23rd Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. John McLeay) took the chair at 2.45 p.m., and read prayers.
– I ask the PostmasterGeneral whether he has received many protests as a result of the Government’s decision to increase postage rates. Small newspapers and periodicals will suffer because of the proposed new charges, and 1 have been informed by Mr. Sommerlad of the Australian Provincial Press Association that the current postage payable on even the smallest newspapers will be increased eight times. The Chairman of the New South Wales Egg Marketing Board has also asserted that his mailing costs will be doubled, and trade union newspapers and others have made similar complaints. Has the Minister investigated the complaints that have been made? Will he, in conjunction with the Treasurer, review the proposed rates in the light of the great burden that will be imposed on these newspapers which, in some cases, is a definite threat to their publication?
– This question is similar to the question asked me yesterday by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition. I have had numerous representations from members of this House, various bodies and representatives of political parties. As I informed the Deputy Leader of the Opposition yesterday, I have had a look at the detailed application of the proposed increases, and it is my intention to defer certain aspects of the proposal for further consideration very shortly.
– Will the Minister for Primary Industry indicate the present economic position of the Australian pearling industry in the three centres of Thursday Island, Darwin, and Broome? Are investigations being carried out this season in areas where heavy takes of shell have been made in the past in order to ascertain the rate of regrowth? Are investigations being continued in new areas?
– Pearling is proceeding at present off the Australian coast and it is too early as yet to give an accurate assessment of the probable results of the 1959 season’s operations. The production aim this year has had to be curtailed because of the difficult market situation which developed last season. However, there are indications that the economic position of the industry is improving. The Commonwealth, the States of Western Australia and Queensland and the pearlers themselves are jointly financing a pearl shell promotion campaign directed towards the American manufacturers. The results to date are promising and there seems little doubt that the promotion campaign is at least partly responsible for a rise in the price of pearl shell, more particularly of the better grade.
Special surveys are being carried out to ascertain the condition of known pearling beds. A survey ship has been engaged on this work since September, 1956, and will continue her work until December this year. The area to be covered is vast, and investigations will be extended as far as it is physically possible to do so.
– I ask the PostmasterGeneral a question about rural areas where concessional telephone rentals have been paid in the past. What telephone rentals will be paid by subscribers in areas where extended local call charges will apply to calls of up to 25 miles in place of the present trunk-line charges? Is it a fact that these subscribers will lose their present country rent concessions? If so, how many subscribers are affected and what will be the total cost of the rentals involved?
– The honorable member for Yarra can hardly expect me, off the cuff, to give him details of rentals and other charges that will flow from the new telephone policy, particulars of which have been given on several occasions. However, this matter will be dealt with very soon in this House when the bill relating to postal charges is introduced. Although some postal charges are dealt with by a bill and others by regulation, when such a bill is brought down, reference is made to the other charges not included in the bill.
– Will they go up to the metropolitan rate?
– Mr. Speaker, I am attempting to tell the honorable member that when the bill is introduced, which will be within two or three weeks, the House will be given details of the new rates applying to all subscribers.
– I ask the Minister for Primary Industry a question supplementary to that asked yesterday by the honorable member for Darling Downs regarding butter sales in the United Kingdom, and I direct attention to the publication of an excellent paper called “ The Dairy Situation “ by the Division of Agricultural Economics. I ask the Minister whether more butter than margarine is now being consumed in the United Kingdom and whether butter sales have been slowly but surely overtaking margarine sales since the war, when the dairying industry was hard hit. If the answer is in the affirmative, does this give the lie direct to those gloomy prophets who said that butter and other dairy products were not foods of very great value in human nutrition?
– In 1957, the consumption of butter in the United Kingdom was 7,640 tons a week and of margarine, 6,910 tons a week. As a consequence, I submit, mainly of the low price of butter at that time, the consumption of margarine decreased and the consumption of butter increased. I am very pleased to be able to inform the House that, though prices for butter have increased this year, consumption has been maintained. Figures for 1958 show that 8,860 tons of butter were consumed each week as against 6,270 tons of margarine. In other words, margarine consumption has decreased. In looking at the figures for the consumption of margarine, we go back to 1952.
– I rise on a point of order. Although the honorable member asked a question without notice, and the Minister presumably had no prior knowledge of it, he is able to read his reply. I take the point that this period is set aside for questions without notice and that this question should be put on the notice-paper and the Minister should make his written reply accordingly.
– Order! The Minister is in order in replying as he thinks fit.
– I was not aware of the wording of the question that was to be asked. The figures for 1952 show that the per capita consumption of margarine in the United Kingdom was 19 lb.; to-day it is only 13 lb. This shows that when butter is available at a reasonable price the people of Great Britain are prepared to eat it in preference to margarine. The consumption of butter in the United Kingdom is 20 lb. per head as against 13 lb. of margarine.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Immigration. What action has been taken by the Department of Immigration to influence new Australians to learn to speak and understand English? What success has been forthcoming as a result of the department’s efforts? Is it a fact that a great number of new Australians are unable to speak and understand English after periods of three or more years’ residence in Australia? Would the Minister consider making it mandatory for all new Australians to submit to a simple test in English after two years’ residence in Australia?
– Answering the honorable member’s last question first, I think he is being rather harsh upon our new settlers, and, speaking without great deliberation, I believe that my first inclination would be to say, “ No “. I am reinforced in that by reminding the honorable member of the many steps which are being taken and have been taken over a long time to teach English to European people who have come, as we all hope, to make Australia their home.
The honorable member may be interested to know that in Athens, if I may take this as an example, the Inter-governmental Committee for European Migration has established quite an elaborate school to teach English to those who are approved as migrants from Greece to Australia. In the middle of May of this year when I was in Athens I spent a whole morning going over this school and investigating these classes. I was very satisfied indeed with the extremely high proficiency of teaching which I found in practice there. The Intergovernmental Committee for European
Migration is also making arrangements for a similar sort of language school to be established in Vienna for approved Austrian migrants to this country, and I hope that this school will be established within the very near future. I mention these two examples, Sir, because the honorable member’s question is a very long one and without taking “up the time of the House unduly, I find it impossible to answer it fully at question time.
Before sitting down, I wish to remind my honorable friend of the great work which is being undertaken at the Bonegilla migrant reception centre which, as he knows, is the principal one to which European migrants are brought upon their arrival in Australia, and the quite elaborate language classes there. I would remind him also of the work done by the State educational authorities both by night schools in capital cities and by correspondence courses. I assure my honorable friend that these matters are always uppermost in the Government’s thinking.
I really do not think the Government can be censured in any way for what is being done. On the contrary, I should imagine that, viewed in comparison with other migrant receiving countries, what Australia has been doing in the last few years should be a matter of commendation and quite considerable praise.
– I preface my question to the Minister for Trade by saying that according to reports from California, this season’s raisin crop is expected to be above average. Is the Minister aware that a big crop in California, combined with the recent relaxation of restrictions on the importation of dried vine fruits from the dollar area to some of our traditional markets, could mean that the Australian dried vine fruit crop might face stronger sales competition? Has the Japanese Trade Agreement provided a market in Japan for Australian dried vine fruits? What are the prospects regarding further sales to that country?
– In the circumstances that the honorable member mentions, there is no doubt that Australian dried vine fruits could experience tougher competition in the export field. However, I am able to assure the honorable gentleman that - partly, I have no doubt, as a consequence of his constant advocacy of the interests of the dried vine fruits industry - a provision was included in the Japanese Trade Agreement under which the Japanese Government undertook to make available reasonable sums of exchange for the purchase of Australian dried vine fruits, although prior to the agreement no dried vine fruits had ever been bought from Australia by Japan. In consequence of this arrangement, within the first eighteen months of the agreement the Japanese had bought £200,000 worth of dried vine fruits. The situation now is that for the year 1959, £125,000 worth of exchange is available to buy Australian dried vine fruits, and I believe that if the whole of it is not expended in this year, any unexpended portion may be carried forward to the next year. So the Japanese market is opening up, as a consequence of the trade agreement, as a very useful and completely new field for these products.
– I address a question to the Prime Minister. In view of the fact that there remain now only some hundreds of Boer War veterans, will the right honorable gentleman take steps to amend the appropriate legislation so that the Commonwealth will assume responsibility for the hospitalization and medical treatment of these veterans, as it does in the case of any other Australian soldiers who have had war service?
– This is a matter of policy. I will take it up with my colleague, the Minister for Repatriation.
– Is the PostmasterGeneral aware that next week-end the Australian Broadcasting Commission intends to telecast a character sketch of Mr. Khrushchev, based largely on Communistsupplied material? In view of the national importance of giving the people an accurate picture, will the Minister ensure that this telecast will make adequate reference to the personal implication of Mr. Khrushchev in the Stalinist excesses which he subsequently denounced, and that it will include a reference to Mr. Khrushchev’s organization of a campaign of liquidation in the Ukraine and to his recent instigation of the atrocities in Hungary and Tibet? Will reference be made to Mr. Khrushchev’s engaging habit of inviting guests to dinner and, during the progress of festivities, liquidating them or their adherents? Will the telecast make it clear that Mr. Khrushchev regards lying, murder and genocide as normal instruments of his policy? In short, will the Minister ensure that the telecast will give a truthful and objective account of the character of the criminal who has now become the most powerful man in the world?
– I do not determine, nor do I exert any influence in connexion with the details of programmes broadcast by the Australian Broadcasting Commission, either on its television service or its radio service. The position is, as every one knows, that the Australian Broadcasting Commission has its own charter and authority under the act, and it is my opinion that it carries out its task of proper and fair presentation of many matters of interest to the nation very well indeed. The honorable member asks me to ensure that the telecast, when it is made, will give a truthful presentation of all the matters which he has outlined. Replying in brief to what he has suggested, let me say that, in my opinion, such people as Sir Richard Boyer, the Chairman of the Australian Broadcasting Commission, Mr. Dawes, the Vice-Chairman, and the members, Dame Enid Lyons, Mr. Halvorsen and Mr. Lowndes, are people of high character and integrity, who can be relied on to ensure that their staff present any matter such as that under discussion in a fair and factual way. To suggest that they will not do so is to cast on them a reflection which is not justified, having regard to the great work that they have done.
– In view of the provisions in the Budget for an extra £50,000,000 to be spent on imports this year, will the Minister for Trade say to what extent the increase will apply to the “ A “ and “ B “ categories? Is it proposed to increase the number of licences available in order to benefit distributors whose trade is now being strangulated because they have to purchase goods either through persons holding dummy licences or from importers holding excessively high import quotas? Further, in view of the fact that many imported goods are reaching the general public 15 to 20 per cent, dearer than they should be, will the Minister take action to issue new licences to genuine distributors of imported goods so that retail prices may be more reasonable?
– The £50,000,000 that will be added to the import licensing ceiling this year will, amongst other things, increase the quotas of “ B “ category goods by 20 per cent. The “ A “ category goods will be increased by the addition of varying amounts according to the particular items in the various quotas. The increase will be 10 per cent, on the quotas held. Category changes will mean that there will be no restriction whatever in respect of about £400,000,000 worth of imports. Either no licence will be required for these goods, or licensing will be on the basis of replacement of whatever the importing merchant has been able to demonstrate that he has sold. This is a very considerable advance towards the freeing of our whole import structure.
There will not be a widespread addition to the number of licence holders, notwithstanding this increase because, over all, in the most restricted category, the “ B “ category, the traditional importers are still quite substantially curtailed from the level of their importations in the base year. As a matter of interest, I had an examination made of the position of the twenty leading Melbourne retailers and I found that, on an average, their “ B “ category and textile manufacturing quotas in the last licensing period were still restricted to more than 30 per cent, below their quotas five years earlier. That runs fairly widely through the most highly restricted field of imports.
In the circumstances, it would really not be just to entitle new importers to come into the field on a wide basis before our exchange position has enabled us to restore the historic importers to their position. On grounds of need of the community and equity between business people, there is a continuing close examination of items and of importers. There is a structure of committees including appeals committees. Broadly, until our export earnings match our import appetites, we are doing as much as can fairly be done at the present time.
– In June, the Minister for Trade announced that Australia would be having trade talks with the Germans later this year. Is the Minister able to inform the House more definitely, at this time, of the main objective of those negotiations? Has any date for the talks been laid down?
– Following discussions on an official level which proceeded over quite a time, arrangements are now firm for a German delegation to come from -Bonn to Canberra to commence negotiations on the ‘6th October. The subjectmatter of these discussions will cover the whole existent and potential trade pattern between Australia and West Germany, but in particular, from our point >of view, they will be directed to gaining better access to the German market for certain of our agricultural and pastoral products, because the West German Government has been pursuing a .policy of agricultural protectionism operating .through .a licensing .and quantitative restriction system which we have been challenging in .the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade. The Gatt convention of .a few months ago carried certain resolutions which regularize this German .policy for a further .period, but with .some reservations. It is in view of that Gatt .decision that these discussions will take place. I express the -hope and the expectation that from these discussions will come contractual arrangements with the Government of West Germany which will improve substantially the opportunities for the sale of Australian agricultural products -in that country.
– I direct a question to the Prime Minister. Is the right honorable gentleman able to explain to me how it is that a former senior technician of the PostmasterGeneral’s Department employed on work for the Australian Broadcasting Commission >was dismissed -because of a Commonwealth medical officer’s report which stated that -he was no longer medically fit to continue work, yet later, when he applied for a reassessment of his repatriation pension, ‘Dr. Isle, a medical officer of the Repatriation Department, stated that he should return to work with the A.B.C.? If I give the Prime Minister the name of the person concerned, will he investigate how it is that one Commonwealth medical officer can give a report which takes a man’s employment away from him, while at the same time he is denied an adequate repatriation pension because a Commonwealth medical officer of the Repatriation ‘Department reports that he is fit to work?
– I am perfectly certain that my friend does not ‘expect me to try to explain the inner -recesses of the medical mind, but if ‘he will “be good enough to let me have particulars of this -case, I shall be glad to “have it looked at.
– I -direct a question without notice t© the Minister for Primary Industry. In view -of .the publicity given recently to .increased shipments of manufacturing quality beef to the United States of America, I .ask the Minister: (a) .Does he still consider that the future of the Australian export beef trade lies in the development of high-quality chilled beef exports; and (b) if so, is the chilled beef export :trade developing on sound ‘lines?
– In reply to the honorable member, I want to confirm what I have said previously and that is that in the long term we must aim at developing a high-quality beef export trade if the beef industry .is really to progress as it can do. Of course, that means chiller quality. In the past twelve months, there has been an extraordinary beef export period with considerable emphasis on the American outlet which opened up a market for lower quality beef. It has been a welcome development for the cattle industry, but should not cloud our long-term .thinking. In the twelve months ended 30th June last, Australia exported only about 6,000 tons of chilled beef, compared with 6,500 tons in the previous twelve months. In the normal circumstances, we would not be happy about that, but reports on the last shipment of chilled beef, exceeding 600 tons, that reached the United Kingdom indicated that it was the best shipment ever made. We are very pleased to be able to report that. Therefore, I have enough confidence in the beef industry and the judgment of its leaders to feel sure that they will ensure the healthy growth of the chilled beef export trade before very long.
– My question is addressed to the Postmaster-General. Is it a fact that the Postmaster-General’s Department has handed over to private debt collecting agencies the function of collecting outstanding telephone accounts? I understand that this procedure in collecting these accounts is already in operation in Western Australia, South Australia, Queensland and Tasmania, and that the department intends to adopt the same practice through agencies in New South Wales and Victoria. I also understand that the selected firms are being paid 10 per cent, of the sums collected in return for the services rendered. What is the reason for handing over this public function to private enterprise? Is it not important that these matters should be kept confidential between the PostmasterGeneral’s Department and its clients?
– I have not full detailed information about the matter raised by the honorable member for Banks. As his question is rather lengthy I shall have a look at it later and give him a reply containing the information he seeks.
– I preface a question to the Postmaster-General by explaining that the London General Post Office provides an information service called, “What’s on in London, “ whereby a telephone call can be made to a specific G.P.O. number which gives a daily summary of exhibitions, sporting events, theatres, concerts and entertainments in and around the city. Has the department administered by the honorable gentleman considered the introduction of a similar service in Australian capital cities, whose people have already shown their strong appreciation of the weather, time and test cricket score services that now operate?
– The department is aware of the fact that the British Post Office provides a service of the nature to which the honorable member for Stirling has referred. We have had a look at the possibility of providing such a service following the very successful introduction of other services such as those giving information regarding the weather, the time and test cricket scores mentioned by the honorable gentleman. However, we have no intention at the moment of embarking on this extra service. There are certain difficulties associated with its introduction in Australia - if we decided to introduce it - which are not so apparent in Great Britain. The question of how far such action would constitute advertising by the Postal Department would have to be carefully looked at. So, whilst I appreciate the honorable member’s interest in this matter, and also his commendation of services already provided, I cannot indicate any likelihood of such a service being introduced in the near future.
– I address a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Civil Aviation. Within the last twelve months, this Parliament has passed legislation dealing with the seating capacity of civil airlines. Is the Minister aware that Trans-Australia Airlines has carried out to the letter the terms of that legislation, and that Ansett-A.N.A. has not carried out its terms? What does the Government intend to do about Ansett-A.N.A.’s failure to observe legislation passed by this Parliament?
– I shall be pleased to convey the honorable member’s question to the Minister for Civil Aviation in another place.
– The question which I now direct to the Treasurer is directed to him not only as Treasurer, but as the Minister holding the office of Leader of the House. I ask the right honorable gentleman: Is he aware of the fact that there is widespread annoyance among the women of the community about the poor quality of nylon stockings? In view of the fact that it is a perfectly desirable habit of women to wear, and to want to wear, nylon stockings, I ask the right honorable gentleman whether he will discuss with his appropriate colleagues an approach to the Standards Association of Australia for a standard of nylon stockings to be determined, so that feminine interests may receive the protection they so thoroughly deserve.
– I have been so preoccupied with the detailed matters of the Budget and, more recently, with the detailed matters of the procedure of the House, that I am not as closely in touch with the nylon stocking question as I have been at other times. I shall see whether any improvement in standards can be devised. I gather that the ideal to be aimed at is the production of an article which, while giving the protection of a stocking, creates the illusion that no stocking is being worn at all. Presumably the stocking will virtually reach vanishing point before the ideal is achieved. However, I shall consider what the honorable member has suggested regarding an approach to the Standards Association.
– My question is directed to the Postmaster-General. I ask the honorable gentleman whether the Telegraph Branch of his department has discontinued the use of special decorative greeting telegrams. If so, what saving does the honorable gentleman expect to make by doing away with this pleasing practice? Further, will the Postmaster-General give to the House details of an instruction recently issued that technicians must not be employed after 6 p.m.? Does he agree that this limitation of attention by technicians will reduce the quality of service to the people and increase its cost?
– I know of no instruction that technicians must not be employed after certain hours. Technicians are available where required, but unless the repair of a service fault is urgent and important, technicians, in the interests of economy, are not sent out after hours. That practice does not in any way mean a falling off in the service given by the Post Office because, as I have said, wherever there is a degree of urgency, technicians are supplied.
With regard to the use of special greeting telegrams, I shall have inquiries made and inform the honorable member of the present position.
– I wish to direct a question to the Minister for Primary Industry in relation to wheat research. In view of the fact that Victoria has not yet set up a Wheat Research Committee, can the Minister inform the House what is happening to the money that has been allotted to Victoria from the Wheat Research Fund? If they are not utilizing that money, will the growers in Victoria continue to have one farthing a bushel debited against them?
– The money collected for the Wheat Research Fund and applicable to Victoria is being held in a trust fund by the central committee until such time as the State committee is appointed. Of course, the act provides that the levy shall be collected, and it will continue to be collected. I am hopeful that the impasse will be solved in the near future and that a committee will be set up in Victoria and begin to function.
– I desire to direct a question to the Minister for Territories. I ask: What action has the Government taken to standardize the railway line from Marree to Alice Springs? Can the Minister say when it is contemplated that a start will be made on this important work, which will be of immense benefit not only to the Commonwealth and the State of South Australia but also to the very important division of Grey?
– The matter raised by the honorable gentleman is under the administration of my colleague, the Minister for Shipping and Transport, and I shall bring it to his notice as soon as possible. butter;
– My question, which is directed to the Minister for Primary Industry, is supplementary to one asked by the honorable member for Macarthur. Is the increase in butter consumption in the United Kingdom- due to a very low price for butter - a price which is much below the cost of production in Australia? Are the present prices, of butter overseas, which are much higher than those of twelve months ago, due very largely to a drought in the northern hemisphere, which has reduced overall supplies coming on to the United Kingdom market?
-As I said, before, 1 felt, that the increase, in the consumption of butter in tha United Kingdom resulted from the low price of twelve months ago, but. I am very pleased to be able to inform the House that the higher level of consumption has been fully maintained, even at the present price. I. think the price, which has reached 375s. sterling a hundredweight in the United Kingdom, is partly due to the fact that there has been a lower delivery of. butter to the United Kingdom, and to drought- conditions in certain countries. Australia and New Zealand have actually had more butter to sell this year, and we have benefited as a result of better prices combined with the level of production.
– I address a question to the Treasurer. I> ask the right honorable gentleman: Has his attention been directed to a report that villagers in the Sepik district of New Guinea have: been trying to make money grow by storing it in boxes in houses known as “ bang bangs “, and that the natives believe that the houses will act as banks and increase the money? Is the Treasurer aware, also, that a cult known as “ money-makers “, the members of which profess to make money from their skin, has gained a following? As it is apparent, from a close study of the right honorable gentleman’s first Budget, that practically every known plan to impose further burdens on the low-income group has been adopted, will he consider the “ bang bang “ scheme or the methods of the “ moneymakers “, which appear to be the only proposals that offer any hope to the Australian taxpayers?
– The form of finance suggested by the honorable member certainly- seems rather weird and. exotic. Since it comes within that category, L suggest,, after- having heard the Opposition’s statement of financial policy last evening, that the honorable gentleman consult with the Leader of the Opposition.
– My question is addressed to the Minister acting for the Minister for External Affairs. Is it a fact that the Singapore division of the University of Malaya recently asked the Colombo Plan countries for more books about those countries? Is it a fact, also, that Australia, is the only country which so far has not complied with, this request? In view of the value, to Australia of the study in other countries of books about this country, will the Minister say whether the Government intends to accede to the request made by the. University of Malaya?
– I am aware of a request by the Chief Justice of Malaya for a set of Australian law reports, and1 I take it that that is the request to which the honorable member refers. I am not aware that Australia is the only country which has not responded to that or a similar request. I can assure the honorable member that the Department of External Affairs is at present considering precisely what falls within the description “ a set of Australian law reports “. So soon as we have been able to establish which books are best suited to be sent, ways and means of. satisfying the request will be considered.
– I should like to ask- the Prime. Minister a question without notice. I desire to know whether it is considered by the Government to be irregular for any Minister, Commonwealth public servant or any member of any governmentestablished board or commission, in any circumstances, to have a financial interest in a company which has transactions with a government department or authority. Is it a fact that a member of the Australian Coastal Shipping Commission has lodged a claim for the payment of- brokerage on the sale of the four vessels which were recently. disposed of by the Australian National Line? If such a claim has been made, will the right honorable gentleman make known to the House the exact circumstances in which a member of the commission has sought the payment of brokerage?
– I will certainly have that matter looked into urgently.
– Can the Minister for Primary Industry inform honorable members whether the situation in Cuba has caused or contributed to the serious decline in the price of sugar on the overseas market? Does he expect the position to improve in the near future?
– This question could be put more appropriately to my colleague, the Minister for Trade. There has been some upset in the sugar market partly as a result of the political upheaval in Cuba. Possibly the new government in Cuba desired some ready finance and this depressed the market. The International Sugar Council has taken action to rectify the position and certain clauses in the agreement relating to the reduction of quotas have been invoked. As to what the future holds, I should not like to make a forecast.
– For the information of honorable members I lay on the table the following paper: -
National Radiation Advisory Committee -
Second Annual Report, July, 1959 - and ask for leave to make a short statement in connexion with it.
– In tabling this second annual report of the National Radiation Advisory Committee, I do not wish to say a great deal because the. report speaks most ably for itself. The members of this committee are, as honorable members know, among the most eminent scientists in this country, so that what they have to say in this report must carry great weight. The report is expressed in the most simple lay language and the story it tells is enormously reassuring. We have, as the report says, been fed a diet of news and reports about radiation and its hazards which, to say the least, has been alarming. It is cheering then to learn from these eminent scientists that their painstaking investigations over the last year have shown that Australia is one: of the “ cleanest “ countries in the world. Indeed, to take a case, the report establishes that the average accumulation of strontium 90 in Australian soils in August, 1958, was about onethird of that found in the United Kingdom, onefourth of that found in most areas of the United States, and one oneseventh of thatin the midwestern United States. The report goes on to say that the maximum permissible concentration of strontium 90 in the human body laid down by the Committee of the International Commission on Radio logical Protection is 110 times greater than the concentration measured in Australian infants and 660 times that in adults. These are only two examples which I have culled from this report. I commend the whole text to honorable members so that they may make their own evaluation of the “ scare “ stories to which we have been subjected.
Two other points in the report to which I feel I should refer concern the use of X-rays in medical practice and the whole question of control of ionizing radiation. Concerning the use of X-rays in medicine, the committee has pointed out in its previous report the dangers that can be associated with the use of X-rays. In this report its members repeat their warnings, but also refer again to theequal dangers which could obtain if public alarm became so great that people were to become unwilling to avail themselves of the necessary use of X-rays in medical practice. I mention this point because I feel that it should be underlined so that people will not subject themselves unnecessarily to even greater dangers through not using this important aid to medical practice.
So far as the control of the uses of ionizing radiation is concerned, the committee recommends that the Commonwealth Government should accept responsibility for the legislative control of all uses of ionizing radiation throughout Australia. Honorable members will understand that this presents constitutional problems as well as other problems, but the committee’s recommendation will be considered by the Government and discussed with the States.
The committee also reports the resignation of Sir Macfarlane Burnet, who has been chairman of the committee since its inception. Sir Macfarlane has found that increasing personal commitments make it impossible for him to continue on the committee. However, honorable members well know that the contributions he has made to the committee already have been of outstanding value. I venture to say that only his great sense of public duty has made him find the time which he has already devoted to the work of the committee. In a period when, with all the great modern developments of this nuclear age, we have been alarmed by conflicting stories of dangers of radiation, Australia owes much to Sir Macfarlane and, of course, to the other members of the committee, for the work put into this report and the previous report.
– I join in the tribute to Sir Macfarlane Burnet.
– I move-
That the report be printed.
Debate (on motion by Dr. Evatt) adjourned.
In Committee of Supply: Consideration resumed from 18th August (vide page 321), on motion by Mr. Harold Holt -
That the first item in the Estimates under Division No. 101 - The Senate - namely, “ Salaries and allowances, £29,600 “, be agreed to.
Upon which Dr. Evatt had moved by way of amendment -
That the first item be reduced by £1.
.- The Opposition case in this debate which was initiated by the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) is notable for its weakness. Perhaps he experienced difficulty in formulating a strong attack on a government which is guiding the destinies of the nation with a stable and expanding economy. There is evidence of stability - if evidence is required - in the manner in which Australia has weathered the recent inter national economic storm that resulted from the minor recession in the United States and the internal difficulties created within Australia by a year of drought. Fortunately, the United States has recovered from its economic recession and, furthermore, the United Kingdom economy is now remarkably buoyant. There is no doubt that Australia must benefit from this improved international situation.
The case submitted by the Leader of the Opposition is remarkable in that, on the one hand, he has demanded increased expenditure and, on the other hand, he has demanded decreased revenue. As the Budget is already providing for a cash deficit of £61,000,000, the proposals of the Opposition, if we take them as being sincere, could only mean an increase of many millions of pounds in the deficit. This, of course, would be an act of gross financial irresponsibility and would only release inflationary pressures with all their evil economic consequences. The next speaker for the Opposition was the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward). He pursued his normal prophecy of gloom and made a speech that we have often heard here. Perhaps the most interesting feature of his speech was his championship of the graziers. He referred to a fairly substantial section of them and complained that their incomes had suffered in recent years. This was very much in conflict with his attitude towards the grazing industry in the past.
The honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Crean) delivered a most interesting and academic thesis on indirect taxation. However, he failed in any way to say how the loss of revenue would be made up if substantial reductions were made in indirect taxation. His contribution would have been far more useful if he had given some indication of the Opposition’s policy in relation to the replacement of indirect taxation by direct taxation. I think I should correct one point that was made by the honorable member for Melbourne Ports. He said that the committee of inquiry into taxation had been referred to in a previous Budget speech. I point out that this matter was mentioned by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) in his policy speech last October. This is the first Budget after that policy speech and the matter is now being introduced.
The honorable member was very critical of the 5 per cent, reduction in income tax for a number of reasons, but I should like to point out - I am sure that he knows this already - that this means an actual rebate of Is. in the £1 on the rates of taxation based on the last financial year. It means also in a full year a reduction in cost to the Australian taxpayer of £20,000,000. This will be reflected in a reduction of provisional taxes. I may say in answer to the honorable member that this matter had been most carefully considered by the Government, and this was found to be one of the most equitable means of income tax reduction. It assists every taxpayer on a corresponding basis.
I want to deal very briefly with the background of the Australian economy in the present circumstances. This Budget has been designed to maintain stability in our economy and at the same time to provide a favorable climate for the continuation of our high rate of development. I must congratulate the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) on the introduction of this his first Budget, and I join with other honorable members in paying a tribute to the previous Treasurer, Sir Arthur Fadden, who, during his term of office, contributed so much towards the foundation of stability in our economy.
During the past two decades, Australia has been transformed into a country which is now highly industrialized. Although it is still a great primary producing nation, dependent upon primary products for the major part of its export income, Australia now has a great diversity of secondary industries. Expansion of production of all forms, both primary and secondary, has been at a rate equalled by few other countries. Australia has indeed become an attractive field for overseas investment. The Australian economic advance has gained impetus, first, from improved technology which is so evident throughout industry to-day; secondly, through the discovery and exploitation of a wealth of raw materials, which have been won from many parts of this vast continent; thirdly, from a rapidly expanding population, which has been created to a substantial degree by largescale immigration; and, fourthly, from an inflow of new capital from local savings, substantially assisted by an inflow of capital from abroad.
Such factors as new mineral discoveries, new industrial plants and techniques, scientific developments in the agricultural and pastoral industries and the new general emphasis on advanced scientific research have all brought the promise of further development to which at present there is no foreseeable limit. However, these expansion opportunities in the Australian economy raise many complex problems. One that we must consider is the increase in the Australian work force. The work force during 1958 was approximately 4,000,000 persons, and it is estimated that by 1970 the work force will have increased to 5,300,000. This increase will be principally absorbed by our secondary industries, but primary and tertiary industries, with their increasing demands, will absorb a proportion. The economic situation indicates that the long-term trend in the world economy during the next ten years should be strongly expansionary, and this will obviously be of vital importance to Australia.
It is also significant to realize that postwar recessions have been short and have not basically disturbed the general upward trend in production, consumption and international trade, which are matters of vital significance to the Australian economy. There has been a greatly improved capacity for economic management in Australia, both in government and in commerce. During the post-war period of our history, this has helped to create the economically stable conditions that we now enjoy. Short-run influences such as the decline in wool prices in the post-war years have indicated quite clearly that the Australian economy is now less susceptible to such fluctuations, a point, of course, which is of vital importance to our economy compared with the situation that existed in the immediate pre-war years, when these fluctuations had a vital impact on our economy.
It is estimated that over the next five years Australia’s export income will need to expand by approximately £250,000,000. This was referred to in a political sense by the honorable member for East Sydney. I do not deny the importance of the situation to our economy, but the solution is not in the field of politics; it is in the cooperation between governments, industry and commerce that a solution will be found to this problem which is so vital to us. -Failure to achieve this objective of a substantial increase in our export income over the next five years could endanger our rate of development and our general living standards. Therefore, long-term planning is necessary for economic policy and for -investment programmes, associated with a big drive for trade expansion. Our economy in the future and our prosperity -depends upon national understanding of our economic problems and upon full cooperation between governments, industry and commerce.
I shall deal briefly with the role of overseas investment in the Australian economy. I think we all agree that overseas investment has, particularly in the post-war years, played a vital part in Australia’s development. Many overseas companies have established subsidiary companies in Australia which are in full operation. Other companies overseas have joined Australian organizations to start new enter.prises in some cases and in others to -.expand those already in existence. Australian manufacturers have also entered into agreements with overseas firms to make provision to use overseas methods, patents, trade names and know how on a /royalty payment basis. All of this has been actively associated with the tremendous development which has taken place in Australia in post-war years.
Overseas investment is of great value to Australia because it provides finance for enterprise .activities which might not otherwise have been initiated or whose establishment could have been delayed. It also enables -Australian industry to keep abreast of latest products and techniques. Up to the 1914-18 war period overseas investment in Australia had been limited and directed mainly to special fields but in T919, with the establishment of a modern steel-making industry in Australia substantial investments ‘Of overseas capital were -made’ in our -steel processing industries. In 1920 the growth of the motor industry here led to the establishment in Australia of .assembly plants of overseas motor manufacturing companies. During this period also the extension of telephone -communications was assisted by the participation of overseas companies in the manufacture, within Australia, of equipment and cables. Between the years 1920 and 1930, radio, electronic and chemical industries were actively assisted to an expanding extent by overseas investment.
The rate of overseas investment slowed down to some extent during the early 1930’s but many heavy industries were established by overseas capital just prior to the 1939-45 world war. As is well known, during the period of World War 11., overseas investment in Australia was only a minor factor in our economy. Nevertheless our development, industrially and commercially, was assisted most actively by the great contribution in technical knowledge, training and the provision of equipment and materials, in many cases on a lend-lease basis.
It is important to realize that during the ten years following World War II. approximately £620,000,000 - I am speaking of the Australian equivalent - of new money and ploughed-back profits increased the investment in our .economy. This money had come from the United Kingdom, and, to a lesser degree, -from the United States :of America. During 1958-59, that is ;the last financial year, the total apparent .private capital inflow was £146,000,000 Australian. That, of course, is a record for private investment in this country. That .inflow represents both investment and moneys brought in by migrants. That figure of .£146,000,000 includes £34,000,000 of undistributed income which -.overseas firms -have ploughed back into the Austraiian <economy. This is a sign of their continued .confidence in Australia. .Indeed, as far as I can assess the figure at the moment, the total amount of private investment in Australia since World War II. has been over £900,000,000.
In the first post-war stage, from 1945-51, of the amounts invested here, approximately £66,000,000 came from the United Kingdom and £27,000,000 from the United States of America. This was an injection of capital into Australian manufacturing industries; it was shared by 541 new or expanding enterprises. In some cases the investments represented approximately 50 per cent, of the total capital. There ‘had been an acceleration in planned expenditure by overseas companies in 1951.
Although there was- some interruption in the period 1952-54 due to economic circumstances, there was afterwards a marked upward swing which still continues. I have illustrated this by the investments which have been made, particularly last year.
A notable feature of overseas investment in recent years has been the concentration in basic industries. Examples are the oil, motor, chemical, paint, metal, engineering and textile industries. It is estimated that about one-third, by value, of all new manufacturing projects in post-war years have been undertaken by companies wholly or partly owned abroad. Tt is quite obvious that overseas investment has helped Australia to sustain its economic growth and to maintain its drive towards industrial efficiency and competitive world strength.
I now turn to some aspects of the Budget. It is a Budget of confidence. This is illustrated by the raising of the ceiling for import licensing from £800,000,000 to £850,000,000 per annum and the almost total dismantling of dollar discrimination. Associated with the changes there has been the undertaking of a tremendous trade drive which is now gaining impetus under the guidance of this Government assisted by advisory bodies such as the Export Development Council, the Manufacturing Industries Advisory Council and various chambers of manufactures and chambers of commerce. Indeed, most responsible sections of the community are now co-operating with the Commonwealth and State Governments in developing the impetus of this trade drive which is so vital to the expansion of our economy. This has received foremost consideration in the implementation of Budget measures. The feeling of confidence which has developed through that impetus and the stability of the Budget, is something worthy of note and the new Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) deserves congratulation for.it.
I find, it interesting to note that the increase in expenditure on defence to £192,800,000 will be an important contribution to our defence obligations, both internal and external. I will not traverse what has already been quoted concerning the Budget proposals in the fields of social services and repatriation. The terms are well known to honorable members, and I am sure that all honorable members will agree that the assistance rendered will- be- of . great value to these needy sections of the community. In addition, a large majority, of people will be helped by the adjustments that will be made in the national health scheme:
Income tax deductions and certain other taxation adjustments which have been announced by the Treasurer will provide welcome assistance to the general’ economy. The consideration which has been given to all sections of the community in connexion with these taxation adjustments will be greatly appreciated and the Government will receive full commendation for it.
The Leader of the Opposition directed a part of his attack against the proposals relating to expansion of the Postmaster_. General’s Department’s services in Australia. It is quite obvious that the expansion programme outlined by the Minister will provide important services and facilities for the Australian business community and the public during the next few years. If we are to have these improved’ facilities and better services, some burden, of course, must be borne by all sections of the community. It is noted, however, that the Opposition’s criticism is based’ mainly on the fact that private telephone users will have to pay a little more for their individual calls. The point has been made, however, by the Postmaster-General, that the increases, for private telephone usersthroughout Australia, wilL be very small over a. year; and that they will have to pay each week only a matter of a couple of pence more than they were paying previously.
I was very surprised to hear the Opposition’s criticism of the provisions for increasing the maximum amount allowable as deductions, for income tax purposes, in respect of insurance and superannuation payments. It is quite obvious that insurance assists the lower income group in the community to a far greater extent than the higher income group. The very people whom the Opposition claims to be speaking for when criticizing this- proposal are the. ones who will gain a direct benefit from it.
It was interesting, also, to hear the criticism directed by the Leader of the Opposition at the provisions for additional assistance to private companies. In the past, of course, private companies have been at a very great disadvantage as compared with public companies, from the point of view of taxation. This measure will provide very substantial assistance to the large number of private companies, many of them quite small, that are operating in Australia. In this regard I think I should quote some remarks of the Treasurer, because they are most significant and they answer a point that was raised by the Leader of the Opposition and because they seem to have been ignored by the Opposition -
Since the present limitations have been in force much complaint has been made that the penalties for insufficient distributions have prevented the younger and growing companies from retaining sufficient profits to ensure stable development. Often, they do not find it as easy as longer-established companies to get access to additional capital either from the banking system or the public and so they have to rely to a greater extent on building up capital from their earnings.
I think that is sufficient indication of the importance of this provision to the very substantial group of private companies throughout Australia.
– It is of vital importance.
– As my friend says, it is, in many cases, of vital importance to these small companies. But perhaps it has been overlooked by the Opposition that private companies in Australia, being involved in such a wide range of industry and commerce, are large employers of labour, and so are playing a very significant part in maintaining general living standards.
I will conclude, Mr. Chairman, by saying that this Budget provides some carefully chosen incentives to effort and enterprise, combined with a balancing emphasis on stability. It emphasizes the basic economic and social objectives of the Government, which may be simply described as sustained population growth, with full employment and high standards of living. Clearly, our ability to achieve these objectives implies continued and balanced growth of the Australian economy.
– The honorable member for Darling Downs (Mr. Swartz) asked where the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) and his supporters would find the money to pay for the additional benefits that we say are so justly deserved. Let me say at the outset that if the Labour Party was given the opportunity of deciding whether it would give to a person receiving £16,000 a year a reduction of £424 in income tax, or whether, on the other hand, it would give age pensioners, in their dire distress, another 7s. 6d. a week, the decision would be quite easy to arrive at. Make no mistake about that! Let it be clearly understood that so far as I am concerned there would not be one penny granted by way of tax remission, particularly in the higher income brackets, until the most deserving section of the community had received some relief from the intolerable burdens it has to carry.
The honorable member went on to deal with the matter of employment opportunities. It is remarkable how every Government supporter, including the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt), skates over this vital problem, which should be discussed openly, understood and planned for if this country is to progress in the way that it should during the next decade. Later I shall be dealing with the report from which the honorable member took some figures, when he spoke about the increase in the employment force over the next decade. Let me say that he carefully avoided some of the main features of that report, regarding the great responsibilities of government, particularly the Federal Government, in planning for the next decade. However, I shall not spend any further time in dealing with the matters to which the honorable member for Darling Downs directed his attention, including his reference to overseas companies, except to say that he very conveniently glossed over the vast profits that some of these companies are making in Australia, without discharging in any way their responsibility to plough back some of the income that they are receiving in furtherance of the well-being of the community and in order to ensure the country’s future.
I rise to support the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition. I do so because of the inadequate attention that has been given by the Government to quite a number of matters. The first aspect that comes to my mind is the failure of the
Government to increase the minimum taxable income. For some reason or other that I cannot understand, this Government consistently shuts its eyes to any suggestion that the minimum taxable income should be increased. In New Zealand it has been increased three-fold in recent years, but in this country, as will be shown when I deal with some other figures later, the minimum taxable income is the same as it was when the basic wage was £3 7s. 6d. a week. This is a scandal that the Government cannot live down. It has been collecting tax from the lowest income group for years, and it appears that it will continue to do so while it remains in office. If any income tax relief were contemplated, surely the first group of people to be provided for should be those in the lowest income bracket.
Another matter to which I direct the committee’s attention is the repeated failure of the Government to abolish the iniquitous means test in respect of the pensioner medical scheme. No one can understand the reason for the retention of this test at a time when, according to the Government, the economy is particularly buoyant.
The third point that comes to my mind is the consistent refusal of the Government to face up to its national responsibility to provide, by way of social services, for those suffering from mental illness. We have seen the great advances that have been made in Victoria and other States in the treatment of those unfortunate people who suffer from mental illness. If an age pensioner has to enter any hospital, even a hospital for the aged such as that at Lidcombe, he is allowed to retain at least a portion of his pension in order to purchase such things as he might need to give him some interest in life. But when a pensioner becomes mentally ill, he is forgotten by the Commonwealth Government and left to public charity.
In considering the essential things that the Government has not done, perhaps the first matter that will come to anybody’s mind, on whatever side of the chamber he may sit, is the Government’s failure to face its responsibility to increase child endowment. There seems to be, on the part of the Government and those who sit behind it, a total failure to realize *why child endowment was first introduced in this country. Particularly am I at a loss to understand the action of the Treasurer. After all, he was the Minister for Labour and National Service in the Government that first introduced child endowment in the Commonwealth sphere, and he knows the real reason for its introduction. He knows that in the late 1930’s, the Commonwealth Arbitration Court decided that, in future, the basic wage would be tied to the capacity of the economy to pay, rather than to any family unit. He knows that the court set aside its decision for six months in order to give the Commonwealth Government an opportunity to do something for those who would be responsible for rearing future generations of Australians. Speaking in a basic wage debate in this House on the 25th March 1941, the present Treasurer, then the Minister for Labour and National Service, said, as reported at page 155 of “ Hansard “ of 1941-
The chief judge said that the basic wage could be considered adequate for a man, his wife and one child, that it was a meagre allowance for a family of four, and that when the family was greater than four hardship frequently occurred. After that statement was made the Government
That is, the then Government of which he was a member - which had previously announced its intention to introduce a system of family allowances, indicated that it was determined to p’U that system into operation at the earliest possible date.
Let us be quite frank about it. Child endowment was introduced originally for the purpose of keeping the basic wage down. That action was first taken in New South Wales in 1926. There would have been a substantial increase in the State basic wage had the then State Government not introduced child endowment. The same principle was followed later in the Commonwealth sphere. The present Treasurer knows perhaps better than anybody else the background to the introduction of child endowment. In “ Hansard “ of 27th March, 1941, at page 338, he is reported as having said, speaking on the Child Endowment Bill -
Child endowment can be rightly considered as a profitable national investment. A free enterprise economy such as ours provides inadequate incentive for investment in persons as compared with things. This is because it is rarely possible for people who make investment in persons to profit from it. For this reason Governments subsidize education. For this reason also the investment of the Commonwealth Government in child endowment can be expected to make a high return in human happiness.
Those were his views in 1941. How far has he departed from them? On the same page of “ Hansard “ he is reported as having said -
These payments will constitute a substantial contribution towards maintaining the welfare of children against the industrial hazards of their breadwinners.
Yet the man who was then Minister for Labour and National Service in the same type of government as the present Government now .brings down a Budget such as this and makes no mention of the need to follow that principle! The tragedy is that child endowment was intended to be a supplement .to the basic wage from 1941 onwards. No one knows better than the Treasurer that the decision of the Arbitration Court on the basic wage was based on the capacity of the nation to pay an amount in respect of a husband and his wife. As a result of the 1941 decision of the court, it has been left completely in the hands of the Government to pay an amount in respect of children by way of child endowment. That was why the Chifley Government first advanced child endowment to 7s. 6d. and then to 10s. This Government has left the amount where it was fourteen years ago despite its claims about our prosperity. This is a standing .disgrace to those who support the Government. The Treasurer and other members of the Government are branded as guilty men for their failure to assist the family unit.
When one starts to analyse the Government’s 5 per cent, taxation deduction one finds that, so far as the family man is concerned, it is a swindle sheet. I have prepared figures to show that, taking the 5s. a week basic wage rise last year as applying to the whole year, a single basic wage earner in receipt of £13 ls. a week, and with no deductions, paid for the taxation year ended 30th June, 1959, £50 10s. in income tax. In other words he paid almost £1 per week to the Government. What will his position be after this 5 per cent, deduction has been made? On the eve of the Budget there was an increase of 15s. a week in the basic wage. The Treasurer knows from his Ministerial experience that, as a result of that increase, the basic wage earner will move into another scale of taxation. The single taxpayer on the new basic wage of £13 16s. a week, if there had been no reduction of 5 per cent., would have paid in the current financial year the sum of £56 12s. in income tax. So, it is on that sum that this Government is giving him a 5 per cent, reduction. What happens? His tax is being reduced by £2 16s. 7d. So, the final result is that, despite all the talk of a 5 per cent, deduction, this taxpayer will pay £3 5s. 5d. more in tax than he paid in 1958-59. In effect, the basic wage earner will be deprived of part of the increase in .the basic wage which the court determined was necessary to restore his living standard. Surely such determinations by the court should be inviolate.
The man with a wife and no children, as a result of a reduction, will get a rebate of £1 16s. 5d.; yet, he will pay £3 5s. 7d. more in tax than he paid last year. The man with a wife and one child will get the magnificent reduction of £1 5s. Id., but he will still pay £3 3s. Id. more than he paid in 1958-59. The man with a wife and two children, who will get a rebate of 15s. 7d. will pay an additional £2 12s. 5d. in tax this year.
The man with a wife and three children - here surely is a section of the community that should be immune from further tax impositions - will have returned to him the magnificent sum of 8s. 7d. as a result of the 5 per cent, reduction but, in the long run, he will pay £2 13s. 5d. more than he paid last year.
In case there is any thought that the Government’s proposals prejudice only the basic wage earner, let me take what may be regarded as a standard wage earner in Australian industry - the fitter who receives a margin of £3 15s. a week. That man, if he has:a wife and one child, paid £19 18s. last year in income tax. This year he will pay £23 17s. He will get back £1 4s. whilst the man on £16,000 a year will get back £420. Somebody has said that this is a Budget of prosperity. Of course it is for those who are wealthy! This is a case of taking away from those who have not and “giving it to those who have. To suggest that the basic wage earner should pay more taxes this year because the
Arbitration Court has decided to give him a small increase of wages is a blot on the record of the Treasurer who was formerly Minister for Labour and National Service and who knows, therefore, how this Governmentgets a rake-off whenever wages are increased. The Government gets more simply because it refuses to shift the point where taxation commences from £104 although ‘that has been the starting point since the basic wage was £3 7s. 6d. a week.
Now Jet meturn to what I regard as the most frightening , part of this swindle sheet which is presented to us in the guise of Budget papers. I am pleased to see the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Anderson) inthe chamber because I want to tell him that I was astounded when he said last night during this debate, referring to the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) -
Did he refer once to planning so that the future employment of our children, our immigrants and the population generally might be protected by a wise financial policy? No!
– That is quite right.
-Let me analyse that statement by the honorable member for Hume because it reveals on his part either hypocrisy or sheer ignorance. I prefer to believe it is the latter. I do not thinkthat the honorable memberwould make such a statement if he analysed carefully what has ‘been saidabout the responsibility of this Government, or any government, in providing employment over the next decade. This Budget is barren of any plan for future employment. The only reference to it is contained in a brief statement by the Treasurer on the first page of his Budget speech when he said -
Employment rose considerably and unemployment fell. Of the additional people available for employment, most if not all, found occupations.
That is in keeping with the statement of the honorable member for Hume. He did not inquire beyond that point. The Treasurer merely said that all persons seeking jobs ‘might have found employment. Let us study the true picture. I have in my hand a report which does not come from a committee set up by the Australian Labour Party. The honorable member for Darling Downs skimmed over it when he referred to figures relating to future employment in Australia. This is a report of the
Manufacturing Industries Advisory Council which was set up by the ‘Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen). In a foreword, the Minister stated -
The Manufacturing Industries Advisory Council was formed, at my invitation, in July, 1958. It consists of twentytwobusiness leaders from various sectors of industry under the Chairmanship of Mr. James N. Kirby. ‘The members whose names are listed in this document are all men of wide ‘-knowledge and experience of the problems of Manufacturing Industry.
Mr. Kirby is chairman of directors of James N. Kirby Proprietary Limited of Camperdown, New SouthWales, and is well known in industry in Australia. At page 16 of the report, the council deals with the failures of this Government. This report would have been in the hands of the Treasurer and Treasury officials when they were preparing the Budget. Itpoints out that in the next decade there will be a need to provide employment in Australia for 400,000 more workers. That is an increase of 40,000 each year. It might not mean 40,000 now, but the report shows that over the next ten years there will have to be a stepping up of job opportunities for an average of 40,000 people each year. If honorable members listen carefully to this extract from the report, they will understand why I say that the Budget is one of the most frightening documentsthat has ever come before this Parliament. The report stated -
The age distribution of the Australian population is such that within the next decade there will be a need for a great increase in educational facilities and in housing. It also seems certain, therefore, that public works expenditure generally will have to be increased. If this is not to be detrimental to private investment, the overall level of investment will need to rise. Public investment in transport, power, land development and the like is vital to the expansion of private industry and the development of a balanced economy. Private industry cannot expand unless it has good roads, ‘railways, telephone exchanges, harbour facilities and an educated and trained labour force.
Of all those headings, the only one that has received attention from the Government is postal charges which are to be increased. The report of the Manufacturing Industries Advisory Council continues -
The development of these public services has been one of the least satisfactory features of Australian post-war development.
That is the report of 22 business men who were selected by the Minister for Trade. Why have they made those statements? The answer is this: Theyknow the facts. Some of those facts can be obtained from information complied under the direction of the Commonwealth Statistician. I have in my hand the “ Monthly Bulletin of Employment Statistics “ for May, 1959, prepared by the Commonwealth Bureau of Census and Statistics. The report for June will not be available until next week. I shall refer to the figures for the four months to the end of May because during that period the Budget was being prepared, and in the Budget the Treasurer said -
Of the additional people available for employment, most if not all found occupations.
I ask honorable members to keep in mind that an average of 40,000 workers will be joining the Australian work force each year for the next decade. In the four months March to June, inclusive, of this year, new employment was provided for 2,400 males and 100 females. Those figures are given by the Commonwealth Statistician and apply to the job opportunities provided by private employers in Australia. While the Treasurer claims that everybody might have got employment and another honorable member believes this to be a Budget of progress, only 2,500 new jobs were available in Australia in four months when the requirement is 40,000 jobs a year. It is a Budget of despair. It reveals complete misunderstanding of national requirements.
Let me compare the Budget with recent statements of the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Roberton). For months he has been bleating about the increased number of persons who are coming into the pensions field. He issued a report early this year- - and that is something new for him - in which he referred to the growing population and the greater proportion of aged persons who are seeking pensions. He said that most people were now beginning to draw pensions early in their ‘sixties. He made it quite clear that in March, there were 506,000 age pensioners in Australia. In June, when the Budget was being prepared, the Minister for Social Services reported that there was an increase of 7,000 in the number of persons applying for pensions between March and June. So, during the four months when this Budget was being prepared, twice as many people entered the pensions field in this country as found jobs in private employment. Surely that situation must underline the poverty of the Government’s policy in regard to meeting Australia’s vital needs. What are the facts? Any honorable member who does the job he should do in his electorate, by acquainting himself with what is happening there, knows what is going on in private enterprise at the moment. Any member who has factories in his electorate knows that men who reach the age of 65 and women who reach the age of 60 are being put off. They are told that their services are no longer required, and they finish work on a Friday night. When they report to the Commonwealth Employment Service on Monday they are told that they are now too old to be enrolled for employment, and that they should apply for the age pension. This is being done everywhere in Australia, in order to keep down the unemployment figures. That is why in this country we are, in effect, becoming Americanized. We are being made to feel that people who are getting old are no longer required in industry, lt is a shocking thing that this Government should deliberately make pensioners out of people who are eager to work. The reason that it does so is, as I have said, that it wants to keep down the unemployment figure by moving unemployed people into the social services field.
This nation is being called upon to pay thousands of pounds to meet the behests of private enterprise and the organizations which support this Government. As I said, the figures for that period of four months up to last May show that only 2,500 jobs were available, yet the number of people in this country who want work is increasing at the rate of 40,000 a year - 400,000 in the next ten years, if the figure remains constant. I put it to the committee that if ever there was a time when a government needed shaking up in order to make it face its responsibilities, this is the time and this is the government.
The honorable member for Darling Downs (Mr. Swartz) talked about the Government’s hope of a continuance of overseas investment in this country. The Government’s refusal to face realities reminds me of a similar performance in the distant past, when Nero fiddled while Rome burned. The Government just hopes that to-morrow will be better than yesterday, and that job opportunities in Australia will materialize out of thin air. It is not concerned with meeting the nation’s requirements in regard to transport and education, not concerned with housing, not concerned with anything but grimly hanging on to office as a body of lazy men capable only of bringing down a Budget like the present document, designed to swindle the basic wage earner into believing that his income tax is to be reduced by 5 per cent, while it will take pounds from his pocket in other ways. That is what the people are getting from a government which has been in office for ten years - ten years too long!
I utter a warning, Mr. Chairman, that if this nation is to succeed, this time next year we must have a Budget of a different type. We must have a Budget from a government that understands and heeds the things that are being said by the people outside. I invite any member or supporter of the Government to read the document that was circulated by the Minister for Trade, and at least digest it so that he can come to this House and accept the responsibility which the Government’s own committee says rests squarely on the shoulders of the Government,
When the Labour Party demands increases of pensions and other services, honorable members opposite ask us where we would get the money to provide for them if we were in office. Why do not honorable members opposite be frank and say of their proposals in this Budget, “ We are prepared to give the pensioners another 7s. 6d., but we are going to give big businessmen, with incomes of £16,000, benefits of £420 each in tax reductions? “ The fact is that the Government is prepared to give great concessions to the captains of industry. But everybody knows that this Government cannot be trusted much longer to meet its share of the national responsibilities. The Government cannot put aside, as it has done for six years, the question of the requirements of the States. It cannot much longer say to the States in regard to roads, for instance, “ This is all you will get for five years for your road works “, because, if that is the policy of the Government, it is a policy of stagnation - such a policy as is demonstrated in this Budget.
.- First, I should like to congratulate the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) on his handling of his first Budget. The form of presentation of such a monumental task as financing the sound, successful handling of such a thriving, progressing country as Australia is largely a matter of the outlook of the man who carries this burden on behalf of his fellow Cabinet Ministers and of all the rest of us who make up the Government. The thorough outline of the economic background on which our forward thinking must be based should enable everybody to put a true valuation on the clear, concise statement of the individual items that have been brought into this year’s discussion. No Treasurer has as yet been able to please everybody with all of the proposals he finds it necessary to make. Each year, the Treasurer has to sort out from all of the proposals made what is considered the right course by those expert advisers who have access to much more detailed information than the public which makes criticisms, or even than Government supporters who also criticize certain items, and most certainly a more accurate picture than has an Opposition which, very naturally, opposes.
Having said this, I want to express my own personal disappointment that the Treasurer did not see eye to eye with me about the way in which one or two aspects of our economy needed attention. This does not necessarily mean that he is wrong - or that I am right. I made my representations on one or two things that I felt would be of benefit to the community as a whole and, as my suggestions were not adopted, I am taking this opportunity to bring them forward again as proposals that I believe would be most acceptable to the business community, and certainly a help in cutting down on our far too high cost structure.
The background of the Treasurer’s speech set out the conditions that we face to-day - very satisfactory conditions in almost all sectors of the economy. At the beginning of last year, we were faced with a fall in export earnings. The volume of our rural production was up - and growing - but with wool prices down, and the prices of almost all other primary commodities low in over-supplied world markets, it looked as if we would have to call on overseas reserves to the tune of £100,000,000, even with import restrictions as they were at that time. Under those conditions we budgeted, for a deficit of £110,000,000. As the year, progressed, prices, began to improve. We were, very glad to have the London butter price, improve from 260s. to its present 375s. sterling per cwt., progressively moving up closer to our cost of production figure, until now, in place of losing about ls. for every, pound of butter we send overseas, instead of using it on our home market - which would be the preferable course - the loss is only about 7d. per lb; That is the loss to the producer before allowing for the impact of the subsidy which. I am pleased to see, the Government is to maintain at £13,500,000. Beef prices have, of course, been unbelievably high, and as a result of this, together with the recovery of wool prices and an increasing flow of overseas capital, our overseas reserves actually declined by only about £10,000,000 over the last twelve months. So- we start this year with very much more favorable prospects. Forecasts of seasonal production indicate upward movements in almost all our primary products. The expectation of new enterprises to be established in Australia by overseas investors is running at a- higher level than ever before. I should mention that natural advantages and the political good sense of Victoria have combined to induce the majority of those investors to come to Victoria, the prosperity State.
Because business opportunities are so much better- in Victoria, that State continues to take the greatest proportion of our migrants. The Treasurer’s announcement that the immigration programme will be speeded up to take something like 125,000 migrants this year- about 10,000 more than previously - is sound and completely in line with the whole tone of the Budget, that is, the creation of improved overall conditions for Australians generally.
The formulae for Commonwealth aid roads grants and State reimbursement grants have been brought round to a more realistic sharing of the moneys available for those purposes. [Quorum formed.]. When I was so rudely interrupted I was referring to the improvements introduced by this Government recently with regard to Commonwealth aid roads grants and State reimbursement grants. We have so altered those formulae that we can expect a much better, use of the. moneys by the States and we can expect a growing improvement in the amenities and facilities available for business expansion in rural, and secondary industries in Victoria in particular. The important thing is that such, an improvement as. this, extending to all States, mustbe of benefit to the whole of Australia.
The task in front of us to-day is to maintain our present vigorous rate of expansion and to- take advantage of the buoyant conditions surrounding us in order to support our growing population. We want to maintain full employment, and we intend to do so, despite the fears of the honorable member for Blaxland (Mr. E. James Harrison). We must allow industries, both primary and secondary, to consolidate at their present levels- and to reach out for new markets, new customers, and new methods- of production, which in turn will mean lower production costs. That the Government realizes the importance of all this is evidenced by the number of committees that have been set up to examine aspects, that need specific attention. I refer, for instance, to the decimal coinage committee, the committee recently appointed to examine the dairying industry, and the taxation committee of inquiry announced by the Treasurer. In addition the Government has advice, from the Export Development Council and the Manufacturing. Industries Advisory Council. It also has the benefit of a wide range of services that have been made and will continue to be made by the Department of Trade and the Department of National Development.
Just prior to the tabling of the Budget proposals, the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen) announced that our overseas balances and prospects of future earnings warranted an increase of £50,000,000 a year in our import rate. The recently issued report of the Export Development Council calls for an urgent increase in export income in order to maintain immigration at its proposed rate and to continue our economic development. It mentions the sum of £250,000,000 over the next five years, which corresponds with the higher ceiling just announced with regard to import licences.
Australia has, of course, always exported primary products, and 80 per cent, at least, of our export income is still derived from the export of primary products. But as we look around the world to-day the prospects of expanding earnings in this field are decidedly chancy, to say the least. The price of wool may well go up and the quantity exported may well increase. The next year or two may be satisfactory for wool, but with the present inept handling of wool sales promotion and the obvious efficiency on the part of the synthetics manufacturers, it- would be. a brave man who would forecast that wool will hold its present proportion of the total usage of fibres in the production of apparel over the next five years. It is really quite a small proportion in the total. We all hope that wool will maintain its present proportion and all of us are doing what we can to try to make sure that it does, but an examination of the statistics on the production of fibres and wool usage shows that over the past ten years wool has dropped from 14 per cent of the total available to only 9 per cent.; that cotton is steady at about 69 per cent.; that rayon has increased from 13 per cent to 18 per cent., and. that synthetics have gone from nil to 4 per cent. Those figures would not seem to indicate that synthetics are a very formidable enemy to wool, but the estimated capacity for expansion of synthetics and I mean the nylonterryleneorlon combination is thought to be of the order of 25 per cent per annum, whereas with wool, if we can. maintain a total increase of 2 per cent., and hopefully 3 per cent., we will be doing very well indeed.
I do not want to diverge too far at this stage by discussing some of the moves that I believe must be made if we are to overcome the difficulties that wool faces, as I am discussing this matter from a budgetary point of view, but: I. feel that I must interpolate one or two thoughts. First we must encourage in every way possible the. mixing of wool with other materials, where such a mixture improves the end; product. Particularly is this so- where a mixture of, say,. 50/50 so improves the synthetics terrylene and orlon as to present opportunities for new outlets for wool. But more important still is the control of the wool industry. Control must be removed from the squabbling organizations that are playing into, the. hands of the. synthetics manufacturers: by their. amateurish approach to marketing:
The Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. Adermann) could well tackle the job of reconstituting the Australian Wool Bureau by making all appointments to it on a basis of individual ability and knowledge of the various phases of the industry. If it is insisted that because the money for wool promotion comes from the growers they should have all the representation, just because they are the growers, a place should be found for representatives of the Australian Primary Producers Union, which represents a very large number of wool growers. Probably at least 30,000 of the smaller producers in five States, as wool grower members of this organization, are represented on its Federal Wool Committee. However, the main functions of the Australian Wool Bureau are marketing, public relations and the utilization of the knowledge gained from research that is particularly in the processing of the wool, and not the growing of it. The pence paid to the growers for wool in the raw represent a very small amount compared to the shillings, and even pounds, that are paid by the users of the. end product. So the major representation on the Wool Bureau should be given to men who are skilled in the marketing, processing, public relations and research aspects of wool.
Many of our other primary products are finding it difficult to maintain their overseas markets, and the field for expansion is consequently narrowed. In any case, our own expanding population must take up an increasing amount of our total production, and our exports of certain commodities are limited by agreements such as the Internationa] Wheat Agreement and’ the International Sugar Agreement, and. by other arrangements which make it difficult for us to compete in some of the. markets overseas. So it appears that the main source to which we must look for the increased earnings that we need if we are to increase imports is our manufacturing industries. In the last few years, we have built up a highly developed secondary industry. The quality of Australian products has improved out of sight. I doubt whether there is any other country in the world, including the United States of America, where such a high proportion of the manufacturers has such up-to-date equipment and know-how or where the potential for increased production is so great as in Australia to-day. Over a very wide field, Australia’s products are far ahead of anything that is sent to us from overseas. With respect to clothing of all sorts, electrical goods, motor cars, steel, builders’ hardware - one could say in almost all industries except perhaps the food canning industry - we have nothing to fear from open competition as regards quality, but when it comes to price we are just not in the race. Basic steel is perhaps cheaper in Australia than anywhere else, but when it comes to manufactured products, in respect of which there is a good deal of added value on account of labour costs, we have the utmost difficulty in competing.
There are many reasons for this. Our home market is comparatively small; so the cost per unit is high. Our standard of living is high; so we demand a highgrade product, and we pay high wages. Our distance from the more mature markets of Europe and America imposes an added burden of transport costs that we have to absorb, and our markets in the near north - in South-East Asia and in Asia as a whole - are limited by the low earning capacity of the people there and, very often, by the need to educate them in the use of the modern products that we are able to supply. For this reason, I am a little disappointed that the Treasurer did not accept the suggestion that I made to him, before the Budget was finalized, that both primary and secondary industries should be assisted by tackling the problem of getting down our far too high level of costs. The removal of the entirely unethical pay-roll tax would be a contributing factor that I think would give invaluable assistance to all producers and would benefit every man, woman and child in the community by its ultimate effect of reducing the price of almost everything that is sold, and particularly those things that have a fairly high content of labour costs. I realize that the removal of this item from the receipts side of the Budget accounts would mean that £50,000,000 would have to be removed from the expenditure side also if the accounts were to balance.
– Or you could increase taxation on the high incomes.
– Or you could add something to the receipts side- but not in the way that the honorable member suggests. A very large sum could be wiped off the expenditure side by reducing the State tax reimbursements by the amounts that the States now contribute in pay-roll tax. The amount of pay-roll tax paid by municipal councils could be deducted from the receipts side, as well as from the expenditure side, because the councils would need less in grants from the State governments if they did not pay this tax. With respect to the receipts side of the accounts, I am quite certain that the business world would be quite prepared to accept - in fact, I am sure that it would welcome - the removal of this flat rate of pay-roll tax from labour costs and the substitution of a tax on profits.
– The business world would welcome the removal of any tax.
– Yes, but the point I am making is that if you remove the pay-roll tax you must put something back. I suggest that the business world would welcome the substitution of a tax on profits calculated to return the same amount to the Treasury. As the amount of pay-roll tax paid every month is added to labour costs, it must be passed on directly into the cost structure of businesses - and a margin for overhead and profit also goes on with it. If we could follow through the total incidence of this tax on, say, H lb. of wool from the time it grows on the sheep’s back, and calculate the tax and profit added to the labour charges at every stage - shearing, carting, selling, scouring, carding, dyeing, top-making, spinning, weaving, wholesaling, manufacturing, advertising and, finally, retailing as a suit of clothes - the result would be appalling. Sales tax is bad enough, but it is paid only once, on the final wholesale selling price of the product, and, in quite a lot of cases, the seller is debarred from making a profit on it. But the pay-roll tax sits on every one’s shoulders like the old man of the sea. Perhaps by next year we shall find some way of adjusting the accounts in order to get rid of this totally outrageous burden.
There is one other matter that I am disappointed about, and I mention it now in the hope that it will be considered favorably next year. I do not think that we should retain any form of sales tax on food. In answer to a question asked by me the other day the Treasurer pointed out, quite rightly, that there is no sales tax on a very wide range of what may be regarded as basic foodstuffs. But there is still sales tax on apple pies, though not on meat pies. If you put a few currants and a little sugar in a mixture to make a bun, it becomes subject to sales tax. There are anomalies of this kind right through the range of the small items such as cake mixtures that go on the grocers’ shelves. There is no sales tax on frozen blocks of water, which have no food value, but this tax is obstinately retained on ice cream - that good, health-giving food of great value to children and invalids.
Last night, Mr. Temporary Chairman, the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) tried to show that the alterations found necessary in postal and telephone charges were only a method of raising revenue and making profits. In my observation of his approach to this and similar proposals, the right honorable gentleman just does not seem to appreciate the meaning of the word “ profits “. He seems to have a sort of phobia about it. He may have some intellectual gifts of an abstract kind but he does not understand the meaning of pounds, shillings and pence. He endeavoured to make a case for the Opposition by decrying the concessions that every one will enjoy and by trying to convince the community that the Government is making class distinctions. He and the honorable member for Blaxland have not appreciated the fairness of the Government’s action in making the reduction in taxes on a percentage basis. Even if the tall poppies, such as the Leader of the Opposition himself, derive more total benefit from the proposed reduction, their salary is greater than that of the majority of wage-earners in the community and they have a much greater responsibility to the nation. A reduction of income tax on a percentage basis surely is the fairest way in which any reduction can be granted.
Every one in Australia would like to see our postal services comparable with those overseas. We who live in the country are very anxious to have more R.A.X.’s, continuous telephone service instead of the rather limited period now available to us, and improved services generally. The pro posed telephone charges will result in lower accounts in many cases because so many of the calls over distances up to 20 or 25 miles will be charged a unit fee instead of as trunk line calls. Farmers connected to small rural exchanges around the large towns and cities will be able to telephone to the cities, which are their main source of supply and which contain their markets, at what will prove to be eventually a reduced total charge. The Post Office performs a wide variety of services and, if we add to its burdens, it will not be able to maintain the expansion that has been evident to date. If we are to apply the benefits of automation to the postal services it is inevitable that the charges must come to a level which will be in conformity with present-day wages and conditions.
I turn now to the proposal relating to allowances for income tax purposes for surgical expenses. Those people who have been unfortunate enough to have had to meet the high cost of a surgical operation will now be able to claim a deduction of £60. The resultant saving in tax will go a long way towards meeting the cost of an operation which, in many cases, amounts to 100 guineas.
Criticism of the proposal to increase pensions by 7s. 6d. a week is illogical when expressed out of its context, as has been done by several honorable members opposite. Of course the pensioners would like to receive half the basic wage, but when one looks squarely at the problem and remembers that the basic wage has been increased recently by 15s. a week, the Government’s action in fixing the increase at 15s. for a pensioner couple shows its realistic approach to the matter. Many persons receiving a pension still can and do earn up to £7 a week in part-time employment.
I have congratulated the Treasurer on his first Budget which I regard as a fair, reasonable and considered attempt to give as much relief as possible to as many people as possible. I am sure that the upsurge of vigorous expansion that is the key note of life in Australia to-day will continue for this financial year and will snowball to such an extent as to establish firmly Australia’s place as the leading nation in the Asian area of the world.
– - In rising to .support the amendment that has been proposed by the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) I should like to comment on the statements .made by the honorable member for McMillan (Mr. .Buchanan). He attempted to make :the point that the Government has set .out to give as much relief as possible to as many people as possible. If the .Budget is the Treasurer’s attempt to do this, 1 am .certainly glad that he did not set out ‘to take something from us. When I deal with that aspect of the matter later, I shall show how much this Government has taken from the vast majority of the people on low incomes and how much it has given to the very small minority on large incomes.
The honorable member has referred to his representations to the Treasurer seeking a reduction in sales tax. It is quite -obvious from the .Budget that the Treasurer did not take any notice of the honorable member, nor did he take any notice of supporters of the Government or of the people in the community who have ‘been attempting for some time to have the sales tax reduced. If the Treasurer ‘had acceded to the representations that have been made, a major improvement in the standard of living of the people would have been effected. The honorable member lias referred to the Government’s action in increasing the grants to the States. That is long overdue. The Government long ago should have reimbursed the States to an extent approximating the amount of revenue that is raised in the States. If I were to debate this aspect alone I would occupy all of the time that is allotted to me. The Government should not take any credit for doing something that it should have done a long time ago. Some weeks ago the Government introduced another piece of legislation relating to roads which was an attempt to pull the wool over the eyes of local government and the community as a whole. The Government is not entitled to any credit for what it has done.
I .agree that .a considerable amount of overseas capital has been invested in Australia. Why? Obviously because this Government, as .1 shall show later, has permitted profits earned by those investments to exceed the bounds of reason in order to attract overseas capital. It. has done nothing to remedy the position. If one compares the .profits that were made in 1951 - at a time when we heard so much talk about an excess profits tax - with the profits that are being made to-day, it is obvious that the -Government should consider again the question of .the imposition of such .a tax. We shall have to pay the price for the failure of this .Government to curb excess profits. We .shall have to produce commodities .in -much greater volume in the future when dividends on these investments start to flow back to overseas -investors.
The Treasurer has been congratulated on his give-and-take Budget. I join in those congratulations as they relate to the take aspect because .this Budget certainly is a take. It is taking from the vast majority of the people and giving ‘nothing of substance in return. The object of this Budget is to reduce the general standards of living of the community.
– That is all rot.
– I shall prove the correctness of my statement in a moment. One has only to examine the position of the worker and the pensioner - the major portion of our community - to see that the standard of living has been reduced considerably. The description of my statement as rot is indicative of the fact that the honorable member is prepared to believe the tripe that has been dished up by the Treasurer in his Budget speech.
J ‘shall refer for a moment to the pensioners. The pension to-day is 33£ per cent, of the basic wage. In 1950, this Government was responsible for paying a pension of £2 12s. 6d. a week, which was 38 per cent, of the basic wage. The last increase in the pension was in 1-957, and at that time the £4 7s. 6d. a week was 33£ per cent, of the basic wage. ‘Obviously, the pensioner is worse off to-day than he was in 1950. I turn now to the totally and permanently incapacitated pensioners. Much ado was made in the Budget of the fact that the increase of 15s. granted to these pensioners was the same as the recent increase in the basic wage, but it .does not mean any real increase for the pensioner. When this pension was first introduced in 1520, these pensioners received 112i per cent, of the basic wage. In 1950, they received -97 per cent., and now they receive 861/2 per cent. Honorable members must agree with me, therefore, that this Budget reduces the general living standard of the people, including the pensioner.
The sickness and unemploymentbenefit of £6 2s. 6d. a week for a married man with one child is 22 per cent of the basic wage. But the arbitration courts of this land say that a minimum of £14 3s. a week is needed to keep a man, his wife and one child. ThisGovernment says that £6 2s. 6d. is quite sufficient for a sick man with a wife and one child. The same amount is given to the unfortunate man who is unemployed. The economic policy of this Government has resulted in thousands of personsbeing unemployed to-day. The points made by the honorable member for Blaxland (Mr.E. James Harrison) regarding unemployment are most interesting. A man who turns 65 or a woman who turns 60 is not allowed to receive the unemployment benefit, but must apply for the age pension. Some unemployed people in one district are sent to another district, and if they refuse to leave their home town they are not entitled to receive unemployment benefit, although other unemployed persons in the district to which they were directed are capable of carrying out the work available there. These are the snide tricks being used by officers of this Government to deprive peopleof the benefits to which they are entitled.
– This is not rubbish; I am giving the facts. This Government knows quite well what is happening.
I shall deal now with child endowment. In June, 1950, this Government came into office in a rain of crocodile tears, saying what it would do about child endowment. We of the Labour Party at that time were of the opinion that any such money paid for the first child would be taken into consideration in fixing the basic wage. I say that to counter any criticism of the Labour Party’s attitude at that time. However, the Government went ahead with its policy and gave 5s. for the first child. In June, 1950, that 5s. represented 31/2 per cent of the basic wage. To-day, if one listens to the Liberal and Country Parties, in this land of milk and honey, in this land of plenty, the Government still cannot find sufficient money to increase that 5s. It is now equal to only 1.7 per cent of the basic wage. But the Government is not in the least concerned about that! The payment for the second child has been similarly affected. In 1950, it was 7 per cent of the basic wage, and to-day it is only . 3.5 per cent.
These are only some of the things that this Government has permitted to happen during its term of office, and I say that they prove that the Government is attempting to widen the gap between the “ haves “ and the “ have nots “. It is reducing the general standard of living in the community, and this adversely affects the pensioner groups. When a Budget is presented, most people look for some reductions in taxation. Once again the Government has applauded its own efforts to look after the people, but it has reduced taxation by only 5 per cent. In the 1946 election campaign, the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) promised that he would reduce taxation by 20 per cent. At that time, the people were in the happy position of being able to reject his proposition. However, over a period he has been able to give the plums to those who can afford to pay taxes and who have a high standard of living.
I propose to show what the present reduction of 5 per cent really means. Mention has already been made of the small amount that will be given to the labourer and the tradesman. But I will show what those people who can afford to pay high rates of taxation will receive. The report of the Commissioner of Taxation reveals that 57 fortunate taxpayers have an income of more than £50,000. Collectively, they will save £119,294 or £2,093 each. That isnot a bad little handout! In the next group, 149 taxpayers with taxable incomes between £30,000 and £50,000 will receive £947 each. In the group with taxable incomes between £20,000 and £30,000, 419 persons will receive £596. The 5 per cent reduction really means something to these people. Those who receive a reduction of £2,093 annually compare more than favorably with the labourer who, according to my calculations, will receive 16s. or less. 1 am referring in all these figures to a man with a wife and two children.
The labourer will receive the magnificent sum of 16s. a year and the tradesman will receive approximately £2 a year. The Government must really be proud of these figures when it realizes that there are more than 274,000 people in the labouring group and 303,000 in the tradesmen’s group. In the next highest group, where the taxable income is between £800 and £900 this means a gross income of about £1,250 395,000 people will receive between 30s. and £3 10s. a year. The arguments of honorable members on the Government side would suggest that these taxpayers could not be given any further reductions because they were not really paying any taxes. But the real facts are that those in the labouring group are already paying £16 to £27 a year in income tax, those in the tradesmen’s group are paying £39 to £53 a year and those in the next highest income group are paying £70 to £87 a year. An analysis of these taxation figures shows quite clearly that 9 per cent of the tax payers, or those in receipt of a taxable income of £1,500 or more, receive 56 per cent equal to £11,200,000 of the total tax reduction of £20,000,000. But the vast majority of the people 91 per cent, of the total population are fortunate enough to be entitled to the magnificent sum of £8,800,000, equal to 44 per cent., from this very generous Government! At least, the Government would have the people believe that it is very generous; to honorable members on this side it appears to be generous only to those who have means. As I pointed out earlier the Government has set out to create and widen the breach between the “haves” and the “ have nots “.
The Government has slipped into the Budget a provision to increase from £300 to £400 the allowable deduction in respect of superannuation and life insurance payments. Does that mean anything to the labourer or the tradesman or even those earning from £1,250 to £2,000 a year? Can they afford to contribute £400 a year to insurance premiums or even increase their present insurance payments from £300 to £400? I know that, as a boiler maker, I could not afford to pay £300 a year in insurance premiums. This concession will not mean anything to the average tradesman or the person with a comparatively small insurance policy. Once again, the advantage will be to the friends of the Government. The man who is earning £2,000 or £3,000 a year will benefit to the extent of £22; at present the figure is approximately £19 a year. But the person whose income is in the £10,000 a year bracket will receive the full benefit of about £66 a year. These figures prove once again that this Government has been particularly generous to people of means.
The Government is deserving of censure because of its failure to attempt to do something to relieve the housing shortage. On many occasions the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Downer) has proudly boasted about the Government’s immigration programme. Until this year its policy was to bring 115,000 migrants to Australia annually but this year the figure is to be stepped up to 125,000. What, in actual fact, will this Government do to provide housing for these people? It proposes to increase the sum of £35,810,000 provided last year for housing to £36,080,000. What does that magnificent increase really represent? It represents the cost of building approximately 90 additional homes.
– About that number are blown over by the wind each year.
– That is so; or the friends of the Government demolish more than that number in order to build service stations on the sites the houses occupied. The proposed additional finance will scarcely overtake the new demand created by demolition of existing houses so that service stations may be built. The Treasurer said that the Government built almost 80,000 homes last year. I took the trouble to get figures and I find that in two previous years during this Government’s term of office 80,000 homes had been built. But what is the real position? Recently in Newcastle the secretaries of the two principal building societies stated that they would need at least an additional £1,500,000 to enable the backlog of housing in the Newcastle district alone to be overtaken. How hopelessly inadequate is the amount proposed by this Government to overtake the housing lag throughout the whole Commonwealth! The secretary of the major building society in Newcastle district told me some time ago that he would not take any further applications for housing loans because he would be simply fooling people by doing so.
The Government talks about the increase in population. Over the past ten years the total population of Australia has increased by 2,150,000. Within that number has been a migrant intake of 925,000 and the Gotvernment proposes to keep an bringing more migrants. Not for a moment do I disagree with the policy of immigration. As a large, undeveloped country we have to expand and we need people to help us to do that; therefore, we have to bring more migrants to Australia. But I do complain about the failure of the Government to do two things. The first is to ensure that men and women desirous of working have jobs and the second is to see to it that they have homes in which to live and raise their children. If the Government were prepared to make sufficient money available for housing the standard of living of these people could be raised considerably. This would be an important factor also in solving many current social problems.
People engaged in social work find continually that two of the major factors in social problems are broken homes and crowded, unhygienic living conditions. If the Government intends to carry out its immigration policy fully it must provide sufficient money for the people already here and those who come to have proper homes. It is totally wrong that houses are so crowded that double decker and threetier beds have to be provided to accommodate the excess number of people living in many homes. But this condition is found everywhere.
In my capacity as an alderman of the Newcastle City Council I have many times discovered as many as a dozen people living in two-bedroom homes. Does any honorable member on the Government side think that is a hygienic or reasonable standard of housing? Members on this side of the committee certainly do not. Such facts only underline the need for the Government to make more money available for housing so that people may live like human beings and not like rabbits in a warren.
The other point I wish to deal with is the failure of the Government to do anything in connexion with a matter it discussed in 1951 - excess profits. Any one who has examined this matter closely must realize that the standard of living of the people is being reduced because many companies are making exorbitant profits. The honorable member for McMillan has referred to company profits and has said that although the Leader of the Opposition has certain academic qualifications he does not seem to understand economics or that private enterprise is entitled to make exorbitant profits. Of course, members on this side have no appreciation of the right of private enterprise companies or of any individuals to take to themselves profits which should be shared by the community! I have facts and figures showing the amount of profits which some of these concerns have made and also the effect that this is having on the community.
In 1951, when the rate of profits was much lower than it is to-day, the Government, led by the present Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), expressed concern at the amount of profit being made. There was a lot of claptrap about inflation and it was stated that the Government would tackle the problem of excess profits. I should like to read a report which appeared in the “ Sydney Morning Herald “ on 7th January, 1951, headed “ Cabinet to hear Fadden on E.P. Tax Bill “. I take it that “E.P.” stands for “excess profit”. The article was as follows: -
The Federal Cabinet will meet this month to receive a report from the Acting Prime Minister and Treasurer, Mr. A. W. Fadden, on the Government’s proposed excess profits tax legislation.
The Government will introduce the bill next month.
The expert committee on taxation is now examining the effects the legislation would have on many matters, including double taxation. The bill will be retrospective to last July.
Government members are interested in it because of its effect on inflation. The Government will examine inflationary trends when the Prime Minister, Mr. Menzies, returns to Canberra from London.
Some members feel that the immigration programme and the national development programme will have to be reviewed to lessen the outlay. The Labour Party wants Australia-wide control of prices.
We are still of that opinion. We consider that prices should be controlled and that the time is long overdue for the Government to do something to regulate the practice of private enterprise making exorbitant profits. Although the Government in 1951 did give some consideration to the matter of excess profits, it was only window dressing. Nine days later, accord.ing to a report in the “Sydney Morning Herald” of 16th January, the economics editor stated that the stock exchange was taking no notice whatever of the then Treasurer’s statement about excess profits. I honestly believe that at that time it was considered good politics by the Government to talk about excess profits, while doing nothing about the matter.
What is the position now with regard to profits? Let me give some brief examples. Take, first, the hirepurchase racketeers such as the Australian: Guarantee Corporation Limited in which that very respectable institution, the Bank of New South Wales, holds 40 per cent, of the shares. Aftera substantial amount of watering of shares, the dividend last year of this corporation was 15 per cent., as against 10.3 per cent in 1951, when this Government professed itself to be so greatly concerned about excess profits. The profits made by the corporation in 1958 amounted to £1,3.32,186. In the period from 1951 to 1958 the reserves and undistributed profits of this organization have increased from £536,823 to £6,485,539.
But that is only one example. Then there is Commercial and General Acceptance Limited, which was formed in 1958, and in which another magnificently respectable institution, the Commercial Banking Company of Sydney Limited, holds 40 per cent of the shares. Then I cite the case of General Credits Limited, in which the Commercial Bank of Australia Limited holds 40 per cent of the shares. In 1958 the profit of this company was £460,905, which enabled a dividend of 10 per cent. The payment of dividends, however, accounted for only £164,731 of that amount of £460,905. The reserves and undistributed profits of this organization have increased from £4,256 to £362,082.
Then I take the case of Industrial Acceptance Holding Limited, in which the Australia and New Zealand Bank Limited is the major shareholder. In 1949 the profits amounted to £276,828, and the dividend was declared at 121/2 per cent. In 1958 the profits amounted to £2,195,429, while the dividend rose to 161 per cent. The reserves and undistributed profits of this company have increased, between 1949 and 1958, from £576,405 to £6,301,593.
I could go on citing numerous similar cases. Let me emphasize that these big dividends are arrived at only after a good deal of watering of shares. Let me mention the case of Lombard (Aust.) Limited, in which Lombard Banking Limited of the United Kingdom holds 60 per cent of the shares. Then, of course, we get into really astronomical figures when we consider Custom Credit Corporation Limited. This firm is in the happy position of continually being able to declare a dividend of 15 per cent. Its reserves and undistributed profits have increased from £20,017 in 1954 to £1,301,281 in 1958. I again emphasize that this has been achieved after a good deal of watering of shares.
The particular point I make is that the banks, these allegedly respectable and honorable institutions, are major shareholders in these organizations, the operations of which have a tremendous effect on our general price structure and standard of living. I shall just refer briefly to Ampol Petroleum Limited, with its delightful dividends of 8 per cent in 1949,91/2 per cent in 1951 and 131/2 per cent in 1958. Its reserves and undistributed profits grew from £389,585 in 1949 to £3,943,168 in 1958. Yet this Government does nothing at all about the excess profits that are being made, the effects of which are seen in constantly rising prices and a poorer standard of living for the majority of the people, including wage earners and pensioners.
Consider the position of another one of these large organizations, Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited. This company declared a 14 per cent dividend in 1958, but because of a bonus share issue in 1956 this really meant a dividend of 28 per cent.
The CHAIRMAN (Mr. Bowden).Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- In analysing the Budget that is presented to the Parliament at this time each year, one is inclined to look at it from a party point of view. This has been clearly evident in the speeches we have heard from Opposition supporters. They have made no constructive comments, but have merely made some airy-fairy promises about what they will give to the people if they get the chance. One must, of course, consider the effects of the Budget provisions upon one’s own electorate, but, fundamentally, all honorable members should look at it from a national point of view. In making my comments to-day I shall try to adopt the national point of view. Lest my observations be considered critical of the Government, let me say now that it is not my intention to convey such an impression. I merely wish to be objective in my outlook and to make some thought-provoking remarks.
The Budget aims at expansion by providing for huge expenditure in the fields of public works and social services. Expansion will also be assisted by various tax concessions, such as those relating to private income tax and private company retention allowances. These provisions f or .encouraging expansion will continue to -stimulate local purchasing powers, and thus lead to further expansion of consumer production and a continuing high rate of industrial investment. Such a policy, as a day-to-day objective at present, is satisfactory, but if we are to develop .in the future into a great nation of international status, then in my humble opinion, a layman’s opinion, it is not the soundest policy.
If we are to expand our internal economy, and at the same time pursue a policy of developing the Commonwealth and helping our neighbouring underdeveloped countries, we must, year in and year out, maintain a strong balance of payments position. To do this by restricting imports, as has been found necessary in the past, is the quick and easy way, but ultimately the wrong way. The right way is through an expansion of export trade earnings. I am absolutely certain that a steady increase year by year in our export trading is the first and essential prerequisite of a sound and expanding home economy, and that this must be our paramount aim.
During the last three years we have been in the unfortunate position of having to impose import restrictions with all their anomalies and all their unpleasantness, but it has taught us - if only in a platitudinous way - that we must increase the volume of our exports. But if this is to be done, the prices of our exported goods must be competitive. Our exports must be able to earn us a living in a world which, as the years go by, becomes more and more competitive. In this connexion we must remember that the people of the East, the Russians and the Chinese, are going to provide further competition in the trading world. In order that our exported goods may be sold at competitive prices, we must keep our costs stable.
I am sure that honorable members on both sides of the House will readily agree with me that our major national problem at the moment is to increase our exports. Export income is required for the redemption of overseas loans, for the payment of dividends on foreign moneys invested in Australia, and for machinery, raw materials and chemicals required to keep our factories operating and our people employed. It is also needed for the purchase of food and medicines to keep our people happy and healthy. These are but some of the requirements that must be met by way of export earnings.
Having in mind the necessity to increase our exports, the Government, through its Department of Trade and its very capable Minister, the Leader of -the Australian Country Party (Mr. McEwen), has done much to promote the sales of our primary products and manufactured goods overseas. The spearhead of this activity is the Australian Trade Commissioner Service, with 28 trade commissioner posts established in 21 countries, i am informed that in the near future a further four trade commissioner posts are to be opened - at Accra, Nairobi, Chicago and Ottawa. From these posts, Australian products are displayed and trade publicity released through various media such as the press, journals, radio and television.
Added to these services of the Department of Trade is the very successful, newly developed, Export Payments Insurance Corporation, which has greatly helped the small exporting man to sell to many countries which, in the past, have been doubtful and risky foreign trading posts. The success of this corporation is clearly seen in the greatly increased amount of trade which has been carried out since its establishment three years ago. We must not forget, also, that it has been our
Department of Trade which has successfully negotiated our trade agreements and arrangements. Without such agreements as the Japanese Trade Agreement, the Australia-United Kingdom Agreement, the Malayan and Rhodesian agreements, as well as the arrangements with Canada, Ceylon, Indonesia, Czechoslovakia, New Zealand and some minor countries, our present difficult trading position would have been catastrophic. I therefore support most emphatically the 15 per cent, increase, from £1,888,491 to £2,164,000, in the expenditure of the Department of Trade, as necessary and vital to this nation.
The Government can and does help our exporting industries through these governmental institutions and by forming committees such as the Export Development Council, but the greatest duty that it can perform for those industries is to keep prices stable. When I say stable, I mean stable - not creeping costs or creeping inflation such as we have seen in recent years at an annual rate of 3 per cent., 4 per cent., 5 per cent, or 6 per cent. Whether the increase be of a rocketing nature or of the slow cancerous type, the overall effect on our exporting industries is the same. Every degree of increase in costs and prices needs that degree of extra effort in trade negotiations, trade promotion, or further protection for local industries. The extent to which this can be carried out has a definite limit.
In recent years, the curbing of increases in costs has become the central theme of budgetary policy of all the major countries of the Western world. In France, General de Gaulle’s rise to power was brought about by the Algerian crisis; but the necessity and the reason for his overwhelming support was the chaotic value of the franc, with all its related confusion and misery. Since General de Gaulle has become President, his prime objective has been to stabilize the economy and so strengthen the franc. In the United States of America President Eisenhower has stipulated that the Government must balance its budget and so ease inflationary pressure. Even with a hostile Senate and a hostile House of Representatives the reality of these suggestions is gaining weight and support.
Britain, during the last twelve months, as our Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) em phasized in his address last week, has regained her international monetary status and is in a state of economic buoyancy and stability not attained since pre-war days. This buttress of stability now possessed by Great Britain has been brought about by the United Kingdom Government’s financial policy. Between 1950 and 1957 the cost of living index rose at an average rate of 6i per cent, per annum. During the same period the cost of living in Germany rose at an average rate of 2.2 per cent, and in the United States at an average rate of 2.7 per cent. I might add that, in Australia, the average rate of increase in the cost of living in those years was 6i per cent, per annum - the same as in the United Kingdom.
For British exporters, this left little elbow room, and resulted, not only in overseas sales being difficult, but in foreign speculators and observers in England seeing the dangers ahead and starting to move capital out of the country.
The position snow-balled so rapidly that by September, 1957, Britain’s reserves were draining at the rate of £100,000,000 a month. At that rate, her reserves soon would have been exhausted and she would have been left internationally bankrupt. What, one may ask, were the reasons for the continued inflation in Britain? I am willing to accept the opinion expressed in “ Lloyd’s Bank Review “ in an article written by Professor Lionel Robbins, one of the leading economists in England to-day. He was referring to autumn of 1957 when he said -
But it is quite obvious that up to last autumn they had not stopped the inflation. At least three reasons can be given for these disappointing developments. In the first place, come the deficiencies of fiscal policy. The budgets of 1954 and 1955, with their changes in investment allowances and tax reductions, definitely tended to an increase of general expenditure. And thenceforward, until the Thorneycroft budget of 1957, it must be noted that very little was done to bring the surplus above the line into a noninflationary relation with the below-the-line deficit
In other words, Britain had been having continual deficit budgets. This deficit budgeting was bringing about inflationary pressure. Professor Robbins went on to state, a little further on -
The long run arguments in favour of reduction of some taxes are very strong indeed. But reductions of taxation, unless accompanied by reductions of expenditure, or by the substitution of other taxes, are apt to have an inflationary influence. And this is one of the things which has been happening since 1954.
Britain arrived at that crisis which had to be met. She did meet it. She met it by having a very severe budget. She balanced her budget. She also directed the Bank of England to increase the bank rate and to tighten credit. These things are very unpleasant, we all admit, but the endresult is what matters. We now see Britain in a very competitive position in relation to other countries. Not only has she stopped the drain of foreign capital, but capital is now running into Britain and we find that English investors are not so keen to invest outside the United Kingdom.
Of course, there is a strong argument against checking inflation because this could lead to deflation. But surely this reasoning is as sensible as not to call a fire engine when a house is on fire on the grounds that there might be a flood. It is far more important to protect the employment of workers, in the long run, by gently applying the brakes than to let inflation run on until the ultimate perils of commercial exhaustion and large-scale unemployment are with us.
I regret to say that there is alarming support in the business sphere of Australia for a policy of creeping inflation. Speculators in land, property, and stock exchange investment can only continue to make windfall profits in such an atmosphere. The present inflationary pressure operating within this country is now clearly seen by analysing stock exchange trading. Record sales and purchases are being made monthly, and it seems that the buyers are giving little consideration to prospective dividends, but only to possible increases in share value.
In order to illustrate my point, I should like to quote an advertisement in last Sunday’s “ Sun-Herald “. This was inserted by a newly formed organization called the Australian Land and Buildings Trusts. The idea of this organization is that people can invest their money in land, bricks and mortar so that their money will not depreciate in value. The advertisement is headed -
Land and Buildings . . . the only investment that beats cost of living rises.
The advertisement states -
You actually lose purchasing power unless your money increases in value beyond the cost of living. Every day you hear of people whose investments made years ago are now insufficient for their needs. This does not happen when you invest in land and buildings.
That is the way people are beginning to think. Speculation in land and buildings is the very worst sort of speculation that could take place.
I think there are people in industry and local commerce who favour this type of creeping inflation because, to them, a swelling of the economy means only larger profits. To support what I have said, I shall read from a published statement by Mr. R. W. C. Anderson, Director of the Associated Chambers of Manufactures, who gave a lecture to the International Labour Conference at Geneva. The report of his address is headed “ I.L.O. Warned Against Timidity On Inflation “. The report states -
A warning against allowing fears of inflation to inhibit industrial expansion was sounded by Mr. R. W. C. Anderson at the plenary session of the International Labour Conference at Geneva on June 10. “ We on the Australian employers’ side are well aware of the dangers of inflation. They are social as well as economic. But that does not mean to say that our outlook should be so orientated that everything else becomes subordinated to the prevention of inflation. Inflation, in moderation,-
That is, creeping inflation - can itself be a potent factor in development as history shows. Perhaps we have bemused ourselves with such terms as ‘ inflation ‘ “.
That may be all right for Australian manufacturers, but how does it affect the exporter and the primary producer who have to compete with other countries? It is alarming that a man such as Mr. Anderson, who is a member of the Manufacturing Advisory Council and the Export Development Council, should hold such views. How can we continue to export our products if costs continue to rise? It is difficult for the primary producer but it will be equally difficult for the manufacturer who must compete with the manufactures of other countries. The unfortunate people are the primary producers who depend on export sales, and the local manufacturers who must compete against nonprotected imports. These people are finding it more and more difficult to operate because of increasing costs. They find themselves cornered in a very difficult position.
Those who depend on a fixed income for their livelihood are forced by increasing costs into deep despair. Let me discuss the problem of the person with a fixed income - the individual who, through a sense of thrift, has saved all his life or subscribed to some form of superannuation or bond investment in the hope that he will be able to retire on a comfortable income. Unfortunately, by the passage of time, the value of his savings has depreciated and he cannot get a return sufficient to meet his needs. He is then forced to swallow his pride and seek government assistance in the form of a pension. Following generations, seeing what has happened to their forefathers, tend to develop a philosophy of non-thrift as thriftiness seems to offer little reward for old age. When the people of the nation succumb to this type of thought, they are offering themselves to a system of socialism. I say, therefore, that in recent years, inflation has done more to make people dependent upon governments. In other words, it has led, more than- any other factor, to socialistic thinking.
I strongly support the Government’s added assistance to all types of pensioners, be it the 7s. 6d. for the age pensioner or the 15s. for the totally and permanently incapacitated pensioner. These added benefits had to be given because of the increased cost of living, and it is regrettable that in an inflating economy, these people are generally left behind the rest of the community. Their requests are supported only by political pressure or political bargaining at election time. Fortunately, the Australian people have been sensible enough not to swallow the wild promises of the Opposition. They have realized that there must be some sanity in these matters.
What worries me is whether this creeping inflation is going to continue. If it does, wage-earners will need higher incomes, pensioners must receive increased benefits, and additional money must be raised to finance the operation of government utilities without any corresponding increase in productivity. People investing in government securities can be encouraged to continue doing so only if higher rates of interest are offered and loans have a shorter maturing term.
When I analyse this Budget and reduce it to the effects it has on my own. electorate, I immediately think of its repercussions in increasing, costs brought about by the budgetary deficit, higher public expenditure, tax concessions and. increased postal, charges. The economy of my electorate revolves principally around the dairying, sugar cane,, banana, beef, fishing and timber industries. All these except, the banana industry are intertied with export markets. These exporting industries, have been hit over the years by increasing costs with little corresponding increase in the value of returns for their products. The dairying industry, in particular, has had to tighten its belt to such an extent that expansion in. this industry is almost nonexistent. It is true that, the overseas value of our dairy products has increased substantially in. the past nine months. This has been a blessing, to the industry which was in a very difficult position, but it still places dairy farmers well behind their city cousins in relation to their return for capital and labour.
This state of affairs applies to most of our exporting industries, particularly the food exporting and wool industries. The beef industry at the moment is undoubtedly buoyant and has helped considerably in balancing our trade, but industry leaders and government spokesmen consistently emphasize that the United States market, which is setting the pace for values, is temporary and should not be relied upon.
Because farmers’ incomes have been slowly chopped away year by year by gradually increasing costs, there has not been the commercial activity in rural towns that one had hoped to see. This is evident in’ my electorate from, the high degree of unemployment among young people and the continual drift of population to the city and industrial areas. Between the census years of 1947 and 1954, the population in the Tweed-Richmond region increased by only 5.9 per cent, while Sydney had an increase of 15.4 per cent.. Newcastle 14.4 per cent, and Illawarra 42.3 per cent. All rural districts in New South Wales had an increase lower than the Stats average. The large increases were, in the industrial areas. This movement has been quite considerable but t believe when- the next census is taken in 1961, the- movement will be far more pronounced.
I- have merely mentioned the effects of inflation on- local, industries. I should like now to. examine the effects, from a national point- of view. To do so one has only to look at the. White Paper which was issued by- the Treasurer and study appendix C, table 1. Comparing the average since 1950 with the year 1958-59 just ended, farm incomes have actually dropped by 8.9 per cent. If we take the average over the past nine years we see that the farm income on a national basis has dropped by 19 per cent. Correspondingly, wages have gone up 147 per cent., and company income has risen by 149 per cent., other unincorporated businesses and professional persons’ incomes by more than 100 per cent., and rents of dwellings by 1-57 per cent:, while incomes of hire-purchase companies and finance companies have gone up by 191 per cent. I believe in an expanding economy, but I believe in a balanced expanding economy. You cannot have great expansion’ in the industrial fields unless that expansion is for an exporting industry. The natural indigenous exporting industries of this country are the primary industries.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
– One should consider the imbalance in increases of income in various fields in this country alongside the fact that our primary producers have always contributed something like 90 per cent, of our export earning capacity. The figures for 1957-58, which are the latest figures I can obtain, show that primary industries were responsible for 8-7.6 per cent., of our export earnings, compared with the 9.2 per cent, for which manufacturing: industries- were responsible, and the 1.9 per cent, attributed to refined petroleum products. Of course, one can hardly take refined petroleum products as a good example, because we have to import the crude oil, and pay for it, before we refine it and sell it.
I have said that the reason farm income was not increasing as it should was the huge costs that were catching up with the farmers. I should like to analyse that a bit more by reference to table F in the
White Paper on National Income and Expenditure, which deals with farm income and the incomes of farmers-. Its figures show, that whilst the gross income of farmers has risen slightly - it fluctuates from year- to year - there has been a constant increase, in wages, depreciation and other costs-. In fact, in the last two years there- has been an increase of £75,000,000 in the cost of production: - that, is, an annual increase of more than £35,000,000 in the costs of farmers. This is not an intermittent cost. This is a constant cost which- is going on each year. The point that I have been- trying to drive home is that primary producers cannot continue to operate indefinitely, if we are to continue in an atmosphere, of creeping inflation. All I can say is that- if this creeping inflation, continues we will be sounding the death knell of all our food-exporting industries,, and I’ fail to see how the manufacturing industries could keep operating in those circumstances.
.- I rise to support the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt), but first I should like to- make some comment on the speech of the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony). The honorable member criticized the economic policy of the Liberal and Australian Country Party Government opposite: He said that the economy was topsy-turvy. He pointed out that, in the last nine years farm income had dropped by 19 per cent., although hire, purchase, banking and big business assets had grown out of all proportion in the same period. Members of the corner party to which the honorable member, for Richmond belongs have to make up their minds about the Government’s policy. They cannot have sixpence each way. They must come right, out. and criticize this Government, because they will find more and more, as times goes on, justification for criticizing it. For years there was an Australian. Country Party Treasurer, but now the. Government has- a. socalled Liberal Treasurer. We. know what he is. He is no more a Liberal than any of his colleagues opposite are Liberals. They are ultra-conservatives, and he will he an ultra-conservative. Treasurer, as he has shown in his first Budget.
It is interesting to- note that in an article published by the “ Sydney Morning
Herald” on 18th August the writer described the Budget as a “ gimmick Budget”. He said -
I looked up the definition of “regressive “ in the Oxford English Dictionary and found that it means “moving backwards”. The article to which I have referred continues - . . Mr. Holt’s approach has been to reduce taxes on the rich proportionately more than those on the poor . . .
I think that that is an understatement, because honorable members will agree that this Government has been a handout government. It has been handing out to the rich with one hand and taking from the poor with the other. While it has been giving tax relief to persons on higher incomes it has been piling on indirect taxes and we all know that indirect taxes are a charge on the cost of commodities. The consumers that is, the masses of the people are the persons who pay indirect taxes. I shall give examples of how people in the top income bracket will be affected by the Budget. I see that the Treasurer, with utter dismay, is walking out of the chamber while I quote these figures. Fifty six of his wealthy friends 56 persons who earned among them approximately £5,000,000 in the year ended 30th June, 1956-
– They did not earn it, they just got it.
– I agree with the honorable member. Fiftysix individuals received £5,000,000 and this Government is giving them a handout of £119.000 in tax reductions. But the man on the basic wage will receive a reduction of only £2 13s. in a full year a fraction of a penny over1s. a week reduction in tax. We examine this Budget of handouts to the rich even further and we find that 3,500,000 persons, or 91 per cent of all taxpayers, earn less than £1,500 a year, and will receive tax reductions amounting to £9,400,000. Yet 350,000 persons, or 9 per cent of tax payers, who earn £1,500 a year or more will receive £10,600,000 in tax reductions. In other words, 3,500,000 people will receive a smaller share of the benefit of tax reductions than will 350,000 people. To bring that closer home to honorable members I point out that whilst the man on the basic wage will receive a tax reduction of about1s. a week a person earning £1,500 a year, whose weekly earnings would be about £28 16s., will receive tax relief of 4s. 4d. a week, and a person on £10,000 a year will receive tax relief of £4 8s. 5d. a week. A person on £16,000 a year will have his tax reduced by £8 a week. Now, I ask honorable members, who do they think most needs tax relief the battlers or the persons on higher incomes?
I want to make it quite clear that I favour increasing income tax on the higher levels of income. Prior to the introduction of this Budget a person with a yearly income of £16,000 paid 13s. 4d. in the £1 income tax, leaving him 6s. 8d. in the £1. That is pretty good gravy. But what has this Government done? People in the higher income bracket will now only pay a maximum of 12s. 8d. in the £1. I am sure that all honorable members on this side of the House will agree that we must agitate for an increase in income tax on the higher income brackets. We must progressively struggle against the greater burden of indirect taxation. We all know that it is the man in the street, the consumer, who really bears the burden of indirect taxation.
– What about pay-roll tax?
– I agree with the honorable member for Hume that pay-roll tax should be abolished, although the honorable member was so negative in his speech last night that he did not make his point. If we abolish pay-roll tax we must increase income tax on the higher incomes. Pay-roll tax is an indirect tax, but the companies do not pay the tax. They add the cost of pay-roll tax to the commodities that they sell and the consumers pay the tax. The same thing happens with sales tax. Does a person on £10,000 a year use any more toilet soap than a person on £1,000 a year? Does a person on a high income use more razor blades than a person on a low income? Of course not. It does not matter what consumer goods you care to think of, the plain fact is that the cost of sales tax and pay-roll tax on those goods is borne largely by the working man.
I propose to say something about the increase in Post Office charges. These again are an indirect tax. In his speech last night the Minister for Supply (Mr. Hulme) dealt with this subject. It is quite apparent that he does not understand the cost structure, because he said -
As for the proposed postage increase, honorable members will agree that the average family does not post more than three to six letters each week. The proposed increase means that the average family will be faced with an increased expenditure of from 3d. to 6d. a week.
I do not argue with that. But the Minister continued -
Big business houses are the principal users of the Post Office. They will have to carry the burden of the increase of postage charges.
What utter rot! The Minister does not know cost structures and knows nothing about big business. Postal charges are an overhead charge and business concerns will add that charge to the cost of the commodity that they produce, just as they do with basic wage rises, electricity charges, and overhead charges. Those charges are automatically off-loaded onto the consumer. The Minister’s statement is utterly foolish and shows that he has no concept of the cost structure of private enterprise.
All the proposed increased Post Office charges will be off-loaded onto the consumer and will become another indirect tax. As a socialist I am quite proud of the Post Office. Every honorable member on this side of the House is proud of the Post Office and the people who work in it. But we say that it should not be a revenueraising instrumentality, as this Government has made it.
– Would the honorable member run the Post Office at a loss?
– I believe that if necessary it should be run at a slight loss because it is a service to the people. Under no circumstances should the Post Office become a burden on the people. In the last financial year the Post Office had a surplus or profit of more than £3,000,000. Yet in this current financial year the Government proposes to increase the burden of postal charges and so will make sure that the Post Office will continue to be a revenueraising department. These facts must be brought to the attention of the taxpayers.
I believe that the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) granted tax concessions to the wealthy against the advice of his Treasury officers. But it must be remembered that a struggle for leadership is being waged within the ranks of the Government. The Treasurer wants to be a white-haired boy with the wealthy classes and he has attempted to please them. What other reason could there be for the proposals that are contained in the Budget?
The Government proposes to charge 5s. for each prescription issued under the pharmaceutical benefits scheme. It has been estimated that under that scheme 16,000,000 prescriptions will be issued this year. At a charge of 5s. for each prescription the Government will receive additional revenue from that source of £4,000,000. But who will pay that money? Once again it is the worker who will pay. This is just another example of indirect taxation. A perusal of the Thirty-seventh Report of the Commissioner of Taxation shows that at 30th June, 1956, there were more than 3,800,000 taxpayers in this country. Of that number, 3,460,411, or almost 91 per cent., earned less than £1,500 a year, which is roughtly £28 16s. a week. Therefore only 9 per cent, of the taxpayers received more than that amount a week. The earnings of the 91 per cent, receiving less than £1,500 a year totalled £2,103,768,892 or almost 74 per cent, of the total income, and the total earnings of the other 9 per cent, amounted to approximately £760,000,000 or a little more than 26 per cent, of the total earnings of all taxpayers. Of the £4,000,000 that will be raised annually as a result of the 5s. charge for prescriptions, £3,640,000 will come from 91 per cent, of the taxpayers and the other 9 per cent, of taxpayers, who receive 26 per cent, of the total income, will pay only £360,000. That is another example of how this Budget helps the person on the higher income to the detriment of people on medium and lower incomes.
The charge of 5s. for prescriptions will be a great burden on pensioners who, because they have an income of £2 or more a week, are prevented by the Government’s 1955 legislation from receiving free medical attention and hospitalization. As if it is not enough not to be able to obtain free medical and hospital attention, those pensioners will now be forced to bear the additional burden of a 5s. charge for each prescription issued under the pharmaceutical benefits scheme.
Yet another injustice is being done to people whom this Government should be helping. Another aspect of these problems that I wish to raise is the position of people who suffer from chronic ailments. There is some confusion about this, and the Minister for Health (Dr. Donald Cameron) has not cleared it up. I should like to mention in particular the case of a girl aged six in my electorate who suffered from rheumatic fever. It has been brought to my notice that her doctor has prescribed penicillin oral tablets, and she gets 100 tablets on each prescription. The girl has to take three tablets a day, and her doctors have informed her parents that she will have to continue to take them until she is fourteen. Formerly, the tablets were obtainable free, but every time she needs another prescription from now on it will cost 5s. This is the sort of thing that this Government allows to happen.
It is interesting to notice that an explanation given by the Minister for Health to the press indicates that, in the financial year 1958-59, the average cost of each prescription for general pharmaceutical benefits was 25s., whereas the average cost of each prescription for pharmaceutical benefits for pensioners was 7s. 4d. It seems to me that there is some sort of a means test applied , even to pharmaceutical benefits for the treatment of the illnesses of aged people. It seems to cost more to look after the young people than it does to look after those who are old. Surely it should be the other way round.
I should now like to deal with war service homes. There are plenty of exservicemen on the Government side of the chamber and they, too, should give thought to the situation in respect of war service homes. In the financial year 1957-58, the Government allocated £33,000,000 for expenditure on war service homes, and a similar allocationwas made in 1958-59. On the surface, this does not seem so bad, but, when we examine the position more closely, we find that, in 1956-57, applications for assistance totalled 21,093. In 1957-58, they totalled 22,399. This means that, almost thirteen years after the end of World War II., the number of applications increased by 1,306 in one year. And the applications are still increasing, as one finds out if one inquires at the office of the War Service Homes Division in one’s own State. In 1956-57, the total expenditure of the division was £30,170,897, and its income amounted to £12,690,264, leaving a net difference of £17,480,633. In 1957-58, the expenditure was £35,182,155, and the income was £14,652,083. The net difference had increased to £20,530,072. If this income continues to increase at the rate of £2,000,000 a year, there will be £2,000,000 less spent in this financial year than was spent last financial year. I remind Government supporters that war service homes is a very important subject, and I urge them to criticize the Government and make it do something about the matter. If theGovernment will not listen to honorable members on this side of the chamber, perhaps it will listen to its own supporters. I see a number of exservicemen sitting on the benches in the corner occupied by the members of the Australian Country Party, and I hope that they will do something to have the expenditure on war service homes increased.
I turn now to tax deductions. My colleague andfriend, the honorable member for Newcastle (Mr. Jones), raised this matter earlier today. He pointed out the great anomalies that the Government allows to continue. I want to cite a few -figures to indicate the racket that has been going on in relation to the concessional deduction for insurance premiums and, even, in some respects, in relation to the deduction for educational allowances. I know that many people think it is a step forward to be allowed to claim educational expenses as a tax deduction, but the rich continue to get the big pieces of cake and the poor get only the small pieces, as usual. In the financial year ended 30th June, 1956, 2,625,000 taxpayers with taxable incomes of up to £1,000 a year received the benefit of insurance premium deductions worth £36,000,000, and 164,000 persons earning £2,000 a year or more received the benefit of deductions totalling £15,000,000. In other words, 69 per cent of the taxpayers received the benefit of £36,000,000 in deductions, whereas 41/2 per cent of the taxpayers, in the higher income bracket, received the benefit of£15,000,000 in deductions. That indicates the equality enjoyed under the administration of this Government.
The Thirty-seventh Report of the Commissioner of Taxation shows that taxpayers with taxable incomes of £1,000 a year or less received the benefit of £28,000,000 in educational allowances, whereas persons with taxable incomes of £2,000 a year or more received the benefit of deductions totalling £17,500,000. Again, 69 per cent, of the taxpayers received £28,000,000 in deductions for educational expenses, whereas 4i .per .cent, of the taxpayers received £17,500;000.
Unfortunately, I am in much the same position as was the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) last evening when he became a little upset about the inadequacy of the time .available to him for his attack on this Budget. However, I should like to deal, as best I can in the time available, with .the position of our overseas reserves. They now stand at £515,000,000, and in 1950 they .were £800,0.00,000. We know that this Government has been a heavy borrower overseas. Since 1950, it has borrowed from the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development £318,000,000; from the New York Stock Exchange, 15.3,000,000 dollars; from the London Stock Exchange £60,000,000 sterling; from Switzerland, 120,000,000 Swiss francs; and from Canada, 15,000,000 Canadian dollars. Its borrowings since 1950 from these sources have totalled approximately £300,000,000. In July, 1950, the basic wage was £6 18s. a week, and to-day it is £14 3s. a week. At to-day’s values, the reserves of 1950 would have been worth £1,600,000,000. But what do we find? Our true overseas reserves total ‘less than £300,000,000.
In spite of this position, the Government continues to spend heavily on defence. It has budgeted, in the current financial year, for a defence expenditure of £192,000,000. Since it ‘took office it has spent £1,729,000,000 on defence, as is indicated by the White Paper on National Income and ‘Expenditure. We see a great deal of confusion in this Government as evidenced by the figures that it gives out in publicity hand-outs. In August, 1958, the then Minister for Defence, Sir .Philip McBride, issued i statement which indi- cated .that £1,767,400,000 had been spent on defence, so there is a discrepancy of £38,000,000.
Let us now examine the role of education in the development of Australia. All honorable members will agree that education can be a vital factor in the defence of this country, yet last year the Government devoted only £2,000,000 to Commonwealth scholarships while it squandered £1,767,400,000 on defence- and has very little or nothing to show for it. [Quorum formed.] Honorable members on the Government side seem to be very unhappy now. They cannot take it.
– The honorable member should behave himself. This afternoon he himself directed the attention of the Chairman to the state of the committee.
– At that time only fifteen honorable members were in the chamber but there are nearly 40 now.
– Order! The honorable member will confine himself to the Budget.
– Government supporters are one-sided in their attitude. In his Budget speech the Treasurer, when dealing with employment stated -
Of the additional people available for employment, most if not all, found occupations.
What a smug statement from a person who was previously the Minister for Labour and National Service! Figures released only recently show that 27,000 people are receiving the unemployment benefit while nearly 70,000 are registered for employment, yet the Treasurer who controls the purse strings of the nation and who should understand the employment position has made the smug statement to which I have referred.
– The honorable member for Reid (Mr. Uren) has made two statements to which I shall refer. (Conversation being audible) -
– Order! There is too much audible conversation in the chamber. Every honorable member who has spoken to date has been given a very reasonable hearing but as soon as the Minister commenced to speak a great deal of private conversation began. I ask honorable members to extend the same courtesy to all those who participate in this debate.
– When discussing the proposed reduction of 5 per cent, in income tax the honorable member for Reid said that he would increase the rate of tax on persons earning high incomes. To do that would be to tax industry, and if we tax industry we impose a tax on the expansion and development of industry. The ultimate result would be more unemployment because industry would not have the capital to engage all those seeking full-time employment. We have been able to absorb the increasing number of persons becoming available for employment because of the greatly increased number of industries that have commenced operations because this Government has followed a policy of progressive development.
The honorable member has compared to-day’s overseas credit balances with those of 1950. Obviously overseas credits were higher in 1950 because ample markets were available at that time for our exports. However, we were unable to utilize our credits to purchase imports, first, because imports were not available at that time, and secondly, because we could not develop as rapidly as we, or our predecessors in office, would have desired. We were going through the post-war period when various materials were not available. That is the effective answer to the honorable member’s statement. This Government must be complimented on maintaining our overseas balances in the difficult period through which we passed.
I should like to refer to matters that affect the department which I administer. Our undisputed objective is to raise Australia’s economy to the level of the economy of a great nation. The policies enunciated in the Budget are aimed at the achievement of this objective and, therefore, I support it. The important factors necessary to the attainment of our objective are, first, vitality and, secondly, a generally sound structure of rural industries. Not only have the rural industries been the basis upon which Australia started on the road to nationhood - history will confirm that statement - but also they have been able to make difficult years less difficult by their capacity to rise to the occasion with increased produc tion which has been sold on difficult markets. All honorable members will agree that markets are difficult and hard to obtain, yet last year the primary industries made a substantial contribution towards the maintenance of our export earnings which was sufficient to avoid what could have been a serious decline in our export income. This, in turn, would have resulted in the lowering of our capacity to import the basic materials and equipment necessary to our development.
I am confident that our primary industries, if necessary, will display again that same capacity to rise to the occasion and will fill a major role in contributing towards a sound basis for the Australian economy which, in turn, will assist in the rapid development that is essential to meet the requirements, not only of the producers already in this country but also of the immigrants who are coming to our land. I have expressed my confidence in the primary industries with a full realization of the difficulties that might be encountered in maintaining satisfactory overseas markets for their increasing production. We can be proud of the role that our primary industries are playing in the rapid development of this country, particularly their part in seeking the increasing export income necessary to pay for the expanding imports - I hope we all agree that they are necessary - of the resources essential to sustain our developing economy.
With regard to international policies, there are strains these days always pressing on maintaining and rightfully increasing the export earnings of our primary industries. They are, of course, the strains of great happenings in international spheres - not only in the sphere of international trade policies but also in the sphere of economic policies substantially influenced by the various political situations that we see overseas. These situations cannot ignore the need, arising from the great increases in population which will come in the next two or three decades, for foodstuffs and raw materials. The situations cannot ignore the pressing needs of areas of great populations for increased food supplies and necessary materials to provide those peoples with reasonable standards of living; nor can they ignore the fact that an economy such as that of Australia is very dependent on the policies of other countries to sustain the export earning capacity of its primary industries, and thereby permit Australia to play its proper part in these international situations.
Last year’s Budget was framed in the shadow of the effects of a slackening in economic activity in some important overseas countries and reduced levels of production in Australia due to drought. Export income had fallen from £980,000,000 to £815,000,000. That substantial reduction had its consequential effect upon the economy, and there was a prospect of a further considerable fall. At that time, our overseas reserves seemed likely to decline considerably, and market prospects for some important exports, especially butter, were not encouraging. This was the situation which faced the retiring Treasurer when he prepared his Budget. The Budget for this financial year looks forward to increasing economic activity. Export income has not fallen as much as was earlier thought likely. In fact, it was £6.000,000 more than the cost of our imports. The £110,000,000 deficit provided for in the last Budget dwindled to less than £30,000,000. Capital inflow has continued to increase and has done much to strengthen our international position. A few months ago, it seemed as though there would be a heavy drain on our overseas reserves in 1958-59. We all know the result and we also know that foreign capital, which some honorable members opposite seem to think is alien to our requirements, has helped to avert that situation, and the inflow in the past year has demonstrated the faith of foreign investors in Australia’s economic security.
Primary production reached record levels last year. It was about 11 per cent, higher than ever before. We had substantial quantities of high-grade products to offer in world markets and we were able to take advantage of certain favorable opportunities which occurred. The most notable of these was the opening of a market in the United States of America for manufacturing type beef. This has added directly to our dollar earnings and has increased returns to producers. This was all additional to the heavier volume of beef sold to the United Kingdom, where the market was strengthened by the reduction of supplies on offer. Last night, the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr.
Ward) exaggerated the figures. 1 am not worried so much about the figures he used as I am about what he said. He said that last year 57,000 tons of beef and 14,000 tons of mutton were sent from Australia to the United States.
– He did not say that.
– This is what he said -
Already in this year, which commenced only on 1st July last, 35,000 tons of Australian beef have been exported.
As I said, I am not very much worried about the figures he used, although actually the exported tonnage to date is 32,000. But his statement suggests - he may not have meant this - that all of that beef has gone to the United States, and that is not correct. I join issue with him on his next comment, which was -
It is most likely that, as the result of flooding the market, prices will fall still lower. But while we are exporting meat to the United States of America a shortage is being created in Australia. Prices on the local market are being forced up, and the difficulties of the local community and of local industry are increased.
Let us look at our beef exports for last year. I am very pleased to say that, excluding the American market altogether, we still have a record tonnage of beef exported. What does that mean? It means that our supplies to Great Britain, with which we have a fifteen-year meat agreement, are still the vital part of our beef exports. Our exports to the United Kingdom were 180,500 tons and to the United States, not 57,000 tons as stated by the honorable member for East Sydney, but 51,700 tons. The beef exports for July of this year show a slight reduction when compared with the figures for July of last year. If the July total of 21,600 tons were to become the average that we export each month during this financial year, we would create another record. Frankly, I hope that we will maintain this average.
The result of our export achievements has been that the return to Australian exporters has risen considerably. Tonnage exported in 1958-59 was 225,000, or nearly 50 per cent, more than the previous record, which totalled, from memory, 155,000 tons in 1956-57. The stimulus provided by the fifteen-year meat agreement with the United Kingdom did much to encourage the expansion of the industry to a point where it could benefit substantially from the improved market conditions. This factor helped to make the United Kingdom market firmer, so much so that no deficiency payments have been due to. Australia, because we were above ‘ the minimum price. Argentine supplies were 40 per cent, lower than previously and the fear of foot and mouth disease helped to strengthen the American market for Australian meat. This has resulted in a windfall to us. However, I do not subscribe to- the statement of the honorable member for East Sydney that the Aus. tralian markets are deprived of beef requirements: The lower grade- meats which have been delivered to the United States would probably, in the- main, not have been sold anywhere else.
– A lot of good bulls have gone overseas.
– The honorable member knows very well that some of the lower- grade cattle in the remote back blocks would not- have been killed if it had not been for this market. The truth is that the United States desires the drier meat of Australia to blend with its own better quality meat. This suits its particular trade. When honorable members opposite or any one- else suggests that it is not a good asset to the Australian economy, let me say that I welcome it: from every point of view.
The strength of the United States market cannot be expected to continue indefinitely. Statistics show that livestock numbers there are building up and that increased domestic marketings must be expected soon, unless the factor which I have mentioned of desiring drier meat to blend with the American meat continues - and I rather think it will, to a great degree. Considerable shipments have been sent over and the market to-day is not as lively or as firm as it has been. But the price has not fallen to the figure which the honorable member for East Sydney suggested of 28 cents per lb. Undoubtedly, some buyers may have attempted to buy at that price, but they did not succeed. The figure has not declined to that extent.
Wool, of course, is our export mainstay and it remains such an important influence in our economy that the state of the wool market is: everyone’s concern, irrespective of- whether he is an employee, a person in business or a producer. Everyone is naturally, concerned to the full as to the state of the export market because it has such a bearing on our economy. The 1958-59 financial year started badly in this respect and the. season was well advanced before the market rallied; but then the clip turned out better than had been expected. It was, in fact, a record, beating, by a narrow margin, the. 1956-57 clip. Provided no major, deterioration in seasonal conditions occurs, this year shows every prospect of a. further substantial increase in the clip. There, are indications that the- strength of the market will at least be maintained.
Other sectors of primary industry have made substantial contributions also to export income. We hold rather large stocks of wheat; but the market for dairy products has been more favorable. The price of butter- in the United Kingdom is up to 375s. sterling per cwt. The minimum paid in the financial year just concluded was 287s. compared with a minimum of 205s. per cwt. in the previous, year.
But exports are not the only contribution made by rural industry to the solution of our balance of payments problem. There are also import-saving, crops which are important. I refer to such industries as tobacco. In 1958-59 a record crop of 7,500 short tons was produced. This represented an increase of more than 26 per cent, on the previous year. I think that was a phenomenal growth and the producers are to be commended. In 1957-58 the income was £6.100,000. The returns from the sales for 1958-59 are not yet complete but to date £6,250,000 has been received and I expect that the total income for the year will reach £8,000,000.
Cotton is another import-saving crop. Last year 3,070 bales were grown and this year it is expected that the result will be between 6,000 and 7,000 bales. The Government guarantee of 14d. per lb. has given great encouragement for expansion in that industry. Linseed, although not a spectacular industry, has played its part in limiting the expenditure of overseas funds on essential materials.
These achievements do not mean that there is any excuse for complacency. On the contrary, although the volume of rural production in the aggregate reached such a high level the value of production was not so high as in 1956-57. Nor was farm income although, at about £423,000,000 it represented a welcome recovery from the depressed level of 1957-58. Actually, it exceeded the value of the preceding year which, as I have already said, was a drought year. The actual income to the producers was about £10,000,000 more plus the crops such as wheat which are not sold and upon which first advances have been paid. The remainder is held in store and the value is still there. It is difficult to determine the overall value until the season’s sales are completed. We will then be able to judge what growth of income has been gained.
I do not need to stress the importance of the level of farm income in sustaining activity in the economy. Nor do I need to stress the importance of maintaining productive farm investment. The main source of funds for this is the farmer’s own income. The benefits of his investment - I am using that term in a general sense - depend upon the results of pasture development, water and fodder conservation and other farm improvements. Of course, in drought years the farmer has not the money to invest to the same degree as in good years. But as production and farm incomes increase the benefits of such investments are clearly seen not only in the high level of rural production but also in the ability to withstand widespread and severe drought such as occurred in 1957. In one season many farms recovered their normal production and they are to be commended for it.
The history of farm production has clearly shown that it is not possible to calculate an average balance of production in one season. That can only be done over a series of seasons. There can be little doubt that the application and development of new techniques, wise investment and sound management have placed Australian farming management in a stronger position than it has ever been in before.
I now wish to refer to the Government’s policy on research and extension. Four of our major primary industries have agreed to contribute, along with the Commonwealth, to the cost of research which will lead to more and better quality production. This, in turn, will cut down losses and wastage due to plant and animal pests. It will also avoid or eliminate diseases and other causes. The four industries which have agreed to contribute, as honorable members know, are wool, wheat, tobacco and dairying.
But research in itself is not enough. It is also essential that the important findings and results of research are relayed to the farmer and the significance attaching to extension is encouraged. The Government has tried to do this through the Commonwealth extension services grant which was recently increased to £350,000 a year. It was arranged with the States that this matter would be considered twelve months before the previous five-year grant expired. That grant expires on 30th June of next year and, according to the arrangement, the matter was discussed by the Government and it was agreed to extend it for another five years and increase the amount, as I have already said, to £350,000 a year. That arrangement will continue until 30th June, 1965. The increase of £50,000 a year will be used to finance special investigation and extension projects. Of course, the other £300,000 is available to the States for distribution amongst them in the same proportions as applied in connexion with the previous grant.
In considering this matter of Commonwealth extension services grants, it must be borne in mind that it is necessary to secure assistance from the States through their Departments of Agriculture. There must necessarily be a co-operative link between their work in research and the Commonwealth Government’s. I am very pleased that the Government has increased the amount of money available for extension services. Whenever I consider the recommendations made to me for assistance for various tasks, I am happy to give my approval, because I appreciate the importance of the work that each of the States is doing. I hope that the amount of £50,000 that is available to me, as the responsible Minister, for financing special investigation and extension projects will be fully used for these projects as they arise from time to time.
We have taken an important step towards resolving some of the problems of the dairying industry, through the Dairying Industry Committee of Inquiry. Tt is sought to put the industry on an efficient and stable economic basis. The committee has already begun its work, and I am confident that all sections of the dairying industry, and all interested in the industry’s welfare, will co-operate fully and freely.
The dairying industry’s research and promotion programme is also getting under way. In this connexion, a committee has been set up and has made recommendations as to the approach that should be made. I hope that the promotion of dairy products on a national scale will soon receive the impetus so necessary in these days of modern merchandising and fierce competition.
Advantage has also been taken of the research finance made available for the wool industry, and significant developments have taken place. The Australian Wool Bureau is now emphasizing sales promotion of the end product, and is thus directing its appeal tothe wearer. I am informed that recent promotion campaigns in Australia, in which this policy has been put into effect, have had a gratifying impact upon thewoolbuying public. I think it would be better for all sections of the community if we adopted a realistic outlook and practised self-help by buying the products of this great industry in which we are all so vitally interested.
These policies of promotion are also being carried into the international field by the International Wool Secretariat, which operates in fifteen countries. The allocation of funds for wool research during the current year reflects the increased emphasis being placed on wool textile research, which the Wool Research Committee feels is essential in view of the increasing challenge of synthetic fibres.
The steps that I have mentioned, the continuation of special depreciation allowances, the wheat and dairying industries stabilization schemes, the guaranteed return for cotton and the various forms of assistance to other industries, illustrate the good faith of this Government and its desire to sustain rural development. So, Mr. Chairman, I have much pleasure in supporting the Budget that has been submitted to us by the Treasurer.
Mr. McIVOR (Gellibrand) [9.41- - When the debate was resumed this evening after the suspension of the sitting, the sheet on which the Labour Party Whip lists honorable members in the order in which they are to speak did not show the name of the Government supporter who was to follow the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Uren). Consequently, our Whip suggested that the Government parties must have intended to produce a secret weapon. Evidently he was wrong, however, because no secret weapon has materialized to-night, just as many other secret weapons we have read of in the past have failed to materialize.
– It was a fizzer!
– Yes, a fizzer. I am afraid that the Government will have to call upon many secret weapons to kill the criticism that has resulted from this deceitful Budget. I am also afraid that the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. Adermann) will have to answer to his Country Party constituents, who are so incensed at the contents of this Budget.
The Minister devoted a lot of time to rural and primary industries. We on the Opposition side agree that our primary industries are probably the most important industries that we have. But I am of the opinion that those engaged in the primary industries will not thank the Minister for advocating a Budget which will involve them in shouldering further burdens merely to bolster up the stocks of the Government.
Whichever way one looks at it, this Budget can only be called deceitful. It is a Budget for the wealthy, but even though the wealthy have received definite benefits from it, they too have beenloud in their denunciation of the Budget. The Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) answered the criticism from this quarter by saying that big business interests can absorb the increased telephone and postal charges. This is, perhaps, the only statement made by the Treasurer with which I would agree. Certainly they can absorb them! They will absorb them by increasing prices of consumer goods, and thus pass them on to the wage earner, whose benefits from income tax reductions, if any and that is very doubtful will be swallowed up in increased prices of goods. It is a regrettable fact, too, that pensioners will be in the same position because they too have to eat and to buy clothing. They will have to pay more for the goods they buy, in order to cover the increased telephone and postal costs incurred by big business. In the final analysis, the Budget simply means a reduction in social service benefits and in wages.
In his opening remarks the Treasurer made some passing reference to housing.
He said -
Construction of houses and flats ran along somewhere about 80,000 a year, which is a very high figure.
This statement also, Mr. Deputy Speaker, is found to be deceitful when one analyses the figures. Let us examine some of the facts in relation to housing. Much has been said about flat building, and I will say more about that later on. Let me say at this stage, however, that when the Victorian Housing Commission was established in 1937 to eradicate sub-standard housing conditions, it was officially reported that there were more than 6,000 slum homes within a 5mile radius of the Elizabeth Street Post Office in Melbourne. Since that time Melbourne, in common with all other capital cities in Australia, has developed in line with the great national development that has taken place in Australia. But when one considers the matter of development, one should examine some of the developments in housing and the present position with relation to slums.
In the years between 1937 and 1954 slums increased by 23 per cent., and to-day it is estimated that there are 12,000 substandard homes in the metropolitan area of Melbourne. Some may ask, “ What does sub-standard mean? “ Sub-standard homes are decayed, dilapidated, vermininfested and unsanitary homes. A survey made recently disclosed a situation that highlights the appalling housing conditions throughout Australia. The survey showed that 38 per cent of houses in the districts under examination were damp and completely dilapidated, 51 per cent were without kitchen sinks, and 38 per cent., in our sunny and prosperous Australia, had no baths.
– All in Toorak?
– Maybe - but I do not think so. Let us dwell on that for a moment and imagine 40,000 men, women and children living out their lives under those conditions. Yet this Government has the effrontery to tell us that the housing problem has been overcome. If that figure is multiplied to cover Australia’s biggest and oldest cities, it will indicate the existence of a social problem as shameful as any in the world. It is interesting to note, especially in the light of the current divorce legislation-
– It is not interesting to listen.
– This would not be interesting to you at any time because you have not the capacity to understand the suffering of the people. What I have to say has some relation to the Matrimonial Causes Bill, which is on our noticepaper. Social workers know that where housing problems and standards of living are bad there are many broken marriages and numerous delinquent children. Social problems are not confined to slum areas. They arise wherever housing difficulties are present. Where too many people live in too small a space and parents cannot control their children, family life becomes intolerable. Yet this Government is proud of the number of flats that are being built. I shall say more about flats later on.
I want to say in defence of the Housing Commission in Victoria that it is not to blame for the existing state of affairs in that State. Within the framework of the meagre finance that this Government makes available to it the commission is doing its best to cope with the problems which face it. In 1957-58 the commission declared 513 houses unfit for human habitation and ordered 440 of them to be demolished. At the same time, solely because of the restriction of funds, it was able to complete only 2,194 housing units the lowest figure for nine years. That statement comes from the annual report of the Victorian Housing Commission. At the end of last year there were 15,500 applicants waiting for tenancy of commission homes and this number is growing daily.
In 1952, nearly 80,000 houses were built in Australia, but in 1957-58 the figure dropped to 71,000. In other words, while the demand for housing has been gathering weight the building rate has slowed down by 10,000 a year. Six years ago, more than 64,000 houses were under construction. The last figure available, that for 1957-58, showed a drop to less than 51,000. Those are the figures of the Commonwealth Statistician.
In Victoria there has been no significant progress in the building rate. It has remained at about 21,000 a year and the rate of commencement of new dwellings has fallen. There were 26,500 houses under construction in Victoria seven years ago. About 8,000 fewer are under construction to-day. Yet we are told that 10,000 more migrants are to be brought to this country each year! It is also significant that the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Downer) has told us that Australia’s population has now passed the 10,000,000 mark. It took the nation the best part of 200 years to bring up this figure. The Minister now makes the frightening estimate that our next 10,000,000 will be registered in 30 years. This will be a great point in our national development; but where are the additional 10,000,000, as well as all the others who are seeking homes, to be housed? Births in Australia have soared from the 1945 total of 160,500 to the 1957-58 figure of more than 220,000. More than 120,000 young Australians turned 21 in 1957, and within ten years this age group will have increased to 270,000. In 1955 the 20-24 years age group was numbered at 594,000. It is officially estimated that the group will number not less than 833,000 in 1965, and more than 1,000,000 in 1970. So, we can look forward to an 80 per cent, increase in the number of young marriageable Australians in the next ten years. This is the vital factor influencing the demand for housing because this great increase in the number of Australians in their early twenties means also a great increase in the marriage rate and therefore in the demand for new homes.
At the present time there is an estimated shortage of at least 90,000 houses in this country. That is about ten times the number of dwellings in any metropolitan suburb. If the demand for houses stayed at the present level, with no increase at all, the shortage would not be wiped out in six years. Unfortunately, the demand is rising rapidly. The primary factor behind the housing shortage is lack of finance, and some action must be taken if this Govern ment is to do its duty by the young people and by the immigration programme which every one in this chamber supports. The Government must make finance available to alleviate the housing shortage. About £20,000,000 a year is required. This would be about H per cent, of the total money spent on investment in Australia.
I have referred to flat building. According to the Commonwealth Statistician the number of flats being built in Australia rose in the first quarter of 1959 to a new record. In March, 1931, there were 4,677 under construction, compared with 3,872 three months earlier and 3,028 a year ago. There were 48,685 houses under construction against 48,226 in December and 51,490 a year ago. That statement was made in the Melbourne “Sun” on 14th May, 1959. Where is the increase of which the Treasurer has boasted? What use are flats to the average wage-earner? What use are flats to the family man? What those people want is houses for rental or easy finance in order that they may purchase homes.
Let us examine some of the figures in relation to marriages. These may be interesting to those members who intend speaking on the divorce legislation.
– Are you going to speak on it?
– I do not want to. There are 2,300 marriages a week in Australia but only 1,275 houses and flats are produced weekly to meet this demand - a good deal less than half the requirement according to the Commonwealth Statistician. The number of marriages may increase by 50 per cent, in ten years yet the production of homes is diminishing! The total of 69,453 homes begun in the last financial year was the lowest since 1953, and the total of 68,438 completed in the same period was the lowest for seven years. Land, labour and materials are plentiful. At present we have 63,000 unemployed in this so-called prosperous Australia. The State Savings Bank of Victoria is five months behind in making settlements and the delay is steadily increasing. Based on an average of 2,000 man-hours at 10s. per hour for the construction of an average £3,000 home, the building industry is being denied 3,050,000 man-hours, worth £1,525,000, every week in catering only for the housing needs of newly-weds. The loss annually amounts to £76,250,000 and that does not take into account the big lag in housing construction. Something even more significant is the loss to the industries which manufacture furniture, fittings and such so-called luxuries as refrigerators. On the current cost of furnishing a home of three bedrooms estimated at £2,100, the total is £160,125,000 a year. Put those amounts together, and you have a staggering loss of £236,375,000 a year or about one-quarter of the nation’s annual budget.
The nation’s population is increasing now by 2) per cent, a year and in the next ten years it is expected to increase by 24 per cent, to 12,000,000. If the average number of marriages keeps pace with the population growth, there will be 4,340 marriages a week in ten years’ time and about 70 per cent, of the newly-weds will be without homes if the housing position is not improved. Actually the housing output is diminishing each year.
Mention was made in the Budget of loans secured overseas by the Government. If it is good enough to secure loans overseas for big business, it should be good enough for the Government to seek finance overseas to get us out of the serious position we are in concerning homes. It should be good enough for the Government to introduce marriage loans to help young people. An article published in the Melbourne “ Age “ in July this year stated -
In Australia before the war, one could buy a house on 10 per cent, deposit but to-day a purchaser is expected to have from 25 per cent, to 33) per cent, available in cash. How to overcome this problem in Australia is the principal difficulty. In England, the great building societies lend at recognized rates of interest. In the United States, the deposit is 3 per cent, of the first 13,500 dollars with interest at 4$ per cent, for ex-servicemen and 4J per cent, for others.
The State Government in co-operation with the State Savings Bank, has done its best to relieve the financial situation but obviously this is a Commonwealth matter and ultimately will have to be tackled by a section of the Commonwealth Bank or a special home building outfit like the War Service Homes Division.
As to the savings banks of Australia, it is worthy of note that at 30th June, 1958, the savings banks of Australia had on loan £228,000,000 largely on mortgages, but at the same time hire-purchase businesses were owed £235,000,000 for cars and con sumer goods including charges for future interest. This indicates a colossal amount of money that has gone into one avenue of trade outside home finance.
I want to refer now to the attitude of the Government on child endowment. The rates have been unaltered for ten years. I want to read to the committee some of the remarks made to a deputation which waited on the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Roberton). These are indicative of the Government’s attitude to age and invalid pensions, child endowment and social services generally. This was a deputation to the Minister from the Union of Australian Women. Referring to petitions, the Mini?ter said -
I suppose they are of great value to the organizations responsible and to the community. They are of some interest to the Parliament but they could not affect the position one way or the other so far as the Minister for Social Services is concerned or the Government is concerned, because it is for the Minister for Social Services to keep the Government informed as to what the position is in regard to administration of the Social Services Department, what needs to be done, what ought to be done and what can be done. Opposition members find it easy to present opposition; easy to say what ought to be done, because they have no responsibility at all in the matter. They don’t have to find the wherewithal. I would adopt the same kind of tactics. It doesn’t matter where the money is coming from. It has to be found.
The Minister referred to the high standard of living in Australia and added that in a country which had a high standard of living, there should not be any high social service payments, and where a country had a lower standard of living, there should be higher social services. In other words, because members of Parliament have received a substantial pay increase, social services should be decreased. According to the Minister, because there are many wealthy persons in Australia and great profits are made by big business, the level of social service payments in Australia should be lowered.
Let us hear more of the comments of the Minister for Social Services on petitions. He was questioned by the deputation about his claim that a petition to Parliament had no other function than to be read in Parliament. The Minister said that petitions could have no influence on the Government. He said he sat blandly back listening to such petitions being read knowing that that was as far as they would go. Such is the attitude of this Government to social services. It believes that while we have a high standard of living, pensions should be kept low. This Government is placing the responsibility for aged people on to their relatives, and asking them to look after the aged. The Government is not interested in giving mothers encouragement to bring into the world our best “ migrants “ - the true Australians.
I want to refer now to another matter which must be one of great concern. The Treasurer has stated that the intake of migrants this year will be lifted by 10,000. He related what these immigrants would do for the country, but he did not say how they were to be housed or what would be done to improve their living conditions. He did not promise better conditions in the hostels where immigrants are forced to live in degradation and despair. The Melbourne “ Sun “ publishes a column entitled “ CP Voice “ which is written by spokesmen of the Country Party. Recently, the Country Party spokesmen wrote in that column -
There is national pride in the landmark of ten million population for Australia.
But we are also reminded that nearly 40 per cent of this number are clustered in the metropolitan areas of Sydney and Melbourne, pushing the boundaries out for living space and adding pounds to their cost of living for transport as a direct tax on income.
A further tax on the community is in the inflated land charges now ruling the market. Development of more outer Melbourne areas by sub-division, without provision for what by even low standards of life are considered essential services, is progressing almost out of hand.
The column goes on to say -
The plain fact is that a building on a block of land is not a home when the owners have to face five or ten years of fighting to raise a family under otherwise primitive conditions without adequate services, roads, transport, education and the other components of a modern standard of living.
The column continues -
It would cost the Melbourne Board of Works an estimated £25 million to complete the mains and a similar amount for owners to make connexions.
Yet honorable members opposite are always telling us about the prosperity in this country. The Government’s policy is a challenge to the Australian Country Party. We see the Minister at the table, and that other member of the Australian Country Party, the honorable member for Hume, who is interjecting in an attempt to draw me off the subject, supporting the Government; yet here is the “ CP. voice “ advocating most strongly that they should reject this Budget because of the stringency and hardship it puts on semi-government bodies, which cannot give the people the services they demand - decent sanitary services, decent sewerage, decent water supplies, and decent homes - and the last is the most essential - because of the Government’s policy.
– You must have water.
– You must have water, you must have sense and you must have some tolerance and humanity. I shall conclude, Mr. Chairman, by saying that I object to the lack of provision in the Budget for the elimination of pay-roll tax levied on councils and semi-government institutions. The attitude of the Government in this respect has left councils struggling. They have no way to get money other than by going on to the loan market and by dipping into the pockets of the ratepayers. They have gone as far as they can go in that regard, and no matter how much they borrow they still have to meet the cost of borrowing out of their general revenue. The Government is perpetuating a great injustice in not relieving councils and semigovernment institutions of the burden of pay-roll tax. The people of Australia have voiced their opinions of the Budget in the tory press of this country, and these opinions have reflected no credit on this Government.
.- I have listened with a great deal of interest to the honorable member for Gellibrand (Mr. Mclvor). He devoted most of his speech to the subject of housing which, I was led to believe, is one of the subjects on which he is an expert. I am not an expert on that subject.
– We know that!
– The honorable member for Gellibrand poses as an expert. While he was speaking I happened to pick up the White Paper on National Income and Expenditure, and found that on the subject of housing this document, referring to gross private expenditure on fixed capital equipment, has this to say- . . The largest proportional increase in the items shown in the above table was in expenditure on new dwelling construction. This was 11 per cent, higher than in 1957-58 and 27 per cent, higher than in 1956-57.
If I understand that correctly, it completely contradicts the figures given by the honorable member for Gellibrand. Not only were they higher in value, but they were considerably higher in relation to the actual number of dwellings built.
– The figures included flats.
– Well, a flat is a good place. Many people who are in the houses you were talking about would like to go into flats, and others in flats would like to move out further from the centre of the city. We want balanced development in housing, and we will only get it if we build both flats and houses for rent and sale.
In this debate, Mr. Chairman, our main aim, as I understand it, is to analyze the Budget and to judge its effectiveness. To do that, to make this judgment of the effectiveness of the Budget, one needs some yardstick of what represents an effective Budget. This, in its turn, involves some conception of what the budgetary process is designed to achieve, and the part played by the Budget in the general framework of our economic and social life; because, contrary to many of the things said or implied in this debate, the Budget is not the only indicator of economic force and social life in Australia. I think that sometimes when we speak in the Budget debate we make the mistake of assuming that the Budget is the only instrument that plays any part in economic and social life. It is far from that. Not long ago a budget was looked on as purely a system of national accounts - accounts, that is, not very different from those kept by private individuals and business firms, accounts in which governments decided how much needed to be spent on those activities which they thought to be their proper province, and then arranged for revenue to cover the cost. Sometimes, of course, it worked the other way round, and a government tailored its expenditure to fit its expected revenue. But whichever way it was done, and whatever motives might have actuated governments in deciding on the sums of money in their accounts, they were just accounts seen in this way. They were made up without any thought whatsoever for their relationship to the private sector of the economy, to the general level of economic activity or to the economy as a whole. Obviously, the budgets of those days did influence other sectors of the economy and also the level of general economic activities, but the governments that framed them did not recognize any such influence except in the most direct sense, nor did they accept that they had any responsibility to pay regard to it. Nor did they see any significance in the social and income-distributing effects of their budgetary measures.
Of course, the effect of this method of framing the Budget was often disastrous. Not only did it lead to severe maladjustments in income distribution, but frequently it had the effect of accentuating undesirable changes in the economy. Depression was deepened by cuts in government spending to meet anticipated reductions of revenue. Fuel was added to the fire of inflationary situations when increased revenue invoked increased government spending.
I have taken the liberty, and the time, Mr. Chairman, to remind honorable members of this, because it needs emphasizing in the light of the criticisms made by the Opposition about the present Budget. Nowadays a budget is regarded as an instrument available to the Government to influence national development in what it regards as desirable directions - an instrument through which serious maladjustments can be remedied and a measure of social justice established. Above all, it is an instrument framed with regard to presenting a most careful assessment of future trends in the country as a whole, and in the world overseas insofar as they affect the Australian economy That is why such documents as the Australian Economic Survey and the White Paper on National Income and Expenditure are now issued annually. They are designed to assist the Government and to assist this Parliament in assessing the economic framework in which the Government is operating. Without this framework any budget, and certainly this Budget, does not make sense; but within this framework, and with the knowledge of the economic situation, the Budget makes very good sense, and I congratulate the Treasurer on it. Looked at in this way, as honorable members opposite have done, it has always seemed to me to be nonsense to regard the so-called concessions contained in a budget as a proper criterion of whether it is a good or a bad budget. I say that because I believe that the most effective concession that comes from a budget is the degree to which it creates the framework of a prosperous and expanding economy - not the direct handouts, but the indirect opportunities that it gives for individuals and enterprises to prosper by the use of their own talents and energies.
It will avail a pensioner nothing to receive a pension equal to half the basic wage, as we have heard advocated in so many petitions presented to the Parliament and commented on by the honorable member for Gellibrand, if the increase is to be swallowed by steeply rising prices. It will avail a wage earner with a family nothing to receive a concession for his family as an income tax deduction if, as a result of the economic situation, he loses his job and, therefore, his income. It will avail a farmer nothing to get a concession by way of subsidy and then lose more than the benefit of that concession under the pressure of rising costs, over which he as a farmer has no control. Those are a few examples of what I mean when I say that concessions mean nothing unless measured against the general economic situation. But the greatest concession that the Government can make is a budget that is framed against the background of Australia’s needs and development. By that policy, as I see it, every one benefits.
What is the economic framework in which the Budget has been brought down? After all, in the last analysis, as I have already said, it is the relationship of its provisions to that framework which determines whether it is a good budget or a bad one. Honorable members will remember the situation that faced us a year ago when Sir Arthur Fadden made his last Budget speech. Farm income, which in any case was at a very low level, was expected to drop by between £50,000,000 and £60,000,000. The trend of wool prices - and wool produces 40 per cent, of our overseas earnings - was mainly responsible for that drop in farm income.
It was inevitable that if wool prices continued to slump, imports, already fixed at the dangerously low level of £800,000,000, would have to be cut. As 80 per cent, of our imports already are producers’ goods, such cuts could hardly be confined to inessentials.
Of course, to cut imports of producers’ goods would have involved far more than falls in production and employment, because our task is not merely to maintain the level of activity but to increase the rate of progress. A sudden braking would have brought - just as it will if it becomes necessary in the future - a downward revision of thousands of individual development plans and lasting damage to those, both at home and abroad, who put their money on the progress and development of the Australian economy and its expansion.
In the event, these gloomy possibilities were avoided, partly by good luck - we have always admitted the influence of overseas factors - but principally I believe by the good management of this Government. It acted firmly and decisively. It announced in the particular situation of crisis that import and migration levels would not be reduced. It decided on substantial extra payments to the States. It arranged for two loans from overseas, which together amounted to £30,000,000. In the last Budget the Government budgeted for a deficit of £110,000,000. All those measures had their effect. In the event, unemployment during the year never rose above 2 per cent. Industry and investors refused to panic. The output of manufactures rose almost everywhere, and that vital determinant of economic growth, capital expenditure, expanded at about the same rate as the year before. Farm income, instead of falling, rose to a figure in excess of £60,000,000 above the estimate. The same story could be told about virtually every economic indicator. Any body can see that for himself by reading the White Paper on National Income and Expenditure, which was issued to all honorable members.
That is what we achieved when all the indicators were unfavorable - a rate of growth that was satisfactory yet was combined with stability. This year the picture is very different. The economy starts with the confidence engendered by the achievements of 1958-59. With boom conditions in sight in the United States and Western Europe, exports are expected to rise by £60.000.000 or £70,000,000. Whilst last year the Government felt it necessary to provide a stimulus to economic activity, this year, although there is still the need for a stimulus, the principal preoccupation of the Government has been the necessity to ensure that things do not run away from us.
– Would you say that about unemployment?
– The situation was well described by the Treasurer in his Budget speech when he said -
The economic prospects for this year, as we now see them, would certainly not justify any large additional stimulus to spending.
The honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard) has inquired about unemployment. As I said earlier, despite the unfavorable conditions that existed at the beginning of last year, throughout the year the level of unemployment in this country was never higher than 2 per cent, of the working population. Taking even the highest figure, Australia had possibly the lowest unemployment in the Western world. I have no doubt that as long as the people of this country keep this Government in office, Australia will continue to have the best unemployment figures in the world.
The Treasurer in his Budget speech said that the economic prospects for this year are such as would not justify any substantial increase of or stimulus to spending. In other words, there is a limit to the concessions that can be made, not because of budgetary arithmetic, as honorable members opposite have tried to suggest, but because of the economic effects of the increase at a time when the economy is set for expansion. Much more benefit and prosperity will accrue from this expansion to the people whom honorable members opposite allege they wish to assist, than from concessions which would be more than wiped out by the resultant inflation that those concessions would bring. The Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) last night wept crocodile tears about the plight of the farmers. The farmers are well aware of the synthetic nature of the right honorable gentleman’s concern. They know that during a decade of Liberal-Australian Country Party government they have never had it so good. They know, too, that, during nearly a decade of administration by the Labour Government that preceded the present Government, they never had it so bad. That was a period when they were sacrificed on the altar of low food prices for city consumers, and, as a result, they were ground contemptuously into the dirt on which they lived.
The farmers want stability in the prices that they have to pay for the goods and services which enter into their costs, Mr. Temporary Chairman. If they have this, technical advances, their own skill and hard work, and the natural advantages of this great country, will take care of the rest. The farmers of Australia, in my experience, are not the fools that the Opposition takes them to be. They are well aware that the cost stability which they rightly regard as so vital to their future, on the present favorable outlook, will certainly not be preserved by the sort of increase in Government spending implied by the Opposition’s criticism of this Budget. They know, for instance, that, in relation to the greatest single determinant of their costs - the level of wages - Opposition members have publicly condemned the recent basic wage increase of 15s. a week as inadequate and, in this debate, have made suggestions which would put large increases of purchasing power in the hands of those whose wages have risen. Such an attitude, I submit, Mr. Temporary Chairman, makes nonsense of any concern for the plight of the farmers expressed by the Opposition. But perhaps I am doing honorable gentlemen opposite an injustice, Sir. Perhaps I have misinterpreted the objective of their criticisms. Perhaps they have not reverted to the antediluvian accounting system method of assessing a Budget, of which I spoke earlier - a method which pays no attention whatever to the general level of economic activity in which the Budget is framed.
– That was carefully prepared.
– It was better prepared than were the remarks of the honorable member. Perhaps, after all, the concern of Opposition members is not with the total level of government spending provided for in the Budget but rather with the direction in which that spending goes.
Some of my colleagues have dealt adequately with Opposition criticisms of particular concessions made in this Budget. I should like to deal briefly with that element which, because of its size, is probably the greatest single factor in precluding further concessions - that is, that part of government expenditure which is devoted to things such as grants to the States, capital works, business undertakings and the Defence Services. Government expenditure on these things taken together represents the biggest single increase of expenditure in the Budget -£30,000,000 more than in the last financial year, and an increase of £100,000,000 since the financial year 1957-58. The increase in grants to the States is by far the biggest of these. Is the Opposition suggesting, Sir, that we should not spend these sums on categories of Budget expenditure such as these? That was not its attitude when we were discussing Commonwealth aid roads grants or income tax reimbursements to the. States. Indeed, the Opposition then recommended massive increases in the grants for both these purposes. So we must conclude that, in putting forward the proposals for concessions that it has made, it did not contemplate reductions in these items.
This brings us back inevitably, I believe, to the conclusion that the Opposition’s criticisms of the Budget have been made on the assumption that the Budget exists in a vacuum without any regard whatever for the general economic situation, either at present or in the future, and that those criticisms are irresponsible and designed to generate class feeling and hatred. The Opposition accuses the Government ot bringing down a class Budget, but I think that we can rightly accuse the Opposition of indulging, in this debate, in the most blatant form of class criticism. However, Sir, the Australian people are not unintelligent. They have not been taken in by such obvious attempts to appeal to their baser instincts in the past; and they will not be taken in on this occasion.
Finally, Mr. Temporary Chairman, in view of criticisms that have been made in other quarters - not by Opposition members - I think it is worth saying that these items of government expenditure of which I have spoken represent, as I understand it, the principal stimulus provided by the Budget for the Australian economy over the next year. Not only will this Government’s spending stimulate private expenditure but also it will do something to lay the foundations of the roads, schools and other things without which private expansion would inevitably be suffocated. In my view, that sort of increase at this time is the stuff of which national development in the truest sense is made. I support this Budget.
.- Mr. Temporary Chairman-
– The honorable member for Darebin does not support this Budget.
– It has been said, quite properly, that I do not support this Budget. I do, however, support the amendment that has been proposed by the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt). I listened with great attention to the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Forbes), who preceded me, and T noted all the suggestions which he made about what a Budget should or should not be. I noted, too, that he suggested that concessions should not be the criterion as to whether a Budget is good or bad. For the life of me, I cannot find any concessions in this Budget, on analysing it properly and without resorting to what the honorable member termed budgetary mathematics. And let me say at the outset that I do not want to indulge in budgetary mathematics, as they have been termed. I use only the common mathematics that those of us who went to ordinary schools would use. In this instance, at any rate, concessions should not be used as the criterion by which to determine whether this is a good or a bad Budget, because it makes no concessions.
This Budget has been criticized in a number of quarters, and probably unfairly, from some points of view. It has been criticized in some sections of the press as being timid and dull, and as not showing that measure of the spirit of adventure that, according to the press, we could well afford to display to a limited extent, in view of the picture that was painted for us by the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) in his Budget speech. I think that that criticism is quite unfair. 1 do not regard this as a timid Budget at all. 1 regard it, as the average man in the street regards it, as a piece of brazen effrontery flaunted in the faces of the people of Australia. We have been told, on the one hand, that it gives concessions to certain sections of the people, and then, on the other hand, when we really analyse it, we find that there are concessions for nobody.
Let us have a look at the supposed concessions that have been made. The Government has said to the people of Australia, “ Here is a 5 per cent, reduction in income tax. This is the greatest concession that we can make to you.” In these days of prosperity the greatest concession that the Government can make to the people of this country is a 5 per cent, reduction in income tax which, to Joe Blow the carpenter amounts to ls. a week but to his employer, the master builder, to something like £4 a week! Yet any honorable member who dares to bring to light this fact is accused by the Government of preaching class hatred.
The press has been blatantly unfair in stating that the average member of Parliament will receive a concession of 15s. a week, and has held us up to public ridicule by saying, “ The Parliamentarians give to themselves a concession of 15s. a week but to you, Joe Blow, they give a concession of ls. a week”. If this Budget grants me a concession of 15s. a week, I do not want it because the same Budget will cost me an additional 25s. a week in increased postage and telephone charges. The Government in presenting this Budget has displayed not timidity but brazen effrontery. An honorable member has suggested that if it were not for this Budget we would not have received the concession to which I have referred, but by the same token we would not have been slugged for the increased postage and telephone charges. The concession will be loaded on to the price structure so that as well as meeting the increased cost of postage and telephone calls the average worker will be called upon to meet the cost of the income tax concession.
The Treasurer has estimated that the cost of the concessions will be in the vicinity of £20,000,000 a year whereas the cost of the increase in age, invalid and widows pensions will be about £12,500,000 a year. I think that I speak for all honorable members on this side of the chamber, and for the average citizens of Australia - not for those who will receive £400 or £500 a year as a result of the income tax concession - when 1 say to the Treasurer, “ Keep your ls. a week concession to the average worker; keep my 15s. a week concession, and keep the other fellow’s £4 a week concession. Save £20,000,000 a year by that means and give it to the pensioners, age, invalid and widows, the people who really need it. Give them a good boost in life. You can keep the impudent impost that you are placing upon us in the form of increased postage and telephone charges.” If honorable members on the Government side will support my proposal, we may be able to do something worth while in the field of social services, but if they do not feel that way disposed and if they wish to keep their 15s. a week, that is their business.
– The honorable member should quote the correct figure. It is not 15s.
– If it is not 15s.. the concession that I shall receive is not as great as I thought it would be. The Treasurer himself has estimated the cost of the concession as £20,000.000 a vear The Budget discloses that the Governmenhas no positive policy that will benefit the people of Australia, but instead it discloses an intensification of the policy that has been adopted by this Government for the last ten years - a policy designed to keep the standard of living and social service benefits as low as it dares.
The Government has displayed a niggardly attitude in its administration of social services. Probably all honorable member!have had the experience of endeavouring to obtain for ex-servicemen a pension othe increase of an existing pension. I refer to the cases of ex-servicemen who, und*1’ any ordinary system of justice, would be entitled to a pension. Honorable member know the attitude adopted by the Repatriation Department towards such application5 The department administering social sevices is another department with whicH probably all honorable members have ha’’ some dealings. The application of the pro visions of the Commonwealth Employees Compensation Act is a classic example o’ the manner in which government departments operate. In his Budget speech the Treasurer has stated that the provisions of that act will be liberalized in what direction we have not been told to the extent of an estimated £120,000. Any person who has been involved in the operation of the Commonwealth Employees’ Compensation Act will vouch for the fact that since this Government was re-elected last year and since the new Treasurer has assumed office the application of the Act has been tightened up.
Trade unions have had the experience of this Government resisting claims which private insurance companies would accept, and have, in fact, accepted. Because this matter was mentioned in the Budget, I took out figures to see whether this assertion were true. I found that in 1950-51 two appeals under the Commonwealth Employees’ Compensation Act were lodged; in 1951-52, one appeal; 1952-53, seven appeals; in 1953-54, five appeals; in 1954-55, eight appeals; in 1955-56, seven appeals; and in 1956-57, eight appeals. This gives an average of six appeals each year since 1950. But in 1957-58, 74 appeals were lodged.
All appeals are not heard; some are withdrawn. However, in 1950-51 and 1951- 52, no appeals were heard; in 1952- 53, two were heard; in 1953-54, two were heard; in 1954-55, four were heard; in 1955-56. four were heard; in 1956-57, seven were heard; and in 1957-58, thirty six appeals were heard. Thus, the Government’s policy in the administration of this social service stands exposed for what it is by the figures on the incidence of workers’ compensation. Appeals are withdrawn onlywhen it becomes obvious that no good purpose would be served by pursuing them. The following number of appeals were withdrawn: 1950-51 and 1951-52, none; 1952-53, two; 1953-54, none; 1954-55, one; 1955-56, three, 1956-57, none; and in 1957-58, 21. Before an appeal is allowed, a prima facie case must be established. I will not give the precise figures of the appeals allowed in the past eight years; it is sufficient to say that they averaged three a year and that 23 were allowed in 1957-58,
I give those figures to show the attitude of the Government towards its injured workers. But the situation is even worse than the figures reveal. This Government successfully took an appeal, known as the Okendon case, to the High Court in its determination to defeat the claim of a widow following the death of her husband as a result of a heart attack, which he suffered while on the job. Under legislation in most of the States, such an appeal would be allowed and was formerly allowed by the Commonwealth. However, this Government took the case to the High Court in an effort to take the widow’s sustenance from her and to take the bread from the children’s mouths. It succeeded because of a flaw in the act. That would have been bad enough by itself, but the Government stopped the payment of compensation to wives who had formerly been receiving it because of the incapacitation of their husbands due to similar complaints. In addition, the Government in these cases seems prone to seek costs against the widow or the injured worker who cannot sustain a case. This very rarely happens with private insurance companies.
I say that to show the attitude of the Government on the question of social services. This attitude was also highlighted during the last sessional period when the Opposition raised as a definite matter of urgent public importance the question of the payment of special fund benefits to the chronically ill who were confined in unregistered hospitals. On that occasion the Minister promised to give further consideration to the matter. In addition, many questions relating to this matter have been asked by honorable members. In his Budget speech, the Treasurer said -
Some anomalies have developed and it is now proposed to re-define and liberalize the class of case to which this special benefit will be payable. Under the new definition, claims for payment of special fund benefit for treatment in “ unrecognized “ hospitals will be allowed in cases where it is established, firstly, that the patient is suffering from a condition for which he would normally be admitted to a general public hospital-
Everybody knows perfectly well that a person must be nearly dead before he is normally admitted to a general public hospital. People enter these unregistered institutions because the public hospitals are over crowded and cannot admit them. The Treasurer went on to say -
The patient must fulfil two conditions, but both of them are utterly impossible. The Treasurer continued -
Further details of the amendment proposed will be announced when the legislation is introduced, following negotiations with the hospital insurance organizations.
Honorable members will remember that the British Medical Association strongly censured the Government on this matter. It is my view that the British Medical Association and the private hospital associations should be included in any negotiations that take place with the hospital insurance organizations.
I say again that the Government should tell those who are responsible for the cruel manner in which some social services are administered that social services should be social services and not completely antisocial services, as they are at times.
I do not propose to dwell on those matters of which mention has been made. I have suggested what I consider to be a typical attitude on the part of many administrators of social service and compensation funds. The rest of the Budget offers nothing. It contributes nothing towards the ideal - and it is an ideal now - of putting value back into the £1. It offers nothing for education or hospitals. As for the tax reduction to be given, members on this side of the committee would be happier if the Government took the £20,000,000 represented by the tax reduction and increased age and invalid pensions by £1 a week. The Government could have done so if it had not provided for this reduction in income tax in order to favour those on higher incomes.
Mr. WENTWORTH (Mackellar) [10.211. - I think it is fairly obvious that members of the Opposition have little stomach for this fight. All their criticism of the Budget has been trifling, captious and irrelevant. [ am sure that the committee agrees that that is so. There is no fighting spirit in the Opposition because it looks as if it has nothing left to fight for and nothing left to fight against.
This Budget has one characteristic: lt is a full employment Budget. In the year which lies behind us there has been the highest measure of employment that Australia has ever known. The Government intends to keep that up; it intends to maintain that enviable record. After all, that is one of the real tests by which any financial policy should be measured.
I think, Sir, that some of the criticisms of this Budget have been captious. But perhaps the Government and its predecessors in office, represented by both sides of the Committee, have helped to bring that about by reason of the past bad presentation of the Post Office accounts. This has led people to foster the delusion that this service is returning a profit. It has not done so in the past and those who follow the figures and look on what is really in them, know that that is so. I think that this Government and its predecessors have been blameworthy in not correcting that delusion earlier and presenting the true Post Office figures in the Budget. Therefore, I welcome very warmly the proposal of the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) to set up a committee to review the position so that the Postal Department figures will be presented for the first time in a factual and accurate light.
The Treasurer talked, and rightly, of a cash deficit of £61,000,000. But honorable members know very well that, in s sense, that is not quite the full way of putting it. It is true that there is this cash deficit, but there is not a real deficit. If honorable members will look at page 11 ot the printed statement they will see the details of the figures set out there. The cash deficit is £61,000,000, but that is struck after allowing for not less than £142,000,000 of capital works which, under normal accounting, would be charged to the loan fund. Therefore, this is not a deficit; it is a figure of a cash deficiency which has been arrived at after constructing these capital works.
But that is not the full story. Let honorable members look further at this table and they will see provision, first, for a payment of £220,000,000 to the States and secondly, for a redemption of maturing securities, apart from the normal sinking fund of £70,000,000. Against those two items there is only a loan raising of £190,000,000. When one looks at these figures one would say, quite certainly, that the real surplus in this Budget, based on true accounting, is no less than £150,000,000.
Of course it could be argued, with some colour, as to what the exact figure is and what amounts should or should not be counted in, but there is a very considerable true surplus although, as the Treasurer has said, there is this cash deficit which has been arrived at by taking into account these capital items.
Honorable members might find it interesting to recall the state of the Australian Public Debt, details of which are set out on page 94 of the Budget papers. I invite them to look at the last column containing figures for the last four years. The overall per capita debt incurred by the Australian people, taking account of everything, at 30th June, 1956, was £417 per head. At 1957 it was £414, £3 less. In 1958 it was £405, a further reduction of £9, and in 1959 it stands at £402, a reduction, again, of £3. During these last four years the capital debt per Head of the Australian population, taking all into account - States and Commonwealth together - has been going steadily down. According to the forecast of this Budget for the forthcoming year it will go down again by a small but significant figure.
If one adjusts this indebtedness to the “ C “ series index, one will see that, in terms of real purchasing power, it has fallen further. For this period of which I have been speaking, so far from incurring a series of extravagant deficits, even writing off the whole of our capital expenditure in that time, our per capita indebtedness has been steadily falling and looks as if it will continue to do so.
Looking at the Budget as the regulator of finance and of the economic life of the country, knowing that a federal budget has its limitations, perhaps we approach this Budget with some sense of disappointment. Let me say this is something which is not to be laid at the door of this Government only or at the door of any of the Australian governments: it is something which has to be laid at our national door and we might, perhaps, think of it in more realistic terms. Australian productivity has not been advancing as rapidly as has productivity in most other countries. It has not been going forward as quickly, for instance, as in the United States of America, in France, in Italy or in Great Britain. This is not a very comfortable thing to reflect upon. We do not, perhaps, quite understand that we are falling a little behind in this international race. We do see, all around us, development. We do see that we are going forward. But if we are not going forward as rapidly as other countries, we lose our comparative position.
There are three reasons, I think, why Australian development should be going forward more quickly than it has been. The first is that we are a wealthy people. We have natural resources which, spread over our small population, are as great as those possessed by any other people anywhere else in the world.
– They are for a few only.
– They are not just the possessions of a few; I have spoken of them as possessions spread over the Australian people. We have, therefore, great opportunities, and we should be going ahead rather more quickly than we have been. Secondly, we have had the advantage of a great inflow of overseas capital, and we who receive the capital should be going ahead more quickly than the countries that invest this capital. But this is not so. Thirdly, we have not been bearing nearly so great a defence burden, comparatively speaking, as have the other members of the alliance of the free world.
These three reasons together should be a sufficient basis for my contention that productivity in Australia should be increasing faster than in other parts of the world. In the absence of full productivity indices, and in the absence of exhaustive comparisons of what is happening here with what is happening elsewhere, one cannot be certain of the exact figures, and one does not want to be too dogmatic. But the general pattern is plain enough; our rate of progress has been a little disappointing. This is not something that we can continue to tolerate, because it is not safe. It is sometimes not realized that to go too slow is just as dangerous as, and perhaps even more dangerous than, endeavouring to go too fast with economic progress. We cannot afford to lag behind, and I would have preferred to see a Budget which looked at some of these more fundamental problems and which endeavoured to rectify the things that have been holding back the advance of Australian productivity.
It is not fair to lay the blame at the door of one government, or of all governments. This is something that the Australian people had better consider. But, after all, a budget can give a little bit of a lead. It is not a magic cure-all for every one of our economic ills, but it can set a pattern for others to follow. As I have said, I would have preferred to see a budget which would tend to facilitate progress a little more, which would place a little more emphasis on the need to develop more quickly, and which would pay a little more attention to some of the things that have been holding us back.
In broad terms, we have to make better use of our labour force, and better use of our material possessions and capital equipment. These things run together; you cannot separate one from the other. There is a good deal of economic wastage going on in the upper age group of our population. There is a potential labour force here that we can mobilize, and in this regard I had hoped that the Government would come forward with some more constructive scheme for mobilization. Whilst there is not unemployment in the sense that many people are registered for employment, there is a good bit of under-employment in the sense that people in the upper age bracket who would like to do light part-time work cannot fit in and find the necessary opportunities. They are not unemployed; they are under-employed. I had hoped that there would have been, ere now, some constructive scheme to deal with this problem, to mobilize these labour resources, and to give to these people what they want, namely, an opportunity for some useful work, which is not as rigorous and arduous as full-time normal labour, but is nevertheless fitted to their capacities. This, I think, is one of our big economic wastes.
There is a good deal of waste occasioned by restrictive practices in industry. These are indulged in not only by labour and not only by capital; they are apparent on both sides. These restrictive practices mean that expensive machinery is, in many cases, not used to the fullest extent. There is what the Americans call “ feather-bedding “, meaning the deliberate attempt to make two jobs when the work could quite well be done by one man. These things, as I say, are not the fault of either side alone. Both sides had better get together on these matters, because only in this way can we drive up Australian productivity faster, and drive up faster Australian living standards. 1 do not want to go into this at length. I believe that this is not the time to do so. But I do want to mention the kind of things that lie ahead of the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) in the future, and which I hope that future budgets will deal with. There is, first and foremost, of course, this running sore stemming from the relationships between the Commonwealth and the States. I have had a look at the material released from the last Australian Loan Council meeting. I was not present, of course, at that meeting, but, speaking as one who has been present at such meetings in the past in an advisory capacity, and as one who knows something of Treasury operations, I am not satisfied with the existing arrangements. T do not think we are handling well this financial relationship between the Commonwealth and the States. We are doing two things. First, we are creating in the States a feeling of cumulative irresponsibility. Some State treasuries are still controlled by an older generation that grew up under the old order, in which there was some kind of responsibility, in which people had to account for what they did because they did not have an all-gracious Commonwealth to fall back on or to complain to. Those people are going. Most State Treasuries are passing into the control of people who never knew financial responsibility. They have not the same kind of care, the same kind of constructive outlook as those who grew up in the old order.
The States, by and large, are not spending their money well. In addition, there is a lack of balance between the objectives of the Commonwealth and the objectives of the States. Members on both sides of the House have complained - I think, with justice - of the education position, for example. It is not right that there should be a financial impediment to the proper handling of the education system which undoubtedly is going to be under a progressive strain as the increasing population requires greater capital expenditure.
It may be said, quite justly, that if the States managed their transport organizations correctly, they would have plenty of money for education. I think that is true. But it is not a very convincing answer to the person who sees his son or daughter passing through an age that can never be repeated without getting the things that will make him or her the best and most productive citizen, lt is not a very convincing argument to the economist who knows that in future our country will need batches of technically trained men to manage the machinery, the farms and the productive apparatus on which an increase of our Australian living standard depends. I pluck this out of the air as simply one example: I do not believe that there is a proper balance between the capital projects of the Commonwealth and the capital projects of the States. I do not believe that we can allow the State machinery to be run inefficiently indefinitely and, at the same time, exact the penalty for its inefficiency from the inhabitants of the States who, after all, are also the people who elect this Parliament in Canberra.
I pass, now, from the States. I had hoped that we would have some real overhaul of the taxation system. My hope is justified because the Government has announced that there will be a major review of the whole basis of taxation. I shall not go into the details of what I think should be done. There will be another opportunity to do that at greater length. I simply record the satisfaction which all members will share that this review of taxation will be undertaken. I record also the hope that it will be a fundamental review and will not be concerned merely with superficialities. In the meantime pending the review, I feel that the Treasurer has done the right thing and that although his proposals fall short of the farreaching review that I believe to be necessary, they are the best proposals which could be made in the circumstances as an interim machinery measure.
I should like to see also a full-scale review of social services. I am not at all satisfied with the structure of our pensions system. I do not think that we can cure the difficulties simply by some small amendment here and there. We need a different overall plan. It may be that we cannot bring it in all at once. Nobody wants to make drastic changes at once. But it is desirable to work to a pattern so that changes, small though they may be, from year to year, will fit into an approach to a major objective.
It is time to do something about the means test. That is long overdue. It is time, too, that we did something about family endowment. That is long overdue. There are a number of things of that kind and when the Treasurer comes to do them he has not an unlimited amount of money. It is not just a matter of doubling this rate or adding 50 per cent, to that. What we want is some overall plan - something very much more far-reaching. I believe that, now, with years of experience behind us, it is time that we set our hand to some major reforms.
I am not happy with the defence position and I do not think that any other honorable member who thinks about it will be happy. This is not altogether the fault of the Government. We are meeting the impact of very dreadful and threatening circumstances which are not the fault of the Government. In meeting them we have to show a great deal more resilience and a great deal more flexibility of planning than we have yet shown.
Large amounts have been set down for defence in this Budget; but they are not large amounts in comparison with what is being spent in other countries such as Britain, Canada, and the United States of America. I speak of them, not as amounts per head, but as a proportion of the national income. We are not paying our way in the common defence. In addition, one feels that, whatever justification there may have been in the past, changes in the world are such that we now need quite a major overhaul of our defence concepts.
May I be pardoned for making one small particular point? I notice that, last year, there was an allocation of £300,000 for civil defence but only £102,000 was spent. That amount was spent on the very excellent school at Mount Macedon, which is doing a very good job. The balance of about £200,000 was put aside for spending on the first phase of some civil defence plan which the Government was going to elaborate last year. No plan has yet been elaborated. This, I think, is a matter of great regret and one on which I find it impossible to support the policy of the present Government. I think it has fallen down very badly and very materially on the job that it should have done here.
Finally, our financial position seems to me to be over-dependent, still, on the inflow of foreign capital. At the present moment, foreign capital is very easy to get. The reason is plain. The normal outlets for capital investment in other parts of the world have been closed up and no prudent investor will go to them. We have in Australia a stability, a reputation, a credit. What is happening is that investment which used to be spread over a wide field now seems to be concentrated on a few fields of which we are one. There are great advantages to be obtained from overseas investment over the short run, but 1 do not think that we should make ourselves dependent on it over the long run.
During the consideration of the estimates for the Department of Trade, I hope to go into this question more fully, and to make some constructive suggestions as to what we can do. I am sorry that I have had to speak only in generalities to-night, but I think you will agree, Mr. Chairman, that in a speech on the Budget, which is not a speech on the Estimates, generalities rather than details are in order.
Bill received from the Senate, and (on motion by Sir Garfield Barwick) read a first dme.
Motion (by Mr. Cramer) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- I desire to refer to-night to what I consider to be one of the most disgraceful things in relation to immigration. I refer to the shocking conditions which exist in the Brooklyn and Williamstown hostels near Melbourne. The Brooklyn hostel is situated on the boundary of my electorate. Actually, it is in the electorate of Lalor, but many people from that hostel have been complaining to me since 1949 and still complain about the dreadful conditions under which they have to live at this hostel. I have in my hand, Mr. Speaker, a petition which was presented to me. It bears 250 names and represents practically open revolt by these people against the conditions under which they have to live, and the recent increase in their tariff of 7s. a week because of the recent rise in the basic wage. Many of those who live in the hostels have not even received that wage increase, but they are still expected to pay the higher tariff.
Time will not permit me to go into all the details of conditions at these hostels but summing up, I would say that the Williamstown and Brooklyn hostels represent pits of degradation and despair. An English newspaper which has been given to me carries this heading, “ End This Man-trap for Britain’s Workers “. I wonder what people will say in England and what headings will be published in newspapers as a result of the protest that was issued to me last week about these hostel conditions. The immigrants have complained to me about the rise in the cost of living. They say that the extra charge has placed a greater strain on the majority of the residents. They have pointed out that starting life in a new country is not easy, and that those who suffer most are the children because they are deprived of normal family life.
I want to direct the attention of the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Downer) to such matters as the shocking toilets and laundries at the hostels. If they were provided in private industry or even in private homes, those responsible would be prosecuted. There is a lack of family toilets. Eight seats are provided for men and eight for women. There are eight showers and four baths for 500 persons.
– Another Belsen.
– That is true. There are no toilets for the children. There is a lack of hot water. The laundries are out of date. Twelve boilers are provided for the whole hostel of 250 married couples. I invite the Minister for Immigration and the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Freeth) to visit these hostels and inspect the open drains, which are dangerous and unhealthy, and the poor lighting. All these things combine to make these people so desperate that they have come to me to put their cause at the risk of eviction and victimization. The honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) knows that all I say about the hostels is perfectly true. When I was the Mayor of Footscray in 1949, the residents complained to me about these conditions repeatedly.
– Have they improved?
– No, they have worsened. Sanitary conditions are poor and, to make things worse, the hostel is situated alongside an abattoir and a meatworks. The stench and the flies that come from there can hardly be imagined, yet there are no fly wires on the windows in any hut. These immigrants are expected to rear children in those conditions.
– Has the Minister been told about this?
– Yes, the Minister has been told. There are no creches. In order to exist and meet the present tariff, the men and their wives have to go to work. One family with six children has an income of £16 a week and the tariff is £13 15s. 6d. yet these people are expected to find homes for themselves. I direct the attention of honorable members to an article which appeared in the Melbourne “ Age “ in June under the heading “ Wider opportunity for British Migrants “. This article stated -
It is sensibly proposed that selection will be related to employment opportunities, and steps are to be taken to ensure that those coming fully understand that they are on their own resources for housing. But there is a duty on our part to assist in finding accommodation and to facilitate settlement.
What chance have they of settling in this country properly? What chance have they of getting housing? Our own fellow Australians, born and bred here, cannot get homes. What chance of saving have these people, with the high tariffs that they have to pay in migrant hostels? Even then they do not get sufficient food from those hostels and have to buy more independently at canteens. I have been reliably informed that sometimes it costs a family £4 10s. a week extra for the food necessary to keep its members up to proper health standards. Yet we hear all this talk about prosperous Australia.
Mr. Speaker, I believe that it is the greatest disgrace to this country to bring people out from England, impose high hostel tariffs on them, ask them to live in conditions worse than the worst slum conditions you can find in any of our cities and expect them to save enough money to buy a home. They have not the slightest chance in the world of doing that. I know that those hostels are supposed to be only holding centres for immigrants, who are given a certain time to get out of the hostels.
– Some of them have been there for five years.
– Yes, indeed, some of them have been there for five years, and have not the least hope in the world of getting out. In spite of the risk involved in signing a petition, knowing that the hostel authorities will use the slightest pretext to evict them, in desperation these people have had to come out into the open, with the result that practically every family in the hostels has been prepared to sign the petition.
Such are the conditions which this Government is allowing to develop in this country. Such are the conditions to which the Government talks of bringing an extra 10,000 immigrants a year. Such are the conditions which will be advertised abroad, because these people are now determined to advertise the facts in the British newspapers. And in face of all this we can open a newspaper and find a claim that there are wider opportunities for British migrants in Australia! What hypocrisy to print an article like that when conditions such as I have described exist! I appeal to the Minister in charge of the House, the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. McMahon), to examine this position on humanitarian grounds, and also in order to give these people some hope.
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. John McLeay).Order! The honorable gentleman’s time has expired.
.- I desire to raise in the House to-night a matter which I consider to be of extreme importance. I refer to what might be described as a complete prostitution of the principle of newspaper reporting which has been adopted by what might be called the almost monolithic structure of the control of news in Australia. We have, in the capital cities of Australia, a press that has almost a monolithic control of all news that is disseminated to the people in all the capital cities. Through the structure of the newspaper offices in the capital cities in Australia, there is a degree of censorship on, or control of, the news that is circulated to the country newspapers, so that there is a limitation on the overseas cables, there is a limitation on the national news, and there is a limitation on the important news which is disseminated to the country areas.
We have seen something growing in Australia over the period in which this Government has been in office which constitutes an extreme danger to democracy and the development of democracy in Australia. We have seen the position developing of an overlapping series of boards of management, or boards of directors, who so control the news that is spread to the people of Australia that that news cannot be disseminated to the reading public without having what is commonly described as a “ slant “ which fits in with the opinion of the boards of directors of the principal newspapers. Not only is that newspaper control exercised in so far as the readers of the newspapers are concerned, but it also spreads into the field of broadcasting, because, as we know full well, a great many of the news services supplied through the medium of the broadcasting stations are controlled by the newspapers. The only opposition to that comes from the Australian Broadcasting Commission.
We see with the advent of television a chance of further control by those who want to ensure that any news that is spread to the people of Australia will again be only the news that fits in completely with the ideas that are held in the minds of a small group or small coterie of people who have control of the newspapers in the capital cities. I believe that this is a matter of extreme danger and, not only that, that it is a matter to which this Parliament and this Government must give their very direct attention.
Mr. Speaker, if I were merely to make this as an assertion, without giving it some support, what I have to say to-night would be of no value. So, in order to support what I have to say I wish to direct the attention of the House to the following facts: There has been in the minds of those who control the newspapers in Australia a desire to cultivate in the minds of all the people of Australia the belief that it is important to Australia, for a great many reasons, that we should give recognition to red China, whether it be of a de jure or of a de facto character. But let us look at the facts. The newspapers have been currying the opinion of the public, and refusing to publish facts, refusing to publish cables that have come from their offices in other countries. I have to-night some evidence of cables that were sent to newspaper offices in Australia, and which the editors of those newspapers refused to publish because the contents did not fit in with their own ideas of what the foreign policy of this Government should be. Because those newspaper controllers thought that the cabled information did not fit in with their own ideas, not only have the country newspapers not been able to publish this information, because they did not get the cables, but there have been suggestions made in clubs throughout the country, and also in this Parliament, that the United States may change its views on the recognition of red China.
– It will.
– I heard one of the members of this House whose knowledge of foreign affairs is so little that he has not yet made any contribution to a debate on foreign affairs, suggest that the United States would do so. Of course, we would expect such an interjection from an honorable member whose knowledge of international affairs could well be described as being equivalent to the vote in the United States Congress in opposition to the motion to which I am about to refer - that is, zero.
It is quite true, Mr. Speaker, that even after the bombing of Pearl Harbour, even after the United States had suffered the tremendous embarrassment of the attack on Pearl Harbour, when the vote was taken in the United States Congress on the declaration of war, there was not even then unanimity in the Congress in regard to that declaration. In fact, nine members of the American Parliament abstained from voting and fourteen opposed the declaration of war against Japan after Pearl Harbour was bombed. Yet, Mr. Speaker, when the member from Brooklyn, a Mrs. Kelly, moved in the House of Representatives of the United States Congress a motion, not only opposing the admission of red China to the United Nations, but emphasizing that the United
States was strongly opposed to the recognition of the Communist Government in Peking, 371 members of the House of Representatives voted for the motion. That motion was moved by a member of the Democratic Party - a member of the Opposition in the House of Representatives. Three hundred and seventy-one members of the House of Representatives voted in favour of it and not one member voted against it. I also point out to honorable members that when it was submitted to the Senate 86 senators voted in favour of it and not one voted against it.
This was the first occasion in the history of the Parliament of the United States of America that there was unanimity on any motion dealing with foreign affairs. Yet, Mr. Speaker, the Australian newspapers refused to publish a statement to that effect, because the editors were running a campaign for the recognition of red China. In fact, the “ Sydney Morning Herald “, which is the worst offender of all, tried, by deliberate distortion of the truth, by deliberate misquotation and lies, and by suggesting that the Government of France had recognized Communist China, to suggest that Australia should follow that policy. When a representative of the United States News Service took up the matter with the editor of the “Sydney Morning Herald “ and pointed out that surely an occasion when every political party in America was in complete agreement, when every single individual in America who represented any branch of political thought had indicated that he was strongly opposed to the recognition of red China, was one of news value and that the newspaper should have published the fact, the editor refused to publish it and expressed himself as not agreeing with the policy of the Australian Government. He said that the Australian Government should recognize red China.
– Order! The honorable gentleman’s time has expired.
– In supporting the case made by my colleague, the honorable member for Gellibrand (Mr. Mclvor), in relation to conditions under which migrants from the United Kingdom and Europe are obliged to live in the hostels at Williamstown, Brooklyn and Broad meadows, I support almost all the remarks he made. I do so not only with sorrow but also in anger. I am ashamed of the fact that I have to rise in the Parliament of this fair Australia and complain that the Government has failed to take advantage of the opportunities it has had during the past ten years to rectify obvious wrongs in the accommodation that is provided for these migrants. I could quite understand difficulties arising in finding accommodation of any kind whatever in the hurry and bustle of the arrival of a very large influx of migrants in the early stages of our migration programme. But when, ten years later, we boast of prosperity and a capacity to build, when we are told that the Government firmly believes in migration, and when after successive Ministers for Immigration have gone overseas for the express purpose of bringing more migrants to this country, those migrants are brought to conditions that no man or woman with any sense of decency could honestly support, it is a disgrace.
The Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) knows that to be a fact. When he became aware that this subject matter had been raised to-night, he walked out of the chamber. At one stage, he administered the hostels. After many complaints had been made in this chamber, I managed to persuade him to visit the hostels at Williamstown and Brooklyn.
– You have not had the decency to ask me to go there.
– You should not need to be asked. The Minister who came to Williamstown on that occasion is now the Treasurer of the Commonwealth. Although he may have been impotent to do anything as Minister for Labour and National Service, when he administered the hostels, he is not impotent now. But nothing has been done. Following his visit twelve or more months ago, a bitumen floor at the hostel at Williamstown was replaced with a concrete floor, and a bit of paint was slapped around the toilets. Men and women are living in rooms 7ft. by 8ft. or 9ft., and 7ft. or less in height. They are separated from their compatriots by walls made of material as flimsy as three-ply. There is no privacy and they are crowded together in altogether unhealthy surroundings.
Such conditions, from the very inception of the intake of English migrants particularly, have led to seething discontent in these institutions. It would not be so bad, Mr. Speaker, if these people had to live in these places for only a limited period and had the prospect of escaping from them after six months had elapsed. But the circumstances surrounding our intake of migrants are such that an English migrant who comes to this country with his wife and three or four young children under the age of sixteen years, and who is confronted with the need to pay a tariff which in normal circumstances could be considered to be reasonable, has no chance of getting out of these hostels within three of four years unless he has a better chance than perhaps I have of ever getting to Heaven. There is some hope of escape on the other hand for the single migrant from Britain or for the man who has no children under sixteen years of age, whose wife is in employment and whose grown-up sons and daughters are able to obtain employment. But these unfortunate people at Williamstown could pass through the hostel doors and roam the plains of Altona, Laverton and Werribee for weeks without finding a solitary building block within reasonable distance of shops for less than £1,100 - an inflated price which is the result of the policies adopted by this Government.
I believe that the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Downer) has made an earnest attempt to do what he believes to be right - that is, to encourage more British people to come to this country. But as fast as they are brought here they will return to their native land, just as migrants have done in the past, unless he, his colleague the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. McMahon) and the Treasurer do something quickly to remedy the present disgraceful state of affairs. Some of the advisers of the Ministers believe - and this has been amply demonstrated by word and in letters - that if they make conditions at these hostels even comfortable, or more than comfortable, they will never b; able to get the people out. But this Government, in the absence of a mind fertile enough to find the means to appoint a tribunal to determine whether people have outlived the time for which they should be expected to remain in these hostels, has refused to provide the decencies which any person of the same stock from which we have come is entitled to. Why, in Britain, an artisan with a family enjoys better conditions than he could obtain outside a hostel in this country.
If the Government thinks that Australia will get migrants of a satisfactory type while those conditions exist it has another think coming. I suggest to the Government that with the resources at its command, and with a progressive Minister for Immigration - we have hopes for him anyhow - it should initiate a policy of building a type of hostel that will be durable for as long as we have an immigration scheme, and that when large numbers of migrants are no longer coming to the country, those hostels will be suitable for easy conversion into homes for aged people who would be satisfied with flat life or hostel life. Hostels should be erected in pleasant surroundings. The Williamstown hostel is less than one hundred yards from the giant Altona oil refinery with its fumes, despite its modern construction. The hostel has a great oil tank of a capacity of thousands of gallons at its back door. On its other flank is a dilapidated and deserted racecourse. There is a brown coal dump at a neighbouring railway siding. Flies and dirt penetrate the doors of the hostel, which cannot be shut in summer because there is no other means of ventilation. Similar conditions exist at Brooklyn, where the hostel is alongside a meatworks. It is bad enough to work in a meatworks, but it is much worse to have to sleep alongside one. Those are the conditions under which those people are living today. I tell the Minister for Immigration that I will take the responsibility of, in some way, contacting the British press and publicizing my remarks in this Parliament about this disgraceful state of affairs.
I can understand the difficulties that may exist, but no human being with an element of decency would expect his countrymen, much less newcomers to the country, to endure the conditions that obtain in these infamous places. I have never complained about the food in the hostels. I have inspected the meat rooms - I know good beef and lamb when I see it - and I have found no fault with the meat that is served in the hostels. I have visited the hostels unannounced and incognito. I have had meals there. No honorable member opposite has done that. The honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Joske) to-night sneered at and described as rubbish the remarks passed by one of my colleagues about these places. I admit that the meals are quite satisfactory, although they are monotonous.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– I make the initial comment that the remarks of the honorable member for Gellibrand (Mr. Mclvor) and the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) are either a gross exaggeration or-
– You are the quintessence of a humbug. You have never been to these hostels.
– Order! The honorable member will withdraw that remark.
– I will not withdraw the remark. I will take the consequences.
– I name the honorable member for Lalor.
– There is no exaggeration about this.
– I ask that the honorable member for Lalor be given an opportunity to withdraw the remark.
– As I want to hear what the Minister has to say I will withdraw it.
– I ask the honorable member for Lalor to contain himself. I accept his withdrawal.
– Both the honorable member for Gellibrand and the honorable member for Lalor have been guilty of gross exaggeration. If it is not gross exaggeration, then it is dereliction of duty. Since I have been the Minister responsible for these hostels, on only two occasions have complaints been made to me. Neither of the complaints was made by the honorable gentlemen who have spoken on this subject to-night. Neither honorable member has written to me or spoken to me about this matter. They can use the word “ humbug “ if they like, but I know to whom they should apply the word. Of the two complaints that have been made to me with regard to hostels, one was in connexion with a reproduction of a Norman Lindsay nude portrait. I suggested that the portrait should be moved from a certain position in the room in question to another position. The honorable member for Newcastle (Mr. Jones) complained about conditions at the Mayfield hostel. Since then I have given him the opportunity to inspect the hostel. Quite frankly he has expressed the opinion to me that the feud exists at that hostel between some of the residents and the manager. He is moderately satisfied that the hostel is well conducted.
Those are the only two complaints that 1 have received. If the honorable member for Gellibrand and the honorable member for Lalor have received complaints and have not passed them on to the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Downer) - the honorable member for Gellibrand claims to have received a petition from the people at the Brooklyn hostel - they are deserving of the most severe censure by this House. I believe that the people in those hostels should know that the honorable members concerned have made no representations to me to have their grievances corrected.
I want to emphasize that if complaints have been made and have not been passed on to the Minister concerned, the two honorable members in question should be condemned by the residents of the hostels. Whenever I have been asked to visit migrant centres I have willingly done so, and only a few days ago the Minister for Immigration inspected the hostels in South Australia. He has assured me that they are well conducted.
What is the purpose of these hostels? They are not there as permanent homes for immigrants or other people. They are there for temporary purposes. The hostels must be considered as providing temporary accommodation. But notwithstanding that, to the best of our ability we try to ensure that the accommodation provided is of a high standard and that the food is good. The honorable member for Lalor has said that he thinks the food is good although it is monotonous. I think that we can proceed from that basis and look to the problem of accommodation itself. What has the Government done? During the last few years something like £1,000,000 has been spent on improving accommodation at the hostels that are under consideration. At Williamstown something like £112,000 has been spent.
– Will the Minister give me details of how that money was spent?
– I am giving the figures now. I will give details to the honorable member. It is a pity that he did not ask for them earlier. If he had done so he would have had the details months ago. So, money is being spent, and according to the best advice that I can obtain from the departmental officers, the accommodation is of a good standard and is constantly improving. I know what is being done and most of the remarks that I hear in Canberra, far from being in condemnation of the management of the hostels, are in high praise, and certainly in praise of an improving standard of accommodation over the last few years.
I frankly cannot believe that what the honorable gentlemen have said to-night is correct. Once again I stress the point that if what they do say is correct, they have shown a degree of irresponsibility by not bringing these matters to my attention.
I want to point out one other fact about hostel management. Some complaint has been made about a recent increase in tariff of 5s. a week. I fully support that increase. The normal practice has been to increase the tariff- by something like 4d. a week for every ls. .rise in the basic wage. Since 1956 the basic wage has risen by about 30s., but the tariff remained static until recent weeks, when I agreed to an increase of 5s. in order to cover part of the increase in costs. That is proof of the very important fact that since 1956 there has been such an increase in the efficiency of the management of the hostels that 25s. of the 30s. increase in wages has been taken up in improved efficiency, while only the balance has been passed on in the form of an increase in tariffs to the inmates of the hostels.
I repeat that the honorable gentleman from Lalor has said that the food is good. I accept that fact, and I also accept that probably on occasions the food might be monotonous. We are trying, and the hostel management gives me an assurance that, as far as it is reasonably practicable to do so, it also is trying, to prevent monotony in the food and increases of tariff. I would be only too happy at any time at all to visit the Williamstown hostel with my friend from Lalor or, for that matter, with the honorable gentleman from Gellibrand. I express my regret that, without consulting me during the six months I have held the portfolio, without reference to me, and without telling me of one of the complaints, they should, in a somewhat emotional manner, have risen in their places in this House and made complaints which I personally, Sir, believe to be totally unjustified.
.- The Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. McMahon) takes up an extraordinary position in regard to this matter. When a complaint, based on the signatures of 150 people who have a strong sense of grievance, is submitted to the Parliament, the Minister says, “ The honorable gentlemen are guilty of irresponsibility. They should have come to see ms about the matter. They should have invited me to visit the hostel.” The Minister has been six months in charge of his department, so he has had time enough to visit every hostel in Australia to see it for himself. Why does he need an invitation from anybody? The Minister for Immigration (Mr. Downer) did not need any invitations to go to the migrant holding centres or to visit various activities of his department.
I believe it to be the duty of every Minister to see all the activities of his department that he possibly can see. He should not wait for a gilt-edged invitation. He should not wait for the members of Parliament for a particular district to tell him that there is discontent. He should go and see for himself. There has been discontent in these hostels for a long time. I went on a visit with the honorable member for Lalor on two occasions. We were invited by the Ministers’ Fraternal to visit the hostel. We did not go there to stir up trouble, but to pour oil on troubled waters. We went there to see what was wrong and to try to solve the problems that existed there.
I think that the whole trouble concerning the hostels started when the Department of Labour and National Service shed its direct responsibilities for them and transferred them to a body which it created - a body without direct responsibility to the Minister.
This hostels organization, in order to show a profit, did things which I think, and the honorable member for Lalor agrees-
– Not a profit.
– In order to show a profit, it did things which I think were indefensible. The management told people in this particular hostel that they would no longer be entitled to a lounge, and that every part of the building that could be occupied for bedroom space was to be so occupied. They crowded the people up in such a way as to force them to seek some other accommodation, but of course there was no other accommodation available. It may be that there is a hard core of resisters in this and every other hostel - people who do not want to go, people will not leave for other accommodation, people who want to make the hostel a permanent home. There is a certain section which consists of a hangover of neurotics from England who were victims of the war period; but the great majority of the people would be happy to move out, and they want assistance to enable them to move out.
The food at the hostel is good. The honorable member for Lalor and I went in and ate with the people. There was no complaint at all about the food. There were complaints about the tariffs and about electricity charges, and there were a number of complaints which were not direct, because people rationalized their discontents around particular matters which seemed rather insignificant to those who were not acquainted with the problems.
– So the honorable gentleman will admit that it is emotional?
– I know it is emotional, but I also say that it is the duty of the Minister, if it is emotional in part, to study the problem. He should go himself and go unannounced. He should not wait until he has an army of officials about the place, wanting to give him an escorted tour. Let him go in on his own.
– So you admit it is emotional?
– The honorable gentleman is not a lawyer, and he is putting leading questions to me. I do not admit that it is emotional, but I will admit that there is an emotional factor in the set-up.
– The largest factor.
– It is not the largest factor. I have tried to deal with the position honestly. I think that the Minister ought to get rid of this Commonwealth Hostels organization. Why, it has turned the Hotel Kurrajong into a migrant hostel! We are under the control of the same people who run the Mayfield and Williamstown hostels, but of course we are being treated much better at the Kurrajong. I think that the Minister must get rid of Commonwealth Hostels Limited, and take direct responsibility for the whole problem. He should go about and see everyone concerned, in company with the local member, and he should also bring in the Ministers’ Fraternal. They will all tell him, I am sure, that these hostels have to be closed at a very early date and that we must establish in Australia a building programme that will supply the needs not only of Australians already here and of the newcomers who have arrived from overseas, but also those of prospective migrants. You will not get people to leave homes in Britain in order to live in hostels, in ordinary circumstances, no matter how good the hostels are. We have to build against the flow of migration and have homes ready for the people who come, in the same way that we built homes in Melbourne, before the Olympic Games, to house the athletes. If it can be done in one case, it can be done in another case.
The Minister talked about emotionalism. He gave a display of his emotional reactions to a little honest, straightforward, blunt criticism. It was very temperately expressed, too, except in one particular phrase. I hope that the Minister will recover from the criticism and get on with his job.
– Don’t get rude and personal. You always develop the personal element. Don’t get too emotional, either.
- Mr. Speaker, I think on that pleasant note I shall conclude.
.- I rise to correct the statement by the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. McMahon) to the effect that I had agreed with him that, at the Mayfield hostel, there was personal animosity between some of the residents and the manager. I also am alleged to have said that I was satisfied that the Mayfield hostel was reasonably well run. Let me make two points perfectly clear. First, 1 did not agree that there was a vendetta between two or more individuals. The reason I say that is that, of 22 families in the Mayfield hostel, eleven signed the petition, three had just moved into the hostel, four were on the way out, and another family consisted of workers in the hostel who also lived there. It can be seen from those facts, therefore, that there was no grounds whatever for saying that there was a vendetta. I attended a meeting of these people at the hostel one night. Incidentally, it was an unofficial meeting, because we politicians are taboo at that particular place.
I deny that I agreed with the Minister that there was a vendetta. I did not tell the Minister that I was satisfied that these hostels are reasonably well conducted. How could I say that when I had visited the Mayfield hostel only three times, two of them to attend socials. At different times, various people were invited to parties given by the migration organization - the New Settlers League, or whatever it is called now.
– The Good Neighbour Council.
– The Good Neighbour Council; that is what it is called now. They do not invite us now. A representative of the Liberal Party organization and a representative of the Australian Labour Party went there on two occasions. That was how I came to be introduced to my opponent. On one occasion, I went to the hostel at the request of the people who were making these complaints. So how could I agree with the Minister that the place was well conducted? What I did say was that I thanked him for the promptness with which he had attended to my complaint. The Minister has made arrangements to permit me to visit the hostel in company with an officer of the Department of Labour and National Service when the House adjourns for a week in September and to discuss the report made to the Minister by departmental officers.
From memory, I think that approximately 45 complaints were made about the food, the general living conditions, and other conditions in the centre as a whole.
These complaints were submitted to the Minister in writing through me. The only agreement that I have made with the Minister is to take back his replies to the complaints and to discuss them privately with the people concerned, and subsequently with the manager of the centre. I definitely did not agree on the first two points on which the Minister has said that I agreed. I feel that I was misrepresented, Mr. Speaker. My only comment was to thank the Minister for the promptness with which he had dealt with the complaints. He was in the Newcastle district, and within a week he had. somebody up there to have a look at the hostel. But I repeat that I did not agree on the two points that he has mentioned.
, - Mr. Speaker, I think that the House, and especially Opposition members, must agree that my colleague, the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. McMahon) in responding to these requests, has displayed a very willing disposition and a very sympathetic attitude.
– We do not agree on that point.
– I ask the honorable member to listen to me. I hope that by the time I have finished he will agree. The Minister for Labour and National Service has indicated to the House that he is perfectly willing to investigate the grievances that Opposition members have advanced. After all, he said quite plainly that he was prepared, at the first opportunity convenient to him, to go to the hostel at Williamstown and see the conditions with his own eyes. I do not think that there is any one in this House who could cavil at that.
On the question generally, Sir, although I do not doubt for a moment the sincerity of those honorable members who have raised these queries concerning Commonwealth hostels, I do feel that it is a pity that, in their zeal, they have perhaps overstated and exaggerated the matter. The honorable member for Gellibrand (Mr. Mclvor), if I heard him aright, used a phrase such as “ the worst slum conditions “
– How does the Minister know that that is an exaggeration?
– Perhaps I know a little more about these things than does the honorable member, because it is my business to know something about them. I was amazed at one of the remarks made by my friend, the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard). He was most extraordinarily pessimistic, Sir. He actually expressed doubt whether, at the end of this mortal life, he would get to Heaven. As one who has a high regard for the honorable member, I should like to say that a failure on his part to get to Heaven is a state of affairs which I am not prepared to contemplate. I go much further and say that I look forward very much indeed to meeting him there, and having, no doubt, a cup of tea or, I hope, some stronger equivalent.
During the time that I have occupied my present office, I have made it my business, bearing in mind the significance that this form of temporary accommodation has in our migration programme, to inspect a number of these migrant hostels in the various States, whenever I can. We have to realize, of course, that, as with every other human institution, some are reasonably good and some, perhaps, are-
– Reasonably bad.
– Not reasonably bad, but not up to the general standard that all of us would like to see obtaining. That, after all, is just one of the facts of life, and it should not be a matter for censure. My colleague, the Minister for Labour and National Service, has pointed out - and I have noticed this in the hostels that I have visited - that the accommodation is being steadily improved all the time. A considerable amount of money is being spent on these places. Only ten days ago, in my own State, South Australia, I made what I can assure Opposition members was a completely unannounced inspection of two important hostels in Adelaide, at Finsbury and Glenelg North.
– The Minister did not ask the local member to attend, though.
– I said that it was an unannounced inspection.
– At any rate, I think that the Minister might have asked me to go along.
– If I had given the honorable member much notice, perhaps preparations would have been made, and that was something that I wished to avoid.
Although nobody would choose hostel life for preference, Sir, I found, in my inspection of these two hostels in South Australia - bearing in mind, I repeat, the temporary nature of the accommodation, it being, after all, their object to provide only temporary accommodation - that the living conditions were good, that there were reasonable opportunities for recreation, and that the hostels were well situated. The food, from what I saw of it, not only was well prepared and fairly varied, but also was very attractively presented. Indeed, Sir, I would go further and say that, in my experience of Commonwealth hostels and migrant reception centres generally, the food available to our new settlers in these places is just as good as is that offered to honorable members in the dining room in this building.
– That is pretty poor.
– The honorable gentleman is a member of the amenities committee, and I hope that he will do something to improve it, if that is his view.
I think that we should get this problem in its right perspective, Mr. Speaker. The House should remember that, under the administration of this Government particularly, and, to some degree, that of the Labour government, in which my distinguished friend opposite, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell), was Minister for Immigration, this country has spent, since the end of World War II., more than £38,000,000 on bringing people from the United Kingdom to these shores. That is infinitely more than has been spent on bringing migrants from the countries of the continent of Europe, valuable as they are. Not only have we spent, and not only do we continue to spend, such a great deal of money - and this expenditure is still increasing year by year, as honorable members will see from the Estimates - so keen are we to bring British migrants here, but we have to concede the fact that, in spite of various complaints which are made by the more vocal British migrants, the overwhelming majority of them have been satisfied. The vast majority of them are in the hostels for a relatively limited time. They find houses of their own and get out. Many of them are now home-owners. Despite all this talk about disgruntled people and others returning to their homeland - the Old Country - and there doing damage to our cause, the position is this: So far as we can compute the figures, only about 6 per cent, of the migrants who come from the United Kingdom leave these shores and return. In other words, Sir, we have got 94 per cent, success in this British migration programme, and that is something, surely, which, while not claiming it to be an indication of perfection and while not being satisfied about it, honorable members opposite as well as those on the Government side will concede is a matter for considerable satisfaction.
The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) made an appeal for the emphasis to be on home building rather than on hostels and, of course, every honorable member would agree with that. The hostel was an immediate post-war expedient, and it is something which belongs rather to the past than to the future. Whatever we may feel about the housing shortage at the present time, every honorable member, if he is honest, must concede that it is being steadily overtaken. Within another four or five years it will be virtually overcome; at any rate, it will not represent anything like the same problem it is to-day. Moreover, Sir, private enterprise is exhibiting nowadays a very healthy interest in this matter of housing for British migrants. When I was in England recently, I noticed in Manchester a prototype house which was built by a New South Wales company which is being offered to approved British migrants who, for a deposit of as low as £500 sterling, can receive exactly that type of house in various prescribed residential areas of Sydney. And so successful is this scheme becoming that the same company is planning to extend to Canberra, and other companies are now talking about coming into the field and opening in other States. Moreover, as the Deputy Leader of the Opposition knows, the Dutch Government has made quite a valuable advance in assisting the housing of Dutch migrants, and there is some indication that the Italian Government is promoting a similar scheme. I say these things very briefly to show that there is a-
– Order! The Minister’s time has expired.
.- I have no personal knowledge of the conditions in these particular hostels, but neither have I any reason to doubt the accuracy of the description of them given by my colleagues. The Minister for Immigration (Mr. Downer), who came to the defence of the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. McMahon), accused my colleagues of exaggeration. Let me say that the Minister himself is not averse to a little bit of exaggeration when it helps him out of a difficulty. When he was in England recently and was answering some of the criticism voiced by migrants who had returned from this country, he referred to them as squealers. If we can take notice, as I do, of what my colleagues say in regard to conditions in these hostels, such migrants evidently had something to squeal about. The Minister seems to think the situation is all right, because he said that from the figures available to him only 6 per cent, of the migrants have returned to England. More than 6 per cent, would have returned if they had the means to get back. I imagine that some of these 250 people who have signed the petitions would, if they could get back to the land from which they originally came, return, too; and so the 6 per cent, would be boosted. The 6 per cent, refers only to those who were able to return after they were dissatisfied with conditions in this country.
But I am amazed to know that the department is able to give any estimate at all as to how many have returned, because when I asked a question on notice some little time ago seeking information as to the number that had returned as a result of dissatisfaction with conditions in this country I was informed that the information could not be supplied because there were no records. When did the department start to keep records of the number of migrants who return to their own country? Even this 6 per cent, cannot be laughed off, if that is truly the figure, because, as the Minister has said, bringing people to this country is a very expensive business for which people in this country are heavily taxed. Six per cent, is too much of a loss to be encountered.
Let me refer to the Minister for Labour and National Service. He talked about my colleagues being guilty of dereliction of duty. I ask him - he has been six months in this portfolio - how many hostels has he visited to see the exact conditions under which these people are expected to live. The Minister for Immigration said that the housing situation is improving. As a matter of fact I quoted here in a speech last night from the recommendations made by a committee which was appointed by the New South Wales Government to try to overcome the housing shortage. On that committee were represented the master builders, trade unions, trading banks and co-operative building societies - a most representative body. It recommended the lowering of ceilings, the elimination of laundries and the provision of shower recesses in place of bathrooms so as to speed up the production of homes. That committee knows what the conditions are in this country.
I want to refer to the matter that was raised by the honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Wight) in regard to the press. It is rather refreshing to have criticism of the press coming from the Government benches, because when Labour members in the past have raised questions of misrepresentation, suppression of news and so forth, honorable members opposite have scoffed at the suggestion that in this country we do not have a free and completely independent press. I have been misrepresented once again. Only in the last couple of days one of the Sydney newspapers reported that I was speechless. I can tell by the response of honorable members that they feel there is no necessity for me to stress the fact that on that occasion I was misrepresented. But the newspapers are influenced by their advertisers. They do not want to offend the advertisers. So, we find that recently there was suppression of news, in the daily press besides that to which the honorable member for Lilley has referred.
Honorable members will recollect that we had reports from overseas of failures in the landing apparatus on the Boeing 707 jet air-liners, and in order that there be no panic here it was declared through an undisclosed source - the press cited an anonymous senior officer of Qantas as its source - that the Boeing 707 jet air-liners that had been brought to this country were not affected because they were a later model. That was in order to maintain confidence in these particular aircraft. Probably, it was an off-the-record report, although recently one gentleman attached to the staff of the “ Sydney Morning Herald “ lost his position because he reported some off-the-record talks. I read a few days ago a report that the spare parts had now arrived in Australia to enable Qantas to carry out the alterations required in the undercarriages of the Boeing airliners in this country. That report was not featured in the daily press to any great extent.
In my opinion, if the undercarriage of these Boeing aircraft was affected to the same extent and in the same way as Were the aircraft overseas where failures had occurred, every jet air-liner should have been grounded immediately in this country until the necessary alterations had been effected. But the press were silent about it! They had nothing at all to say in respect of it. It is about time in this country when we hear people talking about the freedom of the press that we recognize they are advocating in many instances not merely freedom to misrepresent, but freedom to suppress. If there is any body of people whose activities ought to be completely examined in the public interest it is the people who control the great newspaper organizations of this country. That body, mind you, comprises the same people who have got radio tied up and are now tying up television. When they have got all these forms of communication under their control one can imagine what a real threat and a menace to the safety and the security of Australia they will represent.
I hope that the honorable member for Lilley and others on the Government side will be encouraged to bring these matters before the Parliament. The Government has adopted recently many of the suggestions that have been advanced by the Opposition, and it appears now to be coming our way once again and is recognizing the great menace of monopoly control of newspapers, radio and television in Australia. If the Opposition can obtain sufficient support from honorable members on the Government side, we may be able to do something to correct the position that exists.
.- I wish to clarify one matter. The Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. McMahon) has said that only two persons have raised with him the matter of migrant hostels. On 22nd April, 1959, I asked him a question without notice relating to the heating arrangements in the Villawood migrant hostel where the residents are allowed to use only a 1,000watt radiator for three hours daily. The Minister concluded a lengthy reply, in which he told me precisely nothing, in these terms -
Nonetheless, I shall have a look at it, and if I find that anything can be done, I will do it and let the honorable gentleman know.
To date he has done nothing. Therefore, I am unable to agree with the statement of the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Downer) that the Minister for Labour and National Service will treat as urgent all matters raised with him. The winter has almost passed, and he has not communicated with me. These hostels are icebergs. People at Villawood live in iron huts that have concrete floors, and the wind blows through cracks in the walls. People living in hostels in the southern States must be even worse off than those at Villawood.
The Minister has made certain accusations against two of my colleagues; I have risen to make an accusation against him. He stated that only two people had raised with him the matter of migrant hostels. I am a third.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 12.2 a.m. (Thursday).
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
e asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Was the knighthood recently conferred on Sir Frank Packer in recognition of the services rendered to the Liberal Party by the Sydney “ Daily Telegraph “?
m asked the Minister representing the Minister for Shipping and Transport, upon notice -
What negotiations have taken place or what communications have passed between (a) the Commonwealth and South Australia concerning the standardization of the railway between Port Pirie and Broken Hill since the Premier wrote to the Prime Minister on the 12th June, 1958, and (b) the Commonwealth and Western Australia concerning the standardization of the railway between Perth and Kalgoorlie since the Premier wrote to the Prime Minister on the 23rd June, 1958?
– The Minister for Shipping and Transport has replied as follows: -
l asked the Minister representing the Minister for Shipping and Transport, upon notice -
– The Minister for Shipping and Transport has furnished the following replies: -
s asked the Minister representing the Minister for Civil Aviation, upon notice -
– The Minister for Civil Aviation has replied as follows: -
d asked the Minister representing the Minister for Civil Aviation, upon notice -
– The Minister for Civil Aviation has replied as follows: -
n asked the Minister representing the Minister for Civil Aviation, upon notice -
– The Minister for Civil Aviation has furnished the following replies: -
n asked the Minister representing the Minister for Civil Aviation, upon notice -
– The Minister for Civil Aviation has replied as follows: -
n asked the Minister representing the Minister for Civil Aviation, upon notice -
– The Minister for Civil Aviation has replied in the following terms: -
z asked the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
Land Settlement of Ex-servicemen.
s asked the Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
Excluding cash- on hand-, payments from revenue to recoup losses on loan fund expenditure, &c, the nef expenditure in these States is - South Australia, £19,946,042; Western Australia, £30,270,415; Tasmania, £14,868,254. The Commonwealth has not accurate figures for the remaining States, which originally elected to finance the scheme from their own resources, and the following can only be regarded as approximations: New South Wales, £44,599,000; Victoria, £52,277,000; Queensland, £4,400,000.
The figures for South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania do not include properties which are occupied but are not yet ready for allotment under perpetual lease.
Imports of Liquor from Communist Conn tries.
n asked the Minister for Trade, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
e asked the Minister for Trade, upon notice -
What was the value of Australian exports for the years 1957-58 and 1958-59 to:
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows: -
The value of Australia’s exports in 1957-58 and 1958-59 to the countries specified by the honorable member was:
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 19 August 1959, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1959/19590819_reps_23_hor24/>.