23rd Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. John McLeay) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– I desire to ask the Minister for Defence a question. The honorable gentleman, I think, will recollect having made a statement on defence to this House on 26th November last. The House rose on 29th November, and met again very briefly on 3rd December, but did not discuss the matter. Therefore, I ask the Minister: Will he make a statement on defence at the earliest possible moment so that the House may discuss the subject at its convenience?
– I shall discuss this matter with my colleague, the Leader of the House, and then consider the request of the Leader of the Opposition.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Territories. I ask: Since the native people of New Guinea are taking an increasing part, in the economic life of the Territory of Papua and New Guinea, has the Government considered whether this requires any alteration in the system of landholdings in order that natives wishing to work land may have access to it?
– The question touches on a most important and rather complex subject. As the House knows, it has been a basic principle of our policy to protect the rights of natives to land, and, hitherto, we have attempted to do that by respecting native customary tenures. Over the years, the native people themselves have been taking a greater part in plantation activities in the growing of copra, cocoa and coffee, and it is now becoming obvious that native customary tenure does not always ensure that the enterprising individual who wants to engage in these activities shall have access to land. Another complication is that a native who may have spent a great deal of his labour and incurred a debt on plant- ing cocoa may not be able to will his land to his successors because he has no title in it but has only the customary native tenure, under which land may have to pass to some one not related to him at all.
Having regard to that sort of problem and to the fact that it is also apparent that we shall have to make very considerable transfers of native population from those areas which have poor land to richer lands, I gave instructions about twelve months ago that a basic investigation of land tenure in the Territory of Papua and New Guinea be made. We are now proceeding to the final stages of that examination, and we hope that we shall be able to arrive at an arrangement which will ensure not only that we respect native rights in land, but also that the natives who wish to use the land - the natives who stand in need of land - shall in fact have access to it.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Health. Will the honorable gentleman inform the House why the drug butazolidine is not included in the list of drugs available for the payment of 5s. on presentation of a doctor’s prescription under the national health scheme? Does the fact that this drug has been restored to the list of drugs now available to pensioners under the pensioner medical service indicate the need for it to be included in the general scheme as this drug is one of those most regularly included in doctors’ prescriptions?
– I understand the reason is that this drug possesses very considerable toxic qualities, and that the arrangements made for its supply are those laid down by the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee who, in their judgment, consider that there are indications for its use for pensioners as a benefit, but not otherwise.
– I direct a question to the Prime Minister. I ask the right honorable gentleman whether he can elaborate in any way on the progress of the conference that is at present taking place at Geneva between the three powers on nuclear disarmament?
– There are just one or two aspects of uncertainty about several points I was looking at to-day. I think perhaps I might be able to give the honorable member a more considered reply tomorrow.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Shipping and Transport. Is it a fact that rolling-stock required by the Commonwealth Railways is being procured from Japan? Is it a fact that the Australian heavy engineering industry has the capacity to produce this equipment? Is it a fact that overseas purchases by the Commonwealth Government are not subject to payment of any customs duty, and that this fact enables the present Government to take advantage of cheap foreign labour to the serious disadvantage of Australian workers?
– As has been announced, rolling-stock is being purchased from Japan. The Commonwealth Railways Commissioner went to Japan and inspected the rolling-stock which is of a very high standard. This rolling-stock was available at such prices that, even allowing for the 474- per cent, that could be added to the cost, the price was £150,000 less than the Australian price. This purchase did not take work away from Australian workers because, having regard to the price and quality, it would have been impossible to have ordered the goods in Australia.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Primary Industry, and I wish to refer to a statement by the Premier of New South Wales, Mr. Heffron, in his weekly broadcast last night, in which he again blamed the Commonwealth Government for the winding up of war service land settlement in that State. Will the Minister inform the House whether that comment was justified, or whether it was a completely dishonest interpretation of the facts?
– To answer the honorable member fully, I need to remind him of the original arrangements made between the Premier of New South Wales of that time and the Commonwealth Go vernment. The then Premier said that he would accept war service land settlement in that State on condition that the State would provide all the money for direct settlement and the Commonwealth would come into it only on the basis of training and living allowances and meeting a share of any losses that might occur. The Premier would not accept the scheme under any other conditions. Those conditions were accepted and when the Commonwealth act which ratified the agreement was declared invalid, the Commonwealth Government agreed to carry on broadly on that same basis. However, in 1952-53 we found that so far as New South Wales and the other principal States were concerned, the expenditure on war service land settlement had diminished to such an extent that the Commonwealth was not satisfied with the progress that was being made. Consequently, the Commonwealth. Government made an additional offer of an advance up to £2,000,000 a year to each of the principal States on the basis that for every £2 found by the States the Commonwealth would add £1. Even then the consequent rate of progress did not meet the desires of the Commonwealth so the Commonwealth eased the conditions and offered to provide £1 for £1. But what do we find? The Commonwealth made money available to the New South Wales Government for war service land settlement, but State funds for this purpose vere drifting into other channels. Therefore, the Commonwealth decided that on 30th June, 1959, this special assistance would cease but, because in the last financial year only £139,000 of Commonwealth money was spent by the New South Wales Government for this purpose, the Commonwealth generously agreed to allow the balance of the 1958-59 allocation to be spread over two years, so that amount is still available for this financial year. I say to the New South Wales Government that the original condition under which the Commonwealth Government came in still applies and that we will still assist war service land settlement. The matter is right back in the lap of the New South Wales Government if it wants to continue the scheme on the original basis.
– I ask the Minister for Primary Industry a question supplementary to that of the honorable member for
Richmond, which the Minister has just answered. Is the Commonwealth still adhering to its previous intention to discontinue the war service land settlement scheme in the agent States of South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania, and not to initiate any such scheme in its own Territories?
– The Commonwealth Government’s policy is that the agent States are in an entirely different category, because all the applicant exservicemen in those States, with the exception of South Australia, have been catered for on the land that has been acquired. The South Australian Government could not make sufficient land available for that purpose. In Western Australia and Tasmania we have acquired land which will be developed to the full and on which exservicemen will be settled. Settlement will continue this year and in subsequent years until all of that land has been developed to the appropriate stage. It is more than sufficient to meet the requirements of the ex-servicemen available. The only exception is in South Australia; and the Government of that State could not make sufficient land available. The same condition will apply. The land that had been acquired up to 30th June, 1959, will be developed and settlement will continue.
– I direct a question to the AttorneyGeneral. Is it a fact that, following the formation of a joint Australian and Japanese industry at Horsham the Secretary, Victorian Branch, Australian Railways Union, has officially contacted all local subbranch secretaries enclosing a copy of the Communist “ Guardian “ and asking them to adopt a plan of action, as recommended in the “ Guardian “, to complain about the establishment of this industry through delegations to local members.
– I have, of course, no reason to doubt the suggestion of fact contained in the honorable member’s question but, truly, I have no information on the subject. If there is anything on the matter in my department that I can properly convey to him, I shall convey it to him.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Social Services. Is it true that the only persons eligible for assistance in obtaining hearing aids are repatriation patients whose disability has been proved, war widows, and children? If this is so, will the Minister extend the same assistance to age and invalid pensioners whose circumstances, the Minister will agree, do not allow them to obtain such an amenity?
– I appreciate the interest manifested by the honorable member for Gellibrand in the provision of hearing aids for those who require devices of the kind, but I suggest to him, with very great respect, that it is wrong to consider hearing aids in isolation. It would be necessary to consider artificial limbs; invalid chairs, spectacles, and in the case of those of us who need to hide our baldness from time to time, it would be necessary to consider other things. All these matters have been considered but, up to this point, the Commonwealth has decided that it would be much better in the interests of those who need assistance of the kind to leave it to the agencies that already provide it. How long that determination will continue I am not in a position to say, but I will consider what the honorable member for Gellibrand has suggested.
– I preface my question to the AttorneyGeneral by referring to the Government’s request to management to hold prices of goods at a reasonable level, and to the wholesome desire of the majority of those in management to do so. In order to assist in this regard, will the AttorneyGeneral consider action such as the Restrictive Trade Practices Act passed by the Conservative Government of Great Britain in 1956 and the work of the Restrictive Practices Court in that country?
– I am familiar with the court of which the honorable member speaks and with the statute under which it works. The statute and the work of the court are under study in connexion with the matter mentioned by the GovernorGeneral in his Speech.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Primary Industry. In view of the seasonal conditions in some country areas and the urgent need of some wheat-growers for finance, is it possible to expedite the second payment to wheatgrowers from No. 22 pool, and, in particular, to expedite the first payment for the last season’s wheat crop, which I understand has not been made in many country areas?
– I do not think that I would recommend any alteration in policy so far as the second payment for last year’s crop is concerned. That is to say, the second payment will be made when the funds from the realizations become in credit. I was advised when obtaining information for an answer to a question asked of me about a week ago that all first advance payments on this year’s crop have been made, with the exception of those which are affected by unusual circumstances such as checking of grade. These unusual circumstances have caused delay in some payments. Generally speaking, the first advance payments have been concluded, although there was considerable delay in New South Wales due to the teething troubles of electronic machinery which had been installed.
– I address my question to the Minister for Primary Industry. As soldier land settlement is tapering off in the States, will the Minister now turn his attention to implementing a similar scheme of land settlement in the Northern Territory, an area for which the Commonwealth is directly responsible? I point out that hitherto the Commonwealth has denied the benefits of such a scheme to settlers in the Northern Territory. It is now nearly fifteen years since the war ended, and up to date ex-servicemen in the Territory have not received any assistance to further their rehabilitation.
– I remind the honorable member that the administration of land within the Northern Territory is within the jurisdiction of my colleague, the Minister for Territories.
– I address a question to the Minister for Primary Industry. Is it a fact that there were surplus farms available in Tasmania for the settlement of eligible ex-servicemen living on the mainland? Is it also a fact that such farms are still available? If so, can the Minister say whether these farms are suitable for the raising of fat lambs or fat cattle, or whether they are more suitable for dairying?
– There are still some blocks in Tasmania that were intended for war service land settlement. Some are suitable for dairying, others for the raising of fat lambs. These blocks have not been allocated. In other words, more land was acquired for the purpose of war service land settlement than was needed for Tasmanian applicants.
– Will the Minister for Territories answer the question directed by the honorable member for the Northern Territory a few minutes ago to the Minister for Primary Industry?
– As the honorable member for the Northern Territory knows, Mr. Speaker, this question has been addressed to me on previous occasions, and on those occasions I have been obliged to inform the honorable member that a matter of policy is involved.
– My question is directed to the Minister in charge of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization. In view of the success of the searching and intimate examination of the breeding habits of the rabbit, which has been carried out by officers of the C.S.I.R.O., and also of the concurrent inquiry into the breeding habits of sheep, particularly that portion of the inquiry dealing with multiple births, will the Minister cause a similar inquiry to be held in South Australia? This would appear to be a particularly opportune time for such an examination, in view of the memorable and notable performance recently announced by the honorable member for Barker.
– I will refer the question to the C.S.I.R.O. and try to obtain an answer for the honorable member.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Health. Is it true that in South Australia free public hospital treatment is given to pensioners without means, except those who contribute to a hospital benefits fund, and that in the case of these latter pensioners the hospitals adjust their accounts to make them correspond with the value of hospital benefits received by the pensioners, even in cases in which the benefits are more than £3 a day, which is the normal hospital charge? If these are facts, what benefit does a pensioner without means gain from paying into a hospital benefits fund? If there is no benefit to be gained by the pensioner, why did the Royal Adelaide Hospital, by instructions issued on 20th February and 28th February of this year, order its officers to make every effort to persuade pensioners to join a benefits organization?
– The question whether hospitals shall charge pensioners for treatment is, as I am sure the honorable gentleman appreciates, one to be settled by the State governments. If the practices to which the honorable member refers are being followed in South Australia. I am afraid he must direct his inquiries to the Government of that State, not to me.
– My question, which is addressed to the Minister for Shipping and Transport, relates to the Commonwealth Aid Roads Act 1959. Has the Minister heard or seen reports of remarks made by the State Minister for Public Works in Victoria yesterday, to the effect that the Commonwealth had not given Victoria a fair go with regard to Commonwealth aid for roads, and that in fact the Commonwealth Government had made a profit of £106,000,000 out of the motorists of Victoria? Can such a statement be substantiated?
– My attention has been directed to the statement, and I can understand any one, in the manner of Oliver Twist, asking for more. Under the Commonwealth Aid Roads Grant in the next five years, Victoria will receive a greater allocation out of the grant of £250,000,000, which is £100,000,000 more than was available in the last five years. The allocation to a State is based as to onethird on population, onethird on area and onethird on the number of motor vehicles registered in the State. The allocations for the next five years will aid the construction of more and better roads. The only stipulation that is made with regard to the allocations is that 40 per cent at least shall be spent in rural areas. I understand that there has been some test of strength in Victoria because more than 40 per cent of that State’s allocation has been spent in rural areas to the detriment of municipalities and cities. However, that is entirely a domestic matter, and it serves to show that not only the Commonwealth, but others also, met with difficulties in the allocation of money for roads.
As for sales tax on motor vehicles, that is entirely divorced from the allocation of funds for roads, just as excise duties collected on the sale of liquor are not spent on improvements to hotels. I think that the Victorian Minister for Public Works, who is a very capable man, is on this occasion, as we say, pushing the barrow. He thinks there is a lot of money available, and he would like to get a little more of it.
– I ask the PostmasterGeneral a question. Now that a profit of £6,000,000 has been declared by the Postal Department, would it be possible for the department to ignore the taxed costs awarded against the widows of three deceased departmental employees, who lost their claims for workers’ compensation on technical grounds, and to take a more generous attitude towards the dependants of injured and deceased workers?
– There is no relationship whatever between the present financial position of the Postal Department and some individual items such as those mentioned by the honorable member. But let me assure the honorable member that if he has a case in which he considers that some employee has not been properly treated, he may give me details of it and I shall be happy to look into it. I repeat, however, that the determination of such matters will depend on circumstances other than those that have been raised by the honorable member.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Primary Industry. In view of the failure of the New South Wales Labour Government to carry out war service land settlement, will the Minister suggest to the Premier of New South Wales that a proclamation on thousands of acres of farm lands be lifted, thus encouraging land owners to proceed with land improvement and increase rural production?
– It is certainly not my function to make suggestions to the Premier of New South Wales, but I might say, by way of answer to the honorable member’s question, that the Premier could well look at the closer settlement scheme in Victoria as a mighty good example to follow.
– I ask the Minister for the Army whether it is a fact that he was dressed down by the Prime Minister because of statements attributed to him with regard to the dismissal of certain Army top brass. Will the Minister also confirm or deny reports that there is to be another re-organization of the Army, which will entail widespread dismissals of Army personnel, both officers and men, on the ground of redundancy?
– In reply to the second part of the honorable member’s question, I should like to say that only one reorganization of the Army is proceeding and that is under active investigation at the present time. As announced by the Minister for Defence in his statement in November last, it is expected that certain people will be surplus to the Army’s needs. The number involved cannot be indicated at the present time, but the matter is under active consideration by all commands in Australia.
– I address a question to the Prime Minister. By way of explanation, may I say that last week I asked the right honorable gentleman whether his attention had been directed to a threat made by a high Soviet official, to the effect that he would burst the South-East Asia Treaty Organization. Apparently, from the nature of the right honorable gentleman’s reply, he believed that I had referred to the Third Secretary of the Soviet Communist Party when, in fact, I was referring to the First Secretary, Mr. Khrushchev. I now ask the right honorable gentleman whether he is in a position to comment on the report, bearing in mind the distinction that I have just made.
– I regret that I completely misheard the honorable member when he put the question to me last week. I appreciate now that his question related to Mr. Khrushchev. It is true, so far as we can ascertain, that towards the end of February, at a press interview in Djakarta, Mr. Khrushchev made certain statements, first of all following the orthodox line to the effect that such arrangements as Seato were aggressive in their design - which we know to be quite untrue, but which, nevertheless, people keep saying - and in the second place, following the usual line of saying that the peace-loving nations, including his own, would band together, and that such agreements as Seato should not be allowed to continue to exist. With very great respect, that is old hat, because we have heard it time after time. There was nothing in the nature or circumstances of his Djakarta statements - except that they were being delivered in Indonesia - which varied in any particular from statements that have been made to the same effect in other places.
– I ask the Minister for the Army a question which, I might say in explanation, has nothing whatever to do with the coronial inquiry into the accident in the Rip at Port Phillip, in Victoria, recently. Is it a fact that the presiding officer of the inquiry into the loss of Army personnel in a training exercise in the Rip is the officer who is in fact responsible for the training of these personnel? If this is so, is the Minister satisfied that such a circumstance would not prejudice the nature of the inquiry or the confidence of the public in its findings?
– I can assure the honorable member that the officer who was detailed for this inquiry has done a thoroughly satisfactory job.
– But is he a Pooh-Bah? Is he one and another at the same time?
– No. So far as I know, he is not. However, I shall check that matter and let the honorable member for Yarra know what I find out. As 1 have said, I can assure him that the officer has done a thoroughly satisfactory job, in a proper way.
– My question, which is directed to the Treasurer, relates to private superannuation schemes. By way of preface, I recall to the mind of the right honorable gentleman the fact that the Commonwealth Bureau of Census and Statistics made valuable surveys of private pension and retiring allowance schemes in respect of the years 1951-52 and 1955-56. In view of the effect of inflation on savings and on the real value of superannuation payments, will he cause another such survey to be made, with particular reference to the number of people covered by such schemes, the principal trends and features observable in them, and especially, the extent to which employers are maintaining the real value of the pensions paid?
– I shall be glad to examine the practicability of covering all the points of detail raised in the question. The honorable member doubtless is aware of the provision made by this Government in the last Budget which was designed to give some encouragement to individuals to save for their superannuation needs, and matters of that kind, but I appreciate that there is the further question of what can be done by industry itself, and I shall go closely into that matter for him.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Civil Aviation whether his colleague in another place has made any progress towards preparing an answer to my question in this House in September last when I asked whether he would investigate the cost and practicability of extending the skirt on 16/34 runway at Sydney (Kings ford-Smith) Airport out into Botany Bay. Further, has he made any progress with the measurement of noise at ground level from planes - jet, turbo-prop and conventional - as they pass vertically over the homes of residents in the Sydney suburb of Rockdale, which is in line with the end of the runway?
– The honorable member asked whether my colleague had made any progress in obtaining answers to his questions. I cannot say definitely what the progress has been, but I am sure some progress has been made. I shall ascertain the position and let the honorable member have the information in due course.
– I ask the Minister for Primary Industry whether it is a fact that three years ago two committees were set up in the wheat industry, one to report on production and the other to report on the marketing of wheat. Can he inform me how much longer these committees will take before completing their assignments, and when their reports will be made available to the Parliament?
– The committees have about completed their work. I think recommendations have been drafted. Those recommendations have not yet reached me, but I understand that a report should soon be available to me.
– I ask the Minister for Trade whether he will again consider the repeated request that has been made for a distinguishing brand to be placed on Tasmanian lamb shipped to the United Kingdom market. Is the Minister aware that the request is made only in an attempt to improve Tasmania’s export trade in this product, and that the British Board of Trade has indicated that it would raise no objection to the use of a mark which would distinguish Tasmanian lamb from other imported meat?
– I do not think there is any objection whatever to Tasmanian interests placing a distinguishing brand on Tasmanian lamb for the United Kingdom or any other export market, if they so desire.
– I ask the Minister for Defence whether it is a fact that the defence of Australia is a collective responsibility involving participation of a number of countries embraced by the South-East Asia Treaty Organization. Is the Minister aware that honorable members are completely unable to judge of the adequacy or otherwise of Australia’s land, sea and air forces as information regarding Australia’s obligation under Seato has never been made available to this Parliament? In view of the widespread feeling that our defences are down will the Minister advise the House of the contribution Australia would be required to make to Seato to meet certain eventualities?
– The honorable member has mentioned Seato, which is only one of the treaty organizations in which we participate. There are also Anzus and Anzam. Just what our responsibilities are, of course, is a matter of very high policy.
– Can the PostmasterGeneral say why an article posted by me from this building last Tuesday, by second-class mail, was not delivered to its destination in Sydney - the Commonwealth parliamentary offices - until Friday afternoon? I ask this question because I understand that this is not an isolated incident. Is there any particular reason, such as staff shortage or the adoption of new methods, for mail from Canberra to Sydney being delayed for 72 hours?
– I cannot offer immediately a reason for the delay men.ioned by the honorable member. At short notice, I know of no reason why such a delay should occur. Certainly it would not arise from a shortage of staff in the mail exchanges through which the article would pass, because there has been no reduction of staff in our mail exchanges. As a matter of fact, from time to time, as the volume of business demands an increase of staff, the necessary increase is approved by the Government and is made. I can say also, Mr. Speaker, that such a delay would not arise from the recent change made in the postal services with the institution of the system of sending all first-class mail by air where that is the speediest means of delivery, because I take it that the honorable member is referring to an article of second-class mail. There has been no alteration in recent times of the method of handling second-class mail. I am disturbed to hear that this delay has taken place, and I assure the honorable member that I shall have the matter investigated. It would be helpful if he could give me the cover in which the article was enclosed. If the investigation indicates any need for a further tightening up, that will be done.
– I also direct a question to the Postmaster-General. In view of the substantial profit of approximately £6,000,000 made last year by the Postal Department, and the record profit expected this year as the result of increased charges, will the Minister say to what extent the capital works programme of the department will be accelerated? Is he in a position to assure the House that a dramatic change will be made in the building programme for long-promised post offices and telephone exchanges; or is it his intention to return the surplus revenue to the Treasury, thus making the Postal Department another taxing agency?
– The honorable member for Macquarie refers to this year’s disclosed profit and also to the profit expected next year. He knows nothing about what the profit will be next year. Any conjectures about it based on statements by newspapers require to be taken with more than the usual grain of salt. The honorable member asks whether there will be an increase of departmental expenditure on buildings and on the provision of services generally. I point out to him that in every year in which I have held this portfolio there has been an increased allocation towards the department’s capital expenditure rising from £25,000,000 or £26,000,000 to £39,400,000 this year. It can be said, therefore, that, within the scope of the general availability of finance, this Government can be relied upon to provide adequate funds.
– My question is also directed to the Postmaster-General. I ask the Minister whether he is aware that within recent weeks in the United Kingdom a credit card system to be used in the making of telephone calls has been instituted? As I understand it, a subscriber is able to call from any telephone in Great Britain, or in 42 other countries, and have the cost of the call charged to his own home telephone account. Is any research being undertaken by departmental officers to make this interesting facility available in Australia?
– I have not heard of any investigation into this system in Australia. As a matter of fact, it sounds to me rather like our Federal Member’s Authority system - known briefly as the “ F.M.A. “ system. Whether it would be practicable to apply that system generally throughout Australia is a question that I should not like to answer offhand. Therefore I can only assure the honorable member that I shall have his question examined with a view to obtaining detailed information for him.
– On 9th March, Mr. Speaker, the honorable member for Kingston (Mr. Galvin) asked me whether the Government had directed Treasury officers in South Australia to influence employees into banking with a private bank. I have already assured the honorable member that no such directive has been given by the Government. I can now inform him that the result of my investigation into the mattei has revealed that no advice has been given by any officer of the sub-Treasury in Adelaide as to where employees should bank. However, if the honorable member can give me details of any particular cases where it is alleged that the advice was given, I shall be glad to look into the matter again.
– by leave - Advice was received by the Department of Civil Aviation yesterday that the Federal Aviation Agency in the United States of America, following the crash of an Electra aircraft in Indiana, United States of America, has decided, as a precautionary measure pending the outcome of the accident investigation, to impose a speed limitation of Mach .55 on the operation of Electra aircraft. This action by the Federal Aviation Agency was reported to have the support of the Lockheed Aircraft Corporation. The same restriction was immediately applied by the DirectorGeneral of Civil Aviation to Electra aircraft operated by Ansett-A.N.A., Trans-Australia Airlines and Qantas Empire Airways,
Its effect on Australian Electra aircraft is practically negligible because none of the operators here exceeds a speed of Mach .55 in level flight. In other words, the cruising true air speed of Electra aircraft of about 400 m.p.h. at 20,000 feet is unaffected by the restriction. The only difference will be a slight reduction of approximately 23 m.p.h. in the aircraft’s descent speed. However, this reduction will only apply foi several thousand feet during the initial stage of the descent and will add three minutes to the time involved in any flight. This in fact is the only effect which the Federal Aviation Agency restrictions will have on Australian Electra aircraft.
As it appears that some misunderstanding exists about the precise effect of a Mach .55 speed limitation, it should be noted that in level flight at 15,000 feet an aircraft flying at Mach .55 will have an indicated air speed of 316 m.p.h. When allowance is made for the height at which this reading is recorded on the air speed indicator, and also for temperature at that level, an indicated speed of 316 m.p.h. becomes a true air speed of approximately 400 m.p.h. This is the speed at which the aircraft will move over the ground if its passage is not assisted by a tail wind or retarded by a head wind. It will be seen, therefore, that the Mach .55 limitation does not reduce the average cruising speed of the Electra from 400 m.p.h. to 316 m.p.h. as has been stated in some reports.
Although the Federal Aviation Agency gave no precise reasons for the speed limitation, it is understood that the agency has been concerned for some time about the fact that some operators of jet and turbo-prop aircraft have been exceeding the maximum speeds approved for these aircraft. This, they believe, may well have had some effect on the accidents to the Electra and the Federal Aviation Agency have accordingly imposed an overall speed limitation which cannot be exceeded on any occasion.
It will be appreciated from what I have said that Australian Electra aircraft from the date of their introduction in this country have, except for a minor part of the descent stage, been operated well within the speed limitation now imposed by the Federal Aviation Agency. There need not be any concern, therefore, that past operating practices have had any effect whatever on Electra aircraft in Australia. This is another case in which the Australian Department of Civil Aviation has acted in swift concert with the airlines to ensure that the highest and most rigid safety standards are applied to aircraft operating in this country.
Debate resumed from 17th March (vide page 400), on motion by Mr. Murray -
That the following Address-in-Reply to the Speech of His Excellency the Governor-General be agreed to -
May it 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 tot he 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 tothe 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, His Excellency the Governor-General, in his Speech at the opening of Parliament, made reference to housing and the part the Commonwealth Government plays in providing finance for housing in Australia. His Excellency had these words to say -
The year 1958-59 saw the completion of a record number of more than 84,000 new houses and flats, which made a substantial contribution towards reducing the remaining housing shortage. This financial year my Government is again providing approximately £80,000,000 for housing.
His Excellency went on to speak of the work being carried out by the National Capital Development Commission in the building of this National Capital at Canberra. His Excellency referred to the work the commission is doing in providing accommodation, schools and other institutions and engineering services for the rapidly growing population of Canberra.
I propose to devote my remarks to the housing situation in Canberra, to recognize the very excellent work being done by the National Capital Development Commission in some spheres of activity, and to refer to what I consider are shortcomings in the current housing programme, both as to numbers and types and the situation of houses. 1 shall propose some means which might, if adopted, alleviate the very serious shortage of housing in Canberra. The situation at present is that there are on the waiting list for houses in Canberra some 3,400 names the names of 3,400 people who are entitled to houses and who are already here and waiting for the allocation of houses. In addition, there are some 654 names and these are the figures from the latest housing return for the quarter ended 31st December last on the waiting list for onebedroom flats; and that, of course, is largely a measure of the need of the single population in this city. The waiting time for a house at present in Canberra and the waiting time is not an arbitrary period, but simply a reflection of the rate in which houses are being built and handed over to the Department of the Interior for leasing the time it takes for an applicant to move from the bottom of the list to the top of the list for allocation of a house is at the moment some 30 months, and that 30 months is the time for the first offer of a house. It is the very first opportunity that the applicant has either to accept or to reject a house that is offered to him. Many applicants, of course, having regard to their family needs, find it necessary to reject - if they are in a position to reject - the first, house or flat offered to them, in the hope that by waiting they will be able to acquire the type of house they consider they need or which they consider desirable for the future of their families. Should they be waiting for what is normally a modest requirement - a brick house or a brick veneer house of three bedrooms - they can expect to wait, on present-day allocations, about two years and eight months. I have on my file in my office many cases of people who have been registered for that type of housing as far back as July, 1957, and they are still not within sight of allocation of a home. The position is to be aggravated, of course, by the further transfer of departmental staffs to be made later this year. With the need to transfer those staffs nobody, or very few people, will disagree. But the responsibility is on the Government to see that when that transfer takes place houses are available for the people who have been required to uproot themselves from their homes in Melbourne or elsewhere and travel to Canberra in the course of their duties.
In order to have the housing ready lor them, it becomes necessary for the Department of the Interior to adopt what is known as a “ stockpile “ of housing tor a period to be fixed which, I understand, will commence at the beginning of next month. The bulk of new construction will be, as it were, frozen. As houses are completed it will be necessary for them to be locked and held vacant against the arrival of further departmental employees from Melbourne. I make it clear that not all new houses will be frozen in this way. But the very freezing of these houses and the necessity to have them available against the transfers must mean that the waiting time for those who are already here and waiting for homes must be considerably extended.
I believe that there are several ways open to the Government of cutting down on the waiting time for housing and providing better for the needs of the people in this capital city. The visitor to Canberra sees very little of the misery that exists here. The casual visitor to this city sees the beautiful avenues, the gracious homes, the wide open spaces and the few monumental buildings, but he does not see the tragedy and the misery that must exist and which, from my own knowledge, does exist in this national capital. If we have here - and the figures are official - 3,400 people who arc waiting for homes, surely we can ask ourselves where these people are, how they are waiting, and in what conditions they are living. In this beautifully planned city there are literally hundreds of families living in the most abject conditions. They are living in shacks, in garages and in shared accommodation of a very inferior type. They are being mulcted, in many cases, by the owners of homes or the tenants of government homes for the occupancy of a room or a garage in which to house their families while they are waiting for the allocation of a home.
The latest racket is for firms to hire out to these families, who are desperate for housing, caravans at £5 or £6 per week. The lucky family which is able to hire a caravan approaches a resident of Canberra and, for a payment of £1 or £1 10s. a week, is allowed to put that caravan in their backyard and use the toilet and other facilities of the home. I quote these things to show that the need for housing does exist and that, under the beauty of this place and in the backyards and garages, families are living as no families should be required to live in any Australian community. I do not point the blame at the present Minister for the Interior (Mr. Freeth), but I do say that the Government itself must accept responsibility because it is responsible for the growth of Canberra. It plans the transfer of departments here and it must provide for the housing of the people that it brings to this city.
Decisions were taken some years ago - in the face of economic necessity, it was stated at the time - which resulted in a cut-back of the building programme in this city. At the time, the then Minister for the Interior, the honorable member for Chisholm (Sir Wilfrid Kent Hughes), came in for very substantial criticism on this matter. I have since learned that he had himself battled with the Cabinet to secure sufficient funds to carry on the building programme. But his efforts and desires were thwarted and the building force in this city was cut almost in half between the years 1953 and 1954. The number of houses constructed, consequently, fell very considerably. That legacy is still contributing to the shortage of housing here to-day. So any family arriving in Canberra and hoping to take up residence here, whether in government employment or otherwise, can expect to get a house in between two and a half and three years after arrival. Over that period, the breadwinner is required to make whatever arrangements he can for the housing of his family. Because this is a new city, a planned city, there is none of the temporary accommodation such as is available in other major cities of the Commonwealth.
Mr- Deputy Speaker, the present population of the national capital is about 46,000 people and, as I have already shown, there is a shortage of over 3,400 homes. There is a waiting time of from two and a half to three years before an applicant can expect to get the type of house that he requires and, in fact, needs for the accommodation of his family. Official figures, given in recent weeks, show that the population of Canberra within ten years will be 100,000. So within the next ten years, not only have we to provide housing for an additional 54,000 people, but we have also to take up the lag for the families represented by approximately 3,000 applicants at present on the waiting list. I suggest that the planning of the National Capital Development Commission towards this end is not entirely adequate. I hope to develop that thought as I go along.
I have spoken of the way in which families are accommodated here while waiting for housing. Those conditions, of course, do not apply to all who are here waging for allocations. Certain public servants who are transferred here in the course of their duties become entitled to what is known as a “ Section 97 allowance “ which is an allowance payable by the Public Service Board through the department employing the man concerned in order to subsidize his board and that of his family at one of the government family hostels, or in order to subsidize his rent if he can secure a fully furnished house on a sublease from a tenant in Canberra. That provision is made for the Commonwealth public servant who is transferred here in certain circumstances. Figures have been given to this House on the extent of that assistance and the number of people to whom it applies at present. But in the planning and development of this city we cannot make provision only for those whom the Government brings here to carry out the work of government.
Obviously, as this place expands, there must be a very substantial building force - a force of building tradesmen in the various categories and builders’ labourers. There must also be those who conduct the services of the community - those who staff the shops and the businesses. They, I suggest, should have equal rights in housing with everybody else in this community. They have equal rights, as of recent years, so far as the allocation of houses from the list is concerned but they do not have any opportunity to share in a subsidy of the kind that is available through the public service organizations. The builder, the tradesman, the carpenter, the bricklayer - the people who must come here to build this city - cannot expect any assistance of that kind. They cannot, from their own salaries, afford to pay the rental being charged for fully furnished houses which, according to the “ Canberra Times “ recently, range from £13 13s. to £16 16s. a week - and higher for a person from one of the embassies who has more or less unlimited funds to pay for such accommodation. Those rentals are completely outside the capacity of the average skilled tradesman in the building industry or the average worker to pay.
In past years, offers were made to provide housing of a particular type for a particular class of people who were coming into the community. I know that over the years Canberra has been criticized as a class conscious place in which people were regimented into suburbs in accordance with their incomes. That state of affairs is no longer in existence. But some thirteen years ago, when it was proposed to bring building tradesmen from the United Kingdom to this place, housing was provided in the suburb of Narrabundah to the extent of some 400 demountable homes, known locally as the “ Narrabundah prefabs “. They were provided to house British building migrants who were brought to Australia by the Chifley Government to assist in the development of Canberra. No dogcollar provisions were written into the lease which was granted for the occupancy of those houses, and many men who arrived here as building workers drifted, or sped in some cases, into other occupations. They obtained employment in indoor jobs, in government departments or in stores, but they continued to occupy the houses.
If we had 500. 600 of 1.000 of those houses, the officers of the Housing Branch would have no difficulty in allotting them to people who are already in Canberra and waiting for houses. While I hope that no more buildings of that kind will be erected, I suggest to the Minister, and to the National Capital Development Commission, the need to develop low-cost housing in this city to provide for the requirements of the workforce, which must come here to build a capital which, within the next ten years, will more than double its population.
The authorities might consider the construction of low-cost housing in the outer suburbs or in adjacent country areas. Let us not have a repetition of the Narrabundah development, or of what happened many years ago at Westlake and at Causeway, but there is ample opportunity in, for example, the village of Hall - a delightful place which is quite handy to this city by motor transport - for the development of low-cost housing which would meet the needs of people who come here to assist in the development of the National Capital.
Low-cost housing to-day need not be unattractive in appearance. It can be made quite attractive and would be suitable for the village of Hall, which is only 10 or 12 miles from the centre of this city. This kind of housing would also assist greatly in the development of that area. There would need to be an extension of the Canberra water supply, which is something that the village of Hall has wanted for many years, and of sewerage. I hope that the National Capital Development Commission, with which I have had some preliminary discussions, will take some action along the lines that I have suggested.
The same kind of development could be undertaken in Oaks Estate which, economically, is part of Queanbeyan although coming within the boundary of the Australian
Capital Territory. Oaks Estate has become a neglected suburb which could profit from the establishment of low-cost housing which would bring to that area the facilities that it has lacked for many years. Although Oaks Estate has a water supply, it is one of the parts of the capital city which has no sewerage. If the Government were to to act along the lines which I have suggested, it would help to develop Oaks Estate. I hope that the commission will have regard to the matters to which I have referred.
– What would be the cost of a house in this low-cost housing?
– I think that a house of that kind could be built to-day for something under £3,000.
– What would be the size of such a house?
– It would be of two or three bedrooms occupying about eleven squares. I do not think the construction of such a home would present any problem to the commission. The average brick or brick veneer house in this city now costs from about £4,500 to £5,000. Low-cost housing of the kind which I have suggested could be built for something under £3,000 and perhaps, with the development of modern construction methods and techniques which are becoming available, the cost would be lower. I do not suggest that all the houses should look dreadfully alike, as do the Narrabundah houses. I hope that the commission will proceed to construct these low-cost houses.
The kind of houses now being built in Canberra have other short-comings. The commission is building an increasing number of three bedroom homes which are the largest homes at present available to families in Canberra. The latest planning survey report of the National Capital Development Commission reveals that Canberra has the highest birth-rate in Australia - 31 per 1,000 of population, compared with the average for Australia of 23 per 1,000 of population. It also has the lowest death-rate in Australia - four per 1,000 of population compared with the average for Australia of eight per 1,000 of population. But the large family in Canberra has no hope of securing from the Government a house which is adequate for its needs because four-bedroom homes are not available. Although four-bedroom homes have been built recently, they have been constructed to meet the requirements of officers and others who have been transferred to Canberra with the defence departments. I have on my files information regarding literally hundreds of people who, although they have eight, nine, ten or even twelve children, have no chance of obtaining a four-bedroom home in Canberra. I have submitted to the National Capital Development Commission that the percentage of these homes should be increased so that the man who has a large family will have an opportunity to secure proper accommodation for it. These people have had to be told by the officers of the Housing Branch that they have no chance of obtaining a four-bedroom home, and that they must be content with a three-bedroom home. But the three-bedroom homes which are now being built are inadequate for a family of that size, because it has been shown over and over again that the second bedroom is hardly large enough to take two beds and a dressing table, and that the third bedroom will not take two beds. A member of the housing commission has stated that Canberra homes are too large but, as I have said, there are literally hundreds of families which would say that he is completely mistaken because they cannot obtain a home of the size that they require.
The argument has been advanced that while the Government obviously is obliged to continue to provide homes for occupation on a rental basis, it should not be required to provide all the housing in Canberra. Indeed, that is not the case. Some 30 per cent, of the building under construction last year was for private enterprise. The financial assistance, which is available to residents of the Australian Capital Territory who desire to build their own homes, is not adequate to meet the needs of the family man. A loan, representing 90 per cent, of the cost of a home, but with a maximum of £2,750, may be secured through the Department of the Interior. At the time when that sum was fixed, it did represent approximately 90 per cent, of the cost of a home, but to-day it is barely one-half of the cost. The very man who needs the assistance most - the man with a large family - most frequently is a man on a moderate or a low income, and he is unable to take advantage of the financial assistance which is available because he cannot find the difference between the maximum loan of £2,750 and the £4,700 or £5,000 which is required to build a home today. Various representations have been made to the Government through the Australian Capital Territory Advisory Council, and through other avenues, requesting that the loan be increased to a more reasonable figure which would bear some relation to the cost of a home.
The Government would serve its own interests best if, instead of building for rental, it built and allowed occupancy of the premises on an ownership basis with no deposit, thereby relieving itself of the cost of maintenance and, at the same time, making the dream of the average family man come true - that eventually he will own his own home.
Mr. Deputy Speaker, in the short time which is left to me I should like to refer to the practice of the Commission in continuing to build multi-story homes and flats. It has been shown over and over again that there is no demand in this community for accommodation of this kind. I hold the rather old-fashioned belief that a Government of the people, spending the peoples’ money to provide housing for the people, should build the kind of housing which the people themselves want. There should not be a decision from the top saying, “ This is the kind of housing you can have”. The Government should seek to build the kind of housing that the people want. Families in Canberra have been forced to accept tenancy of flats because they could not face the lengthening wait for a house. They have gone into a flat hopefully, believing that within a few years they would be able to transfer from that inadequate flat to a house, but they have remained in the flat for many years and I see no prospect of them ever moving to a house. Not so long ago, the National Council of Women, on behalf of the National Capital Development Commission, conducted a survey of flat dwellers - that is, families living in flats. It found that only 25 per cent, of the families living in flats preferred that kind of accommodation, that a total of 60 per cent, were prepared to move into houses, and that 43 per cent. said, “ We will move to-day, into any house in any suburb, in order to get out of a flat “. But the Government goes on building flats. If any honorable members have an interest in the matter, let them stroll down to Manuka and have a look at the monstrosities that have been built on one of the most beautiful hills in Canberra. Any Tasmanian member who did so would become homesick, because I have seen nothing elsewhere so strongly resembling the ruins of the convict settlement at Port Arthur. If you put a photograph of the penitentiary at Port Arthur side by side with a photograph of those flats, the two would be identical. Perhaps they should call it Penitentiary Hill.
.- In the closing stages of a debate on the AddressinReply it is usual to save some time by agreeing with all the expressions of loyalty that have been uttered by various speakers, and I wish to do that now. However, as the Governor-General, in his address to this Parliament, said that we were all rejoicing at the birth of a second son to Her Majesty the Queen, perhaps I will be pardoned if I say now, a fortnight later, that we on this side of the House, and, I am sure, honorable members on the other side also, are rejoicing at the birth of twins to the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Forbes).
I think that the honorable member for Barker might now be paying a little closer attention to the remarks made by the Governor-General with regard to social services. He will soon find, to his amazament, that, no matter how convinced were he and his wife in the early hours of one morning that they had two more children, the Government will decree that they had only one and one-third children. Nothing will convince the honorable member for Barker and his wife that their newly-arrived son is not a complete infant, capable of acting like any other full-fledged infant, but although the maternity allowance is, I think, £17 10s. for a fourth child, and probably a little more than that for a fifth child, in the case of a multiple birth - if you have twins - you get £17 10s. for the fourth child and, I believe, only £5 for the fifth.
– But a multiple birth cuts down the overheads.
– That is true.
– The allowance is not paid to the child; it is paid to the mother.
– The Minister for Social Services says that it is paid, not to the child, but to the mother. That is perhaps a reason why the amount should be increased.
– It could not be regarded as an incentive payment.
– I will not comment on that. I believe that the Government has a responsibility to Australian-born citizens and to new Australian citizens who are having their families in this country. It is a long time since this allowance was altered, but the financial commitments that the family man has to meet are becoming greater and greater as the years move on.
I remember that the Minister for Supply (Mr. Hulme) made a very worthy contribution to the last Budget debate. He gave some of the reasons why we cannot consider payments in respect of child endowment, maternity allowances and other things affecting children without looking at the whole sphere of governmental social service activities. He said that we must consider also all the assistance that is given in respect of children being educated in universities and elsewhere. I notice that the subject of education is mentioned in the GovernorGeneral’s Speech. His Excellency said -
My Government has agreed to provide some 100 scholarships for students from other Commonwealth countries to study in Australia, and together with the Australian universities and State Education Departments, will participate in measures to assist the less developed members of the British Commonwealth.
Nobody on either side of the House would deny that that is a very worthy objective, but Australians with families may view with mixed feelings educational assistance being given elsewhere when they believe that more assistance could be given within Australia itself. I, for one, am becoming a little tired of the fact that education is one of the great political footballs in this country. It is a simple matter now for any State government to say, “We would build you bigger high schools, and we would give you more teachers, if only this parsimonious Commonwealth Government would make us a grant for them “. The Commonwealth Government’s case is that, under the Constitution, education within the States is purely a responsibility of the State governments, the State governments having the right to allocate the moneys that they receive from the Commonwealth for whatever purposes they desire. The Commonwealth goes on to say that if it accepted the principle that assistance should be given to the States for education, that probably would create a good case for special assistance to be given to roads boards or other State instrumentalities.
I believe that the time has come when some attempt should be made to lay the responsibility in this matter at the door to which it belongs, so that the people of Australia will know that if something goes wrong, it is the fault of the Commonwealth or of the States, as the case may be. I agree with the Australian Teachers Federation that there should be an’ inquiry into primary and secondary education, but, in my view, the purpose of the inquiry should be, not to establish that education in those fields is a Commonwealth responsibility, but to establish where the responsibility lies. I am quite certain that the authorities dealing with education in the various States, aided by the universities and the Commonwealth Office of Education, could prepare a report which would receive the whole-hearted support of the people of Australia. If that were done, we might see in the field of education some of the progress that we need in this day and age.
I turn now to consider a statement made by the Governor-General in the earlier part of his Speech. On Thursday night, during an adjournment debate in this House, the honorable member for Wills (Mr. Bryant) stated that although it is some time since the re-organization of the Army and the other arms of the defence forces was undertaken, no opportunity has been afforded to honorable members to discuss the matter. That, to me, was a mis-statement of the position. In the Governor-General’s Speech it is stated -
Last year, following a comprehensive review of defence policy by my Government, my Minister for Defence announced a new three-year defence programme, involving important changes in the organization and equipment policies of the services. That programme is now being put into operation.
It is not necessary for the GovernorGeneral to mention certain topics in his Speech before they can be discussed during the debate on the Address-in-Reply. If it were so, most of the speeches made by honorable members in this debate would have been ruled out of order. However, the Governor-General clearly mentioned the subject of defence. The Opposition has had every chance during this debate to discuss the statement made by the Minister for Defence (Mr. Townley) during the closing stages of the last session. Nobody could prevent any member from doing that. To say that no opportunity has been given to debate that statement is a distortion of the facts.
Honorable members will remember that, during the closing stages of the last session, the Minister for the Army (Mr. Cramer), when questioned by the then deputy Leader of the Opposition on the future of rifle clubs, stated that he was preparing a statement which he hoped to submit to the Parliament before it rose. I think that occurred on a Wednesday, and the Parliament rose on the next Thursday. Evidently there was no time for the Minister to make the statement to the Parliament.
– The statement came out on the Saturday after the Parliament rose.
– I am quite capable of reading a date on the top of a statement. That is something I learned when I was a little fellow. I believe that, in the interests of the Government, the Opposition and the rifle clubs, it would have been much better to hold up the statement than to make it at a time when the Parliament was not sitting, so that it could not be debated properly here. That applies to any statement issued by the Government on an important matter. It is of advantage to the Government to have such a statement made to the Parliament, because then the statement cannot be made the occasion of a Roman holiday by the Australian press. A further advantage is that such a course does not give the Opposition a chance to make statements on the matter when there is no chance of their being refuted in the Parliament. If the statement on rifle clubs, in particular, had been made in this House and an opportunity given for a discussion of the matter, many riflemen in Australia would be in a better frame of mind to-day because they would have a better knowledge of the facts.
The point I want to make about the speech of the honorable member for Wilh? (Mr. Bryant) and indeed all those on the adjournment debate the other night concerning the question of Army re-organization is that the position was set out quite clearly by the Minister for Defence in his statement on defence review on 26th November, 1959. He said -
The Minister for the Army (Mr. Cramer) is now examining the practical arrangements for this proposal, the full details of which will lake time to finalize as it will mean re-arrangement of both A.R..A. and C.M.F. training programmes.
Therefore, no one should have been in any doubt about what would happen in the ensuing few months. I do not want to make any attempt to justify what has been cr what has not been said over the last couple of days about the Army but I point out to the honorable member for Wills and other honorable members opposite that there is something far greater than the Army involved in the discussion which is now “going on in the press throughout Australia. It is a vital principle which concerns this Parliament, composed as it is of a Government and an Opposition.
Any member of Parliament will realize that the circumstances leading to what has has been published in the press during the last few days are only a repetition of what has occurred in the past as a result of stories emanating from the meetings of the parties represented on both sides of this House. This can result in only one thing - a growing power of the executive of Parliament, the Government, and a growing power of the executive of the Opposition. No Ministry and no shadow cabinet of the Opposition, as it may be called, irrespective of which party is in power, will be prepared to gather its members together and discuss subjects behind closed doors if it knows that what is said will leak out to the press a few minutes after the meeting.
Although we may criticize the Minister for the Army or the Minister for Defence, what we should be looking at is the guarding of the principles that rule us all. Our greatest criticism should be reserved for persons who go to the gentlemen of the press with stories of the discussions in our party room meetings. This applies to members on both sides of the House. I do not criticize the press one bit for this. After all, the job of pressmen is to gather news and for the newspapers to print what their editors regard as news. But it seems to me that if a member with any sense of responsibility towards Parliament and to the people who elected him engages in this sort of thing, he could do nothing else but resign his seat in the Parliament. He is not a fit and proper person to sit on either side of this House or on either side of another place. I say again that we should be very watchful over this sort of happening if we are to safeguard the future of this Parliament.
As honorable members know, last Thursday night the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. Browne) was the last speaker in the Address-in-Reply debate. At that time there were three reporters in the press gallery. I think that the honorable member made a valuable contribution to the debate. The moment he sat down the Minister who was then at the table moved the adjournment of the House and immediately both the press galleries were filled. The press reporters realized there would be a debate on the adjournment motion relative to something which somebody had read in the press based on information supplied to them by a member of a political party m this House.
– And your Government gagged the debate.
– I refuse to be drawn into discussion about gagging the debate because I have other things to say.
As a Western Australian I may say that after travelling overnight from my State in an aircraft I am never in a fit state of mind next morning to read anything in the press of Melbourne to which exception could be taken. I suppose that on this Tuesday morning most honorable members who had come from Western Australia felt as we usually do, thoroughly tired out and fit to read perhaps only the comic strips in the newspaper; that was all we were capable of mentally digesting. But when we saw in a Melbourne newspaper a statement by Sir Thomas Maltby, the Victorian Minister for Public Works, we realized that a claim was being made that has been made many times.
– Is he a Liberal?
– I do not know what he is but I wish he would come to Western
Australia and make his statements. Our own newspapers might then write leading articles other than the ones they now write about the shocking deal that Western Australia gets compared with the rest of the Commonwealth. According to the press report Sir Thomas Maltby, in his statement to the Good Roads Convention the previous day, repeated claims previously made by some people in Victoria concerning the allocation of funds for roads.
There was no real substance in his statement and he was flying in the face of the agreement already made by his Premier as to the allocation of the funds which the Commonwealth grants to the State for road works. In the past, Victorians have claimed that because of their intensive road network, their heavy concentration of population, their relatively high consumption of motor spirit and the large number of motor vehicles on their roads, they do not get a fair share of the Commonwealth grants compared with the other States.
Although these claims are of significance in relation to the total picture they do not necessarily recognize the equally valid claims of the other States, in particular, the needs of the larger States. As honorable members know, the problem of road building in Western Australia and Queensland is a far greater one than it is in Victoria. Because the needs of the larger States are so important the policy of all Commonwealth governments, for a long time past, has been to grant to Western Australia and Queensland a rather larger proportion of the total funds available than has been granted to the other States where there is a closer concentration of population and resources.
However, the Commonwealth has recognized the importance of the rapid growth in the number of motor vehicles on the road and in the new Commonwealth aid roads legislation introduced last year, grants were made to the States on the following basis: - 5 per cent, to be set aside for Tasmania, and the balance to be distributed to the other five States on the basis of one-third according to area, one-third according to population and one-third according to the number of vehicles registered. I am making this statement not for the benefit of those members in this House who, in the main, agree with that legisla tion but for the benefit of some Victorians who may be listening to this debate and who have been given a false impression of the situation.
This formula was decided at a conference of Premiers prior to the introduction of the new legislation last year. At this conference the Victorian Premier specifically agreed to the allocation on this basis. The only condition of any significance which the Commonwealth imposes on its grants is that 40 per cent, of them shall be spent on rural roads. Other than this provision, the Commonwealth makes no stipulation regarding the allocation of funds within the States. Sir Thomas Maltby criticized Western Australians because they built a bridge over the Narrows while the Victorians could not use their money for the King-street bridge across the Yarra. His criticism is entirely without foundation. The Western Australians chose to spend their funds in this way but the Victorians chose not to do the work. Of course, it is up to the States to decide how they will spend their funds; the Commonwealth does not try to influence them in any way.
I ask Sir Thomas Maltby and any Victorian who criticizes the way we spent the money to which we were perfectly entitled to look at what Western Australians have done in an effort to solve a traffic problem common to every city in Australia. We have built the Narrows Bridge in Perth, admittedly with money that we have received from the Commonwealth. We were entitled to do that. We have also constructed a freeway of some miles, on which there is a minimum speed limit of 50 miles an hour. This quickly moves the traffic out of the heart of the city, which is less than half a mile from the beginning of the freeway. I do not think that anybody who criticizes us for doing that realizes the traffic problems that exist in the capital cities in Australia. We in Western Australia were fortunate enough to have in charge of our Main Roads Department an officer with sufficient foresight to go ahead and do these things for which we are now being criticized.
As regards total grants, the Commonwealth will make available to the States during the next five years £250,000,000 for road purposes. This will be £100,000,000 in excess of the grants made during the previous five years, and, having regard to the number of demands on Commonwealth resources, must be regarded as extremely generous. The Commonwealth guarantees these grants to the States notwithstanding the fluctuations which may occur in revenue which the Commonwealth collects from in petrol tax and other sources. This is a straightout guarantee of a certain sum of money. The present Government believes that the grants made to the States are not only generous but also fair in their allocation, having regard to the development needs of the States and the rapid growth which is taking place as a result of the Government’s general economic policy. Certainly, the Commonwealth has no intention of granting to the State governments any special benefits which are not commensurate with their road needs.
In conclusion, I should like to refer to a remark by Sir Thomas Maltby which appeared in a report in the Melbourne “Herald”. He said, “Why is Victoria divided into two parts in the minds of some people? “ I should like to ask why Sir Thomas is trying to divide Australia into two parts. We all have to take the view that none of us is a Victorian, a Western Australian or a South Australian. When it comes to the development of the country, we have only one title, and that is “ Australian “.
.- Mr. Deputy Speaker, in discussing the issues which have been raised by the Opposition in relation to the GovernorGeneral’s Speech, I should like, first, to say that this was the first Speech made to the Parliament by our new GovernorGeneral, Lord Dunrossil. I join with other honorable members in wishing His Excellency, who is Her Majesty’s senior representative in Australia, and his wife good health, happiness and a useful stay in this country.
Having said that, I intend to direct criticism at the Government for its continuing refusal to open to Australians the door to appointment to this high office. In this respect, I think that the present Government is letting the Australian nation down very badly. We cannot help but look askance at the idea that, apparently for years to come, no Australian will be considered as having enough merit, quality and standing to be appointed to this office. As an Australian, I very much resent the imputation that the Government casts on the people of this country by maintaining and developing its policy in this matter. We are a young nation, but we have developed to a point at which our history is studded with the legends of men, some still living, who have contributed greatly to the affairs of this country in peace and in war, and in practically every walk of life - industry, medicine, engineering, this Parliament and many other fields.
– Such men have been appointed to the office of Governor-General before.
– Yes, and they have served this country well. They have served with distinction not only to themselves but also to the land of their birth. I condemn the present Government for the degree of national snobbery that it exhibits in maintaining this continuing policy of refusing to recommend for appointment to this office Australians of merit. We have them in abundance, and their numbers will continue to increase as Australia develops. The merit of such men and the service which they render to the nation in the active periods of their lives should be recognized by harnessing their wisdom, experience and deep knowledge and the true Australianism which would naturally permeate their outlook in the discharge of the duties of the highest office that this country can bestow on any person. As I have said, I charge the present Government with having failed the Australian people in this matter.
It is nothing unusual, of course, for this Government to fail in something. It has failed in very many matters. It has failed miserably in discharging the duty of taking proper care of the internal affairs of this nation. To sum the matter up in a nutshell, we have to-day reached a stage at which absolute licence has been given to a numerically small section in this community - those who represent vested interests of this country and of other countries. They are allowed to ride roughshod over the Australian economy and do as they like in the enjoyment of the unbridled licence afforded them by this Government to amass great profits.
At this stage of the debate on the Opposition’s amendment, which constitutes a motion of no confidence in the Government, and which was so ably and concisely moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell), who has been capably supported by those Opposition members who have spoken since, it is only right and proper that we review the three features on which the Opposition attacks the Government. They are stated in the amendment in these terms -
Those three points are assuredly ones in respect of which every thinking person in this community condemns the Government. The interests of every individual and every group at all levels of Australian society are in some way directly involved in the ambit of those three matters.
The broadest and most detrimental charge against the Government over the effect of its policies on the great masses of our people relates to its failure in any way to face up to the unbridled inflation which at present exists and which has gathered force and momentum since this Government took office some ten years ago. This is very clearly proven by the movement of the cost of living figures between 1948 and 1957. In that period, retail prices rose by 50 per cent, in the United Kingdom, by some 52 per cent, in New Zealand, by 26 per cent, in Canada, by 18 per cent, in the United States of America and by 98 per cent, in Australia - this fair land which is truly great but which, nevertheless, has been so badly mismanaged.
– What about the 40- hour week?
– That is one of the important benefits that a prosperous country should give to its workers. No less than a decent level of wages, it is important to the worker if the average man is to share in the prosperity of any nation. Prosperity can be shared by the average man only if the workers’ living, working and social conditions are improved. That is how the worker obtains benefit from national prosperity. He does not obtain it in the form of dividends, enhanced land values, or higher wool prices and the like, with which the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Anderson) is more directly concerned, since he has investments from which he obtains a pecuniary reward. The investor with money receives direct benefit from his investments, but the average person in this country is not an investor. He has not the wherewithal to enable him to participate in the national prosperity in this way. He can share in it only in the ways that I have attempted to indicate. Therefore, a 40-hour working week to-day merely reflects the measure to which our workers should share in our national prosperity. Properly, we should probably now have a 35-hour week, because it is only by continuing this process that a future Labour government of the Commonwealth will give to the people the benefit of a proper share in the national prosperity.
In the meantime because of the Government’s utter failure to handle inflation, a completely free hand has been given to the boodlers and exploiters, both those from overseas and those of this country. Australia’s national wealth has been ravaged and yet this Government stands back calmly with its hands behind its back and does nothing! It is not prepared to recognize that because a free hand has been given to the exploitation of Australia’s assets, it is doing a major disservice to the people and is virtually turning Australia into a wood and water joey of the colonial period. That is a condition that we fought before and thought we had turned our backs upon. It is important that we do not revert to that status and that we do not become the lackeys of financial interests, whether their investments come from overseas or from Australian financial organizations.
The cartels and monopolies are in full flight. We have seen one take-over after another in almost every line and level of business activity. They are spurred on to further exploits because they know that while this Government is in power they will not be restricted. In other words, they know they have unbridled licence of a sort that is unseemly in a democracy. I venture to suggest that at an early date, the people of Australia will take action against this Government.
The Australian Council of Trade Unions has a claim for an increase in the basic wage before the Commonwealth Arbitration Commission at present and this statement, which was made by way of evidence, pinpoints the present position -
The total profits of Australian companies other than mining companies last year was £130,263,600, 12.3 per cent higher than the previous year. Manufacturing companies’ profits have risen by 13.4 per cent from about £74,000,000 to £84,000,000.
All this occurred in one year. Can any one deny that that represents complete exploitation of Australian finances and assets and the ability of the people to produce goods and services? That is the core and the principal ingredient of inflation. Suggestions are being made continually by supporters of the Government that the major factor in inflation is the wages factor. That is utter rot. No accountant who respects facts will accept that contention. I refer honorable members to the statement on that point made by Dr. Coombs. It has not been challenged in this debate; but I have heard sharp criticism levelled by Government supporters at any suggestion that the worker should ask for a greater share in the nation’s prosperity. The third point in the noconfidence motion moved by the Leader of the Opposition turns on that point.
For the first time in history, this Government has intervened in the Arbitration Commission hearing and has tried to influence and dominate the court in opposition to the claim by the trade unions for increased wages. Only blind Freddie would believe that such an intrusion by the Government will not have an important influence on the commission’s decision, and it is regrettable that a government elected by the people should be guilty of such partisanship. There can be no doubt that it is partisanship of the worst kind to protect the already vast profits that have accrued to industries and big business. The Government is virtually saying, “ Inflation is rampant and you, the people, must carry the burden. You must correct inflation. Wages will not be raised. Prices will go up and high profits will be permitted, but you the wage plugs, the family man and the average worker must pay the price.”
The determinations of the Arbitration Commission will be restricted by this Government’s intrusion in the current hearing. The Government does not like the Arbitration Commission which already, through some of its dictums, has been highly critical of the Government’s attitude. The commission has already supported the view that the business and commercial organizations definitely have the ability to stand rises in wages that have occurred in the past and that might be granted in the future. The Arbitration Commission is under no illusion as to the position of the economy because in its judgment last year, its members said -
If marginal increases cannot be granted in times of economic prosperity, such as the present, it is difficult to imagine when they can be granted.
The Prime Minister and his supporters claim that Australia is prosperous. That is not denied; but we challenged the Government because we believe our prosperity is not being shared by the masses of the people as it should be shared. In the minds of the people, there is ample justification for believing that this Government should be placed in the dock and indicted for its attitude to inflation and its deceit in affecting consideration for the welfare of the average man and woman in the community.
We have ample evidence of unbridled profittaking by big companies such as the Americandominated General Motors Holden’s Limited, which declares a profit of 800 per cent gross on paid up capital and pays a dividend rate of 475 per cent on paid up capital. That is a classic example and there are others which are just as obvious in principle if not in actual degree. Tooth and Company Limited, the brewers, have shown yearly net profits exceeding £1,000,000 every year since 1952. Is that not definite exploitation of a section of the people the working man who, at the conclusion of his day’s work, enjoys nothing more than a glass of beer? Is it not evidence of unbridled exploitation that such a company could show a net profit in 1959 of £1,322,171?
The situation is unjust and unreal, and the Government should face the charges the Opposition is levelling against it. We condemn the Government for its deceit and its failure to tackle inflation, which strikes at every person in the community from the humblest pensioner to the man who is receiving a high rate of pay for special skill and services. Tooth and Company’s net profit in 1959 amounted to £1,322,000 - the highest in its history. Its reserves were shown at £13,700,000. Tooheys Limited showed a rise in profit last year to £400,375. The Australian Gas Light Company’s profit for 1959 rose to £560,158, making the combined profits of the past two years £1,100,000. The profit made by the North Shore Gas Company Limited for 1958 was £129,662, or almost 20 per cent, higher than the previous year. Of course, that all indicates prosperity; there is no doubt about that. But it also confirms my claim that there has been utter exploitation. The onus of watching activities of that sort rests upon the Commonwealth Government. It cannot turn its back upon these things. After all, we are a democracy, and the theory of democracy is that the government is established to legislate for the benefit of all. But that is not true of this Government which has moved into the select field of protecting a limited few.
Let us glance at the situation of the young Australian couple who will be married tomorrow morning and who will wish to obtain land and a home. In my electorate, which includes the Wollongong and Port Kembla districts, a block of land cannot be obtained for less than £600. I suppose that £1,000 would be nearer the mark, other than for land which is located in gullies or remote parts. Land that is available in areas that are reasonably habitable costs about £1,000 a block. Then the couple will be faced with the exorbitant interest charges on money borrowed from hire-purchase and other such organizations to build a home. In the district I represent the average young couple would be faced with a capital debt of about £4,500 or £5,000 in order to get a roof over their heads, lt would not be a mansion or anything ornate, but just a simple fibro cottage with merely the essentials. There would be nothing much to distinguish it from a decent type of gunyah shed or bark shack. That is only a matter of detail. The point is that the couple go into debt bondage at the outset of their married life. All the things that they put into the home are loaded with profits that are unreal. This is reflected in the high profit rate of the various companies manufacturing these goods. That is the basis of the inflationary spiral, and it is along those lines the Government must face up to the situation.
What is the position of the migrants entering Australia? Near every major city we have hostels which are full of people who are desirous of getting out and establishing themselves as individual units in the community. They pay through the nose for the privilege of getting out of the hostels and establishing themselves under normal conditions. Only by extremely hard work for long hours in heavy industry, obtaining overtime and penalty rates, are they able to do so. Only in very few instances in Australia to-day are the young husband and wife not working, if not for all, at least for portion of the first ten years of married life. To that extent a dagger is being pointed at the birth-rate, because these young couples are being denied the right to do what is instinctive in married men and women, that is, to reproduce their kind. That right is being denied to them and the root cause is the high cost involved to establish homes.
The great mass of our people are in debt bondage. Very few who are working for wages and who have any assets at all, from the simple second-hand motor car to the refrigerator, radio or television set, are not up to their eyes in debt. That is all very well while they are able to go to the treadmill daily. They can then make the repayments. But let a period of unemployment or illness strike and automatically their financial arrangements collapse. These are realities. They must be looked at; they cannot be ignored. There is a number of ways out of the situation for the Government. The onus is on the Government to propound and present a way. By assuming office the Government has accepted the responsibility and it is up to the Government to bring forward the necessary panacea for this position. What is happening is that the Government is permitting the situation to drift and, for the reasons I have stated, it has no intense desire to halt inflation.
The allparty Constitutional Review Committee, which investigated the Australian Constitution, incorporates in its report a number of recommendations which bear upon this very question. Whether or not legislation will be introduced to give effect to any of the committee’s recommendations is a matter entirely for the Government, and it has been silent on the point up to this moment. These recommendations have been mentioned earlier in this debate, but they justify repetition. The committee recommended that -
The Commonwealth Parliament should have power to make laws with respect to -
The power proposed to be vested in the Parliament under subparagraph (1) is not to apply to -
This, surely, would give protection to private enterprise to function effectively without interference by any government bent on misusing those powers or using them for the purpose of nationalizing any industry.
The situation, therefore, is that we recognize that the Commonwealth Parliament does not have overall powers to proceed immediately into this field and take care of all facets of activity within the nation that are contributing directly to this inflation. The Parliament has at the moment some powers which could be used to curb what I may describe as the galloping horse of inflation if the Government cared to use those powers as a bridle. In order to meet the situation completely, the Parliament must have more powers. The leader of my party has made clear that the party will support the Government if it goes to the country in proper form to obtain increased constitutional powers which will permit the Parliament to fulfil its national function, namely, the creation of a good, ordered economy at all points within Australia.
We should then not have the disjointed condition that exists at present and that brings about buck-passing in respect of authority and power, with the result that unsettled conditions are permitted to exist and inflation is permitted to gather force without any action being taken to curb it.
– Like other members on this side of the House who support this Address, I found of interest and noted with pleasure many things in His Excellency’s Speech. May I name three of them, in particular? First, I was pleased to see the proposal to reconsider the alleviation of the means test. I shall have something to say about that later, and I hope that the discussions will be fruitful. In the second place, I was interested to see that long overdue, I think something is to be done about civil defence. In the third place, like other honorable members on this side of the House, I think that the Government was very wise to initiate action against restrictive trade practices, which strike at the real root of free enterprise, and we look forward to the introduction of the appropriate action.
I want to speak of only one thing, that is, the general economic situation and the threat of inflation which formed, I should think, perhaps the main theme of His Excellency’s Speech. I do not know whether honorable members would, with me, recall seeing some of those old Mack Sennett films which showed a fire and the earnest fireman going up and throwing a bucket of liquid over it, thinking the liquid to be water, and its turning out to be petrol. It was a scene that always caused a laugh. I feel that the Opposition, in its criticism of His Excellency’s address, has rather behaved in that way. It protests, with all piety, that it is out to quench the flames of inflation, but actually what it has been suggesting means nothing more nor less than pouring petrol over them. The scheme announced in His Excellency’s address did not, I think, go right to the root of this question of inflation because the points put by the Government amount, in my view, not to remedies for the root causes of this inflation but rather to a programme of first aid only. One does not necessarily decry this programme. First aid has its essential place, but it is not always enough. So, although one does not want in any way to write down the necessity for these first-aid posts, one does not at the same time want to accept them as being the necessary and permanent cure. Beyond them and behind them another policy is called for and something else is necessary.
Just let me turn for a moment - it will be only for a moment, Mr. Deputy Speaker - to the Government’s first-aid proposals. One of them, I think, may cause some concern, and that is the proposal in regard to imports. I am one of those who are heartily pleased at the removal of import licensing. I think that it is a reproach that for some eight or nine years we have allowed this artificial and stultifying system to continue. It is high time that it went; its going is overdue. But at the same time I feel that perhaps the Government has not fully considered the necessity to achieve more balance or, perhaps by accelerating Tariff Board inquiries as my friend, the honorable member for Mitchell (Mr. Wheeler), suggested earlier or by some other means, to prevent any heavy inflow of imports. The situation is very simple. On current account over the last year or two, Australia has been running into deficit to the tune of about £200,000,000 a year. In terms of foreign trade, we have been overspending by that amount. Looking at invisibles and visibles together, the whole of the current account has been running into a yearly deficit of some £200,000,000. That deficit has been made good by imports of capital - by, as it were, selling off our capital assets to pay for our over-run in current spending.
– And foreign loans.
– That is the same thing; it is an import of capital. I should like to make that clear to the honorable member.
The relaxation of import controls will accelerate quite considerably the flow of imports. I do not know to what extent; it is a little bit difficult to determine because, as the House knows, not all controls have yet gone and much will depend on the way in which the remaining controls are administered. But it would not be surprising at all to see our deficit on current account rise from its present figure of £200,000,000 a year to perhaps £400,000,000 or worse. This is to be written against our current reserves, which, including our right to draw on the International Monetary Fund, are somewhere of the order of £700,000,000. That is the capital we have to make good our overdrawings.
There are, of course, two circumstances, either one of which could get us out of this trouble on current account. Probably not more than these two circumstances are reasonably within the bounds of possibility. One is the finding of oil in Australia. If we were to find oil in considerable quantities, all our difficulties on current account, exports and imports, would vanish. The second circumstance would be a dramatic rise in the price paid overseas for our principal export, wool. One can never write off these things as impossibilities, but it would seem to me that the finding of oil would be a considerably greater possibility than a dramatic rise in the price of wool. However, unless one of these two things happens, we will be dependent for the maintenance of our international solvency on a continuance of the present inflow of capital. I am not quite certain that the House realizes that an inflow of capital is not an unmixed blessing. lt is not, of course, an unmixed evil. This is something that must not be look-ed at quite uncritically, and I think we have fallen into the facile habit of uncritical adulation of imports of capital from overseas and of investment in Australia. We have, as it were, become, economic drug addicts in this way. We have become dependent on this capital inflow, the continuance of which we cannot guarantee, as a condition precedent to the maintenance of the stability of the Australian economy.
However, as I said, I do not intend to address myself at any length to these questions of economic first aid, because I do not think they are the fundamental questions. I would rather try to get on to some more constructive material in regard to the long-term policy that we must adopt, behind this first, aid policy, in order to render a recurrence of the necessity for first aid less likely. I put forward a scheme under three headings - savings, productivity, equity. I want to develop each one of these three headings and I shall take savings first. It is quite certain that Australia has suffered from a chronic savings deficiency. This can be seen from the fact - no further evidence is necessary - that, in order to maintain our economy we have had to import capital from abroad. Our local savings have been insufficient to maintain the apparatus necessary for the production of the goods we need for current consumption here. The deficiency of our savings is, therefore, self-evident. It is self-evident, also, that the deficiency of savings constitutes an inbuilt inflation. I remember that when I first put this thesis forward in the House some years ago, it had little support. To-day I find it supported by authorities such as the Governor of the Commonwealth Bank. What was then heresy is now perhaps the orthodox opinion.
We must increase our local savings both to reduce our dependence on this import of capital and to repress the tendencies to inflation which appear to ‘be endemic in the Australian economic structure. There is not one single, simple panacea for all these ills. We must look, rather, for large numbers of ways to approach them, and I cannot in the time at my disposal hope to deal with more than one or two ways. But may I make two constructive suggestions in regard to savings? One is a way that the Government at last appears to be adopting, and that is action to remove the means test. The means test with its inertia accumulating over 50 years now has changed and has deteriorated the Australian propensity for savings. It is one of the major factors contributing to the present chronic savings deficiency. This deficiency will not be removed by the immediate abandonment of the means test, any more than the imposition of the means test created it instantaneously. The means test will have to be removed gradually, but the sooner we make a start the better.
I suggest, further, that we should be looking to taxation as an instrument by which we may increase savings. We should try to institute a taxation concessions policy which will help to increase savings. I suggest one simple scheme designed towards this end. Let every taxpayer have the right - not the obligation, because I look upon this as a concession to be availed of voluntarily and not under compulsion - to deposit, at interest, up to £500 with the Treasury every year. On its deposit, any such amount would become an allowable deduction from taxable income; on its withdrawal if would be considered an accretion to taxable in come - with the proviso that in certain domestic events, such as marriage or the birth of a child, the withdrawal of a specified amount should be permitted without that amount being added to the taxable income for the year.
– Did you suggest £500?
– I thought of £500. I do not think it is an unduly high figure; I think it is reasonable in all the circumstances. I do not suggest that any person should be compelled to make a deposit, or that the deposit should in all cases be £500. I suggest a voluntary deposit of any amount up to £500, and that withdrawals should be allowed of amounts up to specified limits for various domestic events, such withdrawals not being added to the taxable income for the year. Other withdrawals would, of course, be an accretion to taxable income.
I believe my suggestion would help two particular classes of persons in the community. It would help the teenager to save - and I shall return to the matter of teenage spending later. It would also help the man earning a reasonable income who wanted to save for his retirement. I look upon the scheme primarily as a device potentially valuable for the purpose of increasing savings in Australia.
I have mentioned savings, productivity and equity. Let me come now to the question of productivity. Here again, all the suggestions that can be made are individual suggestions. There is no one solution. But it is to the advantage of both employer and employee that we should get together, in co-operative fashion, to find ways of producing more with less work. It can be done. The Government, I think, might have given a better lead in the past - for example, by a concerted attack on our transport costs. This is a matter for the States, true enough, but the Government might well initiate and chair a conference for the purpose of examining the fundamental readjustments of our transport system that are necessary if we are to ensure real efficiency throughout the Australian economy. It can be done.
The Government might also be looking with a more critical eye at the matter of comparative expenditure in Commonwealth and State budgets. One does not always feel that the capital resources available to governments are spent in the best way, and the financial relationships between the Commonwealth and the States continue to form a major source of inefficiency.
When one considers the private sector of the economy, one encounters such questions as the utilization of expensive plant for longer periods in the week. We cannot afford to have costly plant lying idle for two-thirds of the time. Our nation is not so rich that we can afford to allow this. If we do allow such a state of affairs, we do so to the detriment of the living standards of all workers and all Australians. This is a matter that should be put to governments, to employers and to employees. We should likewise endeavour to alter the restrictive practices under which more men than are necessary are required to be employed on a particular job. These are practices which we know are indulged in, and which have been endorsed, short-sightedly, by members of the Opposition, who have not realized that by so endorsing them they are striking at the root of Australian living standards and ensuring that increases in money wages will be balanced by increases in prices. We want real wages, not just money wages, to go up.
Again I repeat my formula - savings, productivity, equity. In the short time remaining at my disposal, let me proceed to the third heading. I do not believe that any government should try to put forward an economic scheme which is not fair to all sections of the community. What are we doing, for example, to rectify the scandalous imbalance of financial advantage as between the teenager and the married man? We know very well that it is both economically and morally wrong to place such a great amount of spending power in the hands of the teenager, who does not need it, while the married man with a family - and here I join with honorable members of the Opposition - is scratching. While every increase in wages requires an inflated proportion to go to the teenager, we ensure that the increased spending power, heightened by the effect of hire purchase and other devices, will be infused into the market, thus sending prices up. We do not want this to happen, and unless we start to remedy some of these fundamental in equities we will be bound to fail in our efforts to increase real wages.
I do not find myself entirely in agreement with the statement of the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) concerning margins. I believe that an effective margins’ system is something that we, as members of the Liberal Party, should primarily be encouraging. It may be that in the application of this doctrine some mistakes have been made, and I shall not try to enter into such an argument. But I do say that adequate margins for skill, for effort, for status and for responsibility form an essential part of any efficient wages system. Such margins are particularly necessary in times of full employment - in times when we follow, as we are following at the moment, a policy of full employment. In the old days, which I like to think of as bad days - and I hope we shall not see their like again - over the head of the worker hung the fear of unemployment, constituting an incentive and a spur. That fear has gone. Let it go. We do not want it back. But in its place we must find some other incentive - not a spur, but an incentive - and this should be and must be a proper, effective and well-designed system of margins.
As I have said, if we think in terms of savings, productivity and equity we can put up real wages, not just nominal wages. The great weakness of the present situation - and it is a real weakness - is that the increase of money wages does not reflect the increase of real wages which we would all like to see. It turns out to be simply an accelerator of price increases. No firstaid measures will cure this weakness. In order to deal with it we have to correct the fundamental imbalances in the economic system, and this is what the Opposition has singularly failed to attempt to do. I believe that Opposition members have contributed nothing constructive to this debate, and that the constructive thinking must come, and will come - as it has come - from the Government side.
– Speaking, as I am, late in the debate it is not very easy to avoid some repetition of things that have already been said. If I cannot adopt a new point of view I may be able, at any rate, to present some different aspects of some of the matters that have already been discussed in this debate. As the Opposition has chosen inflation as the subject upon which to attack the Government, I propose to say something about it.
– That was only one means of attack.
– The National Health Scheme was another.
– I will say something about the National Health Scheme later. With regard to inflation, the Government has not approached this matter in a state of alarm, as apparently the Opposition has. After all, the Government has had a good many years of experience in dealing with the economy of the country through varying circumstances - sometimes in circumstances of inflation and sometimes in circumstances of recession. The net result of the economic measures that have been taken by this Government has been to produce in this country a state of steadily increasing prosperity. I think that is admitted on all sides. As I understood the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) and other prominent honorable members opposite, they agreed that Australia was enjoying a period of prosperity. Within the last few days some articles by prominent Labour leaders and spokesmen, including the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam), have appeared in Sydney newspapers. I have given myself the pleasure of reading those articles, and in particular I have noted that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition agrees that the country is enjoying a state of prosperity unparalleled in its history. It is very comforting to know that the Opposition pays the Government that tribute.
I want to say something about the state of affairs that exists in this country to-day. I do not propose to recount a lot of statistics, as several speakers before me have done. That would be very easy to do but our experience here and in other places is that you can draw all sorts of inferences from statistics. But I want to talk about some things in this state of prosperity that are plain for all to see. I want to point out that certain projects have been carried on by the Government in spite of economic difficulties, which at times have been great. I refer to undertakings like the
Snowy Mountains project. An enormous amount of money has been found for that scheme. The Government now proposes to find a lot of money for another great developmental project - the Mount Isa railway in north Queensland. The Government has found very large sums of money for the States. It is very easy to say, as many people have said, that the Government should have found more money for the States, but the plain fact is that the States have had much more money from the Commonwealth for their own works than ever before, and I refer to grants not only in terms of money itself, but in terms of purchasing power. When speaking of housing one could quote statistics of all kinds, but if one goes around the countryside it is obvious that the Australian people to-day are better housed and far more of them live in far better homes than ever before in the country’s history.
Let us turn to other aspects of the national life. The Government, in spite of having to deal with economic difficulties from time to time, has made available for education - for such institutions as the Australian National University - very large sums of money, indeed. We in Canberra have seen the Australian National University grow under our eyes during this Government’s term of office into a very great and important institution. That is only one example of the Government’s assistance in the field of education. I can direct the attention of honorable members opposite to the enormous amount of money now being found for Australian universities in general following upon the report of the Murray Commission.
– Commonwealth scholarships have not been increased since 1951.
– That mav be so, but the Government’s record is pretty good for a developing country.
– There are a lot of holes in its record.
– Well, I propose to say a few words about some holes that the Labour Party left in some of its accomplishments. While the country’s prosperity has been increasing the Government has not been unmindful of social services requirements. The Labour
Party claims that it restrained inflation when it was in office, so there was no inhibition on Labour as to what it could do by way of social services. On the other hand, the Labour Party claims that the Government has failed to restrain inflation, so there would have been considerable inhibition on the Government in dealing with social services. Having that in mind, I thought I would compare Labour’s social services record with the Government’s record during the past ten years, a period when Labour claims that inflation was uncontrolled. During this Government’s term of office the age pension rose from £2 2s. 6d. a week to £4 15s. a week.
– So did prices.
– I know that. The permissible income for a married couple was £3 a week under the Labour Government, but it is now £7 a week. Turning to the subject of national health, which was agitating the honorable member for Barton (Mr. Reynolds) a few moments ago, we find that in the midst of inflation this Government provided a general practitioner medical service for 700,000 pensioners, whereas Labour was unable to provide anything in the way of medical services for pensioners. This Government has also provided for pensioners a pharmaceutical benefits scheme now costing about £3,000,000 a year, whereas the Labour Government, with inflation well under control, was unable to provide anything of that kind. This Government’s provision of £3,000,000 a year for free milk for school children was unmatched during the Labour regime.
– What about child endowment?
– The Labour Party, although it criticizes this Government’s provision of 5s. a week for the first child, was unable to provide even 5d. a week for the first child.
– What about the Commonwealth Grants Commission?
– I can understand that honorable gentlemen opposite do not like listening to this, but I propose to tell them a few more facts.
– Give them some more medicine, Doctor.
– I will. Under Labour, expenditure on treatment of tuberculosis amounted to about £150,000 a year, but under this Government the figure has risen to more than £7,000,000 a year. That expenditure has been achieved in spite of inflation. Let me remind honorable members opposite who are interjecting of something else. The Labour Party found itself unable to provide anything at all for mental hospitals. This Government has provided finance in the last two years at the rate of more than £1,000,000 a year for capital expenditure on mental hospitals.
– And you deprive the pensioners going into those hospitals of their pensions.
– That is not so. Let me remind the honorable member of one very unpalatable fact. The Labour Party had a great deal to say about looking after the aged. Whereas the Labour Party provided nothing at all in the way of finance for old people’s homes, this Government has approved an expenditure of £6,700,000, and has already spent a good deal of that sum on homes for the aged. So if the Labour Party claims that the Government is unable to do anything about inflation, I must point out that despite that inability it seems to have done a great many things that Labour was incapable of doing at a time when it claims to have had inflation well under control.
I want to refer now, Mr. Deputy Speaker, to the Government’s proposals in regard to inflation, but first let me say that when the Government recently announced that certain measures would be taken to deal with inflation, it did not endeavour to cause a state of alarm in the country. The attitude of the Government was quite different from that of the Australian Labour Party, whose immediate cry was, “ Every man to panic stations “. May I remind the House briefly of what the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) has already put so clearly before it? The Government proposes to deal with inflation under four headings, which I shall mention in order to remind honorable members of the programme. In the first place, we propose to avoid deficit finance. In the second place, we propose to avoid excessive liquidity, by the proper exercise of the central bank’s powers, and in the third place, we propose to avoid as far as possible, increases in the total pay cheque of the country.
This Government has made it clear time and again that it is not opposed to high wages as such. In fact, that is plain for all to see, because wages in Australia, both in money terms and in actual terms, are higher than they have ever been in the history of the country. But what the Government has said is that there have been two very large increases recently and that until productivity and the supply of goods catch up with those increases it is only common sense to restrain inflation by restraining the size of the pay cheque. That is the Government’s view. There is nothing wrong about it and nothing invidious in it. I think that it will be admitted, Sir, that not only are those the right proposals to adopt, but also that the Labour Party knows that they are the right proposals. The fourth point of the Government’s programme is to move towards the removal of import licensing. As I have said, those are the proper courses to be pursued, and I think that the Labour Party recognizes that fact.
May I remind the House that the Labour Party, which now opposes the removal of import licensing, is the same party which strenuously opposed the introduction of import licensing a few years ago. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) and his followers have been declaring that we are experiencing a profit inflation, but when a measure is taken which will have a considerable effect on the restraint of profits, they are the first people to oppose it. So, I think that we are quite within our rights in coming to the conclusion that the Labour Party, while endeavouring to create a panic about inflation, has no idea whatever of the way in which it should be dealt with. In fact, I think that the Labour Party not only has no policy about inflation, but has no real policy at all.
– Wait until the next general election!
– We have heard that before.
I referred earlier in my speech to some articles which have appeared recently in the Sydney press, written by several prominent people. I now want to quote a little from one of them. It is an article written by a very distinguished Professor of Economics, not a gentleman who is commonly regarded as a pillar of conservative thought, by any means, but one who has always been regarded as well to the left in social and political thought, and indeed, if not a spokesman, at least one of the leaders, of Labour thought. I refer to Professor Arndt, Professor of Economics at the Canberra University College. In the articles, which were all leading up to the so-called new look of the Labour Party, this is what the distinguished professor had to say -
In the last 10 years, the Australian Labour Party, like its counterparts in other Western countries, has been an organization without clear purpose, a movement without a living cause.
I think that that is undoubtedly the judgment of the Australian people, expressed at election after election. Time and again the supporters of the Labour Party have come forward during election campaigns, making the most expansive promises, saying that if only they were in power what wonderful things they would do, what marvellous social services we would have, and so on. I have already referred to the gaps they left in the social services programme. Now, we have one of their leading social thinkers calling Labour an organization without clear purpose and a movement without a living cause!
Let me quote again from Professor Arndt’s article. He pointed out that Labour policy amounted to very little, and that the party ought to be looking around for something new. He went on to say -
Last but not least, is it not time that those who once took up the cause of the poor in this country and built a great movement to fight for it should, now that he have become very rich-
I remind honorable gentlemen opposite of a celebrated phrase about little capitalists - take up the cause of the poor beyond our shores, the very poor among our Asian neighbours? The continued preoccupation of so many of our Labour leaders with the residual problems of poverty in Australia while, for all practical purposes, ignoring world poverty, reminds one of the exertions of nineteenth-century philanthropists who, blind to the conditions of the working class around them, founded societies for the care of “gentlewomen in distressed circumstances “.
Could we have a more trenchant criticism of a party without a policy?
As I have said, the articles to which I have referred were concluded by one written by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam), which I gave myself the pleasure of reading. It was headed “ The Party’s Policy: A New Enunciation “. We have heard a good deal about the new look. The article in the “ Sydney Morning Herald “ was accompanied by a rather boyish picture of the new Deputy Leader of the Opposition. Having read his policy, it appears to me to amount to an admission of great prosperity in the country, followed by the statement that if only Labour had been in office everything would have been much better. As Labour has opposed every move and every aspect of the policy of this Government which has produced this state of prosperity, all I can say is that the only logical conclusion one can draw from the honorable gentleman’s article is that if Labour had been in office everything would have been much worse. We have heard a lot about the new look of the Labour Party. It reminds me irresistibly of a celebrated animal which used to disguise itself in sheep’s clothing. If we turn our gaze on the Labour Party, I think we must agree with Professor Arndt and we will look in vain for a new look and a new policy.
.- The Opposition does not criticize His Excellency the Governor-General for having delivered, for the first time, a Speech prepared for him by the Government. Rather do we sympathize with him for being obliged to deliver such an empty and meaningless Speech, one absolutely devoid of worth-while suggestions regarding the Australian economy. I warmly support the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) to the motion for the adoption of the Address-in-Reply, and seconded by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam). I take this opportunity to congratulate both honorable gentlemen on the fine speeches they made in doing so.
It is perfectly clear, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that, in this debate, inflation, its causes and the remedial action that should be taken to maintain a stable national economy, are the main issues. As is usual on occasions such as this, we find that the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) is endeavouring to pass the buck and divert attention from the incompetence of the Government and its inability to maintain economic stability. He seeks to attach the blame to the Commonwealth Arbitration Commission, basing his criticism on the fact that the commission granted an increase of 15s. in the basic wage last year and an increase of 28 per cent, in margins this year.
Let us look at the money value of those margins as related to the average basic wage. I take the margin of the fitter and turner as the basis of my argument. In 1947, the average basic wage was £5 9s. a week. At that time, the margin enjoyed by the fitter and turner was £2 12s. 6d. a week or 48 per cent, above the average basic wage. To-day, the average basic wage is £13 16s. a week. The margin above that for the fitter and turner is £4 16s., which includes the recent 28 per cent, increase, so that actually the margin enjoyed by the fitter and turner to-day is only 34.7 per cent, above the average basic wage. I point out here that the margin granted to the fitter and turner is used as the basis for determining margins for skill in other callings, and it can be readily seen from the figures I have quoted that his margin has decreased by 13.3 per cent, since 1947.
It is interesting also to note that the Commonwealth Public Service Board comes within the jurisdiction of the Prime Minister’s Department. Therefore, it was necessary for the Prime Minister to approve the application of the margins increase of 28 per cent, recently to public servants. Here I interpose the observation that this increase was well deserved and certainly was not before time. But the situation is interesting in that it serves to illustrate the Prime Minister’s inconsistency. Immediately after having approved an increase of £900 to departmental heads, he set about criticizing his own decision.
It seems apparent that the Prime Minister also intends to follow the old tory policy of deflating the currency by imposing rigid credit restrictions and flooding Australia with imports. These tactics have been tried before and they resulted in stagnation of business and serious unemployment. What we need urgently is a system that will give us reasonable profits, reasonable wages, and reasonable pensions together with a reasonable return to the primary producer. An expedient will not meet the situation.
I repeat that an expedient has been tried before and failed miserably. It was tried in 1951 when the horror Budget imposed rigid credit restrictions and allowed Australia to be flooded with imports. It did not stem the tide of inflation. The honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) has said that the present inflationary position is not one of those cases in which first-aid treatment will meet the situation. In other words, he agrees with me that an expedient will not meet the situation. It failed before, and I can see no reason why it will not fail again.
I have been surprised on a number of occasions to hear the Prime Minister say that the Commonwealth does not possess the powers to control inflation as it would like to do. We know that to be perfectly true. But there is nothing to prevent the Prime Minister from asking the people for the powers necessary to control the difficult situations which arise from time to time! If the Prime Minister wished to submit a referendum to the people seeking these powers, I am sure he would have the full support of the Opposition and therefore I am confident the referendum would be carried with an overwhelming majority.
The Government, through its leaders, is asking companies and undertakings to limit profits. Could there be anything more ridiculous than asking a man not to make as much profit next week as he made this week! Why, such action is more suited to cartoon time on a television programme than to the policy of a government. To me, there could be nothing more ridiculous than to have responsible Ministers of this Government appealing to companies and undertakings not to make more profit than they are making at present, or appealing to other sections of the community to co-operate in that policy.
A solution can be found only through powers obtained by legislation. If we have not the power to legislate, then let us seek it from the people. I have not the slightest doubt that the people would grant those powers.
There is ample evidence that a most rigid price fixing system in connexion with a wide range of goods is being put into operation in the community by the monopolistic combines. Actually, the combines have usurped powers that rightly belong to the elected representatives of the people. To substantiate my assertion, I quote Dr. Coombs. It is obvious that the Government has as much faith in him as we of the Opposition have because the Government has appointed him Governor of the Commonwealth Bank for another term of seven years. He said that in pricing policies management could help to maintain price stability. He said that it was clear that for a wide range of goods throughout the economy prices were determined by management rather than by market forces and this had developed with the emergence of strong monopolistic elements in the economy. He also said that the elements were characterized, among other things, by gentlemen’s agreements and successful takeover bids and that this development had probably been helped by the apparent passivity of the Australian public towards price rises.
Dr. Coombs pointed out that a change of attitude on the part of management has a strong impact upon the general price level in that it seemed to have become general practice among manufacturers to pass increases in costs on to their consumers whenever possible. He said that in some cases this had led to a delay in the introduction of new techniques which could increase productivity and reduce costs, or at least avoid an increase in price. Dr. Coombs said that, in addition, there appeared to be a general reluctance to pass on to consumers the advantage of lower costs achieved through higher productivity and pointed out that in manufacturing industry especially there had been very significant reductions in unit costs of production. He said he believed there was considerable scope for price reductions in many fields of production and distribution. Finally, Dr. Coombs stated that it must be recognized that in a world of rising productivity wage-earners naturally expected a reasonable share in the higher standards of consumption made possible.
As a further illustration of monopoly control and gentlemen’s agreements, I quote what the Chairman of the Sydney County Council, Councillor W. T. Murray, had to say after tenders had been called for insulated cable. He said that thirteen or fourteen people had organized themselves into a position where they could dictate what the council would pay for insulated power cable. He pointed out that thirteen companies each quoted £13,309 for the cable, and he went on to say that it was possibly a waste of time to advertise for a competitive price as this system of monopoly control and gentlemen’s agreements was destroying the system of tendering and competition. The recent quotes suggest that these independent companies had .held a caucus meeting before arriving at a conclusive tender figure.
Let us examine what the position was when the Commonwealth did possess the power to control prices and wages. In September, 1939, the average basic wage in Australia was £3 19s. a week. In September, 1948, following the defeat of the prices referendum, the States resumed control of prices and wages, and the basic wage rose to £5 9s. a week. In nine years, despite the inevitable, the inescapable, inflation associated with war, the wage increased by only 30s. There was no strife about margins during that time, because everyone had a margin according to his skill. In September, 1948, when prices control was assumed by the States, the £1 had deteriorated in purchasing power to 14s. 6d., taking its 1939 value as the base. There was a loss of only 5s. 6d. over nine years. When this Government assumed office in 1949, .the basic wage was £6 9s. It had increased by £1 since the States assumed the power to control prices in September, 1948, The value of the £1 when this Government assumed office was 12s. 3d. If my memory serves me correctly, that was the time when we heard these great words from the present Prime Minister, “ Our greatest task is to get the value back into the £1 “.
The basic wage is now £13 16s. I should like the members of the Australian Country Party particularly to listen closely to what I am about to say, because they are supposed to represent the people who cannot pass on increased costs of production. With the basic wage at £13 16s. at this time, the purchasing power of the £1 is 5s. 8id. That is what it is worth now compared with its value of 20s. in 1939 and its value of 12s. 3d. when this Government took office.
It will also be recalled that during the prices referendum in 1948 Mr. Chifley declared that unless power .to control prices were conferred on the Commonwealth, it would be a case of never-ending inflation, with wages chasing prices - or, to put it in more simple words, a case of the dog chasing his own tail. Those words have certainly come true. The present Prime Minister, then the Leader of the Opposition, said at that time that the States could effectively control prices, and that private enterprise and healthy competition would keep prices stable. Let us see what happened. As I said before, in 1949, when this Government assumed office, the basic wage was £6 9s. After twelve months of this Government’s regime, the basic wage was £8 2s., in December, 1950, having increased by 33s. in one year. This was putting value back into the £1 expeditiously! The wage had increased 33s. in one year, despite the fact that under federal prices control it had increased by only 30s. in nine years, during half of which period this country was engaged in one of the most desperate wars in the history of the world. By December, 1951, twelve months later, the basic wage had gone up another 38s., to £10. This was some more of the policy of putting value back into the £1! This; was the time that the horror budget was introduced1, imposing rigid credit restrictions and flooding Australia with imports. Despite these remedial measures, which we were told would cure inflation, in 1952, a full twelve months after the introduction of the horror budget, the basic wage had increased by another 31s. Then, in August, 1953, it went up another 5s. to £11 16s. The basic wage was then frozen by the Commonwealth Arbitration Court, and when it was again reviewed in June, 1956, it went up to £12 6s. - an increase of 10s. In May, 1957, it rose by another 10s., in May, 1958, by another 5s., and in May, 1959, by another 15s., and now it is £13 16s. a week. It is not a case of the workers being better off in purchasing power as a result of these increases. They are losing on the deal because of the inflation that follows each wage rise, and because each worker moves up into a higher tax group with each increase of his wage. The fact is that the workers have lost heavily as a result of the wage increases, because prices are always ahead of wages.
The basic wage, at £13 16s. now, has increased by £8 7s. since the Commonwealth relinquished prices control in September, 1948, and by £7 7s. since this Government took office in December, 1949. Events have proven beyond any shadow of doubt that the States cannot effectively control prices. I am not suggesting for one moment, Mr. Speaker, that if the Commonwealth had retained prices control, following a different referendum result in 1948, the wage would still be £5 9s., its level at the time of the holding of the referendum, because I know that some of the inflation was inescapable, due to increased prices for essential equipment from overseas and for raw materials. But I do venture to say that had we had federal prices control in operation for the whole of the time, the basic wage would not be above £9 at the present time.
– Who fought the referendum proposal so as to prevent the Commonwealth exercising prices control?
– The people who now comprise this Government fought the referendum proposal, on the premise that private enterprise and healthy competition would keep prices stable. There are no such things as private enterprise and healthy competition. That claim was the greatest joke in the world.
During the course of this debate frequent mention has been made of how the primary producers are very adversely affected by the present inflationary state of the economy. We know that to be perfectly true; but it is very difficult to fathom what role the Australian Country Party is playing in this particular matter. What have its members done year after year about it? They stand up here and complain about the great inflationary trend, but they support a temporary measure which may last only twelve months. Then the whole thing starts all over again, and next year they go on complaining. They have been complaining over the last ten years about the inflationary spiral. Those are the people who complained about the basic wage being too high at £6 9s., when the Chifley Government was in office. I think that the members of the Australian Country Party would be serving their constituents much better if they went on to the hustings at election time and advocated to their constituents the conferring of greater powers on the Commonwealth. Such powers are necessary if we are to stop inflation as we have seen it in the last ten years. What is the good of making appeals? What is the good of putting people on the honour system? Such ridiculous measures I have never heard of in all my life!
At this stage I should like to read to the House an extract from a statement made by Mr. G. B. S. Falkiner. He said-
It is not an exaggeration to say that rising costs have placed the wool industry in a perilous situation. To see the position clearly, it is, however, necessary to bear in mind that wages paid to station and farm employees are quite a small item in the cost of running a property to-day. Sixtyto eighty per cent of operating costs are completely out of the growers’ hands, as they consist of such items as freight and increased prices for fencing and building materials, agricultural machinery, stock medicines and other general supplies, and steep rises in repair bills . . and shire and other rates.
Does not that evidence from Mr. G. B. S. Falkiner prove that inflationary trends affecting the primary industries come from sources other than the actual wages paid to workers on the land?
When the people now in office were in opposition years ago, they said that the States could effectively control prices. At the same time the newspapers which also must carry some of the blame for the defeat of that referendum because of the adverse view of the referendum proposal that they took at that time also said the States could effectively control prices. But they knew perfectly well that the States could not, because no State can set the price of any article that is not consumed within its borders. As it stands at present, there is no possible chance of unanimity among the States regarding prices, interest rates or anything of that nature.
I do not think that anybody would dispute Mr. Falkiner’s statement. However, our main problem is how we are to keep costs to the primary producers down to a minimum. Are these proposed measures going to do it? Are these proposed measures going to put more value back into the £1? Not on your sweet life! Next year the members of the Australian Country Party will be complaining if the wage goes up again. If it goes up still again, they will keep on complaining. There is only one way out of this, if you want to maintain a stable national economy and ensure a reasonable return to the primary producer. You must have controls to do it. There is no possible avenue there through which we can overcome inflation. There must be controls; it is useless merely to appeal to the people.
I turn now to the so-called healthy competition which the Government alleges exists in the community to-day. Dr. Coombs, in his statement which I have already read out, has blown that myth sky-high. It is an absolute fallacy for any one to say there is private enterprise competition in prices today. It is also very interesting that the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt), and other Government Ministers and every backbencher on the Government side of the House have been very careful to avoid mentioning Dr. Coombs’ opinion. Why? Because they know it to be perfectly true; but they are not game to admit it.
I was appalled to find that nothing was said in the Speech delivered by His Excellency the GovernorGeneral regarding the abolition of the means test in respect of pharmaceutical and medical benefits for pensioners. At present a very strict means test is applied in this respect; permissible income is limited to £2 in the case of a single pensioner and to £4 in the case of a married couple. Many of these people, although they have small incomes of £4 or £5 a week, are practically starving because of the fact that most aged pensioners need constant medical attention, and doctors’ bills to-day are pretty steep. These pensioners have to pay for hospital treatment when they attend as out-patients and they have to pay the chemist as does any other person. This is one means test which should be abolished; but if the Government does not intend to abolish it, it should alleviate it by raising the permissible income to £3 for a single pensioner and £6 in the case of a married couple, because when the present income limits were introduced in 1955 by the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) the basic wage was about £12 3s. a week whereas now it is £13 6s. a week.
Sitting suspended from 5.39 to 8 p.m.
– Mr. Speaker, this debate, as all honorable members know, was intended to be an AddressinReply to the Speech made by the GovernorGeneral. It was an opportunity even a golden opportunity for the Opposition, if it had any vitality and imagination, to state its grand design for the development of this country. It was an opportunity for it to show constructive thought and ideas. It should have answered the questions: What can we do to keep this country prosperous? What can we do to make life better? That opportunity has been neglected. During the course of the debate I have not heard one constructive suggestion from the Opposition.
Most of us were astonished when we realized the way in which the debate was developing from the Opposition benches. I think that the honorable gentleman from Watson (Mr. Cope) who spoke immediately before the suspension of the sitting crystallized the ideas that had been previously brought out by members of the Opposition. He crystallized them in this one, simple, way: He said, “We want controls”. I think I quote him fairly accurately when he said, “There is only one way out. You must have controls to do it. You cannot leave it to the people “. In those words we found a crystallization of Labour Party thinking. That party is back to the thinking of the 1940’s with a vengeance. It has only one remedy for our economic problems. That is, once again, to introduce controls after the model of the Attlee Government in the United Kingdom and Labour governments in this Parliament. By way of interjection, when the honorable member was speaking, the honorable member for KingsfordSmith said, “That is quite right. Let us return to controls “. I do not want to pursue that argument for the moment because I hope to end with it. But I say those statements illustrate the thinking of the Labour Party and the barrenness of that thinking.
As I have said, I would have thought that it was a golden opportunity for the Labour Party to have told us what it would have hoped to do had it been the Government. Instead, honorable members opposite have embarked on a somewhat frivolous motion of no confidence on three grounds. The first ground was that of inflation and the effect that it can have on various sections of the community. The second ground was that central import licensing has been virtually abandoned. The third ground was the intervention in the present basic wage case. I think it peculiar that they have mixed up these three grounds.
The first ground of censure concerning inflation constitutes an objection to the Government’s objective - that is - to control inflation. The other two grounds constitute an objection to the means by which we propose to control those forces. The Opposition says, “ We think you are not going far enough. The remedies that you are taking against inflation are not sufficiently drastic.” But when it comes to the means that we are to adopt to control these inflationary forces, what does the Opposition say? It says, “ We will not have a bar of them. We do not think you should have intervened in the basic wage case. We do not think you should have relaxed central import licensing.” This reflects the traditional policy of the Labour Party of other years. It is very short on action but swift and sure on controls.
Before I touch the subject of inflation, may I mention what is common ground between the Opposition and ourselves? I think it was remarkable for the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) to make the simple confession, “This is a prosperous country “. The Labour Party accepts the fact that we are prosperous and that we have become prosperous during the last ten years.. So the Government has not to prove to the House that, through the actions of the Government and the people, the country has become prosperous. There is a question that has been left unanswered. That is, whether the working man, the wage and salary earner, has received his proper share of the gross national income. If we have a prosperous country, if we have virtually full employment, if we have increased production and if we have great prospects for the future and if, in addition, the working man has received an increased percentage of the national income, then we must ask what reason there is for the existence of the Labour Party. If we can establish the fact that the percentage of national income of the wage and salary earner has increased, we will prove con clusively, not only that this Government has brought prosperity but also that the working man has received a fair share of it and that he has wage justice. So let us return to the facts themselves.
I do not want to quote too many facts but these are some that I think should be made known to the House and to the Australian people. In the last year of the Labour government, the amount of wages and salaries paid in Australia was £1,230,000,000 or 53.1 per cent, of the total national income - of everything that we produce. As I have said, if we can prove that we are prosperous and that wage and salary earners are getting a much bigger return to-day than they were under the Labour Government, surely we can claim that there has been wage justice and a fair return for the working man and the salary earners. What are the figures for to-day?
I am glad to say that earnings have gone up from £1,230,000,000 to £3,046,000,000 - an increase from 53.1 per cent, to 60.7 per cent, of the national income. I think that these figures are conclusive proof that this Government does stand for all sections of the community and wants every one to join in the general prosperity.
I make only two other points: As a result of the recent basic wage case, and the margins rise as well, it is probable that the percentage of the national income received by wage and salary earners will be bigger this year than it was in the last recorded year. That is the first point that I wish to make. The second is that it is recorded in the official White Paper that wages and salaries have increased in the last two years by about 4 per cent, per annum, whereas it cannot be claimed, at the outside, that productivity has increased by much more than li per cent. - at the most, by 2 per cent, per year.
In other words wage and salary increases are certainly higher and will be higher than increases in productivity. I shall finish this part of my speech on this note. There is no doubt that we are prosperous. The Opposition officially accepts the idea that Australia is prosperous. Sir, it is a belief of the socialists that people should be pulled down to a common level. We on this side of the House hold it as an article of faith that every one should be lifted up. The proof that wage and salary earners have been lifted up is the fact that wage and salary earners are to-day receiving a significantly greater total percentage of the national income than they did when the Labour Party was in power. That is the first point that I wish to make.
As I have said the Labour Party has turned the Address-in-Reply into a debate on three grounds, first, inflation and its effect upon the working man and the pensioner, secondly, the virtual abandonment of central import licensing, and thirdly, intervention in the basic wage case. I repeat - it bears repetition - I do not know why the Opposition chose these grounds. It has become completely mixed up between the objectives and the control of inflation and the means that we have adopted to control the existing inflationary pressures - the intervention before the court, and the relaxation of central import licensing. This shows both that the Labour Party has not understood the Government’s objectives and the action which the Government proposes to take to achieve those objectives.
What are our objectives? They are, first, that we should remain prosperous and, secondly, that we should develop the country to the limits of our capacity in both man-power and equipment. The third great objective of government and one which will be stressed and high-lighted in the months to come is that the Australian £1 should, as far as it is practicable, be sound. We want the currency to be sound. We want it to retain its purchasing power.
I do not want to travel the ground that has been travelled already by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) and the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt). They have shown conclusively why inflation in Australia must be resisted. I ask the House and the radio audience to accept the fact that inflation in the long run is an unmitigated evil; that inflation in the long run punishes the working man, punishes the pensioner, punishes others on a fixed income, and particularly punishes the primary producer. I ask that that argument be accepted because I cannot give sufficient time during the course of this debate to develop it in the way in which it has been developed already by my colleagues.
What has the Government done? A few months ago the central bank, or the Re serve Bank of Australia, as it is now euphemistically called, took action to prevent the private trading banks and the Commonwealth Trading Bank unnecessarily expanding advances and consequently adding to the money supply within the community. In other words, it felt that if one of our real problems was money inflation, or cost inflation or whatever else you choose to call it, as a result of an oversupply of money, the quantity of money available within the community should be reduced. That undoubtedly was a wise step, and I have heard no criticism whatever from the Labour Party of the action which was taken by the Reserve Bank authorities. In addition, the Government itself has taken action on three, what I choose to call liberal, lines. First, there is the virtual abolition of central import licensing; secondly, intervention before the Arbitration Commission in the basic wage case, and finally, the assurance by the Prime Minister that, as far as it is practicable, we shall attempt to balance the Budget in the year 1960-61.
The Labour Party has criticized us on the virtual abolition of central import licensing. It is worth while to state why that action was taken, and what we hope to achieve by it. Action was taken to increase the supply of goods available to the consumer. As there would be an increasing flow of goods into the community at international competitive prices, it was hoped and even expected that this would keep our own prices fairly stable and, perhaps, that some might even fall. It is to be expected - I think it will turn out to be true - that if the wholesaler and the retailer pass on the cheaper prices to the consumer, the consumer will benefit and prices can be expected to remain stable.
Intervention in the basic wage case has been made on two grounds. In the first place, the Government has intervened before the Arbitration Commission against the background that within recent months there had been a basic wage increase which is costing something like £65,000,000 annually, and an increase in margins, which has added in general figures another £100,000,000 to the wages bill. When these were added to the existing inflationary forces, the Government was perfectly justified in coming to the conclusion that unless action was taken these forces could perhaps become irresistible and the purchasing power of money could fall rapidly. The Government has said to the Arbitration Commission, “ First of all, give time to digest the £165,000,000 increase in wages and margins, and, secondly, give us the time “ - I stress those words - “ to bring these inflationary influences under real control “.
These are essential measures which had to be taken by the Government. I do not think that any one of them could have been avoided. I come back to where the Labour Party has ended in this debate. It has said, “Yes, inflation is here; you should take much more drastic action than you are taking “, but when we take sensible and reasonable action we hear nothing but criticism from the members of the Opposition.
What are the prospects of control? What will in fact happen? I have been on the Government benches long enough to know what a difficult and hazardous task it is to make forecasts. I want to point out, Mr. Speaker, that the Labour Party should not be too vociferous or too outspoken about what it would do to control inflationary forces. When this Government came into office, the great problem it had to face was how to bring inflation under control. Let us look at the figures. In 1949, when Labour was in office, prices rose by something like 9.3 per cent., and it took us two years to get those inflationary forces under control. In 1951 the rise was 20.7 per cent, and it gradually reduced until in the last couple of years prices have been relatively stable. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell), and his supporters, have tried to draw certain comparisons between what is happening in Australia and what is happening in other parts of the world. The Leader of the Opposition stated that whilst prices in the United States have risen by only 18 per cent, in the last ten years or so, in Australia they have risen by something like 98 per cent. I think that you, Mr. Speaker, and the House will know that international comparisons of this kind are not valid. Any person who has been to the United States in recent years - I have not been there for some- time so I must accept the word of others - will state that it is well nigh impossible to live cheaply there. and that the percentage by which prices have risen is immeasurably higher than it is in Australia. Consequently, we must not take too literally what the Leader of the Opposition has said about international comparisons. I certainly do not, and I am sure that any person who has a fair degree of economic knowledge would not attempt to do so.
What then of .the prospects? First, may I state that there is no real basis for comparison between the present conditions in Australia and what they were in 1950 to 1954, for these reasons: First, to-day there is a plentiful supply of goods. We are not faced with a shortage of goods. So far as the supply of labour is concerned, there will be greatly increased numbers of young people coming into the work force in each of the next few years. Finally, there is some excess capacity in industry itself. So, Mr. Speaker, I think we can say that you cannot make a comparison between this and other earlier years. We are entitled to refer to what the Government has done and ask whether it is sufficient.
I have said that action has been taken on four fronts. There is the use of central banking or reserve banking controls, the promise that we will do our best to balance the Budget, the virtual lifting of central import licensing and, finally, the intervention before the Arbitration Commission. There are good reasons for thinking that this is sufficient action, at least for the time being. We hope that we shall have enough time to bring commerce and industry to a realization that it must take action.
Here, Sir, I come to an enormously important part of what I want to say. If inflation is to be controlled, then the psychological atmosphere is important. The dangers of inflation must be understood and the psychology must be such that businessmen will come to the conclusion that every item that goes into costs and prices must be carefully scrutinized and that we have a responsibility to keep increases in prices to a minimum. Many people justify inflation because it is a tranquillizer. It can lessen the pains of the disease, but, unless you simultaneously take remedial action, in time the disease will destroy you. I hope that businessmen and commercial interests will take the lesson to heart. Prices and costs do matter. It is up to businessmen to join with the Government in an attempt to see that price increases are kept to the minimum, and perhaps even stopped.
I mentioned what the honorable member for Watson (Mr. Cope) said in the course of this debate. What astonishes me is that the Labour Party, year in and year out, will return to the necessity for controls. The Labour Party in the United Kingdom has gone through an agonizing reappraisal to get rid of socialism, controls or whatever term you like to use. What has happened here is that the Australian Labour Party has returned to its ancient love of the 1940’s. Whom do we find as the hot gospeller of the resurrection of the principles of the late Harold Laski? None other than the honorable gentleman from Werriwa (Mr. Whitlam), who wants constitutional changes for the simple reason that he hopes one day to get the power to control the people, because he, like the honorable member for Watson, does not think that their destinies should be left in their own hands. He says, in effect, “ Mummy knows best, so give Mummy the power”. He will show the people just how they are to be controlled and what they are to do.
Before he becomes too dogmatic, I ask him to read some of the publications of the late 1940’s by men of liberal persuasion. Before he becomes too dogmatic, he should read such books as Hayek’s “ Road to Serfdom “ and Jewkes’s “ Ordeal by Planning “. If he does, he will permanently give up the idea that the Australian people can be planned into submission. At the least, he will perhaps understand that planning has been tried and failed. I remind him of one phrase used by a great Labour man - Aneurin Bevan, who is supposed to be respected by members of the Opposition. In 1954 Aneurin Bevan said that only an organizing genius could have caused a shortage of fish in Great Britain.
The Australian people can be certain that, if the organizing genius of the honorable gentleman from Werriwa - this hot gospeller of controls - is given rein they would have no fish, but plenty of legislation, an abundance of controls, and an abundance of frustration and irritation.
– The Minister for Labour and National
Service (Mr. McMahon) is the fourth senior Minister who has tried to persuade this House that there is prosperity in our midst. We have just heard him. Previously we heard the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt), and the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen). Those are the men who weave the strands of economic policy in this country. Each of them has hung his argument on the same four pegs, so they have been at least consistent.
They have said that the Government has pursued a four-pronged policy. They have said that they have endeavoured to control something that is called excessive monetary liquidity - which apparently means a little more than too much money. Secondly, they are taking to themselves great credit for the fact that next year - not this year - they are going to balance the budget. In other words, they are going to be what they regard as financially prudent. Thirdly - they should be ashamed of this, rather than proud of it - they brag about the intrusion of the Government into the Arbitration Commission to ensure that there will be no further increase in the wages paid to the great majority of the Australian community. Finally, they say - and they suggest that this will be a good thing for the Australian community - that import controls will at last be removed.
It is not possible for me now to traverse all of that ground in detail. I shall say one or two things about the first two prongs of the Government’s policy, but I shall concentrate on the other two. The Government is laying the blame for the inflationary situation in Australia at the wrong door when it blames the wage increases recently granted. The Opposition says that those increases are belated and inadequate, and that they have allowed the worker only to make up a little ground in his race with inflation, which has been allowed to go on unabated. The Government has shown no concern at all at the fact that inflation has proceeded at the rate of 3i per cent, a year, which means that something like eightpence or ninepence has been eroded from the value of the £1 every year. The present basic wage should be increased by at least 10s. a year every year to make up for the 34 per cent, increase in prices only, without any reference to the factor that has been intruded into the debate something called productivity. The Minister for Trade said that the economy was balanced on a razor’s edge. Apparently he is prepared to turn the edge of that razor and cut the throat of the Australian community by abolishing import controls.
I wish to deal with credit policy. The Government says that it is doing everything within its power to halt the growth of excessive monetary liquidity in the community, but it is doing nothing whatever to deal with a situation that has been referred to time and again by the Governor of the Reserve Bank and other responsible people in the Australian community. It was referred to also in the recent report of the Constitutional Review Committee. The control exercised by the central bank the Reserve Bank over the total Australian economy is becoming less year by year. The Governor is impliedly asking for extra weapons in his armoury but all that the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) says is that the Government will have a look at it in the near future. If this committee, which sat extensively for two years, is not to be regarded only as a farce, it is time that something was done in the direction of giving these greater economic powers, the recommendation of which by the committee was unanimously supported by all sides of the House.
The second matter is a new virtue of the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt). He has already cooked the books this year by taking £17,000,000 more out of the hides of the people of Australia in postal charges and putting it back into the Budget, saying, in the name of some new theory that he is not even sure of himself, that this is to be a notional payment on the capital employed in the Post Office. This cooker of the books now asks-
Government supporters. - Oh!
– I rise to order. Mr. Speaker, I take exception to that expression and ask that it be withdrawn. It is totally untrue.
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. John McLeay).Order! I ask the honorable member to withdraw the expression. I think he might be imputing improper motives and that would not be in accordance with the forms of the House.
– All I suggest is that-
– Order! I askthe honorable member to withdraw the expression.
– I withdraw the term “ cooker of the books “ if the honorable gentleman is so sensitive. All I suggest is that if a proper examination be made of the financial circumstances of Australia, it should be recognized that financial prudence cannot be judged by whether or not, on the surface, there is a balanced budget. A deeper probe should be made. The term “ deficit finance “ fundamentally means that rather more public spending than private spending is going on in the community, that more hospitals are being built than hotels and more schools than luxury schooners. That is the kind of test which “ deficit finance “ means. We say that a deficit in a budget is no necessary or final test of an inflationary situation in the Australian community.
I turn now to some of the remarks of the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. McMahon) who made a somewhat cursory examination of the national income statistics. I say again that members of the Opposition see nothing just in the fact that 60.7 per cent of the national income is going to wage and salary earners when they make up about 85 per cent of the total population. I ask the honorable gentleman why he chose 1958-59 as an example. Why did he not go to 1957-58 when 61.7 per cent of the national income went to wage and salary earners? There was a fall in the later year.
I invite the honorable gentleman to look at the figures I propose to quote. If he does so, he will be doing something different from trotting into the Arbitration Commission to find the seeds of inflation in Australia. Apparently he does give some attention to this document, the White Paper on National Income and Expenditure. If he looks at table IIa. entitled “ Receipts and Outlay of Trading Enterprises “, this is the section which really deals with the price structure today he will find that the second part of it shows the outlay on trading enterprises in Australia. This gives the sum of all the elements which go to make up prices. I invite him also, after studying these figures, to ask himself whether he is justified in going to the Arbitration Commission in reality and giving only moral exhortations to the business people in the Australian community.
According to these figures, in the year 1952-53 the total outlay of trading enterprises in Australia on wages and salaries was £1,650,000,000. That represented 43.8 per cent, of the total outlay of £3,771,000,000. Company profits amounted to £378,000,000, or 10 per cent, of the total. Surplus of public authority business undertakings amounted to £8,000,000 or .2 per cent, of the whole. I ask my friends in the Australian Country Party to look at the figure for farm incomes and compare it with the one I will quote in a moment. In the year 1952-53, it was £572,000,000, or 15.2 per cent, of the total. Other businesses, that is businesses other than incorporated businesses, laid out a total of £406,000,000 or 10.8 per cent, of the total. Net rent and interest paid represented £163,000,000, or 4.3 per cent.; indirect taxes £409,000,000, or 10.8 per cent.; and allowances for depreciation £185,000,000, that is 4.9 per cent. This shows that wages and salaries were less than half of the price structure.
Now by way of comparison let us look at the figures in this document for the year 1958-59. Between the years 1952-53 and 1958-59 the total outlay rose from £3,771,000,000 to £5,537,000,000. Of this sum wages and salaries totalling £2,392,000,000 representing 43.2 per cent. It was .6 per cent, less in that year than in 1952-53. Company profits at £630,000,000 represented 11.4 per cent, of the total. That was an increase from 10 per cent, in 1952-53 to 11.4 per cent. The surplus of public authority business undertakings such as the Post Office had increased from £8,000,000 to £70,000,000, that is from .2 per cent, to 1.2 per cent. But farm income had fallen, for reasons that the Minister well knows, from £572,000,000 to £408,000,000. That was a reduction from 15.2 per cent, to 7.4 per cent. The difference had been taken up by the profiteers. For other businesses, the figure was £545,000,000, that is 9.9 per cent., as against 10.8 per cent. This shows that the small business was faring worse than the big business. Net rent and interest paid had increased from £163,000,000 to £322,000,000, representing 5.8 per cent, of the total. Indirect taxes had risen from £409,000,000 to £695,000,000 or 12.5 per cent, of the total. Allowances for depreciation had risen from £185,000,000 to £475,000,000. That is from 4.9 per cent, to 8.6 per cent.
But the important point I wish to stress is that in this period wages and salaries had fallen as a proportion of the total. Had the proportion of company profits been the same in 1958-59 as in 1952-53, they would have been £76,000,000 less. If net interest and rent had remained at the same proportionate level they would have been £84,000,000 less. If the same condition had applied to indirect taxes they would have been £97,000,000 less in 1958-59 than in 1952-53. If allowances for depreciation had stayed at the same proportion the costs in 1958-59 would have been £204,000,000 less than in 1952-53. In other words, had costs other than wages kept the same proportions, they could have been £461,000,000 less in the financial year 1958-59 than they were.
Yet this Government tells us that it is a tragedy to add, so it says, £165,000,000 to the wages bill. Why is it wrong to call a halt at £165,000,000 in relation to the wage structure, when that addition is necessary in order to give the workers a just share of prosperity, and right to do nothing about items such as rent, profits, interest, depreciation and indirect taxes? Indirect taxes are in the Government’s own hands, as are some of the other items, and there can be some intrusion other than moral persuasion. We say that the Government is laying the blame at the wrong door altogether when its only practical step is to go before the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission and tell the worker, who, at the end of this year, by the time the present basic wage case is heard, will be 10s. a week worse off than he was last year, that he ought not to be seeking an increase in the basic wage and that it is time the economy was given a chance to absorb the wage increases that have recently been granted. As I say, these wage increases are inadequate and belated, and they are less than justice for the wageearning sections of the community. Yet, the Government’s approach to the Arbitration Commission is one of the only two practical steps, as it describes them, that it has taken.
In the few minutes that remain to me, I want to discuss the Government’s attitude towards import restrictions. I was going to say that the Government’s lifting of import restrictions was criminally irresponsible, but Government supporters may not like strong language, and so I shall abandon the word “ criminally “ and say that the removal of import controls was an irresponsible action on the part of the Government. I ask the Minister for Trade, who is directly responsible for this matter, to have a look at some of the comments that were made in the annual report of the Tariff Board for the year 1958-59, which was tabled in this House only a few months ago. I suggest that there is some timely information there that ought to have been considered before this reckless step of removing import controls was taken. Anybody who has read this report objectively must consider that nobody could have been more astonished than were the members of the board when they heard about the removal of import controls. It has been mentioned before in this House that, as stated at page 6 of this report, the board declared -
However, keeping in mind all the factors affecting the balance of payments-
Surely this Government ought to keep in mind all the factors - international reserves at the present time would not appear to be either so high or so stable that the Board can see in the results of the past year any reason for complacency about the outcome in future years … in the next decade the import needs of industry and the requirements of a growing population will reach a higher level than the present ceiling of £850,000,000.
It would not seem prudent to rely on capital inflow continuing to increase at a sufficient rate to permit further expansion of imports. Capital inflow and non-repatriation of funds invested in Australia cannot be taken for granted. The increased inflow in 1958-59, for example, was unexpected.
That was considered not likely to continue. I ask members of the Australian Country Party and Government supporters generally to take note of these words -
The Board does not consider that it would be appropriate for it to speculate on what the level of imports might be in the absence of import licensing restrictions. It is plain, however, that import licensing is operating and is likely to continue to operate to provide incidental protection to many local industries. It is by no means certain that all these industries would be accorded protection if examined under the criteria normally employed by the Board in assessing the tariff assistance needed by economic and efficient industries.
That means, if they were examined as industries separately. The board continued -
Nevertheless, although in the course of the year the Board held inquiries into 47 subjects, it should be noted that these inquiries provided no apparent support for the contention that the protection afforded by import licensing had fostered uneconomic growth in industry generally.
The board had noted two things in the previous year, and I suggest that these are the pregnant words -
Firstly, there is the emergence of greater competition from low cost countries. Secondly, there is the part played by surplus capacity in adding to the costs of local producers.
I suggest that any government which had been warned by the Tariff Board that we faced competition from low-cost countries, even when import restrictions were on, and that there was excess capacity in Australian industries, is not a responsible government when it throws the door wide open to a flow of imports from anywhere - shoes that we can produce ourselves and do not need from overseas, ships that we do not need from overseas, and sealing wax that we may not want at all.
I asked a question of the Minister the other day about a certain matter which is referred to in this same report of the Tariff Board on page 12. The Board pointed to the Customs Tariff (Industries Preservation) Act 1921-1957- this flimsy act that is supposed to protect Australian industries from dumping - as being inadequate. The board referred to the “ mandatory but deficient provisions of the Act”, and said -
The Board feels that it has an obligation to refer once again to the desirability of making a critical examination of the Act and the need for amending legislation to make its provisions more effective.
Any government that removes import controls without first amending this Act is cutting the throat, as it were, of certain basic industries in Australia.
I have not enough time to make a further point, Mr. Speaker, so I sum up by saying that this Government should not be content to stick to what it calls its four-pronged policy, which embraces only two proposals that can be called practical, because they are the only two in respect of which the Government does not rely on somebody else. This Administration is to be condemned for its intrusion before the Commonwealth Arbitration Commission - an intrusion which is presumptuous on its part and which does a gross injustice to the majority of Australians. Secondly, the Government is to be condemned for removing import controls altogether in the face of the warnings contained in the last annual report of the Tariff Board. Let us read again the fine, grandiloquent words in the Governor-General’s Speech, in which we were told - the flow of imports to this country will be unrestricted except by the Customs Tariff.
The Tariff Board, which is responsible for the implementation of the customs tariff, says, first, that it cannot handle now all the business that comes before it, and, secondly, that a certain piece of legislation that is supposed to protect Australian industries against a variety of unfair practices does not protect. Despite this, the Government throws wide the door without amending that act. Therefore, I call on all responsible members of this House to support the amendment proposed by the Opposition, which amounts to a motion of censure on the Government.
.- Mr. Deputy Speaker, I understand that a vote will be taken on the Opposition’s amendment to the motion for the adoption of the Address-in-Reply to the Governor-General’s Speech at a later hour this evening, but even at this late stage in the debate I want to be included among those who extend a welcome to His Excellency Viscount Dunrossil and to Lady Dunrossil. I can assure them that they will find the people of this country very warm-hearted. Lord Dunrossil has said that he will travel as much as possible in the rural areas. He will find the people in the far north, if he goes to Darwin, or the people in Western Australia, when he goes there, or Australians anywhere else, full of that Australian spirit of kindliness which has become known all over the world. I would even say that, although members of the Australian Labour Party have stated that they would have preferred an Australian Governor-General, His Excellency, nevertheless, will find members of that party as warm-hearted as are any other people in the community.
I should like, at this stage, to tender my congratulations to the new Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell). The honorable gentleman was a member of this Parliament before I was elected more than fourteen years ago. I might say of him personally that, apart from some of the things he has said in this House - and after all often he does not express judgment in his statements in this chamber - outside the House he is a very good fellow. When he was a Minister, I found him helpful and courteous always. I congratuate him most heartily. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam) is a comparatively new member and I wish him success in his new position. I am sure that as he goes along he will mellow, and that we will all get along very well together.
I want to say to members of the Australian Labour Party to-night at the beginning of this new parliamentary session, that any criticism I make is aimed at policy. In all the years I have been here, I have never attacked personalities, but always policies. If I find fault with some lines of policy that have been advanced by members of the Opposition, I am not necessarily finding fault with the honorable members concerned personally. As a matter of fact, I find most members of the Labour Party most congenial, although it must be admitted that they are rather misguided as to what constitutes the best interests of the country.
Of course, it is the duty of the Opposition to oppose. We must realize that before the present Opposition filled the benches to the left of Mr. Speaker, the present Government was in Opposition. The mere fact that the Leader of the Opposition has moved a motion of censure on the Government does not mean that there is anything terribly wrong with Australia. The Opposition is merely performing its normal functions.
The honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Crean), who was the previous speaker, recited many figures to the House. He told us what had happened in certain years and went from one lot of figures to another to such effect that I am sure those inside this House and outside it who listened to him had no chance of following what he was talking about. The honorable member gave us figures in bulk, and that is a very good way to work if you are in opposition.
The honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) said that farm income had fallen “ per head of population “. We know that more than 1,000,000 immigrants have entered Australia and large groups are arriving every year. Until they are assimiliated and are able to take their part as Australians in primary production and other activities, naturally immigrants are an inflationary factor for the time being. I say to the honorable member for East Sydney that it is not in the best interests of fair play to relate farm incomes to the population in those circumstances.
– Now you are bringing in personalities.
– I am not introducing personalities at all. I am speaking of the policy that is espoused by the honorable member for East Sydney and I am not in agreement with him. The Opposition has tempered its attack on the Government by agreeing that there is prosperity in Australia.
– Of course there is prosperity.
– Honorable members have heard the Leader of the Opposition interject, “Of course there is prosperity”. The honorable member for Shortland (Mr. Griffiths), in his speech, endorsed that statement. Anybody who reads a certain part of the report of the speech of the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Cairns) would think he was reading a speech by a supporter of the Government. The honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Crean) opposed the relaxation of import licensing. Of course, it was his function to do so.
The honorable member for Watson (Mr. Cope) asked what the Australian Country Party is doing for the primary producers. The whole point is that we know that Australia is dependent on primary production, not only directly but also indirectly, because our primary products sold overseas build up our credits. With those credits, we buy raw materials that are so necessary for the secondary industries. Our legislatures must never forget the value of our primary production. That is why the Australian Country Party is represented in this corner of the House. The Country Party came into being years ago as the farmers’ union because the members representing the city interests were in such large numbers that the man on the land was not getting a fair deal. The Country Party has a bloc vote. Each one of us in this corner is a stalwart fighter for the man on the land, and therefore he is a fighter for Australia.
The honorable member for East Sydney is interjecting and I suggest that the only place for him is on the footpath. We members of the Country Party have had some experience in the great outback of Australia and we know what the primary producers can do. The primary producers have never had any special economic relief. When import licensing is relaxed, the secondary industries will have to operate under a system similar to that applying to primary producers.
– What are you trying to sell?
– I am trying to tell the House that the primary producers must sell their goods overseas on an open market, but the secondary industries have the protection of import licensing and tariffs. Good luck to them! We want to build up our secondary industries. Our home market is the best, but we must never build it up at the expense of the primary industries. Their very name is descriptive. The primary industries are primary to our well-being and they must be maintained. I want to comment on some of the statements that have been made by honorable members. In what was virtually a summing up, the Governor-General said in his Speech -
The development of tendencies to monopoly and restrictive practices in commerce and industry has engaged the attention of the Government which will give consideration to legislation to protect and strengthen free enterprise against such development.
The words that the Opposition dislike most in that sentence are “ free enterprise “. The Opposition is using what small amount of inflation we have in this country to try to get a lead that will give it an opportunity to implement its vaunted policy of socialistic democracy. I hasten to correct myself; I meant democratic socialism.
– You got mixed up there.
– Yes, I was mixed up with a few words, but they mean the same thing. I want to refer to the speech of the honorable member for Darebin (Mr. Courtnay) because he was more interesting to me than Dr. Coombs. Of course, Dr. Coombs is in a very important position, but the honorable member for Darebin is a legislator in this House and I am more interested in what is said by honorable members. The honorable member for Darebin said on 15th March not long ago - we are ready to support an approach to the people for the powers that are considered necessary, so that not only the present Government, but also all succeeding governments, will have power to combat inflation. I know that somebody will say it is socialist policy to give the Commonwealth more power, and it will be a good thing to prevent the Commonwealth from having the power to govern effectively, because we shall thereby prevent socialism from taking control.
– Who said that?
– The honorable member for Darebin, and then with a wave of the hand he said -
A quick look around the globe shows that nothing can prevent socialism being adopted throughout the world.
We on this side of the House would regard that as a defeatist attitude for the simple reason that it is, more or less, saying “ Why worry about socialism? It is coming throughout the world, anyway. Why should we fight against it? Why not give the Australian Labour Party price control and let it bring about the onebid auction system at Newmarket again? Why not let the Australian Labour Party fix the price of stock on the hoof in Queensland, because after all socialism is coming? “ I say to the people of this great, free country, that if there is a sign of socialism coming, we must redouble our efforts to fight it. This country has been built up by private enterprise in the shortest possible time. Why should we change to socialism?
May I say, Mr. Deputy Speaker that, as a matter of fact, the Australian Labour Party is rather uneasy just now. Its members talk a lot in this House about socialism, but there are shortly to be by-elections in New South Wales and Victoria. We have listened to broadcasts and have had reports of speeches made at election meetings, but I have not heard that any Labour member referred to socialism. The honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) is indicating, by pointing to himself, that he wants a mention, so I shall give it to him. I have not heard him say that the policy of the Australian Labour Party is democratic socialism. As a matter of fact, I challenge the Leader of the Opposition to go into the electorates and tell the people that that is the policy of the Australian Labour Party.
– It is written in the book.
– The honorable member for KingsfordSmith, who is a baby in arms in these matters, says that it is printed in the book. He says that this policy of democratic socialism is printed in the book. Are Labour members prepared to distribute copies of the book to the electors of La Trobe? Of course not! The people do not see the book. I have tried for years to get a copy, but I cannot get hold of one. Labour members have it in the book, but the book is in cold storage! There is no doubt that we will not read about it. I should like to quote from one or two more speeches in this debate. I do not want to bother, if I can help it, with the small fry. I want to get onto the big boys. I come to the Leader of the Opposition. He said -
Let me summarize, Sir-
That meant that he was going to give it the whole works, as the boys say. He went on -
We believe that the country is prosperous-
Come on, Opposition members, let us have a few cheers! There it is in “ Hansard “. He said -
We believe that this prosperity is primarily due-
To be fair, let me put the part that helps him a bit. He said it was - primarily due to the actions of the Chifley Government-
– Order ! I ask the honorable member to address his remarks to the Chair.
– The Leader of the Opposition said -
We believe that the prosperity is primarily due to the actions of the Chifley Government in establishing full employment-
Opposition Members. - Hear, hear 1
– I continue- in developing and extending the welfare state-
Opposition Members. - Hear, hear!
– The quotation proceeds - in inaugurating the immigration scheme-
Opposition Members.- Hear, hear!
– And next - the Snowy Mountains scheme -
Opposition Members. - Hear hear !
– Finally- and in respect of the other great works it launched.
Keep on with the “ Hear, hear ! “ I want to analyse those remarks. Does the Leader of the Opposition or any other sane person - I give him credit for being sane - in this community believe that the Chifley Government at any stage in its history had full employment?
– Of course it did.
– There were always unemployed. On no occasion did it have full employment. If the Chifley Government did have full employment, which it did not, does the Leader of the Opposition still disapprove of this Government’s actions, that he has said for the past ten years were so bad, in view of the fact that we now have a better average on full employment? Three times a year for the past ten years the Leader of the Opposition has forecast depression, unemployment, degradation and much else of a like nature. He referred, ,in this debate, to the Chifley Government’s extension of the welfare state. The welfare state has been extended at least four times as much in the past ten years as the Chifley Government ever extended it.
– No one can deny that. We notice that the Labour Party is strangely silent just now. He referred to the inauguration of the immigration scheme. I want to be fair and to give full points to the Deputy Leader of the Opposition as Minister for Immigration.
– - I am no longer deputy leader.
– I meant leader. You yourself sometimes forget. Immigration is one matter in which I give him full points, lie cannot be wrong all the time. Next he referred to the inauguration of the Snowy Mountains scheme. I should like to have a good look at that matter.
– You boycotted the function.
– I did not.
– Yes, you did.
– In 1948-49 I was only a new member, and on 21st September, 1948, I had something to say in Parliament regarding the Showy Mountains scheme. I came into the Parliament only in 1946 after the war. On 21st September, 1948, I was advocating great development of the Murray Valley, which I represent, and which I said was admirably suited for irrigation. I said -
The first move should be to make a start with the Snowy River scheme.
– We had already started it the .year before.
– Yes, we had.
– I said-
All reports on the latter scheme, however, are simply shelved and undue delay is taking place.
It .was npt until 26th May, 1949, nine months afterwards, that a bill was brought into this House .to provide for the Snowy Mountains! scheme. Even .after .that, Labour only turned the first sod, or more or less laid the foundation^, .whereas this Government ‘has spent over .£100,0.00,000 .since on e .Snowy -Mountains scheme. My main object in referring *.to this matter is not to try .to win some point from the Labour Party or its leader. -because this is a time when w;e .should get together to help Australia, but to make the point .that the expenditure .of that £l,pQ,p66,p00 has so far been highly inflationary. The scheme is all .right, and this Government recognizes that fact. It [will .not be very long now before .the .scheme will be giving returns, because the water is starting to flow and the .electric .power will come. I can visualize now, in parts pf New South Wales and Victoria, .great irrigation areas, pastures, fruit trees, and all the other things that follow when we get water. It will be a great scheme. My point is that what is now an inflationary pressure will very shortly become anti-inflationary. The great factories that we are building are inflationary at the present time. We are spending money on Mount Isa, and, as I have said, £100,000,000 has been spent on the Snowy Mountains scheme.
All these expenditures are highly inflationary in a developing country, but they will all become anti-inflationary soon, and will have the very opposite effect to that which they are having now. No other country has made such progress as Australia has made without creating unemployment. No other country has made as much progress in as short a time. We have had 3 or 4 per cent, of inflation recently. The Government proposes to combat it in the four ways that the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) has described. I have not time to itemize them. I shall be glad if they help the primary producer. I am a great supporter of the scheme suggested by the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Anderson) for the establishment of a bank such as the Development Bank. He was a great supporter of the scheme to set up the Development Bank, and that bank has been established. I believe that the Development Bank should be given an unlimited amount of liquid finance so that primary producers can be given long-term credit and enabled to push out and produce effectively. One of the things that is hampering primary production at the present time is lack of finance. We have a great land. The farmer has the initiative and is prepared to work. He wants more credit. Let me appeal to the Government, as did the honorable member for Hume, to give the Development Bank an amount of money adequate for the purpose for which it was established. I ask the Government to implement the provision in the banking legislation which required the Development Bank, when making a loan, to have regard to the chances of the applicant making a success or continuing to make a success of a project rather than to the security that he can provide. If the bank were to operate on that principle, young men would be assisted and encouraged to go on the land.
As I have only a few minutes left before 1 must close, I want to deal with the ques tion of profits, which has been mentioned many times during this debate. I believe that we can successfully control inflation only with the co-operation of the people. Opposition members frequently claim that the Prime Minister undertook to put value back into the £1. But what the Prime Minister said was that we must devise means to put value back into the £1. I put it to Opposition members that if he had said that we must put value back into the £1, then value must already have been drained out of the £1 at that time.
– That is a weak one!
– It is a very strong, logical proposition. If it was necessary to put value back into the £1, then the value must have gone out of the £1 at that time. What is the history of the value of the £1? When the Government came into office, inflation was on the move. Shortly after the Government assumed office, the Korean war broke out, and it was not long before the highest prices ever known were being paid for wool. This did not affect other countries as much as it affected Australia, because Australia is a great woolproducing country. The boom prices paid for wool meant that unexpectedly large sums of money came into Australia. The Government should be congratulated on the way that it has steadied the inflationary trend. I give way to no one when it comes to sympathy for people on fixed incomes. I would be very happy if the Government in the next Budget gave special consideration to pensioners and others on fixed incomes.
If the arguments of the Opposition are viewed critically, it will be found that they are really not putting forward any constructive ideas at all. Opposition members say that it is not for them to suggest solutions to these problems; the Government must find its own solution. But the Labour Party has no solution to offer other than price fixing. If a referendum on prices control were held to-morrow, I personally, as a conscientious representative of a vast primary producing area, would oppose it, not because this Government might use price fixing against the primary producer but because I know that the Labour Party is no lover of the man on the land. If power to control prices were given, the Labour Party if elected to office would use that power just as it would have used banking powers if its bank nationalization bid had been successful. The Leader of the Opposition said on one occasion, “ Let us have eight years of Labour government and we will change the face of Australia. Let us have control of the banks and we will control the people.” What is the difference between controlling the banks and controlling prices? It is really the same thing and such control by the socialists would mean devastation for the man on the land.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– I know that it is the normal custom to reply to the arguments of an honorable member who precedes one in a debate, but all I say to the honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull) is this: When I hear members of the Australian Country Party or the Liberal Party, for that matter attack what they call socialism, I cannot help but feel that while they accept £13,500,000 as a butter subsidy from the Australian community, while they consistently seek reductions in the normal freight rates for their fertilizers, while they seek special facilities for bulk wheat and while they ask for the price of sugar to be fixed by governments, they should be the last to deny a fair go to the workers.
– Are you against the farmers?
– No, I am not, because I was a farmer myself and I have at least some sense of decency as a member of the community.
At this stage, I should like to devote myself to what I term the third prong of the argument of the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. McMahon). My very good friend, the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Crean) effectively answered the Minister on financial matters and I think that to-night he delivered a speech on that subject that I have not heard equalled in this House. It was most noticeable that the would-be Treasurer, the Minister who attempts to do the job of Labour and National Service, left the chamber very quickly. He knew that the answer given to two prongs of his argument had left him without any logical case. I shall now deal with the third prong and, if I may, I shall analyse carefully the words of the GovernorGeneral’s Speech. The GovernorGeneral said -
He then referred to the need to restore balance between demand and supply. The only action suggested by the Government to achieve this purpose is to present a case to the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission, seeking to peg wages. Every one should recognize that the admission by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) in this chamber that we are living in a state of prosperity, surely negatives the right of the Government to instruct counsel to appear before the Arbitration Commission in an effort to have wages pegged for the worker on the lowest scale.
The decision of the commission last year to increase the basic wage by 15s. a week was a result that flowed from the Government’s own policy. The Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt), when he was Minister for Labour and National Service, frequently spoke about the need for wages to be fixed according to the capacity of the nation to pay. Honorable members will recall that in reply to questions more than one of them from me the right honorable gentleman said that the determination of the basic wage was a matter for the commission, but that the commission had to base its assessment on the capacity of the nation to pay. The Government’s decision to oppose the current application of the trade unions for an increase of the basic wage is, I believe, the worst action taken against the workers since they first obtained some sort of wage justice as the result of the Higgins award in 1907. From then until now, except in the depth of the depression, all that any government ever attempted to do was to provide the commission with full information on all the factors that had to be taken into account in assessing a minimum wage and I stress that it was to be a minimum wage. I propose to show that this Government is now advocating a wage less than the minimum that would otherwise be prescribed. It is the first time in the history of Australia that a government has taken such a step.
What would a reasonable person do to restore a balance between demand and supply? Would he taper off the supply, or would he dry up the demand by attacking the section from which the demand is least? The Government says - and we do not disagree with this statement - that we are in a state of prosperity. We will not, however, tolerate the process of drying up the demand from those members of the community whose demands are least.
I have been reminded of what the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) said in a policy speech in 1954 with regard to conciliation and arbitration. He was chiding the then Leader of the Labor Party, Dr. Evatt, concerning certain statements that had been made on behalf of the workers of Australia regarding the holding over of a decision in what was then known as the margins case. Referring to Dr. Evatt, the Prime Minister said -
He goes further. He has recently promoted a belief that he undertakes, if he becomes Prime Minister, either to persuade or to compel the Arbitration Court to decide in favour of the unions. This is deplorable. Do you want an independent Court, or one that can be ordered around? It is dangerous for politicians to applaud and uphold the Court when it raises the basic wage, or reduces working hours, and denounce it when it even postpones a decision upon marginal rates.
We have in this country one of the finest trade union organizations in the world. I refer to the Australian Council of Trade Unions. Keeping in mind what the Prime Minister said in 1954, let me now quote from an article appearing in the Melbourne “ Age “ of this morning, in which the president of the A.C.T.U. is reported as endorsing the comments made by the Prime Minister in 1954. The article reads, in part -
Mr. Monk said he wondered who would be next to try to ridicule the Commonwealth Industrial and Arbitration Commission while the basic-wage case was still being heard. “ During the past weeks we have seen politicians, organizations and individuals in the public eye, from the Prime Minister down, trying to 1 pressurize ‘ the Commission not to accede to any further increases in wages claimed by the A.C.T.U.,” he added.
If you want a further indication of the Prime Minister’s present attitude in this matter, you may find it in an article in the “ Australian Financial Review “ of 3rd March, 1960, in which, under the heading, “ Wages, Profits and Propaganda “, the following appears: -
The Prime Minister’s strong advice to the Arbitration Commission - via his speech to the manage ment conference in Melbourne this week - leaves no doubt about the weight of pressure the Commonwealth intends to bring against a wage increase in the current hearings before the Commission.
I ask the House to consider these statements in conjunction with the Prime Minister’s utterances in 1954. It is apparent that the Government’s appearance before the Arbitration Commission in the current hearing constitutes the most cowardly attack that has ever been launched on those sections of the community least able to bear any further reduction in wage levels.
Probably it will be agreed that there is some inflation in this country. The honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull) is one of the few Government supporters who have attempted to write down the degree of inflation that exists in Australia at the present time. The honorable member has said that if there is a small amount of inflation, we of the Opposition are trying to capitalize upon it. Let us be quite frank about this. All that the Commonwealth Arbitration Commission attempted to do in 1959 was to ensure a fair distribution of the wealth of the nation. To this end, it granted those in the minimum wage group an increase of 15s. a week, and then it granted marginal increases to others. In doing these things it was merely trying to grant to those concerned a fair share of the wealth of the nation. I will attempt to show that the amounts awarded by the commission were very similar to the increases that would have been granted on the basis of the C series index.
When I say that the C series index is the basic measuring stick for minimum wages in this country, I am not speaking of something that was introduced last year or the year before;, the C series index was first used for this purpose in 1914, and it was the paramount factor determining wage levels in Australia from 1934 to 1953. It took a government of the kidney of the present Government to persuade the Arbitration Commission to discard the C series index as the proper measuring stick for wages. It so happens, however, that belated though they were, the commission’s decisions in 1955, 1956 and 1957 resulted in a basic wage very close to that which would have resulted from a continued use of the C series index.
Let me now quote from what certainly could not be called a Labour publication, the Bank of New South Wales “ Review “ of November, 1959. On page 4 of that publication the following appears: -
In its successive reviews the Commission, however, has increased the basic wage appreciably; The 1959 judgment, for example, awarded a 15s. rise. Since the suspension of the automatic adjustments the total wage has risen £2, or 17 per cent., fractionally more than the 16 per cent, increase in the retail price index over the period, and in the same period average weekly earnings have risen 31 per cent.
Some of that increase in average weekly earnings could be attributed, no doubt, to the Richardson report that was introduced into this chamber on 13th March, 1959. The Prime Minister himself at that time set the standard of inflation in this country. lt ill becomes him to come here and talk about a 28 per cent, increase in the wages of workers when he and his colleagues accepted increases for themselves amounting to 50 per cent, and even 100 per cent., thereby setting a standard. I was one who did everything possible to prevent the increases being given to Parliamentarians because I felt at the time that the Government’s action would leave the Arbitration Commission with no alternative but to follow the lead set by the Government. That is in fact, what the commission did. This Government set the standard. It was this Government that agreed to a £900 increase for top-ranking public servants. It was the Prime Minister who established the principle, and it is intolerable from every decent viewpoint for the Government now to say that it is taking action against the workers in the Arbitration Court.
Let me now deal with the basis upon which the commission must arrive at a decision. If honorable members will listen to me carefully they will appreciate more fully the value of the submissions that were made to-night by the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Crean) as to where the money goes in this country. The “ Year-Book “ of the Commonwealth of Australia for 1959 states, at page 429 -
The Commission considered-
That is in relation to the 1956-57 decision - all aspects of the economy and in particular the indicators of oversea reserves, oversea balances, rural industries-
This will make my friend from Mallee happy - production and’ productivity other than rural, investment’ including company profits, the competitive position of secondary industry, employment, retail trade, the relaxed policy of import restrictions and the reasons of the Government for such relaxation . . .
That is the charter of the commission. Upon the arguments presented to the commission it is required to set, not a basic wage futuristic in design, but a basic wage merely to meet the requirements of the ordinary family man in this country at the time when the decision is made, having regard to all those factors in the national economy.
II seems strange that I should follow a member of the Australian Country Party in this debate, but let me just state one point. The present counsel for the Government was for some years counsel for the Australian Council of Trade Unions, but the trade union movement has been smashed financially because of this Government’s legislation.
Let me now deal with some of the matters upon which the commission will base its decision. I have before me details of the value of wool exports. In the first decision ever given by the commission the trade union movement was concerned with rural production which, together with everything else, had to be taken into consideration by the commission in assessing the minimum wage in Australia. In the year that the court granted the 15s. increase in the basic wage the income from wool exports increased” by £96,000,000. One particular group of 320 companies showed a 30 per cent, increase in profits between 1956 and 1959. The profits of those 320 companies rose from £42,984,500 in 1956 to £56,073,000 in 1959. Is it suggested at this stage, having regard to the rise of prices - the price of wool rose by 2i per cent, yesterday, “and the price of sugar has been increased by Id. per lb. - that the Government will argue that the basic wage earner should be pegged where he is? In broad terms, the proposition put on behalf of the trade union movement is very simple. All that the trade union movement is seeking in this basic wage case is a fair distribution of the national wealth, having regard to that section of the community mentioned in the report of the Bank of New
South Wales from which I have just read. But what has this Government done? The claim before the court is for an increase of 22s. a week in the basic wage. Five shillings of that amount is to catch up the leeway in the C series index figure and restore it to what it was in 1934, 1940 and 1953. But the Government, through counsel, is submitting to the court that the workers of Australia should be left in a worse plight than they have ever been, as far as the basic wage is concerned, since 1934. It will take 5s. to restore to the basic wage its lost purchasing power. If members of the Australian Country Party want to retain their £13,500,000 butter subsidy, they had better pull up their socks.
In the few minutes left at my disposal let me say-
– Do not waste your time.
– The honorable member for Richmond will live to remember this night. He is a young man. He has not suffered the effects of a depression but he is heading in the right direction now.
The Government is submitting to the commission that to grant any part of the 22s. claimed by the trade union movement would be wholly bad for the Australian economy and the Australian people. It is all very well for people who received increases amounting to thousands of pounds to come into this chamber and say that the basic wage earner is no longer entitled to an adjustment in his basic wage to meet the increased cost of living. This Government stands condemned for its attitude.
It was stated in an editorial in the Sydney “ Sun “, on 14th March-
Pensioners, fighting for an extra 10s. or £1, hear with bewilderment and despair their politicians urging everybody to spend less to stop inflation.
I support that statement.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- Mr. Deputy Speaker, it is not my intention in this important debate, to follow the inflammatory style of the honorable member for Blaxland (Mr. E. James Harrison), but I trust I shall match his sincerity just as efficiently and effectively. My purpose in this speech is, first, to refer in passing to the achievements of this Government, secondly, to direct attention to the challenge of the immediate future, and thirdly, to devote some time to the need for Australia to broaden her world outlook.
Dealing with the achievements of the present Government, I am sure that honorable members will agree with me that the GovernorGeneral’s Speech was of vital interest to all genuine listeners and readers. It was full of specific results stemming either from action taken by the Government in the past year, or plans to which the administration has committed itself in this current period. Naturally, the restriction of time precludes me from referring to more than three items which may truly be classified as major achievements of the Government.
I want, first of all, to refer to our economic growth, which has been unprecedented. I like the words so frequently used by the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen) in speaking of prosperity. The right honorable gentleman has said that Australia is experiencing unparalleled prosperity, and his voice has rung out so convincingly in this House from time to time in recent months. I direct attention to the fact that overseas visitors and prominent Australians who may have had the opportunity to compare our standards with those of other nations, say most genuinely that this is a country of vast opportunity. Quite recently, the retiring Governor of South Australia said that if he were a young man, this is where he would desire to commence carving out a career for himself.
Throughout the debate members of the Opposition have struggled to paint a black picture of Australia’s economic position. [Quorum formed.] It is of some satisfaction to me to know that honorable members opposite think there is point in my words, since the honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly) has seen fit to call attention to the state of the House. I proceed with the assertion that, having regard to the prosperous conditions that prevail in the community, the Opposition has had a most unenviable task throughout this debate. Its task has been all the more difficult because its supporters have been confronted by the public statements of Labour parliamentarians in this country. At this point, I want to quote, because of its significance, a statement by the Honorable R. H. Erskine, a Labour member of the Legislative Council of New South Wales. Perhaps the honorable member for Blaxland (Mr. E. James Harrison) will try to reconcile Mr. Erskine’s words with the statements that he made a few moments ago. Mr. Erskine is reported to have stated recently -
I have some first-hand knowledge of working conditions in other countries, and the standards which have been obtained in Australia are regarded with amazement and envy by workers’ representatives in many other countries.
It is very difficult indeed to reconcile such a statement with the criticism by the honorable member for Blaxland.
I move on, Sir, to refer to imports control. With great courage, I claim, the Government has pressed on towards its Liberal objective of removing import licensing entirely. Only about 10 per cent, of imported goods are now subject to control, and it may not be very long before those goods also are entirely free from control. It is interesting to note that New Zealand has quickly followed our example. Freer trade between Australia and New Zealand will, in all probability, be most rewarding to us.
Because I am a Western Australian, and because the contribution that is being made by the Commonwealth Government to national development is of great significance to me, I want to refer to the assistance which is being given to the Western Australian Government in the development of the Kimberleys region. Under-population is one of the major problems of Western Australia, a State which embraces nearly 1,000,000 square miles, or one-third of this continent, but which is peopled by only 722,000 individuals a mere 7 per cent, of the total Australian population. Western Australians to-day see their problem of development in two ways. In the first place, their State is the largest under-populated area within reach of Asia, which has, of course, more than 1,500,000,000 people, or one-half of the world’s population. By the year 2,000, Asia is expected to have 4,000,000,000 people, nearly two-thirds of the world’s population.
There is a second point that the Western Australians think about. They concede that the present decade will almost certainly be a period of prodigious development and expansion for Australia as a whole, and they ask this pertinent question: Where will expansion be most marked? They point to what they believe is a great disparity between the economically big States and the economically small States. They feel that expansion in the ‘sixties could well continue to be entirely out of balance and even make the task of promoting development in the economically weaker States increasingly difficult.
I say, therefore, Mr. Speaker, that it is good to find that a virile State Government in Western Australia has already accomplished much and has pledged itself to an active campaign to overcome these apparent problems. Immigration, for example, is being more keenly supported, while an aggressive search for new industries is under way. In order to achieve sales in the eastern States and in overseas countries, manufacturers in the western States are being encouraged to produce what might be termed “ high skill “ products. With the co-operation of the Commonwealth Government, which recently provided £5,000,000 for the development of the northern part of the State, a strong effort is being made through research and gradual development to promote closer settlement in the important area known as the Kimberleys.
Let me now deal quickly with the challenge of the immediate future.
– I wish you would.
– If it will satisfy the honorable member for Grayndler, I shall deal with the subject of inflation, which has been so skilfully handled by my colleagues on this side of the chamber. I believe, Sir, that the subject was dealt with thoroughly by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) and by other colleagues of mine. It is apparent that the general public has appreciated to the full the Government’s forthright analysis of the modern economic trend, and the honest declaration that effective and prompt action would be taken as soon as a danger sign appeared. The
Prime Minister, in making his economic survey of 21st February last, said -
What we do want is a restraint on certain developments, such as the prices and costs moye.ments which have been tending to get out of hand arid which could, unless counteracted, undermine our stability.
It is my firm belief that this challenge of the immediate future has not only been heeded and recognized, but is being met by an alert government. There will be no laxity if action is required.
There is another matter which, in my opinion, poses a challenge for the immediate future. Public savings and individual savings together represent an asset which we cannot neglect. Before I develop this matter further, I wish to pay an earnest and sincere tribute to the honorable member for Sturt (Mr. Wilson) for the speech that he delivered in this place last week on the subject of savings. In my opinion, it was one of the finest speeches we have heard on the subject. His research brought out impressive figures which underlined the inadequacy of savings in this country. According to statistics, the run-down in personal savings is quite alarming, and I believe that the honorable member has made a valuable contribution in pointing out, through his findings, some of the very things which have to be met by Government action. Because of the very vital interest that the honorable member for Sturt has in the subject of social services, it is not to be wondered at that, in his speech, he linked this challenge with regard to savings with the challenge of social services, which is the third and final point of challenge to which I want to refer.
The honorable member for Sturt has pointed out - quite correctly, in my opinion - the undesirable influence of the property means test in particular upon the savings of the people. It was . of very great encouragement to me - and I believe to many others in this House - to note in the GovernorGeneral’s Speech words of assurance to the effect that the means test will be considered during this pre-Budget period. I sincerely hope that the Government will come to a decision to remove this penalty on thrift, the result of which, I feel, should be a substantial rise in savings. So here we can see that there are these immediate problems, these things which challenge the nation, and
I suggest that there is a keen desire that the challenge should be met in the most appropriate way.
I think that at this point a few words about age security will not be out of place. I should like to refer to the fact that in Australia, superannuation, in the main, is available only to the salaried worker and the self-employed. I .believe that the wages man is just as keen to provide for his own age security, and would prefer to contribute towards a pension which, of course, would then be his by right, rather than have a hand-out from the Government. Therefore, I say, “ Let there be a move at least towards a contributory scheme, and let us refuse to delay any longer on account of the talk of the tremendous cost which might be involved “. In my opinion, an important aspect of a national contributory scheme, quite apart from its personal security value, is its potential as a counterinflationary influence.
The third section qf my speech, as I indicated at the beginning, is devoted to what I consider to be the need for Australia to broaden her world outlook. Here I want to say that while we put our own house in order we must not neglect our growth in stature as a nation but should participate, to a greater and more sacrificial degree, in solving some of the world’s humanitarian problems. Admittedly, our part in the Colombo Plan has .brought us some satisfaction. Th,e Governor-General’s Speech has this .to say on the subject-
The Colombo Plan has been extended for a further period of five .years and Australia’s contribution will ,dp much to raise the standards of living throughout the area.
This .indicates that Australia is by no. means self-centred, but I dp want to express the conviction that there Ls much more that we should be doing. In the opinion of the Secretary-General pf the United Nations, the most significant event in the .historical evolution of the century may one day be considered to :have been not any of the questions now in the news, but the revolt of three-quarters pf the world’s population - nearly 1, 700,000,000- against the “continued acceptance of poverty, ignorance and ill health.
The peasant in his rice paddy, the fisherman on the lagoon, the hunter in the steaming jungle have awakened from centuries. of lethargy. Underprivileged people everywhere have come to believe that a better life is possible for them and this great awakening has profoundly altered the world situation. I believe that the signs of this type of revolution are all about us. How true it is that no fewer than 22 nations have insisted upon and won independence for their 800,000,000 people in the short period of the 1940’s and the 1950’s. Some 60 nations of the 82 that are members of the United Nations would, by any criteria, be classified as less developed. I direct particular attention to this problem of the less developed nations. I have some information which I find of vital interest, and I share it with the House in the conviction that honorable members, too, will find it equally interesting.
The per capita income in the more prosperous countries increased sharply in the 1950’s. For example, in the United States of America, between 1950 and 1957, it increased by 530 dollars. In that same period, it increased by 485 dollars in Canada, by 371 dollars in Western Germany, by 299 dollars in the Netherlands, and by 360 dollars in the United Kingdom. I took the opportunity to look at the situation, as far as I could calculate it, for Australia, and I should say that the comparative figure is an approximate increase of 400 dollars, so we, too, shared with the major nations of the world in this sharp increase in per capita income. But listen to this! In that same seven years, the per capita income in the less developed countries increased by less than 10 dollars! This rate of increase in the less developed countries is clearly not acceptable to any thinking person. It is indeed a slow rate of increase; as a matter of fact, I submit most earnestly that it is dangerously slow.
The objective to-day should be to help the underdeveloped countries to create self-propelling economies that will yield increasingly high standards of living and sustain internal freedom and political independence from any other power. This, I submit, is the answer to the insidious methods of the Communist countries of the world.
I have read with some degree of interest of the distinct advantage which attaches to the work of multi-national organizations such as the United Nations, which we know.
The less developed countries prefer to deal with such organizations rather than encumber themselves by relationship with one nation. This, I believe, can be seen clearly in the experience of the Expanded Programme of Technical Assistance of the United Nations, now completing its tenth year of operation. Last year, it had a budget of 32,000,000 dollars, but, because it was a United Nations agency belonging to everybody rather than to a single country, it was able to obtain from recipient countries 60,000,000 dollars’ worth of local materials and local effort.
The newest tool for accelerating this economic growth in the less developed countries is the United Nations special fund established by the General Assembly in November, 1958. This special fund is not a lending institution. It provides no investment capital, and it engages in no field operations. Its function is to help to bring into being some of the preconditions for successful private and public investment. If I read correctly an article appearing in the “ United Nations Review “, this special fund is now engaged in thirteen countries. If one had the time to analyse the projects commenced in those thirteen countries, I am sure honorable members would agree that they are indeed representative of the type of development which I have been stressing during my speech to-night. The special fund has operated for only one year to date. With 26,000,000 dollars available in 1959, 116 requests from governments were received. They asked for a total of more than 100,000,000 dollars. The first projects approved included a general development survey in Guinea, a pilot project in watershed management in Israel and a Middle East technical university in Turkey.
It may well be asked whether the tremendous investment which it is estimated will be required to propel upwards the per capita income of the less developed nations can be fully justified. The answer of the experts who have given their attention to this fund is an emphatic “Yes”. There are several primary reasons why that answer can be so emphatic. First, we must do what is possible for our own sakes and for the sakes of our children. There could be no peace in the mind or in the world if the present admiration of the poorer nations for people in the advanced nations turned, because of frustration, to hatred. They expect us to join them in a magnificent enterprise - a new practical humanism on a world scale. As the poorer countries develop, so will their purchasing power and the volume of their trade. Rising prosperity in those countries will ensure rising prosperity elsewhere. Our own development, therefore, is geared directly to theirs.
In conclusion, Mr. Speaker, I want to direct attention to the fact that, as I understand, a request has come to the Australian Government that it make a contribution to this United Nations special fund. I hope that a decision will soon be made to make a most generous contribution to this fund, for the reasons that I have tried to make clear in my statements on the value of the work of the fund. I have brought these important details before the House because I am convinced that we should not allow the majority of the nations which are members of the United Nations to contribute to such a world scheme while we stand aloof. I believe that we shall grow in stature as a nation only when we are prepared to make a significant sacrifice in the interests of under-privileged people elsewhere.
Mr. DALY (Grayndler) 110.31. - The honorable member for Swan (Mr. Cleaver) has given us a classic example of the attitude of the Government to the censure proposal that is before us. No attempt was made by the honorable member, or, for that matter, by other members on that side of the House, to debate the issues on which the Opposition has based its censure proposal. A few moments ago, we listened to a world survey by the honorable member for Swan, but the real issue to be debated is whether or not this Government is deserving of the censure of this Parliament. The fact that the honorable member side-stepped that issue is an indication that the charges made by the Opposition cannot be answered by the Government.
Speakers from this side of the House have shown that the Government has failed the people, that rising prices and inflation are a threat to every citizen in this community and that to-day, because money is worth less, the standard of living of the people has been lowered. We have also shown that the Government is denying trade unionists and others adequate wages. Surely we have shown that the Government: deserves the censure of the Parliament, but the Government has not been prepared to defend the charges we have levelled against it. I mention that in passing before going on to support, very briefly but none the less sincerely, the amendment moved from this side.
In the first place, let me say that I and other honorable members on this side congratulate the Governor-General on his appointment, but I express the regret, shared by more than 70 per cent, of the Australian people, as shown by a gallup poll recently conducted, that the Menzies Government did not see fit to appoint an Australian to that high office, because, in the words of the Prime Minister, there was no Australian fit to take the position. To my mind, there are numerous Australians well fitted to fill that high office, and it is indeed regrettable that this Government has no confidence in those people. Evidently it has no confidence in any of the people on whom it bestowed knighthoods in the not distant past. Let me say that it will not be long before that state of affairs is brought to an end. In our time we will see, with the full approval of the Australian people, the appointment of an Australian to the position of Governor-General.
The censure proposal moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) is designed to bring before the Australian people the real failings of this Government. The Government has put up no defence. What justification can the Government give for intervening in the proceedings before the Arbitration Commission and opposing the application by the workers for a wage increase? Speakers from this side of the House have given figures showing the enormous profits made by companies in this country. The Government itself admits that there is great prosperity throughout the land. Its members and supporters boast about the number of motor cars and television sets, about the amount of profits being made, and about the number of men and women who are employed to-day. Yet when the workers seek an increase of the basic wage, this Government goes to the court in order to deny them an adequate wage increase. There is no talk by the Government now about imposing an excess profits tax on companies which are making exorbitant profits, or about curtailing the profits of those who arc exploiting the people of this country, but when those who have only their labour to sell go to arbitration to obtain wage justice, the Government takes a stand against them, and briefs counsel to appear before the tribunal in opposition to the claim. No wonder the honorable member for Swan ran away from his responsibility and refused to defend that disgraceful policy! It is indefensible, and the honorable member knows it.
We on this side support the proposal to censure the Government because of its inability and failure to give justice to the Australian people. Let us look at the effect of inflation on the wage-earners particularly. Honorable members know that to-day the £1 is worth about 5s., compared to what it was worth in the time of the Chifley Government, yet the present Government is formed of the parties that promised to put value back into the Australian £1. Practically every member sitting on the other side was elected, with the support of the private banking interests, on a policy of putting value back into the Australian £1. But after ten, eleven or twelve years of this Government’s administration the value of the £1 was never less, the value of savings was never less, and the value of pensions was never less. No wonder honorable members opposite are running away from their record and refusing to defend it. They refuse to defend themselves against the charges we are making. Instead of an answer, they give us lectures on aspects of international affairs.
Honorable members opposite have a grave responsibility to take effective steps to halt inflation. When all is said and done, the existence of inflation is not the responsibility of the Labour Party. Members on that side opposed the proposals of the Chifley Government to invest the Commonwealth Parliament with the power to control prices. They stumped Australia from one end to the other saying to the people, “ Let us have competition, and you will find that prices will fall”. I wonder what the Australian people think of that attitude now, when they see the inflationary tendencies to-day.
Let us look at the striking indictment of the Government contained in the first part of the Opposition’s amendment. The Opposition states the first reason for the lack of confidence in the Government by the nation and the Parliament as -
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.
I think that even Government supporters agree that it is impossible to-day for a married couple to obtain a home without paying an exorbitant deposit. Because the cost of building has skyrocketed, many people who require homes urgently cannot afford them. They cannot even afford the deposit that is necessary on a home which would enable them to provide for their families. That is all an indictment of this Government.
Facing a censure proposal such as this, the Government should have ensured that Ministers came forward and, if possible, defended its policies and actions. What possible justification was there for the Government to add to the burden already borne by the community by increasing exorbitantly, extravagantly and outrageously a few months ago the imposts and charges levied by the Postal Department? This action in itself has contributed to inflation. It has given to the Post Office £6,000,000 or £7,000,000 profit at the expense of the Australian people generally. What justification can the PostmasterGeneral give for policies of that nature and for the Government’s attitude which is exemplified in all government departments? Let us take the Department of the Army, for instance. I suppose the Minister for the Army (Mr. Cramer) would be one of the biggest blunderers this country has ever seen. Throughout the years he has been Minister for the Army there have been constant changes of policy. In this Parliament he stood up and said, with the support of the Minister for Defence (Mr. Townley) that there was no intention at all to cast aside the national service training scheme. Yet, within a couple of weeks of announcing that that would not be done, the scheme was abandoned; but not before the Government had spent £150,000,000 on training these men. That scheme was discarded almost overnight.
Ever since this Government came into office extravagant amounts have been spent on defence, and constant and bewildering changes of policy have taken place. To-day, the Prime Minister has announced in the press that hundreds or thousands of men will be discharged from the forces because of redundancy in all categories and places. That is extravagance in the extreme. The Government’s blundering on defence and the way it has spent exorbitant sums are contributing factors to the inflationary spiral which the Government has made no effort to meet. These are matters which I believe should be aired in a debate of this nature. I would like to have heard the Minister for Defence explain the great expenditure that has taken place since the Government came into office, in 1949, with nothing to show for it.
A few years ago Sir Frederick Shedden said that we were absolutely defenceless at that time in spite of an expenditure of about £1,200,000,000 spent on defence. Is it any wonder that inflation runs riot, that the Government finds itself unable to control this evil. These are matters which we would like to see defended in this Parliament. The time at my disposal is too short to allow me to run through all the failings of the Government, but I do say that in defence, in the Post Office, in health and social services and other aspects of administration the Government has been found wanting. The Government’s financial policy and the radical changes made in that policy from time to time have contributed in a major way to increasing the cost of living and lowering the standards of the Australian people and, at the same time, have caused inflation throughout the length and breadth of the country. Why does the Government always blame the workers and their wages when prices rise7 Why does the Government always say that wages are the basic factor in inflation?
Figures were given in this Parliament and reports were presented by various speakers on this side of the House to show that one contributing factor may have been wages, in a small way; but the major one is profits. Manufacturers desire to obtain the maximum profit, irrespective of the effect of such action on the economy. These are factors which the Government does not take into consideration. Instead of endeavouring to peg wages the Government would be better occupied in curtailing the profits that are being made and acknowledging the effects they are having on inflation in the community. That fact has been mentioned throughout this debate by various speakers on the Opposition side. Pertinent points have been put; we have heard industrial speakers and others mention various aspects of the Government’s administration in supporting the censure motion so ably moved by the Leader of the Opposition. But not one attempt has been made by the Government to defend itself. Even the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) in his speech to the Parliament was somewhat flippant and did not take seriously the charges levelled against the Government.
There are people outside to-day, age and invalid pensioners and others, who cannot keep body and soul together because of the loss of purchasing power; and those whose incomes have dropped and whose savings are becoming worth less and less realize the falsity of the promises made in 1949 that this Government would put value back into the £1. It is useless for the Government to say that was ten years ago. This Government rose to power on false pretences. It promised to put value back into the £1 and to maintain the savings and wages of the people. The Government has repudiated that promise and has caused suffering to the vast majority of the Australian people. It has a responsibility which it cannot escape; it cannot sidestep the censure motion which is before the Parliament.
To-day, every section of the community is affected by one particular part of the Government’s policy. I refer to what is termed the “ free medicine “ scheme. It is no longer free. Every person to-day has to pay under that scheme, and after being taxed in order to finance it people are now charged 5s. for each prescription. I thought the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page), who was known as the “ Tragic Treasurer “ knew all the points about these matters, but he never thought of charging the 5s. prescription fee which the present Minister for Health (Dr. Donald Cameron) has introduced as part of the “ free medicine “ scheme. This impost alone is having a great effect on the purchasing power of the community. Pensioners have this impost applied to them, despite the promise of the present Government parties in 1949 that they would introduce a freemedicine scheme. Similarly, this Government promised free medical benefits for pensioners, but to-day even in the same family we find one member receiving free benefits whilst another is denied them. This Government has imposed a savage means test on one section of the community while exploiters and profiteers make unlimited profits at the expense of the people.
My time has nearly expired. To-night I wanted to make these few pertinent points in respect of the censure motion which is before the Parliament. It is the first time for many years that a censure motion has been made in an Address-in-Reply debate. It is unfortunate that a censure motion has to be moved on such an occasion, but so tragic has become the plight of a great section of the Australian people because of the policy of this Government and its general incompetence, that the Opposition had no alternative but to take such action in the hope that the Australian people will replace this wornout, tired and decadent Administration by a Labour government pledged to do a job for the people. I support wholeheartedly the censure motion moved by the Leader of the Opposition, and I hope it will be carried. I hope that this Government, which believes in monopoly control and which is supported by vested interests and represents exploiters and profiteers, will be destroyed as a result of this censure. Only in that way will we have a government which really believes in and does things for the Australian people. Is it not wonderful how all honorable members opposite awaken when we mention vested interests, exploiters and profiteers? Every one of them represents vested interests, and they interject when we speak of them because it is their responsibility to defend those interests. I do not doubt that what I am saying is hurting the Government, but I felt that it should be said at the conclusion of this debate because of the failure of the Government to defend its policy. Only a few Ministers have been prepared to speak in this debate; they are expected to defend the policy of the Government and cannot refuse to do so. I sincerely support the censure motion, as I have no doubt that those who believe in really good government in this country and who believe in justice to all sections of the community support it; but, unfortunately, in this Parliament, only those on the Labour side believe in these things and possibly we will not see many members opposite crossing the chamber to vote for that which they know to be right but which their party machine will not let them support. An honorable member has interjected to say that I talk about party machines. I do not want to be diverted from my remarks, but I have read about the Tasmanian Liberal Party machine. I know that it is a vicious organization. I know that it dictates to members of Parliament. I know that that type of organization in every State tells members opposite to vote against the censure motion because the interests that they represent in those Liberal Party organizations dictate to them in this Parliament, irrespective of what they might have said to-day. So I hope that the censure motion will be carried. I support it whole-heartedly, and I congratulate the Leader of the Opposition on the efficient and able manner in which he presented Labour’s censure motion against this Government.
Question put -
That the words proposed to be added (Mr. Calwell’s amendment) be so added.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. John McLeay.)
Majority . . . . 29
Question so resolved in the negative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Address-in-Reply: Presentation to the Governor-General.
– I have to inform the House that I have ascertained that His Excellency the Governor-General will be pleased to receive the Address-in-Reply at Government House at 5 p.m. on Thursday, 31st March.
I shall be glad if the mover and the seconder, together with other honorable members, will accompany me to present the Address.
Motions (by Mr. Harold Holt) agreed to -
That the House will, at the next sitting, resolve itself into a committee to consider the Supply to be granted to Her Majesty.
That the House will, at the next sitting, resolve itself into a committee to consider the Ways and Means for raising the Supply granted to Her Majesty.
House adjourned at 10.30 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
d asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
d asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
s asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
What was the Australian balance of payments for each of the financial years from 1950-51 to 1958-59, inclusive.
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows: -
The following table summarizes the Australian balance of payments for each of the financial years from 1950-51 to 1958-59.
Further details are given in annual publications entitled “The Australian Balance of Payments” prepared by the Commonwealth Statistician.
t asked the Minister for Social Services, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 22 March 1960, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1960/19600322_reps_23_hor26/>.