prepare and bring in a bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented by Sir Arthur Fadden, and read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this bill is to authorize the payment to the States in 1958-59 of a special financial assistance grant to supplement the amount payable under the formula embodied in the States Grants (Tax Reimbursement) Act 1946-1948. At a meeting of Commonwealth and State Ministers in Canberra last June, the Commonwealth offered to make available to the States in 1958-59 a special financial assistance grant sufficient to bring the total tax reimbursement grant for this year to £205,000,000, or £15,000,000 more than the corresponding grants received by the States last year.
As the amount payable under the formula this year is estimated at £174,600,000, this offer involves the payment of a special financial assistance grant of £30,400,000, or £6,300,000 more than the corresponding grant last year. The precise amount will not be known until the Commonwealth Statistician completes his calculation of the tax reimbursement formula grant later in the year.
The whole of this special financial assistance grant is to be distributed among the States in the same way as the grant payable under the tax reimbursement formula.
Last year the formula grant amounted to £165,855,000. In addition, the States received a special financial assistance grant of £24,145,000 making a total tax reimbursement grant of £190,000,000. During the course of the year, the Commonwealth also made available, outside the normal tax reimbursement arrangements, an additional assistance grant of £5,000,000 to assist the overall financial positions of the States.
I might point out that the proposed payment of a special financial assistance grant which is greater than last year’s grant, and which will increase the total tax reimbursement payments by £15,000,000, is being made in a year when our income tax revenue is expected to fall substantially. Whereas last year we received £650,000,000 in income tax revenue, we expect to receive only £610,000,000 this year. Especially in these circumstances, the proposed increase in the tax reimbursement grants represents a very generous contribution to the resources of the States in 1958-59.
I commend the bill to honorable members, and with the concurrence of the House will incorporate in “ Hansard “ a table which compares the estimated tax reimbursement grants to the States in 1958-59 with the corresponding payments made last year. The table reads -
Debate (on motion by Mr. Webb) adjourned.
Message recommending appropriation reported.
In committee (Consideration of GovernorGeneral’s message):
Motion (by Mr. Townley) agreed to -
That it is expedient that an appropriation of moneys be made for the purposes of a bill for an act to authorize the raising and expending of moneys for the purposes of housing.
Standing Orders suspended; resolution adopted.
That Mr. Townley and Mr. McMahon do prepare and bring in a bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented by Mr. Townley, and read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this bill is to authorize the raising of loan moneys totalling £35,810,000 for financial assistance to the States for housing. The provision of £35,810,000 in 1958-59, for which approval is now being sought, represents an increase of £2,650,000 over the amount advanced to the States in 1957-58 to meet in full their requests for housing finance under the 1956 Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement.
Advances to the States will be made in accordance with conditions already approved by the House and incorporated in the Housing Agreement Act 1956. Of the total amount of £35,810,000 which it is estimated will be advanced to the States in 1958-59, at least £10,743,000, being 30 per cent. of total advances, must be allocated by the States to building societies and other approved institutions for lending for private home building. The balance of up to £25,067,000 will be available for the erection of dwellings by the States. The corresponding amounts in 1957-58 were £6,632,000 for private home building and £26,528,000 for State housing programmes.
In accordance with the requests of the States the estimated amount of £35,810,000 will be allocated among the States as follows: -
I commend the bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Calwell) adjourned.
Message recommending appropriation reported.
In committee (Consideration of GovernorGeneral’s message):
Motion (by Mr. McMahon) agreed to -
That it is expedient that an appropriation of moneys be made for the purposes of a bill for an act to approve the borrowing of moneys for a defence purpose, namely, financial assistance to the States in connexion with War Service Land Settlement, and to authorize the expending of those moneys.
Standing Orders suspended; resolution adopted.
That Mr. McMahon and Mr. Townley do prepare and bring in a bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented by Mr. McMahon, and read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
This bill provides for the raising of loan moneys amounting to £7,000,000 for expenditure in the year 1958-59, under the war service land settlement scheme, for the acquisition and development of land and the provision to ex-servicemen allotted holdings of capital for working expenses and the purchase of stock, plant and equipment. This amount will be supplemented by an estimated £4,330,000 that it is expected will be received during the year from repayments of advances by settlers, State and Commonwealth contributions to the excess of cost over valuations placed on holdings, the sale of surplus land and purchase payments by settlers who exercise the right to freehold the farms now leased by them.
It is anticipated the total of £11,330,000 will be made available to the States in the following proportions: -
Moneys advanced to the States in 1957-58 totalled almost £11,000,000, bringing the total advances made by the Commonwealth to all States since the inception of the scheme to nearly £72,000,000. As I have explained previously when introducing similar bills, the Commonwealth provides the whole of the capital moneys required for expenditure on war service land settlement in South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania. In each of these States there are large projects involving the development of virgin land. The objective is to have as much of this work as possible completed during the current financial year.
I understand that New South Wales and Victoria are also aiming at completing acquisitions for the scheme. To assist these States in accelerating the scheme the Commonwealth, during the financial year 1957-58, amended the basis of £1 for £2, on which it had previously supplemented the finance provided by these States from their own resources. The new basis which operated last year and will operate again this year permits each State to make use of the maximum of £2,000,000 the Commonwealth is prepared to advance provided there is no drift of State funds allocation from war service land settlement to other purposes. Honorable members will note, however, that only £1,000,000 is proposed to be advanced to New South Wales this financial year. This is due to the fact that the State Government expects it will not be able to bring to account before 30th June, 1959, all expenditure from the 1958-59 programme. The balance of the £2,000,000 to be provided by the Commonwealth will be made available as necessary during next financial year to meet such expenditure as the accounts are actually paid.
Now that the scheme is drawing to a close, it is appropriate to give the House a brief review of its achievements. Honorable members will appreciate that this is the first occasion on which the States and the Commonwealth have co-operated closely in the field of closer settlement. The results have been highly successful. There have been mistakes made, but the lessons learned from them will, in future years, more than offset any losses experienced. Farms have been designed on a pattern which ensures that their productivity can meet all overhead costs, and will enable a manager of average efficiency to maintain .1 reasonable standard of living after meeting all his commitments under the scheme.
During the early years on the farm, the actual net cash return to a settler may seem out of proportion to the responsibilities attaching to the management of his farm. A settler under the scheme, however, may obtain 100 per cent, finance for stock, plant and improvements, and the instalments repaid on advances for these purposes are creating an equity for him in the assets. For example, a settler repaying an advance for the purchase of sheep in, say, five years then owns the flock valued at, say, £4,000. and has for himself the additional cash which it had previously been necessary to pay each year as an instalment on the advance.
When this Government first assumed office, farms in South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania were allotted on perpetual leasehold tenure. A policy permitting the right to freehold the farms was initiated by this Government, and it is indicative of the success of the scheme that in Tasmania, where the right to freehold was exercisable first, some settlers have already converted their farms to freehold.
Some of the large-scale projects have been comparatively expensive and the writing off of part of the cost is necessary to bring the capitalization of the farms to an economic level. This writing off of cost is insignificant compared with the value to the nation of the production being obtained from land which was formerly in a virgin state. lt is of long-term importance that the pattern of settlement carried out under the war service land settlement scheme has been broadly followed in legislation by one State for future closer settlement and that another State has legislated to provide rural credit to raise the level of production on existing farms to similar standards.
In two States particularly, it is expected the demand from ex-servicemen will not be satisfied by the time the acquisition of new land ceases. In South Australia, the difficulty lies in obtaining sufficient suitable land, but a concerted effort is to be made during this year. New South Wales has the largest number of cx-servicemen still awaiting farms. However, those who have been unsuccessful in obtaining one of the blocks made available by ballot have had the alternative opportunity of finding a farm for themselves under the promotion provisions of the State act.
Financial assistance to all the States for non-capital expenditure, for example, living allowance to settlers, interest and rent remissions, writing d’own the cost of holdings, and so on, which is estimated at £2,000,000 for the present financial year, will be met by the Commonwealth from Consolidated Revenue. Expenditure to 30th June, 1958, for these purposes amounted to over £9,000,000.
It is expected that about 9,200 farms will have been made available by the time the scheme comes to an end. Not only will the scheme have achieved the re-establishment of many ex-servicemen, but also it will have resulted in the bringing into intensive production large areas in Australia which previously contributed little, if anything, to the national wealth. I commend the bill to honorable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Clarey) adjourned.
In Committee of Supply: Consideration resumed from 19th August (vide page 519), 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.
.- I rise to support the motion of censure moved by the right honorable the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt). The Government is censured not only by the Labour Opposition; it is also censured and roundly condemned by the vast majority of people throughout Australia. That fact is evidenced by newspaper editorials, statements by leaders in industry and commerce and on behalf of trade unions and organizations representing age and invalid pensioners and mothers in receipt of child endowment. It is quite apparent also that many members on the Government side, particularly those representing swing seats, are depressed and disappointed with this barren, gloomy Budget.
I shall read to the committee some very interesting views on this Budget which have been expressed not by the Labour party or its supporters but by some of the most ardent supporters of this Government - the newspapers. On 6th August the Sydney “ Daily Telegraph “, under the heading, “An Old and Tired Budget”, had this to say -
Sir Arthur Fadden’s farewell budget last night proved to be just as dismal and unimaginative as any of the budgets we have come to expect from him. During his reign as Treasurer, Sir Arthur Fadden has produced eleven budgets each drearier than the last. The fact that this is his final budget is probably the only comfort that taxpayers will get from it, and the fact that there will be no more Fadden budgets is certainly the best thing that could happen from Australia’s point of view.
The following statement appeared in the Sydney “ Daily Mirror “ on 6th August, under the heading, “ Hopeless, Gloomy Budget “-
The Federal Treasurer last night presented his eleventh and last budget. The fact that it is his last budget will be received with great relief throughout Australia. It is a disgraceful, donothing budget.
– Who said that?
– The Sydney “Daily Mirror”. The Sydney “Sun” on 6th August said - lt was a tight-fisted budget.
On the same day, the “ Sydney Morning Herald “ said-
A dismal failure to meet the country’s needs.
The Melbourne “ Herald “ said -
Too much caution.
On 6th August the Melbourne “ Sun NewsPictorial “ said -
The Budget is a stay-put budget and no oneis going to be happy about that.
The Melbourne “Truth”, on 9th August, said -
The Budget is hopeless, gloomy, do-nothing.
The Sydney “Truth” on 10th August said -
The Budget has dismayed all sections of the community.
There is not one single concrete proposal: contained in the Budget to deal with theserious unemployment position nor the acute housing position, and it makes a very niggardly approach to social services. But to cap it all, the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) stated in his Budget Speech -
Despite much that has been said this countryis not lagging and depressed; it is, on the contrary,, highly prosperous and it is moving ahead.
Who does the Treasurer think is going to be deluded by the statement that we are highly prosperous? Are we highly prosperouswhen there are approximately 66,000 persons registered as unemployed with nearly 30,000 on the dole? Are we highly prosperous while thousands and thousands of pensioners are endeavouring to exist on a paltry, meagre pension? Are we highly prosperous when scores of thousands of mothers are endeavouring to raise large families on inadequate child endowment payments? Are we highly prosperous when many thousands of families are living hi dingy rooms, garages and hovels while they vainly search for homes? Are we highly prosperous when every State government is starved for funds by this Government for the purposes of providing schools, hospitals, roads and transport to meet the needs of an expanding population? The answer to that, I think, is definitely, “ No, we are not highly prosperous “.
Let us examine our defence situation. Since this Government introduced its first Budget in 1950, we have spent the staggering sum of approximately £l,500,000,00f> on defence with very little to show for it The Air Force is without modern planes, and very soon it will be lagging behind the Russian-equipped Indonesian air force. At present only one brigade, numbering 3,500 troops, could be mustered for front-line defence. We have no permanent naval force stationed in the vital northern parts of Australia, and most of our naval vessels are obsolete. The main weapons of the Army are the 25-pounder gun and the .303 rifle, which was in service during the Boer War. Despite many appeals in this House by my colleague, the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Luchetti), who has pressed for the manufacture of the modern FN30 rifle, we have seen this .Government dilly-dally until it is still only in the planning stage, and not one FN30 rifle has yet been produced. We have no concrete proposal for civil defence against nuclear warfare, although the New South Wales Government must be complimented on the fact that it has taken initial steps in this direction.
All of this brings back memories of our unpreparedness in 1940-41, when, as honorable members will recall, our Air Force pilots had to fight modern Japanese Zero fighters with Wirraway training -planes. I am not for one moment advocating that our defence vote of £190,000,000 should be increased, but I contend that, because of the bungling administration of the Government over the years, we are not prepared to meet any emergency that may arise. That brings hack to mind the statement made by Sir Frederick Shedden two years ago that we were not prepared for war. This statement is supported by the many criticisms made by Government supporters, particularly the honorable member for Indi (Mr. Bostock), of our appalling defence position. It is the full responsibility of this Government to see that the defence vote of £190,000,000 is spent wisely and well in protecting Australia and in providing our Army, Navy and Air Force personnel with modern, essential equipment and weapons instead -of the obsolete equipment that we possess at present. If the top-brass Service chiefs and other Government advisers cannot give us better defence value for our money, then they must make way for some one with foresight and initiative.
Let us examine the unemployment situation. This Government has shown a callous disregard of the unemployed. That is clearly evidenced in the Budget Speech of the Treasurer. Although the right honorable gentleman used about 6,000 words m the course of his speech, he devoted exactly nineteen words to the unemploy ment position. The latest figures issued by the Department of Labour and National Service show that nearly 66,000 people are registered as unemployed and that nearly 30,000 are on the dole. These figures in no way give the true picture of the number of people out of work, as many thousands of unemployed do not register. On a very conservative estimate, I should say that there would be at least 100,000 persons out of work in Australia to-day. This state of affairs is the direct outcome of the very stringent credit restriction policy being pursued by this Government.
From time to time, when members of the Labour Opposition have raised this matter in the Parliament, they have been accused of purposely endeavouring to create further unemployment. Nothing is further from the truth. I remind honorable members that the serious unemployment position has been the subject of many newspaper editorials during the past twelve months. In any case, Mr. Chairman, we would be failing in our duty as an Opposition if we did not ventilate this matter of urgent public importance. It is very interesting to note that the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) has now ceased using the term “ full employment “ and has substituted a new phrase. “ high and stable employment “. The expression “ high and stable employment “ is very vague. It could mean, for example, that the Government would be satisfied if 94 per cent, or 95 per cent, of the people were employed, leaving 5 per cent, or 6 per cent, to form a permanent pool of unemployed. It would be most interesting to obtain the Prime Minister’s interpretation of the difference between “ high and stable employment “ and the Australian Labour party’s pledged policy of “ full employment”. There is absolutely no substitute for the term “ full employment “. It simply means a job for every man and woman willing to work.
The electorate of Watson, which I am honoured to represent in the Parliament, contains the areas of Redfern, Waterloo. Rosebery, Alexandria, St. Peters, Tempe. Pagewood, Mascot and Botany, and is recognized as the greatest industrial electorate in Australia. The firms established in this area have very little or no work offering for semi-skilled or unskilled workers. As a matter of fact, many are retrenching staff at the present time. About two years ago, it was a common sight to see many vacancies of all descriptions listed on notice boards outside factories, but, except for a few scattered jobs here and there for skilled tradesmen, the notice boards now read “ No vacancies “. Surely that is a true indication of the alarming unemployment situation existing in Australia now. Yet, strange to relate, many unskilled migrants are arriving here week after week. If the Government cannot find work for Australians and new Australians who are already out of work, where does it expect to find work for these new arrivals from overseas? It is not only unfair and unjust to bring these people to Australia to compete for jobs with our own unemployed, but it is also unfair to bring them here when they have very little chance of finding continuity of employment. Many of them have had rosy pictures of Australia painted for them. Probably many of them sold their worldly possessions before leaving their own countries, only to be disillusioned because of instability of employment in Australia.
There has been a great loss of purchasing power in the community because of unemployment. One has only to consult the retailer or the shopkeeper to obtain verification of this contention. The resultant stagnation is further accentuated by the fear of many workers of becoming unemployed. They stop spending their money “ just in case “, and that creates further unemployment. It is no use the Government bragging that our number of unemployed is smaller than that of other countries; rather it is something to be ashamed of, when such a young, expanding, country, crying out for development, has any unemployed at all.
The Government continually tells us about the evils of communism. I remind the Government that unemployment, poverty and distress breed communism and fascism. Experience is the best teacher. I was one of the hundreds of thousands on the dole in the 1930’s. I was given the magnificent sum of 14s. 2d. a week in dole coupons for myself, wife and child. I paid 6s. a week value of my coupons for a room, and that left us the princely sum of 8s. 2d. a week for food. Although fruit or vegetables were not supplied on the coupons, it was a common sight in Sydney in those days to see barges laden with fruit and vegetables that could not be sold, being towed out to sea, where the fruit and vegetables were dumped. If the Prime Minister or some other Ministers were to experience life on the dole, perhaps they would not continue to ignore the unfortunate unemployed. I believe that every man and woman is just as entitled to earn a living as is any member of the Parliament, and it is the responsibility of the Government to provide that opportunity.
Let us examine the hire purchase interest rates that are being charged at present. The Labour Opposition entirely supports the system of hire purchase. It realizes that this is the working man’s overdraft and that it provides a stimulus to industry, which is the means of providing employment to a very large section of our work force. It is quite apparent that without the hire purchase system, it would be no time before we would be confronted with a major recession. However, because the Labour Opposition believes in hire purchase, it does not follow that we intend to sit back and watch the Australian people being exploited by money-grabbing sharks trading under the guise of finance companies, many of which are largely controlled by the private banks.
There are two ways of overcoming this urgent and important problem of hire purchase interest rates. First, the Government could instruct the Commonwealth Bank to enter the hire-purchase field for all consumer goods, at much lower interest rates than those being charged by the finance companies. Secondly, the Government could request the States to confer the necessary powers on the Commonwealth to control interest rates and capital issues. If the Premiers failed to accede to this request, the Government could hold a referendum seeking these powers for the Commonwealth. I suggest that, if such a proposition were put to the people, it would be carried with an overwhelming majority. Either of these two methods would break the strangle-hold of the parasitical interests at present waxing fat on the profits from hire purchase.
From time to time Government supporters have told us that we do not possess the constitutional power to control interest rates. We all know this to be quite true, but that fact does not entitle us to sit back and engage in a game of buck-passing with the States. This problem can be likened1 to that of price control. Interest rates can be effectively controlled on a national basis only. Honorable members may recall many statements made in 1948 by the then Leader of the Opposition, who is now the Prime Minister. He said that the States could control prices and that private enterprise and healthy competition would keep prices down. Those statements have proved to be quite erroneous, because since 1948 the value of the £1 has declined by more than one-half. This Government is running away from the problem of hire-purchase interest rates, probably because it knows full well that to peg interest rates at a reasonable level would be to restrict the excessive profits that are now being made by wealthy financial interests, which are the backbone of this Government.
As a matter of interest, let me read to the committee the views on hire purchase of the financial editors of two Sydney newspapers. In the “ Sun-Herald “ of 2nd March of this year the following remarks appeared: -
Banking experts said in Sydney yesterday that banks receive a return of about 5i per cent, on money they lend for home building; they receive about 6 per cent, on money they lend for industrial development. But hire purchase companies, in which private banks have substantial interests, receive up to IS per cent, and more on the money they lend.
I shall read also an extract from an article that appeared in the “ Sunday Telegraph “ of 30th March of this year. This newspaper is considered to be a mouthpiece of the Liberal party. The article was by Roger Randerson, and it was headed, “ Call a halt to this usury”. This is what Mr. Randerson had to say -
Australians in the mass are now familiar with hire purchase charges that are two or three times as great as the overdraft rates that banks are permitted to charge. Financial authorities, however, still cling to the fetish of inflexibly “ cheap money “. The bank overdraft, like all articles subjected to price control, has gone “ under the counter “-
It is now on the black market - to be made available for the favoured few; while borrowers are driven by this form of rationing into the jungle of uncontrolled private usury. Rationing of bank overdrafts, however, has been forced upon the trading banks (including the “ Commonwealth “) by official policy.
It is true that the total of their overdrafts at the end of January was £30 million less than it was two years before; so that there are many hungry borrowers, with needs for homes and industrial expansion unsatisfied.
The exorbitant interest rates being charged on hire purchase constitute one of the principal causes of the worsening economic situation in Australia to-day. It is one of the reasons why we cannot raise sufficient loan money. The average investor wants to invest in hire purchase finance companies in order to get a large and speedy return for his money. Every week, in the Sydney press and by medium of television, as many as ten different finance companies offer up to 12i per cent, interest. Is it any wonder that we cannot find sufficient loan money? Is it any wonder that £80,000,000 is provided in the Budget now before us to pay for loans not converted? How can we expect people to invest with the Commonwealth at 5i per cent, when they can get up to 12i per cent, elsewhere? It is because of the availability of these high interest rates that it is necessary for more than two-thirds of current capital expenditure, by the Commonwealth and the States, to be met from taxation revenue instead of from loans, as was the practice in the past. Let me emphasize my point that if Australia is to finance all the developmental works required for our expansion the Commonwealth must seek constitutional power to control interest rates and capital issues.
Finally, let me examine the record of the Prime Minister. It is a sad and sorry record, littered with broken promises and grandiose statements. Honorable members will no doubt recall his promises of 1949, including that great vote-catching phrase, “ I will put value back into the £1 “. He certainly put the value back, because the £1 is now worth less than half what it was worth in 1949. The Prime Minister also said at that time, “ I will tax excess profits”. The excess profits of 1949 were only peanuts compared with those of to-day. We are still waiting patiently for that promise to be fulfilled, although we find General Motors-Holden’s Limited showing a profit of 670 per cent, on invested capital. “ I will overcome the housing shortage,” said the Prime Minister, appealing especially to young couples then getting married.
– What year was that?
– That was in 1949. What is the position to-day? Thousands of young families are living with in-laws, while others are living in back rooms, garages and hovels. The Prime Minister also said, “ I will reduce taxation.” Taxation is now at higher levels than at any time since federation. The Prime Minister went on to say, “ I will hold a referendum at which the people of Australia can vote on the abolition of the means test on pensions.” It is now nine years since that promise was made, but we have had no referendum.
Now let us consider some of the statements made by the Prime Minister in 1951. He said at that time, “ We have not one day longer than three years in which to prepare for war “. There has been no war, and if there had been one we would never at any stage have been prepared for it.
Then in 1957 the Prime Minister said, “ If there is a housing shortage in Australia it is due to a shortage of man-power and materials”. That statement was actually proved inaccurate by the Master Builders Association of New South Wales and by two building trade unions, when factual evidence was brought forward to the effect that there was an abundance of man-power and materials available, but that finance was needed to build homes.
It is interesting to consider the way the Prime Minister operates at election .time. During the election campaign in 1951 he did not say one word to the effect that if the Liberal-Australian Country party Government were returned to power it would introduce the “ Horror Budget “, which imposed a crushing burden of extra taxation on the Australian people to the tune of £159,000,000. Then, in the Budget that preceded the 1954 election, he gave back a portion of this amount by way of taxation relief. During the election campaign in 1955 the Prime Minister made no mention of his intention, if returned to power, to impose a crushing burden of taxation on the people to the extent of £115,000,000, but three months after the election he introduced legislation which brought about that result. Now we find that the Government is claiming credit for tax reductions in the Budget introduced last year to the extent of £56,000,000, which is less than 50 per cent, of the £115,000,000 previously taken from the people.
It is quite obvious that the Prime Minister believes that if he takes £1 a week from the worker immediately after an election, and then gives him back 8s. or 10s. a week before the next election, the people will fall for it. That brings to mind the old phrase, “You can fool some of the people some of the time; you can fool some of the people all the time; but you cannot fool all the people all the time “. If this is the best Budget the Treasurer could produce, I suggest that it would be in the best interests of Australia if he started raising budgerigar* instead of producing budgets.
.- The honorable member for Watson (Mr. Cope), who has just concluded his speech, obviously has taken a lot of notice of what he hasbeen told’. He has made little researchhimself into the Budget and matters concerning it, but has listened intently to his master’s voice - the voice of the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt). Unfortunately, the honorable member took his role seriously and has been even more gloomy than the Leader of the Opposition himself. If one turns back the pages of “ Hansard ** and reads the speeches of the Leader of the Opposition in past years, on the Budget, it is noticeable that his speeches never change except that each year they become more gloomy. He professes to be able to forecast exactly what is going to happen in the coming year. The right honorable gentleman tells us that we are going to have tremendous and catastrophic troubles, that unemployment will be worse than it was the previous year, that we will have difficulty on world markets and that we will have trouble in selling our products overseas. I have never heard from the Leader of the Opposition and his supporters a greater farrago of nonsense, as it has been described, than we have heard this year. The Leader of the Opposition is adamant about what is going to happen in the future,, and he has suggested what we should do, but he did not indicate where the requisite finance can be obtained. It is obvious that you cannot take out of the barrel more than you put into it. Only the Leader of the Opposition knows the magic art that is necessary to run this country.
The honorable member for Watson has indicated very clearly that he is influenced* by the economic policy of the Leader of the Opposition. I have no doubt that as the weeks pass and we approach the general election, the suggestions that have been made by the Leader of the Opposition as to what should be done by the Government in this Budget will pale into insignificance compared with the promises that the right honorable gentleman will make to the Australian people. That will be his effort to obtain control of the Treasury.
– The honorable member will be disappointed.
– I expect that I shall, but we know the history of the Leader of the Opposition. He relies on glib promises. 1 have no doubt that he will follow the example of his opposite number in New Zealand and that he will try even to outbid his colleague. Every one knows that the Labour Leader of the Opposition in New Zealand reached the treasury bench by telling the people that if he was returned to power a Labour government would give back to the taxpayers the first £100 of taxes due this year. Labour was elected to office and it made good its promises but, unfortunately, they cost the New Zealand Treasury £21,000,000. There is always a sequel to political bribes, and there will be a sequel to the glowing election promises that will be made by the Leader of the Opposition in a few weeks’ time.
When the Labour Government in New Zealand reached the treasury bench, it immediately introduced very heavy taxes. In fact, I have heard its impositions referred to as sadistic taxation. It not only recouped the £21,000,000 its promises cost the New Zealand Treasury, but many more millions as well. Any one who wants an interesting exercise should compare the rates of taxation in the dominion with those applying in Australia, and he will find that when a Labour-socialist party gains control, it imposes much higher taxes than are imposed by a Liberal government. The people of New Zealand have awakened to that fact in a realistic way. I am sure that you, Mr. Chairman, who probably know something about New Zealand, would be able to support that statement. I shall refer to only one or two of the taxes that have been introduced by the new Labour Government in that country. I will select two or three items with which we are conversant in Australia. One of them is sales tax on motor cars which is extremely heavy in Australia. We supporters of the Government would like to see it reduced, but I point out that when the Labour Govern ment was elected in New Zealand it immediately increased the sales tax on motor cars by 100 per cent. In fact, the sales tax on motor cars in New Zealand is 33$ per cent, higher than the comparable tax in Australia. That shows how vicious a Labour government is when it gains office. Even the tax on the working man’s beer in New Zealand has been increased by 100- per cent., and income tax has risen by 33 per cent.
In Australia, we have always been anxious to increase the depreciation allowance on machinery and factory equipment as a measure of tax relief, but the New Zealand Labour Government has disallowed the depreciation allowance which wasgranted by its predecessor. The people of the dominion have been faced with very grave problems since they elected a Labour government. I am glad that recently theAustralian Government was able to assist the new New Zealand Government financially, but there must be a limit to that sort of help. No country can continue tohelp another if the country seeking help is. reckless in its financial responsibilities. I should like to know to what country we could turn if a reckless Labour-socialist government were elected to power in Australia and got this country into financial difficulties as has happened in New Zealand.
We admit that this is not a spectacular Budget, but we believe it is a cautious and’ an honest Budget. Moreover, it is art honorable attempt to maintain the expansion that we have enjoyed during the eight years this Government has held office. Since the Budget was introduced, publicity has been given to criticism of it by pressand radio critics. The honorable member for Watson referred to a number of critical” statements that were made by newspapers. I have known newspapers to publish critical statements about governments at Budget time, and, six or twelve months afterwards, to turn round and say, in effect, “ We have made a mistake and congratulate the government on its ability to forecast futureevents “. That actually happened several Budgets back. Honorable members will’ very well remember that occasion.
I want to cite now the opinion of onewho is recognized as an economist in thiscountry, one who is very well known and: who is an exceptionally good citizen. 1 refer to Sir Douglas Copland who is now the principal of the Australian Administrative Staff College. Of course, he has been distinguished in many fields of Australian life. He sees great merit in this Government’s financial policy. He claims that it is prudent and far-sighted because Australia has financed public works from current revenue. He states that we have financed a greater proportion of our public works from revenue than has any other Western country. He says that we have financed not less than 80 per cent, of our public works in that way. In other words, we have adopted the practice, well known in private enterprise, of ploughing back profits into industry. This principle, in its application to government, means that we have been ploughing profits back into public works. We who are probably closer to the bone in Government financial circles know that this has been done more because of necessity than anything else because public investment has been limited and internal savings have been insufficient for the high rate of public works expenditure.
I would prefer, and I am sure that many members on this side of the chamber would much prefer, to see posterity paying for some of these public works for which we have had to pay out of revenue. Unfortunately, a set of circumstances has arisen which has made that impracticable. At the same time, it has been exceptionally fortunate that this practice has improved -very considerably the financial standing of this country in the eyes of the world. According to the White Paper recently furnished by the Government, the proportion of our resources devoted to investment is one of the highest in the world. This has been done during the last eight years when our population has gone up by over 1,000,000 people.
This is the type of yardstick which impresses, particularly, international money lenders very much these days. It has done just that. Because of the steady growth of this country and the careful husbanding of our finances and resources, overseas companies have been particularly impressed and have continued to invest heavily in the expansion of their manufacturing in Australia. I submit that this is one of the indications of confidence of overseas investors in the strength of the Australian economy. Hardly a week goes by but one sees in the financial pages of our daily newspapers that some international firm has decided to begin manufacturing in this country. Overseas firms do not do that kind of thing unless they are perfectly satisfied about the stability of this country.
The International Bank for Reconstruction and Development has been very willing to lend dollars to Australia for reconstruction and development. Over the period of time in which this Government has been in power, 318,000,000 dollars have been lent to Australia, and this has had a material effect on the development of this country. The 1957 report of the International Bank points out the tremendous expansion that has taken place under the loan programme provided by the bank. Sir, I feel that that is a clear indication of the financial standing of this country in the eyes of the world.
The fact that, during the last eight years, the Government has been able to pay for public investment out of revenue without affecting our rate of development would be considered, in circles of private enterprise, as a great feat, an act of prudence and good management and a bulwark in times of financial stress and strain. Let us hope that such times will not come to this country. But I feel that we are well insulated against any possibility of that kind of thing happening in Australia.
No one can correctly say that, during the last eight years, the rate of development in Australia has not been stupendous. But if one had listened to the remarks of the honorable member for Watson (Mr. Cope) one could have thought that we were going further down into trouble, year by year - that we were slipping back all the time. That, Sir, is completely farcical, as we know.
Last week, the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Harold Holt) referred to some of the more spectacular results that have been achieved over the last decade in this country. They are worth repeating because they are indeed spectacular results. He pointed out that coal production in this country had increased from 14,900,000 tons in 1948 to 19,700,000 tons during last year. We had insufficient coal to meet our own requirements ten years ago. Now, not only have we sufficient coal for our own requirements, but sufficient to export. The same applies to the steel industry. About 1,200,000 tons of steel ingots were produced in 1949, but in 1957-58 that figure had increased to 3,100,000 tons. To-day, we are in the fortunate position of being able to export steel sheets to other countries.
I want to refer to one or two more items because I think they are very significant of the position in this country. The number of motor cars that were in use in 1949 was 655,000; to-day it has reached 1,646,609. These figures do not indicate that the country is slipping back. They do not indicate that there is growing unemployment to the extent that has been outlined by the honorable member for Watson. No, Sir! They are indicative of an economy that is growing and expanding. The people are enjoying the prosperity that exists in this community. We have the necessary man-power and we have the materials and if we continue to receive finance as we have received it in the past the future rapid progress of this country will be guaranteed.
I believe it is very important that the State and Federal governments should work together in the very closest co-operation if we are to maintain the progress that we have enjoyed during the last four or five years. The difficulties of the States, I believe, must be appreciated by the Commonwealth, and the sooner a priority programme of public works throughout the Commonwealth is recognized both by the States and by the Commonwealth, the sooner we shall eliminate wasteful duplication and heart burning in both spheres of government. The Commonwealth, I believe, could very well delegate some of its departmental functions to the States, and vice versa. In these days, with all the modern transport facilities that are available, is there any necessity to have two health departments functioning in the six capital cities? That is to say, twelve health departments are located throughout Australia in the various capital cities. Surely we can do better than that. I believe that other departments could be eliminated. Possibly the Commonwealth could delegate some of its functions to the States and the States could delegate some of their functions to the Commonwealth, thereby eliminating some of the duplication of departments that exists at present. No country has better opportunities than Australia for exploiting to the full the resources that are available to us in such great quantities. One of the first steps towards exploiting those resources is to find some proper, logical and stable formula for our road system.
Very soon a new Commonwealth Aid Roads Act will come into force - in 1959, at the expiration of the present unsatisfactory Act. State and Commonwealth governments must work in very close cooperation to see that this act delegates specific power both to the States and the Commonwealth. On the one hand, we know that the Commonwealth has no constitutional power whatsoever with regard to roads. Nevertheless, I believe that it recognizes its responsibilities in this direction, as has been evidenced by the grants that have been made to the States from time to time. On the other hand, the States have insufficient funds, but ample power over roads. The accumulated arrears of road construction, together with future needs, are such that the problem is now quite beyond the financial resources of the States. That is a point which I think must be borne in mind. The problem could be overcome, I believe, to a very great extent if arterial roads became a Commonwealth responsibility, thus enabling the States to devote their resources to the development of their intra-road systems. That would be real Commonwealth and State co-operation on the very best level, and would produce an excellent result.
The international source of finance that I said was available to Australia - the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development, which has done so much to assist this country - would, I think, be prepared to consider propositions made by this Government, whereas it would be reluctant to discuss a national project with six State Premiers who rarely think alike on State and Commonwealth matters. I believe that roads might well be the subject of a specific conference between the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) and the six State Premiers. I have heard the words “ summit conference “ used by several honorable members at various times. I believe that it would be a very good thing if we could have a summit conference between the Prime Minister and the State Premiers. It would be infinitely better tohave a conference between the State Premiers and the Prime Minister than it would be to have one between the State Ministers for Transport, because Ministers who hold portfolios covering railways and roads have different ideas about transportation. Very often a Minister for Transport will lean towards one particular department under his control at the expense of another. But if the Prime Minister and the State Premiers meet together to discuss this matter, I believe that we shall come very close to finding a proper and stable formula to overcome the difficulty that has caused so much strife in this country in the past.
An important point that we must not forget is that if we are to continue to make the progress that we have made in the past, we must have cheaper transport than we have now. One-third of our national income to-day is spent on transport. That is far too much. Transport costs are the highest single element in the price of everything that the community uses. lt is ridiculous that 30 per cent, of the price of commodities should be accounted for by transport costs. How can we compete with overseas countries .in the sale of our secondary products if we have this huge basic cost that inflates the final price of the article that we are trying to export? Transport costs are fundamental things, and I believe that they are of great importance. They must be tackled, particularly before the coming into force of the new Commonwealth Aid Roads Act, which will try to bring about a better and more satisfactory arrangement of State and Commonwealth responsibility with regard to roads. Now is the time to start thinking about these matters.
My time is nearly up, and I should have liked to say something about social services, because I believe that this Government has a very splendid record with regard to social services. It has shown sympathy and understanding in dealing with a very great and difficult problem, and the story of the Government’s attitude to this problem cannot be told often enough. I should have liked to say something about the services “that this Government has introduced during the past ten years. I would have spoken not only about the increase in pensions and the provision for elderly citizens of -the community, but also about the Aged Persons Homes Act, which has done so -much to help people who are in the twilight of their lives, and who need something more than mere money to give them the comforts and the companionship that they so much require. Unfortunately, my time is so limited that I cannot dwell on this subject.
This Budget has been, perhaps, the most difficult Budget that the Menzies-Fadden Government has had to bring down, because this is a year when so much more might be desired and expected. This is an election year, and the Government could have reduced taxes, increased social service benefits, and granted a host of other desirable benefits. But when the future prosperity of the country is at stake it is better to take the long view and play safe with the assets of the people. This is a year when the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) might well have said: “ This is my last Budget. I am going to take risks with the economy and do many things that are popular “. But he, too, has put the country and the interests of the people before his personal wishes and election promises. I know that I express the views of many of my constituents when I say to the Treasurer: Thank you for the unselfish, patient, and loyal service that you have given during a long and meritorious term of office.
I congratulate the Government on bringing down a Budget that I believe will maintain and stabilize the economy of this country, and which, I believe, will help us to meet any difficult times that lie ahead, although I do not believe that the future will hold any insurmountable difficulties for us. I believe that Australia will maintain the same tremendous rate of progress in the future as she has in the past.
.- Mr. Temporary Chairman, about 2,000 years ago, a historical figure - a government official who was more concerned with maintaining his own position than with anything else - asked the question, “ What is truth? “. Long before this man Pilate, men were asking the same question, and it is still being repeated to-day. May I be permitted to say that I believe truth to be something objective and factual. If I were a sceptic, after reading the Budget Speech made by the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) I could think of no better question to ask than, “What is truth?”.
Before proceeding to deal with the facts of the Budget, I should like to deal with the contribution made in this debate by the honorable member for Isaacs (Mr. Haworth), whose remarks followed the pattern of those of every Government supporter who has spoken in this debate. Government supporters are running away from the implications of the Budget. They criticize Opposition members for their approach to it. This Budget is far worse than any other that has yet been brought down in this chamber. It is a recordmaking Budget, inasmuch as it provides for a record deficit. Government supporters are particularly sensitive about the astronomical deficit that looms up as a result of the proposals contained in this Budget, and it is quite easy to understand why they are sensitive about it. They resort to platitudes in great hope. But the members of this place and the people outside it are entitled to expect something more constructive than the current Budget.
The honorable member for Isaacs referred to help that has been extended to New Zealand by the present Government. I think it is well worth while to direct attention to the contrast between the attitude taken by members of the Government parties on this occasion and the attitude that they took when similar help was extended to New Zealand by a Labour government. The present Opposition has offered no criticism of the Government for helping New Zealand by means of a loan, and Opposition members have not attempted in any way to embarrass the Government over this matter, but I should like to remind the committee that, when a Labour government was in office, and it entered into a wheat agreement with New Zealand, it was continually criticized by members of the present Government parties, which were then in opposition, and particularly by members of the Australian Country party. The opinion of members of the present Government parties as to what is right seems to depend on where they sit in this chamber. So, if the present Government is prepared to help our sister dominion of New Zealand in circumstances similar to those in which a Labour government extended help to New Zealand - an action for which the Labour government was criticized, particularly by members of the Australian Country party - the views of members of that party change, and it becomes right to help New Zealand on this occasion.
This is the twelfth Budget that I have seen brought down in this chamber. 1 must confess that each has appeared more confusing than its predecessor. This Budget has served only to add to my usual Budgettime confusion. The Budget should have been presented to honorable members at least frankly and simply, but, on this occasion, frankness and simplicity have been replaced by complexity and reticence. A Budget should be presented in simple form, and one of its main features should be that, within reason, it will achieve the goal set by the estimates on which it is based. One of the greatest failings of the present Treasurer in the presentation of Budgets down the years has been his apparent inability to submit estimates which are likely to be realized at the end of the financial year. Over-estimating is a form of concealment, and its injustice is apparent. It can be used as a device to prevent tax reductions or concessions. It can be used to prevent the granting of increased social service benefits, or to deprive one department of funds that it needs, so that those funds may be allocated to other departments, which, at the end of the financial year, are revealed not to have spent as much as had been estimated. An example of this kind of thing is the defence vote. Down the years, the Treasurer’s estimates have proved unreliable. This gives rise to an uneasy suspicion in my mind that this Budget will have results contrary to those expected by the Treasurer. Worse still, the deficit could quite easily be much in excess of the estimated figure of £110,000,000.
Government supporters, quite rightly, have attributed the change in the financial situation to the fall in our overseas balances. However, I believe the picture to be far worse than the Government claims. It is attempting to conceal the true position from the people. With the general elections only a few months away, the Government apparently believes that this concealment is justified. In this connexion, I should like to recall what has happened in recent months in our sister dominion of New Zealand. The tory parties there did not tell the true story, and it was only after their defeat, when a Labour government took over, that their desperate financial plight was revealed. As is always the case, the job of restoring a country’s economy has been left to a Labour government. In this instance, I have no doubt about the New Zealand Labour Government’s capacity to do a good job in restoring that country’s depleted finances.
There is a great deal of similarity between the economies of Australia and New Zealand. Australia, of course, is much in advance of New Zealand in industrialization, but there is a considerable parallel between the two economies inasmuch as rural production forms the greater part of the exports from which our overseas earnings are obtained. In Australia, rural production earns about 85 per cent, of our overseas income. The Treasurer has said that rural production has not declined, but that its capacity to maintain our balances overseas has done so, and he claims that the decline of the country’s finances has been due to the decline in our overseas balances.
The position having been stated, it is not unreasonable for us to expect the Treasurer to tell us what the Government proposes in the way of remedial action. But the picture he paints offers little hope. The right honorable gentleman is depending upon an uplift in the economies of the United Kingdom and the United States of America to improve the position. It is interesting to note that, while those two countries are experiencing something of a recession. European countries - and particularly Western Germany - appear to be enjoying something of a boom - and, it would be pertinent to add, “ Not without help from the United Kingdom and the United States “. One searches in vain through the Budget for an indication of any thinking that would provide shelter from the chilly blasts of the economic winds that are apparently developing to sweep over this country.
This is a gambler’s Budget. The Treasurer is like a person sitting in at a poker game and gambling on the turn-up of a card. In this case, the card is the uplifting of the economies of the United Kingdom and the United States, and if it does not turn up, it is the end for him and for this Government. What an irresponsible attitude to adopt! No government should permit such a gamble when the destiny of a nation of 10,000,000 people is at stake. In these wretched circumstances, the Treasurer is supported by all leading members of the Government, and notably by the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen), who has succeeded him as Leader of the Australian Country party. In his contribution to this debate, he exhorted every one to have hope. Surely, in the circumstances, no more bankrupt appeal has ever been made by any responsible Minister.
The most breathtaking announcement made by the Treasurer was of his intention to borrow from the central bank to meet an expected deficit of £110,000,000. From 1946 to 1949, when in opposition with the present Prime Minister, who was then Leader of the Opposition, the Treasurer time and again launched attacks on the Chifley Government for its use of treasury-bills to finance Government undertakings. This practice he then described as being a dishonest, fraudulent, shady, and unsavoury method of carrying on. I am not an economist, but I do know that without the assistance of the Treasury in the form of treasury-bills, no government could possibly carry on. It is true, however, that no government has resorted to such an extreme use of this system as has the present Government. Year after year, its demands for treasury-bill finance have grown, and now the Budget deficit is to be met by the central bank.
The Government’s policy, or lack of policy, is responsible for the plight in which we are to-day. The Government has occupied office continuously for nine years. Honorable members opposite are still attempting to justify their actions by drawing contrasts with the Chifley Government of 1946-49. How long will they continue to insult the minds of rational people with such reasoning? The principal architects of this defence of the Government’s actions have been the Prime Minister and the Treasurer. It might be of interest to quote the remarks of one of these gentlemen. For this purpose, I have chosen the following passage from the speech made by the Prime Minister, as Leader of the Opposition, during the Budget debate on 20th November, 1946. He said -
The Government has completely failed to appreciate the relation between the rates of direct tax and the volume of production. It has failed to understand that increased productive activity means increased individual incomes and increased national income. From those things two results follow: The first is that there will be an increase of the volume of income, and therefore a good chance of an increase of the total tax yield even from reduced rates; and the second is that there will be an increase of the volume of capital and consumer goods for sale, and that is the greatest possible protection we can have against the inflation of which we have spoken so much in this Parliament. If we are to protect the community against inflation, let us get into our minds that the most powerful weapon is not a mass of regulations, but a new mass of goods for sale, new houses to live in, and new masses ot commodities of all kinds; because the greater the supply of those commodities the less will be the danger of depreciation in the value of money, and the more speedily will the honorable member for Hunter reach the stage when the value of the £1 will be increased. Therefore, I emphasize that if we are really to stabilize our economy, the great need is a substantial increase of the volume and efficiency of production. We cannot get it without a stimulus.
I could spend half an hour talking on that extract alone. However, I propose to deal with the Budget. The Treasurer, when Leader of the Australian Country party in Opposition, condemned in the most scathing terms the use of treasury-bill finance. To-day he has resorted to what he described at one time as a most reprehensible method, on a scale which no previous Treasurer ever contemplated. The Prime Minister, when Leader of the Opposition, said that an increase of the volume of capital and consumer goods for sale was the greatest possible protection against inflation. For the past nine years, he has been the head of the Government, and to-day we find inflation in Australia on an unprecedented scale.
The honorable member for Parramatta (Sir Garfield Barwick) expressed his fears about inflation, and also his concern about the possibility of inflation being triggered off. As a matter of fact, there have been nine such triggerings since this Government has been in office, and each has produced a louder noise than the previous one. If Government supporters are blind to the effects of inflation as it prevails to-day, all I can say is that there are none so blind as those who will not see.
Government supporters are always chiding Opposition members for allegedly living in the past. This is something like the pot calling the kettle black. If Government members only tried to bring themselves up to date, there would be no need to point out to them how unrealistic their attitude is. Having no policy, however, they still persist in this form of escapism. To prove how unreal is their reasoning, I should like to make the following comparison: In 1949 this country was paying annually in interest £83,000,000, in round figures. To-day we are paying £147,000,000. Of this latter amount, £24,500,000 must be found for the sterling area, and 22,000,000 dollars for the dollar area. The balance is paid in Australia.
In 1948 the total Budget was £471,000,000. To-day it is £1,142,000,000. The Government is collecting more in taxes to-day that was expended under the whole of the Budget of 1948. In 1948 the basic wage was £5 16s. a week; to-day it is £13 7s. In 1949 the national debt stood at approximately £2,767,000,000; to-day it has risen to £3,991,000,000. It has, therefore, increased by £1,300,000,000 in nine years. The honorable member for Isaacs tried to establish how well off we were in comparison with New Zealand. Honorable members repeatedly try to establish that we are better off to-day than we were under the Chifley Labour Government, but in 1949, taxation per head was £67 12s., whereas to-day it is £127 4s. lOd. In 1948 the value of current hire-purchase agreements was £32,000,000, but to-day it is £293,000,000.
In 1949, the Prime Minister and the Treasurer criticized in the most irresponsible manner the magnificent achievements of the Chifley Government. I have used the word “ magnificent “ advisedly, because Mr. Chifley and his Government had to contend with economic forces vastly different to what they are to-day. Mr. Chifley was governing in a transition period. His duty was to make the change from a wartime economy to a peace-time economy. No government in the history of federation ever assumed office under more favorable conditions than did the present Government. It inherited a vastly built up exchequer, the fruits of arduous and careful planning on the part of its predecessors. The economy was stable, finances were in a sound condition. Its members and supporters accused the Chifley Government of being an inflationary government. On this issue no government has ever been more hoist by its own petard than has this Government.
Inflation, which the Government parties promised to cure is more rampant than ever. The figures I have given prove this beyond contradiction. The inflationary tendencies that are undermining our economy to-day stem directly from the policy of the Government, which has given the impetus to inflation and is alone responsible for the marked depreciation of the currency to-day.
The Government shows no reluctance to assume credit for things that occur in spite of it, such as good seasons and bountiful wool sales, but when asked to take some form of positive action to counter the effects of inflation it evades the issue, or talks about something that allegedly happened ten years ago.
Inflation is prevailing in its present form because of the failure of the Government to face up to its responsibilities. Factors which are contributing to the worsening effects include the operation of the hirepurchase companies, which have been responsible for forcing up interest rates on loans raised by government and semigovernment instrumentalities. In this matter the Government merely adopts a Micawberlike attitude. Another factor is the Government’s permission to the private banks to enter the saving deposits field. Up to that stage the Commonwealth Savings Bank was responsible for providing a considerable amount of money for home-building. The result of money being diverted into the savings accounts of the private banks was that less money was available for homebuilding. The economy received another inflationary injection by the private banks channelling of this money into other streams.
The other action which has given an impetus to the inflationary tempo was that of the Government in permitting the private banks to withdraw £65,000,000 from Special Accounts, without at least first securing some undertaking from the banks that this money would be devoted to essential, and not non-essential, purposes. It is undeniable that a considerable part of this money has been, or will be. used for nonessential purposes. The private banks are very active in the field of hire purchase, and it is safe to say that they will use their recent withdrawals from the Special Accounts to extend their interests in this sphere.
It is most unconvincing for the Treasurer always to speak of effects and then steadfastly refuse to do anything about the causes. He has stated quite unequivocally that he will not ask the banks to do anything about their hire-purchase activities. He claims it is their money. There are many who will disagree with him on this score, because the banks themselves declared at the time .when the Chifley Banking Bill was being discussed that they were only the custodians of other people’s money.
I should like to deal with another failure on the part of the Government - the omission in the Budget of any reference to a shipbuilding programme on the part of the Government. Last week a trade union deputation from Queensland waited on several Ministers here in Canberra. They went away disappointed, as well they might be. The Government must be aware of the fact, which I again impress on it, that the shipbuilding industry is facing a very grim future unless prompt action is taken to halt the alarming drift. Men are being dismissed from most shipbuilding firms in the States, with the possible exception of South Australia. As a result of lack of orders, men are being dismissed weekly in increasing numbers from the shipbuilding industry in Sydney. Firms are in some cases carrying on at a loss.
Shipbuilding is an industry which should be accepted as having a national character Its importance cannot be too strongly stressed. I urge upon the Government the imperative need for action to prevent the industry from going to seed, which would not only be calamitous, but tragic.
It is very disappointing to find that the Government has only seen fit to make some meagre advances in the field1 of social services. The Government stands condemned for its failure in this matter. In my opinion, the time is long overdue when an increase in all forms of social service payments should be made.
The existence, in such large numbers, of unemployed must give rise to much uneasiness and grave concern. I question the official figure of 67,000. The number, unfortunately, in my opinion is very much in excess of this figure. There are many people out of work who have not registered. Also there are thousands who are now working only part time - the textile industry is an example - who have not been taken into consideration by the Government.
One looks in vain for any hope for these unfortunate people in this Budget, and the Government also stands condemned for its failure to take positive action to combat the pernicious effects of this growing unemployment.
There are other matters that I should like to discuss, but time will not permit. I hope to have the opportunity to discuss them when the House goes into committee.
This is the last time the Treasurer will come before us with a Budget. He has announced his retirement. He has had a long and arduous career, and has proved himself a worthy adversary. He has proved his capacity to defend himself in the hurlyburly of debate. I trust that in his retirement he will be favoured with good health and long life.
The Leader of the Opposition has made out a very effective case why the Government should be censured over this Budget. I might repeat my opening question, “ What is truth? “. If I were to accept the Prime Minister and Treasurer as authorities, I would say that the answer would be determined by where one sits in this chamber. When in opposition, the Prime Minister and the Treasurer gave us their opinions, one on production and inflation and the other on treasury-bill finance. We have seen their actions regarding these matters over the last nine years. To-day inflation is rampant and abounds. The Government has deliberately followed a policy that is responsible for this condition and, because of its failure to render to the people of this country their just due, is deserving of censure.
.- This is the last Budget of the Twenty-second Parliament, and it is not out of place to review the state of the nation. I suppose that to-day Australia could be regarded as the leading middle nation of the world. We can be very proud of our position in world affairs. We are one of the important trading nations. We are respected in the councils of the United Nations, and in every economic council in which we take part we often lead the lesser nations on questions of policy. We are highly regarded in the
East, where the “ Voice of Australia “ is regarded as the soundest and most accurate news broadcast that there is. We have a lot to be proud of. After nine years in office this Government has raised the nation to that stature. Whatever the Opposition may say, that is a fact which cannot be denied and it is a fact of which I, for one, am very proud.
Running throughout the whole of the Labour party’s attack on the Budget is the same stale, dreary old talk of depression and the fear of unemployment. That is the constant repetition we have had in Budget debates over the last nine years. It is almost unreal. The only distinguishing feature of the Opposition’s speeches on the Budget this year is that for the first time in the history of this Government’s Budgets they have contained no reference to a pool of unemployed. Apparently, honorable members opposite are learning something. We might be reminded of it by a speaker on the Opposition side later, but so far this is the first time in a Budget debate that they have not talked about a pool of unemployed.
Our unemployment figures are remarkable in the light of the problems which the Government has had to face. Each year there has been an increase in government income, but there has also been an increase in expenditure. The Government has pursued a tremendous programme of immigration which has resulted in absorbing large numbers into the population and building up the nation’s strength. Admittedly, there has been a very small percentage of unemployment, but compared with the unemployment existing in most of the other countries it is something of which we may well be proud. Australia has made amazing progress, and it is significant, as the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) pointed out, that although the prices of primary products and base metals have fallen, this has had only a very small impact on the national economy. In this respect we have been able to cushion the effect of a development which, 20 or 30 years ago, caused the worst depression we ever had. Consequently, we have grounds for confidence in the future.
Australian standards have risen. Members of the Opposition have spoken about what their party did in Chifley’s time and what we are doing now. I do not believe in that sort of talk because it gets us nowhere. I think that members on both sides will agree that Australian standards have risen enormously. I shall take one factor as a means of gauging whether conditions have improved. Over the last nine years the nation has bought more than 1,750,000 motor vehicles, that is an average of nearly 4,000 a week. For our small population, that is an amazing achievement. If business in that one line is any indication of the general economic progress of the country, surely we have something to be proud of.
We find that the Australian Labour party always speaks with two voices. The Labour Premier of New South Wales is freshly back from a trip to the United States of America where he praised the stability of Australia and advised businessmen that here they would find vast fields for successful investment. But that is not the picture which has been painted by members of the Labour Opposition here when discussing this Budget. We know that in New South Wales the trade unions have been forcing the hand of the Premier. It is reported that he will introduce legislation in that State to provide for equal pay for the sexes. This will result in an increase in the nation’s wages bill. It is forecast also that legislation will be brought down in New South Wales to provide for three weeks annual leave. These things are to be done at the request of the trade unions in New South Wales.
If that State is financially able to meet the cost of such legislation, it reflects a position which is not borne out by the sorry story told by Labour party members in this Parliament. If what they say is correct, the legislation which the trade unions are forcing Mr. Cahill to introduce will only result in further weakening the State of New South Wales. Would it not be better to use the money, which will have to be found if these measures are implemented, to take up the slack of unemployment which members of the Opposition here so often talk about? These proposals by the Premier of New South Wales are very dangerous, because any parliament that intervenes in the fixation of wages, hours and working conditions, will destroy representative government. On what issues will elections be fought if that happens? Parties will promise to increase the basic wage to £15, £16 or £17 a week. Look what happened in New Zealand. Was not the offer of the New Zealand Labour party a cash bribe of the worst kind?
The honorable member who has just spoken said that he did not understand the Budget. No member of the Labour party understands the Budget because he upholds an ideology based on personal controls. The forces of the Labour party must be personal forces; members of that party cannot understand the impersonal forces inherent in the capitalist system.
Members of the Opposition ask what the Government has done to take up the slack in employment. Already this Government has prepared to meet the impact of the American recession of last year and the fall in prices of primary products in Australia. Honorable members may recall that last year the Budget provided for increased tax reimbursements to the States, and, in addition, this Government increased by £5,000,000 allocations to the State governments for their loan works. That was done to help take up the slack in employment; and to assist further in this objective the Commonwealth Government expanded its own public works programme. Company tax was reduced in order to build up confidence. The depreciation allowance was instrumental in creating employment, because this facilitated the replacement of obsolete equipment, machinery and buildings. These measures were all designed to offset a fall in employment through the operation of impersonal factors. But members of the Labour party cannot understand such methods, because for the whole of their lives they have been obsessed by personal controls. That is why their doctrine of socialism amounts to slavery.
The Leader of the Opposition expressed surprise that there had been a fall in company profits. He was dealing, of course, with small companies; he is violently opposed to large companies. I am unable to understand how he differentiates between profit when it is made by a small company and when it is made by a large company. But did not the Government provide a tax benefit in its last Budget for small companies? Did it not revise the provision for depreciation? But I say again that honorable members opposite do not understand the Budget, because they cannot understand how the capitalist system and the Australian way of life works.
On the question of tax reduction, Labour likes to give handouts, but tax reductions can be double-barrelled. We do not know what the future holds. If prices continue to fall - I do not think they will - a greater demand for primary products will have to be created. One way to do this is to reduce taxes. But until prices actually fall sufficiently, why not postpone tax reductions and thus keep the economy stable, as it is to-day? That is what the Government is doing; it is planning for the future.
On the subject of public works this Government has been criticized each year since 1949 by the Sydney metropolitan press. I shall not refer to the Victorian press, which I do not read very often; but I believe it is more highly respected than is the Sydney press. But each year, attacks have been made on the Budget by the Sydney press. Yet, each year the Government has succeeded in countering inflation and has solved all our economic problems. N’ow, when our position is most difficult, I have been somewhat horrified to find that the attack from this section of the press has been very mild. I have become nervous because, so often have the criticisms of the press been proved wrong, that this time their mild criticism is disturbing.
Last night the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) explained the meaning of a public works programme. The press has complained that the Government has spent too much money on public works. If that is so why do they not point out where too many schools, hospitals and power stations have been built? Or where, in the country, too much money has been spent on irrigation projects? What specific public works do they say are unnecessary? If they want to criticize, let their criticism be constructive. The fact is that there has been an enormous advance as a result of this Government’s spending on public works. A vigorous programme of public works is an indication of efficient government, and it is idle for these critics to say that so much money should not be spent on public works.
The Opposition put up its best debate when the honorable member for EdenMonaro (Mr. Allan Fraser) spoke on the
Budget. Towards the end of his speech he quoted from the Book of Proverbs -
Where there is no vision, the people perish.
He went on to say that there is no vision on the part of a government which maintains its defence expenditure at £190,000,000 a year in readiness for the kind of war which will never be fought. That was a statement made by one of the senior members of the Labour party. From his subsequent remarks, I conclude that he would ban atomic tests. He said -
There is no vision where a government commits this nation for ever more to a nuclear arms race and to monstrous instruments of mass destruction.
We must assume from that comment that the honorable member is opposed to the atomic bomb as a deterrent. On the one hand, this senior member of the Labour party says that we should not spend money on conventional weapons, and, on the other hand, he says that we should renounce the atomic bomb. Apparently the defence policy of the Labour party is to strip us naked of protection. Let us think of the chilly winds that would blow if the Asiatic hordes were to come into our country! What does the Labour party think of defence? These are not idle matters. By all means attack the Government, but be prepared to stand by your attack. What is Labour’s policy on defence? Will it go to the nation and say that the defence vote should be reduced by £40,000,000 or £50,000,000? On one hand, Labour members say that the atomic deterrent should be abolished and on the other hand they say that they do not want conventional weapons. The only obvious enemy to this country and to the world has built up the greatest conventional forbes ever known in peace-time, not only on land but also on the sea and in the air. Russia, with its vast land m.-‘-s. has 500 submarines. Why does it need 500 submarines? They are conventional weapons; yet Opposition members say that £190,000,000 is completely wasted in providing weapons for a war that will never be fought. If that war is not fought, it will be because of the deterrent of the atomic bomb.
The Labour party will have to answer for the submissions of the honorable member for Eden-Monaro, because, after all, he is a senior member of the Labour party and his remarks must have been based on
Labour’s defence policy. Such a policy is race: suicide. Let us think of the feeling of the nation if suddenly we had no conventional arms. Defence is an easy subject to attack. It is attacked by the press in sweeping statements. Newspapers ask, “What have we obtained for £190,000,000?”. On many occasions, we read of suggestions that are made about the defence vote. Recently, a manufacturer returned from overseas and said, “ I found magnificent roads even in the smallest country. If only half the defence vote were spent on roads, we would have an adequate system of roads.” The answer, of course, is that if he did not pay salaries and wages, we would have cheaper goods. Of the £190,000,000, £130,000,000 is spent on pay and maintenance. That leaves £60,000,000 for capital works, equipment and all the other things that go to make up defences. Labour cannot laugh that off; those are the figures. If Labour is to reduce the defence vote, it must reduce .the amount spent on salaries and maintenance. These are the people who have unity tickets, want to ban the atomic bomb and to leave us completely naked in the world situation to-day.
I am distressed by the harsh references to unemployment in the United States of America and Canada that have been made by several honorable members opposite. I do not know whether those references were made in a kindly or an unkindly way, but I ask honorable members to look at the problems of the United States. She is the one bulwark that saves our country. No other nation can do so. If the United States, with her colossal expenditure on defence, is taken away, what security have we left? Where we spend £20 a headman, woman and child - on defence, she spends more than £100. Everybody knows that defence expenditure is highly inflationary. If the United States is suffering from a recession, it is because of her tremendous effort for the free world. We should recognize that fact with sympathy, understanding and gratitude. Is it not significant to us that United States marines are now in the Singapore area? What interest has the United States in this part of the world, other than our friendship? Those who attack the defence vote- should appreciate what our friends are supplying for our needs. In 1941, the Labour party, quite rightly, appealed to the United States for help. To-day we are infinitely more helpless than we were then. Those who refer to unemployment in the United States and Canada must remember that both those nations are spending infinitely more of the taxpayers’ money on the defence of the free world than we are.
We are faced with the problems of falling prices for primary products and base metals. Next year, those prices may rise. I believe that our trade policy and our trade connexions overseas will help us to effect a recovery. During the last sessional period, I suggested the establishment of a tariff board whose sole function would be to deal with primary industries. Yesterday, my colleague the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) told us of the troubles of part of the dairying industry. I personally believe that that industry would benefit greatly by the establishment of a tariff board, which would consist of impartial men qualified to consider the problems of the industry. Such a board could also deal with other industries, but the dairying industry comes to our mind immediately because of the honorable member’s speech. This is a problem that we must face after the next election.
This Government has been continually attacked on housing. Although we have contributed vast sums of money for housing purposes, this is not really the responsibility of the Commonwealth Government. This is the responsibility of State governments. It is extraordinarily significant that New South Wales, which has had the lowest population increase, is affected more by the housing problem than are other States. Most of the other States have solved their problem, but New South Wales has yet to deal with its problem. The Labour party, which claims to be a trade union party, says that it is a shame that the worker is not adequately housed. Why do Labour members not suggest that, for a time, a 44-hours week be worked on the construction of workers’ homes? That is something I cannot understand. Either their sympathy is not genuine or they are using this problem for political propaganda. They are searching very hard for something on which to attack the Government. They are facing a very difficult election, and every now and then we see a glimmer of their policy.
Opposition members continually mention hire-purchase interest rates. We have hire purchase because it is supplying the needs of tens of thousands of people. In attacking the interest rates, honorable members opposite appeal to the amoral instincts of man. They want hire purchase, but they want the goods more cheaply than they are obtaining them. However, this is not the problem of the Commonwealth Government, but the problem of the State governments. The Labour party is devoid of much thought, and it raises this matter in an effort to attack the Government. The interest rates on hire purchase are not the responsibility of the Commonwealth, but Opposition members are trying to mislead the people into believing that they are.
The honorable member for Isaacs (Mr. Haworth) spoke about transport, and I support him very strongly. I believe that we should have a transport council on the lines of the Australian Agricultural Council. There we have the Commonwealth and the States combining to give effect to the national outlook. I believe the time has come when the Government should consider devoting the whole of the money raised by petrol tax to roads. However, it would not be possible to consider such action in this Budget. Of the total amount raised by the petrol tax, 70 per cent, is paid by persons who are not motor users in transport charges. Any suggestion, therefore, that it is a sectional tax is nonsensical. About 70 per cent, of the tax is paid by the general public, and this Government has every right to keep a portion of the money raised for the benefit of the general public. To say that money derived from the petrol tax should be used for the benefit of motor users only is again nonsense. Following this line of argument, one would have to agree that money raised by excise on beer and tobacco should be spent on smokers and drinkers only.
The tremendous force of propaganda has made the petrol tax an unpopular one for a democratic federal government to retain, and its redistribution has been widely advocated. Before I could agree to that proposition, I would have to remind honorable members that the money would have to be raised by some other means. Once a tax has been imposed, it is very difficult to have it abolished, because some means must then be found of raising the money lost by the Commonwealth.
The honorable member for Dalley (Mr. O’Connor) spoke about inflation being at full blast. This is not so. In fact, I do not think the honorable member really meant what he said. We have considerable economic stability in this country. Prices are not rising; indeed, there is every chance that they will fall. We have had as difficult a period in office as any government has ever had. We have been continually criticized. Our critics have spoken about the wonderful seasons enjoyed while we have been in office, but they forget all the tough times. They forget that within a few months of our coming to power a new factor arose in world affairs. That was the factor of imperialistic communism. They forget Korea. When we took over, Australia had no defences. The Labour Government had sold all the weapons and equipment left over from World War L, and instead of using the money to redeem Commonwealth bonds, the government diverted it to Consolidated Revenue and then reduced taxes. That money should have been used for bond redemption, for which the present Treasurer now has to find sufficient finance.
Our period in office has been a period of great expansion and tremendous progress. Developmental works are always inflationary until they are completed and can be used for the production of goods and the provision of services. The Treasurer is to retire at the end of this Parliament, and I believe that he will live long and that history will place him among the great people of Australia. Under the joint leadership of the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) and our present Treasurer we have lived in a golden age of expansion. We have laid the foundations of a great nation. We have continued our immigration programme, despite the fears of the calamity-howlers that we would not be able to employ all the people coming to Australia.
This Budget is a courageous one. It bears the mark of a great genius, the Commonwealth Treasurer, Sir Arthur Fadden. I believe that posterity will long remember his period of office as Treasurer.
.- There is an old saying that time marches on. I believe no one is more aware of the truth of that statement than the politician, who, every three years, has to face a very trying time. Those politicians who are successful at election time face another short period of three years, in which they have to work very hard and look forward to the future. The candidate who misses out, of course, faces a period of three years that seems very long indeed, because he has to wait for it to pass before he has a chance of returning to Parliament. The honorable member for Parramatta (Sir Garfield Barwick), in his maiden speech last week, described, not graphically but very dramatically, the feelings of the fledgling politician on entering Parliament. We have seen our fledglings enter Parliament. Some of them go on for a considerable time, while others fall by the wayside.
T repeat that no one is more aware of the march of time than the politician. I served 27 years in the Queensland Parliament, being a Minister of the Crown for eighteen years. Through a set of circumstances which would take too long to recount in detail, I found myself in the Commonwealth Parliament, changed from M.L.A. to M.H.R. In many other ways, the change was quite considerable. At that time the Liberal-Country party Government was in office. Both that government and the Labour party favoured an immigration scheme designed to build up our population. This was a very urgent matter. However, because of the Government’s failure to implement an adequate housing policy we saw a decline in the natural increase of our Australian population. While we are bringing in great numbers of immigrants, our Own natural increase is declining, simply because of a neglected housing policy. Thousands of young married people, who are in good positions, are forced to live in flats or other unsuitable premises. This fact is, to a large extent, responsible for the fall in our natural population increase.
During the time I have been in this Parliament it has been apparent that the policy of this Government makes the rich richer and the poor poorer. While wages appear high when compared with pre-war wage levels, their purchasing power is being continually reduced. Those who sell goods are allowed to increase prices without any re striction by the Government. In many families it is necessary for both husband and wife to work in order that the family may enjoy a reasonable income.
One of the first shocks I received after coming to this Parliament was the introduction of the little Budget. This was followed later by the horror Budget. I do not know what name we will give to the Budget now before us. I would call it a “ neuter “ Budget, because it contains nothing. When discussing Budgets, of course, one can argue about details from this angle or that. One can talk about raising or reducing taxes, or about methods of borrowing. On this occasion, however, let me say that if the hire-purchase business is not controlled, governments will not be able to find sufficient money. They will not have the required revenue-raising power. In effect, the hire-purchase companies will have the taxing power and will control our economy. Apart from its unfair impact on the individual, hire purchase will cut at the very roots of government in Australia. If it continues unchecked, no government will be able to raise loan money to carry oh the work of the country. There was a time when our banks administered a logical banking system. That banking system was designed to help industry. It assisted people on the land and those in business who wanted an overdraft or a mortgage at a reasonable rate of interest. In that way, the banks helped to build up the country, but there is no such thing as sound business practice to-day. lt is almost impossible for anybody to raise money at a reasonable rate of interest while certain interests are amassing tremendous sums of money.
Obviously, the control of finance in Australia is passing from the Government to the hire-purchase companies. Local government authorities are very important, and they have to borrow money for public works. In Queensland, those authorities are offering £5 7s. 6d. interest on loans, but the hire-purchase companies are prepared to borrow money at 8 per cent, or 10 per cent. Unless the hire-purchase companies are controlled, finance will pass into the hands of men who have no governmental duties or responsibility and whose only aim in life is to make more and more money.
I recall how the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), clothed in the conventional dress of a magician, with morning coat and striped trousers, produced Petrov from the air. He did it much more cleverly than a professional conjurer could have produced a rabbit. The effect of the Prime Minister’s trick was to bring down the price of wool because Russia, which had been an active competitor at wool sales, withdrew from them. That action cost Australia millions of pounds. The Prime Minister, however, also gained a victory in the subsequent elections. To-day, Petrov smells in the nostrils of the people. He cannot be produced again by the Government for election purposes, but efforts have been made in this chamber to revive the old Communist story.
Anybody who studies the situation sensibly knows that there are very few Communists in Australia, but the Government’s reiteration of the Communist theme, particularly at election time, has convinced many persons outside Australia that this is more or less a Communist country. The Government is responsible for that impression. For three years, we have not heard anything about the Communists. Now an election is pending and two minor supporters of the Government have been led to produce the old Communist bogy again. It must be apparent to everybody that, since the Communist issue is raised only every three years, even the supporters of the Government do not believe what they say about it.
The Government also profited at one election through the efforts of the Australian Democratic Labour party. Government supporters gained the preference votes of the new party. The Government did not believe in the Democratic Labour party, but it used that party at the appropriate time. Elections won by trickery do not reflect any great credit on those who benefit from them. I know that many angles are used in politics, but bare-faced trickery cannot be of much benefit to those who are elected as a result of it. I regret that through its campaigns, the Government has led people of other countries to believe that communism is a power in Australia. Such action on the part of the Government is only providing an opening for communism and helping the Communist cause. When there is a lack of housing and other social conditions are not too good, the Government is only helping communism by its tactics. 1 had been a member of this Parliament for some time before I realized that the handsome gentleman with the white hair who wandered into this chamber occasionally was the Prime Minister. I discovered subsequently that he was making one of his visits back to Australia at election time. The set-up so far as the Government was concerned amazed me. While the Treasurer was working overtime and doing a mighty job, the Prime Minister was one of the playboys of the world. In one year, the right honorable gentleman was abroad for nine months. He turned up occasionally in Canberra when the Budgets were already prepared, but Australia appeared to be only a place to which he could return. The Prime Minister does not seem to have the interest in Australia and its welfare that he should have.
I turn now to the Government’s actions in disposing of Commonwealth assets. The first was the Government’s shares in Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited. To-day, we have no power to investigate the cost of production of oil. We are completely in the hands of the oil companies as a result of the sale of those assets. The Government also sold the £2,000,000 whaling station which was operated by the Australian Whaling Commission. It was the best whaling station in the southern hemisphere. It paid interest and redemption and snowed a profit of £250,000 a year. This Government sold it for £800,000 with a net loss to Consolidated Revenue of £500,000 a year.
– That is not so.
– It is correct. If a Labour government had taken action such as that there would have been howls all around the country of bribery and corruption. A deal such as that causes very grave suspicion.
Another instance is that of Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited. The Commonwealth’s interests in this undertaking, which is absolutely necessary for the defence of Australia, was sold to a private company which has been exploiting the public ever since. If we have to buy that interest back from the company, we shall have to pay an enormous amount for it. The Commonwealth Handling Equipment Pool was another asset of very great value to the Commonwealth. Its equipment was sold to private enterprise and scattered all over the place. We would have to replace that equipment in the case of war and could even find it necessary to do so in peace-time.
Speaking about the Rough Range oil exploration venture, the Prime Minister sought to justify the disposal of the equipment to the Caltex and Ampol interests by saying that they had “ risk money “. He said that they had money that they were prepared to risk and that they could afford to speculate that money in this form of enterprise. He said that the Australian Government did not have risk money to speculate in such an enterprise. What happened? How much speculation was there? How much risk money was involved? Caltex and Ampol put down one bore. I do not know whether they got oil or not, but it was reported that they had found oil. The Australian public spent about £2,000,000 in the purchase of shares on the strength of the report that oil had been struck in the first bore. Then they put another bore down and it was reported to be dry.
The boring equipment which was sold by the Commonwealth to these people who spent, say, £500,000, was the only equipment in the southern hemisphere that could do the job at the time. Then the discovery of oil was reported and the companies collected the best part of £2,000,000 in Australian speculators’ money on the sale of shares which could be bought back later when their price dropped. It was a three card trick. There was no question of risk capital. There was no question of these companies doing anything that would assist the nation. If individuals in private life did such a thing they would find themselves in gaol for life. It was a great take-down, assisted and fostered by the Commonwealth Government, and no protest was made.
What is the position now? Whereas the Government stated that it could not afford risk capital to invest in oil search - the private companies were supposed to be the only ones that had risk capital - the Government is now going to put millions of pounds into the hands of the private oil companies. We will be taking the risk. The companies will not take any risks. Yet the Prime Minister has said that these people have risk money. He has said that they are able to speculate and that the Australian Government cannot afford to do so. The Australian Government cannot afford to do so! The Australian Government can only be taken down. It supplies the money and these other people make the profit. Many other assets of the people have been forfeited by the Australian Government.
I now wish to speak on the subject of defence. The following report appears in to-day’s issue of the “ Sun “: -
The Australian Government had approved of the supply of American arms to Indonesia, External Affairs Minister, Mr. Casey, said to-day. The arms were for internal security purposes, he said.
The newspaper also stated -
There is no guarantee that American arms now being rushed into Indonesia will not be used against British New Guinea. Indonesian Foreign Office spokesman Ganis Harsono made this clear yesterday. He said Indonesia had made no promises about Dutch-ruled West New Guinea in talks about the. arms.
The Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Casey) is either dumb or ignorant, or he is deliberately not telling the truth, because the Indonesian authority has said that Indonesia had given no guarantee that the arms would not be used against Dutch New Guinea. Yet the Minister is the gentleman on whom we have been depending for years to advise us in regard to external affairs!
Not long ago Australia bought two aircraft carriers. Those carriers had not been here for many months before it was found that their aeroplanes were absolutely defective and could not be used for the purpose for which they were intended. So those aeroplanes have been in mothballs, or they may have been dropped in the sea; I do not know. But they were useless. An enormous price was paid for the carriers to Great Britain or to British shipbuilders. To-day, one of the carriers is in mothballs, as well. Surely the people who recommend the purchase of these things should be called to book if they have paid millions of pounds for something that is useless to the country We are told of the exigencies of budgeting, yet millions of pounds are thrown away on something that is of no value! Nobody ever seems to find out whether these fellows know their job. Nobody seems to be brought to book.
The Auditor-General has pointed out, in his report to Parliament, that stocks have been over-bought. Presumably they will be sold later on as being dispensable. This is the greatest form of black-marketing in the country. According to the AuditorGeneral, this black-marketing has been going on in the Army and the Navy with the very essentials of defence. Some of these fellows ought to go into gaol for twenty years. Not only are they robbing the country, but also they are traitors because they are leaving us without equipment which we should have. That is a most startling situation.
Honorable members will recall reading recently how one of our latest destroyers charged into a wharf, doing considerable damage both to itself and to the wharf. A rating has been held responsible for the incident. It is generations since ratings had anything to do with the navigation of ships in or out of harbours! When a ship, particularly a naval vessel, is entering or leaving a harbour, a skilled navigator is in charge of its movements. H.M.A.S. “Sydney” and H.M.A.S. “Melbourne” had navigators, and this destroyer should have had a navigator, also. Perhaps it was a super vessel that worked by pushing buttons, but how on earth could a rating be held responsible for its navigation? If a rating had anything to do with its navigation, this ship would be as obsolete as sailing ships. Yet, so far, all that we have heard about the incident is that a rating made a mistake.
The matters I have dealt with are of vital importance to this country’s future. They are not matters to joke about. If blunders are made in the purchase of arms or ships for the defence of this country they should be investigated and dealt with severely, because we cannot afford to make blunders about our defence. We cannot afford to be suddenly met with difficulties, only to find that we are not able to carry on. The question is not one of potentialities but of actualities. Australia - and, if I may be a bit parochial, particularly Queensland - has the greatest wealth of any nation in the world. We have a great wealth of minerals, and our agricultural potential is second to none.
The Prime Minister recently inspected a mine at Mount Isa, and said that it was a very fine mine. The mines at Mount Isa have been working for twenty years, but the Prime Minister has only just heard about them - of course, he has been overseas so often that one might excuse his ignorance. I know that the right honorable gentleman is a master of language, but nobody calls a mine a fine mine. You can have a fine racehorse, a fine picture, a fine young lady, or a fine song, but you never speak about a fine mine. The boys at the mine had a good laugh. They said: “ The Prime Minister was here, and he said that it was a fine mine”.
The Prime Minister also went to Weipa and there, out of kindness and for publicity purposes, he nursed a little piccaninny. Now, a coloured man does not nurse a piccaninny. Piccaninnies are only nursed by gins, and it was a great joke in the north when this big white man nursed a piccaninny.
– Order! The honorable gentleman’s time has expired. .
Sitting suspended from 5.59 to 8 p.m.
– Mr. Temporary Chairman, I realize that much has already been said about this Budget, and it is probably impossible to make a speech on it at this stage without repeating many of the wise things that have been said. I hope that, if, here and there, I say the same things that have already been said, I shall perhaps say them in a different way.
First, I should like to mention the honorable member for Leichhardt (Mr. Bruce), who has just made what is probably his last major speech in this chamber. I understand that he will not contest the election in November. I am sure that all honorable members will agree that the honorable member for Leichhardt has served the interests of the people of Australia meritoriously over a long period. I believe that he will leave this Parliament with a very honored name, and I am happy to pay him my tribute.
We have heard, Sir, a great deal of criticism of this Budget by the Opposition. We have heard some criticism by the press - mostly, I suggest, by partisan newspapers. I am very pleased to see that many of the larger newspapers throughout Australia, in their editorials, have given the Government a great deal of credit for the objectives of this Budget. The public, too, here and1 there as individuals, no doubt, have criticized the
Budget, but, as one moves among the people, one finds that most of these criticisms are related to some personal matter in respect of which relief or assistance was expected from this Budget, but was not forthcoming. One finds that most thoughtful people - I have discussed the Budget with many of them - agree that this Budget is one of the best that has ever been brought down in this chamber. Indeed, one may cite the views of one of Australia’s famous economists. I refer to Sir Douglas Copland, who said that this is the best and the most prudent Budget, as well as the most farsighted, that has ever been brought down in this country. One cannot turn lightly aside from the opinions of a man of his calibre.
Labour, of course, has its own views on the Budget. One would expect Labour supporters to be more human if one expected them to agree with this Budget. lt is quite understandable that they do not agree with it, and they would not agree with it no matter what it provided for. Even if all the proposals that Opposition members have made in this debate were incorporated in the Budget, in their eyes it would still be wrong. That is understandable, since the Budget has been brought down by the Government and they are in opposition, and it is their view that it is their duty to oppose. No one objects to that. In addition, Sir. this is an election year, and one can readily understand that this forum will be used in an effort to influence votes in the coming elections. Promises will be made, as they always are at election time. However, there is one thing that Labour ought to understand; that is that the people are not easily fooled. They have been fooled on other occasions. We were told the other evening that the people of a country that is our neaT neighbour were fooled recently by wild promises, and that, within twelve months of the elections at which the people accepted those promises, the country was found to be in a pretty bad economic plight. It was a Labour leader, of course, who had made those wild promises.
In this debate.. Labour supporters have naturally criticized the Budget in relation to pensions. They want higher pensions, and there is a very popular cry for higher pensions. But I must remind them that when Labour was in office in 1949 it did not increase pensions. Indeed, it did not give pensions that were worth as much in purchasing power as are the pensions given by this Government. Labour supporters want higher subsidies, and they want to distribute more money on all sides. They have great sympathy for the farmers to-day. I cannot recall any other time when Labour was the farmers’ friend, but, to-day, immediately preceding the elections, it has great sympathy for the farmers. Labour wants increased child endowment benefits. We all remember that when this Government proposed to pay endowment for the first child its proposal was vigorously opposed by the Opposition. In short, Labour wants to give more of everything. And, in order to do so, it is prepared to use central bank credit, which has been mentioned by the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt), and be damned to the future! Labour proposes to give everybody money by using centra) bank credit.
I want to deal more particularly now with a strange statement that was made by the Leader of the Opposition. To my ears it sounded particularly strange. The right honorable gentleman said that this Government has starved the States of money. We have heard this cry going out for several years in all the States. We have been told that we have starved the States of money for housing, transport, roads, schools and hospitals. But the Leader of the Opposition complained bitterly that the public debt of the States had increased by £1,000,000,000 since 1951. If the public debt of the States has increased by that amount, the States must have had the money and must have spent it. I fail to see how that constitutes a criticism of this Budget. In effect, it means only that the States have had, and have been able to spend, £1,000,000,000 since 1951. The Government is entitled to take pride in the fact that it has not taken for itself one penny piece of all the loan moneys that it has raised since it has been in office. It has allowed the States to take the whole of the loan money that has been raised in Australia since it has been in office. The Leader of the Opposition complained, also, that the Commonwealth’s debt has been reduced by £200,000,000. I do not see any cause for complaint in that. Surely it is very sound internal finance to reduce the Commonwealth’s debt by £200,000,000.
Does not such a reduction in effect strengthen the internal economy? Does it not mean that the economy will be better able to tide us over the economic difficulties that we may encounter if there is any recession?
What are the main factors of this Budget? The Government’s objectives can be stated very clearly within the compass of two points.
– They can be stated in one word - nothing.
– That may be the honorable member’s outlook, but I am sure that the people of Australia do not agree with him. The Government’s objectives are clearly to maintain a high standard of living and full employment in this country, as well as to maintain the rate of development, which has captured the imagination of the world. Since this Government took office, Australia has developed enormously, and that fact has not been lost on other people throughout the world. It has brought great credit to Australia arid greatly enhanced our prestige in other countries.
At this juncture, I should like to take the opportunity to join with other honorable members in paying tribute to the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden), who has brought down his last Budget. The right honorable gentleman has played a magnificent part in Australia’s public life. He will leave this Parliament having brought great credit to himself and given great benefit to the people of Australia. Never in his history has he shirked a responsibility. He has worked and made his decisions, whether popular or unpopular, in the interests of the people of Australia. He is a great Australian by any standard, and is loved by all who know him and come in contact with him. One has only to go, as I have gone, into the small villages and towns of north Queensland where he was born, and where he spent his early life, to hear people speak in affectionate terms of this great man. His integrity is beyond reproach. He loves the people, and he has worked consistently for them. I believe that there is in the public life of Australia no more popular man than this great Treasurer. 1 remind the committee that at the general election in 1949 our slogan and promise to the people was that we would win the battle for production, and that is precisely what we have done. I think it is proper that we should recall the conditions prevailing when Labour left office in 1949. It is not untrue to say that at that time we had the lowest production per man-hour in Australia’s history. Among the workers of this country there had been created by Labour’s actions a sense of complete irresponsibility.
– They were tired and lazy.
– Not only were they tired and lazy, but also they were so dealt with, .and such promises were made to them, that they had lost the whole of their sense of responsibility as workers. Shortages of every kind of commodity were evident, and black markets were rampant. These are not fancies, but facts. Everybody in Australia knows that that was the position. There were controls on almost everything but wages, and inflation was indeed on the march.
Labour was intent only upon bringing to fruition its policy of socialization. It was because of the attempt to nationalize the banks of Australia that Labour failed. Touching briefly upon one aspect of defence, Labour had embarked upon a programme of disposal. I charge that it disposed wildly of everything under the sun that had been accumulated during the war. I appreciate that many things had to be disposed of, but I happen to have come into a department where I have had to spend hundreds of thousands of pounds to replace goods that should never have been disposed of. As the result of those disposals, there are people in this country - many of them, may I say, friends of the Australian Labour party - who are millionaires to-day.
– I wish we could see them about election time.
– There are many of them. In eight and a half short years, Australia has developed to the point where it has 10.000,000 people, 2.000,000 more than in 1949. lt has 53,220 factories, producing goods worth £4.000,000,000 a year, more than two-and-a-half times the value of pre-war production. These are facts of which the Australian people must take note. This Government has not only done that. Tn addition, it has attracted the investment from overseas of over £600,000,000 on private account - I am not referring to government loan moneys or anything of that sort. In short, this Government has established confidence in Australia, both in this country and throughout the world generally, because it has won the battle for production.
There have been great difficulties in that period of eight and a half years. It is true that on many occasions inflation was a very great danger, but the Government never shirked its responsibilities. Whether or not it was popular to do so, the Government attacked the elements of inflation that would have destroyed our economy. During that period, as everybody knows, world prices soared. State Labour governments created vast economic problems and did not co-operate fully with this Government in its efforts to stabilize the economy. Commitments for imports became excessive, and the cold war of communism kept the people in a turmoil of fear. What did Labour do about that? Labour actually helped in many ways to maintain the germ of communism within the big unions of this country, and it is still doing that.
This Government guided the destinies of the country throughout these troubled periods, and to-day we can say with great satisfaction that we have not only overcome those difficulties but have also retained the stability of the economy. We are now facing new difficulties. As many speakers have stated, there has been a dramatic fall in prices overseas. Our export income has been reduced by £164,000,000, and our reserves are still falling. Farm incomes are down by £180,000,000. These things cannot happen without having some effect upon the economy, and it is foolish to avoid facing up to the facts. Income tax, maintained at its present level, will return £40,000,000 less this year than it returned last year. I submit that that is a very significant figure.
With these facts before us, we must face up to the position. It is of no use to make airy promises that cannot be kept. It is true that at present economic conditions in many other countries are bad and that unemployment in those countries is causing concern. We should be proud that employment in this country is at a very high level indeed, compared with most other countries. Notwithstanding the difficulties, the Government is determined, first, to keep up our productive capacity and to keep our people fully employed, and secondly, to maintain the big national development programme and immigration intake.
The Opposition must not imagine for one moment that the people are fooled. Some of the statements that honorable members opposite make appear to indicate that they regard the people as being quite foolish. The people know that at such a time as this to increase pensions that might not retain their purchasing power would not help pensioners in any way. What we must do is to ensure that costs do not rise and that the pensioner is able to maintain his purchasing power. Simply to raise the pension without preserving its purchasing power would not be to do a good turn for the pensioner. People who want a reduction in taxation know that there would be a possibility of putting people out of work and lowering production and purchasing power. Purchasing power cannot be raised simply by reducing taxes. The Government considered all those things when it framed the Budget. The people know that the excessive use of central bank credit will not help to maintain a stable economy. Economic policy has to be worked out very carefully, and the Government, as we know, has budgeted for the issue of treasury-bills amounting to £110,000,000. That is an issue of national credit, and the Government is not afraid of taking a risk in those terms. But if the Government met the demands made by the Leader of the Opposition and the Opposition generally, the issue of treasury-bills would have to be so much greater than the issue proposed that it would be excessive, and would be dangerous to the nation’s economy.
The people are confident that the Government will be fair to all sections of the community, and will preserve stability. They know that that is of the utmost importance to Australia. The Government has gone very carefully into all the matters connected with the Budget. Its decisions were not lightly made. In making those decisions it did not fail to consider national affairs, the needs of the people and the need to render justice to all sections of the community. We can assure the people, with all the knowledge at our disposal, that this was the best possible Budget in their interests that could be produced at this time. It was essential to maintain pensions at their existing level, to retain existing tax rates and to budget for a continued high rate of expenditure. It was also essential to give the States the extra £17,000,000 which is provided for in the Budget, in order to promote development and maintain employment. It was also essential to add £10,000,000 to the loan commitment which the Commonwealth has guaranteed -£210,000,000 this year - for works and housing and other necessary activities.
– Do you find this an exciting Budget?
– Yes, it is an exciting Budget and, as the Prime Minister said last night, it is a Budget in which the Government takes a calculated risk. As I pointed out previously, the Government’s objectives are to maintain full employment and the productive capacity of the nation.
What of the future? There are, indeed, unlimited opportunities before this country. Progress in Australia has been really fantastic. Anybody who has travelled over this continent must realize that that is so. I visited Western Australia recently and saw the development that is taking place around Albany and in other parts of that State. Anybody who goes through Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia can see the enormous amount of production that is going on. If we in this country keep our heads we cannot fail to build a great new nation on the foundations, I remind you, Mr. Chairman, of what the people in Australia want - individual enterprise and democratic freedom.
I think that sometimes we are inclined to forget that we are only a young country with 10,000,000 people, situated geographically on the boundary fence, so to speak, of a region inhabited by more than 1,000,000,000 people who live to our north. Many of the countries to our north are only still sorting out their way of life. Here are we in this country of 10,000,000, part of the great brotherhood of democracies of the world, benefiting from, and yet uninhibited by, the traditions of the past, and free in every way to develop a new nation. These are important things, and if we keep our heads there is nothing to prevent us from becoming one of the great nations. On the other hand, if we lose our heads and follow the path that leads to the instability of the socialist policies advocated by the Labour party, we shall not only fail to develop this country, but we shall stand to lose it to the Communist hordes of Asia. That is true, and that is what Australians need to think about to-day.
– It is frightening.
– Yes, it is frightening. It is, indeed, very frightening. What we are, in fact, doing is to lay the foundations for the building of a new nation. If ever there was an occasion when we needed to think clearly and keep our feet firmly on the ground, so as to maintain our democratic way of life and assist the people to develop the nation and maintain stability, this is that occasion.
What is a Budget? It is simply a statement of accounts showing where the money to be controlled by the Government is to come from and what the Government proposes to do with that money. It must be remembered that in broad terms the Government gets the money it handles from two sources only - from tax revenue and loan raisings. On what is this money expended? It is expended, again in broad terms, in providing for the needs of the State governments, on developmental works to promote the growth of the nation, on health and social services, on the defence of the nation - and that is something that is very often forgotten - on promoting the national productive capacity, on maintaining full employment and on carrying on the normal business of government.
I have not dwelt on the subject of defence during my speech to-night because I propose to discuss that subject, so far as it affects the Army, when we are dealing with the Estimates. Defence is not a party matter. It should not be made a political football. There is room for differences of opinion in relation to defence, but whilst the nation’s defence policy is the responsibility of the Government nobody in this country, whether it be the Opposition, the press or the public, can avoid responsibility with regard to the defence of the nation. Defence is a matter for all the people, r.nd our defence is not something that anybody should set out to destroy as many people attempt to do. In the Army, the Navy and the Air Force we have men who are giving great voluntary service on behalf of the nation, and very often the unfair criticism that emanates from the press, from the Opposition and from thoughtless people in Australia is inclined to brown off those people who give voluntary service in the interests of Australia.
Honorable members opposite, and some people and interests outside, may not agree with the Government’s defence policy; but let us treat defence in the way in which it ought to be treated - on a national basis - and let people be helpful and not destructive. Let them assist us in coping with this problem, which is of such great importance.
There are some new features in the Budget, introduced by the Government in the same way as it has introduced new things to Australia in the past. I shall mention some of these new things briefly. First, there is the scheme to provide extra help for pensioners who have no homes of their own. That is something that was never thought of by the Opposition. It is to be a feature of our social services which I hope will stay, and it will certainly be of great assistance to elderly people without homes of their own. Another new feature introduced in the Budget is the extension of medical benefits to cover chronically ill people. This is a grand advance in social legislation.
The Government is maintaining the generous provision in relation to depreciation allowances enjoyed by primary producers, a provision that has had such a great effect on the productive capacity of Australia. The Government has also set out to encourage people to settle in the outback by means of the zone allowance and other concessions, as was pointed out last night by one of my colleagues in Western Australia. We have also set out to encourage the search for oil and other minerals in Australia. The Budget contains provision for this as well as for assistance in the development of the fishing industry, a subject with which the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. McMahon) will no doubt deal when he speaks in this debate to-morrow night.
Notwithstanding criticism from various quarters, we have maintained our high immigration intake. To people who criticize that policy I say that we cannot hold this country unless we increase our population, and that while it is, of course, necessary for us to be careful and selective regarding the kind of people we bring here, it is also essential in the vital interests of Australia that we continue to develop the nation by increasing its population.
– Order! The Minister’s time has expired.
.- I am disappointed that the Minister for the Army (Mr. Cramer) only came to the beginning of his speech at the end of it. We were waiting patiently for the explanation of the distribution of £70,000,000 or £80,000,000 in his department and of the millions of pounds that have been spent over the years in defence enterprise. He seemed to make heavy weather during the whole course of his speech.
I jotted down quite a number of notes about the things he said, and I find thai there is only one point on which I was in complete agreement with him. That was his tribute to my friend the honorable member for Leichhardt (Mr. Bruce). One disappointing feature of his speech, which I thought was rather novel coming from this particular member of the Government, was his statement about the Labour party and communism. I do not know whether that was introduced simply because the Leader of the House (Mr. Harold Holt) is here and the mantle of the late junior Senator for Wisconsin has fallen on him, and he is trying to make his marble good with that gentleman as the next leader. His attitude was symbolic of that of the Government generally. In the last resort they have fallen back on communism foi want of any other argument.
Although I have every respect for the Minister, except in his administration of his department, I am afraid that in my opinion he did not do credit to himself on this occasion. I listened carefully to his speech and heard quite a deal about the Labour party and also about what this Government has done since 1 949. It seems that the Budget debate is regarded by members on the Government side as the occasion for making statistical speeches and historical essays. They turn back the pages of history and point to the great achievements of their Government since it assumed office in 1949.
By way of contrast I point to the speech of the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Allan Fraser) the other night. He has made a closer study of budgetry and economic matters as regards social services than has, perhaps, anybody else in this chamber. He is noted for his attention to detail and for his accuracy generally. He pointed out that the pensioner these days is at least a’ few shillings worse off now than he was under the Chifley Labour Government.
Great changes have taken place in the nation over the last few years; but if we had not made progress both absolutely and relatively over the last eight or ten years that fact would be a serious indictment of this Government. We have heard a good deal said about the greatness of the nation - its power, its wealth, its industrial capacity and its growth of population - but this is only as it should be. It has been going on since the very birth of the nation. The productive capacity of the nation has been increasing each year at the rate of about 3 per cent, or 4 per cent., and as a result the return to the ordinary people in the community ought to have increased proportionately. If that is not so, it means that the Government is not doing its job. The claim of the Opposition is that the assets and wealth of the community are being distributed among fewer and fewer persons although greater and greater profits are being made. The Minister takes pride in the fact that overseas capital is being invested in Australia, but he should realize that in the end this means that Australia , will be milked of its own resources because its profits are going to people overseas.
The Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) in his speech pointed1 out the significance of this fact. I think the increase in profits to overseas corporations has gone up by about 40 per cent, in the last three or four years whereas there has been a decrease in profits of local industries of 3 per cent, or 4 per cent. That is not good enough. It is all very well chasing around the world seeking investments from overseas, but in that respect, in the end, we are making a rod for our own backs. Overseas investments on the whole, and overseas borrowings, will tend to strangle us.
This Government is completely addicted to the principle of high interest rates, although they are strangling production and development, whether they are a charge on a private person building a house or on a public utility undertaking a national work. This is a very serious matter, and will have a grave effect on the future development of the nation.
The Minister for the Army quoted Sir Douglas Copland with some approval. Although I cannot remember some of the events myself, I understand that Sir Douglas Copland was a supporter of the Premiers’ plan which, everybody these days would say, would not receive general support even from members on the Government side. The Minister said that the Budget is farsighted. He said, also, that any criticism of it was election propaganda. He had a few things to say also about New Zealand. I do not know whether he reads the publications which come to his hands from government sources; but a recent issue on overseas trading carried a report from our own representative in New Zealand. First of all, it stated that there were 400 unemployed in New Zealand. On the basis of population, that would be the equivalent of about 1,600 unemployed in this country. If all the workers are profitably employed or only a minor proportion of them are receiving unemployment benefits, the country is better off, in the general run.
New Zealand is much more vulnerable than we are. It depends much more on overseas trading and primary production, yet it has been able to stabilize its economy. It has been able to keep its people in productive employment; and1 if one examines the rate of pension he will find, allowing for our exchange rate and so on, that the pensioner in New Zealand is better off than the pensioner in Australia. Therefore, the argument that is continuously advanced from the Government side that New Zealand is not as well off as Australia has no substance. I suggest to honorable members on the Government side that they should read this article for themselves.
Some of the other points in the Minister’s speech were rather vague or a little bit off the general line of approach to the Budget. He spoke about socialism, socialist control, stability and that kind of thing. But I approach the Budget from the point of view of the ordinary citizen. I ask myself: What does it do to help the average citizen to live a better life? In what way does it take the country forward to greater development? In what way does it solve the problems which face the State governments in building houses, schools and roads? Then, I look at the state of the nation and the things that are causing alarm and public concern - in fact to the individuals involved they are tragedies - such as unemployment. I see that there is an increase in unemployment, and I notice that there is a decrease in farm incomes.
I was interested the other night to hear the honorable member for Petrie (Mr. Hulme) deny this, but the Minister to-night has quoted accurate figures which show that farm incomes have fallen from £535,000,000 to an estimated £359,000,000. The significant point about the fall in farm income and the fact that it is used, almost exclusively, as an excuse for no action by the Government is an admission on its part that it is in the hands of forces over which it has no control whatsoever. It says that there are factors about which it can do nothing in running the country. There is a decrease in the number of employed persons; there is a fall in house construction relative to population; there is an increase in State burdens, on the one hand by the way of interest and on the other by way of a decrease in the resources available to them to carry out their works.
There have been no new significant capital works undertaken since this Government took office nine or ten years ago. But there has been an increase in prices and a resultant decline in living standards. The financial position of Australia causes everybody who stops to think about it a great deal of concern. The fantastic policy which this Government is pursuing has to be very closely studied to be even believed.
One can well ask: Where are the dynamics that this Government talks about? What have the apostles of private enterprise done since they have come into government? I look in vain for the repetition, over the last eight or nine years, of the great works that were undertaken under much greater difficulties by the Government’s predecessors. I invite honorable members to consider the difficulties which faced the Chifley and Curtin governments. Mr. Chifley, during his term of office, faced the problem of rehabilitating and reconstructing the nation. Nearly 1,000,000 men and women had to be transferred from the services to civilian life and rehoused. The whole machinery of the nation, industrial and otherwise, had to be geared towards a different purpose. This was done with great success and was one of the most outstanding governmental achievements in history. The fact that so many members of the services could be returned to the country and given the opportunity for education and fitted for gainful employment without any maladjustment in the nation’s economy generally stands as an everlasting tribute to the Chifley Administration.
Such great enterprises as the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric scheme were undertaken. In the field of education, the establishment of the Australian National University was commenced and the Commonwealth Reconstruction Training Scheme, which eventually became a Commonwealth scheme of financial assistance for students, was started. In the field of defence, Woomera, the Fleet Air Arm and the Australian Regular Army were the creations of the Labour Government. In the field of commerce, enterprises such as TransAustralia Airlines and the Australian Aluminium Production Commission were the creations of the Labour Government. But we look in vain for similar creations by this Government. The Government has avoided its responsibilities. The importance of government in the life of this country is increasing, and government is increasing in complexity. It is absolutely essential that the Government face its responsibilities and realize that it is much more important than private enterprise. The ordinary features of public enterprise are more important to standards of living and comfort than are any features of private enterprise. Public enterprise supplies water, gas and sewerage; it builds the roads and provides the schools. Therefore, in many respects, in an expanding and developing community, the utilities supplied by public enterprise are more important to the standard of living than the carpets on the floor. Those are fundamentals; but that is where we part company with the Government.
I have browsed through the pages of “ Hansard “ for last week. I have noticed the travelogues of honorable members opposite and their references to the howling hordes to our north. But I have looked in vain for any indication that they appreciate the factors that I have mentioned. I have considered the speeches of the honorable member for Petrie (Mr. Hulme) and the Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck) and, although they preach some form of capitalist philosophy, they fail to appreciate that human beings are involved.
I look at the nation and ask, “ What is happening to the ordinary individual? “ In considering the answer to that question, I shall refer to housing. Nothing is more important than housing. The population is increasing year by year. In 1948, it was 7,700,000; in 1950, 8,300,000; in 1952, 8,700,000; in 1955, 9,300,000; and in 1958, 9,800,000. Similarly, we find that each year some 70,000 couples are being married. The immigration figures increased from 55,000 in 1948 to 152,000 in 1950, and then fell to 97,000 in 1955 and 78,000 in 1957. However, when we consider the number of houses constructed, we find that there were 43,000 in 1948, 67,000 in 1951, 79,000 in 1955, 75,000 in 1956, and 65,000 in 1957. The estimate for this year is 66,000 or 67,000. That simply means that with an increasing number of people there are decreasing opportunities for them to obtain a house. That is a serious matter.
I look at the employment figures and ask, “How are the people who live and work in the electorate that I represent faring? What are their chances of obtaining employment? “ I find that in 1948, some 1,800 persons were receiving the unemployment benefit. The figure was as low as 604 in 1951, but it had risen to 6,000 by 1954. The significant factor in the past three years has been the steady increase in the number of persons receiving the unemployment benefit year by year. In this year, the number has increased month by month. I shall not read out all the figures, but I point out that the figure had risen from 18,000 in 1957 to 28,000 in January, 1958. In February, 1958, it was down to 27,000, and for the following months was 24,000, 26,000, 27,000 and 29,000. Similarly, the number of persons registered for employment has increased steadily and in proportion.
What does this mean? It means tragedy in thousands of homes. Apart from death or complete invalidity, no single tragedy is equal to the tragedy of unemployment. I am one of the generation which suffered in the 1930’s. But we were fortunate too, inasmuch as people of my age did not have family responsibilities. To-day, I see people whom I know faced with the threat of unemployment. Even the threat of unemployment is enough to make family life almost unbearable. Honorable members opposite who quote percentages and figures are completely devoid of humanity. They should accept this as a great and tragic human problem. There is an increasing menace in it. My friends in the trade union movement tell me that automation in some factories is having its effect week by week. I heard of a paint factory where a machine installed last week decreased the number of people required to work in a certain section from 92 to 68. That trend, spread throughout the thousands of factories in Australia, will create a serious situation. I look in vain for any expression of policy from Government supporters which would show, first, that they are aware of this problem or, secondly, that they proposed to do anything about it. It will be the day when they recognize that unemployment and the maintenance of full employment are direct government responsibilities!
Housing is also a direct government responsibility. It is a business enterprise in this country, even to the Government. The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) and the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) say with pride that another £35,000,000 has been allotted for war service homes. As a grateful community, acknowledging our debt to the servicemen who defended us, we are prepared to allot £35,000,000; but we will make a steady 20 per cent. The amount is £35,000,000 for this year and £35,000,000 for last year. The figures appear in “ Hansard “ for 30th April, 1957, at page 914. In the 40 years since the inception of the scheme, the Government has made a total profit of £37,000,000 on war service homes, over and above any expenditure on administering the scheme. It costs about £9 per house per year to administer the scheme. The interest rate that we charge is a little lower than that charged by outside institutions. The Budget Papers show that in this year £7,000,000 will be paid in interest. That means, in effect, that instead of £35,000,000, perhaps £28,000,000 will be allocated. It is all coming out of revenue and it is all being loaned to the ex-serviceman by a grateful country, at interest rates, and ploughed back into the country’s development. There is nothing wrong with ploughing it back into the country’s development, but this Government is completely interest-happy. It is dedicated to the proposition that there is something noble about interest: it must have interest.
I look at the public debt and find that this is where the fantastic financial policies of the country come in. I find this position difficult to believe. When I explain it. to people, they say that it is not true. But I have rung the Treasury to make sure that I am right. The position is that the Commonwealth is gradually draining the States of all their opportunities to expand. The Minister for the Army said that we subsidize State loan funds to the extent of £1,000,000,000. According to my estimates on the figures contained in the Budget Papers, £693,000,000 has been raised from Commonwealth revenue, and no interest has been paid on it by the Commonwealth. It has been lent to the States by the Commonwealth. The figures are all shown in the Budget Papers and in the White Paper. One can follow them through and find out what is happening to the States. I instance the interest burden being transferred to State governments. At present, it is £88,000,000 a year- £30,000,000 for New South Wales, £20,000,000 for Victoria, £10,000,000 for Queensland, £11,000,000 for South Australia, £8,000,000 for Western Australia and £5,000,000 for Tasmania. Approximately half that interest burden is paid to the Commonwealth Government, which acts as a money-lending enterprise.
The situation is fantastic, when one realizes that the schools and the railways in Victoria, in New South Wales and in all the other States have to carry this burden of interest. The position of pay-roll tax is even more fantastic. The State governments must pay pay-roll tax in respect of people who are doing exactly the same sort of job as those who work for the Common wealth. In New South Wales, I understand, pay-roll tax will amount to about £1,250,000 in the Railways Department alone. This amount will be paid back by the Commonwealth to the State of New South Wales. How does the system work? The Minister for Railways in New South Wales, or in any other State, makes up his budget and says “ We will incur a deficit “. He puts it to his State Treasurer, who makes up the State budget. Then they go to the Premiers conference, and an arrangement is made with the States in accordance with the formula, under which the States will be reimbursed to a certain amount. Then when the Commonwealth is preparing its own Budget it includes in that Budget the individual State budget, which in turn includes the railways deficit, portion of which is attributable to pay-roll tax paid to the Commonwealth. Then Commonwealth Government Ministers solemnly come here and stand up and pay tribute to the Treasurer who thought up this system, under which we have to impose a burden of tax upon every industry and enterprise in the country, so that we can reimburse the States to enable them to pay their pay-roll tax.
I should estimate that this tax on government authorities amounts to about £15,000,000 or £20,000,000 annually, and if honorable members look at the taxation reports they will find that government instrumentalities are the greatest payers of pay-roll tax. The two municipalities in my own electorate pay about £3,000 each a year in pay-roll tax. That £3,000 would fix up perhaps a mile of street. It would build another house. In the electorate of my friend the honorable member for Hughes (Mr. L. R. Johnson), it would probably enable a sewerage system to be provided for more than the 5 per cent, of the homes which at present have sewerage. If we simply transferred the job of building schools from the States to the Commonwealth, so that we did the work and they did not pay pay-roll tax or interest, we would be able to build another seven ana a half high schools, if we calculate the cost at the present rate in Victoria of £100,000 each.
– But if the loan market supplied the money, how much interest would they be paying?
– If the Commonwealth did the job it would be interest-free. It is not the matter of supplying the money that 1 am concerned with. What I am pointing out is that we are charging interest on the money that we raise from taxation. It is interest-worship carried to the ultimate, to the most ridiculous extreme. The Government is interest-happy.
Consider this matter of the deficit that the Government is budgeting for. The Government expects a deficit of £110,000,000. There is some mystique about this amount of £110,000,000. The Prime Minister says that if we make it a penny more we will ruin the country, and if we make it a penny less we will all be unemployed. It is very much like the mystique surrounding the expenditure of £190,000,000 on defence.
– How much would the honorable member make it?
– I am simply explaining the position. You are the ones who are running the country. I am only a backbencher on the Opposition side. I do not really claim to know these things. We are going to borrow this £110,000,000, either in treasury-bills or from the central bank, and we will pay 1 per cent, interest. Then, out of the kindness of our hearts, we will do the right thing by the States and lend it to them at 5 per cent. So, even on our own deficit we will probably make a profit of about £4,000,000. This is a fantastic situation. All it shows to me is that the resources of the Commonwealth are almost unlimited if you have people with the wit and the will to do something with them.
Let me now refer to the Government’s sacred cows. Back in 1931 the sacred cow was the gold standard - death and ruination and disaster if you got off the gold standard. Well, nobody worries about the gold standard any more. Seven or eight years ago the sacred cow was liquidity in the banks - you dare not touch that! But let honorable members turn up the answers to questions asked in this House at various times and they will find that the private banks have got down to as low as 6 per cent, or 7 per cent, liquidity. Now we have interest rates and deficits and something else - more sacred cows. If Government supporters would just take all the papers away and, preferably around
Ayers Rock, indulge for a while in a bit of mystic contemplation about the problems of the nation, instead of figures in the Budget, and then come back here and do something constructive, we would all be better off.
I would like now, at the end of my speech, to refer to the beginning of it, as the Minister did. I refer to the matter of defence. The Minister made some point about the hordes to our north. This is a very popular theme with the Liberals these days. I do not know many of the people who live in the countries to our north. I have met those who come here under the Colombo plan. I met people in Borneo during the war. They all seemed to be all right. They did not seem to be dangerous or dastardly sorts of people. But the Minister is convinced that we have something like 1,000,000,000 enemies to our north. It is rubbish. It is nonsense. It is, in fact, a menace to our future even to speak of them in such a way. How on earth can we have friendship with people whom we are teaching everybody in the community to hate and fear?
Order! Honorable members will remain silent. There is altogether too much noise.
– It is encouraging to have so much support. Let us consider the position of Australia’s defence, Mr. Temporary Chairman. You know something about defence. You have seen Australian forces at their best. We have spent goodness knows how much, but about £110,000,000 at any rate, on national service training, including some £25,000,000 or £26,000,000 on capital works. What have we to show for it? Let us assume that some of these hordes started to sail in their junks and sampans and submarines, and in “ Hobart “, if that is where it is; and let us assume that the target is Darwin - just to make it easy, because, after all, there are 300 miles of railway leading to it. and it has a port. Could we put one division in the Northern Territory, fully armed, fully trained and fully equipped, within the ten days that it would take these hordes to sail here? Of course we could not. Could we shift our 115 or 120 tanks on any transport system in Australia? Of course we could not. Could we mobilize a full division, with all its troops and ancillary services, and supply them? Of course we could not.
– Could we even shift the Minister?
– We might shift the Minister. This is the simple test: What have we got for our money, and what is the objective? Is there any clear objective? I have taken an interest in the defence services for a long time. I admit that honorable members opposite are just as interested as I am. Surely it is time we arrived at the position at which we can say that we are going to perform a particular task in defence and prepare our forces to do it. There is no doubt that the Regular Army is going to pieces. We cannot get recruits. In many establishments life is a miserable affair for the person in the Regular Army. Members of the Army are still being shifted continually, apparently at the whim and will of some one who operates a card index system in an office, and who thinks that if he does not keep moving them he will be unemployed. This is a serious matter for people in the services. If you want devoted servicemen to serve the country you must give them security and more attractive conditions than they can get outside, because in the end you may ask of them even greater sacrifices than they are making now.
The whole system does not bear analysis. The Government comes here and continually talks about the trade union movement. In the matter of civil defence, what could be a better asset to the country than a disciplined, organized, loyal and stable trade union movement? What organization in the community could give us the loyal support of 1,000,000 people - including watersiders and other workers - other than the trade union movement? Yet we hear it said - it is an article of faith for honorable members opposite - that the trade union movement is a danger to the community.
I look in vain for anything in this Budact that will solve our problems and take the country forward. The only hope for the future is 22nd November.
.- I should have thought that by this stage of the debate the background against which the
Budget has been prepared would have been generally accepted. I understand, as I think the committee understands, that thebackground to this Budget is the necessity, in an expanding economy, to meet circumstances created by a fall in overseas prices. I shall not pretend to elaborate on that theme. It has been dealt with in detail1 during the course of the debate. I think, however, that we might have a look at the general policy behind the Budget - againnot in particular terms, since they also have been dealt with, but in terms of general’ tendencies. It seems to me that we can sumup the general policy of the Budget by saying that its purpose is to maintain the expansion that has been experienced for someyears. It retains the lower taxation rates which were introduced in the Budget last year. It provides for small but, in principle, very significant increases in social service payments and will help to maintain Commonwealth and State works programmes. Lastly, the Budget provides for a deficit of £110,000,000.
I have listened carefully to the debate and have tried to summarize the criticisms of the Budget I have heard from the Opposition. At this stage of the debate, I believe we should look at tendencies rather than details. It seems to me that the three principal lines of criticism are these: The first, put forward by the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt), was that we should spend more, tax less and take the difference from the Commonwealth Bank. The second line of criticism was that we should reduce expenditure and reduce taxes. The third was that we should reduce taxes in the hope that such a reduction would stimulate industry and development and, over the whole field, might well either balance itself out or tend to do so.
Now, Sir. of these three general criticisms, the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) last night dealt in detail with the second proposition that we should reduce taxation and expenditure. Anybody who listened to the right honorable gentleman would appreciate the extreme difficulty of reducing in any material way the expenditure to which Australia is committed in the Budget. 1 think that the answer to the third proposition broadly is that, in the present state of the economy, one of the problems of the Government is to maintain expansion and to preserve the economy if possible from further inflation. There, or somewhere on that knife-edge, is the working area of the deficit Budget. It is a very small area, and if you accept the proposition that the area is necessarily small, you also accept the proposition that it would be impossible to reduce taxation to such an extent that it would stimulate industry and production sufficiently to make a worthwhile contribution to the overall national balance.
At this point, let me revert to the suggestion made by the Leader of the Opposition, and supported by the honorable member for Wills (Mr. Bryant), that on almost all the general items of the Budget, more should be spent, that on the revenue side we should raise less from pay-roll tax, income tax, sales tax and most other sources of revenue, and that the difference should be raised, as I believe the Leader of the Opposition suggested, by the use of the Commonwealth Bank. Let us examine that proposition. It seems to me to create precisely the situation to which I referred earlier in my speech. Where is the end of safety and where does danger commence? My honorable friend from Wills said that his interpretation of the Prime Minister’s statement was that, if the deficit exceeded £100,000,000 by even a small amount, that was danger, but if the deficit was exactly £110,000,000, it was safe. That is rather childish and not a serious contribution to the solution of the problems we have to face. I believe it is true, however, that, if you care to cost the amounts involved in the policy put forward by the Leader of the Opposition of adding to all headings of expenditure, the increase would probably amount ‘ to £200,000,000. We would then have a Budget deficit exceeding £300,000,000; and I do not think there is any question that such action would destroy the value of money or, synonymously, create a condition of acute inflation. It is a truism that if that were done, all the benefits that were sought through increased pensions and allocations to the States would be offset by the fact that the value of money to pay for the increases would be reduced - a palpable absurdity. There may be general agreement on the margin where safety finishes and danger begins, but it is plainly absurd to speak in the terms I have refuted.
The honorable member for Wills illustrated the Opposition’s approach to another of these propositions early in his speech when he said, if I recall his words correctly, that we should not seek to obtain loans - that is capital - from overseas, or be proud of having obtained them. I do not know the background that the honorable member had in mind, but according to my understanding of the situation overseas loans are expressed in terms of capital equipment and things that are necessary to the development that has taken place - and in techniques and services that we cannot provide ourselves. To suggest that it is possible to carry out a policy of expansion - and the Opposition at long last has come to accept that proposition - from our own resources is to ignore the realities of the situation.
That leads me to what, in my opinion, is the real problem underlying the difficulties we have to face. I think our real problem in general terms is this: Because of circumstances over which we, as a people and a government, have no control, we have been unable as government to government, or agency to agency, to raise overseas sufficient loans to meet the needs of the programme of expansion we have followed for the past decade. That problem, of course, is intensified by the increasing demand for finance from the private sector of the economy. That finance is necessary for the expansion which we on the Government side hope to see in the private sector of the economy. After all, it is that sector that employs about 75 per cent, of the workers of Australia. If my friends of the Opposition contemplate action to destroy or affect that sector then they seek to achieve the very result which they claim to regard with horror - increased unemployment. Outside the narrow ambit of political argument, that truth is acknowledged.
The further factor that we should, as a House, look at and continue to look at is the limitations imposed upon this and other governments by the Constitution - the difficulties imposed on us by the working of the Financial Agreement of which the Australian Loan Council is a product, the system of uniform taxation and tax reimbursements to the States, and by other legislation which is, in my opinion, the result of yesterday’s thinking on to-day’s problems. There, Sir, we have a paradoxical position. It is a position of absurdity. In theory, we have a federal form of government, with this Parliament possessing limited legislative powers, and with the sovereign States possessing, in that sense, full power of legislation. On the financial side, however, we have a unified form of government. As a result of those financial measures that I have mentioned, we have a system under which almost supreme power resides in the Commonwealth Parliament and little financial power resides in the States.
That seems to me to be the basic conflict of to-day. It seems to me that until that conflict is resolved, one way or the other, in happy compromise - or unhappy compromise as so many compromises tend to be - we shall be presented with recurring problems. Whether world prices of commodities rise and keep the economy buoyant for a few years, or whether they fall and place the economy in some danger for a brief time, until that basic conflict of the real powers and theoretical powers is resolved we cannot, as a country, achieve in full the benefits of the expansion which I think, irrespective of party, we all seek.
I do not wish to dwell unduly on these factors, but let us consider the Australian Loan Council which was the result of the Financial Agreement of 1927. The Loan Council was created in a situation in which it was no problem for the States or the Commonwealth to borrow money overseas. As a result of its creation we achieved a common approach to the London market. The loan efforts of the six States and the Commonwealth were co-ordinated through one body which handled all the loan approaches of this country. At the time, no doubt, it was a very wise and admirable move.
But to-day the situation has no relationship to the conditions of those times. To-day, the problem is not which of a number of potential lenders we shall borrow money from. The problem is that we cannot borrow enough capital overseas. In consequence, as has frequently been said, this Government has raised by taxation hundreds of millions of pounds which have gone to the States to finance capital works. We have spent money to-day in order to obtain a benefit to-morrow. From there, as I see it, starts the vicious circle which has caused so much concern in debate, particularly in the debate on this Budget.
In broad, I understand that this is the position: The Commonwealth Government raises £200,000,000 for capital works each year. It draws that money from the general pool of investment potential in Australia. It takes that money out of the hands of the individual and transfers it to itself. By doing that, it increases the competition within this country for the finance necessary for the expansion of industry and commerce and agriculture. We have to spread such butter as is left very thinly over the bread. From that fact comes the pressure, and all the many consequences of which my friends of the Opposition have spoken, such as rising interest rates, competition for money, and money being diverted from one source or another to hire purchase.
I come, now, to the sort of thinking that we must try to achieve in this country. The problem that I have described could’ bc overcome - to what extent could only be a matter of opinion - if the six States could agree among themselves, and then with the Commonwealth, on a national works priority. Whether a work may be in Western Australia, Queensland, Victoria, New South Wales or anywhere else in Australia its national priority should be established. Under those conditions, I believe that considerable sums of money could be obtained overseas for specified projects. It has happened in other countries. It has happened to a minor extent in this country, and I believe that it could happen to a very much larger extent. The present conflict results from the fact that the States, with their sovereign powers, demand a works programme which will meet the political pressures in each State. The situation grows worse yearly because, yearly the forces of expansion, expressed in terms of need for finance, grow greater in this country.
Then we have the problem of the distribution of money by the Commonwealth to the States in tax reimbursements. That scheme is based on a formula which was devised, I think, in 1946. It has some, but little, relationship to the realities of to-day. The amount of tax funds reimbursed to each State certainly has no relationship to the degree of development necessary in that State. That. I think, is the fundamental weakness in our economy.
We have precisely the same sort of thinking concerning the funds which the Commonwealth makes available to the States for road works. I may say something on that sort of thing afterwards. But it is indicative of the sort of thinking that is based on an outworn formula - yesterday’s formula for to-day’s problem. That formula creates and will continue ‘to create the problems that we face to-day and those that we will face in a greater form tomorrow. Yet, if that sort of thing was confined only to Commonwealth and States relations, it may be possible to slide along on the general level of increased production and expansion. But this goes further. There is little if any relationship between the funds available within the States and the development that is taking place.
Last night the honorable member for Hughes (Mr. L. R. Johnson), to whom I listened carefully, drew attention to a problem upon which I, too, would like to place some emphasis. If I suggest that the honorable member drew a wrong conclusion, it is only because we on this side of the House, although we may not agree with honorable members opposite on some matters, approach them from a different viewpoint. The result of our archaic financial system is that in vast areas of Australia, particularly in new outer suburbs of our great cities, whole communities which have grown up are denied services that a civilized community regards as essential. The honorable member for Hughes pointed out that a large number of houses within the City of Sydney, and in the area that he represents, are unsewered. In Melbourne, the problem is less acute, but about 70,000 houses there are without sewerage. On the outskirts of Melbourne thousands of houses have no water supply or, if they have water connected, it is a very poor supply when it is needed most. Electricity is creeping into the new outer suburbs, but they are still denied roads. The schools that have been built in the last five years, and those at present under construction, will be inadequate to-morrow to meet the needs of the particular area they serve. The honorable member for Wills spoke with some feeling about this situation earlier to-night.
I do not profess at this stage - perhaps not at any stage - to offer complete solutions to the problems. But I do say that until we start to think of these problems they will not improve. Take transport. It is inadequate to meet the needs of to-day’s expansion, and our transport system will not improve until we determine to tackle the problem. The States must not think only in terms of obtaining more money from the Commonwealth Government for this or that project. The States must cease responding to pressure groups. The fact to be remembered is that the funds available in the first place are less than they should be because of the system, because of an idea of State sovereignty translated into forms of legislative practice. That is why we do not get the inflow of capital in terms of machines and know-how. Secondly, because of yesterday’s approach to to-day’s national questions we have petty disruption - small men reacting to small pressures, holding up, delaying, retarding, and misdirecting a great national movement. I do not profess to know the answers to the problems. I hope that the Constitution Review Committee will make some comment or offer some solution to some of these problems. I believe that we will be forced to accept around the table in conference with the representatives of the States a common policy, irrespective of party politics, and irrespective of attempts by some State individuals to gain petty political advantage. We should have some kind of permanent organization where these problems can be discussed and reviewed, where we can face these national realities; because I am sure that unless we do that, the work which this Government has done over the last eight and a half years will go for nought. The work that the Treasurer has so rightly been complimented on, and the work that perhaps would be done in the distant future by another Labour government led by another Mr. Chifley, would also go for nought. I urge that some thought be given to those problems which, I believe, are the fundamental problems confronting us to-day.
.- When I contemplate the tremendous possibilities of this country, and the wonderful future with unlimited opportunities for a better way of life, I ask myself whether this document, known as the Budget for 1958-59, appropriately and sufficiently fulfils what is required of a progressive government with a progressive policy. I am very disappointed that any Commonwealth government could be so lacking in its understanding of the possibilities of this country that it could bring down a Budget of this kind. This Budget is a bleak and dismal document. It is disappointing and discouraging. It is desolate to those in need. It provides no relief for the unemployment situation. It pays no attention to the claims of families. It is unimpressive and unimaginative.
The Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) must have had some inward qualms when he sponsored this Budget in what one may consider to have been his farewell message to the nation. This Government’s sitdownand wait attitude is totally unrealistic and completely ignores the needs of Australia at this stage of its history and development. This country abounds in rich resources, and it is nothing short of wretched mismanagement that has left 65,000 persons without an opportunity to earn a livelihood. Australia should be in a position to absorb readily every person available for useful work. Anything less than the full use of the energies of every one available for work will cause Australian citizens to be denied the economic security and wellbeing that the untold wealth of this country entitles them to enjoy. The Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt), very rightly, made a speech designed to rouse the Government out of its lethargy and to get it to abandon its stay-put attitude. Australia calls its people to great opportunities and great prospects for the future, and the Leader of the Opposition has rightly censured the Government for its unrealistic attitude to the imperative needs of a nation that calls its people to the task of promoting development.
It is an astounding fact that this Budget, although it was introduced by a Treasurer who is a member of the Australian Country party, does not do one single thing to aid the farming community at a time when so many producers are suffering the consequences of low prices and trade recession. No; just sit down and wait! That is the attitude of this Government. It is content to allow 65,000 workers to live as best they can on the unemployment benefit instead of affording them the opportunity to earn a decent livelihood and to occupy themselves in useful employment. The outlook for every man and woman who is unemployed is one of despair, no matter how earnestly the unemployed seek to devote their time and energies to the work that is essential to this country’s advancement.
The pensioner and the family man are again passed by in this Budget. The few crumbs in the form of rent relief that are grudgingly being given will benefit fewer than one in every three of the hardpressed people who have lost so much because their incomes have fallen so far behind ever-increasing costs, which have increased equally as much for pensioners as ‘ for those in more favorable circumstances. The Government, in effect, glares at these sorely pressed people and declares, “ Just sit down and wait! “
I have seen more Budgets brought down in this chamber than has any other honorable member with the exception of the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page), and never have I heard a more unimaginative Budget speech than the one that we have recently heard from the Treasurer. The Australian nation has paid heavily for letting a government such as this one guide its affairs. Every one has suffered severely from the fall in the real value of wages, salaries and savings. The means of the people are inadequate to provide the comforts and ensure the well-being, that they enjoyed under the administration of a Labour government. This Budget conclusively proves that. The Government finished last financial year with a surplus of £10,000,000, but this financial year it is to go into the red to the tune of £110,000,000. It is unable to pay its way out of its revenues, and it cannot so administer the nation’s affairs as to effect satisfactory savings in relation to many matters over which its stewardship has been called into question and in respect of which we all feel that prodigal expenditure has been undertaken. If the nation’s resources had been properly husbanded, there would have been adequate funds available not only to meet ordinary current expenditure but also to provide a stimulus to the economy by expanding the works that are essential toAustralia’s development.
One of the reasons given for the expected deficit of £1 10,000,000 is that large amounts of loans will mature during the financial year. The Government acknowledges that it has lost the confidence of the Australian people when it admits that an unprecedented amount of cash will be required to meet payments to bondholders who are not expected to convert their holdings when they mature. It is expected that the holders of at least £80,000,000 worth of the £337,000,000 worth of loans maturing this financial year will decline to convert their holdings. This is clear proof that the Government has failed to encourage the people to invest in the loan market and that it has lost the confidence of a great many loyal investors who freely and willingly subscribed during war-time in response to appeals made by Mr. Curtin and Mr. Chifley for funds to meet the urgent needs of the war. The people are loyal to their country and are anxious to promote its development. In times of grave crisis and peril in the past, they have freely given their money in their country’s interests, but this Government’s policy has completely discouraged them.
Under this Government’s administration, Australia has lost the stability that it enjoyed when the Chifley Government was in office - a stability that was highly regarded in other countries. Although there had been an upward movement of prices in consequence of the upward spiral of prices in other countries, under the Chifley Government’s administration, Australia had one of the most favorable price levels in the world. When I was in the United States of America, it was generally acknowledged there that the government of the day had managed Australia’s internal economy splendidly and that the current price level reflected great credit on it. As soon as the present Government took office, it began to put into effect its ideas on free enterprise and to provide opportunities for various agencies to exploit the people at will. Little or no curb was placed upon those who were disposed to so use their opportunities, and therefore price levels rose and continued to rise.
I have had taken out some figures which indicate clearly the trend and its effect. These figures were prepared by people who are fully qualified to assess the situation. On prices prevailing in June, 1958, an amount of £1,857 would be required to purchase as much of the necessaries of life as £1,000 would have purchased in September, 1949. This means that the value of savings, whether in bank accounts or in the form of insurance, has fallen by almost one-half since 1949, and that persons whose incomes have remained fixed incomes can purchase only about one-half of what they could purchase then.
That is a very important revelation, because, unfortunately, many Australians who have had value taken from their possessions do not yet seem to be fully aware of the extent of this kind of manipulation of their savings and investments. Let us use the C series retail price index of the Commonwealth Bureau of Census and Statistics as a measuring rod, and assume the value of the Australian £1 to have been 20s. in September, 1939, the last pre-war quarter. At that time the index figure was 916. In June, 1943, during the war, the index figure had advanced to 1,143, and the value of the £1 had fallen to 16s. Id. In September, 1949, the last year of the Chifley Government, the index figure was 1,396, and the value of the £1 was 13s. 2d. In September, 1957, the index figure was 2,574. In June, 1958, it had risen still further to 2,607, and the value of the £1 had diminished to 7s.
Yet this Government was originally elected on a promise to put value back into the £1 and so assist pensioners and wageearners particularly! Those statistics show the effect of the ruinous policy that this Government has been pursuing in its conduct of this country’s affairs. I hope that the people will realize how calamitous is a policy of this kind.
The Government has 66,000 people registered as unemployed, but no doubt many more people are actually out of work and have not registered. According to the “ Financial Review “, an additional amount of £50,000,000 a year could have been earned in wages and salaries if unemployment had been even at the level at which it was two years ago.
The upward trend of prices is taking even more value out of the money that people possess. As a result of rising interest rates, governments are unable to get loan accommodation at a reasonable figure. The loans that are now maturing were issued at rates of 3i and 3$ per cent. Most of the loans becoming due will not be reconverted although the interest offered is 5 per cent., or possibly more. The point has been reached where a ruinous price must be paid for financial accommodation. The Government has only itself to blame.
There has been a move on the part of the Government to offer concessions to the trading banks in the form of licences to engage in savings bank business. This class of business was formerly undertaken exclusively by Government instrumentalities, including the Commonwealth Bank. The Government has in this way granted the claim of its special friends. In June of this year, an amount of £155,208,000 stood to the credit of depositors in the savings bank sections of private trading banks. Possibly not all of that amount, but most of it, would have been deposited in one of the government savings banks had these licences not been given to the private trading banks. Formerly, most of the money held by savings banks was used for housing finance, to make contributions to the conversion of maturing loans, and otherwise to provide buoyancy. To-day, savings bank funds are not used for public purposes to the same degree as they were, but are used to meet commitments which the banks would have met from their other resources. This money should be used for such purposes as providing financial accommodation for people in need of houses. The fact is that the private banks have been more concerned with other forms of business that have -already put considerable profits into their coffers.
The subject of hire purchase has been emphasized during this debate, and I intend now to give the committee some figures relating to the activities of the trading banks in the hire-purchase field. I derive these figures from a booklet, a copy of which was sent to all honorable members last week hy the Melbourne firm of stockbrokers, J. B. Were and Son. I earnestly suggest that all members make a thorough study of the details given on page 5 of that booklet. So that the community will know something of this kind of business 1 shall give some of the details contained in the booklet. The Australia and New Zealand Bank Limited has a 14 per cent, holding in Industrial Acceptance Corporation, whose current rate of dividend is 161 per cent. The annual amount of dividend receivable by the bank at this rate is £186,666. The Bank of Adelaide Limited has a 40 per cent, holding in Finance Corporation of Australia, whose current rate of dividend is 10 per cent., yielding an annual return to the bank of £20,000. The Bank of New South Wales has a 40 per cent, holding in Australian Guarantee Corporation Limited, whose current rate of dividend is 15 per cent., returning an annual amount of £373,500 to the bank. The Commercial Bank of Australia Limited has a holding in General Credits Limited of 45 per cent. The current rate of dividend of that hirepurchase organization is 10 per cent., and the annual yield to the bank is £117,821. The Commercial Banking Company of Sydney Limited has a 40 per cent, holding in Commercial and General Acceptance Limited. The English, Scottish and Australian Bank has a 100 per cent, holding in Esanda, the only hire-purchase organization in the list which pays a reasonable rate of dividend - 5 per cent. The yield to the bank is £100,000 annually, but it also received what is described as a “ management fee “ amounting to £160,000 a year to 30th June, 1957. That is an indication of how the trading banks can disguise their income from hire-purchase associates.
The Lombard banking interests have a 60 per cent, holding in Lombard (Australia), whose current rate of dividend is 10 per cent., yielding an annual £64,335 to the parent organization. The Mutual Life and Citizens’ Assurance has a 44 per cent, holding in Alliance Holdings, whose current rate of dividend is 15 per cent., yielding an annual £149,850 to the assurance company. The National Bank of Australasia Limited has a 40 per cent, interest in Custom Credit Corporation Limited, whose current rate of dividend is 15 per cent., giving a yield of £300.000 annually to the bank. The amounts I have mentioned total in one year £1,412,172, which is taken out of the pockets of the community for the profit of these banking and other interests.
While interests which are more than rapacious in their demands on the Australian economy have this kind of opportunity to make huge profits this nation and its people will be denied the opportunities to advance that should be theirs. Australia will be denied buoyancy for its currency and the means to finance its national needs. So I hope that something will be done to remedy the condition of affairs in the hirepurchase field, about which other honorable members have made revelations similar to those I have made to-night, because these methods of finance can ultimately be a cause of disaster for Australia.
It is certainly not in accordance with fact for anybody to describe this Budget as an example of high financial acumen.
– Order! The honorable gentleman’s time has expired.
.- It would be proper for the honorable member for Bonython (Mr. Makin) to write to J. B. Were and Son of Melbourne and thank that firm for having provided him with the material for his speech to-night. That would be the courteous thing to do, because evidently without the booklet sent to him by that company he would have found himself completely at a loss in seeking to criticize the Budget. The honorable member described the Budget as “ bleak, disappointing and dismal “ - a nice attempt at alliteration. I feel sure that had the honorable member asked me first I could have given him many more words, and more picturesque words, beginning with a “ d “.
– Let’s hear them.
– The honorable member for Wilmot, in spite of his previous calling, is as well aware of the words to which I refer as I am. The honorable member for Bonython joined other members of the Opposition by indulging in a typical misrepresentation of features of the Budget. For instance, in referring to the estimated deficit of £1 10,000,000 he said that budgeting for this deficit was an indication that the Government was unable to pay its way. That is, of course, a complete misrepresentation. I do not know, Mr. Temporary Chairman, whether I would be allowed to say that it was wilful, but if I were allowed to say so, I would say it. It definitely is a misrepresentation, because surely the honorable member is aware of the fact that this is a provision to meet an anticipated shortfall in loan raisings on behalf of the States - a short-fall in money which the Commonwealth will raise not for itself but for the States - and also to meet a probable shortfall in conversions of loans which are to mature this year. The honorable member for Bonython claims that this is an indication that the Government has lost the confidence of the people. On the contrary, it is an indication that the Government has the confidence of the people. It establishes the fact that the people will maintain the confidence which they have had in this Government right through its period of office. The Government is making certain that it will not fail in its obligations to the people who have previously lent money to the Commonwealth, and that it will not fail in the obligation - I give it that term although it is not strictly so - to assist the States with their loan requirements. It has ensured confidence in itself by making certain that the right thing has been done.
The honorable member went on to refer to the loan raisings of this Government and of previous governments. I challenge the honorable member, or any other member of the Labour party, to tell the committee of anything they have done to assist this Government to maintain the financial stability of this country. On the contrary, they have tried to sabotage it. My mind goes back to the time of the Curtin and Chifley Labour governments when the Commonwealth was raising war loans, security loans and victory loans. I was then a member of a non-Labour Opposition in the Western Australian Parliament, but I went on the public platform to assist the national government of the day to induce the people to lend their money to the nation. Many other members of nonLabour parties at that time did likewise. Regardless of the party political affiliations of the Government, we demonstrated our confidence that the people would assist it to maintain the stability of this country. But I charge the present Opposition in this Parliament that it has attempted, at every opportunity, to sabotage the security and the stability of this country. I remind honorable members opposite that when we went out and appealed to the people to lend their money to the nation, the Government had imposed capital control and the people could not do anything else with their money. Therefore, it ill becomes the honorable member and his colleagues to attribute the people’s response to loans in those days solely to trust in a Labour government.
I join with the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Cleaver) in the tribute he paid to the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. H. V. Johnson), who recently made what he said would be his last speech in this Parliament. I should say that of all the members from Western Australia in this Parliament, other than the honorable member for Kalgoorlie’s own party colleagues, I have had the privilege of coming into closest contact with the honorable member. When I first entered this Parliament I took over a portion of the electorate which he had represented for so long. I discovered that hundreds of people in that area had a real affection for him. They did not agree with his political party and did not support it, but they did support the honorable member because they believed in him and considered that he was a good member. I pay tribute to him for that fact. He has done an excellent job for his electorate and for Western Australia while he has been in this Parliament and it was a matter of great regret to all of us, particularly those who have been closely associated with him, to hear him take his farewell. The people of Western Australia, both inside and outside his electorate, will regret to see him withdraw from public life; he has endeared himself to them. I can only hope that when any portion of my electorate is severed and added to that of another honorable member, I too may enjoy the wonderful reputation of the honorable member for Kalgoorlie in that portion of the electorate which came under my care among residents who owed no allegiance to his party. Certainly, they had a great deal of respect for him.
– I might even say a good word for you.
– You? That day will be a long time coming! Now I turn to the Budget. I have yet to hear of any government bringing down a Budget which was considered by all sides to be good. The criterion of measuring a Budget is just what it does for us. If it takes something away from us, it is a rotten Budget. If it does not give us something which we expected, it is a bad Budget. If the Budget does not give me anything but takes from me more than I want it to take, I join the howling wolves and say that it is a bad Budget.
The Opposition has done just that; it has criticized the Budget in general terms. The Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) told us the other night, in general terms, what he thought was wrong with the Budget; but he said nothing specific nor did he offer any alternative to right what he said was wrong.
– He did. He offered an alternative Budget.
– Of course he did. I could also offer an alternative Budget. It is so easy to condemn the Budget in general terms when either my pocket is not full or something is taken out of it by the Government. Heaven forbid that we should ever have a government - and I say this for the benefit of the honorable member for Parkes - which will satisfy everybody. Such an event would indicate that the nation had reached a stage of complete stagnation in its thinking.
This Budget will go down in history as an honest Budget, irrespective of what the newspapers may call it or what the members of the Opposition may say about it. On this occasion, we heard the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) deliver the last of a record number of Budgets prior to his retirement. Here was an opportunity for him to go down in glory by reducing taxes for the sake of presenting a spectacular Budget. He would have been lauded to the skies - until the Budget had been analysed and the chickens eventually came home to roost. From then on he would have gone down in history, and rightly so, as the worst Treasurer that Australia ever had. But instead of doing that, he followed a course which has been characteristic of him during the whole of his occupancy of his high office. He discharged his responsible task in an honest manner. Although, to-day, some are critical of the Budget because they do not get enough out of it or are called upon to give more than they think they should, I repeat that history will pay tribute to the Treasurer for the fact that prior to an election, when it is generally considered politic to produce a give-away, irresponsible Budget, he has done the honest thing.
This Parliament can pay no greater tribute to him to-day than to acknowledge that fact, and I suggest to the press of this country that it should do likewise. If members of this Parliament to-day are not willing to acknowledge that fact they will eventually be compelled to do so, because the benefit of this Budget will be reaped for a long time as the work of a courageous man who did the right thing by his country. I am proud indeed to have been associated with the Treasurer during his term of office. I am proud to think that he will go out of this Parliament as one of the most honest men whom we could hope to see occupy the position of Treasurer of this nation. I believe that he has established a precedent which will become traditional in this Parliament. Pride fills the breast of every member of his party, and I am pretty sure that I can associate the members of the Liberal party with that sentiment.
One feature of the Budget is that it takes advantage of the years of prosperity that we have enjoyed. The Opposition is constantly stressing that fact that, after nine or ten years of prosperity, we find it necessary to introduce a Budget which provides for a deficit of £110,000,000. This Government does not take credit for the good seasons that have come from a bountiful Providence. No government would claim credit for those prosperous years. However, this Government does claim it has so managed the affairs of the country during the prosperous years that to-day, when circumstances are not quite so good, the nation is able to take advantage of the reserves created during the good seasons. It is easy to enjoy prosperity and to fritter away the substance on nothing. But this Government has very carefully seen to it that our affairs are so managed that we will be able to overcome the days of adversity - and I do not suggest for one moment that these are days of adversity. Because of the action of the Government in the time that it has occupied the treasury bench, our economy will be able to withstand the adverse effects of bad seasons. This Budget is the result of nine years of very good government.
I want to deal very briefly with the question of putting value back into the £1. The honorable member for Bonython, parrot-like, referred to this question, as have other Opposition members. I want to know what £1 they want restored. Do they want the Chifley £1 or the Curtin £1 back again? The Chifley £1 and the Curtin £1 were not worth the paper they were written on, because you could not buy a damned thing with them.
– Order! The honorable member must not use that language.
– That was only some of the alliteration to which I referred earlier, Sir. Is that the £1 which Opposition members want back? In those days, people walked around with their pockets full of £1 notes, but they could not buy anything with the money unless they were willing to pay fabulous black-market prices - prices that were far greater than they are to-day. This Government promised to put value back into the £1, and almost within twelve months it did so. Goods that previously had been kept under the counter were placed on top of the counter and the £1 would buy something. The Government fulfilled its promise in an extraordinarily short period. In the days before this Government took office, necessaries could not be bought, let alone luxuries; but to-day necessaries and luxuries can be bought on an open and competitive market, without the purchaser having to crawl on his stomach to some storekeeper whom he knows, to pay a fabulous price for goods kept under the counter. That was the Chifley £1. Do Opposition members want that £1 back again? That is not the £1 we want. We prefer the £1 that we have to-day.
This Government has changed the definition of living conditions from a mere standard of living to a standard of comfort. We need no longer talk about our standard of living; our people enjoy a standard of comfort. This becomes clear when we compare conditions to-day with conditions under the Chifley and Curtin governments and in the pre-war years. The young people of to-day have no conception of the way in which we lived in those days. Any honorable member who has observed a young couple setting up home, will agree with me. Many couples go into their own homes immediately after they are married. That was unheard of in pre-war days; young couples then could not afford to do so. In those days, a home contained only the bare necessaries; to-day young people go into a completely furnished home, with carpets on the floor. I was married for 25 years before I could afford a carpet! Refrigerators, vacuum cleaners and washing machines are commonplace items in the home to-day. Formerly, they were rare luxuries.
Does the Labour party want to return to the former poor standard of living? 1 am sure that nobody in this country wants to do so. The people are satisfied with the standard of comfort that this Government has made available since 1949. The Government has improved conditions, stimulated production and created confidence in the future of Australia. For goodness’ sake, let us forget this catch-cry, “ Put value back into the £1 “, which is constantly used by Opposition members. Every time they use it, they condemn themselves to the £1 that had no value, because goods could not be bought freely.
I have been pleased to hear statements from Opposition members which show that they recognize the importance of primary industries. The welfare of primary industries is no longer a parochial matter, as it used to be. Primary industries touch the well-being of every individual, as an individual and as a member of a community. This country is entirely dependent on the success of primary industries to sustain and expand development and employment. But a serious position has arisen with our overseas earnings. The Government has never failed to recognize the importance of our overseas earnings and, in his Budget speech, the Treasurer told us of the special drive that has been made and is being made - and will continue to be made when this Government is returned to office - in order to expand and strengthen our overseas markets.
Every fall in our overseas earnings has an adverse effect on this country unless our internal economy has been geared to adjust itself to adverse circumstances overseas. The doctor of economics, the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Cairns), recently acknowledged that this Government had so geared our economy that it can stand a serious fall in our overseas earnings. I pay tribute to the honorable member for that honest admission. However, it is a fact, and he could not do anything but acknowledge it. Had there been a fall in our overseas earnings of £173,000,000 - I think that is somewhere near the figure - in circumstances that existed prior to this
Government taking office, the effects on this country would have been disastrous. We would have had a depression, serious unemployment and all the things that the calamity howlers in the Labour party keep telling us about. They are hopeful that those things will happen, but I assure them that they will not happen so long as this Government remains in control of our economy.
– What about the poor dairy farmers?
– The honorable member for Griffith, almost for the first time in his life, realizes that there is a particular section of the farming community, but what he fails to realize is that the various sections are again divided into sub-sections, and that circumstances in a particular industry may differ. I suggest to the honorable member, who comes from a metropolitan electorate, that because one shirtmaker in his district finds sales going down, it does not mean that the whole of the shirtmaking industry in the country is upset.
– What has that to do with dairying?
– It has quite a lot to do with it. The honorable member for Grayndler, who never makes a sincere speech in this Parliament, is unable to understand the principles that I am trying to explain. After all, we must realize that an honorable member speaking of the circumstances in his own electorate is not necessarily giving the circumstances obtaining in every electorate in the Commonwealth. I know of dairy farmers who are suffering seriously under present conditions, but I know of others who are not suffering, although they are, perhaps, not doing as well as they would like. I know of other industries, not only primary but also secondary industries, about which I could do some calamity howling in this Parliament. But where would that get us? Let me say this: Those engaged in the dairying industry did not need to concern themselves unduly about their problems, because those problems are being very capably handled by this little section of the political set-up. The Government is handling the situation very satisfactorily, and I can assure the dairy farmers that they can continue to have confidence in the future.
– What about margarine?
– The honorable member would not know margarine from cocoa. There is another matter connected with this Budget that I should like to mention. In this I join with the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony), because we have both made representations about it. There are other honorable members too, I believe, who may previously have done something about it, but the honorable member for Richmond and I have been rather insistent with regard to this question. I refer to the fact that the fishing industry is henceforth to be considered a primary producing industry. I contend that the fishing industry is a primary industry, and it is one that entails far more hazards than other industries. This new approach to the industry is something for which the Government is deserving of praise, and for which I and many fishing people will be most grateful.
Another very important provision in the Budget is the step forward taken by the Government to remove the penalty on thrift. I refer to the raising of the income level for means test purposes in the issuing of age pensions. The penalty on thrift is to be eased in this way, and I look forward to the day when this Government will remove entirely the penalty on thrift represented by the means test that is applied in respect of social service benefits. I believe that it can be removed and that eventually this will be done.
A matter of very great interest to residents of rural areas is the announcement that local authorities throughout Australia are to receive increased government assistance for aerodrome development, as part of a plan to improve air services in country districts.
Another matter to which I wish to refer is the reply given to me by the Prime Minister to a question I asked of him in this Parliament this afternoon with regard to the Constitution Review Committee. The right honorable gentleman assured us that the report of that committee would be presented during this session. The matters into which the committee inquired are among the most important matters with which the Government, this Parliament and the people of Australia are concerned. The committee has made some attempt to resolve the extent of responsibility to be accepted by the States and by the Commonwealth. These responsibilities must be resolved, and as quickly as possible, in order to remove many misunderstandings and eliminate much buck-passing and the unfortunate circumstances that prevail when one government lays the blame for certain happenings on another government.
I could have hoped for some announcement of a more complete investigation into the whole of the operations of the Public Service of this country. I had the unfortunate experience last year of hearing one of our Ministers speak in rather disparaging terms of the work of the Hoover Commission in the United States of America. Let me inform the House that as a result of just one recommendation of that Hoover Commission, regarding purchases of paper by the Government, savings made in purchases for one year were equal to the whole of the costs of the Hoover Commission. When one realizes that the commission appointed twenty task forces, or subcommittees, to inquire into various aspects of government, one realizes that the commission’s costs must have been substantial. We have a Public Service Act that was framed at the time of federation. It is completely outmoded. It was brought down at a time when we had a £10,000,000 Budget. We now have a £1,500,000,000 Budget. The Public Service Act was drawn up for the purpose of overcoming jealousies between States. Victoria, for example, wanted to make sure that New South Wales was not putting anything over it - and vice versa. That legislation is completely outmoded and should be investigated and amended.
Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- I wish, first, to pay my respects to the retiring Treasurer of the Commonwealth of Australia, Sir Arthur Fadden, but I want also to say that, from my knowledge of him, the personality of Sir Arthur Fadden cannot be reconciled with the contents of this Budget. The Budget is a takeitorleaveit Budget. It can only be considered an arrogant Budget. At least we can say that it is consistent with the tight credit policy that has been followed by this Government during the last four years. We can also say that this same tight credit policy has brought disaster overseas, principally in the United States of America and Great Britain. It has caused great hardships in this country, too. It has caused hardships in the State sphere, to State instrumentalities, to local government authorities and to the people of Australia. Suffice it to say that it gives no help to the family man. Child endowment has gone into the limbo of the lost. It provides no extra money for housing or education and leaves the great majority of pensioners with a bleak outlook for the future.
The honorable member for Moore (Mr. Leslie), who has just resumed his seat, made some mention of the £110,000,000 deficit. He said that this was due to the anticipated short-fall in revenue. He went on to explain this factor, but he merely succeeded in establishing the fact that all the talk of prosperity in this country is false. This was especially so when he referred to the masses of the country. It may be correct to speak of prosperity in reference to the few, but not to the many.
This is a Budget of fear, of fear of the future. In budgeting for a deficit the Government has shown that it is afraid of the impact on the economy of the loss of income from wool and wheat, and of the fall in the price of metals and the total collapse of our dairy market overseas. It is afraid of the impact on economic conditions overseas and their effect on Australia next year. The honorable member for Moore referred to the standard of comfort in the living conditions of the people of Australia. He did not say anything about the standard of living that is enjoyed by 60,000 unemployed and 490,000 pensioners. That brings me to a statement which was made by the honorable member for Lyne (Mr. Lucock) in this House on a matter that has been stressed by the Opposition for a long time. The statement is as follows: -
I feel sometimes 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 any 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 at 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 they are placed.
We on the Opposition side have been telling the Government that for years. The position to which I have referred has arisen because this Government has overlooked the tragic state of housing in Australia. That is the cause of the timber industry’s plight. It may be argued that there has been much factory building and large office construction, but it can be argued, too, that in factory and office construction, more steel and concrete than timber are. used. That leads me back to home-building. It is safe to say that homebuilding is the hub on which the economy of Australia or any other civilized country revolves. When home-building is slack, it is safe to say that every other industry is also feeling the pinch. The “ Canberra Times”, of Wednesday, 19th March, 1958, contained an article on this subject. That newspaper, incidentally, publishes on the front page of each of its editions the following stanza: -
For the cause that lacks assistance, Gainst the wrongs that need resistance, For the future in the distance, And the good that we can do.
The Government could well give heed to that motto. The editorial in that newspaper stated -
So deep-seated is Australia’s housing shortage that the announcement yesterday of the intention of the Commonwealth Trading Bank to release an additional £500,000 for home acquisition is almost valueless. The building or purchase of some 200 homes which the bank considers this sum represents is negligible in face of an accumulated deficiency that must be reckoned not in terms of hundreds, but thousands - 99,000, in fact, with a continuing yearly demand of 53,000. . . .
That the housing shortage must be overtaken by some more positive means is surely evident. If the home completion rate lives up to the present expectation of 71,500, it will take at least another five years to catch up with a deficiency which has existed already for twelve years. Obviously (to everybody, apparently, except the Commonwealth Bank spokesman) the eight private banks can do little from a mere £15,000,000 additional credit divided between them. To say that if less money went into hirepurchase there would be more for housing is to state a fact, but it does not offer a solution. The cure is to release still more credit, specifically for housing. The building trade, with employment figures down 13 per cent, in the last year, and the home-seeker, hungry for assistance, can readily absorb the finance.
That is the cause of the plight of the timber industry. During this debate, reference has been made to Sir Douglas Copland. It has been said that Sir
Douglas Copland supports the Budget in its entirety; but apparently he did not support the Commonwealth Government’s attitude to housing. I have here a summary of the problem that was prepared by Sir Douglas Copland as recently as June last. He set out the effects of the housing situation and showed that in 1952 the number of houses built totalled 79,649. Sir Douglas gave the figures for the following five years and stated that in 1957 the number of homes built was 67,471. He then stated -
Meanwhile, population has increased from 8,740,000 at the end of June, 1952, to 9,533,000 at the end of June, 1957. Some of the shortage in housing at the end of the war, of over 200,000 houses, has been taken up but the shortage is still 100,000.
Sir Douglas Copland then referred to population, and1 stated -
Population is growing at the rate of something approaching 2i per cent, per annum, but the important fact is that the rate of increase in population of the age group that will be seeking to set up a home will increase at a greater rate in the next ten years. For one thing the work force, assuming immigration is at the rate of 1 per cent, per annum, will increase from 3,936,000 at June, 1957, to 5,366,000 at June, 1967.
Sir Douglas Copland then dealt with the incidence of marriage in Australia and, after citing births and deaths, he made this comment -
It requires little imagination to question the adequacy of the current rate of construction. Because of the prospective rapid increase in the numbers at the maximum marriageable age group, the problem will become more acute in the next decade. It follows that resources of men and materials should be mobilized for a more vigorous attack on the construction of new dwelling units than has been the case in recent years.
According to a recent gallup poll the percentage of houses now occupied by more than one family is estimated at 9 per cent., and has changed little since 1953. The total number of persons engaged in the whole building industry was 98,000 at June 30th, 1948. It rose to 123,440 at June 30th, 1951. At last June 30th it was 117,000. Thus expansion of employment in building has not kept pace with the general increase in the work force.
Sir Douglas Copland then stated ; and these facts have never been challenged ;
In the first quarter of 1958, the number of houses completed was 16,736 and the number of houses commenced was 16,695. This does not suggest a rate of construction higher than that of 1957, say not more than 67,500.
Then, we come to the salient point in Sir Douglas Copland’s comment. He stated -
It is no longer possible to argue, as was the case in official circles not long ago that any increase in money provided for houses would not result in more houses but only a rise in labour and material costs.
Sir Douglas knows that wages are pegged. His statement continued -
Nor is it possible to argue that a stepping up of house construction now would clear off the back lag and then leave the building industry faced with a problem of contraction.
Government supporters allege that members of the Opposition are trying to induce fear in the people; but Sir Douglas Copland stated clearly and emphatically -
With the current possibility of a recession in the general volume of employment, due to the fall in export income, a deliberate effort would be justified to plan for an increase in housing construction.
If it were possible to build nearly 80,000 houses in 1952 it can scarcely be argued that it is not possible to build at the rate of 75,000 houses immediately and to step this rate up to 85,000. What is required is a national plan based upon the clear facts of the case and the relative responsibilities of Commonwealth and State Governments and the building industry itself. In a country that has developed time-payment for many things of far less importance than housing, it is hardly reasonable to argue that similar techniques could not be applied to the housing industry itself.
There, from a man who is an authority on this subject is a refutation of all the Government’s talk about housing. He says -
If we assume a present rate of construction of 67,500 houses per annum, and that the desired rate should be 75,000 in order to clear off the lag in construction in a period of 5 years prior to the big increase that will take place in the annual demand, the net capital cost on the basis of ?3,000 advanced per house would be ?22,500,000. It surely cannot be contended that in so important a matter as housing this mobilization of this sum through the governments, banks insurance companies and other financial institutions is beyond our national resources.
What an indictment! This brings me to one of the greatest scourges in Australia to-day - unemployment. The breakdown in our housing construction is the cause of unemployment. There are 67,000 unemployed in this country. Every one of them, if employed, would probably be spending ?10 per week. In other words, each week ?670,000 less money is being circulated in the community than would be circulated if those people were employed. Compare that figure with the amount of ?500,000 which, the “Canberra Times” says, the Government will make available for housing in Australia. The sum of £670,000 is being lost to the community every week, due to the fact that the Government has not tried to help these people in their plight. One of the greatest fears that confronts any working man is the fear of unemployment. Of the total number of unemployed, 60 per cent, are in the housing industry.
In an anti-Labour journal there is another article which is very enlightening and which shows the effect that these factors can have on the people of Australia. This is taken from the August issue of the Monthly Summary of the National Bank of Australasia Limited. It says -
Greater Production and Capacity.
As, perhaps, might be expected employment in manufacturing industry has recorded only a relatively small expansion, increasing in the twelve months to May, 1958, by 10,700 persons, less than 1 per cent., compared with a rise during the preceding year cf 73,100 persons, or approximately 7 per cent. At the same time, this rather small rise in employment numbers, when associated with generally larger increases in production, suggests that productivity improved during the year.
Productivity improved during the year in spite of the fact that there was a 6 per cent, drop in the intake of persons into industry. How was the increase in productivity achieved? It was achieved through automation. I have a letter here which I received from the Federal Secretary of the Vehicle Builders Employers Federation of Australia, Mr. Wilson. He writes -
Attached is a copy of an extract from the international Metal Workers Federation (Geneva)
He goes on to inform me that matters which arose at the recent Australian Labour party conference brought closer to home two vital incidents which give serious food for thought. He states -
The Bolte Government have assisted the Ford Motor Company to establish a factory at Breadmeadows by making available cheap land and by building roads and railways. Fords have stated this factory will be automated.
What assistance therefore will be given to workers who, to follow their employment, may have to leave Geelong and live in Broadmeadows or the vicinity?
Early this year the British Motor Company closed down a large factory in this State because they intend to do all their future manufacturing in a new factory in Sydney. This plant is highly mechanized and semi-automated. When they terminated the services of nearly 600 employees they made a compensatory payment of £80,000 paid on the basis of length of service. Nothing compelled them to do this but I suggest it was done on the basis of experience gained when the Standard Motor Company at Coventry, England, in 1956, dismissed approximately 2,500 employees as being redundant labour after automating their factory to meet the challenge of the German motor car and trailer manufacturers. The same thing, on maybe a smaller scale, can happen here We cannot stop progress; in fact we encourage it, but to meet the change we must start to plan now.
There is no plan in the Budget to meet this threat. Here is an extract from a journal of the International Metal Workers Federation -
Effects of Automation.
The technical changes resulting from the introduction of automatic plant, electronic appliances and nuclear energy, to which the generic term automation is applied, are playing a decisive roll in the process of development and conversion going on in the economy of the modern era. The following examples provide the best illustration of the practical effects of automation. A factory in Cleveland, with a daily output of 1,000 radio receivers, when semi-automated in 1955, employed 200 workers but, at the present day, now that it is fully automated, it employs only four engineers.
The article gives other startling facts and then concludes -
In petroleum refineries, which are making growing use of automation, turnover has risen by 22 per cent, since 1950 while numbers employed have declined by 10,000 to only 137,000.
Let us look at what is happening in England. These facts should make the Government realize that 67,000 unemployed is a serious problem. This article reads -
Railway Modernization Means Many Changes.
The gigantic plan of the British Transport Commission to modernise the railways of Britain is getting under way.
In the next fifteen years the Transport Commission proposes to spend £1,200 millions on a renewal of the railway system of Britain. The technical, mechanical and operational aspects of this plan are brilliant and exciting, and in thi! respect the plan has been accepted by the railwaymen of Britain as a long overdue reform.
Not since the days of the Industrial Revolution has any single industry in Britain embarked upon such a revolutionary technical and organizational switchover.
The plan envisages radical changes in every grade and department of railway operation. It will have far reaching effects on the whole economy f Britain by the use it will make of electronics, mechanics and industrial science, together with the new materials, devices and sources of power which it will introduce into the industry.
At Carlisle - a big railway city in the north of England - one marshalling yard will eventually supersede the present seven yards. Hundreds of men will be involved in a changeover of great magnitude.
Locomotivemen, guards, signalmen and shunters, maintenance men and clerical staff will be drastically reduced in number by the advent of new Locomotives, the new signalling methods which have been developed and the impact of automatic accounting and sorting machines in the railway offices.
Is is the expressed intention of the Transport Commission to reduce the present labour force on he British railways by at least one third. This in addition to the 85,000 workers who have left the industry since 1947. lt can be fairly stated that the Locomotivemen’s Union will eventually be depleted to one third of the present membership of 74,000.
That is some indication of the threat of automation, to which this Government is paying no heed.
– You do not understand the Budget.
– I understand quite a bit about it. Perhaps the honorable member for Petrie could never understand it because he has never known what it is like to be unemployed.
Some honorable members have claimed that this Government has done a great deal for semi-government institutions. The Prime Minister exhorted the local government authorities to see what they could do to take up the lag in employment. He empowered them to borrow a considerable amount of money. It is all very well to tell councils to obtain extra money and to provide employment with it; but how have the councils fared? The council of which I am a member - and all councils throughout the country have been faced with this situation - applied to the Government for £225,000. It was empowered to borrow £90,000. The council has been to 31 different financial organizations in Melbourne and has been able to secure only a total of £57,000 from three of them. Many of the organizations that were approached are linked with those that were mentioned by the honorable member for Bonython (Mr. Makin).
– Did the council try hirepurchase?
– The council would never be able to get the money from hire-purchase organizations because, under the Local Government Act, the council cannot pay a rate of interest higher than 51 per cent., whereas hire-purchase companies can obtain interest of 15 per cent, and 20 per cent. My council over the last four years is £500,000 behind in its loan programme.
To-night I heard the honorable member for Deakin (Mr. Davis) speaking about lack of sewerage in Melbourne. It may interest the Government to know that it is to blame for most of those difficulties too, because the sewerage authority referred to by the honorable member is £36,000,000 behind in its loan schedule. A few days ago when its £1,250,000 loan closed it was undersubscribed by thousands of pounds; yet hirepurchase companies are allowed to flourish unabated!
An article in the Melbourne “ Herald “ on Friday, 15th August, states -
The State Government has lopped more than £750.000 off the Melbourne City Council’s request for loan funds for 1958-59.
That is a sample of what is going on within local government authorities - authorities to which this Government has appealed to extricate it from the difficulties of its own creation. The Government is not willing to give those authorities the finance necessary to get it out of its difficulties.
Let us look at another government instrumentality. I refer to the Country Roads Board, which has announced its tenyear target for road construction in Victoria. The board’s report states -
The Board and councils spend on merely patching and maintenance almost three-quarters of our annual effort of more than £25,000,000 spent on roads and streets. To a large extent that effort is blown away in dust or churned up in mud.
The board also points out that in terms of 1949 values it would have been necessary to spend £10.000,000 per annum for the next ten years in order to bring our roads up to decent, modern standard. That would be an outlay of £100,000,000. But now, after all the damage has been done and after tight credit policies have been operating against this instrumentality, it has had to make a second survey, which shows that in the next ten years £380,000 should be spent in Victoria on roads and bridges. The average annual expenditure should be £38,000,000. The board’s report says -
Expenditure which may be supported by current scales of finance is only two-thirds of this sum. We need to increase our efforts by nearly 50 per cent., the increase being devoted to improvements rather than mere maintenance as at present.
That is the prosperity that this Government would have us believe that we are enjoying. It is not a state of prosperity so far as State instrumentalities, local government bodies, or semi-government institutions are concerned.
In conclusion I say that the Government is condemned for its failure to provide the necessary finance for home-building, local government, and State instrumentalities; for its callous disregard of the unemployed, for its failure to provide adequate funds for education and housing, and for its cruel treatment of the pensioners. It is condemned for all these things while at the same time permitting hire-purchase interests to nourish.
Motion (by Mr. Harold Holt) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- The matter to which I direct the attention of the representative in this House of the Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Paltridge), concerns the residents of the city of Broadmeadows, the shire of Keilor, the city of Essendon, and all areas adjacent to those localities. The project which I am about to mention will be wholly situated in the constituency that I represent.
I was informed on 2nd July last by a very alert councillor of the city of Broadmeadows that it was proposed to build a jet aircraft landing strip at Tullamarine, situated approximately li miles north of the existing Essendon aerodrome and about 10 or 11 miles from the Melbourne General Post Office. On receipt of that information I immediately telegraphed the Minister for Civil Aviation, who, I am sorry to hear, is indisposed. I received from the Minister a courteous reply, informing me that the matter had been investigated by a panel that was charged with the responsibility of recommending a site suitable for the landing of jet aircraft. The Minister informed me that the panel had made a unanimous report, and that he had no doubt that it had had due regard for the interests of the people resident in the area.
The Minister supplied me with a list of the members of the panel. It comprised: Dr. Bradfield, as chairman; Sir John Jungwirth, secretary of the Premier’s Department in Victoria; Mr. Opie Chief Planning Officer of the Town and Country Planning Board; Mr. Borrie, Chief Planner, Melbourne and Metropolitan Board of Works; Mr. Knee, City Engineer, Melbourne City Council. As my time is short, I shall have to rush through the remainder of the list. The other members of the panel were the operations manager of Ansett-A.N.A.; the Victorian manager of Qantas Empire Airways Limited; the general manager, TransAustralia Airlines; a representative of the Australian Airline Pilots Association; the the Director of Operations of the Royal Australian Air Force; the Chief Roads and Aerodrome Engineer, Department of Works; the Superintending Architect, Department of Works; the Chief Property Officer, Department of the Interior; the Assistant Director-General (Operations), Department of Civil Aviation; the Assistant DirectorGeneral (Policy) Department of Civil Aviation; the Director of Airways Engineering, Department of Civil Aviation; the Director of Airport Engineering, Department of Civil Aviation; the Acting Director of Flying Operations, Department of Civil Aviation; the Regional Director, Victoria-Tasmania Region, Department of Civil Aviation; the Director of Airways Operations, Department of Civil Aviation; and the Director of Aviation Buildings and Property, Department of Civil Aviation. On the panel there were four representatives of civic authorities not of the local authorities in the area, but of the Melbourne City Council and other bodies - and sixteen representatives of airline and civil aviation interests, particularly of the Department of Civil Aviation. It is perfectly obvious, Mr. Speaker, that that panel was heavily overloaded in favour of the Department of Civil Aviation, the airline operators, and the larger planning and civic authorities of the City of Melbourne, with absolutely no representation of local interests.
The Minister pointed out that the recommendation made by the panel was unanimous. I do not doubt it. I do not question the capacity or the ability of the members sf the panel. It may happen, Sir, that, from the stand-point of economics and convenience to the operators of jet aircraft, in view of the proximity of this site to the Essendon aerodrome, the report is absolutely right, but I suggest that some account should be taken of the interests of the residents of the area, who are already subject to the noises from the Essendon airport and who have been complaining for years about that noise nuisance. If we take into consideration the noise created by jet aircraft, the interests of those people have been sadly neglected. The Government should give the matter very serious consideration before it endorses the report and acts on it. lt is suggested that the north-south runway proposed to be constructed will be 14,000 feet in length, and that the east-west runway will be 10,000 feet long. The estimated cost of site resumptions, it is said by the press, will be about £1,000,000. That is only for site resumptions. Developmental costs will probably amount to another £5,000,000. The resumption of not less than 10,000 acres of land will be essential, and probably another 20,000 acres will be made unfit for residential purposes, because the lives of people living close by would be made intolerable by the noise from jet aircraft. Melbourne has extended very rapidly in an easterly direction. There is not much scope for further extension in easterly and southerly directions unless people go so far from the city proper as to put them beyond convenient reach of it, and the best and most suitable site for housing development is in the area of the proposed airport. This is exemplified by the fact that a substantial number of people have already bought large areas of land for housing development and shopping sites, and by the fact that roads and other services are being provided. The feature of the proposal that is causing most concern to the local people is that their interests have been overlooked and that, so far as they know, the panel has not, up to this stage, adequately considered the noise problem. The people want to know. Sir, what will be their position.
I have done some research and collected a deal of information. I have learned recently from a radio broadcast that Qantas Empire Airways Limited proposes to acquire a fleet of Boeing 707 aircraft. As a result of my inquiries, T have had made available to me particulars of some statements made by Mr. Watkinson, the United Kingdom Minister for Transport and Civil Aviation. At a press conference in New York on 10th July of this year, Mr. Watkinson said that noise test data obtained from tests made in April in Seattle, where the Boeing 707 is manufactured, indicated that Boeing 707 jets with Rolls-Royce engines fitted with noise suppressors were too noisy for unrestricted operations into London airport, but ultimate decisions must await further tests in London. He said that restrictions might include the banning of landings and takeoffs at night and the enforcement of requirements that aircraft be at sufficient altitude above airport boundaries to prevent them from disturbing nearby residents. On arrival in London, Mr. Watkinson said - and this is important - that it is not so much a question of what the management of the airport is prepared to put up with; that it is really a question of what the residents of New York and London are prepared to put up with. So, as far as the United Kingdom Minister for Civil Aviation is concerned, the first consideration is the interests of the residents and not what the management of the airport is prepared to put up with. To date, no new jet airliner has been permitted to use the London airport. The Russian plane that landed in England some months ago ‘had to land 30 miles away.
At a further press conference on 14th July, 1958, Mr. Watkinson said-
The Russian TU104 was banned in London; it was too noisy and there were terrible complaints.
Comets have been operating from London airport for the last eighteen months without complaint. The Russian plane has a long flat take-off. The Comet has a near-vertical’ take-off.
Mr. Watkinson said that, on the basis of information recently known there would be trouble with the Boeing 707 operating into London airport. He said that there would be great difficulties in operating at all at any hour of the day or night at London airport, and he pointed out that conditions in New York were different, some aircraft going over the sea, whereas all take-offs at London were over settled areas. That will be the case, of course, at this proposed site adjacent to Essendon. Mr. Watkinson said that restrictions might be imposed to prevent the Boeing 707 from taking off at night. [Extension of time granted.] I thank the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Harold Holt) and the House for the courtesy that has been extended to me. This is a non-party matter, and I do not want to abuse my privilege. I am endeavouring to put the matter completely, because it is urgent in view of the announcement that Boeing 707 aircraft are to be purchased by Qantas Empire Airways Limited, and in view of disclosures in the Budget papers that, this financial year, the Department of Civil Aviation is to spend £3,625,000 on buildings and works, and £507,000 on the acquisition of sites and works. The increased provision for the works programme is £1,325,000, of which £1,000,000 is attributable to projects that are essential pre-requisites for the introduction of jet aircraft.
As I have already stated, Sir, I make no reflection on the members of the Melbourne Airport panel. They have done what they consider to be right. The sixteen members who represent aviation interests are naturally biased, because they are influenced by two considerations - convenience of communication with the Essendon aerodrome, and the availability of customs and other facilities for interstate and overseas travellers.
– Where else could the new airport go?
-Wherever it goes, it will be in my electorate. But that is quite unimportant so far as I am concerned, because I realize that it must go somewhere. In fixing the site, consideration ought to be given, not only to economic working, which is important because it means the expenditure of public money, but also, primarily, to the lives, rights and freedom of the people who are living in the area. I suggest, as one who has a knowledge of that district extending back over twenty years, that what the present residents are subjected to in the area of the existing airport is really too bad. Whatever might be done in regard to the suppression of noise on Comets, Boeings, or any other type of jet aircraft, any engineer knows that no noise suppressor can be wholly effective because to the extent that the jet flow is interrupted so inevitably must the power of the machine, its loading and efficiency be affected.
Certain unfortunate circumstances surround this matter. Although I am quite sure the Minister went into this aspect of the matter quite innocently, I point out that local interests were not represented on the advisory panel. When news of the proposed site was released, it came to the public through the press. A report which the Minister had not seen was revealed, a rough sketch of the suggested site was published in the press and comments were made which indicated either that somebody had seen the report or that somebody on the panel had released some information. Alternatively, the journalist concerned was so clever that unconsciously he sucked from some members of the panel sufficient information to enable him to put two and two together.
Despite the fact that this project would be in my constituency and despite the fact that some people have had access to the report and have read it and have had plans of the proposed airport, I, as federal member for the district, have been ignored and have not been able openly and fairly, without adopting any underhand methods or subterfuge, to get a copy of the plan of the site or details of the report. If certain people are to have the privilege of seeing the report, I suggest that every one should have the privilege, more particularly the municipal representatives in the district and finally, if you like, the district member. It is undesirable that any one not on the panel should have that privilege until the findings of the panel have been published in the press and are available to the whole world. I suggest that that ought to be done.
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. John McLeay).Order! The honorable member’s extended time has expired.
– I shall see that the honorable member’s comments are conveyed to the Minister concerned.
.- I did not come here prepared to speak on this subject to-night but, as it has been raised by the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard), I wish to indicate that I share his concern and also confirm the concern that he has expressed on behalf of the people who live in the general area. The whole of the Melbourne airport is within the electorate that I represent, and the proposed extension would be within the area represented by the honorable member for Lalor.
When the projected’ jet airport was first discussed, there was a plan afoot to extend the existing Melbourne aerodrome. I immediately took action and wrote a thorough appreciation of the situation, which I sent to the Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Paltridge) and which was published in the local press. A summing-up of the situation disclosed that, because of the contour of the terrain and the noise nuisance, it would be impossible to extend the Essendon airport for use by jet aircraft. The only other possible site seemed to be at Laverton. Therefore, I recommended that the Royal Australian Air Force should move to Avalon. The role of the jets would not be affected, and the R.A.A.F. would be better off by being further away.
The Minister then instructed the DirectorGeneral of Civil Aviation to have an advisory panel inquire into the matter and advise him on the project. That was done. Because the panel was required to consider seven or eight different sites, no particular municipality could be represented on it. So, as being the next best thing, the Minister had included on the panel three Melbourne town planners - a representative from the town planning authority, a Board of Works man, and the engineer from the Melbourne City Council. They were appointed to the panel to see that the taking over of any particular site in a municipality did not upset any projected housing development. I repeat that the panel was purely an advisory body which was to advise the Director-General so that he could place a recommendation before the Minister.
The panel unanimously decided on a site about one and a half miles north-west of the existing aerodrome. The second choice was Laverton, The reason why the panel decided upon the Tullamarine area was that, at the beginning, G.C.A. controls and other facilities at the existing Melbourne airport could still be used, with a view to closing down the Melbourne airport in ten or fifteen years’ time and gradually moving the whole airport to the Tullamarine area. There was also the thought that interstate and intra-state aircraft could land at Essendon without there being any risk from the weekly or twice a week landings of international jet passenger aircraft.
The recommendation was made without any detailed surveys of the area having been made and without any costs having been worked out. It was a recommendation of an advisory panel as to site. The question of cost is still being examined by the department. Laverton was placed second in order of choice because trainee pilots from the training station at Point Cook presented a hazard to passenger aircraft which the panel was not prepared to accept and because it did not want to face a closing down of the Point Cook station.
That is the position at the moment, and that was the recommendation that was forwarded to the Minister. A few days after it was forwarded to him, and while he was absent in Western Australia, security was violated and the information became available before the Minister had had a chance to evaluate the report or before the department had time to work out the cost. The Minister gave an unequivocal undertaking that, if the jet airport was to be at Tullamarine, he would, before making a final decision, hear the spokesmen of all the municipalities and interests affected on the advantages and disadvantages inherent in a jet aerodrome project.
It is a question not only of the position of people who have bought land on which they might want to make a profit, but also of the fact that within ten miles of the city a satellite town was to have been established and roads and services were to have been provided. At least two or three councils are involved, and their revenue will be affected. Moreover, in that area there are quite a number of livestock establishments and valuable blood horse agistment areas. So the effect of the establishment in this area of a jet airport would be much greater than the noise nuisance to the people in the vicinity. The town planners endeavoured to swing the runways and site them so that the city of Broadmeadows would not be affected.
I agree that, when there is a great outcry about the extension of services to suburbs 20 or 30 miles from Melbourne, the establishment of a satellite town within ten miles of the city would be of great benefit and would take care of the increase in population. The honorable member for Lalor has said that the area affected would be 10,000 acres, or possibly greater; but the official estimate is 3,000 acres. The position is that the proposed jet airport should go into a less settled area. Laverton, which is only a few extra miles out, is connected with Melbourne by a three-chain freeway. Beyond Footscray, about five miles out of Melbourne, there is a 50 miles-per-hour freeway. Laverton also provides a northsouth approach up the bay. There is flat land, and the only housing of any extent in the Laverton area is that of the service personnel at the Royal Australian Air Force installations. : Although the honorable member is reflecting the concern of the people in the area, I think he has been a little premature, inasmuch as the Minister has stated that before any definite action is taken he will meet representatives from the area in conference to decide whether the disadvantages and the costs involved outweigh the merits. The unfortunate illness of the Minister has prevented us from getting any further details of what has occurred in the interim. I am sure that when the Minister returns and is available, this matter will be cleared up - I hope to the satisfaction of the honorable member for Lalor, the councils, and residents of the area.
.- I want to raise for the attention of the House tonight a very urgent and important matter, namely, the crisis in Indonesia and recent’ developments there. Indonesia to-day is in a condition which is nothing more than a continuation of a crisis of seven or eight years’ duration. During that time, the Government of Indonesia has been changed eight or nine times, the Communist vote has almost doubled, and the Communist party has more .than doubled in size. This condition exists on the very edges of the Commonwealth of Australia.
The only answer of this Government, and of those with which it is associated, to this crisis, is to supply arms to Indonesia. I charge the Government with being associated with a policy - not only in Indonesia but also elsewhere - which has failed completely to provide an answer to conditions of revolt and disturbance, and to the advance of communism. I charge the Government with having failed in this direction for a period of years.
What is happening in Indonesia to-day is precisely the same as what has happened in every other area where there has been the threat of disturbance or the threat of an advance of communism The policy with which this Government is associated consists of dealing, or attempting to deal, with situations like that which exists in Indonesia, by military measures alone. It consists of waiting to take action until there is some crisis or disturbance. It consists of failing completely to realize the full nature and significance of problems in these areas.
At the same time, we have honorable members, including some senior Ministers who take up the time of this House on such piffling problems as unity tickets in Australia. We have these people who are completely oblivious of the threat to the Commonwealth of Australia that exists in countries like Indonesia. We have members who, throughout the time I have been in this House, have never given their attention to one of these problems. They have been concerned continuously only with the drivel that they talk purely for Australian political consumption. Now, in Indonesia, we have a situation in which the security of this country may be fundamentally in danger, and not one word of it is ever mentioned in this House by the members I have in mind.
The Ministers Concerned have given us no information. The information that has come to us has come through the press. Arms, it appears, are being supplied by the United States of America to the Government of Indonesia. What sort of arms? We have no official information. We have to rely on the press for information. What are these arms to be used for? Are they to be used by the Indonesian Government to attempt to get possession of West New Guinea? None of these matters has been covered. Apparently the Australian Government has consented to this transaction, without any undertaking whatever by the Indonesian Government on the use of these arms.
I charge the Government and its professedly anti-Communist supporters, who so loudly speak upon every other issue, with being fundamentally unconcerned about the real problem of the advance of communism, and with being concerned, for their own political advantage, only about repeating anti-Communist phrases in this country. I say that the problem in Indonesia is one of economic instability, and unless that is dealt with, there will continue to be a crisis and problem of the nature that exists at present.
Between 1953 and 1954, Indonesia lost foreign currency at a more rapid rate than did any other country. Between 1956 and 1957 the rupiah was worth, on the black market, only one-third of its official value. In July, 1956, there was a drop in export prices, which led to a suspension of payments. There has been a budget deficit in Indonesia since 1952. The real income per capita is not rising, and to-day is below what it was in 1939, probably below what it was in 1929, and, perhaps, even below what it was in 1919. A recent survey of the Indonesian economy in “ Indonesia’s Economic Stabilization “, by Higgins, states -
The lack of economic progress heightens tensions between the centre and the regions, strengthens extreme nationalist sentiments, and causes general dissatisfaction with whatever government happens to be in power.
The problem in Indonesia is a problem of lack of economic progress, lt is the result of the inability of this country to export profitably, and its inability to produce a rise in production at home, and particularly in food production. This condition is the main cause of political instability in Indonesia.
The answer of this Government, and of those associated with it, to that problem of economic instability, is to pour more arms into a country which is already in a condition of great disturbance. How can that policy contribute anything towards stabilizing the situation? Why can we not see the problem in its real nature - a problem of economic instability, which is precisely the problem that exists in the Middle East? No. We allow these economic problems to fester and continue, and then pour in more and more arms to aggravate the situation and make it more dangerous.
As this concerns Australia, it is worthwhile noticing that this year the amount of money allocated for the Colombo plan, through which perhaps something can be done for Indonesia, has fallen by £560,000. At the same time as the Government is supporting a policy of pouring more arms into Indonesia in its disturbed situation, it is taking £560,000 away from a field in which something might be contributed towards a solution of the country’s economic problems.
This was precisely the position in the Middle East. In those disturbed economic situations, the first answer of the United States was the Eisenhower doctrine and the supply of arms. The crises in Lebanon and Jordan followed, and then the occupation by American and United Kingdom troops was almost unavoidable. Are we to go through that process in Indonesia? Are we to see develop a crisis of that sort, which can be met in the end only by military occupation? Is that the kind of answer to this situation that the Government desires? Is that the kind of future that you seek? I believe that, whether you plan it or not, that is the road on which you are travelling. It was only then that action was taken, and it was only the other day at the United Nations, after a full recognition of the failure, and continued failure, of this kind of policy from one end of the world to the other, that the United States at long last turned to a proposal before the United Nations to set up an economic institution for the purpose of development.
In Indonesia, the economic measures should come now, not. next year or the year after that. Instead of leaving economic conditions to fester and produce political instability, and then attempting to deal with the situation by military measures, ret us get to the economic root of the problem first. I suggest that the only way in which Australia can contribute to this solution requires, first of all, a change of government, because the degree of co-operation which would be necessary with the Indonesian Government could never be forthcoming from this kind of government which has continuously opposed the position that the Indonesian Government has taken up in international affairs. The kind of measures that will be necessary are measures, first of all, to ensure better markets for Indonesian exports than the ones that exist to-day. That would probably cost no more than £20,000,000 to £25,000,000. Secondly, there is the problem of dealing with production on the spot, which is very largely food production, requiring fertilizer and machinery. The cost probably would be no more than £10,000,000 or £15,000,000 a year. In those ways, for the outlay of a sum of money which is only a fraction of that involved in these military adventures, this problem could be solved.
-Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– The subject that I wish to deal with to-night is that of import, licensing. I want to refer to the methods adopted by the Government for consultation with industrial and commercial groups on import licensing policy. I preface my remarks, Mr. Speaker, by saying that there still appear to be significant numbers of commercial and industrial interests unaware of services for consultation on import licensing established by the Government. The Government administers import licensing in a manner designed to be equitable to all sections of the community. Business interests generally know, I am sure, that these restrictions are necessary to protect Australia’s overseas currency reserves. The Government is fully aware of, and greatly appreciates, the spirit of co-operation shown by these business interests.
The Government has taken three major steps to improve the facilities for consultation with commercial and industry groups. First, a Consultative Committee on Import Policy was established with representation drawn from retailers, merchants, manufacturers, primary producers, trade unions and women’s organizations. This committee, concerned with the broad policy aspects of import licensing, meets each licensing period to formulate recommendations to the Minister for Trade on the licensing ceiling for the ensuing period. As well, regular meetings are held with representatives of the Associated Chambers of Commerce of Australia, the Australian Council of Retailers, and the National Council of Manufacturers of Excavating and Earthmoving Equipment.
Periodically, specific licensing problems arise which affect a particular industry group. In such cases, a special meeting with the interest concerned is convened to seek an acceptable way out of the difficulties. This means consultation with the timber industry, photographic merchants, the tractor and motor vehicle industry, television and textiles interests, chambers of commerce and the Customs Agents Federation. I have held numerous consultations with importers, and in addition, officers of the Department of Trade every day meet many importers to discuss import licensing cases.
Secondly, to overcome difficulties of distance from the Import Licensing Branch in Sydney encountered by interstate importers, the Government has appointed import licensing liaison officers who take the services of the Import Licensing Branch to State capitals. A liaison officer has been stationed permanently in Melbourne, and two others visit Tasmania, South Australia, Queensland and Western Australia three times a year, for about one month each visit. Every effort is made to ensure a wide publicity cover for liaison officers’ visits through press, radio, and chambers of commerce and manufactures
– Mr. Speaker, I wish to direct your attention to the fact that the honorable member for Wimmera is reading a newspaper. That is contrary to the Standing Orders.
– Order! The honorable member for Darling Downs will continue.
– These liaison officers, besides operating in an advisory capacity, have authority to approve licences on a limited scale within the import licensing policy. They also make “ on the spot “ investigations, expedite decisions, report on licensing anomalies, advise applicants of the type of information to supply in support of requests for import licences, and personally explain policy in specific cases, where approval could not be granted.
Thirdly, the Government, in May, 1957, set up import licensing advisory review boards for the purpose of reviewing decisions of the Department of Trade. A separate board operates in each State and comprises an officer of the Department of Trade as chairman, and two businessmen, chosen for their wide knowledge of commerce and/or industry. The presence of a preponderance of businessmen on the boards ensures consideration of these problems by men who, by their own business experience and local knowledge, understand the problems and are able to bring to board hearings sympathetic yet impartial minds. These boards operate to ensure that any trader, whose application for an import licence has been refused by the Import
Licensing Branch of the Department of Trade, has the right of appeal. Appeals should be directed by importers to the Director, Import Licensing Branch, Sydney, who will advise the appellant of any subsequent action required of him. The procedure then, is that the appeal is heard by a departmental appeals committee, which might be able to dispose of it quickly by giving a favorable decision. If, however, the appeal is not upheld, it is taken to the Review Board, if the applicant wishes.
The Department of Trade prepares, for the information of the board, a statement showing all action taken to date in the case. The date and time for the hearing are arranged at the convenience of the appellant, who might appear in person, give evidence, and also submit a written statement. If he wishes, he may have secretarial assistance, but legal representation is not permitted as it is desired to have the case discussed on the basis of equity rather than of legalism.
I feel that co-operation between the Government, on the one hand, and industry and commerce on the other, is now highly developed and working smoothly. Action taken by the Government to facilitate this co-operation must be regarded as a true reflection of its wish to give the fullest possible consideration to the various import problems of commercial and industrial interests.
– This is an extraordinary situation. We have just heard the honorable member for Darling Downs (Mr. Swartz), who is a Parliamentary Secretary, addressing a question to his own Minister and his own department, and then proceeding, in an exact manner, to answer the query that he posed. What an extraordinary situation! One would think that if there were a departure from policy, or a new principle to be enunciated, at least the Minister for Trade-
– On a point of order, Mr. Speaker: I am not aware that I addressed any question to the Minister for Trade.
– Order! The honorable member for Macquarie may continue.
– Perhaps the honorable member did not ask a question or give an answer, but in the course of his remarks he dealt at length with a matter related to the department, and in respect of which he and the Minister for Trade have had ample opportunity, within the forms of this Parliament, to determine and report to the House and the nation. If there is something special or something new; if there is a new ray of hope for the people of this country; if there is a new word of advice for those seeking import licences or those who want to engage in industry, I believe that the Minister for Trade ought to make that fact known in the manner to which we have become accustomed - by means of one of his long and detailed statements. He should tell the House, either in a reply to a question, or in a statement, precisely what is taking place regarding import licensing. Yet we find that at this stage of the proceedings, at this time of the night, the honorable member for Darling Downs avails himself of the opportunity afforded to honorable members to speak in the adjournment debate and uses it to reply to questions posed by himself. It appears to me that he is following very closely in the footsteps of the Prime Minister (Mr, Menzies), who, last evening, raised his bogies, raised his windmills and tilted at them with all the ferocity of a Don Quixote in an attempt to demolish them. So we undergo this far from refreshing experience that we have had to-night. I want to say how disappointed I am to find that I am obliged to remain here until 11.40 p.m., only in order to hear the honorable member for Darling Downs speak in the fashion in which he has spoken to-night.
I have addressed numerous letters to the Minister for Trade, and invariably the replies I received were signed by the honorable member for Darling Downs, who is Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Trade. If the Parliamentary Secretary does not know the answers it is a bit late in the day for him to pose the questions and reply to them as he has done to-night. T think he would render a much greater service to the Parliament and the people if he elucidated these matters and permitted the Minister to reply in his usual spacious, easygoing manner.
I record a protest against what has occurred to-night, because I believe it achieves nothing. It does not advance the standing of the parliamentary institution, nor does it in any way provide honorable members with information about what is taking place in regard to this weird matter, this extraordinary matter, touching the affairs of the Department of Trade.
– I wish to make a personal explanation, Mr. Speaker.
– Does the honorable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– The last speaker indicated-
– Order! Does the honorable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes, Mr. Speaker. 1 should like to make it quite clear that I did not pose questions in the statement I have just made to the House. The statement I made concerned a matter which comes within the administrative jurisdiction of the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Trade, and I made that particular statement, authorized by the Minister for Trade, because of a number of questions which have been raised by honorable members of this House and people outside. The desire was to have a broad statement set down giving the facts for the information of members of the House, including the honorable member for Macquarie.
– I did not follow the argument advanced by the honorable member for Darling Downs very clearly, Mr. Speaker. Would it be in order to ask him to read his statement again?
– Order! The honorable gentleman is out of order.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 11.43 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
b asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answer to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: - 1, 2 and 3. The information available to me on the costs of private transport operators in the Kimberley region is insufficiently detailed to allow of an answer to these questions. 4. (a) Exemptions from sales tax have been extended to purchases by primary producers of a wide range of equipment, including live-stock carriers designed for attachment to trucks and also the trailers to which such carriers would be fixed. Havingregard to the cost to revenue and the administrative difficulties involved in such a concession, the exemptions have not been extended to motor vehicles with which such carriers and trailers are used or to motor vehicles which might be employed in other ways for the carriage of live-stock and primary produce.
s asked the Minister for Supply, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
Housing in Papua and New Guinea.
t asked the Minister for Territories the following question, upon notice -
What housing finance is available to native people in New Guinea who desire to erect or purchase a house in line with European standards?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows: -
A housing loans scheme has been operating in Papua and New Guinea since 1953. Loans under this scheme, which is similar to the schemes operating in the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory, are available to any resident, regardless of race, who can meet the conditions laid down. The conditions are such that loans are only made in respect of houses constructed of durable materials and conforming to European standards. The maximum loan is £2,750. Housing loans have been granted to one native person and to one mixed-blood. Thirteen other applications have been submitted by mixedblood persons and most of these are viewed favorably by the Housing Commissioner subject to re-design of the plans submitted to bring them into line with the accepted standards. It has been recognized that in their present stage of development, few native residents can pay the 10 per cent. deposit required under the housing loans scheme, or make the weekly payments required for a house conforming to European standards of construction and size. Approval has, therefore, recently been given to a scheme under which the Administration will build lowcost houses of durable materials and make them available for letting to non-Europeans. After a trial period of two years it is proposed that suitable tenants shall be given the opportunity to purchase the dwellings and, if they decide to do so, an equitable proportion of rent payments already made will be credited against the capital cost. The first step in the new scheme will be taken during the financial year, when it is hoped that 50 houses, for which funds have been provided, will be erected at Port Moresby.
m asked the Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
s asked the Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are -
s asked the Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are -
e asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– The PostmasterGeneral has replied as follows: - 1 and 2. There is no fixed venue for hearings before the Public Service Arbitrator in Sydney. Phillip House is but one of the premises used by the Arbitrator. In this case the hearing commenced at Phillip House on 8th July, 1958, and after one day proceedings were adjourned by agreement of the parties to Broadcast House. The Arbitrator has used Broadcast House on other occasions.
Moses is the only person who could act on the commission’s behalf. The Acting Chairman of the commission, Mr. Dawes, has informed me that, having read the transcript of the whole of the proceedings, he is satisfied that on no occasions has the Assistant to the Arbitrator been called upon to intervene in the manner suggested.
b asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– The PostmasterGeneral has furnished the following reply:- l, 2, 3, 5 and 6. It is not considered appropriate that answers should be supplied in relation to these questions which have to do with the efforts at conciliation of the assistant to the Arbitrator. Indeed, the statement mentioned in question 1 was handed out by Mr. Birkett on the basis that it was “ strictly confidential “.
t asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– The PostmasterGeneral has furnished the following reply: -
n asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– The PostmasterGeneral has replied as follows: - 1. (a) Maroubra, 105; (b) Matraville, 53; (c) Malabar, 50; (d) Little Bay, 50; (e) La Perouse, 40; (f) Yarra Bay, 30. 2. (a) Exchange FJ, private, 1,889; public telephones, 18. (b) Exchange FX, private, 1,601; public telephones, 3.
d asked the Minister for Health, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
Hospital Benefits Funds.
m asked the Minister for
Health, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: - 1. (a) 572,487, (b) 123,221.
The principal reasons for refusal of fund benefit in 1957 were -
Commonwealth hospital benefit was paid in all the above cases.
m asked the Minister for Health, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
The principal reasons for rejecting fund benefit were -
m asked the Minister for Health, upon notice -
– Inquiries are being made and this information will be supplied as soon as possible.
m asked the Minister for Health, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
b asked the Minister for Social Services, upon notice -
– This question is in almost identical terms to the one addressed to me by the honorable member on 12th March last. As the honorable member no doubt recalls, my reply was as follows: -
b asked the Minister for Social Services, upon notice -
Is it a fact that a blind pensioner is not subject to a means test and receives a pension of £4 7s. 6d. a week?
n. - The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
y asked the Minister for Social Services, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: - 1 and 2. The information sought by the honorable member is not available. In any case income at the rates mentioned would not affect the rate of pension payable.
y asked the Minister for Social Services, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: - 1. (a) 496,757, (b) 77,451, (c) 46,928. 2. (a) Wives’ allowances payable - (i) 1,643 wives of age pensioners; (ii) 10,375 wives of invalid pensioners, (b) Children’s allowances payable - (i) 928 children of age pensioners; (ii) 7,341 children of invalid pensioners. In addition, 4,000 age and invalid pensioners receive additional pension for children after the first.
y asked the Minister for Social Services, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
son asked the Minister for Social Services, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: - 1. (a) 496,757; (b) 77,451; total, 574,208.
n asked the Minister representing the Minister for National Development, upon notice -
– The Minister for National Development has furnished the following reply: -
The following statement sets out the total expenditure by the War Service Homes Division and the total receipts for the years as desired, and, in addition, the portions of those receipts representing Principal, which are the amounts paid in reduction of the loans to applicants: -
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 20 August 1958, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1958/19580820_reps_22_hor20/>.