23rd Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. John McLeay) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– I ask the Treasurer whether it is a fact that concern is being widely expressed that, because of the flow of overseas capital into this country, Australia is steadily losing control of potentially large enterprises which, in the years to come, will materially influence the whole operation of the Australian economy. If this is so, will the Government consider action to promote joint participation of Australian and overseas capital in order to ensure that investments and benefits will be more equitably spread?
– The honorable gentleman asks me whether concern is being felt at the flow of investment capital from overseas and the fact that this might mean that Australia is losing control of enterprises which will be of importance to our economy as time goes on. I gather that that is the substance of his question. I hasten to say that whatever concern is felt on that score - and I am not conscious of its being considerable - it is certainly far less than the concern would be if we were not attracting this capital from overseas. The capital which is flowing into Australia at the present is a source of considerable help to our economy. Last year, in particular, it assisted in cushioning the effects of some decline in our overseas balances, and it has undoubtedly stimulated employment in this country.
This Government, throughout its term of office, has not merely tried to encourage investment in Australia from overseas but it also has sought to create such stable conditions as would attract overseas capital. I believe that our efforts have been notably successful. Australia has continued to enjoy a high rate of capital inflow.
There is a point in what the honorable gentleman puts. I know that the Prime Minister and my colleague, the Minister for Trade, who is Acting Prime Minister, have both encouraged people who are investing capital from overseas to take in, so far as appears to be practicable, Australian in terests and Australian capital in a sort of joint venture. That does not mean that this would always be an appropriate course. It does mean, however, that, to the extent that the Government can encourage the process, we are attempting to do so.
In conclusion, may 1 say that attention is sometimes directed to the fact that the control of the assets and resources of a firm such as General Motors-Holden’s Limited is in the hands of overseas investors. On the other side of the ledger must be entered the scores of Australian enterprises that have been built up around the activities of General Motors-Holden’s Limited, and in which Australian capital and Australian labour have been heavily engaged. So that even in some instances in which we do not seem to be participating to the degree that might be wished, there is a very real and lasting benefit for the Australian community in the activities of these well-conducted overseas concerns.
– I wish to put a point to the Minister by way of a supplementary question, because one cannot open a debate at question time. Will the Treasurer, when considering the question of principle raised by my colleague, the honorable member for Batman, have regard to a recent publication by Mr. Wheelwright, in which the very process indicated by the honorable member for Batman is discussed? It does appear, I submit - and I do not want to enter upon an argument about the matter now - that we have reached the stage where a serious danger to this country exists, when one takes the long-term view. I know the Treasurer is very interested, and is obviously applying his mind to the matter and considers it a great problem. But the book by Mr. Wheelwright is tremendously important. It gives the figures for practically all the capital invested in Australia, both American and British, and it gives strong support for the view that it is important that Australian capital, for the most part, should retain control of Australian investments.
– I think I have already indicated that I do realize there is some substance in what has been put, and that the position must be watched quite carefully. Indeed, I am conscious of some of the problems that have arisen in Canada, where the rate of overseas investment had been remarkably heavy, particularly from the neighbouring country, the United States of America. But at this stage of our development in Australia we must realize that it is out of the national growth, and out of the stimulus to our own economy springing from these overseas investments, that we are able to build up Australian capital resources which, in the years ahead, will enable us to play a bigger part in the economic development of the country, and, indeed, to participate to a greater extent “in the activities of some of the very firms that we are now trying to induce to invest in this country. The situation does need watching, but I do not believe we have even nearly reached a point of danger in Australia. I have not read Mr. WheelWright’s book, but I am reasonably confident that the appropriate officers in the Treasury will have studied it. I shall take the matter up with them and see whether it has any effect on my present thinking on this question.
– Can the Minister for Trade tell the House whether the recent trade mission to Czechoslovakia and Poland has resulted in any increased sales of Australian goods to those countries?
– The recent trade mission to Czechoslovakia and Poland has, I think, broadly, been a success. It consisted, substantially, of representatives of the Australian Wheat Board, the Australian Meat Board and the Australian Dairy Produce Board. The mission was sent partly because of arrangements which I made when, something less than three years ago, I visited Prague on the invitation of the Czechoslovakian Government, to discuss the possibilities of expanding mutual trade. I understand that some effective sales have already been concluded as a result of the mission. Poland and Czechoslovakia are both important buyers of Australian wool, and we believe - and the governments of those countries believe - they could become not insignificant purchasers of Australian foodstuffs.
One thing that has flowed directly from the visit of the trade mission to Czechoslovakia is that the chief wool buyer of the
Czech Foreign Trade Corporation, which controls all imports of wool into Czechoslovakia, will visit Australia later this year to investigate the possibilities of increased wool purchases. I believe that the honorable member for Fawkner, who takes a very great interest in our overseas trade, can rest assured that valuable results have already flowed from this trade mission and that an enduring basis of trade will be established.
– My question also is addressed to the Minister for Trade. I understand that since July of last year the French authorities in Noumea, New Caledonia, have stopped the import of potatoes from Australia. I understand, also, that the authorities there have been asked to re-open this quite significant market for Australian potatoes. Can the Minister inform the House of any activities in this connexion?
– The honorable member for Corangamite has sustained an interest in our potato trade, knowing that a satisfactory outlet for Tasmanian potatoes has implications for the potato industry in Victoria. The honorable member for Wilmot also has displayed an interest in this matter. New Caledonia, as a French overseas territory, has been susceptible to the exchange problems of Metropolitan France, and one of the consequences has been complete unavailability, from time to time, of exchange for the purchase of Australian potatoes by New Caledonia, as was stated by the honorable member for Corangamite. I have, both personally and through the Department of Trade, persistently made representations to the French mission in Australia; also direct to the New Caledonian administration, and consistently and powerfully to the French Government, in Paris. I am happy to be able to assure the honorable members who are interested, and particularly the honorable member for Corangamite, who has asked this question, that from these representations has flowed an agreement that exchange will be made available for New Caledonia to purchase Australian potatoes at the rate of 950 tons a year, commencing almost forthwith. This will re-establish this valuable and useful outlet for Australian potatoes.
– I address a question to the Acting Prime Minister. In view of the statement by the Minister for Primary Industry that no further land would be made available or acquired for soldier settlement in the agent States - South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania - has the right honorable gentleman thought of the effect that this will have on the principal States? Does he think that they, too, will fall into line and that we may see the end of soldier settlement and of the acquisition of land for this purpose as a result of the initial move made by the Commonwealth Government itself? Also is the Acting Prime Minister aware that the Re-establishment and Employment Act, which gives preference in employment to ex-servicemen, has been declared ultra vires? Is there any real reason for the anxiety of returned servicemen’s organizations that the only remaining legislation on the statute-book which gives benefits of this kind to ex-servicemen - the War Service Homes Act - is in danger of expiring by effluxion of time? Will the Acting Prime Minister call a conference of representatives of the relevant bodies to consider this matter and to see whether they can streamline the operation of the last remaining act which benefits ex-servicemen, and accelerate the solution of exservicemen’s housing problems?
– Broadly, it was never intended that soldier settlement should continue indefinitely. I think that the Parliament and the country understood that. The relationship between the agent States, the principal States and the Commonwealth has been continually a matter for frank consultation. The recently announced decision comes as no surprise to either the States concerned or the ex-servicemen’s organizations. I understand that Victoria, being a principal State, has indicated that it has the resources to continue soldier settlement for some short time further.
– It will be able to meet all demands by 1960.
– My colleague assures me that the Victorian Government believes it will be able to meet all demands made on it by 1960. I understand that the New South Wales Government has not yet informed us of its final decision on this matter. I assure the honorable member that the general policy intention is to consider the well-being of ex-servicemen who desire to settle. This is clearly in the mind of the Government, and has been consistently a matter for consultation between ex-servicemen’s organizations and the Government and between the State governments and the Commonwealth Government.
– As the Minister for Trade will be aware, eastern European countries have recently increased their activity at Australian wool sales. Will the Minister tell the House what action, if any, his department has taken or intends to take to promote sales of wool and other products in these markets?
– The Department of Trade and the Australian Wool Bureau, which operates under the aegis of my colleague, the Minister for Primary Industry, are continuously active in furthering the sale of wool, by sheer promotional activities and by negotiated arrangements. I offered some observations a moment ago to the honorable member for Fawkner on the general opportunities for trade in eastern Europe. However, I now add that the Department of Trade has recently established a trade commissioner post in Stockholm, with an adequate staff. That post has within its purview the eastern European countries which the honorable member for Wimmera has in mind - Poland, Czechoslovakia and other neighbouring countries. I understand that the newly appointed trade commissioner has already paid his initial visit to each of these countries. The prospects for trade are good. Really, the only factor that prevents us from having a much broader basis of trade is the ability of some of these countries to sell their products in Australia so that they may earn exchange. They assure us that they are quite willing to spend the exchange here on the purchase of wool, food products and other items that they are anxious to buy. This is a matter of constant concern to the Department of Trade. I believe that everything feasible is being done, but I say to the country as a whole that we are very glad to receive constructive suggestions from whatever source they may come to us.
– I desire to direct a question to the Postmaster-General. Having received a telegram of protest from amateur radio operators in South Australia at the proposal of the Postmaster-General’s Department to recommend a reduction in the number of channels available for amateur radio service and research, I ask the Postmaster-General whether he will have this matter further reviewed, particularly in view of the splendid help given in radio development and technical suggestion by amateur radio operators. What has prompted the department to think of sanctioning the backward step that has been suggested?
– The honorable member for Bonython refers to a matter which is at present receiving attention in the supply debate. It was mentioned last night both in this chamber and in another place. I intend this afternoon or this evening to reply to some of the statements that have been made, and the matter raised by the honorable member will then be fully answered.
– My question, which is addressed to the. Postmaster-General, is to some extent supplementary to the question asked yesterday by the honorable member for Wannon about the positioning of the Ballarat television station in relation to certain towns in his electorate. Will it be possible for individuals who represent areas that desire to receive television programmes from particular stations, to give evidence to the Australian Broadcasting Control Board in relation to the siting of those stations? I point out to the honorable gentleman that the important area of the south-east of South Australia has the same interest in the siting of the so-called Ballarat station as have the towns mentioned by the honorable member for Wannon, which are just to the east of the area with which I am concerned.
– I think that my reply to the honorable member for Barker will follow the lines of my reply to the honorable member for Wannon. First, in the investigations that the Australian Broadcasting Control Board will make into applications, the siting of transmitters in order to give the best possible coverage to rural areas will be of prime importance, and will receive very considerable attention. Anybody submitting proposals to the board will be able to recommend certain sites. I assure the honorable member that the technical experts of the department will examine all proposals in order to determine the best site for a transmitter. I intend to see the chairman of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board during the coming week-end to discuss the details of this matter, and the matters raised by the honorable member will then be considered.
– My question is directed to the Postmaster-General. Can the honorable gentleman say how long it will be before the necessary telephone equipment is available in the KogarahHurstville area of Sydney to overcome the exasperating delay in satisfying applications for telephones by business people and private persons in that area?
– In common with a number of other areas in which the installation of telephones is behind schedule, the Kogarah-Hurstville area is constantly receiving the attention of the engineers and planners of my department. I shall ask them to give me some details as to the exact position at present prevailing, and I shall pass on to the honorable member the information I obtain. However, I assure him that all these matters are constantly under review by officials of the department and, depending on funds available, the department does its utmost to meet all demands made on it.
– I ask the Minister for Labour and National Service whether it is true that long delays have occurred in dealing with matters that are now before the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. In particular, I refer to the consolidated case known as the white collar workers’ case. Has there been any undue delay in that case?
– I tl.ink it is a fair generalization to say that there are no avoidable delays, either before the individual commissioners or before the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission itself.
The honorable gentleman has referred to the case of the engineers and white collar workers. Whatever delay has occurred has been due wholly to constitutional problems, and was unavoidable for the reason that there has been a challenge to the High Court involving the jurisdiction of the commission.
As to the postal workers’ case, I did inform my friend, the honorable member for Banks, recently that most of the applications have now been decided, and I can now inform him that during the last few days the application relating to postal assistants has been determined. So that means that with the exception of four clauses the postal workers’ case has been practically disposed of.
As for the airline pilots, negotiations have been completed for increases in certain rates of payment. These were mentioned yesterday and 1 do not think that there is any avoidable delay in that case. The only other case that I should mention is the bank officers’ case. Here, Sir, the delay has occurred not so much because of a failure of the system itself, as because the parties chose the course that has been followed and that course inevitably led to some delay. So I think the generalization I made - that there is no avoidable delay at present - is a fair one. May I express this opinion: Two or three weeks’ delay or two or three months’ delay does not prejudicially affect the working of the arbitration system. A cooling-ofF period is sometimes beneficial to the parties and to the commission itself; and, in the long run, it has great advantages, I believe, for the community.
– I desire to ask the Acting Prime Minister a question without notice. Due to the fact that the Government of the United States of America has embarked on a policy of restricting Australian exports to that country, mainly primary produce, will the right honorable gentleman consider restricting the importation into Australia of goods from the United States of America which can be purchased from other countries that have unfavorable trade balances with Australia?
– The answer is, “ No. “, and for two reasons. I think it is right that we should argue vigorously and main tain pressures on the United States of America, directly and through international agencies, to see that that country, which frankly has been so vigorous and active in advising the world on the advantages of freer trade, should itself to a maximum extent - and I do not mind saying, to my mind a more reasonable extent - practice a good deal of what it has preached to the world. But I think that it would not be in the general interests of bilateral relationships between the two countries, nor in the interests of securing an equitable solution of our problems, that retaliatory action should be resorted to.
I say that, and I need say no more to explain it; but I referred to two reasons. The second reason is a very simple one and it is this: Due to our shortages of dollar currency, we have already restricted - not for any retaliatory reason but to preserve our own access to dollar currency - our imports from the whole dollar area to the minimum level so that what we do import from the dollar area is, by and large, what it suits us to import or what we really need to import for our own essential industrial purposes. In short, we would be cutting off our nose to spite our face if we were to go further and curtail imports from the United States of America.
– I direct a question to the Acting Prime Minister in his capacity as Minister for Trade. Is he aware that the unofficial quota in Brisbane for the purchase of Scotch whisky from certain wholesalers is one bottle of Scotch whisky for each £10 order for other liquors? Is the Minister also aware that some Brisbane wholesalers when dealing with country resellers allow them per order one bottle of Scotch whisky for about £50 worth of other liquors, including brands that the buyer does not really want but must take and often cannot sell? Would the Minister consider any steps to overcome this state of affairs?
– Very real problems flow from the import restrictions upon Scotch whisky but, with all respect, we have not yet felt disposed to classify it as an essential import. I am bound to say that any conditioning of sales by those who hold quotas, along the lines stated by the honorable member for Wide Bay, and also earlier in another, but similar context by my colleague, the right honorable member for Cowper, represents an infringement of the conditions upon which import licence quotas are established. That being so, if it were established that this practice was engaged in by licence holders, I would be prepared, as I told the right honorable member for Cowper, to review the policy basis upon which these quotas are issued.
– I direct a question to the Minister for the Interior. At present a good deal of the Government’s printing, such as the printing of departmental journals, is being done by private enterprise. Will the new Government Printing Office, upon completion, be able to print all Commonwealth Government publications?
– I cannot give the honorable member a categorical assurance to that effect, but the fact is that most of the printing for Government purposes that is not now done by the Government Printing Office is done by private enterprise for the simple reason that facilities are not available in the Government Printing Office.
– I direct a question to the Acting Prime Minister. In an excellent historical resume last week-end, His Excellency the High Commissioner for the United Kingdom said that a new political and social concept of the British Commonwealth of Nations was being evolved; a new Commonwealth of sovereign independent States with peoples of different races, religions and civilizations, forming a relationship which was a pattern of peaceful co-operation for the future. Does the Acting Prime Ministerconsider that this evolution has developed to the stage where these facts should be taken into consideration when new appointments are due to be made in certain high posts in Australia and other Commonwealth countries?
– I understand the significance of the words read by the honorable gentleman. Perhaps I would need a crystal ball to know what he deduces from them, but I feel that I do appreciate some of his thoughts. The Government undoubtedly agrees with the general observations to which he has referred, and will properly bear them in mind.
– I ask the Minister for Territories: Is it a fact that a crisis has developed in the ranks of Government supporters in regard to the proposed taxation of residents of New Guinea? Is it also a fact that this rebellion is led by two of Dame Margot Fonteyn’s rebel fusiliers in the persons of the honorable member for Mitchell and the honorable member for Mackellar, who are demanding, in return for calling off their rebellion, either a withdrawal of the legislation or the resignation of the Minister for Territories?
– I think the honorable member for Grayndler suffers from a defect that is common throughout this House: That is, that whilst we on our side of the House are looking very intently at the dissensions in the Labour Party, members of the Opposition are looking equally intently to try to find something of the same sort on our side.
– I direct a question to the Minister in charge of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization. Is it a fact that an open day will be held to-day at the C.S.I.R.O. establishment at Black Mountain, Canberra? Will the Minister tell the House what facilities will be made available for inspection? Is it possible for an arrangement to be made between both sides of the House so that members may be able to visit this establishment without embarrassing the Government by their absence?
– It is a fact that this afternoon the C.S.I.R.O. establishment in Canberra is having an open day, by which it is meant that the various divisions and sections of the organization that are established in Canberra, including those concerned with plant industry, entomology, land use, soils, and wild life, will be open for inspection during the whole of this afternoon. Parties or individuals will be taken round and shown what they want to see, and have the work explained to them by senior officers of the various divisions. All I can suggest is that honorable members who wish to take advantage of this unique opportunity to see the C.S.I.R.O. at work should make the necessary arrangements with the Whips.
– The question that I now direct to the Minister for Immigration concerns the eligibility of certain new Australians to take part, as Australian competitors, in the Olympic Games to be held next year in Rome. I ask the Minister: Has any consideration been given to the cases of new Australians who are definitely settled in this country, but who have not been here quite the requisite time to make them eligible for naturalization, with a view to enabling them to nominate as Australian citizens to compete in the Olympic Games? For this purpose could the qualifying period of five years’ residence in this country be reduced? One case that I have in mind concerns the lightweight, or bantam-weight, wrestling champion of Australia who will not have resided in Australia for five years by the time the games are staged in Rome. He is very keen to take the oath of allegiance and become an Australian citizen, but unless he may do so some months ahead of the expiration of the normal period of five years he will not be eligible to compete in the games as a representative of Australia. Can anything be done to assist him and others in the same position, people who are really Australians now although they are not naturalized, so that they may represent Australia at the Olympic Games?
– I shall certainly consider the honorable gentleman’s suggestion. However, I point out, Sir, that the rules governing naturalization are quite clearly laid down in the Nationality and Citizenship Act and, although in a rather restricted number of cases power is vested in the Minister for Immigration to use his discretion, that discretion may be exercised within very narrow confines indeed. However, I assure the honorable gentleman that I shall give thought to what he has said. and if it is at all possible to give some advantage to the people in the category he mentioned I shall try to assist in that direction.
– My question is directed to the honorable Minister for Territories. I ask him whether he will lay on the table a copy of the memorandum which some years ago he sent to the official government members of the Legislative Council for the Northern Territory, laying down the principles that should guide them in their conduct in that body. Are those principles still considered by the Minister to be of current effect, and were similar memoranda issued to the members of the Legislative Council for Papua and New Guinea?
– I think that the honorable member for Mackellar has not correctly described the piece of paper to which he refers, and if the House will bear with me, Mr. Speaker, I should like to give a personal account of how that piece of paper came into being. As the House and the honorable member for Mackellar know, whenever anyone wants to put a mildly derogatory adjective in front of my name, they usually put the word “ academic “, and I am rather proud that they do so. I confess to being academic in that I have still a very considerable interest in the theory as well as the practice of politics. It is my habit, when I am faced with a problem, often to indulge in the academic practice of writing a paper on the problem, not only for my own enlightenment but also in order to clear my mind.
– That is a bad habit.
– It is certainly a habit to which the honorable member for Kingsford-Smith need never have any fear of succumbing. But some years ago my own interest was attracted to the problem of the position of the official members in the Legislative Council - a problem which is not singular to the Territories of the Commonwealth but has occurred in many parts of the world in dependent territories. I wrote a paper on that subject which was a discussion of the sort of issues that arise and which face an official member in a legislative council. Because I thought the discussion was a fairly good one - perhaps I was wrong in that - I circulated it to two or three of my academic friends, inviting their comments. It is the sort of paper which, if 1 did not occupy my present position, I would have submitted for publication in the “ Journal of Public Administration “, the “ Political Science Review “ or something of that kind. My academic friends were good enough to say that it was rather interesting and it came to the notice of a person in the Northern Territory with similar academic qualifications to mine.
– Who was that - Albert Namatjira?
– No. Albert has shared different conversations with me. Responding, as I always do, to an intellectual approach, I said, “ Certainly you can see it “, and just putting the mark “ confidential “ on it, I sent it to the official members in the Northern Territory, not as an instruction or as an official memorandum, but simply as what might be called an academic discussion paper.
Subsequently, the honorable member for Werriwa, who I think shares some of these academic and intellectual interests, became aware that such a paper existed and, at his request, I said to the House that I would lay copies on the table of the Library. Copies were put on the table of the Library, and were read, I think, by several members. If the supply has been exhausted I am quite willing to put copies of the paper in the Library again, but I would like to emphasize that it is not an official memorandum. It is an academic paper, prepared for my own personal satisfaction.
– I ask the Minister for Territories what liaison takes place between the aboriginal affairs section of his department and the native welfare departments of the States. Does his department ever come to conclusions about the adequacy or otherwise of State efforts towards native welfare? ls there any authority within his department whose duty it is to consider and make recommendations to the Commonwealth Government concerning propositions which it may put to the States for the reform of these policies?
– My department, strictly speaking, has administrative responsibility only in relation to aborigines in the Northern Territory. But we have conceived it to be our duty to try to make liaison with State governments. That was done, originally, in 1951 and in 1952, by the holding of a native welfare conference at which State Ministers responsible for native administration were present. As a result of the conference, uniformity of objective was reached by all the governments of Australia concerned with the welfare of aborigines. Since that date there have been occasional consultations with particular State governments on particular matters. For example, there has been consultation with the governments of South Australia and Western Australia regarding arrangements being made in respect of that, desert tribe which roves over the area where the boundaries of the Northern Territory, Western Australia and South Australia join. Also, from time to time, we have had consultations on questions of public information and of individual cases that have arisen. At the present time, my department is renewing a suggestion that a further native welfare conference of the authorities concerned should be held, but action on that proposal is in abeyance for the moment because certain other discussions are proceeding with the States and it is thought desirable that those discussions should be cleared before we have a further formal conference on the subject.
– I ask the Minister for Supply a question relating to the recent loss of an aircraft which had been transporting some equipment for use in experiments at the Woomera Range. Now it appears that this equipment will be destroyed. I ask the Minister whether it can be replaced and whether the loss will cause any undue delay in the series of tests at present being undertaken.
– I am sure that every member of the House will regret the loss of this plane and, in particular, the loss of the twelve airmen who were on it. Some equipment was destroyed in the actual air accident and the remainder will be destroyed by the rescue forces. I assure the honorable member that we will, within a very reasonable time, obtain full replacement of the articles which were on the plane, and that there will be no undue delay in tests at Woomera.
Reports on Items.
– I lay on the table reports of the Tariff Board on the following subjects: -
Polyvinyl chloride resin from Japan (Industries Preservation).
The findings of the Tariff Board in each case have been adopted.
Ordered to be printed.
– I wish to make a personal explanation. I refer to a newspaper article in the Melbourne “ Herald “ of yesterday afternoon headed, “ Overnight in Parliament. Rough going on roads bill “. It says that Mr. Turnbull, Country Party, Victoria, was first to strike trouble and that he questioned the right of States to impose motor registration. 1 have never questioned that right and J certainly did not on this occasion. I would appreciate a correction by this newspaper. In thirteen years, this is only the third occasion on which I have had to make such a reference.
Motion (by Mr. Harold Holt) proposed -
That Standing Order No. 104 - 11 o’clock rule - be suspended for the remainder of this month.
.- I think that this proposal is completely unnecessary. This House will not meet again this year for an extraordinary length of time. The forms of the House are being ignored. Bills are being brought in and debated forthwith. I think that the House should meet on additional days rather than interfere with the Standing Orders in order to introduce new legislation at a late hour of the day.
.- I join in the protest offered by the honorable member for Wills (Mr. Bryant). This Parliament has been sitting for some weeks and there have been a number of occasions on which the Government has had no business whatever to present to the House. It has been quite obvious to every one that the Government has had considerable difficulty in keeping the proceedings going, and it has introduced relatively unimportant discussions on occasions in order to keep the House occupied.
What does the suspension of the 11 o’clock rule mean? It means that the Government, in the concluding days of this sessional period, is going to apply the principle of exhaustion of members by continuing the sittings until the early hours of the morning to push legislation through without proper consideration and deliberation by this chamber. I think it is a bad principle. Why the haste to close the Parliament? We have all just received a handsome increase in pay, and that ought to have increased our desire to get on with the work instead of wanting to close the Parliament. Let us have a look at the things that require attention. There are many matters requiring immediate attention. First, there is the amendment that the Opposition has already moved before this Parliament. There ought to be an adjustment of pensions before the Parliament rises. There ought to be an abolition of wage-pegging before the Parliament rises. Surely, those people outside this chamber who are in great need and are now facing the desperate months of winter ought to get some relief before we go into recess and members begin holidaying in various parts of the Commonwealth and outside it.
I protest, therefore, against this proposal. I think the Parliament ought to be kept in session and we ought to be working reasonable hours, so that members may have all their faculties about them and not be tired and exhausted when considering legislation. What the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) is doing is offering a sort of threat to the Parliament. In effect he is saying, “ Unless you agree, without proper discussion- “
– Order! I think the honorable member is getting away from the subject before the Chair. The motion before the Chair is that the rule affecting new business after 1 1 o’clock be suspended. I ask the honorable member to confine his remarks to that matter.
– That is exactly what I am dealing with. I believe that new business should not be introduced after 11 o’clock, because that would result in curtailing of the sittings of this Parliament. For some time the Standing Orders have provided that matters may be raised each evening on the motion that the House do now adjourn. However, because the Treasurer has decided that on the first evening of the House’s sittings each week Ministers and other Government supporters will be exhausted after their long journeys to get here, the practice has grown up whereby the Government gags debate on the adjournment motion on the first day of each week’s sittings. This is a further curtailment of the rights of individual and private members. To show the necessity to keep the Parliament open, let me say that throughout this week I have failed to catch Mr. Speaker’s eye at question time.
– Order! The honorable member will resume his seat. The position is that question time is controlled by the Chair, and I ask the honorable member not to reflect on the Chair. Let me say that he gets far more calls than any other member on his side, with the exception of the Leader of the Opposition. I warn the honorable member that if he pursues this line he will be dealt with.
– Let me say, Mr. Speaker, that you must have been anticipating what you thought I was about to say, because I did not in any way reflect on you. I merely said that I had failed to catch your eye. If I failed to catch your eye I cannot get the call. My only purpose in mentioning the matter is to show that I have had no opportunity to mention matters of importance which I wished to raise. Therefore I would like the parliamentary sittings to continue, so that I may have an opportunity of discussing these matters. 1 think the Parliament should not close while there is business to transact, and that we should not be hastening our proceedings for this purpose. That is, after all, the purpose of the motion. Why does the Treasurer now introduce this motion to suspend the 1 1 o’clock rule? It is because he wants to hurry up the proceedings. He wants to hasten the closing of this Parliament. That is the very thing that I want to prevent. I say that the Parliament should not be hurrying to close down.
– On a point of order, Mr. Speaker, is the honorable member in order in thumping the table?
– Order! The honorable member is in order.
– It is quite true, Mr. Speaker, that I am thumping the table, but I would prefer to be thumping something else if I had the opportunity. I want to proceed with my criticism of the Government. I say that it is a lazy government. There are many problems crying out for attention, and the Treasurer should not be hastening the close of the parliamentary session.
– Order! The honorable member is departing from the subjectmatter before the Chair.
– I do not want to conflict with your ruling, Mr. Speaker. I think I have made my point of view perfectly clear. I conclude, therefore, by repeating my protest at the action of the Government in trying to hasten the close of this Parliament while many urgent national matters require attention.
.- The speech just made by the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) may have some appeal for new members of this House. Of course, we can excuse the honorable member for Wills (Mr. Bryant) in his desire to maintain the 11 o’clock rule. But the real position is that some honorable members were in this House when Labour was in government, and the fact of the matter is that since the present Government has been in office there have been very few late night sittings. When Labour was in power, I, as a new member, found that my best opportunities to speak came between 3 o’clock and 5 o’clock in the morning - “ Hansard “ will show that this is so - towards the end of a session when the Government was rushing bills through involving the expenditure of many millions of pounds. Members who were here at that time will recall that on occasions they would leave the House after it rose and would reach the Hotel Kurrajong just when the breakfast bell was ringing.
These things do not happen now. The Leader of the House (Mr. Harold Holt) has organized matters on a much more orderly basis. Of course, the honorable member for East Sydney was a Minister at that earlier time, and some bills that he was handling came before the House in the early hours of the morning. His inconsistency is becoming almost traditional, and let me say to new members of this House: Do not take him too seriously, because his record on such matters as he has spoken about this morning does not give him the right to be treated seriously. He is a person who gets up in this chamber and advocates certain policies, irrespective of what he would do if he was in office. This is merely a further illustration of the difference between the attitude of certain Labour members when they were Ministers previously and the attitude they adopt now.
– I do not think the remarks of the honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull), which were made in reply to the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward), should go unchallenged. He made some very false and malicious statements regarding a most impartial Labour administration.
– On a point of order, Mr. Speaker, I ask that the honorable member withdraw the statement that I made false and malicious statements. I did nothing of the kind.
-Order! The remark was unparliamentary. I ask that it be withdrawn.
– I withdraw it, Mr. Speaker, but let me say that the honorable member’s comment was singularly misinformed. He stated that he spoke in this Parliament only between 3 and 5 o’clock in the morning. He said also that when he went home in the mornings it was in time to hear the breakfast bell. Quite frankly, I think it was a cow bell that he heard. That brings me to a point that is well worth mentioning. When we were in office the Parliament sat for lengthy periods, and in those days all honorable members were given an opportunity to speak. The Parliament consisted of 75 members at the time when the banking legislation was discussed, and no less than 73 of them participated in that debate. The honorable member for Mallee in those days was a militant speaker. He criticized the Government on matters that he considered wrong. But to-day he tags along quietly and unobtrusively, caring not what happens to the vast majority of the people as a result of this Government’s legislation, but constantly getting up to say how he has been misrepresented if at any time he has said something out of line with the attitude adopted by the various Ministers.
Why should this Parliament’s activities be curtailed? As the honorable member for East Sydney has said, why should we not be given an opportunity for this Parliament to sit over a long period? Why should it not sit for five days a week, continually, for a lengthy period? Why should the Government’s legislative programme not be brought before the people in the day-time instead of late at night? I know why the Government wants to adjourn the Parliament suddenly. It wants to escape criticism. It wants the Parliament to sit after 1 1 p.m., because the proceedings will not be broadcast at such late hours, and the people will not be able to learn of the discontent and dissatisfaction in the Government’s ranks, as exemplified to-day in the attitude of certain Government supporters to taxation in Papua and New Guinea, and other matters. The Government is trying to hide these things from the people by sending the Parliament into recess for months on end. At present, there are more Ministers than ever before travelling about the world. It is because the Government wants to rush into recess and escape its responsibilities in this Parliament that it seeks to curtail debate and suspend the eleven o’clock rule.
I am sick and tired of hearing the honorable member for Mallee and other Government supporters defend the Government in these matters. This Parliament should be a place of free speech where members can place their views before the people, and deliberate on and debate matters for lengthy periods. When all is said and done, there are 184 members in this Parliament, and if the vast majority of Government members is incapable of discussing the country’s problems, the Opposition at least is not, and Opposition members do not wish to be sent back to their constituents without being given an opportunity to say the things that should be said, simply because this Government is afraid of its own back-benchers, and therefore will not let the Parliament deliberate on and debate all these matters at the right time.
I am one who is opposed to sittings after 11 p.m. Such late hours are not trade union hours, to begin with. We ought to meet here more regularly and adjourn at a reasonable time of the day. The Congress of the United States of America sits from 12 noon until 6 p.m., five days a week, for about six or seven months of the year. Why should this Parliament not adopt the same procedure and end the day’s sitting, not in the early hours of the morning, but at a time that will enable the people to hear the proceedings and know what members of the Parliament are doing, to say nothing of members of the Parliament knowing what they are doing? This House has sat for only 27 days this year - a scandalous state of affairs! And we shall probably sit only for another 27 days during this year. When the Government does these things, it it any wonder that it is criticized by the people, who may be illinformed in many matters, but who know that this Government does not want the Parliament to sit, and wants its supporters to get their money with the minimum expenditure of time and effort.
I endorse the sentiments that have been expressed by the honorable member for East Sydney and other honorable members on this side of the House. I reject completely the feeble explanation for this proposal given by the honorable member for Mallee and those Government supporters who greeted his remarks with “ Hear, hear! “. When the Labour Government was in office, the people were given plenty of opportunity to hear the debates in this place. We seldom had all-night sittings, but the Parliament sat for longer periods of the year in order that the people should be able clearly to understand the legislation being dealt with. This Government has not done much good in its time so far, and it does not look as though it will do much good in the future. It seeks to bring down, at the dead of night, legislation which it knows the people do not want, and it seeks, as it were, to run the steam-roller over the Opposition or any one else who criticizes it. I reject entirely the Government’s explanation of the need for this action. 1 earnestly hope that we shall be given an opportunity to sit for longer periods of the year, and that the House will not tolerate this suspension of the eleven o’clock rule, because it is a negation of democracy and a cover-up for the Government’s incompetence.
.- Mr. Speaker, I shall give the House a few instances of the short notice and precipitate speed at which the Government has proceeded with the second-reading and committee stages of the bills which it has introduced in this session. On the day we came back after the Easter break, the Civil Aviation (Carriers’ Liability) Bill and the Australian National Airlines Bill were read a first time and, by leave, a second time. The former bill was put through all stages on the same day and the latter through all stages on the following day.
– On a point of order, Mr. Speaker: What relevance has this to the proposal that the Government shall have the right to bring in new legislation after 1 1 p.m.? I submit that the honorable member for Werriwa is entirely out of order, because his remarks have nothing to do with the Government’s right to introduce new legislation after 11 p.m.
-Order! I think that the honorable member for Werriwa is confining himself to the time that has been taken on bills.
– I am seeking to give instances in which the Government has not introduced its legislation in sufficient time to allow the full and proper consideration of measures which the Australian people are entitled to get from this Parliament. I am giving instances of important legislation which has been introduced since we came back after the Easter recess. In every one of the cases with which I am dealing, the consideration had to be completed within one week of the introduction of the legislation concerned. I proceeded to give the example of the Australian National Airlines Bill and the Civil Aviation (Carriers’ Liability) Bill. In each case, the second reading proceeded, by leave, on the day on which the bill was introduced. Both bills were put through all stages within two days of their first introduction.
– Order! I think that the honorable member is getting a little away from the question before the Chair.
– May I just name the principal bills in respect of which the debate had to proceed and conclude within one sitting week from the time at which each bill was read a first time? There were the Australian Universities Commission Bill 1959, the Education Bill 1959, the International Monetary Agreements Bill 1959, the Northern Territory (Administration) Bill 1959, the Northern Territory Representation Bill 1959, the Australian Capital Territory Representation Bill 1959, and the Commonwealth Aid Roads Bill 1959 - all of them important pieces of legislation. Sufficient time for full consideration was not given between the first reading and the conclusion of the debate.
To-day, the Minister for Primary Industry will seek leave to bring in a Fisheries Bill to give effect to recommendations of the conference of Commonwealth and State fisheries officers in Canberra last July. There has been plenty of time to bring down this measure. Similarly, this week, we have had submitted to us two bounty bills and next week will have three more. Everybody knew that all these bounties would expire on 30th June next. The bounties in question apply to gold, rayon yarn, cellulose acetate flake, tractors and sulphuric acid. The question of future assistance to three of the industries was referred to the Tariff Board before last Budget, although the Board’s reports are not all before Parliament. We are expected to consider the five bills, and any amendments to them, within the next three and a half sitting days, and, if necessary, to sit all night in order to conclude the consideration of these measures. In addition, the Minister for Labour and National Service will seek leave to-day to bring in the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill and a Public Service Arbitration Bill, presumably to implement recommendations by the President of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission in the annual report which he furnished to the Minister on 15th December last, and which the Minister tabled on 18th February last.
In all these cases, Sir, there was plenty of time to prepare and introduce legislation. If it had been brought down earlier, we should have had to mark time less obviously than we have been forced to do so far this session and the debates would have been better prepared and informed than they have been hitherto and still better than they can be expected to be under this process of exhaustion during -the coming week.
– in reply - Mr. Speaker, the Parliament should not take up very much time on this spurious and quite synthetic protest.
– I object to those words, Mr. Speaker, and ask that they be withdrawn.
– I think they should be withdrawn.
– I withdraw the word “ spurious “, in deference to your request, Mr. Speaker.
– I ask for the withdrawal of the word “ synthetic “ also.
– The word “spurious” has been withdrawn.
– If the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) wants a little proof of what I have said, let me demonstrate it to him. First, may I give one good reason why this discussion should not be unnessarily prolonged, and why I am surprised to find so many Opposition members engaging in this exercise. To-day is one of the occasions in the parliamentary week when private members have an opportunity, by means of the “ Grievance Day “ procedure, to play their part in determining the business of the House, and it is rather extraordinary to find honorable gentlemen opposite, who complain that they have not adequate time to put Labour’s attitude on various matters, wasting the time that is available, in order to make what can hardly be regarded as more than a gesture of protest. The Opposition is led by the right honorable member for Hunter (Dr. Evatt), and the deputy leader is the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell). If there is a real Opposition protest in this matter, why has it not been made by those who lead the Opposition party? Must we take the Opposition party’s view, first, from Labour’s angry old man - the old pretender - only to see follow quickly on his heels the young pretender who sees the old pretender as taking a point on him?
We as a Government will consider quite seriously what is put to us by the elected leaders of the Opposition when they purport to put the viewpoint of the Opposition.
But the reason they are not putting this argument to-day is that they know that no government in the history of federation has given more consideration to honorable members, as far as the time-table and the business of the House are concerned, than has this Government during its period of office. They know that these procedures are worked out in consultation with their representative. This complaint about adjourning the Parliament too early is all humbug. Why, I was asked by Labour’s representative as recently as last week to finish the proceedings of the Parliament this week!
– That is not true, and you are only lying because-
– Order! The honorable member for East Sydney will withdraw that remark.
– I withdraw the remark, Mr. Speaker.
– This Government has been under no sense of urgency to end the sittings. Time for debate on relatively minor bills has been given to such an extent that on the one hand the honorable member for East Sydney has said that we have been keeping the House going on relatively unimportant matters while the young pretender has said that we have not given the House time enough to consider these relatively unimportant matters. Let them sift it out for themselves.
The honorable member for East Sydney is the last man in this House who should talk about a process of exhaustion. There is not a member in the chamber who intrudes more into the proper leisure time of honorable members. The honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly) talks about trade union hours. Is there any member of this Parliament who keeps honorable members in this place after the hour when normally we could expect 10 leave it more than does the honorable member for East Sydney? It is credibly reported that he takes an afternoon nap so that he will be fresh enough to tackle us after eleven o’clock at night. I shall be brief because I do not want to eat unnecessarily into the “ Grievance “ time available for honorable members. There is no intention to have a process of legislation by exhaustion as a result of this motion. All that is intended is that, for the convenience1 of honorable members and in particular for the convenience of Opposition members, we shall give ourselves a certain amount of flexibility in arranging the business of the House.
We had an instance about a week agewhen the business of the House was about to conclude for that day and I wanted to introduce a bill. I know the rule of the Opposition that it will not proceed with a measure introduced by the Government until it has been examined in its party room. I do not quarrel with the rule; I think it is a very proper one. This was a Tuesday night and I knew that the Opposition would wish to have some consideration of the matter. The business of the House being such that it was convenient for us to go on the next day with the contemplated item, I sought to have a short second-reading speech made after eleven o’clock. I found I was up against the eleven o’clock rule. It may be that between now and the end of this sessional period, the same sort of situation will arise. If it does, the introduction of an item of business after eleven o’clock will give honorable gentlemen opposite a chance to consider it before the debate is resumed on the following day.
I am as much subject to exhaustion as any one in this place and I am not looking for late sitting hours between now and the end of the sessional period. If we cannot conveniently conclude the business of the House next week, my withers will be unwrung if we go on for another week or another two weeks. I will be here, anyway. I will not be like the honorable member for Grayndler, who chides us with having engaged in overseas excursions. The honorable gentleman has the dubious distinction of setting an all-time record for a private member by the peregrination that he made during a period when the Parliament was in session. I assure him that, over the next few months while Parliament is in recess, he will find me here most days of the week. If the Parliament is sitting, I will enjoy the company even of some of the honorable gentlemen opposite, who will be doing very much more pleasant things than I will be.
– Mr. Speaker, I have been misrepresented. The honorable gentleman said that I had created a record for a member of Parliament. That may have been so-
– Order! The honorable member has not been misrepresented.
– That record was broken by the Minister when he visited the Isle of Capri-
– Order! The honorable member will resume his seat.
Question put -
That Standing Order No. 104 - 11 o’clock rule - be suspended for the remainder of this month.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. John McLeay.)
Majority . . . . 35
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Mr. Adermann) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act to amend the Fisheries Act 1952-1956.
Motion (by Mr. McMahon) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act to amend the Conciliation and Arbitration Act 1904-1958.
Motion (by Mr. McMahon) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act to amend the Public Service Arbitration Act 1920-1957.
Broadcasting - Service Pensions - Social Services - Taxation Branch - Equal Pay for the Sexes - Deaths of Ex-servicemen - Housing Finance.
Question proposed -
That Mr. Speaker do now leave the chair.
.- Mr. Speaker, I wish to take advantage of one of the rare opportunities provided by the Government for honorable members to air matters brought to their attention by constituents who are dissatisfied with the Government’s actions as they affect them, both individually and collectively. The first matter that I want to raise concerns the re-allocation of frequency bands for the use of amateur radio operators. This matter has already been mentioned previously in this House. I have received a letter from one of my constituents, dated 3rd May, which reads -
I would like to draw your attention to the proposed re-allocation of frequency bands for use of amateur radio operators. It has been officially suggested that the bands now in use be reduced to such narrow limits that only about 10 contacts would be possible at the one time on say 40 metres.
Seeing that Australia’s amateurs number about 3,000, the proposed narrowing down would force many of them to abandon an interesting and instructive pastime. Every night the bands are packed full of signals, so that even now large groups must operate to give everyone a turn; two-way contacts are extremely rare. I would suggest that the popular 40-metre band be increased to its width of a few years ago, namely 7,000 to 7,300 kilocycles. Further reduction of it would be unthinkable.
The value of the large number of amateur stations and trained operators throughout Australia will be very great in the event of future emergencies.
This letter was written to me by a constituent of mine, and I, unlike members of the Australian Country Party, believe, as a member of the Australian Labour Party, in representing my constituents to the best of my ability. The writer states further -
The hobby is at present spreading interest and knowledge about electronics, helping supply the technicians for the many branches of electrical industry, promoting international goodwill by the countless overseas contacts which go on 24 hours daily, and it is also keeping many people happily occupied in their spare time. Many boys from our schools have taken an interest in electrical careers as a result of seeing amateur radio displayed in their classrooms.
Accordingly, I sincerely ask you to consider this subject carefully when it is raised in the House, and to defend the rights of amateurs to use the already over-limited frequency bands.
I think that letter supports the contentions that have been put forward by the honorable member for Paterson (Mr. Fairhall), the honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory (Mr. J. R. Fraser), and other honorable members from both sides of the House who are concerned at this intrusion into the rights of amateur radio operators. I ask the Postmaster-General (Mr. Davidson) to reconsider the changes that are mooted, and to meet the wishes of the amateur radio operators. When all is said and done, they are not asking for much. They are only asking for the right to enjoy a pastime that spreads international goodwill, trains men for careers, and is of benefit both to themselves and to the nation. I urge the Government to give effect to the opinions expressed by honorable members on both sides of the House concerning this proposed intrusion into the rights of amateur radio operators, who do much to further the interests of this country.
I wish to deal also with another matter which is of particular importance to honorable members. This matter concerns the service pension for burnt-out ex-servicemen. In a letter dated 2nd May, 1959, another constituent of mine states -
I am enclosing a clipping out of the “ Sun “’ dated April 16th. I have been asked by otherold diggers in your electorate if I would contact, you and ask you to take the matter up in the House on our behalf. On going away to World War I we were told that a pension would be: granted at 60 years with no strings. The burntout pension at 60 is available, but any old digger who has any savings accrued above £200 has themeans test applied, notwithstanding the losses heincurred in private salary during the years on war service, which fact alone should waive any means test being applied to World War I diggers, who are now at the age to take advantage of the promise to them. A number of letters haveappeared in the “ Sun “ bearing on this matter. No doubt you have read them. If you would champion our cause to have this wrong righted it would be appreciated by the old boys.
I support the claims that are made by thisman. When all is said and done, it is not unreasonable to expect that an exserviceman at 60 years of age should at least be given some concessions along the linessuggested in that letter, notwithstanding the fact that he qualifies for a pension five years earlier than the normal retiring age. I think that the means test should be lifted’ from all pensions, but, in particular, I urge the Government to consider the submissions contained in the letter that I have just read, and to provide relief for many people who to-day are having difficulty inmaking ends meet. I ask the Minister concerned to review this matter. If suitable action is taken in the coming Budget session - assuming that the Government seesfit to call us together to consider the Budget - it would have the support and endorsement of honorable members on both sides of the House.
I want to mention in relation to social’ services what has been told to me concerning the attitude of the Department of Social’ Services towards persons who have givenmeans away when applying for pensions. I have had cases referred to me of persons who have given away money, and their explanations have not been accepted as satisfactory. I have details of one case of a man who gave away £400 by deed to a member of his family, a daughter, who had’ to obtain a home because of family troubles. This woman has no children and her fathergave her £400 quite legally and above hoard. The circumstances can be checked’ in every way. Yet, when submissions were- made to the Department of Social Services it refused to accept the statement that the gift was genuine and refused to increase the man’s pension accordingly. I can verify that case. The £400 was given away for most urgent reasons to a member of the man’s family. He had no desire to evade his responsibilities or a disclosure of the money he had, and I do not see why his explanation should not have been accepted by the department. I believe it should have been acknowledged as a genuine gift and that the man should have had his pension increased. I have papers with me which I intend to give to the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Roberton). 1 believe the department should be wary about rejecting explanations which are genuine. In some cases it is treating people harshly on the basis that persons who get rid of money in these circumstances are endeavouring to avoid presenting an accurate assessment of their assets. I will ultimately bring this case in detail to the attention of the Minister, and I ask him to reconsider it in the light of the fact that it is genuine and worthy of consideration.
I do not think I should pass from the subject of social services without again expressing the general view of all pensioners that there should be an alleviation of the means test applied to the provision of medical benefits to pensioners. In many cases to-day, pensioners with the same income and of the same age receive different treatment from the department. One is receiving medical benefits and the other is not because of the application of the means test which was applied, I think, in 1953. This Government was elected to office on a pledge that it would give medical benefits to pensioners entirely free of the means test. That pledge was subsequently repudiated by the Minister for Health of the day and the means test was applied. Why this Government should insist on a means test is beyond me and all those who believe in social justice. The Government might well review it. The cost must be meagre in a Budget of £1,100,000,000. It is not too much to expect that some justice should be given to a small section of society by this Government which spends unlimited amounts of money on things which in many cases do not matter. Surely, when the Government is spending £200,000,000 on defence, it could give medical benefits to those who receive age and invalid pensions. Surely, there must be other avenues of finance from which the Government could find money to give justice to the pensioners.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- When the honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly) rose he said he was taking one of the rare opportunities given to private members to express grievances. Many of us know the honorable member well and have heard him speak with his tongue in his cheek before, but this was one of the greatest exhibitions of all time. The honorable member has spoken twice this morning. He has been responsible for cutting out many honorable members who wish to speak later in the debate, and yet he had the hide to say that this was one of the rare opportunities given to private members to express their grievances. Why is it that these opportunities are rare? The first reason is that for half an hour time was wasted which should have been spent on “ Grievance Day “. It is a most valuable opportunity for private members to bring before the Government any matters they have in mind, yet this week half an hour was wasted.
A fortnight ago when “ Grievance Day “ should have come in, a so-called matter of urgency was brought forward by the Opposition. That matter could just as well have been brought forward on any other sitting day. In fact, I think it was the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Whitlam) who said we were spending too long and not providing enough time to debate other issues. Certainly, that urgency matter submitted by the supporters of the Australian Labour Party could have been brought in at another time. I hope it will not be standard practice of the Labour Party to take up “ Grievance Day “ and cut out private members who want to speak on matters of importance. I am in agreement with the honorable member for Grayndler on one point and that is the allocation of radio frequencies to amateur radio operators. I hope the PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Davidson) will have another look at this and see whether anything can be done.
I will not delay the House for long, but I want to mention very briefly a matter that has come to my attention. I will then sit down so that other members will have an opportunity to speak. This matter concerns the Taxation Branch of the Treasury. On one occasion not long ago, I was telephoned from two separate places in my electorate on one day and had to initiate action to prevent the police from gaoling two of my constituents. On the first occasion this happened at Wagga Wagga, and on the second at Walla Walla. Both were similar cases and arose from the fact that these two gentlemen had not submitted returns to the Taxation Branch. For that offence they were fined.
In any other case, a stipendiary magistrate who sits in any other jurisdiction - for example, in applying a State law or any other Commonwealth law - is able, after imposing a fine of say £50, to give the offender the opportunity to pay the fine at the rate of. say, £5 a week for ten weeks; but there is an extraordinary anomaly in the Commonwealth taxation law as a result of which a stipendiary magistrate is not able to give a person time to pay a fine. The two men to whom I have referred were fined £50 and £90 respectively. I am not saying that there is anything wrong with the imposition of the fines because the defendants evidently had failed, for a considerable time, to lodge the required tax return, but once having been fined, they had no way of meeting the fine. They were people of small means and could not pay the fines immediately. They needed an opportunity to pay the penalties over a period. Surely, the Commonwealth Government could empower a magistrate to give time to pay. There is no such provision at present. The only way a person who is fined can get time to pay is to approach the Attorney-General’s Department. The Attorney-General then looks at the case and he has to make the decision. This seems to me an unnecessary anomaly.
It is no use putting the person who has been fined in prison. He would have less chance in gaol to pay the fine. One of the men to whom I have referred had recently been awarded £400 by a court for some work he had done and for which he had not been paid. Ultimately, he would have been in a position to pay his fine. The other was a small farmer with a large family, and it would not have assisted the Commonwealth Government to get its money if he had been put in gaol; in fact, the effect would have been the very opposite. I suggest that something should be done to remove this anomaly. I hope the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) will look into this matter.
I wish to read to the House a letter I have received from an accountant who is dealing with one of these cases. I shall refer to the person involved as “ Mr. X “. The letter stated -
On behalf of our client, Mr. X, we wish to express our appreciation of your efforts on his behalf in preventing immediate arrest and imprisonment for non-payment of a fine made against him.
The present procedure of avoiding immediate arrest for non-payment of fines under the Commonwealth laws, appears, in our eyes, very drastic. The limited means of obtaining this variation could prove to be highly embarrassing and even, at times, impossible to put into immediate force.
We have in mind a circumstance which arose sometime ago in our own practice, where we took over from a small country tax agent, a number of clients, whose work had not been dealt with by him. Each of these clients were fined for nonlodgement of returns and being in a small area, may not have had proper notice, or the funds available when called upon by the police authorities.
In view of this and following on your own ideas, it appears to us that some simplification should be brought about by amendment of the appropriate Commonwealth act.
I have a similar letter from a lawyer in Culcairn with reference to a man in Walla Walla. I hoped to read it also, but have not got it with me to-day. It seems extraordinary that a stipendiary magistrate can allow time to pay fines imposed for some types of offences, but cannot do so in regard to offences under Commonwealth taxation law. I hope that the matter will be looked into by the Treasurer and that the provision will be amended immediately.
.- It is an unfortunate fact that this session of the Parliament is drearily grinding to a standstill. The Government, in its legislative programme, seems to be lacking in imagination, a genuine desire for social reform, or general concern for the welfare of human beings. It is an incredible fact that during the present session we have been presented with comparatively unimportant legislation, although it is fair to say that there is a desperate need for attention to a large number of important social problems. All private members should be concerned at this situation and should take advantage of any opportunity to put forward some of the matters which they consider are deserving of the Parliament’s urgent attention.
I want to refer this morning very briefly to a matter which has been overlooked by the Government. There has been a serious omission on the part of a so-called responsible government. I allude to the matter of equal pay for women. This concerns some 800,000 women throughout Australia. In New South Wales at present an attempt is being made in a very genuine and effective way to obtain wage justice for the 300,000 women workers of that State. It is a most unfortunate situation that even when this is achieved in New South Wales the injustice will prevail to a large extent through the rest of the Commonwealth.
Eight long years have uneventfully trailed away since 1951, when the Government supported the adoption of convention No. 100 and recommendation No. 90 of the International Labour Organization. This recommendation specifically dealt with the principle of equal remuneration for work of equal value. It called for “ appropriate action by member States to ensure the application of the principle of equal pay to all employees of central government departments and agencies and to encourage the application of the principle to employees of State departments and agencies “. Since 1951 this Government has failed to take any positive action on this issue. It has produced only a very informative booklet of about 88 pages, reaching to the very bottom of the barrel in a desperate attempt to find reasons why the Commonwealth should not be giving some encouragement to the principle of equal pay. The booklet is devoted to parading, amplifying and exaggerating the difficulties involved in implementing the recommendation to which I have referred.
On the other hand, in New South Wales, important developments are already taking place. Despite this Government’s lack of leadership, the New South Wales Government announced, as far back as November, 1953, that it intended to ratify convention
No. 100 of the International Labour Organization. Since then, that Government - a Labour government - has persevered with its legislation, and in the not far distant future the principle of equal pay for women will have been fully implemented in that State. Only yesterday the New South Wales Industrial Commission, acting in conformity with the State’s legislation, granted£1 a week increase to approximately 100,000 female employees. These increases were made retrospective to 1st March under thirteen awards and to 4th March under 23 other awards. Step by step, the New South Wales Government will resolutely press on towards providing, within a prescribed period, wage justice to the 300,000 female wage and salary earners engaged in civilian employment in that State. Such a course is in complete conformity with clause 4 of the International Labour Organization conventionwhich reads, in part -
Where it is not deemed feasible to implement immediately the principle of equal remuneration for men and women workers for work of equal value in respect of employment covered by paragraphs 1, 2 and 3, appropriate provision should be made, or caused to be made, as soon as possible for its progressive application by such measures as -
decreasing the differentials between rates of remuneration for men and rates of remuneration for women for work of equal value;
where a system of increments is in force, providing equal increments for men and women workers performing work of equal value.
These obligations are being discharged honorably by the New South Wales Government, but it is the only government in Australia to face up to its responsibilities under the 1951 convention. Nothing has been done by the Commonwealth Government to promote the principle of equal pay in the manner I have outlined, although as a member State of the International Labour Organization, Australia is committed to this policy.
This is not a matter for arbitration. The court has already shown that it does not want to be saddled with the responsibility for dealing with the equal pay question. It considers this matter to be one of great social reform. It contends that ils job is tosettle disputes, and doubts its authority to become involved in this matter. In fact, the court implied, in its 1953 judgment in the standard hours and basic wage case, that it had not the authority to grant equal pay for women. The judgment read -
The Arbitration Court is neither a social nor an economic legislature. Its function under section 25 of the act is to prevent or settle specific industrial disputes … It is not the function of the court to aim at such social and economic changes as may seem to be desirable to the members of the tribunal.
Responsibility in this matter rests fairly and squarely on the shoulders of governments. I suggest that this Government should look at the problem in the near future, as so many other countries have done. Legislation for equal pay was introduced in some States of the United States of America as far back as 1919. Over the last fifteen years, fourteen American States, including remote Alaska, which is so backward in respect of so many social reforms, have adopted the principle. The major industrial States of America, in which the vast majority of female workers are employed, have also ratified the International Labour Organization’s convention. Those States include Illinois, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania and New York. More than half of the female work force of the United States is now covered by legislation for this purpose.
The matter has also received attention in Canada. Ontario led the way in 1951, soon after the recommendation was made. Since then, five other Canadian States and the Federal Government have adopted the principle. In the United Kingdom, which is not always amongst the first to pioneer adoption of important industrial principles, a great deal of progress has been made, despite the ravages of World War II. In 1951 the London County Council awarded equal pay to women. Then the United Kingdom Parliament applied the principle to the non-industrial division of the civil service. This division includes the education, health, gas and electricity services.
In all, 26 member nations of the International Labour Organization have ratified convention No. 100. I contend that the Commonwealth Government should at least face up to its obligations and legislate for equal pay for women employees under its own jurisdiction. There are about 800,000 female employees in Australia who should benefit from this principle of equal work for equal value.
– What about equal responsibility?
– In the vast majority of cases, there is equal responsibility. That is an argument in favour of adoption of the principle rather than against it.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- It is not my intention to engage in an argument on the subject which has been raised by the honorable member for Hughes (Mr. L. R. Johnson). I have risen to deal with a certain matter, and as I have only ten minutes in which to do so I shall confine my remarks entirely to that matter.
Mr. Deputy Speaker, I consider that when a member of this Parliament places on the notice-paper a question seeking information from a Minister, or from a department through a Minister, the member does so with a full sense of responsibility. Having placed such a question on the noticepaper, he is entitled to fair consideration from the Minister and the department in connexion with the preparation of the answer. No member of this Parliament who places a question on the notice-paper should have his inquiry brushed off by a Minister, or by a department that wishes to conceal information which is in its possession. When a member seeks statistics or other information from a government department he does so in order that he may be able to clarify in his mind a situation which may exist in this country, and which could give rise to the introduction or amendment of legislation affecting the lives of a great many people. Therefore, I suggest that it is dishonest of a government department deliberately to conceal information when such information is asked for through the normal forms of this House; that is, by the placing of a question on the notice-paper.
I am referring specifically to a question which was placed by me on the notice-paper a fortnight ago, and which was answered on 29th April. I quote from the report of the question and the answer given to it, which appears in daily “ Hansard “, No. 23, of 29th April, 1959, at page 1697. The question T asked read -
Finally - and this is the point I wish to emphasize - I asked -
Mr. Deputy Speaker, I claim that the Repatriation Department is not prepared to release this information - that the information is in the department’s possession and that the department is avoiding releasing it. I challenge the Minister, and I challenge the Repatriation Department, to make known this information which I seek in answer to the question that I placed on the notice-paper, and to which the Minister replied in the following terms: -
Now, being aware of that, I particularly and deliberately phrased the fourth part of my question - which I have already read to the House - to ask the Minister whether, if the information in the possession of the Repatriation Commission on this subject were incomplete, he would give me whatever information was available. The answer that I received clearly indicates that in the archives or the files of the Repatriation Department there has been kept a record of the cause of death of all ex-servicemen who were in receipt of a pension or whose dependants lodged a claim for recognition of the death as due to war service. Therefore, in my opinion, it is dishonest for the Repatriation Department to furnish this final statement in answer to my question. I quote again from “ Hansard “ - 2, 3 and 4. Statistics are not maintained nor is any information available as to the number of ex-servicemen whose deaths may be due to some form of cancer.
Now, Mr. Deputy Speaker, from my own inquiries from the Returned Servicemen’s
League, and through other avenues which I am not prepared to reveal in this Parliament, I have learned that there has been a considerable increase in the number of exservicemen of World War II., particularly in the 40 to 50 age bracket, whose deaths are due to cancer. I am also informed from sources which I consider to be reliable that the number of ex-servicemen dying from cancer each year is increasing. I know that the Repatriation Department has such information, because it said, in answer to my question, that certain deaths are investigated. Now, if these particular deaths are investigated, what is to prevent the Repatriation Department from tabulating the statistics and making available to the members of this Parliament the information which we seek - the information as to the number of ex-servicemen known to the department who have died in each year as a result of cancer. If we are able to get this information of the total number of such deaths we can then make some comparison, on a percentage basis, with the number of people among the civilian population, not returned service personnel, who have died from cancer. This would enable us easily to calculate the truth or otherwise of the allegation that proportionately the number of ex-servicemen dying from cancer is far greater than the number of members of the civilian population dying from cancer. I consider that it is our responsibility, as members of the Parliament, to ascertain whether or not this allegation is true. If that is our responsibility, then surely it is even more the responsibility of the Repatriation Department to collect and collate the information and make it available to the Minister, so that he may then make it available to the Government, which would be able to consider it. When a member of this Parliament, carrying out his duties, asks that this information shall be made available, and for that purpose places on the notice-paper a question to the Minister, the kind of reply which was actually given in this case should not be given. It really amounts to a criticism of the Repatriation Department and of the Minister concerned, who must accept his share of the responsibility for allowing the departmental officer, whoever he was, who prepared this answer, merely to brush off an inquiry made by a member of this House.
I now repeat the challenge that I made before. I challenge the Minister for Repatriation and the Repatriation Department to make the information available to the members of this Parliament. When the information is available, if there is any indication that the number of ex-servicemen dying from cancer is proportionately greater than the number of people in the civilian population dying from cancer, then I consider that it is essential that section 37 (3) of the Repatriation Act be amended to provide that deaths from cancer shall be accepted under the Repatriation Act in a manner similar to the way we now accept tuberculosis. Honorable members will recall that in 1943 the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard), as chairman of a committee of ex-servicemen of this House, brought down a very comprehensive report on the need for amending the Repatriation Act. It was as a result of that report that the Parliament accepted tuberculosis as coming within the provisions of section 37 (3) of the act. At that time, the deaths due to cancer were not as prevalent as they are to-day. Cancer, today, is a scourge equal to the scourge of tuberculosis in those days. It is of prime importance that this question be fully answered and that we be put in possession of this information.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- I congratulate the honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Wight) on the excellent speech that he has just made on the subject of cancer in ex-servicemen. I concur with his view that it is high time that something was done in this direction to give protection, particularly to widows and other dependent relatives. I congratulate the honorable member on having brought this matter before the House.
I wish to express disapproval of the action of Ministers of this Government who, on these rare occasions of “ Grievance Day “, have not the decency to come and sit in the House and listen to what honorable members have to say concerning their electorates and the Commonwealth as a whole. We rarely get a “ Grievance Day “ and it would not hurt Ministers to come in and at least listen to some of the comments and criticisms put forward.
I wish to speak on a matter affecting my electorate and the surrounding electorates in the Newcastle district, namely housing. I blame the Government for the whole situation that has been created. It has been due to the financial policy of the Government. I refer the House to a statement made by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) on 7th March, 1957, which was commented upon by the “ Sydney Morning Herald “ and other newspapers throughout the Commonwealth on the following day. The Prime Minister was reported as follows: -
Canberra, Thursday. - The Prime Minister, Mr. Menzies, to-day said that the factor limiting home-building was not money, but manpower and materials. The moment the money supply was increased, the prices of manpower and materials began to increase and inflationary pressures began, he said.
Mr. Menzies was defending at a press conference the Commonwealth Government’s approach to housing which has been under heavy attack by the New South Wales Government. He said that the Federal Cabinet would consider in due course Government policy towards housing finance. However, he would give no indication of what it was likely to do. He said it was perfectly true that Australians did noi have all the homes they would like, but the position was better in Australia than anywhere else.
I ask that the Government give early consideration to the supply of finance for home building. If I had time, I would quote statistics to show that the supply of materials has increased. On the advice given to me by various trade unions affected, the supply of labour is also adequate to meet the demands of the building industry. The secretary of the Newcastle branch of the Building Workers Industrial Union, Mr. Ted. Grieves, has told me that a number of members of his union have left their trade and are doing various types of work which does not involve the practise of their trade whether they be bricklayers, tilers, carpenters, or plumbers. So, the supply of labour is quite adequate. What has the financial policy of the Government created?
I have been told by honorable members of whom I have made inquiries that the conditions which exist in the Newcastle district do not exist in their electorates. But in the Newcastle district the hire-purchase companies have taken over the financing of home building to a great extent. What does that mean? It means that the supply of money from normal sources is completely inadequate. People cannot obtain loans from banks or building societies, as they did previously, at an interest rate of 5± per cent, per annum or less. Responsible officers of the Hunter River Building Society and the Newcastle Building Society have told me that they have waiting lists which would take at least two years to clear. They have refused to take the names of any additional people who desire to build their own homes because they feel that they would only be fooling the people. Rather than have people believe that, in the very near future, they will get sufficient finance to build their homes, they tell them the truth - that loans cannot be given for this purpose. The building societies cannot obtain money to make available to home builders at the interest rate of 5i per cent. What has been the result?
Some of the banks have set up their own hire-purchase companies and one bank, in particular, is providing money at the exorbitant interest rate of 6 per cent., all the way. This finance company works through snide estate agents and builders who are building dolls’ houses in the Newcastle district of from 4 to 5i squares. If a person borrows money to build a home of 4i squares which costs approximately £1,800, his weekly repayments over a twenty-year period are £3 16s., and over a ten-year period £5 10s. If he borrows money to build a slightly larger home, costing £2,300, his repayments, over a period of twenty years, are £4 17s. a week and, over a period of ten years, it is £7 ls. a week. How can people who are desirous of owning their own homes, pay these exorbitant interest rates?
Since 1954, and particularly since 1957, we have seen a great growth in the construction of houses of this kind. In 1958, of 717 homes built in the Newcastle district alone, 107 were these dolls’ houses. In the Lake Macquarie district, in 1958, 250 of them were built and since 1954, over 500 of them have been built there. I have a list of them - reams and reams of it. This indicates what the hire-purchase system is doing to the people. The Government, by its restriction of credit to home-building authorities, has created this position in which the money sharks can demand and f.3486/59.- R.- US] get exorbitant interest rates. People are being robbed as a result of this policy.
I have here an advertisement by a man who refers to himself as a “ master builder “. I am not going to give him a free advertisement by stating his name. I think he is a master exploiter. He says that a two or three-bedroom home can be ready for occupation in six weeks. But what is the policy of the building societies? The frame of a house must stand for at least five or six weeks to allow for shrinkage and distortion in the drying of the timber. But this master builder - the master exploiter who is one of the leaders in this game of exploiting the people - is prepared to let purchasers live in his houses within five or six weeks. In fact, sometimes the dolls’ houses are available after eight days.
These are the sizes of some of the houses that are being built: Some have two bedrooms, one 10 ft. by 11 ft. and one 10 ft. by 8 ft. a lounge-dinette and a laundry and toilet combined. Another system is to have a living room-kitchen-dining room, 16 ft. by 13 ft., bedrooms 11 ft. by 12 ft. and 9 ft. by 10 ft., a bathroom and a toilet 8 ft. by 5 ft. and a detached laundry 7 ft. by 5 ft. This is the type of house that is being erected by these snide builders.
The worst aspect of the matter is that these houses are jerry-built and there is no value in them. The builders are putting up 4 in. by H in. studs and a roof pitch of 2 ft. 3 in. The houses have very few bracings, they have nailed butt joints, very little mortising and tenoning and ceiling joists are nailed at one end only. The houses are prefabricated in the workshops, taken to the site and erected in eight days. This is the practice of these snide builders. Because of the operation of local government ordinance No. 71 the councils concerned cannot prevent the construction of this type of house because it has an area greater than 227 square feet. Because of the short-cut methods used in the erection of these buildings, council inspectors have difficulty in keeping the work under observation.
I blame the financial policy of this Government which has restricted the money available to building societies. The banks will not allow money to flow for home building but if the building societies could get sufficient money, the people would be able to get decent homes. The building societies insist on houses of at least eight squares. But these people are making money available for houses of from four squares to five and a half squares. Because people cannot borrow money through recognized channels and do not want to live with their in-laws - or their “ out-laws “ - or to pay high room rentals they accept these exorbitant interest rates in order to get a roof over their heads.
– I would like to direct the attention of the House to the feeling of frustration which exists among the amateur radio operators of Australia since the statement has been made that a restriction of the frequencies available to them has been recommended by, I understand, a technical committee. [Quorum formed.] 1 was mentioning the feeling of frustration that exists among amateur radio operators because of the announcement that they are to lose a proportion of the bands on which they are operating at the moment. Some months ago the amateur radio operators of Australia banded together and decided to send a representative overseas to fight their case at the international conference to be held in Geneva. They will try to fight mainly commercial interests to retain these bands. Imagine their frustration when they found that this Government, through the technicians of the PostmasterGeneral’s Department, has sent a recommendation that the amateurs should lose one-third of the wavelengths they are using at present. It seems to be a foregone conclusion as far as this Government is concerned. It seems to have approved of this proposal, and I suggest that the position with regard to the forthcoming conference is untenable.
The statement has also been made that the amateurs are not using to the full the bands that are allocated to them at present. A monitoring system has been used to ascertain whether these bands have been used. Let me remind the House that the majority of amateur radio operators work all day and can operate their radio equipment only at night or at week-ends. If a check is made of the use of these bands, it will be found that these are the times when they use the frequencies most. To whom is it proposed to give these bands? I understand that they will be given to some commercial interests, either overseas or in this country; and in any case it will probably be found that broadcasts on these bands will be jammed by overseas operators. When one considers the service that these amateurs have rendered the country over the years, this treatment of them is just not good enough.
There is another matter that I want to mention in this connexion. It concerns the restriction placed on amateurs as a result of which they can broadcast only in English. In every other country, amateurs may broadcast in any language they like; but here the broadcasts may be in English only. No other group does so much towards cementing good international relations as the amateur radio operators.
Debate interrupted under Standing Order No. 291.
Question resolved in the negative.
Sitting suspended from 12.45 to 2.15 p.m.
Debate resumed from 6th May (vide page 1925), on motion by Mr. Harold Holt-
That the bill be now read a second time.
Upon which Mr. Crean had moved by way of amendment -
That all words after “ That “ be omitted with a view to inserting the following words in place thereof: - “this House declines to give a second reading to the bill as it fails to make adequate provision for social service payments, including age and invalid pensions and child endowment, and as it makes no provision for the restoration of cost of living adjustments to wages and salaries of Commonwealth public servants “.
.- Mr. Speaker - [Quorum formed.]
It is very curious that the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward), who represents the trade union party, should act as an informer on certain occasions. The importance of this debate, Sir, is that it allows very wide scope. This is a debate on a money bill, and the forms of the House allow members to speak on any subject that they like to choose in a debate on such a measure. This is because a government’s general policy is controlled by financial considerations. The Opposition has proposed an amendment to the motion -
That the bill be now read a second time.
I have often chided Opposition members on the manner in which they criticize the Government’s financial policy and say that pensions and social service benefits should be increased, never saying how they would raise the money needed to pay for the increases that they advocate. It is quite easy to say that more money should be provided for roads, pensions, and so on, but it seems just nonsense to me to argue in that way unless, at the same time, one advocates some form of taxation to raise the funds needed.
The other day, the honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Sexton), who is a senior member of a local council in South Australia, complained about the lack of money for local authorities. He said that they had reached saturation point in that they could raise no more money from their own resources, and that they had to look to the Commonwealth for more funds. That is the sort of cry that we usually hear from Opposition members. Do they think that the Commonwealth has some extraordinary ability to produce money out of the air and that it, too, will not reach saturation point and find that it cannot raise more funds from its own resources? During the recent debate on the Commonwealth Aid Roads Bill 1959, member after member on the Opposition side of the chamber jumped on the bandwagon. As you, Mr. Speaker, well know, the subject of roads is very topical just now. I may do Opposition members an injustice, but it seems to me that they jumped on the bandwagon and advocated the allocation of large additional amounts for road works, but not one member of the Opposition said that if these funds were provided for roads money for pensions would be short, and offered a suggestion that the necessary funds should be raised by increasing income tax or some other tax. It is so easy for an Opposition to speak with complete irresponsibility.
I have noticed that more and more Opposition members who represent metropolitan constituencies have been asking for more money for local government bodies. I was very much intrigued by this at first, because, in my experience, this subject is very seldom brought up by Labour. I came to the conclusion that Opposition members are becoming more interested in local government needs because more and more wage-earners are becoming home-owners. Opposition members have found, in the metropolitan areas, that once a worker saves some money and buys a home of his own he has to pay rates and additional taxes. As a consequence, we see the interest that Labour members are now taking in people who own property. Perhaps, too, this is the reason why a former Labour Minister was so much opposed to the creation of what he called more little capitalists in this country.
There is a saturation point with respect to taxation. In the private enterprise system, the profit motive provides the incentive to make people earn and to encourage them to save, and their savings provide capital for the development of the country. There is at present a great danger of reaching a saturation point in relation to taxation, because, if taxation is increased beyond a certain point, the incentive to save will be destroyed. Indeed, this is one of the great dangers that face the people of the United States of America now. The colossal scale of taxation that the American taxpayer is called on to pay in order to counter the threat of war with Russia, and to finance the space research programme, is in danger of imposing on him such an enormous burden of taxes that he will ultimately stop saving and his initiative will be destroyed. After all, Lenin recommended the adoption of penal taxation as a means of introducing socialism, because the profit motive is the force behind the private enterprise system.
How many times recently have we heard Opposition members say that United States and British investors are bringing capital to Australia in such a big way that, ultimately, they will get control of our industries? They say that we should impose heavier taxation and at the same time keep overseas interests from getting control of Australian industries. But where will we get the Australian capital that we need in order to put up a fair share of our own capital, in comparison to foreign capital, in order to retain in Australia control of our own industries? Where is this Australian capital to come from? It can come only from the people’s savings, and the more you tax the people, the less will be their savings.
As Labour professes to be interested in employment for all, surely the right thing for Opposition members to do is to encourage the people to save, because the people’s savings are the life-blood of industry, and the higher the level of savings, the more employment can be provided. We often hear Opposition members, as a result of their foggy thinking, say that too much foreign capital is coming into Australia, and, at the same time they want more money for this, that and the other thing. It is easy for them to say these things, because they are not responsible for raising the money. But, if they are really interested in providing employment and obtaining new industries for Australia, they must see that the savings of people who are prepared to practise selfdenial and risk their capital by investing in private companies are the source of the necessary capital, and the people should be afforded an opportunity to accumulate their savings.
We have heard much about the need for increased pensions. I have every sympathy with the pensioners. Let us see how the money needed to increase pensions could be obtained. As you, Mr. Speaker, know, gambling is encouraged to the nth degree in New South Wales. I understand that last year the betting turn-over - the amount of money placed with the bookies - totalled £113,000,000, and that another £16,000,000 or £17,000,000 was invested on the tote. The total sum gambled would be enough to enable the pension to be increased to half the basic wage, but we do not hear Opposition members saying anything about that. They say, instead, that the Government must extort the necessary funds from the people by taxing them. The Opposition has never yet given any specific statement of methods for raising the necessary funds. I always think that one of the worst offenders in this respect is the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Whitlam), who is a very fluent and very easy speaker, and who is always ready to speak on any subject. As we saw during the last Budget debate, and as we shall see if he speaks in this debate later, he asks for more money for everything under the sun. If one analyses the cost of the things that he asks for, one will find that the total is far beyond the capacity of the national Budget. If Opposition members had their way, they would be in great danger of killing the goose that lays the golden eggs.
Yesterday, the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) criticized me and other members of the coalition party to which I belong. He directed his criticism mainly at wool producers when he talked about trade with China. He asked why we wanted to trade with China. He said that we allowed our wool and wheat to be sold to China. He thought that we behaved badly because we attacked communism and yet wanted to trade with China. That sort of criticism is indicative of the muddled thinking that is evident in the Opposition party, which, apparently, is very disunited. How are we to try to improve relations with the Communist nations? Surely the way is by trade. We do not have to recognize their governments or political systems officially, but we can trade with them.
– Too right - take their cash!
– The honorable member for Wills, in his somewhat curious speech yesterday, said that trade was necessary to break down barriers between peoples. Here we have one Opposition member saying that it is bad to trade with red China when we will not recognize that country diplomatically, and another member saying exactly the opposite. They cannot both be right; one must be wrong. Opposition members should realize that their own leader has charged us on many occasions with not meeting our opponents in an effort to break down the barriers between us. Although we trade with them, we are not compelled to recognize them. Why does the honorable member for Lalor attack us on these matters? To my mind, the only reason is that the Labour Party has come under criticism for its attitude towards unity tickets. I know that is very embarrassing to honorable members opposite, but it is the fact. He attacked us in an effort to cover up the exposure of Labour’s acceptance of a unity ticket in the Australian Railways Union election in Victoria. We are given no credit for trying to break down the barriers with red China because Labour members want to use that argument to divert attention from their unity ticket troubles.
A fourth-form Opposition member said - I think by interjection - that Khrushchev had stated that he would pursue the cold war with instruments of trade. I do not know which fourth-former was responsible for the interjection; it may have come from the youthful member for Wills. But the methods used in the cold war trade cannot be compared with our trade with China. Our trade with China is on a commercial basis, but Khrushchev proposed to use trade on a non-commercial basis as a weapon in the cold war. The Communists have many slave camps and their people are regimented and forced to accept a low standard of living. After all, communism is a socialist philosophy and the socialists do not have any regard for human dignity; they direct labour. Trade used as a weapon of war is non-commercial trade and involves, for instance, the dumping of tin on the British market and of all classes of goods on the Asian market. Child labour is used in red China. Although the use of child labour is anathema to Labour members, they ask us to recognize red China! Child labour, slave labour and the labour of people who have a debased standard of living are used to produce goods cheaply so that they may be used as a weapon in the cold war. But we trade with China so that we may create employment. Every time unemployment is mentioned, Opposition members say that we are responsible for not providing employment.
I want to return to the subject of unity tickets, because they provide a means by which Communists may infiltrate the trade unions. Every confirmed Communist is a renegade. That has been proved by every royal commission on the subject held in Australia and in other countries, and we know that there is an integration between the local Communist party and the Kremlin. There is no doubt that Communists are renegades and are determined to destroy this country. They gain entry into trade unions through unity tickets. They want to control trade unions so that they will have an opportunity to further their objectives.
Another point that concerns me greatly is the prevalence of “ fronts “. The Communists support every “ front “ that they can. I strongly suspect that the recent petition asking that social service payments be increased to half the amount of the basic wage is a “ front “. It is typical of the moves that are supported by Communists. I suggest that honorable members read “ Master of Deceit “ by Hoover. This is an authoritative work on the activities of Communists and is obtainable from the Library. Yesterday, the honorable member for Wills in his speech decried our conditions.
– It was a good speech.
– It was not a good speech. The only point about it which gives me pleasure is that the honorable gentleman had to read it before it went into “ Hansard “.
Opposition members should not take any credit for crying poverty and running down our country. The registrations of motor vehicles is not a bad yardstick by which to gauge our standard of living. More than 2,500,000 vehicles are registered in Australia, and that is one for every four people. No other country has so few people per house as Australia has. The honorable member for Newcastle (Mr. Jones), before the suspension, referred to deplorable housing conditions and asked that more money be given for housing. But this is a matter entirely for the State governments. He said that there was no money for housing in Newcastle, but he did not say where money would come from for housing. Yesterday, the honorable member asked for more money for roads. When pensions are being discussed in this House, he will no doubt ask for more money for pensions. But he does not say where these additional amounts can be found. He criticized housing standards but that has nothing to do with this Government. It is very easy to mislead people, and we should always make clear that we have our job to do and the States have theirs. The only State where the housing position is really serious is New South Wales.
I do not like to be constantly criticizing Opposition members. It is of no advantage to me to do so, but I do not like to hear people decrying our progress. We have much to be proud of in Australia. Look at our performance over the past ten years! Much has been said about unemployment, but other countries which have a comparable living standard have far more unemployment than we have. In addition, we have been taking per capita more immigrants than any other country. During the past ten years we have absorbed in employment all our immigrants and all the children leaving school. Our unemployment figures are low, but Opposition members constantly accuse us of doing nothing to increase employment. Recently I pointed out that on their leader’s statement, the Commonwealth has no power constitutionally to deal with unemployment. We have a responsibility to provide money, and we do provide large sums of money. In the last Budget, more than £25,000,000 was provided to take up the slack in employment. But how was the money spent in New South Wales? It was used to provide three weeks’ annual leave for employees, so that the Labour Government would b: returned at the ensuing election.
– Does the honorable member not agree with the principle of three weeks’ annual leave?
– -1 am not talking about the merits of it, but I ask whether it is right to provide three weeks’ annual leave for employees if there is unemployment? The honorable member for Hughes (Mr. L. R. Johnson) made an impassioned plea for the provision of equal pay for women. But despite that, he talks about the chronic unemployment in New South Wales. Where will the money come from to provide equal pay for women? I am not speaking about the merits of it. Either there is no grave unemployment in New South Wales, so that the State Government is entitled to introduce three weeks’ annual leave and equal pay for women, oit is using Commonwealth funds for the wrong purpose. Honorable members cannot have it both ways. It is not a healthy thing for people continually to be decrying Australia’s efforts. I think that Australia has done pretty well. Can anybody tell me of any country that is better governed than Australia? When you analyse this country’s achievements, I think it will be appreciated that wc have done pretty well. I do not think that any country to-day is better governed than Australia. Some countries may have higher standards of living, but none is better governed.
One of our great problems to-day is that instead of supporting the Australian way of life, we, as a people, are divided by two philosophies. On the one hand we have the socialist philosophy of the Labour Party and on the other hand we have the private enterprise philosophy of the Government parties. I do not mind a man being a socialist. I believe in complete freedom. Any man is entitled to practise socialism or any other philosophy. But what frightens me is that although honorable members opposite say that they are socialists, not one of them really knows what socialism means. Take the illustration of Trans-Australia Airlines. The Opposition says that T.A.A. is an example of socialism. But there is nothing in Liberal philosophy to prohibit government enterprise. The Liberal philosophy is not a stationary creed; it is an active creed. After all, certain functions must be state functions. Railways and airways can operate under private enterprise, but there cannot be a police force operating under private enterprise. There are some arenas in which governments can intervene quite well. I would not mind so much if honorable members opposite understood the meaning of socialism. If we read history, we find that every fascist or Communist started as a socialist, and if honorable members opposite think that they can travel the socialist road without ending up as did the fascists and Communists, they are the only ones who think so.
Government enterprise is not necessarily socialism. Socialism is state control, with the state the only boss. That is what the Opposition wants. Every time overseas interests set up industries in this country, they are termed monopolies by honorable members opposite. But the Australian Labour Party is a trade union party, a party that has as part of its platform compulsory trade unionism. When the Labour Party discovered that human nature did not like compulsion, it changed compulsory unionism to preference to unionists, which amounts to the same thing. The Opposition encourages compulsory unionism, but it attacks private monopolies. What greater monopoly is there than trade unionism?
– Does the honorable member favour monopolies?
– No, but no monopoly in the world is as tight as a union monopoly. With a union monopoly there is no selection whatever. You either join or you starve.
– That is fascism.
– Of course it is. Unfortunately, these matters are coming more and more to light. I am trying to defend the parliamentary system. Under socialism there is no parliamentary system. The Labour Party does not permit its members to criticize its leaders. With that state of affairs existing within the party, if socialists ever governed the country the National Parliament would be destroyed. Look how often honorable members from this side of the House, such as the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth), have voted against the Government. Does any one think that they are disciplined? Just imagine trying to discipline the honorable member for Mackellar! lt could not be done. He and others like him are free men.
I want to deal now with certain matters concerning the agricultural industry. Recently, I asked the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) to consider making more credit available to the agricultural industry. The Treasurer asked me to produce figures. It is very hard to produce figures in relation to a matter such as this. While the price of wool is low people do not want to borrow money to improve their holdings so that they can reduce the cost of production. Consequently, it is hard to produce facts that would satisfy a critical examination of any suggestion that increased credit should be made available to the farming industry. Personally, I do not think that sufficient credit is available, particularly in places like Queensland, which recently suffered a severe drought. Honorable members opposite, because they are industrially minded, may think that the farming industry is no concern of theirs. But the farming industry is of vital importance to Australia because the money that is earned overseas from the export of our primary products supports our secondary industries. I do not think that sufficient money is being made available to the farming industry, particularly money at low interest rates, although I think that the Development Bank will have a powerful effect in this regard when it is functioning.
Secondary industries are at an advantage in being able to plough back their profits. 1 should like the Government, when it is drafting the Budget, to examine the possibility of granting a retention allowance to primary producers so that part of their profits may be ploughed back into their properties. I admit that the Government has already been generous to the farming industry in matters of depreciation allowances. This has resulted in increased investment in rural industries, which has brought about a 25 per cent, increase in production, which in turn earns more money overseas for Australia. But not enough loan money is available to the farming industry, and what is available is lent for short terms and at high rates of interest. I believe that if a proportion of the farmers’ profits were exempt from taxation provided they were ploughed back into the industry it would have a tremendous effect.
The Labour Party should be very interested in tl.is matter, because our overseas balances can only be improved by increased exports of primary products. The farming industry is greatly affected by wages. Manufacturing industries that sell on the Australian market can pass on the effect of wage increases to consumers. But once they export they have to face competition from overseas industries employing lower-paid labour. The farming industry must always meet that sort of competition because there is no way in which it can pass on costs to the consumer.
Last year, I asked the Government to consider setting up a tariff authority to deal solely with primary industries. If an impartial committee were constantly investigating all the problems of rural industries, it could immediately put its finger on sections where costs were rising, or on sections where government assistance could be given. In that way the rural industries, the back-bone of our economy, would be able to operate on a sound financial basis.
– I support the amendment to the bill before the House which was moved by the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Crean). The amendment was to the effect that the Opposition would decline to give a second reading to the bill because the Government had failed to make adequate provision for social service payments or cost-of-living adjustments to wages and salaries of Commonwealth public servants. Before I proceed to discuss those matters, I wish to support other members of the Opposition in taking the Government to task for curtailing the opportunities of honorable members to speak on matters closely affecting their electorates. The House will go into recess next week and will not re-assemble until the Budget session, some time in August. That is three months away. In my opinion, Mr. Speaker, that is wrong. Honorable members should not only have an opportunity to debate the Budget when it is brought down but should also have a pre-Budget session so that they can bring to the attention of the Government many problems which affect the community.
We could easily extend the present sessional period to give honorable members that opportunity. The rank-and-file members of the Parliament are more in touch with the community than is the Government. This Government governs through the Cabinet and by regulation very largely, and private members have too few opportunities to discuss problems that confront the people. The Standing Orders provide for a “ Grievance Day “ every second Thursday when the House is in session. Every alternate Thursday, according to the Standing Orders, honorable members should have two hours to mention in the House problems which arise in their own electorates. Rank-and-file members are closely in touch with the people they represent. I know honorable members on the Opposition side who visit constituents in their own homes from time to time, and I presume that supporters of the Government follow a similar practice. We are in touch with the people and we are best fitted to voice their problems. It is wrong that we should be deprived of the opportunities to do so which are provided in the Standing Orders.
I have a record of the number of opportunities so accorded to private members in recent years. I have not gone back beyond 1956. In that year, there were twelve days when private members should have had a “ Grievance Day “ session of two hours, but only four such days were allowed. If the House had met more frequently, we would have had more opportunities. In 1957. there were nine days available but the Government allowed us only two. Last year, there were seven days available for “ Grievance Day “, but the Government allowed us only two. This year, until this morning, we had had only one day allotted to us; that was about three weeks ago. Even then, the Government utilized part of the time to give notice of the introduction of bills, and it whittled down the time to 40 minutes. So, thus far in 1959, honorable members have had until to-day only 40 minutes in which to bring to the notice of the Government problems affecting their electorates. lt is not right that the Government should act in this way. The press uses every opportunity to vilify and castigate honorable members because they meet generally for only 58 days a year or thereabouts. That is not the fault of honorable members. The fault should be sheeted home to the Government. Owners of the press probably do not work much more than 58 days a year themselves, but we should not give the press an opportunity to sneer at honorable members.
– Surely, the honorable member does not work only when he is in Parliament House?
– No, but the people we represent bring many matters before us and they expect us to refer to them in this House. The proceedings are broadcast and it is the wish of the people that the Government should know of their complaints. Having said that, I should like to turn to matters related to the amendment that was moved by the honorable member for Melbourne Ports. I believe the Government is evading its responsibilities to those people who are unfortunately unemployed. Only yesterday, a supporter of the Government, the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony), brought to the notice of the Government the fact that there were 1,000 persons unemployed in his electorate. He made the remarkable statement that the majority of those unemployed persons were under nineteen years of age. That is a very serious state of affairs, and it operates in other electorates as well. Young men and women about that age should be almost settled in permanent occupations because they will be responsible for future generations. It is time they were settled permanently so that they might have an opportunity to get married and give us the population we so urgently need.
The state of affairs to which the honorable member for Richmond referred is typical of many other electorates. In my own electorate, unemployment is serious for several reasons. One of them is the Japanese trade treaty and its effect on employment in the footwear industry. A panel of industrialists representing footwear manufacturers brought this matter to my notice and told me why the industry is unable to compete against imports from Japan. Under the JapaneseAustralian Trade Agreement, Japan is permitted to export to Australia 1,000,000 pairs of footwear of various kinds. The Japanese are concentrating on production of rubber footwear and are in direct competition with the manufacturers who approached me. They mentioned the sandals known as thongs which are now widely used. A pair of these thong sandals, of adult size, can be produced in Japan for 3s. 2d. Thong sandals of a size suitable for small adults or children can be produced for ls. 7d. In Australia the cost of production - not the wholesale or retail price - of similar articles is 8s. lid. and 5s. lid. respectively. The relative prices of other forms of rubber footwear vary proportionately.
Australian costs, of course, are based on the very much higher standard of living which we are proud to have for our people. That is the basis of our way of life. We have high wages, and long service leave, sick leave and annual leave on full pay. I mention incidentally that privileges of this kind are the result of the work of State Labour governments and not of this Government. If the Government does not shield our own industries against foreign industries, we are likely to lose those conditions that we value. In Japan, footwear factories engage whole families in employment. They employ the father, mother, and even the children, who live in hostels within the precincts of the factories and can work and produce for long hours. One can understand why Australian manufacturers are unable to compete, when Japanese production costs are so low for those reasons. It is absolutely wrong for an Australian, who is accustomed to good standards, to be unemployed so that work may be provided for people on lower standards. I am not against Japanese workers having jobs and’ earning a living. I am not opposed to people of any nationality; I have not any prejudices of that kind. Nevertheless, I make no apologies for being pro-Australian, because I believe that charity begins at home. The statistics show that the rubber footwear industry at full capacity can employ 1,100 people. At present, the number of employees is down to 700, and further dismissals are contemplated for the reasons that I have indicated. This year the industry has not recruited even one junior to its ranks. Personnel and industrial officers have informed me that that is because of competition from Japanese manufacturers. I understand that Australia produces about 4,000,000 pairs of these shoes annually. Because the Japanese are concentrating on rubber, rather than on leather footwear, the greatest impact is felt by Australians producing rubber boots and shoes.
The Government should review this treaty and ensure that the position I have described is rectified. Last week a very serious position was brought to our notice by members on this side of the House when we were debating unemployment on the coal-fields. The honorable member for Richmond told us how his electorate is affected. There is a moral obligation on the Government to produce a plan to obviate these scandalous conditions, with so many able-bodied Australians being out of work while so much development is required.
I wish to speak on another matter that is covered by the amendment moved by the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Crean). I refer to the freezing of quarterly adjustments to the basic wage. This policy is having an adverse effect upon workers employed under Federal awards. It is affecting public servants probably more than any other section. We have in New South Wales a Labour Government that does not believe in freezing quarterly adjustments. If the cost of living rises by 2s. a week, the New South Wales State basic wage is adjusted accordingly. A similar situation exists in Tasmania. The adjustments are made automatically in accordance with statistics supplied by the Commonwealth Statistician. Because those States have Labour governments, increases are given to workers under State awards. A worker on the Commonwealth basic wage, in the Post Office or some other department,’ is 7s. a week worse off than a worker on the State basic wage in New South Wales and 14s. worse off than a worker on the State basic wage in Tasmania. Commonwealth public servants in those States, particularly, are therefore at a great disadvantage, and the Government should not allow its employees to remain in that position. There is no need for these employees to go to arbitration to have this matter adjusted. The Government has power to adjust by regulation the conditions of i.s workers. It should observe the terms of our amendment and relieve the situation. I am especially interested in the position of postal workers, as I used to be one of them. They are adversely affected in this way, and also in other ways. They feel that as the Post Office is open six days a week they are entitled to the same penalty rates for week-end work as apply in other industries. Bank officers in all banks receive penalty rates for work on Saturday morning. The Government should, by regulation, correct this anomaly. 1 wish to refer also to the Commonwealth Public Service superannuation scheme. There is an amicable arrangement whereby the Joint Council of Commonwealth Public Service Unions and the Public Service Board, representing the Government, meet around the table to discuss problems affecting the Public Service. They agreed in August, 1957, that the unit of Commonwealth Public Service superannuation should be increased by 2s. 6d., from 17s. 6d. to £1. The Labour Party at the last federal election made that increase a plank of its platform. Had we formed the Government we would have made that increase. I direct the Government’s attention to the very buoyant state of the superannuation fund, as indicated by the Auditor-General’s report for the year ended June, 1958. On 1st July, 1957, the fund stood at nearly £50,000,000. During the year to 30th June, 1958, contributions from officers amounted to about £6,000,000. The amount by which the fund was subsidized by the Government was about £4,000,000 and the interest earned on investments was about £2,240,000, making a total income for the year of £12,578,000. Payments out of the fund in that year were, for pensioners, £4,968,000, for lump sum payments to members of the provident fund, £743,000, and for refunds to people retired from the service, £652.000; making a total payment out of the fund of £6,300,000 against an income of more than £12,000,000.
Mr. Speaker, I think that the AuditorGeneral’s report clearly shows that this fund could be used to greater advantage on behalf of superannuated public servants. Not only do these people contribute to the fund during their period of service but, like every other citizen, they also pay taxes at the appropriate rate. So they are, in fact, paying twice for their pensions. If, during their working lives, they contribute for a pension that at the time of its payment exceeds the permissible income under the Social Services Act, they are entirely deprived of any social service pension, and have to live entirely on their superannuation pension. They should receive a proper return not only for their payments to the superannuation fund, but also for what they pay in taxes.
The joint council agreed on that point, and I think that the Government should take the opportunity, when it is preparing the Budget, to see that the value of the superannuation unit for superannuated public servants is adjusted in accordance with the decision properly arrived at by the joint council.
The annual report of the Commonwealth Superannuation Board shows the number of people retiring from the Public Service in comparison with the number of contributors joining the fund. These figures show that the fund has a very healthy future, because in 1957-58 the number of contributors increased from 85,000 to 91,000. That is natural, because the Commonwealth Public Service is growing as government services to the people are extended. The report also shows that over a period of five years the yearly level of contributions increased from £3,799,400 to £5,400,000. It is obvious that with the great growth in the number of contributors to the fund there is every reason why the Government should be more liberal to pensioners under the fund. Posterity will look after the younger generations. The fund will have in it a tremendous amount of money in due course, and for that reason I believe that this is an opportune time for the Government to increase the benefits to people who are at present receiving payments from it. 1 have listed some of the matters to the consideration of which the Government should give priority when it is preparing the Budget. I think that all matters of importance dealt with in the Budget should be arranged in order of priority, and the first priority this year should be given to an increase of age, invalid and widows’ pensions. We know that of the 500,000 people who receive such pensions 80 per cent, have no other income. So I think it is high time, in view of the fact that the Government has seen fit to be so generous to members of this Parliament, that it was more generous to the people referred to in the amendment of the Opposition - social service pensioners and the recipients of child endowment.
First priority should be given in the Budget to an increase of age, invalid and widows’ pensions. Further, when a measure is brought down to increase these pensions, the increase should be made retrospective to 1st July, which is the beginning of the financial year, because Parliament will rise next week for another three months, and the enabling measure for an increase of pensions will not be introduced and passed until, perhaps, October. So, in the normal course of events, the pensioners will have to wait until assent has been given to that measure before they receive their pension increase. Thus it will be six or seven months from now before the pensioners receive any benefit.
The rate of maternity allowance must also be looked at in the terms stated by the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) in the Labour Party’s policy speech at the last general election. In that speech the Labour Party told the pensioners that if we were returned to office, not only would we widen the eligibility for the supplementary rental allowance as a first step but we would also increase all pensions and allowances, including the widows’ pension and the allowance for the wife of an invalid pensioner, by a substantial amount. Hie minimum amount was to be 10s., and we would have given first priority to those adjustments.
Because of the level of unemployment in the community the rate of unemployment benefit should also be looked at. We have communications from all returned servicemen’s organizations bringing to the notice of the Government the state of war and service pensions. Adjustment of those pensions should also be in the priority list. The benefit of hospital treatment under the Repatriation Act should also be extended to all men returned from active service, irrespective of whether or not their disabilities are war-caused.
I could give a long list of matters affecting people, mostly on the lower financial level, which require attention by the Government. I do not believe that there should be any reduction of taxation at the expense of pensioners. If taxation can be reduced after the recipients of social service pensions and benefits receive what they should be receiving, well and good, but not until then. I am a taxpayer, and if I had to pay increased taxes in order to benefit age and invalid pensioners, and other members of the community similarly placed, I should willingly do so. I do not think that the Government should consider reducing taxation until full provision has been made for making the adjustments to which I have referred.
If taxes are to be reduced, then let the first reduction be in that field of taxation which most severely affects the pensioners and the poorer members of the community - sales tax. I believe that sales tax is a vicious tax that should be removed from all commodities that are used by the family, because there is no graduation in the incidence of sales tax. It hits the age pensioner just as hard as it hits the wealthy company director. There should certainly be no reduction of taxes for the purpose of increasing the already too large profits made by the profiteers and the people who receive dividends. The Government should look at the humane aspect of the problems that are affecting the people of Australia. It should consider the humanities, and not concern itself with the tax deductions that some people are advocating now. I have great pleasure, Mr. Speaker, in supporting the amendment so ably moved by the honorable member for Melbourne Ports.
.- Since the Commonwealth Government is about to appoint a committee to inquire into the complex and long-term problems of the dairying industry, it might be advisable for me to crave the indulgence of the
House for a few moments in order to compare the present situation of the industry with its situation in October, 1958. I regret to say that, at that time, the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard), the official spokesman for the Australian Labour Party on this matter, described the state of the dairy industry in these words - The industry is in a critical and chronic state and has been treated disgracefully.
Let us examine the reasons why he said that and the situation that existed at that time. The overseas market for butter and cheese had collapsed. The interim or advance price for butter and cheese, at the opening period of July, 1958, had dropped to about 37d. There was then some alarm and increasing consternation. As early as August, 1958, the Liberal Party and the Australian Country Party, looking at the situation through its food and agriculture committee of which I had the honour to be secretary, believed that the position was better than the Dairy Equalization Committee would have had us believe. The committee took the view that production would not be as great as was thought; that the price overseas would begin to rise and that, therefore, we could afford to give the dairy industry 3d. more than the opening or interim price.
As a result of the exertions of honorable members on this side of the House, including the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony), the honorable member for McMillan (Mr. Buchanan), the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Malcolm Fraser), the honorable member for Paterson (Mr. Fairhall), the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Bowden), and particularly the honorable member for Lyne (Mr. Lucock) and the honorable member for Fisher (Mr. Adermann) who is now the Minister for Primary Industry, the Government was persuaded to underwrite the price by a further2½d. which resulted in a price of about 39½d.
I am glad to say that no part of the Government guarantee will be called upon. The position has changed completely from one of anxiety to one of confidence. The dairy industry can look forward to a very good’ price for this year. Calculations indicate - and the honorable member for Richmond supports me in this - that the eventual price for 1958-59 will be at least as good as that of last year, and that the production of butter, particularly in New South Wales and Queensland, will be very much higher. It is expected that the amount of butter that the farmers will put on the market this year will rise from about 170,000 tons to about 195,000 tons. Consequently, there will be a lot more money for the industry.
Let us see what has happened. In England the price at this time last year was 205s. a ton. It is now 288s. a ton. The increase has been caused by a fall in production over there. The British producers have hardly been able to produce any butter for the market at all. [Quorum formed.]
The honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) has drawn attention to the state of the House. During a debate this morning, somebody said that the honorable member goes outside and takes a nap in the afternoon so that he will be able to disturb the tenor of the House later in the day. To-day, in Canberra, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization is holding an open day and a number of what I might call academic and intellectual members of the House have gone there. This gives the honorable member for East Sydney a chance to come in and call for a quorum. Many more of us would have been at the open day at the C.S.I.R.O. if it had been held on a non-sitting day.
I was saying that there had been a complete change in the situation in the dairy industry. The Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. McMahon), will remember that in his final speech in this House as Minister for Primary Industry at the end of September, 1958, he drew attention to the anxieties of the industry and said that the outlook then gave concern. He will know that now the whole situation has changed and that the industry will again make a very great contribution to the solution of our export payments problem. The returns for butter and cheese in London will rise this year by £11,000,000 to £22,000,000. That is taking the extreme figures of about £8,000,000 extra for butter and about £3,000,000 extra for cheese. This position is amazing because we earned on the London market last year only about £900,000 for cheese. This year the return for cheese will be about £3,000.000. The price for cheese in London went up from 120s. to 250s. - more than double. That has been a very good result, indeed.
About 40 or 50 members of this House represent constituencies in which the dairy industry is extremely strong. They will be delighted to know that the present outlook is good and that the farmers’ realization from the general pool of dairy prices will be at least equal to that of last year for butter and much more than the return for last year for cheese. So their incomes for 1958-59 will be just as good as they were for the preceding year. That is very good news indeed. It is particularly good for the people of Australia when it is looked at in terms of- the returns from exports which are so important to us, particularly when the return from wool has been falling.
I know that the wool price is recovering but the total receipts for wool this year will be much lower than they were last year - perhaps £70,000,000 lower. The fact that the dairy industry has; been able to make a contribution of £11,000,000 will offset the effect of that fall in some degree. In other words, the dairy industry has helped the national income at a time when help was badly needed. We are delighted that our traditional United Kingdom market has recovered so well. We are grateful to the people in the United Kingdom who prevented butter from being dumped on the London market from those countries which had large surpluses and which were doing New Zealand and Australian producers so much harm.
However, this is not a time for inaction. We must not merely look at the situation and say that we have prosperity. It is true that we have a good price, despite gloomy prognostications, including those of the honorable member for Lalor to whose statement I have referred. But we must not sit down and do nothing, as though the problem had been solved. It has not been solved. There is still a long-term problem in the industry.
The Minister for Labour and National Service, when he was Minister for Primary Industry, brought down legislation which is now in operation and is known as the Dairy Produce Research and Sales Promotion- Act. The Australian Dairy Produce Board has appointed as secretary a. very fine. type of public servant in the person of Mr. Hedley Clark. Mr. Clark explained to a meeting of the Victorian section of the Australian Institute of Dairy Factory Managers and Secretaries what he thought ought to be done about dairy sales promotion. I am speaking now with particular respect to our own home market. He said that promotion planning is a job for a trained specialist, or, more correctly, a number of trained specialists, and that the board will not hesitate to seek the advice of these specialists in their planning.
Honorable members will’ know that the leaders of the dairying industry are men who have been placed in these positions because they are leaders of large organizations. The leaders of the dairying industry are noi elected by adult franchise, as are honorable members of this Parliament, and sometimes, let me say without reflecting upon them, we in this House are closer to the dairying industry than the leaders of the industry, who speak for it. We know what is happening from day to day. This is particularly true of honorable members such as the honorable member for Lyne, who has just entered the chamber. We know what is happening in the industry, and 1 think we ought to say to the members of the Australian Dairy Produce Board, and to the members of the Commonwealth Dairy Produce Equalization Committee, that the Parliament itself has entrusted them with an important job. It has entrusted them with very large funds with which to assist the industry, which, if I may say so, is a great industry, and has probably a better social fabric than is to be found among other groups of people in our community. Those dependent upon the industry include a large number of families of good size, with modest incomes, living in healthy surroundings. The birth rate among those dependent upon the dairying industry is probably higher than is to be found elsewhere in the community. These people represent the largest reservoir of new, healthy Australians. They are patriotic and they make a splendid contribution to the nation in time of adversity, when enlistments are needed for the forces.
Those engaged in the industry make great national and civic contributions. The size of the industry can be judged from the fact that about 600,000 souls are dependent upon it, and the capital investment in it is of the order of £750,000,000. It is, therefore, responsible for a great deal of the demand for goods and services, because its income would be about £200,000,000, a year, and it spends it all. Opposition SUPporters yesterday were suggesting that we should give more money to the pensioners, because they will spend the money rather than hoard it. I can tell them that the people in the dairying industry spend their incomes immediately on all sorts of things, and the money goes straight into the pay packets of those who support honorable members opposite per medium of the trade unions. The dairying industry buys, and buys heavily, and therefore it is an important industry.
The environment of those engaged in the industry includes some of the most beautiful country in the whole of the Australian landscape, because these people are planting grasses, perhaps on country that may have suffered from soil deficiency in the past; they are planting trees, and they are achieving something of which Australia can be proud. We have seen successive governments offer assistance to the dairying industry. First of all, the Chifley Government began by granting a subsidy towards the cost of butter production. It was the idea of that Government, I am sorry to say, to make dairying a Cinderella industry. The Government’s policy involved the pegging of wages, and to achieve this it had to keep down the cost of food. For this reason it was compelled to subsidize butter production. The subsidy at that time was small. Since this Government has been in office the contribution has increased until it is now about £170,000,000. This Government has made contributions towards extension services in agriculture. It has made a contribution towards studies of dairying efficiency. The amounts provided in each of these two directions have now reached £250,000 per annum.
In addition, the Government has made substantial contributions to the industry by way of income tax concessions to farmers who invest their funds in their properties. The honorable member for Reid (Mr. Uren), who is seeking to interject, should listen to this, because he has evidently become a disciple of the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Cairns) with regard to fiscal matters. The industry has benefited under section 72 and other sections of the Income Tax and Social Services Contribution Act, because amounts re-invested in the industry are now allowable deductions for income tax purposes. This is important, because some of our country towns were beginning to feel the pinch. We are glad to see that at last the Government parties have a majority in the Senate and that legislation for the Development Bank will not be held up in that chamber. As a result of these tax concessions, conditions in country towns will improve, and credit ought to be freely available with resultant beneficial competition between banks.
This Government, having looked at the situation last year and at the present time, has given the leaders of the industry some important work to do. I referred a moment ago to the Dairy Produce Research Committee. A new committee is now being appointed. [Quorum formed.]
I said that the Government was about to appoint a new committee to inquire into these complex and long-term problems of the industry, after consultation with the States. Some of us, and particularly myself, have put this proposition to the Government by means of questions asked of responsible Ministers: Will you take account of the fact that the production of the dairying industry - and, for that matter, of any other industry - ought to be capable of being sold before production is stimulated? In other words, we are now confronted with a new situation, which is not peculiar to this country. I refer to what is called a merchandising revolution. The women-folk or other people who buy for their homes now walk through a store and select all sorts of articles, amongst which the dairy products loom large. They choose these goods for themselves. Nobody urges them to accept particular brands. Therefore, the goods must be properly packaged, presented and priced. So to-day we have what is called - I forget the actual term - inspired buying, or impulse buying. As I say, the goods must be scientifically packed, and this means that the dairying industry, which is the largest seller of health-giving and nutritious foods, must be able to package its goods correctly and attractively. The packages must be of the right size, so that the housewife can pick them up easily. The prices must be right.
The dairying industry has been saying for years that it should be led by its own representatives. I have a newspaper cutting before me at the moment, which shows that members of the Victorian Dairyfarmers Association have said something to the effect that their own men must lead the industry. We agree with that proposition. We agree that the leaders of the dairying industry must still control the industry, but that they should, at the same time, have the assistance of the specialists, who will be able to advise them on how to market the industry’s products. 1 think it is not too much to ask the members of this House, particularly the members of the Country Party and those of the Liberal Party who represent dairying constituencies, to demand that within six months these two committees, the one that has been appointed and the one about to be appointed, begin to show something for their labours, and to justify the confidence that the Government has reposed in them We want to see that the men who are handling the promotion schemes, and particularly those handling the research schemes - and we have confidence in them because they are, in the main, officers of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization - show us results.
I say again that we are the people elected by the adult franchise of the community. We are the people in touch with the average dairy farmers, the men who work for them and the people with whom they deal, the businessmen and others in the country towns. We want to see results. Let these committees get down to work as soon as possible, and let us see as members of the committees representatives of the many sections of the dairying industry.It is not enough to have only butter and cheese men on the committee.
Dairy products can be sold in all sorts of forms. They can be sold as ice cream mixes, fancy cheeses, and all those things that the people are anxious to have in their refrigerators and on their tables. These products must be sold in new forms. They must be sold in new packs of an attractive colour, which bear printing of a suitable size. I think that a lot of the people who like to think that they are connoisseurs of good wine would like also to be connoisseurs of good cheese. All these opportunities are waiting for us. We need highly knowledgeable and highly trained men of enterprise to do the job. We cannot get them very readily. Many such men have grown up in the manufacture of cheese and butter, and many of them have grown old and cannot look ahead to producing some other commodity-
When we think of the marketing of these goods inside Australia, we have to think also of marketing them outside Australia. From time to time, we hear in this place speeches about the starving myriads of people in the Near East and South-East Asia. We know that these goods of ours can be processed in re-combined milk plants and sold in those parts of the world. We know, also, that the Americans are adopting all sorts of programmes for export assistance, and, under what is termed in the United States of America, Public Law No. 480, are entering into all sorts of noncommercial deals. They are about to take over markets which could be quite profitable to us and which could be important to us politically, because it is much better to sell milk in other countries, perhaps from a Holden motor car bearing the slogan “ A ustralian milk”, than it is to supply to other countries bulldozers which are allowed to lie scattered about the fields, rusting and covered with weeds. If we sold our food products to these other countries, the starving millions of Asia would see what Australia can do. I believe that at this very moment American interests are trying to have the local health regulations in some of these countries altered for their own benefit. The Federation of Malaya, for example, provides by regulation that no product may be sold as milk unless the constituent fats are obtained from dairy cows. The Americans aregoing to extreme lengths to have this regulation altered in order that they may sell in Malaya filled milk, which contains fats not obtained from dairy cows, and which is of doubtful value as a dairy food.
These markets that I have mentioned are open to us if we organize our sales properly, and I suggest that the members of this House should lend their weight to efforts to organize the marketing of dairy products properly. We should see that there is at least one group of people in the industry charged with the job of exporting dairy products overseas, and particularly to the Near East and South-East Asia. We should see that those people have available the credit and the facilities needed to enable Australian powdered milk to be sold in these markets.
Surely we have never had a better opportunity to do something for under-privileged peoples. In one of these countries to which we could sell our dairy products, only two live births result from every nineteen pregnancies, and if we sold our milk - real milk - to these countries, we should raise the birth-rate, and improve the physical standards of the people. This would help to improve their mental and educational standards, and the ultimate result would be that they would have much better opportunities in life and would be much less underprivileged than they are now. The way to help them is to supply them with our foods. We have in Australia tens of thousands of tons of skim milk powder which we find it difficult to sell because of the international exchange situation. The exchange problem is probably one of the main difficulties that we have to overcome. Australian engineers can manufacture the machinery for re-combined milk plants, which could be established in underprivileged countries. Perhaps we could even invest in shareholdings in processing companies in those countries. Such an investment would be an investment in the friendship and confidence of the people of the countries concerned, because we should be helping them by providing food for the masses of the people. Mr. Jack Beale, a member of the New South Wales Legislative Assembly, recently returned from a visit to Asia. He told me that he had seen Indians clad in rags shuffling up to a little milk bar and paying as much for milk as we pay in Sydney, where, of course, the price is high enough. These people in India know the value of milk and want to take advantage of its nutritious, healthgiving properties in order to improve their physique and enable them better to live in their crowded world.
The dairying industry has a great chance, and it can take advantage of it. The Dairy Produce Research and Sales Promotion Act 1958 did not go far enough. As I see it, it is designed to improve the presentation of dairy products for sale inside Australia. That, of course, was made clear by Mr. Hedley Clarke. We need to go a step further. We must be able to compete in the markets of South-East Asia. A new committee is to investigate the complex problems of marketing dairy products. I hope that the balance of strength on the committee will be weighted on the selling side. I believe that I am right when I say that the last committee of this kind was not weighted on the selling side. It was composed of leaders of the dairying industry, but not of men who were experienced in selling. I think that Mr. C. L. MacDonald was the only member of the committee who had been trained in selling and who had had experience of it throughout his business life. There ought to be on these committees more men with similar experience. I beg the Government to see that men with such experience are appointed to the new committee. I suggest that the industry should tell the Government that it wants to retain control itself but would like to see a strong leaven;ng of men who are expert in, and have been trained in, selling, because that is a specialized science.
Further, 1 want the committee to explore the problems of exporting to the near Asian countries and to do what everybody knows must be done - to begin to feed the twothirds of the world’s population which is undernourished. We could provide for them, under the Australian brand, the most highly nutritious food. They would know it came from Australia. The honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley), I think, said the other day that when Soviet diplomats go to a country they make contact with the masses of the people and do not content themselves, as do ours, with meeting one, two or three of the people at the top. Australia could make contact with the masses of the people in Asia by overcoming the exchange problem and any other barriers that there may have been in the past, and selling them these nutritious foods, under Australian brands, and in attractive packs.
.- Mr. Deputy Sneaker, as the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) said, in his second-reading speech, this bill provides for the appropriation of additional funds for which provision was not made in the 1958-59 Estimates.
This debate gives honorable members an opportunity to discuss many varied subjects, as was made quite obvious by the honorable member for Macarthur (Mr. Jeff Bate). I intend to say something about a number of the Government’s shortcomings and to make some objective comments about the conduct of national affairs.
I want to comment, first, on certain statements made by the Treasurer in his second-reading speech. He said -
Included in the additional items is Commonwealth scholarship scheme, £133,000 . . .
This scheme, which was introduced by the Labour Government, has become recognized as a really great national project, and 1 hope that the Government will expand it still further and make adequate provision for Commonwealth scholarships for all who may qualify, and thereby give additional opportunities to many to whom they would be denied if it were not for this most important scheme.
I cannot see why the scheme should not be extended considerably in order to provide scholarships to enable people from abroad to visit Australia, see how we live, and study not only our political system but also our way of life and our development schemes generally. The United States of America and certain European countries have scholarship schemes which provide for the invitation of people from various walks of life in other countries to make visits and study objectively the way of life and the methods of government in those countries. I think that a reciprocal arrangement of that kind could well be made by this Government in order to give the people of other countries an opportunity to learn how we live and what are our ambitions and ideals and our methods of achieving them. This would build up the fund of knowledge that those people have of international affairs, and show them at first hand how the other half lives, thereby contributing greatly to international goodwill. If £5,000 or £10,000 were spent in that way, it would be of much more benefit to the country and to those who come here than the expenditure involved in sending overseas Ministers who seem to add little to the national welfare, whether they are here or abroad. The Government should give further consideration to this aspect of the legislative programme.
I note also that £300,000 is provided for the building of homes for the aged. That is not nearly enough. The Government is not doing as much as it should to provide homes for aged people. Its social services programme is inadequate and does not provide for the aged, the sick and the infirm as it should. The Government should make a major effort to provide a home for every aged person who needs one. It is true that the Government has made grants on a £l-for-£l basis, but plenty of scope still remains for it to provide for the needs of the aged. Homes should also be provided for younger people, but at the moment my concern is to ensure that the grant in respect of aged persons’ homes is increased. A New Zealand Labour government introduced a wonderful housing scheme for aged people. It provided homes in the best of environments at low cost and the scheme won commendation from those who study social services in all carts of the world. This Government’s scheme is lag.ging a Iona way behind the needs of aged people, and the amount granted for this purpose should be vastly increased. Whilst the sum of £300,000 is an additional grant, it is only a drop in the ocean.
The honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Crean), on behalf of the Opposition, has moved an amendment. Part of it was ruled out of order because of certain action now pending before the Arbitration Court. The amendment was in the following words: -
That all the words after “ That “ be omitted with a view to inserting the following words in place thereof: - “ this House declines to give a second reading to the bill as it fails to make adequate provision for social service payments, including age and invalid pensions and child endowment, as it makes no provision for the restoration of cost of living adjustments to wages and salaries of Commonwealth public servants “.
The part deleted was as follows: - and because the Government has failed to intervene in support of the claim by the Australian Council of Trade Unions before the Arbitration Court for an increased basic wage and for the restoration of quarterly cost of living adjustments.
– That part is out.
– It is out, but it is most important and I intend to make passing reference to it. The section that has been deleted is as vital to the amendment as the sections we are now discussing. The amendment is an indictment of this Government. The Government is unable to provide for the needs of the people, as a national government should. Why should the quarterly cost of living adjustments be denied to the people? The New South Wales Labour Government is compelled, because of the cessation of quarterly cost of living adjustments under this Government’s programme-
– I take a point of order. The honorable member is canvassing a ruling of the Chair, I submit, in dealing with a portion of the amendment that was specifically deleted by Mr. Speaker.
– Order! The honorable member cannot refer to that part of the amendment which was ruled out of order earlier. The honorable member must confine his remarks to the other parts of the amendment.
– Mr. Deputy Speaker, I wish to move dissent from your ruling.
– I have no desire to canvass the ruling of the Chair-
– Order! Is the honorable member for Hindmarsh submitting a motion of dissent from the ruling of the Chair?
– I propose to do so.
– Mr. Deputy Speaker - [Quorum formed.]
I move -
That the ruling be dissented from.
I do so because I object to your ruling, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that the honorable member for Grayndler is not in order in referring to the suspension of quarterly cost of living adjustments. You ruled, Sir, that the honorable member for Grayndler was out of order in referring to the quarterly cost of living adjustments because Mr. Speaker had ruled yesterday that the amendment should not contain the following words: - and because the Government has failed to intervene in support of the claim by the Australian Council of Trade Unions before the Arbitration Court for an increased basic wage and for the restoration of quarterly cost of living adjustments.
I submit that you, Sir, have no right now to prevent the Opposition from referring to the general question of quarterly cost of living adjustments merely because Mr. Speaker has ruled out certain words on the ground, presumably, that the matter was sub judice. The honorable member for Grayndler has not, during the course of his speech, referred to the proceedings before the court. He has not referred to the Government’s failure to intervene in support of the council’s claim for the restoration of quarterly cost of living adjustments, and because he has not referred to that he cannot possibly have been dealing with a matter that relates to the case now before the court.
I submit that if the ruling that you have just given - namely, that no honorable member can refer at all to the quarterly cost of living adjustments merely because Mr. Speaker ruled out that portion of the amendment - is to be upheld, you will stifle debate on one of the most important aspects of the Opposition’s case. The Opposition’s case, as some honorable members from this side of the House have already indicated, has simply been that Supply should not be granted until such time as the Government meets certain obligations. True, one of the obligations which we say the Government should meet is to intervene before the court in support of the trade unions. That part of our amendment has been ruled out, but the portion dealing with the basic wage generally and the suspension of quarterly cost of living adjustments, so far as it affects the Opposition on a broad working basis, has not been ruled out, and I submit that you should not now have ruled that the honorable member for Grayndler was out of order. (Mr. Clyde Cameron having submitted his objection to the ruling in writing) -
– Order!I consider that the honorable member for Hindmarsh has misinterpreted the ruling that was given. The ruling that I gave is that the honorable member for Grayndler cannot refer to the latter part of the amendment - the part that was ruled out of order - as though it were still part of the amendment before the House for discussion. That was the point of order that I understood was being taken by the Minister for the Interior, and that was the point that I upheld. Is there a seconder to the motion submitted by the honorable member for Hindmarsh?
-I second the motion.
– I simply raised the point of order upon which you ruled, Mr. Deputy Speaker, because the honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly) had made direct reference to that part of the amendment moved by the Opposition which had, in fact, been ruled out of order by Mr. Speaker on the ground that it was irrelevant to the subjectmatter before the House. The honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron), in objecting to your ruling, either misunderstood or misinterpreted it, because he suggested that you had ruled that the honorable member for Grayndler was out of order in referring to cost of living adjustments to the wages of Commonwealth public servants, which is still part of the proposed amendment. I did not raise a point of order on that aspect of the matter at all, and I fail to see why the honorable member for Grayndler should be delayed any longer from making his contribution to this debate. I therefore move -
That the question be now put.
The House divided. (Mr. Deputy Speaker - Mr. B. M. Wight.)
Majority . . . . 25
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Debate resumed (vide page 1974).
– Mr. Speaker, I was in the course of making passing reference to the matter that the House has just decided, namely the Commonwealth’s attitude with respect to the abolition of quarterly costofliving adjustments. I consider that this is a vital aspect of the discussions in connexion with the voting of money to carry on the affairs of this nation. I was in the course of saying that despite this Government’s refusal to restore cost-of-living adjustments, the Labour Government of New South Wales pays cost-of-living adjustments to State public servants employed under Commonwealth awards. Some workers are suffering because of this situation, and the Australian Labour Party, which is vigorously opposed to it, has criticized strongly the Commonwealth Government’s action in pegging the wages of workers on an unjustifiable basis.
Figures presented to this Parliament show that our population now totals 10,000,000. That represents rapid growth and expansion in the population in recent years, due, in a large measure, to the great immigration scheme which was introduced by the Labour administration. It shows that this is a developing country which requires a government that is prepared to give to the people the money necessary for development on a
State and Federal basis. Yet, even at this time when the Government is restricting credit, money is going into the wrong avenues. Unlimited funds are available for hire purchase, whilst there is none for increased social service benefits or houses for the people. Everywhere the pattern is that there is money for those who return the greatest profit, irrespective of how the money is being used, whilst the people are denied money for essential purposes. The Treasury “ Information Bulletin “ shows that 69,000 people are unemployed, although we have a developing economy. This is a scandalous state of affairs and one that no government should allow to continue in a society where everybody should have the right to work. Labour’s policy of full employment has gone overboard, and at a time when we should be developing and expanding with prosperity for all, almost 70,000 persons are officially registered as unemployed, with countless others of whom we know nothing also out of work. Only yesterday, the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony), a comparatively new member who is rapidly learning of the failings of this Government, said that 400 persons under nineteen years of age were unemployed in his electorate, with possibly 1,000 more whom he knew nothing about.
Does this not indicate that the Government is lacking in providing employment? Doss it not indicate that the financial policy of this Government is such that it must bring unemployment at a time when otherwise every person who is able and willing to work would have a job? Why does not the Government give work to the young people and financial salvation to the older ones? Why have not pensions been increased at a time when the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) claims that the economy is buoyant and that loan funds are more plentiful? The aged and infirm are unable to obtain medical benefits without submitting to a rigorous means test, simply because of the Government’s policy to give to the people who have wealth and power a monopoly control in various spheres at the expense of those without wealth, power or influence. The policy of the Government is such that it is leading to unemployment when our economy should be expanding, and to greater sufferings for those with families to rear. The Government’s policy of credit restriction is retarding development and expansion and the Government should be condemned.
Unfortunately, because of interruptions, I find it somewhat difficult to cover the extensive field of national affairs as I intended. Members of the Australian Country Party and the few Liberals in the House would find their outlook improved if 1 could penetrate their minds and had the time to speak. In the brief time available to me. however, I wish to refer to the issue of television licences by this Government. If ever an inquiry by a royal commission was required, it is an inquiry into the way that television licences have been granted by this Government to the wealthy monopoly interests and their friends and supporters at the expense of the Australian electorate generally. I ask the privilege of the House to incorporate in “ Hansard “ the information which is available in the tenth annual report of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board on the shareholdings in television stations.
– Is leave granted?
Government supporters. - No!
– I hope, Mr. Deputy Speaker, as your party is involved, that you have noticed that honorable members who sit on the Government side and who represent the monopoly control of television, have refused my request to incorporate in “ Hansard “ the findings of their own board as contained in its tenth annual report which reveals the monopoly control in those interests by the wealthy supporters of the Government. I have not the time to read them out, but the decision of honorable members opposite shows that they are running away from their responsibilities. The Postmaster-General (Mr. Davidson) was one of those who refused me permission to incorporate this information in “ Hansard “. and that shows that he is running away from the findings of his own board.
Newspaper and radio interests to-day control television which is an important medium of propaganda. The “ Sydney Morning Herald “, which controls the “ Daily Mirror “ and the “Sun “, also owns channel 7. It is dominating this medium of propaganda. The “ Daily Telegraph “ has other extensive interests. The Melbourne “ Herald “ group controls others. The
Government is even reversing the findings of its own board to give to its wealthy supporters control of this great medium of propaganda. It is scandalous. The Government cannot possibly stand up to the charge that some underhand and scandalous methods have been adopted to give this great power to those wealthy interests. To-day, they are discriminating on television against the Australian Labour Party and interests opposed to them. The “Sydney Morning Herald “, the “ Daily Telegraph “ and other newspapers are dominating completely this propaganda medium simply because this Government wants them to have control of it.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– In view of the many interruptions from the Government side, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I move -
That the honorable member for Grayndler be granted an extension of time.
– I point out, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that the many interruptions to which the honorable member for East Sydney has referred are the result of action taken by the Opposition party.
– Order! The question is -
That the honorable member for Grayndler be granted an’ extension of time.
Government supporters. - No!
– I think the *’ Noes “ have it. I call the honorable member for Perth.
Mr. CHANEY (Perth) [4.131.- Mr. Deputy Speaker- (Opposition members interjecting) -
– Order! There seems to be some doubt among Opposition members about the vote just taken. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition indicated to the Chair that no division was required. If members of the Opposition want to argue about the matter among themselves, they should do so outside the chamber. Does the Deputy Leader of the Opposition desire a division?
– No, Sir.
– Order! If members of the Opposition do not want to be guided by their Deputy Leader, I point out that the Standing Orders require that only two members need to call for a division.
– I should like your ruling, Mr. Deputy Speaker, whether the period allotted to me will commence from the time you gave me the call or will exclude the time taken by these interruptions.
– Order! The honorable member’s period will be calculated from the moment he was given the call.
– This afternoon we have seen some of the sheer hypocrisy which goes on in this place. This morning we had a motion by the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) for the suspension of what is known as the 11 o’clock rule. It was debated for some time by members of the Opposition, and the Treasurer replied. During that debate, the honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly) said there was an attempt to cut down opportunities for honorable members to speak. He himself has already been on his feet three times to-day.
– I take a point of order. I ask that that insulting remark be withdrawn. The honorable member has said nothing of importance so far, but any contribution that I have made has been well worth listening to.
– Order! The honorable member will resume his seat. I suggest that he should not try to be facetious.
– Had these proceedings been broadcast by a commercial station, when the vote was being taken many thankful people would have heard the announcement, “ This silence comes to you by courtesy of the Opposition, which is silencing the honorable member for Grayndler “.
– Nobody is listening to you.
– The honorable member for East Sydney obviously is listening, i think it is time that this Parliament gave serious consideration to its hours of sitting. Under the present system, whereby the House meets at 2.30 p.m. on two days and 10.30 a.m. on a third, with an indeterminate time of finishing each night, we are doing something of which we should be ashamed. We are endangering the health of the members of the Parliament. We are following a system that originated in the early days of parliamentary government, when members of Parliament were members only in a spare-time capacity. When they finished their ordinary activities, they gathered in Parliament to deliberate and legislate in the later hours of the day. To-day the great majority of members enter this House in a full-time capacity. If they conduct businesses, these must be of a type that can be carried on in their absence, because of the time they have to spend away from their home States.
Apart from that, I think that too often the sittings of this House are controlled to suit the needs of members who reside in the metropolitan areas of Melbourne and Sydney, and that the members who live great distances from Canberra are not greatly considered. If all members had to travel 2,000 miles to a sitting of the Parliament, they would understand a little better the problems of members from remote parts of Australia such as north Queensland and Western Australia. The vote this morning was an instance of sheer hypocrisy. It was not the result of an honest move by the Opposition to have the sittings of the Parliament extended. It was just the Opposition being an opposition.
– Order! The use of the word “ hypocrisy “ is not encouraged in this place. The honorable member will not use it.
– I withdraw it, and I regret that I did not at first hear what you said, Sir. I have drawn the attention of the Speaker to the poor acoustics of this chamber, which prevent back-bench members from hearing anything said in a soft voice on the other side of the chamber.
– I wish we could not hear you.
– The remedy is in the honorable member’s own hands. He can go outside, sit in his party room and go to sleep. If he follows this course, maybe he, too, will be fresh for the adjournment debate to-night. I notice that the honorable member for East Sydney is forgoing his customary afternoon snooze, no doubt because attention was directed this morning to this practice that he follows.
Unfortunately, the great majority of us travel vast distances to this place. Had I thought that this morning’s demonstration by the Opposition was genuine, I would have voted against the suspension of Standing Orders to permit new Government business to be introduced after 11 o’clock. I would much prefer spending an additional week in Canberra to sitting until three or four o’clock in the morning in the closing stages of the session. Having travelled so far, I would much prefer the House to sit for another three or even six days. We ought to give consideration to having sittings of the House on five days a week during normal office hours, perhaps from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. I do not think that would make any difference to Ministers in the administration of their departments, because they are now forced to remain in the precincts of the House until late at night or in the early hours of the morning.
I want to refer to one or two other matters during this debate on Supply. The first concerns the age allowance under the income tax legislation. All of us are familiar with the provision relating to age allowance. I do not think the Government gives sufficient consideration to the terms of that allowance as they affect taxpayers who have, by their own efforts, enabled themselves to live independently during their retirement, in some cases comfortably and in others a little more than comfortably. During their working lives they have invested and looked after their savings, with the result that they have not become liabilities of the community. Let us consider the case of a person who has an income of £1,000 derived from superannuation, for which he has paid during his working life, and from income from investments made as a result of his thrift. If he and his wife are over 65 and 60 years respectively, and if he applies for the age allowance, he is allowed to deduct £819 from his gross income, leaving a taxable income of £181, on which tax is paid at a flat rate of 9s. in the £1. If he claims the age allowance, he cannot claim in addition the deductions permitted to a normal taxpayer, for instance for medical expenses:, and he must include in his income any military pension. Therefore, on an income of £1,000 he would pay £81 in tax.
If he proceed as an ordinary taxpayer with an income of £1.000 and claims deductions of £300 for medical expenses and the other matters that he is allowed to include in the columns numbered, I think, from 1 to 10 - I am citing an actual case - his taxable income is £700. on which the tax would amount to £53. As he is not allowed both normal deductions and age allowance, he pays an extra £30 in tax as a result of claiming the age allowance. The matter should be looked into rather closely, because the effect is that we are penalizing the people whom we should encourage, those who have, by their thrift during their working lives, become independent of Government assistance in their retirement. I ask the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) to consider this matter carefully before the introduction of the Budget, with a view to helping a number of people who are well worthy of assistance.
Quite recently the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Fox) asked the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Roberton) a question in connexion with the subsidy of £2 for £1 for the provision of aged persons’ homes. The question was based, probably, on representations that the honorable member received in Victoria. He asked whether the Minister would give consideration to amending the act in order that service pensioners could be included as residents of a home in respect of which a claim had been made for this subsidy. The Minister, after reminding the honorable member of the purpose of the Aged Persons Homes Act, concluded his answer by saying - . . the Aged Persons Homes Act was designed … to relieve to some degree our most urgent social problem. I hope the honorable member for Henty is not suggesting that the scheme should be widened to include younger people, to the prejudice of our aged men and women. I have no doubt that the time will come when the latter will be adequately provided for and then, and then only, the question of widening this scheme might arise.
I am generous enough to believe that the Minister misunderstood the question, because I believe that there is not a member on either side of the House who would not agree that the terms and conditions of this grant should be extended to allow the admission into homes of those who are in receipt of a service pension. If everybody in this House agrees with the principle, as we represent the whole of the voting population of Australia, I think the Minister has a moral right to put to the Government a request along those lines. After all, the alteration would not act, as the Minister suggests, to the prejudice of those for whom the legislation was designed. As you know, Mr. Deputy Speaker, a service pension may normally be paid to a person at the age of 60 years instead of 65 years, the age of eligibility for a civilian pension. So the Government has obviously accepted as a fact that service overseas may have a detrimental effect on a man’s lifespan, affecting it by five years. A service pension may also be paid to a person below the age of 60 if that person’s condition warrants the payment. We shall not find any ex-servicemen’s organization building an ex-servicemen’s home purely for the benefit of service pensioners, when in fact service pensioners do not constitute a great majority of ex-service people. Similarly, would an exservicemen’s organization set out to build a home for 100 ex-servicemen or 50 ex-servicemen, when the presence of one or two service pensioners among the intended inmates would debar the organization from receiving the Government subsidy of £2 for every £1 that it found? I do not think that the fact that a home may be intended for service pensioners, among other ex-service personnel, should preclude the payment of the Government subsidy. That is a matter which the Government should consider very seriously, because the present prohibition may affect the chances of more such homes being built.
Ex-servicemen’s organizations have done their part in providing accommodation for aged people. However, since the Government has accepted 60 years as the age of eligibility for a service pension, as against 65 years in the case of civilian pensions, J think it would be quite easy to write into the act a small amendment to provide that nothing in the act should debar from its provisions a home which accommodates ex-servicemen in receipt of service pensions. I think that that is very important, because I know that in my own State an exservicemen’s organization is in the process of planning a home to cost £120,000, which can be built only if the Government subsidy of £2 for every £1 found is available.
If the money for such a home is raised from the community generally the Government surely cannot discriminate against ex-servicemen who might need accommodation in it. As I said previously, no member of the Government or of the Opposition would quarrel with an amendment which provided that ex-servicemen in receipt of a service pension would not be excluded from accommodation in homes built under the Government subsidy. I ask the Minister to give deep consideration to that matter.
I should be very surprised if Cabinet would not accept a recommendation for a change, because I do not think it would cost the Government anything, nor would it arouse any objection from any other section of the community. I also do not think that such a move would result in pressure from charitable or church organizations to permit the accommodation in homes built with assistance under the act of people other than those stipulated in the act.
The other point I want to raise, Mr. Deputy Speaker, concerns education. Since the Budget is in the process of being planned there are some matters which should be examined. The honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly) said that there should be an extension of the Commonwealth scholarship scheme. I would much rather see a relaxation of the means test governing the payment of living allowances in conjunction with Commonwealth scholarships, because I think that the amount of permissible income provided is nowhere related to reality. Very few people whose children qualify for a Commonwealth scholarship - and I do not think there is any great difficulty in qualifying for one - would find it possible to qualify also for the living allowance, and I think that a living allowance is a most important adjunct to any scholarship granted at the tertiary education level.
That brings me to the point on which 1 rose to speak. Recently, I asked the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) a question on this matter, and received what I think is the standard reply during the period when the Budget is being prepared, which is that, with all other representations made, this one will be given due consideration. That is another way of saying that for all practical purposes you can forget about it. Any one giving money for the purpose of a scholarship at the tertiary education level is allowed to claim the amount as a deduction for income tax purposes. But to-day in Australia there is a need for greater assistance at the secondary education level, especially between the intermediate year stage and the matriculation stage. Up to the intermediate stage when children are about fourteen or fifteen years of age, education is compulsory, and they go through the ordinary schools. It is after that that parents whose children continue their education feel the real burden of educating them. We should give every encouragement to people who are prepared to make donations for the purposes of scholarships awardable to studentsat that stage of education.
I know from experience that many people are prepared to donate scholarships, worth up to £100, for students at this level of education, which would be of great assistance to children who have the mental capacity to carry on their education, but whose parents have not the financial capacity to allow them to do so. These people have been informed that the Government will make no allowance, for tax purposes, for any donations for such scholarships. When we consider the small amount of revenue that would be involved, we should be prepared to recognize such donations as deductions for tax purposes. Even if a larger amount of revenue were involved, I still think the Government should be prepared to include such a provision in the income tax legislation.
One of the things I regret deeply over the last couple of years is that so many people have attempted to make education a political football. I think that, for too long, the States have been getting away with the line that they use not only in regard to education, but also in regard to roads, railways and everything else. This is the chorus from the States all the time: “ It is the Commonwealth that starves us of funds. We are dependent on the Commonwealth. If we could get more money from the Commonwealth, we could do more than we are doing now.” I think it is time we had a committee, something akin to the Murray committee, to report on education as a whole - a reputable and responsible committee to investigate the question in order to discover just where the responsibility for the lack of educational facilities lies in Australia to-day.
I do not think that anybody in this House would quarrel with the Murray committee’s report and with what the Government has done in connexion with it. I am sure that this Government has a record in the field of education which allows for little criticism. It is possible to criticize anything any government does, but if we look at the thing fairly I think we shall have to admit that the Government’s record in regard to education is a creditable one. I should like to see an investigation into this whole matter of education so that the responsibility for the lack of educational facilities in Australia can be laid at the right door. If it is laid at the Commonwealth’s door, let us do something about it. If it is laid at the door of the States, at least we shall have countered this facile tale of the States that “ If the Commonwealth gave us the money we could do this or that “.
It is quite useless to pour money into education at the tertiary level - no matter how creditable that may be in itself - if we are not certain that the foundations are being properly laid. I think that the day has arrived when we have to face this problem, because if we want the country to progress, not only in the field of science, which seems to be highlighted these days, but also in the field of everyday endeavour, we must tackle the problem with sufficient courage to solve it.
I lay these suggestions before the Government, Mr. Deputy Speaker, in the sincere hope that they will be given the consideration that I think they deserve.
.- I rise to support the amendment moved by the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Crean). We on this side of the House are fearful that over the next four or five months - which are the winter months - the Government will leave to their own resources the social service pensioners who are watching and waiting for the Budget. For that reason I support the Opposition’s amendment, which is as follows: -
That all words after “ That “ be omitted with a view to inserting the following words in place thereof: - “ this House declines to give a second reading to the bill as it fails to make adequate provision for social service payments, including age and invalid pensions and child endowment, and as it makes no provision for the restoration of cost of living adjustments to wages and salaries of Commonwealth public servants “.
This is one time when it might be thought that the Government would follow up the Richardson report by doing something on behalf of those people who are practically starving. It is possible that my electorate of West Sydney is the one most affected of all in this respect. There are so many pensioners and other people who depend on social services throughout the Commonwealth that it seems strange that the Government will not do anything about them.
We have read in the newspapers that the Liberal Party is very much divided about the income tax that is to be levied in New Guinea and Papua. In my electorate, 500 miles from the Sydney General Post Office is Lord Howe Island, the people of which are in a similar position to that in which residents of New Guinea and Papua will find themselves when they have to pay income tax. I have protested to the Government time and time again about the treatment of the people of Lord Howe Island. The honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Jack) visited the island recently. I hope that he will support my remarks because we have read in the newspapers that the only subject on which Mr. Minogue and Mr. Jack ever speak is pensions. I think that a person called “Spratt” or “ Zack “, or something like that, was guilty of writing us up on the last occasion. But surely pensions is a very human subject in which to interest ourselves.
I should like to know why the Government has not done something about the requests in relation to Lord Howe Island that I have brought before this House in the last nine years. Men have come all the way from the island to this place to see the Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Paltridge) about the construction of a landing place for aeroplanes there. It is terrible that a territory such as this, which is used by the Commonwealth Government should be without a landing strip. The Federal Government has about twenty men working on that island at the signalling station and on radar and other devices that make for the safety of ships at sea. Yet the Government has ignored these requests point blank.
Not a penny of the money which was voted for roads in the recent debate will reach Lord Howe Island. Not one penny that has been voted as a result of any other debate has reached that island. Its inhabitants have to live practically on their own resources. When an airline company considers that it is time to take passengers there, a flying boat provides a service. But the people of the island often have to wait for days or weeks before they get a service. The trip by air, a distance of 480 miles, costs £14 15s. each way. Only young people can go to the island to patronize the guest houses there because it is necessary for travellers to jump off the flying boat onto another boat. How can they be expected to pay this fare of about £29 10s. and, in addition, pay for their board and lodgings?
The island people have written to me several times on this subject. In view of all that has been said in this House about civil aviation, year in and year out, is it not reasonable to request that something be done for the people of Lord Howe Island? Something would be done if the Minister for Civil Aviation were sympathetic to their needs. I hope and trust that very soon the Government will take heed of the Lord Howe Islanders who are paying various taxes including income tax and payroll tax. They are not provided with roads or anything else that would make for the security of their island and the security of Australia which may depend on the island, in time. Surely, as a defence measure, or in some other way, something should be done for them.
We have heard it said in this House that the waterside workers, influenced by the Australian Communist Party, have held up ships. What has the Government done over the last nine years to carry out the Basten report? Mr. Basten, an expert on these matters, was brought to this country from England, and, after a few weeks of investigation, he made a report. He stated that he was surprised that there was such a turn-round of ships in New South Wales ports considering the inadequate cargo handling facilities that existed there. He said that no other country had as good a record in the turn-round of ships as Australia, considering the conditions under which the men worked. We were told that the Government decided it would implement the Basten report and make the turnround of ships better still. But the men on the wharfs tell me that not one thing has. been done to improve their conditions or toassist the turn-round of ships. Yet when ships are not turned round quickly these men are blamed! They are criticized if they strike because they have to work in. the wet or for some reason such as that. It is known that the Basten report has been shelved by the Government.
I return, now, to the subject that worries, me most - the social services problem in West Sydney. At question time in this House, many honorable members ask questions about wool, wheat, or some such subject which concerns them. We have the word of the Minister for Labour and. National Service (Mr. MacMahon) that about 70,000 people are out of work. I donot doubt that. If the Minister were in the employment office in West Sydney he would see men come there every day. looking for a job. Once they reach the age of 65 years they are sent to inquire about the pension. There has not been one word from the Government as to what it intends to do about unemployment although there is much work that requires to be done in Australia. Houses need to be built. The wharf work to which I have referred must be done sooner or later in order to improve the turn-round of ships. This is all work that could be done at the present time. There is plenty of labour available and the only trouble is that the Government is inactive and does not want to spend the money. We must have a government that will spend money to assist the people. The honorable member for Macarthur (Mr. Jeff Bate) has said that sales of butter next year will bring in £10,000,000. Another honorable member has said that our wool cheque will increase by about £40,000,000 or £50,000,000. Possibly we shall finish this financial year, as we have finished other financial years, with a surplus of £200,000,000 or £300,000,000. So, the Government has ample funds to finance a more generous programme of social services. The honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) has spoken about the unemployment in his electorate. During the by-election campaign in that electorate 1 did my best to assist a Labour man to obtain the seat, but unfortunately we could not convince the people that they should follow our lead. We do not hold any grudge against the present honorable member simply because he is a supporter of the Australian Country Party, but we believe that a Labour man, who would do his best to see that justice is done to the people, should occupy his place in this House. At the time of the campaign 200 or 300 people were out of work.
– When was that?
– That was about four years ago. Apparently the position has deteriorated because there are now 400 unemployed in that electorate.
– The position has improved. At the time of the by-election there were 500 unemployed.
– If an electorate like Richmond has 400 unemployed, honorable members can imagine how badly off we are in my electorate of West Sydney.
– The trouble is thai the States do not care for the people.
– It was a pity that the electors of Hume made the mistake of replacing a good Labour man by the honorable member who has just interjected. This Government is keeping itself in office with the aid of the Communist bogy. But for Petrov, half of the Government supporters would not be here to-day. However, it is no use for us to argue about who is right and who is wrong. The Government admits that people are out of work and are practically starving, and yet it does nothing to remedy the position. Not one word has been said about giving the unemployed a job or any assistance to tide them over the winter. Instead, the Government is more concerned in closing this Parliament as quickly as possible for three months. In the meantime, the unemployed can manage as best they can.
– It is a shameful state of affairs.
– It is a shameful thing. We have proposed our amendment in an endeavour to compel the Government to do something now and not at some time in the future. The honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) has said that many people in his electorate are unemployed. No doubt, a similar position exists in every electorate. Although the unemployed are entitled to the social service benefit, they must wait a period of six or seven weeks before they can obtain the first payment.
What has the Government done about homes for pensioners? As the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Chaney) has said, the existing state of affairs is scandalous. For many years the Government cooperated with the States on the basis of £1 for £1 in .the cost of construction of homes for the aged. During the 1954 election campaign the Labour Party promised, if returned to office, to increase the Commonwealth contribution to £2 for every £1 contributed by the States. This Government now proposes to adopt the suggestion we made during that election campaign. However, the position has changed and the basis of contribution is not in keeping with present requirements. After all, what are a few millions of pounds compared with the happiness of people who have served this country so well in war and in peace, who have reared their families under difficult conditions, and need some assistance? The people who are looking after the aged in homes for 24 hours of the day are entitled to every consideration. Next Sunday more than 110 aged ladies, who have been occupying a home in my electorate, will be moved to a new home that has just been completed at Rooty Hill. I give credit where credit is due. I admit that this Government has given some assistance to the good nuns who are caring for these ladies, but it has not done as much as it should have done.
– The home still must be maintained.
– Yes, it must be maintained. An honorable member on the Government side has spoken about education. ! have received many letters and have met many deputations relating to the bad state of the schools in my electorate, including the Blackfriars correspondence school, possibly the second largest of its kind in the world, which is doing splendid work. Many people living in the outback, and many invalids would never receive any education if such correspondence schools were not established. The school is in a deplorable condition. The lighting is poor, the accommodation is inadequate and, generally, the place is in a mess. I know that the Government will say, “Education is a State matter. Why approach the Commonwealth Government? “ The Commonwealth Government and the Prime Minister are not worth their salt if they throw this problem back to the States. Education is a national matter and it should be handled by the Commonwealth Government. The construction and maintenance of schools concern Australia and not any particular State, whether it be New South Wales, Queensland or Victoria.
Overcrowding in schools has reached serious proportions. Besides having 6,000 or 7,000 pensioners in my electorate, I have also 6,000 or 7,000 children attending Catholic schools which receive no aid of any kind from this Government. The parents of these children, who are employed for the most part on the basic wage, must pay taxes to maintain State schools and, at the same time struggle to maintain the denominational schools that their children attend. The 200 nuns and brothers in my electorate teaching in Catholic schools do not receive one penny-piece from this Government. The denominational schools should be assisted.
I have returned only recently from a trip to Brazil, the United States of America, England and Scotland, and I have learned that Australia and the United States are the only two countries in the world that do not assist Catholic schools. The British Government contributes 75 per cent, of the cost of construction of schools, and pays all teachers whether they be nuns, brothers or secular teachers. That is as it should be. When a war breaks out and men go to the enlistment centre, they are asked their religion but Catholics are not rejected for service simply because they are Catholics. They fight for their country, but their country does not help them to educate their children. That such a system should operate in a free country is deplorable. This Government has seen fit to assist the building of denominational secondary schools in the Australian Capital Territory, possibly because it was forced to do so due to the tremendous increase of population that has taken place. There is no reason why the Government should not extend similar aid to the remainder of Australia.
As I have said, the Government should also do something about the unemployed.
At present, at least 400 people receive what might be called the dole at an establishment in Young-street, Sydney. Why should such a state of affairs exist in Australia? Yet the Government boasts about what it has done. The honorable member for Macarthur has spoken about the gallons of milk that have been wasted. We are selling butter on the English market for 2s. per lb. Why not give the pensioners a card that they can produce at any shop and obtain a pound of butter for 2s.? If butter is subsidized to be sold overseas, why not subsidize it for sale to the pensioners in Australia? The farmers are subsidized in every possible way. When they experience the ravages of fire or flood the Government subsidizes them. On such occasions the supporters of the Australian Country Party receive rail concessions for their requirements, or freight-free transport, irrespective of their personal wealth. They are subsidized from the cradle to the grave, and yet they are not prepared to help people who are unable to help themselves. I hope and trust that this Government will soon wake up. After all, we do not want to wait for two years; we want something done in the next four or five months for these people. It is to us in this House that these poor unfortunate people are looking, and I hope they are not looking in vain. If we do have to wait until the Budget is brought down. I hope that it will contain something worthy of the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies). We realize that the right honorable gentleman is a great talker; and it is an old saying that great talkers are never great doers. As far as the pensioners are concerned, and those who are dependent on social services, they have the best talker, but the worst Prime Minister who has ever been in this Parliament.
– I do not intend answering the charges made by the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Minogue), because I want to confine my remarks this afternoon to certain references that have been made to the forthcoming administrative radio conference, a conference of the member nations of the International Telecommunications Union, to be held in Geneva commencing on 17th August and continuing for some considerable period. In this debate, references have been made to certain proposals which are under consideration and which affect the Australian amateur radio operators. It has been obvious to me that there exists a considerable amount of misconception as to the meaning of the proposals and their application. This has been due, I think, in most cases although not in all, to the fact that the information of honorable members has been gained from letters and telegrams they have received during the last two or three days from members of the Wireless Institute of Australia. I am not questioning the action of honorable members in bringing the matter forward, because they have a perfect right to make representations in this chamber on behalf of those who get in touch with them. But I do say that the references they have made do not convey the complete picture. Therefore, I welcome this opportunity to give some further information to the House.
In doing so, I do not propose to refer in detail to statements made by different honorable members. I shall take the general survey of the position which was offered to this chamber, I think last night, by the honorable member for Paterson (Mr. Fairhall). I shall take his remarks as setting out the main points that have been made in the debate, and I shall apply myself to them. Let me say that recently I have had a considerable amount of discussion on this subject with the honorable member for Paterson who, as every one knows, has interested himself for very many years in the field of radio and has acquired a considerable amount of knowledge on this subject, although he himself is the first to admit that he is not a technical expert. First let me say that I was a little surprised and, I think I may also say, just a little hurt to find that in his introduction of this matter he referred on several occasions to an alleged reluctance on my part to give information on the subject. In one statement he said that considerable pressure had to be exerted to induce me to give information. Well, I repeat that this surprised me a little, and I think I am entitled to give the House some history of the development of this matter, not simply for the purpose of combating his statement but also to provide some basic information regarding this question of our delegation at the conference that is to be held. This information may be of use to honorable members in determining whether the Government has been inconsiderate towards the amateurs and their supporters.
Let me point out that the first person to make submissions to me regarding the forthcoming conference, and the desirability of the Wireless Institute being looked after, was a gentleman who sits in another place. As long ago as March of last year, he submitted to me a request from the federal executive of the institute that the institute should be granted representation on the delegation which will go to Geneva next August.
– A good suggestion.
– Yes, it was a good suggestion, and after some debate I agreed that the institute would have representation. The organization was so advised and was told that the representation would be on the basis on which representation is usually granted in such matters. That is to say, its delegate would not have voting rights, but would be present for the purpose of listening to discussions and taking part in deliberations within our own delegation. He would then be in a position to give the viewpoint of his institution and, if his arguments were sound, to influence the representations being made by the official delegation. This was agreed to and a member of the institute was appointed. I understand that each member of the institute subscribed £1 in order to pay the very considerable expenses involved. That was the first action taken by me. representing the Government, to meet the legitimate requirements of the amateurs. Since then, there have been a number of conferences held by the committee which is charged with the task of preparing the proposals to be submitted at the Geneva conference. At these conferences the representatives of the institute have sat in and have taken part in discussions.
Quite recently, the honorable member for Paterson saw me and said he was perturbed at reports that had come to his notice that there was to be some curtailment of the frequencies available to Australian radio amateurs, and that he would like some more information about it. He asked whether I could give him some information. After some discussion with him, I obtained for him a detailed statement of the proposals that would be taken to this conference by our Australian delegation insofar as they affected the amateurs. In giving him this document, I said, “ I would like you to treat this as confidential. It is for your own information.” He said, “ I would like to look at it. I do not know whether I should be expected to regard it as confidential.” I gave as my reason for asking that it be kept confidential, the fact that in conferences such as the one in question, where there will be representatives of practically all nations who will all come forward with different proposals, it is not considered good policy at the start to blazon to the world the proposals that will be put forward. It is considered better to wait a while.
The normal procedure is that a country sends its official proposals forward, and they are collated with all the other proposals by some body or group charged with the task. Then the combined proposals are sent out to each of the member nations that will be represented at the conference. At that stage, of course, the proposals of each country are known. But it is considered undesirable to give out all the information at the start. It was for this reason that I told the honorable member for Paterson that whilst I was happy to let him know what we proposed to do - because there was no secret about it, and nothing to hide - I though that the proposals should be regarded as confidential.
After having read the document, the honorable member said that there was some lack of understanding in his mind. He said, “ I am not a technical man. I still do not understand the reasons for some of the things you are proposing to do. Can I get some more information? “ I arranged, therefore, that he should attend a meeting of the committee responsible for all the spade work in this matter - I shall refer again to that meeting later in my remarks - so that he would have the opportunity of discussing with the technical experts the basis of the proposals that would be going forward. I arranged with the honorable member for Paterson that he attend the meeting of the full committee held in Melbourne nearly a fortnight ago. The pastpresident and the president of the institute were in attendance. After this meeting the honorable member expressed himself as being very appreciative of what had been done, but he said to me, “ I still am not happy, because I think there is some danger of the amateurs being slowly squeezed out, and I want to be able to use this informa tion you have given me as confidential in order that I may do my best to look after the interests of the amateurs “.
At that stage, the information had gone to the co-ordinating body in Geneva. Therefore, the reason which applied previously regarding the confidential aspect of our proposal was not then nearly so strong, so I said to him, “ All right, go ahead “. If I had not said that, probably this debate would not have arisen in this House, because it is being carried out on the basis of the information which 1 made available to the honorable member for Paterson, and which he, in turn, passed out to the members of the Wireless Institute of Australia. That is why honorable members have got their telegrams. Do you wonder, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that I say this because it is good background information? 1 fail to see any evidence of reluctance or any evidence of secrecy in these matters that have been referred to, not by the honorable member but by another gentleman who has a personal interest and writes about us from time to time in some of the press.
– Is he a member of Parliament?
– No. but we see him about the place quite a bit. Now, having disposed of that little aspect of the matter I want to go on and deal, briefly, of course, with some of the major points that have been put forward by the honorable member for Paterson. I hope that he will realize that though I am referring to him so oftenI am not just picking on him. He put forward the major arguments on behalf of the amateurs. He, first of all. expressed a fear. He said that he was afraid that one of these fine days Australia would wake up and find that it was committed, as a result of this conference, by an international agreement concerning the allocation of radio frequencies channels throughout the world, and Australia’s use of those frequencies, without the knowledge of the Government, without the knowledge of the Parliament, and without the knowledge of the people. That was a very extravagant statement.
– Not necessarily.
– I think it was a very extravagant statement. In order to allay any such fear, I shall outline the procedure to the House - how the use of this spectrum is determined, not only internationally but in Australia, and what supervision the Government has over this highly technical matter, lt must be realized that this is an extremely technical matter to which no one in this House is competent to apply himself, knowing exactly what is meant by kilocycles and megacycles, channels and bands. There is proper supervision over their operation by highly technical men because they work under the general instruction as to the policy of the Government.
There is, first of all, a body known as the Telecommunications Advisory Committee. This is a high-level body, consisting of representatives of the major services and other such bodies, and under it works the Frequency Allocation Sub-committee which does the actual work of supervising the allocation of frequencies and how they should be apportioned between all the claimants. It is the function of the PostmasterGeneral’s Department actually to carry out the task of allotting to the various applicants the particular frequencies they may use.
I am glad that the honorable member for Paterson has come into the House. He referred quite a bit to the action of the Postal Department. I know that he will agree with me when I correct him to the extent of saying that the department is actually implementing determinations made on behalf of the Government by the committees to which I have referred. Any such allocation by the Postmaster-General’s Department is subject to the general supervision of the Minister in charge of the department.
As an example of what we do from time to time to ensure that a tab is kept on what is developing - because, in this field developments are very rapid - I point out to the House that one of my first acts after taking over the portfolio in 1956 was to provide for a complete review of the use of the spectrum in Australia. This was carried out by that high-level committee, which undertook a thorough review to see whether there was any case of the improper use of the spectrum, or any wastage of any bands or frequencies in the spectrum. After the investigation, the committee submitted a complete report to the Government - and it was considered by the Cabinet - and recommended that for the present no alteration of the allocations then existing be made. But it was also recommended that because of the steady progress and the increasing demands in this field it would be desirable that a further review be carried out in three years’ time. That means that the recommendation was that a further review should be made this year, 1959.
There has not yet been such a further review, because a couple of months ago 1 reported to the Cabinet that an international conference which would deal with this matter would be held in the second half of the year. I submitted that undoubtedly there would be certain recommendations made - and we would have to consider whether or not we would adopt them - that might have some bearing on our own internal allocation. Therefore, I said, it was highly desirable to hold up any further review of the use of frequencies in Australia until after we had received the report of the international conference. That was agreed to. I cite this as showing that any suggestion that things can happen of which the Government knows nothing and over which it has no supervision is not soundly based.
What is going to happen with regard to the recommendations when they are finally received? As I have said, the proposals have already gone forward to the International Telecommunications Union at Geneva. They have just been co-ordinated and are being sent back to the countries concerned. Following that the conference will take place. The conference will break up into a large number of committees to consider various proposals that have been put forward, and after months of deliberation decisions will be taken. Our representative will come back and a report will be presented to the Minister. It will deal with matters of policy and with matters of administration. Matters of policy will have to be referred to the Government for ratification. It is quite possible that in some cases we may be required to effect some instrument of ratification on some of theproposals, if we agree with them, and others will be referred to the Government. Also, undoubtedly a reference will have to bemade to the Department of External Affairs, which is very closely associated with matters- like this. Therefore, any suggestion that one day we shall wake up and find some agreement on our doorstep of which we know nothing is completely unfounded.
The honorable member referred to the fear which I know is in his mind - it is a very real fear - and I have told him that it is a matter on which we differ. His fear is that as a result of what he has termed a drastic reduction in the use of frequencies to the amateurs in Australia, they will be slowly squeezed out. He fears that these proposals will push the amateurs quite a way towards the door and that in a few years time the spectrum will become so crowded that they will be outside the door. That is more or less how he expressed his fear to me. I have told him quite plainly why I do not accept that viewpoint at all. Although I have no more technical knowledge than other honorable members, as the responsible Minister who has given a lot of attention to this matter, I am prepared to give a complete denial of any attempt to squeeze out the amateurs and of the suggestion that the present proposals provide drastic reductions. As a matter of fact,. Sir, as I shall attempt to show in a few minutes’ time, they amount not so much to reductions as to the rationalization and alteration of existing frequencies.
May I say, in reply to statements that have been made by a number of honorable members about the committees concerned with this matter, that the PostmasterGeneral’s Department has a very real appreciation of the value of amateurs to Australia and of the work that they do. I think it is correct that at least half the members of the Wireless Institute of Australia belong to the staff of the Post Office. The chairman of the Frequency Allocation Sub-committee which I have mentioned is himself a keen amateur radio operator. We in the Post Office acknowledge, readily and gladly, the valuable work that has been done by radio amateurs, not only in war, but also in peace, in times of emergency caused by floods, fires and similar disasters. We have a proper realization of the valuable work done by radio amateurs and, for that reason alone, the department, as an operating body, would not tolerate any action which would eventually deprive Australia of the valuable services of these people. I am sure that the honorable member for Paterson will acknowledge that at the conference held in Melbourne two weeks ago, which I have already mentioned, the chairman stated categorically, in reply to some remarks on the matter, that there was no intention to force amateurs out of the field of radio. 1 have to point out that the committees concerned with this matter are giving effect to Government policy. The Government has a responsibility to provide frequencies for all the services which demand them. For instance, Mr. Deputy Speaker, we have to provide frequencies for fixed and mobile radio services, many of which provide a livelihood for those who operate them, and many of which are conducted for the purpose of saving life. All are vitally important, therefore. I refer to services operated by bodies such as rural fire brigades. These bodies require frequencies. Honorable members on both sides of this House, and members of another place, have frequently discussed with me the allocation of frequencies for rural fire brigades. The Overseas Telecommunications Commission, the Defence Services, and the national and commercial broadcasting services, of course, require frequencies. In addition, we have increasing calls from State and local government authorities, including police services, metropolitan fire brigades and ambulance services. All these are using radio more and more for their valuable and legitimate purposes. As honorable members will realize, these services are very important. We have a demand for frequencies also by Radio Australia and private industrial and commercial users such as taxi-cab companies and fishing fleets. The last named, particularly, depend more and more on radio, not only for the control of the boats from their base while at sea, but also for their safety in times of bad weather. In addition, we are even now developing radio services for doctors. Several doctors will be able to combine in a radio service so that they may be called as they move about their fairly large practices - I nearly said “ electorates “.
So honorable members will see that I am not saying that because of these increasing demands for frequencies - and here, I think, is where I differ from my friend, the honorable member for Paterson - we must push the amateurs to one side. That is not so, but it is necessary to have some rationalization and, from time to time, to work out plans which will ensure that proper weight is given to the demands of all these various services, and that each gets its fair share of the frequencies available in the spectrum. There are various ways in which this objective can be achieved. The honorable member himself referred to the possibility of getting more channels on the one frequency. That is something which is being investigated and which will continue to be looked into. But I repeat that the need to provide services for these other people does not mean that the amateurs will be ignored.
Let me deal briefly now with another aspect of the matter, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I said that drastic alterations were not proposed. Some reductions of frequency bands will be made. I should like to say, without going into a lot of detail - which 1 think 1 can say without giving offence would not be understood - that the major proposals affecting Australian amateurs provide for only a few reductions, which 1 shall indicate. The existing 3.5 to 3.8 megacycles band is to be reduced to 3.5 to 3.7 megacycles. The explanation given lo me is that, under the Atlantic City allocation, a band of 3.5 to 3.9 megacycles was allocated to amateur, fixed and mobile services. The three were bracketed in that band. Australia does not favour the sharing of bands in this way, and the proposal that we shall make to the conference of the International Telecommunications Union, at Geneva, is that the band bc broken down to 3.5 to 3.7 megacycles for the amateurs and to 3.7 to 3.9 megacycles for fixed and mobile services. For somewhat similar, though not identical, reasons, the band of 7 to 7.15 megacycles is to be reduced from 7 to 7.1 megacycles, and the 14 to 14.35 megacycles band is to be reduced to 14 to 14.25 megacycles. Apart from one or two other small reductions of the same kind, according to the information that I have received, there are no proposals for the alteration of any of the other bands which are now allocated to amateur use and which provide considerable capacity for the expansion of amateur activities.
– What are the other bands that are affected?
– 1 have not covered the full field lor the reason, for one thing, that time is running out. It has been said that these proposals mean that Australian amateurs will iia_’ available to them not so wide a field as their American colleagues have. Actually, there is not very much difference between the frequencies available. In addition, we have to remember that there are 180,000 licensed amateurs in the United States of America, compared to 3,700 in Australia. So it seems to me, with my limited knowledge of the technical aspects, that our amateurs are not badly off compared with their British am! American colleagues.
– But they all work on the same band at the same lime.
– 1 am aware of that fact. Nevertheless, my advice - and it is the best advice - is that Australian radio amateurs do not suffer by comparison with our American friends.
In conclusion, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I want to say that these proposals have been arrived at only after the most careful consideration of all the requirements of all the services by the Frequency Allocation Subcommittee, which, as I have stated here, is an expert advisory body - an advisory body, mark you - appointed to consider such matters. When the availability of bands to the amateurs was under consideration, representatives of the Wireless institute of Australia took part in the discussions and I believe that their views were given reasonably sympathetic consideration. I think I am entitled to say that my advice is that, following the meeting held in Melbourne, the honorable member for Paterson was good enough, at the completion of very thorough discussions - I am sure he will correct me if I misrepresent him - to say that he had gained from the discussions a much clearer appreciation of the difficulties associated with the varied problems involved, and that he felt that those varied problems had been dealt with in a very realistic, business-like and sympathetic manner, which was aimed at making the best possible use in the various spheres of the frequencies available in the spectrum in the best interests of Australian radio. That is my belief, too. 1 point out that our representatives will discuss these proposals and other very wide proposals with representatives of other nations at the conference at Geneva. The Australian representatives will go into the discussions, with the background of their knowledge behind them; so that they will know generally where they are going. They will enter on the discussions with open minds. Furthermore, they will have with them a representative of the Wireless Institute, who will be quite entitled to discuss with them at any time proposals that have come up at the conference, and I am assured that his representations will be given due weight in the consideration of the matters raised at the conference. Whilst I think that this debate has served an exceedingly good purpose by opening up the matter and giving honorable members an opportunity to express important viewpoints, I say that the fears which have been expressed, and with which I have tried to deal, are ill-founded. In view of the fact that the conference is not due to start until August, and that it will be conducted openly, 1 think that the fears of honorable members are certainly premature.
– I wish to make a personal explanation, Mr. Deputy Speaker.
– Order! Has the honorable member been misrepresented?
– Yes, I have. The PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Davidson), in dealing with this matter, said it was reported that, at the conclusion of the conference called by the Frequency Allocation Subcommittee in Melbourne two or three weeks ago, I had stated that I had gained a new appreciation of the problems. I should like to explain, Sir, that the Minister has been wrongly informed in this matter. I learned nothing new. What I said was that I understood very thoroughly, and always had, the tremendous difficulties facing his department in solving this particular problem. Nevertheless, I learned nothing new from that conference. Nor did I say that the matter had been dealt with in a businesslike fashion. I said that in my view the department was tackling this problem with a full sense of its public responsibilities, but that the members of the Frequency Allocation Sub-committee, representing as they do major users of the frequencies in this country, would be some thing more than human if they did not give to the services which they represented a greater priority than they gave to the amateurs whose frequencies they proposed to cut.
.- I join other honorable members who have expressed the hope that there will not be any interference with the work being carried out by people interested in amateur radio. Not only have they been of great assistance in times of stress, such as during floods, bushfire and war, but, so far as I know, they have also been in the vanguard of radio experimentation. If that is so, I hope that the Minister will keep that fact in mind when the decision that he has indicated is being made later in the year.
The bills before the House, Mr. Deputy Speaker, aim to provide additional sums for the work of government during the remainder of the financial year, and also to provide supply for the first five months of the next financial year. The Australian Labour Party has indicated that it intends to deny the Appropriation Bill a second reading because the bill fails to make adequate provision for social service payments, including age, widow and invalid pensions. The Opposition declines to agree to the second reading until such time as there has been restoration of cost-of-living adjustments to wages and the salaries of Commonwealth public servants. The Opposition is well aware, of course, that if it is able, by this action, to obtain the restoration of costofliving adjustments for Commonwealth public servants, that will certainly provide a precedent for other people working under Commonwealth awards to obtain the same kind of justice.
It may be said that Labour sometimes tends to be preoccupied with pensions and pensioners. When we realize that there are approximately 700,000 pensioners of various kinds in Australia, I think it will be agreed that Labour should not be required to apologize for being interested in the welfare of such a large number of people, particularly as they have available to them fewer resources to fight their daytoday combat for a living than have other sections of the community. Labour has no apology to make on that score. We are concerned, not only with the age, invalid and widow pensioners, but with all other pensioners, including those in receipt of repatriation benefits, about whom I should like to comment later.
I think that it must be acknowledged that Labour’s concern about social service beneficiaries is sincere. After all,’ during the recent general election campaign, a central feature of the platform of the Australian Labour Party was the need to increase benefits for all kinds of social service beneficiaries, whether they be pensioners, persons in receipt of child endowment or maternity allowance, or those on unemployment benefit. I hope that every member of the Parliament who has accepted the recent increase in parliamentary salaries also accepts the moral obligation to see to it that those sections of the community to which I have referred, who are entitled to regard the fact that parliamentary salaries have been increased as a precedent, will be treated to the kind of justice that we have received.
– That is why the honorable member has accepted the increase, is it?
– That is a major reason. The fact that we have accepted the increases provides a most telling argument for those people who have been denied justice. They are now able to point to the fact that the Parliament considers the prosperity of the country to be such that members of Parliament may claim increased benefits. Social service beneficiaries and wage-earners, in the same way, should receive justice from the parliamentarians who are sent here to represent them
I should not like to be a member of a party that had failed to provide similar justice for them, when it faced the people at Budget time. I hope that the press, which waged such a campaign during recent months on the score of being in sympathy with the pensioners and the other social service beneficiaries I have mentioned, will continue to show the same sympathy when the Budget is being framed for presentation to the Parliament. If, by some grave mischance, justice is not done to those people, I hope that the press will be as critical of that failure as it has been of the Parliament recently. However, now thai the matter of parliamentary salaries and allowances has been pushed into the background, I have a notion that those same newspapers and their friends will be more concerned with taxation reductions, particularly of company tax, than with the people they pretended to be helping before.
Of course, Labour does not object to reductions of taxation, but it takes the view that there are certain priorities in terms of human values, human suffering and human need. I do not think that people could call themselves Christians if they denied that those living on £4 7s. 6d. a week were in the forefront when relative needs were being considered. I hope that when the time comes, those people will be properly looked after. In this respect, I refer not only to the 700,000 pensioners, but also to the many people who, in some cases, probably are worse off even than the pensioners. I refer to those who are excluded from entitlement to pensions by the imposition of the means test. I was reminded by an article that I read the other day of a statement by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) in his 1949 policy speech. The right honorable gentleman said -
Australia still needs a contributory system of national insurance against sickness, widowhood, unemployment and old age. It is only in such a system that we can make all benefits a matter of right, and so get completely rid of the means test.
That was what the Prime Minister said ten years ago.
While I must be fair and acknowledge that there has been some relaxation of the means test, in respect of both income and property, the relaxation has been far too slight. As a matter of fact, other means tests have been introduced, such as those that have already been referred to during this debate. For instance, there is a means test in respect of the pensioner medical service. A pensioner who happened to have a couple of pounds of income in addition to his pension would be covered by the pensioner medical scheme if he drew a pension in 1955, but not if he became entitled to the pension after that year. If ever there was a case of discrimination in respect of public moneys, surely that is it. I think it is time that we looked into such matters. I notice that the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Joske) is in the House. I think he referred to the same matter only a couple of weeks ago. It is good to know that at least some honorable members on the Government side are sympathetic in this respect.
The means test is an hyprocrisy. It forces people almost to lose the. r self-respect. I know that, as members of Parliament we may advise people when they have too much money to qualify for these benefits, that they may legitimately get rid of it. These people are not concerned so much with the pension, although that is acceptable; they are more concerned with being covered at this stage of their life by the pensioner medical scheme, which gives them security at a time when they are very vulnerable to sickness, with its consequent expenditure. They have to be told, “ Get rid of that property. Go on a world trip or buy a palatial home for yourself. There is no limit to that. If you like, you can go to a bank and with your £2,000 or £3,000 buy an annuity to bring in the £3 10s. a week that you are allowed “.
Short of the abolition of the means test and instead of these people being compelled to purchase an annuity, they should be able to deposit their money in a bank account, with a restriction that they are able to draw only a limited amount each week. They could be required to furnish a statutory declaration showing that they have not withdrawn more than their limit. This would be better than putting them in the position of having to invest their money in an annuity, with the chance that they may die the next day. Usually, of course, people who buy an annuity do not have dependants to whom they could leave their money. A further point is that they are virtually precluded from accepting employment. Again it is not so much that they wish to have the pension; it is more that they desire to be covered by the pensioner medical scheme. Once they leave their employment so that they can get a pension, they are virtually precluded from obtaining gainful employment in the future. Many of these people do not want to go without this cover because they never know when they will be sick, recover for a while and then become sick again. They like to have the security of what should not be called a pension but a retiring allowance for which they have paid during their working days.
Another aspect which frequently arises is that pensioners, either individuals or a married couple, own the home in which they live and another home that is let to tenants. They have purchased these homes over the years to give them some sort of security in their old age. In many instances, the second house is valued at £2,500 to £3,000 and may largely preclude them from getting the pension. The rent may be only 30s. or 35s. a week, but out of that; they must pay rates, insurance, and maintenance on the house. Very little in the way of income is left for them. But if they want a pension, they must sell the house - frequently in the absence of vacant possession and therefore for about half its true value.
These are some of the unfortunate situations that arise because of the application of the means test. Another aspect arises from the supplementary allowance. Another sort of means test is involved here. This allowance is given only to single persons without other means who are paying board or rent. Plenty of elderly people own a home and are precluded from obtaining the allowance, but what is their position? Some of them are still repaying a mortgage on the house. However, whether they are still paying for the house or own it completely, they must pay municipal rates, maintenance, insurance and water and sewerage rates. They may be absolved from the payment of municipal rates, but they are never absolved from the payment of water and sewerage rates. I was pleased to hear the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Roberton) say recently that the position of these people will be reviewed before the next Budget is brought down.
So bad is this means test and so severe are th* hardships that it creates, that an organization in the Sydney metropolitan area known as the National Welfare Association is now attempting to raise £3.000 to brief counsel to contest in our courts the constitutionality of the means test. People have been put in a position where in desperation they must tackle the matter legally in the courts in an effort to have the means test declared unconstitutional.
I turn now to the matter of repatriation pensions. I do not want to say very much about this matter. Like most other honorable members. I attended Anzac Day ceremonies in various places during the last few weeks. As a member of Parliament, I felt rather wretched and miserable in the face of the accusations made by speakers at these ceremonies. It is all very well for us to talk about the heroism and the great deeds of our ex-servicemen in days gone by, but I hope that our conscience will come to our aid and compel us to do better for those who depend on repatriation benefits. The onus of proof provisions cause grave misgivings. Many ex-servicemen, when they left the services in 1918 or 1919, were unconcerned about going through the formality of a complete medical check. However, many of them are to-day suffering from illnesses which, prima facie, look as if they could have been caused by war service. In many cases, it is utterly impossible to prove that an illness has been caused by war service; but on the other hand it can be said, equally emphatically, that there is no way of establishing that the illness has not been caused by war service. These people, whom we hold in such high regard on Anzac Day, should be given the benefit of the doubt.
Many ex-servicemen are granted what is called a T.T.I, pension - payable to a person who is temporarily totally incapacitated. It is a temporary cover. I had such a pensioner in my office only this week, and he told me of the feeling of insecurity created by this type of pension. It is bad enough that such persons should have to put up with their disabilities, especially if they have family responsibilities, and be unable to earn a living without also having the insecurity caused by the knowledge that their pensions may be reduced to what is known as a 100 per cent, pension, or some lower rate. In the case to which I have referred, the pensioner told me that the feeling of insecurity was such that, if he had a gun, he would shoot himself. That gives some idea of the torment and torture that some of these people who have rendered service to this country have to go through. I plead with the Government, when it is framing its Budget, to keep in mind those people who have given such good service to our community.
Allied with repatriation is the question of war service homes. lust before the last election, we were told that there was virtually no waiting for finance for war service homes, that the waiting list had been satisfied. I have checked up the position only to-day and find that for persons wanting loans with which to purchase homes under the war-service-homes provisions the waiting time is still eighteen months. Surely it is time that a government which will spend £190,000,000 a year in preparing for another war does justice to the people who served so splendidly in the last war! Those people are required to wait eighteen months for finance with which to purchase a home! For those who want money to build a home, the waiting time is three months. And we were told not so very long ago that there was no waiting at all!
Coupled with war service homes is the great problem of housing in general, and some very interesting facts with relation to this matter are disclosed in the Treasury Information Bulletin for April, 1959. That bulletin points out that personal advances from the major trading banks for home building, or for the purchase of homes had increased by only £200,000 from June, 1958, to December, 1958. That is the paltry increase in advances made by the major banks to which the Government pleaded for co-operation in making money available to the house-hungry people of the community! The best they could do in the last six months of 1958 was a paltry increase of £200,000!
– They are more concerned with hire purchase.
– I am glad that the honorable member has mentioned hire purchase. It is interesting to note that for the period ended 31st December, 1958, loans outstanding for which 6 per cent, interest or more was charged had increased to 19.4 per cent, compared with 15.4 per cent, for the period ended 31st December, 1 957. In other words, money is being made available at an ever-increasing price.
Further interesting statistics relating to building materials employment - the people engaged in the production of materials for the building of homes - are published in the same bulletin. They disclose that in the two months’ period February-March there was a decrease of .9 per cent. - almost 1 per cent. - in the number of people engaged in these industries. And this at a time when we are bringing 115,000 immigrants a year to the country and when there is a natural increase of 1 per cent, in our population!
– Give us the housing figures., the figures for home construction.
– I do admit that some of the figures indicate that for a time during 1958 there was an increase in the tempo of house and flat construction. But also in the same bulletin we read that the number of houses and flats under construction at the end of December, 1958, was something like 2,500 fewer than the number under construction for the period ending December, 1957.
– That is not so.
– If the honorable member will examine the figures he will see that what I say is so. I repeat that I admit that there was some increase in 1958; and I am glad to make that admission, but I think even the honorable member will agree that that increase would not anywhere near compensate for the increase in- population and that certainly it would not. do anything towards overtaking the backlog in home construction in this country.
It will be seen, from what I have said, that in all the social services, whether they be pensions, whether they be child endowment - which has stood still for ten years under this Government - whether they be unemployment benefit or maternity benefit, the position has declined. The housing position has also declined. All this retrogression has resulted from the fact that the Government has neglected to provide the finance necessary for us to promote what the Government professes to want - Australia Unlimited.
I challenge the Government to come out and state clearly whether it is in favour of continuing with child endowment, or whether it is not. The amount of endowment paid for the second and subsequent children has stood still at the figure set by the Chifley Government. I should like to see a clear statement of policy from this Government. Has it some reason for denying an increase in child endowment? I repeat that since 1948 there has been no increase in the amount payable for the second and subsequent children. Does the Government intend to abolish child endowment? If not, why leave the amount at the figure which has stood since 1948? Endowment might just as well be abolished as left at that figure for it is worth virtually nothing under present inflationary conditions. After all, the real value of the present amount of child endowment paid for the first child is only about what would buy 1 lb. of butter. That is all the Government is paying to the parents who are doing their best to educate their children to meet the complex and increasing demands of a new type of society!
In view of all those circumstances, I sincerely hope that the Government will consider the overall pattern. It is appropriate that we should be discussing these matters at this time; I do not expect anything to be done immediately although the Government must now be starting to look at its requirements for the forthcoming Budget year. If the next Budget is framed without giving proper justice to the people I have mentioned, to the pensioners of all kinds, to the recipients of repatriation benefits, to the people seeking homes, to parents who are doing their utmost to educate their children at all levels, a great disservice will be done to Australia as a whole. I might intrude here the remark that the Commonwealth Government could do something in the Australian Capital Territory, where there are none of the impediments connected with Commonwealth-State relations, about a technical college for Canberra. It is an absolute disgrace to the Government that it has delayed for so long in providing an adequate and suitable technical college in Canberra. If the Budget is to be fair, the Government must realize the need for giving priority to the matters to which I have referred, and I sincerely hope that much of the waste that results from duplication now will be cut out and that the Government will come forward with an overall national plan for Australia that will give justice to all sections of the community
Debate (on motion by Mr. Bury) adjourned.
Sitting suspended from 5.54 to 8 p.m.
Bill presented by Mr. McMahon, and read a first time.
– by leave - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The amendments fall under two main headings - those dealing with the cost of officially conducted elections and those designed to give effect to suggestions for the improvement of our arbitration machinery made by the President of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission in his second annual report, which was presented to the House early in this session.
Honorable members will know that Part IX. of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act contains provisions under which a request may be made to the Industrial Registrar that an election for any office or offices in an organization or branch be conducted under the act, and if the request is properly made the election is conducted by an officer of the registry or of the Commonwealth Electoral Office.
Over the years considerable use has been made of these provisions - and to good effect. We have, of course, from time to time had attacks on these provisions, particularly by the Communist Party. There is no doubt, however, that the provisions for officially conducted ballots have wide public support.
The only current criticism of these provisions that appears to the Government to have any substance is that in isolated instances official ballots may cost the unions concerned more than if the unions did the jobs themselves. Having said this I emphasize that the critics have exaggerated the cost in an attempt to deter organizations from applying for officially conducted elections.
As the act now stands, the Commonwealth bears the salary of any Commonwealth officials conducting an election and the rent of any premises required for the ballot. The organization or branch bears the remaining cost. There is, in general, no reason to believe that this cost exceeds or significantly exceeds the amount it would have cost the union to conduct the election itself. The costs, for example, of printing, postage and the like, are constant whoever does the job.
In some cases, and the Amalgamated Engineering Union’s case is probably the best example, the union rules governing ballots do not lend themselves to the conduct of a ballot which will ensure that the maximum of eligible voters will in fact vote. The normal way of ensuring this is through the postal ballot method, and where a postal ballot is held in lieu of the arrangements provided for by the rules, extra expense is incurred.
It is with this kind of case in mind that we propose to amend the act to provide that, where the Minister for Labour and National Service is satisfied that an officially conducted election has cost more than it would have cost had the election been conducted by an organization under its rules, an amount not exceeding the difference shall be borne by the Commonwealth,
While on this aspect of the bill, I mention two minor changes to the ballot provisions. It is proposed to add to the costs already borne by the Commonwealth the cost of any necessary travelling by a Commonwealth officer conducting an election. It is also proposed to deal with a case which, if it occurred, could add to the expense of an election. At present, if an officer who has commenced to conduct an election should become unable to complete it, another officer would have to begin again from the beginning. The bill will overcome the necessity for this.
I turn now to the amendments which flow from the suggestions made by the president of the commission. The first of these relates to section 34 under which the president has power to give a direction that a dispute be referred from a single commission to a full bench of the commission where he is of the opinion that the dispute is of such importance that the public interest requires that it be so dealt with. As the president points out, the section now requires that once such a direction is given the dispute must thereupon be taken up and be heard and determined by the full bench. The president has suggested that it would make for more speedy handling of disputes if he had some discretion as to the stage at which the full bench should take up the hearing of the dispute. If he had, it would be possible, for example, for the commissioner, who, but for the reference, would have dealt with the dispute on his own and who normally is, on reference, a member of the full bench dealing with the dispute, to go on with the taking of some or all of the evidence.
Ever since 1904, the act has contained provision for the taking of evidence on behalf of the arbitral tribunal: That is to say the tribunal may appoint someone to take evidence for it and then proceed on that evidence though it has not actually heard it itself. So far as our researches go, this has never been done against the wishes of the parties nor would one expect that any responsible tribunal would deliberately proceed against the wishes of the parties in such a matter.
There is no doubt about the wisdom of the president’s proposal but it does seem desirable that before he decides that the commission, for example, should go on taking evidence up to the stage the president thinks appropriate, he should take into account the wishes of the parties themselves. That is provided for in the bill.
It is not considered that specific provision should be made for a formal hearing so that these wishes may be ascertained: The commissioner may be able to report the parties’ views or the president may ascertain them in private chambers. Of course, the full bench will still be able to use section 43 when a reference has reached it, if that course is considered appropriate.
We have also found it necessary to make two minor amendments to section 34. One makes it plain that the president may refer part only of a dispute to the full commission. He is able to do this under the 1952 act and no alteration was intended when the act was recast in 1956. Changes in the form of the section have however given rise to doubts which this amendment will remove. The other amendment provides that where a dispute is part heard before a commissioner, before it is referred to a full bench the full bench may have regard to the evidence already given.
The second of the president’s suggestions arises from experience in relation to a group of cases recently referred to full benches of the commission, some under the section of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act to which I have just referred, and others under the coresponding section of the Public Service Arbitration Act. All these cases raised claims for increases in salaries for professional and white collar workers. Some related to employees in private industry and in the services of the States and their instrumentalities and local government authorities, and they came before a bench under the Conciliation and Arbitration Act consisting of three presidential members and two lay commissioners. Others related to employees in the services of the Commonwealth and its instrumentalities and came before a bench consisting of the same three presidential members and the Public Service Arbitrator, as provided by the Public Service Arbitration Act. All these claims were closely related in their nature and by reason of the grounds on which they were based, and it was clear that a great deal of the evidence and submissions relating to the claims would be common to all. The president accordingly proposed to amalgamate the hearings, as is the usual course when a number of cases raising the same issues are before the same bench. The obstacle to this was that the arbitrator was not, and could not be, a member of the bench for the hearing of the matters arising under the Conciliation and Arbitration Act, nor could the lay commissioners sit in relation to the Commonwealth Public Service claims. All concerned in the cases thought the proposal sound and sensible, but doubts about its legal propriety were raised. The situation was met, with continued doubts about legal propriety, by the commission as constituted for the hearing of the private industry cases inviting the arbitrator to be present as an observer with the objective that when the commission, including the arbitrator, came to hear the Commonwealth Public Service cases, those proceedings might be considerably shortened because the arbitrator would have heard the common evidence.
The bill proposes to put beyond doubt the power of the president io do in future what he wished to do in the cases referred to. The president will be given power, when common issues arise and are before full benches of the commission under the Conciliation and Arbitration and Public Service Arbitration acts to convene, in effect, a joint session of the several full benches. Evidence and, if appropriate, submissions, may be heard at the joint session upon issues and questions considered to be common to the cases. The joint session will not, of course, have power to determine any of the disputes, claims or applications; that will fall to the appropriate full bench under whichever of the two acts applies.
In giving effect to the president’s suggestions we are making procedural changes - quite minor changes in reality - but changes which are designed to enable our objective of streamlined arbitration to be effected. I commend the bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Clarey) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr. McMahon, and read a first time.
– by leave - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
In moving the second reading of the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill, I explained the amendments which it proposed to make to section 34 of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act following suggestions made by the President of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission in his second annual report. In the Public Service Arbitration Act section 15a corresponds with section 34 and the bill now before the House proposes similar amendments to those I have described in my earlier speech.
The commission, under the Public Service Arbitration Act, has all the powers of the arbitrator. It is proposed to make quite clear that this includes the same power to obtain reports from the arbitrator under section 15 as the latter has under that section. By doing this we can dispense with the specific provision in subsection (8.) of section 15a.
We are also taking the opportunity of carrying into the Public Service Arbitration Act the provisions which appear in the corresponding sections of the 1956 Conciliation and Arbitration Act, namely power in the president to constitute the full commission in presidential session. The point is that the deputy presidents have responsibilities in relation to particular industries, and it is desirable that conflicts between these responsibilities and the requirements of full bench work should be resolved by the president in accordance with the overall needs of the commission’s programme of work and without embarrassment to his colleagues. I commend the bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Clarey) adjourned.
Debate resumed (vide page 1994).
.- The whole House is indebted to the honorable member for Paterson (Mr. Fairhall) for directing the attention of the Parliament to, and being the cause of having published, the proposals which Australia intends to make at the forthcoming telecommunications conference. The matter which he raises is important. The amateur radio enthusiast has played a very big part in pushing forward the frontiers of the whole electronics industry. The existence of a large number of small experimenters tinkering away at their hobby has pointed the way to many improvements that have subsequently been adopted on a large and growing scale. An instance was provided during the war when those who had qualified in the field of amateur radio came into our factories and played a very big part in developing the electronics industry, which served Australia so well during that period.
T..is is a case in which we have to be particularly careful that powerful bureaucracy, entrenched in the PostmasterGeneral’s Department, and other bodies - commercial and governmental - do not push out individuals in a small way who may one day well be the precursors of further improvements and new ideas in this very important industry. I hope that we will consider the matter very carefully before bringing forward a policy that goes further than does the United States of America, which has all our problems on a much larger scale. It has more amateur radio operators and a very much larger broadcasting industry, involving many more stations. That country has been able to find solutions to many of these problems. We must ensure that our own technicians in the Postal Department are not just looking for an easy way out instead of overcoming their technical problems and thus permitting much greater freedom to radio operators.
Sir, as one listens to Opposition speeches on this subject of supply, one cannot fail to be impressed yet again with the fact that the best case put forward was that of the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Crean). For various political reasons he sought, of course, to make this a preview of the Budget, and the very timely publication of the latest Treasury bulletin helped him greatly in following that course. As so many honorable members have looked at the bulletin during the debate the speed with which such statistics are becoming available is worthy of comment. New measures have been taken to speed the production of our accounts, and in this achievement the Postal Department has played a notable part. There are new teleprinter services from all outlying posts to Canberra. Then there is a transfer of the information gained on to the latest electronic computers. This is bringing about great improvements which cannot fail to prove useful in every aspect of our financial and economic life. This is a trend that could well be continued and promoted because inevitably, in our discussions upon the economic situation, we rely on old information. The natural assumption is that all the recent trends will continue in the immediate future, and that assumption may well be wrong. Therefore, anything that we can do to support the rapid collection of information is an investment that is well worth while, not only to the Government, but also in providing the basic information upon which so many industrial and business decisions are made.
The honorable member for Melbourne Ports has moved an amendment aimed at greatly expanding social service benefits. Of course, what the Opposition recommended and put forward is in itself excellent. Who, in this House or country, would not like to greatly expand social services, particularly to those members of the community who are not in a position to’ help themselves? But what neither the honorable member nor his colleagues fully pointed out was the cost. It would have been a more honest amendment if, coupled with it, they had set out the extra measures of taxation necessary to implement these proposals. Every 10s. a week increase in age, invalid and widows’ pensions involves an annual bill at present of about £17,000,000. This, of course, is an increasing sum because every year an increasing number and an increasing pro- portion of the community become entitled to these pensions. In fact, the community can have extra social services if it is prepared to pay for them.
But I think the Opposition will find a growing number of people asking the question: Who pays for these recommendations? There is no doubt who does pay, and that is the general body of taxpayers. An increasing number of people will surely ask, as incomes throughout the community rise: Do we want a government with its bureaucratic machinery interposed between us and the expenditure of our money; a government which takes money out of one pocket and returns it by another route? Of course, in the process some might hope that they will get something from those who are better off and that it will be distributed to those who are not so fortunate; but this is a process which is becoming less and less possible and, as time goes on, this idea that the Government should tell large sections of the community how they should spend their money will become increasingly outdated.
There is one particularly unfortunate section of the community - those who have reached old age and have not the proper means of support. These will become a growing problem as has happened in other countries. If members of the community wish to provide effectively for their old age, it is they who have to pay. Our ideal should be an old age superannuation scheme in which there is no means test. One of the unfortunate developments of the past few years is the fact that with heavy taxation, those who contribute to the welfare of the community by saving are penalized in their old age because they have to disgorge their property before they can enjoy what to other people comes as a right. But as we look more closely at the matter, we are forced to recognize that the mere abolition of the means test for age pensions would entail at the moment an expenditure of £120,000,000 a year. This, of course, is a rising sum. If you put that £120,000,000 against the total income tax collections of something just over £600,000,000, it is a very formidable sum.
But as other countries have found and, I believe, we eventually will find, in order to provide that every citizen has the minimum decencies of comfort in his old age, we must have a superannuation to which everybody contributes and which is eventually disbursed without a means test, because only in that way can the fruits of saving, which is so important for our future development, be fully realized. The discouragement of saving has undoubtedly been brought about by the means test against which, however, we have to measure the deterrent effects of high taxation to get rid of it. So it is inevitable that in this matter we move slowly.
In addition to the Opposition’s other amendments, it submitted an amendment which was ruled out very properly. It had a really impossible and disgraceful aim behind it. That was to suggest that, having set up an arbitration court which should examine the economy of the country to ascertain what wage could properly be paid, government pressure should be brought to bear on it to reach a particular decision. If it were not for the importance of keeping these matters free from arbitrary political pressure, there would be no point in having an arbitration court at all. We might then reach the position in which the basic wage would be determined in this Parliament, and nobody but a fool would imagine that this could contribute to the national welfare. If there is a criticism that might be offered of the arrangement we have made, it is the peculiar way by which we hand over this important key process to the lawyers. Whatever their merits - and they are many - judges reared in the law have not the right background to determine what are fundamentally economic issues. In fact, this process of having too many lawyers intrudes itself notably into this House. The recent alterations in parliamentary emoluments which, despite all the hullabaloo about them, means bringing up to date what was determined previously, may be a means of encouraging a diversity of people to come into this House, which is in large measure confined - although they are excellent in other ways - to lawyers, trade union leaders and farmers. I say that with due respect to that notable character the honorable member for Kingsford-Smith (Mr. Curtin). But it is curious how we have evolved. We have the economists in the central bank and big government departments managing the economy of the country, and distinguished lawyers in the Ministry to conduct their public relations.
The honorable member for Melbourne Ports insisted that it was necessary to administer a stimulus to the economy, and he wrapped im his proposals for increasing social services as a means to that end.
Another reason for this sudden and potent advocacy of these social service changes has something to do with a certain salving of conscience which should not be necessary and should, in fact, be a separate issue. One of the things we should do our utmost to get out of our system is the idea that every one in this country who is engaged in any kind of activity - salary, wage, and other income earners - is automatically entitled, annually, or even more frequently, to some increase in his emoluments, irrespective of economic progress. If this process goes on, and that becomes embedded in everybody’s mind, we will have built-in inflation for the rest of the time.
The honorable member for Melbourne Ports also addressed himself to one of the old favourite hobby horses of honorable members opposite - that is, interest rates. If we are prepared to increase the money supply sufficiently, we can at any moment make interest rates what we like. We could decrease them to 2 per cent. If every potential borrower were granted credit, that would be the outcome. But, if you cannot control the supply of capital, if you have not the legal means to do so, you must in a free economy allow interest rates broadly to equate the supply of capital. If you do not, you inevitably get an inflationary situation. We have heard much about the low interest rates that obtained early in the post-war era when Labour was in office; but it must be remembered that those rates were kept low largely by the stringent application of capital issues control. Even so, they had a very inflationary impact, the results of which, as in so many other cases, were felt not at once but several years later. In fact, one of the reasons why interest rates have been so high, not only here but abroad, has been the necessity to slow down and halt the inflationary process.
The honorable member also referred to the stagnant, or perhaps even the declining, state of our standard of living. It is an unfortunate fact that in Australia the standard of living is not rising at the same rate as it is in a number of other countries. One of the reasons for that is that over a period of years we have been much too careless in the way in which we used our scarce supplies of capital. The application of capital in different directions for purely political reasons, or to pursue broad objects other than those based on cost, inevitably means that we do not get the results we should. Our standard of living has risen and our development has proceeded at the pace at which they have only because of the very heavy inflow of capital and technical know-how from overseas.
With regard to the state of the economy, we frequently hear, as we heard from the honorable member for Melbourne Ports, that some stimulus is required. A number of financial journalists have been saying steadily over the last two years that the economy needs some stimulus. If they continue, like parrots, to say the same thing for long enough they will eventually be right. That time is foreseeable but, as the Treasury bulletin reveals, the state of the economy, in most sectors, is improving. Most of the statistics show an upward trend.
The honorable member for Barton (Mr. Reynolds) referred to housing. He picked out a particular quirk of the statistics to show that at the end of December, 1958, there were slightly fewer houses and flats under construction than there were at the end of 1957. Of course, that was just at a particular moment of time. But in every quarter of 1958 the number of houses and flats under construction was very much higher than in the previous year. What matters most is what is happening now and what the trend is. The best figure relating to that is the one for the three months ended in February last. It shows an increase of 8.2 per cent, in the number of houses and flats under construction.
In regard to private investment, which is another of the great pacemakers of the economy, the Treasury bulletin shows at page 23 quite a sharp upward trend. That upward trend must inevitably be felt in the months to come and must be accorded serious account in any calculations of the future. Similarly, the new money raisings by companies are also moving upwards, and are doing so at quite a fast pace. The industrial picture is patchy. Let us admit that it is patchy. The textile industry definitely is slack. But in any normally healthy economy there must always be fluctuations and differences between industries. If one industry is progressing quickly, others are likely to be going ahead at a relatively slower pace or even suffering some contraction in demand. Despite what the Opposition has said, the overall employment situation is still by far the best in the world and is tending to improve.
The unfortunate situation on the coalfields, which is compounded of many factors and is much more difficult to cure because the labour supply unlike that in our capital cities cannot move very easily to another’ industry, does throw up one of our great needs - that is, the need for better machinery for the re-deployment of labour that has become redundant. I trust that the new Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. McMahon), who is nothing if not enthusiastic and energetic, will try to ascertain what can be done to improve this situation. As automation progresses - that is only a new-fangled term for what has been going on ever since the industrial revolution began - we will be confronted by an increase in turnover of labour and a redundancy of many industries that decline or become obsolete. We do need better machinery to look after people while they are unemployed and to retrain them so they can be used in other industries. Only by doing that we can reap the full benefits of automation.
We have every reason to be quite satisfied with the balance of payments situation, which is always a crucial factor in our economy. It is now much rosier than it was only a few months ago.
– I wish the honorable member would be a little more cheerful about it.
– I am cheerful largely because a process is taking place which the Labour Party might deplore - namely, the very large inflow of capital from abroad to nourish our industries and expand our economy. This process, which means so much to us, is one which would be seriously jeopardized if a lot of the nonsense uttered on the other side of the chamber were put into effect by the Labour Party if it assumed office. At least, T give honorable members opposite credit for the fact, that, if they changed sides in this chamber, they would forget many of the silly things they now say. If they did change sides and did not forget those things, the country would head for disaster.
Our overseas trade is a highly socialized sector of our economy. Undoubtedly, the honorable member for Grayndler will applaud that fact. But socialization has proceeded further in this sector of the economy than in any other. A large part of our export trade is conducted through a system of boards. Only recently, the Labour Party sought to apply the same kind of process to the wool trade. Fortunately, the lift in wool prices, combined with common sense on the part of the major sector of the industry, is likely to save both the industry and us from the introduction of such a system. It is extraordinary that, despite the big currency improvement and the fact that the currencies of Europe have now largely been made convertible against the dollar, and despite the fact that the rest of the sterling area has very largely abolished discrimination against goods from the dollar area, we have reduced discrimination, with our latest advance, only in relation to 70 per cent, of our trade.
I am aware that it has been suggested that, because American marketing policy is making things quite difficult for our exporters, we should take some measures to retaliate against America’s exports to us. There can be no two ways about approaching this matter. Anything we do will have almost no effect on what America does but will hurt our own interests. Our imports already are largely confined to essentials and any further tendency to stop our own importers buying in the cheapest and most suitable market cannot hurt the United States but can hurt our own industries and people.
In regard to banking, in which unfortunately politics plays a large part, and which is so significant in our economic life, the situation is liquid. The judgments of the central bank and of the main government advisers on economic trends over the past twelve months have largely been borne out in practice.
At this stage it is fitting that we wish the Commonwealth Banking Corporation well with its new appointments. These appointments, which are of great importance to the country, have all been first-class, and I hope that they scotch the notion that such appointments are made by this Government to satisfy political ends. The new Managing Director of the Commonwealth Banking Corporation, whom I happen to know well, is an outstanding and most energetic figure.
He has played a great part in the Australian banking system under this Government and its predecessors, and we should wish him well in the new venture. He and his deputy are two of the most energetic and competent figures in the whole of our banking system.
In dealing with the economy, we cannot overlook the fall-off in the migration programme. Whilst this may be regretted on some other grounds, it has undoubtedly eased the burden on our resources. There is no doubt that, by and large over the whole field, the judgments of the Government at the time the Budget was prepared were correct. Events have been rather more favorable than we could have anticipated, and I hop: that; we will in a few months have a very good opportunity, for the first time for some years, to make substantial reductions in taxation.
.- I rise to support the amendment that has been moved by the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Crean). First, I should like to make a few references to the speech just delivered by the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Bury). The honorable member admitted the truth of what the Australian Labour Party has been saying for a considerable number of years, namely, that the standard of living in this country is gradually deteriorating, and has been doing so since the Menzies Government came into office. While the honorable member for Wentworth was undoubtedly correct in admitting that the standard of living had deteriorated, he brushed aside the suggestion of the honorable member for Melbourne Ports that consideration be given to increasing social service benefits right along the line, to enable people receiving those benefits to battle more successfully with ever-increasing costs that have been brought about by this Government.
The honorable member for Wentworth mentioned the hullabaloo that was caused by increases in Parliamentary salaries. He said that, after all, that action only had the effect of bringing up to date the salaries of members of Parliament. That is all very well, but if it is just and reasonable to bring the salaries of members of Parliament up to date, pensioners and other people in receipt of social service benefits are entitled to the same consideration. As the honorable member admitted, costs are continually rising. It is therefore the duty of every member of Parliament to do what he can to see that justice is given to deserving sections of the community.
The honorable member, although referring to costs to-night, was evidently not very concerned about costs a short while ago. In fact, he concluded his speech with a plea for a reduction in taxation under the next Budget. Like most other members on the Government side, he is very concerned about high taxation. If the country could afford to reduce taxation in some respects, every member would welcome a reduction, but our first responsibility is to ensure that those people who are less fortunate than we are- those who are unable to pay income tax because they are unemployed, or invalid or age pensioners - receive increases in their benefits before there is any talk of reducing taxation. If we are not prepared to do something for these people, we shall have to face up to our failure in the future. Government supporters have an opportunity now to raise their voices on behalf of these people. It is of no use for them to wait for the next Budget, because the cost of living is increasing steadily.
The honorable member for Wentworth brushed aside the subject of unemployment.
He said that it was only something that the Opposition talked about; but in fact the publication to which he was referring, a “ Treasury Information Bulletin “, clearly indicates that unemployment is still rising. In March, 1958, 64,406 people were registered as unemployed. By March of this year, the number had risen to 69,344. How can the honorable member brush that aside lightly and say that the unemployment figures are something that members on this side dream about and conjure up out of the air? The plain fact is that Government supporters are not concerned about people being out of work. Although the number is more than 69,000, we as members of the Australian Labour Party would be just as concerned if only 1,000 were out of work, because we think it is the responsibility of the government of the day to see that all who are able and willing to work are given the opportunity to do so.
As I have said, the number of registered unemployed in Marchlast was nearly 70,000, an increase of about 6,000 in twelve months. The only really effective way to make a comparison of unemployment figures is to obtain the records for the corresponding month in each year. If this trend continues, the number will be greater next year, as it has been gradually increasing. . The millionaire playboy, the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. McMahon), talks about the figures in the same way as does the honorable member for Wentworth, but the plain fact is that he, like most Government supporters, has never known what it is to be unemployed. They have never known the hardships that families have to suffer when the income is not enough to buy the necessaries of life. So, naturally, they say, “ There are only a few thousand out of work “. I hope that the time will come when they see the error of their ways. Because the Minister for Labour and National Service was fortunate enough to be brought up with a silver spoon in his mouth, he does not appreciate the position, but he is a kindly disposed gentleman and now that he is in charge of his present department, and so will gradually come closer to the position and make closer contact with the Labour movement, I am hopeful that he will change his views and put pressure on the Government to bring a programme into being to combat the increasing unemployment in Australia. I am not suggesting that everybody you see when you walk down the street is unemployed, but the figures that the Minister has produced - the figures of this Government - show that the situation is serious. It is the duty of the Parliament to do something about the matter.
I said previously that I rose mainly to support the amendment moved by the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Crean). It is worth mentioning again that the amendment proposes that we decline to give a second reading to this bill because it fails to make adequate provision for social service payments, including age and invalid pensions and child endowment, and also makes no provision for the restoration of the cost of living adjustments of the wages and salaries of Commonwealth public servants. The Labour Party fought the last election campaign on a pledge that, if returned, it would give justice to the people of this community, even before it introduced its first Budget. This is the first opportunity, in this Parliament, that we have had to make a demand that this Government face up to its obligations, as the Labour Party would have done if it had been returned to office.
The age and invalid pensioners comprise the needy section of this community. They face the approaching winter, and for many of them the only hope of some additional comfort is that they will be given blankets, firewood and other such things by charitable organizations. In South Australia, which is under a Liberal Government, an evening newspaper, each year, conducts an appeal for blankets and other articles for aged and sick people who otherwise would be cold throughout the winter. Surely the people of this country should not have to suffer hardship in their old age. I do not suggest that all pensioners are in that position, but it is true of a large section of them. These people should not have to rely on charity for blankets, firewood and other such things necessary in winter. This Government should see that social service benefits are adjusted and, in particular, that age and invalid pensions are increased.
The honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Bury) spoke about the means test. I well remember the occasion in 1951, 1 think it was, when the present Minister for Defence (Mr. Townley), who then was Minister for Social Services, spoke of a plan that he had to abolish the means test. It was to be introduced the following year. We have been waiting a long while now for the Menzies Government to abolish the means test. The honorable member for Wentworth said to-night that he was frightened of what that would cost. When we are considering social service benefits and the abolition of the means test, we must, of course, also consider taxation. I do not suggest that, if the means test were abolished, taxation would have to be increased, but I do suggest that it would be necessary to re-arrange taxation and the spending of this Government. A move in that direction would enable the Government to assist social service recipients and also to go a long way towards abolishing the means test and giving justice to a section of the community which needs some assistance.
We could do worse than set up a joint committee of the Parliament to go into the matter of the means test, taking into con sideration all the relevant factors concerned. The committee could call evidence and then bring down a report to this Parliament, as other committees have done which have been set up to deal with the problems of certain sections of the community. Surely no one could object to that procedure. Such a committee could be set up speedily, even in this session of the Parliament, so that its report could be submitted to the Government before the Budget session. By doing that, the Government would fulfil the promise about the means test that it has been making ever since it came to office. -
The honorable member for Sturt (Mr. Wilson) continually talks about this matter and pleads for the Government to do something, but whenever an amendment is moved in this House which would do something to help the pensioners, or which seeks to abolish the means test, he repeatedly votes with the Government. Honorable members on the Government side, who are always talking about what should be done for pensioners, will be judged by the way they vote on the amendment which has been moved by the honorable member for Melbourne Ports, just as they have been judged by the way they have voted on other proposals which the Opposition has put to this House.
Just as the Government has forgotten the pensioners in their hour of need, and just as it has forgotten to do anything about the means test, so it has forgotten to do anything about increasing funeral benefits for pensioners who have died. We have to go back to 1943, in the days of the Chifley Government, to find the last occasion when an adjustment was made of the funeral benefit for pensioners. What a disgrace that is, in view of the degree to which costs have risen since that time! In spite of the admitted increase in the cost of living, the Government is not prepared to increase the funeral benefit. I think, to be quite honest, that the Government has forgotten about the funeral benefit, just as it has forgotten that there are children in this community whose endowment payments should be increased.
This Government has not considered increasing the endowment payment for second and subsequent children since it has been in office. Some one has suggested to me that that is because the Minister tor Social Services (Mr. Roberton) is a member of the Australian Country Party, and as he looks around at the members of his party in this Parliament he considers that they should not be encouraged to have any more children. I do not subscribe to that view. I think that something should be done to increase child endowment. The mothers of this community are entitled to an increased benefit to enable them to cope wim increased costs. The benefit that is paid now will not buy a pint of milk a day for a week.
As the honorable member for Barton (Mr. Reynolds) said this afternoon, the Government should have the courage to say that it does not believe in child endowment, that it has done nothing to increase the rates of endowment since it took office in 1949, that it will not amend the present rates and that it thinks that child endowment should be abolished. That, in effect, is the position. The Government shows by its attitude that it does not believe in child endowment. It is just letting things float along, hoping that the people will be shortsighted enough not to see that it has forgotten all about them.
The Government has forgotten also the children attending primary schools in this country. They are the forgotten children of Australia. The Murray committee gave long overdue justice to our universities, and surely it is time that something was done to assist our secondary and primary schools. The honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Minogue) made a plea to-day for education. If the Government does npt do something to help the primary schools, the children of working-class people will not be able to take their places in the universities and take advantage of education at that level. If we are not prepared to do something about education, why do we not simply tell the States that we think they should look after it all by themselves? The fact is that we do have responsibility in the education field, whichever way it is looked at, because our great immigration programme, which has brought so many new people to this country and led to the enrolment of many thousands more children in State schools, has thrown, and is throwing, a tremendous strain on State Governments. To-day, no sooner have State authorities built a new school than they have to start erecting temporary buildings to augment the accommodation provided by the permanent structure that they have just finished. If it were not for the aid in the provision of facilities for schools given by the parents of the children through parents and citizens’ committees, the States would not be able to cope with the present position. One wonders how long these parents - especially those from working-class districts - will be able to make sacrifices by subscribing a few shillings every now and then to pay for the facilities that governments should provide for the education of children.
I hope - and this plea has been made many times before - that this Government will start on the way to doing something about education by appointing a committee to inquire into primary, secondary and technical education, similar to the Murray committee which inquired into education at the university level.
Now let us have a look at the treatment meted out to ex-servicemen by this Government. The problem of ex-servicemen to-day ties up somewhat with the unemployment position. You well know, Mr. Speaker, the number of ex-servicemen dismissed from the Commonwealth Public Service in South Australia recently. Suddenly people who have been in the service for a number of years, and who are now around the age of 60, are sent up for a medical examination and are informed by the Commonwealth medical officer that they are no longer fit for employment in the Commonwealth Public Service. When they are informed of the medical disability which has led to their dismissal, they find that they are, in fact, being dismissed because of a disability that is a result of war service. I have had several cases brought to me in which each of the persons concerned is receiving from the Repatriation Department a pension in respect of the very disability which the Commonwealth medical officer has given as the reason for his dismissal from the public Service.
But the pensions that these people receive from the Repatriation authorities are only 60 per cent., 70 per cent, or 80 per cent, pensions. After their dismissal they apply for a T.P.I, pension and, as evidence of their eligibility to receive it, they produce the documents which show that they have been dismissed from the Commonwealth Public Service because they are no longer medically fit to carry out the duties required. Rightly, they believe that if the reason which led to their dismissal from the Public Service is the very disability for which they are receiving a pension, they should receive the T.P.I, pension. So they apply to the Repatriation Commission, go through all the motions, and finally go before a tribunal. The majority of them have their applications rejected, and find they are still to receive a 60 per cent., 70 per cent., or 80 per cent, pension. I believe that if this Government dismisses ex-servicemen who have been permanent employees in the Public Service, because of a disability that is due to war service, and these persons are aged 60 years and more, they are entitled to the T.P.I, pension, because the Commonwealth’s action in dismissing them clearly indicates that they are no longer fit to obtain employment in this country.
The magpie from Hume is interjecting now. He constantly chirps away there in his seat, and nobody really understands him. One of these days, probably on the first sitting day after the next general election, we will find that his intermittent chirping in this chamber is over, because the electors of Hume will have returned to this Parliament the former member for that division.
While I am speaking on the subject of pensions, I should like to suggest that the Government take the time to improve the form-filling procedure that is required in relation to applications for repatriation pensions. The Minister for Repatriation (Senator Sir Walter Cooper) should get some advice from the Minister for Social Services, who has just entered the chamber. I ask the Minister for Social Services to take up with the Minister for Repatriation the matter of the forms which exservicemen are required to complete when they apply for service pensions. I am referring to ex-servicemen of 60 years of age - burnt-out diggers - who apply for what is virtually the age pension, which they may receive at the age of 60 instead of 65. which is the age of eligibility for civilians. When the applicant sets about making his application, he gets two long forms to fill in and his wife gets other forms sent to her for completion. There is then an inquisition that goes on for several weeks, and finally the pension comes to light. Tt is to the credit of the Department of Social Services that when the present Minister for
Labour and National Service was Minister for Social Services, a new form was introduced by the department for application’’ for age pensions. The form is very simple I can see no reason why a similar simple form cannot be available to ex-servicemen who apply for. a service pension to thi? Repatriation Department. The only difference between the two kinds of application is that in the case of a repatriation pension, the applicant has to prove hi* military service. Surely a simple provision could be made on the application form for the inclusion of these particulars, and provision could also be made for ; quick checking of their validity. The means test, the property test and all the other qualifications are the same for repatriation pensions as for the age and invalid pensions. I hope that the Minister for Social Services will show the Minister for Repatriation the methods that are used by the Department of Social Services, so that the Repatriation Department may speed up the granting of pensions to eligible claimants, and at the same time make things a little easier for burnt-out diggers who apply for service pensions.
Before concluding, Mr. Deputy Speaker. 1 should like to deal briefly with cost of living adjustments to wages. The honorable member for Wentworth was at great pains to say that he did not think that thai was a matter which should be dealt with in this Parliament. In fact, he seemed to think that it should not even be talked about in this Parliament. But surely this Government has the right and the duty to give cost of living adjustments to its own employees if it thinks that such adjustments are necessary. To-day many employees in the Commonwealth Public Service are suffering under a great disability This afternoon the honorable member for Banks (Mr. Costa) pointed out how postal officers in New South Wales and Tasman . suffer a loss of as much as 14s. a week compared with men doing similar work outside the Post Office. Surely these people are entitled to wage justice and cost o< living adjustments.
Of course, this Government’s attitude is that wages are not frozen, since there is a yearly review of them. We say that the review should be quarterly, not yearly, and that if costs have risen during a period of three months, cost of living adjustments should be paid to wage-earners. Even then, the increase of wages would drag a long way behind the increase of the cost of living. It would always be three months behind, and by the time the increase was actually paid it would be nearer six months and three months behind the increase in the cost of living. We make a plea for the Government to look at this position and not make the lowly people - the workers of this country - wait twelve months for an increase in the basic wage to compensate for increased living costs. We know that the Government cares little for the needy people of this country. As the Government has forgotten child endowment, I suppose that the plea I am making will fall on deaf ears, since it is a plea to give justice to the workers. In view of recent happenings that arose from the fact that we in this Parliament believed that satisfaction of our right to wage justice was long overdue, we must, in all fairness and justice, now give consideration to other needy sections of the community. 1 hope that the press which pleaded for the pensioners a little while ago and pointed out that they were forgotten while other people were looking after themselves will now demand that the pensioners receive justice and that the wage-earners will receive justice. I hope that it will not demand, as probably it will, and as do the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Bury) and others on the opposite side who represent the bankers and big business, reduced taxation at the expense of the workers, the pensioners, and other social services recipients.
.- It may be useful if we recall that it is only a relatively short time since we held a general election and that the prospects are that, as a parliament, we will not have to face the people of Australia for some two and a half years. I mention that in no spirit of facetiousness, but in reference to the speech by the honorable member for Kingston (Mr. Galvin) to which we have just listened. It was, if I may say so without any spirit of malevolence, a typical electioneering speech. And, if I may say so with an equal regard for charity, it was a speech that showed a rather flimsy and casual regard for political facts. I would only hope that, by the time we, as a parliament, face the people of Australia again, the honorable member for Kingston will have polished up something that could be described as a little more acceptable to intelligent people.
The honorable member for KingsfordSmith (Mr. Curtin) who is interjecting should not complain. I am not hurting him yet. Honorable members opposite may be looking at this speech prospectively, but 1 have not started to hurt them yet. The honorable member for Kingston, as I have said, delivered a characteristic election speech. One of the things that has always fascinated me in this House is how amazingly easy it is for anybody - or, more exclusively, for private members of Parliament - to put forward ideas without any developed consciousness of the consequences. To-night, we listened to this glittering array of ad captandum proposals, all designed to secure electoral support. But the honorable member for Kingston is making his run about two and a half years too soon. He referred to child endowment and, with simulated vigour and hostility, he said, “ Of course, the Government is not interested in child endowment “. Memory is a rather imperfect vehicle, but if my memory serves me rightly it was this kidney of politics, as a government, that introduced child endowment. I remind the House that, in another place-
– Order! The honorable member for Grayndler will cease interjecting.
– He is not distressing me, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I only hope that he is not annoying you. In another place, a few years ago, it was a Labour-dominated chamber that tried to hold up an increase in child endowment rates. The honorable member for Grayndler is laughing. He cannot laugh this off, although we know his capacity for humour. It is rather a rugged, wanton sort of humour, but-
– Order! The honorable member for Moreton will address the Chair.
– The honorable member for Kingston spoke of unemployment in this country. [Quorum formed.] I knew that, at long last, time would win out and that I would be able to win the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) to my side: On this occasion he has obliged me by bringing a few of his own followers - and, mind you, they are very limited - into this chamber. I am grateful that the tie he is wearing has that appropriate touch of red in it to identify his political orthodoxy.
The honorable member for Kingston was arguing that this Government, over the last ten years, has entirely deserted econ.nomic stability in this country. I remind the honorable member for Kingston, as I remind the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Crean), who has proposed the amendment to the Appropriation Bill, that in the last ten years this country has enjoyed a measure of economic stability and prosperity unparalleled in our historyI do not propose to weary the House by devoting my time to a consideration of the amendment proposed by the honorable member for Melbourne Ports. I want to refer to something that I hope will have but a limited partisan political content.
A few days ago the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) went abroad. I was somewhat surprised at the reaction of some sections of the Australian community and, if I may say so with respect, at the attitude of some sections of the Australian press to this. The view was taken that the trip was something in the nature of a jaunt - that there was nothing that really warranted the Prime Minister’s going abroad. I think that that is essentially a paltry and rather puerile attitude. The Prime Minister of this country has gone abroad with the good wishes of all responsible, thinking Australians. Surely we have not reached such a Philistine attitude of mind that when the democratically elected leader of the Australian nation goes abroad to consult with the democratically elected leaders of other nations - with the leaders of the Mother Country and with the sovereign of this country and of the Mother Country - that should be regarded as cause for condemnation, a cause for suspicion, for throwing off, as it were, at the reason behind his visit. I think that is a rather pathetic attitude.
Apart from the various reasons, essentially sound, which prompted the Prime Minister to go abroad, he has gone to fulfil a role and to patch up a function which I believe is rather weak. I refer to the present state of Commonwealth consultations. It is only when the leader of this country and the various high commissioners of what were at one time identified as the British Commonwealth countries get together that there is any steady flowing source of consultation. In my lifetime - and that has been rather brief - I have seen the movement from what was once known as the British Empire to what is now called simply the “ Commonwealth “. It is of no avail to review the last 30 years and pretend that nothing has happened. We gain nothing by viewing events in retrospect and criticizing the happenings of the past in a carping fashion. However, there is some value in looking at our past to obtain an indication of our future.
I have mentioned the terms “British Empire “ and “ Commonwealth “, and I shall spend a few moments in discussing the events that have led us from the use of the term “ British Empire “ to the use of the term “Commonwealth”. In 1926, we saw the Balfour Declaration, which was later translated into the Statute of Westminster. Three terms were used in that declaration, first, a British Empire, secondly, a British Commonwealth within the Empire, and thirdly, a common allegiance to the Crown. Many people regarded the Balfour declaration, which attempted to set out in a formula the relationship between various British countries, as something of a failure and a matter to be regretted. Some respectable and competent authorities still view the declaration in that way.
In 1948, a further attempt was made to develop the British Commonwealth system, and honorable members will recall that in that year republics were embraced in the British Commonwealth. In this year 1959 we see ourselves identified simply as “ the Commonwealth “. I, for one, have never been inclined to apologize for the use of the term “ British Empire “. I have never been conscious of any sense of shame at what the British Empire has done - at its record, its achievements and, indeed, at its example. However, now we are faced with a situation that should prompt us to think seriously about the present-day concept of “ Commonwealth “ - its meaning and activities. We do not gain anything by saying, “ It is a loose, amorphous collection of states and countries holding, on some occasions, a common allegiance to the Crown “. The truth of the matter is that we have an excellent opportunity to develop consultation within the Commonwealth. The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) has gone abroad to consult with his opposite number in the United Kingdom, and possibly with the leaders of the United States of America and other countries. But are such periodic visits sufficient? Do they fulfil the function that they should? My view is that they do not. lt is high time that “we started to review our present position in the world.
For that reason I suggest that the House, acting as a legislative chamber and not on any party basis, consider whether a Commonwealth consultative council, a permanent body consisting of representatives from every Commonwealth country, should not be established. Very soon we shall welcome to Australia representatives of some 62 countries and states who will be attending a- conference of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association. In that association we have the germ of an idea that could grow into a permanent Commonwealth consultative council. If we take the view that the British Commonwealth needs to set an example of democratic government, parliamentary government and public administration, a council such as I have suggested would serve that purpose. If we do not endeavour to strengthen the British Commonwealth we shall throw away a splendid heritage and deprive future generations of the full potential and possibilities to be derived from membership of a family of countries and states. [Quorum formed.]
The honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward), who called for a quorum, is entitled– to avail himself of the forms of the House, but I suggest to him in all seriousness that on some occasion in the future he may suffer a reprisal that he will not welcome. He has given a pathetic and somewhat childish display that does not reflect much credit upon him. He has spent three or four minutes this evening wandering in and out of the chamber behaving like a first-class clown.
I return to the theme that I had been developing - the establishment of a Commonwealth consultative council. Many people believe that the ultimate aim of government is a form of world government of mankind. Many people are prepared to argue that national sovereignty is an ana chronism and should be destroyed, and that all forms of national sovereignty should be surrendered to some form of international order.
We are a long way from that state of affairs - for my part, I hope permanently. I trust that I shall never see a form of world government that has destroyed national sovereignty. At present we are faced with the terrifying possibility of mankind and civilization being destroyed. I know perfectly well that there are many people who hold the view that the once-great British Empire, which was followed by the oncegreat British Commonwealth of Nations, which is now called the Commonwealth of Nations, has no particular role to fulfil. Sir, I am of the contrary opinion. I believe there is every need, and every desire on the part of many people, for a reformed,, a revived and a re-developed British Commonwealth of Nations. That is why I say that a permanent Commonwealth consultative council should be established, and that this suggestion could well be considered by honorable members on both sides of this House. Our present system of Commonwealth consultation is completely and utterly inadequate. It is not enough for the Prime Minister of this country or for senior Ministers of this country to pay periodic visits to other Commonwealth countries in order to consult with the heads of state of those countries.
I have pointed, Sir, to the example of a Commonwealth Parliamentary Association, and I have expressed my belief that that association can be developed into some form of consultative council. In addition, I propose that there should be established permanent secretariats to deal with defence and foreign affairs. Surely no person, looking at the present scheme of Commonwealth foreign policy, could say that a common foreign policy is being pursued. The truth of the matter is that for a number of years now the various members of the Commonwealth of Nations have been pursuing a hydra-headed foreign policy. The United Kingdom, in 1948 or 1949, recognized Communist China. I mention this not to argue or debate the virtues of this recognition; I use it simply as an illustration of my point. The United Kingdom recognized Communist China; there are other Commonwealth countries that do not recognize Communist China. If we look at what has happened over the past ten years particularly, we will perceive a dangerous division of foreign policy as between the different Commonwealth countries. It is perfectly true that on crucial issues an attempt is made to secure some community of interest and to achieve a common foreign policy; but it always seems to me to be rather absurd that we should wait for a particular crucial circumstance to develop before we try to achieve a common foreign policy.
There is one other aspect of this matter that may as well be faced. Foreign policy treaty-making is conducted in the name of the Queen. While we pursue a divided foreign policy we may well find ourselves in this position: The different members of the Commonwealth of Nations may make treaties, and enter into agreements and pacts, with countries that differ with each other. I want to pose what is admittedly a hypothetical question, but one that may as well be considered. What would be the position if those treaties, agreements and pacts should lead to war? Would the Queen be at war with herself? After all, in the final analysis it is the Queen who enters into treaties and undertakes obligations. This may be regarded as simply a problem for the lawyers, but I believe it is a problem that should be faced by all those charged with the responsibility of membership of a legislature the traditions of which are British.
I have mentioned the idea of defence and foreign affairs secretariats. This is not a proposal to reduce our foreign policy to formula form. It is not designed to put into the hands of those at Whitehall the whole responsibility for determining foreign policy. I believe it would be a move towards trying to secure a common foreign policy throughout the Commonwealth countries. Then I have a further suggestion, to fit in with the general pattern of the Commonwealth consultative idea. I suggest a secretariat to deal with those matters concerned with economic affairs. One could style it an economic secretariat, the purpose of which would be to secure some common agreement on trade, on development and on migration. I am not suggesting for one moment that we should return to the old Ottawa Agreement idea, which seems, unfortunately to those like myself, to have faded into the past, never again to be revived. But I believe there is terrific scope for members of the Commonwealth of Nations to pool their resources, ideas and their concepts, on development, on trade and on migration.
The House is aware of the fact that if, in a future war. ten or twelve thermonuclear bombs were dropped on the United Kingdom, that country would be reduced to complete impotence, and its entire population could be wiped out. The present situation within the Commonwealth of Nations, with nothing like a common policy being pursued with regard to development and immigration, is the cause of the gravest of anxiety.
I would hope, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that the House might be prepared to consider my proposal for the securing of an agreement, when the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association meets in this country later this year, at least to examine the possibility of developing and setting up a Commonwealth consultative council with secretariats dealing with defence, foreign affairs, and matters concerned with the economies of the different countries. I do not think that anything is to be lost by delving into the pages of history and pulling out the examples and the experiences of what was once the British Empire. I believe those experiences and examples could well provide us with the capacity and the enthusiasm to make a further and a fresh contribution to the common aim of humanity, the securing of peace throughout the world and the securing of liberty for the whole of mankind. The idea of reforming, reviving and re-invigorating the British Empire, not in any reactionary spirit or in terms of jingoism, is something that appeals to me strongly. This may possibly be sheer reaction on my part, but I have yet to be convinced that great ideas are lost because they provoke enemies; I believe that great ideas are lost when they lose their friends.
– This is an appropriation bill, th : purpose of which is to appropriate anothe£57,000,000 to carry on the business of government. To this bill the Opposition has moved an amendment which states that - this House declines to give a second reading to the bill as it fails to make adequate provision for social service payments, including age and invalid pensions and child endowment, and as it makes no provision for the restoration of cost of living adjustments to wages and salaries of Commonwealth public servants.
Normally in an appropriation bill debate it is proper, or at any rate permissible, for members of the House to deal with almost any subject under the sun. The very fact that the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Killen) was in order in the remarks that he has just made shows that it is indeed proper and permissible to deal with any subject under the sun. As one of the speakers for the Opposition, I desire to deal with the Appropriation Bill - the matter under debate - more closely than it was touched upon by the honorable member for Moreton, who has just spoken. I want to begin by pointing out that the Opposition’s amendment, stating that we refuse to grant this additional appropriation until the Government increases pensions and until such time as it restores quarterly cost of living adjustments to its own employees-
– Order! The honorable member knows full well that that is not a part of the amendment. A ruling was given this afternoon on that matter. I wish to point out to the honorable member that the following words, being all words after “ public servants “, of the original amendment were ruled out of order: -
– With very great respect, Sir, I said that we have moved an amendment in which we take the stand that until the Commonwealth is prepared to increase social services, and until it is prepared to restore cost-of-living adjustments, to its own employees, we are not prepared to grant the additional Supply.
– That is in order.
– That is in order, and that is what I said. I carefully avoided mentioning the matter you mentioned.
The amendment to which I have just referred again is consistent with the policy that the Labour Party fought the recent election upon. It will be remembered that the Labour Party undertook that, if elected as a government, it would increase child endowment by 10s. a week for the second and subsequent children and by Ss. per week for the first child. The Labour Party promised that it would double the maternity allowance. It promised also that it would immediately increase the pension entitlement of all age pensioners by 10s. a week, and would institute a thorough inquiry into the whole basis of invalid pensions and social services generally so that when the pension was related to the unpegged basic wage of the day it would at least restore to the pensioners the same purchasing power as they enjoyed in the days of Chifley when the purchasing power of the pension was 37 per cent, of the then basic wage.
We were not prepared to stop at that figure, but we believed that an immediate increase of 10s. a week would alleviate the plight of the pensioners at the moment and that we could go on with the question of settling - permanently, if possible - the whole issue of pension rates. Personally, I believe that the pension rates ought to be automatically tied to the cost of living in much the same way as wages used to be tied to the cost of living, so that the pensioners do not become a political football, to be given great hand-outs at election time and then forgotten for another three years. They should automatically get the increase each quarter, irrespective of which party is in control of the Parliament of the Commonwealth. I believe, moreover, that there is a strong case to be made out for giving an additional payment to a single pensioner, that is to say, a widow or widower who is left alone to maintain a home and to bear the cost of fuel, lighting, water rates and the like. That person, living alone, has to meet the same costs of maintaining the home as when it was occupied by two people, and should be given a higher rate than single people normally receive.
A matter on which I feel keenly but one to which too few people in the community seem to pay any attention concerns the plight of the detribalized aborigines. I believe that we shall be lacking in our duty if we continue to fail to give to the detribalized natives of this country - the land which was one time their’s and is now producing the enormous wealth we boast of - a decent standard of living. It is a poor thing if we cannot give to the few remaining natives of this country of ours a decent standard to enable them to live as ordinary recognized people on the earth’s surface during what appears =to- be the remaining few years of their existence. It is a terrible thing, in my opinion, for natives who are living in mission reserves. At Port Pearce, in South Australia, the natives are living in exactly the same way as any other person in the community. They have to pay taxes whenever they work. They go shearing and, as itinerants, engage in seasonal occupations. It seems to me to be nothing short of criminal that the Government refuses to give these unfortunate people - there are now only a few of them alive - the full social service entitlement enjoyed by -everybody else in the community. For some weird reason that I cannot understand, the Government gives them the full benefit of child endowment, but will not give them the age pension or tuberculosis allowance. Nor will it give the maternity allowance if the mother has one-sixteenth too much native blood in her veins. We had a ridiculous position the other day when a native woman was refused the maternity allowance - she was living on a mission station - because she had one-thirty-second too much aboriginal blood in her veins. The authorities traced her ancestry and discovered that she had seventeenthirtyseconds aboriginal blood in her veins, and so they disqualified her from receiving the maternity allowance. This is something that ought to be dealt with. It would have been dealt with if a Labour government had been returned at the last election.
We proposed also to treble the funeral benefit, which is now £10 - a rate that was fixed more than ten years ago. We believe that it ought to be at least trebled in order to meet the increased cost of funeral expenses to-day.
We undertook to review completely the repatriation benefits. All members of this Parliament will agree with me, though some may not be prepared to admit it publicly, that there is a great need for an overhaul of the Repatriation Department. You, Sir, as the honorable member for Lilley, speaking from your accustomed place this afternoon, made an excellent address to the Parliament, and a strong appeal to the party you represent, to review the Repatriation Act insofar as it relates to cancer, particularly lung cancer. For years I have tried to get this Government to move on the question of lung cancer. Men who were discharged from the services suffering from the effects of gassing, and men carrying fragments of shrapnel in their Jungs have eventually gone down with lung cancer, and people in the Repatriation Department say that it is not an injur)’ attributable to war causes. How do they know it is not a” war-caused injury, since nobody in the world knows the cause of cancer! How can anybody dogmatically declare that something connected with war service did not . cause it? Therefore, 1 believe - and I am sorry to notice that the colonel from Gippsland appears to be antagonistic - that nobody can tell the reason why an ex-serviceman is suffering from cancer. At least there is one ex-serviceman in this House - you, yourself, Sir - who is prepared to support me in this belief. I hope the day will come when you will be able to persuade the ex-servicemen on your side of the House to support the stand I am taking - almost alone, it seems, except for my colleagues on this side. I believe that these things have to be done. I know they would have been done had a Labour government been elected.
This amendment has been moved on behalf of the Labour Opposition because we are not prepared to sit idly by while the Government gives enormous allowances to Ministers and enormous emoluments to the office-bearers of this Parliament. Quite clearly, the Parliament has now declared that it can afford to increase the emoluments and payments to members of Parliament, and now it is up to the Parliament, in my view, to go the rest of the way and give to people who need increases more than we do, some increase in pension, and restore cost of living adjustments to persons employed in the Commonwealth Public Service. Do not let members on the Government side say that the Parliament has not got power to restore cost of living adjustments to its own employees! You will remember, Sir, that it was a decision of this Parliament which pegged the basic wage of the Commonwealth Government employees. Every member on the Government side, including yourself, Sir, walked across the floor of the House and voted against the amendment of the Labour Opposition against the decision which the
Government then took, by act of Parliament, to deprive its own employees of the quarterly cost of living adjustments. The Government had to do this by act of Parliament because it was not prepared to wait until the end of the quarter that was then coming up. It altered the Public Service Arbitration Act to provide tha; wages fixed by the Public Service Arbitrator should be tied to the basic wage declared from time to time by the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration, as it then was.
Not being prepared even to allow Public Service employees to have the benefit of the continuance of quarterly cost-of-living adjustments pending the operation of the act, the Government then brought in supplementary legislation which was to operate immediately, and every member of the Liberal Party of Australia in this chamber, as the “ Hansard “ records show, crossed the floor and voted directly for the pegging of the basic wage of Commonwealth employees. I believe that now that Australia has proved to be so prosperous it is up to the Commonwealth Government to give a lead to other employers. We should at once unpeg the basic wage of Commonwealth Government employees, over whom we have complete control, and thereby set an example to private employers throughout Australia.
One of the great troubles to-day is that the tall poppies in the Public Service continue to receive large salary increases. I do not decry the heads and deputy heads of the various departments because they do good work; nor do I object to them getting salary increases. I merely mention the fact that they do in order to indicate that if it is in order for the Government to increase by hundreds of pounds a year the salaries of the tall poppies in the various departments, the little man in the Post Office, for example - the man who delivers the letters - and the other little people in the Government’s employ, should receive increases, even if it were only the small amount involved in the unpegging of the basic wage. The Government cannot say that it cannot afford it. The Administration’s very action in introducing legislation to increase the special allowances for Ministers to the level to which they have been raised is indicative of the fact that the Government, deep down in its heart, recognizes that the country can afford increased expenditure by the people in order to maintain a standard of living commensurate with the prosperity that we enjoy to-day. We have had a record run of good seasons, and a record run of high prices in this country. Never before has a government in any country in the world had such a long run of high prices and good seasons as the present Government has enjoyed since it came to office in 1949. Yet the Government tells us, when it comes to increasing rates of pay for its employees, that it cannot afford increases. When the Government is asked to increase pensions and other social service benefits for people who need increases far more than any of the Ministers in the Government needed increases in their ministerial allowances - increases which the Government approved recently - we are told, again, that the country cannot afford those increases. I say that it can afford them.
I believe, moreover, that increased wages and increased social service benefits are an absolute economic necessity if we are to avoid surplus production and maintain full employment. Productivity per man in this country is rising enormously. Every year, we find that productivity per man employed in industry is greater than in the year before. Yet, as productivity increases, the purchasing power of the man employed in industry decreases - solely by virtue of the fact that his wage is pegged and he is not given an increase in wages sufficient even to compensate for the increase in prices. As a consequence of this sort of thing happening in the community, the gap between the increase in productivity which I have mentioned and the purchasing power of the community is, to some extent, being met only by resort to one thing - hire-purchase finance at extortionate rates of interest. When we look at the figures that have recently been released by the Commonwealth Statistician, we note the terrible fact that, to-day, more than £320,000,000 is owed by the Australian people to hire-purchase companies. This indicates that the people who produce the goods that are sold in the shops have received, in total, incomes £320,000,000 less than they needed to buy the goods that they produced.
– How much a head is that?
– It represents more than £30 for every man, woman and child. So a man with a wife and three children, if he owes no more than the average amount of the per capita hirepurchase debt, owes £150 to a hire-purchase company. I do not say that everybody owes £150, but the average amount owed by a family of five is £150. This is a disgraceful state of affairs, lt is seen to be even more disgraceful when one looks at the exorbitant interest rates that hire-purchase companies charge. A flat rate of 8 per cent, appears much too high by comparison with interest rates that prevailed in the Chifley era, when the rate charged by the Commonwealth Bank of Australia was only 4i per cent. It is bad enough to have to pay nearly double the rate that prevailed under the Chifley Government, but, in respect of certain goods, the rate of interest is sometimes as high as 12 per cent. Hire-purchase companies deal only in flat rates of interest, but the real rate of simple interest where an 8 per cent, flat rate is charged becomes nearly double that percentage, by some mathematical trick. I do not know why it is, but a flat rate of 8 per cent, represents a simple interest rate of about 15.2 per cent. When a person borrows £120 over a year, to be paid back at the rate of £10 a month, at an interest rate of 8 per cent, flat, what happens is this: After the first month, he repays £10 of the original loan of £120, leaving £110 owing, on which he pays the 8 per cent, flat rate. I shall skip the intervening months and come to the end of the eleventh month. By that time, the borrower has in his pocket only £10 of the original loan of £120 that he obtained, perhaps, from an insurance company. He still pays interest at the rate of 8 per cent. - not on the £10 that he still has in his pocket, but on the full £120 that he borrowed originally!
The Australian Labour Party believes that this is a serious problem. We believe that hire purchase is a good thing if the interest rates are reasonable. As somebody once said, hire purchase is nothing more than the working man’s overdraft. lt gives a fillip to industry. By bridging the gap between production and the capacity of the community to buy the goods that are produced, hire purchase achieves a good economic effect by creating or maintaining employment. But it is entirely wrong that hire-purchase companies should be entitled to charge such exorbitant rates of interest as 10 per cent, and 12 per cent, on money that they have borrowed at very much lower rates to lend on hire-purchase transactions. Had the Australian Labour Party been elected to office at the last general election, the promise that it gave would have been implemented by now, and the Commonwealth Bank would have been in active competition with the hire-purchase companies. Under the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Australia, there is no means by which we can directly attack the menace of the high interest charges levied by hire-purchase companies, but if we only have the will to take action, we can use the competitive power of the Commonwealth Bank to re-establish and rejuvenate the once very active Industrial Finance Department of the bank; we can use the people’s bank to make the hire-purchase companies reduce their interest charges. The trade union movement in South Australia has already demonstrated, in a small way, that this can be done.
Let me give the House an example of what has been done by the trade union movement in South Australia. It has created a co-operative trade union hirepurchase company, which finances hirepurchase transactions, at an interest rate of 5 per cent, flat, to the limit of the capital that it is able to get. Last year, it made a-:profit of something like 5£ per cent, on the whole of its transactions. This company is also offering money for hirepurchase transactions free of interest for one year, provided that the loan is repaid at the end of that time. You may ask how it can do that. I shall explain how it is done. Hire-purchase companies never pay for the goods that they hire the same purchase price as is paid by the buyer who enters into the hire-purchase transaction. These companies do not pay the retail price of £150 marked on a refrigerator in a shop. They get a special discount because -of the fact that they are hire-purchase companies.
The trade union movement in South Australia has discovered that it is able to obtain discounts of up to 25 per cent, on certain electrical goods. When the hirepurchase co-operative lends money to a member of the trade union movement to buy an electrical appliance which costs £150, on which the co-operative has got a £25 per cent, discount for cash, it says that the 25 per cent, discount will suffice for interest, provided that the money is paid back in a year. In those circumstances, there is absolutely no interest charge at all. The fact that the trade union hire purchase co-operative in South Australia can do these things has exploded the myth that, in order to carry on, hirepurchase companies must charge the enormous rates of interest that they now charge. The trade union co-operative in South Australia has proved that it does not need high interest rates.
If the Commonwealth Bank is not prepared to enter the hire-purchase field itself, perhaps it will lend to the trade union hirepurchase co-operative in South Australia enough money to expand its capital. If the bank were to do that, the co-operative could supply goods on hire purchase to everybody in South Australia who desired to purchase them, at a flat rate of 5 per cent., and if the purchaser repaid the money within twelve months no interest would be charged whatever. That is an established fact in South Australia.
I believe that, although hire-purchase finance has had the effect of bridging the gap between production and the capacity of the community to purchase commodities out of earnings to some extent, we are fast reaching saturation point. With about £320,000,000 now owing to the hirepurchase companies, we are rapidly reaching the stage where we will not be able to go on in that way. The public cannot continue to become ever more deeply enmeshed in hire-purchase finance. That is evidenced by the unemployment that is now starting to manifest itself. Surpluses are becoming greater. Production is being reduced as a result of the surpluses that are appearing. Unemployment is steadily increasing and is accentuated by the fact that there is a continual influx into the country of migrants, and also by the fact that there are thousands of young people of schoolleaving age entering industry and throwing the older and middle-aged men out of work. The stage has been reached in some industries in Australia to-day where a man, once he is forty-five years of age, is too old to maintain the pace that is being set by the younger Australians and the younger migrants.
As I have said, the gap between production and the capacity of the community to purchase the products of industry represents the profit component of the price structure of this country. I believe that the Government has to face this problem.
It must face, too, the problem of excess profits and of excessive interest charges. Excess profits, like excessive interest charges, cannot be handled by a direct attack by the Government, because of the unfortunate decision of the people to reject a constitutional amendment which the late Mr. Chifley sought to obtain in 1948. The Commonwealth has no power to fix prices nor, as I said earlier, has it power to fix interest rates; but the Government could deal with both of those problems by means of an indirect attack. I have explained how, by indirect attack, it could deal with the problem of high interest rates charged by hire-purchase companies, the indirect attack being to use the competitive power of the Commonwealth Bank for the purposes of entering the higher-purchase field. By indirect means, the Government could also deal with the problem of excessive prices and profits. It could do that by means of an excess profits tax, which Sir Arthur Fadden, when he was Treasurer of this country, back in 1951 or 1952, told this Parliament he intended to introduce as a Government measure, but nothing was done about it.
Had a Labour government been elected, I have no doubt whatever that it would have tackled these problems and would have introduced a tax on excess profits. It would have stepped up by a considerable percentage the rate of tax on incomes in the very high income groups. I believe, however, that Labour lost the elections, not because the people disapproved of our social services programme, or because they thought that that programme was an extravagant one - the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Bury) said so much only a few minutes ago - not because we wanted to unpeg the basic wage, but because they believed the Liberal Party propaganda that a Labour government would increase taxation all round, and that under a Labour government they might be even worse off than they were then.
I do not blame the people for rejecting a proposition if they think it means putting 6d. in one pocket and taking 9d., in the form of increased taxation, out of another pocket. As was made abundantly clear by the Labour Party in it9 programme - although unfortunately, because of a hostile press, the people did not understand it - the fact is that had we become the government, we intended to finance our programme by these means: We intended to tackle the problem of excess profits; we intended to increase steeply income tax on the very high incomes; and we intended to finance capital works by central bank credit, in times when a reduced national income made it no longer possible to finance capital works from current revenue. At one time, it would have been regarded as an outrageous proposal to consider using central bank credit for anything, but it so happens that this Government, before the election date was made known, announced in the Parliament that it intended to budget for a deficit, and that, in order to meet the deficit, it was going to use central bank credit to the extent of £110,000,000. That exploded the myth that it is entirely wrong to use central bank credit for this purpose.
The Labour Party is prepared to say that since our children and our grandchildren, long after we are dead, are going to enjoy the benefits of the Snowy scheme and of the other great public undertakings that we are contemplating, we think it only right to use central bank credit to finance them, or, if it is possible, money raised by public loans, so that the cost will be spread over the generations who will enjoy the benefits of them. I believe that had such a policy been adopted, it would at once have bridged the gap between the capacity of industry to produce and the incapacity of the community to purchase the commodities that are produced.
– Order! The honorable gentleman’s time has expired.
.- The members of the Opposition who have spoken during this debate have either indulged in an outpouring of disappointment because of Labour’s defeat at the last general election, or they have resorted to diversionary tactics to distract attention from the party’s internal troules, which are being ironed out at this very moment in Canberra. We have observed that tendency, even in the case of the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron), in his endeavour to support the amendment moved on behalf of the Opposition bv the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Crean). I am somewhat surprised by the wording of the amendment.
I vividly recall that it was a LiberalAustralian Country Party Government that first introduced in this Parliament the proposal to pay child endowment for the first child. I remember, too, that when the present Government parties made their intention known during the 1949 general election campaign, the Australian Labour Party said that if such a thing were attempted it would be an indication to the Arbitration Court that it should alter its methods of determining the cases that came before it. History records quite clearly that the first court determination that followed the proposal to pay endowment for the first child resulted in an increase of £1 a week in the basic wage. That exploded the ideas of the Australian Labour Party completely.
Another matter of history, for those who care to look back, is that when the proposal to pay child endowment of 5s. a week for the first child came before the Parliament, the members of the Labour Party vehemently opposed it. When it reached another place where they had a majority, they used every means available to force a double dissolution. The government of the day, which is still the Government, took up the challenge and we all remember very clearly what Labour members did. They ran away from it. They were not prepared to face their masters because of the misleading propaganda that they had placed before the people. No government has been more guilty of neglecting the needs of age and invalid pensioners and the recipients of other social services than have Labour governments. We all remember clearly that in the golden age, which has been referred to quite frequently, the Labour Government did not increase age and invalid pensions. Now Opposition members use the tactic, which we told them when we were in Opposition that they would use, of relating the present pensions back to the year when they gave nothing and not to the year when they left office.
The honorable member for Hindmarsh to-night treated us to some comments about the position of the aborigines. He tried to convince the House, and those who may be listening to the debate, that the Government is at fault because the aborigines are not receiving age and invalid pensions. He did mention, however, that they are receiving, and entitled to receive, child endowment. No one knows better than does the honorable member for Hindmarsh that it is the prerogative of the State native welfare departments to make some move in this matter. They determine the quantity of native blood in these people, and we take their advice. If they say there is X per cent., we accept it without question, and if anything is to be done in this matter, they must help. But they do nothing.
As the honorable member for Hindmarsh knows only too well, a former leader of his party, the late Ben Chifley, when he was Prime Minister, did as this Government has done ever since it has been in office, and endeavoured to get the States to come to the party in respect of the native population. But every time the Commonwealth has indicated to the States that it was prepared to make money available, and has asked that it be given some over-riding say in the policy to be adopted with these people, the States have run away from the proposition. Whilst that happens, I am afraid that we will never, with our Constitution as it is at present, make any satisfactory provision for these unfortunate people. Of course, the taxpaying members of the community, if given the opportunity, might vote at a referendum to amend the Constitution so that full responsibility for our aborigines would be thrown on the shoulders of the Commonwealth Parliament.
The honorable member for Hindmarsh also treated us at some length to a dissertation on hire purchase. I agree with much of what he said. Everybody knows that the hire purchase charges are extravagant, to say the least. He told us of what the Labour Party had done in South Australia, but he very conveniently did not tell us what the Labour Party had done in the States as a whole.
– It should be done on a Commonwealth-wide basis; it cannot be tackled one State at a time.
– That may be so, but the State Labour governments have had their chance. This Government, at a Premiers’ Conference, offered to take over the power in respect of hire purchase if the States would so refer it. The Commonwealth Government, led by the present Prime Minister and the previous Treasurer, was prepared to accept that responsibility and to legislate so that there would be some regularity in relation to hire purchase. But the
States refused to do anything. Nevertheless, they could have made some move because State Labour governments were in office in Queensland, New South Wales, Tasmania, and Western Australia. If they had started the ball rolling I am certain that the other States would have been willing to confer on the question as indeed, they have done recently. I certainly hope that something will happen as a result of this conference, but the States have wasted quite a few years when they could have been doing something. Honorable members and others who have followed the moves in this matter will recall that, after the first discussion at the Premiers’ Conference, the Premier of New South Wales made it possible for goods to be obtained much more easily under the hire-purchase system. 1 want it to be clearly understood that my remarks are not to be taken as meaning that I am opposed to the hire purchase system as a means of helping people to obtain the goods that they need. But 1 am opposed to the way that the system is operated. One of the leaders of the hire purchase companies recently criticized people who find fault with the practices of hire purchase companies. It has been clearly demonstrated to all shades of opinion in public life that we are not complaining about the system but about the present use that is being made of the system.
Opposition members talk about the employment position and allege that we are not enjoying a period of prosperity. 1 suggest that they could better inform their minds if they took the trouble to look at the statistics that are available. They show that the number of motor cars, refrigerators, washing machines, television sets and similar equipment purchased by the ordinary people has increased over the last few years. At the same time, the deposits in the savings banks throughout the Commonwealth have increased. It is interesting to me, and I think to many other people, to note that the consumption of these goods is rising year by year and at the same time the deposits in the savings banks are rising. So, there must be an air of prosperity about, and people must be able to afford the goods that they are buying.
Treasury Information Bulletin No. 14 of April, 1959, which is the latest bulletin available, contains some valuable information. Page 25 contains a very interesting table which shows that in the period from February, 1958, to February. 1959, estimated civilian employment in each State increased as follows -
lt is interesting to note that the States with the smallest increases in civilian employment are those that are ruled by Labour governments. I refer to New South Wales and Tasmania, which still have Labour governments, and to Western Australia which had a Labour government during the period covered by these statistics. 1 think the people realize, as they realized on 22nd November of last year, that the best way to secure prosperity is to elect non-Labour governments, because they show a measure of responsibility and a proper approach to the problems that face us. I have said these things because I want to refer to some comments made by the honorable member for Hindmarsh who mentioned the promises made to the people during the last election campaign and to the ways in which the carrying out of those promises would be financed. Fortunately, the people had been through a previous era of Labour policy and did not want another. They realized that once you kill the goose that lays the golden eggs there will be no more eggs, and they did not want to revert to the state of affairs that existed previously.
It is significant to note that the figures disclose that something like 500,000 television licences have been issued already. This, of course, means that 500,000 television receivers have been purchased by the people. As we have not yet got television in Western Australia, I have not had the pleasure of owning a television receiver, but I should say that, on the average, the cheapest price at which one would be able to buy a television receiver would be in the vicinity of 150 guineas. Any one who cares to multiply 150 guineas by 500,000 will see the amount of money that has been invested in television sets within a couple of years.
– And that would not include the cost of installing these sets.
– No, and to that figure must also be added the licence-fee pf £5. The honorable member for Port Adelaide would know all about that. I am not an expert on that matter, as I do not own a television set yet.
My friend the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Anderson) referred only the other day to the amount of money that is being expended at our racecourses on the totes, with the bookmakers, and so on. This is made possible only because the people are enjoying a state of prosperity, and they thoroughly deserve that prosperity.
I come now to war service land settlement, and I mention this matter because of an announcement made by the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. Adermann) yesterday that acquisitions of property for war service land settlement purposes are to cease at the end of June this year. Of course, that does not mean that the scheme will be closing down completely because administration will still have to go on. But it does mean that we are fast approaching the stage when we shall have, in the various States, a vast quantity of equipment that has been used in developing properties for war service land settlement purposes.
Before dealing with that, however, I take the opportunity of saying that I think this Parliament should pay tribute to the various Ministers, and to the officers who have worked under them over the last few years in putting into effect this excellent scheme for ex-servicemen. I know something about this matter because I was actively associated with it for four years or more. I know what work the Ministers have done in connexion with it. Anyone who realizes that millions of pounds have been spent in developing land in the various States for the settlement of ex-servicemen - and this must ultimately benefit the States - will appreciate the immensity of the project. One of the largest single projects ever undertaken in Australia is nearing completion now in Western Australia. I refer to the scheme being developed in the Jerramongup-Gardiner River area which embraces 250,000 acres of land. Other large areas have been developed. I have in mind, too, the huge project undertaken in Tasmania in the draining of the Montagu swamp to settle a number of dairy farmers. Then there were the schemes undertaken at Flinders Island and King Island to settle ex-servicemen. I repeat that all the men who have been associated with this work, from the Ministers right down the scale, are to be commended for the job that they have done.
I said a few moments ago that a great deal of equipment is tied up in these projects. I sincerely hope that the Commonwealth Government will give serious consideration to the further utilization of this equipment on some civilian scheme. I know that in Western Australia something like £1,000,000 worth of equipment is involved. A somewhat similar state of affairs applies also in South Australia and Tasmania, and I suggest that it would be a crying shame if all that equipment was allowed just to disappear. Some of it cannot be used by the ordinary individual but a great deal of it can be, and, while I am not advocating a scheme as grandiose as war service land settlement I do feel that smaller civilian schemes should be undertaken because, if we are to develop this country we must start in the primary producing areas. If we are to achieve our population target, we shall have to produce more and more foodstuffs. We now have the opportunity to do something about that.
Whilst making this suggestion, I do not want the States to think that they should have the right simply to say that they want a certain amount of money to do certain work. It will be the responsibility of the States to do the physical work connected with development. I do not think they could reasonably expect a scheme of the same magnitude as the war service land settlement scheme, but that scheme did teach us something. It taught us that land can be developed much cheaper when the development is undertaken on big areas. By cutting up the larger areas, we can cheaply settle the land in reasonably quick time, thus putting more farmers to work at increasing our production. I sincerely hope that very serious consideration will be given by the Government to a civilian scheme for the utilization of this equipment.
Before concluding, let me say that although I have spoken mainly about the agent States, as they are called, I do feel that Victoria and New South Wales are entitled to their share of commendation for the work that they have done. Whether they discontinue their war service land settlement schemes now or later is their prerogative. They elected to be principal States, and if they care to continue spending money on the development of land for. the settlement of ex-servicemen, they may do so. The other three States are in different positions, but, if there are still areas of land available in any of the other States for the settlement of ex-servicemen, I hope that those intending settlers who have not yet received properties in the States where land is not so readily available will make an attempt, before it is too late, to get established in those States where there may be some farms available.
I am glad that the Minister for Primary Industry has seen fit to announce that the closing date for acquisitions under the Commonwealth’s scheme in the agent States is 30th June of this year. I repeat that I am certain that the Minister does not mean to convey that the whole scheme will stop there. I am confident that all he intends to announce is that there will be no further acquisitions and that any projects in course of development will be completed before the scheme is concluded.
I conclude by saying that I hope that the Minister for Primary Industry, under whose jurisdiction I think this matter will come, will give very serious consideration to inaugurating a civilian settlement scheme to open up those vast undeveloped areas that we have in this country so that primary industries may proceed apace while we have vet the time.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Stewart) adjourned.
Motion (by Mr. Adermann) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- The matter which I desire to raise concerns the employment of disabled ex-servicemen in the Public Service. I have a particular case in mind in raising this subject to-night. I would have raised it during “ Grievance Day “ this morning but, unfortunately, my turn was not reached. I take this opportunity of bringing this case before the notice of the House. It is one of many that have come to my notice and the notice of other honorable members. The honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly) raised a similar matter in the House recently.
The case that I have in mind concerns an ex-serviceman who served for four and a half years in the Army. He is a married man with three children, and is paying off his home. He has been employed in the Taxation Branch in Sydney for the past seven months, first as a clerical assistant and later as a clerk. He was given a medical examination to see whether he was fit to serve in a permanent capacity, and as a result of that examination he was told that his appointment as a clerk would be terminated and that he would be downgraded to the position of clerical assistant. He appealed to the Public Service Board, and on 28th April last he received the following letter from the board: -
I refer to your letter of 3rd April, 1959, in which you appealed against the Board’s decision tq. cancel your appointment.
The Board has reviewed your case in the light of the medical evidence available including that submitted with your appeal but regrets it is unable to: regard you as meeting the physical fitness requirements for permanent appointment. This decision was made having regard not only to your present physical condition but also the possibility of long and efficient service without recourse to excessive sick leave.
The fact that you are an ex-serviceman was also taken into consideration.
This man was employed as a clerical assistant and as a clerk in the Taxation Branch in Sydney. His work was efficient and his service was satisfactory. No complaints whatever were made about him. But on being medically examined to see whether he was fit to be placed on the permanent staff, he was discovered to be suffering from two war disabilities. One was a ruptured intervertebral disc and the other was a pes planus with callouses. For those disabilities he is receiving a 40 per cent, war pension.
This was a man who gave four and a half years service to this country in time of war. He is suffering now from war disabilities and is in receipt of a 40 per cent, pension. Had he not gone to war, he would not have suffered those disabilities. Consequently, I feel that sympathetic consideration and treatment is due to him by the Government through the Public Service Board. I wonder what would happen to the many thousands of disabled exservicemen who are employed in private industry if private industry took the same attitude towards them as the Public Service Board. If they were to be dismissed because their health had been impaired by war service, many thousands of them would be unemployed to-day. If there is one instrumentality in this country that should do something for disabled exservicemen, it is the Public Service Board. The Public Service Act provides for special treatment to be accorded to ex-servicemen. Section 84 (8.) of the act states -
Notwithstanding anything contained in this Act, a returned soldier may be appointed to the Commonwealth Service, although he is not free from physical defects due to service in the war, if the Board is satisfied, after such medical examination as it requires, that the returned soldier is free from such physical defects as would incapacitate him from the efficient discharge of the duties of the office to which he is to be appointed.
Under that section, the board is able to employ disabled ex-servicemen, and it should do so as far as it possibly can. A man who is suffering from a ruptured intervertebral disc and flat feet surely is capable of doing clerical work. During the time that this man has been in the employ of the board, he has not been absent one day from work due to sickness. I think that fact speaks for itself. It is beyond my comprehension why the board should terminate the services of this man. I think that the board, and the Government, should look further into this matter.
Whenever the Public Service Board, medically examines ex-servicemen, it obtains their files from the Repatriation Department. Despite the fact that such men may appear to be medically fit and are able to pass the medical examination, because of information obtained from the Repatriation Department file they are denied permanent appointment in the Public Service. The Commonwealth owes a debt to ex-servicemen who have been disabled, and the Public Service should be one instrumentality that gives employment to them. It is not good enough to expect private industry to employ them all. It is the duty of the Commonwealth Public Service to employ them, and the sooner it faces up to this problem the better it will be for all concerned.
In its report on Public Service recruitment, the Boyer committee dealt with preference to ex-servicemen. One of its recommendations was that the concessions to ex-servicemen in respect of medical standards for entry, as at present laid down in section 84 (8.) of the Public Service Act, should be maintained. The committee also dealt with the employment of physically handicapped persons. In paragraph 253 of its report the committee stated -
We recommend that in such cases, on the basis of the report of a careful medical examination, the appointee be exempted from the requirement of contributing to one or both of the Funds, and that the relevant legislation be amended accordingly.
Apparently the reason why most of these disabled ex-servicemen arc not allowed to obtain permanent employment in the Public Service is that, if accepted, they would be required to contribute either to the superannuation fund or the provident fund. The Boyer committee recommended that physically handicapped people should be employed in the Public Service. It recommended that they should not be required to contribute either to the superannuation fund or to the provident fund. If it is feasible to do that for physically handicapped people, it is also feasible to do it for disabled ex-servicemen, to whom this country owes a debt of gratitude for the services that they rendered during a time of war.
I make an earnest appeal, through the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. Adermann), who is at the table, for this matter to be considered and for the Public Service Act to be amended so that disabled ex-servicemen who are able to carry out the duties of the positions in which they are employed will be allowed to become permanent public servants. These men deserve to be given the utmost consideration. They deserve the right to become permanent public servants. They received their injuries in the service of this country, and in time of peace surely they have a right to expect that they will be able to earn a living without fear of being dismissed at short notice.
.- I wish to refer to a certain reaction to the speech I made yesterday, when I pleaded for a greater representation of Australian actors and actresses in television pro.gammes. Yesterday I pointed out that the time allotted on television to local artists, compared with imported material, during the week ended 27th February, 1959, was as follows: - A.B.N. , 13 hours Australian, 18i hours foreign; T.C.N., 91 hours Australian, 49i hours foreign; A.T.N., 14i hours Australian, 50J hours foreign - a total of 37 hours Australian as against 118i hours foreign. To-day I received a telegram from Mr. J. H. Oswin, the general manager of A.T.N., Sydney, in which he criticized me for giving what he called erroneous figures for his station. He quoted some very impressive figures to show that in the period in question A.T.N, had devoted 34 hours to live artists, 74 hours to live rehearsals and 51 hours to foreign films. The telegram added -
Our books are open to you for inspection. You may also obtain confirmation these figures from Australian Broadcasting Control Board.
I consulted my colleague, the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen), who knows more about this matter than I do, and then sent this telegram to Mr. Oswin -
Your figures most impressive. Consulted with Les Haylen who explained excellent work for Australian actors you are doing, particularly in “ Others People’s Houses “ and “ Johnny Belinda “. which I saw. I was quoting official figures for week ending 27/2/59. What are your average weekly hours for local as against foreign material?
Mr. Oswin had not indicated where he got those impressive figures. Later to-day he sent me a very interesting telegram. I must congratulate his station on getting out of the rut in this important matter, which is concerning so many of us. The telegram was as follows: -
Currently our local programming 35 half film 57 half local includes one one-hour Australian drama per month, three fifteen minutes Australian dramatic serial per week, one half hour Australian dramatic serial per v/eek, three fifteen minute news bulletins per day. We also in process production another half hour dramatic series and have commissioned writer for another three fifteen minute dramatic serials. For your interest, A.T.N, has nearly completed £30,000 extensions to accommodate sets and props and rehearsal area to cope with live production. In two and half years our staff has grown from 58 to 320, most of increases becoming necessary to cope with local production.
In complete fairness to A.T.N. I wanted to put the true position before the Parliament. I do not wish to be unfair to any television station. The latest figures from A.T.N, prove that it at least has come to realize that we have top-line actors and actresses in Australia. All they need is guidance, help and encouragement. By spending £30;000 on rehearsal areas, A.T.N, has shown, in a material way. that it intends to increase the number of Australian-produced live shows. That is indeed commendable. I hope that the other stations will follow that good example.
Yesterday 1 mentioned another very very excellent production on G.T.V.9 in Melbourne - “ The Caine Mutiny Court Martial “. It was entirely presented by Australian actors and actresses. It received such a wonderful reception that a repeat performance was sought. Top-line theatrical people, including critics, poured in congratulations to the station immediately this excellent show had been completed. Many members of this Parliament saw the show. I did not see it because I live in Tasmania and we do not have television there. I have read about, and have studied, television in operation whenever that has been possible in order to keep myself informed on this subject. I would say that, in “Other People’s Houses”, “ Johnny Belinda “ and “ The Caine Mutiny Court Martial “, we have excellent productions which prove to the Australian television public that we have here the human material to put on shows equal to the best produced overseas.
Once again I commend A.T.N. upon the increased number of hours that it has devoted to Australian live shows. I hope that it still further encourages local actors and actresses. I appeal to all other television stations to increase, as quickly as they can. the number of hours that they devote to Australian artists appearing in full-blooded Australian shows. That will help us to put over the Australian way of life more effectively, and enable us to get by with fewer films devoted to the American way of life. For too long we have been getting into Australia cheap, discarded productions from the United States of America. I believe that that is the opinion of honorable members generally. I hope that what I have said to-night will be sufficient to indicate that one station at any rate is well on the way to helping Actors and Announcers Equity of Australia in its fight to increase the number of hours devoted to programmes featuring Australian actors and actresses on this country’s television stations.
Motion (by Mr. Wight) put -
That the question be now put.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. John McLeay.)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Question put -
That the House do now adjourn.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. John McLeay.)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
The following answer to a question was circulated: -
By Government directive to the Public Service Board, is a person who is a member of the Communist Party disapproved for appointment to the permanent Public Service?
The position is the same as under the previous Administration. The Public Service Board, as the authority for the appointment of officers to the Public Service, is required to ensure that applicants for appointments are of good character, are suitable for the work on which they will be engaged, and do not present a security risk.
House adjourned at 10.59 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 7 May 1959, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1959/19590507_reps_23_hor23/>.