23rd Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. John McLeay) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– I desire to direct my question to the Prime Minister. Has the right honorable gentleman’s attention been directed to a statement reputed to have been made by the Premier of South Australia in a broadcast on the subject of rail standardization in that State? Will the Prime Minister have full inquiries made so as to enable the people of South Australia to know where the State stands on this most important matter? Is it true that the Commonwealth Government has gone back on its contract?
– I have not seen a report of the statement to which the honorable member refers. I have found as a rule that when the Premier of South Australia has some views to put to the Commonwealth on these matters he writes to me direct, and I reply to him. I have not seen the statement referred to.
– Is the Minister for Trade in a position to tell the House whether there is likely to be any major impact on the Export Payments Insurance Corporation following the recent currency devaluation in Indonesia?
– I am glad to be able to assure the honorable member that the affairs of the Export Payments Insurance Corporation have been so managed that there will not be any loss - certainly any measurable loss - flowing from the change of currency valuation by the Indonesian Government.
– I desire to ask the Treasurer a question. Is the right honorable gentleman aware that the Joint Consultative Council of the Commonwealth Public Service Board and the Commonwealth
Public Service unions and associations agreed to recommend to the Government an increase of the superannuation unit, which now stands at 17s. 6d., to £1? The agreement was reached as far back as August, 1957. Is the Treasurer in a position to say how the matter stands now, and whether it is intended to implement the recommendation made by this body?
- Mr. Speaker, a good deal of consideration was given by the Government to the general superannuation scheme during the course of the preparation of the Budget which is now before the Parliament. As I have indicated already, legislation will be introduced this session to amend the superannuation scheme, and full details will be supplied to the honorable gentleman and other honorable members at that time.
– I direct a question to the right honorable Minister for Labour and National Service. I ask the Minister: Has the hearing of the margins case commenced and, if so, will it concern only the margins of fitters and turners? If this is so, when will the claims of professional and whitecollar workers and engineers be heard?
– I thank the honorable gentleman from Phillip for elevating me in status to right honorable. I am very grateful that he has recognized my worth. In answer to his question, I can inform him that the basic margins case commenced yesterday. The preliminaries were taken up in hearing submissions as to whether the case of the white collar workers should be joined with that of the fitters, turners and the other genuine margins cases. That matter is now being considered by the full bench of the commission. If the cases are not to be joined, it is expected that the case for the Australasian Society of Engineers will shortly be put before a second full bench of the commission and, of course, the claims of the engineers will then be heard.
– My question is directed to the Postmaster-General. Arising out of the Government’s decision to extend television services to all States and to country districts, can the honorable gentleman give the House any information as to the anticipated extra revenue that will be received from television licence fees? Further, having in mind the failure of television to provide the many and varied services provided by radio, particularly in the early hours of the morning when most Australian workers prepare to leave home for their place of employment, can the Minister say whether any consideration has been extended to the important question of providing for a dual radio and television licence at a fee perhaps somewhat less than the present amount charged for the two separate licences?
– I cannot give an offthecuff estimate of the increased revenue to be obtained from television licences and the duties on cathode ray tubes - ‘both of which form part of Government revenue from television - arising out of the proposed extension of television in Australia. It will be appreciated that the amount of revenue obtained will be determined by the number of television receivers that are sold, and it is impossible at present to forecast that figure.
With regard to the honorable member’s suggestion of a dual radio and television licence, that matter was considered by the Government when the Broadcasting and Television Bill was introduced several years ago. It was decided that for various reasons it was not advisable to provide for a dual licence. That decision has not yet been changed.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Trade. The Minister, no doubt, has heard reports of a partial devaluation of the Indonesian currency and of a new import/ export system to be introduced in that country. It would appear that a 20 per cent, tax is to be imposed by Indonesia on all exports from that country. Will the Minister indicate how these changed circumstances will affect Australian trade with Indonesia and whether the price of imports from that country will rise?
– The Government has not yet received full particulars of the decisions that have been taken by Indonesia. In due course, if those full particulars, so far as they affect our trade, are not otherwise made available, I will make them available to the honorable member and to the House generally. I can say that the reported impost of a 20 per cent, export duty is not new. It has been operating in respect of Indonesian exports for some time. Australia’s principal imports from Indonesia will not, I am sure, be affected. Those imports comprise petroleum, rubber and tea, all of which are necessarily sold at prevailing world values or not sold at all. Therefore, I think that our trading position in this regard will not be affected.
– I ask the Minister for Social Services whether it is a fact that the only comprehensive inquiry into the need for the payment of child endowment and family allowances was the royal commission conducted in 1928. Also is it a fact that the Government has appointed committees of inquiry to investigate depreciation allowances, defence, university finances, the preparation of the commercial accounts of the Post Office and a number of other subjects? Does the failure of the Government to increase child endowment or to appoint a committee of inquiry to investigate this important matter mean that the payment of child endowment is regarded as an unnecessary burden upon Australia’s finances? If not, will the Minister endeavour to convince the Government of the urgent need to appoint a committee of inquiry to investigate the payment of child endowment and family allowances?
– I know that the honorable member is particularly and personally interested in this matter. From time to time, I have suggested to him that when his family responsibilities become too great for him to bear I shall be glad personally to relieve him of any of his children that are burdensome to him.
It is true that a royal commission was appointed to inquire into family and child endowment. Since that inquiry, it has been the responsibility of the Parliament to determine the rates of child endowment from time to time. To-day, for the first time in our history, the Commonwealth Government is paying child endowment with respect to no fewer than 3,200,000 children, and that endowment is of immense importance and value to every family in the Commonwealth.
– I ask the Prime Minister a question without notice. It is prompted by the fact that, although the Budget debate will end to-morrow, the House has so far received fewer than onesixth of the reports which statutes require to be presented to it each year. I ask the right honorable gentleman why honorable members cannot receive the basic economic reports from independent bodies such as the Commonwealth Grants Commission, the Tariff Board and the Commonwealth Bank Board at the same time as they receive the Government’s official views from the Treasurer. I ask, also, how many of the specialized reports will be received from the Postmaster-General’s Department, the Repatriation Commission, the DirectorGeneral of Social Services, the Director of War Service Homes, and transport and marketing authorities before we debate the estimates for the relevant departments and before the House receives bills to carry out the Budget proposals.
– I would like the honorable member to know that I am completely on his side in this matter. I think that these reports ought to be available at the earliest practicable moment, and I have constantly emphasized that to the various departments concerned. There are, of course, occasionally some difficulties, because you may get the broad end result of something sufficient for one purpose and yet the full and detailed report of the particular body may take a little longer to prepare. But the general direction is that these reports should be presented at the earliest possible moment, and I agree in principle that it is most desirable that, unless there are completely compelling reasons to the contrary, all reports of this kind should be in the hands of honorable members when the Estimates are under consideration.
– Has the attention of the Minister for Trade been directed to an advertisement which appeared in the metropolitan press recently, inviting persons who wished to become importers under the new import licensing regulations to make coa-, tact with a certain firm of intermediaries, and implying that this firm could make thenecessary arrangements? Is it a fact that new importers can now obtain licences or quotas for items which are controlled on a quota basis? Would the advertising firm be able to obtain any advantages from the Department of Trade that the importer himself could not obtain by direct application to the department?
– I have seen an advertisement which, I have no doubt, is the one to which the honorable member refers. No firm advertising and offering to act as an agent can possibly obtain any better treatment in the matter of import licensing than a principal who makes his own direct contact with the appropriate officials of the Department of Trade. The position is that a public announcement was made by me, and placards were displayed at the various Customs Houses, indicating that, as from 1st August last, some 260 items would be licensed on what is called an import replacement basis. This is well known. I imagine that the advertisement would have been designed to relate merely to the possibility ,of licences now being freely secured for some 260 items, as against a much smaller number before the change of policy. Any person is now free to secure an import licence in respect of these 260 items, which were fully itemized and made public, upon application and upon establishing his intention to import. Subsequent licences will be issued on the basis of sales that have been made of items for the import of which a licence was issued in the first place. There has been full publication of these facts, and there is no need for any one to employ an agency. The appropriate officers of the Department of Trade and, in some cases, of the Department of Customs and Excise, will deal adequately and quite promptly with any one who desires to import these items.
Let me add that, whilst this trade will involve £100,000,000 worth of goods a year, subject to no effective restriction, there is, in addition, a further trade involving about £300,000,000 worth of goods, which is not restricted at all. This latter trade includes some items licensed under what is called the administrative category and is carried on by the people who are themselves chiefly the end users of the special equipment or components involved.
– Will the Prime Minister reveal the names of the persons attached to his personal staff who are authorized to make releases to the representatives of the press? Would it be correct to regard what is referred to as “ background information” issued from the right honorable gentleman’s office as being factual, and for publication, but with an understanding that its source is not to be divulged?
– The answer to this question will involve, no doubt, explaining some of the terms of the journalistic trade. I will therefore ask the honorable member to put the question on the notice-paper, and I will have it fully answered.
– I address a question to the Minister for Labour and National Service. As primary producers, fixed income earners and pensioners are unable to pass on increases in costs, does the Commonwealth Arbitration Commission consider these people when it is considering possible increases in the basic wage?
– The Commonwealth Arbitration Commission did hear an application by the primary producing interests, and particularly by the graziers’ associations, for a reduction in the basic wage. That application was refused. I think it can be assumed that the commission did consider fully the effect of a basic wage increase upon primary producers before it made its award. If my memory holds good - and this is with deference to the honorable member for Grayndler - intervention was made on behalf of pensioners and fixed income earners, stressing what would happen if the basic wage were increased. I do not know what impact that had on the commission’s mind. In the basic wage the commission is considering the maximum capacity of the community to pay and ostensibly, in any case, is considering a dispute as between the interested parties. The best I can say is that there was intervention on behalf of the people mentioned by the honorable gentleman. What impact that had on the commission’s thinking I am unable to state.
– Is the Treasurer aware that the Adelaide Steamship Company Limited has hidden, over a number of years, its true financial position and profits, not only from the general public but from its shareholders’, that it has been declaring dividends averaging 5 per cent, while in reality it could have paid much higher dividends; and that this has meant the selling of shares by ordinary shareholders at about 27s. when they were worth more than 50s., as was made clear by a takeover offer made by the H. C. Sleigh interests which caused shares to reach 66s. in price? Has the Commonwealth Government any power to prevent this manipulation of company assets which makes it possible for a very few people to make huge sums by deceiving the public and the company’s shareholders in a manner which even the present Government ought to consider to be totally unethical?
– No, I am not aware of the matters mentioned by the honorable gentleman.
– My question is addressed to the Attorney-General. Are there any forms of free legal aid available to age pensioners, similar to the free legal aid given to ex-servicemen through his department? If not. will the Attorney-General consider introducing some such system?
– There is no specific legal aid bureau or agency particular to pensioners. I recently received a suggestion from the Deputy Leader of the Opposition that T consider the question of whether the Commonwealth should establish such a bureau. T went into the matter and decided that it was inappropriate to form such a bureau. I ascertained that legal aid systems were available in all States and obtained a list of them, which I supplied to my colleague, the Minister for Social Services, so that his officers could direct pensioners to the appropriate place.. I also wrote to the persons in charge of these bureaux and asked them to have regard to the needs of pensioners. They have each informed me by letter that they have facilities if pensioners have need to seek them.
– My question to the Minister for the Interior refers to his announcement of a new method of charging for the domestic use of water and to his statement that test meterings had shown that there was a waste of water in Canberra. I ask the Minister: Will he consider publishing details of the test meterings, giving both the month and the year in which the tests were made, the number of houses involved and the period over which the tests were conducted?
– I will consider the request of the honorable member, but I think it was perfectly clear to any one who went around this capital city that water was being wasted. I made my own observations. I recall one occasion when I got up at 6 o’clock one morning to play a few holes of golf and was horrified to find that the golf course was half under water because the sprinklers had been left on all night. That was a commonplace occurrence here. I really do not think that it would contribute much to a solution of the problem of water charges and waste to give the figures sought by the honorable member. Nevertheless, I will give some consideration to his request.
– I am under the impression that the Treasurer, in his Budget speech, indicated his intention to appoint a committee to review the existing forms of Commonwealth taxation. I should be glad to know from him whether that committee is intended to undertake a general review of all the types of taxes levied in the Commonwealth. How soon is the committee likely to be appointed?
– Work is currently proceeding on the terms of reference for a committee on taxation and I hope that I shall be in a position to place some recommendations before the Cabinet next Tuesday as to their precise form. Some consideration has also been given to the personnel to comprise the committee. Whether or not it is desirable that, whatever may be the final range of the committee’s examinations, it should proceed, in the first instance, to some general inquiry, has yet to be resolved. My own disposition is to think that the committee will do more useful work if it can concentrate its attention, in the first instance, on the income tax field, though not necessarily being excluded, before its job is completed, from dealing with other matters, or from having certain other matters referred to it from time to time for interim report, if that would appear to be desirable. I think the honorable member will agree that such a committee could get into a much too tardy and complicated examination if the terms of reference were cast so widely that it was not called upon to report as speedily as possible on some of the more pressing aspects of taxation.
– Is the Minister for Health aware of the claim of the president of the Australian Association of Ethical Pharmaceutical Manufacturers that the pharmaceutical benefits scheme has assisted in the reduction of hospital bed requirements from nine per thousand in 1939 to three per thousand in 1958? Is he further aware of the claim that the consequent saving in hospital bed requirements isconservatively estimated to be worth £30,000,000 in capital costs and £7,000,000 yearly in running costs and interest, to say nothing of the saving in training the thousands of nurses who would have been needed and the saving due to less absenteeism from work owing to sickness? Finally, does the Minister agree that this saving provides a rich return for the money spent on the pharmaceutical benefits scheme and that no new impositions upon sick people should be necessary?
– I agree that the provision of modern drugs has meant a great saving in the use of hospital beds but it is quite impossible, in my view, to express this in exact figures. Therefore, I do not think that the contention of the honorable member can be upheld in any exact form.
– Has the attention of the Minister for Labour and National Service been directed to the decision of the Australian Council of Trade Unions to place a black ban on the British freighter “ Limerick “? Is there any legal basis for the right of a trade union organization to enforce trade restrictions in a free country? Further, who, finally, pays for the losses which must inevitably follow the imposition of such a ban?
– I had heard of the dispute and the fact that the Australian Council of Trade Unions had placed a ban on the loading and unloading of the “ Limerick “. I have not, as yet, found out the full facts, but I do hope that this dispute is not of such a frivolous kind as the previous ban in Australian ports of two Italian ships. Nonetheless, I am obtaining full information, and when I get it I will let the honorable member know about it. Naturally enough, the people who pay the penalty in these frivolous disputes are, first, the shipping company concerned - in this case a British company - and secondly, the Australian consumer, because disputes inevitably must result in increased freights.
– I direct my question to the Postmaster-General. In the event of the Australian Broadcasting Commission taking over the technical side of sound broadcasting at the National Broadcasting Service studios, will officers of the Postmaster-General’s Department already employed on this technical work be given preference of employment over persons from outside the Public Service who may desire to transfer to the A.B.C. staff? Will officers who transfer carry their existing designations? Will they retain their existing seniority?
– I do not know of any proposal for the A.B.C. to take over the technical services at the N.B.S. studios. I shall make some inquiries into the matter.
– I hope there never will be any such proposal.
– As the honorable member knows, a certain amount of the technical work involved in broadcasting - in fact, work that goes right into the studio - is performed by technicians of the PostmasterGeneral’s Department. That work differs somewhat from the work associated with television. I have not heard of any proposal to vary the existing practice, but I shall make some inquiries.
– My question to the Minister for Labour and National Service refers to a dispute that occurred recently on the Brisbane waterfront into which the Minister ordered an investigation. Has that investigation been completed? Has the Minister received a report on the cause of the dispute? Is it a fact that the Australian Stevedoring Industry Authority altered the roster system in such a way as to prejudice the floaters and casual labourers on the waterfront?
– I had received complaints from Brisbane that the A.S.I.A. had altered the roster system as between what is called the disability rosters of people suffering from old age or injury - and the normal roster gangs. As this complaint was not in accordance with the advice tendered me by the A.S.I.A., I asked the authority to go to Brisbane and investigate the matter. This was done. The rosters have not been changed in any way either for normal gangs or disability men and fit extras; in fact, the disability rosters and fit extra rosters are up to date and are keeping pace with the regular rosters. What did transpire was that the representatives of the waterside workers had made it clear to the authority that they did not want equality of treatment as between the disability rosters and the normal rosters. In fact, they expressed the opinion that they want equality as between the roster gangs and fit extras but that they did not care if the disability rosters fell a month behind. At present I am unable to state the effect of this, but the matter is being analysed and I shall let the honorable member know the result as soon as I am able.
– Will the Minister for Social Services supply me with details of the scheme - if there is a scheme - whereby the applicant for an age pension who possesses property the value of which disqualifies him for a pension under the provisions of the means test, may execute a deed of trust to dispose of his property and thereby qualify himself for the pension?
– I shall be glad to supply the information that the honorable member seeks.
– I ask the Minister for the Interior whether any consideration has been given to the question of amending the Commonwealth Electoral Act with a view to eliminating certain anomalies that exist, and perhaps incorporating some of the recommendations that have been made to the Government from time to time.
– Yes, Mr. Speaker, consideration is currently being given to possible amendments to the Commonwealth Electoral Act. It is a matter which we propose to take fairly carefully and cautiously, particularly in view of the fact that we should have a reasonable amount of time, I would think, between now and the next general election.
– I wish to ask the Minister for Labour and National Service a question which is supplementary to the question asked a short time ago concerning the steamer “ Limerick “. In his reply, the Minister referred, to use his words, to a frivolous dispute in which the Australian Council of Trade Unions was concerned in relation to Italian ships which were tied up quite recently. I ask the Minister to be more specific by stating to what he was referring as a frivolous decision of the A.C.T.U. regarding the recent Italian shipping tie-up. Was the A.C.T.U. not giving effect to an international decision in relation to a wage dispute that occurred on Italian ships before the A.C.T.U. took the decision in relation thereto? If that is the matter to which the Minister referred, does he regard it as frivolous?
– The honorable gentleman has asked for my opinion on this matter. The dispute over the Italian ships did not directly concern Australian seamen or Australian waterside workers. It was probably based upon a dispute between various shipping companies in Italy and, incidentally, involved payment of higher wages to the seamen of the various shipping companies concerned. It was settled in Italy, and I am glad to say that the shipping companies are now operating. At the time, I did think that it was a frivolous dispute, and I did express my disappointment that Australian waterside workers had been drawn into it.
– I ask the Minister for Health whether it is a fact that, on reaching twelve years of age, children are ineligible to share in the Commonwealth free milk distribution at school. If this is so, will the Minister give consideration to raising the age limit to fourteen years so that those in this higher age range may receive the body-building advantage of this natural food?
– Milk is supplied to pre-school children and school children up to the age of thirteen years. I do not think that any discrimination is made in schools which have a few children over that age. The older children receive their supply as well. But, broadly speaking, the scheme covers those of pre-school and primary school age.
– I preface a question to the Minister for Trade by referring to the report that exports from Australia to mainland China have increased from £9,768,000 in 1957-58 to £13,690,000 in 1958-59; that in the last financial year the wool exports were only half the amount exported in 1957-58; and that the difference was taken up by increased exports of steel which is a vital defence material. In view of the Government’s oft-repeated statement that it does not intend to accord recognition to the Government of mainland China and that it intends to oppose the admission of mainland China to the United Nations, will the Minister explain why the Government continues to permit the export of steel and wool from Australia to China and continues to attack the Labour Party policy of trade with all nations?
– The facts of the matter are these: There has never been any embargo on the export of certain materials to mainland China. I need mention only foodstuffs and wool to indicate the class of materials on which there has never been any embargo. Trade has proceeded with mainland China. Private individuals in this country have established a trading basis with the trade agencies of the Government of mainland China. There is another category of goods the export of which to mainland China is absolutely forbidden. There has never been any modification of that list. Then there is an intermediate list of goods which may be exported to mainland China, subject to the approval of our own Department of External Affairs - not the Department of Trade. Steel products in certain forms come within that intermediate category. The simple facts of the matter are that certain primary items - maybe water piping or simple sheet steel - if they are not sold by Australia, will be sold by the United Kingdom, West Germany or Belgium. Where we have a surplus and the item itself does not cut across strategic considerations, then our own Department of External Affairs indicates that there is freedom to export.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Air. In view of the Minister’s recent statement concerning members of the Women’s Royal Australian Air Force who are to be stationed in Darwin, will the Minister reconsider this matter with a view to extending the area in which the W.R.A.A.F. may serve as far north as Butterworth, in Malaya?
– At present, no members of the Women’s Royal Australian Air Force serve at any base north of Townsville. I have quite recently approved of volunteers being sent to Darwin, but no authority exists for them to serve outside Australia. However, that matter is being considered.
– I wish to direct a question to the Minister for Health. Is it a fact that the Australian Dental Association and the Department of Health have been negotiating for some time in an endeavour to reach agreement on a scheme for dental treatment similar to the medical benefits scheme? If it is a fact, will the Minister inform the House what is the reason for the delay in reaching agreement, and when it is likely a scheme for dental treatment will be introduced?
– It is not a fact that such negotiations have been taking place.
– My question is directed to the Attorney-General, and I preface it by saying that I am prompted to ask it because, at this time, Australia is singularly fortunate in having a first-rate AttorneyGeneral. Is it true that in all the Australian States except Victoria, company legislation is archaic in varying degrees? Is it, in particular, true that besides inveterate archaisms, the existing State legislation takes little or no account of such modern developments as holding companies, takeover bids and the operation of an increasing number of overseas companies in Australia? Regarding the overseas companies, I ask whether it would not be advantageous to them to be able to look to a uniform companies act in this country, and advantageous to the Government to have more precise information about their operations. In all these circumstances, I ask the Attorney-General whether he will consider making a submission to the Government for a uniform companies act to be submitted, if approved, to this Parliament.
Speaker, it is quite true that the company laws in the several States differ and stand at varying stages of modernity. There is always, of course, a .grave constitutional question as to what power this Parliament has with respect to corporations. The easiest, and probably the soundest, solution is that the States themselves should negotiate and reduce their company law into a common form. An endeavour has been made from as long ago as 1943, with the assistance of the Commonwealth and its officers, to induce the States to enter into this particular activity. I should say that recently a conference of the AttorneysGeneral of the States was called by the Attorney-General of Victoria and was attended by a representative of my department. The objective was to see whether we could advance further along the line towards achieving a common companies act throughout the States. I am pleased to be able to inform members of the House that substantial progress was made - and made with the assistance of the Commonwealth - at that conference. There is to be a further meeting in Brisbane in a very short time, and I am hopeful that as a result of these activities a modern companies act in a common form will be available throughout Australia.
– Pursuant to section 32b of the Snowy Mountains Hydro-Electric Power Act 1949-1958, I lay on the table the following paper: -
Snowy Mountains Hydro-Electric Power Act - Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority - Ninth Annual Report for year 1957-58 - Part I. and ask for leave to make a short statement in connexion with this report, which I think will be of advantage to honorable members.
– Consequent upon the signing of the CommonwealthStates agreement, it became necessary to recast the authority’s accounts since its inception, to conform with the financial provisions of the agreement. Honorable members will understand that recasting the accounts back to the year 1949 has been a tremendous task. The authority’s last report, its eighth, was delayed in presentation pending the completion of this work of recasting. Since this task proved to be longer than expected, the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) decided then, as now, to present the annual report without the authority’s financial statements.
In the last twelve months, however, considerable progress has been achieved and the work of recasting is now almost complete up to and including the years ended 30th June, 1957, and 1958. The auditing of these accounts by the Auditor-General’s office has proceeded concurrently with the recasting. It is now expected that the Auditor-General will, at an early date, certify the accounts up to 30th June, 1958. In the circumstances, rather than defer the presentation of the ninth annual report, Part I. of this report is now laid on the table and it is proposed that the accounts for 1956-1957 and 1957-1958 will be tabled at a later date as Part II. of the eighth and ninth annual reports. The Auditor-General concurs in this approach.
In Committee of Supply: Consideration resumed from 25th August (vide page 549), 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.
.- I refer to the Budget proposal for the allocation of £13,123,000 for expenditure on the Territory of Papua and New Guinea. I deal with this subject, Mr. Chairman, because I feel that here, right on our doorstep, is a matter of importance and of vital consequence to the Australian people. Last week, in the foreign affairs debate, we spent a considerable time discussing the affairs of Europe. I think it is well that we deliberated on these matters; but it may be that Australia’s outlook on public affairs is in danger from a new form of complaint - political presbyopia - a type of vision which can see clearly in the distance but has only a hazy appreciation of those things which are close at hand. We have had so much of our attention concentrated on the condition of Europe that the problems of an area which is closer to us, and of more importance to us - the Territory of Papua and New Guinea - are escaping our attention. Yet those problems are urgent, particularly with regard to our future relationships in the SouthEast Asian sphere.
In company with three other members, during the recess I visited the Territory of Papua and New Guinea. We saw much to admire and much to make us proud of Australia’s administration of this Territory. But I- - and I speak only of my own impressions - saw disturbing elements. This area was the most vital part of Australasia in 1942, and it still is as important to the security of this country. The difference is that in 1942 everybody was watching it. Now, rapid and sometimes dangerous developments there are passing unnoticed. Around the bigger centres, for instance, Port Moresby and Rabaul, are gathering colonies of detribalized natives, running into considerable numbers. Mainly they have been brought from the interior to work, but they have either finished their contracts or have refused to work in the employment for which they were engaged. This is the classic breeding ground for trouble between the European and the native communities. It was this sort of situation which caused so much concern to the South African Government, because there is no satisfactory way of life for the native placed in contact with the amenities of civilization, and having little training in the responsibilities of civilization. Here, too, in these localities, I fear a too-lenient attitude by the Territory Administration might prove to be a false kindness to the natives themselves.
The workers are brought in under contract, but contracts can be one-way affairs to the official mind. The employer must obey the terms of the contract, because he disobeys at his peril; but there is no practical way provided of enforcing the terms of a contract on the native if he chooses to walk out. Naturally, while this position continues we cannot avoid building up Harlems in New Guinea.
It is generally agreed that our handling of the native population before the war was an example to the world in consideration, understanding and fairness. The natives responded to this treatment, and the atmosphere was good. We still have there a devoted band of field officers whom I admire. But times have changed. The natives have been subjected to corrupting influences during the war and since. In addition, the Territory has not been able wholly to escape the influence of massive pressures of world thought on the subject of so-called colonial peoples, even though this set of conditions is entirely without application in the Territory. As a result, whilst there is no actual danger at present, situations with explosive possibilities are occurring all too frequently.
The administrative linking of our own Territory of Papua with the trusteeship Territory of New Guinea seemed to be an excellent idea, but I fear that it is working out in an unpredictable fashion. Governing New Guinea under a United Nations trusteeship is like trying to rear a strange and rather difficult child under the personal supervision of 80 interfering mothersinlaw. I have no doubt that most of the critics in New York are well-meaning, but is that not the worst thing that you can say about anybody - that he is wellmeaning? Unfortunately, whilst the administrations are linked, many of the mistakes that are forced on us in New Guinea are being repeated in Papua. If we are to give the natives proper help in their long and difficult climb from the first century to the twentieth century, we must have proper cooperation between the governing centre in Canberra and the European population in the Territory. Whether we like it or not, every white resident there, official or nonofficial, is a representative of Australia. This is where our real weakness lies, particularly in our attitude to the non-official European population. The inept and almost disastrous handling of the recent income tax proposals shows up this very weakness. In spite of its own researches, the Canberra bureaucracy failed completely to grasp the circumstances and views of the private citizen. It produced a measure that has now been branded as completely unsatisfactory, because at least 100 amendments to the original bill have been accepted. Honorable members who know how difficult it is to have one or two amendments made to a government bill will realize exactly what that means. Even now those amendments have not met the main criticism. The Administration is left with a measure that is a thing of rags and tatters, satisfying nobody. Further amendments are obvious if this measure is to work properly.
What is the basic weakness of our administration? It is not difficult to pinpoint. Many officials regard the private traders and the settlers as interlopers in their island paradise - men who are there on sufferance and who will be eliminated in due course. That attitude has prevailed for a number of years and it continues. In the circumstances you can imagine what a sensation the present Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck) caused in January, 1958, when, in a speech in Canberra to the Australian Institute of Political Science, he referred to a large section of the Territory business community as locusts.
Opposition Members. - Hear, hear!
– Honorable members opposite say “ Hear, hear! “ That proves my point. The socialists believe that to be correct.
– Can the honorable member quote the source of his information?
– Yes, indeed. I will quote the source of my information later. To me as a Liberal the Minister’s statement was insufferable, and to the members of the community, who had battled for years against official discouragement and opposition under a socialist government, such a speech, coming from a member of a free enterprise Ministry, was a tremendous shock. All their hopes of better days seemed to be dashed to the ground. To do the Minister justice, I think that he realized the harm that his unfortunate phrasing caused, and he apparently set out to correct that impression in an address that he gave later - in May - at Newport, when he extolled the virtues of free enterprise.
– Where is Newport - Virginia?
– In New South Wales. To the residents of the Territory all this meant that the Minister had spoken with two voices. They could not know which voice really represented the Minister, but they had no doubt whatever, unfortunately, which voice represented the Administration. That term “ locusts “ gave a perfect oneword picture of the way the Administration regards the private trader.
Is there any justification for the criticism of members of the New Guinea business community that this word “ locusts “ implies? All I can say is that if they are locusts, they are what the Administration made them. Official policy over the years has tended to create conditions in which it is extremely difficult for anything better than a locust to survive. The life of a locust is a short one and the maxim “ Eat, drink and be merry, for to-morrow you die “ has been the obvious attitude of the official to the trader. In spite of all these obstacles placed in its path-
– Will the honorable member quote the source of his information?
– If the Minister continues to interject I must point out to him that I have a copy of his speech and I will quote it later if I have time. If not I will use the forms of the House and do so on the adjournment.
In spite of all the obstacles placed in its path, private enterprise has been responsible for a good deal of the progress made in the Territory. 1 believe that it is only by proper encouragement of private enterprise that the Territory can reach its proper place in the economic life of the Pacific.
I know that it is popular to deride the system of free enterprise. Only last week press reports conveyed to us that President Soekarno described private entrepreneurs in his own country as vultures. There may be a vast difference between a vulture and a locust, but the implication is the same. To me free enterprise is a test of a man’s individual capacity to succeed by his own performance. If he makes a mistake or if his judgment is bad he pays for his errors with his own money. In government ownership losses are paid by the taxpayer.
Of course, in a system of free enterprise there must be a responsibility to give service; but in return for this service surely the man who risks his capital is entitled to a reasonable profit. That, to me, is elementary Liberal philosophy as opposed to the doctrinaire views of the socialist. The moving spirit behind the trader and behind the production of gold, copra, rubber, coffee, cocoa and the other products of the Territory is the profit motive. Only so strong an influence would have induced men to endure the discomforts and the risks involved.
Some of the pioneers of the Territory have been men who have left the Administration service in order to become producers or traders. Field officers, also, in the course of duty have rendered notable and excellent service. However, we needed, and still need, the drive and energy of strong and able men, and we must see that they are enabled to reap the reward of their efforts.
The Territory settler has seen the Dutch depart from Indonesia. He is aware of what has happened to his counterpart in parts of Africa and elsewhere. Is it any wonder that he now lives in an atmosphere of uncertainty and that he is haunted continuously by the fear and the doubt that he holds only a permissive occupancy in the Territory? To resolve those doubts I believe it is time that the Australian Government gave thought to some announcement of future policy. I subscribe to the view that to meet changing conditions such a policy must be fluid. There can be no exacting and rigid time-table, but at the moment it is so fluid that it is difficult to know where we are headed. Some assurances are all the more necessary at present because there is a serious revulsion of feelins in the European section against Canberra control. The Navuneram incident of August last year, in which two natives were killed, was the outcome of unrest which first became apparent in 1950. The origin was a matter of personal tax. Similarly, the present antagonism amongst the Europeans is not related solely to the taxation measures. They have merely triggered off dissatisfaction which has been building up over the years.
In speeches which I made in this chamber in March and April last, I advocated that the taxation measures be delayed pending an independent inquiry. I suggested that this was an occasion for hastening slowly in order to maintain good relations. On 12th May last - again, in this chamber - I stated -
I have advocated a public inquiry. I know that this would mean delay, but T believe this is a case in which justice is more important than speed. I suggest that it is vital for the Government to retain the goodwill and the confidence of the people of the Territory, and a form of public inquiry would help to achieve this end.
What I feared has happened. Somebody had a target date, and there could be no delay! As a result, we have lost the goodwill of the European settler, and this loss of goodwill is being communicated inevitably to the native mind.
Restoration of this goodwill will be difficult, and I suggest that, as a first step, we, as a government, must make it quite clear that private enterprise is the basis on which this Government was elected, and that that kind of enterprise must play an integral part in the development of the Territory. Whatever the theorists of the United Nations may say, New Guinea could never stand alone. It must be administered as a partnership. The native population, primitive in thought, culture and educational standards, will not be ready for complete self-government for a very long while to come. I know that “ self-government “ is a modern catchword, but the giving of self-government to some countries before they were ready to accept responsibility has been disastrous. It can lead only to dictatorship and tyranny, or to control by a foreign power either directly or through puppets. I am convinced that, in the Territory, the economic and political future lies in partnership with the European settler. He will be needed, not as a temporary guide and instructor, but as a permanent part of the population. Such a doctrine, of course, lays on us a heavy responsibility to see that the native is fairly treated, and our officials have shown a great capacity to discharge this responsibility.
I believe that, having made this position secure, we must translate security into practical politics by giving the community a spokesman in Canberra as soon as possible. It is not generally realized that, in the big governing machine of the huge area of the Territory of Papua and New Guinea, democracy is represented by only one man - the Minister for Territories. All the other men concerned are officials, and the local Legislative Council is but a toy parliament carrying out policy decisions made in Canberra. The Territory is now subject to tax and it is contributing directly to its own revenue. There is surely a need to satisfy our traditional sense of justice by recognizing the principle that there shall be no taxation without representation. Honorable members may have gauged that I have not always agreed with the Minister’s actions. But my feeling towards him is one of sympathy rather than of opposition. He has at present a task which is beyond any one man. In any case, the Minister must be on the side of the officials, and the task of expressing the opinions of the local population should properly be given to some one else. Provision for the return of an elected representative in this Parliament, with voting powers similar to those given to the representative of the Northern Territory, is the logical first step.
It is obvious, also, that the local Legislative Council will have to be reconstituted in order to provide greater elected representation of both the European and the native tax-paying communities. One of the first tasks of the Council should be a review of the income tax legislation. In effect, even if not by intention, the white man will have to pay. But many natives are now becoming possessed of wealth. It is hard to see how they can be properly assessed for tax. They do not keep books in the accepted manner and they will present a real problem for the assessor. He will also have a formidable task in tracing and assessing some small traders, both Chinese and others.
Overall, the outlook in the Territory is confused, and I believe that there is a need and an opportunity to open a new and better chapter in its history. We must establish security of tenure for those enterprising people who have gone to the Territory to make a permanent home there. By that very fact, we shall get a more responsible and more stable kind of settler. If we cannot give the assurance of security of tenure, the white settler will be living on borrowed time. Yet I am sure that everybody will admit that the white settler’s influence on education, his medical services, his example to the natives by his mode of conduct, and his capacity to teach them how to work and how to cultivate their crops, all are wanted in the Territory. But it is wrong to want them on specified terms and to expect them to conform strictly to an academic government pattern.
I know that there has been considerable development in the Territory of Papua and New Guinea. In view of what I have already said, one may ask: How has it come about? The answer is that much of it has been in the hands of big companies, and they have usually been able to take care of themselves. They are strong enough even to win respect from the Administration. The man in danger is the small trader and businessman, the professional man, and the planter or producer, and he is the one who should not be overlooked. He has done much for the Territory. It is these independent individuals who will provide the basis of the permanent population which the Territory needs.
I realize that there may be difficulties in the way of applying these suggestions, particularly in the mandated territory, because of the restrictions imposed by the United Nations. This is, however, an opportune time for a re-appraisal of our approach to Territory affairs. I suggest that, altogether, here is a situation worthy of the personal attention of our Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies). In 1957, he visited the Territory of Papua and New Guinea. That visit was the second by an Australian Prime Minister in the history of the Territory. On that occasion, the right honorable gentleman resolved many doubts in the minds of both the native and the European settlers. It is my firm conviction that if he would go to the Territory in 1959 he could again do much to improve the political atmosphere. Such a visit should have a minimum of official pomp and tiring ceromony, and ample time should be allowed for talking over Territory problems with the people who are helping to develop the Territory. It is understood that, later in the year, the Prime Minister will visit Indonesia. He would hardly be talking from strength, in his discussions on the occasion of this visit, if, in the meantime, the problems in our own Territory have not been investigated at the top level.
Certain doubt has been cast on the veracity of my statement earlier in this speech concerning my authority for the use of the term “ locusts “ as applicable to a certain section of the business community in the Territory of Papua and New Guinea. In order to clarify the matter, I should like to read a portion of certain remarks made by the Minister for Territories when replying to a discussion on Papua and New Guinea. They are contained in a volume entitled “ New Guinea and Australia”, which has been published by the Australian Institute of Political Science. At page 135, I find these comments made by the Minister -
I went on to point our further facts, but here, as an aside, I remarked that Europeans engaged in some phases of life in the Territory need to appreciate that there are certain artificial elements in its seeming prosperity. Much of what they are selling over their counters, whether to Europeans or to natives, is being financed by increased government expenditures in the Territory. They are gleaners of a harvest sown and reaped by the toil of others, and if it is a poor harvest they will glean less. And I say quite bluntly that many of the people who come to me in the guise of solid pioneers and frontiersmen of private enterprise in Papua and New Guinea are merely the locusts in the sense that they are gathering what they have not sown.
He went on to say -
But what is the function of these other people? We pay salaries to our government servants and they wait on their doorsteps to sell to those government servants and to take much of these salaries as payment for commodities.
These comments are a clear denial of belief in the principle of free enterprise. I, as a responsible member of the community, do not object to paying my milkman, grocer or garageman, or the professional men, the doctor and the chemist, who look after my children. I take my hat off every time I enter their premises, realizing that they believe in the system of free enterprise. It remains for the Minister to convince me that he does.
.- The committee is at present considering the Budget proposals recently submitted by the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt). This is, of course, a time of accounting with regard to our revenue and expenditure. The Budget before us envisages expenditure in the coming year to the extent of £1,391,632,000. This is a considerable sum of money, and honorable members of this Parliament should ensure that there is a proper husbanding of our resources and a careful oversight of expenditure.
The Treasurer is entitled to feel a certain amount of personal pride at being afforded the privilege of presenting this document to the Parliament. Few, indeed, have had this distinction. However, let me assure the Treasurer that his Budget proposals have been very coolly received in the community, and much earnest criticism of them has been expressed. I am gratified at the fact that the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) saw fit to move an amendment for the purpose of censuring the Government on its Budget proposals, and also seeking justice for many persons who cannot speak for themselves, but who depend on their parliamentary representatives to state their case.
First let me say most positively that the proposed pension rates are totally inadequate. Pensions are by no means sufficient to cover expenditure on bare necessities. Let me mention one case by way of illustration. In South Australia there are many worthy institutions that have been established for the purpose of caring for aged persons. They are conducted under the guidance of various church authorities. Surely there could be no more suitable organizations than church bodies for the care of the aged. But these organizations, like every other section of the community, find that ever-increasing costs make greater demands upon their resources for the maintenance of the homes. They have to find ways of supplementing their revenue.
There is one particular institution in my own electorate with which I am very well acquainted. It is conducted by the religious body with which I am pleased to be identified. As with other similar places in South Australia, recently it felt it necessary to increase tie charges by 7s. 6d. a week, bringing the total charge to £4 a week. This increase, made several weeks before this amount was announced, will absorb entirely, of course, the increase in the pension proposed by this Budget. But the weekly payment to the home is not the only expenditure that must be incurred by these people. They must also make provision for the purchase of clothing, footwear and personal requirements, and they, too, are subject to the increase in telephone and postage charges. If the pension increase of 7s. 6d. is taken up by the increased charge, how can they make provision for their other necessary additional expenditure? I suggest that this Budget will leave the pensioners much behind their need. There should be some reassessment of the position and the Government should grant something more appropriate to the needs of these people. It is most unfortunate that the Government has failed to appreciate its responsibilities.
I have been informed that no increased charge was made when an extra 10s. was granted, but no doubt that amount was fully absorbed in other ways. Although I understand the position of those who conduct these homes, I wish that some adjustment could be made so that some part of the increase would be left for the pensioners to enjoy. If that were done, the pensioners would feel some personal satisfaction. I hope that some adjustment will be made between the Government and those who control these homes so that a share will be given to the pensioners concerned. If they were able to feel that something was left to enable them to meet increased costs, it would have a great psychological effect upon them.
I have been very interested in the Government’s approach to the problem of financing its activities in this financial year. Its attitude is evident not only in this Budget but in all other Budgets it has introduced. A circumstance usual to Liberal financing is that, sometimes by a degree of stealth, the burden of meeting the Government’s demands is shifted to those who can least bear it. The responsibility is being moved from the shoulders of the wealthy to the shoulders of those in the lower strata of our society; but these people are least able to accept it. Under this Government, any increased revenue is raised by the imposition of indirect taxation, but any remissions are made in direct taxation. This relieves the wealthy because reductions in direct taxation on a graduated scale are of more advantage to those with the higher incomes than to those with the lower incomes.
I shall give the committee one or two examples which make my point clear. According to the Commonwealth Statistician, as reported in to-day’s press, the average income in Australia is approximately £1,000. The 5 per cent, reduction in income tax means that the person with the average annual income of £1,000 or less will receive a remission of 54s. That figure has been given to me by my very good friend and colleague, the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Crean). We can be sure that the figure is accurate because he is noted for his very careful analysis of these matters. The person on the average income of £1,000 a year will receive 54s., and a very considerable number of people are in this income group. In the upper income bracket, 56 people have incomes of £50,000 or more. Their tax payment would average £42,474, and the 5 per cent, reduction means that each of them would receive a remission of £2,120.
– There is the contrast.
– Yes, that is the contrast between the people at one end of the social and economic scale and the people at the other end. The illustration shows the inequitable way in which the Government’s reduction of 5 per cent, on income tax will work. It shows also that the burden of financing the Government’s activities is gradually being moved from the wealthy sections of the community to those who receive only the average income. The wealthy are being advantaged and unfortunately those in average circumstances, including small business people, farmers, workers and those who live on pensions, are required, either directly or indirectly, to find a greater part of the national revenue. This surely calls for a very earnest protest and I give my wholehearted support to the contention of the Leader of the Opposition that this document does not adequately meet the needs of the vast majority of the people of this country and that it should be recast in order to provide more just and equitable treatment for them.
It is quite evident that this Budget does not find acceptance with many honorable members on the Government side. For example, the views of the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Bury) should be given very earnest consideration. They agree very closely with the opinions of many people concerning this financial statement. The honorable member said that the Budget was certainly not one for retaining value in the £1. This Government must accept responsibility for the promise it made to the people that it would restore value to the £1. The honorable member assured us that this Budget would do nothing to fulfil that promise. He said, further, that it would not really prow to be a Budget of stability. It is rather alarming when one of such conservative views as the honorable member for Wentworth makes a declaration which is so damning in its effect. He is not alone, because several of his colleagues have displayed a sense of disquiet in regard to the incidence of this Budget and the fact that it does not provide adequately for those who are in need of the Government’s care and services.
The Budget makes certain remissions and concessions in income tax and also confers a benefit in regard to superannuation and insurance premiums. Special consideration is given to taxpayers who have that kind of investment. Those in the middle class and upper bracket of incomes have had the greater advantage of remissions in the past for payments for educational purposes. These are indications that the Budget has been framed for the benefit of those in the more wealthy sections of the community. They will gain great advantage from it.
I have asked myself why this Government does not seek to supplement its revenues by imposing a tax upon the excess profits that are being made by certain commercial organizations. Inordinately large and progressively higher profits are being made by these concerns from year to year and a considerable proportion of them goes to people outside Australia. The time is long overdue for the imposition of an excess profits tax upon some of the exorbitant amounts which are being taken out of industry. Surely some of these profits should be ploughed back into the general and national revenues of Australia instead of being used to expand further the great commercial institutions and strengthen their monopolistic grip. Very often it is found that powerful influences abroad are at work behind these organizations.
The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) pointed out that during the 58 years that the Commonwealth Parliament has been in existence Labour governments have been in office for only seventeen years. In the few moments left to me I should like to point out that Labour governments have given a more generous and capable expression of stable administration than has ever been achieved by anti-Labour governments. A perusal of the record of the service given, by Labour during that period shows that it created the Commonwealth Bank and was responsible for the Commonwealth note issue. It also imposed the federal land tax which an anti-Labour government removed and thereby remitted £6,000,000 a year to the wealthy interests of this country. Labour brought in the Navigation Act and the Maternity Allowance Act. Labour built the east-west railway and established the Royal Australian Navy. Labour sponsored the Commonwealth Workmen’s Compensation Act, and also brought down the Seat of Government Act which was responsible for establishing the National Capital here. Labour brought in the Northern Territory Acceptance Act, the Arbitration (Public Service) Act, the Inter-State Commission Act, the Tasmania Grant Act, the Quarantine Act, the Immigration Act and the Australian Industries Preservation Act. By the way, it (Was a Labour government which introduced penny postage. Labour also reduced from 65 to 60 the age limit for women age and invalid pensioners. In the post-war period it was the Chifley Labour Government which provided a social security scheme for the benefit of invalid, widows and service pensioners and also introduced hospital and medical benefits schemes. The great Snowy Mountains hydro-electric power scheme for the purpose of generating electric power and providing irrigation, was initiated by Labour. It also introduced the immigration scheme and provided for payment to workers of unemployment and sickness benefits. Labour made payment in full for lend-lease arrangements. It established record overseas credit balances and a most stable economy and had the satisfaction of seeing the lowest increase in the prices level. Its record includes many other wonderful and worthy achievements.
I challenge the Liberal Party to set out its record of service to the Australian community during the long period that it has occupied the Treasury bench. It cannot come anywhere near the record of fruitful service which Labour gave during the seventeen years that it was in office.
Our reputation and experience in government enable us to analyse the document that is before us and to say that it does not meet the requirements of our country, nor does it afford the opportunities to the Australian people that would be afforded them by a Labour government.
This Government has much to answer for, and 1 trust that this committee in its wisdom will support the amendment that has been proposed by the Leader of the Opposition.
.- I take up the challenge that has been thrown out by the honorable member for Bonython (Mr. Makin). One has only to consider the great benefits that are enjoyed by the Australian people to realize the envy that must be in the hearts of members of the Opposition. The accomplishments of this Government during the period that it has been in office are plain for all to see. I shall recall sufficient of them to reply to the honorable member.
At the time when Labour went out of office the pension was at the ridiculously low level of £2 2s. 6d. a week. Labour even refused to increase it by one penny in the Budget presented prior to the election that resulted in a change of government. It was a government of the colour of the present Government which brought pensions on to the Australian scene; it was a government of this colour which introduced the arbitration system; it was a government of this colour which introduced child endowment; it was a government of this colour which raised pensions; it was a government of this colour which paid endowment for the first child; it was a government of this colour which instituted a health service that worked, and it was a government of this colour which instituted the anti-tuberculosis campaign that has rid this country of that dreadful scourge. T could quote a lone list of achievements that have brought Australia, in the field of social services and health benefits, to the forefront of the free nations of the world. The Australian people should take great pride in the fact that although the number of taxpayers is limited to 4,500,000, provision has been made for an expenditure of £300,000,000 on social services for those people who are needy, aged or other wise incapable of wholly maintaining themselves. That is an accomplishment that places Australia in the forefront of the nations of the world which have attempted to tackle the problem of social services.
The honorable member has referred to aged persons’ homes in his own State, but he has neglected to tell us that it was this Government which brought down the Aged Persons Homes Act under which, as the Budget indicates, the Government will pay £2 for every £1 raised by any institution for the establishment of aged persons’ homes. By means of this legislation we have been able to provide homes for many people who, under Labour’s administration, would have been entirely destitute and neglected. So we have this record which Labour cannot hope to match. But it is not sufficient that we should match achievements. The main point is that over the past ten years this Government, through solid work, foresight and courage, has been able to lead us from one period of prosperity to another until now, with the presentation of this Budget, we can look ahead to the ensuing year with a feeling of security and stability. The people of Australia must feel that this country not only is worth living in but also has a grand and wonderful future.
Speeches such as that made by the honorable member for Bonython, which seek to peddle the old Labour argument of class consciousness, have no value. He deplored the fact that this Government favours the rich and, adopting the words of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell), referred to it as a blueblood government. However, it has been a government of this colour which has done more than any other government since we have had a Commonwealth Parliament in Australia to assist the family man by way of reductions in income tax and the provision of social services.
Let me refer to people in the lower income group whom the honorable member and his colleagues opposite attempt to set against other sections of the community. I shall instance the case of a typical family man who receives a wage of £16 a week and who has a wife and three children to support. That man pays 8s. 6d. a week income tax, and for that amount he discharges wholly his responsibilities in regard to pensions - both civil and repatriation - the defence of this country, the payment of subsidies on many of the goods that he consumes, notably butter, and Australia’s representation abroad. No country can survive without international representation. Furthermore, he receives medical benefits, his children receive free milk and he takes part in the antituberculosis and health and social services campaigns - all for the price of two packets of cigarettes a week. I ask the honorable members whose meticulous carefulness was mentioned a short time ago to peruse meticulously the taxation figures in other countries, and ascertain whether a man in the lower income group who has a wife and three children to support is treated as well anywhere in the world as he is in Australia.
If that were the end of the story, Mr. Temporary Chairman, it would be sufficient to prove the manner in which this Government looks after the family man in the lower income group. But that is not the end of the story because, although he pays to the Government 8s. 6d. a week out of his earnings of £16, he receives from the Government 25s. a week in child endowment. Therefore, in his dealings with the Government this man makes what may be called a profit of 16s. 6d. a week, plus all the benefits to which I have referred. The Labour Party achieves nothing by trying to set off one section of the community against the other, and one class of worker against the other.
This Budget follows the pattern of giving something to everybody and taking care of those who are least able to take care of themselves. I have no doubt that the Government will continue in future years to follow this pattern that will be of real advantage to our nation, which is forever on the march. It is only by working together and eliminating any trace of class consciousness that we shall achieve a greater upsurge of virility than we possess to-day.
To the honorable member for Mitchell (Mr. Wheeler) who spoke about the territories, I urge that that same spirit of working together and of comradeship and mateship be manifested in Papua and New Guinea. As the honorable member has said, we have reached the stage at which we should make a re-appraisal of our attitude towards the Territory. The territorians can assist themselves, and the land in which they live, if they also make a re-appraisal of themselves and consider the benefits that they have received in the past and that they will receive in the future. I do not attempt to decry the conditions under which they live, but hundreds of thousands of Australian taxpayers who are contributing £31,000,000 towards the development and assistance of the territories and the residents are living in just as much isolation, are just as far removed from the pleasures and amenities of city life, and are enduring just as much hardship as the people in the territories. If those people in the territories who complain about their lot were to draw up a balance-sheet showing on one side, the standard of living that they enjoy and the benefits that they receive and, on the other side, the hardships that they endure, they would find that they are not so badly off after all. If they complain aloud and bring into disrepute the Administration in the Territory and fight and wrangle among themselves, they could well wreck the work that this Government is trying to do. I pay tribute to the Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck) for his conscientious approach to the problems of Papua and New Guinea. I make a plea to them to realize their responsibilies because the eyes of the world, to-day, are on New Guinea and Papua. The eyes of the world are on our administration of that Territory and any complaint from it is taken as an expression of dissatisfaction with the Government that has a trusteeship. Such complaints are magnified and sounded all around the world until they could not only bring this Government into disrepute, but also result in Australia losing the Territory.
I mentioned, Sir, that we had people in Australia who were living under conditions of greater isolation and hardship than the people of the Territory of Papua and New Guinea. That is very true. These people live, in the main, in the northern part of this continent. We have the unique distinction, amongst all the nations of the world, of being the only people of one blood and constituting one nation who have had the responsibility of developing an entire continent. Nowhere else has one people had the responsibility and the privilege of developing a whole continent. This has been our privilege since the white man first set foot in Australia. Due, no doubt, to the limited means of communication, not only within Australia, but also between Australia and the rest of the world which has given us some feeling of isolation and insularity, only the southern parts of the continent have been developed over the long period of years since the white man first settled here. Nevertheless, we have had a great measure of development in this young country - a measure for which Australians both present and past must take great credit. We have moved ahead very rapidly in the affairs of men and have kept pace with the great nations which are stronger and older than Australia. But we have failed, through successive governments, properly to care for the north land and the people who live in it.
As I have mentioned before, of the 124 members of this chamber, only four live in the northern part of Australia. There is no adequate representation of the people of northern Australia. It will be difficult to get proper representation. There is no responsible government north of Brisbane and, therefore, no responsible government at all in the northern part of Australia. There is no State government in the top part of Australia. There is no capital in the north, unless we regard Darwin as a capital. There is a young form of government in Darwin which, I hope, eventually will become a State government when the Territory has reached full statehood.
I believe that we must tackle this problem promptly or else it will not be our task to tackle it. As a Commonwealth Parliament, we should realize that if we do not use our north land we will lose it. That should be the slogan of this Government for the future - use it or lose it. With the countries to the north of Australia bursting their seams with population, we can no longer stand among the nations of the world and say that we have a moral right to great, wide, empty spaces which we are not attempting to cultivate or put to proper use. The whole attention of Australia should be turned to the northern part of the continent. We should develop and use it even if it costs the people of the south land something. Our very security and our future as Australians depend upon the amount of work that we can put into the top land; upon the industrial development that we can achieve there; and upon the amenities that we can provide there to attract and hold the population that is so vital.
I have it said to me fairly regularly that there still exists in the southern part of Australia the thought that white people cannot live in the tropics. It is said that white people cannot work there and that it is bad for children. All these statements are absolute nonsense. The people who live in the north work hard. They are able to enjoy a measure of comfort by adapting themselves to the conditions. The children of the north are just as healthy and spirited as the children of the south. We have a wonderful heritage in the north of Australia. It is time that the southern Australians woke up to that fact and started to use the land. Otherwise, as I have said, we will lose it.
However, it is no good putting forward these complaints every time that the opportunity occurs without bringing forward some concrete plan for the development of the north. I feel that the time has come when this Government should give serious consideration to the establishment of a northern development commission which would have the responsibility of advising the Government upon all those matters that concern that part of Australia which is north of the twentieth parallel. There are great problems there which cannot even be envisaged by men who sit in Canberra. They cannot be envisaged even by the men who sit in government in Brisbane or Perth and control these vast areas to the north. There are problems which stretch from the Kimberleys, across to the Great Dividing Range in Queensland, which are very much alike in their effect on the people. Great problems are connected with the conservation of water, the provision of roads and air services, and the better utilization of the land, pastorally and for mining.
– And agriculture.
– Yes. There are tremendous opportunities in that line. When tourists go to northern Australia they are filled with amazement that the opportunities there have not been seized before to-day. Those opportunities are largely unheeded.
No real attempt is being made, on a great national scale, to develop our north. I believe that a northern development commission could report to and advise this Government regularly - at least once a year - upon a number of things. First, it could advise on development schemes for the north - schemes which could be initiated by the commission itself or on which it could be asked to report by the Administration of the Northern Territory, the State Governments concerned - the governments of Queensland and Western Australia. It should be the responsibility of the commission to sift these schemes and report upon their practicability and advisability. Such reports should be acted upon by the Commonwealth Government with as much vigour as it acts upon the reports of the Commonwealth Grants Commission.
Such a commission should also consider the problem of transport because roads, railways, aerodromes and air services will open up the country in the north and provide a measure of access that it has never known before, lt is completely useless for anybody to sit in Canberra and say that we should have a road from A to B in the north of Australia. Advice must be obtained from people who live in the north and understand it - people who know the climate and the conditions that exist there. We should have this active, live northern development commission, constantly alert and constantly sitting to sift the advice that is presented to it, and itself seeking information on the form of transport that will help us to develop the northern part of our country.
We hear a great deal about the incidence of taxation on production. I believe that, each year, this northern development commission should bring down a report on how taxation is affecting production in the northern part of Australia. That report should receive the serious consideration of the Government. We have the problem, too, of how to attract primary and secondary industries to the north of Australia. For too long, in Australia, we have looked to the north as a source of mineral supply. We look with great satisfaction upon Mr Isa in Queensland and say that this is the development of the north. We look with great satisfaction on the present development of the Weipa field which has been newly rediscovered. This is regarded as a great milestone in development, and that may well be.
But the development of mineral production will not attract to the north the population we need there, such as those who will work the land. Mining has proved exhaustible wherever it has been tried. Throughout Australia, we find evidence of ghost towns which were once thriving mining settlements but have now almost disappeared and are fit only for bandicoots and wallabies to play about in. It is not simply a matter of looking to the mining industry to develop the north. We must look to primary industry and determine what sort of primary production can be richly developed in the land available.
It is not a bit of good relying for ever on the cattle industry of the north for the supply of store cattle for the fattening areas on the coast. It has< been proved that although this is a useful feature of our national economy, there is a great wastage in this practice. We should be able to fatten the beasts on the spot by the conservation of water and fodder and the development of pastures. We should have secondary industries such as meat works near the slaughter pens and abattoirs so that we can exploit quickly and economically the cattle that have been fattened by the proper utilization of the land, the improvement of pastures and the conservation of water.
These are great problems which warrant the consideration of a body of men such as the northern development commission I have recommended. Such a commission could give the Government the advice it needs on how to pour money quickly into the north to attract population and increase production.
There is also the problem of secondary industries. We must be able to establish in the north industries that will utilize the raw products as they come from the farms and the mines. The north is closest to our Asiatic markets, and we must find a way of attracting secondary industries to establish themselves in that part of Australia. It may be that a northern development commission could bring down a recommendation that any firms that go into the north should have freedom from taxation for a while. They might need a subsidy or a bounty so that they can establish and develop themselves to a point where they are self-supporting. 1 do not mean a continuing subsidy, but one that would enable them to get through their teething problems and become an efficient operative organization providing employment and opportunities for the young men and women of the north.
Wherever you go north of the twentieth parallel, if you ask the bright young men or the bright young women in a family what are their future plans, the brighter they are the more certain you are to hear from them that they plan to go south. They go south for a university education or to engage in occupations because opportunities are there. It is the responsibility of every Australian to see that the position is reversed and that the people of southern Australia will go to the north because there will be opportunities there for their advancement. Until we grasp this need properly, we cannot say to other peoples of the world that we are using our land to the best advantage. We must do it.
I have given thought to this matter over a long period of time. I believe the creation of new States in the north should be the ultimate objective and the more the better, but in the interim - because it will be a long time before we can get governments to give self-government to the people of the north - I urge upon this Government to set up immediately a northern development commission to report and advise on development schemes which it might initiate itself or have referred to it by State governments or territories. I believe that such a commission should advise and report to the Government on transport for northern Australia, taxation measures that will attract more population and capital, immigration to provide people for the north and the provision of subsidies or bounties to enable primary and secondary industries to establish themselves there on a firm basis so that opportunities will be offering for the children of Australia in future. I repeat in all earnestness that we must either use the north of Australia or lose it, and we have not much time.
.- The honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Pearce) has followed the pattern that has been adopted by most speakers on the Go vernment side in this debate. All they seem able to do in reply to the Opposition’s criticism of the Government is to try to draw a comparison between conditions today and those of ten years ago. They keep harking back to the conditions that they say existed in 1949. Of course, an analogy is out of the question. A comparison would be valid only if the circumstances in the two periods were similar. The only defence the Government has on this occasion, as on every other occasion when it has come under fire, is to revert to the alleged happenings of 1949. The people who had experience of the conditions in 1949 would prefer them to the conditions that prevail to-day. In those days, we did have stability, and a spirit of expansion and security, but they are completely lacking now in this Government’s approach to economic matters.
Both the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) and the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) made a play on words when they addressed the committee. They said the Government was aiming at stability and expansion. One would imagine that a Government that has been in office without interruption for ten years would have something to show in that regard, but inflation is more rampant to-day than ever before and instability is more evident. The price factor in Australia has risen more than it has in the United Kingdom, Canada, New Zealand, South Africa or the United States of America in the past ten years. That is the challenge to this Government which is always talking about the inflationary tendencies which existed in 1949. After this Government has been in office for ten years, the price factor in the economy is higher than in any other of the countries I have cited. If the Government was concerned about checking inflation, surely it would have something more convincing to produce. While it is condemned by figures, all we get from it is a continuous flow of words.
The Government should be censured on the Budget. First of all, it is a deficit Budget. I am not so much opposed to deficit budgets in general, but I am opposed to this Government, which has always been highly critical of deficit finance, when it tries to justify to honorable members and the people a deficit Budget. It should be censured because it has failed to attack or control inflation. Certainly we find that to-day expansion in this country depends too much on the investment here of foreign capital. The Government should also be censured over this Budget because it fails to protect those in the lower income group and those in receipt of social services. In my opinion the Government has abdicated and handed over our economy to private capital.
In relation to deficit budgeting, it is interesting to note that before the Treasurer and the Prime Minister occupied the responsible positions they now hold one of their main criticisms of the Chifley Government was that, on occasions, it had deficits. Until this Government came into office we were always told by its members that the hallmark of good government was a balanced budget. To-day, however, we have become quite accustomed - and I suppose familiarity breeds contempt - to a policy of deficit budgeting. The Treasurer himself, if one accepts his own statement, does not agree with deficit budgeting. In the Budget speech he had this to say on the subject -
This is not to suggest, however, that the Government regards cash deficits, financed with bank credit, as the normal and proper order of tilings in Commonwealth finances. On the contrary, it is very much concerned to ensure that we should get back as soon as we can to a position in which total cash receipts will at least balance total cash outgoings.
Notwithstanding that declamation, we find that for the past three years the Government has introduced deficit budgets. Oddly enough, the only government in this Commonwealth to-day that is balancing its budget is the State Government of New South Wales.
The Government deserves to be censured because it has failed to attack, or make any attempt to control, inflation. I have told honorable members previously how the price index figures in Australia have risen higher over the past ten years than the index figures in six countries that I mentioned. We find also to-day that in that period the public debt has almost doubled, and that our overseas balances have been severely reduced. I think it can be said, in passing, since members of the Government are always harking back to the days of 1949, that no government ever took over in more fortunate conditions than the Menzies Government did in 1949. In that year we did have a condition of stability that is completely lacking to-day. In 1949 there wasno unemployment in Australia; there was full employment. In 1949, also, our overseas balances reached their highest figure. What do we find to-day? This Government has done absolutely nothing at all about the increased prices that afflict us to-day. Our overseas balances have been severely reduced, and we have a condition of unemployment. Official figures show that about 70,000 people willing to work are seeking work and are unable to obtain it. All thai the Government can say in answer to the charge that unemployment has grown during its term of office is that the rate of unemployment in Australia is only about 2 per cent., and that we are better off in that respect than other countries are. We are undoubtedly better off than some countries, but it is also true to say that there are countries that are better off than we are in relation to unemployment. The statements made by the Government on the subject of unemployment are really no consolation to people who are willing to work and unable to obtain work.
A further factor that has contributed to the growth of inflation in this country has been the development of hire-purchase activities. If this is the expansion of which the Prime Minister speaks then there is absolutely no future so far as the protection of the people of this country is concerned, because those who finance hire-purchase activities have contributed very heavily to the instability and rising costs that mark our present economy. The Government has always evaded this issue. At times its spokesmen deplore this situation, but the Government does absolutely nothing to correct it. This is somewhat similar to the Government’s attitude when, during a general election campaign about three years ago, it stated that if it was returned to office it would introduce an excess profits tax. Everybody in this country was amazed at the amount of profit that private enterprise was taking out of the community. So great was the outcry against this scale of profittaking at that particular time that, in an attempt to silence the criticism, the Prime Minister stated that if returned to office b.3 would do something about it. His explanation for having failed to do anything about it since then has been that the Commonwealth lacks the constitutional authority to take action. I feel that a man of his experience must have known, or should have known, before he made the statement to which I have referred, that that was the position.
Australia is too much dependent for its expansion upon foreign capital, which is entering this country at a rate which must be considered alarming. I suppose that sooner or later the Government will realize that fact, but of course, it will be far too late by then. Other countries have already undergone the experience that we are now undergoing in relation to foreign investments. Canada underwent this experience many years before us and was compelled to take action to protect its own interests. After the war there was a great influx of American capital, followed later by British capital, into Canada, to the detriment of local capital. As a result the Canadian Government - I believe it was the Diefenbaker Government - took action in an attempt to rectify that situation. What happened in Canada is happening in Australia; but the Government keeps on pretending. It puts up this specious plea that foreign capital uncontrolled is good for the expansion and development of Australia. I am not opposed to the entry of foreign capital to Australia; what I am opposed to is its uncontrolled form, and the unlimited way in which it comes in. No less an authority than a member of the Victorian Cabinet made a similar statement recently.
The Government is discriminating against the Australian citizen in relation to the withholding tax. A person who gets dividends in the United Kingdom from Australia, I understand, has to pay 3s. in the £1 tax, whilst an Australian who receives the same amount of dividend is asked to pay 6s. in the £1.
– But he pays the United Kingdom tax as well.
– This is after he has paid the tax that he is called upon to pay when he receives the dividend.
– But that is what the Australian is charged in England on his income.
– That is the Australian in England; but I am talking about the persons who receive their dividends overseas, who benefit more from the Government’s policy than do the Australian investors.
– But it is reciprocal in the two cases.
– It may be reciprocal, but it is also discriminatory.
– Order! I think the honorable member for Dalley should be able to make his speech unaided.
– That is one of the reasons why Australian interests particularly are very much alarmed and have expressed concern at this development. The Government answers that an influx of this kind of capital is good for Australian expansion. But is it as good as the Government tries to make out? Does it not mean that foreign capital will be able to control our economy? If foreign capital comes into Australia in such large amounts we could quite possibly find that the Government has no control over it. But, of course, the Government holds the view that private enterprise must be free and unfettered. As a consequence, all that the Government is concerned about is what it calls expansion, and expansion in this particular form means profits. But it also means that the development of genuine Australian industries is prejudiced.
I said earlier that Canada’s experience was such that she had to take action in order to cure a situation which was similar to the situation that is developing in this country. The Government boasts about the amount of foreign investment that is coming into the country. It is true that our indebtedness has been reduced to some extent, but the entry of this foreign capital is forcing the State governments to compete vigorously for it. It is quite easy to understand the position of the State Premiers. When one of them goes overseas seeking foreign capital for the development of his State, the others are left with no alternative but to follow suit. As a result of this Government’s failure to exercise the authority that it should in this matter, the States are being forced into unbridled competition for foreign investment.
This Government has somewhat peculiar ideas about private enterprise or free enterprise. It is rather amusing to find that the Government is prepared to talk about the so-called virtues of private enterprise as opposed to Government instrumentalities, but is willing to use the taxpayers’ money to bolster up private enterprise in competition with Government instrumentalities. I am referring now to the attitude of the Government towards Ansett-A.N.A. and the help that it has given that company in its competition with Trans-Australia Airlines. I think it is true to say that since the entry of Ansett-A.N.A. into the field, civil aviation in this country has been retarded. Because Ansett-A.N.A. was unable to compete successfully in this field, the Government withheld from T.A.A. certain financial accommodation and support to which T.A.A. was justly entitled. A classic example is the attitude of the Government in its failure to permit T.A.A. to purchase Caravelle aircraft. I understand that if the Government had given permission to T.A.A. to purchase Caravelle aircraft - a French product - this would have meant the reentry of Butler into civil aviation. Since that would have been prejudicial to AnsettA.N.A., authority to purchase Caravelle aircraft was withheld. When the Government was giving support to Ansett-A.N.A. I wonder whether it forgot the activities of that company when it took over Butler Air Transport Limited. A few weeks ago Ansett-A.N.A. acquired Guinea Airways. So apparently Ansett-A.N.A., while proclaiming the virtues of free enterprise, thinks that it should be the only company in the field of civil aviation. If the Government is so concerned about the survival of private enterprises what has it to say about the companies that have suffered as a result of the development of AnsettA.N.A.?
I turn now to the Government’s failure to protect those people on lower incomes or those who are in receipt of social services. I am frankly disappointed at the Government’s failure to increase social services to a far greater extent than is proposed. In reply to honorable members who continually quote 1949 figures I point out that it is a fact that social service payments at that time represented a far greater proportion of the basic wage than they do to-day. I was interested in the Prime Minister’s discourse in the chamber when he quoted figures showing the alleged prosperity of this country. He stated that the average annual income of Australians was £1,040. If we accept that statement as being true it means that the average Australian is earning £20 a week. Of course, that is too silly for words. A perusal of the Thirty-seventh Report of the Commissioner of Taxation shows that in the year 1955-56 approximately 95,000 persons in Australia received an income similar to the income now received by honorable members - I refer to honorable members who rely solely on their parliamentary salary. It will be seen that approximately another 70,000 people earned an income in excess of the income now earned by honorable members. The total number of taxpayers in Australia was, in round figures, 3,800,000. The number of taxpayers who received less than the figure quoted by the Prime Minister as being the average income was approximately 2,600,000. In other words, on the figures supplied by the Commissioner of Taxation, approximately two-thirds of Australian taxpayers were in receipt of income less than the figure stated by the Prime Minister to be the average income of Australians! I make that point to demonstrate conclusively that in all the talk about profits, development, expansion and so on, many of us are prone to forget that our income is such that we are unaware of many of the problems that confront twothirds of the population. Statements such as the one made by the Prime Minister - made in an attempt to justify this Budget - make honorable members look a little ridiculous.
In conclusion, I wish to deal briefly with the shipbuilding industry in this country. That part of my electorate which forms part of the port of Sydney has a shipbuilding potential that is unequalled elsewhere in Australia, but, unfortunately, the level of unemployment there is to-day the highest for the past ten years. Only one shipbuilding yard in Australia is now working at full capacity or has any future at all. That is the one at Whyalla, in South Australia. The industry elsewhere, particularly in Queensland and New South Wales, has no future at present because of the lack of orders. I have been in touch with the relevant unions and also with the employees themselves, particularly those in the port of Sydney, and I can say that they are very much concerned about the Government’s failure to place orders which would enable the industry at least to re-establish itself on a permanent basis. But there has been a gradual reduction of employment in the industry, and many shipbuilding firms face the prospect, not only of curtailing their activities, but of going out of business completely. Some time ago, we had the unfortunate episode of the closure of Mort’s dock, in Sydney, and many of the shipbuilding firms in that city have told me that unless they are aided by an increased flow of shipbuilding orders their future will quite definitely be the same as that of Mort’s dock.
I emphasize to the Government the urgent need to do something to save this very important industry. It should not be permitted to go to seed, as happened in the depression years. It is not sufficient for the Government to say that the industry is flourishing because government orders for two more ships were placed with the Whyalla yard last week. The fact of the matter is that, except for the Whyalla yard, the industry has no future. Unemployment is rapidly increasing, and I can see no hope of anything else but growing unemployment unless the Government moves - and moves quickly. It would be a tragedy of the worst kind if the industry were to sink back into the condition into which it was allowed to fall in 1930. In view of the great sum that the Government is spending on defence, surely it can do something to maintain and stabilize the shipbuilding industry. Approximately £190,000,000 is to be spent on defence in the current financial year. Surely some of that money, which is being spent unnecessarily and without purpose, could be spent on the shipbuilding industry. In my view, the expenditure on the national service training scheme could quite easily be put to greater purpose. I remind the Government that the New Zealand Administration, a few months ago, discontinued its national service training scheme. We in this country are approaching a stage at which this Government will be compelled to do something because of the failure of our present scheme of national service training.
I have pointed out - and I emphasize - that shipping is of national importance to us. We are an insular nation; we are a mercantile nation. And we depend upon shipping just as much as we depend upon any other kind of transport. In fact, because of our mercantile character, we depend upon shipping more than do most other nations. I ask the Government to move before it is too late, and to try to save the shipbuilding industry. Unless the Government moves to aid it, the industry will have no future.
– Mr. Temporary Chairman, I have not before me the figures from the report of the Commissioner of Taxation which were cited by the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. O’Connor), who preceded me, in an attempt to rebut a certain statement that had been made by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies). It occurred to me, as I listened to the honorable member, Sir, that it was just possible that he was approaching the matter from an angle entirely different from that from which it was approached by the Prime Minister. It appeared to me that the honorable member was dealing with taxable income and that the Prime Minister had probably dealt with gross income before the computation of taxable income. The statements made by both the honorable member for Dalley and the Prime Minister could have been perfectly right, but the correctness of one would not necessarily establish the incorrectness of the other. Everybody knows - or should know - that taxable income and gross income are two entirely different things.
However, I do not want to pursue that matter further, Mr. Temporary Chairman. I want to say that the Budget that we are now debating is one that reflects the effects of an expanding economy and some of the problems which arise from that economy. At the present time, our population is increasing, as a result of both natural increase and the influx of the migrants that we strive to bring to our shores. Our migrants have made a major contribution to the success of our developmental plans. Furthermore, they have made a considerable cultural impact upon this nation. On the whole, they have been a fine influence and an extraordinarily important factor in Australia’s progress since World War II. But they have brought in their train innumerable problems in relation to housing, education, social services, hospitals and all those services and institutions which we must maintain in order to keep up standards in our community.
These are the inescapable facts which we have to face, but it seems to me that, at the same time, there is a reverse side to the picture which is unfortunate, to say the least, and perhaps, to a certain degree, inescapable, although it is not entirely irremediable. I refer to the adverse trend of the purchasing power of our money in the hands of those who have been thrifty and who have built up some competence upon which to retire. They have found, year by year, a decline in the purchasing power of their savings. It is quite true, Mr. Temporary Chairman, that, by various means, the Government has tried to counter this trend, particularly by relieving persons over a certain age of the liability to pay income tax up to a certain level of income, and also by liberalizing, not so much the rates of pensions, but the conditions on which pensions are paid. The policy of increasing the property limit and the level of income that a pensioner may earn without a reduction of the pension, and of increasing social service benefits, has helped those who depend directly on what may now, in most instances, be properly termed a superannuation paid by the Commonwealth. But the fact remains that there is an undercurrent of disquiet among us all, because, year by year, the value of our money has slightly and steadily fallen.
I have indicated quite clearly that I believe that certain results flow from this Government’s policy of expansion and development - a policy which we cannot afford to discard if we are to hold this country. But we have to acknowledge that we must pay some cost in order to maintain our standard of living, which is one of the highest in the world, if we are at the same time to proceed with a policy of expansion and development. I have noted that my friends of the Opposition have constantly hammered at the Government, advocating this policy of expansion and development, without being by any means generous enough to acknowledge the extent of the problems involved.
It rather nauseates me to hear honorable members of the Opposition compare conditions to-day with those that existed when the Labour Government went out of office. 1 do not think the community to-day would stand for the cast-iron economy that was forced upon it under the regime of the Chifley Government, for the absolute freezing of all borrowing rights, except under government control, and for the fixing of rates of interest that would cramp every form of development except those agreed upon by the government. If the people were prepared to accept a policy of direction by Labour, such as was actually in operation during the greater part of the war and for a period thereafter, and which was foreshadowed for an even further period, then it is quite true that we could, by means of this rigid self-discipline that could not possibly be imposed upon the community at present, obtain certain results in bringing down the cost of living, and in bringing down a good many other things as well. Let me suggest that it serves no useful purpose to look back nostalgically to the days when you could not get a pint of petrol unless you had a ticket or had a friend in the black market, and when you could not get a sheet of iron to put on your shed except by buying it through the black market.
I do not propose, Mr. Acting Chairman, to follow this line. I prefer to carry the argument into the camp, not only of my friends of the Opposition, but also of those who sit on this side of the House. Let me say, first, that the policy we are pursuing with relation to child endowment and the basic wage is open to question. I believe that this matter is now of most pressing importance, because the principle of equal pay for the sexes is gradually being accepted. I do not intend to argue against that principle. As the father of four daughters I have good reason to agree that it is a perfectly sound proposition. But I do want to suggest that there are certain implications arising from the acceptance of this principle which have been too long side-stepped, not only by this Government but also by governments that have gone before it.
I have some figures here which are not quite as up to date as those used by the Minister to-day in answering a question, but which are the latest that I could obtain. I shall use round figures for the sake of convenience. It appears that at the end of 1958 there were about 3,000,000 people employed in this community. At that time there were 3,100,000 endowed children, and there were 1,280,000 claimants for the child endowment benefit. There were, then, 1,280,000 families claiming endowment, with about two children per family. There were, therefore, 1,720,000 employees without children eligible for the endowment, and, presumably, in most cases not married. Of course, a fairly lengthy research programme would be required to make more than the broad approach to the question that I am making at present. Taking these figures at their face value - and 1 think that we must draw certain general conclusions from them - we find that in the community to-day we are paying, through a component of the basic wage, for probably 1,000,000 children who do not exist.
Let me explain my point. The Commonwealth basic wage has been determined at various times on the basis of differentsized families. At one time it was based on the requirements of a man, wife and three children, at another time on the needs of a man, wife and five children. Then in 1940 the Chief Judge of the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration made this very important statement -
The court always conceded that the needs of an average family should be kept in mind in fixing the basic wage.
The basic wage, at that time, therefore, had a distinct family content, and, presumably, it had some relation to the needs of the average family. But the Chief Judge then went on to make this extraordinary statement: -
But it has never, as a result of its own inquiry, specifically declared what is an average family, or what is the cost of a regimen of food, &c, necessary to its maintenance.
My point is this - and I think it is most important: In fixing the basic wage the court does take into consideration, certainly not specifically nowadays, but at least implicitly, that the wage is needed for the maintenance of a family. This basic wage is received by every person in the community who is paid under an award, and it is received indirectly by those who are not so paid.
I remember very well the history of child endowment, because I was in a State parliament when a Labour Premier brought down the first child endowment legislation. It was conceded quite openly at that time, when we were facing depression conditions, that the effect of the child endowment would be to equalize the amount of money available, and that it would be a factor in keeping down the basic wage. It is for this reason that I say that my friends who criticize the Budget and say that it does not make sufficient provision for child endowment have not the political courage to face up to the implications of such contentions. I say also that unless this present Government faces up to the implications of the present position, hundreds of thousands of families in our community will continue to contribute towards the maintenance of wage and salary earners without families, who do not require the same amount of money as those who have the responsibility of maintaining their children.
I know perfectly well why political parties do not acknowledge this situation. I know why the unions will not do so. But it is not necessarily a question of reducing wages or anything of that kind. What is involved is this: If we decide to give social justice by increasing the amount paid for the maintenance of children, then there must be an adjustment on the other side. I know perfectly well that it is not all loss or all gain. Single persons without dependants get more, perhaps, than is good for them when they are very young. But they pay increased amounts of taxation into the Treasury. However, that does not mean that the dice are not heavily loaded at present against the family man. This matter needs a genuine non-party approach, if there is to be any degree of community acceptance.
I pass on from that matter to a certain matter in the Budget which is of very great importance to country people. I have in my hand a number of communications received from very important bodies. They are important in the sense that they are responsible, that they represent many people, and that in the main they are a most useful force in our nation. I have communications from the New South Wales Country Press Association, the National Roads and
Motorists’ Association, “ Queensland Country Life “, the president of the Printing Employers’ Federation of Australia and so on. They are extremely grateful that the Government has seen fit to set aside the proposal for a minimum payment on the despatch of newspapers, but they do not appreciate the increase of 100 per cent, in the bulk rate. The secretary of the Australian Provincial Press Association, in his telegram, said -
Association notes newspaper bulk rates have now been increased 634% since 1939 and urges review of severity of this impost.
The secretary of the N.S.W. Country Press Association said - . . even before the recent increases, the newspaper bulk rate had risen 317% above the 1938- 39 levels, compared to 249% increase in the basic wage. . . .
There is a certain relevancy there, but an excellent reason for the protest was given by the secretary of this association, when he wrote -
So far as country newspapers are concerned, a substantial portion of the circulation of most of them is sent by post. There is no other way of reaching country subscribers. This is not the experience of metropolitan daily papers which, for the greater part, arrange their distribution through newsagents who sell over the counter or by hand delivery. Consequently, the burden of higher newspaper postal rates falls largely and most heavily on those who dwell in the rural areas.
Later in his letter, he said -
In a democracy a well-informed public is of basic importance, and Governments in all countries in the Western world give practical encouragement to the media of information by way of concessions in press telegrams and cables, landlines for news services to broadcasting stations and postage charges for newspapers and magazines. These media of information, with their special place in our community life, should not be regarded as ordinary commercial postal traffic.
The country newspaper is just as much an institution as it is a business. It is an integral part of local government machinery and its contribution to government administration at all levels has long been recognized.
I could not imagine a more complete and terse summing-up of the principles that should govern the approach to postal services than that which I have just read. No one recognizes more than I do that rising costs and, to a certain extent, inflated returns to companies and so on must have some impact on the costs of government services. Personally, I would raise no objection to some increases that may be found necessary.
But I feel that the extent and weight of this particular increase have not been sufficiently considered in all their implications. I take very strong exception to it and I support the views of those who have brought the matter to my notice. I emphasize again, Sir, that there may be, and no doubt is, a case tor the re-adjustment of charges in certain directions. It is never wise, either in business or in government, to throw upon any institution or section of the community a sudden load that it cannot reasonably absorb into its structure without very serious repercussions.
The country press does a magnificent service for this country. It maintains on the average the highest traditions of journalism - not so much in the material provided, because these newspapers have not the resources of the great metropolitan newspapers, but in the professional ethics which are the very basis of the freedom of the press. These ethics were ably set out by Scott of the “ Manchester Guardian “ many years ago, but they are sometimes forgotten in their application to-day.
I want to pass on to one further matter which I think is of major importance. I refer to the constant drift of population to our capital cities. In view of the large sums that we are spending on development, this drift has a serious implication for the whole of Australia. Our population at present is approximately 10,000,000. Of the population of New South Wales, one person in one and a half lives in the capital city, Sydney. The proportion is approximately the same in Victoria. In Queensland, it is rather less than one in three; in South Australia, it is .65 in one; and in Western Australia it is .65 in one. Having regard to all the trends - wars and rumours of wars, and the nature of the weapons with which we are threatened - we cannot possibly afford to overlook this drift. I have here a copy of “ Public Administration” published this year. It deals with the action of the United Kingdom Government, as it is fashionably called to-day, in regard to the distribution of industries in that country. In 1938, that government began to wake up to the necessity for preventing great aggregations of population, firstly for reasons of unemployment, and secondly for reasons of defence. The British spread their industries and that policy has been followed ever since throughout England and Scotland. Since the Barlow report it is interesting to find that the United Kingdom Government took great powers, which included provision for the decentralization or dispersal of industries and industrial population from congested urban areas. Encouragement was given to a reasonable balance of industrial development, so far as possible, throughout the various divisions or regions of Great Britain, coupled with appropriate diversification of industry in each division or region. Industrialists were told that if they went to one or other of the development areas they would get a building licence quickly or even automatically.
Time will not permit me to develop this theme fully, but I will say that if it was necessary in Great Britain to provide this special encouragement to people to distribute their industries, then surely something of the kind is more than overdue here. Among the areas which were provided were certain “ negative “ areas in which new industry must not be permitted. There were certain neutral areas also where there was no positive need for further industry, but such definite action was not taken. The policy behind this move is summed up in these words by the writer -
I am convinced that but for Government intervention the growth of industry in London, the South East of England and the Midlands would have continued quite as strongly in the postwar years as in the prewar years.
The honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Pearce), in his eloquent speech, set out reasons why Northern Australia should be developed. There is urgent need for the development of areas outside our great capital cities, but pious aspirations will get us nowhere. If we are to be fair to the people who cannot, like the rich, get away from the places of danger when the trouble occurs, then we must have a positive policy which makes it worth while for people to go out and settle in country areas. We must, if necessary, refrain from building government factories which will encourage people to congregate to a greater degree in and near congested areas.
As I said before, the services of the first-class brains in local government, finance, industry and the Treasury are required for planning to encourage people to go out and settle in country areas. Vic toria has a policy which is one of the best I have yet seen in Australia. It is beginning to pay dividends. I believe that the Government must stand behind a larger policy.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- I support the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt). For sheer arrogance, for colossal boasting, for swelled-headedness and for supreme overconfidence, this Government wins all the Oscars. People listening to the speech of the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) last Thursday night, and that of his yes-man, the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. McMahon) last night, might have imagined that all the knowledge, all the intellect, all the greatness and all the commonsense in this country were enthroned in the Liberal Party. In reply, my only consolation is to quote a text of Scripture -
Pride goeth before destruction.
It was nauseating to listen to such unadulterated arrogance on the part of those two speakers and one or two others on the Government side. The Prime Minister, as is usually the case, acted the part of the Great White Father and talked down to the Opposition as though we had not yet got out of the kindergarten stage. He said, in effect, that we had no knowledge of economics, or financial affairs, or anything else. He quite blatantly misrepresented the Leader of the Opposition, but that part of his speech was dealt with most effectively last night by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell).
This Government lists the development and the so-called progress and the flimsy stability of Australia in such a way as to suggest that its efforts should be taken for those of the Almighty Himself. In fact, members of the Liberal Party are to-day trying to play God. Good seasons have given wonderful income from many sources but, according to the way those members speak, this is due to the Liberal Party’s intervention and influence. God receives no credit at all to-day from them for doing anything in this country. Certainly that is the impression one gains from listening to the Prime Minister and the Minister for Labour and National Service.
This is an uninspiring Budget. It is a status quo Budget. It is a cynical and arrogant Budget. As the Deputy Leader of the Opposition said last night it is a blue-blood’s Budget. That was a very good description of it. I am not a racing man, but to use racing terminology, this Budget could be described as a racehorse named Sterility, by Weariness out of Inertia. No sensible man would back it, even with Bob’s flimsies.
This Budget has many objectionable features. First, it gives no help to families at all because it provides no increase in child endowment; secondly, it gives no relief from sales tax; thirdly, it provides no effective assistance to social services; fourthly, there is no relief for the family man from the real burden he bears; fifthly, it makes no genuine attempt to ease inflation; sixthly, it gives no practical assistance to primary industries; seventhly, it provides no encouragement for small businesses; eighthly, it contains not a glimmer of an attempt to control hire purchase investment; and lastly, it makes no effort to control overseas investments. I will deal with some of these points in more detail.
Before doing so, however, I wish to refer to the monopolization which has gone on at an alarming rate as a result of encouragement from this Government. There is now no free enterprise in Australia, as we knew it of old. My friend the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Luchetti) reminded me, before I rose to speak, that Mr. Butler, of Butler Air Transport Limited found this out to his sorrow. Monopolization has gone on apace. I would call it something worse than that. Industrial cannibalism is the pattern of the economic life of Australia at the moment.
– It is bushranging.
– That is a mild term. Bushrangers do not eat their victims; cannibals do. Recently Cox Brothers wanted to add a big firm to its business chain so it went to Brisbane and offered the firm of Allan and Stark £2,700,000 cash. Two or three days later the Myer Emporium Limited offered the same firm £4,700,000 cash. Soon afterwards Cox Brothers raised its offer to £4,500,000. Of course, Allan and Stark accepted Myers’ offer.
– And the people will pay.
– That is so. A few years ago Waltons-Sears came out from America and gobbled up big firms in Brisbane and elsewhere. This sort of thing is going on all the time. The great big monopolies are swallowing up the smaller industries. Free enterprise is a fond dream of the last century. This Government encourages more and more monopolies, and many businesses to-day are in constant fear of appropriation. H. C. Sleigh Limited this week offered to buy out the Adelaide Steamship Company Limited holus bolus. This is industrial cannibalism, and the Government stands condemned, not only for allowing it to continue but also for encouraging it.
In an excellent speech yesterday the honorable member for Bradfield (Mr. Turner) said this -
I shall suggest that the Government should do these things: First, examine whether it has power to control hire-purchase interest rates;
Good Labour policy - secondly, examine the English and United States of America legislation designed to control monopolistic and restrictive practices that are contrary to the public interest.
I commend the honorable member for making that statement. We, too, are trying to induce the Government to take action along those lines, but it refuses to do so. Only a Labour government will carry out the suggestion of the honorable member for Bradfield.
– And he will not be here then.
– That is right. The Government has given the impression to the world that this Budget will enrich the rich and enrich the poor, but the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Crean), the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Cairns), the Leader of the Opposition and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition went into, great detail to show that the Budget in fact will enrich the rich and impoverish the poor. Last night the Deputy Leader of the Opposition said this -
The Government says that it has dealt justly with everybody. Here we have the essential picture: For the man on average earnings - the lower and middle class groups- effective rates of income tax have been raised by 25 per cent, but for the man with a taxable income of £10,000 a year the effective rates of income tax have been raised by 1 per cent. For higher incomes still the position is even more favorable. The maximum rate of tax has actually been reduced from 15s. in the £1 in 1949-50 to 12s. 8d. in the £1 in 1959-60. No honorable member can dispute that fact. That is a reduction in the effective rate of 16 per cent. So, for the extremely rich in the community there has actually been a tax reduction which approaches 16 per cent.
These figures illustrate clearly enough how this process of slugging the great bulk of taxpayers has been going on every year. That was a phrase used by the Leader of the Opposition, which the Prime Minister was pleased to describe as deliberately misleading.
We have evidence of the increased profits being made by big business and of its growing arrogance in attempting to blackmail this Government for assistance. I need mention only Mr. Ansett.
This Budget encourages high interest rates. We, as a party, believe in low interest rates. When they go beyond a certain percentage we are heading for economic trouble. That is what happened in Australia and other parts of the world in 1929 and 1930. On Tuesday, 18th August, the Leader of the Opposition referred to this aspect in these terms -
What the Treasurer has not admitted is that the real operation was a sale of £80,000,000 worth of bonds by the Treasury to the private banks, for which they received interest at 4 per cent, and 5 per cent., instead of a sale of £80,000,000 worth of treasury-bills by the Treasury to the Commonwealth Bank at 1 per cent. Thus the Treasurer’s brilliant financial operations cost the Australian taxpayers an extra 3 per cent, or 4 per cent, interest on £80,000,000- the difference between the interest on the bonds and the interest on treasury-bills. This amounts to an extra cost of £3,000,000 a year, which was additional profit to the private banks.
The honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley) had this to say on Thursday, 20th August -
The point about the bond market under Mr. Chifley was that private banks were forbidden to subscribe to loans. The theory upon which Mr. Chifley acted was that the existing purchasing power of the community could be called in as loans for Commonwealth expenditure, and that was not inflationary, whereas if the private banks were permitted to subscribe to loans, that was new cheque money, and that was inflationary.
There is clear proof of the high interest phobia of this Government. My colleague, the honorable member for Yarra, in his excellent speech on Thursday, 20th August, went into detail on this particular point and showed that the increasing costs in the country to-day are due in part to the tendency of this Government to borrow at increasingly high rates of interest instead of at low rates of interest. He said that the cash requirements for the coming financial year are expected to be £1,682,300,000 and that cash receipts are expected to be £1,385,300,000- an actual deficit of £297,000,000- which means that more than 20 per cent, of the Budget is debt. He went on to show how the Government intended to raise this £297,000,000. He said that £190,000,000 was to come from private lending sources and about £46,000,000 from the Commonwealth Bank. However, the Government would pay 4 per cent, or 5 per cent, interest on the money borrowed from the private banks although it could obtain money from the Commonwealth Bank at 1 per cent, interest. If the Government did not have a phobia about high interest rates, why would it finance its deficit in this way? Is it better to raise this money from private lenders at 4 per cent, or 5 per cent, interest, than to raise it from the Commonwealth Bank at 1 per cent, interest? The answer to that question is obvious. But the Government will not adopt the more sensible course.
– Is not borrowing from the central bank inflationary?
– Not in this case. The Government used the central bank to the extent of £85,000,000 last year.
– It is not different from a bank overdraft.
– Not different at all. The honorable member for Yarra went on to say that last year there was a deficit of exactly the same amount- £297,000,000- and the Government raised this money by borrowing £206,800,000 from private sources, £49,100,000 from sinking funds through the Commonwealth Bank, and £11,600,000 by other means, leaving a net deficit of £29,500,000. There is the position as clear as crystal. Instead of the Government obtaining this money from the Commonwealth Bank at 1 per cent, interest, it borrowed more than £130,000,000 from the private banks and their financial associates at 4 per cent, or 5 per cent, interest.
How did the private banks obtain the extra money that they loaned the Commonwealth? The Government, by means of its banking legislation, within the last eighteen months, allowed the amount held in special accounts to be reduced from 75 per cent., I believe, of the private banks’ credits to 25 per cent. Upon release of the money held in the special accounts in the Commonwealth Bank, the private banks loaned it to the Commonwealth Government at 4 per cent, or 5 per cent, interest. The Government’s action in this regard is ample evidence of the way in which its phobia for high interest rates has reacted on the taxpayers. The people had to pay in the last financial year additional unnecessary interest amounting to £3,000,000 or £4,000,000 in order to comply with the Government’s method of financing a Budget deficit.
The primary industries have been forgotten in the Budget. The Treasurer, in introducing the Budget, devoted five lines to primary industries. The Treasurer said -
With a good season, export production will again be high and, given some rise in wool prices over the relatively low average of last season, it could be a good export year.
Later on he said -
Rural industry has shown striking gains. In particular, the average wool clip has increased by SO per cent, and average annual meat production by 44 per cent.
That is all that he said on primary production! As the representative of the electorate of Wilmot in which we have 21 different forms of primary production, I say that the Treasurer’s statements were very stark and cold comfort to our primary producers. The rest of the Budget speech was devoted to subjects other than primary production. The primary producers have been left out on a limb by this Government.
This over-optimistic Government has had the temerity to tell the country that the economy is stabilized and that primary production is bubbling over with health. What is the position? Farm incomes have declined in the last two years by £111,000,000. In 1956-57 they amounted to £519,000,000 but in 1958-59 they fell to £408,000,000. Obviously, the Government is content to leave the primary industries to trust to luck. Markets are hard to hold and new ones difficult to find because of competition from old and new primary producing countries. It seems to me that the Government has all its rural thinking centered in wool. In its view, if wool prices decline, rural industry declines; if wool prices are good, rural industry is buoyant. This is fantastic and dangerous thinking. For too long in primary production we have put our eggs in one basket and failed to stimulate, as we should, the dried fruits industry, the dairy industry, the apple industry and the meat industry sufficiently to hold Australia’s economy when wool prices decline. We have never really planned to keep our rural economy sound once the price of wool falls. It indicates lazy thinking to say that once wool goes everything goes.
– It is incorrect to say that of the Government.
– It is not incorrect. Rural industries have been hit by the increased postal charges. A very thoughtful speech on this subject was made by the honorable member for Macpherson (Mr. Barnes) - a man who is not afraid to speak his mind. He is a member of the Australian Country Party and, I understand, a pastoralist. He said -
I am most concerned with the additional postage charges forced on the Postmaster-General’s Department by this Government, which are outlined in the Budget. I feel that, apart from the way in which these increased charges will affect country people - and they will affect them more than any other section of the community - a rather serious factor is the departure from a principle, in that a government utility is to be used to produce revenue to the amount foreshadowed in this Budget. I believe that in the circumstances it would have been far better not to have provided for income tax reductions and to have left postal charges at the current level.
In other words, it would be better for us to be back where we were before! The honorable member went on -
Unfortunately, these increases of postal charges will rest very heavily on people in the lower income groups.
That is an interesting statement from a man who is a member of the Australian Country Party and a primary producer. He has said, in effect, that he is utterly against the Budget in that respect. So am I; so is the Opposition; and so are the bulk of the people of Australia.
I invite honorable members to notice who will introduce legislation for the new postal charges! A Country Party member - the Postmaster-General (Mr. Davidson)! He belongs to a party that is pledged to support the country people. Yet he is to bring forward the worst legislation on postal matters that has been introduced since I have been a member of this Parliament. He has proposed a most vicious rise in charges. This will hit an increasing number of people because an additional 400,000 or 500,000 use the postal services every year. I would call this proposal by the Postmaster-General highwaymanship of the worst form. I am sure that the honorable gentleman, a Country Party man, must be having some bad dreams because of his responsibility for this proposal.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
– As I have said, the increased postal charges proposed in the Budget are an act of highwaymanship on the part of the few responsible for them. They are so drastic that protests are arriving from all parts of the Commonwealth. These protests are coming from newspapers, telephone subscribers and the ordinary people who will be paying the new charges. To-day, the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) received a deputation at Canberra representative of 40 organizations associated with the printing industry and allied industries. Speakers urged the Government to review the Budget and reduce the postal, telephone and other charges. I am perfectly aware of the great cost to the Commonwealth of postal and telephone extensions. The PostmasterGeneral’s Department is one of mv favourites and has been during the thirteen years I have been in this place. It pains me to know what a drastic effect these increased charges will have. I believe that the increased financial requirements of the department should come from revenue so that all of us would help to meet the cost of Post Office facilities instead of putting that burden on those who will use those facilities. They are the customers.
The Postal Department will not get the revenue it expects from these charges. If tram fares are raised, fewer people will travel on the trams. That applies to trains as well. If postal and telegraph charges are increased, people will send fewer letters and telegrams and they will use the telephone less frequently. In its clumsy way, the Postal Department thinks it will get more revenue by raising its charges, but it was stated in one newspaper editorial to-day that even Christmas cards will be affected by the increase in postal charges and fewer cards will be sent this Christmas. People will stop sending Christmas cards. Usually, I send about 200 a year.
– Is that all?
– I do not send them co the whole of my electorate as the honorable member does. On the whole, the action of the Postal Department in this matter has been clumsy and will not bring in the desired revenue. The Launceston Chamber of Commerce has written to me protesting vigorously about the effect of the new charges on business. I know that the effect will be serious, but business people will be able to pass on the extra cost to the consumers. The consumer will be hit twice - once by the higher charges he will have to pay privately and then by the costs which will be passed on through business enterprises. The increases, therefore, are most unfair.
These proposals were introduced without sufficient thought. The Prime Minister admitted that when he said last week that the Government would reduce the proposed bulk charges for newspapers. He should start thinking again and reduce more of the new imposts. These charges are the most drastic and widespread that have been made by the PostmasterGeneral’s Department since I have been in this place. If it wants to increase its charges, it should spread them over many years and not impose them in one fell swoop.
I want to criticize also the failure to reduce sales tax. According to the White Paper on National Income and Expenditure, sales tax revenue rose from £126,000,000 in 1956-57, to £144,000,000 last year. Customs duties rose from £69,000,000 to £72,000,000 in two years and excise duties increased from £217,000,000 to £237,000,000. Net indirect taxes increased by £79,000,000 in two years - from £622,000,000 to £701,000,000. Indirect taxes hit the pensioners and those who cannot afford to pay sales tax.
I have received representations from the Australian Council of Soft Drink Manufacturers. This is a tragic story in any language. The manufacturers of cordials are trying to get a reduction of 12i per cent, in the sales tax on cordials manufactured in Australia. In 1956-57, there were eleven fewer soft drink factories than there were in the previous year. As a result, the number of factory employees was reduced by 274, and salaries and wages paid to factory employees fell by £36,000. In England, there is no sales tax on cordials. In the United States of America, sales tax is imposed on cordials in only two States. Wherever sales tax has been removed from cordials, the sale of these drinks has increased. We should encourage the soft drink trade and not show the open door or give the green light to beer interests all the time. Not every one drinks that stuff, and we should encourage young people to drink cordials. This Government is doing its level best to reduce the sale of soft drinks in Australia.
Social services will be dealt with fully during the debate on the Estimates, but I point out now that the economic position of 600,000 pensioners is desperate. In 1948, the average pension was equal to 37 per cent, of the basic wage. This year, the average, even with the proposed increases, will be only 31 per cent, of the basic wage. The wives of invalid pensioners have been forgotten by this Government. It is quite wrong for invalids to be on the same rate of pension as are healthy age pensioners. The invalids should be given special consideration. That is my firm opinion.
Turning to shipping, I wish to say that we in Tasmania are proud of the new ship for the Bass Strait trade, the “Princess of Tasmania “, which is soon to go into service. The ship is a credit to the workers, the engineers and the designers, but the fares to be charged are still too high. I hope that the Government will review them and will do more to encourage tourism to Tasmania. Surely it is better to have the ship just paying its way than making big profits. We do not want it that way. We want the ship to be run by the Australian National
Line for the people. Let us have lower fares so that the ordinary people, as well as the rich people, can use the “ Princess of Tasmania “.
I am not a racing man, but if the Budget could be regarded as a racehorse, I would call it Sterility, by Weariness out of Inertia. The Government is in a rut, it is in a groove, and the only difference between a groove and a grave is the depth. It is time that we changed this Government.
Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– The first thing 1 want to say is a word of congratulation to our new Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt), and I do that very sincerely and with some knowledge of what I am saying, because I believe our new Treasurer has given great thought to the preparation of this Budget, lt shows throughout a very thoughtful examination of the things that are important to Australia for its progress and for its stability, and I would be prepared to join issue with any one who could deny that, insofar as it concerns the real issues that matter.
Unfortunately, Mr. Chairman, in this debate all we have had is a series of criticisms of what might well be termed minor matters when regarded along with the general long-term welfare of this country. We have had evidence of this in the speech by the honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie), who virtually admits the prosperity of Australia, but attributes it to good luck. He used the words - unfortunately in his case, I think - “ playing God “.
– You asked for it.
– I understand that before he entered this Parliament the honorable gentleman was a man of God. He admits the prosperity; that is the main thing. He, like all the other members opposite, has resorted to the minor issues of criticism - the pensions, the postal charges, this and that and the other thing - all very important, I know, considered on their own, but surely a Budget is something that guides the destiny of this country for the year to come and is very important from a national point of view.
One would have imagined that issue would have been joined on some of the very important matters that should concern Australia. I have heard very little discussion, except for some words from the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Clarey) last night, on the subject of full employment. Surely it is admitted that this Government has maintained a degree of full employment that is unparalleled in any other country. There has been no mention of that.
There has been no statement that I have heard from any member opposite about the £35,000,000 extra allocated by this Government to the States for the purposes of their development - for roads and all those important national objectives. That, of course, was what was arranged at the Australian Loan Council meeting at which our new Treasurer presided and that, too, was a very thoughtful exercise. No word has been said by any honorable member opposite . about the proposals contained in the Budget for the maintenance of our rate of national development and the additional money to be devoted to that purpose - including mining development, oil search and so on. I have heard nothing from the Opposition about those important national matters. Also, I have heard nothing from any honorable member opposite about the increase in immigration. Yet these things are of great importance to our national progress and prosperity.
Not one member of the Opposition has had anything to say about the encouragement contained in the Budget for the investment of new capital, both from overseas and from local sources. Indeed, the whole Budget is prepared on the base of encouraging investment. Surely these things are very vital, but they have not been thought of by the Opposition as material for their speeches on this Budget.
There is only one way in which a high standard of living can be maintained, and that is by greater production. It is not to be had simply by providing for handouts in a budget. You have to lay the basis for greater production, and that can be achieved only by capital and labour working together. That is precisely what this Budget sets out to do. It sets out to be fair to labour. It sets out to encourage capital, and it creates the atmosphere in which prosperity can be maintained.
I have heard criticism of our use of the word “ stability “. Surely one of the most important things in our national progress is to create stability, because out of stability comes confidence. I think it was the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) or the Treasurer himself who mentioned that. No country can proceed to develop unless it has the confidence of the people who comprise it. This Government has the confidence of the Australian people. Indeed, it has not only the confidence of the people of Australia; it also has the confidence of the people of every country in the world. This country to-day stands pre-eminent among the small countries as being the country where investment is safest. It is because of that fact that we are receiving all this additional capital from abroad.
But those things - important as they are, and they are very important indeed - may be not the most important, because as I see it, even though we may gain prosperity in Australia, perhaps the most important thing for us to-day is to preserve Australia’s security. I speak of this because I have been giving a good deal of thought to it recently. Here we are, a young country with just 10,000,000 people, a country growing at an enormous rate and destined, I believe, to be a great nation. I do not think that there is anything that can stop Australia from becoming a great nation. It is new, yet it has all the benefits of tradition from the old world. It knows all the benefits of Western civilization and yet it is completely uninhibited in its development as a new nation. It is highly qualified in those things which, I think, matter. It is highly qualified in industrialization, in industry, in commerce, in agriculture, in trade, in economics, and in social welfare. So it is a country that has all the bass, I believe, for growth into a great new nation.
We are, Mr. Chairman, ideologically sitting on the boundary fence between the East and the West; yet, geographically, we are essentially part of the East. This is something which I believe the people of Australia have to recognize more and more. I know that many people do recognize it to-day; but, by and large, because of our growth, because of our establishment, because of our ties of old, and so forth, we sometimes forget that even though we are a Western nation ideologically we are tied, in our destiny, to the East. At this time in world history there are more than 1,000,000,000 people - over one-half of the world’s population - living to the north of us who are to-day only just sorting out their way of life for the future. We, as I said, are a developed nation from the point of view of our qualifications; but those countries in the East have never known the benefits of Western civilization.
We are living in a time when the world is convulsed by the ravages of communism - by Russia in Europe, the Middle East and other places, and now by China in the East. It is a development which can make one fear the possibility that communism desires to devour all countries in this part of the world. That terrible blight is on the world. I do not want to develop my speech to the fullest extent on that topic. But let us realize that the fact remains that the world is, and has been for a number of years, convulsed by communism, and we in this part of the world have to face up to the facts in relation to it. There is China, with 600,000,000 people at present - a huge area under the domination of this vile thing, communism. We are, in fact, in great jeopardy if the independence of the countries of South-East Asia is not preserved. Let us now face up to that fact. Thank God we have friends. We have powerful and reliable friends in the United States and the United Kingdom, who are doing a magnificent job in this part of the world as well as attending to the defence of our cause in the other parts of the world. But we in this country must be prepared to play our part to the limit of our capacity, particularly in relation to these matters in South-East Asia.
I have recently visited several countries of South-East Asia and I want to tell the committee to-night that it was my experience that in South-East Asia, as in other parts of the world, Australia is held in high esteem. Indeed, Australia is perhaps the most trusted country in the world at present in South-East Asian countries. I say that advisedly. Australia is looked upon as a young and independent country, fighting to develop itself. The coun tries of South-East Asia are trying to preserve their independence as nations. A great amount of work has been done in those countries.
I wish to pay a tribute to this Government, because, when I was in South-East Asia, I was proud to hear the opinion that the people of that region hold of our Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) and our Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Casey). I was also proud to hear what had been done by Australia in South-East Asia. Australia has made a major contribution towards the development of that area particularly considering the size and age of our own country. What has been accomplished under the Colombo Plan, which was, in effect, sponsored by this country, and under the South-East Asia Treaty Organization is little short of magnificent. I pay a tribute also to our diplomatic representatives in South-East Asia. They are highgrade people and they are doing a splendid job with a full knowledge of what is involved in their representation.
Everywhere I went, the hand of friendship was extended to me. In no other part of the world have I been received with a greater degree of warm friendship than I received from the people of South-East Asia. They are very lovable people. They appreciate their difficulties, and they trust and welcome those of us who visit them.
– We discovered that.
– I suppose that any honorable member who visited those countries would have had similar experiences to mine. At each place I was met by heads of state and defence. Great respect is paid to the visitor. A guard of honour is posted for him and he is well looked after. Indeed, the friendliness sometimes becomes embarrassing.
– They did that for us.
– No doubt they did. They will do it for every Australian who cares to go to South-East Asia and I advise as many as possible to go there. The people of those countries realize that they must work to preserve their liberty and independence and further economic development. There is a mighty job of economic development to be done in those countries.
The principal purpose of my visit to South-East Asia was to inspect our troops in Malaya. I found that the people of Malaya were very grateful for Australia’s assistance in dealing with the Communist terrorists. Our soldiers there are held in very high regard indeed. The Commander of the Commonwealth Brigade, Brigadier Mogg, D.S.O., told me that the Australians were as fine a bunch of soldiers as he has ever led and that he could not wish to have a better type. They are all trained in jungle fighting and they are men who are mature in their work. I saw as many as possible of them and there is no doubt that they have been a great credit to Australians in the work that they have done in Malaya. Their conduct has been excellent.
– How many are there?
– There are more than 1.400 Australians in Malaya. Led by very sound and intelligent people, Malaya to-day is making good progress.
I also paid a visit to Thailand. That country has many difficulties and problems but to-night I do not propose to dwell on those problems. Thailand, as honorable members may know, has declared communism to be illegal. The country has a fine military academy and the training of its officers is nothing short of magnificent. I had the opportunity to meet the King of Thailand and conversed with him for more than an hour. He is a young man with very fine ideals in every way and he was prepared to discuss his country’s problems. He expressed the hope that more Australians would visit that part of the world.
I went to the Philippines, which also is very anti-Communist in its outlook. The Philippines has inflationary problems and is paying great attention to officer training in its military academy.
I visited Viet Nam, which is a country with inspired leadership. Its people, of course, live in constant fear. The country is very anti-Communist in every possible way and I believe that given the chance it will grow into a very reliable and steady country.
All these countries are new in self government. Only in recent years have they attained this status. They are very jealous of their self government and are determined to retain their independence. No doubt their standards of living are low by our standards, but we must not become confused because it is quite wrong to make such comparisons. There are many things that these people need. At present there is a high degree of illiteracy in those countries, but one of the things that impressed me on my visit was the progress that is being made in education. The drive is tremendous. Schools are being erected everywhere. They are short of teachers and in some countries there are no less than three school sessions a day. That means, of course, that even with the millions of people living in those countries, in a very short time there will be large educated populations - quite unlike the position in the past. These countries desire democracy. I have complete confidence that they desire democracy but as yet, because of the conditions under which their people live, they do not quite understand how to express that desire fully. The biggest problem in all these countries is development and stability of government.
It would be quite wrong to think that all South-East Asian countries are overpopulated. There is ample room for development and for an increase in population. We must pay more attention to those countries than we have in the past. We must encourage reciprocal visits. More of us must visit South-East Asia. I believe that as many members of Parliament as possible should go there. Leaders of commerce and trade should also visit the area. Those people should be paying great attention to South-East Asia. I believe that members of the public at large would benefit if they spent holidays in South-East Asia. There are some beautiful places there - places like Baguio in the Philippines, and Dalat in South Viet Nam. They are magnificent places for a holiday. I hope that the people of Australia will realize the importance of South-East Asia to our own country.
A moment ago I mentioned the desire of the people of South-East Asia to have democracy. There is no doubt that this is their wish, notwithstanding the difficult problems that exist in all those countries. Sometimes we think that democracy can be imposed from without. I disagree with that view entirely. Democracy can come to those countries only from within and we must approach the problem on that basis. As education extends throughout those countries and as the younger generations grow up, many of the people will come to realize the true meaning of democracy. There is, however, one aspect of community life which so far has received insufficient attention, although it can be a foundation of democracy and a stepping stone to nationhood. I refer to the development of a broader base of local government than exists at present.
I sometimes wonder whether this National Parliament appreciates that our understanding of democracy in the Western world is dependent on the base of local government that was established in Britain. I believe that it is possible to develop democracy in these countries of South-East Asia from within by a proper broadening of the base of local government. I do not want to go into all the details, but there are many things that would bring a realization of democracy in domestic affairs. These people who are becoming educated to-day are coming to understand what democracy means in terms of the rights of the individual, and I believe that a fostering of this understanding is one of the most important things to which we can turn our attention. Allied to that, of course, there is great need for the development of an efficient public service. That must go hand in hand with the development of local government, because the administration of these countries cannot be conducted properly unless there is an efficient and well trained public service. As I have said, these countries of which I am speaking are completely anti-Communist in outlook in every way, because they appreciate that if they in any way lose their freedom to a system of communism it will destroy for ever all possibility of them retaining their independent nationhood. They are fully aware of that. I know that there are enormous difficulties in the way of this development of democracy, although I do not wish to speak in detail of those difficulties. In each of these countries there are” problems of infiltration and the like, which make the task difficult.
I believe that the promotion of economic stability and of development in these coun tries is one of the major things in which we must give assistance. We are already doing much, as is the rest of the Western world, to assist the countries of South-East Asia. While I was in Viet Nam, I had an opportunity to see something of our efforts to assist that country by helping to build up dairy herds. For this purpose, we have sent a number of Australian Jersey cows to Viet Nam, and in other ways, too, we are teaching the local people much that they do not know about farm production and other things, and are giving them great encouragement. But I believe, Mr. Chairman, that the Western world can do much more. I pay tribute to this country for what it has done within its limitations. After all, we, too, are in the process of developing our country. With a population of only 10,000,000 people, and with so much to be done, we, also, have great problems on our hands.
This Budget is the base upon which we propose to proceed with our programme of development. That is why I began this evening by criticizing those Opposition members who have based their contributions to the debate on this Budget on matters which, though important in themselves, are extremely minor compared to the big national considerations which are before us at this time. I put it to the committee and to the nation that never before in man’s history has there been greater need for big thinking. Here we are - as I have said, a young country - with a great responsibility on the shoulders of the people to establish the base for a great nation of the future and for the preservation of freedom for the individual and for mankind. These are the problems that we must think about. These are matters that we ought to be debating in this National Parliament at the present time. Yet Opposition members try to reduce this debate to the level of considerations such as why we are not given this, and why we do not get 5s. more here or 5s. more there. I have no doubt that, to the person who is called upon to pay more in postal charges, the proposed increases seem important. But, after all, they are not very important when one thinks in terms of the big considerations that matter much in this country.
I have not much time left, but I should like to say a little about Hong Kong before I conclude, although it is not, in the strict sense, a part of South-East Asia.
– The Minister ought to come back to West Sydney.
– That may seem very funny, but we are here to discuss in this National Parliament matters of some importance.
I should like to take the opportunity to pay tribute to the magnificent job that the United Kingdom authorities are doing in Hong Kong. The population of that colony was about 600,000 in 1947, but to-day it is 3,000,000. Most of the increase is made up of refugees who have come in from Communist China.
– Does that include the New Territories?
– That includes the New Territories. I had an opportunity to go into the New Territories and to travel along the border fence in the company of police officers. I saw the Communist forces on the one side and our own police forces on the other. The tactful way in which the United Kingdom authorities are handling the situation really has to be seen to be believed. The visitor sees some fantastic sights along this boundary fence which cuts right through the centre of a village. One sees fully armed Communist police on one side of the fence and fully armed British police on the other, and they never recognize each other even by the nicker of an eyelid. The situation seems to be extraordinary.
The great job that the Hong Kong authorities have done for the refugees reflects great credit on the United Kingdom. Hundreds of thousands of the refugees have been properly housed. A very great re-settlement scheme is in progress in Hong Kong, and I felt very proud indeed as I saw something of it. The development of industry taking place in the colony to-day is enormous. God knows what will toe the end of it all. The colony is developing internally at a very great pace, and it is being developed by its own resources. This is very much to the credit of the United Kingdom. This brings me to mention that there is one word for which
I have always felt great distaste. It is a word that has been taken up and used for propaganda by many. That word is “ colonialism “. But I should like to say in this National Parliament that the United Kingdom, with all her colonial empire, has never failed to leave a mark by doing something for the good of the people, wherever that empire had extended. As a matter of fact, I think it may well be said that she has given much more than she has taken, and that can be seen plainly to-day in places like Hong Kong.
There is a great deal of money in Hong Kong, and I believe that much of it may seek investment in this country. I had an opportunity to meet many prospective investors who, I believe, are interested in seeking investment here.
I sum up by saying that my outstanding impression was that, throughout SouthEast Asia, there was a great regard for, and much trust in, this little country Australia. Indeed, I think that the people of SouthEast Asia look to Australia for leadership in many respects, and they trust us. They know that we have no axe to grind and that we are prepared to work with them in the cause of freedom.
– Order! The Minister’s time has expired.
.- Mr. Chairman, any one who listened to the speech just made by the Minister for the Army (Mr. Cramer) will have no doubt at all why this Government is in such a muddle and a mess. We have just heard the Minister for the Army, who holds an important portfolio, and who administers a department on which approximately £200,000,000 is to be spent in the current financial year, make a speech in a debate on the Budget without once mentioning the Budget or any important aspect of Australian affairs. He finished at Hong Kong. Not once did he mention anything concerning the department that he administers. If I may utter a word of warning to him. let me say that he is on very difficult ground when he embarks on travel talks, because the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) is much better at it than is the Minister, who, I think, suffered to-night in comparison with his leader when he tried to give to this Parliament what was, from his own point of view, a very interesting travel talk, although it was devoid of any substance in any respect applicable to the consideration of the national Budget.
The Minister was feted and told what great leaders Australians were. The people with whom he mixed have certainly not seen many of our Ministers, or they would have grave doubts about their quality as leaders. The Minister said, “ I was feted. They welcomed me with open arms. These people love to see us “. I wonder whether the Minister remembers Pearl Harbour, when the Japanese Ambassador supped with the Americans in Washington at the same time as his countrymen bombed Pearl Harbour. Who knows but that many of those with whom the Minister mixed while he was overseas were planning even then somewhat similar tactics in the future.
Here we see this guileless Minister, in charge of the Army that cannot fight because of his incompetence, saying that all is well abroad. No wonder he dodged the issue and refused to face up to his responsibility as Minister for the Army and debate with us this question that we want to hear a lot about. Why did he not tell us what he has done with the £150,000,000 of the people’s money that has been spent on a National Service Training Scheme which is the most expensive joke in the history of this country? Why did he not explain to us what he said recently in a television interview, when, replying to the suggestion that the Centurion tanks that he purchased are so large that they cannot be moved by motor transport, he said, “You can transport them by boat if the battle is a long way away from where they are “? No wonder he dodged all around the world, from Hong Kong to Jamaica and Patagonia and everywhere else, instead of facing up to his responsibilities.
Having regard to his own incompetence and his inability to administer his department, and also to the shocking waste of public money, to the extent of £200,000,000 a year and £1,800,000,000 in total since this Government came to office, I do not doubt that he had no desire to debate this tragic Budget that has been presented, for the first time in twenty years, by a Liberal Treasurer. However, I am different. I am going to say something about it. I do not mind discussing it, and 1 do not mind if Government supporters do not want to discuss it. When all is said and done, those sitting behind the Government were told nothing about it until it was brought into the House. We know - it was announced in the press - that the Government parties met at a quarter to eight on the evening in question, and the Minister spoke at 8 o’clock in this chamber and introduced a £1,682,000,000 Budget. Members who were sent here to debate and become acquainted with the Budget knew nothing at all about it until then. After all, those sitting behind the Government, and the members of the Government too, are a collection of people who do not even understand figures, let alone being able to add up and to analyse a Budget of this kind.
The speech that the Treasurer delivered was the first Budget speech by a Liberal Treasurer for twenty years, and I should say, Mr. Chairman - and you, as a member of the Country Party, would possibly agree with me - that the Budget that he has presented is as bad as any other Budget presented by any Country Party Treasurer. It has caused widespread despair and disappointment. It was hard to listen to, hard to understand and harder to take. If I might summarize it, it is a liberal Budget for the wealthy and privileged people of Australia, for the huge monopoly companies, at the expense of the wage-earners, the small businessmen and the farmers, and the family men and women of Australia. It has been condemned by people in all walks of life. Even that old organ of liberalism, the Sydney “ Daily Telegraph “, which is published by a firm the chairman of directors of which has been knighted for services to the Government, published, on 12th August, a full page of condemnation of this Government by people who have consistently supported the present Government. The heading of the article was -
Reaction to Budget Critical.
Then it goes on to relate how the Budget was condemned by the secretary of the Retail Traders’ Association, Mr. J. B. Griffin, and also by the president of the Employers’ Federation of New South Wales - and I do not remember seeing his name on the books of any branch of the Labour Party. The article also recites condemnation by Mr. W. W. D. Daunt, secretary of the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries, and also by the federal director of the Associated Chambers of Manufactures of Australia and others. Then there is another article by the finance editor of the “Daily Telegraph”. The heading of the article is -
Tax Relief Goes Only Part Way.
In other words, the Government has given tax relief to only half of the millionaires in the country.
As I said previously, we have listened to the first Budget for twenty years by a Liberal Treasurer, and let us hope for the sake of this country that it is the last that we will hear from him in our time. This Budget has never been adopted by Government members. There has been a rebellion in the Government ranks, which broke out when the implications of the Budget proposals were realized, and if Government members had been shouldering their responsibilities they would have taken the necessary steps to examine the possible effects of increased postal charges on the economy and on the people before the Budget was brought here. The criticism by Government members is very belated, but nonetheless welcome. Even if it did take practically a revolution from members of the public who were affected, some Government supporters have now awakened to the position, and have capitulated on this score.
The Budget provides for record expenditure of £1,682,000,000, and it provides for a deficit of £61,000,000. Estimated income is about £1,621,000,000. The Government has let its head go and has given tax concessions of £21,000,000, in the coming year. But it has not been quite so generous in other respects, and has taken back from the people by way of increased postal charges about £25,000,000. By its system of profit and loss it has gained about £4,000,000 by giving tax concessions and imposing burdens in other directions on the people.
I think it should be realized that the present Government has increased indirect and total taxation on every section of the community. When Labour was in office in 1948-49 the total amount of direct taxation represented only £39 a head. To-day it is up to £71. Indirect taxation, under the Labour Government, averaged £21 a head of the population. Under this Government it has increased to £46. Individual taxation per head under the Labour Government was £60, using round figures, while to-day it is £118 - and this at a time when the Government should be giving tax concessions, both direct and indirect, to those people who are in urgent need of financial assistance. Truly this is a big businessman’s Government. It is the view of the Labour Opposition that industry can well afford to pay more taxes in order to meet the necessary expenditure involved in giving a reasonable standard of living to people in less favorable circumstances. Of course the Minister at the table, with his fat salary of £10,000 or £11,000 a year, says, “What do the people want with an extra 5s. a week?” Let me say that to a person receiving £4 7s. 6d. a week, 5s. is as valuable as £5 is to the Minister. The people with wealth, power, influence and money should be made to contribute to the general welfare of the community, because they are well able to do it.
Let us look at some of the big profits that have been announced in more recent times, profits which have gone practically unchallenged under this Government so far as any increase in taxation is concerned. The Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited, evidently a struggling company, has just finished the financial year with a profit of £10,500,000 - just a battling organization! Australian Paper Manufacturers Limited had a profit of £2,000,000 after allowing £4,000,000 for depreciation and taxation. Burns Philp and Company Limited, another struggling organization, had a miserable profit of £834,000 for the year. The British Tobacco Company (Australia) Limited made just on £2,000.000 out of smoke and what goes with it. Bradford Cotton Mills Limited had a profit of £537,000 for the year. The Commercial Banking Company of Sydney Limited achieved a profit of £816,000, and the profit of General Motors-Holden’s Limited was in the vicinity of £15,500,000. This is to mention only a few.
I give these examples tonight for the purpose of showing that these companies can well afford to pay more than the maximum rate of taxation imposed by this
Government, and can, in that way, make a contribution to the national welfare, without any detrimental effect upon the companies concerned, their shareholder’s or others with money invested in them.
To-night I want to deal particularly with one company, General Motors-Holden’s Limited. I intend to be explicit on this matter, because I believe the activities of this company are typical of certain other companies. Such organizations are escaping their responsibilities and they might well be called upon, because of their interests and methods of shareholding, to make contributions which this Government has not called upon them to make. Although it has been reported that General Motors-Holden’s Limited made a profit last year of £15,300,000 it is also probably correct to say that in many respects the policy of the company as regards the distribution of its profits should be, and probably will have to be, changed. I hold no brief for General Motors-Holden’s Limited, but in fairness to that enterprise certain facts should be mentioned to show that they are not alone on the question of shareholdings, profits and distribution of profits. The British Motor Corporation (Australia) Proprietary Limited, the Ford Motor Company of Australia Proprietary Limited and the International Harvester Company of Australia Proprietary Limited are also entirely owned by overseas interests with no Australian or preference shareholders. But very few questions are asked about what they do with their funds, their surpluses and their profits.
No matter what is said about the great money spinner that the Holden car has been for General Motors-Holden’s Limited and its distributors, I link its manufacture with the Labour Governments led by John Curtin and Ben Chifley. It was the Labour Government that gave effect to the legislation that made possible the manufacture of an Australian car. Labour took the lead in this field as it did with the great Snowy Mountains scheme. Labour’s action was designed to establish the motor industry in this country for peace and for defence, and to foster the Snowy Mountains scheme for the development of the country and the prosperity of our people. Both are great monuments to the foresight and statesmanship of the Curtin and Chifley Labour Governments.
It should also be said to the credit of General Motors-Holden’s Limited that it took up the challenge to produce a car - with no strings attached by the Labour Government of the day - at a time when other manufacturers with much stronger patriotic ties to this country were reluctant to do so. We should remember that when we challenge the progress and popularity of the Australian car, as indicated by the number of registrations, we criticize, to a great extent, the Curtin Labour Government of 1945 and the later Chifley Labour Government. That I am not prepared to do. I believe that their intentions Were the best; they were clearly set out in the speech of the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction, Mr. Dedman, in this chamber on 23rd March, 1945, when he outlined Labour’s plans for the Australian motor industry.
In view of Labour’s record in establishing the production of an Australian car, it is worth quoting briefly a few facts regarding its production. It was introduced by a Labour government and Labour must take due credit for it, as it must for the establishment of many other industries that have created employment for the people of this country. At present, more than 19,000 persons are directly employed in the manufacture of the Holden motor car. It is 97 per cent. Australian produced, although in the beginning a much smaller content was produced here. More than 68,000 people are engaged to-day in its distribution, and a wages bill of £70,000,000 is shared by workers engaged in the industry. All this is a result of the introduction by Labour of legislation which led to a car being produced in Australia. The Holden car is exported to 25 countries and it has become a national incomeearner. As far as I am aware, employees of the company are paid under awards - or better - and in accordance with what is provided by industrial tribunals, and industrial relations appear to be conducted on a most harmonious basis. The fact that more than 500.000 Holden cars have been manufactured is a tribute to the foresight of Labour in bringing about its manufacture. Many industries, some of which are located in my electorate, have prospered and grown because of the popularity of this Labour inspired Australian car.
I mention these facts not in criticism but in the same way as I speak of the Snowy Mountains scheme. Both these developments are a tribute to the foresight and statesmanship of John Curtin and Ben Chifley and their Labour Governments, and, of course, to those Australian men and women in the industry who have made possible the establishment and development of an Australian car, with all that it means to Australia now and in the future.
I have dealt with the production of the car and what it means to Australia, and 1 conclude my remarks on this matter by saying this: Australians generally are proud of the Holden car and its manufacture. However, when year after year they read of the enormous profits being made by the company and distributed to overseas shareholders, and when they are told that the company is paying a pitifully small amount in taxation, there is naturally deep and justifiable resentment and a clamour for action against the company, either by a reduction in the price of the vehicle or by higher taxation. General Motors-Holden’s Limited, Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited, the Ford Motor Company of Australia Proprietary Limited, the British Motor Corporation (Australia) Proprietary Limited and other companies should realize that unless they are prepared to take action to dispel public resentment, the time will come when some government will take legislative action with the full approval of the people to ensure a more equitable distribution of their returns from the Australian market. In the meantime, this tory Government stands condemned for its failure to impose increased taxation on these companies which make huge profits. They are well able to afford a greater contribution towards a higher standard of living for the less fortunate people in the community-
I mention that to show, as I outlined earlier, that these companies can well afford to pay increased taxation and thus provide the money necessary to meet the needs of the less fortunate people in our commu nity. What is the Government doing to help the aged, the sick and the infirm? In this Budget, it is giving a miserable pittance of 7s. 6d. from the huge sum of £1,682,000,000. Taxation levied at slightly increased rates on the companies I have mentioned would allow for this amount, and other concessions granted in the Budget, to be doubled. A big section of recipients of social services have little to gain from these payments. The dependants of pensioners are given little; only a small amount is given to widows and others. Vast numbers of those in need will not be affected by any legislation arising from the Budget, because the Government refuses to give effect to any policy that would benefit the needy in the community.
Let us look at the Government’s taxation proposals. This Government works on a very simple principle; it takes from those who have not to assist those who have. The greater a person’s income, the greater the taxation reduction given in the Budget; the greater a person’s burden, the less he will receive from these taxation concessions. The Government is reducing income tax on a flat rate of 5 per cent. A man with a wife and two children, in receipt of a taxable income of £800, will get a princely reduction of £1 7s. a year, or about 6d. a week. I cannot imagine him putting his shoulder to the wheel and doing his work better for a fraction of a penny a day, which is all he will receive under this Government’s proposal. The man with a taxable income of £800, and with a wife and one child, will have a reduction of £1 I5s. a year, or about a penny a day. Then, dropping back to a man with a dependent wife, we find that his reduction will be £2 8s. a year. As the dependants become fewer, the reduction becomes greater, and we find that a single man with no dependants with a taxable income of £800 a year will receive a reduction of £3 10s. a year, and this is almost three times as much as the reduction given to a married man with two children.
Right through this Government’s legislation, particularly on taxation matters, we find the same pattern - the man who has the most gets the most from this Government, whilst those people less able to bear the burden, such as a married man with a taxable income of £800, get less and less from this Government. It is a contemptible approach to a national problem. The less fortunate man still pays indirect taxes, such as sales tax, and in many other ways he is faced with increasing commitments caused by the inflationary policies of this Government. All this means that his purchasing power is diminishing and his ability to enjoy a reasonable standard of living is vanishing.
Here we have a Minister saying that 5s. does not matter, but he gives us a travel talk about his journey around the world. He thinks nothing of £150,000,000 being wasted on national service training, but refuses to give tax reductions to the people who really need them. Yet, at the same time, he tells people abroad that all is well in this country. I wonder what the Minister would say if he had to live, as many do, on an income of £4 7s. 6d. a week, and with no possibility of receiving any other money. I wonder what he thinks of the people who, under this Government, must pay 5s. for each prescription that they obtain. Yet this Government is pledged to continue the policy of free medicine introduced by the Chifley Labour Government! I wonder what the Minister would say if he were called upon to make payments for hospital benefits out of all proportion to his income. These are the obligations faced by many people, who rely on the Government to provide them with the means to maintain a reasonable standard of living.
Let us look at the Government’s approach not only to social services, which I mentioned a few moments ago, but also to the question of postal charges as they apply to the people of this community. The Government has made enormous profits out of the Post Office in recent years, but it is now imposing, on sections of wage-earners in particular, charges for telephones and other postal activities at a rate that was never contemplated by any other Government in our time. These are in addition to the Government’s failure, in effect, to give the people some return from tax reductions. The Australian Country Party is quite silent on the question of postal charges - at this stage at any rate - although I understand there has been an internal rebellion and the Postmaster-
General (Mr. Davidson) threatened to resign. In that respect let me warn him that I would not resign if I were he because resignation is so permanent. Bad as he is, I think we might get a worse replacement from the collection from which the choice would be made.
The fact of the matter is that the Government, which all the Country Party members support, has seen fit to impose on the community, through increased postal charges, the greatest impost at any time since the war. This has come at a time when it is completely unjustified and there is no wonder that there is intense resentment at the Government’s policy.
There are one or two other matters I wish to touch on before I conclude. One is the growth of monopolies under this Government. Throughout Australia, takeover after take-over has occurred in real estate, in the retail trade and in various other sections of industry. Monopolies are getting bigger and bigger and huge deals are being disclosed from time to time. It is estimated that the retail trade in the various lange centres of Australia will ultimately be confined to not more than four or five major retailers. In the real estate section large firms like L. J. Hooker and Company Limited are taking over various other organizations at great cost. In Brisbane and other places this sort of thing is happening. In country towns the old family store is disappearing as huge monopolies come along and swallow them up.
These are tragic happenings for our economy. The honorable member for Chisholm (Sir Wilfrid Kent Hughes), who was a former member in the Government, interjects. I can understand his disgruntlement because he has been dropped from the team. Anybody who is dropped out of this Government’s team is dead unlucky. The point I want to make is that the former Minister’s complacency concerning these take-overs which are taking place in the retail trade and other sections of commerce is an illustration of the complacency of this Government. It demonstrates the fact that it is tied to big business throughout Australia. These amalgamations are a real threat to every individual in the community, and unless constant criticism is levelled at the Government and unless those responsible members of the Government are prepared to take their stand against monopoly control, these organizations will, in time, equal those in the United States of America. The American government had to bring in anti-trust laws and the like to protect the people of that country.
Time does not permit me to go through all the facts but those I have given indicate the great need for firm Government action to stop the growth of monopolies.
I wish to summarize my comments so far by saying that the Budget has given little to the Australian people; it provides an absolute minimum of benefits for those who really need them. There is no increase in the amount of money for housing and it does not provide even a reasonable amount for people dependent on social services. Only a niggardly pittance has been added to the already meagre age and invalid pension and nothing at all for their dependants. No explanation has been given of the huge allocation for defence, millions of pounds of which is wasted by the Government from time to time. Despite all that the Minister for the Army said a few minutes ago, there is no contribution to any great development scheme or to a policy under which this country might really prosper. In Labour’s opinion, this Budget is one that gives to the wealthy at the expense of the poor.
This Government has failed to take into consideration the real needs of the community. Although prosperity prevails, its benefits are given to the few at the expense of the many. This irresponsible, incompetent, complacent administration sits idly by and refuses to do anything for the vast majority of Australians, simply because it is tied to big business monopolies. It will not give effect to policies which mean much to the aged, the sick and the infirm and also to the family men and women in the community. The people will pass judgment on this Government for its failure in these vital matters.
This Budget appalls me, particularly in view of this period of prosperity and progress. As I review this Budget and those that preceded it, I conclude by saying that that cheerful knight of old, Sir Arthur Fadden, no longer rides the range. He has surrendered his weapons to Handsome Harold the Highwayman, friend of the wealthy, enemy of the poor and protector of the powerful. Truly his Budget deserves the censure of this committee.
– As I address myself to the Budget I find myself wishing I had the vocabulary and flow of words of the honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly). I feel sure that if I had them I would put them to better use. The honorable member made some points in which there was some truth. One of them was that members of the Government parties do not, by tradition, see the Budget or know what is in it until shortly before it is presented to the committee. Consequently, there is very little opportunity, if any at all, for Government members to take part in formulating Budget policy. If members on the Government side find the Budget contains points with which they do not agree, they are free to go ahead and criticize it and make their comments on those particular points. I must say that I have not come across a budget yet which has met with my full approval and I do not think that many members in any government ever agree completely with a budget when it is presented.
This Budget reminds me somewhat of the thimble and pea trick. Many people look for the pea but very few succeed in finding it. People who look for any real advantages from this Budget, particularly personal ones, find themselves in just that position; few are able to find the pea, if it is there. But it does appear that as one lifts the thimble, odd little things pop out from time to time. Sometimes they cause surprise and sometimes consternation to those who were responsible for framing the Budget.
One of the queries I should like to raise and have answered is based on my understanding that it is an economic principle that if a government is budgeting for a deficit is does not decrease taxation. On the one hand, some members on the Government side say that the Government has not budgeted for a deficit, but on the other hand, both the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) and the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) insist that they have. Somewhere along the line there seems to be a little bit of strange application of the economic theory which I have just quoted.
– Somebody is in the dark.
– I will come to that iri a minute. I have a feeling, which is possibly shared by other honorable members, that although it was considered necessary or even desirable to reduce taxation at this stage, it might have been better to leave the taxation position as it was and make only minor alterations in postal charges. However, these are matters of opinion. It is perfectly obvious that some calculations have been made along the line and since then the Prime Minister has said that what now appear to be certain anomalies will be rectified. I hope this will happen with other items, too.
The main criticism so far has been of certain aspects of the increased bulk postage rates. I believe that more important criticisms will come in due course. Many people will not realize the effect of the increase in charges on second-class mail such as bills until they come to post them. When small firms find that the charge has risen from 3id. to 5d. there will be a loud outcry. The bigger firms, however, will absorb the extra charge either in tax deductions or by passing it on to the consumer. Inevitably, an inflationary trend will result.
I come now to what I consider to be one of the most important points in the Budget. I do not believe that the 7s. 6d. increase in pensions is sufficient. It could be argued, on the Statistician’s figures, that the increase is sufficient; it could be argued, on the C series index, that it is not. Looking at the matter from a purely practical point of view, the increase cannot be considered to be completely adequate. I should have preferred taxation to have remained at its present level and for the Government to have made some increases, possibly considerable increases, in certain postal charges. I should have liked to have seen the pension increased by at least 10s. a week. Equally as important, I should have liked the scope of the means test to have been widened.
The eventual effect of the Budget on people in the lower income group also causes me considerable concern. I do not refer to pensioners or people who do not normally pay taxes; I refer to those who are on the fringe of the marginal scale as far as pensions are concerned. They will be liable for a charge of 5s. for each medical prescription written for them. If they have a telephone - and many have - they will be liable for payment of an extra £4, £5 or £6 a year. The Treasurer went to one extreme when he mentioned the assets that a pensioner could possess and still receive a full pension. One could go to the other extreme and say that the Government is giving the pensioner an increase of £20 a year and taking from that amount £4, £5 or £6 in increased postal and telephone charges. This matter cannot be argued on extremes. I am fearful of the effect of the Government’s action on the real standard of living and conditions of the people in the lower income group.
It is perfectly obvious that there was some doubt in the minds of members of the Cabinet as to whether the increase in postal charges was justified from an economic point of view, because the Treasurer, in his Budget speech, stated that the Government intended to set up a committee to investigate this matter and if, in the view of the committee, the increase was not justified, the Government would consider amending its proposals. The Government has adopted the wrong approach to this matter. That leads me to wonder whether Ministers, as members of the Ministry as opposed to indivduals in charge of departments, give as much thought to matters of national policy as one would hope.
The Prime Minister has stated that there was a possibility of being a little in the dark on certain matters. That brings me to a matter that was mentioned this afternoon - the administration of the Territory of Papua and New Guinea. We in this Parliament are very much in the dark as regards the Territory, but we are largely to blame for that state of affairs because we do not take sufficient interest in the Territory and have not bothered to inform ourselves of what has happened and what is happening there. I have given a good deal of thought to the position in the Territory. It is correct that the territorians feel a tremendous resentment towards the Commonwealth Government and in particular the Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck). I shall refer in a moment to whether that resentment is justified or not. I believe completely in the sincerity of purpose of the Minister for Territories, and I am in agreement with the objectives that he has in view. Few men in Australia have been as sincere, or have worked as hard in the interests of the natives of the Territory and of our aborigines as has the Minister, but with feelings of extreme regret I have come to the conclusion that his period of usefulness in his present position has come to an end. However, I am not suggesting that he should not remain in the Ministry or in the Cabinet, because I believe that he has many years of useful service to give to the Commonwealth.
One cannot make such a statement without having fairly substantial grounds for doing so. My main reason is that if the existing position continues, there will be a lack of co-operation among the people of the Territory, and an inability to face together the tremendous problems that will confront both the Territory and the Commonwealth in the years to come. I believe that the first thing to do in order to overcome that unfortunate position would be for the Government to appoint another Minister to the Territories portfolio.
What has brought about this state of affairs? To a certain extent, a complete lack of good public relations, in the highest sense of the word, between the Minister, his department and the people of the Territory, has been responsible. I believe that in some instances the Minister has been badly advised, and that sufficient consideration has not been given to the practical aspects of life in the Territory. Perhaps too much theory has been applied and not enough practical knowledge.
You may say, Mr. Temporary Chairman, that that is a very broad statement to make, but a few weeks ago the Bishop of New Guinea said -
My chief concern and my main purpose in speaking at this moment is the effect that the introduction of this measure has had on the peoples of this Territory and the obvious bitterness that it has engendered and the deep disquietude that it has caused and is causing.
That statement was made by a representative of a religion which has benefited financially to a great extent by the measures which have been introduced by the Minister for Territories. As I have said, I do not doubt for one moment the Minister’s sincerity but, in putting into action what he has believed to be right, he has ignored almost completely this Parliament while, at the same time, maintaining that the final responsibility for the legislation lies in the hands of the Parliament.
For a long time no one could ascertain the Government’s intentions on the proposal to introduce the legislation dealing with taxation in the Territory, although it was strongly suspected that the Government would proceed with the proposal. At that time, the people of the Territory sought the opportunity to give the Government the benefit of their advice. Their offer was rejected. Apparently at that time the Minister had in mind drafting a bill, presenting it to the Legislative Council of the Territory and giving that body the opportunity to debate the matter fully and to suggest amendments.
There is not the slightest doubt that if that were the intention of the Minister it was misunderstood. I think that he admits that himself in what I took to be an officially inspired statement which I read in the “Sydney Morning Herald” of 25th August. That statement implied that the administration failed to assist the Minister by making his thoughts fully clear to the people of the Territory. I sincerely hope that the Minister does not believe that to be so. If ever there was an area in which a Minister could express his thoughts, ideas and intentions to the people, it is the Territory of Papua and New Guinea. There it can be done more easily than elsewhere by means of wireless and meetings at which the Minister himself could be present. People would travel hundreds of miles to hear him express his views on these things. If there were misunderstanding on that point I do not believe that the fault lies with the people of New Guinea.
I have found it almost impossible to find from official sources exactly what the current position in the Territory is as a result of the debates that were held in the
Legislative Council at the end of June and on )3th and 14th July. The copies of “ Hansard “ for those meetings are not yet available and I have not been able to find in any official papers available to me any record of the meetings of 13th and 14th July at which, it is said, hundreds of amendments were accepted. I do not know what is the present position in New Guinea.
We are told that final responsibility for the taxing legislation is in the hands of this Parliament, yet it is impossible for members of this Parliament to ascertain the present position in the Territory from official sources.
– Your answer to that would be as good as mine. When other colonies have had taxation introduced in various forms, some of them have had the opportunity of a complete investigation at which they could express their views. I think it was in Singapore that, as a result of this procedure, completely new taxation legislation was introduced without any bother. I feel that the same thing could have been done in New Guinea.
I have given the background to the present position in New Guinea and it is the present position that I am mainly concerned with. I do not believe that, if the existing conditions are continued, the breach will be healed. Indeed, future relations between the Commonwealth and the Territory could be disastrously damaged. For that reason, I have made this very serious statement on the matter. I sincerely hope that the relations between the Commonwealth and the Territory of New Guinea will return to the good footing which is necessary for our continued development together.
– With great interest I rise to take part in this Budget debate. I have listened to about 30 Budget speeches, State and Federal, and the debates on them. Most of the budgets have been introduced by Liberal or other anti-Labour Governments. Yet, throughout my experience, I have never heard a budget condemned by so many of a Government’s back-bench members as this Budget which has been proclaimed by the Treasurer (Mr. Harold
Holt) and the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) as one of the greatest of budgets. The great mass of the people are guided in their opinion of a government by itsbudgets. This Government claims to havebeen returned by a record majority. Yet many of its supporters have condemned the Budget in respect of item after item! Consequently, I think we can say that, in. the opinion of the people, as expressed by the back-benchers in this place, this is the worst Budget that we have had for a long time.
The honorable member for Bowman (Mr. McColm) made a very neat little contribution to the debate when he said that the Government’s taxation proposals were like a thimble and pea trick. In view of that condemnation by one of the Government’s own supporters how can it wonder at the strong terms that have been used by the Opposition in condemning the Budget? The conception that I have always had of a budget is that its purpose is to deal with the income and expenditure, and the resources of the country, in the best interests of the people as a whole. Can it be said that this Budget is in the best interests of the people as a whole?
I was very pleased to hear the way in which the honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly) dealt with the speech of the Minister for the Army (Mr. Cramer). We expected the Minister, being responsible for a part of our defence, to place some concrete proposals before us in relation to defence expenditure. What did he say? He chided the Opposition and told us of all the countries in Asia that he had visited. He told us of the wonderful reception that he had been given and said that we, too, would get a wonderful reception if we went to those countries. But never for one moment did the Minister let people know that if an honorable member went there he would have to pay his own fare, get his own publicity, and do for himself all the things that are necessary for him to travel in those countries.
When a Minister goes, he does not pay his fare and he does not have to pay his own living expenses. He gets an allowance while he is away. He has the officers of various departments such as the Department of External Affairs in these places to prepare everything for him and take him around. The Minister for the Army said that he went around with the police on one side and the Communists on the other side and, that as he walked along, there was not the flicker of an eyelid. I do not know how far that will get us in our consideration of this Budget and I do not know how much of his travel talk will be acceptable to the people of Australia.
What I want to know is the effects of the Budget proposals in relation to taxation. What will the Budget do for people who wish to use the resources of this country and are not able to take advantage of them? It has always been my conception that taxation is the means whereby a Government spreads the resources of the country equitably among the people.
The Treasurer said that the Government had decided to reduce income tax by 5 per cent, or ls. in the £1. The income tax return form for last year has on the back of it a table showing how much the taxpayer has to pay on his net income. A taxpayer receiving £800 after deductions paid last year £69 12s. This year, that taxpayer will pay 69s. less.
When speaking on these matters in the past, particularly with reference to social service contributions, I and other members of the Australian Labour Party have suggested that contributions for social services and taxes should be levied on ability to pay and not on a flat rate. The Government still holds the old concept of a flat rate payment. In the case of national insurance, so much is paid by the employee, so much by the employer and so much by the Government. All the payments are based on a flat rate and not on ability to pay. Our great objection to the present tax proposals is that the taxpayer will make up his return and then take away 5 per cent, or ls. in the £1, and the Opposition believes that that is not an equitable way to deal with this matter.
One speaker after another on the Opposition side has compared the effect of the proposed reduction in income tax on the man at the bottom and the man at the top. I quite understand that you cannot make it even. You cannot take from the man at the top as you take from the man at the bottom, but there are more equitable ways of approaching these problems.
To support my argument, I shall not quote some figure I have made up myself, but I shall refer to the table that was presented with the Treasurer’s Budget speech. This shows the estimated revenue in this financial year compared with the taxes collected last year. The Treasurer stated that the reduction of ls. in the £1 on income tax would be equal to a total of £17,900,000. That is what the Government claims it will be giving back to the people when they make up their next tax returns. We find, however, that income tax collections last year totalled £388,000,000. This year, the Government, although it will give the people back ls. in the £1, expects to collect £431,000,000 in income tax, an increase of approximately £42,000,000 on last year. If the Government had not decided to reduce the total collections by £19,000,000 or £20,000,000, it would have collected over £60,000,000 more than last year in income tax.
We on the Opposition side say it is all very well to talk about reducing taxes, but when you take into account an expected increase in earnings, naturally the total tax collections will rise. Recently, an increase of 15s. a week in wages was granted by the Arbitration Court. The tables on the back of the income tax return show that a man with an income of just over £900 would pay £87 ls. 8d. on £900 and 3s. lOd. in the £1 on the balance. If a man has been receiving £900 a year and gets an increase of 15s. a week, therefore, he will have to pay tax at the rate of 3s. lOd. in the £1 on the 15s. or more than one-fifth of it. When the Government does that to a man after he has had an increase in his wages, it hits him very hard. I do not think it is equitable because the man on the higher rate will get the biggest benefit from the reduction in the rate of taxation.
What has the Government done for the family man? At the last general election, we in the Australian Labour Party claimed that our policy was a family policy. We look upon the family as the most important unit in the community, but what does the Government do for the families of Australia? Supporters of the Government constantly talk about the rise in the cost of living, but what has the Government done in the way of family allowances? Again, I refer to the tables on the income tax return.
We learn from the Budget that the Government does not propose to do any more in that connexion than it did last year, or the year before, or the year before that. Although it costs the family man much more to keep a wife and children than it did three years ago, this Government allows him exactly the same tax deductions for his family.
A few years ago I argued that the tax deduction for a wife should be increased to £156 a year - £3 a week. Nothing was done that year but in the following year, the allowable deduction was increased by £26 a year - 10s. a week. I thought we were getting somewhere and I hoped that in the following year we would get the figure I had suggested. Last year a family man was allowed £91 a year for the first dependent child, or about £1 15s. a week and for the other children £65 a year or £1 5s. a week. Compare the sales tax that has to be paid on the food and clothing needed for a wife and children with the tax deductions which are allowed!
I say the Government is not reasonable. In every way, the man at the bottom is not going to get the same benefits as the man at the top of the income scale. The man on the low wage might be paying tax at the rate of 2s. 6d. in the £1 and that is the rate at which the deductions for his family are allowed, but the man on £4,000 or £5,000 a year who is paying tax at the rate of 10s. or 12s. in the £1 gets an equivalent allowance. The benefit to the man on the top salary is considerable. I am not going to argue about that because if there are two men on £5,000 a year, the man with four children is entitled to more benefit than the man who has none. That differentiation still remains there, and no matter what we on this side of the chamber say, no matter what arguments we advance about the inequitable position, no matter what suggestions we make about what should be done, nothing is done. Yet the Government gives big benefits in the Budget in relation to company tax, undistributed profits and so on. Why cannot such benefits go to the people as a whole instead of only to companies?
The ordinary taxpayer is the victim of a thimble-and-pea trick in regard to income tax concessions in the Budget. When you lift the thimble the pea drops out. You may get £20 as a result of tax concessions, but you find that the Government is taking a lot more back in other ways as a result of the Budget provisions. So I think we can justly condemn the Government in regard to its taxation proposals.
I direct the attention of the Treasurer and the Treasury to the allowable deductions for wives, children and other dependants. It is high time something was done about these. While I am dealing with that aspect, Sir, I should like to deal for a moment also with one of the Budget proposals regarding social services. I refer to the A-class widow’s pension. I battled for a long time trying to get something extra for the A-class widow, who was receiving only 5s. for the first child and nothing for the others until, I think, speaking from memory, three years ago, when the Government agreed to give 10s. for each child after the first. I congratulated the Government for that action, because I felt that it had done something to meet one of the most desperate needs of the pensioners by helping the A-class widow, who at that time was having an awful time. But I think that that could be looked at again.
In the Budget speech the Treasurer made the following statement -
This year all age and invalid pensions will be increased by 7s. 6d. per week to a new maximum of £4 15s. per week. The same increase will be granted in widows’ pensions, raising the pension for widows with one or more children to £5 per week and for other widows to £4 2s. 6d. per week.
We say that 7s. 6d. is not enough, but I do not want to take up my time in traversing ground already covered by other honorable members. Later in his speech the Treasurer dealt with war pensions and repatriation benefits. He said -
The war widow’s pension will also be increased by 7s. 6d. per week, making the rate £5 5s. per week.
That is, 5s. more than the civilian widow. He continued -
In addition, the domestic allowance payable to widows with children under sixteen, and certain other classes, will be increased by 7s. 6d. to £2 15s. per week.
What is the position to-day? The case I shall cite is not hypothetical; there are plenty like it. Two widows live next to one another in a suburb. The husband of one of them served in the war and later died as a result of injuries that were accepted as war-caused. His wife is entitled to £5 5s. per week, plus £2 15s. per week domestic allowance. The husband of the lady next door also went to the war and, after his return, perhaps received a small pension for some minor ailment accepted as due to his war service. After a time he contracted something else and died. That woman does not get the war widow’s pension of £5 5s. She gets a pension of only £5, and no domestic allowance.
I say to the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Roberton) and to the Government in general that it is about time the widows received their entitlement. The newspapers continually contain reports of children getting into trouble. When this problem has been mentioned in this chamber members have attributed it to the change in home life nowadays, with wives and husbands both going out to work leaving the children with no one to look after them, so that they run wild until their parents come home. Under the Government’s programme the civilian widow will get £5 per week for herself and the first child, and if she has two other children she will receive another £1 per week, which, with 25s. per week child endowment - which a war widow similarly circumstanced also receives - brings her income from social services to £7 5s. per week. Can any reasonable person seriously suggest that a widow with three children, having to rent or pay off a home, can bring these children up on £7 5s. per week? The idea is ridiculous! Why, we are saying now that £8 15s. a week is not enough for a pensioner couple, so we propose to raise the payment to £9 10s. a week. Yet we say to the poor little widow, very often battling to bring up three kiddies, that all we can give her is £7 5s. per week. To me that is absolutely ridiculous. Honorable members opposite talk about socialism, and say that the Labour Party wants to drag all the people down to the same level by taking away from those that hath. We do not want that at all. What we do want is a system whereby the use of the resources of the country will be evened up a little to give these women a chance.
I am disgusted at the treatment of another section of the community. Two years ago, when speaking on the Budget,
I referred to what I considered were the worst-treated people under the social services provisions - the dependent wives of invalid pensioners or of totally incapacitated aged persons. The wife’s allowance at that time was £1 15s., and I moved at the committee stage of the enabling bill to increase it to £2 15s. a week. Everybody on this side voted for the amendment, everybody on the other side voted against it. Last year, during the Budget debate, when the rate was still £1 15s., with no provision for its alteration, I said that I would not let up until the Government did something more for those people.
Yesterday I received a long letter from a man in Moonta who states that he is 60 years old and his wife is 57. He receives a pension of £4 7s. 6d. a week and his wife receives an allowance of £1 15s. a week. He wrote, “ We can’t get along on it”. Sometimes she can do a little work and make a little extra money, but that is all. He wrote in his letter, “ Can’t you put it to the House? You can read this letter and you can use my name and address.” He signed the letter himself and it was also signed by six others who were with him at the time.
One thing I cannot understand is why this Government stands fast on that matter. The Minister himself has said that these people are entitled to something more than they are receiving. So it is proposed to give an extra 7s. 6d. per week to the age pensioner, raising the pension income of an age pensioner couple to £9 10s. a week, while the A-class widow with three children will still receive only a total of £7 5s. a week. This man pointed out in his letter that whereas a pensioner couple have been getting £8 15s. a week he and his wife were getting £4 7s. 6d. plus 35s. He said that their pension income was now going to fall 7s. 6d. further behind that of an age pensioner couple. Yet we are told that this is a government that believes in being fair to everybody, that believes in equal treatment to all and that believes in justice to everybody. I do not know how anybody who can call the treatment of dependent wives justice spells the word “ justice “, because treatment such as I have described could never rightly be written down as justice to the people concerned. The Minister for Social
Services knows my feelings on this matter. I told him how sore and hurt I felt when there was nothing extra for dependent wives. He probably understands the position, and I do not blame him entirely. He may have done his best for these people. The Government is to blame for their present position. It has not done as much as it should in this regard.
I can assure Government supporters that I will not let up in my fight to see that justice is done for these people. I have been a little disappointed since the Budget was brought down to find that very little has appeared in the newspapers about the views of the great mass of people who earlier were writing letters and articles seeking a big increase in pensions. I am not referring to the pensioners who were complaining, and who are still complaining; I am speaking of the church committees and other bodies and the university people who sent pamphlets to honorable members and wrote booklets saying what they thought should be done with regard to social services. Since the budget was introduced I have seen very little condemnation of the Government by those people.
I was pleased to hear the honorable member for Bowman (Mr. McColm) say that he believed 7s. 6d. a week was not a sufficient increase in pensions.
In the few minutes left to me I want to say something about national welfare. The welfare state is in existence almost all over the world. When I went to America twelve years ago support for a welfare state was not very strong, but since then it has grown immeasurably and to-day a great deal is being done to put the social welfare of the people on a national basis.
I propose to refer particularly to pharmaceutical and medical benefits. I know that the Minister for Health (Dr. Donald Cameron) is very sympathetic in this matter, but I am also satisfied that many members of the medical profession have not honoured their obligations under the pharmaceutical and medical benefit schemes. On the other hand, I have heard of doctors who have exceeded their obligations under the scheme.
I am afraid of the repercussions that may flow from the proposal to charge 5s. for each prescription issued under the pharmaceutical benefits scheme. The payment of allowances to tuberculosis sufferers wasinstituted by a Labour government just before this Government was elected, and I congratulate this Government upon itshandling of this matter since it has been in power, although perhaps it has not increased the allowances as much as it: should. Labour’s objective was to pay tuberculosis sufferers an allowance so that they would not have to go to work and sothat their families would not go without the necessaries of life. But I am afraid, that the proposed 5s. charge for prescriptions will cut across that tuberculosis allowance. I am afraid that many people in. need of life-saving drugs will take the risk, save the 5s. and do without the drugs. I am rather anxious about this matter. Most honorable members know that I have had’ a life-long-
– Order! The honorable member’stime has expired.
.- The honorable member for Port Adelaide(Mr. Thompson) commenced his observations by expressing concern about the criticism that has been levelled against thisBudget by some members on the back, benches on this side of the chamber. 1 want to tell the honorable member and’ any other honorable members oppositewho care to listen that we on this sidecan criticize the actions of our Ministersor of the Government without being perturbed about the outcome. But, in my years of experience, I have not known of any Labour man being able really to criticize any of his leaders and still remain in comfort within the party. Usually suchmen have had the axe, and had it very quickly. Thank goodness that in this corner of the chamber, as well as in the section occupied by my friends on my left, we still enjoy freedom of expression. That is a liberty of which I hope to take advantage during the course of my remarks.
– What about Russell?
– He resigned. Hesaid that he could not tolerate us, so he got out. But we were not worried. Wegot a good replacement. The honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Brimblecombe) has taken his place and has contributed much to our discussions. The gentleman to whom the honorable member for Wilmot referred is still trying to battle his way back here.
Having listened to this debate I have come to the conclusion that with the exception of the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell), honorable members opposite have endeavoured to inculcate into the minds of the people of this country the belief that Australia is a terrible country to live in. That has been an absolutely disgraceful exhibition. Honorable members opposite have spoken about various companies that are making profits. They have spoken about foreign investment in Australia; and some of the newer members of the Opposition have criticized repatriation benefits, social service benefits and so on.
– What about war service homes?
– I suggest that the honorable member for Reid should keep quiet, because the party to which he belongs, when in office, would not permit a war widow to have a war service home. The honorable member should take that matter up with his own party rather than interject in my speech about something of which he knows very little.
I was referring to the contributions made to this debate by the Leader of the Opposition and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition. I hope that I am not doing them a disservice, but in the main I think their theme was a criticism of the Government for allowing the banks to invest money in the loan programmes. They felt that that loan money should have been obtained through treasury-bill finance at 1 per cent. It was this Government that passed banking legislation making it possible for the private banks so to invest any of their funds. But I can recall the Leader of the Opposition not once, not twice but on many occasions saying in this Parliament, and outside, that this country could tolerate £300,000,000, or £400,000,000 or even up to £500,000,000 in treasury-bill finance. The Opposition has not been given the reins of government because the people will not have that sort of finance, lt as was claimed by some honorable members, money was made available to the banks at 3 per cent, or 4 per cent, from special accounts by permission of the central bank, then the Government in future would watch that position to see that it does not run riot. We know the reason for the special accounts and how the central bank can ease this money out to increase liquidity.
Most honorable members opposite have played pretty heavily on the social services aspects of the Budget. All I want to say is that the present Government, in every budget since 1949, has done something for social service recipients. I am sorry that I cannot say that about the Labour Party when it was in office. In 1949 the Labour Government refused to increase pensions.
– That may be why it got the sack.
– It got the sack, and rightly so. It has been the objective of this Government, ever since it was elected to office on 10th December, 1949, to endeavour to liberalize the means test. Speaking from memory, a married couple to-day can own property up to the value of £4,500 without it affecting their eligibility for pensions. Furthermore, they are allowed to have other things that they could not get when the Labour Government was in office. Yet the honorable member for Port Adelaide described that Government, I think, as a family government. He said that the Australian Labour Party was the party that was interested in the family man.
– Hear, hear!
-“ Hear, hear! “ says the Opposition Whip, but actions, of course, speak louder than words, and the actions of the Labour Government are well known to you, Mr. Chairman. I think that at the time when that government was in office, you sat in opposition in a seat immediately in front of the one that I occupy now. You, Sir, know that the actions of the Labour Government were not very palatable to the people of this country, although those who supported that Government may have thought otherwise.
We know that there has been some criticism of this Budget because the Government estimates that it will receive an additional £42,000,000 in income tax in the current financial year. I imagine, Mr. Chairman, that most of the Australian people will be very pleased, in the first instance, that it is possible for a government in a country such as this to obtain that additional revenue, provided that the money is well spent. It means, obviously, that there are a greater work force and greater development, and that wages are increasing. For example, the basic wage was increased by 15s. a week by a recent judgment of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. These things indicate that the position generally is rather good.
If we look a little further into the Budget while we are on this subject of tax increases, we find that the Government expects to receive approximately £13,000,000 more in company tax, and about £16,000,000 extra in Post Office revenue this financial year. We shall hear more about the Post Office proposals later when the PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Davidson) introduces the relevant legislation. By the same token, we find, when we look at the expenditure side of the Budget, that we shall give to the States in this financial year about £35,000,000 more in Commonwealth aid roads grants and tax reimbursement grants so that the States may get on with the job of developing the country, thereby increasing employment and giving the people the things that they want.
If any Opposition member wants to argue the point and say that the people are not getting the things that they want, he can be answered by reference to the remarks made by previous Opposition speakers in this debate who have criticized this Budget, Sir. The other evening, we heard the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) say that hire-purchase indebtedness had increased tremendously. Of course it has. We do not doubt that for one moment. However, those who criticize the Government on one aspect of the matter should look also at the other side of the picture. We find that savings bank deposits have increased considerably, because the funds standing to the credit of depositors in the savings banks at 30th June of this year totalled £1,391,332,000, representing £139 per head of the population, compared with £131.7 at 30th June, 1958. In twelve months, the deposits per head of the population increased by £7.3 and the total deposits by £94,489,000.
– The hire-purchase transactions of the Commonwealth Bank have not increased while this Government has been in office.
– I am talking about the general problem. Would the honorable member like to hear what the figures are? Hire-purchase indebtedness outstanding at 31st May of this year totalled £350,000,000, compared with £293,000,000 in the previous year - an increase of £57,000,000. I do not say for a moment that I am in favour of that crazy sort of finance, but I do not mean by that to suggest that I object to the system of hire purchase. I think it is rather strange that the people can be committed to an indebtedness of those proportions and, at the same time, have these funds standing to their credit as depositors with the banks. If Opposition members care to look up the records, they will find that there are more refrigerators and more motor cars about now than ever before, to say nothing of more power lawnmowers - I had to push a hand mower about for many years - and more washing machines. I do not object to that, but it is rather strange and, I think, somewhat foolish, distasteful and obnoxious for Opposition members to suggest that, in spite of these things, conditions in Australia generally, after this Government has been in office for almost ten years, are such as would make any outsider think this was a terrible country in which to live. I say to Opposition members through you, Sir, quite frankly, that they are on a very good salary here. We do not object to that, but I suggest to them that if they think there is a better place they can quite easily resign from this Parliament and go there, even if it means living in another country. There are few, if any, countries in the world that are better than the one in which we are privileged to live, Sir, and any one who is inclined to go about catcalling, and criticizing conditions here, should first see how the other half lives in other countries.
Having made those comments, Sir, I should now like to turn to a few criticisms of this Budget that I propose to make. I shall be perfectly frank: I do not agree with the tax concessions announced by the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) in his Budget speech, because I consider that the main benefit will be given to the wrong people and that this proposal does nothing to attack the problem of the rising costs against which primary producers in particular are fighting all the time. I do not wish it to thought that, in making that criticism, I am taking a parochial or onesided attitude. I make it because it is known by all sections of the community that the primary producers are responsible for at least 87 per cent, of the exports on which our overseas balances depend. Therefore, the primary producers are the people that we should try to encourage to produce more, and as cheaply as possible, because the funds that we accumulate overseas are not left lying idle; they are used to pay for imports. I would hazard a guess that the same proportion - 87 per cent. - of those imports is used to help develop our secondary industries. Those imports, we might say, represent the raw materials for the secondary industries of this country.
– And they help to provide more employment.
– My friend and colleague has reminded me of that, and I was going to mention it myself. This shows that his mind thinks the same as does mine. These imports help to create further employment and better employment, and to develop our country. As a result of the policy that has been followed by this Government over the last ten years, we see, with the greatest of pleasure, that the secondary industries of Australia to-day are exporting a considerable volume of goods, lt is very heartening - to me, at any rate - to know that a small city like Brisbane is able to sustain a small factory which exports manufactured goods to that great country, the United States of America. There could be much more of this kind of thing, but there will not be more of it if we do not take care of the goose that lays the golden eggs.
I come back to this question: Who will benefit from this 5 per cent, reduction in income tax? As has been said on all sides, the bigger a person’s income, the bigger is the concession that he receives. My mind goes back to a recent statement of Government policy in which we were told that, in the current financial year, the import ceiling would be raised by £50,000,000- from £800,000,000 to £850,000,000. That is a very good thing. When I heard this, my mind went further back to 14th March, 1956, when what has been called the little budget was brought down, and the import ceiling was reduced. I have taken the opportunity to-day to refresh my memory of what the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) said on that occasion, because I do not want to do the right honorable gentleman an injustice. He is reported, at page 796 of the “ Hansard “ reports of proceedings in this chamber, on 14th March, 1956, in these terms -
The short-term task to which my statement of to-night must primarily be directed is to determine what temporary modifications we must make in our current demands so that our ultimate demands may be soundly satisfied.
Honorable members will recall that imposts of something like £51,000,000 a year were introduced in the little budget. The sales tax on passenger motor vehicles was increased from 16f to 40 per cent., and that on commercial motor vehicles from 12i to 161 per cent. Turning to the lighter side for a moment, I notice that the excise on beer was increased by 2s. 8d. a gallon.
Coming now to another liquid which is of far greater importance to this country than beer, I notice that we managed to increase the excise duty on petrol by 3d. a gallon. Some honorable member has asked, by way of interjection, about Scotch whisky. If he really wants to know, I can tell him, speaking from memory, that the increase was 2s. 8d. a gallon- The duty on petrol went up by 3d. a gallon, and, of course, Id. of that 3d. was given to the States under the Commonwealth Aid Roads legislation. The amount received by the States was thus increased from 7d. to 8d. a gallon. However, the important point is that the cost of petrol to every one engaged in developing this country or engaged in primary production went up by 3d. a gallon, and now we find that the Budget before us will provide for a reduction of one half-penny a gallon in excise duty.
I should have thought that if the Government intended to make any concessions it would have gone back to the time, in
March, 1956, when it introduced what was known as the little Budget in order to get us through our difficulties. Now that we have arrived at the position at which we can raise the ceilings on imports, and as our overseas income is of such importance to us, I would have thought that the Government would ease some of the burdens imposed by that little Budget. I regret very much indeed that the income tax concession has been given in this way. I remember, too, that when the little Budget was introduced company tax went up by ls. in the £1. This is still an additional impost on companies, except for the reduction of 6d. in 1957-58.
I believe that if the Government is of a mind to give concessions, not only now but also in the future, these are the directions in which the concessions should be granted, so that we can reduce our costs as much as possible. It has been suggested - and I hope the forecast proves correct - that the price of wool will increase, but those of us who have been on the land and experienced the vicissitudes of primary production know very well that the price of wool can go down. It is, therefore, better to play as safe as we can in dealing with these industries that create funds for us abroad, thus enabling us to bring in goods to create further employment in secondary industries.
Let me refer to a statement made by the then Treasurer, Sir Arthur Fadden, in his Budget speech in 1956-57. A Minister of this present Government, in addressing himself to the Budget some nights ago, had a few words to say about broadcasting and television, and he finished up by telling us that the Post Office deficit on broadcasting and television services amounted to £3,400,000. I remind the committee that in his 1956-57 Budget speech Sir Arthur Fadden said that a particular excise duty was to be imposed for a special purpose. He said -
On the other hand, it (the Government) proposes some increases in Post Office charges, and, for a special reason, to impose a customs and excise duty on cathode ray tubes.
Then in the particular section of his speech dealing with this subject he said -
In order to reduce the call on the Budget for the national television service, the Government has decided to impose a customs and excise duty of £7 on each cathode ray tube to be used in a television set. Tubes used for this purpose will be exempt from sales tax.
On checking the figures, I find that as at 30th June this year 577,702 viewers’ licences had been issued, at £5 a time. This amounts to £2,888,510. If there is this number of licences, there is obviously the same number of sets, and multiplying the figure by seven we find that the Government has received more than £4,000,000 in duty on these cathode ray tubes. I sincerely hope that there will be no departure from the Government policy as stated in 1956-57, and that this money will not be used for any purpose other than paying for the national television service.
Let me say finally, Mr. Chairman, that 1 regret very much that some members of the Opposition have seen fit to criticize this Government so severely that an outsider might think that this country is not a good one in which to live.
Commonwealth Employees’ Compensation - Bolshoi Ballet - Communism - SouthEast Asia.
Motion (by Mr. Hulme) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- I would like to bring before the House a matter that I consider to be rather serious and urgent. It concerns the operation and administration of the Commonwealth Employees’ Compensation Act. I mentioned this matter previously in the debate on the motion for the adoption of the Address-in-Reply, and also in my remarks on the Budget. I suggested then that a cruel and heartless attitude was adopted in the administration of this act and in the administration of certain social services. It may have been thought by honorable members at that time that I was exaggerating, but yesterday, by letter dated 21st August, 1959, three widows, Mrs. Ella Elizabeth Spencer, Mrs. Helen Horton and Mrs. Alice Horsey, received from D. D. Bell, the Deputy Crown Solicitor, the following demand: -
As you are aware, my costs in the above matter were taxed at £147 16s. on the 6th August, 1959. Kindly let me have your cheque for this sum at your earliest convenience, otherwise I shall be forced to take further steps in this matter.
What this meant was that for the first time, to my knowledge anyhow - and it is a very considerable knowledge in workers’ compensation matters - an employer, which happened to be the Commonwealth Government, had succeeded in defeating applications by widows whose husbands had died in circumstances warranting compensation under any law other than the Commonwealth’s law. One c-f these ladies receives the invalid pension and the other two receive the widows’ pension. The Government has succeeded in defeating their claims, although they ordinarily would be accepted under any jurisdictions except this Commonwealth Government’s jurisdiction for workers’ compensation. It not only succeeded in defeating them, but it now, in the letter of 21st August, 1959, which I have read, seeks to obtain its costs, and this has never been done before. Private insurance companies have the right, in the State jurisdiction, to ask for taxed costs, but they have never done so to my knowledge and I have handled hundreds of workers’ compensation cases. I have given the names, but I shall repeat them. They are Mrs. Helen Horton, Mrs. Ella Elizabeth Spencer and Mrs. Alice Horsey.
These ladies have suffered the loss of their bread winners. They have lost the cases that they took to court and, although they must still maintain their children, this Government now seeks to recover its costs. During the debate on a bill that was before the House earlier in this sessional period, an honorable member on the Government side said that a man who deserts his wife should be regarded as having committed a criminal offence. Some mitigating circumstances may have led to the desertion of the wife, but there are no mitigating circumstances in the matter that I have mentioned. These ladies were not deserted; their husbands died in the service of the Government. But all the Government can do is to ensure that their claims for workers’ compensation were defeated. These widows have been deserted by the Government. If the honorable member who said that desertion should be a criminal offence permits this state of affairs to continue, he will be guilty as an accomplice after the fact. In my recollection - and it is a pretty good one - no private insurance company in a workers’ compensation case has ever attempted to apply for taxed costs against a widow, although this course is open to the insurance companies.
This Government proposes to create a situation in which a widow, whose husband was employed by the Government, must in future realize that if she loses her appeal she will receive a bill from the Commonwealth Government for up to £200 for costs. Would the Government apply that principle to returned servicemen who appeal against decisions made on their applications for repatriation benefits? If their appeals fail, they are not asked to pay costs! But these men were killed whilst they were in the employ of this Government and their widows are asked to pay costs. This is a disgrace and is further proof that the Government is being too niggardly in its administration of social services and has directed its officers to be too severe. Section 6 of the act provides in sub-section (3.) -
In the determination of matters and questions, the Commissioner shall be guided by equity, good conscience and the substantial merits of the case without regard to technicalities or legal precedent and shall not be bound by any rules of evidence.
All I have to say is that in my view the Commissioner has been directed by the Treasurer or by those responsible to tighten up his administration of the law. An honorable member smiles, but this is not a smiling matter. I have here the copies of the bills that have been submitted to these ladies, and it is not a smiling matter for them. No private insurance company would ever consider sending a bill for costs to a widow. I raise this as a matter of urgency because the anxiety of these women who have lost their husbands and are trying to raise their children is being increased by the Government and-
Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– It is said that further steps will be taken in this matter.
– Order! The honorable member will resume his seat.
.- The House will recall that on Thursday of last week I made fleeting reference to the Bolshoi ballet, which is in Australia at the moment. After I had spoken, my friend the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Whitlam), in what was described to me later as a winningly witty speech, convinced himself, I am quite sure, that he had demolished what I had said. Since the honorable member for Werriwa spoke, some of the well-informed critics in this country have also spoken on this issue. I have been engaged not only by what the honorable member for Werriwa had to say but also by what some of the critics have had to say.
At once let me say that I am not intolerant of criticism, but I believe that logic is one of the most perfect disciplines available. Before I develop the point of logic and its perfection in discipline, I want to advert fleetingly to some of the critics. These are the well-informed critics, who, judging by what they have written, would convey the impression that they have not read anything more serious than the latest guide to turf form. The first is a gentleman in Sydney who rejoices in the name of “ Onlooker “, and this is his conclusion - a powerful conclusion -
It takes a Denis Killen to detect these subtleties and unmask the world-famous Ballet as practitioners of art not for art’s but for communism’s sake.
That was a most unkind critic. I pass then to other critics. These criticisms would be styled, I suppose, as ‘avuncular sententiousness. The first of them is -
What a pity that such a pleasant and capable fellow as Mr. D. J. Killen, M.H.R., should make such “ rat-baggy “ statements.
Then 1 come to a gentleman who was a little undecided in his mind as to the substance of what I had to say. He said -
Mr. Killen might conceivably be right but there seems little point in circulating yarns of this kind unless they are founded on something more substantial than a hunch.
You will recall, Sir, that last Thursday night I produced in this House a magazine entitled “ Culture and Life “. I informed the House that this magazine was the monthly product of an organization in the Soviet Union called the Alliance of Soviet Societies for Culture and Friendship with Foreign Countries. You will recall, also, that I cited from this cultural magazine an article headed “ The Immortality of Lenin’s Ideas “.
What is this? Is logic now to desert us? What would be the reaction of honorable members if I were to produce in this House an Australian cultural magazine and read an article entitled “ The Problems of Socialist Society “ or “ Can Free Enterprise Survive”? We would deride such articles and the magazine in which they were printed. But in this case we see it, we read it and we turn it to one side. I want to repeat, for the consideration of the House and I should hope, of the critics and of the gentlemen of the press and, ultimately, of the country - and this is where the perfection of discipline comes in - that the Alliance of Soviet Societies, which has sponsored the Bolshoi Ballet’s visit to Australia, is controlled in the Soviet Union by an organization known as Agitprop, which, in turn, has a direct link with the central committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union.
I think this is important and relevant because even though at times we might be inclined to disbelieve what is actually going on and take no account of what we are being told, a heavy responsibility and a great issue are involved in who wins in this matter. I ‘mention, for the consideration of the House, the fact that in every aspect of art and culture in the Soviet Union is embedded the ideological motive. One has only to read the report of the 21st congress of the Communist Party to appreciate this. May I put it to “ Onlooker “ and to some of those well-meaning criticis that they should read this report and take notice of Mr. Khrushchev’s remarks on art and culture.
– You are not going to read it all now, I hope?
– I will not read the whole of it. I give my assurance. The honorable member is one of the most perceptive gentlemen in this House and no doubt he will have read it. According to this report, Khrushchev, speaking of culture and art said -
Literature and art, which actively help mould the socialist man-
Mark the phrase “ socialist man “ - play an important part in the progress and enrichment of the spiritual culture of socialist society. No task is more noble, no task greater, than that confronting our art, namely, to portray the heroic deeds of the people, the builders of communism.
I draw particular attention to this next statement -
It is the duty of writers, workers in the theatre, cinema, and music, of sculptors and painters, to raise still higher the ideological and artistic standards of their works, to continue as active assistants of the Party . . .
I put this to the House - and if people want to disbelieve it, the responsibility is upon them - there has never been one cultural group that has gone outside the Soviet Union in the last generation which has not had an M.V.D. agent in it. Honorable members may laugh, but that is the solemn fact. That agent has been included for the specific purpose of detecting revisionism or any sign of deviationism. As I said last Thursday, and I repeat again without apology, that agent is sent to report on what he sees and hears. This whole matter is worked according to a plan.
The propaganda machine of the Soviet Union is the most highly tuned, most sensitive and most dedicated of machines that has ever been created. In the Soviet Union to-day there are 375,000 full-time propagandists and 1,500,000 part-time propagandists. The Soviet Union spends £600,000,000 a year on propaganda. The total expenditure of all the Communist bloc in the world is £1,500,000,000. The Indian Communist Party spends £800,000 a month. What do we do as against that? Our effort is not coherent or integrated at all.
The effect of this ballet group coming here is cumulative. People watch the ballet and, as I said last Thursday night, they see the graceful movements, listen to the music and try to reconcile it in either their conscious or sub-conscious minds with the horror and brutality which they have heard is associated with the Communist movement. As a result, they are brought to the position of having to compromise their convictions and they might even come to the conclusion that possibly what they have heard is all wrong and that possibly things are not so bad after all.
In the concentration of effort by the Soviet Union in the propaganda sphere, the cultural movement is important. It is part of the choreography; this is the notation of steps: “ Step by step weaken the Western world and create in the minds of the people the impression that there is nothing wrong or vile in the system or the ideology and you have won them over! Even if you can soften the people’s minds only a little you have accomplished something “.
This is a battle for the mind. I know that that is a hackneyed phrase but nevertheless its truth remains. We cannot destroy this thing with a tank or with a bomb. It is like a fog; it creeps up upon the people. It can only be destroyed with a finer ideal and a firmer and better faith. We have that ideal and that faith but we are doing nothing about the matter.
If we were prepared to dedicate our propaganda machine with the same sense of fitness, conviction, dedication and planning as the Soviet Union has dedicated its propaganda machine, we would possibly have a ghost of a chance; but at the moment, with our non-integrated effort and with no sense of cohesion we are showing that we are unwilling to identify what is going on before us. It seems that we have almost a sense of fatalism, believing what we read or are told will happen to us. I am only a young member of this Parliament but I have lived long enough to recall that in my generation there was a tyrant who wrote, “ I am going to conquer the world “. We did not believe him!
-Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- Last Thursday night, I thought I would try to restore some sense of proportion after the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Killen) and the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth I had executed their pas de deux as Harlequin and Pantaloon. They had chosen, of all subjects, the visit of the Bolshoi Ballet company on which to express their detestation of communism and to awaken their fellow Australians to the menace presented by it.
I have no doubt that if the honorable member for Moreton will look at his press cuttings reporting the debate on that occasion he will see that my remarks were reported as being in a facetious and sarcastic strain; and so they were. But apparently they did not succeed in their objective, and therefore, on this occasion I will preserve a sober mien and speak to the honorable member in terms of avuncular moderation. lt is unfortunate that the honorable member must speak with some sense of angry portent on this subject, in season and out of season. I have no doubt that he has found, as for a time in quite recent years some other legislators in the United States of America found, that this issue serves a very great purpose of personal advantage as well as of national advantage.
I do not dispute for one minute the monomaniac sincerity of the honorable member on this subject. It also happens to be his particular publicity gimmick. The unfortunate thing is that he revels in it and refers to it so consistently in season and out of season that it loses its force. That was surely illustrated last Thursday night. Earlier last week the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley) had asked the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) a question about the report of the Indian section of the International Commission of Jurists on genocide in Tibet. The Prime Minister had answered this penetrating question in the following bland and urbane terms -
I regret to say that I have not yet seen this report. But having regard to what the honorable member says, I will ask for it right away and have a look at it.
Last Thursday night, the Prime Minister, quite unwontedly, happened to be in the chamber during the adjournment debate. The honorable member for Chisholm (Sir Wilfrid Kent Hughes) took the opportunity to read the relevant and incisive excerpts from this report concerning Tibet. He put this question quite frankly to the Prime Minister: “ You know now what the report contains. What do you intend to do about it? “ I do not think that the Prime Minister could ever have been so happy to be relieved from the attentions of his friends as he was by the extraordinary, trivial, and irrelevant performance which was put on immediately thereafter by the honorable member for Moreton and the honorable member for Mackellar. To speak colloquially, the Prime Minister had been well and truly caught. He was on the hook when the honorable member for Chisholm resumed his seat. Who got him off the hook? The honorable member for Moreton and the honorable member for Mackellar did so.
There are many things in the Soviet system which are completely revolting and detestable to every person who has ever been elected to this legislature. But the Russian Ballet is not one of them.
I had proposed to speak to-night on the thoroughly relevant matter that has been mentioned by the honorable member for Darebin (Mr. Courtnay). He referred to the position which could arise under the terms of the Commonwealth Employees’ Compensation Act and, I believe, under that particular act alone, in the field of workers’ compensation in this country.
I understand that normally under the territorial and State acts costs are awarded against an employee or his dependants only if he or they have been guilty of fraud. Only under the terms of the Commonwealth Employees’ Compensation Act is it possible for a worker or his dependants to be mulcted in costs. It should be noted that it is only when an appeal is lodged that litigation in the normal sense - court proceedings - ever takes place under that act. It is the most bureaucratic workers’ compensation act in Australia. In most other systems of workers’ compensation in this country, certainly in those with which I have any acquaintance, the rights between employee and employer - in effect, between employee and insurance company - are determined by a court, very often a specific court set up for that purpose. However, under the Commonwealth Employees’ Compensation Act these matters are determined in the first instance, and usually, of course, in the last instance also since costs may be involved, by the Commissioner for Employees’ Compensation or any of the score of officials to whom he delegates his powers. The determination is not made after a public hearing; it is not made after any argument by advocates, counsel or solicitors; it is not made after any mutual discovery of documents; it is not made after any reasons have been handed down by the commissioner .pi his deputy; it merely takes the form of a letter which gives no reasons for the determination. If one is dissatisfied with the determination, one must appeal to a district or county court - not one of the ad hoc specialist bodies set up by the States - and then costs may be awarded against the appellant if he or she is unsuccessful. The practice that is being adopted is thoroughly ignoble and anomalous, and we hope that the Commonwealth will take the opportunity to abolish it when, pursuant to the Budget proposals, amendments to this act are brought down later in this parliamentary session.
In his Budget speech the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) forecast some amendments to the act and, as the honorable member for Darebin has brought to light the fact that under this act - and under this act alone - workers or their dependants may be mulcted in costs if they take the only form of litigation open to them and appeal, we hope that the Treasurer, who presumably will have the carriage of the matter in the chamber, will take the opportunity to implement these long overdue amendments to the Commonwealth law. At present we have in Australia a score of workers’ compensation acts. It is a standing disgrace that we have not one workers’ compensation act to be applied throughout the Commonwealth. While that variety of legislation exists, the Commonwealth should lead the field in modernity and harmony between the various acts. We trust that the Treasurer will take the opportunity that has been presented to him.
.- As Australia is one of the more prominent members of the South-East Asia Treaty Organization, and as we in this Parliament have had the privilege of discussing, debating and considering the terms of the agreement binding member countries, honorable members must be specially interested in the events that are now occurring in South-East Asia. Those events might well be described as the tolling of the bells signalling the death of an organization in which so many millions of people in so many countries have placed so much faith and hope for the future of Asia. This is not an exaggeration, because events in Laos have indicated clearly that although that kingdom is within the area defined in the South-East Asia Collective Defence Treaty, . the organization cannot intervene to save the people of Laos from being dragged behind the iron curtain. Even if the Government of Laos were to request members of the organization to intervene, it is doubtful whether they could do so legally.
In February of this year, <n view of the situation which existed in Laos at that time, I asked the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Casey) whether member countries of the organization could intervene in Laos if the matter were referred to the United Nations. The Minister agreed to regard my inquiry as a question on the noticepaper. The situation in Laos has been developing for many months, and in January of this year it started on the final phase which seeks to destroy the Government of that country by making it subject to directions from Communist China through the Vietminh organization in northern Viet Nam. Yet, for some strange reason, there has been a considerable delay in the free nations of the world acknowledging the situation in Laos, just as there was a considerable delay when Tibet was confronted with a similar situation.
In July or August last year, the honorable member for Chisholm (Sir Wilfrid Kent Hughes) and I raised the matter of the happenings in Tibet and claimed that the Communist Chinese had embarked on genocide in that country. Yet it was not until May or June of this year that the situation in Tibet hit the headlines in the world press. As long ago as February of this year we raised the situation in Laos, but even now nothing has been done. Seato has not ascertained whether anything could be done. Is it not true that Pote Sarasin, the Secretary-General of Seato, has not been to interview the Government of the Kingdom of Laos to offer assistance? Has Mr. Worth, the Deputy SecretaryGeneral of Seato been there? Has anybody made an approach to the Government of the Kingdom of Laos to offer support? I believe that the answer to these questions is, “ No “.
How critical is the situation? Let us remember that Laos has common borders with Communist China and Communist North Viet Nam. It has a common border with South Viet Nam which is struggling to retain its freedom and fighting to rehabilitate the refugees from the Communist areas of Indo-China. It has common borders with Cambodia, Thailand and Burma. In all these countries, the political situation is particularly delicate. They are balanced on a fulcrum. If additional weight is thrown against any one of these countries, as it could be thrown with the fall of Laos, there could be a political collapse resulting in a very critical situation. If Laos falls there could possibly be a collapse, not only of the Indo-Chinese peninsula, but also of the whole of Southeast Asia. Yet Seato has made no move.
It is suggested that if Seato were to move it could possibly give offence. But surely it was the responsibility of the member countries of Seato to ensure that the Secretary-General approached the Government of the Kingdom of Laos in the hope that the armies of Seato could move into Laos at the request of the Government to repel the insurgents who had entered that country from northern Viet Nam. Let us recognize that all the invaders of Laos are not foreigners. The great majority are tribesmen from Laos who were taken into North Viet Nam and trained by the Communists. I have been informed by a very good friend in Viet Nam, and I believe it to be true, that the main objective of the moves in Laos is to so embarrass Seato as to bring it into complete disrepute in Asia, and thus alienate the Asian countries that are members of it at the moment.
If the Communists, by their actions m Laos, are able to place Seato in so embarrassing a situation that it can be humiliated in the eyes of the people of South-east Asia, then Seato has had it. If Laos should fall behind the iron curtain, the job to be done by Seato will be found to be beyond its capacity because it will have failed to achieve the very purpose for which it was created. If it fails in that respect it must be humiliated in the eyes of all the Asian people. Those people in Asia who are struggling to retain the freedom of their countries will lose their confidence, not only in Seato, but in all the western democracies which are signatories to the agreement.
I believe that the acting Minister for External Affairs (Sir Garfield Barwick) should clarify immediately the question as to whether Seato has any legal entitlement to intervene in Laos whether or not it is requested by the Government of Laos to do so. If the matter is referred to the United Nations, and it bogs down in that organization, will Seato sit by and see the bushfire envelop the whole of South-East Asia, or will Seato move in this matter?
Further, we have to make a careful study of the very great importance of Laos in the whole scheme that has been developed by red China to take control of the countries of South-East Asia, particularly Thailand, the Government of which is so bitterly opposed to Communist China that it will allow no trade or association with that country. In Thailand is the headquarters of Seato. If, with the collapse of Laos, the Communists are able to bring about the collapse of Thailand, the embarrassment will be so great that we could never expect any country in Asia to have any respect for any guarantee of security given by the free world.
.- I have listened with interest to the mixture of protests and criticism voiced by the honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Wight) about the situation developing in a part of the world relatively near to Australia. The honorable gentleman delivered a protest and a lecture about Laos. He posed the question, “What does Seato intend to do about Laos?” Bringing the matter much nearer home, I ask him what he proposes to do if he sincerely holds the views that he has expressed. I have no doubt that he believes what he has said. It is all very well for the honorable member to occupy the time of the House with a speech of this sort, but it is his responsibility, as a member of a Government party, to raise such questions in his own party room. There was a meeting of his party this morning. What did he do there? What did the Government do when he made his protest? Was he crowded out by the honorable member for Mitchell (Mr. Wheeler) and the honorable member for Bowman (Mr. McColm) with their concern about New Guinea, and the need for the Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck) to resign?
I have a pretty strong suspicion that the honorable member for Mitchell and the honorable member for Bowman want the head of the Minister for Territories in order that they may be able to say that they have done something on behalf of those whose cause they have pleaded here to-night. Perhaps the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Killen) occupied the time of the party meeting with the Bolshoi Ballet. Perhaps he pirouetted around the room, and perhaps he was supported in his protest by the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth). Of course, I do not know what happened at the joint party meeting and I will not know until I read the press to-morrow morning.
The honorable member for Lilley is in exactly the same position in regard to Labour Party caucus meetings. He is as dependent on the press for his information, or misinformation, as I am dependent on the press to know what happens in the secret sessions of the Government parties. The Government parties are entitled to have their secret sessions. I think that the honorable member for Lilley has gone so far with the issue that he has raised that he must go further. If he believes what he has said, he should move that the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Casey) be dismissed. He would at least be in the fashion of to-night’s proceedings. At least, he should attack those who are responsible for allowing the people of Laos to be dragged, as he claimed, behind the iron curtain. He cannot salve his conscience by making a speech and then going back to his informant and saying, “ At least I struck a blow for the people of Laos “.
The honorable member for Moreton waxed oratorical to-night about the iniquities of the Soviet in exporting its culture for the purpose of winning adherence to its cause throughout the world. I am no more an admirer of the Soviet system than is the honorable gentleman or anybody else. I have many times denounced the evil philosophy that is communism, but I cannot follow the honorable member’s protest about the Soviet rulers sending examples of Russian art and music and even Russian scientists around the world to demonstrate that Russia has something it can show to the rest of the world.
After all, we do the same thing. We do it on a shoe-string budget. We do not have £600,000,000 a year but there is a very heavily endowed organization in England known as the British Council which certainly sends representative English men and women abroad to help to maintain the prestige of Great Britain. In my time as Minister for Immigration I aided and; abetted them very considerably. As a matter of fact I facilitated the arrival in Australian of Vivien Leigh and Laurence Olivier. I also helped the Rambert ballet to come to Australia. I thought I was doing something which was in the interests of the British Commonwealth of Nations. What I did was small alongside what was done subsequently.
The United States has a very big Information Centre. We were the first to protest when the Americans closed down their offices in our capital cities. I should like them to open more and more offices and let the world know as much as possible what is happening inside each country. Perhaps we would do more for peace in that way than we would, in the picturesque words of Vice-President Nixon, by trading insults.
If the honorable member for Moreton is right, the Prime Minister is wrong in proposing a series of summit meetings. As a matter of fact, we have converted the Prime Minister to our idea of the necessity for summit meetings. We have done it so thoroughly that he is out-pacing us. We asked for one or two summit meetings. The Prime Minister wants summit meetings almost three or four times a year, and I have a faint suspicion that he would like to be somewhere in the background when each is held. Perhaps the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Casey) wants to be around, too.
I have no objection to cultural contacts with the peoples of all countries, and I cannot follow the protest that the honorable gentleman has made to-night. Anything he has charged against the Soviet Union to-night about trying to influence other people by peaceful means is precisely what we do ourselves, and if we have not a better idea to sell, ultimately we will be defeated in the war of ideas.
I believe that our way of life is so superior to the Communist way of life that we have not a thing to fear in the ultimate result. I know that since the revolt in Hungary - and I have been attacked by many people inside and outside politics for saying so - many of the intellectuals of the Communist Party on this side of the iron curtain have deserted the Communist Party. I hope they continue to do so although what I fear is that quite a number of them might find their way into the Liberal Party and assist the honorable member for Moreton in his somewhat ‘monotonous repetition of the same line of propaganda.
.- I am glad the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Killen) raised this matter during the adjournment debate last Thursday. During the week-end I regretted very much that I had not intervened. I remind the House that speeches were made on the Government side by the honorable member for Chisholm (Sir Wilfrid Kent Hughes), who made a very moving and very important speech on the situation in Tibet, by the honorable member for Moreton, and by the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth), who indicated the dangers of the Bolshoi Ballet visiting Australia. I was incensed at the spirit of levity which the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Whitlam) introduced into his reply on behalf of the Opposition after the important speech by the honorable member for Chisholm. He drew an analogy with the story of Salome. Now, the story of Salome was very amusing to everybody except John the Baptist. Salome danced for a certain reward, and the honorable member for Moreton questioned whether the Bolshoi Ballet was not dancing for some similar reward - our heads. It was the levity on the Opposition side following the speech of the honorable member for Chisholm that got my goat.
The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell), like an old political war horse, came in, as he did to-night, on seeing the opportunity to make political capital. He asked to-night, “Why waste the time of the House by raising this matter on the adjournment? You support the Government.” In the same vein, he said last Thursday to the honorable member for Chisholm, “You are the Government”. But the honorable gentleman should know that while members of Parliament may draw attention to important matters, the Government may not speak so openly in the cause of diplomacy. He knows that, but he tried to make a subtle political point. The honorable member for Werriwa said that the Prime Minister had answered the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley) in a bland and urbane manner. I am beginning to suspect that the honorable member for Werriwa is the leader writer for the “ Sydney Morning Herald “. How could the Prime Minister answer the honorable member for Fremantle in any other way? The right honorable gentleman said, “ I have not read the report; when I have, I will let you know “. Why describe the reply as urbane and bland? The honorable member almost sneered. He had the superior manner of a young man coming into public life.
The honorable member for Chisholm directed the attention of this House - quite rightly as a private member of Parliament - to the dreadful state of affairs in Tibet. How many members of the Opposition know what fear is? Have they felt fear? I suspect that the only fear they have felt is fear of being on the wrong side of a trade union boss. But have they felt fear such as that being felt in Tibet? I am not referring to personal fear; who worries about that? I am referring to fear for your family such as is now felt in Tibet. A man disappears. His wife dare not ask where her man is because she would lose her children. That is what is happening in Tibet - genocide. We have been warned about it by the committee in India. The honorable member for Chisholm drew attention to these dreadful happenings near our own shores and the tragedy of Tibet. Men are being massacred. A race is being wiped out by Communists who cannot stand a religious creed and Tibet is the heart of Buddhism. That is what they are out to destroy. But the Opposition would have us recognize red China!
Next we would have the dunning of the Australian Country Party. The Opposition would say, “ The Country Party would trade with these fellows “. Let us examine the political situation. There are only three ways to tackle Communism. One is by war. Would the Opposition have war? Is there anything more unthinkable than war? Of course not! War is terrible. The next is surrender. That is worse than war. The third way is intercourse between the two ideologies. I do not agree with the honorable member for Moreton and the honorable member for Mackellar about the Bolshoi Ballet. I think it is necessary. After we trade with each other and get to know each other the break against Communism may come from within Communist countries. There is no other way. The only way I see is through cultural relations and trade. That is why the Country Party and the Liberal Party believe that we should trade with these people, but I would not recognize a country like red China which is perpetrating these atrocities on the Tibetans. The Opposition claims that that is not important. The honorable member for Chisholm drew the attention of this House to the shadow over the world to-day. Not one member of the Labour Party has supported him.
– What is the Government’s viewpoint?
– We are attempting to inform public opinion. The honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) knows that governments cannot always speak as openly as can members of Parliament. Our task is to raise public opinion against horrors of the kind that we have witnessed in Tibet and other parts of Asia, but when warnings are given by the honorable member for Moreton, the honorable member for Mackellar, and other Government supporters, Labour attempts to deride them. Every free person has a responsibility to do what he can to remove fear from this world.
– There is an old political adage that if you allow the tin hare to get away you will never catch him. For that reason I want to make a few brief remarks concerning what was said by the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell), the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Whitlam) and other honorable members to-night, and also the question by an interjector the other night, “What about the honorable member for Chisholm welcoming Russian athletes at the Olympic Games? “ I agree with the honorable member for Melbourne in one respect. I have no objection - indeed I welcome to a certain extent - cultural, sporting and some other contacts, provided that we know of the dangers that are always in existence, for politics permeate every phase of Communist life. We have, therefore, to do these things with our eyes open. Honorable members may feel that the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) and the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Killen) have over-emphasized their case with regard to the Bolshoi Ballet, but I suggest that ridicule such as came from the honorable member for Werriwa - miraculously clever and excellent though it was - was far more dangerous and damaging.
I should like to recount very briefly certain things that happened at the Olympic Games. At this stage I think that I can do it. I consider it my duty to do so as this argument has arisen over a cultural contact. In the first place, we knew that most of the Soviet officials were from the M.V.D. That is almost automatic. They asked whether they could bring a ship into the port and keep all the iron curtain athletes - certainly the Russian athletes - on it. They did not want to go into the Olympic Village. We expected that the port would be very crowded during the games and we did not think that there would be a berth for the ship. Accordingly we suggested that they would have to go into the village. They did and for about two days their officials tried to keep them away from other athletes. They then gave the game away, and I think that the result was very beneficial to all concerned because, instead of going around in pairs, some of them managed to go around as ordinary individuals.
Do not think that there are no politics in sporting contacts. We have seen it re* cently. At a session of the International Olympic Committee a motion was initiated by the Russian delegates with a view to expelling Nationalist China from participation in the Olympic Games. It was supported by people who ought to have known better, and passed. Mr. Brundage, for reasons which I cannot fathom, said at first that he would refuse to accept the national olympic committee of the Republic of China - the name by which it is known in international circles. I believe that he has since repented and said that he will recommend readmission on that basis. But the original motion was put by the iron curtain delegates in order to create political trouble between the People’s Republic of China and the Republic of China. Politics do permeate all these things. We must face that as a fact of international life.
When forty of the Olympic Games athletes applied for political asylum we were in great difficulty. An immigrant who had been helping those who wanted political asylum, was warned by one M.V.D. official that if he went on with these tactics they would get him. Unfortunately that man, possibly as a result of past experiences, as well, eventually committed suicide. You cannot laugh these things off and I am relating them now to try and impress on honorable members that it is not all baloney - even if they do feel that certain things are being over-emphasized.
Those who wanted political asylum asked us to gather them in one area of the Olympic Village and put a guard on them until the “ Gruzia “ had left. I was ridiculed, as were those with me, by people who did not know the news behind the news; who did not know, as we knew, that in Helsinki, during the previous games, athletes were picked up from the streets after events and put on a ship similar to the “ Gruzia “. We had a great deal of difficulty in connexion with that matter, but finally, as far as I know, it all worked out fairly satisfactorily.
I recount a few of these things for the reasons that I have given. On the other hand, perhaps these contacts can be productive of good. At the closing ceremony of the Olympic Games one iron curtain country athlete - I shall not even mention the name of his country - happened to be sitting on his own beside three friends of mine. They had been attempting to speak to him in English. Towards the end of the ceremony the emotion of the afternoon overcame him and he turned to them and said, “ You are lucky to live in a free country “. He then realized what he had said and could understand English no longer.
Those are just one or two events that I relate concerning the Olympic Games. I have mentioned them because honorable members may feel that certain people are over-enthusiastic and inclined to stress certain aspects unduly - in this case, in connexion with the Bolshoi Ballet. The fact remains that every facet of Communist life and action is permeated with politics. We cannot get anywhere if we do not make contact. I am all in favour of contact, but for goodness’ sake let us not underestimate the tactics behind these things, or ridicule people who put the facts in front of us. If we do, others will learn the habit of ridicule and forget that one must always be on guard, while hoping eventually to subvert these people from their ideals.
.- Despite the lateness of the hour, I feel bound to direct attention to the confusion in the Government ranks concerning trade with red China. Some advocate it and others say, “ We do not want it “. Night after night I have heard the honorable member for Chisholm (Sir Wilfrid Kent Hughes), the honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Wight), the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Killen), the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) and the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Anderson) bringing up this red bogey. Government supporters are building up hatred between the nations of the world. Honorable members on both sides of the chamber should understand that we want world peace; that the only way we can have it is by developing understanding. We must build up goodwill between nations. Some of us have seen on television the attempt by the leaders of the Uinited States and Soviet Russia to bring about world peace. The leaders of the world are anxious to meet, without proviso, but back-benchers on the other side of this chamber are guilty of sabre-rattling and attempts to create divisions.
I wish to clarify the position regarding trading with red China. The honorable member for Hume said that we want to have trade, that we must have trade in order to maintain world peace, but the honorable member for Chisholm, only the other night, made this statement -
Are some of our excellent citizens aware that money in their pockets is blood-stained - stained with the blood of Tibetans, because they have received the money from the sale of wool and steel to red China?
There is the confusion that is within their ranks. Some of them are fanatics. We must agree that they have ability, but the fact is that they are so fanatical on this issue that they get up and rant and rage about this every night, and fan the hate and fears that exist. They do nothing at all to try to break down the prejudice between nations, to try to draw the nations together in order to maintain world peace. If this kind of behaviour goes on, some trigger-happy fanatic in the back benches of this Government will get loose, and there will be a third world war. We have had two world wars.
– Are you trying to obliterate the memory of the sufferings of the people of Hungary?
– Let honorable members opposite talk about other parts of the world, as far as that goes. The one thing that I am concerned about is better relationships between the nations. I believe that we must trade and build up better relationships between nations, but we are certainly not going to do it with the fanatical people we have in the back benches of the Liberal Party.
Two of the members who have spoken to-night have seen something of the horrors of war. They have seen the poverty, despair, hunger and death caused by war, because they were both prisoners of war. I admit that both of them were officers. I did have great respect for one of them before I came into this House, but the way in which, by innuendos, he builds up fears, curdles my stomach. I worked on the same railway line that he worked on as a prisoner of war. He must know the kind of things that could result from another war. In this chamber we talk about deaths in war. The honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Wight) talks about the Asians. I saw Asians killed, by the tens of thousands, by the people that you are now trusting and building up as allies. Those people drove thousands of Asians to death. They just drove them along like cattle. Day after day I saw the victims with maggots crawling out of their bodies, which were swollen to an abnormal size. Yet these fanatics at the back talk about war! They should get down on their knees and pray for peace. They should do their utmost to maintain world peace, because we know that in another world war humanity must suffer, whether in the present generation or future generations. We must try to settle international differences and try not to build up hate.
The honorable member for Lilley even tried to justify this business about making Seato a military force to step in and cause a war in Laos - or “ louse “, as he pronounced it. The fact is that the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), his leader, gave a positive answer to the question. The Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) gave great leadership on this issue - but not for the honorable member for Lilley! He wants Seato to intervene. He must have war in Laos, because there are certain people there and, most likely, financial interests there, that he must protect. These people are building up this hate.
Let us accept the fact that we must not build up hatred between nations, but that we must strive for peace, trade with other nations, and do our utmost at all times to understand other nations.
.- After hearing the last speaker, I must rise on this issue. It seems to me to be rather peculiar that members of the Opposition fought us on every clause of the trade agreement with Japan. We traded with Japan for a number of years before this Government felt that the position was such that it must formulate a trade treaty with that country. What members of the Opposition seem to forget is that when one government negotiates a trade treaty with another government, that means reciprocal trade. These people on the Opposition side are still condemning us for reaching this trade agreement with Japan, yet they are trying to manoeuvre us into making a trade treaty with red China. Mr. Speaker, that just does not add up.
One thing that we must realize is that to-day, throughout South-East Asia, we have many good friends. We have many good friends in Malaya, South Viet Nam, South Korea and Taiwan, and all of the people who live in those countries are opposed to communism. One of the first things that they ask us when we visit their countries is, “ Why is it that you have no legislation which bans communism? “ We tell them that we are opposed to communism, that we have standards here which are second to none in the world, and that we are opposed to this ideology. But they say to us, “ Well, if that is the case, how is it that one of the great men in the Communist movement in America to-day is an Australian?” Tengku Abdul Rahman, the present Prime Minister of Malaya, who is doing a magnificent job there, asks us, “ How is it that the man who organized the Communist terrorists against us at the Calcutta conference was a man by the name of Sharkey? “
Those are the questions we have to face when we visit the countries of South-East Asia. We must remember at all times that if we dared even to think about trading with red China we would lose all those friendships that it has taken us all the years since the Labour Party went out of office to build up. We would lose the friends we have to-day in Malaya, Thailand, South Korea, South Viet Nam, and Taiwan. This manoeuvre of the Opposition in an endeavour to bring about a trade treaty with red China just does not quite add up to me. It lacks sincerity, because what would these people opposite say if we started importing from red China goods the importation of which would cause unemployment in this country?
– Goods made by slave labour.
– Yes, as the honorable member says, goods made by slave labour. How could we compete against them? We just could not! So let us be sensible. We on this side of the House are united without any doubt, and we are opposed to any trade treaty with red China.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 11.29 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
m asked the Minister for Labour and National Service, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
m asked the Minister for Territories, upon notice -
Why has no date yet been proclaimed for the Norfolk Island Act 1957 to come into operation “?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows: -
This act is intended to replace the Norfolk Island Act 1913-1957. While containing most of the provisions of the present act it provides power to establish a Norfolk Island Council which will have control over a defined field of government. Discussions have been going on for the past two years with the Norfolk Island Advisory
Council regarding the setting up of this new council as it is recognized that the functioning of the council depends on the willingness of the Island community to undertake the burdens and responsibilities of local government. These discussions have made such progress that 1st January, 1960, has been fixed as the tentative date for the commencement of the Norfolk Island Act 1957.
m asked the Attorney-General, upon notice -
Why has no date yet been proclaimed for the Commonwealth Police Act 1957 to come into operation?
– The reason is the same as that given in reply to the honorable member’s question on 15th April, namely, the salary scales for the various ranks and other terms and conditions of employment of members of the Commonwealth Police Force have to be fixed. They are still under discussion, in the interests of the force, with the Public Service Board. It is plainly in the interests of the individual members of the force - as well as of the force as a whole - that these matters should be fully considered and carefully decided.
m asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
on asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
on asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
s asked the Minister representing the Minister for Shipping and Transport, upon notice -
– The Minister for Shipping and Transport has replied as follows: -
Loss of! Vessel “ Ian Crouch “.
m asked the Minister representing the Minister for Shipping and Transport, upon notice -
What expense did the Commonwealth incur as a result of the loss of the “ Ian Crouch “?
– The Minister for Shipping and Transport has furnished the following reply:-
The expenses incurred by the Commonwealth as a result of the loss of the ship “ Ian Crouch “ were as follows: -
In addition, minor expenditure would have been incurred by the Harbour Master, Port Moresby.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 26 August 1959, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1959/19590826_reps_23_hor24/>.