22nd Parliament · 3rd Session
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. John McLeay) took the chair ‘at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
Mr. KEARNEY 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 liberalizing certain other social service benefits.
Petition received and read.
– I ask the acting Minister for External Affairs whether he will state to the House, shortly, what communications passed to the Australian Government from the United States of America in relation to the recent supply of arms to Indonesia by the United States of America, referred to by the Minister for External Affairs before he left Australia. Will the Minister state also the attitude of the Australian Government to the situation in Indonesia, having regard to the recent statement by the Prime Minister of Indonesia?
– As my colleague, the Minister for External Affairs, said in Sydney, we were informed by the United States Government of its proposal and eventually of the supply by it of certain arms to Indonesia. We were given to understand that these were supplied purely for internal security purposes and were not to be used in an aggressive fashion. As my colleague, the Minister for External Affairs, announced in the House, we had received assurances from members of the Indonesian Government that they did not have any intention of taking aggressive action against Dutch New Guinea.
– I wish to ask a supplementary question. Can the assurance that the arms are to be used “ for internal purposes” be taken to mean that the Indonesian Government contemplates their possible use in Dutch New Guinea which, according to Indonesian claims, may be regarded as .an internal matter?
– I saw some reference to a statement that was made in Indonesia recently on that matter. We have already instituted inquiries to see what was actually said.
– I preface my question, which is directed to the Prime Minister, by saying that the worth of the voluntary community service of the Surf Life Saving Association of Australia in protecting and saving lives on our beaches is well known. The association is in need of financial assistance to enable it to sustain this excellent work. My colleagues, the honorable member for Robertson, the honorable member for Mackellar and the honorable member for Mitchell join with me in requesting that the Government give consideration to the request of the Surf Life Saving Association for the addition of a further sum of money to the subsidy that it now receives.
– I am, of course, very well aware of the great interest taken by the honorable member in this notable work. He has on more than one occasion discussed it with me. An application has, 1 gather, been received formally from the secretary of the association, and no doubt the honorable member is lending his support to that application. It is, I understand, under consideration, and I will give an answer as soon as I can.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Primary Industry. Is the Minister aware that, over the last five years’ averaging period, official figures show that the percentages by States for the export of apples and pears from this country were Western Australia 16.1 per cent., South Australia 4 per cent., New South Wales 1.2 per cent., Queensland .2 per cent., Tasmania 61.5 per cent., and Victoria 17 per cent.? In view of these figures, will the Minister consider a proposal that one grower representative on the Australian Apple and Pear Board shall jointly represent New South Wales and Queensland, which have a total of just over 1 per cent, of exports, and thereby enable an additional grower representative to be elected from Tasmania, which has 61 per cent, of the exports? I underline the fact that this will not increase the membership of the board.
– I was not aware of the exact figures quoted by the honorable gentleman. However, they appear to indicate that the subject is worthy of further consideration. On each occasion when the problem of the reorganization or the reconstitution of the Australian Apple and Pear Board has been considered, we have not received precise recommendations from the board itself or from the State government concerned. If the honorable gentleman will let me have his recommendations in writing, I will see that they are considered.
– Will the Prime Minister say whether negotiations he is reported to be conducting with the Premier of South Australia and oil company officials are likely to result in the expenditure of Commonwealth funds for the purpose of setting up oil by-products industries in Australia? If so, why is the right honorable gentleman continuing to disregard the need for the production of oil from coal and shale in Australia? Does the Prime Minister agree that the increasing dieselization of industries in this country represents a challenge to the Government to come to grips with the problem of ensuring continuity of oil supplies, especially when the possibility of a thermo-nuclear war is considered? In view of mounting unemployment amongst mine workers, will the right honorable gentleman examine the claim of Dr. Prien head of the chemistry and chemical engineering division of Denver University, that his organization has now established
– Order! What is the question?
– . . . has now established a revolutionary process for the extraction of oil-
– Order! The honorable member will ask his question or resume his seat.
– I am asking the Prime Minister whether he will investigate the claims of Dr. Prien—-
– Order! The right honorable the Prime Minister.
– I am sorry to say that I cannot undertake to deal with. this mass, of questions offhand. I would like to see them on the notice-paper.
– Is the Minister for Primary Industry aware that a number of persons in Australia wish to start a chinchilla industry, but are prevented from doing so by current import prohibitions? In view of the very modest reproductive habit of the chinchilla, not more than one baby being produced per annum - it is in no way to be confused with the chinchilla rabbit - which means that it could not become a pest, and having in mind the potential value of the industry as a foreign currency earner, will the Minister use his good offices to have all the surrounding factors examined, so as to ensure that if the prohibition of chinchilla imports is to be maintained it will be for enlightened reasons only?
- Mr. Speaker, the chinchilla’s rates are far better than mine. Let me say that this problem of the chinchilla, as well as that of the mink, has been considered by the Australian Agricultural Council. If my memory is as good as I think it is, one was stated to be a hopping rodent, and the other a beast of prey. The matter has been considered by the council, and on each occasion that it has come up for consideration the council has decided not to permit the importation of these animals. I do not think it would serve a very useful purpose for me to refer the matter back to the council because, to be quite frank, the Australian Agricultural Council already has enough work of an important kind to deal with during the next six months, including the problem of the dairying industry as a whole and the production of industrial margarine. I think it better, therefore, not to have this matter resubmitted. If the honorable gentleman wishes to press his claim, I will refer it to the secretary of the Australian Agricultural Council.
– Has the Government reached a decision on the suggestion made by the Victorian State Government that if the Commonwealth transfers the Customs House building, Melbourne, to its control, it will, in return, transfer to the Commonwealth some other site to be used for the erection of the proposed new customs house? If such a decision has not been reached, when can it be expected?
– I am sure the honorable gentleman will understand that a negotiation of this kind is not a very easy one, and that some considerable time will elapse before we reach finality. The proposal is that the Commonwealth should take over the uncompleted building of the State Electricity Commission in, I think, William-street, Melbourne, and, by way of a return deal, surrender the Customs House building to the State Government. However, there are very complex engineering problems to be considered before we can agree to take over the foundations of the State Electricity Commission building, because they may not in all respects suit the Commonwealth’s requirements. I can only assure the honorable member that the matter is under active consideration. I hope to have some decision on it within the next month or two.
– In view of the heavy over-supply of dairy products, will the Minister for Primary Industry ask the States to enforce restrictions on the production of industrial or cooking margarine? I believe that about 20,000 tons of this margarine is produced annually, and if its production were restricted, as is done with table margarine, to 16,000 tons, it would make a considerable difference to the dairying industry.
– I have been informed that one of the State Ministers of Agriculture has listed the production of industrial margarine used for table purposes for discussion at the next meeting of the Australian Agricultural Council. As action has already been taken and the matter will be discussed by the council in October in Perth, it will not be necessary for me to act. The honorable gentleman can be assured that the matter will then be fully considered.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Labour and National Service.
When there are unemployed immigrants in holding camps, are they included in the figures of those registered as unemployed? Will the Minister also direct the Department of Labour and National Service to compare unemployment figures with those for the corresponding period of the preceding year when issuing the monthly reports?
– Immigrants in the holding camps, are not, so far as I am aware, included in the registrant figures of unemployed.
Opposition members. - Oh!
– The numbers have not only been insignificant in an overall employment sense for a very long time but, of course, they could be entirely misleading because of the movement of immigrant ships to Australia. Three or four immigrant ships might arrive within one month. If we included those figures in the register and the following month they were to be greatly reduced, it could give a misleading picture of trends. What I want to get into the minds of honorable members opposite, and apparently I have not succeeded, although I have repeated it often, is this-
– Are they paid a benefit?
– Yes, there is a special benefit if they are not employed over a period.
– Are those figures included?
– Not in the unemployment benefit figures. The number is quite small. I think that the number in the camps when I last examined the figures was just over 200 for the whole of Australia. That figure varies from time to time. If two or three ships arrive with 1,000 or more immigrants or, in the aggregate, perhaps 3,000 immigrants arrive, you could quite obviously at that time, or within the few weeks that those people are being placed throughout Australia, have an inflated figure of the number in the migrant camps. To publish those figures regularly without adequate explanation would be quite misleading as to trends.
I was about to say, when the honorable member interjected, that what I have been trying to get into the minds of honorable gentlemen opposite. apparently without success, although I have repeated it often enough, and what I would also like the public to understand, is that we have never attempted, at any time, to state what could be taken as a precise figure of the number of persons unemployed in Australia at any given date. That could only be stated with precision at the taking of a census. What we have tried to do in our monthly releases is to give information which will provide an indication of trends.
If you take together the number of persons registered with the department for employment - and I have already indicated how embracing that total is as it covers both sexes, all ages and physical conditions - and, at the same time, give the number of persons on unemployment benefit, and if, in addition, you give the total number of vacancies registered with the department, then taking that set of figures month by month, people interested in these matters - commercial interests, parliaments, governments and so on - can get an indication of the employment trend. That is all we can hope to do usefully, and I believe that it is a very useful addition to the information which governments and others need in framing their policies. But to read into those figures anything more would be going beyond the intention of the Department of Labour and National Service.
– What about the second part of the question?
– The honorable gentleman asked whether I would include in the monthly figures a comparison of the registrants for employment in that month compared with the corresponding month of the preceding year. I will give consideration to that suggestion. But, as I say, the intention behind the provision of this information is to indicate a trend, and acceptance of the honorable member’s proposal might serve that purpose or it might not. I shall go into the matter.
– Is the Minister for Health aware of the increasing use to which electronic computers are being put? Is he aware that these machines are being used extensively in research in the fields of science and engineering? Is it possible to use electronic computers in medical research in such a way that, by feeding case histories into these machines, medical science may be assisted to find the origin of such a disease as leukemia?
– I do not know that I can give the honorable gentleman a very precise answer. A case history is a very complicated document and I really doubt whether case histories could be put into a machine. My understanding of electronic computers is that they deal with specific statistical data which they assemble and produce in some other form so that conclusions can be drawn. But a case history is a much more complicated thing than that. It involves an account of the patient’ssymptoms and the interpretation of them, combined with physical signs. However, I shall have some investigation made and perhaps I shall be able to give the honorable gentleman a more precise answer.
– Will the Minister for Defence inform the House whether the Government is proceeding with the plan to train Indonesian army officers and other personnel in Australia? If the Government is not assisting in the training scheme, has the proposal been deferred or abandoned?
– The Indonesians did make application to have some of their people trained here some twelve or eighteen months ago. They did not go on with the proposals and no Indonesian is at present being trained in this country.
– I wish to ask the Minister for Primary Industry a question which is supplementary to the question asked by the honorable member for Franklin, who wished to increase Tasmanian representation on the Australian Apple and Pear Board at the expense of New South Wales. Having regard to the precedent in Senate representation for an unequal population quota, would the Minister consider increasing Tasmanian representation by one, but not at the expense of New South Wales?
– I should say to the honorable gentleman from Hume, who has very large apple-growing interests in his electorate, that I made no commitments at all other than to say that I would consider any proposal that might be put forward by the honorable member for Franklin. If the honorable member for Hume wishes to put forward any proposals, they will receive consideration equal to that which will be given to those of my friend from Tasmania.
– Will the Minister representing the Postmaster-General take immediate steps to widen the terms of reference of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board, which is now taking evidence on television licences in Hobart, so that the board can take evidence on an offer made to provide television for the whole State instead of for a limited area in the south?
– I shall refer the honorable gentleman’s question to my colleague, the acting PostmasterGeneral, and obtain an answer.
– I ask “ the Minister for Territories a question without notice. Is it a fact that an air strip at Kandrian, in New Britain, was constructed by the use of unpaid native labourers? Is it a fact that the natives were told that the flying boat service to New Britain was to be discontinued, and that some people might die if an air strip to take land planes was not constructed? Is it a fact that the only reward given to these natives was an invitation to attend a Government-organized “ sing-sing “? If so, will the Minister state what was the cost of the entertainment and whether this further exploitation of native labour was undertaken with his knowledge and approval? If the Minister did not approve of this exploitation, what action has he taken to punish those responsible and to prevent a repetition of such a happening?
– I have no personal knowledge of the matters alleged by the honorable member, but I shall have some inquiries made. I direct attention, however, to the process employed by the honorable member. He asks me whether certain things are facts. Not having established those facts, he asks whether I will prevent the exploitation that he alleges to exist on facts which he has not yet proven. It is an extraordinary process to question whether certain things are facts, and then to proceed to assume that they are facts and to ask further questions based on that assumption.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Primary Industry. The present plight of the poultry industry shows what can happen to an industry when there is no organized marketing. The dairying industry is threatened with a complete breakdown of the equalization scheme. In Victoria, some organizations are threatening to break away from the scheme, and in Queensland some small factories are not participating in the scheme. Does the Minister realize the imminent danger facing the dairying industry? The Minister can answer my question with a simple “ Yes “ or “ No “.
– The young gentleman from Richmond gives me a very nice invitation to answer his question, “ Yes “ or “ No “. I shall answer it in this way: DoI think there is a danger of equalization breaking down? Certainly not! I do not know of one responsible leader of the dairying industry who thinks there is such a probability. It is true that a few factories that produce cheese of special quality donot belong to the equalization scheme, but it is not thought for one moment that those factories can in any way seriously affect the future of the scheme. It should be too well known to stress that this equalization scheme is the backbone of the butter industry, and I think that the leaders of that industry will do all in their power - and so, too, will the Government - to sustain theequalization scheme.
Valuation of Property
– I ask the Minister for Social Services a question with reference to the practice adopted by his department for determining the value of properties, rural” and otherwise, for pension assessment purposes. Is the Minister aware that in Tasmania values are obtained by a valuationofficer of the Taxation Branch? On the other hand, in Victoria, municipal and shirecouncil valuations are still accepted. Wilt the Minister have the matter investigated1 to ensure that a uniform source of valuations is adopted by his department in all :States, preferably through municipal and shire councils?
– I shall be very pleased to investigate the honorable member’s proposition. From time to time, the Department of Social Services must arrive at its own valuation with respect to property in the application of the means test. The department verifies that valuation in the most expeditious way that is available to it. It may be that in one State a certain procedure is adopted and, for entirely satisfactory reasons, another procedure is adopted in another State. Whether or not uniformity would serve any useful purpose at the moment, I am not in a position to say, but I am quite happy to investigate the honorable member’s proposition.
– Can the Prime Minister give the House any information about proposals to establish a synthetic rubber manufacturing industry and the effect that such an industry would have on the use of natural rubber?
– There is very little that I can say about the negotiations on this matter, because they are not primarily my concern. I know that discussions have been going on with a view to the establishment of a plant to produce synthetic rubber, ;and that involves a whole series of petrochemical industries. There may be some inclination to think that what is proposed is the production of synthetic rubber in substitution for natural rubber, thereby cutting off imports of natural rubber from New Guinea and from other traditional sources of supply with which we have close trading relations. I should, therefore, make it quite clear that Australia to-day imports a substantial quantity of synthetic rubber because, in the manufacture of tyres, I understand, both synthetic rubber and natural rubber are used. It is thought that advantages are gained by using both. Therefore, the establishment in Australia of an industry to produce synthetic rubber would represent primarily an attempt to substitute “local production for material that is already imported. I do not expect that this will have any material effect upon the importation of natural rubber from normal -sources of supply.
– 1 desire to ask the Prime Minister a question. Is the right honorable gentleman aware that, prior to the advent of the Chifley Labour Government, meetings of the Australian Agricultural Council were held in the various State capitals in rotation and that, in order to eliminate waste and to enable the council to function more efficiently, the Chifley Government laid it down that conferences of such organizations should be held in Canberra, the National Capital? Will the Prime Minister see to it that this Government lays down a similar policy, not only for the Australian Agricultural Council but also for all similar organizations?
– What is the use? He will not have time.
– I will be glad to consider the suggestion.
– The Prime Minister will not have time to do anything about it.
– I observed that there was some slight inconsistency between the question with the assumption it made of our continuance in office, and the characteristic interjection by the honorable member for East Sydney.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Labour and National Service in his capacity as Minister acting in charge of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization. Can the right honorable gentleman say what means are employed by the C.S.I. R.O. to ensure that the results of research in the field of woollen textiles are passed on to the manufacturers? In view of the enormous importance of maintaining the competitive position of wool as against substitutes, is the Minister satisfied that information about woollen textile research is getting to the manufacturers and that they are fulfilling their responsibilities by translating the results of that research into practice?
– Before dealing specifically with woollen textiles and the use of wool in manufacturing, perhaps I should make a general observation on the method which, I understand, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research
Organization adopts in relation to the use of its discoveries by commerce generally. Before it releases any of its discoveries to manufacturers, they are well tested to make sure that they meet the practical needs of industry. It is not always possible to obtain a patent on such discoveries but, where this can be done, patents are taken out by the C.S.I.R.O. This permits the organization to license manufacturers to use the discoveries and at the same time gives the organization the opportunity of offering technical assistance to members of the trade. This practice has been widely adopted by the C.S.I.R.O. I am quite satisfied that information on the practical application of research is getting into the hands of manufacturers as speedily as possible. This is obvious from the fact that several of the results of the C.S.I.R.O. textile research programme are now widely used in industry. The new process for putting permanent pleats in men’s trousers and in pleated skirts is being used by several prominent manufacturers in Australia. It is about to be launched by the International Wool Secretariat, acting on behalf of the C.S.I.R.O. in a number of overseas countries.
– I tak? a point of order. Is it not an infringement of Standing Orders that a Minister, particularly a Minister acting for another Minister, should read a prepared, typed statement in answer to a question asked, allegedly, without notice?
– There is no substance in the point of order. A Minister may answer a question as he deems fit.
– I am quite happy to clear this position up. The honorable gentleman has been seeking an opportunity for some days to put this question and in the course of that time this information has been prepared. That is quite common. It is quite in order. No commodity produced in this country is more vital than wool to Australia’s economic wellbeing, and the information which I am giving to the House is of great importance not only to Australian wool manufacturers but also to the wool trade generally outside this country. I should have thought that instead of taking niggling points, the honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory would welcome the widest pub licity being given to the uses that can be made of these processes.
The C.S.I.R.O. has had the greatest possible help from the wool textile industry and the makers of men’s and women’s garments. It takes some time for manufacturers to assemble plant and to become familiar with new processes. There is, therefore, inevitably some delay between the announcement by the C.S.I.R.O. of a discovery, and its wide use in industry. However, in the case of the permanent creasing process, Si-Ro-Set, remembering that the release was made only in October last, it is gratifying that several of the more prominent manufacturers are now using the process widely. There is good reason to believe that this process will develop more fully in the hands of manufacturers.
– I direct a question to the Treasurer. Is it a fact that the increase in interest rates on the financing of the sale of wool, approved by the Government in October last year, was responsible for the fall in wool prices? Is it also a fact that the United Kingdom Government has now reduced from 7 per cent, to 4i per cent, interest rates on finance for wool purchases, and that the British banking instrumentalities have refused to reduce their interest rates in the same proportion?
– The answer involves a good deal of information. At the outset, I put the record right by pointing out that the increase in the rate of interest to which the honorable member referred was of a temporary nature only, and that the rate has since been reduced. I shall’ obtain for him details in relation to other aspects of the question.
– I direct to the Minister for Primary Industry a question concerning the legislation passed by this House about a year ago to establish a wool testing service in Australia. Can the Minister advise me of the progress made in this regard? Has it been of benefit to theindustry?
– Already the first wool’ testing house has been established inMelbourne, and Dr. Dixie, a highly qualified’ wool textile scientist, has been appointed a& the director. The authority will be ready to carry out the moisture content testing of wool this season. It is hoped that samples of wool that have to be tested can be brought from other States. Dr. Dixie also hopes to establish a second centre in Sydney or elsewhere in New South Wales quite soon, certainly in time for the next selling season. Whilst it is not possible to estimate the value of this testing to the wool industry, it must in time be of great value.
– Will the Minister for Defence give the House an unqualified assurance that the Government will not, in any circumstances, engage in the training of Indonesian Army personnel in Australia?
– I can assure the House that that is something that neither I nor anybody else can foresee. All I can tell the House is that there is no -application before us for the training of Indonesian troops.
– I preface a question to the Minister for Primary Industry by stating that it is reported that there is an increasing demand for the milk product known as casein as a raw material for the plastics industry. Can the Minister state whether the Government will assist in the establishment of casein factories in Australia? Would it not serve the nation better if dairy farmers would give some constructive thought to the development of new products in the industry?
– There has been a small, but I do not think significant, increase in the production of casein. It is the intention of the Government to introduce a bill to provide for a fund to finance research into the dairying industry. There will be a substantial amount of money available for this purpose, contributed partly by the Government and partly by the industry itself. As I understand it, this investigation into the diversion of milk products for the manufacture of casein is one of the problems the fund committee will thoroughly examine.
Housing Commission Rents
– Is the Treasurer aware that State housing authorities intend to increase the rents of housing commission homes paid by tenants who receive the pensioners’ supplementary rent allowance? Is it a fact that the States claim that they are bound to do this under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement? Will the Treasurer initiate an immediate review of the agreement, and amend it where necessary in order to ensure that the proposed rent increases will be avoided?
– First and foremost, I know nothing of any proposal that rents be increased in the way stated by the honorable member as the result of the prospective legislation providing for a rent allowance to pensioners. However, I shall have the matter examined.
– As I have had some correspondence in connexion with this matter, Mr. Speaker, perhaps I may supplement the answer given by my colleague. As I had observed in the press a statement about this matter I got into touch at once with the Premier of Victoria, and in the last 24 hours I have received from him a letter setting out a variety of considerations, including that referred to by the honorable member in connexion with the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement. I am having that looked into, and when I know what the position is I will perhaps be able to say more about it.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Customs and Excise. Is the honorable gentleman aware of the lawabiding qualities of the citizens of Western Australia? Does he know that as a result of some trouble about an imported shillelagh in Sydney recently one of Western Australia’s outstanding citizens voluntarily surrendered a shillelagh which he had had in his possession for some twenty years? Would the Minister like other citizens of Western Australia to surrender shillelaghs that they may have in their possession?
– I shall gladly refer this difficult social problem to my colleague in the Senate, whom I have the honour to represent here. I am well aware of the law-abiding characteristics of the citizens of Western Australia. I remember very few instances, when I was Minister for Customs and Excise, of attempts being made in that State to evade the customs laws. I do not think it would be necessary to call for any large-scale surrender of lethal weapons by citizens of Western Australia but, as I said, I shall refer the matter to my colleague.
– by leave - On 7th August I announced to the House the intention of the Government to arrange an inquiry into the events at Navuneram, in New Britain, on 4th August, when two native villagers lost their lives. Our intention was that the Government would itself order the inquiry, but, on closer examination, it was found that there is no power at present to do so, as the Royal Commissions Act of the Commonwealth does not apply to the Territory of Papua and New Guinea. There is, however, an ordinance of the Territory under which the Administrator can appoint a commission of inquiry with all powers necessary for its work. The Government therefore decided that, rather than wait for an amendment of the Royal Commissions Act, it would ask the Administrator of the Territory to act in its place.
At the same time I approached Mr. Justice Mann, Chief Justice of the Territory of Papua and New Guinea, and until his recent appointment a leading member of the Victorian Bar, and asked him if he would accept an appointment to carry out the proposed inquiry. His Honour agreed.
Accordingly, on 19th August, in keeping with the directions of the Government, the Administrator appointed Mr. Justice Mann as a commissioner under the Commissions of Inquiry Ordinance 1951, to inquire into and report upon -
The commission directs that the inquiry shall be held at such places as may appear to the commissioner necessary or expedient and that the inquiry be instituted with as little delay as possible and the report rendered with all despatch.
While I am making this announcement, I should like to inform the House that ) have also received a report from the Administrator, Mr. Cleland, on the investigation he made at the request of the Government. This supplements an interim report which he gave on 6th August. Mr. Cleland went to Rabaul by the first available aircraft, on the morning of 6tb August. He had conferences with all the officers concerned, personally inspected the scene of the incident, and took all other necessary steps to make his own assessment of the situation. He has reported at length to the Government on the incident al Navuneram and on the events both before and after the incident, and has appended the reports of senior officers on particular aspects of the affair.
In view of the fact that a commission of inquiry is to be held as I have announced to-day, it would be out of place for me to publish at this stage the Administrator’s report on the incidents at Navuneram, but there is certainly nothing in the report or the accompanying statements that any government need hesitate to make public. I should add that I have satisfied myself as Minister for Territories that care, patience and a proper regard for their responsibilities are being shown by the Administration officers in the handling of the current situation. By that, I mean the situation subsequent to the incidents at Navuneram.
In view of questions already raised by honorable members, may I also mention that Mr. Cleland’s report states specifically that the coroner has been notified and that arrangements have been made for the relatives of those who were killed to be represented at the inquest by outside counsel. Mr. Cleland has also directed that compensation will be assessed and paid to the relatives of the two men who were killed.
– by leave - Further progress has been made in connexion with this important inquiry, but I wish to point out a few things for the consideration of the Government. Apparently, the ordinance permits the appointment of what, in effect, is a special tribunal of inquiry; and that is extremely satisfactory. But what I want to point out to the Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck) is the separation, apparently, between the inquiry to be conducted by Mr. Justice Mann and the inquest which, of course, I understand, must go on. What I suggest is that, first of all, arrangements be made for the representation before Mr. Justice Mann by outside counsel of the natives concerned - not merely the relatives of the deceased people, but also those concerned in the incident. Then, it might be the correct thing that the inquest be held at a later stage.
I do not wish to be hypercritical, but once again the Minister says, by implication, what his opinion is of this affair at the very time when the inquiry is to commence. He said that it would be out of place for him to publish the Administrator’s report but then, indirectly, he says what the report is - that it is favorable to the government officials. Again, that tends to interfere with the inquiry.
– That is not the meaning of what I said.
– I think it means that exactly. I will read it, if the Minister wishes. He said -
In view of the fact that a commission of inquiry is to be held it would be out of place for me to publish at this stage the Administrator’s report on the incidents at Navuneram, but there is certainly nothing in the report or the accompanying statements that any government need hesitate to make public.
The Minister is, in effect, stating a conclusion; but it is a matter for inquiry by Mr. Justice Mann. I do not think he should do that.
– I just wanted to counter expected interjections from some of your colleagues that we are hiding something. We are not hiding anything. That is what it means.
– What does the Minister mean? He says that the Government is not hiding anything. He has a report which he implies is favorable to the government officials; but he also tells the House that this report should be placed before Mr. Justice Mann. May we have access to this official report in the meantime?
– It will be available to the commissioner.
– But the Minister gives the substance of it and says, in effect, that it helps the case for the officials. They may have a perfectly good case; I am not going into the merits. But the Minister has sought to put forward views while an inquiry is pending. I do not think I need add anything more. The Minister goes on to say -
I have satisfied myself as Minister for Territories that care, patience and a proper regard foi their responsibilities are being shown by the Administration officers.
He explains that by saying that he refers to the situation arising since the incident. The real question is what happened prior to the incident. However, I do not criticize that reference at all. 1 have raised the question of outside counsel. I want to point out also that the terms of the inquiry should cover the question of the poll tax and the method of collecting it. I thought the Minister had agreed to that on a previous occasion in this House. It may be covered by a broad construction of the clauses; but I suggest broadening the inquiry, or clarifying the terms of reference, to give the judge power to look into this method of collection and whether it was not partly responsible for the deaths that occurred. He should be asked to make a general investigation of this question of the poll tax because the circumstances relevant to the deaths may be construed narrowly. These are all positive suggestions which I make to the Minister. I am glad that he has made this statement to the House.
Motion (by Sir Arthur Fadden) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act to amend the Superannuation Act 1922-1957, and for purposes connected therewith.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
– by leave - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this bill is to raise the pension of orphan children of deceased contributors to the Superannuation Fund. At the present time, a pension of £1 10s. a week is paid to each orphan child under the age of sixteen. From representations that have been made and from inquiries of the circumstances of these children, of whom there are less than 40, it was apparent that the pension of £1 10s. a week was not adequate. The cost of an increase in the pension from £1 10s. to £3 a week, which is provided by this bill, will be met from the resources of the Superannuation Fund itself. The bill will, I am sure, commend itself to honorable members.
– I want to say at once that it is quite obvious the improvement is essential and that it will be unanimously supported by the Opposition.
Debate (on motion by Dr. Evatt) adjourned.
Motion (by Sir Arthur Fadden) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act to amend the Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Act 1948-1957, and for purposes connected therewith.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
– by leave - I move - That the bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this bill is to provide an increase in the rate of pension payable to orphan children under the age of sixteen years of deceased contributors and deceased pensioners under the Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Act. The increase from £1 10s. to £3 a week which is provided by this bill will affect less than a dozen children and bring the Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Act into line with the provisions of the Superannuation Act, to which a similar amendment is being made. The cost of the increase will be borne by the Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Fund without contribution by the Commonwealth. I commend this bill to honorable members.
Debate (on motion by Dr. Evatt) adjourned.
.- I move-
That, in accordance with the provisions of the Public Works Committee Act 1913-1953, the following proposed work be referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works for investigation and report, namely: - Construction of extensions to the Repatriation General Hospital at Hobart, Tasmania.
The proposal provides for the construction and replacement of various sub-standard accommodations and may be summarized in this way -
First, there is a ward unit block. This is a new two-story brick structure in which will be accommodated a 34-bed nursing unit as well as an out-patients’ department, examination rooms, physiotherapy section, pathological laboratory, dispensary and store, &c. Secondly, there is an administrative block. This is a single-story brick structure in which will be provided administrative offices, patients’ recreation room and mess, and changing facilities for living-out staff.
These works are to provide replacement accommodation for existing facilities which are at present housed in out-moded timber structures which will require to be demolished to make way for the new buildings. The estimated cost of the project is £220,000. I table the plans of the proposed buildings.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Mr. Hasluck) - by leave - agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act to provide for the acceptance of Christmas Island as a territory under the authority of the Commonwealth and to provide for the government of that territory.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
– by leave - I move - That the bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this Bill is to provide for the acceptance of Christmas Island - I stress that it is Christmas Island in the Indian Ocean - as a territory under the authority of the Commonwealth and for the future government of that territory. The first legislative step in connexion with the transfer of Christmas Island to Australia was taken in December, 1957, when this Parliament passed the Christmas Island (Request and Consent) Act 1957. By that act, Parliament requested, and consented to, the enactment by the United Kingdom Parliament of an act to enable the Queen to place Christmas Island under the authority of the Commonwealth and to make provision for matters incidental thereto.
When the bill for that act was introduced on 3rd December, 1957, my colleague, the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Casey) informed Parliament fully of the discussions which had taken place with the governments of the United Kingdom, Singapore and New Zealand regarding the future of Christmas Island, and of the reasons why it was decided, with the full agreement and support of the New Zealand Government, that responsibility for the future administration of the island should be placed with Australia. Honorable members -will appreciate that the specific reference to New Zealand is due to the fact that New Zealand shares with Australia partnership in the Christmas Island Phosphate Commission, which works the phosphate deposits on Christmas Island.
The Minister for External Affairs also informed Parliament that when the bill had been approved by Parliament, the United Kingdom Government would introduce a bill into the United Kingdom Parliament for the purpose of transferring authority over Christmas Island to the Commonwealth of Australia, and that when that action had been completed another bill would be brought before the Australian Parliament to provide for the acceptance of the transfer and for the future administration of the island. By Order in Council made on 13th December, 1957, with effect on and from 1st January, T958, the United Kingdom Government detached Christmas Island from Singapore and provided for its administration as a separate colony. Since then the United Kingdom Parliament has passed an act entitled the Christmas Island Act 1958, which provides that Her Majesty may, by Order in Council, direct that Christmas Island shall, on such date as may be specified in the Order, cease to be a colony of the United Kingdom and be placed under the authority of the Commonwealth of Australia.
The next legislative step is with this Parliament, and is being taken in the present bill. The passing of this bill will leave the way clear for the United Kingdom Government to seek Her Majesty’s approval to an Order in Council in terms of the Christmas Island Act 1958, of the United Kingdom. After the making of that Order in Council, the Australian Government will take over the administration of the island. The House will appreciate, therefore, that this is another step in a rather long and involved procedure for the transfer of sovereignty of Christmas Island.
I propose now to outline briefly the main provisions of the bill. Part I. provides that the act shall come into operation on a date to be specified in the Order in Council to be made in terms of the United Kingdom act as the date on which Christmas Island will cease to be a colony of the United Kingdom and will be placed under the authority of the Commonwealth. The date fixed will be agreed upon mutually between the Commonwealth and United Kingdom Governments.
Part II. provides for Christmas Island to be accepted by the Commonwealth as a territory under the authority of the Commonwealth and to be known as the Territory of Christmas Island. Provision is also made in this part for the transfer to the Commonwealth, subject to certain specified exceptions, of the property, rights and liabilities of the United Kingdom, the Colony of Christmas Island and the Colony of Singapore in and in respect of the island.
Part III. deals with the legislation for the territory. It is proposed to continue in force after the transfer, subject to the act and to any other Commonwealth acts which will extend to the island of their own force, or which may be extended, the selected Singapore laws which have been used in the island, as a separate colony, by the United Kingdom Order in Council of December, 1957. This will avoid any disruption which might arise if there had been an application of a completely new body of laws. In effect, we are taking over and continuing a body of laws which already applies to Christmas Island. Powers and functions conferred by any of the laws continued in force on the Governor of the Colony of Singapore will in future be exercised by the GovernorGeneral of the Commonwealth of Australia; those conferred on any other person or authority, other than the Governor of Singapore, will be exercised by such person or authority as the Minister may direct.
– Whom would that include?
– The local magistrates, for example.
– No governmental authority?
– No, they would be mainly administrative authorities, the kind of persons contemplated in any statute that specifies, “ So-and-so shall do this “ or “ may do this “.
– There is no sharing of the sovereignty over this place in future?
– No. The Minister may delegate his powers and functions to a specified person or authority. Provision is made for the Governor-General to make ordinances for the peace, order and good government of the territory; and any law continued in force may be amended or repealed by an ordinance so made. Experience will show the extent to which this may be necessary. Ordinances made by the Governor-General will be subject to disallowance, in whole or in part, by this Parliament.
I should mention at this stage that it is proposed that the day-to-day administration of the affairs of the territory will be carried out by an official representative, who will be appointed under powers to be conferred by ordinance, and who will exercise such powers and functions as are delegated to nim by the Minister. This follows the pat tern set in regard to the comparable Territory of Cocos (Keeling) Islands, and already approved by this Parliament in respect of that territory.
Part IV. deals with the judicial system for the territory. Prior to detachment of the island from the Colony of Singapore, the Supreme Court of Singapore exercised jurisdiction in the island. In the United Kingdom Order in Council, 1957, which provides for the administration of the island as a separate colony pending transfer to Australia, provision has been made for the Supreme Court of Singapore to continue to exercise jurisdiction in regard to the island until other provision is made. The Government considers it desirable that, when the island becomes a territory of the Commonwealth, it should have its separate supreme court and necessary subordinate courts. This part of the bill includes, therefore, necessary authority for the establishment of a supreme court for the territory; for the jurisdiction, practice and procedure of the supreme court to be as provided by or under ordinance; for necessary subordinate courts to be established by or under ordinance; and for the High Court of Australia to have jurisdiction to hear and determine appeals from decisions of the supreme court.
Part V. provides for the application of Australian citizenship to British subjects who were ordinarily resident in the island immediately before the date of transfer of the island to Australia. The provisions included in this part are similar to those which were included in the Cocos (Keeling) Islands Act 1955-1956. Persons resident in the island for a special or temporary purpose only would not be eligible. There are no indigenous inhabitants in the island, and the small total population of some 2,650 persons is made up principally of workers from Singapore employed in the phosphate industry.
In Part VI. of the bill provision is made for the appointment, under ordinances, of persons for employment in the administration of the island, notwithstanding the provisions of the Public Service Act which, by virtue of its 1957 amendments, now extends to all territories. Such a provision in this bill will remove any doubts about the validity of, for example, the appointment under ordinance of an official representative, of police officers, postal employees, and so on. Provision is made, also, for the preservation under the Officers’ Rights Declaration Act of the rights of any person who, immediately before his appointment under ordinance to an office in the territory, was an officer of the Public Service of the Commonwealth. These are largely machinery provisions regarding the staffing of the Christmas Island Administration.
Part VI. also includes a provision relating to the serving of sentences outside the territory by prisoners convicted by the courts of the territory. The need for this arises from the fact that the prison facilities on the island are suitable only for those serving short-term sentences. The practice has been to transfer other prisoners to Singapore to serve their sentences. I do not suggest for a moment that we have, or are likely to have, a great number of prisoners. Most of the offences are the ordinary minor misdemeanours that occur in any community.
When the island becomes a territory of the Commonwealth the Removal of Prisoners (Territories) Act of the Commonwealth will apply to the territory of its own force and, in terms of that act, any transfer of prisoners would need to be made to a prison in Australia or in another Commonwealth territory. This would be appropriate in the case of European prisoners, but not so in all other cases, such as the cases of workers who are citizens of Singapore and whose domicile is normally in Singapore, and who are in the island for only short periods of employment. In those cases it would be preferable for prisoners to serve their sentences in Singapore prisons, in an environment and under conditions which would not be completely foreign to them. There are also practical considerations of language, diet, economic rehabilitation and so on, which would make it desirable to transfer them not to Australia but to Singapore. The Singapore Government is agreeable to this, subject, of course, to reimbursement of the cost of maintenance in respect of any such prisoners. It is proposed, therefore, that authority should be given in this act for prisoners to be transferred to prisons outside the territory to serve their sentences notwithstanding the application of the Removal of Prisoners (Territories) Act. Neces sary detailed provisions to regulate any such transfers will be provided by ordinance.
A similar provision in this part relates to the detention and treatment of persons suffering from leprosy and mentally disordered persons. There are no facilities on the island adequate to this purpose and, under existing arrangements, any such patients are transferred to Singapore hospitals for treatment. It is desirable that these arrangements should continue after the island becomes a Commonwealth territory as regards patients from amongst the workers recruited from Singapore. The Singapore Government is agreeable to this and it is proposed, therefore, that authority should be given in the act for the removal of such patients from the territory for treatment. As in the case of prisoners, necessary detailed provisions to regulate such removals will be provided by ordinance.
A provision is also contained in Part VI. permitting the continued circulation in the territory of the currency in use immediately before the date of transfer. The reason for this is that Singapore currency is in use on the island and, because of the nature of the employed population and the extent of its remittances to and spending in Singapore, it is desirable that the continued circulation of that currency should be permitted at least until such time as its exclusion could be effected without creating difficulties. Provision along the lines proposed is necessary for this purpose as, otherwise, the position after transfer would be that, under the provisions of the Commonwealth Bank Act 1945-1953 which applies to the territories of the Commonwealth, Australian currency would automatically become legal tender on the island. Furthermore, in the normal course, the Banking (Foreign Exchange) Regulations which also apply to the territories would have the effect of preventing residents both from using Singapore currency locally and from taking it or sending it to Singapore without the approval of the Commonwealth Bank. It is proposed, therefore, to permit the continued use of Singapore currency after transfer in addition to Australian currency, until such time as its exclusion can be effected without creating difficulties.
This part provides power for the Governor-General to grant a pardon, remission or respite of sentence to offenders sentenced by a court exercising criminal jurisdiction in the territory; to remit fines, &c, imposed or incurred under the laws of the territory; and to grant a pardon to an accomplice who gives evidence that leads to the conviction of a principal offender. A further provision in this part will permit exemption from customs duties in respect of the importation into Australia from the territory of goods produced or manufactured in the territory, provided that they are not goods which, if produced or manufactured in Australia, would be subject to excise duty. A comparable exemption already applies in relation to the other external territories of the Commonwealth. Apart from phosphate, there appears to be little likelihood of any other goods being imported into Australia from the island.
Finally, the bill provides that the accounts of the territory shall be subject to inspection and audit by the Auditor-General for the Commonwealth; and regulation-making powers under the act will vest in the Governor-General in accordance with normal practice.
As honorable members will have appreciated from my description, a very large part of the bill is taken up with these machinery measures that are necessary in order that the Australian administration may be carried out in the territory. These special provisions - exemptions from Commonwealth laws - are necessary in one or two particulars in order to meet special local circumstances arising from the fact, largely, that almost the whole of the population of the island is a work force which goes to and from Singapore for the purpose of extracting phosphate for the phosphate commission.
– Are there many Malays among them?
– The workers are mainly Singapore Malays and Chinese; there are some Singapore Chinese.
– There are no residents?
– There is no indigenous population at all. There may be a very small number of persons who, by reason of long residence, may regard Christmas Island as their home; but the number would be very small. Of the 2,600 on the island, the big majority are this work force which is coming and going from Singapore.
In conclusion, I’ do not think that I need do more than to reiterate that the bill is a necessary preliminary to the United Kingdom Order in Council whereby the actual transfer of the island to Australia will be made. The proposed transfer has been brought about by a process of frank and friendly negotiation with all interests concerned and as a result of agreement among them. The transfer will ensure an augmented supply of phosphate for Australian and New Zealand primary industries; and the conditions under which it is being made pay careful regard to the future well-being of the small population of the island.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Clyde Cameron) adjourned.
In Committee of Supply: Consideration resumed from 20th August (vide page 590), on motion by Sir Arthur Fadden -
That ti j 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.
.- First, I should like to add my congratulations to those of other honorable members of this House who have expressed them to the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) on the introduction of his eleventh Budget. I understand that in the election that is to be held shortly, some seventeen members of this Parliament - members of the Senate and of this House - will not be among the candidates for one reason or another. Some of them will be retiring from politics of their own volition. Others have not been endorsed and will, therefore, retire also. There are five honorable members of the House of Representatives to whom I wish to make special reference. The first of them is the Treasurer.
I do nol think that any honorable member on either side of this chamber feels that the Budget under discussion is a particularly spectacular one. The Treasurer himself does not consider it to be a Budget with any great popular appeal. That was made clear in the concluding passage of his Budget Speech in which the right honorable gentleman said -
Time and again in these difficult years the Government has had a choice of doing the thing that might have been popular or of doing the thing that appeared sound and responsible. Each time it has taken the harder but more responsible course and I present this, my final Budget, happy in the thought that, once again, the decision falls the same way.
To my mind, those words are a great and fitting tribute to the man who made them, because throughout the many years that he has spent in public life in Australia, the Treasurer has shown himself to be a man of full responsibility and complete integrity whose thought has always been what he could do for our Commonwealth. Added to that, he has given to honorable members a very great friendship or, as he has put it himself, a very great mateship. The great majority of honorable members will be sorry that the Treasurer will not be in this chamber to present the next Budget. He is a great man, a great Queenslander, a great Australian, and a very great mate. lt is with a considerable amount of sad ness, too, that one realizes that the Minister for Defence (Sir Philip McBride) will not be seeking re-election, and that the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. H. V. Johnson), the honorable member for Leichhardt (Mr. Bruce) and the honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Brand) will be numbered amongst those whom I mentioned earlier. The Minister for Defence is a man with qualities that I feel will be greatly missed in this Parliament. For his goodness of heart, his sincerity of approach in all things, and the friendship he has offered to people, he will be greatly missed by most of us.
Those who heard the speech of the honorable member for Kalgoorlie the other day will realize the great depth of sincerity that lies in him. Those of us who have heard him speaking in the House and who have got to know him as a friend will know the very great amount of good that he has done for Australia. The same thing may well be said of the honorable member for Leichhardt who, in more than 30 years’ service in the Queensland State Parliament and in our Commonwealth Parliament, has not only given valuable service to Queensland and to our Commonwealth, but is one of the few men living who has a really Iona memorial - I refer to the Bruce Highway, that great road which runs from Brisbane to the far north. It is one of the very proud achievements of a life-time full of hard work and service to Queensland and the Commonwealth. During his 27 years in the State Parliament the honorable member for Leichhardt was for eighteen years a Minister. He was burdened, at one time, with the dual duties of Minister for Education and Minister for Works, and I think that that is one of the reasons why his name is regarded with very great affection in the area that he represented. I understand that, as Minister for Works, he used to authorize projects which he himself suggested as Minister for Education and, as a result, some of the finest schools in Queensland are situated in the north of that State and are directly the work of the honorable member for Leichhardt.
The honorable member for Wide Bay had more than 30 years’ service in the Queensland Parliament before coming to the Federal Parliament. Apart from the service that he has given to our country in our parliaments, he has been an outstanding leader of the sugar industry which, I think honorable members will agree, is one of the most important industries in Australia and certainly one of the most important in Queensland. It is with great regret that the members of this chamber will see these five men, with their very considerable years of service, passing from the political scene. I am quite sure that all honorable members will join with me in wishing them all the peace and happiness and contentment that they can possibly have in the remaining years of their lives.
I have already expressed what I feel to be the general opinion of this Budget - the Treasurer’s own opinion. Tt is not a popular Budget. It was not intended to be popular. It was a difficult course to take. When such a Budget is introduced there is bound to be a considerable amount of criticism of it. I feel that, once again, honorable gentlemen on the opposite side of the chamber have fallen down in their duty as Her Majesty’s Opposition in that they have not put up real criticism of this Budget. It is very easy to say that it is a bad Budget and that we do not like it; to say that it is a barren Budget and to use other such epithets. But Opposition members have not suggested any constructive alternatives.
– We shall do that in the election campaign.
– Why leave it to an election? It is the Opposition’s job to do it in the Parliament. For a number of years honorable gentlemen on the other side of the House have been so concerned with their own internal strife that they have not fulfilled their function as an Opposition in this Parliament. Consequently, they are completely unfitted even to think of assuming the responsibility of a government of this Commonwealth. I have no doubt that they will put forward suggestions in relation to the Budget during their election campaign instead of stating them in this Parliament, which is the proper place. No doubt they will give all sorts of promises. They have already stated that we should be providing far greater social services. But every suggestion that they have put forward fails to be constructive because it would cost a lot more money than this Budget sets out to expend.
There are only a couple of ways in which they could raise the necessary money in order to have a hope of carrying out some of the false promises and suggestions that they have been making. Either they would have to increase taxation very heavily in some directions or they would have to cut down on some of the expenditures proposed in the Budget. The only expenditure that they could consider cutting down - because they have promised to increase all the others - is the expenditure on defence. Yet as they have criticized the Government for not having done enough in relation to defence, we must assume that they would want to spend more on defence!
The whole of the suggestions put forward by the Opposition would entail the spending of more money, and that money could only be obtained by increased taxation. Yet they have said that they intend to reduce taxation! So the most simple investigation of the argument put forward by honorable members opposite leads one very firmly to the conclusion that their arguments are completely bogus and that they are politically dishonest in their statements. I have no doubt that they will be more dishonest at election time.
I do not think that there are any honorable members who would not like to see some improvement in social services, particularly for pensioners. We are glad to see that some assistance will be given - although I fear it will only be small - in the form of supplementary assistance to some pensioners. I am quite sure that all members of this chamber sincerely regret that more cannot be done to assist all pensioners. However, by giving this supplementary assistance we are, to my mind, increasing the penalty on thrift that is already imposed by the means test. We are, in a way, extending the means test. For many years I have argued that we should abolish the means test completely. But the more I think about it and the more I find out about it, the less possible do I think it is for any government in any country completely to abolish the means test. Possibly, it could be done in a country that was overwhelmingly prosperous. That is the only circumstance in which it could be done.
The complete abolition of the means test would make it necessary to give money in the form of the age pension to people who do not need it. I believe that, whilst there are people in the community who need assistance, and that some of our pensioners certainly need more assistance than they are getting, it would be ridiculous to give an age pension to people who do not require it and so to deprive of a measure of assistance some of the genuine cases who are sorely in need” of that assistance. Therefore, much as I regret that we have not been able to assist pensioners more, I can see the extreme difficulty with which the Government is faced. I appreciate the fact that the Government has liberalized the means test and that it has been trying to help some categories of pensioners. But I am afraid that the new proposal will create a considerable number of anomalies because the man who has been thrifty and who owns his own house, who pays his rates and has his maintenance to carry out, is often in as difficult a position as the person who is paying rent. A number of anomalies will be created, but I am glad that the Government has been able to do something to assist some pensioners.
The Government is to be congratulated on the developmental work that it has encouraged during its term of office. With the tremendous future facing us, I do not think that development can be too rapid. We must carry out a maximum development programme in order to present to the world a strong case for the retention of those vast areas of our land that could undoubtedly carry a greater population than they carry at present. In the interests of self-preservation, development is, I believe, essential. For that reason I am glad that the Government has decided to continue its immigration programme at the same rate as has applied in the last few years. There has been some criticism from a number of sources to the effect that we are getting too many immigrants from southern Europe. I disagree with that criticism. I should like the majority of our immigrants to be of European stock. I should like to see British immigrants coming in very great numbers, but I do not object to immigrants from southern Europe. I think that we should have more of them, because those of us who come from Queensland have seen the tremendous amount of good work that has been done in the cane areas in the north by immigrants from southern Europe. They have come here with their families and settled down to work hard in order to gain a livelihood for themselves. In some cases they have taken over farms and properties that Australians had walked out of because they were not prepared to face up to the hard work that was necessary. I believe that immigrants who are prepared to work under those conditions are the people who can help Australia in the years that lie ahead of us, in the same way as they have shown their willingness to help in the past. I should like to see more immigrants coming to this country from Germany, bringing with them their tremendous industrial knowledge and their ability for hard, conscientious, and detailed work. I have no objection to the proportion of European immigrants now entering Australia. I say to the Government: Bring as many immigrants as you can. Get them here as quickly as you can.If it is going to cause some inconvenience to those of us who have been here for many years, I can only say that we must be prepared to pay the price of that inconvenience. It is a very small price to pay for our survival.
It is pleasing to note in this Budget that the Government has done something to assist the fishing industry and the search for oil. The fishing industry can become of considerable importance to Australia, and the discovery of oil would completely change our economy. For that reason the
Government is to be commended for the steps it has taken with regard to these industries.
A lot has been said over the last few years about the necessity to build more houses and the necessity to increase development in every way possible. I should like to refer to an article that appeared in the “ Sydney Morning Herald “ on 15th July last.
– That is a very reliable paper.
– I am not concerned about the paper, but I have no doubt that the United States Consul-General, who made the statement, meant what he said. He was referring to the attracting of overseas capital to Australia. During this Government’s term of office, about £500,000,000 of overseas capital has come to Australia, but we need a lot more. The article reads -
Three Sydney projects involving loans from America which might total 10,000,000 dollars were being held in abeyance because there was no guarantee of the repatriation of the capital.
I think there is much food for thought in a statement of that character. The article continues -
The right to repatriate capital had proved beneficial in the United Kingdom, West Germany, the Netherlands, and Japan. Loan funds and capital would flow more readily from the United States to Australia if there was a guarantee of repatriation.
Mr. Waring was speaking at a Sydney Junior Chamber of Commerce luncheon at the Trocadero on “ The Economics of our Times “. He said that because there was not enough capital to meet the world’s demands, Australia should offer inducements in the form of favourable terms and conditions to attract investment. The lower rate of interest in the United States in recent months would help to push loan funds abroad, but not when there was any doubt about convertibility.
Usually an equity investor, especially a company manufacturing a “ name “ product, had no plan for withdrawing its capital investment, but wanted to convert and remit profits. A lender such as an insurance company or an investment banker must ultimately obtain the return of the principal as well as the interest and would seek this assurance before approving a loan.
There was no competition between the United States and the United Kingdom for investment in Australia. Whatever the source, there was plenty of room for all the capital that could be attracted here. Mr. Waring said the success of General Motors-Holden’s Ltd. was attracting new capital from both the United Kingdom and the United States.
In the same paper on the same day there was another article containing a statement by a well-known - in fact, the best-known at present - Queensland real estate developer, a Mr. Grant, who had been in America for some months studying methods of land development. When he returned to Australia, he was interviewed by the press, and the “ Sydney Morning Herald “, of 15th July last, contains this report of that interview -
Mr. Grant announced that he had made arrangements for a very wealthy group of American investors to invest large sums in the building and financing of new homes in Australia. The deal provided for the building of at least 3,000 homes a year in Australia. These would be sold on JO per cent, deposit with repayments being made over 20 years at the current bank interest rate plus i per cent.
The scheme would require an initial investment of 30,000,000 dollars with further sums being required each year. Mr. Grant pointed out that the United States group would require some reasonable undertaking from the Federal Government guaranteeing it the right to repatriate the initial capital investment. In the past the Government has declined to give guarantees of this nature.
I understand that an American group is coming to Australia early in the new year to discuss this proposal with the Government. This question of repatriation of capital is an important one. Nobody would suggest for a moment that an overseas investor should be allowed to bring money into this country purely as a speculation, leave it lying idle in the bank in the hope of a fluctuation in the exchange rate, and be allowed to take that money out of the country whenever he wished. On the other hand, I think there is a very strong case for the attraction of capital to this country where it can be used to improve our economy. But the people who are prepared to bring that money here should know that that capital, having been used, can be taken out of the country in due course. I would not suggest for one moment that it should be permissible for all of the money to be taken out in a lump sum on very short notice, but some arrangement should be made whereby capital of that nature could be repatriated over a period of, say, five or six years. Such a provision would definitely encourage the bringing of more capital to this country, particularly American capital. That capital could only be beneficial to this country if there were reasonable safeguards about the speed with which it could be repatriated. Even from a defence point of view it is in our own interests to encourage as much American capital as possible to enter Australia. We all know how money talks at times. I am quite certain that any one with large sums of money invested in a country would be far more inclined to come quickly to that country’s defence in time of emergency than would some one who had nothing or only a small amount invested. That may seem a very mercenary outlook, but it takes account of the realities of the situation. Therefore, I believe that we should encourage overseas investors as much as we can.
It is with some regret that I find it necessary to mention the next matter with which I wish to deal. I am sure all honorable members will recall that, on 6th November of last year, in committee, the honorable member for Chisholm (Sir Wilfrid Kent Hughes) proposed an amendment to the Income Tax and Social Services Contribution Assessment Bill 1957 designed to permit donations of £1 or more made to the Australian Olympic Federation Appeal Fund to be claimed as deductions for income tax purposes. There was a considerable amount of meat in the remarks that the honorable gentleman made in support of his amendment. The honorable member for Petrie (Mr. Hulme) took exception to the proposal on several grounds. The two main grounds for his objection were, first, that he was not sure whether a proper approach to the Government had been made, and, secondly, that he did not feel that such an amendment should be proposed at short notice. I should like to assure the honorable member for Petrie that those two objections are not valid now. An approach has been made to the Government in plenty of time for it to have taken action if it intended acting. During the debate on the amendment proposed by the honorable member for Chisholm, the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) said -
Having in mind the many other deserving funds and institutions which have requested similar treatment, however, I personally would leave the matter of gifts to the Australian Olympic Federation Appeal for consideration in order of priority with other claims for income tax concessions. I promise the enthusiastic and conscientious honorable member that I will give consideration to the merits of the case in the next review of the Income Tax and Social Services Contribution Assessment Act.
It is quite understandable that, in framing a Budget such as this one, the Government has, apparently, not seen fit to give the request the consideration that I felt in my own heart had been promised. The proposal may have been considered, but I do not think that it has received sufficient consideration to achieve the desired result at the present time. This is regrettable, particularly when one considers the comparatively short time that now lies between us and the next Olympic Games, in Rome. I believe, Sir, that this is a matter of great importance in which the Government should give encouragement to the various athletic associations and sporting bodies concerned with the Olympic Games. I know that the Government has given those organizations some encouragement, but we must keep firmly in mind the fact that an appeal by the Australian Olympic Federation for funds for this purpose can be conducted only by a very small body of men who are the honorary officials of the federation. When they are conducting such an appeal, they are at the same time running their various sporting bodies and the Olympic councils in the States. Their time is limited, and most of them are not wealthy men. They cannot afford to take time off from their work to discharge these functions. We know only too well - the Treasurer himself has remarked on it - that people will not give generously, worthy though a cause may be, unless donations are made tax-free.
All this means that the Government will be forced by public opinion, if it has not made some arrangement to enable the Australian Olympic Federation to conduct a successful appeal as 1960 approaches, to provide the money required to send our team overseas. This would probably cost the Government much more than it would lose in revenue by allowing donations to appeals by the Olympic Federation to be claimed as income tax deductions, and thereby encouraging people to support these public appeals. If the appeals are supported adequately by the public, the Government will not find it necessary to pay considerable sums to meet the difference between the amounts raised by public appeal and the cost of sending teams overseas. I can understand why the Government has not seen fit to provide for this proposal in the current Budget, but I sin cerely hope that the suggestion will be put into effect at the earliest possible opportunity. I should like the Government to bear in mind, Sir, these words, which were written to me by a gentleman who is honorary secretary of the Olympic council in one of the States -
The time is not far off when the public will have to obtain transport of the Olympic Team by Government agency or forget all about Olympic Games. We cannot compete against Russian Finance and Government sponsorship with an honorary organisation for very much longer.
I should like the Government to keep those words in mind, because, unless something is done to assist the Australian Olympic Federation to raise money by these appeals, public opinion will force the Administration to pay the difference between the proceeds of an appeal and the cost of sending a team abroad.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– Mr. Temporary Chairman, the Budget now before the committee is one of the most irresponsible and pathetic that has ever been brought down in this chamber, and I wholeheartedly support the amendment proposed by the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) as a censure on the Government. The Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) said, in his Budget Speech - the Government is budgeting for an overall cash deficiency of £110,000,000 . . . and we plan to finance that gap by borrowing from the central bank.
In recent years, Mr. Temporary Chairman, a very great change has come over the thinking of the present Government parties. I well remember the time when the Scullin Government was in office between 1929 and 1931. When that Administration took over from the Bruce-Page Government, Australia was in a very parlous position indeed economically. The Scullin Government had a majority only in this chamber, and faced a hostile Senate controlled by the Nationalist party, which was a forerunner of the present Liberal party of Australia, and the Australian Country party. When the Scullin Government took office, Mr. Theodore, who was Treasurer, made inquiries to ascertain how bad the position was. He found that the incoming government had been left with insufficient funds to pay pensions and the salaries of public servants as they became due. The Scullin Government was at its wits’ end seeking a way out of the situation.
– The Bruce-Page Government had left insufficient funds in the Treasury.
– That is so. The Scullin Government was left in a position in which it could not possibly carry on.
– Nonsense! The Scullin Government succeeded in getting the money.
– The facts indicate that what I have said is absolutely true. When the Scullin Government found that it was unable to pay pensions and the salaries of public servants, it sought money from the Commonwealth Bank of Australia, but the hostile Senate prevented it from obtaining the necessary funds. Mr. Theodore decided to seek a fiduciary note issue of £18,000,000 in order to enable the government of the country to be carried on. The Senate prevented the passage of the enabling legislation, because the Governor of the Commonwealth Bank came along and used his endeavours to defeat it.
– He stood over them.
– As the honorable member says, he stood over the Government. The result was that there was no fiduciary note issue, and the public servants and pensioners were prevented from being paid their rightful dues. Later, in order to carry on, the Government decided to endeavour to pass legislation to permit the export of £10,000,000 worth of gold. When that legislation came before the Senate, it, too, was rejected. Yet when the Lyons Government replaced the Scullin Government, one of the first things that it did was to bring down in this chamber a bill to enable the export of a similar amount of gold so that the overseas budget could be balanced! That legislation was passed without any difficulty, although a few months earlier the proposals for a fiduciary note issue and the export of gold were defeated. That shows perfectly clearly that the Labour government was hamstrung. It had to go to the country, and the Lyons Government was elected. Supporters of this Government have no doubt changed their minds on bank credit.
The Treasurer said that during 1957-58, our economy, taken as a whole, made notable progress. He said, further, that although unemployment increased to some extent, it did not at any stage reach large proportions. I want to deal with the first of those statements. As a matter of fact, during this. Government’s term of office the economic position has become serious. The Budget is almost a declaration of political insolvency, which was the condition that prevailed when the Scullin Government took over from the Bruce-Page Government. The latter government had been carrying on in the haphazard manner of this Government.
Since 1949, Australia has experienced most bountiful seasons. It is indeed a prosperous country for some, particularly those who are reaping huge profits and dividends from industry, but nothing whatever is being done to relieve the distress of pensioners, the unemployed who are looking for work, the sick and the suffering, and the workers and their families.
I wish to quote an extract from the “ Sydney Morning Herald “ of 18th March, 1958, in relation to the debate in this chamber on the White Paper presented by the Prime Minister. The article reads -
By last Thursday night the Parliament had been debating the economic position and the housing shortage for five days. And at the end of it the public had been thrown into a greater state of confusion than when the interminably verbose debating project was embarked on at the beginning of the session.
The main responsibility for this unhappy outcome undoubtedly lies with the Prime Minister, Mr. Menzies, whose slap-dash speech last Tuesday night set the tone for the cavalier approach adopted on the Government side of the House
Two questions need to he answered. How badly did the Government spokesmen - principally the Prime Minister - perform? And why were the Government spokesmen so unhelpful?
From the very beginning Mr. Menzies suffered from a grave disadvantage: he was bored. He was bored not only with the Opposition, he was even bored with his subject. He is clearly sick to death of unemployment and the housing shortage.
The Prime Minister realized, as we realize to-day, that Australia’s position is deplorable. If the Government is allowed to continue in office our position will be the same as it was in 1949.
I now come to another matter. The States are to receive, during 1958-59, £210,000,000 for public works, of which half will come from public loans, and half from a special loan made by the Commonwealth. The whole amount will bear interest at the rate of approximatly 5 per Cent., so the interest bill of the States will rise by about £10,000,000. The Premier of Queensland, Mr. Nicklin, has made some very caustic statements about this loan, or the portion of it that Queensland is to receive. He complained about the niggardly amount of borrowing for public works, and the way in which the Government has treated the Queensland Government in the matter of tax reimbursement. He said -
I do not disguise the fact that we were gravely disappointed in being unable to obtain at Canberra a better financial deal for Queensland . . We also fared badly in our borrowing programme. Queensland has always received a disproportionately low allocation of the total approved borrowing programme. In the present instance it is 14.4 per cent, of the Australian total.
Figures for the last financial year, worked out on a per capita basis, show Queensland at the bottom of the list, with £14 3s. 2d., compared with Tasmania (the highest) £36 5s. and South Australia (second highest) £26 13s. 7d. . . .
There can be no justification for Queensland’s being singled out to receive an allocation which is only four-fifths of the Australian average and the lowest per capita of any State in Australia.
If the figures are expanded to combine the allocation for works with the amount allocated for Commonwealth-State housing, Queensland again receives the lowest allocation per capita - £16 7s. lid. compared with Tasmania £42 4s. 10d., South Australia £31 4s. 4d. and Western Australia £26 Hs. lid.
In other words, Queensland received only 80 per cent, of the Australian average.
– Who said that?
- Mr. Nicklin, the Premier of Queensland, wrote those words in a newspaper article. This is what he complains of-
– Read the other bits.
– I shall read what the honorable member has asked me to read, which appeared in the Brisbane press for everybody to see. Part of the article reads -
Queensland’s enormous area, its low population density, and its tremendous coastline and distances completely justify the needs of the State’s development being served by at least an equal borrowing approval per capita.
As I emphasised at the Loan Council Meeting, these factors would justify Queensland getting a per capita borrowing allowance above the Australia average.
Queensland’s position in regard to the loan programme has not changed for a number of years. In my opinion, Queensland is one of the States which has justifiably been looking for a greater allocation of loan money in order to carry out great developmental works that are very necessary not only for Queensland’s own progress, but also for the defence of the nation. Another part of Mr. Nicklin’s article reads -
Because of the disproportionate and unrealistic operation of the formula for tax reimbursement this State may be forced reluctantly to become a claimant State on the same footing as South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania.
Under the present setup those States enjoy advantages denied Queensland, although ironically enough, this State unquestionably has the greatest potential of any Australian State for development.
That statement, of course, is true, and its truth has been borne out by the statements of a number of Commonwealth Ministers who have visited Queensland recently, particularly the Prime Minister, who had a lot to say about the development of northern Queensland.
– He discovered its existence only about a month ago.
– That was the first time he showed any understanding of Queensland’s needs, or visited the northern part of Queensland. Mr. Nicklin’s article continued -
The share of the total tax reimbursement amount paid to Queensland has shown a steady decline. Where Queensland received 17 per cent, of the total tax reimbursement grant in the initial years, that percentage has steadily reduced until to-day it is a little above 15) per cent.
So Queensland is not receiving justice in the way of tax reimbursement, and more should be done to assist that State than has been done for many years.
– The only way to achieve that is to change this Government.
– As the honorable member for Wilmot points out, the only way to get the desired results is to change this Government. I am quite satisfied that when the general election takes place on 22nd November the present Government will get a rude shock. The Labour party will be returned to office with an overwhelming majority.
In dealing with the neglect of Queensland by the Commonwealth, particularly during the past nine or ten years, I want to ask the Liberal members of this Parliament who come from Queensland just what they have done, and what they are trying to do, to assist in the completion of Queensland’s great developmental works, which are being carried out under great difficulties. Honorable members opposite who hail from Queensland have had nothing to say about helping with the completion of these works. They have not raised their voices in criticism of the insufficient loan allocation made by the Loan Council to Queensland. Only members on this side of the House have spoken of that.
In Queensland, several important developmental works are being constructed out of loan money. It is impossible for the Queensland Government to complete these projects unless it gets assistance other than that afforded by the Loan Council. I have often thought it rather strange that Queensland has to depend solely on the Loan Council for financing its works programme, while New South Wales, Victoria and. to some degree, South Australia, are to be the beneficiaries of a huge project costing about £400,000,000, financed out of revenue. But Queensland gets nothing.
Among Queensland’s great developmental projects is the Burdekin Valley irrigation and hydro-electric scheme which, whilst it is not nearly complete, has enabled the settlement on the land of at least 300 farmers, who are making a very good living and developing the area in which they are settled. Then we have the MareebaDimbulah irrigation scheme, to cost £20,000,000. which will have a storage capacity of 900,000,000 gallons of water. It is estimated that within the next twelve or eighteen months at least 1.400 settlers will be placed in areas to be served by that scheme. Then there is the Tully hydroelectric scheme, which is to cost £16,300,000. There are also the Mount lsa-Mary Kathleen developmental work, and the strengthening of the railway between Townsville and Mount Isa. It has not been stated whether the Queensland Government will be called on to pay back the money used for that project, or whether the Commonwealth will bear the whole of the cost in the same way as it is doing in connexion with the Snowy Mountains hydro-electric scheme.
– How much Commonwealth money has been spent on these projects that you have mentioned?
– None whatever! Then we have the Weipa bauxite deposits in north Queensland, where much important work has been, and remains to be, done. There again, I am wondering whether this Government intends to assist the Queensland Government with that project. 1 doubt that it will. I want to know what honorable members opposite from Queensland have to say, and whether they will voice any criticism of the Government’s policy in regard to these projects.
– This Government will support the Queensland Government.
– I hope that that proves to be so, but I have not heard any honorable member on the Government side of the House supporting the Labour party’s request for Commonwealth assistance to complete the projects I have mentioned.
Sitting suspended from 12.45 to 2.15 p.m.
– I now wish to deal with the question of social services. I regret very much, as I am sure the majority of the people of Australia do, that since 1949 there has been no increase in the maternity allowance and no increase in child endowment, except the provision of 5s. a week for the first child. I am pleased to note that the wives and families of ex-servicemen are to receive a slight increase in their allowance; but it is not very much. I regret that very little has been done for the pensioners. Some are to have the benefit of a slight concession in respect of rents, but it seems wrong that this should be in danger of being eaten up by a general increase in rents. The Queensland Government has abolished rent control, and this will inevitably mean that pensioners in that State will be called upon to pay higher rent.
During this debate the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Harold Holt) and also the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Pearce) said that this
Government had done more for the pensioners than had any previous government. Both those honorable gentlemen told the old story that on only one occasion were pensions reduced and that was during the term of the Scullin Labour Government. That statement is not in accordance with fact. On more than one occasion I have drawn the attention of Government supporters to a pamphlet which was issued many years ago and have asked them to study it. This matter has been referred to by several members of both the Liberal party and the Australian Country party. Although it is true that the Scullin Government was compelled, owing to shortage of funds, to reduce pensions from £1 a week to 17s. 6d.. the Lyons Government which succeeded it reduced the rate of pension by another 2s. 6d. a week. The Lyons Government went even further; its pension legislation practically compelled relatives to maintain their parents. For instance, married pensioners who owned their home were called upon to mortgage it to the Government so that when they passed on the Government could recover from their estate the amount of Dension which they had received during their lifetime. Therefore, it is not true for honorable members on the Government side to say that pensions were reduced only on the occasion when the Scullin Government reduced them.
Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- I have listened to, and in some cases read, the speeches of honorable members on this Budget, with great interest and I find, on balance, that really much more has been said in praise of it than in condemnation of it. So many honorable members opposite seem to have shown a complete lack of appreciation of the situation which faces us to-day. both inside and outside Australia that the points which they thought they were making only went to prove the wisdom of the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) in taking the course that he has followed. But this sort of thing is inherent in Labour thinking; it is nothing new.
Back in the ‘thirties when the fall in prices of raw materials and foodstuffs caused such a sharp fall in our export income and led to the disastrous depression of those days, members of the Australian Labour party completely failed to appreciate that the trouble was world-wide. The steps which they advocated then were just as unrealistic as those which they are advocating now. At that time they took the sort of panic action which could only result in a loss of confidence by investors - I mean investors both overseas and in Australia. When the Labour party became the Government in 1929 it tried to isolate Australia from the rest of the world, with the result that unemployment increased. A situation which was bad became grave, and it very quickly became apparent to the people of Australia that the Liberal party and the Australian Country party could provide the only type of government which could retain the confidence of the people as well as of overseas interests. The great majority of Australians were aware of the disaster which would follow if a socialist party was allowed to become the government of this country.
The decisions which the Government made in framing this Budget were courageous and honest; they will preserve the great advance made in our secondary industries and will also induce overseas investors to continue to participate in the development of this country. This will ensure the maintenance of our exports at the high level necessary for a continuance of that development.
He would have been a peculiar sort of Treasurer who, in the face of falling revenue went out of his way merely to please people by giving them some parting gift or farewell present and then sat back hoping that something would turn up to save the situation. The people of New Zealand are now realizing how dearly they will have to pay for the lavish prodigality of the Labour Government’s gift of a £100 reduction in their income tax. But that seems to be the only idea which the Labour party has - how to frame budgets and cultivate friends. Its policy is to give the people soothing syrup and lull them into a false sense of well-being. It is prepared to hand out tranquilizer pills in its endeavour to gain control of the Treasury at any price. Fortunately for Australia, this Government prefers to face the facts and to bring down the sort of Budget that is needed to meet the circumstances of the day.
I add my congratulations to those already expressed by so many other honorable members on the sound, commonsense approach of the Treasurer. In his own words, he brought down a Budget that would materially support business investment and consumer spending and so help to offset the effects of continued low export earnings. I compliment him on the restrained manner in which he has coped with a difficult situation. Business investment is supported by the emphasis placed on curbing inflation, and consumer spending will be stimulated by the impact of £110,000,000 worth of treasury-bills, and the reinvestment of cash conversions that are coming due. These will be in the neighbourhood of £80,000,000, and are supplementary to the £75,000,000 that has already been released from central bank reserves and is having its effect on our internal finance.
Any one who makes a careful study of the Budget can appreciate the reasons for the decisions that have been made, even though they may not be in agreement with all of them. During the year, we all make representations to the Treasurer on matters that we feel should receive attention. We all have our regrets when we find that those matters have not been dealt with as we had hoped they would be. I had hoped, for instance, that the Treasurer would have seen the wisdom of getting rid of the pay-roll tax. If he had done so, prices of the whole range of commodities would have been lowered. There is not a single item in the stores that would not have felt the effect of the abolition of pay-roll tax. I believe that the Government loses half of the amount collected by this tax because the States include the amount that they pay in pay-roll tax in their reimbursements and, as it is a tax deduction, the income tax paid by others is reduced. Every £1 collected raises the prices of goods by £2. The Tariff Board has made that estimate, but I think the effect is greater.
I would certainly have been happy if this tax had been removed from the wages paid by municipalities. Worthy councillors working in an honorary capacity have had a hard enough time doing all they can within the limits of the rates that they are able to impose. The businessman passes the tax on to the customer, but councils cannot do that. The result is that the amount of work that can be done for the ratepayer is curtailed.
In the sales tax field, dozens of anomalies are screaming out for correction. I am very disappointed that the Treasurer has not taken this opportunity to correct some of them, not necessarily at great cost. The sales tax legislation needs tidying up. I have in mind such things as the sales tax on ice cream, which penalizes an already depressed industry. It is just as unjustifiable as the harsh treatment of the dried fruits industry. Sales tax is imposed on raisin bread, plum puddings and lines of that nature. None of the ingredients used in these nutritious foods is itself taxed, but because some one makes them into a palatable food they become taxable. I cannot see any justification for taxing any food. Once again, it means an unnecessary raising of price levels, when we should be making an effort to reduce prices.
Sales tax provides a large sum within the total of our revenue. I notice that the increase in this Budget is nearly £10,000,000. However, the worst feature of sales tax is that it increases costs. I believe that we could reduce costs and prices considerably if we were to tidy up and simplify the application of sales tax. Let us take as an example the pastrycook trade. All over the countryside, small bakery businesses must keep records in triplicate of every jam tart or cream puff that they make. They must keep the fruit pies separate from the meat pies because one is taxable and the other is not. They must calculate the tax and send in a cheque each month, and if they are late they must pay a penalty. This has the effect of raising the prices of their goods by 4d. a dozen. I am sure that they would gladly reduce prices by 6d. a dozen if they could rid themselves of the cost of all this book work.
In large wholesale houses, sales tax is a nightmare. The increase in costs is far greater than the amount collected by the Government. I am quite certain that industry as a whole would cheerfully accept an equivalent rise in overall taxes in exchange for the opportunity to dispense with the special staff needed to do this work. A special staff is needed to keep the records, to single out the taxable from the nontaxable, to apply the varying rates on closely related lines and to do the fiddling that is necessary in calculating the tax on small items and refunds on returns or bad debts. Where the tax is on a single item of considerable value, the work involved is not so great. I suggest to the future Treasurer, whoever he may be, that if all items under an individual value of, say, £10 were exempted, or if tax of less than £1 were waived, the stimulus to industry would warrant the loss in revenue.
My main purpose in speaking on the Budget is to examine it from the point of view of its effect on our rural community. Throughout the Budget, I find continued references to the fall in our export income. That means a fall in the income of country people, because 85 per cent, of our export income comes from the proceeds of overseas sales of farm products, either raw or in manufactured form. In his speech, the Treasurer noted that the fall in farm incomes is nearly £180,000,000, or about onethird of last year’s income. However, so strong has been the support given to all forms of primary industry by this Government that the impact of this big setback has been absorbed by the farming community with no more than a bracing of the shoulders to take the shock and a rolling up of sleeves to retrieve the situation.
Many wheat men have saved the disaster of the lean season by turning to sheep. In dairying, over-production of butter fat has caused many farmers who can read the signs to turn to the raising of fat lambs or vealers on 10 per cent, of their herds, and to other devices that are designed to channel their very arduous work into the production of goods that can be sold at a more profitable price. In the 1930’s, such a blow as the primary industries have received had the effect of depressing the whole community, but to-day, because of the diversity of interests and the resilience that has been built into our internal economy, the impact of lower spending power by our farming community has not resulted in any drastic curtailment of employment. The overall restraint on imports maintained by this Government under import licensing has encouraged the establishment of more and more secondary industries and the expansion of existing industries. It is, of course, essential that our exports must be maintained at a high enough level to earn the funds to pay for our imports. But such is the changing character of Australian trade to-day that only about 23 per cent, of our imports are in consumer goods; 51 per cent, consists of raw materials for our factories and workshops and another 26 per cent, of machinery and equipment. This makes the Government very conscious of the importance of maintaining our primary industries at the most prosperous level possible. It is aware of the importance of the impact of farm income on internal standards, as well as its vitally necessary role in keeping our secondary industries expanding. The Government is aware of the fact that primary industries must remain prosperous if our great immigrant intake is to be maintained and absorbed, and if we are to show the world that we intend to make Australia a land of greater opportunity for the coming generation, and a land that no foreign power can wrest from us. No other government could be as conscious as this one of the great part that is played by our primary industries.
This year honorable members opposite seem to be making a great play for the support of the farmers. They are members of a party that is dominated by Trades Hall councils and by outside influences concerned only with trade union politics and too often largely influenced by infiltrated Communist thought. The farming community of Australia will continue to put its trust in this Government. On this side of the committee there are 57 Liberals, nearly half of them representing country electorates. Thirty of them are from metropolitan electorates and 27 from country districts. Taking into account our eighteen good friends of the Australian Country party, the preponderance of representation in the Government is rural. It is monstrous to suggest that this Government is not concerned with the welfare of the farmers. Of course it is! In a Budget in which it has been necessary to keep up the levels of taxation imposts to offset reduced revenue, it is the rural sector that has been given the benefit of what concessions it has been possible to make.
The extension of the depreciation allowance of 20 per cent, on plant and structural improvements will keep up the great improvement that has been made in working conditions, allowing farmers to erect houses for employees or share farmers, to improve sheds and machinery, to encourage fodder conservation and lighten the physical strain of farm work. The fishing industry, too, is to have this depreciation allowance and be given the benefit of averaging income for purposes of income tax returns.
The increase in zone allowance for residents of remote areas is a direct attempt to encourage production of the primary industries suitable to those areas. Any one who has been to the Northern Territory cannot fail to have realized the great improvement that could be made in the turn-off of cattle if more suitable labour was available for fencing, pasture improvement and other developmental works on the grand scale. The great mineral wealth of the north is likely to become the foundation of one of our most valuable primary industries, and its encouragement by this zone allowance, and the concession offered for oil exploration, are both indications of the interest of this Government in pursuing every possible avenue to exploit our natural potential.
Although not specifically mentioned in the Budget, a great impetus will be given to the drive for exports. Our trade commissioner service has been stepped up and geared to the task of getting out and selling our products, both primary and secondary, in every country that looks like a possible market. In our traditional market, the United Kingdom, about £1,000,000 will be spent this year by the Government, industry marketing boards and wholesale merchants in increasing the sales of Australian products. More and more the brand “ Made in Australia “ is finding its way into the markets of the world, and Australian businessmen are realizing the great value of trade missions to likely markets, particularly in our near north. I tried to interest the Victorian Chamber of Manufactures in a drive to sell Australian products in South-East Asia by sending a trade ship around that area back in 1931 or 1932. Perhaps it was a little before its time. In any case, nothing came of it. But there is no doubt that the South-East Asian area is our greatest potential new market, and we are straining every nerve to find the key that will open it to us. The Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen) has just left to attend a most vital conference that will consider the whole question of world prices of primary products, to the mutual benefit of all concerned.
If honorable members opposite were honest in their claim that they want to build up Australia’s secondary industry they could help in this great drive by urging the trade union movement to cooperate in increasing production and cutting costs, thus helping in the battle for these markets. The honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) demonstrated the warped thinking of the Labour party on this question the other day, when he claimed that, in 1949, “We were in a happy position because our cost structure, which is most important in relation to primary industry, was the lowest in the world. To-day our cost structure in relation to primary production - our main export field1 - is nearly the highest in the world.” This is, unfortunately, only too true. Why is this so? Because the costs of secondary industries, which provide the things primary producers have to buy in order to carry on their jobs, have been inflated by the deliberate encouragement, by the stooges of political labour in the unions, of otherwise willing workers to indulge in go-slow tactics and limitation of output.
– Tommy rot!
– You can only get out of industry what you put into it. If Labour wants more out of industry it must put more into it.
Last year we negotiated a trade agreement with Japan that has had most beneficial effects on the sale of many of our primary products. We are all conscious of the importance of wool, for which Japan is our second-best customer, but Japan has also taken appreciable quantities of our barley and sugar. The Queensland Butter Board has even managed to make some headway in selling both butter and milk powder to a nation which has had very little traditional use for these products. The Japanese have bought some thousands of good Jersey cows, many of them from districts within the electorate of McMillan, and I am hopeful that their interest in dairy products will be greatly stimulated as their standard of living rises.
One of our greatest problems, of course, is how we are to compete with Japan in selling many of the products that we should be able to dispose of in the South-East Asian area. The Government is doing all it can to interest potential buyers; management and marketing boards are examining every aspect of potential markets. If Labour would assist in this great work by stimulating interest in output and in reduction of costs - and I remind them that the resultant benefits would also be reflected in local prices - we should be capable of meeting any competition in those markets to our north that are as yet only potentials. The appointment of the Export Development Council is another indication of the Government’s intense concern in expanding our sales promotion efforts to the utmost.
As we go in detail through the Estimates next week we will come to realize the great fillip being given to primary industry by the special research and sales promotion programmes in so many branches of primary industry, and we will get some idea of the amount being spent by this Government on extension services designed to bring the knowledge gained to the farmers. The work of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization is of incalculable value, and ranges through almost every phase of primary production. So great is the contribution of this organization that I apologize for giving it only a line or two of mention. Unfortunately, time is against me.
To assist further the dairying industry, which is again receiving a bounty payment of £13,500,000 this year, making a total of £138,000,000 received from this Government, it is intended in this session to introduce a bill to enable the Australian Dairy Produce Board to engage in trade promotion, in addition to its present role of marketing and stabilization. The wool, wheat, barley, tobacco and fruit industries all make a joint contribution, together with this Government, to research.
Dairying has a problem of cutting costs and stimulating consumption. Research must be aimed at making butter more desirable than margarine. We must bring home to Australian mothers that one of the reasons for our prowess in sport, and our self-reliant if somewhat carefree character, is the safe, healthy, natural foods that are so abundant here at prices within the reach of every one. They must nourish their families with milk and butter, and not give them indigestion with oily margarine. Thought must be given to a “ quality mark “ and cream that is second grade or worse must be rejected at the factories. With the emphasis on selfservice stores, packaging must be designed so that it virtually asks the customer to pick up the butter because it has more eye appeal. These are some of the problems that the dairying industry has to face.
Dairying has a rather unfortunate history in Australia, as it is the only one of our primary industries that is not able to command the cost of production on the local market. Having had a bounty foisted on it by a Labour government to keep down the price of butter to the consumer and, at the same time, avoid an increase in the basic wage owing to its effect on the C series index, this section of the dairying industry has been on a completely artificial basis ever since. The industry has been bedevilled by the idea of a “ guaranteed minimum return “, at a “ found cost “, for that part of the total production that is made up of home consumption plus 20 per cent, thereof.
Changing circumstances have forced the Government and the industry’s leaders to restate the early terms of agreement between them on the following lines: - First, the Commonwealth determines the amount of bounty prior to the beginning of each year. I emphasize that this was done at the request of the industry’s leaders. Second, the Commonwealth then informs the Dairy Industry Council of this decision and seeks its advice on other factors such as competition from margarine, the prospective return from overseas sales, the trend of export values and so on. Third, the industry then makes a recommendation on local price which the Government announces. Under these terms, the Government and the industry, through its leaders, both take a calculated risk as to whether the objective return is reached or not - and a calculated risk as to whether the total funds available from local sales, export sales and a bounty will give a return more or less than the “ guaranteed price “. In fact, the “ guaranteed price “ to which the individual farmer clings with such nostalgia is, alas, no more.
The dairy-farmer who is fortunate enough to have a contract for the supply of whole milk to any capital city is in a reasonable position. Outside that, the industry is burdened with a great number of farmers who are condemned to the less remunerative supply of butter fat. There can be no doubt that this is due in part to the fact that butter fat has enjoyed some degree of price support. The price of butter has been kept at an artificially low figure by the payment of a bounty. Now that margarine has become a major threat to the industry, its leaders dare not let the price of butter go up to a figure that would allow the industry to secure the cost of production, which is fondly known as the “ guaranteed price “. Nor would the Government be warranted in forcing the price up.
In the last two or three years, with overseas prices plunging to lower and lower levels and a sharp increase in the sales promotion of margarine, the overall return has reached the stage where only producers in the favorably situated areas, such as the lush fields around Warragul district or in South Gippsland, can carry on at even a small profit. Even in those favoured areas, it is necessary for farmers to take advantage of every bit of their inherent knowhow and study of the elements of pasture improvement and feeding to break even. Despite that, we find that State governments are still intent on opening up new areas. Those areas will be given over to dairying, and although each year shows a large number of farmers turning to other avenues such as grazing, fat lamb raising and similar production, others come into the industry attracted by the quick cash return and regular income from - dairying. This is something of which the Government is very conscious, and the Government Members Food and Agriculture Committee is examining this matter closely with a view to finding a basis on which dairying can be assured of a sound and profitable return.
I am very glad to support this Budget. It tackles the problems of to-day, and I reject the amendment that has been submitted by the Leader of the Opposition. In making his choice of the sort of Budget that Australia needs in the light of world conditions, the Treasurer has chosen what appears to be sound and responsible; and I applaud him on his choice.
.- The Budget is meritorious in one respect only, and that is that it is the final Budget that will be introduced by the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) before his retirement from politics. The Treasurer has had a long and distinguished career in this House, and it can be said safely that the record he has created in introducing so many Budgets is unlikely to be surpassed. I should like to join with the many other honorable members who have congratulated him on his performance and have offered him their best wishes for a long, happy and healthy retirement and good health. Although our political opinions differ, the Treasurer and I have come to know each other fairly well, and whilst I cannot agree with many of the arguments advanced by him on the need to introduce a Budget such as this and others of a similar pattern, I do believe that on all occasions he has done what he thought to be in the interests of Australia. I feel certain that all who have known the Treasurer in the political arena will regard him, as I do, as a dinkum Aussie.
It is a great pity, therefore, that I have to criticize his last major work; but the Budget which he has introduced leaves me no other course. It is a dreary, uninspiring document, lacking in foresight and enthusiasm, without a semblance of confidence in the industries or the people of Australia. It has done nothing to solve the problems confronting a developing nation. It has left those sections of the community who are forced to rely on social services for a meagre existence without hope for the future. All sections of the community have been vociferous in their condemnation of the Budget. Even those who ordinarily are expected to say some word of praise for anything done by this Government have openly and harshly added their criticism. Government members have been reluctant in their support of the Budget, and many who have spoken have been very careful to devote their remarks to subjects as far removed from the Budget as possible.
– That is not fair.
– It may not be fair, but it is true. The honorable member for McMillan (Mr. Buchanan) who has just spoken in the debate, devoted much of his time to a plea for the dairying industry of Australia. I realize that that industry does need some sort of protection, and the honorable member was quite entitled to put a case for those in his electorate who are engaged in the dairying industry and whom he represents in this chamber. But during the course of his remarks, the honorable member said that if the Labour party wanted to build up secondary industries in Australia, it should see that the unions cooperated with industry.
While the honorable member spent much of his time saying that the dairy farmers had a right to make a profit and to expect better conditions than they have at present and better prices for their products, he denies the right of the workers to receive for their labour a just and equitable wage. It annoys me to find so many supporters of the Government continually criticizing the Australian worker and continually saying that it is time the Australian workers cooperated with management and did a better day’s work. There is nobody in the world who can do a better job than the Australian worker. Part of the problem in Australia to-day is that the management of industry is inefficient rather than that the workers in industry are inefficient. The co-operation of the workers will be readily forthcoming and the Australian Labour party will ensure, to the best of its ability, that the trade unions give co-operation to industry providing that industry is willing to concede the amenities and conditions to labour which it rightly deserves.
The honorable member for McMillan also remarked that this Government came into power because the Australian people did not regard highly a socialistic government. But I remind honorable members that the Australian Labour party government - the so-called socialist government - was the government that the people turned to in 1941 when this country was in its hour of greatest need and from 1941, right through the war years, it was the same socialistic Australian Labour party government that the people allowed to remain in office. I quite believe that the Australian Labour party government was the government which set the sails towards the prosperity that we have enjoyed from 1948 onwards. The present Government was fortunate to take over the reins of office after plans had been made by the late Ben Chifley to guide the country in the right direction, and see that development was occurring in the right places. The present Government has had only to watch those plans come to fruition, but claims them as all its own work.
The Budget allows very few concessions. One of them is the 10s. supplementary payment to age, invalid and widow pensioners. Although only one statement has been made on that subject by the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Roberton), it would appear from that statement that this supplementary payment will disappoint many pensioners. I would say that no more than ten in each 100 pensioners will be entitled to this 10s. supplementary payment. I feel that all sorts of embargoes and conditions will be placed upon the granting of the supplementary allowance. Those embargoes and conditions will be put there by the Government in order to restrict to the lowest number possible those entitled to receive this benefit. Government supporters who are taking some credit for the fact that the Budget has allowed this concession will realize that the Government does not really want to do anything for those people who so rightly deserve assistance.
The Budget also lacks any mention of an increase in the allowance to the wives of invalid pensioners, who for many years have been receiving an allowance which is not sufficient to maintain them. Certainly, the husband receives his invalid pension; but the wife is only paid an allowance although she has to stay at home the whole day and attend to her invalid husband. I feel it is time that the wives’ allowance for invalid pensioners should be increased.
I turn now to a subject that I have mentioned on two or three occasions. It is child endowment. There was a great deal of activity by various sections of the community, prior to the introduction of this Budget, in order to have child endowment increased. We had a deputation here from the Union of Australian Women asking for increases in child endowment and maternity allowances and the extension of child endowment right through the school years of the child. There is no doubt that child endowment payments are totally inadequate.
The high cost of living, the high cost of rearing a family, and the need to assist larger families are matters that this Government must look to as soon as possible. Parents find it practically impossible to meet the cost of children’s clothing, their education and their food, particularly if they happen to be purchasing a home at the same time and have rates and taxes to pay. There has been no increase in child endowment since 1950. when endowment for the first child was introduced. At that time the basic wage was approximately £6 18s. a week. To-day, the basic wage is £13 a week, but child endowment still remains the same. Despite the great rise in the basic wage, nothing has been done to alleviate the hardship and suffering of the parents of our young children.
I should like to compare the age pension and child endowment payments from 1941 onwards. The figures are as follows: -
In other words, since 1941, when child endowment was first introduced, the age pension has increased from 21s. 6d. to 87s. 6d. a week, a rise of 66s. Child endowment, which was paid at the rate of 5s. for the second and subsequent children in 1941, is paid at the rate of 5s. for the first child and 10s. for the second and subsequent children in 1958. In other words, there has been an overall increase of 10s. in child endowment compared to the increase of 66s. in the rate of age pension.
If it was good enough to increase the rate paid to age pensioners, who rightly deserve the rise they got and even more, it was good enough to give consideration to the parents of our children by keeping the purchasing power of child endowment at its 1941 level. The Government and its supporters have indicated in this chamber and elsewhere, from time to time, that they believe in child endowment. In 1941, when he introduced legislation to provide for child endowment, the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Harold Holt) said that child endowment was being provided in an endeavour to allow parents with more than one child to meet the cost of living. He said that in 1941. and he said something similar in 1950 when he introduced legislation to provide endowment for the first child. But since 1950 - a period of eight years - the Government has done nothing whatever to help the parents of children. The people most urgently in need of assistance are parents with three or more children, because to-day the cost of living is so high that those parents are unable to enjoy many of the amenities of life that should be available to them. They have to go without a new suit, a new dress, or a new pair of shoes in order to provide food and clothing for their children. Parents are doing a service to Australia by helping to increase our population, and they should receive greater consideration from the Government.
T urge this Government to do something to help mothers and fathers in Australia to provide for themselves and their families. If they are not given some assistance they will not be able to provide for their children in a proper manner.
T turn now to the subject of education, which also concerns the future of Australia. Education is fast becoming a problem that is too large for the States to handle. Their financial position is such that they are unable to devote sufficient money to education. The education problem has been accentuated by the immigration policy of this Government and past Labour governments. Australia needed population, and rightly turned to immigration as the answer. But because of the large influx of immigrants we find that our schools are now overcrowded and understaffed. They are badly in need of repairs or extensions, and many cities and towns require new schools. The States cannot find the money to provide those new schools or to repair or add to existing ones.
Throughout the country there is a grow ing move to obtain Commonwealth aid for education. That move is backed not only by teachers and parents and citizens’ associations, but also by leaders of industry, chambers of commerce, chambers of manufactures, trade unions and all people who recognize that education needs the encouragement and assistance of the Commonwealth Government. This Government has granted assistance to the universities. After the Murray report was published, the Government acted rather swiftly, for this Government, to put into effect some of the recommendations contained in that report. If we are to have an efficient education system it must be efficient from the kindergarten to the university. To provide assistance only at the university level is to ignore part of the problem. Assistance must be provided from the kindergarten stage, through primary and secondary stages, to the university level. The problem of education must be recognized by the Government, and I suggest that a committee similar to the Murray committee should be appointed by the Government to investigate the problem of education and make necessary recommendations to the Government for their implementation as soon as possible.
My friend, the honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie), reminds me that education is receiving a great deal of consideration by members of the Labour party, which has a very active education committee examining the problems of education. The Labour party is waiting to announce its policy on education for the forthcoming elections, which will, no doubt, restore Labour to the treasury bench.
Schools in all the States are overcrowded. Enrolments in New South Wales increased from 339,000 in 1946 to 500,000 in 1958. Enrolments in South Australia increased from 70,843 in 1946 to 145,635 in 1958. In Western Australia, enrolments increased from 57,178 in 1946 to 111,000 in 1958. The figures for the Commonwealth show that 823,100 pupils were enrolled in 1946, but the approximate figure for 1958 is 1.500,000.
The size of school classes is also a problem. Professor C. R. McRae has said that if a class numbers more than 30 pupils the teacher cannot give education as it is now conceived. In New South Wales, 93.5 per cent, of pupils, or 448,000 children, are taught in classes exceeding 30 pupils. In Tasmania, 92.3 per cent, of primary school classes consist of more than 30 pupils, and 65 per cent, of those classes contain more than 40 pupils. In the secondary schools in Tasmania, 70.3 per cent, of classes consist of more than 35 pupils, and 39.6 per cent, of classes have more than 40 pupils. In Victoria, in the primary schools, 34 per cent, of classes have more than 45 pupils, and in the secondary and technical schools 25 per cent, of classes contain more than 35 pupils. There is a grave shortage of classes as well as a grave shortage of schools. In New South Wales, 170 new schools are required. Finance can be made available in this financial year to provide only about 25 schools. Yet the New South Wales Government spent almost £36,000,000 on education in 1956-57. In 1957-58, the amount spent on education by the New South Wales Government was estimated to be about £38,500,000. In 1956-57, the expenditure on education represented 55.1 per cent, of the actual tax reimbursements, 35.1 per cent, of the total amount allocated to departments, and 28.5 per cent, of the total estimated Budget expenditure. In the financial year 1957-58, expenditure on education in New South Wales represented 54.5 per cent, of the estimated tax reimbursement grants, 35.2 per cent, of the total amount allocated to government departments, and 28.5 per cent of the total estimated Budget expenditure.
This difficult problem of education must receive the attention of the Government, because the education of our children must improve in this age of automation, technology and science. The school leaving age must be raised. In Victoria, legislation to raise the school leaving age has been enacted, but it has not been put into effect because the shortage of teachers and classrooms makes it impossible for children to be kept at school any longer than at present. In justice to itself and to the children of Australia, Mr. Temporary Chairman, this Government should give Commonwealth aid for education in order to ensure Australia’s future, because the States find it absolutely impossible to carry the burden of the costs of education. Up to a point, they are doing a wonderful job, but because they have not the necessary finance they are unable to do as much as they would like to do.
– -Why do they not ask for help for education?
– I recall an occasion when they did ask for help and the Treasurer replied, in these terms: “ You will get it over my dead body! “
– What absolute nonsense! What is the honorable member’s authority for that? Where has it ever been reported that that was said? The honorable member should know better than to make an inaccurate and extravagant statement such as that.
– 1 think it was reported in the newspapers in 1956, if the Minister wants to look it up. It is rarely that one is given- notice of one’s day of judgment. The only instance of it that I can quickly call to mind is that of the condemned criminal who is sentenced to be hanged by the neck until dead on a day appointed for his execution. The Menzies-Fadden Government is in a position similar to that of a condemned prisoner, for, on 22nd- November, 1958 - the recently announced date of the next general election - it will meet its doom. On that date, it will face the Australian electors, and its record will be judged for what it is worth. Broken promises, inflation, unemployment, decreased purchasing power, lack of housing, import restrictions, high taxation, inadequate social services, extravagance and waste - these are the record on which this Government will be judged. This record, in itself, will condemn the Government in the eyes of the Australian electors. But if further proof of its incompetence and inability to govern is needed, it is to be found in the last act of the Treasurer in presenting to the Parliament this dreary and uninspiring document, which is lacking in foresight, initiative, enthusiasm and confidence, and which should for all time sound the death-knell of the worst government in Australia’s history.
.- Mr. Temporary Chairman, the peroration of the honorable member for Lang (Mr. Stewart) reminded me that I have heard the same story before every general election that has been held since 1949. On every occasion, the same wail goes out. I am satisfied that the people of Australia will recognize the good work that this Government has done and will elect a Menzies-McEwen government to office on 22nd November next.
I was a member of the Queensland Parliament when the Treasurer (Sir Arthur
Fadden) first entered public life in Australia, and at that time there began a very close personal and political friendship which has remained constant through the intervening years. To-day, I share the pride that the right honorable gentleman must feel in his many achievements, the latest being the attainment of a record term as Treasurer of the Commonwealth and the attainment also of a record total of Budgets brought down by a Commonwealth Treasurer. On this latest achievement, I offer him my warm congratulations. The right honorable gentleman’s long term in an exacting office, like the public service of other great public men, has taken heavy toll of his health. I am sure that he will leave the public stage with the goodwill of all men and with their heartfelt wishes for a happy life in retirement. When the Treasurer retires, he not only will escape the public pressure that has been upon him over the years but also will miss the close friendship of men who measure up to the high standards of decency expected of public men. I know that when I retire, after some 34 years in the Queensland Parliament and this Parliament, I shall greatly miss that comradeship and good fellowship which are such outstanding features of this Parliament, and which are so evident on all sides of the Parliament when a member’s health gives out. When that happens, the personal sympathy that he receives is very warm and very real. The warm humanity of Mr. Speaker fittingly symbolizes this comradeship and fellowship, and I shall not forget the great help that 1 have received from Mr. Speaker in the adversity of bad health.
Opposition members, Mr. Temporary Chairman, in opposing the Government, find nothing of value in this Budget. That kind of approach has not been unusual since I have been in this Parliament. The Australian Labour party has seen no good in any of the Budgets brought down by the Treasurer in the last four years. I regard the present Budget as being nationally sound. Therefore, it would be of little value to the Opposition. It is a good Budget, Sir. Happily, there is no gloom in it. It reveals a situation of national expansion and vividly explains Australia’s continuing prosperity. There is no real poverty in this country. The Australian people, after all, are well fed, well clothed, and well sheltered. There is a progressive feeling of wanting more “ chips “ for continuing prosperity and the amenities of life that the people enjoy at the present time. In fact, people in all walks of life, Mr. Chairman, whether they be farmers, manufacturers or pensioners, are asking the Government for more money. There is ample evidence of contentment and democratic progress to be found in the community.
The present Government has no use for foreign aid. It believes in the democratic way of life, and it will continue to govern according to that belief. There is no room in this country to-day, Mr. Chairman, for the apostles of gloom. The Australian people will not support Labour’s wishful thinking and its claim that there is a brake on national progress in Australia. The people are happy and contented. They are spending a lot of money on sport and pleasure, and that is as this Government would wish. The playing fields of Australia are always well patronized by pleasure seekers. Our beaches are almost overtaxed by people seeking enjoyment. The people of Australia love pleasure, and they can have it under this Government’s administration.
– Especially on the Gold Coast.
– That is all very well for the honorable member. I could mention the time when Labour was in office - a time when the Australian people could not enjoy these pleasures. Last financial year, Australians paid £30,300,000 more than in the previous financial year in customs duty, excise and sales tax, mainly on beer, spirits, tobacco, cigarettes and petrol, the total being £440,000,000. Last week the Brisbane Exhibition, of ten days’ duration, concluded. The newspapers blazoned that that wonderful exhibition had set all-time records in attendances and in the spending of the people. The total amount spent was more than £1,000,000. Surely that spells progress, and not the despair and gloom which some of our Labour friends seem to think exist in this community.
Last year the people paid in individual taxation £33,300,000 more than they paid in the previous year. That seems to indicate that the people are doing well and making more money. Railway, postal, telegram, telephone, and broadcasting services earned £8,400,000 more than they earned in the previous year. Private motor car ownership is at an all-time high. There are in Australia about 2,500,000 privately owned motor cars. In the possession of motor vehicles per capita of population, Australia ranks fourth in the world. In Russia, which honorable gentlemen opposite would wish to compare with Australia, there are only 400,000 privately owned cars, as against Australia’s 2,500,000.
We hear a lot in this chamber about payments made for social services and health. Last year, they totalled £247,500,000, or £23.500,000 more than in the previous year. The highest expenditure on these services in any year that Labour was in office was £80,000,000; but this year we are going to the people with an expenditure of £280,000,000. War and repatriation services last year cost £171,800,000, or £21,400,000 more than in the previous year. The States received £270.500,000, or £26,500,000 more. In addition, the public debt has been reduced by £150,000,000.
These few indications of prosperity reveal the Budget as an interesting record of achievements by the Government and confound the criticisms made by honorable members opposite. The regime of Labour from 1945 to 1949, which were lush years, cannot stand comparison with the regime of this Government. In Labour’s day, there was a policy of restriction, despair, and frustration of industry. To-day, there is a policy of expansion and encouragement of private industry, which contains the great employers of labour. There is now a period of progress and advancement in all departments.
The Government has been criticized for alleged wrongs that I find were done by Labour governments in the States. For instance, the honorable member for Kingsford-Smith (Mr. Curtin) accused this Government of giving 1,500,000 acres of land for the development of bauxite for aluminium, at Weipa, in the Cape York Peninsula. This Government had no power to do any such thing, and it certainly did not do it. The fact is that it was the Queensland Labour Government which in 1956 gave a licence to prospect for bauxite ore over 2,000,000 acres of land. Under Queensland mining laws, a prospector is entitled to a mining lease in respect of all ores discovered during the process of his prospecting. Commonwealth Aluminium Corporation Proprietary Limited, known shortly as Comalco, which now holds the Weipa lease - it is of a much smaller area than Labour leased, because a Country party-Liberal Government is in power now - has commenced an expansion of mining and has established an alumina plant for processing bauxite in that way-back area. That company proposes to spend £35,000,000 on this work at Weipa. This is providing many people with work, and representatives of our industrial unions have proceeded to Weipa for the purpose of making agreements for the satisfactory employment of the many men who will be engaged there.
Comalco has also taken an option over the greatest coal seams in Australia, which are located in central Queensland. An aluminium smelter and giant electrical plants costing some £200,000,000 may be established in this country. If so, they will provide work for thousands of our people. This is in line with the policy of this Government, which supports the Queensland Government in all its activities at Weipa and Mount Isa. We support private undertakings, because they encourage the development of large towns and cities. They help business generally and provide for a large work force. In all cases and at all times, this Government’s policy has been directed towards that end.
I have heard some remarks about oil. This Government has encouraged the establishment of large oil refineries here. Those refineries provide Australians with secure and remunerative employment. Therefore, the refining of petrol by our own people should be supported by Labour, but I remind the committee that it was a Labour government in Queensland which tried to injure the Australian refining industry by importing “ dim sim “ petrol from China. The Labour Opposition in this Parliament supported the Queensland Labour Government in its stand. Indeed, a congratulatory telegram was sent by the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt). The successful importation of refined petrol from China could only have thrown out of work those people engaged in refining in Australia. Surely that cannot be the policy of any government, much less the policy of this Government. Our desire at all times is to see that industry is protected, that men are employed at wages which permit the highest standard of living in the world, and that we have a contented work force.
As evidence of the great expansion in the mining industry through the encouragement given to private industry by this Government, I mention the extraordinary progress of Mount Isa Mines Limited, as shown by a report recently submitted to the people by the chairman of directors, Mr. Fisher. He says -
The effect of the gradual commissioning of various units of the expansion programme is evidenced in the production figures just to hand for the financial year ended 30th June, 1958.
Ore mined totalled 1,640,085 tons compared with 1,389,985 tons for the previous year. Ore treated totalled 1,655,070 tons made up of 810,613 lead, 827,829 copper and 16,628 purchased ores. This represents an increase of 250,974 tons on the previous year’s total.
Lead bullion produced totalled 50,960 tons as compared with 45,190 tons in 1956-57; blister copper 31,165 tons . . .; zinc concentrates 36,128 tons.
He went on to say -
Of particular significance is the unfailing confidence and optimism of the Company throughout a year which could hardly be considered an encouraging one on the world metal markets.
Surely that discloses that under the very successful guidance of this Government the people on these mining fields have security of employment and are assured of prosperity in the future. After all, the Budget does not increase taxes. It leaves the economic position undisturbed although it does provide for the expenditure of several million pounds on additional benefits to deserving people in the community. I should like to ask members of the Opposition who speak after me in this debate what they would do if they were in office about providing the things that they say the Government should be providing under this Budget. What increase of pensions would they make, and where would they get the money to enable them to pay for these increases? I suggest that they would act, if they were in office now, exactly as a Labour government acted in 1932, when it dealt with its problems by increasing taxes and reducing the then miserable age and invalid pension from £1 a week to 17s. 6d. a week. That would be the path Labour would tread today, if we can judge by the actions of their Labour counterparts now in office in New
Zealand, where the government has resorted to increased taxes in order to balance its budget.
– That is not correct.
– That is what the Labour Government in New Zealand has done by lowering tax exemption ceilings and abolishing the 25 per cent, rebates. It has increased sales tax from 20 per cent, to 40 per cent. It has increased customs duty on motor fuels by ls. a gallon. There has been a heavy increase of excise duty on tobacco, cigarettes, cigars and beer. It has increased company taxes and instituted an excess profits tax and an estate gift duty.
– Hear, hear!
– The honorable member for Grayndler’s approval of the action of the New Zealand Government shows that the Labour party here would apply a similar policy. Statements have been made about the need to develop the Australian shipbuilding industry. I am very much interested in the progress of the shipbuilding yards in my electorate. In fact, last week I introduced to Ministers a deputation from interests in my electorate associated with shipbuilding.
Australia, an island continent with a long coastline, needs its own shipping and shipbuilding industries. The establishment of the Commonwealth line of ships was a “ must “ for the development of Australia’s seaborne trade, and to make us independent of outside shipping interests. The establishment of the shipbuilding industry in Australia was a notable advance. During World War II. there were only two major shipbuilding firms in Australia to which the Government could turn for the building of ships that were urgently needed in the war. They were Walker’s Limited, of Maryborough, and Mori’s Dock and Engineering Company Limited, of Sydney. Other shipbuilding yards have since been established, notably the Evans Deakin yard, the Whyalla yard and the shipbuilding yard at Newcastle.
The greatest difficulty encountered by shipbuilders was to recruit an experienced work force of skilled tradesmen. Many ships have been built in this country since those early days, and have given us good service. Experience shows that this industry must reach a high level of efficiency in order to be able to compete against longestablished shipbuilding yards throughout the world. In order to safeguard the Australian shipbuilding industry against unfair competition from outside, the Government has made available a subsidy of 33£ per cent, of the cost of ships built in Australia.. For instance, the Commonwealth will subsidize the building of a 32,000-ton oil tanker, now under construction at Whyalla, by approximately £1,000,000. The Whyalla yard has built up its specialized work force and is able to construct this ship of great tonnage. That is a matter for pride to all Australians. It is something that has been achieved during the life of this Government, and we can be very proud of it.
Whilst yards like that at Whyalla can build a ship of 32,000 tons, yards in New South Wales and Queensland can build up to 14,000 tonners. The Maryborough yard is able to build up to 6,000 tonners. Last year, Australia launched 31,000 tons of shipping, whilst purchases overseas totalled 35,000 tons. There is competition in the delivery dates between local and overseas shipbuilders. I urge the Government to protect the local industry against unfair competition from outside. The Government demands that details of all tenders for ships to be built for this country be supplied to the Australian Shipbuilding Board, and that all Government tenders be controlled and dealt with by the Australian Shipping Board. It also provides that a subsidy of 33i per cent, of cost shall be paid in the case of ships of over 500 tons built in Australia. A duty advantage is available in respect of all ships under 500 tons, which represents a subsidy of approximately 271 per cent. I understand that the Government is asking the Tariff Board to inquire whether the 33i per cent, subsidy is sufficient. I know that if it is not, the Government will take appropriate action.
I believe there is need in this country to develop the shipbuilding industry so that, like other countries, we can make our own ships. The American Government pays a subsidy of 47* per cent, on American-built ships, and refuses to allow foreign-built vessels to engage in American coastal trade.
We must recognize that primary industry is the basis of Australia’s progress, because it earns the bulk of our overseas balances. On the level of our export sales of primary products depend the wages and standards enjoyed by our workers, which are at present unequalled in the world. We must recognize that to-day, with a fall of £180,000,000 in the export value of our farm products, and an overall fall’ of £164,000,000 in our export earnings for the year, the Government will have to do something, and it is indeed encouraging to find that action is being taken to find new markets for our products overseas. I am sure that the projected visit of the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen) to Montreal, via Malaya and Ceylon, will be of great value to Australia. I believe that he will succeed in getting die goodwill of the people of Malaya and Ceylon for this country, so that they will continue to trade with us, and will, in particular, continue to buy Australian flour. I have no doubt that the trade conference in Montreal will be successful, because there the British producer countries will recognize that in this world of falling prices to-day the producers must get together. I believe that our industries must do everything possible to help this Government. After all, the Government’s job is to provide the legislation to assist industry and I say that it has done this in all industries and with all people. Now it is for the industries, both primary and secondary, to find the markets which are necessary after the Governments of the day have prepared the way for trade to take place.
There can be no question that the Minister for Trade did a good job in negotiating the Japanese Trade Agreement. I agree with the honorable member for McMillan (Mr. Buchanan), who described the East as the natural trading ground for Australia, particularly in foodstuffs. Millions of people live there. Japan has a population of 90,000,000 and the natural increase is at the rate of 1,000,000 a year. Japan is looking for our food products, and she is entitled to receive them. My advice to industries generally is to follow the example of the wheat, sugar and barley industries and go to Japan for the sale of their products. The Japanese are willing buyers. They need our foodstuffs, and under the trade agreement with Australia they are entitled to receive them. If the industries will follow the course I have suggested, 1 am sure that they will benefit, because this
Government has already been active in establishing markets overseas for Australian products.
.- The honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Brand) began his speech with a tribute to the retiring Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden). I have no quarrel with his statement at all. He then paid tribute to the Budget, indicating, first of all, that it was nationally sound. I submit at once that that is a statement which will not be supported by the majority of people in this country. He described it as a good Budget. On the contrary, it certainly could not be described as a good Budget. He referred to our national expansion, but I point out, for the benefit of the honorable member and those who support him, that there has been no national expansion during the period of office of the present Government.
The honorable member referred also to the prosperity in the country. I ask him and the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Roberton), who is now at the table and who shares the prosperity of this country to-day: Is there prosperity for the 60,000 Australians who to-day are unemployed? Could they be said to be prosperous? Surely, the honorable member did not have that section of the community in mind when he was referring to prosperity in this country. 1 am sure, also, that he did not have in mind the neglected pensioners when he was referring to prosperity. Surely, he and every other honorable member in this chamber must know that because of the increased cost of living, pensioners to-day are living in circumstances that should not be tolerated in any enlightened community. Nobody is in a better position to understand that than the honorable member himself. He talked about the increased amount of money made available each year from the national revenue for social service payments; but the real test is how much of tha’ increased sum goes to the pensioners. T hope to have an opportunity later of dealing more fully with that most important point which was raised by the honorable member.
He referred, to some extent, to the shipbuilding industry in Australia. I concede at once that it is a most important industry for the Commonwealth of Australia, and it is one which could be built up extensively. Although the honorable member mentioned the subsidy that has been paid to this industry by the Commonwealth Government, he omitted to mention that one ship-building firm in Queensland - I refer to Walker’s Limited - which formerly employed 400 men is to-day completely non-existent. The honorable member did not mention that fact.
The honorable member said that during the terms of office of the Chifley Labour Government between 1942 and 1949 many restrictions were imposed. My reply to him is that to-day restrictions have never been more severe than those which have been applied during the “term of office of the present Liberal partyAustralian Country party Government. I think of credit restrictions and import controls and of the fact that when this Government assumed office it had made the statement only a few weeks earlier that it did not believe in restrictions of any “kind. We know that some restrictions “were removed overnight, but now restrictions are far more severe than ever they were during the term of office of the Labour government during the years which I have mentioned. Nobody knows these things better than does the honorable member for Wide Bay and his colleagues. His party on various occasions has exercised a disproportionate influence in the affairs -of this country.
Having said that, I shall now deal with the Budget. Let me say at once that the Treasurer commenced his Budget speech with an extraordinary claim. He said that during the last year our economy had made notable progress. He spent the next 45 minutes of his speech showing why the economy had not made notable progress. When the right honorable the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) was speaking on the Budget he pointed out that what the Treasurer regards as stability is, in fact, instability; because there has been a definite decline in rural production and income. That fact was acknowledged by the Treasurer himself. He made only passing reference to the unemployment which exists in Australia to-day. He did not refer to the reduced standard of living of pensioners, but I shall deal with this more fully later. He ignored the serious housing situation. This is another matter to which the honorable member for Wide Bay referred. He said that the people are decently clothed and decently housed. I suggest, at once, that that statement is open to dispute.
This is certainly not the type of Budget which the people of Australia could or should expect in a serious situation such as exists to-day. There has been a definite decline in our living standards, for which this Government is responsible. The Government has completely ignored the fact that there has been a tremendous increase in the cost of living in Australia, but it is responsible for that state of affairs. It stood by while prices increased and took no action at all. It ignored the fact that the only way to deal with this problem effectively was to exercise a proper price control. The amount that we are receiving from rural production has declined. It has declined because the Government has completely ignored the importance of the price structure. Only a moment ago, I said that the Treasurer had made only a passing reference to unemployment in his Budget Speech. He said -
Total employment rose and, although unemployment increased to some extent, it did not at any stage reach large proportions.
The Treasurer, of course, implied by that statement that, although unemployment had increased, it was not serious. However, I point out to the Government, as I have pointed out on other occasions, that unless we face up to the situation and adopt the same approach to this problem as the Chifley and Curtin governments adopted to the problems of war during the critical years between 1942 and 1945, the unemployment situation will most certainly deteriorate.
I want to refer now to the figures released by the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Harold Holt). According to the Treasury Information Bulletin, the total number of persons registered for employment - that is, unemployed people who want jobs - was 65,913, an increase of 17,200 over the preceding year. The number of persons receiving the unemployment benefit increased from 18,975 to 29,908, which is equivalent to an increase of almost 60 per cent. I hope that no honorable member opposite will suggest that an increase of 60 per cent, in the number of persons who are denied the right to work is insignificant. The steady increase is reflected in the figures prepared by the Minister. For the information of honorable members, I will show the substantial increase in the number of persons registered for employment. In June, 1957, the figure was 52,225; by March, 1958, it had increased to 64,406 and by June, 1958, to 67,144. That is a most significant increase; yet every honorable member opposite who has spoken in this debate has completely ignored the importance of unemployment. Of course, it is not possible to secure complete figures. We know that many persons, for reasons best known to themselves, are not registered for employment. We know, also, that the number of persons registered for the unemployment benefit is certainly not the total number of unemployed, because a vicious means test is applied to the unemployment benefit.
Again, there are those people who to-day are held in Commonwealth migrant hostels. They will be seeking employment, but they are not included in the figures. That admission was made this morning by the Minister for Labour and National Service. He is not prepared to state the number of people who to-day are held in those centres, but I assume that the figure would not be insignificant. Those people are being brought to this country. We have no quarrel with that. We believed that an immigration policy is essential for the defence and security of Australia, but I point out that people brought here under an immigration scheme are entitled to full employment and to decent housing. However, at the moment, people who are brought here from overseas will be thrust on the labour market at a time when we have 67,000 Australians seeking employment. In addition, young persons who reach the school leaving age are thrust on to the labour market, and next year they will face the difficulty of finding employment.
The Treasurer devoted only one paragraph to unemployment and suggested that the position is not serious. The Government may not consider the position to be serious at this moment, but we on this side of the chamber want to know when the Government will face up to the problem. Certainly, at the moment the position is extremely bad. Unless the Government acts, vi will be faced with a situation similar to that now existing in the United
States of America. The 67,000 Australians who are now looking for work are expected by the Government to exist on the miserable unemployment benefit of £5 12s. 6d. a week. I ask honorable members opposite to reflect on the seriousness of that position. How can any unemployed person, who has family responsibilities, who is obliged to pay rent, possibly in excess of £4 a week, and who must meet his normal commitments, be expected to exist on a miserable pittance of £5 12s. 6d. a week? A single man receives £3 5s. a week. With the growing numbers of unemployed, the Government has done nothing about that miserable benefit. We all know about the cost of living. These people must meet the high cost of food, high rentals and the high cost of all items necessary to maintain a family in reasonable circumstances.
Twelve months ago, the Minister for Labour and National Service intimated in this chamber that unemployment was not serious and that it was due to seasonal factors only. But since the Minister made that statement, the number of unemployed has increased by almost 60 per cent. Apparently, unemployment then was not due to seasonal factors! Last year, Government supporters said that the Budget would make certain provisions which would ensure that the unemployment position would be corrected. Since then, the situation has worsened. This Government has been conspicuous for one thing only, and that is its complete inertia and inability to face up to the problem of unemployment.
I remind honorable members of the attitude adopted by the Leader of the Opposition when the United Nations Charter and the Declaration of Human Rights were being considered. When the question of employment was raised as part of the Declaration of Human Rights, the United States of America wanted to water down the expression “ full employment “ to “ high levels of employment “. But the Australian Labour party, and the Commonwealth of Australia, on that occasion demanded that this country - and, indeed, all other countries - should adhere to the principle of full employment, and not merely that of high levels of employment. Although honorable members opposite have, in this and in other debates, referred to the high level of unemployment in the United States of America, it might be said that at least the U.S. is- prepared to face the problem and is endeavouring to correct the serious situation that exists in that country. Only a few months ago the President of the U.S. announced a plan to remedy the unemployment situation. It was a four-point plan. The first point concerned active steps to increase home building. The second, probably related to the first, referred to the abolition of slums. The third method of reducing unemployment was a programme of national highway building, and the fourth required a relaxation of credit restrictions, combined with lower interest rates. I intend to deal more fully with the first point at a later stage of my speech.
As to the third point, national highway building, both the honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie) and the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Bird) have made a comprehensive study of this matter. Time and again in this Parliament they have raised the question of a national roads plan, yet every year our roads are deteriorating. Three years ago it was estimated that the roads of Australia could be brought up to a reasonable standard with the expenditure of about £18,000,000. To-day this task would require about £30,000,000. The Auditor-General’s report, which was released only a few days ago, shows that this Government has spent on strategic roads in this country - in Tasmania, at least, and in Victoria - less money than it has spent to conduct the road safety campaign. I have no quarrel with the provision of money for that organization, because I believe it is doing a particularly fine job. But the Government should realize that money spent on strategic roads also helps to ensure the safety of those who use them.
I return now to the subject of unemployment. Let me say at once that it is the responsibility of this or any other Government to legislate so as to ensure that there will be no unemployment. I believe that the factor that has contributed more than any other to our increasing unemployment is that of high interest rates. We have had debates in this Parliament over the years on this important matter. We all know how this Government has stood idly by and watched interest rates rise. We know that it was instrumental in bringing about the increase in interest rates. We also know that when the Labour government was in office a person who held a Commonwealth bond could receive full value for it. If he wanted to cash a £100 bond for a deposit on a home, or to assist him in business or for some other purpose, he could be certain of receiving £100 for his bond.
It is not so many years ago that the Prime Minister announced that the Government intended to withdraw its support from the loan market. Because the Government did so, gilt-edged securities fell in value, so that a person holding a £100 bond could not receive more than £90 for it if he wished to cash it. This Government must be held responsible for that state of affairs. In the days of the Labour government, even when the interest rate was as low as 3£ per cent., a person holding Government securities could expect to receive full value for them. To-day, however, rising interest rates have induced people to support hirepurchase companies. The tremendous increase in hire-purchase business was reflected in the figures cited to the committee last evening by the honorable member for Bonython (Mr. Makin). I do not want to repeat those figures. The honorable member gave sufficient information to indicate that practically every bank in Australia to-day has shares in one hire-purchase company or another. In fact one of the banks holds all the shares in a particular hirepurchase company.
This Government, of course, has said, “We believe in higher interest rates, but we do not believe in price control. We cannot in any circumstances have price control.” Because it adopted that attitude in 1949 when it was elected to power in this Parliament, we are now facing the difficulties that are apparent in every phase of the Australian economy. As I said a few minutes ago, in its period of crisis the United States of America is turning to cheaper money. Cheaper money would make it possible for many people in this country, who have not previously been able to do so. to secure finance for homebuilding, and so assist the building industry. The Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Harold Holt) has indicated that he cannot cope with the problems confronting the Government, and that, despite the promise made in 1949 to maintain full employment, it is not possible now to do so.
Now, Mr. Chairman, I turn to the Treasury Information Bulletin to indicate how serious is this matter of unemployment. I indicated earlier that fewer people are engaged in industry now than was the case last year. This fact, of course, is reflected in the great increase in the number of persons receiving unemployment relief, as well as those registered with the various branches of the Department of Labour and National Service. I am sure that the Minister for Social Services will be interested to learn that between February and May of 1958 there were almost 1,200 fewer persons employed in industry in New South Wales than in the corresponding period of the previous year. Possibly one of the reasons is the fact that to-day the textile industries of Australia are experiencing serious difficulties. Let me cite, for the benefit of honorable members opposite, a few significant facts with regard to this industry. Between March and May, 1958, the production of yarns and textiles in the worsted sections of the industry fell by 20.8 per cent. Production of woollens fell by 5 per cent., and several other less important commodities have also shown a decrease in production compared with the corresponding period of last year.
– What about building materials?
– During 1957-58, there was a substantial decrease in the production of building material. It is true that in recent months there has been some increase in the number of persons engaged in the building industry, but in the mining and quarrying industry there has been a decrease of 4,200 in the number of workers. Between February and May of this year, there was a further fall of 700. In the building and construction industry, there was a decrease of 3,800 workers in 1957, and for the corresponding period this year there has been an increase of 2,000. I acknowledge that there has been some improvement in the building industry, but it is not sufficient, because everybody knows that in every State of the Commonwealth, people are living in most undesirable conditions.
– Order! The honorable gentleman’s time has expired.
.- Tt is indeed a pity that the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard), with so much vitality and vehemence, hitched his star to such a poor case. There is a curious illusion which has been propagated lately on the opposite side of the chamber that, somehow, this Government is a government of restrictions whereas the Chifley Labour Government was a government of freedom. Thai may deceive electors who came on to the roll in the past ten years, but those who had the misfortune to live through the era of the Chifley Government know that it was full of restrictions. It is true that they were not all imposed because of love of restriction for its own sake, but because of circumstances which existed at that time. Any one who suggests that this Government has been or is imposing anything like the restrictions that were imposed by the Chifley Government is endeavouring to mislead the people. Fortunately, some of us have Iona memories.
The honorable member for Bass also referred to interest rates and raised the question as to why bonds have fallen so much in value, particularly those that were issued during the Chifley era. If there was one glaring mistake attributable to the Chifley era, which in many ways was not unenlightened, it was the cheap money heresy. Bonds issued at 3i per cent, in a capital-short country were bound to lose their value as soon as controls were off and money rates returned to their natural level. It is quite a mistake to maintain that high interest rates impede progress or development. It is an essential way of rationing supplies of capital which are extremely short in Australia relative to our needs. Tn many ways, the recovery and resurgence of” Western Germany has been more remarkable than much of our own development. And it would be well for the committee to realize that that was achieved on basic government interest rates of from 8 per cent, to 10 per cent, because in this country when capital is scarce - and in any case we have no constitutional power to ration it - the only sensible course is to allow the ordinary market mechanism to work.
At this stage. Mr. Chairman, I should like to pav a tribute to the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) for the way he has discharged the duties of the high office he has held for so long. During that time he has won the respect and regard, if not the agreement, of almost all the members of this Parliament and certainly of all the officers who have served him over the years. The nature of a man is to be judged more by the way he treats his subordinates than by the way he treats his equals or superiors. In this case, I can speak from personal experience and testify that no one could have a more kindly and considerate chief.
The Treasurer has at times shown great courage in sticking to unpopular courses which he regarded as necessary to contain inflation and preserve the integrity of our currency. In many ways, the task of a Treasurer is a hapless one. He stands at the main pressure point of government where many conflicting and irreconcilable forces meet. In one direction he faces the rightly reluctant taxpayer and, in the other, mounting demands for social services and a formidable array of government departments, all ambitious for expansion and expenditure, each able to influence inner councils and each armed with a Minister.
– The honorable member is speaking from experience.
– Yes, that is true, and I hope the honorable member for Wilmot will listen to the voice of experience. To occupy the office of Treasurer for a decade and retire at the end of it with all flags flying is indeed a remarkable personal achievement. Historically, the aftermath of war has always been beset with financial and economic problems and the fact that Australia has weathered this difficult period as well as it has is due, in no small measure, to the personal contribution of the Treasurer.
During his tenure of office, too, the Treasurer has made a vivid mark overseas. For some time past he has been the dean of the corps of Commonwealth finance Ministers and a notable figure at all their proceedings, informal as well as formal. He has also added his own fruity flavour to the meetings of the International Bank and International Monetary Fund where he has become almost equally well known around the conference and dining tables. It is fitting now to wish the Treasurer every success in his final visit to those important bodies.
Unfortunately, Mr. Chairman, the Treasurer has been very unlucky in the circumstances in which he has been obliged to draw up this, his final Budget. The brutal fact is that circumstances have robbed him of almost all scope for manoeuvre if he was prepared to stick to a responsible course, which he has done during the whole of his financial history. Australia is the prisoner of overseas events. The collapse in world commodity prices, not the actions or omissions of government, have forced this Budget on the nation. If these present low prices continue, we face a cut in the Australian standard of living whatever governmental action we take. We are fortunate, also, that the prudent policy of the last two or three years has left us in such excellent initial shape to weather the serious economic troubles which are gathering all around us, but over which we can exercise little control. Our reserves are high. Confidence is buoyant and, despite the remarks of the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard), stability has been attained at a very high rate of employment. lt would, of course, be desirable to banish unemployment altogether, but that is never likely to happen outside a prison state such as Soviet Russia. With the freedom of movement and the spontaneous progress that are our economic lot, we shall always have unemployed persons and it will never be pleasant to be unemployed. We are likely to have more unemployment as the pace of technological change increases. We might begin thinking, now, in terms of making better provision than in the past for retraining and re-absorbing those who are displaced by this process and paying them an adequate income during the period of retraining.
The fact that we have been able to obtain such a large measure of stability, coupled with so little unemployment - a figure which is considerably lower than in other Western countries in the world, and probably lower than any other country in the world - is a great achievement of which we have every reason to be proud. When the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen), some years ago, made his now famous statement about a 5 per cent, level of unemployment, he made an honest statement which was the generally accepted view of those who were in a position to know, or who thought they knew, at that time. The fact that we have had such a low percentage of unemployment, coupled with stability, is an achievement greater than we could possibly have hoped for ten years ago. It has been accomplished only by great moderation on the part of industry and the great trade unions. If this moderation is lost, so will be the possibility of combining stability with high levels of employment.
The great dark cloud which hangs over us is the deterioration in our overseas income. No prudent planning or sleight of hand on the part of government can shield our economy from the very unpleasant fact that our overseas income has shrunk very sharply and is likely to continue at a lower level for some time to come. The terms of trade have been tilted steeply against us. In these circumstances, which resulted in a current account deficit last year of almost £180,000,000, let us be thankful indeed that the flow of capital investment into Australia has been maintained at such a high figure. In the absence of this flow the level of our international reserves would already be a matter for serious concern.
It becomes extremely important, therefore, to do everything possible to maintain confidence in Australia as a stable and fruitful field for investment. Nothing would destroy this confidence more quickly than an impression that the Government was unwilling to face up to its responsibilities and to take unpopular action if necessary Above all, a cheer-chasing Budget, trimmed to seek cheap popularity at the forthcoming polls, would be disastrous. It would not only stop the inward flow of capital, but would reverse it.
It would be well, therefore, for those who advocate a bigger cash deficit to bear in mind the likely effect on the minds of overseas investors. Historically, big Budget deficits have been the most potent single agent of inflation and economic instability. For this reason, those who resort to cash deficits necessarily become subject to very close scrutiny. A judicious measure of stimulation by running a cash deficit is nowadays widely accepted as a justifiable means of maintaining income and employment. Whether such a deficit is of reasonable magnitude or not must necessarily be a matter of judgment in particular circumstances. But let us not overlook the fact that, whatever its undoubted utility and propriety at this moment, the use of a large cash deficit is hedged around with dangers of internal inflation and external catastrophe.
Since the deterioration in our position has been brought about by external factors, it behoves us to survey this field very closely to see what further adversity could confront us and whether we could take any measures, either alone or in conjunction with our economic partners, which would mitigate our lot. It is particularly important to do this if we bear in mind the economic history of the past as well as the full employment theory which has gained acceptance in the post-war period. lt is popularly supposed that governments and central banks can, by the systematic application of certain formulae, ensure full employment and economic prosperity at all times. This is still only theory. It remains to be tested” in the chilly atmosphere of a widespread international trade recession.
It has been the common experience in the past that war has been followed by a bout of currency instability and prolonged boom during which investment has been heavy and the demand for food and raw materials strong, with high prices and favorable terms of trade for primary producers. At length, however, the investment boom has invariably spent its force and given way to a recession. The increase in supplies of primary products, called for by high prices, has then had a depressing effect on the market and the consequent reduced receipts of primary producers has been reflected in a reduced demand for industrial products. A fairly long period of time has then been required to move out of the resultant vicious circle, during which every one suffers, primary producing and industrial countries alike. It could well be that we are approaching this stage once more and that the gigantic worldwide investment boom of the post-war era is at last subsiding or pausing before taking a different form. No one can be sure till well after the event but we should, at least, take what action lies within our power to ease the path of re-adjustment.
It is at this point that the proposal, already mentioned in the House of Commons but not confirmed, to place a possible British Commonwealth bank on the agenda of the forthcoming Commonwealth economic conference in Canada, could be of great value. Such few remarks as have so far been made on this subject by public persons indicate that they have in mind a developmental bank within the British Commonwealth along lines parallel to those of the International Bank for the world at large. Such an institution could perform a useful function, provided it were endowed with sufficient resources. It could be formed, in the first place, by subscriptions from member Commonwealth countries and it could be given power to borrow on its own account as the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development borrows. The United Kingdom is contributing very large sums already to the development of its colonies, and much of this money could be directed to a Commonwealth bank in which Commonwealth countries generally were represented. Eighty million pounds has been invested by the United Kingdom in the last ten years through the Colonial Development Corporation alone. However, a Commonwealth bank could serve a more immediate and pressing purpose than long-term development, more particularly within the sterling area. That purpose would be to help maintain the current flow of trade. At present, each sterling area country has to meet trade fluctuations wholly out of its own reserves. To take our own case, we are obliged to keep a large amount of balances in London just to meet emergency conditions lest we become in danger of default on Government account or unable to pay for essential imports. When our balances fall we are obliged to take restrictive trade action to limit imports and thus payments, whilst the aggregate amount of our reserves may still be very large, just to be on the safe side. Normally, we take this action because the overseas prices of our products, especially wool, have fallen, but such a fall is usually only temporary, and the position generally rights itself in two or three years. If, however, we were in the position of having not only our own reserves, but also assured overdraft facilities, our conduct could be far less restrictive and we could much better maintain the flow of trade. This would be in the interest of all, especially the United Kingdom, whose exporters have so frequently suffered from the arbitrary trade measures that we have been obliged to take from time to time to cut down imports. Such a state of affairs could provide a cushion and insurance against the effects immediately ahead of prolonged low prices.
I would suggest, therefore, that the mooted Commonwealth bank be geared primarily, at least in the first place, not to development but to the task of facilitating and financing the flow of current trade and payments between Commonwealth countries. For this purpose each interested Commonwealth country could be called upon to contribute, proportionate to its economic strength, a sizable quota of its own currency and of sterling, to be placed under the control of the bank, in which voting, as in other financial institutions, would be relative to contributions. When the reserves of individual countries ran down seriously, those countries would be able to approach the bank for accommodation, which would be granted mainly in the form of the currency of other member countries in which payment had to be made, chiefly, but not necessarily, sterling.
This mechanism would enable individual Commonwealth countries to weather much bigger fluctuations in their overseas trade and payments position than is possible at present. To cite our own case again, we could reasonably expect to sustain a much heavier and longer continued drain on our reserves, if necessary to the point where our London balances became negative, in the certainty that we would be able to meet our sterling liabilities by drawing on the bank. The deferment of restriction often means that restriction finally becomes unnecessary. At the very minimum we should be able to avoid disrupting trade as violently and suddenly as we have done on several occasions in the recent past.
Naturally, procedure of the character that I have suggested would have to be subject to safeguards. No Commonwealth country could reasonably expect to enjoy unlimited overdraft rights for the purpose of avoiding action to restrain domestic inflation, nor for pursuing a development programme beyond its resources to finance. It would involve close examination of the affairs of each by the representatives of all. The proposal I am making bears considerable resemblance to other arrangements already in existence, particularly :o the European Payments Union and to the International Monetary Fund. It would complement the functions of these bodies in the Commonwealth sphere. Through the mechanism of the European Payments Union, the member countries of the Organization for European
Economic Co-operation have been able to trade much more freely with each other and keep mutual restrictions to a minimum. Payments difficulties that at one time threatened to bring intra-European trade to a standstill were in large part overcome by the credit mechanism provided, which generally has been of a swinging character - members being alternately in credit and in debit with each other. Member countries of the Organization for European Economic Co-operation have throughout met to discuss the policies and problems of individual members, to prevent abuse of the system, and to remedy such difficulties as arise from time to time.
The International Monetary Fund has also been playing an increasingly useful part in providing what virtually amounts to overdrafts or stand-by credits to particular countries to enable them to meet the vicissitudes of their payments problem. In fact, had our New Zealand friends paid less attention in the past to political hobgoblins and fanciful will-o’-the-wisps they would have joined the fund long ago and been able to draw on that institution instead of borrowing at higher cost from Australia. It is significant that the United Kingdom appears to be .conducting a campaign to increase the resources available to the International Monetary Fund for the purpose of short-term lending to member countries to help them overcome the payments difficulties that are becoming manifest in so many countries.. Success for this campaign would be a most valuable counter in resisting any further decline in international trade.
But whatever happens in the international sphere, there will be very wide scope within the Commonwealth for a bank of our own. In addition to facilitating trade and payments within the sterling area and keeping restrictions to a minimum, it could, if properly managed, provide a valuable link with our Canadian friends and. help to build up trade between them and other Commonwealth countries, which has been so badly disrupted since the war. It has been sad indeed in post-war years to sit idly by watching currency difficulties sever the natural links of intimacy between Canada and the rest of the Commonwealth.
Many of the foundations necessary to build up the familiarity and mutual trust indispensable to a Commonwealth bank of the kind I have suggested already exist. In London there is a Commonwealth Liaison Committee, where officials meet regularly to exchange information on trade and financial affairs. The confidential papers prepared for this committee keep all those who deal with such matters in Commonwealth countries abreast of each other’s aims and policies. Similarly, most of the central banks keep in touch not only with the Bank of England but with each other. The finance ministers and their officials converge at least once a year at the annual meeting of the International Bank and Monetary Fund, and on other occasions as circumstances require. Treasury and trade officials are in daily contact. In such soil the establishment of a Commonwealth Bank would readily appear as a natural growth. I urge that at the coming Commonwealth Economic Conference in Canada the Government press forward as strongly as possible along the lines I have suggested. Apart from the potential long-term benefits, there is no possible buttress against misfortune in the overseas economic position now that we can afford to neglect.
.- I ask the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Bury), who, I understand, was a member of the war-time economic ‘planning committee which imposed economic controls in war-time, whether, if those controls were necessary in war-time, it is not much more necessary to impose such controls in peace-time in order to avoid another similar catastrophe. Is it not much more necessary now that we should have controls of the kind that the honorable member has mentioned? If he tries to extend the principle of a Commonwealth economic fund beyond Australia in order to obtain the establishment of a Pacific economic council, he will be seeking something to which the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) and his colleagues certainly will not willingly agree.
However, let us get back to the Budget-, Mr. Chairman. It is so devoid of any positive contribution to the welfare of the nation that, on examination, it is revealed to be just a mass of competing negative features. First, it reveals a cynical disregard of the needs of the aged and the sick, and a complete lack of humanity in its effect upon them. Secondly, it perpetuates the Government’s complete indifference to the financial needs of the States for education. Thirdly, it takes no account whatever of the need to restore and preserve the fundamental civil liberties of the people. By “ civil liberties “ I mean those freedoms which enable the majority of the people to increase their wisdom and tolerance, and without which we stagnate mentally and morally and sink into a condition of complete moral atrophy. That is the basis upon which I level my criticism at the Budget. It does nothing to guarantee us against being deprived of those civil liberties or to reinstate those that have been taken from us.
In regard to the Public Service, the Prime Minister has constantly been requested, by me and by some of his own supporters, to restore a measure of justice to this bureaucratridden service and allow a ray of hope to enter the hearts of those whose characters have been assassinated and who have been deprived of their livelihood and socially ostracized because they refused to follow the Government’s particular line. The Prime Minister has been asked to implement that part of the Francks report which recommends the allowing of appeals to a judge of a county court, or his equivalent, against administrative decisions vitally affecting the personal welfare of the individual. The Prime Minister’s cynical disregard of this request can lead one to conclude only that he shows his preference for an appeal from Caesar to Caesar - in the case of the Public Service, from Dunk to Dunk. And Dunk is the man who advises the Prime Minister on the political appointments that are made by him from time to time. I think that Sir William Dunk might well be called to the bar of this chamber and asked to account for his recommendation in the recent appointment of a new Director-General of Social Services. At this stage, I shall say no more than that I compliment the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Roberton) on the valiant stand that he put up against the Prime Minister in this matter on three occasions. I do not know Mr. Paul, and therefore there is nothing personal in what I say. I do not even know Sir William Dunk. I should say that there is a case to be stated for an appeal here.
Perhaps the greatest words of praise can be said of those many people who have preferred their self-respect to political prefer ment and are now sweating it out in other walks of life. One of these is Dr. Paul James, of West Heidelberg, previously of the Repatriation Department, and now a constituent whom 1 have the honour to represent in this Parliament. He has received mal-treatment at the hands of the bureaucrats in the Public Service. If there was an appeal to an independent judge against these administrative decisions, it would be made known whether he or the department was to blame.
Under the administration of this Government, freedom of speech has become a casualty, and political censorship thrives. The Australian Broadcasting Commission’s news service and news commentary have become merely a mirror to Governmentsponsored propaganda.
– It is getting worse, too.
– That is well known to the Leader of the Opposition, and such objective commentators as Mr. Rohan Rivett and my friend, Peter Russo, know it to their cost. However, it is against our fundamental freedom of association for lawful purposes that the most subversive and dastardly attack is now being made. It is through this freedom that we enjoy parliamentary democracy, freedom of religious observance and freedom to join in the very many social activities that we as individuals prefer. It is on this fundamental freedom of association for lawful purposes that the whole of the trade union movement rests. This Government has not only failed to uphold this freedom. On the contrary, it now seeks, with the aid of its industrial quisling and political sputnik - the D.L.P. - to suppress this great freedom by subversion. The substance of the false accusations made against the Victorian executive of the Australian Labour party by Government supporters in regard to unity tickets is that the branch has collaborated with the Australian Communist party in union elections. The same people who make this accusation also criticize the Victorian A.L.P. executive for not believing - and we do not believe - that a political party should interfere in the domestic affairs of a trade union such as its annual election of office-bearers. Such critics, in the interests of political expediency, find it convenient to ignore the threat of collaboration with the neo-fascists - the members of the D.L.P. - whom I to-day regard as the greatest threat to our civil liberties that we have seen, and who receive the support of members of the Liberal party of Australia.
– Which country are they allied to?
– In a moment, I shall come to the honorable member and to the country that he probably comes from. Mr. Chairman, I fail to appreciate the illogical and perverted argument that seeks to defeat communism by fostering and encouraging its twin evil of clerical fascism which comes in the back door even as its twin is defeated at the front door. In this battle, truth and tolerance become the first casualties, as is well-evident from that scurrilous rag, “ News Weekly “, which is the official mouthpiece of the D.L.P. I would not be without my contribution to “ News Weekly “. The Australian Labour party and certain of its members each week are subjected by it to a violent tirade of religious bigotry and sectarian abuse, as well as a mass of political lies which usually constitute the basis of Liberal party back-benchers’ attacks upon the Australian Labour party during debates on the motion for the adjournment in this chamber.
This rag alleged that I had participated in the recent elections in the Waterside Workers Federation of Australia. I emphatically deny this, and in so doing T take the opportunity to correct an inaccurate report that appeared in “ Hansard “ last week. I appreciate the difficulties experienced by “ Hansard “ reporters in trying to record everything that honorable members try to cram into ten minutes. It is true that I did speak on the waterfront in Melbourne, but it was in support of an Australian Labour party candidate named Walton in the Victorian Legislative Council election. The Communist members of the Waterside Workers Federation stood by and listened - I must admit it - with polite, if unenthusiastic, interest, whereas I received nothing but personal abuse and bloodied epithets from Mr. Gleeson and his D.L.P. supporters. I believe that members of the Australian Labour party have a duty to seek every opportunity to propagate Labour’s policy.
I believe that a member of Parliament moreover should ascertain the needs of his constituents between elections. In so doing, I have managed to attend approximately 25 mid-day meetings in my electorate at least twice a year. Such action, and not direct interference in the domestic affairs of unions is, I believe, the substance of what is envisaged in a recent pronouncement by the federal executive of the Australian Labour party about unity tickets. I shall come, later, to the most moronic twist that could be given to this pronouncement.
I should add, in passing, a germane comment on the re-election of Mr. Jim Healy to his position in the Waterside Workers Federation. He owes it not so much to his own ability as a union official, as to the Melbourne “ Herald “ and the “ Sydney Morning Herald “, and he certainly does not owe it to any grossly wrongly alleged interference by the Australian Labour party. I should like to refer also to the tremendous build-up that he received on the television programme, “ Meet the Press “, sponsored by the “ Herald “, immediately before the Waterside Workers Federation elections. The federation also received a tremendous boost from the reaction against the Hursey propaganda that was run in the Melbourne press. Here then, in my opinion, was a real unity ticket - a unity ticket between the conservative press and whatever interests they serve and the Communist party of Australia - I know that the press certainly does not serve the interests of the Australian Labour party.
Without minimizing the danger of collaboration by the D.L.P. with any other political party, I believe that the present agitation about unity tickets is actuated for cheap political considerations of advantage apropos the coming federal election. It is designed to split the trade union movement three ways, as I shall prove later, thus weakening political Labour and its source of finance, that is, the trade union movement.
Historically, the Australian Labour party was set up to achieve by political action, those objects which the unions themselves could not by direct action achieve. Based on the highest idealism of selfless socialism, the Australian Labour party became the political wing ‘Of the trade union movement. So it is that we of the Australian Labour party on this side of the chamber do not direct, but we reflect trade unionism industrially in this Parliament. It is not a matter, therefore, for the Australian Labour party to retain control of the trade union movement. On the contrary it is essential that the trade union movement, and all those in rural and urban areas who believe in the same high ideals or political philosophy, should retain control of the Australian Labour party, which is their own political party. While appreciating the necessity for the utmost co-operation between the political and industrial movements, the political party should not and must not, in my opinion, interfere in the domestic affairs of the parent body from which it sprang, namely, the trade union movement.
Proof of the truth of this statement may be seen in my own State, Victoria. Under the influence of men like Messrs. Stout, Clarey, McNolty, and the late Reg Broadby, and not - I repeat “ not “ - the industrial groups, which were formed much later, any Communist control which threatened the industrial movement was decisively rejected. The industrial group movement itself was subsequently rejected, for the same reason as the Communist party was rightly rejected. Similarly, in 1954, when, through the old Victorian executive of the Australian Labour party, the Santamaria movement sought to control the trade unions by controlling the political party, the unions threw it out and subsequently reasserted control over the political movement.
The former fascist Victorian executive over-reached itself when in 1952 it directed that any member of the Australian Labour party who sought election to any union office would be expelled unless he was a member of the industrial groups - a party within a party. This would have meant the complete subjection of the trade union movement to a politically hostile movement. The big unions threatened to leave the Australian Labour party, to disaffiliate and withdraw their support. But eventually, though nothing was done by the now timid Santamaria executive, in 1954 the Victorian Trades Hall Council, because of continued clerical control, was making active preparations to run its own candidates in State and
Federal elections, and I had hoped to have the privilege of being one such candidate.
It is when we look at the type of government in those countries which have no free trade union movement that the truth of what I am saying becomes obvious. In addition to the often quoted - and rightly so - Communist countries of Russia and its satellites, let us have a good look, as I suggested last week, at Spain, Portugal, Colombia, and the Dominican Republic, which have fascist governments. Is there a free trade union movement in those countries? No, of course there is not. Compare them with the United Kingdom, Norway, New Zealand, Sweden and - yes - even Australia, despite the present Government. Significantly, where we have a free trade union movement, we have democracy, and not fascist autocracy.
In Victoria, the D.L.P.’s threat of fascist control of the trade union movement is a very real thing. The following unions are not affiliated with the Australian Labour party; they follow the D.L.P. line, and they are so controlled by the D.L.P. I refer to the Victorian branch of the Clerks Union, the Hospital Employees No. 1 Union, the Felt Hatters Union, the Grocers Assistants Union, the Ironworkers Union, and, lastly, the Amalgamated Society of Carpenters and Joiners. That is a considerable and worthy segment of the trade union movement. Some time ago the Waterside Workers Federation was included in that segment in Victoria, but owing to the irresistible lure of money, the “ grouper “ secretary, Mr. Clark, who was subsequently convicted of embezzlement, brought sufficient discredit on his own side, the D.L.P., to ensure the establishment again of proper control on the waterfront by the legitimate trade union movement.
Herein can be seen the real political threat to the organized trade union movement in politics. As a result of subversion and infiltration by our political and ideological opponents, the D.L.P., the trade union movement can be split three ways. In Victoria we can have a legitimate trade union movement, the Communist trade union movement, and we can have a Catholic Centre party trade union movement, such as exists on the European continent. Do not mistake me when I say. “ Catholic Centre party “. I do not mean a church party.. I would reserve the same condemnation for that sort of party, if it emerged, as I had for the so-called Protestant party, the establishment of which was attempted some time ago.
Secondly, by weakening union finances, the opponents of the trade union movement seek to starve it and its political party, the Australian Labour party, into subjection. This is achieved, in no small measure, by D.L.P. insistence on all occasions - even when not necessary - upon courtcontrolled ballots and costly litigation. In the Amalgamated Engineering Union, we see clear examples of proof of this allegation. For the election of general secretary of the Amalgamated Engineering Union last year, the D.L.P. request for a court-controlled ballot was made too late, and was refused. Mr. Garland was elected after an election which cost the Victorian branch, of the Amalgamated Engineering Union £400’ but which, had it been a court-controlled ballot, would have cost the union not £400 but £4,000.
Then, in the recent election for the Commonwealth Council of the Amalgamated Engineering Union, a petition by the D.L.P. for a court-controlled ballot was successful. The Minister appointed Mr. Nance to conduct the ballot. He is an officer of the highest personal and official integrity. He, in turn, appointed a union official as his returning officer for nominations.
The D.L.P. candidate, Mr. Fitzpatrick - this is how they work - was excluded, from the ballot because his nomination was too late, although it was bis party which sought the ballot. Mr. Nance upheld the decision excluding Mr. Fitzpatrick. But Mr. Fitzpatrick, apparently not satisfied with the court-controlled ballot which he himself had sought, then applied to the Industrial Court to upset that very ballot. In other words, he would not accept the umpire’s decision.
The presiding judge, Mr. Justice Dunphy, decided that he did not have authority to direct Mr. Nance. He did, however, take the most amazing and reprehensible step, for one ostensibly clothed with the traditional independence and impartiality of the judiciary, of expressing to the court his own personal - not legal opinion - view that Mr. Nance should admit Mr. Fitzpatrick to the ballot. He then ordered the union to pay the legal costs of the unsuccessful “ grouper “ candidate, Mr. Fitzpatrick^ in spite of the fact that Mr. P. D. Phillips, Q.C., counsel for Fitzpatrick, had admitted earlier that if his client was not successful he should rightly pay the legal costs. This election and the court action cost the Victorian Branch of the Amalgamated Engineering Union £5,000.
Is any reference made to these things in the Budget? No, of course it is not, because it is far more important to leave them out and say nothing. They should be included in the Budget.
The top echelons of the department, including the Minister, then brought pressure on Mr. Nance to induce him to change his mind, but he refused, as it was his prerogative to do. This gives added proof of the statement that I am making that the object of these people is to smash the trade union movement in Australia, as we know it to-day, politically and industrially, and that, it has the support of the Government in that objective. It is in this particular trade union that we can see the outright fraudulence and hypocrisy of the unity ticket allegations, because the name of a friend of mine, an Australian Labour party man, without his knowledge appeared in successive union elections on two tickets, in the first election in association with a member of the Communist party, and on the second occasion in association with a D.L.P. candidate.
I say that common sense and a rational approach to these things is necessary, otherwise we will be jammed between two extremes - the left extreme and the right, fascist extreme. We have in the Amalgamated Engineering Union a “ rank and file “ committee which is none other than the old industrial groups reorganized inside that union. Nobody can be a member of it unless he is “ proposed “ and “ vouched for “ by persons who are members of the D.L.P. There are union officials who could technically have been expelled from the Victorian branch of the Australian Labour party because their names appeared on D.L.P. fascist group tickets- Fortunately, . common sense and justice have again prevailed in Victoria, and any one who accuses the Victorian branch of the Australian Labour party of conniving at unity tickets is either a fool or, what is worse, a D.L.P. “ quisling “.
Finally, we come to the third and most reprehensible means of dividing the trade union movement. One thing which should be, above all others, effective in uniting politically all men of goodwill is religion. However, the D.L.P. has used sectarianism to try to divert and divide the Australian Labour party and achieve its own objects in the trade union movement. In the Amalgamated Engineering Union the basis of this is contained in a photostat copy I have of the instructions by the “ Movement “ to its own people.
Such divisive action, if successful, could well mean the death of parliamentary democracy as we know it in this country. Freedom of association could cease to exist, and I could again become subject to the same type of strictures as my political party, religious and social associations were prior to the change. I believe that to-day the Liberal party is foremost in bidding for the support of the balance-of-power D.L.P., and because this is beyond the pale in the Australian Labour party so far as political expediency is concerned, and is something of which I do not approve, I prefer even the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) to the D.L.P.
As a member of the Victorian executive of the Australian Labour party, I say that there has been no deviation from the federal executive policy of non-interference in the domestic affairs of the trade unions. This decision was stressed at the Hobart conference of the Australian Labour party in 1955, when the industrial groups were disbanded. The principle of non-interference in the domestic affairs of trade unions was reaffirmed at the Brisbane conference in 1957, when unity tickets were trenchantly criticized. The trade union movement in Victoria, since its hard-won battle in 1954-55, which it would never have won without the help of the federal executive, will not allow any Labour party man, with or without the support of any party, to interfere directly in the domestic affairs of a trade union. At the Victorian Australian
Labour party conference last June, a very blunt warning was given by the secretary of the Melbourne Trades Hall Council, Mr. Vic Stout, who was then president of the A.L.P., when he told the political wing, “ Hands off the Australian trade union movement “.
As I said before, the situation is one in which common sense must be allowed to prevail. If this blatant political stunt of unity tickets is allowed to continue, disaster alone will follow. One could expect a little more mature consideration from the press, particularly the Melbourne press, for, if our fundamental freedoms - the freedom of the press and the freedom of association - are impeached by party political power, the congregation of free men everywhere will cease, and the press will become one of the first casualties. It is for this reason that I discount the Melbourne “ Sun “ story of Saturday last referring to the threat to reinstitute the industrial groups in Victoria by permitting political interference in the domestic affairs of the trade union movement. I believe this report is pipe-dreaming and wishful thinking on the part of the reporter, and the only reply I could give to the writer of that article is that in my opinion if, unhappily, all this were to happen again the Victorian trade union movement, and with it the executive of the Victorian branch of the Labour party, of which I am a member, would again run their own candidates and see that the proper relationship between the trade union movement, the party and those who support the same ideals, was maintained. In fact we in Victoria would openly defy such a decision. I know that in the present circumstances common sense is prevailing, and will prevail, much to the disappointment of honorable members sitting behind the Government. They would like to see us swallow their bait, hook, line and sinker. It is possible that the D.L.P. will seek a compromise. Indeed, it has already done so - a shabby political compromise. Senator McManus has already announced it in the press. That such a shabby compromise will be sought does not surprise me. While we have, and continue to hold fast to, those real things we value above life and property, and while we possess men like Albert McNolty and Vic. Stout, in Victoria, and a host of others who are prepared to fight for such ideals regardless of the cost, there will be no shabby compromise of principle for the sake of political expediency in the way that the Minister for Labour and National Service would like to see. I know that for the sake of political expediency the Minister and his colleagues are prepared to sell anything, no matter how dear it may be to the people of a democracy. He would sell it to the Communist party as well as to the D.L.P.
Our civil liberties will be preserved intact. We shall remain free to associate as we wish for lawful purposes. These people will not direct us again. These freedoms will be preserved in spite of petty compromises by power-seeking politicians. They will be preserved in spite of the vacillation of office-seeking trade unionists. They will be preserved in spite of the political fraud of the Liberal party and the D.L.P. in respect of the false accusation about unity tickets. 1 believe that, provided the Labour party stands firm on its policy of refraining from compromising principle for political expediency, it will emerge from the forthcoming general election a stronger and immeasurably enhanced party in the eyes of the public - and under its present leadership. Whilst I regret my enforced absence from this Parliament I shall continue to work loyally, as a member of the Victorian executive, for the return of a Labour government. In spite of what further advances may be made by the Leader of the Opposition in the Australian Labour party, and politically in this country - and I believe he will so advance - history will ultimately, as I do now, determine his finest hour as being in 1952, when he rallied the whole nation in a successful defence against a dastardly attack by the present Government and its supporters on our civil liberties during the so-called “ red “ referendum campaign. The people opposite would like to see the Leader of the Opposition out. They would like to see him discredited. But, thank goodness, they will not!
.- I rise to support the Budget, and to refute the censure of the Government that is implicit in the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt). The honorable member for Darebin (Mr. R. W. Holt) has given us a very mild speech. He did not show his usual fire, perhaps because the speech was just another of the swan songs of which we have been hearing so many in this Parliament recently. We are sorry to lose him. He served his party well, both in the Victorian Parliament and in this Parliament. The most interesting part of his speech was his statement that the Australian Labour party does not interfere with the affairs of trade unions. He also gave us a long discourse, which he started by telling us that it is essential that the trade unions should control the Labour party. Surely then honorable members opposite should work harder to keep the Communists out of the trade unions if they are themselves to be under the control of the trade unions. It is admitted that many unions are under the control of the Communists.
This is the second week of the Budget debate, and it has been interesting from many points of view. It is not the most spectacular Budget debate which I have heard during my time in Parliament. But in these times, when both the great United States of America and the United Kingdom are definitely having set-backs and we are finding it hard to sell our products at the high prices we received in the past, it is a very sound one.
The two major sections of the press in this country which I study - the New South Wales and Victorian press - are divided on the Budget. The press of New South Wales has been bitter, and at times has almost given the impression that iti is carrying on an old grudge. Perhaps, this may be a reflection of conditions in that State which after many years . of socialist government has lost an appreciation of what the Federal Government has done to try to help it. On the other hand, the press of Victoria, with the political stability of people who think before they vote, has given credit to a Budget which, if not showering gifts on all and sundry, has done a great deal to keep up the high standard of living which this Government has established in Australia during the post-war years.
Another interesting point is the shameless way in which the Budget debate has been used as a means for election propaganda. The Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) even read a prepared speech which, I must say, was very much easier to listen to than most of his speeches. But I suppose that, because he realized this might be his last try to gain the reins of government, he had to be very careful that he did not say anything wrong.
The Deputy Leader of the Opposition, the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell), claimed, at the end of his speech, that no one had answered the criticisms of the leader of his party. He stated also that that was the Labour party’s platform for the election. He guilefully added, at another stage of his speech, that the bogy of communism would not be of any use to the Government. I should like, respectfully, to remind the honorable member for Melbourne and his colleagues in this Parliament, and in all State parliaments, that many have given up their jobs, everything that they loved, just because of this very thing. They have given up careers in the Australian Labour party - the party of the honorable member for Melbourne - for the very reason that they believe there is a danger in communism. Yet, this is the bogy to which the honorable member and his leader shut their eyes even if they do, perhaps from time to time, acknowledge it to be a real danger.
The honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. H. V. Johnson), a former Minister of the Crown in the Curtin and Chifley governments, is also leaving us for this very same reason. He is a man who is selfmade and loved by all. I am sure that 1 speak for all members on this side of the chamber when I say that he is the type of honest, old-fashioned Labour politician who gave his all to bring the Labour movement to its peak, which it undoubtedly reached a few years ago, but from which it has now fallen. He is one of those who, unfortunately, is sacrificed to its new policies.
I have, on all occasions that I remember, spoken for the pensioners. After the last increases in both pension and property concessions I concerned myself more especially with the single pensioner. I congratulate the Government and also the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Roberton) on the recognition given to those who pay rent. This is a start, but I have often pointed out that the rent which has been paid is, in almost all cases, out of all proportion to the pension received. I trust that there will be no rent rises because of this little extra which the pensioners will receive. I hope, at any rate, that in my own electorate, should any cases of absolutely blatant overcharges of rent occur, I shall be informed so that I may see what I can do to help.
Other benefits are being provided in the Budget, and I think that they are all for deserving cases. I refer to free medical treatment to World War I. nurses, increases of 10s., 5s. and 4s. for the first and subsequent children of the totally and permanently incapacitated ex-servicemen, and a 7s. 6d. rise in the cost of living allowance for war widows. The property limit has been raised by £500 to £2,250’ for a single pensioner, and to £4,500 for married couples. All of these people who receive benefits under this Budget are of the small man variety. There are no concessions given to any of the big monopolies or other capitalistic concerns which we hear so much about from the Opposition.
When the Leader of the Opposition was speaking about the Treasurer he said -
Last year he gave £75,000,000 in tax concessions and pension increases but this year he gives only a trifling £9,000,000.
Mr. Temporary Chairman, those concessions, made over the last year or so, add up to £84,000,000, and when we consider the loss of trade this year and various other adverse circumstances, we should consider that to be a very great achievement.
We heard from the Minister for Social Services that to-day one-quarter of the revenue - or a little more, because it is 5s. 2d. in the £1 - is required to finance social services. Can this be bettered without raising taxation? I feel that it cannot but there are others who seem to have another remedy. Australia is one of the lowest-taxed countries in the world.
The Leader of the Opposition, who should be the spokesman for his party, said in his speech on the Budget -
In our view, it must be replaced by a completely new Budget; which will make reasonable provision for securing the just claims of all pensioners and of families
He went on to say -
The farmers should be tided over the present period of acute difficulty until real stability is restored. Housing must be pushed on and the lag overcome by bold planning and bold action with special co-operation from the people’s own bank . .
Here, I would like to say something about the people’s own bank. During the debate on the banking legislation, we heard a lot about the people’s bank. The suggestion seemed to be that We were trying to ruin the people. The people’s bank - or the Commonwealth Bank, to give it its proper name - is not strictly the people’s bank; it is the bank of Australia. Any bank, whether it is the Commonwealth Bank or one of the five trading banks, can truly be called the people’s bank, because it is the bank of the small people who put their pounds, perhaps tens of pounds dr even hundreds of pounds into it. The Leader of the Opposition continued -
The States should be given all practical assistance in facing their problems of providing essential services to the people, especially in the fields of education, transport, health, local government, agriculture and land settlement.
We all know how much that would cost in the six States. However, at the same time, it is an avowal df the socialist goal, which is to ensure that all power is held in this one spot in Canberra. Earlier in his speech, the Leader of the Opposition said -
Have the members of the Government learned nothing from years in office? Do they not know that the reason why they cannot find the money is that they refuse to face up to the fact that, in a temporary recession, borrowing from the Commonwealth Bank to the extent necessary is not only permissible but essential and practically mandatory.
Although he does not say where he will obtain the money for these very large projects of his, he does say that we should borrow large sums from the Commonwealth Bank. However, there is an alternative, and we have seen the alternative illustrated adequately in New Zealand. There, the Government found that it could not carry out all its election promises, and had to impose higher taxes. A few of the increases imposed were: Personal exemptions were reduced from £375 to £300; for those over 65 years of age, the exemption was reduced from £420 to £345; income tax was increased to 7s. in the £1; estate duty was increased; and sales tax on motor cars was raised from 20 per cent, to 40 per cent. Our sales tax on motor cars is half way between those two figures, but we have all heard the protests about it. In New Zealand, the petrol tax was increased by ls. a gallon, making a total of 2s. 3id. on every gallon of petrol that the working man uses for his holiday. The tax on cigarettes has increased by almost Id. for each cigarette or ls. 8d. for a packet of twenty, and the tax on beer has increased by 2d. a glass, which at the same time has been reduced in size by half ari ounce. Is that what we are to expect if the money to pay for all these things promised by the Leader of the Opposition is taken out of taxation?
I was in New Zealand before the elections. The managers of insurance companies usually look into matters very carefully. 1 was shown around Auckland and Wellington by some managers and I was interested to note that whereas one said that a Labour government would be the government for him, and that everything would become very much better, the other said that such a government would make things worse for New Zealand. I would like to go back there to see whether one of them has a red face!
I wish to speak on the services retired pay. Before we started the debate on the Budget, we discussed the situation in the Middle East. On Tuesday, the honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Wight), who has just returned from a tour of Far Eastern countries, gave Us a most eloquent and frightening account of what is happening there. He said -
I believe that our generation inherited a country singularly blessed and free.
He went on - if we in our generation should fail to pass on to our own children the same privilege and right, that they, too, may contribute, towards shaping the destiny of this great country, then as a generation we will have failed. But there is no section of the Australian community more clearly charged with that responsibility than we, the members of the Australian Parliament. This above all is the responsibility of this Parliament, and particularly is it the responsibility of the Government - to ensure that Australia as a nation will survive . . .
We all know that, to be free, we must have defence services. We also know that we have difficulty in maintaining our services at the correct strength, probably because opportunities in civilian life are very much better than those inside the armed forces. Sir John Allison and his committee have done some very good work and have produced a new code of pay for the services. This new code brings the attractions of life iii the services more’ into line with those of outside civil employment. However, of those holding commissioned ranks in the services, 80 per cent, can expect to retire at 47 years of age and another 10 per cent, will carry on until they are 50, because they are slightly more senior. The ranks at the top naturally have fewer members and the remaining 10 per cent, will retire at 55, 57 or 60, according to the ranks they attain.
What happens when these men retire? They are behind those who have been in civilian occupations from their early years, and they have no experience of business. They must start their new occupations right at the bottom. At 47 years, a man may be at the most costly time of his life. If he did not marry very young, his children are just undergoing college training. In addition, he has been moving around in the services, possibly staying in married quarters. When he decides to settle, he has to buy his house, and he has not had a very big salary from which he could save. I will give some illustrations in the case of the Army. I select the Army, because the figures for that Service are about mid-way between those for the Navy and for the Air Force. A captain, who is earning £1,376 a year retires on a pension of £533, which is less than 39 per cent, of his annual pay. A major, who receives £1,825 a year, retires on a pension of £617. In both cases the officer would be 47 years of age on retirement. Should he be a lieutenant, earning £1,046 a year, his pension will amount to £395. When the pay increases become effective these amounts of pension will be increased, because they are worked out on the annual pay on retirement and the years of service.
One may ask: Why retire these officers so young? In this modern age, however, the pace has become much faster in the services, and efficiency is essential. Therefore, the limits of usefulness are reached at an earlier age than formerly. In fact, I believe that it is considered that officers should retire even earlier, at 35 years in the case of a company commander and 40 years in the case of a commanding officer. For staff officers, of course, the age limit can always be somewhat higher.
With a small army such as ours, and with possible sudden commitments in this era of the cold war, we must keep our officers young, efficient and ready for emergency. Now let us consider further what happens when an officer retires. What are his expectations? He is too young merely to do nothing, and he has less than the basic wage to live on. Naturally he is very reluctant to bring his family down to very much reduced circumstances. An employer is loath to take him on, particularly at a wage comparable to what the employer would be paying him if he had been in the employ of the firm from his youth. He will be lucky if he receives a wage which, added to his pension, will give him as much as he was receiving in the service. He might, therefore, have to accept a slightly more risky job, and he might even have to put some money into it and take the risk of losing it. If this happens he is even worse off and is that much older. He may even become a nervous wreck while looking for a job. If he can, under the present conditions, pass an examination for the Public Service, he may become a base grade clerk, but then, because he is in a government job. he will lose half his pension.
In a nutshell, his best prospects are these: When he retires he will get a position with slightly less remuneration, even if his pension is included, than he received while serving. Then, when he eventually retires from that position, he reverts to his Service pension, which is about half what he would have received if he had been in the Public Service throughout his career - and let me suggest, Mr. Temporary Chairman, that the Services are public services.
If we are to keep the numbers of our Army officers at full strength something must be done soon. By the end of the war, the strength of the Army was about six and a half times the pre-war strength. Most of the extra officers were those who had served in the Australian Imperial Force, Large numbers of them will attain the age of 47 between 1959 and 1969, which, if we can believe what we are told, will be the most dangerous period this country will ever have had to face. The number of applicants for cadetships in training colleges is declining, and a large number of those who do enter the colleges fall short of the necessary standards for these modern times and, therefore, do not go into the Services after completing their courses. There are also a number of Service personnel who. realizing that they will find it difficult to get a job when they become older, apply for release at an early age, so that they may get their feet on the civilian ladder before it is too late.
For these reasons I suggest that we should keep our forces, small though they are. efficient to meet emergencies. If we are to keep them up to strength we must look for a solution to these problems. Perhaps we should ask Sir John Allison to review Service pensions and to seek a method of re-employing those who spend the best years of their lives in readiness to help ward off threats to this wonderful country. If we do not find a solution, young men who look to the future will not be volunteering. Parents who have the future of their sons at heart will persuade them against a Service career.
Finally, Mr. Temporary Chairman, 1 would like to pay tribute to the retiring Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden). The right honorable gentleman has been a friend to all, a fearless defender of the finances of Australia. With wisdom and honesty he has piloted this great Commonwealth of ours through the ups and downs of a period of ever-increasing prosperity, with a constantly increasing population. His last Budget will be long remembered for its forthrightness and for the fact that he did not seek lastminute popularity by means of it. It is truly worthy of this great coalition, to which he has been such a tower of strength. It can justly be said of him, as will eventually be written into the big book, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant.” I am sure that every honorable member in this Parliament will wish him a long and useful retirement.
.- 1 should like, first, to express my personal regret at the retirement of the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden), and to express to him mv appreciation of the kindness, courtesy and consideration that he has extended to me at all times since T have been a member of the Parliament. He is a most colourful figure, and he will be missed from this Parliament when it re-assembles after the elections. All T can say to the Treasurer is that T hone that, having laid down the very heavy burden of office, he will be blessed with good health in his retirement and will be able to continue to perform useful services in many ways in the interests of the public.
With regard to the Budget, I support the amendment that has been moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt). 1 join with him in asserting that the Budget is not a satisfactory answer to the present economic and employment problems of the Commonwealth. In the first portion of my speech on the Budget, I want to deal with the depression of 1929-34 in order to answer certain statements which have been made by the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Harold Holt). I am happy that the Minister is now in the chamber, because I am anxious that he should hear what I have to say concerning employment and some of the figures he has cited in this chamber from time to time.
In talking about the depression, I want to go back briefly to 1928, when export prices of Australian commodities began to fall sharply. At that time, I was actively associated with the trade union movement, and T saw the growing volume of unemployment which was spreading throughout the Commonwealth. Tn 1929, export prices fell again, more sharply than in 1928, and unemployment became more and more rife. In October of that year, there was a federal election. The government of the day was defeated and a new government was formed under the leadership of Mr. Scullin.
Also in that year there had been a significant series of events concerning the credit of Australia. On two occasions, the government of the day had endeavoured to raise loans of £15.000.000 on the English market. One was in January, 1929, and the other was in July of the same year. Both those loans were failures. They were considerably under-subscribed and had to be taken over by the underwriters. In 1930, it was realized throughout the world that one of the worst economic blizzards that had been experienced for some 40 years had descended on all nations and al’ classes of persons; it mattered not whether it was a person who was working in a highly developed industrial country, whether it was a man going from door to door seeking work, or whether it was a craftsman in an eastern bazaar who sat idly by bis bench with his tools unused because he could not sell the goods he had already made. It mattered not whether it was a peasant in Burma who had been growing rice and found himself starving because his rice could not be sold.
So, also in Australia, we had destitution, poverty, malnutrition, tragedy and suicide and all those things that accompany a grave and severe depression. Unfortunately, the governments of the world found themselves helpless in the face of this economic blizzard. They did not know what to do to revive prices, increase the demand for raw materials, find employment for those who were out of work or how to get the wheels of industry into operation again. In 1931, the Scullin Government was defeated, and in December, 1931, the Lyons Government gained power.
The Minister for Labour and National Service, when questioned on unemployment in this chamber, has stated on more than one occasion that, in the days of the Scullin Government, 30 per cent, of the wage-earners and salary-earners of Australia were unemployed.
– Registered trade unionists.
– I accept the correction of the Minister, because the only figures available in connexion with unemployment were those supplied by the trade union movement; but I tell the Minister now that he would be wiser if he checked the figures again because they do not show that 30 per cent, of the wage-earners were unemployed at any time during the regime of the Scullin Government.
– The figures reached their peak in 1932 as a result of the activities of the Scullin Government.
– It is no good saying that. The Minister has made a statement about the Scullin Government to the effect that 30 per cent, of the workers were unemployed then. I shall give to the committee the figures that were released by the Commonwealth Statistician for the whole of 1931 and 1932. They indicate clearly that the Lyons Government was no more able to deal with unemployment than was the government which preceded it or the go vernments of other countries of the world. The figures that I shall cite apply to trade unionists. They are -
In December, 1932, under the Lyons Government, the position was about the same as it was in December, 1931. To carry this matter a little further and to ensure that the true position in relation to unemployment during the days of the Lyons Government is appreciated, I shall cite the “Labour Report 1957”, No. 45. This is related to the census which was taken in June, 1933. This. enabled the people of Australia to ascertain by means of a census how grave unemployment in Australia was at that time. The figures I shall cite were published in 1957, and I ask honorable members to note that they are provided by the Commonwealth Statistician under the heading “ Wage and Salary Earners Unemployed “. They do not relate to the total work force.
These statistics show that males unemployed at June, 1933, totalled 405,400. Females unemployed totalled 75,800, and the total wage and salary earners out of work numbered 481,200. That was 22.7 per cent, of the wage and salary earners. The proportion of male wage and salary earners unemployed was 25.4 per cent., and the proportion of females out of work was 14.5 per cent. Those figures do not show the total number of unemployed in Australia at that time, because the Statistician has published a very important footnote under these tables which indicates that, even in 1933, the position was so grave that many persons who bad left school had never had an opportunity to get work. The Statistician stated -
In addition, there were considerable numbers of youths and women of working age who had never been employed and were not at work, at the time of the Census.
I simply say that I am not blaming the Lyons Government more than I blame the Scullin Government, but I want to point out that unemployment through economic causes was grave and rampant in Australia and in every other country in the world, and that it was due to economic causes which those in authority at the time could neither grapple with nor solve. What I object to is that, in an effort to make party political capital, it has been suggested that under the Labour Government in 1931, there were 30 per cent, of trade unionists unemployed, but that the situation had never been so grave under a Liberal government. The position is clear. Even people with the adroit mind of the Minister for Labour and National Service cannot evade the statistics that are contained in this booklet and which indicate that, in 1933, unemployment was almost as bad as it was in 1932. In 1932, unemployment was worse than in 1931. I hope that it will not be suggested again in this chamber that, in the days of the Scullin Government, 30 per cent, of the trade unionists were unemployed.
The depression caused people in this and other countries to analyse their economic systems to a greater extent than they had ever been analysed before. One of two things which emerged from the depression was the necessity for national planning in each country to ensure that progress is orderly and steady. The second thing that emerged was the acknowledgment of the fact that there is a responsibility upon governments, when even large-scale unemployment appears, to take up the slack in industry and find avenues for employment, not only to give security to the worker, but also to stimulate the demand for raw materials and so to prevent prices from falling any further.
As a consequence, in 1944, a white paper on employment was prepared by the then government indicating the steps which should be taken should this nation again have to face the problem of growing unemployment. I say, in all seriousness, that unemployment is growing and has been growing steadily in the Commonwealth for the last twenty months. We have to review the position. We have to see exactly where we are drifting in order that this trend may be arrested before it becomes disastrous both to the economy and to the security of our people.
I also suggest that if we desire to find out the amount of unemployment in Australia it is most undesirable that we should endeavour to minimize the percentage of unemployment by saying that it must be compared with the work force rather than with that section of the economy in which the wage or salary earner is employed. I stress that point because the Commonwealth Statistician has made it very clear that when he speaks of a work force he speaks of everybody who may be engaged in any way whatsoever in the economic activities of the community.
– That is his definition.
– That is so. The Commonwealth Statistician states that the term “ work force “, as defined in connexion with the census, refers to the economically active population and includes all persons who are usually engaged in any industry, business, trade or service at the time of the census. The term includes employers, selfemployed persons - those who conduct their own business - farmers, wage and salary earners, including the defence forces, helpers and those not at work at the date of census. Quite obviously, the man who is out of work because nobody will employ him is not an employer. Neither is he a person conducting his own business; nor is he a professional man carrying on his profession in chambers or offices situated in metropolitan or country areas. These people may be affected by bad economic conditions. They may not have as many clients or patients; they may not sell as many goods as they sold previously; but they are not persons in the sector which is known as “ wage and salary earners “.
Sitting suspended from 5.59 to 8 p.m.
– Before the suspension of the sitting, I had pointed out that 30 per cent of trade union members were unemployed during the depression which occurred during the life-time of the Lyons Liberal Government, not during the lifetime of the Scullin Labour Government. I now propose to deal with the present employment and unemployment position.
I think it will be agreed by all that if Australia is to continue as a progressive country its economy must be based on dynamic, not static lines. That being so, it is essential for the welfare of Australia and its people that as our population increases, our work force, as expressed in terms of persons who are wage or salary earners, shall also increase. Indeed, the unemployment figures that are available show that from the conclusion of the war in 1945 there has been, yearly, a substantial increase in the number of persons employed as wage or salary earners. There has been only one broken period in which employment has fallen, and it fell substantially then. That was between 1952 and 1953, during the life-time of the present Government. The figures show that up until 1949 the number of persons employed as salary or wage earners increased yearly, the lowest figure being 87,000, and the highest 167,000.
For the first two years of the life of this Government, the figures show an increase, but they also disclose that in 1952 and 1953 there was a very substantial decline in the number of persons employed as salary or wage earners. That decline amounted to over 60,000 persons, yet at the same time the population of Australia was increasing rapidly, both through natural increase and immigration. So one finds that since the war ended, and during the life of this Government, far from having an uninterrupted increase in the number employed, we have had falling employment.
I come now to the employment problem facing Australia to-day. During the period between 1952 and 1954, the highest number of people registered as unemployed was 79,886. That was in January 1953. But the recovery was fairly rapid because, within six months, that number decreased to 51,910. The last eighteen to twenty months has shown a constant increase in the number of persons registered for employment. In January of this year, approximately 74,750 person were registered as unemployed. At the end of July of this year, instead of showing a substantial fall in the number registered for employment, as was the case in 1953, the figures disclose that there has been a drop of only 8,000 from 74,000 to 66,000, and that the trend over the last twenty months has been one of a constant rise in the number of persons seeking employment.
When one looks further at the figures relating to wage and salary earners, one is astonished to find that in certain industries there has been a more than normal decline in employment. I shall mention two industries which reflect, to a very large extent, the economic health or otherwise of Australia.
I take the building industry first because it is generally accepted in economic circles that the condition of the building industry is an indication of the prosperity and soundness of the economic condition of a country. I find that, taking building as a whole, the number of persons employed has shrunk from 217,000 in September, 1956, to 207,000 in 1958. If we divide the industry into two sections, we find that the decrease in the number of persons employed on building work conducted by private persons has been substantial. During that same period, the number of persons employed on private construction and private building work, including repairs, fell from 102,000 to 86,000, a decline of 16,000. I need hardly point out that a fall in the rate of home construction must certainly have its effect upon the number employed in the building industry. Further, when we bear in mind the fact that within another four or five years we shall be faced with the problem of finding homes and houses for an increased population because by that time those who were born in the early war years will require homes, we must readily see that we are steadily moving towards a crisis in the housing situation which will visit the greatest difficulties and the greatest discomfort upon the Australian people.
I come now to quarrying and mining. This industry is essential to Australia’s welfare, especially from the stand-point of exports, and there has been a decline in the number of people employed in it. In September, 1956, there were 58,000 people employed in the quarrying and mining industry. By May, 1958, that number had fallen to 53,500. In an industry which is producing the export goods necessary for the establishment of overseas credits for the Australian people, we find this sharp decline in the number of persons employed!
This state of affairs cannot be allowed to pass unchallenged because it is an indication that, instead of being dynamic, our economy is tending to become sluggish, and if it tends to become sluggish at a time when conditions in other parts of the world are receding from a prosperous state, it is essential that this country take steps to right the position and give to our economy that stimulus which is necessary.
I feel that at this stage I must point out that this Government must take some responsibility for the growing unemployment. I can well remember how startled this committee was in 1951 when the Prime Minister of the day announced that 10,000 public servants were to be dismissed. No reason was given for the proposed action. All we had was the simple statement on behalf of the Government, “ We are going to reduce the number of public servants by 10,000”, and 10,000 public servants were displaced. But when we examine what has taken place in government establishments over the last eighteen months, we have the interesting disclosure that 435 people have been dismissed from the Bendigo Ordnance Factory since October, 1956, that twenty have been dismissed from the Echuca Ball Bearing Factory and that 2,771 have been dismissed from the Ordnance establishment at Melbourne. In the Department of Aircraft Production 800 persons have been dismissed. My friend, the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Luchetti), will agree that 300 persons have been dismissed from the Lithgow Small Arms Factory. As a consequence of this Government’s policy 1,500 persons have been put off work at the Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation, which is a private concern depending on orders from the Commonwealth. Those places are defence establishments with highly skilled employees, yet the defence vote for the supply of equipment and arms to our services was not fully utilized.. Money was available for the manufacture of equipment, but the Government has never utilized it in a planned way. The result is that the money is surplus, and employees in these defence establishments have been dismissed. When private industry finds that the Government is dismissing men, it becomes fearful and apprehensive, and the result is that industry becomes lethargic and sluggish.
Employment is a national problem. It does not concern only the Commonwealth Government. State governments are also vitally interested in employment, but if we are to devise ways and means to utilize available labour to the fullest possible extent, we must have dynamic and inspired leadership. The problem will never be solved by wishful thinking or by statements on paper, as in the Budget. The necessary leadership should and could be given by the Commonwealth Government. This same problem of employment was in the forefront of our minds during the debate on the last Budget, but the Government at that time took no steps whatever to confer with the States in order to find a way out of the difficulties. Unless the Government is prepared to give leadership by bringing the States together and working out a plan to be followed by the community as a whole for the stimulation of the economy and the employment of the jobless, we shall get nowhere. As I pointed out earlier to-night, the one thing that emerged from the depression was a recognition of the fact that if governments showed a capacity to plan and took up the lag when private industry was starting to get sluggish, there would be an opportunity to maintain full employment and build up the economy. One thing is certain. If the price of wool at the forthcoming sales should drop there will be further unemployment in this country. There is no question about that. When one looks at the statistics with regard to the price of wool, one finds that they constitute an employment barometer.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– Mr. Chairman, I was surprised that the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Clarey), who can sometimes be relied upon to give evidence of constructive thought in a debate, should have engaged instead on a propaganda mission designed to appeal to the voters in the November elections. He did appeal to us to look at our problems in a dynamic and statesman-like way; he himself has not put forward one sensible and constructive suggestion. He has offered criticisms. He has not dealt with unemployment as a sympathetic, human problem, but has tried to approach it, and has in fact approached it. on the basis of propaganda values, and propaganda values alone, His approach shows how a man’s personality can change simply because he changes his position in life from that of advocate to that of politician. He spoke of the fact that in 1937 there was large-scale unemployment during the term of office of the Lyons Government. But he did not mention that that unemployment was a legacy from the former Labour government, and that shortly after the Lyons Government took office he, as an advocate of the trade union movement, went to the arbitration court and recommended a prosperity loading due to the change of conditions. Not only did he recommend; he achieved his purpose. Now, on exactly the same issue, he has the temerity-and I believe he is lacking in sincerity - to say that the Lyons Government was to blame for the unemployment df that period. He talks about consistently increasing unemployment figures. I have no wish to talk about unemployment to-night, because I regard unemployment as a sympathetic human issue requiring sympathy; to be looked at on the basis of humanity and not on the basis of politics. But on his own figures the honorable member proved that instead of an increase in the number of recipients of unemployment benefit, or of people applying for employment, applicants for employment have been steadily decreasing, and employment in industry has been steadily increasing.
I did not want to touch upon the subject of employment too energetically to-night, mainly because I wanted to deal with what I regard as the main issues in the Budget. This is the ninth consecutive Budget and, if I may say so, the ninth successful Budget introduced by my colleague, the right honorable member for McPherson (Sir Arthur Fadden) since 1949. This Budget is both epochal and, in my opinion, radical in concept. It is radical in concept for this reason, that in peace-time, for the first time in our history, the Government has financed the activities of the country by treasury-bills to the extent of £110,000,000. Never before iti our history have we financed our activities in peace-time from short-term borrowing by the means of treasury-bills, as well as from taxation and ordinary loan funds. What does this mean, because I think an explanation has to be given? Last year, we had a fall in our export income of about £165,000,000 - from about £980,000,000 to about £815,000,000. That was a real loss of wealth. It was a loss of purchasing power by the Australian farmer and the Australian exporter and it had to be made good if full employment was to be sustained and if industry was to be kept
Working vigorously. That was the real background against which the Budget had to be framed. The position was one of falling purchasing power, both in the rural sector and the exporting sector of our economy. What had to be done? In the first place, the Government decided to finance its activities, and those of the States, by treasury-bill issues to the extent of £110,000,000. In the second place- and this is just as important, because to be perfectly frank I do not think it has been stressed sufficiently - during last year the central bank released about £65,000,000 from the special accounts of the trading banks. The trading banks were then able to increase advances to their customers by about £75,000,000. In addition- and I think this is a point that has not been made, the import ceiling this year will be fixed at £800,000,000. As expansionary forces are in existence and as purchasing power will be increased, we can expect that the result will be to add to the demand this year compared with last year. None of the increase can spill over into imports. Therefore internal demand should be sufficient, and more than sufficient to sustain the objectives that the Government has set for itself. I mention those points because I thing they are important. The background against which the Government had to look at the problem was a possibility of failing purchasing power caused by the fall of overseas prices, and the fall in rural and export incomes. The Government had therefore, to offset - and more than offset - that fall in purchasing power. It has done it by means of treasury-bill issues, by means of bank advances and, as I have said, by setting the import ceiling at £800,000,000. Objective observers have pointed to the fact that probably the last factor alone will add to internal demand by something of the order of £30,000,000. I think that we can draw from those facts the very encouraging conclusion that this year demand should be, and probably will be, sufficient - and more than sufficient - to sustain employment and to have industry Working at top speed.
I have mentioned that extra purchasing power had to be found if the Government were to achieve its objectives. What were those objectives? The Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) described them very forcefully in his Budget speech. I think that they should be repeated again and again until at least the end of December. We bad two objectives. The first was to ensure stability of costs - a subject to which I shall return later - and the second was to continue a vigorous national development and migration programme. In other words, the Government was not prepared, because of some temporary difficulties associated with dry conditions and falling export income, to change its policies for one year and then, in the years to come, to go ahead with another vigorous and energetic development programme. I am positive that the action taken by the Government and the confidence which it has shown in the future will turn out to be correct.
Australia is a great exporting country. To us relative stability of costs is of the first importance. We have to sell in the international markets, and if the costs of other countries are lower than ours it becomes difficult, if not impossible, for us to sell. The Government, therefore, adopted this policy of stable costs. In this context the real decision that had to be made by the Government during the course of the Budget discussions was this: What was the prudent amount of finance that could be provided by means of treasurybill issues and credit without inflationary forces developing- -having in mind the fact that import controls would themselves lead to increased local demand? That was the critical question, and the Government answered it by saying, “The maximum is £110,000,000”. It was, as I have said, a matter of judgment. The Government exercised its judgment reasonably and, as I have already suggested, its decision will ultimately benefit the people of Australia.
May I now say something about the Opposition case. First, I want to say that I personally regard it as a spectacular failure - spectacular in the sense that it makes no positive promises to any section of the Australian people but offers pie in the sky to every one. That is about the best description of the Opposition case. The remarks of the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) ended with this pious attestation - . . appropriate action will be taken by members of the Australian Labour party when the Government’s detailed proposals for the election are submitted to the people ….
The Opposition did not attempt to frame an alternative Budget. It did not attempt to say to any section of the people. “ This is what you will get “. It did not attempt to do anything. It merely said “ When the Prime Minister has made his policy speech we will outbid him. We will wait till he has disclosed to the people what his election policy will be and we Will then engage in a bidding campaign for votes, regardless of the consequences “. We had the same sort of thing in 1954. The honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen), who is trying to interject, will not be with us after the next election and if he is temperate and wise he will remain quiet. He will not be with us because history will repeat itself and the pie in the sky promises of the Opposition will be treated exactly as they were in 1954.
The Leader of the Opposition sought to capitalize on the temporary problems of the farmer, the pensioner, the employer, the employee, housing, unemployment, national health and the States. Everything was given a go, but nothing was given a fair go. No positive contribution was made to the solution of those temporary problems. If one analyses the speech of the right honorable gentleman one finds that it is full of inconsistencies and that, in at least two instances, there is blatant misrepresentation.
I should like to take some specific statements from that speech, analyse them and show, I hope, exactly what they imply. First, the Leader of the Opposition referred to the farming community, for which I regard myself as having some administrative responsibility. He said, “ The responsibility for the farming crisis lies squarely at the Government’s door “. Does any sincere and decent member of the Opposition believe that to be true? Would any member of this chamber be prepared, honestly and sincerely to agree with it? Every one, including the farmer, knows that the difficulties - and they are temporary - confronting the primary industries, are attributable to two causes, both of which are beyond the power of the Government to control. The first is the fall in export prices, and the second, the dry conditions which, unfortunately, prevailed in Australia during the last year. For those reasons, I say that that particular statement of the Leader of the Opposition amounted to blatant misrepresentation.
He made the further statement that the Government’s philosophy was, “ What happens to the farmers is their own affair “. I do not intend to mention again the fact that farm income fell last year by £1 80,000,000. Nor do I want to state again that we cannot look at th? problems of the farmer in anything but a practical and sensible fashion. What is practical and sensible, in this context? The Government will do everything that it can for the farmer - not in any sense of feeling that it is being generous, but in the knowledge that when this section of the community needs help it must receive help from any realistic and sensible government.
May I now refer to what has been done? To-night, 1 am one of the last to speak from this side of the House and have to address myself to subjects which have not been dealt with in a fuller and better way by my colleagues. What, then, has been done for the farming community? First, may I mention the fact that trading bank advances last year increased by about £77,000,000. The great bulk of the increase took place in the last six months of the financial year. I have reason to believe, and I have been reliably informed, that the farming community shared strongly in this increase in advances. My personal belief is that it has received more than its normal percentage of increased advances. Secondly, the pastoral finance companies are being strongly supported by the Australian banks so that they can support their clients and carry them over what might be termed a somewhat difficult year. My colleague, the Treasurer, stated that this year personal income tax will fall by £32,000,000. Of that, the biggest part will be a fall in the tax paid by the primary producer. To that extent he will be helped.
Thirdly, may I mention that this year again the special depreciation allowance of 20 per cent, has been continued. That represents a benefit to the farmer of £3,500,000 a year. Fourthly, under specified conditions, the fishing industry has been declared a primary industry, in order that it may receive the benefits not only of the averaging of incomes but also of the special depreciation allowances which are permitted to farmers.
I mention but two other subjects, briefly. The first is that this year the amounts made available for State government works, for
Commonwealth works, for Commonwealth aid roads, and for semi-government and local government authorities, will be increased by £19,500,000. A large proportion of this increase, it is hoped, will go to the country towns, so that work can be carried out there. This should have the effect of providing employment, or the means of employment, in those areas. 1 mention these things, because the Leader of the Opposition did make that blatant misrepresentation. Much has been done. The only question the Opposition should have asked is whether sufficient has been done.
May I refer again to an inconsistency in the right honorable gentleman’s argument? It shows again that if you try to appeal to too many you are bound to get bogged down in your arguments and lost in your own rhetoric. What did the right honorable gentleman say about company profits? He claimed that in 1953, 1954, and 1955, the companies made excess profits of between £150,000,000 and £200,000,000. There, he was appealing to the employee, saying, “ You should have had your wages substantially increased.” But in the very next breath, he referred to the fact that the White Paper on national income revealed that the income of Australian companies, after paying tax, has shown a steady downward trend for the last five years. Can he have it both ways? Can he have it, when he is appealing to the employee, that profits have been rising, and when he is appealing to the companies that profits have been steadily falling? The simple fact of the matter is that if you look at the White Paper you will find that company profits, after tax, rose steadily for three years. They were stable in 1956-57, and they declined by about 2 per cent, in 1957-58. I mention that fact merely to show, first, the inconsistency of the Leader of the Opposition, and secondly, how unreliable is his presentation of facts, or alleged facts.
So the Opposition case adds up to no more than this. Somebody has said that this is a barren Budget. If it is a barren Budget, the proposition put up by the Leader of the Opposition is something infinitely worse. The only adequate word that I can find for it is “ impotent “. An impotent proposition it is, from a tired, weary, awfully frustrated, and divided Opposition.
The facts of life to-day, as we see them, show, first, that we have developed an economic and financial mechanism in this country to control the economy and to ensure our reaching the two goals that I have just mentioned. Secondly, they show the diversity of our economy and the way in which it has grown over the last few years.
I come back to a quite irresponsible and inaccurate statement made by the right honorable member for Barton. Referring to public and private employment, he said, “ It indicates a contracting economy, not an expanding one “. As practically the last speaker on the Government side, I find it difficult to get additional facts to supplement those that have been mentioned by the Prime Minister, the Minister for Labour and National Service, and others, but I think that I can present at least three facts that have not already been presented, and which paint a totally different picture from that painted by the Leader of the Opposition. Our population has grown by about 2,000,000 to about 10,000,00 in the last ten years. What has not been put to the committee is that last year, 1957, 220,000 children were born in this wonderful country of ours. Does that show stagnation? Does that show lack of confidence by the families? On the contrary, that large figure shows confidence in the home and confidence in the future of this country by the most important section of the community.
The second point is that, leaving aside the recent down-turn in farm incomes, over which the Government had no control, by the middle of 1956 agricultural production had. in every major respect, reached the goals set by the Government in 1952, shortly after it came into office. The increase in volume of farm production has been of the order of 30 per cent, above that in pre-war years - a magnificent achievement. That can be repeated under favorable conditions, providing only that we can find the external markets in which the produce can be sold. To show there has not been in any sense a crisis - the word as used by the honorable member for Bendigo and the Leader of the Opposition is a complete exaggeration - T point out that last vear the gross value of farm income was £1.116,000,000, which was only 13 per cent, lower than that of the highest year, 1956-57.
The other factor that has not been mentioned is overseas capital investment in this country. Later, I want to touch on that problem a little more. Here, I merely mention that last year private investment was of the order of £85,000,000, a true recognition of the fact that the overseas investor has confidence in us, although the Opposition has not. The overseas investor is prepared to invest, because he knows this is the best place for investment.
I did want to mention the problem of housing, but because my time is passing rapidly, all I will say in that connexion is that last year 73,000 homes were built, that our annual requirement for the increasing population is 54,000 or 56,000, so that a real contribution is being made not only to the future but also to reduce the backlog.
Mainly because the honorable member for Bendigo has referred to the problem of employment, I touch on it, however briefly. I do so with hesitation, because this is a human problem, and we want to feel that everyone who is able and willing and wants a job will be able to find it, and find it quickly. The facts put by my right honorable colleague, the Minister for Labour and National Service, at least permit us to draw two conclusions. The first is that the man who has a job should be certain that he can keep it, and the second shows that jobs are being steadily and consistently provided for the increasing work force of this country. I mention only two facts to support my argument. First, only 1.6 per cent, of the work force is registered for employment and, secondly, 98 out of every 100 were consistently kept in employment last year.
I am sure that the Opposition is overdoing this matter of unemployment, and I am quite certain that the average man feels that the Opposition is making propaganda of it. Even the honorable member for Bendigo lacks sincerity when he puts his argument.
I did want to mention costs and also overseas investment in this country. I have mentioned that costs are of vital importance to us. They are important because we have to compete in the international markets on the basis of price. To the extent that we have not trade agreements or that there are not international commodity agreements, price is the decisive factor in international trade.
Lt must be the policy of this Government to see that our costs do not rise relatively to those of other countries. In other words, our costs must be kept rising at a less rapid rate than those of our competitors in other parts of the world. Our performance is remarkably good for a country that is expanding at such a rapid rate. Last year the wholesale price index figure fell by 2.2 per cent. - a good portent of what can happen in the future - and the retail price index rose by only 2.2 per cent. Now, Sir, these are remarkably good figures. They are heartening figures to a country that is so heavily involved in international trade as we are.
I shall touch on one other subject, and that is the question of international capital investments. These provide funds for three purposes. First, they permit our industrialists to get the capital equipment and the raw materials they want. Secondly, they provide the factories necessary for continuous growth. Finally, they provide the know-how, so that when the factories are established here they work at a top level of efficiency. What was the amount of investment? The year before last, something like £85,000,000 was invested by overseas countries in the future of this great country of ours. Now there is a real gesture of confidence - £44,000,000 of new capital, and £41,000,000 of profits ploughed back! That showed their confidence - a confidence not shown by the Opposition.
May I finish on this note, because my time, unfortunately, seems to have passed too quickly: We have now a population of 10,000,000 and we are heading for the 20,000,000 mark. We are now heading for our second 50,000 factories. The rural industries, while there are temporary problems to overcome, have abundant opportunities for expansion. Finding profitable markets will be the main problem. Overseas investors have shown their confidence in us. We have the right to look forward with some confidence to the future. What of the year ahead? I have reached this judgment, with some reservation. We now look forward to having a satisfactory farm season, and secondly, we can at long last see the beginnings of the end of the slump that has occurred in the United States of America. Keeping these facts in mind. what should the average person think? He will show his confidence in the MenziesFadden Government in a decisive and, I believe, so far as the Labour party is concerned, in a destructive way. And for these reasons: The people want to live in a prosperous country where their opportunities for employment are increasing. They will get those opportunities. They want to think that they have prospects, too, for better standards of living; that the standards will continually improve. The prospects for the realization of this dream are good. In the face of those things, how could we on the government side of the chamber and the Australian people have less than confidence in the future? In the only way that is open to them, the people will show their confidence in this Government at the election.
I leave you with this thought. The Leader of the Opposition said that the Budget will be the main issue at the next election. I believe that his ideas show, not so much barrenness, but a complete inability to grasp the facts. They were, in truth, sterile and impotent. Australians will remember the Treasurer, after this Budget, not only in terms of affection and esteem but also with the recognition that in this, as with other Budgets, he has shown realism and common sense. He, and the rest of us, have great faith in the development of this country.
.- The Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. McMahon) made a prophecy that I shall not be here after the next election. That gives me a golden opportunity to tell him what I think of him and of the Liberal party before I go. But all prophecies and all horoscopes need to be glanced at, and after we have finished with the Budget to-night I think the prospects and the prophecies wilt be drastically changed. But before we accept the Minister as an authority on anything, and more especially on the Budget, we have to look at his history. We must have a witness about the Budget. The Minister has been Minister for Air. During that time he bombarded us and deluged us with information about turbo jets and the planes he did not have and all the chatter and all the gen about the Air Force. And then miraculously, for some reason best known to the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), he was transferred to the Social Services portfolio. So then we got Aunt Priscilla’s pension ad nauseam, and every aspect of pensions. Again, he was the Pooh Bah and the supreme and absolute authority.
Now he has been transplanted to the Primary Industry portfolio, and in his conversations he even brings the drought into the chamber. He has got the drought in his utterances, in his delivery, and in his analysis of the Budget. So, in the circumstances, we might even leave him where he is, and pray that I shall return to keep him up to the mark. If there should be a national loss and I should not be here, I hope he will remember the kindly words I gave to him in his slow and cautious movement towards the stars.
I have been astonished at the hyperbole and the flapdoodle that has been talked about this Budget. I can forgive the honorable member for Parramatta (Sir Garfield Barwick) the fledgling in this chamber - the unfortunate bird that collapsed here a couple of days ago in making its maiden flight around the chamber. I can understand why this Budget excited him, but I can assure you that he is going to drop his racquet when he hears the alternative to this Budget.
The Prime Minister himself came into the chamber to tell us about the Budget. It was the most pathetic case we have had from him for many a day. There is no one in this country who will say that the Prime Minister is incapable of making a splendid case, but in this instance he looked at his brief, as his legal colleagues will understand, the fee was, in a political sense, very unprofitable and he got out again as quickly as he could. If I may reduce the simile to something more simple that would be appreciated by the Australian people, I say he threw away his thimble and pea before the last race was over. He tried to make an argument about this wretched Budget but he was completely defeated.
We call it a barren Budget, because it is just such a thing. I hope that the Minister for Primary Industry will not make an interjection now about anything being barren, because if he does I will have to make a reference to the mink wig that we will give him when he leaves this place. We see the terrific breakdown in our finance. This Government is broke and it is going to the country on a confidence trick. The worker was told that this country is abounding with money, and he was told that everything would be all right in the future. But the Government does not want the people to touch their money. It says, “ You must be very careful or the whole thing will go haywire “ and therefore it wants the people to submit to the continuance of control imposed by the banks and other instrumentalities. In effect, the Government says that inflation is a very wretched thing and that something might happen to the people. The Prime Minister goes boldly forward and says that we have to battle against deflation. But what happens in the interegnum? The worker begins to wonder what sort of a confidence trick has been put over the Australian people.
I for one will not believe this nonsense about an exciting Budget and an adventure. It is an adventure that I would not make, especially with Government members on 22nd November, because such an adventure will lead them into the cold shades of opposition. The Leader of the Opposition talked about having faith in what we are going to do. The Treasurer has wrapped up his swag and he is going to hit it for’ Queensland. I think he is giving the Prime Minister a sailor’s farewell in relation to the Budget. What does it contain? It contains a deficit of £110,000,000, a fall in farm income of £180,000,000, and maturing bond repayments to the Australian people of £337,000,000. There is a severe run-down in the overseas balance of roughly £140,000,000, and there is £365,000,000, or £1,000,000 a day, being absorbed by time payment which this Government has done nothing to check. It is wrecking the banking system which the Government came here to defend, and you have nothing in this country except black-market interest and a banking system which has yielded to cheap money. The Leader of the Opposition says it is making people greedy and covetous. There is what our leader has called a lust for interest.
You cannot get away from that. If the Minister were an economist - and he has the appropriate degree - he would realize that one of the most dangerous things in this economy is the way in which the whole of our financial and banking structure has been taken over by the time-payment bandits. Something has to be done about that, and in due course the Labour party will tell the Parliament and the nation what it is going to do about it.
Although we have this inspiring Budget, this adventurous Budget, this Budget in which we are to have faith, this Budget which is to uplift our hearts, we see in this country 300,000 people still homeless. We are short of 150,000 homes. We have 25,000 diggers still waiting for war service homes. We have 100,000 immigrants coming in this year to be met by 66,000 unemployed already in the country. That is the picture that inspires and uplifts!
The Minister for Primary Industry, who does not know very much about the tragic history of this country in regard to finance, talks about what a miracle, what a new mystery, what a wonderful gadget and gimmick he has discovered in the plan to bridge the gap between what you have and what you have to pay out by borrowing from the bank! Of course, that is the fiduciary issue technique. The gate of the sepulchre of the Labour movement should burst open at the Minister’s statement, because we remember the days when Scullin and Theodore tried, for the sake of starving people in Australia, to get £16,000,000 as a fiduciary issue, and the old bedstead manufacturer who was boss of the Commonwealth Bank slammed the door shut in their faces. If this is what the Government is prepared to give us as a new magic formula, we remind it that we were pleading on our knees decades ago for the restoration to the people of the right to use their own bank - the Commonwealth Bank - in order to finance a deficit in this way.
What a wicked, what a stupid thing it is for the Government to come to us and hail this formula of deficit budgeting as some new magical potion. The Government ought to say to us, in all humility, “ In 1931 you attempted to try this and we would not let you try to do it”. The reason was that the then Chairman of the Commonwealth Bank Board said that it would wreck the economy. Yet all that was asked for them was a paltry £16,000,000.
Having looked at what this adventurous Budget, this exciting Budget, is doing, we find that, in addition to the millions that the Government owes and is committed to, it is completely broke overseas, with a falling market facing our export products. It has not a friend overseas - not in the Eastern world, at any rate - and is nattering around in a fearsome and footling manner. I charge the Government with having no exports plan. Of course it has no exports plan, as the honorable member for Lalor, who was Minister for Commerce and Agriculture in the Labour government has said. He knows about these things. The Government has no defence plan, yet it has the temerity to talk about what we did immediately after the war. At that time we were decanting troops out of the armies at the urgent request of industry, and about that time there was some sort of slackening in defence. The Minister for Defence (Sir Philip McBride). who is not now present, is winging his way to some part of the world to combat communism, in his own delightful phrase. We want to remind him about what we found in the country when we took over from the slack hands of Liberalism. On 27th July, 1.942, these facts were released by the then Prime Minister and published in “Hansard “. The strength and disposition of our forces when Labour took over was several warships in overseas theatres. We were 20 per cent, short of rifles.
The Government still has our armed forces using the .303 rifle, which was used with distinction in the Boer War. I am not sure that it was not used in the Sudan War and I am also not sure that it was not used as a substitute for the assegai in the Zulu War. We were 20 per cent, short of rifles! We are still short of rifles. Where is the Minister for Defence to answer that? We were 28 per cent, short on sub-machine guns.
– What did Curtin say?
– These are not your statistics melted down to suit the case. These are genuine. We were 48 per cent, deficient in light machine guns. We were 15 per cent, deficient in anti-tank rifles and 9 per cent, deficient in anti-aircraft guns. We were 56 per cent, deficient in field guns. We had no fighter aircraft. We had ten light tanks, which were mostly used for war loan rallies.
Any Australian will remember that last week was the anniversary of the assault on Rabaul in which occurred the defeat of the Wirraways - one of the greatest historical tragedies of our time. Six Wirraways, in the face of 50 Zeros with 50 accompanying bombers, were brought down. Who does not remember that? The “ Sydney Morning Herald “ refreshed our minds on it by publishing the details this week. We remember when the men who had to fly into the face of such disaster, in a cynical and yet extremely courageous way sent their message to the Air Board, “We who are about to die salute you “. How dare this Government talk about defence. Its whole career has been one of inability to handle defence, and it looks at this moment as if it is coming again to the same position.
– Mr. Haylen, have you forgotten that the Communists-
– Order! The committee will come to order.
– The honorable member for Mackellar should be the last man to interject, because everybody remembers his great foray. It was a beautiful moonlit night. The gibbous moon was floating in the sky. Up strode the commando with 1,000 bombs and planted them in the bathing place at Cronulla. He also held up a bridge between Cronulla and Casula, much to the embarrassment of the field marshal, who at the time had completely different dispositions in regard to the exercise on the coast of New South Wales. With his usual dash the honorable member was able to get away with it.
– On a point of order, Mr. Chairman: The honorable member is quite in error. I was endeavouring-
– I was endeavouring to show how, before the Nazis attacked Russia in June, 1941, the Communists were sabotaging our war effort, and that some members of the Australian Labour party were assisting them.
– Order! That is not a point of order.
– That was a great campaign conducted by the honorable member for Mackellar. The only thing equivalent to it that I recall was once when I saw him in a motor bike squadron, fully armed like an American army policeman, flash up to the doors of the Commonwealth buildings, fly up in the lift and demand to see Dr. Evatt. Thank goodness for the future of the Labour party that I was able to tell him that Dr. Evatt was engaged, because there are some things which, suddenly bursting in on the vision, might be dangerous in certain circumstances.
– Order! The honorable gentleman should talk about the Budget or something related to it.
– We charge the Government with the fact that there is no defence plan in the Budget. There is certainly no works plan in the Budget, and the social services plan is a poor one. There is certainly no homes plan in the Budget. You ask yourself again and again - because this matter has been discussed by many members - what is behind the Government’s attempt to pretend that this is a successful Budget. Is it the old spider and the fly technique that was used previously so successfully, as everybody remembers, before the days of the horror budget? There was a plan propounded to the public that things were not too good and perhaps it would be better if we waited a little while until things got adjusted. So soon as the public gave the Government the green light to go on, the Government brought in the horror budget providing for extra taxes amounting to £159,000,000. Later on the little horror budget was brought down for the same reason. So the idea seems to be to kid the public along with pretence. We had the horror budget of 1951 imposing £159,000,000 extra taxes and the little horror budget in 1956 imposing £115,000,000 extra taxes.
Neither of those budgets was promised on the hustings. None of those things were even hinted at. They were an attempt to cajole and perhaps coerce the people into the belief that these things could be got by and that the best thing would be to trust the Government - the same thing as the Prime Minister has put up now. We must trust them! As a result of that technique in the past, the public copped these terrific imposts from which we are only now fighting our way clear. It seems to me and to the man in the street that we are up against some terrific problems brought about by this Government. None of them is of more importance than the problem of the markets for our primary products.
The Minister for Primary Industry made a speech about markets. I should like to say something about markets generally and our falling revenue from overseas sales. We know that there is a customs union between the various democratic countries of Western Europe, and that very shortly that union will begin to operate. In many ways that union will react against our markets, so we must look to the East and encourage all sorts of barter and build all sorts of bridges between us and our near neighbours so that we can live more successfully at home.
This Government which has referred in so many ways to our defences has been proved, even by my few remarks, to be bankrupt. A terrific list of items remains to be paid for, and the only way in which the Government can bridge the gap is to use the treasury-bills of the Commonwealth Bank. But more frightening things than that are associated with this Budget. One is the thinking of the Government in relation to our near neighbours. I should have liked to ask the Minister for Defence (Sir Philip McBride) for some information about Indonesia, but he is not present in the chamber. What is the position there? ls it worsening or is it improving? How is it that after years of warnings from our ally, the great United States of America, that country suddenly flies arms in to Indonesia? Is it that the United States has regained its sanity and now realizes that one cannot have enemies all over the world? We get no information at all about the countries only a few thousand miles distant from us. The Minister is just tottering along to his retirement, and stooges every question directed to him by having it placed on the notice-paper. What is the position with regard to Indonesia? How dangerous is it? Is it vital? Will some decision be reached about trade with Indonesia by the end of this year? What is the position in relation to West New Guinea? We know none of these things because the Government is silent about them.
One of the most serious problems revealed in the Budget relates to our overseas trade. Some action must be taken to rectify our trade position, but that action must be taken in our own hemisphere Let us get rid of these frightening thoughts^ these old fashioned witch-doctor ideas’ about not trading with any country that, is willing to trade with us. Look at the. miserable way in which the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen), who, too, is not in. the chamber, wangled a fairly extensive and1 fairly profitable trade with what is known: as red China, despite the fact that he said it could not be done. The Minister foil Primary Industry (Mr. McMahon) also? evaded questions on this matter. At the present time we sell about £8,000,000 worth of goods to continental China, and! in return buy goods worth about £2,500,000. The only items which are not available for sale to China are those on the list of strategic goods, and that list is. reviewed from time to time. Why could we not have had a little honesty about these things? Why could we not have had a little truth about these things? I know, from my experience in China, that this* underhand approach was a means of giving a rake-off to big business. When I was in Shanghai I saw Australian businessmen, representatives of the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited, of great wool organizations, of great steel companies and of sugar interests, hunting for markets under the cover of a total prohibition. They were only fixing up things for themselves. There has not yet been any declaration of continental China as an open: market, although Australian businessman are chasing all the business they can get in the most meretricious and cowardly way imaginable. Instead of refusing to recognize the market that is available to us in China, we ought to foster it at the highest, level, not as a matter of political expediency, but as a matter of Australian patriotism. This is a vital, urgent and important problem, and we should face it. If Australia’s export trade is to survive, we must seek a market in the East.
The tremendous growth of China opens a vast market for Australia’s exports, and we should not hesitate to bridge the gap that now exists between our countries in order to encourage mutual trade. Other countries have already negotiated 116 trade treaties with continental China, but Australia does not have even one with that country. If we are to get in on the ground floor with China which, at its present rate of progress and with its immense industrial programme, will soon become a great industrial force in the Pacific, we shall have to build up good relations with her. The way to do that is to accept barter and, by that means, bridge the gap that now exists between us. Instead of doing that we cavort with our old enemy, Japan. These days, everything that Japan does for the sake of expediency is something wonderful in the eyes of this Government. People come to Australia from Japan seeking to buy coal, and everybody is thrilled and delighted about that. But the true story is that the Japanese are in Australia because at the moment Japan is experiencing a complete and utter blanket coal strike over bad safety conditions and shocking rates of pay. The Japanese want us to scab on the workers in their own country. Their presence in Australia has nothing whatever to do with an enduring market for our coal.
Australia affords Japan preferred nation treatment, but we refuse to trade with our Chinese or Ceylonese neighbours. I would rather deal with countries around our borders, countries that can do something for us and countries of which we have less reason to be afraid in the future.
– How will they pay for the goods we send them?
– I agree that China has only a limited amount of money available. The Chinese will not be caught, as they were a century or so ago, by the white man’s tricks. They have an extremely heavy balance of payments against them. Then there is a move to take over China’s railways and treaty ports, as was done in the past. When I was in Peking the Chinese Minister for Trade told me that a century ago certain countries had an adverse trade balance with China of 68,000,000 taels of silver, but because of the introduction of opium and for other reasons, plus war and seizure, in ten years the trade deficit against China in favour of European countries was exactly 68,000,000 taels of silver. In the circumstances one can understand why China .does not want to enter a trade agreement which will involve a balance of payments against her. I admit to the honorable member for McMillan that a difficulty exists in the matter of China paying for the goods she imports, but if we do not immediately enter into trade with a great nation that has such a high industrial potential we shall miss out altogether.
The question of Indonesia has not been approached as it should have been-
Opposition members. - We cannot hear the speaker. Chair! Chair!
– Order! There is too much noise in the chamber. It is impossible to hear the honorable member.
– It is all coming from the members of the Australian Country party.
– I would not expect any courtesy from honorable members in hillbilly corner, especially now that the drought is drying up what little sense of humour they have. I want to bring the committee back to a more solemn discussion on the question of Indonesia.
– There is not a great deal of time.
– I do not need a great deal of time, but in the time available to me I can encompass much more than the Minister for the Army can, as has been shown in the past. The question of West New Guinea, the question of trade, the question of treating Indonesia as a friendly nation; all these must be considered. 1 hope we do not fall into the trap of rattling the sabre at a country with which we could, and should, be friendly. Indonesia suffered a great deal in achieving its independence because of her lack of skilled workmen and industrial development. We ought to help her by means of, perhaps, a modified Colombo plan. In my view, the assistance we gave other countries did nothing but encourage communism, because anybody could obtain the assistance. If honorable members want to know the facts about this matter I shall state them at another time. We should1 send to Indonesia goods that she requires that are surplus to our needs. We should do something abou: developing trade with Indonesia on a barter system. Then when we feel that the existence of the Indonesians is as important to us as our existence is to them, we can sit down at the United Nations and negotiate the thorny problem of imperialism, the question of Dutch New Guinea and other matters. We make our relations with Indo nesia more difficult than they are because we are beginning to rattle the sabre. We have no right to do that. We ourselves control a trust territory.
We are painfully arriving at obvious solutions. The first thing to do is to keep peace in our time and in our Pacific Ocean. We :should move towards Indonesia with a much more friendly approach, and there is no better time to do that than now to the Budget we are now discussing.
– What do you mean by negotiate?
– I did not use the word, tout there are various ways in which we can negotiate. At the present time no overt action has been taken by either side. Why do we have Ministers? Why do we have a consular corps? Why do we have talks about any of these things? In negotiations of that sort it is essential that we have friendly talks with each other before the problems become acute and get out of hand altogether.
Mr. Chairman, I rose to denounce thi? Budget, and in summing up my remarks 1 repeat that this Government has an enormous debt to face and that it is approaching the people in a stupid way in an endeavour to gull them into doing what it wants them to do. The Government tells the people that if they have faith in it and1 return it on 22nd November, by the magic of abracadabra everything will be all right. But everything will not be all right. The door has been slammed on the Government. The deficit is too large and the depths associated with it are too deep. When the Government says that Australia has a most buoyant and attractive economy, of course it means that it had that; but it has not got it to-day. Everything has been run down. Nobody is prepared to make any alterations. The Government has a weak and wobbly immigration programme which could do with a cut of from 25,000 to 50,000 immigrants because the country is confronted with the problem of 66,000 unemployed, and it is beginning to get chronic. The Government cannot talk that off. It cannot talk off the low, slow drag in housing that gets no better. It just cannot talk down the fact that 25,000 diggers are still waiting for homes. It cannot talk off the fact that practically £400,000,000 will be required to pay back to the Australian bond-holders the debts that we owe them. If the Government can appeal to them as Chifley did and get them to reconvert, it will be lucky; but the Government has not been so lucky about reconversion.
So down the line we go. The Government is facing an amazing position in which the destruction of the banking system is threatened by the covetous hire-purchase companies; and because hire purchase is private enterprise, the Government dares not touch it. Not one of those problems has been discussed by Government supporters. The Government talks nebulously about faith, and excitement and adventure, but it cannot gull the Australian people in that way. They say, “ All right, what about the 66,000 unemployed; what about the £400,000,000 debt to the Australian people and their interest rate which you took and broke down for them? What about timepayment rackets in this country and the overseas investments which have dropped? “ In England, this Government will not be able to pay its way in six months’ time.
Is that a wonderful message to take to the people? I say that in the whole of this debate there has been no honesty on the part of Ministers. It is a long time since this debate commenced, and I have listened to the whole of it. I have not heard one piece of honesty from honorable members opposite. All of them made spectacular speeches intended to gull the public. Last night the Minister for the Army kept saying, “ Don’t lose your head “. I thought he was thinking of the one private in his army whom he did not want to desert. I could not think of any other reason for his nauseating repetition of that phrase - “ Don’t lose your head “. I say that the Government will lose its head on 22nd November, because it has abdicated in the period of our greatest prosperity. In one short drought and one short recession of private business overseas, the Government has curled up and capitulated. Overseas, it has not a friend left; and at home it has a Matterhorn of debt which not even the Treasurer, who has now left the Government, has dared to climb. That is one of the reasons why the Treasurer is leaving the Government. I wish him the best in the world; he is a fine Australian, but his associates are rather peculiar. For that reason my criticism is not of himself, but of those with whom he has had, perforce, to spend his time. I believe that when he goes to Queensland and sits in the sunshine of that wonderful and progressive State he will chuckle at what he has left the Government to unravel.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– The honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) referred to honorable members in this corner as hill-billies. I remember the time when he was referred to in the precincts of this chamber as “ Mr. Five Per Cent “. At a time when only about 1.4 per cent, of the workers were unemployed he had the temerity to suggest that if the number of unemployed stood at about 5 per cent, that would be a reasonable thing to expect. To-night, he ventured to go back into ancient history and discuss the preparations for the last war, and he was condemnatory of the Government of the day; but he refrained from mentioning the fact that until Russia came into the war the Communists in this country were actively engaged in sabotaging our war effort. If one looks through the pages of “ Hansard “ of that period and reads some of the comments and speeches of Labour members who were then in Opposition - they may not all be here now - one would have reason to believe that indirect if not active support was given from that quarter in that sabotage.
I think it may now be reasonably said that in this debate the tumult and the shouting has died; and there is little left for one to do profitably except to go through what has been said, testing the counterproposals and criticising the critics, and possibly to indulge in a little moralising. Before I do that, I shall read the concluding remarks of the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) in his Budget Speech. T notice that other honorable members thought it worth repeating these comments, but reiteration of them at this stage will be good not only for the soul but also for the morale of this nation. The Treasurer said -
Some no doubt will say that we ought to do more th-t iws propose »o do and. in particular that we ought tn reduce taxation further. That is something we would have been glad to do had the revenue position been stronger. But with revenue down it has appeared neither feasible nor wise. I am coming to the end of a long term as Treasurer - a record term in point of years. But there is another record of which I am far prouder.
This is the point -
Time and again in these difficult years the Government has had a choice of doing the thing that might have been popular or of doing the thing that appeared sound and responsible. Each time it has taken the harder but more responsible course, and I present this, my final Budget, happy in the thought that, once again, the decision falls the same way. 1 believe that the public can take confidence from those remarks in the knowledge that it has a government which will not panic and which will not introduce dangerous expedients into an economy in which no unmanageable danger exists.
I must mention, in reply to some of the comments that have been made, that it is a common practice in all parliaments, particularly on the eve of an election, for the Opposition to fan the flames of discontent if any exists, and to make appeals and lavish promises to any section of the community which it thinks is suffering slightly at the moment. These appeals are intended to deceive those people and cause them to think that a change of government will mean a change in their conditions practically overnight. That is a form of deception which has contributed very much to the low esteem in which the Australian public evaluates the politician; and it is a type of deception with which I will never be associated.
I express my pride in the fact that this Government, which I support, did not, on the eve of an election, bring down what could be called a popular Budget for the purpose of buying votes - a Budget which might have done irreparable damage to the economy of the country at some later period. As a background to the consideration of this Budget, we should keep uppermost in our minds a few facts which cannot be denied or ignored, as they have been ignored. One of them is that we have just come to the end of a year and found that our trade losses are down to the extent of £160,000,000. This, in turn, will result m a heavy reduction in taxation revenue. Next, it is a year in which we have to make provision for the liquidation of war debts amounting to £300,000,000. These facts are worth remembering. The Treasurer envisages also at least another year of bad export markets. I want to say, in spite of the criticism of honorable members opposite, that the present Government is not responsible for any one of these things.
– The Government has been responsible for doubling the cost of production.
– Before I finish my speech, the honorable member will be sorry he said that. Let us remember, Sir, that we are in a period in which world tension is as high as, if not higher than, at any other time since the last war, with dictators fomenting trouble in the many explosive parts of the world and red Russia unremitting in her efforts to subvert organized democratic society. Although Russia’s efforts in this direction may be considered to be not new, there is a deplorable tendency to get used to them, which is tantamount to forgetting them. But, in my humble opinion, they are developing or succeeding in our own country at an alarming rate and are causing very much concern to those who try to visualize the peace of the future.
I had no opportunity to hear the case for Labour as presented by the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt), but I did read it. My first thoughts were that the old Biblical quotation that there was nothing new under the sun was still true. I shared with tens of thousands of other Australians the belief that, if this was the foundation upon which Labour hoped to build up the economy, by the time the party raked up the few scattered bits from about the chamber it would indeed be building on shifting sands. Labour’s alternative to the Government’s proposals was utterly barren of constructive ideas. Indeed, it consisted of utterly puerile and destructive criticism. The effort of the Leader of the Opposition culminated in the annual by-play, the annual joke, of moving that the amount of the first item be reduced by £1. But, Sir, it was ever thus. If a government offers the sun and the moon in a Budget, the Opposition wants the stars to be thrown in as well. But if the situation is such that a government can offer none of those things, it is a disastrous depression budget!
You will remember, Mr. Chairman, that ever since 1939 Labour’s theme song has been depression and disaster. We have every right to believe that in the minds of some there was a remote hope that such a state of affairs would be brought about. To the socialists, no price is too high to pay if it will result in their return to the treasury bench.
Let me say as a general premise that a Budget is not necessarily good because it is popular and that, conversely, it is not necessarily bad because it is unpopular. There is a French proverb which says that he who pleases everybody pleases nobody. I think that proverb could very easily be applied to a Budget, because I believe that a Budget which pleased every section of the community and also the parliamentary Opposition would be an extremely bad one. It would start a chain reaction, with loss of confidence and, consequently, fear for the future. The economy would run downhill and the more it accelerated the more difficult it would be to stop. So, Sir, is it not logical to do as this Budget is designed to do - that is, to prevent the run from beginning?
The Opposition is excused on many sides on the ground that it has no responsibility. Can it be accepted as a literal truth that a party which claims to represent 50 per cent, of the Australian people has no responsibility for the general welfare of the community? If that were so, democracy as we know it would have failed. Nevertheless, I believe that some of Labour’s supporters hope that that state of affairs will come to pass. Their avowed intention is to dampen down enthusiasm, to kill ambition and to stultify incentive by introducing the clammy hand of the thing they call socialism. But, fearing that that is a little bit too raw for the traditionally free people of Australia to swallow, they add a little seasoning to it and call it democratic socialism. Whatever it is they have not tried to explain.
I now want to test the sincerity of some of the criticisms of the Budget. I shall deal first with the suggested overall increase of pensions. That is the only real suggestion that one can gather out of the remarks that have been made. I am not going to quarrel with the assertion that there is need for an increase. I know that things are pretty tough for the pensioners, but time does not permit me to traverse the reasons just now. However, I ask the pople to remember, first, that it is Labour’s proclaimed intention - it is of no use to argue about this - to give to the rich exactly the same amount of money as is given to the poor. That does not accord with my idea. My idea is that, if you have the money, you should double up on the people who really need it and give nothing to the people who do not need it.
After doing as I suggested it intends to do, Labour, presumably by some feat of legerdemain, intends to increase the overall expenditure on pensions by some untold millions of pounds without jeopardizing the general security of the country! I refer to general security from the defence angle, because I believe that the Opposition has its eyes on the defence vote to enable it to carry out some of these grandiloquent promises. I invite the pensioners to consider whether or not the Labour party is willing to barter away the solvency of this country for a few malcontent votes. A few shillings a week are of no value to honorable members, but they are of some value to the pensioners.
To increase pensions in that way would not provide a complete solution of the pensioners’ problems. Such an increase would probably meet immediate needs, but no government has ever attempted to isolate the pension problem and treat it as a business proposition, or to deal with it in such a way that it will cease to be an annual problem. However, it can be done, and I believe that, if time permitted, I could contribute some worthwhile ideas on the subject.
The next point to which I wish to refer - this is where Labour comes out very badly - is the extra money that the Treasurer has allotted for the purpose of giving more justice to the pensioners. A scheme similar to that outlined in the Budget has been advocated in this chamber for many years, and the more vocal of those who have advocated it sit on the Opposition benches. The idea was to establish a fund - something like £5,000,000 was mentioned - with which to subsidize pensioners who were solely dependent upon their pensions, who had no homes of their own, and who were victims of rent racketeers.
Now we have the sorry spectacle that, when the Government starts to do exactly as has been advocated, its action is condemned both inside and outside the Parliament by Labour supporters and Labour members as being a rake-off for the landlords. So delightfully inconsistent are Labour speakers in regard to these matters that in almost the same breath they howl because the amount offered is not enough! Do they mean it is not enough for the rent racketeers or not enough for the pensioners? Just what do they mean?
The other night I heard the honorable member for Hughes (Mr. L. R. Johnson), who is looking glumly at me at the moment, say that only an infinitesimal number of pensioners would qualify for this benefit. I do not believe that for a moment. I believe that a considerable proportion of pensioners will qualify for the rent allowance. But I want to put this to honorable members opposite, and perhaps the honorable member for Hughes (Mr. L. R. Johnson) can explain the position if he is so eager to butt in: If the Opposition’s argument is sound, then its members’ advocacy in this Parliament over the years can only be described as completely spurious. Opposition supporters have told us that hundreds wanted this allowance, even thousands; now they tell us that only an infinitesimal few will qualify for it. They want to find fault with the provision because it was not brought in by Labour. I ask the pensioners now: How can they have confidence in the sincerity of any proposition emanating from honorable members of the Opposition, when those members talk with double tongues, to-day using one argument, to-morrow another, just as it suits their political beliefs at the time? 1 now want to refer to the primary producers, about whom the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) showed some concern. Why he has showed concern at this stage in our history I will leave to the imagination. A report in to-day’s press tells us that he said he will guarantee a fair deal to primary producers and pensioners. He groups them together. He has not said what the fair deal will be, nor from whose point of view it will be a fair deal. He leaves those matters to the imagination.
I believe that there is good reason to be concerned about primary production today. The right honorable gentleman offered two solutions. First, he would find more and ever more unprofitable markets, knowing perfectly well that the more we sell on unprofitable markets the less the primary producer receives. Secondly, he said, or at least he implied, that general subsidies would be provided for primary producers. He knows perfectly well that a subsidy is not a solution, that it is not a cure, and that it is only a palliative. He has not tried to explain where the enormous amount of money required would come from. He did say, quite correctly, that a temporary use of bank credit is the right thing in a crisis. We all agree with him. The Government is doing just that very thing. But how does he know that in this case it would be only temporary?
Let me give him an analogy. Suppose that in a severe drought the normal water supply of a farm or a household dries up. Then the farmer or the householder must resort to other sources of obtaining water. In other words, he has to cart water. The carting of water in this way can be likened, I think, to the use of bank credit in the financial field, and cannot be considered as a temporary measure. It must continue. The carting of water must continue, and the issue of bank credit must continue, until the status quo is restored, or until the conditions that made it necessary to cart water or issue treasury-bills have disappeared. The right honorable gentleman does not explain the position in this way; he says it will be only a temporary measure, only for tomorrow.
Throughout history we have had booms and we have had bursts, quite often with very disastrous consequences. We have come to expect one as the corollary of the other. But, because of the experiences that we have had, we can expect the boom and we have found a way to cushion the severity of the burst. That is exactly what this Government is doing to-day, by budgeting for a deficit of £110,000,000 for the express purpose of countering the effect of trade losses oversells. No credit has been given to the Government for this. It has not even been mentioned in this context. But the Government has taken this action to keep the economy reasonably buoyant until wisdom and time provide a permanent answer. «
It may seem paradoxical that while we are budgeting for a deficit we are, at the same time, considerably increasing grants to the States for public works, and increasing allocations for Commonwealth works. Is it not obvious that the purpose of this action is to combat unemployment and to stimulate employment? Of course it is. Let me say this to Opposition members: We have as much sympathy for the unemployed as any one of them has. I have experienced unemployment and the threat of unemployment to a far greater extent than most honorable members opposite have. I can say that it gives a very unpleasant feeling. I know how the unemployed feel. But I remind honorable members that the only time, since I have been in this Parliament, when there has been over-full employment has been during the term of office of this Government. While this Government has been in power there have been more jobs than men offering for jobs.
The alleged full employment in the community under the Chifley Government was only a mirage - the water was good, Mr. Chairman, but it was not there. That describes the full employment position claimed for the Chifley Government. I will admit that during the regime of the Chifley Government there was a full registration on certain pay-rolls. Some employers - and I have proved this - had two men doing the work that one man did before the war without even raising a sweat. Two men’s wages were paid for one man’s work, and that is one of the factors responsible for starting the cost spiral, the result of which to-day is that houses are beyond the purchasing capacity of the workers.
Now I. am going to invite the farmers to do a little bit of remembering. During the reign of the socialist government, one very prominent Labour man in another place - which means that he is a senator - much more distinguished for his irresponsibility than for his discretion, advocated a capital levy to get out of a difficulty such as the one we may possibly have to face now. I want to warn the people of Australian that if this capital levy is once started it will not be temporary. It will be a very difficult thing to stop, and it will not be stopped at all if a socialist government is in power, because socialism is never so much concerned with raising the bottom stratum as it is with bringing down the top stratum to some common low level. That is socialist policy, and when you have that policy in operation, then, in the picturesque language of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell), the egg will be so scrambled that there will be no hope of unscrambling it. I want to warn the public of these things, and to warn them of the people who say they are going to do so much for them.
Let me remind honorable members also that when the Labour government was in power trading was on a governmenttogovernment basis. The Labour government knew, before it shipped our goods overseas, what price it would get for them. Then its members devised all sorts of schemes for guaranteeing the farmers. By some weird mathematical contortions they came to the conclusion that if they guaranteed the farmers a price less than the price the government was to get for the goods they would be reasonably safe. It sounds so simple that it seems we should be following the same procedure to-day. For instance, if they were selling butter overseas at 2s. 3d. or 2s. 4d. per lb., they would say, “ We will guarantee the farmers 2s. per lb.” The balance would be placed in a fund, and in a lean period it would be paid into an equalization pool, and the farmers would be receiving a subsidy provided by their own moneys which had been taken from them in the first place. There is no denying this, because I have been here long enough to remember it. I want the farmers to remember it also, because it is important, and it has not been sufficiently stressed in this debate.
It was this Government which resisted popular clamour for a revaluation of the Australian £1 to put it on a par with sterling. If we had succumbed to that clamour the primary producer would be getting 20 per cent, less than he is getting now. At the time it did not mean much to the primary producer. He was prosperous; he had everything he wanted. But to-day he is reaping the benefit of the fight we put up at that time.
The Opposition is still making rash, extravagant and irresponsible promises, without giving an indication of how it intends to fulfil them. It does not say how it intends to raise the necessary finance. That is left to the imagination of the people. But we have had a recent illustration of the effects of Labour policy in New Zealand, where a Labour party was hoist with its own petard. It made extravagant promises similar to those that the Labour Opposition in this Parliament is making to-day. To its consternation, the people took the Labour party at its word and elected it. The people of New Zealand now are sad, their sadness being compensated for only by the added wisdom that they now have. That is a lesson for Australia. The New Zealand Labour Government found, when it was elected to office, that it could not do even one of the things that it had promised it would do; it could not even maintain the status quo. On the contrary, taxation was raised to a colossal height and costs and prices were increased in every possible direction.
My time has almost expired, but, having traversed so far, I want to say that, in all this sorry welter of counter-proposal, criticism, and promises that cannot be fulfilled, the Budget stands out as the only solid thing upon which the public can, with confidence, rely. It is not on shifting sands; it stands firmly. All the criticism cannot move it. I invite the public to accept it, to lean on it and to have confidence in it. As such, I commend it to the people of Australia.
.- We can discuss this Budget as an allocation of money to various objects, such as defence, repatriation, social services, broadcasting, railways, shipping and the States. I do not propose to discuss it from that angle, but I wish to make a reference to the honour that has been conferred upon the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Bland) as chairman of the Public Accounts Committee. He has been made a companion of the Order of St. Michael and St. George. Throughout the period that he has been chairman of the Public Accounts Committee, he has protested against the gross inaccuracy of the Estimates which are constantly presented to us in this chamber. There have been occasions when some of his colleagues, such as a former Minister for Defence Production, have come into the chamber to defend their departments in the face of the most appalling inaccuracies in estimating.
Last year’s Budget contained exactly the same inaccuracies. For instance, we have inaccuracies for which a department administered by the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Fairhall), who is sitting at the table, is responsible. That department estimated that it would spend £11,800,000 on behalf of other departments, but the estimate was inaccurate to the extent of £4,000,000. Thirty-three per cent, is a margin of inaccuracy which calls into question the processes by which the figures are arrived at. In Australia to-day, we are suffering, as overseas business observers have repeatedly stated, from deficiencies in management, and particularly deficiencies in the field of cost accounting. Sometimes, businesses have gained, through immigration, brilliant overseas cost accountants who can estimate what is required almost to the last nail. In the process, those businesses have saved millions of pounds. It is high time that the Government gave training abroad - if it is not available in Australia - to key civil servants to see whether we can in the actual technical details of the Budget arrive at something which is more in accordance with reality. There seems to be a practice of over-estimating the amount required so that those responsible for the expenditure within a department may have a margin.
We can also discuss the Budget as a gearwheel in the economy of the nation as a whole - as a device by which the Government proposes to offset what it regards as unhealthy tendencies in the economy and to reinforce what it regards as sound trends. I propose to discuss the Budget as a gear-wheel in the economy rather than to discuss the details of the estimates of expenditure. Australian Budgets are a theme with variations. In its basic principles, this Budget bears a distinct resemblance to the Budget for which the late Mr. E. G. Theodore was hounded out of public life 27 years ago. Mr. Theodore was confronted with a recession in prices. He was also confronted with a press and an Opposition that were exceedingly ignorant on economic questions, as any one looking at the debate of the day would now admit. There was a situation of prices crashing all over Australia - a chronically deflationary situation. Mr. Theodore proposed a fiduciary note issue and a homeconsumption price for wheat. In this
Last year’s Budget contained exactly the amounts to a fiduciary issue of £110,000,000, called by another name- a deficit financed from the Commonwealth Bank. We also have a home-consumption price for wheat considerably in excess of what can be obtained overseas and a homeconsumption price for butter in excess of what can be obtained overseas. Now, 27 years belatedly, we have many of the aspects of Theodorism. I just pay this passing tribute to his memory; that he was hounded out of public life for a policy which in essence the Government, in this Budget, claims as a virtue. His thesis was that purchasing power must be augmented in a condition of falling prices, and that is the Government’s justification for the credit issue involved in the deficit of £110,000,000.
Are deficits good or bad? I am tired of hearing this Budget discussed on the basis that the Government will win the election. Every supporter of the Government knows that if it is going to win the election, it will be primarily because of the Australian Democratic Labour party; it will not bc because of a vote on this Budget.
– You may believe it is rubbish, but a great many people believe that it is not rubbish. You know that in the situation in which the Australian Labour party is to-day, it starts off with certain political disadvantages that have nothing to do with the economic thesis that it might advance. If you dispute that, then we have no common ground of any kind for discussion. Whether or not the Government is going to win the election, there are certain economic criteria on which this Budget ought to be discussed, and electoral victories or defeats have nothing to do with them.
Are deficits good or bad? It depends on whether the diagnosis of the need for new purchasing power is a valid diagnosis or not. One of the things that, in this Federal Parliament, we ought to guard against is the perpetual hypocrisy that has been evidenced in this debate, that if the Government has a deficit it is a virtue, but if a State government has a deficit it is a vice.
– Who says that?
– No, you do not say it in so many words, but allegations that State governments are irresponsible in their expenditure amount to such a suggestion, and that is a constantly recurring theme. State deficits are not bad. The States are responsible for extremely important avenues of expenditure, and we have reached the stage when we ought to take a look at the whole constitutional arrangement between the Commonwealth and the States. Federal deficits are master strokes in the interest of the economy-
– They are not deficits on our transport system, as State deficits are to a very large degree.
– 1 do not know how any Western Australian government could run on a paying basis a railway system which is seven or eight times as long as that of the British Isles - and not for a population of 50,000,000, but for a population of 600,000. However, I do know that Western Australia’s railway system has developed the State, and that when a line is closed down the key industries of the State, which are agricultural, protest most vehemently. We recognize that the losses on the railways have been a subsidy to certain important industries over many years.
But there are other things about State finance that we should be fair about. In the original constitutional disposition as between the Commonwealth and the States, the States were awarded the expenditure departments. They could have education; there is no profit to be made out of that. They could have health; there is no profit from that. But the Commonwealth got posts and telegraphs, and although I am not saying that that is not logically a Commonwealth matter, it was also fortunately, over many years, profitable. The Commonwealth obtained customs which, of course, is a revenue-earning device.
Above all, the Commonwealth has the power over the currency. Any Commonwealth government, irrespective of its party composition, can make virtues out of its deficits because it has control of the printing press. The States have not that control but, on the other hand, they have the expenditure departments. The Constitution has hardly been changed by referendum. It has changed from what its founders intended somewhat more by judicial interpretation; but it has changed out of recognition through the financial power of the Federal
Government. Constitutionally, the States are sovereign governments; financially, they are departments of the Commonwealth, dependent upon grants from the Commonwealth almost as directly as is a Commonwealth department.
I want to speak now about the £110,000,000 deficit, because the Treasurer has been frank about this. He has said that it is to meet an anticipated inability of the loan market to cope with the States’ developmental programmes. In other words, he said, this is not a Commonwealth’ deficit basically, but basically we are carrying the burden for the States. I am not saying that the Treasurer in his speech put it this way, but some of his supporters have represented the weary Titan of the Federal Government as assuming responsibility for the follies or extravagances of the States, whereas the truth is that the States are saddled with heavy expenditures and have no control of the printing press to assist them to cope with them. So that is referred to the Commonwealth.
There have been changes in the loan market over the Treasurer’s period of time. The honorable member for Moore (Mr. Leslie) said that the success of the Labour Government in raising loans - and he did not dispute its success - was explained by the absence of alternative spheres of investment during the Second World War. I am not going to say that there is not an element of truth in that statement. Clearly, during the war years, there were no spheres of private investment anywhere near comparable with what there are to-day. There was a second factor, however, and that was a feeling in the community that the Commonwealth had to be given the money during the war. That, also, would assist in the granting of loans to the Commonwealth. The present Government has not that advantage and so, in the changing atmosphere, I am not going to say that there is nothing on those two counts that the Treasurer could have done.
But there were certain deliberate strokes of policy by Mr. Chifley which were deliberately reversed by the present Treasurer as his successor. I propose to discuss them as points of policy. I believe the Treasurer to-day has been mistaken and that the consequences of his decisions have been disastrous. The Commonwealth Bank, on instructions from Mr. Chifley, took up loans that were on the market. If you sold your £100 bond, the Commonwealth Bank had to pay £100 for it. That policy was withdrawn by the present Treasurer, and the £100 bond fell to £88. It was a stroke of policy on the part of the Treasurer.
That is why we have the Commonwealth Bank intervening to-day in an entirely different way. The Government either has the Commonwealth Bank buttressing the loan market by returning the face value of the bond to the investor or, alternatively, in an unpopular loan market, it has the Commonwealth Bank giving it £110,000,000 credit to make up the deficiency in the loan market. The latter policy is more inflationary than the first, and is also less honest. Anything that will induce existing purchasing power to finance necessary works is a counter to inflation. If the Government can get the purchasing power that is now in circulation invested in its loan programmes, clearly that is a less inflationary method of finance than if that purchasing power stays in circulation for private objects; and on top of it, the Government has to put a fiduciary issue of £110,000,000.
Thus the Government can get its loan programmes financed out of existing purchasing power by taxes for public works. There is no question that part of the public works of the Labour government was financed by taxation, and that that was strongly criticized. Alternatively, the Government can see that loan policy is some counter to inflation by forbidding the issue of new credit. The present Treasurer had certain loans, and according to figures that he was kind enough to supply to me some months ago, they were exactly filled. I forget whether they were for £100,000,000 or £130,000,000, but they were loans in which the private banks were allowed to invest. It was a settled policy of Mr. Chifley, as Treasurer, to exclude banks from investing in loans. In other words, he wished to raise his loans in a counterinflationary manner from existing purchasing power, and not to have new cheques and new credit created and going into the loans.
That check was withdrawn by the present Government, and certain big loans were taken up by the private banks. It was inflation, and inflation in a most unnecessary way. In other words, if it was neces sary for the Government to buttress its public works programmes with new credit, there was no need to have gone to the private banks for the mere pleasure of paying them interest. The interest on £110,000,000, which the Government will have to pay the Commonwealth Bank for this deficit, when paid to the Commonwealth Bank is paid back into the Commonwealth Treasury. In effect, the Government is paying itself interest. But there was never any necessity either for it to get its loans from the private banks in the form of new credit which was inflationary, and if it were getting new credit from banks, there was no necessity to have gone anywhere else than to the Commonwealth Bank. But it was doubly inflationary because there was nothing called in from the public. Private spending power still circulated. New credit was created. The two forms of expenditure - private objects and public objects - competed .
Why have governments so freely resorted to inflation? I understand that the next speaker in this debate will be the last speaker on the Government side. Surely he will acknowledge that a basic wage structure of £6 9s. a week in 1949 was less inflationary than one of more than £13 10s. as at present. We have heard all the explanations for the inflationary situation in this country. Let us leave aside the question of whether the Government is responsible and see if we can get to an agreed statement of the facts. Nobody with any intellectual integrity can say that the £1 of 1958 has more purchasing power than the £1 of 1949, or that there is not a more inflationary situation in the economy to-day than there was then.
There has been a number of explanations for it. The first was the Korean war. I am prepared to concede that it had an inflationary effect. The second was the wool boom, and I am quite prepared to concede that it had an inflationary effect also. The last speaker said that the Government had no responsibility for the fall of £180,000,000 in overseas trade because of the fall in prices of primary products. I am not going to argue against his contentions, but I never perceived any modesty on the part of the Government in disclaiming responsibility for prosperity when our foreign sales were at record level, excepting that they were sometimes used by Government supporters to account for the inflation which was also beyond the Government’s control. Governments of the modern age, and this Government in particular, have freely resorted to inflation. Inflation favours the debtors and the blunt fact is that modern governments pay their debts by inflation.
There was a time when this was rightly characterized as dishonest - a contemptible trick practised only by Ruritanian Balkan bankrupt states. The £1 sterling was a rock. The dollar was a rock. Now the manipulated currencies - tourist currencies, blocked currencies, and inflating currencies - are expedients of most governments. Inflation favours debtors. Governments are debtors par excellence. Therefore inflation favours governments.
To see how inflation favours governments, let us look at this situation. Suppose that a man invested £100 in a war loan in 1943. What did he give? He gave 25 weeks’ effort at the basic wage which was £4 a week. What does he get back when the loan matures, fifteen years later, in 1958? He gets back £100 which is seven and a half weeks’ effort at the basic wage. He lent 25 weeks’ effort and he gets back seven and a half weeks’ effort!
The Commonwealth Bank, acting to sustain the loan market, had a sounder and more honest policy than the Commonwealth Bank acting to replace the loan market, which is what the Government has now been driven to. However, we can congratulate the Government on having given up the folly of paying interest to private financial institutions and on having decided to pay it to itself through the Commonwealth Bank.
Why have we this tremendous upsurge of hire purchase in the Australian economy to-day? It has become almost as large a means of issuing new credit as the overdraft system. Hire purchase begins to be really sound only in the context of an unsound financial situation. If money is stable, that is to say, if prices are steady, it is wise to advise a young couple to save up for what they want and to buy it for cash and not to be involved in interest payment. But if prices are constantly rising, it is best to get the goods now at their present price and pay them off on terms. One is lucky to get them now because the £200 refrigerator of to-day will cost £250 in six months’ time. Therefore, resorting to hire purchase at the diseased level at which we are now resorting to it in the Australian economy is one of the symptoms of inflation.
As time goes on, it becomes sound policy, in inflation, to go into the “ red “ for hire purchase because one pays back with increasingly inflated money. An ordinary house could be bought in 1937 for £750 and a repayment of £2 10s. a week was regarded as crippling. But to any one who did get into debt then in that way the £2 10s. a week would be a bagatelle to-day. So it is that, in an inflationary situation, time payment becomes economic. Hire purchase becomes popular proportionately as saving becomes unpopular; saving becomes unpopular proportionately as inflation increases; and the more saving becomes unpopular the more inflation increases. Hire purchase rampant is doubly a symptom of inflation. It is the borrower’s reaction to inflation and it is the lender’s reaction to inflation.
The “ Economist “ discusses the entrance of the respectable British banks into what it calls the “ never-never “, which is the English term for hire purchase. Let us look at the situation. If I want to buy a refrigerator and 1 get a personal loan of £200 from a bank and pay 5i per cent, interest on it, the bank will get £10 10s. interest per year. But suppose that the bank decides that it would be much better for it to go into the hire-purchase business. Let us assume - admittedly this is rare - that the bank controls entirely a hire-purchase business instead of being merely an investor in it. What happens? It does not really lend you £200 when you buy a refrigerator. It has got the refrigerator at a wholesale price of, say, £150. But it says that it has lent you £200 to buy the refrigerator, and it is not confined, in the disguised form of a hirepurchase company, to the overdraft rate. So, because inflation is affecting the banks and the ordinary 5 per cent, interest is not a good return in inflated money, the banks, while still retaining their respectability because it is a disguised way of investing, go in for hire-purchase finance at a much higher rate of interest than the bank overdraft rate. In other words, the banks are abandoning their normal banking procedure.
I rmember, once, being off the coast of that beautiful State of Queensland in a motor launch. A gentleman who - I hope - did not know that I was a politician was talking to me. He certainly was a Liberal supporter. He looked back at the coastline of Queensland and said, “ This is a great country. It must be to sustain the politicians it does without going bankrupt.”
Claims for the soundness of our economy have been made by this Government. There are fortuitous elements in the Australian economy. Prices for exports fluctuate irrespective of efficiency. Nobody will say that when the price of wool doubled in 1950-51 it was because the wool-growers became twice as efficient as they had been in the previous year, or that when the price halved a year or so later the wool-growers had become half as efficient as they were. There was an entirely fortuitous gambling element in the price of so much of our exports.
If we want to have an attack of modesty, let us look at some of the countries which were shattered by the war and which have not had these fortuitous windfalls - countries which export manufactured goods and which really have to depend on efficiency of production. Then we can see that the Australian achievement for which so much has been claimed by the Government is very poor. West Germany, in 1948, had a rubble economy. The Germans may have worked many hours a week, but I am sure that the German people agreed to that policy.
– The German Government devalued the currency.
– The present Australian Government has devalued the currency, too. But consider the position that the Government inherited in 1949. Honorable members opposite deride the £896,000,000 sterling which Mr. Chifley left to them. It may be argued that he left that money because he could not get goods from Great Britain, but still it was there when this Government took over. A total of £896,000,000 sterling! This Government also had the bonanza of the 1951 wool cheque. Yet we have seen the tragedy of a policy of foreign borrowing at a time when record prices were being received for exports! It will be left to this Government, or a future government, to pay back those foreign loans when we have falling prices for our exports. That is the tragedy of the Government’s policy.
The Government need not have allowed the open slather of importation that it permitted, causing our sterling reserves to disappear and forcing the Government back onto the very policy that it had denounced, which was a policy of the Government deciding the priority of imports. It was a disguised form of capital issues control. The Government decided what sort of capital should come into the country. 1 do not deny that that policy was necessary, but what I complain about is that when something similar was done as an act of intelligence by Mr. Chifley, he was attacked for it. He did not believe in priority for the importation of petrol for pleasure motoring. He believed that it was necessary to give priority to important imports. This Government gave an open slather for importations of petrol for pleasure motoring, and then, though it never touched the issue of petrol again, it became necessary for the Government to determine whether the importation of some types of machinery was less important than the importation of other types. You had a different form of control, and one much less intelligent.
.- In this debate we have been taken over a very wide range of subjects, and it is not possible at this hour to cover all of those subjects in one reply. I think that it would be preferable, therefore, if I were to devote myself for a few minutes to a discussion of some of the matters which have been raised by the Opposition during the latter stages of the debate. The honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Clarey), who took up the debate after the suspension of the siting for dinner, referred to unemployment, like many of his colleagues. He tried to prove that there was large-scale unemployment in Australia and that that trend was increasing. Other Opposition members have tried to prove that, despite the facts that have been given by the Minister for
Labour and National Service (Mr. Harold Holt) and other speakers from this side of the chamber.
I point out to the honorable member for Bendigo and other honorable members opposite that what they have said is completely different from what was said this week by their colleague, the Premier of New South Wales. Since returning from his trip to America, Mr. Cahill has referred - and he reiterated it yesterday with firmness - to the good economic state of Australia as a whole. While admitting that there were some small pockets of unemployment in New South Wales - he lightly referred to certain mining areas - he said that the overall position of employment in his State and in Australia generally was good. I think it would be wise for honorable members opposite to realize that that is so, and to bring to their own arguments the same firm basis of common sense.
This afternoon, we were taken back to 1929 and 1930, the years of the depression. While I do not seek to minimize the gravity of the problems of that time, I contend that that is certainly not a suitable subject to bring up during a supposed attack on this Budget. I admit that we got slightly modern at one stage during the afternoon, when an honorable member opposite discussed1 with us the sale of the Commonwealth interest in an oil company.
Whenever honorable members opposite have been asked to state their alternative economic policy, and have been chided for not being able to provide one, they have simply said, “Wait until the election campaign.” This is the place and this is the time for them to state that alternative policy and to voice their criticisms of the Budget, if they have any. This is the time to give their suggestions and to make known the alternative Budget that the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) forecast that he would give to the House. At no time have we had it. It is obvious that they are only playing for time. They have no policy in their minds. They are so divided that they are unable to make up their minds on what their policy is going to be. They hope that in the next month or so they will be able to come to some form of agreement so that they will be able to announce some kind of policy to the people of Australia.
I wish to refer to the remarks of the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley). The honorable member posed several questions and asked whether the next speaker from this side of the chamber could give any explanation of the inflationary tendencies that he professes to find in the economy. There is one thing that the State from which I come does not have in common with the State from which the honorable member comes. New South Wales has not had the advantage of a Liberal government for quite a number of years, as Western Australia has had, although unfortunately it does not enjoy that advantage at the present time. The honorable member suggested that the Korean war was one of the causes of inflation. He entirely overlooked the present world situation.
Let me return to conditions in New South Wales. I think that that is fair and reasonable, because what happens in New South Wales affects the whole of Australia. Until recently, New South Wales was the leading industrial State of the Commonwealth, but I regret to inform you, Sir, that that happy circumstance no longer applies, owing to the energetic Liberal governments of Victoria and South Australia and, more recently, of Queensland. Let me remind the honorable member for Fremantle of some of the things that have been done in recent years in New South Wales that have contributed to the inflationary tendency to so marked a degree. First, I remind him of the sudden introduction of the 40-hour week in that State.
– The honorable member is against that, is he?
– It is not that one is against the 40-hour week as a matter that is relative to the welfare of the people of Australia as a whole; the difficulty is that it was introduced at a time that was not appropriate. Next, I remind the honorable member of the large increase in rail freights in New South Wales, which has contributed so much to costs in both our primary and our secondary industries. I remind him, too, of the more recent, iniquitous road tax that the New South Wales Government has introduced, which has increased so much the costs in that State. I give one further example and refer to the large timber royalties that the Government of New South Wales has imposed, thereby making the cost of a house in that State so much higher than it is in other States of the Commonwealth.
– The honorable member for Kingsford-Smith interjects, but the figures support my statement. It was stated in evidence only this week that building costs in New South Wales are much higher than they are in any other State.
The honorable member for Fremantle said that there was an attitude, on the part of the Government, that a deficit in the Commonwealth was a virtue, while a deficit in a State was a vice. He entirely overlooked every one of the main reasons for the large expenditure by the Commonwealth Government. He forgot that the Commonwealth is providing the necessary moneys for the States to carry out their public works. If I might digress for a moment, Mr. Temporary Chairman, it seems to me extraordinary that the people who criticize this Government for the amount that it expends on Commonwealth public works, compared with the amount that is made available to the States for their public works - criticism that is made by people inside this House and also outside it - do not appreciate that in our expanding economy and with the great national development that is going on in Australia, governments - Commonwealth, State and local - have a responsibility to provide all the necessary services that nhat development demands.
The honorable member for Fremantle also raised the point that, financially, the States are dependants of the Commonwealth, while politically they are sovereign bodies. Let me remind the honorable member of who is responsible for that. It was his own Labour government that made the States so financially dependent on the Commonwealth. It is well known that during the lifetime of the present Government approaches have been made to the various States for the return of their taxing powers. That argument does not hold water, nor do the other arguments raised by him.
As I have said, it is not possible to deal with all the matters that have been brought forward during the Budget debate, but if I omit certain subjects it is not because I think they are of no importance. I have selected some of the matters that affect the area in which I am interested, and some others that have been mentioned during the debate to-day. I refer first of all to the announcement in the Budget that it is proposed to allow a depreciation rate of 20 per cent, on plant used wholly and exclusively in the fishing and pearling industries. Certain buildings used in those industries, including accommodation for employees, will also be subject to the special allowances. The income of individuals carrying on the business of fishing is to be averaged to determine the rate of tax payable. These concessions will be of great advantage to both the fishing and pearling industries.
No doubt it is well known to honorable members that during the noquotarestrictions period of import licensing, one of the items in respect of which there was the greatest increase in importations was fish in various forms. I do not suggest for one moment that we should endeavour to break down the trade that we have with other countries, especially that with one of our own Commonwealth countries - South Africa - but it does seem quite obvious that the consumption of fish in Australia is increasing rapidly and there are great possibilities for increasing our own production of both fresh and processed fish, f believe that the action proposed to be taken under this Budget will encourage the Australian fishing and pearling industries so to expand.
Because of the great effect the discovery of oil will have on our economy and national outlook, it is good to know that this Budget seeks to encourage the investment of Australian capital in companies engaged in mining or prospecting for oil in Australia, Papua or New Guinea. It is probably wellknown that at the present time investors in such companies are allowed, as an income tax deduction, one-third of calls paid, but. in future, application and allotment moneys and calls paid by residents of Australia to such companies may be deducted in full. Because of the great need for us to encourage prospecting in these directions. I am very glad that this provision is being made in the Budget. 1 came now to social services. For some years now, I, together with other honorable members on this side of the committee, have been making representations to the Government stressing the need to liberalize the means test. This is being done to a certain degree in the proposals now before us; and 1 emphasize that I realize that these liberalizations can be made only at a reasonable rate. But, glad as I am with the present proposals, they still do not go far enough. I do not intend now to intemize various allowances that are being made in the present proposals, because they have been well described during the debate, but [ do wish to point out to the Government that it is necessary for us to progress as rapidly as possible with this policy of liberalizing the means test so that we may bring benefit to a large number of people within the community.
Not so long ago, we effected one liberalization which gave quite good relief to those persons who are in receipt of superannuation. As the committee well knows, a married couple in receipt of superannuation up to £7 a week can still receive the full rate of invalid or age pension; but if a person has been self-employed, or if he has been working in an industry or organization which does not provide superannuation and he has built up assets in the form of shares or even money in the bank, he is debarred from receiving the full pension once the value of those assets exceeds £420. Such a person, therefore, is on a basis which is not at all comparable with that of people who are in receipt of superannuation and to whom we have given relief. While the present proposals do give a certain amount of relief, they do not go far enough and I emphasize that people such as the person to whom I have referred, and others on fixed incomes, are in need of much greater assistance. It is good to know that the Government intends to pay a special pension of 10s. a week to those single persons - this applies also to married couples in certain cases - who are in dire distress.
I should like to deal briefly with one matter which relates to the PostmasterGeneral’s Department. I refer to two broadcasts made over the Australian Broadcasting Commission’s network, one by way of radio broadcast and the other over the television system, and which, curiously enough, coincided with the publication in one of Sydney’s afternoon papers of an article on the same subject. in offering this criticism, I emphasize that I truly believe, from investigations I have made, that both the radio news reporter and the television interviewer were convinced that, in providing the information, they were offering fair and reasonable comment, but, because of other happenings, and because of the concurrent article in the press, it is believed that a certain organization has been at work. It was suggested, therefore, that unwittingly, the Australian Broadcasting Commission, through its two services, has been used as an advertising medium for one particular organization. I refer to the broadcasts stressing the virtues of South Australian citrus fruits compared with the alleged deficiencies and alleged bad qualities of New South Wales citrus fruits. The New South Wales citrus fruits have not the deficiencies or bad qualities they were alleged to have in the broadcasts to which I refer.
In the 7.45 a.m. radio news broadcast on Monday, 4th August a Sydney agent, whose name was mentioned, was quoted as stating that South Australian oranges had advanced keeping qualities whereas oranges from New South Wales were dry and unpalatable, and as advising New South Wales housewives to buy the South Australian product. The New South Wales growers have no desire to belittle in any way the product from the other State. The only reason for my bringing this matter up is that, as the representative of a New South Wales electorate, I am desirous of making the position clear and of ensuring that there is fair competition between the two States. I do so also because it is felt that the natural markets for the oranges grown in the coastal districts of New South Wales are Sydney and Newcastle and that the oranges from South Australia and the Murrumbidgee Irrigation Area are more suitable for the export market. It is quite true that in one small inland centre in New South Wales some of the oranges were affected by frost. This gave them the dry quality; but frost affected only a very small portion of the New South Wales crop. This cannot be said to be true of New South Wales oranges generally. I hope that as I have brought this matter to the attention of the acting PostmasterGeneral he will be good enough to have a discussion with the Australian Broadcasting Commission to ensure that the true facts are ascertained, that there is a thorough check in connection with these matters before any opinions are broadcast or televised.
I wish to refer briefly now to the position which exists to the north of Australia and to the urgent need for us not only to increase our personal contacts with the people of the various countries to our near north in the area usually called the Far East, but also to increase our reciprocal trade with those nations. I have been informed that red China in particular, and also Russia to a certain degree, are trying to capture the trade of those countries which we are at present supporting and assisting. I speak particularly about the Singapore market, through which so many of our goods pass to other countries in the near north. To give one example, early this week I received information that red China intends to flood the Singapore market with apples. As is well known, Australia has been fortunate in having for a number of years a major part of the Singapore market for apples. It appears from investigations that the Chinese do not care at what price they sell their apples as long as they are able to gain the market, hoping that the Australian market will be undermined to such an extent that it will no longer be worth our while to send apples to Singapore. Then, the Chinese will be able to dictate their own terms.
While it is not possible to itemize all the products that we ship to Singapore, and through Singapore to neighbouring countries, it may be wise at this stage to mention a few of them, because this is a very topical subject. An Australian trade delegation, led by the honorable member for Darling Downs (Mr. Swartz), has just returned from a visit to Singapore, Malaya, and Thailand. That delegation was a great success, which brings great credit to the honorable member and to his colleagues who accompanied him as representatives of various industries. I have been told by my contacts in the areas visited by the delegation how successful its visit was and how impressed the people of those countries were with the delegation.
Those people express the hope that the delegation in turn was impressed by what it saw in their countries.
Singapore over the past few years has been a very good market for Australian milk. That market has been mostly in condensed milk in tins. I have been informed that the impressive total of 3,000,000 cases of tins of condensed milk enter Singapore each year from Australia. I have heard a comment that some Australian shippers of milk, believing that this market has been reserved to Australia for a long time, think that they will be able to continue to supply the large bulk of it. I have been informed that this may not necessarily be so, and that other brands of milk from other countries are about to challenge Australian condensed milk in Singapore.
Australia has had reasonable success with the export of fruit. A moment ago I mentioned apples. We have also had success with citrus fruits, despite the fact that we have received very strong competition from America over the years, particularly the west coast of America. That country has been able to provide fruit of a better size and appearance, but no better in flavour or quality. In the last couple of years our fruit has also been challenged by citrus fruits from South Africa. However, the samples of Australian fruit that I have been able to compare with South African fruit have proved to be better in every instance. The point I wish to make is that Australia is in danger of losing her market in Singapore for that type of fruit because we only ship to that market when the home market is not agreeable to the growers. When the price in Australia falls, the growers decide to ship to Singapore. That is not good enough. If we are to maintain this market in Singapore it is necessary for us at times to surrender a little profit on the home market and maintain a continuous supply of fruit of good quality. I feel that it is necessary for me to direct the attention of honorable members to these challenges to our products.
Another very good market we have had in Singapore, and through Singapore to neighbouring countries, has been in poultry and eggs, particularly eggs. But since the war, the flocks of egg-laying poultry have been increased in Singapore and our market is being challenged. Our eggs are consumed in the main by Europeans, and the Asian population buys Asian-produced eggs. Once again, the challenge is coming not only from Singapore itself but also from China. It is wise, therefore, to look once again to our methods of marketing. No matter what product we look at, the same set of conditions can be applied. The same measuringsticks can be used, and that applies to the products I have already mentioned as well as to canned goods. I want to mention canned goods now, because Australian canned goods are accepted abroad as being of very good quality, particularly canned fruits. In the opinion of many people our canned fruits bear comparison with the best in the world. But we must realize that they must be packed well, presented well, and advertised well.
What I have said about our markets in the north is the result of information that I gathered1 from various contacts I made during my visit to those countries. Australia still has a good chance to keep those markets going. We must realize the great changes that are taking place in the marketing of our various products in those countries. We must not only retain our markets from the economic point of view and because of the good things that flow from interchange between countries, as well as the profits that are to be made, but also because by binding these people to us by way of trade we help ourselves. I believe that the future of Australia is coming much closer to the future of many countries in South-East Asia and Asia.
May I say to the Treasurer, whom I have had the pleasure of knowing since I entered Parliament, that we on this side of the chamber appreciate not only the manner in which he has presented this Budget but also the forethought that has gone into all the Budgets that he has presented during his term of office. We offer to him our very best wishes for a happy life after he leaves us in this place.
– I wish to oppose the Budget because I believe -
Motion (by Mr. Harold Holt) agreed to -
That the question be now put. Question put -
That the item proposed to be reduced (Dr. Evatt’s amendment) be so reduced.
The Committee divided. (The Chairman- Mr. C. F.
Majority . 21
Question so resolved in the negative.
Amendment negatived. (The general debate being concluded) -
First item agreed to.
The following bills were returned from the Senate without requests: -
Customs Tariff Bill (No. 3) 1958. Customs Tariff (Canadian Preference) Bill (No. 2) 1958.
Customs Tariff (New Zealand Preference) Bill (No. 2) 1958.
Customs Tariff (Papua and New Guinea Preference) Bill 1958.
Motion (by Mr. Harold Holt) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- I desire to bring to the attention of the House an urgent matter which concerns Mr. Albert Date, a member of the Tariff Board, who has been sacked in a vicious and underhand manner by a Minister who was completely unwilling to make a decision face to face with the man concerned. This is the last sorry event in a story of bureaucratic intimidation of two or three years duration. On 26th June last, Mr. Date asked that he be given early notice of the Government’s intention in connexion with his position on the board. He received no answer to his request. After sending two reminders to the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen) he received a telegram on 8th August foreshadowing an early decision, but it was not until this morning - 24 hours after the Minister had left Canberra on a world tour - that Mr. Date received a letter which stated baldly, and without explanation -
To-day the Cabinet . . . decided not to invite you to accept a further period of appointment.
This letter was not even sent airmail. The Minister left the writing of it until 24 hours before his departure, and Mr. Date received it after the Minister had left Canberra on a world tour.
I ask honorable members whether they consider it reasonable that a Minister, who was asked on 26th June, nearly two months ago, for a simple decision, and who was reminded twice about it in the meantime, should leave that decision until 24 hours before his departure from Australia, so that he would not have to face up to the man who was so adversely affected.
If the Minister were a man, would he not have said to Mr. Date, “ Come to Canberra”, and, upon Mr. Date’s arrival here, would he not have looked him in the face and said, “ You have not been able to fit into the routine and methods of the Tariff Board. You have caused me and the immediate past chairman of the board some trouble, and I am not going to renew your appointment “? That is the position that any decent man would have taken up.
But no, the Minister did not do that. He delayed his brief, unexplained notification until Mr. Date could not obtain it early enough to come to Canberra, or even to get in touch with Canberra, before the Minister left on his world tour. But Mr. Date came to Canberra to-day and sought an interview with the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies). The Prime Minister sent out word, “ No good purpose would be served by my seeing you “. This is the Prime Minister who has said, as he said to me only several days ago in relation to another matter, how important it is to obtain foi boards or commissions men who will stand up to certain other people - and he mentioned, in particular, a government department.
Is the conduct of the Minister for Trade and the Prime Minister, as revealed in this matter, conducive to independent thought and action by the Executive? The independence and integrity of the Tariff Board is involved in this matter.
I challenge certain Government supporters who know Mr. Date. Are they going to remain silent on this matter? I challenge the honorable members for Warringah (Mr. Bland), Macarthur (Mr. Jeff Bate), Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth), New England (Mr. Drummond) and Balaclava (Mr. Joske), and the Minister for the Army (Mr. Cramer). These are people who know the background of this situation, and know what has been occurring over the last two years. I challenge them to say whether they are going to remain completely silent on this mattei and permit a member of the Tariff Board to be railroaded out of office without any adequate inquiry.
A dispute has existed in the board. Mr. Date has been sacked after nearly two months’ delay by a Minister who would not face up to the decision. On 13th
March, 1958, the Minister, in a similar manner, after he had refused to take or refrained from taking for over a year any action in the matter, came into the House and made an open attack upon this member of the board. He contended that what Mr. Date had to say was not of substance.
I shall summarize, for the information of the House, the matters that have arisen in this dispute in the Tariff Board. This member of the board has asserted, in writing, that a minute of the Executive Council was faked. He has asserted that meetings of the Tariff Board were called without proper notice. He has asserted that minority opinions of board members were suppressed. He has asserted that a meeting of the Tariff Board was held on 5th December, 1955, and that no minutes were kept. He has asserted that, in relation to the Euclid Earth Scrapers inquiry, the then chairman of the hoard faked the minutes of a meeting that had taken place. He has asserted that a decision by the Solicitor-General that the board could act only by resolution on votes cast at properly constituted meetings was delayed from 29th October, 1957, until 30th May, 1958, until it could have no effect on the conduct of the then chairman of the board, who wanted to escape the consequences of this interpretation.
In substance, these matters go to the very root of the conduct of the Tariff Board and the independence and integrity of its members, and I am shocked to see how honorable members opposite, who are supposed to stand for these principles, try to laugh this matter off. It has been brought to their attention consistently over the last twelve months. They are men who profess to stand for the integrity and independence of public servants. Some of them, including the honorable member for Mackellar, know personally the man involved. They know what kind of a man he is. I challenge those honorable members to continue to sit silent on this matter.
Do they agree with what has been done? Do they agree with the manner in which the Minister for Trade delayed facing up to the situation until he was to leave Australia on a world tour and, 24 hours before leaving, sent a notice to the effect that this man’s services were being terminated? The Minister had not the courage to meet him face to face. I say that the situation created by the Minister for Trade shows clearly that he is not prepared to face up to the issues that are involved in this dispute, and that he has never been prepared to face up to them.
If we allow this kind of thing to happen in supposedly independent boards, thenindependence will disappear. The honorable member for Bruce (Mr. Snedden), who states legal principles, might well try to apply them in this case, because the Tariff Board has become a section of the Department of Trade, and it no longer has the ability to make the type of independent judgment which is essential and has been so recognized from the time the board was created.
On the other side of the House, we have Liberals, men who are supposed to stand for the independence of these boards, and who, from time to time, have made high-flown speeches in which their principles have been flaunted as though they really believed in them. I say to them: “ Apply some of those principles to this practical situation; do not forever be expounding principles while remaining unwilling at any time to make a practical application of them, because those who examine what you say will condemn you for the insincerity which is apparent in these things that you do “.
In this instance, a man’s services have been terminated after he has made five or six points of substance in relation to improper practices in the Tariff Board. The Minister, for a period of over two years, has refused to deal with those points. He has refused even to consider them.
– That is not true.
– Of course it is true. This thing has been festering for two years, and the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Harold Holt) knows it as well as does anybody else. If the allegations made by Mr. Date were untrue, if there were no substance in such an allegation as that relating to the faking of an Executive Council minute, if there were no substance in any of these things, would not this man have been dealt with in the open? Would not this matter have been brought out into the light of day, and would Mr. Date not have been told that his services would be dispensed with and that he was no longer of service to the board?
I say that that has not been done because there is a great deal of truth in the five or six points of substance that I have mentioned, and which have been the matters in dispute between Mr. Date, one or two other members of the Tariff Board, and officers of the Department of Trade. But no; you are not going to look into any of these matters. You are going to ignore them all. You are going to brush this man aside and not renew his appointment. That is the easiest way out. That is the kind of bureaucratic steamroller that numbers have given you. When you depart from principles, you do nothing but count heads. As long as you have the numbers, you are satisfied.
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. John McLeay).Order! The honorable member’s time has spired.
– I apologize to the House for rising at this late hour, but I do want to refer briefly to a matter which may be of some international importance.
I want to ask the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Harold Holt), who is at the table, if he can ascertain from the Department of External Affairs whether the report that appeared in a certain newspaper - I think it was an afternoon newspaper - is true. The report states that Indonesian pirates are raiding coastal villages in North Borneo. I do not wish to attack the press or the veracity of the reporter who sent the story to the newspaper. I have been in journalism myself, and I know the importance of quick reporting, the desire to get news, what reporters have sometimes to do, and the importance of the daily story. But I feel just at this period with regard to our relationship with Indonesia that it is very important to ascertain the exact facts concerning certain things that are published on front pages in very big type. There is enough inflammable material lying around in the international households to-day, and we ought to try to avoid any more material being left around to be ignited.
When I was in. North Borneo in January, 1955, the villages had been raided by pirates. They were Sulu pirates, who infest the seas north of Borneo or the straits between Borneo and the Philippines~Mindanao. They do not really have any distinct nationality at all, and they periodically go on these raids. The British authorities in North Borneo had sent a request to Singapore for gunboats to drive off these Sulu pirates, who had outboard motors in their praus, and there was nothing fast enough on the coast to catch them. The gunboats drove these pirates from North Borneo, and they went down the east coast of Indonesian Borneo and proceeded to raid villages on that particular strip of coastline and to attack them to such an extent that the Indonesian authorities of Indonesian Borneo requested help from the British authorities in our dependencies on the west side of Borneo, because at that time the government in Djakarta could not send fast enough craft to deal with them.
I read the text of the article very carefully. I may be wrong, but I am inclined to think that the attack, the news of which is set out in such startling headlines, was a recurrence of the same kind of thing that happened in January, 1955, and that these pirates are not Indonesians, but are the sea raiders known as Sulu pirates. I do not want to defame the Sulus as a race or a section of any particular area, but they are the sea raiders of that area who raid indiscriminately North Borneo and Indonesian Borneo. I ask the Minister whether he can have inquiries made through the Department of External Affairs to ascertain what is the exact position, because I feel that the Indonesians have been accused, in this case, of something. And do not forget that the report goes back to Indonesia and upsets or disturbs unnecessarily our relations in that area.
There are a lot of difficult problems to be solved, and if any misunderstandings have occurred as between the reporter and the editor, or if the sub-editor who wrote the headline misunderstood the position, I am sure that the newspaper, as well as ourselves, would like to see any false impression of that nature corrected at the earliest possible moment.
.- I should like to bring to the notice of the Government a matter concerning a constituent of mine, an ex-serviceman, who has worked and saved and made sacrifices all his life in order to get his own home. He purchased a home through the War Service:
Homes Division and then found that he had not a home at all, or that he will not have a home in the very near future.
Recently, when I was speaking on the motion for the adjournment of the House, which I rarely do, I took the opportunity to mention the name of the person involved in the matter, and I received a reply from the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Roberton) that if any member of the Opposition mentioned the name of a person during an adjournment debate, that member could be assured that the matter would receive no consideration from him. The Minister said that in this chamber, and he confirmed it in a letter to me at a later stage.
Because of that, it is with some reluctance that I mention the name of the person involved in this case, but if I do not, I cannot put the case as clearly and as sincerely as I should like to do to-night. I must mention the name of the person concerned because I have received a letter asking me to do so, and I cannot do any more or less than that. I am very concerned with this matter. The name of the person is Mr. M. N. Quirk, of 6 Fulhamroad, Townsville. There will now be no doubt about the name of the person and where he may be located.
As I have said, Mr. Quirk is an exserviceman. He is married, and has four children and, as I mentioned before, he worked and saved and made sacrifices all his life in order to obtain sufficient money to enable him to own his own home. He sought from the division a loan to purchase a readybuilt home. After inspections were made, the loan was granted, but from the first few weeks after he entered the home he found that the place was infested with borers. This evil of borers has been with this man, his wife and kiddies ever since he took over the house. He took up the matter with the division in Brisbane and was informed that it would arrange for an inspection to be made. As a result of that inspection, a few old boards were taken out of the four walls of the house and’ new ones affixed in their place. But that did not overcome the evil of the borers in this man’s home.
Later, he again wrote to the division, which said that, without accepting’ any liability, under the insurance regulations, it would- put 255 lineal feet of new chamfer. boards into the home of this ex-serviceman. The division suggested to him that he get a quote from a builder who would be likely to do the work.
He saw me, and I suggested that he get several quotes. He then obtained four quotes. Three of the contractors who quoted for the work said that it would be absolutely futile, for them to put new chamfer boards into this house because the borers in the other boards would soon infect the new chamfer boards. The fourth contractor who submitted a quote made no comment at all. Now the contract has been let, strangely enough - ironically enough, Mr. Speaker - to the contractor who made no comment on the presence of borers in the house. Before the work was done, the inspector in Townsville went along and inspected the house. He told Mr. Quirk that there were a couple of boards with fresh cut outs. I quote Mr. Quirk’s own words to me. He said there were still a couple of boards infected with borers, yet the letter received from the division in Brisbane states -
The inspection revealed no further borer infection has become evident and in the inspecting officer’s opinion the situation does not call for total replacement of all chamfer boards.
I made representations on behalf of this man on the basis that it is useless to replace any of the boards that are affected with borers. The only way the trouble can be overcome is by the War Service Homes Division replacing the whole of the four walls. The division denies all responsibility, on the ground that this was not a new home, and that, as it did not provide the timber, it did not have any opportunity to inspect the timber before it went into the home. I put it to the House that an inspection was made and that if the inspector knew his job, he should have been able to detect the presence of borers before the War Service Homes Division made the loan available. What I am intent on seeing - and I regret having to adopt this method in order to do so - is that this man gets what he is entitled to and what the War Service Homes Division granted him- a loan for - a home for himself, his wife and his four children. This inspector in Townsville did not get on a ladder to examine anything. He- did- it all from floor level. His inspection was completely in accord, I suggest. with the idea that this man had no further claim beyond the replacement of the 255 linear feet that the division had already conceded.
I hope that if anybody speaks to the Minister on this matter as a result of my statement to-night he will point out that it concerns a man who was prepared to fight for his country. He is an ex-serviceman with a wife and four children. His life savings have gone into this home. Now he finds that he will not have a home at all. Unless this thing is dealt with in a correct way, unless new chamfer boards are put into the whole of the four walls, this exserviceman will not have a home. I have risen to-night on this matter to present the case as well as I am able to do so in order to ensure that the man, his wife and children will have what he thought he had - a home.
– Just for the moment I advert to the matter raised by the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Cairns). Even the fact that he has come forward as the advocate ot Mr. Date does not necessarily compel me to condemn him nor does it deter me from doing what I said this morning I would do - that is, to see the Minister and try to ascertain the facts, of which I am at this moment almost completely in ignorance. It may be that I can learn from the Minister what these facts are. The allegations made do not seem to me, on the face of them, to be very coherent. On the other hand1, they have been made, and anybody may have confidence that on this side of the House there is an absolute determination to look at all these things fairly.
. -I refer briefly to the matter raised by the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Cairns). 1 do so, Sir, because he raised a number of points which require some answer at this stage. I think that, first of all, I should make it clear to the House that in this matter concerning Date the actual date of the letter which was sent to him was coincidental, in that the letter happened to be sent just at the time that the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen) was leaving Canberra on his important overseas tour of duty.
I think it necessary to explain that the references that have been made by the honorable member for Yarra to the termination of the appointment of Mr. Date are, in accordance with the honorable gentleman’s typical fashion, quite misleading. He has referred several times to the termination of the appointment and has used that term. The letter, of which he apparently has seen a copy, would indicate that when Mr. Date’s period of appointment to the Tariff Board terminates it is not intended to ask him to stand for re-appointment.
Members of the Tariff Board are appointed only for a specific period, and there is no obligation on the Government to re-appoint members who have been appointed for such a specific period. In fact, I would say, Mr. Speaker, that several members of the Tariff Board, for various reasons of their own or on the decision of the Government itself, will not be reappointed after their term of office terminates. That has always been the prerogative of the Government, and in this particular instance there is no unusual action such as is implied by the honorable member for Yarra.
I think that what is far worse is the honorable member’s implication that some form of control is being exercised by the Department of Trade over the Tariff Board. I think, to use the term which has been given to me by a colleague, that it is scandalous to suggest in any circumstances whatever that a board which has been appointed under an act of this Parliment is subject to influence by a Commonwealth department. I am sure that the honorable member does not sincerely believe that himself, and that he. merely has made the statement here in order to gain some form of political propaganda advantage.
On the subject of Mr. Date himself, my only comment is that the points raised by the honorable member for Yarra are quite distorted, as one would probably expect of him. Let us say that Mr. Date is rather an unusual individual. Over a number of years I have seen a variety of correspondence and telegrams to a variety of people sent by this member of the Tariff Board, and perhaps I can only conclude by saying, in all kindness, that he is an unusual individual, though perhaps not quite so unusual as the honorable member for Yarra.
I think it should be made quite clear to the House that there is no influence whatsoever exercised by the Department of
Trade over the operations of the Tariff Board. I am sure that the public of Australia firmly believes that, and has full confidence in this board, which is doing such an important national duty. I think it illbehoves any member of this House to cast reflections of that nature on a group of people who are doing a national duty.
Now, as far as the termination of periods of office is concerned, it is quite within the province of any government, when reappointments to the board are being considered, to appoint people on their particular merits. Any decision that has been made by Cabinet in this regard is quite in accordance with the act which governs the Tariff Board. I am sure that every member of this House will appreciate that the action is being taken in the best interests of the people of Australia.
– I will only keep the House for a moment or two. The case of Mr. Date has been mentioned here previously. I think that the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Cairns) was the honorable member who brought the matter up. Then we had the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen) speaking on it on another occasion. The words he used are recorded in “ Hansard “. In an attack on Mr. Date on that occasion the Minister showed such malevolence towards the man that I said then - and I still believe - that he, the Minister, is not capable of coming to a fair opinion about Mr. Date. Later, after criticism, the Minister apparently changed his views. He paid high tribute to Mr. Date. He praised his care and his assiduity in the performance of his duties, and he seemed to leave the matter as though Mr. Date’s future would be as secure as that of any other member of the Tariff Board. Under the statute, as the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Whitlam) reminds me, Mr. Date is eligible for re-appointment. It is a very strange thing that the appointment should come to an end almost at the very moment when the Minister is due to leave Australia.
– Would you have reappointed him?
– I would not only reappoint him, but I would move a vote of censure against the Minister for showing his spleen against Mr. Date. I did not think that at the time the Minister was capable of forming a fair opinion of Mr. Date, to judge by his statement in this House. I do not wish to form a final opinion, but I justify the bringing up of this matter before the House by the honorable member for Yarra.
That was the view we held on this side of the House, and I think it is up to the Cabinet to review this matter and see that this member of the Tariff Board, against whom no charge is levelled, as I understand, gets justice. I think that that ought to lead to his re-appointment, or at any rate to a complete reconsideration of the matter. These are the views I held on the previous occasion and I certainly think that they have been fortified by recent events.
.- On a previous occasion when this matter was raised I had something to say in support of the attitude that Mr. Date took regarding the necessity for a member of the Tariff Board, if he differs from his colleagues, to be able to exercise his right to submit, with Tariff Board reports, a minority report. It is quite obvious from the remarks of the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Trade, the honorable member for Darling Downs (Mr. Swartz), that Mr. Date is an extraordinary man. If, in the public interest, this country requires anything, it is men who are extraordinary. In order that the problems that confront the Tariff Board may be properly dealt with, it is essential that the members of the board have sufficient independence of thought and the capacity to record in the board’s reports their differing opinions if the necessity to do so arises. If the Government does not concede that right to the members of the board, then obviously it must expect to receive reports from a team of “yes” men. I can imagine nothing that could be worse for this country. We see now in Australia a repetition of the state of affairs that obtains in Russia and formerly obtained in fascist Germany and fascist Spain. The best tribute that can be paid to Mr. Date, and the best indication that can be given of the justification for defending him, is that he, in a recent Tariff Board report, expressed a dissenting opinion - something that was impossible prior to the date on which the dispute took place between Mr. Date and other members of the board, which ultimately resulted in the Minister for Trade condemning him. The Prime Minister may laugh, but there is no occasion for anybody, much less the Prime Minister of this country, to laugh when we are discussing an alleged injustice.
The Minister who exercises jurisdiction over the Tariff Board has now presented to the Parliament a measure giving him the power to dismiss any member of the board who may be placed in a position similar to that in which Mr. Date was placed. If any greater justification were needed for the right to complain about the way Mr. Date has been treated, the measure introduced by the Minister affords the most complete vindication any man could wish for. If Mr. Date has some peculiar characteristics in his make-up, surely the Government at least could have had a sufficient sense of justice and consideration to make allowances for those peculiarities, instead of placing itself in the position of being accused, as it now stands accused, of having vented its spleen on a man who insisted on what he considered to be his rights. If he did not have those rights at that time, the legislation introduced into this Parliament at least in principle concedes them to him.
On other occasions when an individual in the Public Service has dared to exercise his right to express in candid terms a view different from that held by the Government, Ministers, and particularly the Minister for Trade, have decided that his head must roll in the dirt. I well recollect the attitude of the Minister for Trade - the honorable member for Darling Downs may defend him if he wishes-
– You wait until the Minister goes away to say these things about him.
– This has nothing to do with you. You can speak for yourself later. I recollect the vindictive action taken by the Minister, soon after he came to office, in dismissing, without an interview, a man who had fought for the wheat-growers of Australia and had obtained for them, by virtue of his work, the wheat stabilization plan, the legislation for which remains on the statutebook to this day. That man was the chairman of the Australian Wheat Board. Without a personal interview; without the decency to face him or tell him that he did not like him or his policy, or that he did not think that he was fit for his job, the Minister sent the man a despicable letter to the effect that his services were no longer required. The Minister then appointed another person to the position.
If I thought a man was not fit to hold a position, I would confront him and tell him frankly and decently that I intended to replace him. If the Prime Minister thinks that the method adopted in this instance is an honorable way in which to dispense with a man’s services, all I can say is that his Government will stand condemned in the eyes of the people of Australia.
– in reply - Three matters have been raised in the course of the adjournment discussion, one of which was incidental to the others. As is the practice with adjournment discussions, the matter raised by the honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Edmonds) will be brought to the notice of the appropriate Minister.
The honorable member for Chisholm (Sir Wilfrid Kent Hughes) raised a matter reported in a section of the press regarding attacks on people in Borneo. I have nopersonal knowledge of the matters to which he refers, and I shall bring his inquiry to the attention of my colleague, the Minister for Defence (Sir Philip McBride), who is acting for the Minister for External Affairs.
I now turn to the matter raised by the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Cairns). It is well known in this chamber that the honorable member has been a consistent champion of Mr. Date in the many controversies in which he has been involved over recent months. It is a great pity that in his zeal as Mr. Date’s champion, the honorable member should descend to a mean, unworthy and entirely unjustified attack upon my colleague, the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen). The attack was mean, unworthy and unjustified for several reasons.
I shall first mention the circumstances under which Mr. Date was not re-appointed as a member of the Tariff Board. The honorable member has painted for us a picture showing the non-appointment of Mr. Date as a cowardly act by the Minister as he was departing from Australia, having in mind that his sudden decision on the matter could not be challenged in his absence. That is an entirely unwarranted charge, something that is mean and unworthy. As is well known, my colleague is one of the busiest Ministers, if not the busiest Minister, in the Government. The Department of Trade has ramifications which continually engage his attention very actively. Because so many matters remained to be disposed of in collaboration with his Cabinet colleagues before his departure from Australia, the Cabinet agenda was re-organized so that outstanding matters in which he was particularly involved could be dealt with. Included in a number of matters was the consideration of certain appointments to the Tariff Board, some of them new appointments and others re-appointments. Several matters were before us, not merely this isolated case of Mr. Date. Indeed, Mr. Date was not the only member of the Tariff Bard who was not re-appointed. In addition, not all those who were re-appointed will serve a full term. In other words, it was not the Minister alone, but the Minister in company with his colleagues in the Cabinet, who decided these matters. I say, in fairness to my colleague, that I have heard Mm discuss the problems of Mr. Date not once but several times in the course of our Cabinet deliberations, and I have never heard him use terms of prejudice or malice, or any other terms but those of detachment and objectivity in any comment he has made regarding Mr. Date. He has never invited the Cabinet to do other than consider, on their merits, the various items which have come before us as they affected the Tariff Board and this man’s association with it.
In addition to that, I can say quite confidently of my own knowledge, that any allegation or inquiry which Mr. Date has brought to the notice of my colleague for his consideration has been dealt with appropriately. Where legal issues have been raised they have been referred to the Attorney-General’s Department. Where matters which could be considered in the department were raised, they have been considered appropriately by the department. I have no hesitation whatever in saying that, in my judgment, my colleague has acted in the most appropriate way and with complete propriety and objectivity in dealing with this man.
I add this comment: Mr. Date was appointed not by some other government but by this Government. This Government has a power to appoint and when the time of an appointment expires it has it within its judgment and capacity to decide whether a re-appointment should take place. That is a responsibility not only of the Minister concerned but also of the collective judgment and responsibility of the Cabinet as a whole. That is what happened in this case. I do not feel it incumbent upon me to embark upon an analysis of Mr. Date or hs character or his conduct. Suffice it to say that the question of Mr. Date’s reappointment was calmly and properly considered by Cabinet, and Cabinet, in its wisdom, decided that he would not be re-appointed.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 11.33 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
Reporting of Hursey Case.
t asked the Minister for Territories, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
At present the Native Administration Regulations restrict the movement of New Guinea natives by -
Administrator may declare areas where a native, not being a native born in the area, may only reside under the immediate control of a non-native.
d asked the Minister for Territories, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
In the mining industry, in which all employment of wards is above ground, wages up to £12 a week and everything found are being paid. Builders’ labourers can earn between £8 and £13 10s. a week according to skill and experience but maintain themselves. In urban employment domestics earn from £1 to £2 a week with everything found. Those engaged in pearling earn £4 a week all found. There are also wards who have gained reasonable skill and experience who are engaged at the usual award rates as builders’ labourers, mechanics, fettlers and other occupations. The minimum wage paid to wards by the Administration, government departments and the services in Darwin is £3 10s. a week plus food, clothing, tobacco and accommodation. The casual rate is 4s. an hour.
ser asked the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
Repatriation General Hospital, Springbank.
n. - On 7th August, the honorable member for Kingston (Mr. Galvin) asked the following question: -
I direct a question to the Minister for Health regarding the over-crowded temporary prefabricated ward for the treatment of psychiatric patients at the Dawes Road General Repatriation Hospital. Would the Minister take up with the Minister for Repatriation or, if he is not available, his officers, the question of what is to be done about that ward? Is it to be rebuilt or completely forgotten? I remind the Minister that 1 raised this matter early in the last sessional period of the Parliament. I have repeatedly contacted the Minister for Repatriation by letter and telegram. He always promises me an early reply, but 1 have never received one. In the meantime, the patients who go to Dawes Road hospital for treatment want to know whether the Government intends ever to make up its mind to do anything about this shockingly neglected ward.
I am informed by the Minister for Repatriation that he agrees that the present psychiatric block at Springbank, which is a wartime structure, is below the general standard of the Repatriation General Hospital, Springbank. He wishes to emphasize, however, that this in no way prejudices the treatment of psychiatric patients which is of the highest order. The Minister realizes the need for a new psychiatric block, and as he has previously said, plans have been completed for a modern building to house this section. This project is accorded a high priority by his department in its overall works programme which is mainly determined by the amount of funds available in any one financial year, and will be proceeded with as soon as possible.
b asked the Minister representing the Minister for National Development, upon notice -
Will the Minister consider permitting the War Service Homes Division to make a loan to an ex-serviceman for the purpose of clearing an existing mortgage on his home?
– The Minister for National Development has furnished the following reply: -
Since December, 1951, it has been the policy of the Government not to grant assistance under the War Service Homes Act for the discharge of a mortgage on an existing property except where the applicant has obtained the Division’s prior approval to proceed with the purchase or erection of the home with temporary finance. In adopting this policy, the Government considered that, whilst so many eligible persons were awaiting assistance under the Act, it was more in the interests of ex-servicemen generally, and a better contribution towards overtaking the housing shortage, to utilize the available funds for the provision of homes for applicants who do not own a home before assisting others who already own a home to improve their financial position. Despite the provision of record funds for War Service Homes by the present Government, there are still a large number of eligible persons who do not own a home awaiting loans under the scheme and new applications continue to come in at a high rate. In these circumstances the Government considers that it would not be equitable to alter the present policy.
a asked the Minister representing the Minister for Customs and Excise, upon notice -
– The Minister for Customs and Excise has now furnished the following answers to the honorable member’s questions: -
t asked the Minister representing the Minister for Customs and Excise, upon notice -
– The Minister for Customs and Excise has now furnished the following answers to the honorable member’s questions: -
d asked the Minister representing the Minister for Customs and Excise, upon notice -
– The Minister for Customs and Excise has now furnished the following answers to the honorable member’s questions: -
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 21 August 1958, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1958/19580821_reps_22_hor20/>.