23rd Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. John McLeay) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Labour and National Service. In view of the fact that counsel for the Commonwealth in the current basic wage case is now arguing that in the past too exclusive an approach has been made to the indicators upon which the commission has based its considerations and determinations, what steps have been taken by the Government to provide for the commission a basis for considering the proper relativity of basic wage adjustments to productivity increases? If the Government has instructed counsel to ask that any further increase in the basic wage must be justified by a corresponding increase in productivity, what steps are being taken by the Government to set up the necessary machinery to compile a proper productivity index?
– The honorable gentleman has asked me a question which I feel is very nearly impossible to answer during question-time. I have read very carefully the submissions which have been made by counsel for the Commonwealth as to why undue emphasis should not be placed on the various indicators alone. He has argued that all factors affecting the economy should be considered. I thought that his remarks were wise and should have been made. I think the honorable gentleman will know that an enormous amount of study has been given to the problem of whether an effective productivity index can be devised. The best thinking that I know on the subject indicates that at the moment such an index is not practicable.
– Every other country has one.
– I repeat, an enormous amount of study has been done on the problem in Australia and it has been decided that the compilation of such an index is not practicable at present. On one occasion I did promise the honor- able gentleman that I would let him have an article oat of “ Estadistica “, and 1 shall send it to him if I have not already done so. The article indicates the difficulty of devising a general productivity index relating to industry, transport, public services and all the other activities which go to make up the economy. If there is anything useful that I can subsequently say to the honorable gentleman, I shall be only too happy to say it.
– I address my question to the Attorney-General. In view of the reported display in Pakistan of photostat evidence of Communist subversion, will the Attorney-General indicate whether such evidence, as well as any other evidence indicating the intrigue and activities of the Communists and Communist Party in Australia, can be made available to the people of Australia?
– I have read in a newspaper a statement attributed to Mr. Short. I think that, in some respects, he has been misreported. In fact, there was no public display of documents in Pakistan as has been suggested. Last month, a seminar with respect to the countering of Communist subversion was held in Lahore under the auspices of the South-East Asia Treaty Organization. The Australian delegation to that seminar, at the request of those who organized it, showed certain photostats to the other accredited delegates in a closed session of the seminar. So, in that respect, the situation about which the honorable member asks does not arise.
– I desire to ask the Prime Minister a question without notice. Is it a fact that, some years ago - I believe it was in 1949 - the right honorable gentleman advocated the introduction of an excess profits tax? If it is, will he state his reason or reasons for not proceeding with that proposal? Finally, does the Prime Minister believe that the profits received to-day by monopolies and other big business interests are less than were the profits that such enterprises received when he first expressed approval of an excess profits tax?
– If the honorable member is referring to my policy speech of 1949, no doubt it speaks for itself. If he has not a copy of it, I will be very happy to provide him with one for his winter reading. As for the second part of the question, the honorable member will remember very well that a former colleague of mine, who was then Treasurer, made a considered statement on that subject to the House following very largely on the results of an earlier investigation of the same subject by Mr. Chifley. If the honorable member is not able to get the reference in “ Hansard “ to the statement made by my former colleague, I will assist him.
– My question is directed to the Attorney-General. No doubt the honorable gentleman is aware of the general feeling that the introduction of uniform divorce laws in all States by means of the Matrimonial Causes Act is excellent, but has he considered a measure to make uniform the State laws with respect to the maintenance of wives and children in the manner in which divorce has been made uniform throughout Australia? Does the Minister consider that, as the cost of living has gone up, necessitating increases in wage margins and salaries, women and children dependent on maintenance should have their maintenance increased automatically? In order to get an increase at present, they have to go to law, and the scale of costs allows them to recover only £5 17s. 6d. of the high cost of this procedure. The alternative is to stand in a mile-long queue waiting to see the Public Solicitor, as he is known in Victoria, or his equivalent in other States.
– I would not disagree with the implication in the first part of the question, but let me tell the honorable member that the power of this Parliament to legislate with respect to the maintenance of deserted wives, apart from divorce, is at best doubtful, and that I am not contemplating entering that field. I hoped that the provisions of the Matrimonial Causes Act relating to alimony and its recovery would excite the States into bringing up to date their several acts dealing with the maintenance of deserted wives, and I would use my good offices in that respect if I were asked to do so and if I could be of any assistance. As I consider that this is really a matter for the States, I do not think I should express a view on how they ought to go about providing for the progressive adjustment of the amounts paid to deserted wives under the several State statutes.
– My question is directed to the Postmaster-General. Has the Minister completed his investigation into the possibility of an alternative broadcast by the Australian Broadcasting Commission to north Queensland? If he has, will the Minister indicate when residents of that area are likely to have such a service? If the Minister has not completed the investigation, will he inform the House whether he intends, during the lifetime of this Government, to grant this justifiable amenity?
– The honorable member has referred this matter to me on several occasions and my immediate recollection - it may be a little faulty, but I think it is right - is that I wrote to him some little time ago on the matter. In any case, an investigation has been made of the means of improving reception and particularly of providing an alternative programme in various places in Queensland. The Australian Broadcasting Control Board is seeing what can be done as a result of the report that has been submitted to it. I should like to point out, however, that the overall policy in the broadcasting field is to avoid, as far as possible, the establishment of new stations which would require extra frequencies and, alternatively, to increase the power of existing stations so that their cover will be greater. I know that that does not entirely meet the needs of the honorable member because he is looking for an alternative service, I believe.
– That is so.
– However, this is a service we want to extend as much as possible throughout Australia, Mr. Speaker, and’ our efforts are directed to that end.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Air. Has the Minister seen a report that personnel of the Royal Australian Air Force are to be equipped with clothing made from terylene? As the representative of an electorate which produces a large quantity of wool, I ask the Minister whether there is any truth in the report.
– If the honorable member for Lawson fears that the Royal Australian Air Force is contemplating any large-scale shift from woollen clothing to synthetics, I can set his mind at rest at once. The R.A.A.F. is very conscious of the value of wool as clothing material and of its importance to the Australian economy; but like any other competent organization, it is continually looking for means of improving its equipment and the Supply and Equipment Branch is at present examining a synthetic material which has been suggested as a substitute for cotton shirts for use in tropical and hot weather conditions. Whether or not it will be adopted I cannot say at present. In any case, I should point out that before a change in the material for service uniforms can be made, the new material must be submitted to a joint service committee established in accordance with arrangements made by the Minister for Defence last year for the standardization of the design and inspection services of the armed forces.
– I direct a question to the Postmaster-General. In view of the fact that there has been a decrease in the number of broadcast listeners’ licences issued and that the number will decrease further because of the; installation of television in many homes, “Will the Postmaster-General consider providing a composite licence covering both radio and television at a reduced annual fee as an inducement to people to operate both radio and television sets?
– The statement made toy the honorable member for Banks in introducing his question does not conform to the information I have recently received, which indicates that the number of broadCast listeners’ licences issued is still increasing. I have not the actual figures in mind as it is some weeks since I have seen them, but I will take them out and supply them to the honorable member. Because of those facts, obviously the remaining part of the question does not arise.
– I direct a question to the Prime Minister. In view of the apparent very high cost of maintaining the Australian Legation in Moscow, having regard to the number of officers there, will the right honorable gentleman have the accounts of that legation perused so that the House may have the details, translated into Australian currency, of the amounts paid for commodities in Moscow?
- Mr. Speaker, I have made an investigation up to a point into this matter, and I am endeavouring to find out whether we can get a retail price list of Moscow prices in Australian terms. Such a list is not at the moment available to us, but as soon as it is, I will make it available to the honorable member.
– I ask the
Minister for Social Services whether he is aware that aboriginal recipients of the age pension living at Point Pearce Mission Station in South Australia are paid their pension in the form of a ration of meat, bread, butter, groceries and vegetables, plus 15s. a week in cash, and that an unspecified sum is held in trust. No statement is given to them as to the cost of the ration of meat, bread, butter, groceries and vegetables. As these people are educated and fully civilized members of the Australian community, will the Minister give an assurance that aborigines such as these will in future be paid their full pension in cash in order that they may spend it in their own way, just as other pensioners may?
– May I be permitted to remind the honorable member for Hindmarsh that it took more than 50 years to abolish the traditional discrimination against the aboriginal natives of our country. This was one of the most courageous acts of this or any other government. As far as is practicable, social service benefits to-day are paid to aboriginal natives in precisely the same way as they are paid to other people in the community. The single exception relates to aborigines who are nomadic and who have no fixed location. They, of course, are excluded from the scheme, but in this respect they suffer no disadvantage in comparison with Europeans who have no fixed location and who are nomadic, because social service benefits cannot be paid to them either. But as far as the policy of the Government and the administration of social services are concerned, social service benefits will be paid to aboriginal natives wherever it is practicable along precisely the same lines as they are paid to other people in the community.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Works. Is it a fact that in recent tenders that have been called the rise and fall clause has been excluded? How can genuine tenderers protect themselves against substantial rises in wages similar to those recently granted by the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission or against any rises which may be granted in the future?
– There has been no recent change in the policy of the Department of Works in calling for tenders. However, for some time it has not been the practice to include a rise and fall clause in contracts which are expected to be completed within a period of twelve months. Only in contracts for jobs which will take longer than twelve months is a rise and fall clause included. It is felt that the contractor is just as able as is the Government to assess the conditions likely to prevail for a period of twelve months.
– I direct my question to the Postmaster-General. In view of the fact that the Postal Department made a profit of more than £6,000,000 last year without taking into consideration the increased postal charges, will the PostmasterGeneral immediately consider, first, reducing telephone charges and abolishing the telephone installation fee; secondly, reducing postal and other charges; and thirdly, increasing the wages of all postal employees? Does the Postmaster-General agree with the contention of the Opposition that the huge profit indicates that increased postal, telegraph and telephone charges are an unnecessary and outrageous imposition on the Australian people?
– Mr. Speaker, I am afraid I was not able to get a quick note of all the points raised by the honorable member and therefore I will reply to his question more or less in general terms. He asks whether the profit demonstrated in the annual report of the PostmasterGeneral’s Department which was tabled yesterday - particularly the profit made by the Telephone Branch - justifies a reduction of telephone fees and other charges. The reply to that question was made when the subject of the increased tariffs was before this House and the explanation of the reason for their imposition was given. Therefore, I will not attempt to go into details now in respect of this question, but if the honorable member reads the statement of the Treasurer when introducing the Budget, and my own statement when introducing the increased tariffs, he will see that the general principle behind these increases was to ensure that there would be a reasonable return to Consolidated Revenue for the very large and increasing amounts of capital drawn by the Post Office from Consolidated Revenue. That is putting the matter generally, and that position still prevails.
Therefore, this position, which was known when the decision was taken, will not in any way affect present tariffs. That, I think, covers in general terms the whole of the honorable gentleman’s question. There is no intention to effect any changes at the moment.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Trade. Is the Minister aware that there is a serious shortage of steel fence posts and steel fencing wire and that farmers and graziers are subjected to long delays in carrying out fencing programmes? Can the Minister take any steps to improve the situation?
– I am aware of the problem that exists and I have been interesting myself in it to the point of making certain inquiries. I find that in the first half of the last calendar year there was a quite surprising and very heavy falling off in the Australian demand both for steel fence posts and for fencing wire. I am informed that in that period the demand for steel fencing posts fell by about 70 per cent.and the demand for wire by about 50 per cent. In these circumstances, it was quite natural that the producing companies should look for external markets to keep their factories in operation. They were, I am glad to say, successful in finding markets for these particular products and for other steel products from the merchant bar rolling mills. Speaking from memory, I think 10,000 tons was sold in the United States of America. In the latter part of last year there was a very sharp revival in the demand; but I am told that the overseas contracts were completed for these items by December last, that at the present time the whole emphasis is turned upon catching up the backlog of Australian demand and that within the very near future - two or three months - there will be a current production meeting the high level of Australian demand and all arrears will be overtaken.
– My question is directed to the Prime Minister. Has his attention been directed to the figures quoted in this House last night by the honorable member for Barton in which he showed that the number of Commonwealth scholarships granted was dropping in proportion to the number of applications received? How can he justify the assumption of the portfolio of Minister for External Affairs in view of his failure to deal with what has been his ministerial responsibility for so long?
– My attention has not been directed to this speech but I am delighted to hear of it-
– It is at page 237 of “ Hansard “.
– I will give myself the pleasure of reading it. I would have thought that the honorable member would have been the last one to think that I, as Prime Minister, had neglected the problems of education in Australia, because my withers are completely unwrung.
– I address a question to the Minister for Trade. What action does the Government propose to take to increase the membership and strengthen the secretariat of the Tariff Board in order to handle any extra applications that may be lodged as the result of the lifting of import restrictions? Does the Minister know that representatives of Australian industry complain that it takes far too long to obtain a hearing from the Tariff Board with its present complement of seven members, with the result that even if they do obtain a satisfactory hearing much damage has been done during the time they have had to wait? Will the Minister give an assurance that these delays will be overcome, if necessary by increasing the complement of the board and the secretariat?
– I would not d’eny that there was some substance, some time ago, in complaints that considerable delay occurred before applications to the Tariff Board were heard. The Government, acknowledging this fact, announced nearly two years ago that it intended to take certain steps, including a very substantial strengthening of the secretariat of the Tariff Board, to facilitate the hearing of applications. This action has been quite fruitful. In a recent year - I draw on my memory, and, I think, accurately - eighteen reports were dealt with. In the calendar year, 1959, 48 references to the board were dealt with in 43 reports presented, and during that period only 30 new applications were referred to the board. This is clear evidence that the board, geared as it is at present, has been more than able to deal with applications at their current rate, even during a period when the board had to deal with a quite extraordinary reference, embodying more than 278 items, in regard to which the Government had secured an opportunity to narrow the margins of British preferences in the re-negotiated United Kingdom-Australia trade agreement. The board will have finished with that reference of some 280 items in the next two or three months. I believe that as it is now constituted, and with its present secretariat, the board will be able to keep abreast of any increased flow of applications. If there is any evidence that the board is unable to do so, I will direct the Government’s attention immediately to the situation with a view to increasing, as a possible solution, the numerical strength of the board.
– I direct my question to the Minister for Immigration. I preface it by pointing out that when a certificate of naturalization is conferred upon a new settler, his or her foreign-born children, under sixteen years of age, also become Australian citizens. My question is: What documents, if any, are issued to the children themselves, as evidence of their new status?
– The situation is substantially as my honorable friend has just declared. In order to meet the position, I made arrangements last year for documentary evidence to be provided for children under sixteen years of age in the category in question. The way in which the arrangement operates is this: Immediately after a naturalization ceremony at which the cases of the father, mother and children under sixteen are dealt with together, a letter is sent to the parent or parents asking whether they wish to have a certificate for each of the children. If the answer is “ Yes “, then, by the simple process of filling in a form and sending it back to the branch of my department in the capital city concerned, the parents may quickly obtain the certificates of citizenship. So far, Mr. Speaker, these amended arrangements have worked quite satisfactorily, and they have the effect of providing children under sixteen with the separate documentary evidence of citizenship which they may require in later life.
– Will the Minister for Immigration outline the steps that are being taken to ensure that an adequate number of immigrants of the right type will arrive in time to alleviate the anticipated shortage of labour for the harvesting of the 1960 sugar cane crop?
– I know that the honorable member for Herbert is very interested in the problems of the sugar industry because he discusses them with me from time to time, and I can understand his anxiety on this particular occasion. I hope that the honorable member will be relieved to hear that this matter has been under close surveillance by my own department and the department presided over by my colleague the Minister for Labour and National Service, and also the Cane Growers Council of Queensland. It is anticipated that, in addition to the normal labour available for the forthcoming harvest, 900 migrant workers will be required. My department is very well aware of this and we are doing everything possible to recruit these workers overseas so that there will be no shortage whatever in the great sugar cane industry of Queensland in this season.
– I ask the Minister for Health whether he has discussed with the Australian Dental Association the introduction of a dental scheme as a part of a national health plan. If such discussions have taken place, will he give special attention to the need for dental care of the children of Australia? Further, if the matter is receiving consideration, will the Minister say what stage this consideration has reached? When will he be in a position to announce his conclusions to the House?
– This question has been considered from time to time but, so far, no really worth-while proposals have been put forward which would enable the introduction of a scheme of dental benefits.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Primary Industry. People associated with the butter industry are showing concern at the rapid drop in the price of butter on the United Kingdom market. It has dropped by about 80s. per cwt. in the last two months. Can the Minister explain the reasons for this drop? From the information available to him through his department, can he make any rough estimate of the price and time at which the butter market is likely to stabilize?
– I think it is generally known that the high price to which butter ascended at the end of last year and the beginning of this year was due to the European drought and the consequent lack of supplies in European countries. This, of course, benefited New Zealand and Australian butter producers. Since then, the seasons in Europe have improved and the supply has increased. In the main, these are the reasons why prices have fallen somewhat until, yesterday, the price was 327s. per cwt. I would not like to forecast when the market will stabilize, but I think that we are getting somewhere near the price at which we can expect sales of butter to improve. Buyers have been hesitant to buy very strongly because of the possibility of a drop, but I think we are getting somewhere near base value. At least, I hope so.
– I wish to ask a question of the Minister for Social Services. In view of the alarming statements made by the Prime Minister and the Treasurer about the dangers of the ever-increasing spiral of inflation and its damaging effect on the economy in general, especially on the price of foodstuffs and other essentials of life, has the Minister given consideration to the disastrous effect that inflation has already had on those unfortunate people in the fixed-income groups? If so, will the Minister take immediate steps to apply the 28 per cent, marginal increases to age, invalid and widows’ pensions, and in all other fields of social services?
– The question of the honorable member for Kingsford-Smith can only be described as facetious in the most objectionable sense. Whatever statements the Prime Minister of this country makes can be accepted as considered statements, and if the honorable member for KingsfordSmith would pattern himself on the right honorable gentleman this House would be saved from the indignity of listening to what the honorable member has had to say from time to time.
– In addressing my question to the Minister for Labour and National Service I refer to the Australian Railways Union in Victoria which has adopted go-slow tactics, has placed restrictions on overtime work and refuses to resort to arbitration. I refer also to the fact that the Waterside Workers Federation in Victoria has also refused to allow its members to work on Sundays and has held unauthorized stop-work meetings. I ask the Minister whether these facts, combined with others, show a resur gence of Communist activity to capture transport unions and to riddle national commerce with industrial strife, with the object of discrediting the arbitration system and inflate prices.
– I believe that all thinking honorable members will know that it is the constant objective of the Communist Party of Australia to capture control of all the transport unions and, for that matter, all the heavy industry unions of this country. I think it is fair to say, too, that the Victorian Branch of the Australian Railways Union is under the control or under the influence of the Communist Party or Communist officials.
– Nothing of the sort.
– Let me finish. The union is under their influence or their control. They have refused, in this dispute, to abide by the award of the Conciliation Commissioner or to agree to his recommendation as to a fact-finding committee. For this reason it is not unfair to draw the conclusion, as the honorable member for Bruce has done, that in this case at least the Communists are careless about discrediting the arbitration system.
The honorable member has referred in his question to the waterside workers. Their leadership is well known and I need not go further than to say that their federation is strongly Communist-dominated. One reason the watersiders have given for not working on Sundays is that they cannot get to work. Well, as they have always started work prior to 8.30 a.m., and as suburban trains do not arrive in Melbourne on Sundays before that time, I think we can conclude that that reason for their action is a flimsy one. I am sure that the waterside workers have long attempted to discredit the arbitration system.
– I ask the Minister for the Interior: Will he ascertain whether it be true, as I believe it to be, that an officer of the National Capital Development Commission has advised officials of Canberra tennis clubs that in order to raise finance for extensions and additions to the facilities of their clubs, they should apply for liquor licences? I ask the Minister, when inquiring into this matter, to consider that club tennis is a family affair and that all the tennis clubs have a high proportion of junior members.
– I will certainly make inquiries into the matter.
– Is the Minister for Shipping and Transport aware that the standard rail gauge line now being built between Albury and Melbourne under a Commonwealth-State agreement will terminate at Melbourne and will not be extended to Geelong in the honorable gentleman’s electorate? Is he aware that many farmers in the south of New South Wales draw their supplies of machinery and superphosphate from Geelong and that if Albury is to be connected to a Victorian town by standard gauge railway they prefer the connexion to be with Geelong rather than Melbourne? Will the Minister confer with the Victorian Government to see whether an extension of the standard gauge line to Geelong can be achieved?
- Mr. Speaker, it is with a great deal of pleasure that I hear that question from the honorable member for Farrer, because it indicates once again the tremendous influence that Victoria’s finest provincial city has upon the rest of Australia. The standardization of the rail gauge between Melbourne and Albury is well on its way to completion and will be finished next year. The standardization of the rail gauge from Melbourne to Geelong would, of course, require another form of agreement. That raises a very interesting factor. I think that, on a rough calculation based on the cost of the standardization of the rail between Melbourne and Albury, another £2,000,000 would probably be required for the standardization of the line between Melbourne and Geelong. Perhaps it would be better, particularly in view of the present railway trouble in Victoria, if that State were to initiate with the Commonwealth discussions on the standardization of that link.
– My question is addressed to the Prime Minister. Is it a fact that the number of Commonwealth scholarships has been pegged at 3,000 annually since the scheme was introduced in 1951? If so, will the Government consider increasing the number of scholarships so that it will keep pace with the substantial increase of school population, and so overcome the disappointment of thousands of pupils who are up to the required standard but are unable to carry on their education beyond Leaving Certificate level?
- Mr. Speaker, the matter is quite clearly one of policy.
– I ask the Treasurer: As there appears to be an anomaly in certain instances regarding payment of sales tax on freight, will the right honorable gentleman examine the position to see whether the anomaly can be removed? I give the following as an instance: When biscuits are conveyed to the retailer by road the amount of freight is included in the amount on which sales tax is charged, but when conveyed by rail the amount of freight cost is not so added. Will the Treasurer see whether this position can be rectified?
– The question whether freight forms part of the taxable sales value of goods depends on the conditions on which the goods are sold. For example, if goods are sold f.o.r. the sales tax chargeable is on the price quoted by the seller, without the freight component, which would be borne by the purchaser. That applies to goods carried by rail, and I think it would apply equally to goods carried by road if the selling conditions were comparable. However, if the honorable gentleman can bring to my attention any particular instances that have come to his notice I will discuss the matter further with the Commissioner of Taxation and see whether I can get a precise ruling for him.
– I want to ask a question of the Minister for Primary Industry. Why is there an inquiry at present being made into the dairying industry by the dairying industry committee of inquiry? Was it asked for by the industry? If not, who launched the inquiry? Is it the Government’s intention to withdraw the £13,500,000 Commonwealth subsidy paid to the dairying industry?
– Surely the honorable member, as a candidate at the last federal election who happened to be successful, knows what was contained in the policy speech made by the Prime Minister on behalf of his supporters.
– Don’t be so vicious!
– It would be hard to be as vicious as you are, Ned. The policy announced then in connexion with the dairying industry is the policy of the Government. What is likely to happen to the subsidy or to any other fund, and the recommendations that may be made by the committee that has been appointed, are matters for the future. _
Motions (by Mr. Harold Holt) - by leave - agreed to -
That Mr. Davis be appointed a member of the Joint Committee of Public Accounts, in the place of Mr. Bland, discharged from attendance.
That Mr. Opperman be discharged from attendance on the House Committee, and that, in his place, Mr. Chaney be appointed a member of the committee.
That Mr. Opperman be discharged from attendance on the Printing Committee, and that, in his place, Mr. Browne be appointed a member of the committee.
Debate resumed from 15th March (vide page 245), on motion by Mr. Murray -
That the following Address-in-Reply to the Speech of His Excellency the Governor-General be agreed to -
May rr Please Your Excellency:
We, the House of Representatives of the Commonwealth of Australia, in Parliament assembled, desire to express our loyalty to our Most Gracious Sovereign, and to thank Your Excellency for the Speech which you have been pleased to address to Parliament.
Upon which Mr. Calwell had moved, by way of amendment -
That the following words be added to the Address: - “but desire to advise Your Excellency that the Government no longer possesses the confidence of the Parliament and of the Nation because of -
Its failure to halt inflation with its adverse effects on wage and salary earners, on pensioners, on persons on fixed incomes, on primary producers and on home builders, particularly those with young families;
Its action in lifting import restrictions with its accompanying threat to the employment of thousands of Australians and the security of Australian enterprises; and
Its decision to ask the Arbitration Commission to reject the current application of the trade union movement for an increase in the basic wage “.
.- Mr. Speaker, the opening of the new session of the Parliament gives us an opportunity to note several matters of interest. First, there is the double occasion for happiness within the Royal Family; secondly, there is the departure from Australia of a great GovernorGeneral, a man of rare distinction whose advice, given with great candour, ought to be remembered and heeded; and thirdly, there is the arrival in Australia of a new Governor-General of equal promise. We also note with a good deal of pleasure the election of the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) and the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Whitlam) to the respective positions of Leader and Deputy Leader of the Opposition. Theirs is the difficult job of mending a machine which creaks a little, as old-fashioned machines are inclined to do. I hope that they will be able to bring the thinking of their party up to date. However, being a good democrat, and believing that a powerful Opposition is the very essence of sound democratic government, I hope that they will build a strong Opposition although I add the reservation that I hope they do not have too much success.
I regret to note, however, that the Leader of the Opposition still sees a great division between the workers, on the one hand, and big business on the other, and that he sees big business only in terms of financiers, exploiters, profiteers, racketeers or any other dirty word that he can apply to it.
With extraordinary persistence, he sees workers as they were at the turn of the century when they had to struggle to feed and clothe their children and to make ends meet. He is in danger of being laughed at by his own supporters because, if he takes :ny note of the number of motor cars on
Lie road, the sprouting of television aerials on houses, the growth of domestic aids which lead to greater enjoyment of life, the growth of tourism, and extended annual leave, he will see that the people whom he claims to represent in this House are not being treated badly at all. I hope to show him that the boss in this modern world also is not without his struggle.
His Excellency’s address was historical in that it mentioned a number of problems to which the Government must give attention, and suggested ways and means of solving some of them. I hope that this will be backed by determination. To-day we are preoccupied with inflation, but we need to be sure what kind of inflation it is. As always, opinions on this subject vary. The fact remains, however, that the effects of inflation, no matter from what cause it arises, are so disastrous as to demand the full attention of the Government. I think it is generally agreed that if money is multiplying at a greater rate than goods and services, there must be a new equation between the purchasing power and the purchasing value of money. Therefore, whatever increases the supply of money out of proportion to the increase in goods which are available is inflationary, and must be resisted. It would reasonably follow, one would presume, that this would lead us in the direction of basing our wage structure on productivity, but apparently that is something which must await a more enlightened day.
T do not think there is any doubt that inflation began in the days of the war when we paid out vast sums of money in one way or another for goods which were destroyed in the course of the war. We had, therefore, a great imbalance between purchasing power and the goods available. Ever since then we have been struggling, mostly ineffectively, to lay down and to stabilize a new basis for the purchasing value of the £1. Paying for goods destroyed is the same as paying for goods not produced. To reduce this position to an absurdity for the purpose of illustration, let us suppose that to-morrow wages were doubled. What would be the effect? Momentarily there would be a great increase in the standard of living because, with more money, we would be able to purchase more goods. But almost immediately the new equation between money value and purchasing value would assert itself and, in the end, the great mass of the Australian people would receive no advantage whatever. Their standard of living would not have increased. It is quite true that at one end of the scale certain people would have the opportunity to liquidate indebtedness in depreciated currency. That is almost an immoral advantage. At the other end of the scale grievous harm would have been done to the tens of thousands of people in Australia who are trying to live on pensions and fixed incomes and who lack the power to protect themselves against marching inflation.
– What would happen if profits doubled?
– The same kind of thing. I shall come to that matter in a moment. Inflation, therefore, is an evil which must be met with firm resolve for the personal and national benefit. We are accustomed to the kind of inflation which arises from too much money chasing too few goods. But no such circumstance exists at present. There is a surplus of productive power, and no shortage of goods or services to be bought. I am of the opinion, therefore, that inflation to-day has arisen from a vain attempt to lever ourselves into a higher standard of living without making any extra effort. The scramble for higher investment returns - replying now to my honorable friend who interjected - is not less damaging than the constant pressure for wage increases, which continues in spite of the fact that a multiplicity of past increases in the basic wage have been swallowed up quickly in increased costs, giving no advantage to the people in terms of higher standard of living.
When we refer to the arbitration machinery for wage fixing in Australia, we lapse into some dangerous generalizations. The fixing of wages is not nearly as simple a matter as that of taking the evident prosperity of the country, supporting it by the statistics of limited commercial success in a few places, dividing that over the work force and saying that the result is a wage which industry can afford to pay. The truth is that some industries can afford to pay, but the increased costs which arise primarily as a result of increased wages are borne by a variety of industries with a great variation in their capacity to pay.
In industry to-day, very widely, costs are generating faster than the inclination of the market to accept them. Therefore, there is a constant squeeze, particularly in the great stratum of small industry in Australia, because, when wages rise, there is an increase in the cost of every component of manufacture - material, transport, power, rates, and taxes, even including the payroll tax. Any suggestion - and suggestions come hot and fast - that industry ought to be able to absorb these increased costs either by narrowing down its profit margins or by increasing its efficiency is no longer valid, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Suggestions of this sort have been coming up for the last ten years, but the hard fact is that industry in Australia to-day has been wrung dry of the ability to absorb these increased costs which have come from the two sources mentioned. Therefore, there is no alternative but to pass them on. Indeed, Sir, the profit has been squeezed out of industry to a very dangerous degree.
– What about General MotorsHolden’s Limited?
– There is an exclusive case which is not in any way representative of the broad background of Australia’s industrial picture. I shall have something to say about that in a few minutes.
A very great change has come over the industrial scene in Australia, and the Opposition’s idea - the Labour idea - that you have only to go into business to make a profit is under a good deal of assault, and the idea that the working man in industry is at present being exploited by the boss really ought to be looked at a second time. Let me tell Opposition members that a very great section of industry - I am speaking now of the smaller industries - which employs tens of thousands of good Australians at good rates of pay is very largely being carried on for the benefit of the employees. And those employees, Sir, in many instances, are not at all above exploiting the boss. In many of these smaller industries, the boss is to-day actually working for his employees, trying to keep his factory open, to keep materials coming in and orders going out, and to keep his place in the market. In this phase of industry arises the question as to who is the boss in these modern days.
In order to illustrate this I shall take the case of an engineering organization in my electroate which is well known nationally. I refer to the firm of Thiess Brothers Proprietary Limited, which is conducting in my electorate an engineering undertaking of a kind not usually found in country areas, and which is making a very distinguished contribution to the decentralization of industry. But, Sir, the 28 per cent, increase in margins almost sounded the death knell of this enterprise. On the wage side, costs had risen to the level where prudent management determined that the industry ought to be closed down. What happened? There was a conference between management and men and, quite sensibly, I believe, and setting a pattern for the sort of thinking that has to permeate the structure of industry in Australia, the workers finally agreed to absorb the margins in their over-award payments.
When we talk about determinations under the arbitration system, Mr. Deputy Speaker, we ought to remember that the fixing of the basic wage is only the beginning of the wage structure in industry to-day. Many small industries in Australia are in a position almost identical with that of Thiess Brothers Proprietary Limited and I greatly fear that the next round of increases, or any great increase, in wages in Australia as a result of some future determination may well start doors closing in small industries throughout this country.
We in this country have always been in danger of removing ourselves from the stream of competitive business, Sir. We have tried to develop an oasis of good conditions and high wages, forgetting that, somewhere along the line, we had to meet competition. In order to solve the problems which have arisen from this, we must now subject ourselves to the discipline of competition with more efficient, harder-working, lower-standard countries with which we are obliged to compete in a competitive world, however little we may like the idea.
I come back now to the relaxation of import restrictions. I did not particularly like these restrictions when they were applied in lieu of more unpalatable correctives. I do not particularly like the way in which they are now being removed, although I acclaim the fact that we are to get rid of them. I think that removing import restrictions without prior notice savours very much of surgery with a butcher’s knife. The operation is not one to be performed without grave risk, because, if it is to be effective, Australians must find imports more attractive than the home product. If this is to be the situation, clearly, we shall run down our overseas balances until our internal cost structure can be corrected. We ought to have a care for what this means. It means increased efficiency in industry, a demand for increased productivity, and lower wages. Before Opposition members begin to complain, I should like to point out that, just as increased money wages have not served to increase the standard of living of the Australian working man, a decrease in wages will not necessarily lower his standard of living. If we do not accept these correctives, Sir, we shall be in grave danger of running down our overseas balances to a level which, in 1 952, justified the imposition of import restrictions. That may happen before these correctives work. I am sure that, after I have outlined them, nobody in this House will under-estimate the extraordinary difficulties of lowering the level of the cost structure of Australian industry.
So we find ourselves in a cleft stick, as it were, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Unless the Australian people - I refer to workers and entrepreneurs alike - clearly understand what is involved, and work to get this country back to a competitive position in the world economy, the scheme will not succeed and the personal as well as the national welfare will be seriously undermined. There are some alternatives to this. One alternative which has been much discussed is that of increasing our exports. It has been variously estimated that, over the next five years, we ought to aim at an annual increase of £250,000,000 in the value of our exports.
Let us be a little realistic about the matter and see where this proposition leads us, Sir. When we lifted import restrictions a few weeks ago, great concern as to whether our products could meet the competition of overseas goods was expressed throughout Australia. Yet, if we are to increase our exports, we shall be called on to sell our goods in overseas markets in competition with overseas products which can be transported halfway round the world, loaded with our import costs and our tariffs, and still under-sell us in our own markets. Eliza Doolittle had something to say about that sort of thing. Unless and until we reduce the level of our cost structure by wise decision, and by sacrifice, if that is necessary - I am sure it will be - or we face the grim consequences of economic pressure, we shall not solve this problem.
The situation which I have described is bad enough when it is applied to secondary industries. And, happily, we are not at this stage dependent on the income from secondary industries to keep us going. But a growing effect of this situation in relation to secondary industry is intruding itself into the field of primary production, on which we depend for our overseas earnings. Within the last few days, three very important people in this country have felt constrained to mention this situation. Mr. G. B. S. Falkiner, president of the New South Wales Sheepbreeders Association, said -
It is not an exaggeration to say that rising costs have placed the wool industry in a perilous situation . . .
One thing is certain - if the costs of wool production continue to rise, a large number of small settlers will undoubtedly be ruined.
So, Sir, the grief is not only in the secondary industry section of our economy. Further, Mr. W. Weatherly, chairman of the Australian Woolgrowers Council, stated his views, which were reported in the press as follows: - “ If costs cannot be reduced, Australia’s manufacturing and distributing industries may have to subsidise wool production by payment of a bounty. “. . .
Wool export earnings had to be maintained to pay for essential imports - mainly basic materials for secondary industries . . .
Costs had to be pruned so that wool could compete successfully with synthetic fibres.
Then again, we have the views of Mr. T. M. Scott, president of the New South Wales Graziers Association, who said -
Public awareness of the facts is a first essential.
Secondary industries must appreciate that their own welfare is bound up with that of the export industries and that their own obligations entail entering export markets.
This they can never do if they cannot price themselves into those markets.
In addition to all these things, the wool industry, particularly, is meeting the impact of growing sales of synthetic fibres in the world’s textile markets. Other primary industries are contending against the sales of surpluses from other countries in what are our traditional markets. The future cannot be any easier for the Australian economy; it could well be considerably harder, and the Government does well to bring these facts to the notice of the arbitration tribunals.
What these things do, it seems to me, is to highlight the great danger in which Australia stands from inflation. They invite us to put aside the old-fashioned national sport of scoring political points from each other and to devote ourselves seriously to finding an answer to this problem. I have referred to the wage structure. The wage structure underlines nearly every cost in industry because, if you trace the wage factor back through the cycle of production, you find that the vast bulk of charges in industry is made up of wages. Hence the extraordinary importance of the wage structure.
But there are other important and dangerous influences at work in this field, and I hope to please one or two of my friends on the opposite side of the House when I point out that easy profit taking is against the best interests of the Australian economy. Equally so is the growing amalgamation, through take-overs and so on, of productive and buying power, particularly the latter. I believe that it is right that these matters should attract the attention of the Government. There is little real monopoly in Australia at the moment, but take-overs are to-day aggregating buyer power and so, in the hands of big interests, there is developing a growing power, not only to squeeze other competitors - which is an old business practice well understood by private entrepreneurs - but also to enable a few to squeeze their supplies. That is not good for what I conceive to be private enterprise in Australia. These restrictive trade practices are as much opposed to the spirit of private enterprise as are the socialist controls so beloved of the Opposition. Both are to be fought with con,stancy, and I hope the Government will not be idle and will not procrastinate in taking some action to curb these dangerous and damaging trends in the Australian economy.
We need some realism in the situation. If we are to stand on our own feet in a competitive world, industry must be encouraged to plough back a good deal of its earnings into expansion, and if it is to do that, attention must be paid to decreasing taxes on industry. If the cost of production is to be lowered and efficiency increased, attention must be paid urgently to increased depreciation allowances to take care of the enormous factor of obsolescence in to-day’s productive machinery. I believe the irksome and offensive pay-roll tax must go to give genuine relief, even if the equivalent revenue has to be made up by distributing the burden over the rest of the heads of taxation. I believe the next Budget, unlike the last, must do something for industry. Unless there is a general appreciation of the risks we run with Australia’s future, and we go back to thinking, feeling, working and living as Australians, we will not solve the problem of how to keep what we already have in Australia - a rising prosperity.
.- The Speech delivered by the Governor-General, as usual, contained the proposed policy of the Government for the forthcoming session of the Parliament. I think it was unusual in many respects, not only because of what it contained but also because it was the first Speech made by the recently appointed Governor-General, Viscount Dunrossil. In making a reference to the GovernorGeneral, I take this oportunity to wish him a happy stay in Australia. I have no doubt that his term in our midst will be a happy one. However, while I have the highest personal admiration for him, I cannot agree with the policy of the Government which resulted in His Excellency’s appointment. On this broad issue, the Government seems determined to fly in the face of public opinion and a growing trend in other members of the British Commonwealth of Nations.
When the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) was questioned about this matter, and was asked why he chose a particular man for this position, the right honorable gentleman said he had looked over the Australian scene and could not find a suitable candidate for the position. He went on to say that he believed1 such a choice should be removed from the field of controversy, and because so many figures in Australian public life were involved in the political scene, it was very difficult not to make a controversial appointment. That was given as one of the reasons why an Australian was not appointed GovernorGeneral. I cannot agree that the appointment that was made cannot be said to be a controversial appointment because the man who was appointed to the position of Governor-General had taken an active part in politics for 30 years. He was a member of the House of Commons, and a member of the British Conservative Party and it is very odd indeed that the Prime Minister should try to make the point that you cannot appoint an Australian who has identified himself with politics in Australia and then, in the next breath, should announce the appointment of a person who has been very actively associated with politics in the United Kingdom.
An important matter dealt with by the Governor-General in his Speech was shipbuilding. His Excellency said -
My Government is continuing to provide a substantial subsidy to the Australian shipbuilding industry and the number of vessels under construction and orders on hand suggest good prospects for the merchant shipbuilding yards.
I hope something is done to assist shipbuilding in Australia. It is idle for such a statement to be made when the condition of the shipbuilding industry in Australia is understood fully. Outside Whyalla, every shipbuilding centre is crying out for orders. With the exception of naval shipbuilding centres, those firms which concentrate on merchant shipping repairs and maintenance have been compelled in recent years to cut down their staffs. In fact, in the port of Sydney, I do not think there is an order on hand at present for shipbuilding, and that has been the position for the past two or three years. Until two or three years ago, Sydney was a flourishing shipbuilding centre. Because of lack of orders, it has been compelled to cut down its activities and many men have been compelled to seek employment elsewhere. The condition of the shipbuilding industry in the port of Sydney has been brought to the notice of this Government time and time again. The industry in Quensland is gradually getting into the same position, and it seems rather odd that such a statement as the one I have read should be included in the Governor-General’s Speech.
The principal topic before the House in this debate has been the strange, contradictory and startling attitude of the Government to the question of inflation. Since this Government came into office at the end of 1949, it has been noticeable down the years that whenever the Opposition raised the question of inflation, its members were immediately assailed with accusations that they were panic-stricken gloom merchants, and that they were running away from reality. If we wanted a convincing demonstration of persons who were panicstricken, we could not have had1 a better example than the supporters of the Government. Their attitude and their statements in this debate have revealed their panic. The principal in this demonstration has been no other than the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) himself. The Government seems to be continually referring to 1949. The Treasurer’s contribution in the House last night was a mixture of politics and nonsense. He could not help but refer to what happened in 1949. I shall not try to answer him, even in the broadest terms, but we must realize that this is 1960, that the basic wage to-day is more than £14 and that the basic wage in 1949 was just over £4. Any attempt at comparisons is completely unreal and is the refuge of unscrupulous politicians.
The Government has continually shifted its attitude towards inflation and has given us a mass of contradictions and denials. In 1951. the Government deliberately chose as its policy the imposition of import controls and restrictions. We find that it has apparently now decided that these restrictions contribute to inflation and the latest edict is that import restrictions will be lifted. A principal feature of Budgets in the last three or four years is that they have been based on deficit financing. I have on each occasion tried to point out the contradictions that were apparent in the Government’s approach. Now we have the Treasurer admitting that deficit financing is wrong and henceforth it is to be eliminated. Personally, I do not subscribe to the idea that it is wrong in itself. But I am critical of the Government because it has resorted to deficit financing down the years and is now attempting to establish that this is contributing to our inflationary situation. If that assumption is correct, the Government is responsible for our situation to-day. As I have said before, it has become completely panic-stricken and no announcements could be gloomier than those made on behalf of the Government. The Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen) in an outburst said that our economy is balanced on a razor’s edge. The Prime Minister came into the House and said that if the present trend continued it would be like pouring petrol on the fire of inflation.
The picture painted by the Government is that inflation is rampant and is ravaging the economy, but it now proposes to adopt some measures which it feels will solve the problem of inflation. Not the least of these measures is the determination of the Government to appear before the Com.monwalth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission to oppose the application of the trade union movement for an increase of the basic wage. Much has been said about the part played by wages in increasing costs. Government supporters seem to be obsessed with this idea and pay absolutely no regard to the part played by profits. While this is so, it would be impossible to convince the Australian public of the sincerity of their claims.
One interesting feature of the trade union movement’s application is contained in the submission made by its chief advocate, Mr. R. J. Hawke, to the Arbitration Commission. He said that the total profits of Australian companies other than mining companies last year were £130,000,000 or 12.3 per cent, higher than the profit for the previous year, that the profits of manufacturing companies had risen by 13.4 per cent, from £74,000,000 to £84,000,000 and that undistributed profits and money allowed for depreciation had risen by £36,000,000. This Government, in its determination to appear before the Arbitration Commission, is saying that because of alleged inflation the basic wage should not be increased. It would be very hard indeed to establish that point of view in the light of the submissions of Mr. Hawke, which I have just mentioned. The profits of one group of companies were 12 per cent, higher in 1959 than they were in 1958 and the profits of manufacturing companies had risen by £10,000,000. But apparently the only solution that the Government can find to the problem of inflation is to try to ensure that the wages of the workers are not increased.
In the past six years, the basic wage increased by roughly 35s. The increase in wages in that period would not be as great as increases in other directions. I understand that in 1955, £140,000,000 of bank credit was released. In one swoop, the Government released £140,000,000 into our economy, but because wage increases amount to £165,000,000, it immediately seeks to prevent any further wage increases. A comparison of the increase in prices with the increase in wages will show that wages have lagged very badly behind. I think it is acknowledged by every one that wages are always labouring behind prices, and the court reaches determinations only on evidence of what has already happened; it does not consider anything that may happen in the future. Although basic wage increases in the past six years have totalled 35s., we find that prices increased in 1951 by 15 per cent., and even in 1959 they increased by 9 per cent. We are in the present situation as a result of a policy that the Government has deliberately chosen to follow. The Government has permitted things to happen in this country that have deliberately undermined our economy; and I regret that the Government, while crying out for outside assistance in the form of loans or investments, has failed to scruple between the kinds or types of money which it has permitted to come into this country. I well remember that the Chifley Government flatly refused entry into this country of money that is in the vernacular known as hot money, and which has for its purpose quick profits and quick getaways which could only have a devastating effect on the economy.
At no time has this Government taken steps to protect our economy against the operation of such money. We find, among other things, that the Government makes a constant clamour for increases in production and informs every one that if production is increased our problems will be solved. But production is. increasing at a rate of about 2 per cent, per annum, which is- comparable with the rate in other countries in various parts of the world. I believe that the 1959 price for wool represents a record. Wheat and wool sales provide four-fifths of our overseas earnings, and as the production of those industries has been very high there has been a constant uplift or increase in production. But wages have not kept pace with those increases, or anything like it. I think it was the member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) who pointed out that while production has been increasing by 2i per cent, per annum, wages have been rising at the rate of only about one-half of 1 per cent. We find also that company income is at a record level and that depreciation allowances have risen by over 30 per cent, in the last two years. In the light of all those circumstances, it is very difficult to understand the various points of view that are advanced by the Government and its attitude in respect of its intervention in the basic wage hearing by the court. When the Arbitration Commission was announcing a judgment it said, inter alia -
If marginal increases cannot be granted in times of prosperity such as the present, it is difficult to imagine when they can be granted.
And that is precisely the attitude of the trade union movement and the attitude of the Australian Labour Party! I have said before that this Government has followed a policy of contradiction and reversal, and that is not only my point of view. I have, on other occasions, attempted to point out these contradictions, but for the benefit of the House I quote the opinion of Mr. W. J. Crick, general manager of the Midland Bank. In November, 1955, when speaking of the economy of Australia, he said -
Australia’s central Government seems to lack a coherent economic policy adaptable to changing current conditions, while its actions seem to be limited to improvisations.
.- Unfortunately the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam) are absent at this time - the first occasion I have spoken in this House since their election to those positions. I wish to offer them my congratulations and wish them luck. I hope they will be a long time in their present positions.
During the last 40 years, I have taken part in many debates on the subject of inflation, which is before the House today. I do not intend to speak at length on it, but I have come to the conclusion, after listening to both sides, that the only cure for inflation is to produce more goods and have a stable economy rather than have the money running about loose. Therefore, I turn to that part of the Governor-General’s Speech which relates to the increase of goods, services, and work generally. More work will have to be done, particularly in the northern part of Australia. We must fill that part with people as quickly as possible and we must offer some real support in that area to the protective screen which the United States and Great Britain yesterday announced they will provide for us from Singapore to Hawaii. That protective screen will not be much good to us unless we have in the northern part of Australia people to take advantage of any such assistance given to us. I am therefore pleased to see in the Speech the reference to making certain that there is an improvement in the condition of northern Australia. The Speech deals with the provision of some £20,000,000, in all, for the rehabilitation of the Mount Isa railway to improve the transport of minerals from Mount Isa to the seaboard so that they can be properly processed and marketed. The second point is that the Government is to make available some £2,500,000 for the development of the Ord River which has its source in the Northern Territory in order to make available in north-western Australia substantial quantities of fodder for stock and increase the carrying capacity of that country. I must congratulate the Government on this decision to develop, our natural resources.
For too many years - in fact, ever since the beginning of federation - there has been a tendency in this Commonwealth Parliament to say that we must keep completely out of the State sphere in respect of the conservation of water, despite the fact that there is one section in the Constitution which gives us, as it were, absolute power over navigation. That power is modified to a degree by a section which deals with what the States can do in regard to conservation. I am glad to notice that the Constitutional Review Committee recommended that the power in the Constitution to enable the Commonwealth to develop our water resources should be an absolute, power which would enable the Commonwealth to go into the ring and help with this job of work.
The Commonwealth has definitely done so in connexion with the Snowy Mountains scheme. That was commenced at the instigation of Mr. Chifley, a Labour Prime Minister, and has been carried on by the present Government which- is of a nonLabour character. The Commonwealth has- adopted a policy with regard to this development which, I think, should, be adopted throughout Australia in respect of the development of our water resources. The position is that the cost of head works shall be carried by the Commonwealth out of electricity revenues and the waters made available to the States to distribute for irrigation purposes. The cost of distribution is to be borne by the States. If that policy could be adopted throughout the whole of Australia, the conservation of water in this country would be doubled and, not merely that, the tremendous losses that now occur through droughts and floods, and even in ordinary times through the diminution in the quality of what is produced, would be greatly reduced.
What happened in regard to the southern parts of Australia south of the 32nd parallel of latitude? This, strange to say, is where the Antarctic influence gives good winter rains and fairly dry summers, whereas the north has mon.soonal rains and very dry winters.
Of about 1,900,000 acres of irrigated land in Australia, 1,700,000 acres lies south of the 32nd parallel of latitude. Dairy cattle in the southern areas have been tested and have been found to produce, on the average, 250 lb. of butter for each cow.
In the northern areas, on the other hand, the production for each cow is only 150 lb. We have a slightly greater number of cows south of the 32nd parallel than we have in the north, but there are, at the very least, 2,000,000 cows in each of these sections. It can be seen that we are losing about 200,000,000 lb. of butter each year. That loss was considerable even when the price of butter was 2s. per lb., but it is a good deal more on present prices. This loss continues year in and year out. In some areas we are losing an incalculable amount, because we have no production at all, either of beef stock or of dairy cattle. It is obvious, therefore, that we are suffering tremendous losses.
I have had some figures prepared for me by the Bureau of Census and Statistics and by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, and I find that the position with regard to Australian development is completely topsy-turvy. As I have said- before, our resources of water are strictly limited. Australia is the driest continent in the world. In fact, the total flow of water in all the rivers of Australia is less than the flow in each of many single rivers in other continents, such as the Mississippi in North America, the Amazon in South America, many of the Chinese rivers and the Danube in Europe. Some of the other continents have numerous rivers in which the flow of water is comparable to the rivers I have just mentioned. Nevertheless, these countries are finding that with the growth of industrialization and the increase, of their population they are starting to run short of water, not merely for agriculture but also for industry and for general purposes in the urban areas. It behoves us, therefore, to get busy at the earliest possible moment and set about conserving the water that we have.
Where is this water to be found? Where are the areas of greatest rainfall? The Statistician’s officers have worked out for me the areas with an annual rainfall of more than 20 inches. The greatest proportion, by far, of these areas is north of the Tropic of Capricorn, comprising 500,000 square miles of country in north Queensland, the Northern Territory and the northern part of Western Australia. In the whole of the rest of Australia, only 370,000 square miles of country enjoy more than 20 inches of rainfall each year. This area comprises a strip of country below the tropic of Capricorn on the eastern coast, the southern parts of Victoria and South Australia and a small portion in the south of Western Australia. We are doing practically nothing in the way of water conservation in the huge area of 500,000 square miles on which falls practically seven-tenths of all the water that Australia receives. I was very gratified to find the Commonwealth Government declaring its intention to commence, even at this late stage, the Ord River project. I hope this is only the beginning, and that the Commonwealth will continue along these lines. It can do so, as I have always maintained, under its navigation power. In this way it can cooperate with the States in harnessing all the other rivers, so that we can get maximum production from the land at our disposal.
Let me give honorable members some figures that have been prepared for me. The area of 437,000 square miles lying south of the 32nd parallel, and comprising about one-seventh of the area of Australia, holds three-quarters of the total population. It also includes 186,000 square miles of the high rainfall area, or about a quarter of the total. It has 55 per cent, of our railway systems. In this area are about 5.000,000 cattle, both dairy and beef. The dairy cattle number 2,818,000 and the beef cattle 2,150,000. There are also 75,000,000 sheep, representing 65 per cent, of the total number in Australia. In this area is a total of 1,700,000 acres of irrigated land, situated in southern New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia, with a small area in Western Australia.
In the remaining area, comprising sixsevenths of the whole of Australia, we find only 200,000 acres of irrigated land, despite the fact that this is the area in which the greater high rainfall occurs. The area covering one-seventh of Australia south of the 32nd parallel is producing a tremendous amount of food and has harnessed a good deal of the available water for growing all sorts of farm products, fruits and fodder crops. At the same time it is carrying the great bulk of our industrial enterprises. In the other six-sevenths of Australia we are doing very little. Whereas we find a population density of seventeen people to the square mile below the 32nd parallel, the proportion above that line is only three to the square mile, and in the far north we have only one inhabitant to every three and a half square miles. It is obvious, of course, that it would be impossible to build up an army quickly to resist attack if an enemy managed to penetrate the defensive screen that we have heard about.
The job must be done by co-operation. We know that it is very difficult to work within the confines of the Federal Constitution, but in the past we have found ways of overcoming constitutional difficulties. During my own time we have been able to establish the Australian Loan Council and we have instituted the Commonwealth Aid Roads Scheme. Surely it would not be impossible to arrange some kind of cooperation between the States and the Commonwealth in the way that it was arranged in those instances, to mention only two. I could refer also to the Australian Agricultural Council, which I brought into being in 1934. Although it is working in an unconstitutional manner, it has never been questioned since the war, because it keeps home-consumption prices at a reasonable level. The States and the Commonwealth have reached agreement on the working of this council. The work of the council is carried on on a voluntary basis, and we are able to maintain many thousands of men on the land who otherwise might have to give up their holdings completely.
I am supported in my contentions by Sir William Wilcocks, who was responsible for building the Aswan Dam. He made a speech in 1903 in which he said that if the statesmen of Australia had been trained in Egypt or India and had spent half the money on water conservation that they had spent on communications, railways and so on, then the railways would have been able to pay for their initial capital cost as well as their maintenance expenses, because of the extra amount of freight that they would have had to carry. I believe that if we tackle the job as I suggest, we will be able to make our railways pay. Some years ago they were able to pay, but now they are practically all bankrupt. I am firmly of the opinion that we must obtain the cooperation of the States in this matter, because of the terrific losses that are being incurred at the present time. Let me cite some figures with regard to stock losses. In the drought between 1891 and 1902 the total number of sheep lost in Australia was 32,700,000. This resulted in a decline of 49 per cent, in the number of sheep in this country. From 1910 to 1916 we lost 25,000,000 sheep and from 1943 to 1947 we lost 30,000,000. A great proportion of the sheep that we lose are ewes in lamb which cannot stand the hardship in the same way as male animals. This is also true of cattle in calf. Consequently, it may take ten or fifteen years to breed again the number of sheep that we lose in each drought. It would take much longer to breed the cattle that are lost because of the longer gestation period.
In Queensland, between 1894 and 1902 there were four floods and six droughts and we lost 4,600,000 head of cattle or 70 per cent, of the cattle in Queensland. In droughts between 1921 and 1928 we lost about 34 per cent, of the then cattle population. You have only to add those figures together to see what we are losing The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization has worked out that because we lost 30,000.000 sheep in the 1945-47 drought just before the price of wool went up, we ultimately received £600.000,000 less for our wool than we would have received if those sheep had not been lost.
Therefore, it is necessary for us to do three things in this country: First, we must conserve our water and use it. Secondly, we must conserve our fodder so that we will be able to arrest any trouble when we have no water because of drought. Thirdly - and perhaps this should be the first thing - we must conserve our soil which goes down to the sea in millions of tons every year. Our best soil, which has taken millions of years to come into existence, is being carried into the sea. I have flown over the northern rivers when they have been in flood and I have seen the sea, for the whole width of the rivers, dark with silt up to 8 or 10 miles out. I have passed the Hunter River when the water at its mouth has been really mud because of the flood. That soil is lost for all time.
What are we doing about fodder conservation? I have obtained certain figures on this subject from the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization. That organization puts the annual fodder requirement for sheep, cattle, horses, poultry and pigs at about 54,000,000,000 lb. But conserved fodder amounted to only about 4,000,000,000 lb. However, from this quantity should be subtracted the amount required for poultry and pigs because one could scarcely stop feeding them. This leaves a balance for sheep, cattle and horses of 1 ,799,000,000 lb. That is to say that we had 3 per cent, of the fodder necessary annually for animal nutrition. That is why we have these tremendous stock losses.
I have before me a diagram showing what could be done if the appropriate authorities got together to harness our rivers and control their flow in order to use the water for irrigation and fodder conservation. We would then be able to carry at least double the number of stock that is carried at the present time, especially in the dairy industry and the beef industry. These industries would then be able to supplement each other’s activity, and farmers could change their production if markets happened to go wrong. For instance, if our market for dairy products contracted we could kill milking cows a year earlier and sell calves as vealers. But we must have the water.
Water is the life-blood of this country. The many millions of pounds that we have lost in floods and droughts in this country would have been much more than sufficient to put the headworks into our wasted rivers. Let there be more co-operation in this. Let the Commonwealth put the headworks in and leave the States to handle the distribution of the water. If we can let the farmers have water at a reasonable price we will be half-way towards solving our production problems and our marketing problems. When I was Minister for Commerce we were always in trouble with British grocers because of the manner in which our butter came on the United Kingdom market. Usually we had enough for only six or seven months of the year. We arranged with the New Zealand Government that the New Zealand butter producers should send 140,000 tons of butter to the United Kingdom while, from Australia, we sent 100.000 tons, so that 20,000 tons could be put on the market in each month of the year. New
Zealand sent about 4.000 tons more than its quota. We sent 50,000 tons less, and the British market was, for over two months, without our joint butter. The New Zealanders have never spoken to me since. The grocers in Britain were irate. They said, “ Here we had a market all ready to sell your stuff, and for two and a half months there was not a skerrick of New Zealand or Australian butter available “.
We can make certain that we are in a position to deal with such products as this which can be frozen and held for reasonable lengths of time. The same applies to fodder such as lucerne and hay which can be grown and stored. Cattle and sheep depend largely on farm pastures. Land that has grass on it does not erode to nearly the same extent as bare land that has been ploughed or eaten out. or which has lost the whole of its top-soil. Therefore by pasture improvement we are able also to conserve our soil, but only if we have water.
We must maintain and harness the flow of our rivers so that the water will be of some real use. A controlled river is an asset to everybody - the farmer, the businessman and industry. The river that runs amok is a menace and a terror. Only those who have been in terrific floods, as I have been, carrying women and children to safety in the middle of the night from houses that are being overwhelmed, fully realize the effect of flood. This is happening every year. We have beautiful rivers on the east coast of Australia and in the north waiting to be controlled. The control of the Hunter River, to which an honorable member has referred by interjection, has been talked about for 50 or 60 years but no large-scale water conservation and flood prevention scheme has been undertaken and settlers in low-lying areas still have to evacuate their homes.
The Snowy Mountains Hydroelectric Authority has developed an organization which is dealing with these matters in a very big way and we can learn lessons from the big shows in America which have handled big rivers there. Let us follow their example and get together a co-operative team of Commonwealth and State officers. Let us pursue the start made by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies). He has said that we are going to deal with the Ord River.
Then there is also the question of transport. What is the good of stopping halfway? We have done something about roads and something about railways. Let us tackle the job in a full co-operative way and make certain that we are able to handle all our problems efficiently and satisfactorily. If we do that we will not have to occupy our time with inflation debates. We will be able to get our economy on to a very much more level keel and avoid the ups and downs that we have suffered in the past.
– Mr. Deputy Speaker, in this Address-in-Reply debate a wide range of topics has been covered. I join with my colleagues on this side of the House and with members of the Opposition who have voiced greetings to our new Governor-General, Viscount Dunrossil, and his lady. I am sure that we all join in welcoming them to a very happy and useful stay amongst us. Viscount Dunrossil comes with a splendid record of achievement stretching back over a long period of years. He is a distinguished lawyer, soldier and parliamentarian. As Speaker of the House of Commons for eight years, he built up for himself a wonderful reputation for impartiality and he comes to us an expert in the workings of a parliamentary democracy. I believe that we are fortunate to have a gentleman of this outstanding calibre to represent Her Majesty in this country.
I wish to take this opportunity of congratulating the Speaker of this House (Hon. John McLeay) and his colleague the President in another place (Sir Alister McMullin) on the part that they have played in the production of an excellent volume which you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, no doubt have seen, entitled “An Introduction to the Australian Federal Parliament”. I hope that this little volume will be widely distributed. I hope, too, that it will be widely read and studied. I believe that it contains a most useful account of the workings df parliament and of the general constitutional set-up of this country. It might be of some value, in view of the fact that Parliament has only just recently been opened by a new representative of Her Majesty, if I read, at page 133, a couple of brief extracts from the Commonwealth of Australia Constitution Act. Under the heading “ Legislative Power “ these paragraphs appear -
I have quoted those two brief passages because I feel it appropriate at this juncture that we should remind ourselves of the part that Her Majesty and, in her absence, her personal representative, play in our parliamentary procedures.
His Excellency’s Speech covered a very wide range of national and international subjects. I should like to pick out a few of those which are of particular interest to me. First of all, as a Queenslander, I should like to express my very great pleasure at the announcement by His Excellency that legislation will be brought down during this session authorizing an advance of up to £20,000,000 to the Queensland Government, in accordance with an agreement signed some months ago, for the rehabilitation of the railway to Mount Isa, Townsville and Collinsville. This railway, as is probably well known on both sides of the House, traverses a very rich mining and pastoral area. It is capable of still greater production than has yet been visualized. I am sure that when this railway has been rehabilitated it will play a most important role in the development of the great northern area to which I have referred. The railway will speed its development and will benefit not only the economy of Queensland, but also of the whole of this great country.
While speaking of my own State, Queensland, I am reminded of the need for very close partnership relations between the Commonwealth and the States. Members on this side of the House are federalists. We believe in the maintenance of the federal system. One of the things which this debate has served to highlight is the socialist approach to this matter. So many of the arguments advanced by honorable members opposite have demonstrated very clearly that their minds are working along the lines of unification. Anyone who has -studied the federal system and understands it would be very ready indeed to stand up in defence of it. I believe that it is well worth preserving and I hope that when the Government is considering constitutional review in relation to the excellent report submitted by the committee appointed for the purpose of investigating this matter it ‘ will be chary about recommending any amendment, particularly to section 92.
I say that, even at the risk, perhaps, of being labelled a little bit old fashioned. Well, if it is a vice to be old fashioned in regard to section 92 then I have pleasure in pleading guilty. 1 believe that section 92 is the best bulwark that this country has against socialism. I feel confident that Australia has a great future but we must go forward into that future as one people and one nation, not as a collection of peoples or groups of people in different States each bearing a different label. I should like greater unity of thought and purpose to exist between the Commonwealth and the States.
This is emphasized when we think of some of the things that have been said in the course of this debate by honorable members opposite and associate them with the avowed objectives of the Australian Labour Party. I think it is salutary to remind ourselves of what the alternative aspiring government has to offer this country. It is all very well for honorable members opposite to rise in their places from time to time during a crisis or semicrisis or at some other time when they think there is a grievance upon which they can capitalize and go to town on it, saying what wonderful things they could do for the country if only they were on the Treasury bench.
Whenever they speak along these lines I feel that the people should be warned over and over again of the real menace that lies within the Australian Labour Party’s objective. Labour supporters have tried, over a period of years, to cover it up and water it down by giving it different names and labels. I saw an editorial in a newspaper yesterday, I think, which pointed out that the Labour Party was attempting by means of new leadership and new deputy leadership to give the Australian Labour Party a new look. It was an attempt to pour new wine into old bottles and, as the editorial said, that is always an explosive possibility. I think we should remind ourselves also in regard to the platform and promises of our opponents that they take their orders from an outside body which is not responsible to this Parliament and which is not elected by the people of this country.
Although I have said that, on a personal plane 1 should like to offer my congratulations to the new Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) and the new Deputy Leader (Mr. Whitlam). I agree with the honorable member for Paterson (Mr. Fairhall), who, in his excellent address earlier this afternoon, said that it is in the interests of democracy and of the working of this national Parliament that we should have an informed, active and interested Opposition, ready to play its full part in the debates and in the working of Parliament. I hope that the Opposition will do that, in the interests of the nation.
The Government’s assurance contained in His Excellency’s Speech that, prior to the preparation of the next Budget the Government will consider problems associated with the application of the means test and the general pensions system, will be very heartening news to many people, especially those on small or fixed incomes who have been hard hit by the inflationary conditions of recent years. When we talk of inflation - and I shall have something more to say on this topic later - I do not think that we should regard it as something that has just newly arrived among us. Surely every one who has studied the economy over the last fifteen years or more knows that inflation has been with us in varying degrees at least for the whole of that time. This Government has, I think, acted wisely and well at various points of time over the last decade in order to help preserve our economy and keep it on an even keel. I believe that, without intruding too much into the business and control of the affairs of this country, it is desirable that the Government should set an example by keeping its own expenditure down as much as possible, and by leaving the affairs of the people as much as possible to the people themselves. In other words, we should govern more by example than by control.
Now, Sir, I sidetracked myself a little there. I want to say a word or two about national insurance. It must be admitted that the introduction of a national insurance or a national superannuation scheme is fraught with a good deal of difficulty, a good deal of expense and a good deal of complexity. Nevertheless, I am firmly convinced that it is the answer to our social service problems in the broad. I should like to see the Government set up a special independent committee of experts, along the lines of the Decimal Currency Committee that was set up last year, so that it could go into this whole problem of national insurance in relation to the abolition of the means test. Alternatively - and of course one should not be hidebound in dealing with problems of this magnitude - there is the recent suggestion of a Sydney university lecturer, Mr. T. H. Kewley, a man of some note, whose name, no doubt, is well known to honorable members. He proposed that more encouragement be given to citizens to make adequate provision for their own future by means of insurance or superannuation arrangements. He goes on to say -
One problem that would be encountered by persons wishing to make provision (or supplementary provision) for their own retirement is the erosion of the real value of their savings by inflation. A study of the system operating in Denmark may provide a solution to that problem, for there the Government has taken steps whereby the individual can secure an inflationprotected pension.
I am not able to throw any further light on the position in Denmark, but any one interested would no doubt be able to obtain a good deal more information on the system there. I am not one of those who believe that our own ideas on a matter such as this are necessarily the right ones. I think that we can sometimes learn a great deal from the experience of other countries.
As I said earlier, the workings of the socialist mind have been very clearly shown by the terms of the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition. I believe that the arguments that the honorable members opposite have adduced are typically thoretical, impractical and sterile. The socialists seem to think in terms always of the negative approach to these problems. They seem to want a rigid, planned economy. Despite all the experience of recent years, not only in this country but also in Great Britain and other countries, they still harp on controls as though these were the panacea, the be-all and end-all, of a heavenly existence.
Nothing, of course, could be further from the truth, Mr. Deputy Speaker.
One has hardly heard a word from honorable members opposite on the subject of productivity. Whilst I believe that the honorable member for Paterson was very right in his statement this afternoon about the need for Australia to bring down its cost structure, I also believe that a great deal of emphasis must be put on the importance of productivity per head of population. I remember seeing a good many years ago - I think it was during the war years - a documentary film titled “ Productivity, the key to plenty “. I believe that, although, as the honorable member for Paterson said, there are a good many consumer goods on the market at present, we must continue every effort to step up our exports. That means that we must produce more and still more. I believe that only in this way can we hope to put our economy onto a really sound footing and maintain our overseas reserves.
Our socialist friends opposite, on the other hand, seem to be able to think only in terms of organized scarcity, redistribution of wealth or redistribution of existing goods. They do not seem to be able to keep their minds on a positive approach to the problem of inflation. As the Treasurer very aptly pointed out last night, it is only a few years back to the time when we had constant shortages, constant rackets and black markets in many directions. It is all very well for the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) to say, as he did in this chamber last night, that the rationing to which the Treasurer referred was imposed by the Chifley Government only to help our kinsmen in the Old Country. I remind the honorable member for East Sydney, who is not in the chamber at the moment - I hope that he receives this message in due course - that when we took office at the end of 1949, the war to which he referred had been over for more than four years. I suggest that four years was ample time for the Chifley Government to have abolished rationing of butter, tea and petrol had it had the will to do so.
– That is not fair.
– I am simply stating the facts. There is irrefutable proof on the record, and everybody who knows the posi- tion will agree, that it was left to the Menzies Government, which took office at the end of 1949, to abolish rationing. One of the first administrative acts taken by the Menzies Government in the first session of the Parliament after the 1949 general election was the abolition of the controls and the rationing which were harassing the community.
So much for the arguments of the Opposition and the value of the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition. Despite the new look of the Australian Labour Party it still has the same old objectives and the same old line of thinking. Socialization, Mr. Deputy Speaker, no matter what our friends opposite may call it, is still the main objective of the Australian Labour Party, and every one of them is pledged to uphold the doctrine of socialization. If any of them makes reference to this subject subsequent to my speaking and says, “Yes, but it is democratic socialism that we are upholding now”, let me point out that no less an authority than Mr. Chamberlain, the federal president of the Australian Labour Party, is on record as having pointed out that the addition of the word “ democratic “ did not alter in any way the objective of the Australian Labour Party.
I am sorry that the Leader of the Opposition is not here at the moment, because I do not like quoting from the statements of others in their absence. However, I am obliged to do so, because the Leader of the Opposition, and a number of other honorable members opposite, have had a good deal to say about controls - prices control, capital issues control and other controls. With a view to demolishing the argument put forward on this score by the Leader of the Opposition, I should like to quote his own words uttered nine years ago. At a meeting at McKinnon, on 12th February, 1951, the present Leader of the Opposition said -
Unless prices are controlled on a federal basis, the economy of the country must inevitably crash.
Those words must resound pretty dully in his ears if he hears them again at this stage, because the economy has not crashed. Since 1951 the economy has been very buoyant. Certainly there have been difficulties. There was the Korean war and the wool boom. We have had a number of upsets during the period of which I am speaking, but certainly there has been no inevitable crash of the economy simply because the people of this country did not give to the Commonwealth Government the power to control prices. The honorable member for Melbourne, speaking in Melbourne on 19th July, 1951, said -
Australia faces a third world war or a depression. We may avoid the first, but we can only escape the depression by clothing the Federal Parliament, with effective power exercised by a Labour Government.
Where was the depression that the honorable member forecast so gloomily in July, 1951? Although we are still on the treasury bench, we have not been in sight of a depression. Probably whistling to keep up his courage, the honorable member, on 11th May, 1952, stated-
Australia is heading straight into a depression.
Instead, we were heading straight into a boom period which this Government had to take pretty drastic measures to curtail.
– He is a bad prophet.
– He is a shockingly bad prophet. I fear he was indulging in wishful thinking. Instead of a depression Australia has enjoyed, under this Government, a decade of unrivalled progress and prosperity. Our standard of living has been, and is, amongst the highest in the world. We have more motor cars, more refrigerators, more washing machines, more radios, more telephones, more television sets per head of population than we would have dreamed of when this Government took office at the end of 1949. Employment is at a high level despite the gloomy predictions that have been made by honorable members opposite from time to time over the last decade. We have attracted to this country a record number of migrants and a record flow of capital, both of which have played a most striking part in the development and progress of our country. Our economy is immeasurably stronger now than it was when we took over from our socialist opponents at the end of 1949. Our overseas reserves have been strengthened to the point where the Government now finds that it can lift import restrictions on all but about 10 per cent, of the goods which we need to import. There has been some criticism, both inside and outside the Parliament, as to the method by which import restrictions were lifted. That point is debatable. Perhaps it should have been delayed a little, but I think that the Government’s action was justified in the circumstances.
Unlike our opponents, we do not believe in a rigid, controlled, planned economy but in a free economy. When import restrictions were imposed in 1952 the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), the then Treasurer, Sir Arthur Fadden, the then Minister for Trade and Customs, Senator O’sullivan, and other Government spokesmen promised - and it has been repeated - that import restrictions would be lifted at the first possible opportunity.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- This debate has been a good one if only for the reason that it has provided a diversified and enlightened discussion on inflation and its effect on our economy. The right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) has said that there should be greater productivity if we hope to reduce the cost structure or to become more prosperous than we are. However, a reduction in the cost structure will have the gravest effect on our prosperity. The right honorable gentleman has stated that the great rivers of this continent should be harnessed. I could not agree with him more. I have seen many of the floods of which he has spoken, but I regret to say that the right honorable gentleman was Treasurer of the Commonwealth for many years and did absolutely nothing in relation to the great Clarence River, on which, his electorate stands, and the Nymboida scheme in which he has been interested for so long. I am sorry that the right honorable gentleman is not 50 years younger so that we could see whether he would be fighting to-day as he was then to have the great Clarence River harnessed.
I support my leader (Mr. Calwell) in his eulogistic and congratulatory reference to the Royal Family. I also support his remarks in relation to the appointment of Governors-General. I have no doubt that His Excellency Lord Dunrossil will prove to be an outstanding Governor-General; and I wish him well. His predecessor,
Sir William Slim, gave outstanding service to the Commonwealth, as did many other Governors-General, including Sir William McKell and Sir Isaac Isaacs, two really distinguished Australians. When the Government is considering the appointment of a Governor-General in the future it should first explore the Australian scene before embarking upon a trip abroad in search of some one to fill this high and exalted office. I have no doubt that many Australians could do so with distinction.
In his Address to the Parliament, His Excellency referred to many matters of great importance and, if time permits, I shall deal with a number of them. There is the proposed Summit conference, the problems of Asia, rising costs and prices, the Government’s intervention in the basic wage case in opposition to the application by the Australian Council of Trade Unions for an increase in the basic wage, deficit finance, excess monetary liquidity of which we hear so much these days in spite of a surplus in all kinds of production, the lifting of import restrictions, and the social services means test and health and medical services which in particular call for immediate consideration because they affect the pensioners, the aged and infirm and the ‘Unemployed who should receive a better deal when the next Budget is being prepared.
The reference by His Excellency to the defence programme indicates that important changes are to be made in the defence organization. The Minister for Defence (Mr. Townley) should not delay in making a statement on this subject, especially in the light of the decision which was made by the Government to abandon the national service training scheme and to reduce the number of Air Force training bases. The Minister for Air (Mr. Osborne) stated recently that it was intended to establish a new Air Force squadron at Williamtown in New South Wales, and to set up a guided missile base there. I now ask the Minister whether the Parliament will be allowed to debate the matter of the location of guided missile bases in Australia and, if not, who was responsible for the decision to establish such a base at Williamtown. At what other points in Australia are guided missile bases to be established?
I suggest, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that the establishment of guided missile bases in Australia is of the utmost importance, and we cannot afford to make a mistake in choosing locations for them. In this respect, we should heed the lesson of what happened to the Maginot Line, in France, in 1940. I think it would be wrong to establish a guided missile base in the heart of large industrial cities like Newcastle, especially since any potential enemy that this country may have will come from the north. The Government need have no doubt about the fact that, if war with nations of the Communist bloc ever comes, the enemy will devastatingly and effectively bomb us without warning. Atomic-powered submarines will launch atomic and hydrogen bombs at every important coastal city throughout the country in very quick time, despite the naval screen which we have been told is to be established to the north of Australia in the region of Hawaii. We saw how the Japanese attack in 1943 established the ineffectiveness of such a screen.
In view of these considerations, Mr. Deputy Speaker, it is most important that the Government do something more tangible than it has done so far in the matter of civil defence. For more than eight years, the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) has been hammering away at the Government on the subject of civil defence, but he has only been more or less laughed at. If our land-based aircraft are to be at all effective in the event of war, they will have to be based at least 100 miles inland from the coast in order that they may be protected and, at the same time, may be able to hit back as quickly as possible. I suggest that if the Government adheres to its present policy huge sums of money will be spent on the development of larger air bases and guided missile bases which will be absolutely worthless, and therefore such expenditure will be wasted.
The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) has said on behalf of the Government that it welcomed the relaxation of the tension that had existed for so long between the nations of the Communist bloc on the one hand and the democratic powers on the other. He expressed the hope that the Summit conference which is to open on 16th May would pave the way for the settlement of outstanding disputes. The right honorable gentleman then mentioned the help that Australia had given to Asian countries under the Colombo Plan, and he announced that the plan had been extended for another five years. May I say, with respect, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that, although we on this side of the House appreciate what the Government has done for the people of South-East Asia, we consider that the Government ought to watch more closely the position nearer home. Unless I am a bad judge, the region near Indonesia is the area that we shall have to watch in the future.
Mr. Khrushchev, the Soviet Premier, only a few weeks ago, scored sensationally off the Colombo Plan nations when he negotiated a loan to Indonesia of £111,000,000 at 2i per cent, interest. At the same time, he promised that Soviet engineers would construct a modern steel works for Indonesia. The Soviet Premier threw in with these benefits, for good measure, the construction of a fully equipped hospital to accommodate 200 patients. It is amazing, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that the Communists can find such large resources of money and materials for the help of their neighbours and friends, whereas our Prime Minister fears that we have too much monetary liquidity in Australia, although more than 100,000 workers are unemployed, and thousands of pensioners are starving - in a country which lacks nothing! Russia has been extending aid for years in the fashion that I have outlined, Mr. Deputy Speaker. In China, it has done ever so much more than it has done for Indonesia.
I am very much afraid that, in the absence of a better understanding by the Australian Government of the problems of China and of its rightful place in world affairs, the Summit conference that the Prime Minister welcomed will fail. It is my view that, in denying 700,000,000 Chinese a voice in world affairs, the right honorable gentleman is doing Australia a disservice. A recent announcement revealed that the Soviet Union had constructed one atomic reactor or more in China. If this is true, it will not be very long, I believe, before China itself produces an atomic bomb. Once that country has such a weapon, it will not care whether or not the Western powers admit it to the United Nations. In my view, it is therefore essen- tial for Australia, as a nation, to try to understand that China has a case to present for admission to the United Nations, and our representative there should be instructed to support China’s claim to admission. Without China’s inclusion in negotiations for world disarmament, there can be no outright success at the Summit conference.
His Excellency told the Parliament that his advisers had informed him that, although employment and production were high and increasing, rising costs and prices were worrying the Government, and that if they were allowed to continue to rise needless hardship and instability of employment would occur. His Excellency said that the Government therefore would, in effect, advise the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission not to enter judgment for an increase in the basic wage. Last week, the Prime Minister told the Parliament that the last two wage increases had more than absorbed the whole of the profits that industry had earned, and that industry and the nation needed time to absorb those two increases. I wonder, Mr. Deputy Speaker, whether the right honorable gentleman thinks that all except those who are in his Ministry are fools, and that every one will accept his statement as being authentic!
It is common knowledge that wage increases are always passed on and that wages and salaries are always chasing increasing prices. As a result of this, small wageearners and pensioners become poorer all the time. The lifting of import restrictions will soon cause a further rise in unemployment, because many of our industries will not be able to compete with imported goods produced under cheap-labour conditions, many of those goods also being subsidized by the governments of the producing countries. The Prime Minister’s claim, which is supported by the Government, that the overwhelming majority of Australian workers are reasonably prosperous is, in my view, grossly distorted, and I believe that the Government’s action in opposing before the Arbitration Commission the basic wage increase at present being sought will ultimately boomerang against it.
The honorable member for Gwydir (Mr. Ian Allan) said that the average wage received by workers in this country stood at £22 8s. a week last December. That claim is all hooey. In order to establish that it is wrong, I refer to the income tax statistics contained at table 46, in the Estimates and Budget Papers 1959-60. This table indicates that in the financial year 1956-57 there were 1,779,325 taxpayers with taxable incomes of between £2 and £15 a week and 779,995 with taxable incomes of between £15 and £20 a week, making a total of 2,559,320 with taxable incomes of between £2 and £20 a week. If we add to this number 597,642 age and invalid pensioners, to say nothing of widow pensioners, those who are unemployed and persons receiving sickness benefit, we find that there are at least 3,156,962 people in Australia with incomes of about £1,000 a year or less. These statistics show that the figures that the honorable member for Gwydir said he had obtained from the latest report of the Commissioner of Taxation have been greatly distorted, and that the Prime Minister’s claim that most Australians are overwhelmingly prosperous is exaggerated. If we are to accept that gross income of £22 8s. as being prosperity, I can only say, “ God help the 2,000,000 workers who receive less than £15 a week, from which has to be deducted taxation, national health contributions, superannuation in many cases, donations for charity and funeral and other expenses “.
I suggest, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that it ill behoves the Prime Minister and Government supporters to try to convince the Parliament and the nation that the working people and the pensioners are better off than they actually are. The fact is that they are only living from day to day. The GovernorGene al’s Speech contained nothing of beneficial importance to the working people of Australia. On the contrary, it contained threats of greater hardship and impoverishment to hundreds of thousands of people living on fixed incomes and low wages. Increased profits and prices will attend to that.
I support the amendment to the motion for the adoption of the Address-in-Reply which has been proposed by my leader, because it highlights the failure of the Government to halt inflation with its adverse effects on wage and salary earners, pensioners, persons on fixed incomes, primary producers and home builders, and particularly those with young families. The Government’s action in lifting import restrictions, with the accompanying threat to thousands of Australians and the security of Australian enterprises, warrants its censure by this Parliament. The Government’s action in asking the Arbitration Commission to reject the application by the Australian Council of Trade Unions for an increase in the basic wage is to be deplored. I believe the Leader of the Opposition took most appropriate action to bring to the notice of the Government and the people the failure of the Government to arrest inflation and provide stable living standards and security for the people in the face of crippling costs and prices which are increasing week by week.
The Government’s claim to prosperity cannot be denied, but it is a prosperity of the wealthy and the near wealthy. It is a prosperity of employer, manufacturer, importer and grazier. Retailers and politicians with dual incomes have had a great run, and most medical and professional men have never known greater prosperity. Their rackets so far have provided for them manna from heaven. The Government, through the National Health Act and by the sale of its interests in undertakings, such as Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited, the whaling industry, and Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited, and by the rationalization of air services, has assured prosperity for those I have mentioned. But when it is a question of helping the wage-earner or providing security for the aged and infirm, the Government, through the Prime Minister, throws up its hands in holy horror of inflation.
For more than ten years now, the Prime Minister and his ministry have been shedding crocodile tears about inflation, yet this Government was elected in 1949 on the promise that it would stop inflation. It has been my opinion for a long time that the Government has used inflation solely for its own purposes. The Prime Minister knows that with the sort of inflation we have, the rich become richer and the poor become poorer. The Government has used the finances it has at its disposal in a most irresponsible way. Taxation has been increased in every direction. Years ago, the Government had so much revenue that the Treasurer would tell the House that he was drawing off excess purchasing power from the general public - the surplus funds - and putting the money into a safe place where it could do no harm and defeat inflation. In later years, the Government created the Loan Consolidation and Investment Reserve and put into it hundreds of millions of pounds. In the past two years it has, at the same time, budgeted for a deficit by creating central bank finance.
What I want to know is this: Why does the Government budget for a deficit and at the same time, place its current funds into a trust account? If a government can create central bank finance to suit one purpose, it can create the same sort of finance for the building of roads, schools, harbours, water and sewerage, homes, airports and a thousand other purposes. From my point of view, it is no worse to create central bank finance to provide work, such as that I have referred to, than it is to use similar funds to feed the Army, Navy and the Air Force, and that is what has happened in the past two years. In a country such as ours where there is abundant development and no shortage of labour or materials of any kind, there can be no wrong in using the resources with which we have been blessed by our Creator.
I am doubtful whether the Government has, at any time since 1949, made a genuine effort to arrest the inflation we know. I challenge the Government, in the face of its appearance before the arbitration tribunal to oppose the application of the Australian Council of Trade Unions for an increase in the basic wage, to take immediate action to halt inflation. If the Government claims it has not the constitutional power to bring down the necessary legislation, it could at least call a conference of all State governments and suggest State and Commonwealth complementary legislation which would aim at an immediate reduction of anything from 15 to 25 per cent, in the overall costs and services to the Australian community. The re-establishment of a Commonwealth and States prices control authority could also be considered; that is, of course, if the Government is genuine in its desire to stabilize costs.
Mr. Deputy Speaker, I suggest that what I propose can be achieved without any real hardship to any one. It would certainly be a frontal attack on inflation. The profit margin on all commodities and services, commencing with the production of raw materials and proceeding through the manufacturing and distributing phases to the consumer, is far too high. I cannot understand why the Government will not investigate the profits of financiers, manufacturers, distributors and others. Years ago, the Government promised to impose an excess profits tax if profits proved to be too high. Apparently, the sky has not yet been reached by the profit-making friends of the Government. The Prime Minister never objects to, nor does he ever express any concern about, the effect that the manipulation of finance by financial institutions and the international cartels has on our economy.
Apparently, the Government looks with pleasure on the process that many companies employ in the development of their share capital by watering down stocks and by the issue of free shares to shareholders. For instance, in 1958 the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited paid an interim dividend of 5 per cent, before issuing a two for nine bonus issue, and a final dividend of 4i per cent, after that issue. In that case, a shareholder with 2,000 £1 shares would have received 444 new shares for nothing and in addition would receive a 4 per cent, dividend. The shares then became marketable at about 64s. a share. - not a bad bit of business because the shareholder would receive about £1,500 for nothing. One cannot estimate how much that would add to inflation.
What answer has the Government to that form of business? Finance companies today and for many years past are and have been feeding like leeches sucking the blood from a body. A substantial section of the Australian consumers needs goods and services that are available to it, but it has not the finance to acquire the goods. Therefore, I support the amendment that has been moved by the Leader of the Opposition.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- I doubt whether there has been a debate in this House previously in the life of this Parliament when so many conflicting and interesting statements were made by members of the Opposition about the Australian economy. Each statement from the-
Opposition side has produced more confusion in our minds on the Government side of the House as to what is the real policy of the Australian Labour Party for correcting inflation.
– The honorable member will hear about it in due course.
– Well, we have been waiting a long time. On this occasion alone, we have had four or five days of debate. It is time members of the Opposition produced something conducive to thought. The first interesting statement made in this debate was that of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam), who said that we have never enjoyed such prosperity as we now have in this country. We appreciate that admission because of its truthfulness, but this prosperity has embarrassed the country in various degrees during the past seven years. It is an accepted axiom in the economics of all free countries that good government can either kill or encourage prosperity. As we have, according to the admission of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, enjoyed prosperity, we can say at least that this prosperity is due to good government. But if anything has contributed to the mild attack of inflation that we are now experiencing, it is the prosperity that has flowed from our development. I think it is true to say that if we had had no development we would have had no prosperity and we would have had no inflation. However, any government that did not make the most of the opportunities that have been offered since the war would have failed in its commission.
The important point about all this is that the Government recognizes the existence of inflation and is prepared to apply remedies in an effort to arrest it. The remedies in the main may be described as controls. They all apply some form of control in an effort to increase the production of consumer goods. But we Australians do not take kindly to economic controls. We find them irksome and unbearable. To avoid controls and increased taxation, the Government has decided to lift import restrictions so that the supply of consumer goods will be increased and prices will fall. Opposition members very severely criticize this action. It is rather interesting that they should do so because they were very critical when import controls were introduced. On that occasion, they said that these controls would immediately cause black marketing. Now that they have been removed, honorable members opposite suggest that unemployment will increase.
But the only truly genuine method of arresting inflation is to increase production within the country. That suggestion itself has brought a certain amount of criticism from Opposition members. We all remember very vividly the time when Labour supporters stumped around the country and told the worker not to work himself out of a job - that is, not to produce too much. Sir, I want to tell our socialist friends opposite that if they believe that the cure to this country’s ills is not to produce, then I assure them that it is not the belief of the socialists in the iron curtain countries. They believe that the only way to prosperity is to produce and to produce more and to keep on producing until production far exceeds local requirements, their products are cheaper than those of their competitors and they are able to undercut the lowest world prices. If Australia is to keep its present high standard of living and remain a free, democratic country, we must be able to compete with the socialist countries and succeed in the cold war that they are now waging. Wc must control inflation. Inflation, as we all know, has no respect for worker or employer and those who suffer most are those with a fixed income, such as pensioners and people in receipt of superannuation.
The point that has come up repeatedly in this debate, and which I think is most interesting, is the Government’s intention to intervene in the basic wage case now before the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. I see no reason why the Government should not be represented in that case in order to point out the necessity for the economy to have time to absorb recent wage increases. If the commission desires, it may reject all the advice given by the Government. It has done so before, and it is possible that it will do so in the future. But no one could suggest that the two wage decisions of 1959 - the basic wage case in June and the 28 per cent, increase of margins in November - were the only factors in the recent acceleration of the inflationary movement. The truth is that the court’s decisions have been the major factor in this acceleration of inflation. If honorable members cast their minds back to 1953, they will recall the praise with which sensible working people received the decision to end the quarterly adjustments to the basic wage. It is worth remembering that the ending of this automatic inflationary injection into the nation’s cost structure did a great deal to bring about stability in the middle 1950’s.
The feature that in my view is so highly unsatisfactory is that, somewhat by default, we are now drifting back into the situation in which, under whatever guise may be adopted, wage levels are being moved massively at least once a year. I urge the Government to do more than merely suggest to the Arbitration Commission that the economy needs time to absorb recent wage increases. I urge the Government to suggest to the commission that it seriously re-consider the policy that it has laid down of reviewing the so-called basic wage each twelve months. One could ask, “ Why put down such an arbitrary time as twelve months? “ Surely the important point to remember is that these things should be considered when it is necessary to do so. Quite frankly, I think our system of wage fixing is out of hand and we have allowed ourselves to lose sight of the original concept of the needs of the worker by adopting the concept of the capacity of industry to pay. I believe that the worker is entitled to a full share of increased productivity, and I am prepared to concede that in the past he has not always received it. But the fact is that he is sharing in it to-day, and I do not want to see him robbed of the fruits of his victories over the years. Certainly, nothing will deprive him more quickly of the fruits of his victories than will inflation.
In the iron curtain countries which I visited recently, industry worked three shifts. On one occasion, I asked my Communist host, “ Is this prosperity, this working of three shifts day after day, producing and producing all the time? Is this the prosperity that I have been told exists here? Will the workers share in this prosperity?
Will they get more wages to buy more bread, because they have had great difficulty in buying cheaper goods? “ He said in his staccato voice, “ The workers are very happy; we have no inflation “.
Sir, I want to remind the workers and members of the Australian Labour Party that production is the only real way to combat inflation. All too often, in the determination of the wage structure, there is a highly unhealthy concentration on the capacity of the manufacturing industries. It is true that some industries, and even some companies within an industry, and even some States within the Commonwealth, are increasing their potential. It is true that there are some areas of high profits and high dividends in this country. This matter has been referred to by various members opposite; but the fact is that the all-over increase in productivity per head of the population has been between 1 and lt per cent, a year, while in the last ten years money wages have increased by 8 per cent, per year. No wonder there is inflation in those circumstances. I am convinced that so long as we continue with a compulsive court-sponsored short-term system of basic wage reviews we will continue to have the superficially based, highly inflationary money wage rises, with retail prices going up constantly in anticipation of a court finding, and that is highly inflationary.
I am convinced that, so long as we allow the solemn brolga dance of unions to the commission to entice a so-called margins increase we will always have the utter absurdity that a court-allowed increase of 9s. more to a fitter, however deserving, will bring an increase of more than £100.000,000 to the national wages bill. This, of course, only means highly increased increments to the highest paid officials in the most unproductive services in the Commonwealth.
It seems to me as plain as a pikestaff that no matter what increase flows from what award, no matter what the expert witnesses say; and no matter what awful hardships the television-equipped worker to-day has to undergo, we cannot lift wages faster than all-over productivity rises. The fastest growing countries in the world, of which we are not one, do no better than increases of 2 per cent, a year, and our figure is probably about 1 per cent.
In the last resort I want to make this point: Let us be more realistic. And let this be put realistically to the court, in terms strong enough to stop us entering a new cloud-cuckoo land in which no worker’s widow’s savings will be left intact, no worker’s bank account worth a damn, and no bond worth the paper on which it is written. Are not those things as important as wage increases? Is not the question of workers’ widows’ savings important? Is not the question of the worker’s bank account important? And, of course, it is most important that the bonds be worth the paper on which they are written. In the last resort, workers, business, and governments all lose by inflation.
On the same general subject, I think it should be noted that the Government has in mind certain policies to counter current trends, and that the forthcoming Budget will be framed to check what is described as excessive monetary liquidity. Ominous though this phrase may sound, one cannot but support the principle; but I urge the Government, however important this may be, not to be repressive in its approach to the Budget.
I am among those, for instance, who believe that the time has come to examine the usefulness of the pay-roll tax, an impost which makes a direct contribution to the cost structure every time wages increase. This tax is an overall cost which goes into the cost of production of every article which we produce - to which the pay-roll tax is applicable - and it is found in the price we pay across the counter for any consumer goods. In thinking about taxation as a means of restraining excessive liquidity, we sometimes lose sight of the fact that taxation itself can be a big inflationary pressure. I believe that we are already at the point at which any further taxation would be inflationary, and that the Government would be better directed to turn its mind to the possibility of limited taxation and increased incentive to business and to the individual, and finally give an incentive to save.
The dismantling of the import control system and the lifting of licensing are steps of imagination and courage and will do much to mop up excessive liquidity. In this connexion, I am reminded of a statement made to-day by the honorable member for Paterson (Mr. Fairhall). As I have said, the Government’s action on this matter certainly is an imaginative step and will do quite a lot to mop up excessive liquidity, but I think it would be very sour thinking on the part of the Government to turn to taxing us for this progressive step. I hope that will not come about in the Budget.
Business management itself has a very simple path to follow to help the Government in handling this problem of inflation and I hope it will follow that path of selfdenial. Among our business managers today there are many who build up a high earning rate and then strive to maintain it by passing on or even anticipating the wage increases granted by arbitration. Yet all too often the high earning rate itself is very unreal and is based on statistics which cannot possibly be supported by facts. In many cases, also, our distribution methods could be reviewed.
Honorable members will recall the strictures passed by the Tariff Board on the automotive industry in 1957. They will remember that the board then said that spare parts passed through too many hands, with excessive profits being taken at each point of the handling. It also said that this practice could only be condemned. I hope that the Tariff Board will remember that statement, which it made in 1957, particularly when certain applicants are again before it. In conclusion, I think it is possible that the observations which I have made could have a very wide application. Certainly, restraint by business houses is an essential component in any plan to halt inflation. But it is greatly to be hoped that the Government matches its own moves in the Arbitration Court with precept and example to business people, because without that consideration we cannot fully combat inflation. We need the support of every section of industry. We need support and assistance from the worker as well as from business managements.
– One fact that emerges from the debate is that the Government is still without a practical plan for dealing with the inflationary trends which at the moment are threatening the economy of the country at every level. High interest rates, excessive profits, and extravagant capital expenditure on luxury and non-essential industries are among the main causes of the inflationary trends. The Government does not, however, propose to do anything about interest charges. Neither does it propose to control capital expenditure in luxury and nonessential industries. All that it proposes in respect of excess profits is to lift import restrictions, in the hope that the importation of lower-priced goods from overseas will force a price reduction in Australian goods and thus reduce the margin of profit now being enjoyed by certain Australian manufacturers.
The lifting of import restrictions, however, will not reduce the huge margin of profit of the giant wholesale and retail concerns in this country. Indeed, the importation of lower-priced goods from overseas, which will result in the closing down of Australian industries now producing similar goods, will give to the wholesalers and retailers to whom I referred an opportunity to make even bigger profits than they are now making. As a matter of fact, it is already known to the retailers of television sets that the cartel which now controls the distribution of those sets in Australia has formed a ring to prevent, not the importation, but the sale of Japanese-produced transistor television sets at the greatly reduced prices at which they could be sold, as compared with Australian sets, if the margin of profit were the same as that applying to the Australian-produced sets. It can be seen, therefore, that the lifting of import restrictions will not necessarily mean a reduction in prices. It will simply mean in many cases an enormous increase in the profits of the retailers, or the ring of retailers, controlling the importation of the particular article.
To whatever extent, however, the Government succeeds in reducing prices of Australian goods by the lifting of import restrictions, it will to a similar extent affect the employment situation in Australia. Only to the extent that it is able to force Australian manufacturers to reduce their prices can it succeed in reducing the prices of Australianproduced goods. But there is no guarantee that it can achieve this result, and if import restrictions are lifted even more substantially than is at present proposed - and I am informed that by 1961 it is intended that import restrictions should be lifted altogether - the stage could very well be reached when many Australian industries would have to close down altogether, because it would be utterly impossible for them to compete against the lower-priced goods that would be brought here from overseas.
I would like to ask this question: Has the Government no other way of dealing with excess profits than this indirect, cumbersome and ineffective method of lifting import restrictions? What about the excess profits tax that we were told about in 1951? Can we not remember Sir Arthur Fadden standing on the other side of this table and telling us that in October of that year the Government proposed to bring in an excess profits tax? Were we not all on this side surprised, but, at the same time, glad to know that the Government, which had been in office for two years then, had at last awakened to the fact that excess profits were causing even then - and I say nothing of what is happening now - the inflationary trend that had manifested itself from the very moment that the Government came into office?
But what happened? Nothing happened. Why did nothing happen? It is not hard to find the answer to that question. It is clear that this Government is not free to impose an excess profits tax, because the people upon whom the Government would have to impose the tax are the very people who finance the Government’s election campaigns, and who are virtually, as a consequence of their control of the newspapers of Australia, the ones who keep this Government in office. The Government was not going to be so foolish as to offer that kind of insult to the susceptibilities of its best supporters, by taxing their excess profits. For this reason, the excess profits tax was not proceeded with.
The plain fact of the matter is that we are suffering from profit inflation. We are not suffering from inflation caused by high wages, because we have not got high wages in the true sense of the word. Real wages are not high, and those are the wages that I am now talking about. Real wages can be measured only in terms of purchasing power. They are not measured simply in terms of pounds, shillings and pence; they are measured according to what they will buy. How many pounds of butter will a man’s wages buy at the end of a week? How many weeks must he work to buy a television set? How many months or years will he have to work to buy a motor car, or how many years to buy a house? These are the only measuring rods for real wages, and I say that real wages to-day are lower than ever before, in spite of the fact that productivity per man-week is greater than ever before. We are producing more today, with a 40-hour week, than we ever produced with a 44-hour week, and much more than we ever produced with a 48-hour week. Productivity per man-hour is increasing steadily each year, and as it does so the purchasing capacity of the wageearner working in industry, who is responsible for the increased productivity, is steadily declining.
So we find a gap developing between productivity and the capacity of the worker in industry to purchase that which he produces. It is a gap which is being filled momentarily by the use of hire-purchase finance. If the gap were not filled in this way, it would result in what we used to call over-production, but which we now know to have been under-consumption. The gap is being momentarily filled by hire-purchase finance, but it cannot be filled indefinitely in this way, because even hirepurchase finance will not be able to bridge the gap for very much longer. Already the Australian people have hire-purchase commitments to the extent of not less than £390,000,000. Just think of it! We have a population of 10,000,000 owing £390,000,000, or £39 per head. Every man, woman and child in this country, even babies born last night, may be included in the number, and still the hire-purchase debt is £39 per head of population.
Consider what this means to an average family - a man, wife and, say, two children. This average family unit of four owes to hire-purchase companies not less than £156. The hire-purchase debt is growing and growing, and eventually it must reach saturation point. When that stage is reached, we will again be in a position of apparent over-production, because the people will be unable to buy back from industry the goods which they produce. When that position develops, and the shops are filled with goods for which there are no buyers, the controllers of industry have no alternative but to stop production. In doing so, of course, they must stop employing. When a number of men are sacked in one industry, their dismissal brings about the dismissal of other men in other industries which depend for the sale of their products on the purchasing power of the workers who have now been thrown out of employment. It has a snowballing effect which can only end in disaster and calamity unless something is done to meet the situation now. That situation is the great problem of inflation and it is a serious problem. It has to be met quickly or the whole of the surplus goods in this country will be swallowed up, and ultimately there will be unemployment. This disastrous development can be avoided only by stringent and firm action by the Government.
This Government has done nothing at all to deal with interest charges, and no one will deny that these contribute in no small way towards the increase in prices. If a manufacturer has to pay a high rate of interest on the money that he borrows for capital expansion, that interest charge has to find its way into the price of the things he has to sell. But it does not end there. Most of the goods produced in industry - or a substantial portion of them - are sold under hire-purchase agreements at exorbitant rates of interest, and those interest charges also enter the price structure.
I had an example the other day of a television set which cost about £190. In addition, £17 had to be paid for an antenna. To these amounts, £54 had to be added to cover insurance for three years on the television set. The total amount that remained to be paid by the purchaser, after deducting the deposit, was £240. The interest on this amount over a five-year period amounted to £120. A company in South Australia called Goodwins Limited has offered to sell television sets to the public on hire purchase free of interest in order to save the purchaser £120. But all the manufacturers of television sets throughout Australia have refused to supply that firm with television sets because the hire-purchase companies have told the television set producers that if they supply Goodwins Limited with television sets, the hire-purchase companies will refuse to finance the purchase of their goods from other retailers throughout Australia.
The payment of £120 in interest on a television set costing 189 guineas, in my book, is excessive. Something ought to be done to control these interest rates but this Government says, “We have no constitutional power to deal with this “. Maybe it has not. No one knows. The Government itself does not know. It is only guessing because it has never tried to exercise any control over hire purchase interest rates. The Government could introduce legislation to place the control of interest charges on hire purchase transactions under Commonwealth jurisdiction and let the hire purchase companies challenge it. Let the legislation be fought in the High Court and the Privy Council if necessary. Only then will the Government know whether or not it has power to control hire-purchase interest rates.
Even if it were proved that there is no constitutional power to control hirepurchase interest charges, this Government could do a lot of other things to control those charges if it really wanted to do so. It could call a conference of all the State governments. It could ask the State governments to agree to hand over power to control interest charges on hire-purchase finance for, perhaps, a limited period. Maybe it would be asking too much of the State governments to expect them to hand over this power permanently. But what is wrong with the Commonwealth seeking the power for one. two, three, or four years, after which the Commonwealth’s authority would automatically lapse unless the State governments were prepared to renew it? If the control of hire-purchase finance were as effective as I am certain it would be, not one State government would dare to refuse the Commonwealth the right to continue exercising that control. But nothing like that has been done.
On the other hand, the Government could use the Commonwealth Trading Bank or some other branch of the Commonwealth Banking Corporation to compete with hirepurchase companies. But, far from encouraging the Commonwealth Bank to compete with them, what did this Government do? In 1951 it directed the Com- monwealth Bank to cease operations in the hire-purchase field. I am one of those who, before the order was given, were lucky enough to avail themselves of hirepurchase finance from the Commonwealth Bank at 4i per cent. Instead of preventing the Commonwealth Bank from acting as a brake on the excessive charges that are being made by the private hire-purchase companies, the Government should direct the Commonwealth Bank to get stuck right into the hire-purchase business. It should see that the Commonwealth Bank is not hampered by insufficient funds in this respect. By doing that, the Government would strike an important and a challenging blow against the excessive interest charges that now characterize hire-purchase finance.
Apart from those who have a pecuniary interest in hire-purchase companies, there is not a person in the community who does not agree that hire-purchase interest charges are excessive and that governments - all of them, State and Federal - are lagging in their duty in not dealing with the problem adequately. But what can State governments do on their own? No State government can deal adequately with the problem of hire purchase unless all other State governments act in exactly the same manner. If the New South Wales Government were to decide to introduce legislation to limit interest rates on hirepurchase transactions to a reasonable level, what would happen? All the hire-purchase companies would say, “ Very well. We will operate only in the other States.” They could change their office of registration, register in Melbourne, and probably take High Court action to establish that the action of the New South Wales Government was an interference in interstate trade and commerce, as the private banks did in connexion with the banking legislation of 1947. Action has to be taken by the Commonwealth or not at all. The position is similar to that of price control. Control of interest charges can only be introduced by one central authority whose decisions shall be the same all over Australia, thus preventing people from dodging their effect. lt goes without saying that no private bank is likely to lend its money at 5i per cent, interest to people who want to build homes when, by channelling the same money into its hire-purchase subsidiaries, it can get 19 per cent, interest, lt is absurd that a working man can buy a £300 television set on hire purchase without any deposit at all. He can just walk into n shop and say, “ I want that £300 set. Deliver it to my place, without deposit.” Away it goes and he pays 19 per cent, interest. But if he wants money to build a house for himself and his wife and children, he is told by the same people who provided the funds to finance the purchase of the television set that money is not available for home building. Can you blame them? Can you blame a bank, which is interested only in profits, for not lending money at 5 per cent, or 6 per cent, to build homes when it can get 19 per cent, for money lent through its subsidiary hire-purchase company for the purchase of television sets? Of course not. You cannot blame them. 1 am not against hire-purchase finance. I believe that hire purchase is a good thing. It is the working man’s overdraft. It provides the only means by which a working man can buy a washing machine, a television set, a radiogram or a refrigerator. He is entitled to these things but he should not be charged 19 per cent, interest for them as he is now being charged by hire-purchase companies all over Australia. It goes without saying, too, that the banks will not lend money to the Commonwealth for public works at 6 per cent, or 5 per cent, if they can get 19 per cent, for the same money lent out through the hire-purchase subsidiary companies.
These are the reasons why there appears to be a shortage of money for essential industries or public loans, yet there seems to be an unlimited supply of money for luxury and non-essential industries. This is simply because there is such an enormous profit in luxury and nonessential goods compared with the profit that can be obtained from industries which engage in the production, of building materials and other things that are so important to the general public.
One of the things in which the Governmen is lacking badly is courage to deal with capital issues control. Suppose a company engaged in the manufacture of luxury goods such as scanties or something else wants to expand its capital by £1,000,000 and another company, engaged in the manufacture of cement wants £500,000 for expansion in order to produce more materials for home building. The absurd situation arises in which the lingerie company gets its £1,000,000 oversubscribed, but the company trying to produce more cement gets about one quarter of what it requires and is unable to undertake the expansion in which it wishes to engage. One of the reasons why there is a great shortage of money for these essential industries-
– Do you not regard underclothes as essential?
– Of course I regard underclothes as essential, but not some of the ones displayed in shops. I mean the ladies’ underclothes, scanties, vests, singlets or whatever they are called - it is so long since I bought any I have forgotten what they are called - trimmed with all kinds of French lace and selling at 14 guineas and 16 guineas a set.
– Where do you see those?
– I dare say the Minister has seen them.
– I have not.
– I have seen them but I have never bought them. But one can see shops filled with underwear priced at 15 guineas and 16 guineas a set, made by non-essential industries, while people who want to manufacture cement cannot get enough capital to provide for expansion.
I believe that a strong case can be made out for a general review of the taxation laws covering company profits. Most companies to-day have dropped the oldfashioned idea of obtaining more capital for expansion from shareholders’ funds. They say, “ What fools are we to call upon the shareholders to meet an expansion of capital by the ordinary old-fashioned idea when we can meet it by issuing debentures on unsecured notes or by operating on a bank overdraft”. The interest paid on a debenture or an unsecured note or a bank overdraft is allowable as a tax deduction whereas dividends paid to shareholders on shareholders’ own funds are not deductible for taxation purposes. Consequently, as one would expect, the companies say that no longer will they meet capital expansion requirements by increasing shareholders’ funds but will raise their increased capital by debentures, unsecured notes or bank overdrafts. They can then charge against profits the interest they have to pay.
This is something which the Government should investigate. The Government should prevent the making of profits by this kind of manipulation. By such an act funds could be channelled into Government loans. Government loans, as we know, are badly in need of some fillip. Unless something is done to encourage people to invest in Government loans it will become more and more difficult to fill them, and to the extent that they are unfilled the Government will be faced with the problem either of curtailing public works or increasing interest charges, or issuing more central bank credit which will further increase the inflationary tendencies.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
Sitting suspended from 5.59 to 8 p.m.
.- I join with other honorable members in congratulating His Excellency the Governor-General on the Speech which he delivered so delightfully in the Senate chamber. His Excellency has been here only a very short time, but already he has endeared himself to the Australian people. He recently opened the Festival of Arts in Adelaide, and showed there that he was an orator of the highest order and a good mixer who endeared himself to the Australian public. I should also like to add my congratulations to those already extended to the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam) on their new appointments.
I am sure, Sir, that every Australian is elated by the development we see all around us. Trade, industry and commerce have never been more buoyant. Wages, both nominal and real, have never been higher. Profits, as is indicated by the buoyant stock exchange position, are good. Employment is at a high level, and unemployment is lower than in any country in the world. Australia to-day, Sir, is the envy of every other country. More immigrants are coming to this country than are going to any other country.
In this period of great prosperity it is no wonder that inflationary pressures arise. That inflation is an evil we all can agree; but to suggest that it is something new is almost laughable. For an attack to be launched on the Government by members of the Labour Party on the issue of inflation is certainly amusing. During the three years 1947, 1948 and 1949. when the Labour Party was in office, inflation was galloping. Prices were rising at the rate of approximately 9 per cent, per annum. Recently they have been rising at the rate of 3 per cent, per annum - one-third of the rate of rise under Labour. Yet we find the Labour Party launching a no-confidence motion on the ground that we have failed to do what they miserably failed to do.
Now, Sir, there is a tendency in looking at this problem of inflation to look at it purely superficially. There are people who say that the recent basic wage rise and the recent increase of margins are the cause of inflation. I point out to those people that the very reason that the basic wage was increased was that costs had risen. The Arbitration Commission found that the country had the capacity to pay the increase, and awarded it. Similarly with the margins rise,, the commission realized that skill must be rewarded, that margins must be preserved. It awarded an increase of margins, because in that case also it believed that the country had the capacity to pay.
On the other hand, we have people who say that inflation is due to excessive profits. Those people entirely overlook the fact that the profits of all the companies of Australia together do not represent more than 5 per cent, of turnover. Therefore, Sir, even if profits were eliminated - and if that were done we would have no industry at all - it would not make very much difference to the cost structure.
What is the cause of the present inflationary pressures? I believe the cause is inadequacy of savings. It is the individuals in the community who decide how they will dispose of their money. There are two ways to deal with income. One is to spend it, the other is to save it. If you spend money you create a demand for goods.
Every demand for goods has an inflationary effect. It produces an inflationary pressure. I have pointed out consistently in this House that savings in this country are totally inadequate. So long as our savings are inadequate so long will we have inflationary pressures.
I was interested to read the report of a brilliant speech by the Governor of what was then the Commonwealth Bank, Dr. Coombs, delivered recently at the science congress. Dealing with the development of Australia Dr. Coombs said* -
We must be willing to provide the resources for this capital expenditure by saving an adequate proportion of current income.
Dr. Coombs added
The present level of savings almost certainly falls short of what is required to carry through capital development at the rate which the community desires without continuing .danger of inflationary pressure.
Here, Sir, is the statement of the number one man in Australia entrusted with the responsibility of providing stability. Dr. Coombs says that the cause of inflation is the inadequacy of savings, and unless we correct it we will always have inflationary pressures.
Now let us look at the savings of the community. I have obtained figures from the Commonwealth Statistician showing savings as a proportion of the national income. In the five years from 1949-50 to 1953-54 personal savings represented 13.55 per cent, of the national income. Over the last five years they represented 7.94 per cent. In other words, there is a drop of personal savings between one five-year period and the next five-year period of one-half. Now let us compare two individual years. In 1949-50 personal savings represented 13.71 per cent, of the national income. In 1958-59 they represented 6.24 per cent. - less than onehalf.
When I have advanced this argument before I have been told, “ Oh, but look how our savings bank deposits have increased “. People who make that statement entirely ignore the increase in our population and the fact that incomes are increasing. The facts are that as a percentage of total income savings banks deposits were 2.07 per cent, in 1949-50 and 1.87 per cent, in 1958-59. So, in spite of our great prosperity we still find that the percentage to total income of our savings banks deposits is less than it was ten years ago.
Let us now have a look at savings through investment in insurance. If any undertakings advertise their wares, they are the insurance companies. But savings through insurance have increased only from 1.23 per cent, of the national income to 1.35 per cent, in spite of the advertising and all the claims of the insurance companies. So, I believe that Dr. Coombs has stated the real cause of the inflationary pressures - the insufficiency of savings.
Why are savings insufficient? The first answer to that question is, because of the penalty which we impose upon thrift and, so long as we continue to penalize the thrifty, so long will our savings be inadequate. At present, a married couple has to save ?10,000 to receive an income equivalent to the age pension for a man and wife. To-day a great many people say, “We could never save that amount of money, so let us live up to our income. Let us spend every penny that we earn.” Because so many people are developing that mentality, savings are becoming totally inadequate. The first thing we must do to correct the position is to abolish the means test and establish a national contributory insurance scheme. I have mentioned this matter in the House on many occasions - most honorable members probably will say that I have done so too often - but let me refer again to the statement which was made by Dr. Coombs, the Governor of what was then the Commonwealth Bank, in an address to the science congress, in August last year. He said that there are two remedies for inflation. The first is the establishment of a national contributory scheme of superannuation. Does the Government intend to ignore the advice of the man who holds the No. 1 position in Australia, and who is entrusted with the job of maintaining the stability of prices and of the Australian currency? If Dr. Coombs is worthy of the position which he holds, we ignore his advice at our peril.
In addition to removing the penalty on thrift as a means of encouraging additional savings, we must give the people an incentive to save. Instead of punishing thrift as we do now, we must give rewards and prizes to the thrifty. That can be done. Let us look at the bond position. Prior to and during the war, we had very little difficulty in filling government loans. People had faith and confidence in government bonds. During and after the war bondholders who had to sell their bonds in case of emergency, found that the bonds had to be sold at a substantial discount. People began to lose confidence in government bonds because, when they came to collect their money, they found that, as a result of inflationary pressures and depreciation of the currency, over a period of years the value of the bonds had been eroded. They found that the money would buy very much less at the expiration of the term than it did when the bond was taken up.
Last year the Government introduced a special bond which can be redeemed in full on one month’s notice. The result has been outstandingly successful, and indicates that there is no lack of money, but a lack of willingness on the part of the people to invest in any kind of security when they fear an erosion of their savings. The special bond will continue to be successful because it fulfils a particular need. Another form of special bond should be introduced along the lines of those which may be taken up in Denmark. There the government guarantees that the bond will be repaid according to an index which moves in line with money values. Bondholders know that when payment becomes due they will be paid in money which will purchase the same amount of goods as it did when it was lent to the Government. There is no difficulty in that. The bond value could be made to vary annually according to the cost-of-living index or some suitable index which was provided by the Government. If other countries can implement such a scheme, we can. It would encourage savings because it would fulfil the need of those people who want to invest their money on a long-term basis, but who do not want to see it eroded by inflation during the period of the investment.
Why do equity shares and shares in Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited return to-day on cost only about 2 per cent.? Obviously, an investor says, “I would rather get 2 per cent, and have my money back in full than get 5 per cent, on
Government bonds and perhaps find that my money when it is returned will not buy as much as it did “. If we could guarantee to the people that the value of the money which they lend will be returned to them, we would have a bond which would encourage savings to a marked degree.
Another kind of special bond could be provided which could be used for payment of Federal and State succession duties. A great many people would like to ensure that their families will have enough cash with which to pay death duties. I am sure that a bond such as I have suggested would attract a great deal of the money which today is being spent, but which, under proper conditions, would be saved.
There is a great deal of merit in a proposal which was advanced last year by the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) that savings up to £100 or perhaps £200 a year be made an allowable deduction for tax purposes in the year of investment, and be taxable in the year in which the money is withdrawn. This would be a definite prize for saving. People would realize that it would be worth saving money if they received an allowance for tax purposes and paid tax only when they withdrew the money, perhaps ten or fifteen years later when their needs probably would not be as great as they were when the money was saved.
Some imagination must be used. We must tackle with enthusiasm this problem of the insufficiency of savings. We must try to find why the people are saving far less now than they were ten or fifteen years ago. Until we solve this problem, I do not think that we shall check the existing inflationary pressures.
I congratulate the Government on its decision to implement the anti-inflationary measures which were announced in the Budget. My only criticism is that I do not think they are sufficient. I have studied this problem of inflation for many years. I was a student of politics in the days of the depression, when Mr. Theodore, who was then the Labour Treasurer, advocated inflation as a means of getting out of the depression. I remember that Mr. Scullin, who was Prime Minister at the time, almost in a panic, cabled from England the warning expressed in these very true words. “ Inflation will rob the worker of his wages. Do not go on with your inflationary plan.” I remember when the Labour Government then brought in the deflationary plan known as the Premiers’ Plan. I remember the split in the Australian Labour Party when Mr. Lyons broke from it on the party’s subsequent attempt to bring in inflation. I remember the years after the depression when prices and prosperity increased steadily up to the time of World War II. - when, in other words, we had a certain amount of inflation, because increasing prosperity was accompanied by more and more inflation.
Then came the war. when the people of Australia, being patriotic, were prepared to save most of their income. At that time, we had a halt to inflation. We had stability during the war, mainly because the Australian people, for patriotic reasons, were prepared to save. In addition, of course, goods were not available for them to spend their money on, although that shortage could have caused even greater inflation if the inclinations of the people had been different. Furthermore, strict and stringent controls were introduced. But the real reason for the stability that we had during the war was the saving by the people of a very great proportion of their incomes. Then came the post-war period, when inflation began to gallop under the administration of a Labour Government.
So, Sir, this problem of inflation is nothing new, although, after hearing the speeches made by Opposition members in support of the amendment, which amounts to a motion of no confidence in the Government, one would imagine that inflation has occurred for the first time and is due to mismanagement by the present Government. This problem of inflation has been with us, off and on, for the last 30 years. Governments of some other countries have probably had similar problems for the last 300 years. However, this does not mean that we can ignore inflation. Twice during its ten years in office, this Government has taken very stringent measures to check the inflationary spiral. On the first occasion on which such measures were taken, the Government and its supporters were most severely criticized by members of the Australian Labour Party. We were told that our measures constituted a horror Budget. But the introduction of the so-called horror
Budget was probably the best thing that ever happened to Australia because it damped down the inflationary fires and stabilized prices. Subsequently, inflation began to increase again, and once more the Government had to take anti-inflationary measures. I am sure that, so long as this Government remains in office, it will from time to time apply anti-inflationary measures when such measures are necessary. I suggest to the Government and to every member of this House that we should get down to the root of the trouble and attack the real cause, which, as Dr. Coombs has said, is inadequacy of savings.
.- Mr. Speaker, the honorable member for Sturt (Mr. Wilson) was yet another Government supporter who joined with Opposition members in criticizing the Government on the degree of inflation which is now apparent in the Australian community. I do not intend to say much more about the honorable member’s remarks at this stage, because I intend to deal later in my speech with several of the matters which he mentioned. One matter dealt with by the honorable member which I wish to mention briefly now is his proposal for a national insurance scheme. At this stage I do not hesitate to pay tribute to him for the devotion with which he raises this matter. I believe that if this Government, in its wisdom, at any time introduces a national insurance scheme much of the credit will be due to the honorable member for Sturt.
The subject of this debate, Mr. Speaker, is the motion for the adoption of the Address-in-Reply to the Speech made to the Parliament by His Excellency the Governor-General. The importance of this debate is not disputed, because it gives to honorable members - at least, to those on this side of the House - an opportunity to analyse, both critically and, I hope, constructively, the legislation proposed by the Government for the next twelve months at least. Not that the pattern on this occasion is any different from that adopted by the Government in the past. One can study the Speeches prepared by this Government and read by the present Governor-General and his predecessors during the ten years in which this Government has been in office without finding in any of them any indication that the social, economic and other problems that to-day affect large sections of the Australian community are likely to be dealt with in the way in which they could or should be dealt with.
The situation in respect of housing is always the same. There is a brief reference to the subject which indicates that the Government intends to pursue a policy of keeping home-ownership under constant review - an expressed intention which is not substantiated by either facts or figures. The Speech tells us that, last year, this Government completed a record number of homes, but the fact remains that, for several years now, too few homes have been constructed to meet the demands of all those who are urgently in need of accommodation, if we measure the number of homes constructed against the growth of the population from both natural increase and immigration. I believe, Mr. Speaker, that the margin of security required by the banks and private financial institutions - a factor for which this Government is responsible - is placing homeownership out of the reach of young married couples in this country. Undoubtedly, that has been the situation since the Government imposed severe bank credit restrictions in respect of homeownership. So I say that, although the Government points to what it claims as a record in the number of homes constructed last year, it is not giving enough attention to the leeway that it has to make up. This is a matter that is urgent, and it should be given immediate attention. Because, as I indicated a moment ago, the margin of security required by the lending institutions has put home-ownership beyond the reach of married couples, many of the homes now being built by this Government are not necessarily going to those people who have the greatest and most urgent need.
In respect of social services also, Sir, the position is the same as it has always been. We find in the Governor-General’s Speech a brief reference to the subject, no doubt because the Government believes that it is obliged to mention the matter. But no one, least of all Government supporters, really believes that the Government intends to adopt a policy of keeping social service benefits constantly under review in order to meet the needs of rapidly changing circumstances. If that were the Government’s policy, quite obviously, most social service benefits would be increased immediately, in view of the recent increase of margins for skill and the claim for a basic wage increase. But the history of this Government shows that it has not followed such a policy in the past, and I believe that a change in the future is unlikely, notwithstanding anything to the contrary that may be suggested in the Governor-General’s Speech.
I believe that those who are in receipt of social service benefits know very well whether their position has improved. I admit at once that it has improved, because pensions have been increased from time to time after constant pressure from various sections of the community, including the Australian Labour Party; but if their position has been reviewed and pensions have been increased, any benefit they might have derived from the increase has been only temporary. It has soon disappeared in the vortex of the upward spiral of rising costs and prices to which the honorable member for Sturt has just referred. That, of course, has had serious consequences for more than 450,000 persons who are in receipt of social service payments of one kind or another, as well as those who are obliged, through no fault of their own, to exist on fixed incomes.
With the exception of one or two matters mentioned in the Governor-General’s Speech on which there is complete agreement in this House, the Speech, like the Speeches of His Excellency’s predecessor, is not acceptable in a serious situation such as exists to-day. In the circumstances, it is not surprising that the Governor-General referred to the fact that, after ten years of administration of this Government, inflation still remains the predominant feature affecting the economy. It is hardly necessary for me to point out to supporters of the Government that they were elected on a pledge to restore what they were pleased to call in those days “ a measure of economic stability “.
I am sure that most Government supporters, and a great percentage of the population, would gladly return to the years prior to 1949 when we enjoyed a measure of economic stability. At that time, the Australian £1 was worth substantially more than it is to-day With little difficulty, we were able to compete on overseas markets. We enjoyed full employment and a home economy that was equal to or better than the economic conditions enjoyed by other countries.
Undoubtedly, inflation in the immediate post-war years, regardless of what has been said by the honorable member for Sturt, was the result of war and war expenditure - an enormous expenditure that could not be avoided. Fortunately, the Labour governments of those days, both the Curtin Government and the Chifley Government, appreciated the difficulties that would arise in that connexion. They faced up to their responsibilities and they used the controls that were then available by a temporary extension of the defence power.
Then we came to the 1949 election. Every honorable member is fully acquainted with the extravagant promises that were made then by the supporters of the parties which now form the Government. They promised to restore value to the £1; indeed, they went further and said they would reduce the cost of living and increase real wages. All these things were to be achieved by means of a plan that had been evolved by the Liberal Party and the Australian Country Party. In point of fact, if such a plan was ever evolved, obviously it was never put into effect because the situation is far worse to-day than it was then.
I shall not argue that the present Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) was not aware of the dangers of inflation in 1949 because I believe he was aware of them. If I remember correctly - and I rely on my memory - as far back as 1950, in a series of broadcasts, the Prime Minister himself dealt with the question of rising prices and even confidently supplied an answer to the problem. This matter was referred to at question time to-day by the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) when he asked the Prime Minister for clarification of the right honorable gentleman’s previous statement on excess profits. Apparently the matter also was considered by the Prime Minister in his 1949 policy speech, and I remember the right honorable gentleman referring to excess profits and inflation in a broadcast he made in 1950. Apparently the Prime Minister had an answer to the problem then because he said that in a period of inflation and rising prices, there was always a tendency for profits to increase. He proposed to meet that threat by an excess profits tax, and the terms under which the enabling legislation was to operate were to be made known to the Parliament in a bill that was to be introduced in that year. That was 1950 - ten years ago - and no bill to control excess profits has ever been introduced into this Parliament although there has been’ a continuing need each year for legislation of that nature. Certainly, the need is far greater to-day than it was in 1950 when the Prime Minister made a broadcast speech on the subject of inflation and excess profits.
– He lives in another world to-day.
– That is true. Let me say at this stage, Mr. Speaker, that I believe we all agree that excess profits are a primary cause of inflation. The Prime Minister recognized that because he promised to curb excess profits; but in point of fact he has done nothing, and the people of Australia realize that they have been let down and that they have been deceived by these false assertions and promises. The fact that the Prime Minister referred to excess profits as far back as 1950 indicates to me that the right honorable gentleman recognized that if he wanted to deal with inflation, he would have to face up to the problem of excess profits. As I have said, however, after ten years of his administration excess profits are far higher than they were previously.
Surely this Government has added an inglorious page to its record by opposing a rise in the basic wage which has increased from £6 9s. in 1949 to only approximately £13 lis. to-day if averaged over the six Australian capital cities. All this Government has done during its ten years in office has been to introduce a series of incidental Budgets, apart from the horror Budget which merely had the effect of increasing the price of commodities and again penalized the ordinary man and woman without affecting those who were making large profits.
During the past ten years this Government has tried to attack economic problems from every possible angle. It has gone from one form of legislation to another. It has sought to deal with our problems through the balance of overseas payments, import restrictions, bank credit controls and control of capital issues. All these measures - with the possible exception of the last, which was abolished by this Government in 1949 when it assumed office but was reimposed after a brief period - have done nothing to correct the economic ills which are of grave concern to all Australians to-day.
I know that this Government said in 1949 that it would resist the return of controls of any kind, but no government in the history of Australia has been more adept at instituting controls. Were there ever any controls more repressive than those which apply now? Even in war-time, bank credit restrictions were never so severe as those that have been imposed by this Government and operate now.
In my opinion, the Government has made little or no attempt to face the problem of inflation. We have shown in previous debates, particularly those on unemployment, that the Government has always been completely indifferent to these matters. It has sat idly by while the country has drifted into the present precarious state. The Government has from time to time made statements about inflation. But it has made no real attempt at any time during its term of office sincerely to encourage development or the further expansion of industry generally. While the Government is prepared to meet the situation merely by imposing hardships on the working people, there is little indication th:t it is prepared to pursue a policy which would spread the burden of inflation over all sections of the community. It has no hesitation in appearing before the Arbitration Commission in an effort to prevent an increase of the basic wage; but at the same time profiteers are making huge profits and building up reserves which this Government promised to tax but has since chosen to ignore.
There is indisputable evidence that this situation of inflation will not right itself. This, also, was the situation with unemployment, which, despite what has been said by the responsible Minister, is certainly far worse now than this country can afford, if measured in terms of wasted man-power or wasted purchasing power. We have inflation on the one hand and high levels of unemployment on the other, and this is an intolerable situation. I know that the Government has frequently boasted that it does not want a pool of unemployed, but obviously it has been advised by its friends to have such a pool, no doubt in the belief that unemployment or the fear of unemployment in the community will discourage those who represent the working people from making wage demands.
I shall refer to the unemployment figures to show that, regardless of what may be said by the responsible Minister, there has been no real improvement in the unemployment situation for several years. The figures released by the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. McMahon) should give a reasonably accurate picture of unemployment trends in recent years. In the first instance, I shall quote from the Treasury Information Bulletin of January, 1960. At the end of December, 1958, 64,678 persons were registered with the Commonwealth Employment Service for employment. By December, 1959, the number had fallen to 58,299. A slight improvement had been -effected, but by the end of February, two months later, the figure had again risen to 61,023. The figures for unemployment benefit, which is commonly known as the dole, show a slight improvement. In December, 1958, 27,565 persons were in receipt of unemployment benefit. In 1959, the figure fell to 22,469. But the fact remains that for several years the number of persons registered as requiring unemployment benefit has exceeded 20,000. There may have been a fall, in the period of twelve months, in the number of persons registered with the various offices of the Department of Labour and National Service: the figures for this period show a decline of 6,000. However, at this rate, it would take twelve years to find work for all those who are registered for employment. I am sure in these circumstances that the Government has deliberately created a pool of unemployed. The honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) referred to this matter the other night. He referred to a statement which showed that the Government had hoped, by increasing the level of unemployment, to prevent agitation for increased wages from those who represent the workers.
– That is a bit of a ridiculous statement, is it not?
– I do not think so. 1 would be very glad to make the statement to which I have referred available to the honorable member. I can do no better than to refer to a statement made by Sir Eric Harrison in 1952 to show how irresponsible the Government is on the question of unemployment. Sir Eric Harrison was then Minister for Defence Production and 1 assume that he would speak with the full authority of the Government. He said’ -
The policy of the Menzies Government is to bring about stability after a period of gross inflation - a stability in which the level of unemployment will decline. I believe that in a very short time every man willing to work will be at work.
Yet in 1960, eight years later, the number of persons unemployed is equal to, or it may actually exceed, the number of unemployed when Sir Eric Harrison made that statement. It has been shown that this Government has made little or no attempt to meet the unemployment situation. It has no hesitation in placing its point of view before the Arbitration Court to prevent an increase of the basic wage, implying, of course, that if there is inflation the working man, the family man, must make the sacrifice and not the profiteer or the exploiter. The view of the Labour Party is that if there is inflation, all sections of the Australian community should bear the burden equally.
We all agree that stability is of vital importance to the nation. I believe that stability is essential to our future progress and development, and this Government has had every opportunity in which to achieve stability, lt assumed office in the best possible conditions. It has had the benefit of very good seasons. Indeed, no Government has ever had greater opportunities.
Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– I hope the House will be relieved if I crave indulgence to talk of other things. I have listened for some minutes to the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard), but he does not seem to improve. He must have been absent from the House when his own brand spanking new leader addressed himself to this question. If he had listened intelli gently or had read intelligently what his own leader had to say, he would have recognized that whatever faults present themselves at this moment in the economic sphere, the greatest fault is prosperity itself and the inevitable consequences that can flow from prosperity unless it is guided in some satisfactory way that will maintain the standard of living of the people. 1 said when I began, Mr. Speaker, that I craved the indulgence of the House to talk about other things. It was my pleasurable intention to devote my time to certain aspects of the Speech of His Excellency the Governor-General, who was welcomed by members from both sides of the House when he opened the second session of the Twenty-third Parliament. But two new satellites have arisen in the political firmament, and since that is a rare occurrence in federal politics, courtesy demands that I should give them both some honorable mention.
Strictly speaking, there is only one entirely new satellite. I refer, of course, to the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Whitlam). The other has been a satellite for some years, and a satellite, I am informed, is defined as a secondary planet revolving around a greater planet, as the moon revolves around the earth. Admittedly, the brilliance of this latter satellite has been obscured, not by the brilliance of the primary planet of his time, for no one could ever describe the previous leader of Her Majesty’s Opposition as scintillating in any sense of the term, but by the storms and tempests of the period clouding the sky and drenching the Australian Labour Party with hate, bitterness, enmity and envy. It is to his everlasting credit that he has survived.
I refer of course, to the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) who, having been Deputy Leader of the Australian Labour Party during the most difficult period that party has ever known, was elected to the leadership in a contest which can only be described as a token affair, designed to propitiate a dissident group within the party itself. And could I say, Mr. Speaker, that he richly deserves his victory? The honorable member for Melbourne is a very remarkable fellow. He was born into this world at a time, in 1896 to be precise, when men took their politics very seriously. There were then those who believed, with Browning, “ God’s in His heaven and all’s right with the world “, although they invariably conceded that changes were both necessary and inevitable, and there were those people who, with an impassioned faith, felt that, even with God in His heaven, all was wrong with the world and that changes were both necessary and urgent. That was the cleavage which all over the world threw up a wide variety of ideologies.
When the honorable member for Melbourne was a boy, men had been tories, whigs, republicans, democrats, radicals, revolutionaries and anarchists for hundreds of years; but socialism was a comparatively new ideology. If, in the original form, socialism had a fault, it was in its lack of violence. It made no great appeal to the turbulent men and had no great appeal to the wild men. It was designed to “ change the hearts of men “, but generally speaking men were concerned, not with their own hearts, but with changing the hearts of other people, and they believed that degrees of violence were necessary to change the hearts of other men. It was in that kind of political atmosphere that the honorable member for Melbourne was born and so inevitably for good or ill he became a socialist.
– I rise to order, Mr. Speaker. I wish to draw your attention to the state of the House. I think everybody should hear this speech.
– I find that there is a quorum present. I warn the honorable member for Parkes that if this occurrence is repeated I will have to deal with him.
– I am indebted to the honorable member for Parkes because his taking of a point of order has allowed, if nothing else, the Leader of the Australian Labour Party to come into the House followed, or even preceded, by his deputy.
I had reached the point that it was into that kind of political atmosphere that the honorable member for Melbourne was born and for good or ill - and proudly, as he would say - he became a socialist. History helped him to that decision. When he was seventeen years of age the first world war broke out and congenitally he, who was to become the honorable member for Melbourne, was against it. He was opposed to it as an imperialistic war. Socialism gave him his sanctuary, which he sorely needed, and his political fate was sealed. That was the pity of it, Mr. Speaker, in my opinion.
At that time the honorable member for Melbourne was a Victorian public servant of some distinction and, as a white collar worker, when other men were working in grey flannel shirts and moleskin trousers for ten, twelve and fourteen hours a day, he had infinite leisure for reading. That is how he became a student, in the finest and unacademic sense of the term. Books opened up a new world for him and he read prodigiously, whetting his appetite for information and a knowledge of the arts, particularly music and poetry, for which he is to be complimented.
In those days there were few opportunities for public speakers since the trade union movement of the period, as to-day, always suspected the white collar worker - always suspected the clerk, as an unskilled tradesman. But the Yarra Bank provided him who was to become the honorable member for Melbourne with a forum. It was most unfortunate, in my opinion. It was there that he became an outrageously funny man, and try as he will, and has, he has never been able to escape from that role for any length of time. The demagogue, the bookmaker and the auctioneer - with great respect to the member for Mallee - must be willing to offer up their voices as a sacrifice to their trades, and the honorable member for Melbourne has ruined what musical people describe as his lower register. Unless he is using his higher register with full nasal resonance the honorable member for Melbourne is scarcely audible and never happy. It is a great grief to us all. This disaster was a matter of great grief to him, and, I am sure, it is a matter of great grief to us all.
If the world had crashed to its doom in 1917 with the Russian revolution and the collapse of the Eastern Front, if it had crashed to its doom in the spring of 1918, when the Germans turned the Western Front into a shambles, if the allied troops had mutinied, and if there had been no great victory, Mr. Speaker, the honorable member for Melbourne, at the age of 21 years, would have saved the situation with socialism. That was his belief.
The decade of reconstruction after the First World War astonished the honorable member for Melbourne, but when the mystery of the economic depression crept over the world in 1929, the honorable member was reassured. He knew that a crash was inevitable. He knew that it would never be tolerated.
– Would I be in order, Mr. Speaker, in suggesting that the balance of the Minister’s speech be incorporated in “ Hansard “?
Mr. DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr. Bowden). The honorable member is quite in order in making the suggestion, but that is as far as it will go.
– I confess, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that these interjections amaze me, because I have nothing but honour to confer on the honorable member for Melbourne, and I believe that everything I have to say is true, is accurate and is appropriate to the occasion. It is abundantly necessary for every intelligent person in this country to understand the kind of man who recently became the leader of the Australian Labour Party or the Australian Socialist Party, as it ought to be called, both for my own sake and for the sake of the honorable member for Melbourne.
I had reached the point at which I said that the decade of reconstruction after the First World War astonished the honorable member, but when the mystery of the economic depression crept over the world in 1929 he was reassured. He knew that a crash was inevitable. He knew that it would never be tolerated. He knew that democracy would go to its disaster and, at 33 years of age, he was ready with the complete solution - socialism, naked and unashamed, production for use and not for profit, with every man being paid according to his needs and not a penny more.
– Hear, hear!
– “ Hear, hear”, says the honorable member for Melbourne, and, I am sure, the courageous and honorable members of the Opposition would echo him.
History, not for the first time, was unkind to the honorable member for Melbourne. The depression was tolerated by the people in the free world and there was no irreparable democratic disaster. From the touch-lines he had seen a socialist government come and go here in our own country. He had seen a socialist government come and go in the United Kingdom. He had seen independence come to Southern Ireland. He had seen fascism come to Italy, nazism to Germany, civil war to Spain and civil silliness to France, but there was no sign of socialism anywhere except in Russia. It was a cruel blow and - irony of ironies - the honorable member was elected to this Parliament in 1940.
The tories were then in office, as he would have called the members of the government at that time, and for the first time he had a medium worthy of his metal. The honorable member for Melbourne gloried in it. But again history was to be unkind to him. A socialist government was elected and in 1943 he found himself Minister for Information with a tory war raging all over the world. It was a great humiliation for him, who was to become the leader of the Australian Labour Party. However, he was ready for any emergency at that time. But there was no emergency until, after the victory in 1945, the Churchill Government was defeated in the United Kingdom and a socialist government was elected in its stead. That, surely, was a sign! It was no sign; the socialist government was defeated here, and the socialist government was defeated in the United Kingdom, and there was no socialism anywhere except in the Soviet Union. It was all very disappointing to the honorable member for Melbourne.
The honorable member found himself Deputy Leader of the Australian Labour Party. He, together with his leader and those who followed him, prayed for an economic disaster that would bring socialism within his grasp - although the previous Leader of Her Majesty’s Opposition could never be described as a praying man. But when disaster came, Mr. Deputy Speaker, as come it did, it was not an economic disaster. By its own internecine strife, the Australian Labour Party was torn to tatters, and not on the personality of any one man, as is popularly supposed. It was torn on the question of militant and unbridled socialism. But the honorable member for Melbourne remained steadfast to militant socialism, and he has now his reward. He is now a primary planet in the political sense of the term, and around him must revolve the other, brand-new satellite.
The honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Whitlam) can only be described as an ambitious young lawyer who can tell his own story-
– On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker, may I direct attention to Standing Order No. 61 and ask for your ruling as to whether or not this standing order has been infringed by the Minister?
– What is the suggested infringement?
– The standing order provides that a member shall not read his speech.
– Order! You are quite out of order, because you do the same thing yourself.
– On a further point, Mr. Deputy Speaker, may I suggest that you point out that my speeches are well read?
– Mr. Deputy Speaker, may I give the honorable member for Grayndler due and timely warning that in a few moments I shall stop looking at my notes, and he will then have cause to regret what he has just had to say. But allow me to finish. The honorable member for Werriwa can only be described as an ambitious young lawyer who can tell his own story better than any other man. And it is a simple tale, as he tells it. He found the law interesting but tedious and unremunerative until he was appointed to a royal commission. It was at that point that he toyed with the idea of seeking endorsement as a Liberal Party candidate. To quote his own words to me, “ I am vain enough to believe that the Liberal Party would have accepted me “. Unhappily, the Liberal Party is full of ambitious young lawyers and the Labour Party offered him much better prospects. It was as simple as that to the honorable member for Werriwa. He is a socialist but I do not think his socialism is very important, nor will it worry him ve; y much. He is a most astute fellow.
He, of all people, knows where he is going and that is more than the traditional socialist ever knew.
So, Mr. Deputy Speaker, having dealt with these two interesting personalities - the innovation of two satellites in the political firmament - might I be permitted to turn to other things? There are those of us who have lived through the last 50 years who have had cause to fear economic convulsions of a wide variety, and one of the worst was undoubtedly the economic deflationary period that began in 1929 and followed on through the 1930’s, reducing the entire world, Mr. Deputy Speaker, to penury. It reduced the people of this country to a lower standard of living than they had even been called upon to bear previously. But never, in this most favoured country, have the people been seriously threatened by the grim spectre of unbridled inflation.
No man with any sense of responsibility who has seen the economic consequences of unbridled inflation in other parts of the world would want the people of this country to be threatened by inflation in any form. So I welcome the recognition that is being given to this most difficult problem by members on both sides of the House. The extreme prosperity enjoyed by us during the last ten years has created a situation in which discerning men and women of all political faiths see the dangers that are inherent in a set of circumstances where people are living in comparative ease and affluence and exerting pressures on the economic system of the country which that system was never designed to meet.
Both the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) and the members of the Government recognize the dangers that lie immediately ahead of us. The Leader of the Australian Labour Party and individual members of the Labour Party who can rise above a bitter class-conscious conception of their political duties and responsibilities also recognize the dangers of inflation and they, too, see that appropriate action must be taken to meet this situation in all its phases. The Prime Minister has indicated, in his reply to a no-confidence motion by the Leader of Her Majesty’s Opposition, that the Government proposes to take appropriate action to stem the rising tide of inflation and introduce elements designed to stabilize our economy.
.- The House has listened to an extraordinary speech by an extraordinary Minister. But we are used to hearing amazing statements from the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Roberton) and to-night he ran true to form. I would say, in passing, that his diatribe against socialism ill becomes him, of all members of the Government, because he was reared in a socialist atmosphere in Scotland by those people who recognize the inequalities and inefficiencies of the capitalist order. He owes his upbringing to socialists. His comments to-night were not much of a compliment to those who are responsible for his holding his present position in Australia’s public life.
The very biased and prejudiced biography of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) which we heard from the Minister, will not be accepted by any section of the Australian community. I would like to say to the Minister, in all kindness, that when he ceases to be a member of the Federal Parliament, he will immediately sink into well-merited oblivion. If his name is ever mentioned by future members of the Parliament it will be because he is remembered as the worst Minister for Social Services that this House has ever known. On the other hand, the Leader of the Opposition has already made his mark in the Australian political scene, but his best days are ahead of him. I am satisfied that, in the future, he will make a most notable and tangible contribution to Australia’s progress and that his name will always be remembered. I feel sure that in 40 or 50 years’ time, when members gather here and discuss the great figures of Australia’s political past, the name of Arthur Augustus Calwell will always be in the forefront of their discussion.
Having said that and disposed of the Minister in a few well chosen sentences, I desire to bring the debate back to the subject from which it should never have departed, and that is the Address-in-RepIy. The Minister made no reference at all to the Address-in-Reply. He wasted his entire 25 minutes on a diatribe that was not appreciated, even by his own colleagues of the Australian Country Party. The amend- ment that has been moved by the Leader of the Opposition is most timely and pertinent. Clearly the Government has failed to halt the inflationary spiral. What is more important, it is proposing no efficacious methods to apply to the problem at this moment. The deleterious effects of inflation can be seen at every level of the Australian economy. State governments are unable to carry out necessary works because of costs and, in perfect truth, Liberal and Labour State Premiers alike, lay the blame for their problems at the door of the Federal Government. Some government instrumentalities are unable to function successfully because they cannot get sufficient money to meet rising costs. Municipal government is tottering on the brink of bankruptcy because the Federal Government refuses to recognize the difficulty that municipal governments have got into as a result of this Government’s policy of inaction and reaction as far as combating inflation is concerned.
Apparently the Government, at long last, is aware of the rapid increase in prices and costs but until now, like Mr. Micawber, it had hoped for something to turn up and so relieve it of the necessity to do anything at all. But the steady and inexorable rise is raising the problem over a wide area and so the Government, at last, very reluctantly, has realized that it will have to make some gesture if it is to appease the rising wrath of the Australian population.
At the risk of being accused of reiteration I must repeat something that has already been pointed out in this debate: Unless prices abroad increase at the same rate or more rapidly than prices in Australia balance of payments difficulties must emerge again very shortly. That can easily happen as a result of our increasing price structure. It is most extraordinary that the Government should have taken any risk at all. because it may not be able to meet an adverse balance of payments if there is a sudden emergency, but it has taken a chance and has thrown overboard the import restrictions that have worked so well over the last few years. But unfortunately we find that prices in overseas countries are rising much slower than they have in Australia during the last few years. The position has hardened in Europe and also in the United States.
I am surprised that the Government in the statement made by the Prime Minister two or three weeks ago did not suggest any legislative enactment to do something for the most helpless victims of inflation. I refer to those people who are not organized politically or industrially, the retired people who are forced to live on fixed incomes, or who depend on the superannuation for which they paid over the years, or the people who are the recipients of social service benefits. We find that these benefits are adjusted only sporadically or tardily.
When one looks at the huge costs which prevail and the enormous rises in Australian price levels it is remarkable that this Government shows no intention of providing some recompense for these most innocent victims of inflation, the social service recipients. I should have expected a “ little “ budget to be brought down at once, not next August or September, containing provision for an increase in their pensions. They are suffering the most as a result of the daily increases in prices of the necessaries of life.
A feeling of tremendous bitterness is being engendered to-day in the minds of these people. During their working years they made provision for their old age by investment in a government loan or they took out more units of superannuation than perhaps they could afford so that when they retired they could live comfortably. But whereas even two or three years ago £10 or £11 a week seemed a quite liberal amount to meet the exigencies of the latter days of their lives they are finding that the value of these assets is being swept away.
I have spoken to scores of Australian people who have a deep sense of bitterness at the present situation. They have been expecting with great optimism that this Government would do something about it. But the plight of the pensioners beggars description altogether. I do not know where it will finish in Victoria. On 1st April next rent controls will be lifted and in future rents charged will be based on present-day values and assessed so as to give the owner a return of 5i per cent. Possibly a great deal could be said in support of an increase in rents, but on the other hand the question arises of how on earth can pensioners now receiving £4 15s. a week and now paying 25s. or 35s. a week in rent be expected to pay £3 or £4 a week for rent. They will not be able to do it unless they receive an immediate increase in social service benefits. But so long as price rises continue there will be this grave dissatisfaction in the minds of those living on fixed incomes.
Not only do price rises affect this most helpless section of the community, but they will gravely affect this Government’s responsibilities in the near future. The prospects of people investing in Government loans will diminish. By investing their money in equity shares or in real property they find they receive a most attractive return and can make large capital gains. The Government is not prepared to skim any cream off these investors and the ordinary person, who naturally wants to get the best return for his money, will invest not in Government loans in future, but in these more attractive areas.
People who invested their money in government loans during the war and the post-war period are finding that when the loans mature the £100, or the £500, which they invested fifteen years ago has nothing like the purchasing power to-day that it had then. The people are not fooled, and they realize the fallacy of the situation. As a consequence, the Government can expect a diminishing interest in investment in government loans. It will be no use members on the Government side complaining about a lack of patriotic spirit on the part of the people. It is the Government which is showing a lack of patriotic spirit by not doing the right thing by the people who were prepared to invest their money in government loans during the war and postwar periods.
If government loans lose their appeal to the people and investment in them declines, the Government will be on the horns of a dilemma, because it will not be able to provide the finance for public works to keep them at a most essential level. Because the State governments receive their money for public works from the Federal Government, these projects will have to be curtailed, and consequently the States will not be able to provide the schools, hospitals, roads and other essential services for which they are responsible.
The most powerful criticism of this Commonwealth Government has come from within its own ranks, through the Liberal Premier of Victoria. Every morning, the Melbourne newspapers carry some fresh diatribe by Mr. Bolte against the machinations of this Government. It has let the Victorian Government down. In future, the State governments will find they will receive less from the Federal Government because the people will not respond with investments in government loans. When they find that the value of their investments in government loans is continually decreasing, it is only natural that they will turn to other avenues which are far more attractive. When that happens, the Commonwealth Government will find itself in a very precarious position.
Three weeks ago the Prime Minister announced how inflation could be met. Of course, the Prime Minister regularly offers solutions to all sorts of problems by means of oratorical utterances. I freely acknowledge that in the making of a speech the Prime Minister has no peer in Australia, but the making of speeches does not solve national problems. If it did, then this country would not have a problem, because the Prime Minister has made speeches upon every one with which Australia has been confronted. But I have found very often that the Prime Minister’s speeches have not led to an ultimate solution. It is the Prime Minister’s policy to make a speech about a problem and then forget it. He thinks so much of the speech that he believes every one will say, “ This is what the Prime Minister says; we wil do what he asks “. For example, a few years ago, when the Prime Minister was very perturbed about the huge increase in hire-purchase business and recognized that the Federal Government had no constitutional powers to control it, he thought that a speech would fix everything up. He made a speech in which he asked hire-purchase companies to increase their business by only a small percentage during the next twelve months. He thought that as a result of that exhortation everybody would say, “ Our Prime Minister, the oracle, has spoken, and we will do what he desires”. Of course, nobody in the hire-purchase business took the slightest notice of his exhortations. The same thing happened with his exhortations to Australian management recently. His pleas on that occasion were made in a speech at the Scientific Congress and again they fell on deaf ears because, after all, the managements of the various industrial concerns know perfectly well that only by forthright action on the part of the Government can inflation be tackled effectively.
Let us have a look at these so-called disinflationary measures promulgated by the Prime Minister. The first one has met with a great deal of approval from the members of the Australian Country Party. This is an approach by the Government to the Arbitration Commission, opposing an increase in the basic wage. Members of the Government, in attempting to explain this action away, say that, of course, they do not believe in wage decreases. But, Mr. Deputy Speaker, what the Government is suggesting is tantamount to a wage decrease because as costs rise - and they are rising, and will inevitably continue to rise in the next six months - the worker on £17 or £18 a week will not be able to buy the same amount of goods as he can buy to-day with his wages. Therefore, if the Arbitration Commission listens to the appeal of the Government not to increase wages, the decision to withhold an increase will be equivalent to a decrease in wages. Nobody can controvert that statement, because when prices rise and wages remain stationary there must be a virtual decrease of the wage level, since the wage earner cannot buy as much with his wages as he could before. When the members of the Australian Country Party say, “We do not believe in wage decreases “, and then advocate or support such an approach to the Arbitration Commission, that suggests that they just do not understand the problem. However, I think that they really do understand the problem, because the Australian Country Party has at all times been a lowwage party. 1 was particularly amused to hear the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) last night call the Labour Party a sectional party. Talk about the pot calling the kettle black! If ever there was a sectional party in this Parliament, it is that party m the corner, because all that its members can see are the boundaries of the farm or of the grazing area. They cannot see what a let-down of manufacturing industries will do to this country. All that they can think, about is to pay low wages and get all that they can, by means of subsidies and bounties, for the farming community, and as far as they are concerned there is no need to bother about the rest of the community. I would say that at all times they have shown themselves to be the most sectional bloc that has made a public appearance in any phase of Australian life since federation. I cannot think of any political set-up in any other country “which would have a more sectional character than the Australian Country Party. For its members to suggest that they do not believe in decreases in wages is mere form, because at all times and in all circumstances they want to cut wage rates or prevent the workers from receiving wage increases.
While the Prime Minister tells us that his Government believes in no increase of wages at the present time, the Government is not doing very much about seeing that there is also no increase of prices. After all, you cannot wonder at the worker feeling rather annoyed when only the price of his labour is to be pegged, because the worker has only his labour power to sell. The man who sells goods is not to have his returns pegged.
I think that the Treasurer must have become conscience-stricken about this whole business, and thought that he had better make some statement to make it seem that there was to be equality of sacrifice. So recently he made a statement dealing with inflation in which he said -
Australians now seem to have a greater realization than several years ago of what inflation means. But industrialists should be temperate in their desire for profit.
That is all he said. He did not say, “ I ask General Motors-Holden’s Limited to reduce the price of their Holden cars, because they are charging too much; they are making exorbitant profits “. He did not say to Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited, “ Because we are asking the workers to accept present wages, you should be more temperate and accept a lower profit”. No appeal was made to the exploiters and boodlers in the community to cut prices and profits. Oh no! There was only an appeal to them to be more temperate in their desire for profit. All words! Those are meaningless words that will have no affect on anybody. They will not cause one single article to be reduced in price by one halfpenny. Yet this Government has the temerity to say to the people who make the wheels go round, “ Because we can hit you more than we can hit anybody else, we are going to suggest that your wages be pegged for the next twelve months, even if prices rise”.
If the Government claims that sacrifices have to be the order of the day, then I say that there should be equality of sacrifice. If the Government were to propose immediate price-pegging, then it is possible that the trade union movement would not be so antagonistic to the submissions asking for wage-pegging that have been put by the Commonwealth to the Arbitration Commission. The present proposition of the Government is blatant and vicious discrimination against the working class. I suggest that if the Government has an ounce of justice in its make-up it will immediately take legislative steps to peg prices.
I should Ike to quote now from the Melbourne “Age” in regard to this matter, because to-day we are finding that industries and wholesalers and retailers are using the increase in the wage level as an excuse for increasing prices. Let us see what the Melbourne “ Age “ had to say recently about this pernicious practice. On 4th December, 1959, the “Age “ said-
It is wrong also to see in any wage rise an opportunity for an automatic lift in prices. There is plenty of room for the belief, however, as the Commission pointed out, that increases in wages have been used as an excuse for increasing prices when this could have been avoided. This is the policy that has been at the root of many of our economic ills in the past.
That was in the Melbourne “ Age “! Nobody could ever say that the “ Age “, with its present outlook, is pro-Labour in any way. As a matter of fact, it is far more antiLabour in its outlook than many other journals. So even anti-Labour journals like the “ Age “ recognize that this policy of increasing prices the moment that wages are increased cannot be justified. We find that when the workers’ wage goes up by 10s. or 15s. a week, manufacturers and retailers immediately increase prices for goods. But they do not increase their prices commensurate with the increase of 10s. or 15s. a week received by the worker in his pay packet. They increase the price of each article by enough to bring them an extra £5 or £6 a week on their sales of that article. They can do that by increasing the price of the article by Id. or 2d.
I conclude by saying that Labour suggests that the Government immediately approach the people for an increase of constitutional powers. Why did the Government apoint the Constitutional Review Committee a year or two ago? It did so because it recognizes, as the Labour Party recognizes, that the National Parliament is hamstrung in giving effect to many reforms that are essential in the interests of the people because of its lack of power under the Constitution. The committee was not appointed as a joke. It was appointed because the Government realized that something had to be done to enlarge the powers of this Parliament to deal with the problems of the day. The committee made very simple and useful recommendations which would mean, if they were approved by the people at a referendum, that into the hands of this Parliament would be placed some of the powers now held by the States to deal with presentday problems which ought to be dealt with on a nation-wide basis. It is impossible to get the six States which now hold these powers to exercise them in a unified and effective way. I am satisfied that if the Commonwealth Parliament had the powers of control now resident in the States, the job that has to be done could be done. Unless the Government is prepared to face this fact, then all I can say is that it was indulging in humbug when it appointed the Constitutional Review Committee to report on constitutional reform.
– Order! The honorable gentleman’s time has expired.
.- I wish to reply first to some of the statements made by members of the Opposition claiming that no action has been taken by the Government in regard to the spiralling of prices and costs. I should like to show how forthright the Government has been in its attempt to stop these spiralling prices and costs. The honorable member for Batman (Mr. Bird) made no reference to the abolition of import licensing, and to the greater volume of consumer goods coming into this country, which means greater competition, and ultimately the cessation of spiralling costs and prices.
As one who took part in the welcome to the Governor-General and his good lady, I endorse the statements which have been made by other honorable members, and should like to say how pleased I am to see that once again a citizen of the United Kingdom has been appointed to this high office. We all know that the appointment of Lord Dunrossil is contrary to Labour Party policy. In fact, if we were to scratch a little deeper, we would find that some who sit on the Opposition benches would prefer to show allegiance to systems other than that represented by the Crown. I should like this appointment to be preserved as one of the few direct remaining ties between Australia and the United Kingdom.
I endorse the Government’s action in encouraging the investment of overseas capital in Australia. I should like to see a greater degree of encouragement extended to overseas organizations to allow Australian investors to join in their ventures on more liberal terms. We know the great job that has been done by such firms as the Ford Motor Company of Australia Proprietary Limited, General Motors-Holden’s Limited, International Harvester Company of Australia Proprietary Limited and many others in the expansion and development of this young country.
Over the past several years the Labour Party has seen fit to criticize the large profits which are being taken out of Australia by overseas firms. Because the balance-sheet of General Motors-Holden’s Limited is readily available, this organization is always held up to scorn by the Labour Party. But although a great deal of criticism has been levelled at General Motors-Holden’s Limited recently in relation to the profits which it takes out of the country, little if anything has been said to the credit of this organization. I think that it is time we had a look at the whole picture to see what the activities of this company mean to Australia.
The Holden car is only one of 42,000 products which are made by the company, but it accounts for five-sixths of the total turnover of General Motors-Holden’s. I was amazed to find that 74,000 people are employed in making, distributing and servicing Holdens. If you consider their dependants, this means that more than 250,000 people owe their living to the
Holden car. Although the company has made large profits, nothing has been said about the profits which have remained in Australia, or about the profits of more than 4,300 companies which do a great amount of business as suppliers of materials and components for the car. Only one-third of the total factory cost of the Holden is incurred in General Motors-Holden’s factories. The remaining two-thirds is paid out to suppliers for materials and for work done in their own factories.
– Do you drive a Holden?
– I do. General MotorsHolden’s employs 38,000 people solely on work associated with the car. The company’s collective wages bill is about £45,000,000. In addition, another 16,000 people are employed on distributing and servicing the vehicles after they have been sold. Many of the supplier firms have built up large businesses purely as a result of work done on the Holden. A good example of this is the story of how one firm has grown. When it first began operations the staff comprised a man. his wife and four employees. The company had a capital of £5,000. By 1953 this firm had 800 employees and buildings to the value of £1,000,000. Since 1953 it has expanded its operations on three occasions.
A total of 650,000 Holdens have been made since the first Holden went on the road. General Motors-Holden’s concentrated first on the local market, and has saved Australia the huge sum of £300,000,000 in overseas exchange. The company now has a growing export market, and to date 13,500 vehicles have been exported to 25 countries, bringing in £7,000,000 in overseas currency. There are many other reasons why General Motors-Holden’s can be regarded as making an outstanding contribution to Australia’s economy. Not the least of these reasons is that the company is paying annually £12,000,000 in direct taxation alone.
Perhaps the clearest idea of what the production of the Holden car has done for Australia can be obtained from a comparison of some of the company’s presentday figures with those of 1948. In 1948 the company employed only 7,650 people and had a wages bill of £6,000,000. Now it has more than two and one-half times that number of employees and the wages bill is nearly four times what it was in 1948. In its first year of operations, the company spent £9,000,000 on materials, components and services, while in the year which has just ended it spent £69,000,000 in this way.
That is part of the story of this socalled golden Holden to which the Opposition has referred on many occasions. I do not know where the Opposition obtained the word “ golden “. Perhaps it came from the golden boy who sits on the Opposition front bench.
Let me now turn to other matters. There seems to be a tendency to-day, more than ever before, for the State administrations to direct a great deal of their responsibilities towards Canberra. Many people who represent associations and organizations concerned with education, hospitals and local government, now make representations direct to the Commonwealth Government instead of through the respective State governments. This practice is dangerous because it leads directly to unification. If the trend continues, the existing State administrations will destroy themselves because they have adopted this attitude of passing the buck. We know that unification is the policy of the Labour Party. We have only to look at a statement made by the present Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) who, when asked why the States should not be abolished, replied -
The policy of the Labour Party is perfectly clear. We say that there should be uniform taxation in this country as there should be unification.
I have the greatest respect for the sovereign rights of the States, but they should learn how to protect those rights.
All these things indicate a dangerous weakening of the federation as the pioneers of our Commonwealth envisaged it. The nation is tending towards greater centralization of political power at a time when decentralization of political power should be regarded as a matter of the most urgent importance and the basis for the decentralization of all aspects of our national life - industrial, commercial and social.
It could well be that because of the numerical, political and economic dominance of each State by its capital, country people feel that they are as close to Canberra as they are to their own capitals, and that they can come to us with their State problems just as easily as they can approach their psychologically distant State governments. But the growth of this trend and feeling - which, no doubt, is greatly loved by opponents of this Government - presents an enormous and alarming threat, not only to the federation as we know it but also to the maintenance of the good government to which the people of Australia are entitled.
While some adjustment in powers between the Commonwealth and the States undoubtedly is desirable, as the all-party Constitutional Review Committee discovered, a funnelling of all powers to Canberra with the resultant elimination of the States, in essence if not in fact, would place the impenetrable barrier of a clogged-up bureaucracy between the people and their government, and develop an unbridgeable rift between a fruitless parliament and a frustrated people. I hope that this Government will therefore consider as a matter of urgency the recommendation of the all-party Constitutional Review Committee in respect to section 124 of the Australian Constitution so that, as rapidly as possible, machinery can be provided for greater decentralization of political power by the creation of more self-governing units in the federation. They, in turn, will lead inevitably to the industrial, commercial and social decentralization so essential to the future well-being of our country.
The situation in which the Australian Commonwealth finds itself to-day was recognized eight years before federation by Sir Henry Parkes, that great pioneer of federation, when he said -
As a matter of reason and logical forecast, it cannot be doubted that if the Union were inaugurated with double the number of the present colonies, the growth and prosperity of all would be more absolutely assured, ft would add immeasurably to the national importance of the new Commonwealth and would be of immense advantage to Western Australia, South Australia and Queensland themselves if four or five new colonies were cut out of their vast and unmanageable territories.
In his book, “ The Making of the Australian Commonwealth “, Bernhard Wise, who was a delegate to the Federal Conventions in 1897 and 1898, echoed the view which Parkes had expressed a few years earlier. He wrote -
The remedy for the defects of the Constitution is to be found rather in the extension of Federal powers with an extension of local government by sub-divisions of the larger States. Only by this means will be secured that “enlargement of the powers of self-government of the people of Australia” which was the declared object of the Constitution.
From the stand-points of defence, economy and development, too many of our people are concentrated in limited areas. We have our economic eggs in too few baskets. Sir Winston Churchill, Britain’s great war-time leader, in his recently published work, “ The History of the Great Democracies “, referred to the great wisdom shown by the young federal government of the United States of America in fostering the development of territories in each new area opened up and their admission as stares at the earliest practicable moment. All these statements point in the one direction for Australia. They give a lead that Australia must follow if it is to be developed as it should develop, if we are to show the world that we are entitled to hold our country, and if we are to preserve this federation, and to give the people true self-government.
Mr. Russell Jones, of Ballarat, recently gave evidence before the Victorian all-party select committee appointed to inquire into the dispersal of population in that State. After commenting on the formation of regions for development in Australia in 1945, the early history of the American union and the desire of the United Kingdom Government, towards the end of last century, to divide Queensland into three colonies, Mr. Jones told the committee -
The vain struggles of North and Centra) Queensland dating up to last year to have the British Government’s wishes of the latter part of last century granted in this century makes tragic reading. In fact, the whole history of sew State efforts since Federation reveals an appalling denial by Australians of democratic rights to Australians. Since we have controlled our own destinies we have done absolutely nothing to share the blessings and privileges of self-government to others of our people with the result that thousands of Australians distantly removed from their overcrowded State capitals are governed rather than selfgoverned. We, who have been so ready to ape some of the lesser American ways and manners have totally ignored the greatest gift the American government has ever given its people - regional self-government. While the creation of 93 regions in Australia was both expedient and desirable in 1945, these regions had no powers whatever, and the creation at the same time of five or six new self-governing States would have revolutionized the pattern of development in this country in the 15 post-war years.
I believe that many of the problems facing both the Commonwealth and the States stem either directly or indirectly from our failure, during the 60 years of federation, adequately to decentralize politically. Evidence that this is so is piling up all along the line. The Commonwealth Parliament and Government, as well as those of the States, must not only recognize it but also act upon it as speedily as possible.
– Mr. Deputy Speaker, I regret that the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Bird) is not in the House now, because I want to reply to an attack that he made on the Australian Country Party. As a rule, the honorable member is one of the few Opposition members whose remarks in this House I make a point of listening to, because I generally think that he has something worth while to contribute to any debate. But, this evening, he launched a vicious attack on the Australian Country Party, to which I belong. I make no apology for being a member of that party. The honorable member suggested that it is a sectional party which thinks only of graziers, farmers and the like. I want to tell the honorable member for Batman that those people constitute a very important section of the community which, at the present time, produces the wherewithal that brings us 90 per cent, of our export earnings, thereby providing employment for the people that the honorable member claims to represent in this chamber.
I suggest that the honorable member for Batman ought to look at the record of the Country Party in this Parliament and at that party’s contribution here down the years. If he would take the trouble to study the records, the honorable member would find that quite a number of measures on the statute-book for which the Country Party has been responsible have proved of great value and have saved this country and brought it through many of the difficult periods which we have experienced in recent years.
As to the suggestion that the Australian Country Party is a sectional organization, I suggest that it is the most national- minded party in this Parliament. I make that claim with due respect for my colleagues in the Liberal Party of Australia. We are a more all-embracing party, Mr. Deputy Speaker. We never forget for one moment that secondary industries play a very important part in the Australian economy, and we always remember that the best market for the Australian primary producers is our own Australian market. We believe that if the worker does not receive a decent wage he cannot buy the goods that our primary industries produce.
I should like the honorable member for Batman to go into the country areas, and especially to some parts of my electorate, to see the depressing circumstances that are apparent at the present time. Droughts and other factors have reduced spending power, and I should like the honorable member to see how business is lagging and stagnating in some areas, though, fortunately, not in many. Having made those observations, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I wish to say further on this subject only that I deeply regret that the honorable member for Batman made the disparaging comments about the Australian Country Party that we heard from him this evening.
I join with the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam) in supporting the sentiments expressed concerning the happy event that has recently taken place in the Royal Household. I join with other honorable members, also, in congratulating the Governor-General on his appointment to the important office that he holds as Governor-General of the Commonwealth of Australia, and I congratulate the new Leader of the Opposition and the new deputy leader of the Opposition on their appointment. I wish them well over the long period for which the socialist party will occupy the Opposition benches in this Parliament.
We have heard certain comments and criticisms from the Opposition about the appointment of the new Governor-General. The Opposition suggested that an Australian be appointed, and declared that there were in this country many able and prominent men who could have been appointed to the post. I do not altogether disagree with that thinking, but I should like to make another suggestion. Now that the British
Commonwealth of Nations embraces so many nations, with the recent addition of new members, our Governor-General should be appointed in turn from the other countries tha* belong to the British Commonwealth, and likewise with the appointment of a Governor-General for each of the other members. Let the GovernorGeneral be appointed not from the country that requires a Governor-General but from one of the other British Commonwealth countries. If Australia wanted a GovernorGeneral, he could be appointed from, say, New Zealand or Canada. A GovernorGeneral for New Zealand could be chosen from Australia, and so on.
– Send the present Prime Minister to Canada!
– He would be a good Governor-General of that Dominion, too. I think that if my suggestion were adopted, Mr. Deputy Speaker, it would strengthen the bonds between the various nations that comprise the British Commonwealth.
Yesterday, the honorable member for Kennedy (Mr. Riordan) followed the line that is usually taken by Opposition members and condemned some of the important and positive measures which the Government proposes to take to curb the inflationary spiral which is so plainly apparent in Australia to-day. I remember that in 1952 the Leader of the Opposition of that day condemned this Government when it imposed import restrictions, and I never heard any of his supporters disagree with him. As reported in “ Hansard “ of 7th May, 1952, the honorable member for Kennedy had this to say regarding import restrictions -
The policies of import restrictions and credit restrictions are causing unemployment.
He condemned the action of the Government then in imposing import restrictions, but, in his speech yesterday, he reversed his thinking altogether. He did not agree with something the present Government proposes, and he said -
In conclusion, I say, as the Leader of the Opposition said, that this Government is deserving of censure for its failure to hold inflation, for its lifting of import restrictions . . .
The Opposition cannot have it both ways. I suggest that Opposition members are bewildered, bemused and befuddled in their thinking about current conditions. I am not going to canvass the cost problems that face our main exporting industries to-day. Those problems are due, of course, to quite a number of factors that are inherent in the economy to-day. The situation has been ably described by my colleagues on this side of the House, and I shall content myself by repeating that the public should know this: If the income we get for our production is reduced, in spite of the fact that the production of our export-earning industries has increased over recent years, we will never have sufficient money to plough back into our industries to make them more efficient and to assist in the production of export-earning income. Those facts should be pushed home even to our school children. They should know where their bread and butter actually comes from, and where we get the money and the credit to import the necessities to keep our secondary industries going and so maintain our standard of living, which is one of the highest in the world.
I wish to support a proposal that was advanced in this House last night by the honorable member for Lawson (Mr. Failes). He suggested that, as hire purchase was a contributing factor to our inflationary problem, certain action should be taken. The honorable member made this worthwhile suggestion -
There is no question that hire purchase greatly assists the manufacturer, but an interesting situation would arise if it were restricted to goods of Australian origin, because, while I have no objection to hire purchase helping the Australian manufacturer, it seems rather left-handed to help the manufacturer in another country. I do not know how such a proposition would work, but it would be a very interesting experiment to ascertain the possibilities of a restriction of that kind which, I am sure, would remove one of the causes of our present inflationary situation.
The honorable member has suggested that we confine hire-purchase business to products of Australian origin. There is merit in that suggestion, and the honorable member should be congratulated on bringing it forward. The Government should give it consideration. I do not think for one moment that such a proposition would affect many of our imports. If it did. we could do something by way of a reduction in tariffs. In that way, we would keep our own industries going and maintain employment at a high level.
– How would you police it?
– It is worthy of investigation. The honorable member for Lawson said that he did not know how it would work at present, but it is an idea that should be investigated.
We have heard a lot about increasing productivity, and I believe that what I have to suggest is one way by which we can do that. I refer to communications in what has been known as the Channel country in western Queensland and part of the Northern Territory. A submission has been made, I know, to the Commonwealth Government for some assistance to improve these communications for the purpose of taking stock into and out of the Channel country.
Before I read a few extracts on this matter to support my case, I want to repeat some of the figures that have already been cited by the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) of stock losses, mainly through drought. As honorable members know, most of the beef cattle of Australia are pastured in Queensland. In the period between 1894 and 1902, cattle losses in Queensland totalled 4,600,000 head. From 1921 to 1928, 2,200,000 cattle died there, again mainly because of drought conditions. Those conditions are with us again today, and it is estimated that, in the territory that I represent, more than 200,000 head of cattle will be lost. On present values of cattle, those losses involve a lot of money. Many miles of roads could be built even if we avoided only half our present losses.
In this connexion I want to read from some reports that have been made by experts on this matter. One is Mr. J. H. Kelly of the Bureau of Agricultural Economics. He is an authority on these matters and is recognized as such, not only by the Government but also by the people engaged in the industry. In one of his reports/ Mr. Kelly said -
If governments will solve the problem of transport, the graziers will solve the problems of beef production in the full utilization of the Channel Country’s productive resources. It is in the national interest that the transport problem be solved. The saving of disastrous losses in times of drought and the greater production from the full use of the grazing resources would pay for the cost of providing adequate transport facilities over and over again.
Mr. Kelly stated later in his report that the fattening quality of the abundant native grasses and herbage following floods in that area is unsurpassed in Australia and probably in any other country. It is one of the healthiest parts of Australia, and free from disease. The present carrying capacity of that country is something like 269,000 head of cattle but, according to Mr. Kelly, it could be stepped up, if we had communications, to 358,900. The turn-off at present is about 65,190 head of cattle a year. However, if we had these facilities which would enable us to improve the area, we could increase this figure threefold. This matter should interest anybody who has any knowledge of the beef cattle industry.
Mr. Kelly commented on the effects of long walks on the age of store turn-off and fattening time Some of these cattle, even in my area, must walk more than 300 miles to the railhead after they are fattened, and they walk as far as 1.500 miles from the breeding country to the Channel country. It is a well-known fact that stock cannot be walked into that country from the breeding grounds or the nursery when they are under two-and-one-half years of age. That is the usual turn-off age for the quality of beef that is required to-day on our own and overseas markets. We cannot get the cattle into that area under that age, because they are too young to walk the distance. By the time they get there, they are in fairly low condition and all muscle, and it takes some years to fatten them. So, they are not ready for the market for four or five years, and then they are somewhere in the vicinity of 900 lbs. in weight, which is too heavy a carcass for the trade to-day.
I have given a very brief outline of the position. The report of Mr. Kelly and the reports of various organizations in Queensland and of the Queensland Government are available to honorable members. All these organizations report that this is an economic and a sound proposition which would pay dividends in a very short time. The value of this country was recognized when the fifteen-year meat agreement was entered into with the United Kingdom Government some years ago. When that agreement was signed, the Commonwealth Government thought it worthwhile to spend money in the area, extending from the
Kimberley Ranges and the Barkly Tableland down into the Channel country, on the provision of water facilities and some feeder roads. The Commonwealth spent about £2,500,000 in the area. It found that both the cattle and the country were good and it thought that the expenditure of some money then was an economic proposition. But it did not finish the job. Had it spent a few million pounds more and finished the job, we would not have suffered the terrific losses that we had in the last few years, and the nation would have been better off because export earnings would have been greater. In addition, those engaged in the industry would have been far better off.
I ask the Government to consider favorably the request of the Queensland Government for the provision of certain facilities. I shall not go into the details here, but some money is required. This is a proposition which would give quick returns. The people in the far western areas are doing an excellent job at present, and the carrying capacity of the area could be trebled. I have mentioned the Channel country as an instance of the way in which we can develop and increase production. If we neglect the opportunity, we will lose something that we can ill afford to lose. In the summary to a report on 28th October. 1959, the Director of Northern Development in Queensland said -
The provision of roads of the required standards would make road transport an economic proposition, and would give the following benefits: -
Cattle could be brought more quickly to railhead and in much better condition than by droving.
Loss of cattle in time of drought could be avoided as cattle could be transported out, whereas the stock routes are closed due to insufficient feed or water.
The roads could be used to bring cattle quickly into the Channel country in a good season, thus using this area most effectively for fattening, rather than for breeding.
The number of cattle turned off the
Channel country could be increased by enabling young stock fit for market to be transported to railhead by road when they could not stand up to the trip by droving often of six to eight weeks.
He recommended this as an economic proposition. The Commonwealth’s advisers have recommended that it is an economic proposition and I ask the Government to give very favorable consideration to the proposition. I also ask that the Government, before reaching a decision, send some one into the area to have a look at it. There would not be 2 per cent, of the members of this Parliament who would know anything about this part of Australia. They may know something about the Northern Territory, but they do not know anything about this area. This is some of the finest fattening country in the world and, before a decision is reached one way or the other, the Government should send a Minister or some responsible member of the Parliament to meet the people in the area. I am sure that the Government would then agree that this is an economic proposition.
The Government has adopted some positive measures to halt the inflationary spiral. I support the action that has been taken to remove import restrictions. However, I hope that tariffs will not be altered in a way that will nullify the beneficial effects that we expect to obtain from the lifting of import restrictions. I commend the Government for the positive proposals contained in the Governor-General’s Speech and trust that it will pursue them vigorously. I am sure that results so obtained will be beneficial to the nation.
Debate (on motion by Mr. E. James Harrison) adjourned.
Motion (by Mr. McMahon) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- Earlier to-day, the honorable member for Bruce (Mr. Snedden) directed a question to the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. McMahon) regarding a dispute in Victoria. The honorable member for Bruce misrepresented the situation as it exists, and the Minister aggravated the position in his reply. I do not propose to quote the whole of the lengthy question asked by the honorable member; I shall merely take extracts from it. He said that the Australian Railways Union had adopted goslow tactics and overtime restrictions, and went on to say that the Waterside Workers Federation of Victoria had also refused to work on Sundays. He then asked the Minister whether these facts, combined with others, showed a resurgence of Communist activity to capture transport unions and to riddle national commerce with industrial strife with the object of discrediting the arbitration system and inflating prices. The Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. McMahon) said the Victorian branch of the Australian Railways Union is under the control or influence of the Communist Party or Communist officials. I say that the large majority of the officers of the Australian Railways Union are nonCommunists and I invite the Minister to name the particular officials he refers to.
– J. J. Brown.
– He has named one officer and he knows that the preponderance of the officers of the union are nonCommunists.
I now turn to the waterside workers. The Minister said that their leadership is well known and that he need not go any further than to say that it is strongly Communist dominated. I say that the Minister is trying to mislead this House, because of seven senior officers in the Victorian branch of the Waterside Workers Federation there are only two Communists. Five of them are non-Communists. By what kind of reckoning does the Minister consider that two can dominate the five other senior officers of that organization!
Here are the facts. The waterside workers of Victoria did not refuse to work on Sunday at all. They were prepared to work on Sunday if transport was available to take them to and from their place of work. The fact is that as Sunday rail services were cancelled in Victoria and no alternative transport was available for these men, the Waterside Workers Federation entered into an agreement with the shipowners. The employers and waterside workers agreed that it was unreasonable to expect many of these men, who live long distances from the city - when public transport was not available and when the railway services were not operating - to be required to work on Sundays.
The arrangement worked for four weeks. Two weeks after the arrangement had been entered into, certain gangs were rostered for work, and when the waterside workers drew the attention of the shipowners to this breach of the agreement into which they had entered, the shipowners agreed to cancel the requisition tor those gangs. The shipowners said they had believed that the dispute with the railway workers would have ended by then, and it was only in error that these gangs had been requisitioned to work.
I shall now show where the Government comes into this business of provocative action in an endeavour to create industrial strife. On Tuesday, 9th March, Mr. O’Neill, who is the acting chairman of the Australian Stevedoring Industry Authority, advised the union that unless work was resumed on Sundays holiday credits would be lost. The authority was going to cancel the holiday credits which these men were to receive, if work did not proceed on the Sunday, although by arrangement with the shipowners it had been agreed that there would be no work on Sundays while the railway dispute continued.
On Thursday, 10th March, in a handdelivered letter to the waterside workers, the shipowners stated that it was intended to requisition gangs for work on the following Sunday. It appears to me that the Bolte Government, working through the Menzies Government and they, in turn, working through the Australian Stevedoring Industry Authority, was deliberately designing to extend this dispute by involving the waterside workers in it. Some of these men live as far distant as 30 miles from the city. A waterside worker who was rostered in one of the gangs lives at Belgrave, and to illustrate what his transport difficulty is I point out that when he works on what is called the twilight shift, which ends at 1 1 p.m., and it is 1 .30 a.m. before he reaches his home. Yet the Minister for Labour and National Service has said, “ One reason the waterside workers have given for not working on Sunday is that they cannot get to work. As they have always started work prior to 8.30 a.m., and as suburban trains do not arrive in Melbourne on Sundays before that time, I think we can conclude that the reason for their action is a flimsy one.”
The Minister thought he had scored a telling point. But what he did not saywas that the shipowners knew of the position at the time they entered into the arrangement with the waterside workers. It is true that when they are required to work on Sundays many of these men thumb rides, as they term it, with passing motorists in order to get into the city; but when they finish their shift late at night, they could not be expected to get transport home in the same way.
There is no doubt that what this Government and the Bolte Government are trying to do is to extend this industrial trouble because they want to escape the responsibility for their bungling.
As a result of the action to which I have referred 328 men were suspended and were fined two days’ pay, amounting to £8 18s. They also suffered the loss of holiday credits. They have now been penalized and fined about £12. Mr. Coutts, the shipowners’ representative, suggested that the men should engage taxis to get them to their work. The man who lives at Belgrave would be working for nothing if he engaged a taxi to take him to work. The amount he would get for Sunday work would be £1 1, and most of that would go to meet the cost of transport to work by taxi. I point out that the shipowners did not offer to provide transport.
Officers employed in this Parliament, who have to go only a mile or two to their residences when the House rises at night, are provided with Government cars when public transport is not available. What is wrong with the waterside workers saying to the shipowners that, when there is no public transport available, transport should be provided for them.
I wish to point out to the Minister and to honorable members opposite who talked about Communist-dominated unions, that waterside workers, at a meeting held to-day, decided unanimously to continue the stoppage of work until midnight to-night. Among the waterside workers to-day there are not only members of the Australian Labour Party, but also members of the Communist Party - I have even heard members opposite speak of Liberals being in the trade union movement - and some members of the Australian Democratic Labour Party. All the members at that meeting decided that the waterside workers had justice on their side, and 1 can assure the Minister and the Government that, if they continue these provocative acts against the trade unions of this country, they will meet serious trouble. They cannot get away with it by starting a smear campaign and saying that this trouble is due entirely to the fact that these unions have one or two Communist officials. If the same situation arises next week-end there will be further trouble, and if there is industrial trouble arising out of this matter the entire responsibility will rest with this Government and the anti-Labour Bolte Government in Victoria.
.- Mr. Speaker, the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) began his speech in a remarkable way. He suggested that I had misrepresented the position. There was no misrepresentation on my part. He then proceeded to indulge in misrepresentation. He said my question was long and that he would read only part of it; but, in fact, he read the entire question, and it was not long. To-day, I asked whether or not the tactics of this combination of the Australian Railways Union and the Waterside Workers Federation, could be taken with other facts to show a resurgence of Communist efforts to regain control of all the transport unions. In Victoria a unity ticket was run, whereby J. J. Brown, a renowned, a celebrated Communist - call him what you like, but everybody knows him for what he is, that is a Communist - was returned as Secretary of the A.R.U. The other night, on television in Melbourne, the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) was asked about unity tickets, and specifically in relation to the A.R.U. in Victoria. The Leader of the Opposition said , “Ah, but there was a special case in Victoria “. What was the special case? It was some sort of special case whereby those members of the Australian Labour Party who permitted their names to be placed on the unity ticket were not disciplined - and, presumably, they will not be disciplined in the future. What the special circumstances were, I do not know. But the Waterside Workers Federation is also Communistdominated, and it is a curious fact that when the Australian Railways Union, in an absolute thumb-to-nose attitude towards arbitration, indulges in these pin-pricking and wasteful tactics, which are very difficult for the community to bear, it is the Waterside Workers Federation that gives it support. The two organizations work in combination. What was the attitude of the Transport Workers Union? That union criticized both the Australian Railways Union and the Waterside Workers Federation, and it decided that its members would not go on strike in sympathy with the other two unions.
The Australian Railways Union went to the Commonwealth Arbitration Commission seeking service grants. It went before the commissioner assigned to the industry, Senior Commissioner Chambers. He examined the situation and came to the conclusion, on a finding of fact, that there was no evidence to justify these service grants. The Australian Railways Union then had the opportunity of appealing. But did it do so? Not a bit of it! What that union did was to decide to work to regulations. As a result of its members working to regulations, trains were cut out, to the great dislocation of commerce and the inconvenience of the people of Victoria.
Then the Victorian Railway Commissioners went through all the regulations and adjusted some of them to cut down the effects of this regulation strike. When they did this, the Australian Railways Union said, “We are not beaten yet; we will put a limit on overtime “. This meant that at many times in peak periods no trains would have been running. The Railway Commissioners then said, “ In order to avoid any risk of having to cut out trains in peak periods, we will cut out all trains on Sundays”. There were negotiations between the Railway Commissioners and the union, and the commissioners said, “ Let us go back to Senior Commissioner Chambers and ask him to act as a factfinding investigator, to see whether there are any facts which were not in his possession at the time of his decision “. The Australian Railways Union refused to do so, and it continued its restrictions on overtime.
When the Sunday trains were cut out. the Waterside Workers Federation said, “ Very well, we will not work on Sundays “.
It may seem curious that unions other than the Waterside Workers Federation did not join with the Australian Railways Union, but when one considers the facts and finds that both of these unions are Communistcontrolled and Communist dominated, the reason becomes apparent.
The other facts that I referred to were as follows: A very strong move is being made in the federal executive of the Australian Council of Trade Unions by none other than this same J. J. Brown of the Australian Railways Union to create a transport bloc within that body. The reason for this move is to put Jim Healy in control of the proposed transport group. He is another man whose name is well known to all honorable members and who is celebrated, if you like to use that term, for his control over the Waterside Workers Federation and his efforts in the past to dislocate the waterfront. The instigators of this move are aware of the influence and strength of the metal trades group within the A.C.T.U., and their plan is to control all sections of transport.
Undoubtedly these Communists are very annoyed with the Transport Workers Union - and let me say immediately, Mr. Speaker, that the Transport Workers Union in Victoria has quite a good record. I say that without any hesitation. What is sought to to be done is to drag the Transport Workers Union into this general transport group, so that that union, which is being properly led, will be swamped by the Communists. Then, when the Communists decide to pull on a strike in transport, the whole lot will stop. That is the plot that is being hatched to-day, and that was the basis of the question I asked in this House.
Is this plot likely to be successful? I invite honorable members to consider the organizations that are likely to be in the transport bloc. First, there is the Australian Railways Union. The New South Wales branch of that union is led by a nonCommunist, Dr. Lloyd Ross, but in Victoria the celebrated J. J. Brown is the motive force behind the union. The Seamen’s Union will be a part of the Woe. We know who dominates the Seamen’s Union. We know that they are Communists. We know the Waterside Workers Federation, and we know the Communists who dominate it. The union which covers tramway workers in Victoria is, to my belief, Communistdominated. Then there is the Transport Workers Union, which I cannot criticize on this ground.
The Amalgamated Engineering Union, of course, has to be considered, because there are sections of that giant union concerned with transport. Let us look at the controlling body of the Amalgamated Engineering Union - the Commonwealth Council. There are only three members of that council who have a vote. One is a Communist. Another supports the Communist line. The third voting position is at present vacant. A man named Wilson formerly held that position, and he was defeated by a man named Shearer, who was a non-Communist. But you will never guess what happened, Mr. Speaker. Wilson, a Communist, has now gone to law to have Shearer declared ineligible to take his seat on the Commonwealth Council, because it is alleged that he distributed propaganda, which was contrary to the union rules.
When you consider all these facts, Mr. Speaker, you will understand the basis on which I put my question. Now that I have set out these facts for the benefit of the House, if the honorable member for East Sydney still persists in suggesting that I have been guilty of misrepresentation, all I can say is that he has a complete incapacity to absorb the facts of the situation, or, alternatively, that he does not want to absorb them.
– For some considerable time the honorable member for Bruce (Mr. Snedden) has followed the practice of trying to use this chamber as a forum in which to build up his prestige as counsel for the employers in the arbitration courts of this country. Because he adopts that attitude, and because he represents the employers, we are entitled to consider the reasons why he presents a case such as that which he has just put before this House. Whatever the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) may have said regarding the manner in which the honorable member for Bruce asked his question in this House, I tell the honorable member for Bruce that in the last five minutes when he was on his feet here he deliberately refrained from giving the
House the truth regarding the Victorian rail dispute. In view of the honorable member’s knowledge of arbitration matters. I suggest that there is no one in this House who would realize better than he that he has not disclosed the real truth regarding this matter.
What is the truth? This dispute in Victoria began as a result of the great concern felt by railwaymen concerning the continued drain of trained personnel from the railway service. The dispute did not arise because of Brown. The Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. McMahon), who is now at the table, knows full well that many months ago I went to him and directed his attention to what might arise from this dispute. The Minister will not deny that I went to him in his own office and tried to tell him what would happen. He refrained then, and still refrains, from looking at the truth of the matter.
What happened in the Victorian railway service was of great concern, not only to Brown, but also to union leaders who are not affiliated or associated with Communists. If the honorable member for Bruce wants to test the members of the union that I have the great honour to lead, I will put the prestige of that organization up against that of any master organization in this country. The truth that the honorable member for Bruce has not told this House is that the decisions in relation to this dispute have not been the decisions of Brown. The basis of this dispute was the concern of railway men in Victoria at the continual drain of staff. So discussions took place and until the Bolte Government stepped in, the commissioner was concerned about what he was going to do to prevent wastage of trained personnel from the railway service.
When the question of the special allowance - the service grant - came up, if the truth is to be told, the commissioner was not opposed to this in the first instance. The service grant was designed and brought forward, as a palliative perhaps, to prevent the continued drainage that was taking place. If we take the whole story to its conclusion, how true was the railwaymen’s real claim in respect of this matter? When the honorable member for Bruce or the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. McMahon) talk about a strike in the
Victorian Railways, let me remind them of this: When I was summoned to appear before the court in relation to this matter, I challenged the Railways Commissioner, on behalf of the men who run the trains in Victoria, to tell us the regulations that we were not supposed to observe. Every day, somewhere in this country, railwaymen are being disciplined for their failure to observe regulations in some form or other. The honorable member for Bruce knows full well that this question was tested in the margins case. He knows that when we stood the commissioner’s representative up in the margins case, the court itself said that there was no basis for complaint against the attitude that the railwaymen in Victoria v/ere adopting. What is the truth of the position? The railwaymen themselves, not Brown, took the matter before the Trades Hall Council. They were not going to put other unions in the position that the waterside workers had been put in of limiting work because of some attitude of theirs. But they were concerned at the continued loss of trained personnel.
Let us look at what this loss of trained personnel means. All that was done by the Victorian railwaymen - not by Brown - was to say, “ From here on. the maximum overtime that we propose to work is sixteen hours a fortnight “. Sixteen hours of overtime a fortnight means six days of eight hours per week. The men guaranteed the Victorian Railways Commissioner 48 hours a week, every week in the year. There is not another body of workers in Australia at the present time that is called upon to do more than that. Because of the drain of trained personnel from the railways service in Victoria, the commissioner could not run services in the way that he wanted to run them.
Now, who is at fault? Forget about Brown! At a time when there is a 40-hour week operating in this country, are the railwaymen, who have the full support of the Trades Hall Council in Melbourne, to be described in this chamber as Communists because they have said that they are not prepared to work more than eight hours a day for six days a week? Why do they have to work these hours? Because of the continued drain of personnel from the railway service: because of the lack of incentive to remain inside the railway service. In other words, private enterprise is buying men every day from the railway service of Victoria. I ask honorable members opposite to strip their minds of the Communist bogy and look at the position fairly. The facts are these: The railwaymen, not Brown, took this matter to the Trades Hall Council. The dispute, since it has been in existence, has been conducted by the disputes committee of the Trades Hall Council, the responsible industrial authority in Victoria. That the men were complaining about the drain on staff has been proved. What does the honorable member for Bruce want? Does he want the railwaymen or any body of servants in this country to work seven days a week every week in the year? That is what it would mean.
The commissioner now says that he doubts whether he can continue any longer to run the railways for even six days a week with a maximum of sixteen hours a fortnight overtime. Let us put the argument of the honorable member for Bruce in proper perspective. This is not a question of Communist control. This is a fight for decent conditions for a body of men who should not be required by any government to work more than 48 hours a week all the year round. It is unsafe to ask railwaymen to work longer hours than that. Surely, they are entitled to one day off a week! As far as the position of waterside workers at week-ends is concerned, I point out that the railwaymen did not refuse to work on Sundays. The railwaymen are prepared to work on Sundays. The commissioner has not the trained personnel to give to the people of Victoria the service to which they are justly entitled. The whole of the fault lies at the door of the Government of Victoria and of the Victorian Railways Commissioner, not at the door of Brown, or anybody else.
The Trades Hall Council of Victoria, which is one of the most prominent and realistic bodies in this country, does not want to inconvenience anybody. But until such time as the commissioner and the Government realize that it is necessary to provide and keep trained staff in the railway service sufficient to necessitate the working of not more than 48 hours a week, they must accept the blame for the absence of Sunday trains. The responsibility rests squarely on the shoulders of the Bolte Government and the Victorian Railways Commissioner, not upon any union, and much less upon any Communist.
– I wish to make a personal explanation.
Mr. SPEAKER (Hod. John McLeay).Does the honorable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– I do. The honorable member for Blaxland (Mr. E. James Harrison) alleged that my actions to-night, and in the past, have been for a specific reason. I wish to state that that misrepresents me completely. At all times, I have been concerned only with my duty as a member of Parliament to expose what I consider to be a national threat.
.- I rise to support the remarks of the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) and the honorable member for Blaxland (Mr. E. James Harrison). This matter has been misreported and distorted. At no time has this dispute been in the hands of the Australian Railways Union, lt has always Deen in the hands of the Trades Hall Council. Let me say, further, that if it was right that gangs should not be requisitioned on four Sundays, it was right for them not to be requisitioned on the fifth. Where did the instructions come from? Was there a plea - a frantic plea - by Mr. Bolte to get him out of the mess that he was in due to his own bungling? Was a plea made to the Prime Minister to direct the shipowners to do what they did last week-end - bribe the waterside workers with £12 in wages and holiday pay?
The shipowners were told that the waterside workers were quite prepared to work if they could be provided with transport, just as men in other industries are provided with transport to work. The waterside workers were quite prepared to go to work if transport were provided, even in the face of the fact that an agreement had been reached between- the shipowners and their union that it was wrong to requisition labour if transport to work could not be guaranteed. Did the shipowners do anything in the face of that offer? No! They came out with measures designed to intimidate the waterside workers. They sought to draw more attention to the dispute that exists between the Australian Railways Union and the Victorian Railways Commissioner. They sought to discredit the members of the union for fighting for service grants which practically every other man in industry has to-day.
Knowing the feeling that existed at the meeting that was held in Melbourne to-day, I say that this is the sort of thing that could start a nation-wide dispute. That is just what this Government wants to do. When an honorable member, speaking in his place, labels innocent men Communists, his conduct is not worthy of the standards of this House. I despise men who talk in that way. Let them look at the list of the names of these union officials and see whether Communists dominate them. Some honorable members are using an old catchcry. It has been used as long as I can remember, and long before the honorable member for Bruce was interested in politics. It has been easy to say that a man was a Communist, or a red-ragger, or an extremist in an effort to belittle his political affiliations and discredit him to the world. That is what is going on to-day.
Members of the Australian Railways Union have a just cause, and they have put it justly. No attempt to discredit them or no amount of propaganda can take away from Mr. Bolte and the officials of the Victorian Railways the blame for stopping trains on Sundays. It is at their door that the blame must be laid. It is at the door of this Commonwealth Government also that the blame must be laid for the suspension of the waterside workers on Monday and Tuesday. This Government has given instructions in this matter. That can be seen throughout the whole affair. Mr. Bolte is frantic; he does not know which way to turn. He is in such a position he cannot retract. To retract would show him to be the weakling that he is. He has appealed to the Prime Minister and to this Government to instruct the shipowners to do what they have done. If the Government wants peace and common sense to prevail on the waterfront, this is not the way to get it.
.- I wish to raise one or two matters in connexion with the administration of the Postal Department and I am pleased that the PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Davidson) is in the
House because he may be able to give me answers to matters which have been brought to my attention. Some time ago, considerable concern was expressed in this House at the interference with Australian amateur radio operators and a conference was held to which certain delegates went. The results of the deliberations, I understand, are not yet available. But it is still a matter of concern to amateur radio operators that certain restrictions are to be placed upon them. I have received a letter from one of my constituents who is keenly interested in this subject, and he states -
May I thank you for the interest and assistance you gave last year when the question of radio frequency allocations were discussed in the House.
It was the unanimous wish of members that Australia should be on an equal footing with the rest of the world in this matter.
So far (months after the conclusion of the Geneva International Telecommunications Conference) no official statement has been made in Australia, but American periodicals state that Australia was the sole English-speaking country whose delegates requested curtailment of the amateur bands!
If this is so, it was done against the unanimous, expressed opinion of the Government - a peculiar state of affairs.
Rumour has it that a Bill is shortly to be introduced whereby Australian amateur operating bands are to be drastically reduced, and I sincerely ask you to give full consideration to this matter when it arises.
I cannot see why the Australian amateur, already worse off than those overseas, should suffer further reduction of bands. Any argument supporting this must apply equally overseas, vet amateurs there will be unaffected.
In view of that statement, which is somewhat alarming, I shall be interested as, no doubt, my constituent will be, in the answers to the following questions: - Who were the delegates to this conference acting on behalf of the Government? What instructions were given to them? Did they act contrary to those instructions and, generally speaking, what was the result of the deliberations which took place there? Does the Minister intend, as the letter states, to introduce legislation placing Australian amateur operators at a disadvantage compared with those in other countries. These are very important matters and I trust that the Postmaster-General will be able to give me satisfactory answers to my questions. I know the views of my constituent, and the interest he has displayed in the letter is shared by many thousands of amateur operators who contacted members of this Parliament on all sides some months ago when this matter was under discussion. It is vital to these people and I sincerely trust that the Minister will be able to give me the information I seek. As I said a moment ago, I should like to know who were the delegates to this conference and what took place there. Generally speaking, is this Government to be a party to placing restrictions on operators in this part of the world which will not apply to persons in a similar capacity in other countries? I trust that the Minister can answer these questions and in due course let us know what action the Government intends to take as a result of that conference.
I am interested in another matter which concerns my electorate. I read with interest about the £6,000,000 profit made by the postal department. I have looked, also, at certain post offices in my electorate as no doubt honorable members have looked at post offices in their electorates for quite a considerable time. I have wondered whether a considerable portion of the money that the Postmaster-General has taken quite wrongly and unjustly from the Australian people could be used to improve certain post office facilities in my electorate in the interests of the postal employees and of the public.
I previously raised the question of the Dulwich Hill Post Office, which is situated in a very important part of my electorate, and applied for a new building. I was told that my request could not be granted. I do not think it was an extravagant request to make in respect of that important part of my constituency. The Minister stated at the time that certain improvements would be made but that a new post office would not be erected.
I should like to know how far the Minister has gone in respect of that post office. What improvements are to be made there, and when? In view of the huge profits that have been made by the department, even without taking into consideration the increased postal charges imposed most unjustly and outrageously some months ago, I ask the Minister to explain why the department cannot provide in this important centre a brand-new post office with modern facilities for the benefit of the public and particularly of those who have to work there to provide the postal services. When all is said and done it is not much to ask that a proportion of that profit should be made available for this purpose.
It seems amazing to me also that although the Postal Department has made a profit of £6,000,000, people are still awaiting the installation of telephones. More than 40,000 applications for telephone services are still outstanding. There are still delays in providing business houses with essential telephone and postal facilities. I cannot see why the Minister cannot have immediate action taken to overcome the shortage of equipment and to provide services.
It is now fifteen years since the war ended and many people have been waiting for telephone services for a considerable time. I can see no reason why new post offices cannot be built and telephone services provided almost immediately on request. There should be no excuse for the fact that labour and materials are not available. I think it is scandalous that people have to wait for these services when the Postal Department can show a profit of £6,000,000.
I ask the Minister again to give serious consideration to the provision of a brandnew post office at Dulwich Hill. I am not unmindful of the fact that the former honorable member for Watson (Mr. Curtin) had to press for years for a new post office in his electorate and in the end he got it as a result of his earnest and constant representations and also because the Minister knew that he was going to take £6,000,000 unjustly from the pockets of the taxpayers and could therefore let his head go a little in this direction.
I bring these matters to the attention of the Minister and ask for his reply to them. I hope that it will be favorable so that I will be able to give adequate and satisfactory reports on these several matters to the people in my constituency.
.- I notice from a report in the press that the Government has approved the purchase of either two or three additional Boeing aircraft to add to the magnificent Qantas international air fleet. I say “ magnificent “ advisedly, because I consider that Qantas - the entirely government-owned Australian airline - is the finest international airline operating anywhere in the world.
That brings me to this point: The advent of Boeing 707’s to international air routes to and from Australia necessitates the construction of aerodromes of considerable size and strength. The Government, anticipating this, has for some time being considering the establishment of an international airport at Tullamarine, in the vicinity of Essendon or Broadmeadows, on the outskirts of Melbourne. The decision has hung fire for a long time. The suburban residents, the farmers and the people who have bought land1 in the vicinity for subdividing, are all deeply concerned. But the people who are most concerned, and in whom I am interested, are the people who live on the eastern approach to the proposed international airport at Tullamarine.
These Boeing 707’s are monsters. They carry enormous loads of highly inflammable fuel. Their power is, by any standards, fantastic. If Tullamarine becomes the international airport of Melbourne, then, just as to-day a very large number of planes coming from Sydney and other parts of Australia approach from the eastern end of Essendon and fly over the very densely populated suburbs of Coburg and Pascoe Vale, the Boeing 707’s, when the wind is in the right direction, will also fly over these suburbs.
It is bad enough, in all conscience, under existing circumstances, to have the powerful planes at present in use flying over thickly populated areas as they approach to land. As everybody knows, the critical, most dangerous stages of a plane’s journey are the landing and the takeoff. One can imagine the magnitude of the disaster, should it ever happen, if, due to human error or to mechanical failure, one of those monstrous planes crashed in its aproach to the Tullamarine airport. It would cut a swathe through a large residential area that would possibly mean death to hundreds of people. It is my considered opinion, Mr. Speaker, that no international jet airport should be established anywhere in Australia at a lesser distance than 25 miles from any substantially populated area. I have been to Idlewild, and I understand that the approach there is over the water. At San Francisco the approach is also over the water. At Moscow, the international airport which handles the big Russian TU4 aircraft is 25 miles from the city of Moscow.
I understand, Sir, that the Cabinet is almost equally divided on this issue.
– You are wrong there. You have no idea of what goes on in Cabinet.
– I do not know what goes on in Cabinet, and I am not trying to make political capital out of whatever your difficulties may be - and it is obvious that you have some. All I am doing is making an appeal to the commonsense of men who, as human beings, should weigh the possible loss of human lives against cost and convenience.
– You want the international jet airport at Kingsford-Smith.
– -You can deal with that yourself. It is said, as an excuse, that Tullamarine may not be used as an international airport - that the Government and the Department of Civil Aviation are going to resume Tullamarine as an alternative to Essendon, which, they say, is already too close to the suburban area. It is said also - this appears in the press, and the Minister will not deny it - that the Government visualizes selling the existing Essendon aerodrome site for residential purposes. This means that if ever an international airport, or even a new ordinary aerodrome for Melbourne, is established at Tullamarine, the existing Essendon aerodrome will become a thickly packed residential area. So, added to the districts of Coburg and Pascoe Vale, will be the new residential area at Essendon, within one and a half miles of Tullamarine airport.
All that you will do if you sell Essendon and shift the airport out to Tullamarine will be to accentuate the hazards of living in these closely packed areas. If you make Tullamarine an international jet airport, and leave the Essendon airport where it is. you will still have a horrible hazard. Never mind about your departmental advisers. Search your own consciences and ask yourselves whether you arc justified in establishing this great jet aerodrome, or in making the existing aerodrome a jet aerodrome, or in selling the land at Essendon for residential purposes and thus accentuating the already very great risk that exists.
A week or more ago I attended a public meeting at Pascoe Vale. I live not far away, in the vicinity. The Progress Hall at Pascoe Vale is in the direct line of approach to the east-west runway at Essendon. Several planes flew over during the meeting, and all I can say is that I would be horrified to have to live on the line of the existing approaches. If the members of this Government, or any other government, are so foolish as to accentuate the existing risks by establishing the proposed international jet airport at Tullamarine, or moving the existing airport to that place, all I can say is that they are potential murderers.
– I want to answer the statements of the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard). I find some difficulty in believing that there is any great depth of sincerity in anything that the honorable member for Lalor has said tonight. I do not know a great deal about the geography of Melbourne’s environs, but I do know a considerable amount about the geography of the area around Brisbane. I know that Tullamarine is situated within the area that is represented by the honorable member for Lalor. I am also familiar with the fact that a very large committee was created in that area, which has been operating over a period of some months now in an endeavour to affect the deliberations of the Government so that it will not establish the airport at Tullamarine. These people have been working in a very efficient manner. I doubt whether there is any member of the House who has not received from them several circulars in which stories are told of not only the potential dangers of the use of Tullamarine as a jet airport, but also about the nuisance caused by the Boeing 707’s. This has been referred to time and time again in every circular that that committee has sent out. The circulars quoted from debates in the House of Commons, and statements were made which I believe to be grossly exaggerated.
When I first received information from this Tullamarine organization I was very appreciative of it. I felt a degree of apprehension, because Eagle Farm aerodrome is situated in my electorate in Brisbane. That aerodrome is so situated that the residential area comes right up to the boundary fence.
I felt that the nuisance created by the noise of these Boeing aircraft and the smoke emitted during water injection take-offs would be so great that the value of surrounding properties would fall and people would need to find alternative accommodation. Since then these aircraft have used that aerodrome, but there have been no complaints about excessive noise or the discharge from the exhausts of the black clouds of soot referred to by the residents of Tullamarine.
– They know it would be useless making any complaints to you.
– The point is that both the honorable members for East Sydney and the honorable member for Lalor were members of the Labour Cabinet which was responsible for transferring Brisbane’s commercial airport from Archerfield, a sparsely populated area having a population density at the time of perhaps ten people to the acre, to Eagle Farm, which is one of the most densely populated suburbs in that city. The honorable member for Lalor and the honorable member for East Sydney felt no concern about possible danger to people living immediately adjacent to the airport when the aircraft of those days took off and landed.
– They had only DC3 aircraft then.
– The aircraft of those days were not nearly as efficient as are the aircraft of to-day. Moreover, there were not then the navigational aids and the facilities for landing and blind flying which exist to-day. In spite of that, the honorable member for Lalor did not consider the possibility of the massacre of people who lived right on the boundary of the aerodrome. No protest has been made by the people living in this area about any hazard to their lives. For some strange reason, the honorable member has completely reversed his opinion. He thinks that the members of any government that is responsible for the establishment of an airport in a suburban area should be classed as potential murderers.
Let me suggest, Mr. Speaker, that the honorable member is playing a game of politics. He is trying to win the support of a group of people in Tullamarine who are associated with real estate organizations and who are hopeful of being able to exploit the potentialities of the area immediately adjacent to the proposed airport by selling land to persons who want houses. Whether the honorable member for Lalor has shares in the real estate organizations 1 do not know. But what I do know, Sir, is that one of the prime movers in the organization responsible for this protest is associated with the real estate business. I suggest that there could well be something sinister about the approach of the honorable member tonight and that his assertion that the Government is not considering the safety of people is not worthy of a moment’s consideration, particularly when it is recalled that he and the honorable member for East Sydney voted for the transfer of Brisbane’s commercial airport from Archerfield to the densely populated area of Eagle Farm.
– Mr. Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation.
– Does the honorable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes. I claim to have been grossly misrepresented. In regard to my shareholdings, I have ten shares in a farmers’ co-operative organization which I have held for 40 years and in relation to which I have drawn dividends of only 15s. Sometimes I have drawn nothing. My bank book is available to the honorable member for Lilley at any time he chooses to inspect it. The only two estate agents who have supported this move both belong to the party to which the honorable member belongs. One is in the State sphere and the other is in the federal sphere. Let the honorable member work that one out.
.- I had not intended to speak during this debate, but because of the rather outlandish remarks of the honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Wight) I feel obliged to say something. I had intended to reserve my comment until some time later. It so happens that the electorate of Barton embraces an area some parts of which are approximately 1 mile from the Kingsford-Smith aerodrome. I ask the honorable member for Lilley to listen to what I have to say, because he might well do what I have done. On a couple of week-ends I took the trouble to go amongst people who live not alongside the airport but within a mile of it.
– The people of Eagle Farm live closer to the airport than that.
– The difference in experience is rather extraordinary. There is a wide variation in the individual tolerance of noise, and a lot depends upon family circumstances. I found it rather difficult to believe, when I first heard it said, that little children were so terrorized by the noise of these great aircraft - and this happened a mile from Mascot-
– Were they Boeing aircraft?
– Yes. The children were so terrorized by the noise that in the day time they used to rush out from their homes and get under trees or bushes thinking they could escape. As I said, I found that difficult to believe at first; I thought they were just odd incidents. But I assure the honorable member that that complaint was repeated several times. People have complained about the noise caused by the tuning of these great monsters at night time and about being awakened for two or three hours. That is part of the irritation about which these people have complained.
Is it not significant that authorities in other countries are insisting that international airports be situated at least 20 to 25 miles from the cities? I hope that before much more money is spent on Mascot airport a public inquiry into this matter will be conducted - an inquiry that will adduce some objective evidence, or a cross-section of opinion rather than an expression of departmental views on the matter. Let us not accept what I say or what the honorable member for Lilley says about it. Rather let us have a public inquiry before great sums of money are expended on the provision of airports in these thickly populated areas. Even at this stage, consideration might be given to removing Sydney’s international airport to Richmond or some other area where there is not a concentration of population.
As I indicated earlier, Mr. Speaker, after hearing the honorable member for Lilley I felt obliged to rise and speak about this matter, in relation to which his experience is different from mine. I had not wanted to speak at this juncture, because I intended to go further and to approach a large number of people and family groups. I have not been questioning people who live close to the Mascot aerodrome, but have approached people in the Rockdale area. I have been told that the people in that area find it most annoying, most irritating and nerve-racking when they are at the shopping centre and these great aeroplanes fly over. I have been at the shopping centre at such times and” have found it impossible to conduct conversation. I am particularly concerned about the people in some of the near-by institutions. I hate to think, what would happen if one of these aircraft crashed on the St. George District Hospital with its hundreds of patients. That is to disregard altogether how this terrifying noise must affect people in the hospital. I have ascertained that the planes do tune up and take off at night time. How must the noise affect sick people and others in these thickly populated areas where we have hospitals, great technical colleges and schools catering for 800 or 900 students? What would happen if one of these planes crashed? We hope that it never will happen, but how terrible would be the disaster in these thickly populated areas
I know that the Government is thinking hard on this matter. It has every reason to do so. Before involving itself in great expense at this stage, it should make a thorough inquiry into the matter and obtain all the relevant evidence that is available.
– The honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly) introduced a subject which already has been referred to several times within the last few days, both in this chamber and in another place. He mentioned the recommendations relating to amateur radio operators which may flow from the international conference on frequency allocations. As we know, the honorable member for Paterson (Mr. Fairhall) has applied himself to this matter on a number of occasions. A question was asked by a colleague in another place a few days ago and a reply is being prepared. In addition, I answered a question on this subject here a day or so ago.
Let me inform the honorable member for Grayndler, to commence with, that the person who informed him that I proposed shortly to introduce a bill designed to limit amateur operators in Australia is not, as he apparently thinks he is, capable of reading either my mind or the mind of Cabinet. I shall outline briefly the actual position. As the honorable member knows, an international conference on this subject was held a few months ago. That conference considered thousands of recommendations and proposals advanced by representatives from every country in the world which is interested in the use to which the spectrum is put. Therefore, any report from that conference must, of necessity, be lengthy and very comprehensive, and will take a considerable time to prepare. I do not anticipate that I shall receive the report probably for some months. When the report is received, it will, of course, be referred to Cabinet for discussion, and I should think it likely, although not certain, that following consideration by Cabinet, a further Australian conference will be held to apply, if need be, to our Australian scene any recommendations and proposals which have been adopted by the major countries.
About three or four years ago a large conference was held of all the services and instrumentalities interested in the use of frequencies in Australia, to ascertain whether any better use could be made of the spectrum and whether any better application of the frequencies available could be made. As a result of that conference, it was decided that no action was necessary at that time and that the whole subject would be further reviewed in three years’ time. That three years’ period expired during last year but, because the international conference was to be held, and because it was likely that its determinations would affect any conference which we might convene and any determinations which we might make, it was decided to defer the further Australian conference until after receipt of the report from the international body. It is very probable therefore, that the first action to be taken will be to convene a meeting of representatives of all those who have an interest in this matter to ensure that proper recommendations are made to the Government. Honorable members will see that some considerable time will elapse before the stage is reached at which a report can be made to the House.
That does not mean that the particular problem of the amateur radio operators cannot be dealt with more expeditiously, because only the other day the DirectorGeneral of Posts and Telegraphs, in response to a question which I had asked of him, stated that he anticipated that the preliminary report relating to amateur radio operators would be prepared much more quickly than would a comprehensive report. I should think that I would have that preliminary report within a month or so. I have not seen the report and I do not know what its contents are likely to be. No decision whatever has been taken as to any possible legislative action flowing from the report.
– What attitude did the delegates to the conference take?
– I have said that I have not seen the report or the recommendations.
– Surely you gave instructions to some one?
– Of course. In fact, a representative of the amateur radio institute was present at the discussion which took place in Australia before the delegation went abroad. He accompanied the delegation and sat in at its meetings on a consultative basis although not on a voting basis.
The honorable member for Grayndler has referred also to the subject of Post Office finances. He used the fact that the report which I laid on the table of the House yesterday disclosed a Post Office profit of just over £6,000,000 to suggest that it would be possible to proceed immediately with a project which obviously is dear to his heart - the building of a new Dulwich Hill post office. Without intending to do so, the honorable member really has justified the increases in tariffs and the present position which exists in the Post Office. Although he may consider that a new post office at Dulwich Hill is necessary, he knows - I have told him - that its priority is not high enough in the general scheme of things and on the department’s list of general capital works to warrant action being taken to replace the existing building in the near future. There is only a limited amount of capital available to the department to carry out its works programme. That is the essence of the matter. He has asked why we should not be able to go on with it immediately, now that we have shown a relatively small profit in the Post Office. He said, “ Is it not amazing that the total number of outstanding applications for telephones has risen slightly in the last few months to something over 40,000? “ There again is evidence, first, of the need for additional capital to enable the Post Office to keep pace with the demands that are made on it, and secondly, of the reason for increased tariffs.
I want to point out briefly, as I did this morning in response to a question, that the increases in tariffs have been made necessary because of the increasingly heavy demands which are being made on the department and which the department, therefore, makes on Consolidated Revenue for its capital works programme. As a result of the increased charges, some form of reasonable return will be made to the Treasury for the increasing amounts which the Post Office needs to carry out its works.
As every honorable member knows, there has been an amazing development in Australia in both the rural and industrial fields; an amazing development in which, as has been pointed out in financial reviews, a great deal of additional capital, both Australian and overseas, has been invested. This has been of great benefit to our economy. It is realized now that, in such development, telephones are absolutely essential. The number of requests which honorable members put to me for the provision of telephones, post offices and exchanges bears out the essentiality of such installations. Many large office and industrial buildings are going up in the cities which, in themselves, require as many telephones as do some of our larger rural towns. A demand for 1,000 telephones in a large office building is not at all uncommon. I went to the electorate of the honorable member for Bruce (Mr. Snedden) a few years ago, and I saw the development in the Dandenong area. The General Motors organization, which had constructed a building there, demanded of the Post Office 160 exchange lines, with, as an initial requirement, 600 extensions. That was an amazing demand. We have to try to keep pace with such demands. At Elizabeth, a newly developed centre in South Australia, as the honorable member for Bonython (Mr. Makin) will know, there has been a very great demand, which we are doing our best to meet. In addition, of course, there is great expansion in the country, and all this expansion demands more and more capital expenditure.
I have no doubt that it will interest honorable members to know that in the last five years we have drawn more than £115,000,000 from public revenue for the purpose of financing our capital works. As the honorable member for Grayndler pointed out, that provision obviously is not sufficient because, as he said, deferred applications are increasing instead of decreasing. Against that £155,000,000 there was in this year, according to our commercial accounts, which are the subject of investigation at present, a disclosed profit of £6,000,000. In the previous year there was a profit of £4,000,000, in the year before that, £3,100,000, while in the two years before that, there were losses.
– Order! The Minister’s time has expired.
.- The Postmaster-General (Mr. Davidson) has been very plausible in explaining why he cannot supply telephones and why he does not know what is going on in his department. We have asked him - and it is a crucial question so far as parliamentary government is concerned - whether he gave any instructions to the people who went overseas to confer on behalf of the amateur radio operators of Australia and, if he did so. what the instructions were. We feel that we are entitled to know. This Government’s indirect direction of public servants to act on behalf of the nation has to cease.
The other point that the PostmasterGeneral laboured was his failure to keep up with telephone applications. He admits that the number of deferred applications is increasing. I could sympathize with the honorable gentleman if this was going on only in the outer suburbs of the metropolitan areas, but it is not. I represent one of the most closely settled and one of the longestsettled parts of Melbourne, where there are no difficulties due to distance. In some of the most thickly settled parts of Melbourne it is impossible to obtain a telephone. If that is not an indictment of the PostmasterGeneral and his administration, what is? Many other things occur to one’s mind as one considers the report which the PostmasterGeneral tabled in the House, and which, I suppose, there will be no opportunity to debate this side of the next session. That, again, is a reflection on the Government’s conduct of this Parliament.
I want to support the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard). I am not surprised by the insensitivity of Liberals to the noise of Boeing aircraft and such things as that. The points that have been made tonight are not associated only with the safety and convenience of citizens. They concern also the attitude of the Government towards priorities. We have only to link the two subjects of debate to-night, namely, railways and aeroplanes, to see the idiotic condition to which the finances of this country and the transport system have come. We are debating the location and the construction of new aerodromes. We propose spending at Tullamarine, I think, about £4,000,000. On this occasion, I am inclined to agree with my friend from Phillip (Mr. Aston), in his interjection. If Sydney wants jet airports, it can have them.
This is another case of extreme extravagance for the convenience of those who travel by air. We have the spectacle of the Commonwealth Government undertaking or supporting the purchase by Qantas Empire Airways Limited of another three Boeing aircraft, which will give us ten such aircraft. We have got into double figures in Boeings. Each one of those aircraft is worth £2,500,000. Once again, I relate that cost to the cost of high schools, for the benefit of people who overlook priorities in this matter. Each Boeing is worth at least 25 high schools.
We propose to spend £7,500,000 to buy three more Boeing aircraft, yet the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. McMahon), presumably, is preparing to support the position in Victoria, where 26,000 railway men cannot get miserable service grants. Let us relate the cost of one Boeing aircraft to . the cost of service grants in the Victorian railways service. The service grants would cost probably £500,000 a year, so that five years’ service grants could be paid for the cost of one Boeing. What kind of a system of priorities prevails in this community when expenditure for the transport of a privileged few is given priority in our use of the financial resources of the community?
– Does not the honorable member want Qantas to go ahead?
– I do not mind Qantas progressing. I am trying to point out the deficiency in the system of priorities which now prevails. I like to see Australian airlines the best in the world. I believe they ought to be the best in the world. But we have invested in the Australian railways system some £770,000,000. It is Australia’s largest capital investment, except housing, and it cannot continue to be neglected, ignored, strangled and frustrated as it is at present.
If we can provide for the fantastic capital requirements of the airlines, with extraordinarily luxurious aeroplanes, a great system of safety, and so on, in their 2,000,000 pasenger journeys a year, we ought to be able to do much more for the 500,000,000 passenger journeys a year which are involved in the Australian railways system. I want to point out, and I hope to make it clear to honorable members opposite, that if we can purchase three more Boeings and construct jet airports at £4,000.000 each, we surely can support decent working conditions for Australian railwaymen. The sum involved in the Victorian railways struggle is a small one. It is chicken feed. It is peanuts. After all, we had the PostmasterGeneral saying here that the Post Office profit of £6,000,000 was a comparatively small one. The priorities that this Government adopts are beginning to bring it to disrepute. I hope that honorable members on this side of the House will take every opportunity to make sure that the members of the public appreciate that fact, and I hope that eventually it will get through even to the rather insensitive political feelings of the people opposite.
– in reply - This morning, my colleague and friend from Bruce (Mr. Snedden), asked me a question about what can be called restrictive industrial practice; by the Victorian branch of the Australian Railways Union and the Victorian branch of the Waterside Workers Federation. I would like to state immediately that all of the facts as given by my colleague, both in the question this morning and in the speech that he made in the House .to-night, were perfectly accurate. Therefore, Sir, he was entitled to draw the conclusion that the Communist leader of the Victorian branch of the Australian Railways Union, Mr. J. J. Brown, and the Communist leader of the Waterside Workers Federation in Victoria, Mr. Young, were deliberately trying to sabotage the system of industrial arbitration in this country and also were trying to form a combination of the transport unions, excluding the Transport Workers Union itself, which would have the effect of tying up the whole of the Australian industrial system. His facts were right, and he was perfectly entitled to come to the conclusion to which he came.
I think I should make at least one comment about the remarks made by the honorable gentleman from Blaxland (Mr. E. James Harrison). I regret. Sir, that when the honorable gentleman becomes excited he also becomes personal, and sometimes he disregards the facts. I think it is regrettable that he should have referred to the fact that my colleague acts as counsel in certain industrial cases. I point out that when my colleague come3 into this House, no one represents the interests of the Australian community better than he does, and no one could state a case more effectively than he did to-night. The honorable gentleman from Bruce stated the facts correctly, and I regret that the honorable gentleman from Blaxland accused him of deliberately refraining from telling the truth. Similarly, too, the honorable member for Gellibrand (Mr. Mclvor) made a misstatement when he said that the Waterside Workers Federation of Australia was willing to allow its members to work on Sundays. The simple truth, Sir, is that that union has put a ban on all Sunday work and has shown that it is not willing to allow its members to work on Sundays.
Now I shall deal very briefly with the facts of these two disputes. The railwaymen’s dispute is over payments which are generally referred to as service grants. The
Chief Conciliation Commissioner, after considering all the facts, came to the conclusion that there was not a complete analogy between the Australian Railways Union and other unions, and refused to make the service grants. What happened then? The union refused to abide by his decision and, as I have said, indulged in these restrictive industrial practices - working to regulations, and many other things associated with that. Then the Chief Conciliation Commissioner himself recommended that a committee be established to consider whether the facts could be established. But the Australian Railways Union refused to participate in such a committee. I regret that the union has done this. I think that the people who suffer most from this action are the employees who are members of the union. They suffer most, but the Australian community also suffers.
I turn now to the waterside workers, Sir. Over a week ago, they had a stopwork meeting which had not the approval of the Australian Stevedoring Industry Authority. It is true that the meeting was not contrary to the Ashburner award, which came into force only this week, but it was contrary to an order of the Commonwealth Industrial Court. Consequently, the employers can, if they wish - it is up to them to decide - take the waterside workers to the court and see that its order is complied with.
On the Sunday in question, the employers, through the Australian Stevedoring Industry Authority, put in a requisition for Sunday work. The Waterside Workers Federation refused to comply with that instruction. I therefore feel that there is a perfect justification for what my colleague and friend from Bruce has said, and my sole reason for participating in this discussion is to make it perfectly clear both that he stated the facts correctly and that I think he was perfectly entitled to come to the conclusions to which he came.
May I make two statements in conclusion, Sir. The first is that we do believe in arbitration in industrial disputes. If the Australian Labour Party also believes in arbitration in these disputes, it should urge both the Victorian branch of the Australian Railways Union and the Waterside Workers Federation to abide by the decisions of the Commonwealth Industrial Court and the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission and go back to work. Secondly, Sir, I say that the workers themselves pay the biggest penalty for the continued working to regulations and other restrictive practices that we have seen in the railways dispute. The whole community suffers from these strikes. No gain is made by any one except those subversive organizations which are determined to ruin the industrial goodwill that exists in this country.
Finally, I compliment the honorable gentleman from Bruce. I am glad that there is in this House a group of people who are well aware, not only of the possibilities of Communist domination, but also that it is their responsibility to direct the attention of the House to every attempt by the Communists to gain control of the transport unions.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 11.44 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
d asked the Minister for Trade, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, United Kingdom, United States, (c) The purpose of the meeting as set out in the communique’ issued by the “ Big Four “ heads of government was to consider the need for and methods of continuing consultations dealing with
furthering the development of the less developed countries, and (ii) pursuing trade policies directed to the sound use of economic resources and the maintenance of harmonious international relations, including relations between the European Economic Community and the European Free Trade Association, (d) The meeting (i) decided to set up a special committee to consider commercial policy problems oi particular concern to the twenty governments who attended the meeting,
s asked the Minister for Shipping and Transport, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
For six months ended 30th June, 1957- £433,064.
For twelve months ended 30th June, 1958 - £975,876.
For twelve months ended 30th June, 1959 - £985,507.
Payments have been effected in respect of the periods ended 30th June, 1957, and 30th June, 1958, whilst payment for the year ended 30th June, 1959, is expected to be made on 31st March of this year.
n asked the Minister for External Affairs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 16 March 1960, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1960/19600316_reps_23_hor26/>.