23rd Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. John McLeay) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
Mr. E. JAMES HARRISON presented a petition from certain citizens of Australia praying that the House will (a) bring forward emergency legislation to grant an immediate pension increase of £1 a week, provide free medical and pharmaceutical benefits and control prices, and (b) consider increasing the rate of pensions to half the male basic wage rate. The petition is in similar terms to petitions recently presented to the House.
Elevation of Member to the Peerage.
– Is the Prime Minister aware that Lord Casey of Berwick, in his exile in the House of Lords, misses the sight of the honorable member for East Sydney and pines for the sound of his voice? Will the right honorable gentleman do what he can to have the honorable member for East Sydney promoted to the House of Lords?
– I give an emphatic “ No “ to that question.I do not know what my friend Lord Casey has done to deserve what I enjoy so much in this House, and what I hope will long continue.
– My question is directed to the Minister for the Interior. By way of explanation, let me say that recently a sombre socialist from another place made uninformed comment criticizing what he termed the Government’s delay in making Commonwealth-owned land and buildings in the industrial estate at St. Mary’s available for purchase by manufacturers and industrialists. I therefore ask the Minister two questions. Will he state what the present position is with regard to the selling of the property to private enterprise? Is the Government making every effort to dispose of the land and thus ensure that St. Mary’s will become a key area for local employment?
– Yes, Mr. Speaker; the Government is making every effort to dispose of its holdings in the St. Mary’s industrial estate. The tenants were let in at concessional rentals to encourage the establishment of an industrial area. Industries have become established and the Commonwealth Government has no wish to hold on to the land as a landlord. However, in disposing of the property we have agreed to give priority to the existing tenants, as is only right. It then becomes a matter of some difficulty, having encouraged them to go there at concessional rentals, to persuade them to pay a price that may be regarded as a fair valuation. It is not unnatural that their views and the views of the Commonwealth Government as to the price differ and protracted negotiation is necessary.
– Let Hooker auction it; he would fix it!
– I am afraid he would. The position now is that we are proceeding as speedily as possible to arrive at a fair price at which those interested in purchasing will be able to purchase their holdings. Up to the present, about twelve deals have been satisfactorily concluded. I think in two cases the documents have been signed, end in about ten other cases an agreement has been reached although the final documents have not been signed. Negotiations are proceeding with about twenty other firms. About four firms have stated that they do not want to purchase at any time and another half-dozen or so have intimated that they are not in a position to purchase at present. I assure the honorable member that the Government is anxious to give security to those who are now tenants by allowing them to purchase at a reasonable price, and as quickly as possible.
– I wish to direct a question to the Minister for Trade. Did Australia for the first eleven months of the last financial year - that is until 31st May - export to Communist China goods valued at £14,860,000, to Communist Czechoslovakia goods valued at £7,901,000, to Communist Poland goods valued at £10,257,000 and to the Soviet Union goods valued at £12,422,000? Does this represent a total of £45,000,000 worth of exports?
– Order! I think the honorable member is giving information now.
– I will ask my question. Do the figures show an increase of 60 per cent, in trade with these countries compared with a similar period during the previous year? Does the Minister and the Government approve of this trade with Communist-controlled countries?
– I do not know whether the honorable member’s figures are right. If they are right - I am not challenging them - I would not have the slightest doubt that the predominant item of trade represented in the sales by Australia to these countries would be wool. The honorable member ought to know that wool is sold by public auction in this country and has been so sold for 100 years. The only inference that I can draw from the honorable member’s question is that the Australian Labour Party would wish to interfere with the public auction of wool.
– My question is directed to the Prime Minister. Has his attention been directed to the possible loss of trade in coal with Japan owing to the shallow depth of Newcastle port and to the present excessive cost of petrol in northern New South Wales owing to the inability of tankers to use other northern ports such as Coffs Harbour and the Clarence? Will he consider whether the full use of the Commonwealth constitutional power in respect of navigation would enable these coastal ports of New South Wales to play their part in expanding our overseas trade and production?
– My attention has not been directed to this matter, but no doubt my relevant colleagues will know about it, and I will discuss it with them.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether he will ascertain and inform the House what progress is being made by the expert committee appointed toy his Government last year to investigate new uses for coal, especially that in New South Wales? In making this inquiry, will he also ascertain whether it is the intention of the committee to proceed overseas to find out at first hand the great progress being made in other countries and to report on developments overseas? I ask the Prime Minister to obtain that information and to make it available to the House, because it is a matter of the utmost importance, particularly to the people of New South Wales.
– I will obtain the information asked for and make it available.
– My question is directed to the Minister for the Army. Can he inform the House to what extent the reports of psychologists influence the careers of officers in the Australian Army?
– The honorable member knows that we have a psychology corps. Its main purpose is in connexion with recruits and not in connexion with officers at all, but, of course, it has other functions. It can be called upon at any time to advise in connexion with changes of appointments and that sort of thing. But it is purely advisory in character. It has no function in respect of appointments or rejections, or anything of that sort. Its function is simply to advise, and it does not affect officers to any great extent, its main purpose being to advise on training and the selection of recruits.
– Has the attention of the Minister for Territories been directed to the fact that pamphlets opposing blood transfusions are being circulated among the indigenous people of Papua and New Guinea? Can he say whether any legislation is contemplated similar to the New South Wales blood transfusion legislation which provides, among other things, for compulsory transfusions for children in cases in which two doctors declare that such action is necessary to save life?
– I have not received any official information about this matter. I have seen some stories about it in the newspapers. Consequently, not having received an official report, I am unable to say whether the Administrator has in mind the introduction of any legislation of the kind mentioned. I will obtain the information and pass it on to the honorable member.
– My question is directed to the Treasurer. What financial assistance will be given to Western Australia for the conduct of the 1962 British Empire Games? Has any representation been made to him that contributions towards the cost of the games be tax free and, if so, has any decision been reached?
– A request was received that donations towards the cost of the Empire Games be made deductible for income tax purposes, and that was one of the matters considered in connexion with the recently introduced Budget. Deductions of this character, however, have been limited to sums donated for charitable and educational purposes. It would have been a case of introducing a new principle altogether to have permitted deductions to be made in respect of donations for sporting purposes of this kind’. It would be very difficult to see what limits could, logically, be applied once that principle was adopted. It was decided, therefore, not to meet that request. However, the Commonwealth Government has already announced that it will make a grant of £100,000 towards the cost of conducting the games, and, along lines somewhat similar to those that were followed in the case of the Olympic Games, we are deferring the payment of interest by the State Government in respect of money advanced for housing constructed for the purposes of the games. The interest payable on loan moneys used for this purpose will be deferred to a date three months later than the conclusion of the games, by which time the State Government will presumably have arranged for alternate use to be made of the housing.
– Can the the Minister for Labour and National Service confirm, or correct, a statement made quite recently that in 1960 about 170.000 Australian children will attain the age of fifteen, and that in 1962 about 210,000 will attain the same age? If these figures are correct, or nearly correct, and if it is right to assume that 80 per cent, of these young people will move, untrained, into the work force of Australia, what preparations is this Government making to assist in the training of approximately 160,000 new entrants to industry in 1962? Finally, would it be correct to assume that although the Government has employment agencies operating, no planning exists to meet this new pattern of work force growth in Australia?
– I have no reason to think that the first two assumptions about the number of young people moving into the work force during the coming years are inaccurate. In fact, I think the numbers mentioned1 by the honorable gentleman are broadly correct. As to the assumption that 80 per cent, of these people will not be trained, I do not think that that is correct. Most of them will seek some training before they move into the work force, and some will have had sufficient general education to permit them to go into the apprenticeship class and later into the class of fully-trained employees. As to the last part of the question, I think that the honorable gentleman knows that education is the concern of the State governments. In the recent tax reimbursements the Comonwealth has been extremely generous to the States, and they should have enough money to finance technical training. I have been very interested personally in this problem because I think it does concern the State governments and industry, and it could be one of the retarding factors which might affect our development. However, from what I know I can give the honorable gentleman the assurance that most State governments are aware of the problem and, I think, in many instances are doing their best to tackle it.
– I desire to ask the Postmaster-General a question following on one that I asked him yesterday. Has it been estimated that it would take four years to construct a booster station at Darwin for Radio Australia and, if so. why such a long time?
– A period of four years is involved in one of the submissions that have been made to me at various times in this connexion. It was stated that it could take up to four years to construct this station, partly because of the time that it would take to decide on suitable sites and to carry out the necessary planning. Another factor would be the need to spread the expenditure involved over several years because of the financial situation.
– I address my question to the Minister for Trade. Does he approve, or disapprove, of trade with Communistcontrolled countries?
– The policy of the Government is clearly known. The policy of the Australian trade unions in bringing Communists to this country is also clearly known.
– Is the Minister for Primary Industry aware of the plan of a building company to manufacture in Sydney a new type of building brick which will be made from a mixture of sugar, sand and aluminium phosphate? How will this brick compare in cost with other building bricks? How much sugar will be used in each brick? Is there any possibility that manufacture of the new brick will provide a substantial outlet for surplus sugar?
– All that I know about the sugar brick is what I have read in the newspapers.
– Will the Minister for Labour and National Service be kind enough to tell me how many persons were unemployed in the north Queensland towns of Gladstone, Rockhampton, Bowen and Townsville up to 23rd July, 1960? Will he also give me the corresponding figures up to 23 rd August, 1960?
– I will be only too happy to give the honorable gentleman the figures for the end of July. The figures for the end of August are not yet available.
– Will the Minister for Trade tell the House whether the United States tariff on raw wool will be discussed at the forthcoming meeting relating to the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade? Does the Minister believe that there is some chance of having this tariff reduced or, perhaps, abolished?
– It is the intention of the Government to take the opportunity of the forthcoming Gatt session to list the question of the United States level of duties on Australian wool for discussion and, we hope, negotiation with the United States Administration. I am afraid that I cannot predict how the United States Administration will react but, on the balance of trading advantage between the two countries, there is a very strong case indeed for increasing Australian trade opportunities in the United States by lowering duties on greasy wool.
– Did the Treasurer say last week that there had been record construction of houses in Australia? If so, can he reconcile that statement with the number of houses built under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement - the place where the Commonwealth has direct responsibility - seeing that the number has fallen to about 60 per cent, of what it was five or six years ago? Will he say whether he is satisfied with the record of construction under that agreement? If he is not satisfied,’ have any arrangements been made to increase the Commonwealth contribution when the agreement comes up for review next year?
– I did state that, on the information available to me, a record rate of domestic housing and flat construction was occurring in Australia. If the honorable gentleman wishes to have the figures I shall make them available to him. I did not follow that part of his question which related to Commonwealth housing. The objective, surely, is to secure throughout Australia housing adequate to the needs of the increasing population and to reduce any lag which may have occurred over the years of war. We do not want a situation to develop in which housing construction increases to such an extent that a crisis develops for the industry in future, and in which immediate scarcities are created together with rising costs. This would tell against the home purchaser who is looking for a house at the present time. That is one of the reasons behind the Government’s economic planning as illustrated in the current Budget. The contribution to housing finance by the Commonwealth Government has been made known on a number of occasions. Not only is particular provision made for State housing schemes, but £35,000,000 a year is provided for war service homes. In addition, because of the influence that we exert through the Reserve Bank, the funds of the Commonwealth Trading Bank and the Commonwealth Savings Bank are channelled into domestic borrowing for home construction purposes. All in all, I think it is probably correct to say that something in the neighbourhood of £80,000,000 a year is provided, either directly by the Commonwealth Government or by the financial institutions which are linked with it.
– In order to assist in clarifying the purpose of age, invalid and widows’ pensions, I ask the Minister for Social Services whether he will consider a suggestion that these three pensions be renamed, respectively, aged or retired citizen’s allowance, invalid allowance, and widow’s allowance?
– Yes, I am quite prepared to consider the suggestion but, at the same time, I must confess that I have great respect for the traditional titles that are now used.
– Order! Audible conversation in the chamber at any time is contrary to the Standing Orders. Yesterday, during question time, the House was very well-behaved with the result that we had the record number of 29 questions. I ask honorable members to refrain from engaging in audible conversation. By so doing they will assist themselves and the Chair, and, above all, they will comply with the Standing Orders.
– Can the Minister for Territories state whether a decision has been made to proceed with the water reticulation scheme at Tennant Creek which has been under development for some years now? If so, will he state whether the design stage of the work is proceeding or completed? If completed, is it intended to refer the proposal to the Joint Committee on Public Works for investigation and report?
– The position is that we are still awaiting a final report from the investigating experts to the effect that a sufficient supply of water is available. I have no doubt at all that the report, when made, will be favourable. In anticipation of a favourable report that a sufficient quantity of water is available to justify expenditure on a reticulated water supply, my department is already doing what it can to expedite the designing work. Whether the proposal will be referred to a standing committee of this Parliament depends upon the preliminary estimate of the cost of the work. There is an obligation to refer to the Public Works Committee all works costing above a certain sum, unless the Government decides otherwise. As we have not yet received an estimate, the second part of the honorable member’s question cannot be answered exactly.
– I ask the Treasurer whether he has read the report of the address delivered at the opening of the New South Wales Parliament yesterday? Does that speech give a glowing account of the prosperity of that State, and do the Premier’s views agree with those of his colleagues in this House? Did the speech express any fears of strangulation by monopolies and did it forecast legislation to curb hire purchase?
– I regret that I have not yet had the opportunity of reading in full the statement to which the honorable member has referred. One item did attract my attention, however. That was the reference made by the Governor, in the speech prepared for him by the New South Wales Cabinet, to the fact that unemployment in New South Wales was at the lowest point at which it has ever been since 1956.
On other occasions, I have noted with some appreciation the glowing references made by the Premier of New South Wales to the degree of prosperity which is being enjoyed by that State; and I am glad to feel that the increased contributions that we have made by our votes in this Parliament to the financial resources of the State have assisted in its development. Whether those views coincide with the views held by the Premier’s colleagues in this Parliament 1 think would depend on which colleagues one chose. It is not easy to find any unanimity of views among members of the Opposition.
– I direct a question to the Prime Minister. In view of the fact that the Decimal Currency Committee, whose report was tabled yesterday, has urged the Commonwealth Government to announce its decision at the earliest practicable date on whether or not decimal currency will be adopted, and also since the committee has recommended that the date for the introduction of the new system should be the second Monday in February, 1963, can the Prime Minister inform the House of the Government’s intentions on this matter, or when he will be making a statement to the House about it?
– I cannot. I have a slight prejudice in favour of studying the report first. I propose to do that over the week-end. I have no doubt it is a very valuable report, but as the honorable member knows, it gives rise to some very large questions.
– I direct a question without notice to the Acting Minister for Supply. Will the honorable gentleman inform the House whether the Government has any plans for the disposal of equipment and buildings at Talgarno and whether this matter is one for the Australian Government, the United Kingdom Government or both? Can the Minister also state whether any negotiations on defence between the two governments include the use of Talgarno for any purpose?
– I think the honorable member will recall that the Prime Minister stated recently that no commitments which would involve the use of Talgarno had yet been entered into by this Govern ment. As to the first part of the honorable member’s question, I shall obtain such information as I can and let him have it.
– My question is directed to the Treasurer. Is it a fact that the new index that is being used or was suggested by the Commonwealth Statistician to replace the C series index omits the factor of rent? If it is a fact, is the right honorable gentleman able to explain why?
– I shall check whether the facts are as the honorable gentleman has suggested to me. I cannot claim to have the answer available immediately. I should imagine, however, that the new index would seek to give a more realistic presentation of residential costs for the community as a whole. I think the honorable member will be aware that, over the post-war years, an increasing proportion of the Australian community has been occupying homes which are either owned by the occupier or arc in the process of being acquired by him through instalment payments. This is now the more general Australian experience, and I believe it would be fitting that it should be properly recorded in any general index.
– I direct a question to the Attorney-General on the subject of uniform company law. What co-operation has the Commonwealth Government extended in respect of the conferences of State representatives which have considered a uniform company law? What progress has been made towards that commendable objective? What future contribution by the Commonwealth to achieve this new legislation is envisaged?
– The Commonwealth has given every encouragement to the activities of the committee of Attorneys-General of the States. The SolicitorGeneral of the Commonwealth has attended these conferences, and in addition the Commonwealth has made available to the States a highly skilled draftsman to assist in the drafting of the bill in the form upon which the State Attorneys-General finally settle. I can inform the House that my understanding is that the work has progressed to a point where the committee of Attorneys-General hopes to circulate a draft before the end of this year.
– My question to the Minister for Labour and National Service refers to the statement which he made in the House last week in reply to a question relating to the new seamen’s award, which was the cause of protest action by members of the Seamen’s Union. Is it a fact that under the terms of the award a seaman has to work eight hours a day for seven days a week to earn £17 16s., and that to earn an average weekly wage of £28 a seaman has to work 71 hours a week? Is the Minister aware that the whole trade union movement is opposed to the working of excessive overtime in any sphere of activity? Finally - and this is the most important question - does the Minister support the view that in order to earn a wage income to meet to-day’s high living costs workers should work like the galley slaves of ancient Rome?
– I am sure that the statements contained in the first part of the honorable gentleman’s question are incorrect in practice. The award is based upon the working of a 40-hour week. If a person works over the week-end it is essential under the award that he receive equivalent intervals of leave with pay. The second part of the honorable gentleman’s question, which contains the allegation that Australian workmen work like galley slaves, is political. They do not work as hard as we do as members of Parliament. I have no evidence before me that they are working under sweated conditions. In fact, I think that the Australian workers are among the most favoured people in any country in the world.
– Will the AttorneyGeneral consider the possibility of bringing about uniformity between the States in legislation ‘ Mating to oil prospecting leases and rmSts0 I understand that the New Sout’i W” ‘ legislation presents considerably r^-~ ‘culties to oil p o” ~t:n-* company ‘ ‘oes the legislation of Oueensland “>ria. Unfortunf”’’- ~:1 beds are not respecters of State boundaries. I believe that there is an oil-bearing bed running under the Queensland-New South Wales border, and matters would be simplified considerably if legislation in Queensland and New South Wales were complementary.
– Any initiative in a matter of this kind would truly rest with my colleague, the Minister for National Development. I shall convey to him the honorable member’s suggestion, and assist him, if he needs any assistance from me, in the legal sphere.
– I address my question to the Minister for Social Services. In view of the Government’s decision not to increase this year the allowance which is paid to wives of invalid and certain other pensioners, will the Minister examine the possibility of extending the special rate benefit in lieu of the wife’s allowance to (a) wives of invalid pensioners who have young children to rear; (b) wives of invalid and age pensioners in cases where the pensioner’s age exceeds 70 years; (c) women who have to care for more than one aged person: and (d) women who are under pensionable age and are certified to be at least 60 per cent, incapacitated for work?
– The matters that the honorable member has mentioned were duly considered when the Budget was being prepared, and the decisions taken have been announced by the Treasurer in his Budget speech. The consequent amending legislation will be brought down as soon as is practicable.
– Has the attention of the Minister for Air been directed to a press statement alleging the bombing with flares by a Royal Australian Air Force plane of a disabled fishing launch near Townsville? If this statement has been brought to the Minister’s notice, will he outline to the House the facts of the situation?
– I have seen in the press a statement which would be open to the construction that a bomber aircraft involved in an exercise had deliberately made a practice bombing run on a disabled launch. That construction would be quite incorrect. The facts are that a fishing launch was disabled at night in a declared bombing range which it should not have entered and in which aircraft were carrying out exercises in the dropping of flares. The range had not been cleared by launches as is usual before bombing exercises, because only flares were to be dropped. The disabled vessel was in no danger. After the fact that it was missing had been reported by the police, the Air Force looked for it and found it.
– My question, which is addressed to the Treasurer, arises from requests made to me by people who take a great interest in youth movements and who donate trophies for presentation by youth organizations. Will the right honorable gentleman consider exempting such trophies from sales tax, which, in many instances, is rather heavy?
– This is a matter of budgetary policy and it would now have to await the consideration of a later budget. I point out to the honorable gentleman that the reduction of sales tax on silver ware from 25 per cent, to 121 per cent.’ represents a useful reduction in the cost of items of the kind which he has mentioned. I know that one of my colleagues made a substantial purchase of trophies for distribution shortly before the Budget was presented1. He regrets that he did not defer his purchase.
– I wish to ask the Minister for Primary Industry a question. Has he had an opportunity to study the report of the Marketing Committee on Wheat Quality, and has he read the committee’s recommendation that where a State grows both soft and hard wheats efforts should be made to avoid the marketing of mixed wheats? What steps does the honorable gentleman intend to take to have the committee’s recommendations implemented?
– Two reports, one on production and the other on the marketing of wheat, were before the Australian Agricultural Council at its last meeting, in Darwin. It was agreed that because of the different circumstances affecting the varieties grown in the various States, the implementation of the recommendations is more a matter for each State individually. That was the general and unanimous opinion of the Ministers present at the Agricultural Council meeting.
– My question is directed to the Prime Minister. Since Australia was the host country for the last Olympic Games, has the right honorable gentleman considered, or will he consider, sending greetings to the Italian Government wishing it success on the occasion of the beginning of the present Olympic Games in Rome to-day, or alternatively will he send to the athletes who are representing Australia, and who are ambassadors for this country, our best wishes and our hopes for their success?
– Better still, the right honorable gentleman could take the message personally.
– I will take that proposal into account. Australia’s Olympic team was seen off, as the honorable member for Leichhardt may know, by a representative body of people, including the Minister for the Army, who represented me on that occasion and conveyed good wishes to the athletes. Judging by some of the alarmist reports that we have been reading over the last few days, I think they will need all the good luck that we can wish them. But I have the greatest confidence that they will represent us not only with skill, but also with distinction.
– Has the Prime Minister been informed of the profound disappointment of teachers’ professional organizations at the fact that the Budget makes no provision for substantial financial assistance to the States to meet the urgent needs of primary, secondary and technical education throughout Australia? Has his attention been specifically directed to the fact that the Commonwealth Government’s immigration policy has brought more than 470,000 immigrants to this country, and that nearly 500,000 first generation children of those immigrants have been born here? Does the right honorable gentleman agree that this immigration factor, involving substantial changes in both the age and racial composition of the Australian population, imposes special burdens on our educational system which are not provided for in normal financial allocations to the States?
– I am very familiar with the argument put forward by the honorable member. It has been stated in this House many times. The honorable member has apparently overlooked the fact that in the financial provisions for this very year there is a substantial increase in the amount provided for the States. He might well bear in mind that a considerable proportion of the amounts spent by the States on education at all levels comes from the Commonwealth.
Expenditure on Maintenance and Services.
– My attention has been directed to articles recently appearing in the press regarding certain services and maintenance works in Parliament House which come within the functions of the Joint House Department. As honorable members know, that department is the joint administrative responsibility of the President and the Speaker. The nature of the articles is such that I feel some facts must be plainly stated. The most recent, which concerns the cost of meals served in the Parliamentary Refreshment Rooms, was written in terms which are misleading and can only give rise to public misunderstanding of the work of the Parliament and its members. Certain figures relating to charges for meals have been used in such a way, including an incomplete comparison with an unnamed hotel in Canberra, that it would appear that members, Parliamentary officers, and other staffs are receiving meals at an improperly low rate. At this point, I should mention that the articles omit any reference to the fact that press representatives in the gallery, and their staffs, also obtain meals in the refreshment rooms at the same prices.
The public facilities for meals in Canberra are limited and are not freely available as in State capitals. They are widely dispersed and, in most cases, a considerable distance from Parliament House. It has long been accepted that the efficient running of the Parliament requires that members and staffs, and the press, should be able quickly and conveniently to obtain meals in the building during meal hours on sitting days. The nature of Parliament is such that sittings are irregular and no true comparison with an hotel or restaurant conducting a regular and steady business throughout the year can be made. That being the case, it must be realized that, to maintain an efficient service during both sessional and recess periods, it is necessary to employ a permanent nucleus of staff, and there are times during sessions when it is necessary to retain casual staff beyond normal requirements - that is, during short sitting breaks. Anything less could lead to administration breakdowns at critical times.
In all the circumstances, there is an added cost peculiar to the sittings of Parliament in Canberra. It would be obviously wrong that the individual, whether he be a member, an officer, or a pressman, should be required to pay for a meal at a rate which would meet all the costs. Successive governments, irrespective of party, have recognized this by subsidizing the cost of wages of staff engaged in the provision of meals. This arrangement does not apply to the bar service, which must stand on its own feet. In the result, the charge for meals covers the cost of food plus overhead, and is at a figure which is considered to be neither disproportionately excessive nor absurdly low.
There is, also, I understand, an erroneous belief that charges for drinks in the refreshment rooms are considerably lower than ordinary retail prices. In real fact, they are the equivalent to retail prices ruling in Canberra hotels, which are, of course, higher than those in the State capitals.
I now turn to an article in the Melbourne “Herald” of 12th August, 1960, to which the gravest exception must be taken. It relates to maintenance works in the building. Figures of expenditure over the last five years are quoted, these being substantially correct, but from that point, the article contains statements which are inaccurate misleading, and untrue.
A question is asked whether proposed expenditure is sufficiently scrutinized, the basis of this being an alleged disclaimer by the Prime Minister of any knowledge why the King’s Hall floor was replaced. It would be well known to the writer of the article - and I shall refer to this again later - that the President and’ the Speaker are the custodians of Parliament House and responsible for its maintenance. No expenditure is approved unless professional and technical advice from the Department of Works and other competent authorities is obtained and considered.
It is then stated that, a few years ago, a new minor authority was created to care for maintenance in the building, from which has grown increased expenditure. This obviously refers to the Joint House Department, a department which was established for this purpose in 1922, and the functions of which have not since changed to any material extent.
The article purports to give substance to its claims of unscrutinized and increasing expenditure on the part of the supposed new authority by making a series of untruthful statements and inferences. In brief, these were that perfectly serviceable chrome plumbing fittings had been replaced by more modern ones, that division bells and clocks which had been effective for 30 years had been needlessly replaced, that new electrical wiring and speakers for the paging system had been installed in place of equipment the only defect of which was long service, and, by inference, that there was no reason for maintenance work on the roof of the building and on the King’s Hall floor.
The facts are quite otherwise. The only major plumbing items which have been renewed during recent years are corroded water pipes, and taps which had become worn out after renewed re-seating of valve faces over some 30 years. After renewal, inspections confirmed the necessity for this work.
In 1956, the Department of Works reported that there was a grave fire risk due to deterioration through age of electrical wiring insulation, that there was a danger to persons due to lack of earthing of fittings put in when the building was constructed, that circuits were breaking down due to ageing and that distribution boards had become overloaded. The department recommended complete rewiring, and also that the division bell and clock system, which had been the subject of repeated breakdowns through age, be replaced, and that this work be carried out over a period of five years. This work obviously had to be done. The paging system was not replaced but merely improved to remove certain unsatisfactory features arising from unsuitable location.
A critical examination of the King’s Hall floor by technical experts, including those of the Department of Works and the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, showed that this floor had become a potential hazard through wear. Continual patching had become necessary and was proving expensive and ineffective. In view of this, approval was given for its necessary replacement. When the old floor was taken up there was convincing evidence of the necessity for this work.
In regard to the roof, experience over many years had shown that the existing flat bituminous surface was not suitable in the extreme climatic conditions of Canberra and that the necessarily expensive patching was uneconomic. The Department of Works recommended that a new roof, using inexpensive materials, be superimposed. . The proposal and plans were critically examined before any approval for expenditure was authorized. The results following one of the wettest months on record have been eminently satisfactory and have completely justified this expenditure. I might add that this is not the only public building in Canberra which has had to be treated in this way.
It will be realized that a building such as Parliament House, after 30 years’ service, reaches a stage when renewal of services becomes unavoidable. I am informed that at no time did the writer of the article approachany member of the Joint House staff forpurposes of verification. Even so, it isdifficultto understand how a pressman whohasbeeninCanberraformanyyears and int associated withthe building duringthisperiod, could writeanarticle of this kind.
I have been somewhat reluctant to take up the time of the House in these matters, but as they are ones which come under the joint jurisdiction of Mr. President and myself, I feel that I have a responsibility to correct a type of misrepresentation with which, unfortunately, we are becoming increasingly familiar but which, whatever its intention, must do damage to the institution of Parliament, to its members, and ultimately to the people whom they represent.
– I wish to make an explanation ire a matter which affects me personally.
– Does the honorable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes, Sir, I do. An article in to-day’s “ Sydney Morning Herald “, referring to a debate that took place here last night, said that the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Killen) and I had spoken with two security officers at Sydney airport last Tuesday. I want to say that there is absolutely no truth in this statement. At no time prior to my becoming a member of this House or since, have I had any contact with the Australian Security Intelligence Organization nor any individual connected with it. The statement alleges that this conversation took place last Tuesday. I want to give the lie direct to that allegation, because last Tuesday I was in Canberra, having arrived on the Monday on the early morning plane to attend to my duties as a member of the Parliament and a member of the Foreign Affairs Committee. I did not return to Sydney until the Friday. Therefore, it was impossible for me to have spoken to any security officer at Mascot airport last Tuesday, and I did not do so then or at any other time.
– I wish to make a personal explanation, Mr. Speaker.
– Does the honorable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– I do, Sir, and I will take up the time of the House for but a brief moment. I join with the honorable member for Phillip (Mr. Aston) in protesting at the gross misrepresentation by a newspaper which purports to be a responsible newspaper. The measure of falsity of this charge may be judged from the fact that I was not in Sydney last Tuesday. I travelled from Brisbane to Canberra by car with my wife, and the nearest point I was to Sydney was at Windsor which, I understand, is 30 or 40 miles away.
In Committee of Supply: Consideration resumed from 24th August (vide page 380), on motion by Mr. Harold Holt -
That the first item in the Estimates under Division No. 101 - The Senate - namely, “ Salaries and allowances £33,650 “, be agreed to.
Upon which Mr. Calwell had moved by way of amendment -
That the first item be reduced by £1.
.- The great challenge to Australia to-day arises from the need to stabilize our national economy. This is the concern of every citizen. Though we may say that our national income is becoming larger each year, I am quite certain that it is getting into fewer hands and many people are not getting their fair share. The Government claims that the Budget is the instrument that it uses to adjust this fault in our economy. The big problem is that prices and charges are rising all the time. The common term used to describe this condition is “ inflation “. Inflation is a disease and a cure must be found for it. However, the Government is not applying any of the remedies that are available.
The Australian Labour Party believes that the way to stabilize the economy is to have authority in the Parliament to control prices and costs, as well as other factors contributing to inflation. We should have full power to control such monetary aspects as interest rates and capital issues, and to control companies and monopolies. We know that this power is not vested in the Government.
The Government is always talking about curing inflation, but it never applies any effective remedy. One of my colleagues said that the Menzies inflation is like a thief in the night, because the value of money is diminishing all the time. The value of money left in a savings bank is destroyed. If £100 were left in a savings bank for twelve months, its value would be reduced, even though interest may have accrued. Inflation also destroys the value of insurance policies. Many people, during their working lives, have insured themselves for an amount which they considered would keep them in reasonable security in their retired life. If one insured oneself for £5,000 40 years ago it is safe to say that that £5,000 would not be worth £1,000 to-day. Inflation destroys the value of wages, salaries or any other income, pensions, superannuation payments and child endowment, which has not been increased for at least twelve years; and it destroys the income of the primary producer by increasing his costs of production. As a result of inflation, people pay higher council and shire rates on their homes or property and fantastically high prices for homes and land, which are almost beyond the purchasing power of the ordinary person dependent upon wages or salary; the small shopkeeper or retailer has been forced out of business by take-overs, so that small businesses are becoming fewer and fewer and are falling into the hands of big monopolistic retailers who are destroying competition, until to-day competition hardly exists at all; people are paying record high postal and telephone charges and have to pay 5s., which they did not have to pay last year, for each medical prescription, and they have to pay record high fares to and from work. This scourge of inflation is forcing Australia out of the world markets upon which we depend so much. We are unable to compete on world markets because of the high cost of production of our goods.
I ask: Where is this going to finish? We know that the purchasing power of the £1 to-day is only about 5s., a quarter of its purchasing power in 1939. The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) and his Ministers claim that our economy is balanced on a razor’s edge. I am certain that if the present position continues - and nothing is being done to improve it - a collapse must occur and our standard of living must decline still further. Our living standards will go down just as speedily when that collapse does occur as the cost of living is now going up. The Prime Minister, of course, boasted in 1949 that he had a plan. It is important to refer to what he said at that time, because those were his own words. Speaking about prices, before the election in that year and ‘before he became Prime Minister, he said -
Make me the Prime Minister and all these ills which exist will disappear. . . . Perhaps our greatest charge against the financial and economic policy of the present Government-
That was the Labour Government under the late Mr. Chifley in 1949- is that while it has paid a great deal of attention to increasing the volume and circulation of money, it has largely neglected the problem of what and how much that money will buy.
That was the problem at that time, but it has not been solved by the Prime Minister. He said that the housewife knew how grievous the problem was; and she still knows how grievous it is. Then he said that the Commonwealth Statistician conservatively estimated that the purchasing power of the £1 of 1939 fell to only 12s. 2d. in 1949. He added-
But on the true cost of household requirements it would be nearer the mark to say that it is worth only 10s. The greatest task, therefore, is to get value back into the £1, that is, to get prices down.
Tt is claimed that the cost of living since then has increased by 98 per cent. If that is the case - I am prepared to accept the figures given by the Statistician - the pound note is worth practically nothing to-day; and we will soon be living on shadows. The Prime Minister also said, in 1949 -
High prices are not a cause; they are a result of an abundance of spending money and an insufficient supply of things to buy. … A production policy, which I have already discussed, is therefore the essence of price control.
The right honorable gentleman said that his Government would increase production to a point where the regulating factor in the economy would be supply and demand; but we know that that has not been done and that the menace is still with us. He went on to say that the Labour Party at that time claimed that it was effectively controlling the economy by exercising the Commonwealth’s defence power which authorized1 the Federal Government to control prices. Labour’s opponents, of course, claimed that in 1949 the cost of living had increased by about 9 per cent, and said that fact indicated that price control was a failure at that time. However, it must be remembered that in 1948 the power of the Commonwealth to control prices was challenged in the High Court, and when that challenge was upheld monopolies immediately raised prices and costs, ignoring anything that any government could1 do, because they had the High Court on their side which said that this
Parliament had no power to prevent them from doing so. The Labour Party still claims that if this Parliament had that power we would be able to defeat the menace of inflation. Even if supporters of the present Government were sincere in their thinking in 1949 and wanted to stabilize the economy, they have failed completely in that respect. I am just as certain also that things are going the way this Government wants them to go, because they are going the way the monopolistic capitalist wants them to go, and this Government represents that section of the community.
I would like now to examine some of the happenings which are contributing to inflation at the present time and which will help it continue into the future. One of those factors is that take-overs and restrictive trade practices are operating within our community. This Government poses as being in favour of free enterprise and competition, but every housewife and every other person who does any purchasing anywhere knows that competition does not exist to-day. One finds that the price of a pound of butter, a tie, a pair of boots or a pound of steak is the same in all shops everywhere. There is no such thing as competition. Business concerns are growing and are making bigger and bigger profits. In this respect we invariably refer to General Motors-Holden’s Limited. That company was supposed to come into being in order to produce an Australian car at a price which almost every Australian could afford, but it is not really in competition with other motor manufacturers. It could sell its car at a much lower price, but it does not wish to compete in order to make prices reasonable. The Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited is making bigger profits now than ever it did before. Then we have the hire-purchase companies, which are making huge profits. The latest statistics show that the known hire-purchase debt in this country is £416,000,000. That does not include the hire-purchase debt to retailers who finance their own hire-purchase transactions with their customers. So it is safe to say that the hire-purchase debt in Australia would be about £500,000,000. The people who have bought goods on hire purchase hold them only while they have jobs and are able to make the repayments. If they lost their jobs to-morrow the facilities or amenities which they have in their homes, and which they have bought on terms, would disappear if they were unable to keep up the payments. The Government takes no action to control the activities of the hire-purchase companies.
The private trading banks are also engaged in the hire-purchase field. It is well known that they hold many shares in hire-purchase companies. One of the Government’s remedies for inflation at the moment is credit restriction. This kind of restriction, we know, applies in respect of normal banking activities, but there is no restriction on the hire-purchase activities of the banks. People who are refused credit in what used to be regarded as normal and legitimate banking transactions are referred by the banks to their hire-purchase sections or one of their subsidiaries in the hirepurchase field. Of course, when they borrow in that way the customers of the banks have to pay interest at the rate of 10 per cent, per annum on the loan. This is an almost impossible rate of interest foc anybody to pay and, because it is at a flat rate over the full period of the loan, the borrower ultimately pays in interest almost 20 per cent, of the amount of the loan.
Another monopoly which is growing up in this country is Hooker’s.
– -Crooker’s if you like. Hooker’s is becoming the biggest monopolist in the field of land speculation. In the metropolitan areas in particular the company controls land for home building that is needed by the workers. A person wanting to purchase a block on which to build a home, or a newly married young couple wanting a block on which to build their first home, and having only the husband’s wages as income, cannot do so for less than £1,000.
Another sorry aspect of these monopoly companies is that the bulk of the great profits they are making go overseas, because the great majority of the shareholders are foreigners. The profits do not remain in this country, although they are made here. They go to people who reside in other countries. To judge from the arguments of members on the Government side, profiteering is a virtue. But they regard a claim by the trade unions, on behalf of their members, for an increase of wages based on the increased cost of living, as disclosed in the C series index, as a crime. So there you have iti Profiteering is a virtue, and a claim for wage justice has become a crime.
In the ten and a half years in which this Government has been in office it has not achieved one beneficial effect from its plans for stabilizing the economy. It just shifts its ground from one place to another. It robbed Peter last year to pay Paul. Last year it reduced income tax by a flat rate of ls. in the £1. This year, as the honorable member for Barton (Mr. Reynolds) mentioned, it is re-imposing that ls. in the £1. So Peter is getting back what was taken from him last year. It is now going back into the “ peter “. But Peter will find that next year his pockets will be emptied again. I say this deliberately, because next year is an election year, and I am certain that the Government is planning for a surplus in the present Budget so that in next year’s Budget, which will be brought down before the general election, it will be able to give concessions to the taxpayers and the recipients of social services in order to buy their votes. This will be done in order to keep this iniquitous Government in power. The Government’s planning for a surplus this year could, I think, properly he described as preparation for an act of bribery. This year’s surplus will be used next year as a bribe. Admittedly the pensioners will obtain, next year, the justice that they are not getting this year.
I should like to read a few passages from the Treasurer’s Budget speech. He said -
In its Budget for this year the Government aims to achieve a surplus of total receipts over total expenditures. To make this possible it fs keeping expenditure commitments to a minimum and it proposes also to increase taxation and charges sufficiently to yield an additional £40,900,000 in a full year and £36,900,000 in 1960-61.
Thus, in the matter of the Budget, the Government is following through the broad programme of economic policy measures announced by the Prime Minister last February.
The policy measures must have been very unimportant, because I do not think any one can remember what they were. The Treasurer continued -
Honorable members will recall the main courses of action then proposed. One was to strengthen resistance to the rise in prices and costs and, in particular, to prevent large increases in the factors which affect costs generally. That was why the Government intervened in the basic wage proceedings and advised the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission of some of the consequences of granting further large wage increases before the economy had had time to absorb those made not long before.
In effect, the intervention of the Government in that case was a straight-out direction to the court that it must not increase wages, although the C series index clearly showed that the cost of living had increased. While on the one hand the Government is doing nothing to prevent prices from rising, it prevents wages from doing so. Last night I heard a Government supporter say that the increases of prices and costs were not entirely due to the wage structure. He said that there was great inefficiency on the managerial side. This year a convention of business men from all over the world met in Canberra. One of those men said deliberately that in Australia the wage factor in the cost of living was not the real cause of increased prices - that there was inefficiency and bad management occurring in industry.
One of the Government’s remedies for the menace of inflation is, in order to draw off spending power, to take back more than £40,000,000 in taxes that were remitted last year. The Government also proposes to ask the banks to restrict credit. It also took the action that I mentioned, to peg wages. I suppose that that will continue. Its other action was to remove import licensing so that more goods could come from overseas to flood the Australian market thus, according to the Government, keeping down the cost of goods and services of local origin. As I pointed out, that will not prevent prices from going up, because the prices paid by the consumer are controlled by big business, which has a monopoly in Australia. Competition, as such, does not exist. So I say that these devious means that the Government is proposing in order to reduce the demand for goods will not succeed. I believe the whole proposition to be very ridiculous.
In the few minutes left to me I should like to point to some of the things that are occurring in regard to taxation. As we all remember, the parties now in office promised in 1949 that, if elected, they would reduce taxes. The Prime Minister said in his 1949 policy speech that he would review taxation in every field, both direct and indirect. We know that that did not occur. The national income has increased, and naturally there would be an increase in the tax yield, in figures. That, however, does not obscure the fact that after having made that statement in 1949 the Government, in 1950, in the first Budget it brought down, increased taxes. The harvest in that year was £471,000,000. According to the Budget, the total yield from taxation for the current financial year will be over £1,200,000,000, or more than double the amount to which I have just referred. Total revenue collections provided for in the Budget of 1950 were £532,000,000 and in this one the corresponding figure is a record amount of £1,800,000,000. So we can see that the Government has not kept its promises, even in respect of reducing taxation.
Let us look at the incidence of indirect taxation and compare the present position with that of 1950. In 1950, indirect taxation represented 34 per cent, of total taxation. In this Budget, indirect taxation represents 44 per cent, of total tax income. It will be noticed how these figures have increased. In 1950, customs duty amounted to £60,000,000. This year, it is estimated at approximately £98,000,000. In 1950, excise duty amounted to £64,000,000 and in this Budget the figure is £263,000,000. Sales tax was maintained as a temporary measure by the Labour Party to help finance the war effort and to defend Australia. The figure for sales tax in the 1950 Budget was £35,000,000 but in this Budget it is £180,000,000. So it can be seen that in that field taxation has increased very steeply.
In the 1950 Budget the figure for payroll tax was £22,000,000 but in this Budget it is £60,000,000. The Labour Party believes that this tax is being unfairly applied in certain fields. We believe that local government bodies and State railways should not have to pay pay-roll tax because those instrumentalities do not operate for profit but merely to render a service to the community.
The amount of indirect taxation provided for in the 1950 Budget was £181,000,000 but in this Budget it is £601,000,000. This increase has mainly affected wage and salary earners. These people are being socked for their recreation and their relaxation. Those who enjoy a glass of beer are paying £112,000,000 in excise duty and I think it is mostly the workers who have a glass of beer. The whisky drinkers are paying £9,000,000. Those who like to smoke pipes are paying £14,000,000 and those who prefer cigarettes and cigars are paying £66,000,000. It is unfortunate that it is the same group of people who are being most affected by all forms of taxation.
According to the last report of the Commissioner of Taxation, people earning wages and salaries of up to about £2,000 per annum - in other words almost the full range of wage and salary earners - are paying about 95 per cent, of total sales tax. These people also contribute the greatest proportion of income tax revenue. Unfortunately, they are in spheres of occupation in which they cannot pass on taxes to others. So the wage plug not only has to pay most of the direct taxation but he has also to pay the greater part of indirect taxation which is passed on to him by the retailer or wholesaler.
I would like to finish by repeating my opening remarks: The Menzies Government was elected in 1949 to cure inflation. Figures quoted from every authority on this subject show that the Government has failed completely to do this. The Government admits that our national economy is balancing on a razor’s edge and that this represents a threat to our standard of living. I feel that because of the failure of the Government to take the proper action our standard of living and social security are standing in jeopardy.
– If you strip aside all the persiflage talked by the Opposition on this Budget you come to one dominant argument which may briefly be expressed as follows: This Parliament cannot adequately control inflation; no Parliament can adequately control inflation unless it has greater legislative powers than this one has. I do not think that I am doing any of my friends on the Opposition an injustice by expressing the argument in that form. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell), on Tuesday evening, with characteristic modesty, said that, speaking for the Labour Party, he could assure this Parliament, the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) and the people of Australia, that he could answer for between 40 per cent, and 43 per cent, of the Australian people at a referendum. Then, with his characteristic flair for devilment he said to the Prime Minister, “ I know your stocks are a little low but don’t you think, perchance, you would be able to count on 8 per cent, of the Australian people?” I think I saw the Prime Minister nod approvingly at that.
There are several things which one would like to say on this argument that this Parliament must have greater legislative power in order to adequately cope - I hope that split infinitive does not jar any one’s nerves - with inflation and also on the argument that if greater powers were sought by this Parliament the people of Australia would grant them. May I take the second argument and look at -it very briefly in an historical fashion?
I think that there have been 24 referendums in the Commonwealth and only on four occasions have the Australian people said, “ Yes.” So the odd’s in favour of such a vote are four in 24. The odds are not at all impressive. Then there is this extremely smooth, glib, attractive, but completely indefensible argument: “ Oh, yes, but if you have every political party in Australia plumping for the one thing there will be no doubt about the outcome of the referendum “. That simply is not the case. In the 1930’s every political party in Australia vainly supported a plea to give to the national Parliament power to legislate with respect to air navigation - namely, a most innocuous fount of power with which to legislate. I hope that we will hear no more of this nonsense that, merely because every party supports an affirmative vote, the Australian people will be stampeded into embracing a proposal with loving care and affection. I come now to the second point in their argument - that if you do have complete legislative power you can adequately cope with all inflationary problems or, for that matter, all economic problems and social evils. Take the United Kingdom Parliament as an example. With very few reservations, that Parliament has a completely unfettered legislative warrant.
It can legislate with respect to almost anything and everything. If you follow the peculiar arguments of the Leader of the Opposition and some of those who support him on some occasions, the essence of it is that if you have complete legislative power there will be no inflation. Of course, that argument is completely untrue and certainly not in accord with historical fact. In the years between 1953 and 1956, in the United Kingdom where the Parliament exercises complete legislative control, there was an average increase of 12 per cent, in prices. In New Zealand, another country where Parliament has virtually unfettered legislative warrant, there was also an increase of 12 per cent. In Australia, the country which is so hamstrung, according to the Leader of the Opposition, there was an increase of only 8 per cent, in those years. If we go further and take the years 1956 to 1959, we find an increase in prices of 7 per cent, in the United Kingdom, 11 per cent, in New Zealand, 9 per cent, in Canada and 11 per cent, in Australia. I cite those percentages not with any sense of pleasure but in order to refute this childish, ill-considered argument that to cope with the problem of inflation you must have complete legislative power.
Having said that, may I make a few fleeting references to the speech of the Leader of the Opposition? It is extraordinary that the leader of a great political party, commanding a great political tradition, should talk on this Budget for so long, say so much and yet ignore the most dramatic social service advancement in the course of a generation. I refer here to the proposal for a moderation of the means test. Admittedly, it may be a matter for individual judgment as to whether it is the most dramatic social service advancement in a generation, but my view is that it is. I find it also to be the view of many people in this Parliament and outside this Parliament, and one would have thought that at least the honorable gentleman would have paused, even for a fleeting moment, to acknowledge its existence. But he ignored it completely. In his speech he used phrases, words, sentiments and expressions that, to my mind, seemed to suggest he was a man suffering from the fear of death. The Greek God of Death was Thanatos. The Leader of the Opposition seemed to be a man suffering from thanatophobia. He is not in the chamber at the moment, but I hope some one will tell him that even though none of us can look either the sun or death in the face his fate is still assured for he is a kindly gentleman, well-disposed, of good nature and of good humour. Wherever he goes, he will find himself in excellent company.
But I doubt very much whether that is the cause of his distress. I think that rather than thanatophobia in a physical sense, his complaint is thanatophobia in a political sense. “ The Angel of Death “ is a wellknown phrase. The honorable gentleman’s Budget speech was sombre, more like the speech of an undertaker. It was not couched in the language of a person stirred to activity by a high regard for life. One wonders precisely what he was getting at. Obviously, the Labour Party is determined upon a sort of political mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. It is not completely dead; life is still there, and its members think that if they can get some air injected into them they will come to a new form of activity.
What is their proposal for this political mouth-to-mouth resuscitation? They propose that there should be greater collaboration with the extremist political element in this world, that we should talk in a friendly way with the people’s representatives from other places. The upshot of all this is that instead of reviving the body politic of the Australian Labour Party, they will finish by destroying it completely.
The second major prong, if one can flatter their argument by so styling it, relates to taxation. I do not propose spending a great deal of time on this, because it has been most adequately dealt with already by honorable members on this side of the chamber. The coup de grace so far as that argument is concerned will be administered by other people. At least we are all poujadists.
None of us believes genuinely in taxation, but while it may be attractive on a temporary political basis to plug for wholesale taxation concessions such an attitude requires no sense of responsibility. In the long run, it will be found to be an irresponsible and grievous policy to adopt.
In the time left to me, I want to make some specific reference to a matter that has attracted the attention of the whole world in the course of recent weeks. This Budget provides for the expenditure of a large sum of money on defence in the physical sense - on guns, ships, planes and so forth. But it does not provide - no Budget can do so - for defence measures in the spiritual, moral and intellectual sense, if the committee will forgive me for saying so. I believe that it is defence in that sense to which this Parliament and all free people should give some attention. As I see the position - and here I assure the committee that what I am about to say does not represent the views of a pessimist - so many of the great qualities of our people are being eroded by things that seem to walk in company with wickedness in high places.
Let me refer to the Powers trial and the way in which it is destroying the sense of responsibility in this connexion in democratic countries. I turn first to the “ Sydney Morning Herald “ of 19th August last which contained the sort of thing that I ask the committee to consider. I refer to an article written by one Lionel Daiches, Q.C. A little block within the article reads -
Mr. Daiches, 49, English writer, broadcaster and author of a book on the Soviet legal system, has been accredited by Russia to attend Powers’ trial in Moscow as an observer.
– What proposal are you speaking to?
– I am speaking to the defence proposal, although I doubt very much, even if I put a rocket in your head, whether you would ever be able to see the connexion. I was impressed by Mr. Daiches’ credentials, especially when I saw that he was the author of a book on the Soviet legal system. So I thought the least I could1 do would be to get Lionel Daiches’ book. The first point was that he was invited to the Soviet Union by the U.S.S.R.-British Society. As for the publication being a book on Soviet law, I could imagine nothing less like it. It is the sort of thing that you could read in a couple of hours and consists of about 200 pages. Of those 200 pages, twenty pages are devoted in a most superficial way to an examination of Soviet court proceedings. What is the effect on people of seeing the statement I have quoted in a newspaper that has grown up with Australia - a paper with a wonderful tradition, a provocative paper that has been known to many generations? This was the newspaper which stated that Mr. Lionel Daiches was the author of a book on the Soviet legal system. What he said, inter alia, concerning Powers was this -
I could see no sign of his having been brain washed, but then, I do not know what the signs of brainwashing are.
That is a profound statement. I did not see any elves in the woods to-day, but then I do not know what an elf looks like. Then he continued -
What followed I can describe only as astonishing because I found that the preliminary proceedings of this Moscow trial were almost identical with those of a British Court-martial.
Then I believe one is obliged to consider the effect of the sort of twisted Hollywood performance that has been given to this whole sorry affair by many institutions throughout the free world. What is the truth regarding the Soviet legal system? Reading the statements of Lionel Daiches one would think that he wrote with an authority approaching that of Professor Lipson, a specialist in Soviet law and a professor of Yale University. One would have expected a book on the Soviet legal system of the quality of Vyshinsky’s work, “ The Law of the Soviet State “. So that there will be no misunderstanding as to where the contrast lies between the British and Soviet systems of law, may I impose on the committee’s patience for a few minutes to read from Vyshinsky’s book the following passage: -
The bonds joining court and prosecutor’s office are of the closest possible character and they act united by an indissoluble and organic bond.
I would ask any first-year law student to say whether that is correct. Vyshinsky continued -
The task of justice in the U.S.S.R. is to defend from encroachments of every character . . . The Soviet court is radically different from any court to be found in exploiter states.
Finally, Vyshinsky stated -
Inseparably integrated with the court is the Soviet prosecutor’s office, an organ of state authority obligated to oversee that socialist legality is observed.
Having said that, Mr. Chairman, may I on the issue of the difference between the Soviet system of justice and the British system of justice refer the committee to this excerpt from the Soviet criminal code -
Violation of labour discipline by transport employees . . . delay in despatch of trains and/or ships … is punished by deprivation of liberty for the term of up to ten years.
Am I to understand that Mr. Healy, the arch-Marxist professor in this country, or Mr. Elliott, the secretary of the Seamen’s Union, would be put into gaol for ten years every time they held up a ship? Sir, they would see out their days in gaol. They would have been in gaol many years ago. There, in one instance, is surely evidence of the difference between the Soviet system and the British system. Now I move to the U2 conflict because this does involve the peace of the world and the defence of Australia. There is a mass of evidence that builds up an impressive and overwhelming case that the U2 incident represents the greatest hoax of the twentieth century. I invite the committee to consider not my words, but those of Mr. Khrushchev in this matter. I propose to recite from his speech to the fifth session of the Supreme Soviet of this year. It was a 6,000-word speech that I would recommend all honorable gentlemen interested in this matter to read. I shall read the excerpts, and their relevance can be seen later. Mr. Khrushchev said -
In fact the ‘plane flew at a great altitude and it was hit by the rocket at an altitude of twenty thousand metres. Besides aerial cameras, the plane carried other reconnaissance equipment for spotting radar networks.
Not only do we have the equipment for that plane, but we also have the developed film, showing a number of areas of our territory.
According to his statement (Powers’), he is a First-Lieutenant in the U.S. Air Force.
In his depositions, Powers mentioned the names of several officers he had served with at the American military base in Turkey.
Finally, and this is most important, he said - and I ask honorable members to note this -
When our anti-aircraft rocket battery intercepted and brought down the ‘plane, the pilot, and please note, was not ejected by a catapult, but left through the upper canopy.
Some one is lying. It is impossible for a person wearing a partial pressure suit designed on the capstan system to leave an aircraft at that height unless he uses the ejector seat. Powers was wearing a partial pressure suit. One might ask how, in fact, did Powers get out of the disabled aircraft at 68,000 feet without using the ejector seat. One would be interested to know what aggregation of aero-dynamic forces causes the fall of an aircraft from 68,000 feet but still leaves after the crash many parts of the fuselage and wings virtually intact. Then, when the U2 aircraft was shot down, the world was shown photographs of an aircraft which any person with a nodding acquaintance with aircraft recognition could see at once was not a U2. lt happened to be a TU104. The designer of the U2 specifically stated that the photograph was not of a U2; so another photograph was substituted. Then, Sir, you have this consideration: One would be interested to get a technical explanation of how the camera of the aircraft and, above all, the film, survived the crash without damage.
Having said that, I come to another interesting aspect of this matter in the struggle for survival and in the great quest for peace. I refer now to the Soviet’s attitude to sovereignty in space. In 1919 a convention was held in Paris which drew up an international agreement relating to sovereignty over countries. The Soviet was not a signatory to the agreement. In 1944 a similar convention was held in Chicago. The Soviet was not a signatory to the agreement. Both agreements put forward the ancient maxim, “ He who owns the land owns it right up to the sky”. From the time of those conventions to this year of grace you will see the most calculated effort by the Soviet to whittle away sovereignty in space. It is interesting to note that a few days after 17th October, 1957, when Sputnik I. was put into space, Russia completely repudiated unlimited national sovereignty over air space. In 1947, an official Soviet text-book on international law gave unqualified support to the maxim which I have recited. But collaboration between Soviet lawyers and Soviet technicians has whittled away this theory so that now, whereas the Western Powers - the free countries of the world - say that the maxim still holds good, the Soviet claims that space above 70,000 feet is completely free. The Soviet has supported its claim with its development of rockets and aircraft.
All this is relevant. I regret intensely that great newspapers such as the “ Sydney Morning Herald “ should give space and prominence to the kind of irresponsible article as that written by Lionel Daiches who would not know brain-washing because he has never seen it. As for his book being a book on Soviet law, the publication is undeserving of that name. However, by way of contrast, yesterday the “ Sydney Morning Herald “ published by far the most informative article on the Powers trial and the U.2 incident that I have read. The article was written by James Morris and was headed “ Powers Trial Presented a Conundrum “.
I am sorry to have taken up the time of the committee on this matter but I believe that it touches upon something which should command the first consideration of every member of this Parliament - the question of peace and the survival of free people. The U.2 incident has been held up by many as a cause celebre- an incident which was likely to touch off another great world conflict. The support of our people for democratic institutions, and their concepts of liberty, freedom and respect for the individual and his rights, are being washed away by irresponsibility in high places.
No power in this world has a more wretched record in the matter of espionage than has the U.S.S.R. In 27 intelligence and military organizations to-day you will find 300,000 trained officers serving as espionage agents. In recent years 360 people - Soviet agents - ‘have been convicted of espionage, but their trials have not commanded the same comments as has the Powers trial - and I place a question mark beside the word “ trial “. In the last ten years 47 Soviet officers have been declared persona non grata by the Western countries for having conducted espionage activities. The Powers trial may be over and Powers may be under sentence, but it is the U.S.S.R. which stands before the bar of world opinion. The U.S.S.R. itself is on trial. Until the Soviet is prepared to come to the conference table - if it really wants to come to the conference table - with a genuine spirit of goodwill and a readiness to put all its cards on the table, instead of trying to play poker while holding a gun under the table, there can be no peace in the world.
Our survival as a free people must remain our first consideration. No matter what economic or social problems may beset us, unless we are prepared to fight, to work and to inquire in a hard and a genuine way for truth, our quest for survival will fail.
.- I think that the committee should linger for a little while and discuss some of the whimsical observances of the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Killen). I came into the chamber a little late and did not hear all of the honorable member’s speech, but from what 1 heard I came to the conclusion that he was looking for elves in the dusty tomes of Soviet law. All of us, and particularly 1 myself, know that there are fairies at the bottom of his garden - not the merry wee fellows that he heard about in our school days, but red elves. When the honorable member gets himself into a disputation about the wickedness of other people and the purity of our own, he loses himself amongst the fairies. I would say only one thing to him. He has spoken about deprivations, and what would happen to union leaders if they were to call on the same kind of strikes in the Soviet as they do in Australia, and he went on to tell us why there would not be strikes in the Soviet. We should look to ourselves in some of these things. If we must talk about deprivations, I remind the honorable member, in passing, that in his own fair State of Queensland the native owner of this country - the Australian aboriginal - can be wafted away from his home without trial for some misdemeanour and taken to Palm Island or some island off the coast. There is an example of deprivation simply for being the original inhabitant of this country, without having any standard of liberty or any recourse to law.
That is only by the way because, if the honorable member is looking for fairies, he can find them at the bottom of the legislative garden of his own fair State. For that reason, his statements should be suspect. The remainder of his speech was interesting and sincere enough. I leave it at that because 1 have been appointed by the Opposition to answer some questions which were raised by certain Ministers, particularly by the Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck), with regard to what is known as the yahoo approach to the Budget. He said to us, “ You are the alternative government. What would you do? What answer have you got “, knowing full well and confessing by his very words that he has not any answer, not having read the compendious papers associated with the Budget. He asked us how we would treat it. Unfortunately, we cannot give an answer in 30 minutes. In any case, we believe that, in the philosophical and political sense, it is not our job to provide an answer at this stage for the Government.
We oppose the Budget. It is sufficient to say that we shall have neither hair nor hide of it, because it is anathema to us as socialists and Labourites. However, we can take you for a moment from outer space, where we live in Canberra, to the realism of an Australian electorate, particularly a Labour electorate, and tell you some of the things that the people think about the Budget. What is the first thing that they feel about it? They feel a fear of inflation! Everything may be reasonably good and they hope that things will continue to be good. But there is a fear of inflation. There is no value in anything. Whatever they seek, whatever they buy, they have to pay and pay again because the value has fallen out of money. That is the first challenge that the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) directed to the Budget when he made his speech on Tuesday night. That is the challenge which has been issued by every other member on this side of the chamber when speaking to the Budget. The Government has asked us for first causes. Perhaps we can approach the matter in this way: Let us take the present £1 which was once known as “ Fadden’s Flimsy “, later on as “ Menzies’ Midget “ and which in a little while will be known as “ Holt’s Halfer “ because if I read my papers correctly, the Decimal Currency Committee is prepared to settle for half value as soon as we get some decimal numerology into the finances of this country. Let us suppose that this £1 belongs to Mrs. Smith who lives in your electorate or mine. We charge the Government with inflation of the currency, with using money as a commodity like potatoes and with having no scientific approach to the enormous problem of finance. I admit that I am a novice in finance, but willy-nilly I have had to make some study of it. Mrs. Smith’s £1 note is worth between 5s. 6d. and 6s. 8d. - no more than that. Mrs. Smith is up to her eyes in time payment, unlike the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Anderson), who can sell one of his cash registers with wool on and get himself out of trouble. In my electorate, we have none of those. There are no sheep in my electorate. There are only educated and sensible people, and they follow their leader, who is represented in this place in my person and body.
Now we traverse the story of Mrs. Smith, who pays this £1 which is legal tender for £1, but is worth only about 6s. 8d. If she is paying off at £1 a week a washing machine that cost £100, she goes to the counter in the office of the timepayment company 100 times, until she has paid £100 for the washing machine. Then she makes another 80 journeys to the same office, because she is paying usurious interest. Not only is the rate double what it should be, but there are penalties if she fails to pay on a certain day, and she can be caught up with fines and with multiple insurance. There are 101 ways of tricking us. All that the housewife wanted was some relief from excessive household work; so she bought the washing machine. Here is the inherent lie in the commerce of this country. She pays for the machine not £100 but £180. You should tell her about this lie.
The housewife’s hard-earned £1, which has not the real value that it should have, is collected every week and receipted by the time-payment company as £1, and, promptly, by the miracle of interest, it becomes £1 8s. It can be lent again and again. By means of this miracle, the £1 becomes £1 8s., then £2 8s., and so on. It is like a snowball. The time-payment companies, the activities of which this Government will not curtail in any way, proceed with their merry snowballing tactics by lending the worker’s £1 and using the interest which they create. A £1 note may make no fewer than 100 trips before it is finally exhausted by the effluxion of time or is returned to the Treasury to be exchanged for a new one.
The Mrs. Smiths are paying and paying. That is where our inflation comes from. The Government is not concerned about what the worker ‘gets when he spends his wages, but the worker has a great deal of concern over the way in which he is treated. He is kneeled on and pressurized. Statistics are quoted against him and pro fessors are called in to pontificate on what he eats. His regimen is changed and he has to go on another diet. He is given a new scientific system which, of course, will take all the energy out of his food and put as much bulk as possible into it. That appears to be the Government’s whole idea.
All this is inflation, and this is the basis upon which we attack the Budget. Inflation is the crime and the curse of this country. And usury walks alongside inflation. All this is horrible and terrible. Shylock, the Jew of Venice, would have been ashamed to associate with Christian gentlemen who say, “ I am on the board of directors of this or that company “. What do we do, Sir? Are we dealing only in a little time payment? No. We are dealing with the bodies and souls of workers. No matter how overdramatic that may seem, that is the situation.
What happens to this £1? You who flog the issue of interest in this way are all intelligent men. This is a matter of the budget of the worker and his wife as against the national Budget. The Government has betrayed and destroyed these people and has not bothered to show them the processes by which they are being mulcted and robbed every day of their lives. Government supporters ought not to skite about their glorious, progressive country while they are getting at the vulnerable little people and ignoring the big people who make money out of time payment. This activity should be controlled. Even if the States cannot do anything, we could at least place on record in this place our hatred of this usurious and dangerous thing, which now accounts for about £500,000.000 a year. The honorable member for Hume, as a grazier, knows that when people talk about their debts as being consumer credit they have attained the height of stupidity in the use of words. Consumer credit - it is nothing of the sort. It is merely the money that the people owe to the time payment tycoons.
So much for Mrs. Smith. Let us now talk about inflation and what has been done with “ Fadden’s Flimsy “. “ the Menzies Midget “ or “ Holt’s Halfer “. Who is the next person who is assaulted and made miserable by inflationary pressures? It is none other than the ex-serviceman, whom this Government acclaims in principle and destroys in essence. It does not care about him. Let us have a look at his case. In order to put the matter a little more objectively, I have brought along with me a receipt for the last monthly payment made by a returned soldier on his war service home. He is paying interest at 31 per cent. This man is receiving a repatriation pension at less than the maximum rate, and since the war he has paid £700 in instalments on his home. Sometimes he has been sick, sometimes he has been unable to work, and sometimes he has been frustrated and not quite satisfied with the world, but he has kept pegging away in the interval since he returned from the war, trying to sort himself out and establish himself in civilian life. That £700 has meant a lot of misery and hard living for this man, who lives very close to me. What does this beneficent and loving Government do to him? Out of that £700, it takes £100 off his capital debt and grabs £600 in interest.
That is the sort of treatment meted out to ex-servicemen by this beneficent and loving Government, the supporters of which give great accounts of its administration of war service homes. They beat their chests and talk about what a marvellous thing they have done in housing the diggers and charging interest at only 3i per cent, in the process. But we find that they have an interest reservoir of £50,000,000. Even Shylock would shudder at the thought of associating with Commonwealth Treasurers who have mulcted ex-servicemen of £50,000,000 since 1914 solely by means of the interest that they have charged. The honorable member for Hume is mumbling in his beard, but those are the cold and sober statistics. This Government has built war service homes and financed their purchase by ex-servicemen at low rates of interest, but it has got into the infernal habit of so handling interest which has become a curse throughout the so-called free world, as to make that interest a burden on ex-servicemen. In return for what the exserviceman to whom I refer has done for his country, he has had to pay out £700 since he came back from the war in 1945. That is a lot of money. Despite that large total of repayments, he has an equity of only £100 in his cottage. His rates, taxes and other expenses have grown with infla tion. As a result, his real equity has almost disappeared, and he owns practically nothing.
So, first, we have the episode of Mrs. Smith and the humble washing machine. We see how the wife of the lowly worker is being taken for a ride by the tycoons. Then we have the case of the ex-serviceman - another worker - who gets an equity of only £100 out of his total payments of £700. Is there anything noble about that? . It is pure usury. That is the sort of thing that creates the inflation against which we direct our attack. I now direct the attention of the committee to other ways in which this country is being sold out. Look at what has happened in the Northern Territory. One morning, we picked up our newspapers and found that some gentleman banker in Melbourne thought he would buy a couple of stations in the Northern Territory with an area of thousands of square miles. So he talked to a real estate tycoon in Sydney who thought the idea was a good one, and, without swapping a quid between them, they took over a large area of the Territory. What sort of inflation is that? These people know that the deal will make them a capital gain - that cursed expression again - of £5,000,000. These people treat Hooker scrip or Buckland scrip like £1 notes, because they are disgusted with the ordinary currency note, which has no value, no vitality, no weight and no guts in it. So the 8-per-centers trade their scrip among themselves and say, “ I shall swap you so much for so much “. In this way, they make for themselves capital gains of as much as £5,000,000.
Who pays for all this? Echo answers, “ Who? “ The workers of this country pay. Nothing is got for nothing in this world, and we get less than nothing under capitalism and the administration of this Government. So part of our heritage is lost to us because some men are able to do these things that I have described. The purpose obviously is to avoid taxation. The gentleman in Melbourne is a primary producer, but everything that he produces is produced in Collins-street, Melbourne. This man is not a primary producer like the honorable member for Hume. The other party in the deal that I have mentioned is a man who writes scrip, collects rents and gives television talks about the abounding strength of this country. These two men get together and virtually pinch one-tenth, or at least a considerable part - I am not sure of the acreage - of the Northern Territory. They say, “ In the sweet by and by, some one will pay for it”. Some one may. It will be us, because we shall be paying for this 8 per cent, scrip.
We see in the newspapers advertisements for loans being floated by various public bodies. An authority in the great State of Victoria says to prospective lenders, “All we can give you in conscience is 5i per cent. We want water, roads, bridges and development, but 5b per cent, is our limit. Will you make an investment in Australia? “ Then an executive of the Metropolitan Water, Sewerage and Drainage Board, in Sydney, says to prospective lenders, “ Our limit is 5 b per cent. We want the desert to blossom like the rose. Will you give us your help by lending your money at 5b per cent.?” But the tycoon, the bandit, the robber, the modern Ned Kelly, comes along and dangles his 8, 10 and 12 per cent, debentures - his phony debentures - before our eyes and tries to sell a large part of northern Australia to the tycoons, whose businesses will pay for it.
Sitting suspended from 12.45 to 2.15 p.m.
– Before the suspension of the sitting we were discussing the charge that the Opposition lays at the door of the Government of disguising from the Australian people the inflections and the painful causes of inflation. Before I go on with my story and my categorical charges against the Government, I would like to correct an impression that I may have made before the sitting was suspended, concerning the area that has been taken over in the Northern Territory by the Hooker organization from the Buckland banking interests. The property concerned is Victoria River Downs. I understand that many members of the Government, having broad acres themselves, want to know about the amount of territory taken over. It was 7,000 square miles, or 4,500,000 acres. If I have over-stated this it is only a matter of symbolism, because the real problem arises from the fact that these things can be done.
The Minister for the Army (Mr. Cramer), who is now sitting at the table, swoons at the idea of a sub-division of those dimensions, 7,000 square miles or 4,500,000 acres, but I assure him that these are the practices that can be indulged in. The Minister is a real estate agent, a prominent realtor. With his background he knows that these things can be done, but what I am saying is that this is done without the use of money. It is done by the use of shares. It is done with mirrors. The Minister would not like to follow this kind of practice in selling, in the course of his business in North Sydney, a couple of cottages, because he is a most reputable agent. But you can do this on a vast scale, because you can kid the Government and the people about what you are doing.
Of course, every worker must pay his taxes at the source of his income. Every Thursday or Friday he is mulct of the amount of taxes due. It is immediately drawn back from him. But with all this nonsense about takeovers with capital gains, the tycoons who are tearing up the landscape, economically speaking, can get away with murder. That is the point we make.
The inflation that honorable members opposite talk about has occurred because the Government itself is afraid of big business. It is the thing of big business, and it is therefore incapable of raising an effective voice. There is surely not another country that would so meekly accept what General Motors-Holden’s Limited has done in Australia. We have a continent 3,000,000 square miles in extent, with 10,000,000 people of British extraction, and we say to the American investor, “ You can come here and invest, and you can demand your investment back every year as a dividend “. Then we, the poor, humble little Uriah Heeps of the Australian economic scene, say, “ We do not want any of your ordinary shares. We do not want any of the profits you are making out of us. Take them back and give them to the Yanks, and we love you for having exploited us.” Of course, the Government says that this does not matter, because the company is doing a good thing for industry.
General Motors-Holden’s Limited is continuing to do all these things, and if there is any talk of curbing its activities, it says quite cheekily, “All right, the Holden is worth £X. Here are our break-down figures. If you impose on us an excess profits tax we will reduce the price of our car by £200 and break the British motor interests. They cannot keep up with us because they have not got our know-how “. Is it not time that the Government stopped being dictated to by General Motors-Hold’en’s Limited? We know, of course, that the General Motors organization is dictating in a similar way in the United States of America, where a Senate committee sits continually watching the ramifications of this great monopoly. That country has legislation, and its Government has powers under the country’s constitution, to deal with the exploiters and the huge cartels. Nevertheless, it ‘has an almost permanent committee watching the ramifications of big business. In Australia we have nothing. We are supine, slow and afraid to do a thing.
Let us go back to my earlier remarks. Take the case of the worker’s wife and her little bit of money. She is being mulct for interest payments to the tune of up to 40 per cent. Any government worth a crust would say, “ We do not care about international financial ramifications, but we do say that you are not going to bleed the average worker whose income is fixed by a court while profits are allowed to swing free “. It would say to the worker, “ We are going to give you a reasonable go, and nobody will charge you a flat rate of 40 per cent, interest”. But this Government sits smugly and lets such things happen. Bisset and others, who write the apologetics for the time payment people, try to make out that these abuses do not occur, but any accountant who has a degree or knows how to add up will say that balances generally are not determined on daily allowances, as is’ the case with a bank. Accordingly, Mrs. Jones or Mrs. Smith, who buys a washing machine worth £100, goes to the time payment firm and eventually pays the £100, but then, of course, she is not finished. She makes 80 more trips with £1 each time to satisfy the Moloch and feed the maw of time payment.
The Government talks about inflation, although it does nothing. The trading banks, which we attempted to nationalize, have broken down under their own cowardice. They are unable to meet the competition of the Commonwealth Bank,, and that bank is getting business day byday. The trading banks, as we know, present no threat to the country, becausethey are battling to get their 12 per cent, or 14 per cent, or 15 per cent, on capital, investment, and they are under controls asrigid as we formerly imposed upon them. Honorable members opposite talk about the terrors of the Labour Party’s socialism, but the Government did not abandon the system of special accounts for the trading, banks or the other measures for the control: of credit that had been fixed up in the days of Chifley.
Now we have the position in which the private trading banks, because they would not lend money, either through fear, cowardice or under Government instruction, find themselves confronted with other demons of credit, who will raise their money not from the banks but from each other, with 8 per cent, debentures or other such gimmicks, and by the most scandalous economic frauds that could be imagined. That is why we have inflation, not because the worker has gone to the Commonwealth Arbitration Commission and waited two years for some paltry increase.
There has never been any kind of attempt to defeat inflation. The Government has not tried to take it by the throat and strangle it before it strangles the community. How do you think people will feel when, in years to come, they read the history of this country, a great and abounding democracy, and find that the Government was afraid to do anything about prices, profits or dividends, but had highly paid judges lean on the worker and divide his poor, miserable sustenance into segments, cutting it this way and that? How, in human justice, can an organization or an economy flourish and prevent inflation if, on the one hand, the workers are clamped down with fixed wages, and on the other hand the racketeer, the buccaneer, the time payment tycoon and others run free? That is the situation that the Government has created. That is what the Labour Party says is the basis and genesis of your inflation.
This Government, as I have said before, lives in a sort of outer space. It is not touched by the criticisms of the people outside, who are sick and tired of the talk of
Government members about the balance of payments. They do not understand that talk; they want some payments themselves. They are sick of your talk about the disposition of money and capital gains. They want to know what this capital issue is that you are talking about, this new capital of £130,000,000. The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) throws wide his arms and says, “ We have brought to this country £130,000,000 of overseas money.” But why did it come here? The fact is that it came here in a kind of willy-nilly fashion. China does not want the money. Africa does not want it. India does not want it. America does not want it, saturated as it is with its own credit problems and its own expansion difficulties. Nor does Britain care for it. This money is coming to the best place that can be found where it can earn something. Those who have sent the money here have been enlightened and informed of the fact that they can be treated as General Motors-Holden’s Limited has been treated. They can come here, get in on the grouter and make a lot of money, and be thanked on bended knees by the government of the day for doing so. The Labour Party rejects such ideas as being old-fashioned and out of date.
Money is only a medium. It should not be sold like potatoes, but what the adherents of the Government do to-day is to use money as a sort of commodity, and to sell it to one another. Money is a medium of exchange, and we can create money if we want it on the basis of the production, the energy and the patriotism of the Australian people. We do not want a few hundreds or thousands, or even a few lousy millions from overseas, black-market money, hot money from Formosa. We are supposed to bend the knee to this new golden calf and worship, but it will destroy us unless we realize that there must be a balance between what we have and what is coming into the country. We do not preclude people from bringing in their know-how, and their money with it; but another inflationary pressure arises from this practice. Some of these companies come here and create a demand for an article that they have made here from an overseas design. Because they bring their money with them, we think this is all right and expect that our secondary industries will eventually be able to export this article that is now made in Australia. When the Australian market has become saturated with this article and we ask when the company will export it, we discover the trap. We are told that the article made in Australia will not be exported, that this is only the Australian branch and that the company has other branches abroad - a Singapore branch, a Formosa branch, a Johannesburg branch and a Rio de Janeiro branch. We find then that we have no chance of increasing our export earnings by selling these goods abroad.
The Australian people want to know, first, why money is so inflated. They want to know why it is so difficult to get value for their money. The Government would find it difficult to explain to the average housewife why a steak is a luxury in the house. It has gone, and we are back to hamburgers, sausages and made-up dishes because of a manipulation of the market to enable the export of our meats. Surely the first cause is the cause of the Australian people; but all the time we see this complete disregard of their needs by the Government. I mentioned the lady with her humble £1. She is being exploited and pays £80 in interest charges for every £100 that she borrows. We have many horrible examples of tax evasion, and this creates inflation. Workers are forced to live at Penrith, 24 miles from Sydney. They have homes there and are forced to pay 35s. to £2 a week in fares to Sydney, where they work. They suggest to the Labour conference that they should be allowed to deduct these fares when they submit their income tax returns, but they are told that they could not possibly do this because it would cost too much and the bureaucrats would have to wake up for long enough to work out a scheme. But any person who likes to work out a swindle sheet is helped. The white collar worker employed by a company receives all sorts of concessions. He receives a depreciation allowance on the car that he uses to travel to work, and in a hundred and one other ways he is able to beat the rap. Inflation in Australia has been the work of the Government because it is a laisser faire concern. It has borrowed money from countries overseas, including Switzerland and Canada, and we have a mounting debt that we must repay.
Because my time is limited, I now give this final warning: The Government can push the public and1 the worker too far on time payment. Give him a chance to attain decent living standards in the 20th century, in this year of grace 1961. Do not ruin him by forcing him into time payment or there will be no weight in his money. Then, consider the position of these tycoons. Woolworths Limited negotiate with Matthews Thompson and Company Limited and G. J. Coles and Company Limited come in on the side with a take-over offer of £9,000,000. Every woman who takes a shopping basket to Sydney or any other capital city knows that, insidiously but certainly, she will pay the whole of the £9,000,000 of that take-over. There is no such thing as easy money. There is no such thing as fairy gold. It does not grow on trees; it comes out of the sweat, the blood and tears of the workers.
The Government should wake up to that proposition and answer the first charge of the Opposition - that inflation is ravening and destroying the country and that the Government is responsible because of its carelessness. Capitalism is almost dead. It is being kept alive with the crutches of socialism, which they have borrowed from us. The welfare state belongs to us, the control of credit belongs to us, and the health scheme belongs to us. The Government is living on those things and all it has is a miserable conglomeration of outofdate toryism. We appeal to the Government, since it has the reins of office, to watch this inflation lest it destroy the Australian nation; to remember the lady I mentioned; to remember the worker; and to remember the tycoon trying to buy the north of Australia while he sits in a Melbourne club and has a concern that brings him in £5,000,000. How utterly disgraceful that is! Yet the Ministers and their economists stand up and justify this state of affairs: It should not be! Under capitalism, we cannot get money except the hard way, and that is through exploitation and usury. But in the lowest course, the people have rents to pay and must meet the imposts on their purchases. The Government says, of course, that the workers have never had it better.
– Order! The honorable gentleman’s time has expired.
.- I support the Budget that has been presented tous. Before dealing with it, I should like to congratulate the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Whittorn) and the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Beaton), who were recently elected to the Parliament. The results of the election in the Balaclava electorate show that the Government is well regarded and that the electors of Balaclava have every confidence in their new member. I am sure that he will be with us in this chamber for a long time. The result in Bendigo is somewhat different. Labour won the day there, but I believe that it was somewhat disappointed with its small majority.
This afternoon, we have heard many comments from the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen). He raved about hire purchase and big companies such as the L. J. Hooker organization. May I suggest that we have not enough L. J. Hookers in Australia to-day? The same comment applies to General Motors-Holden’s Limited. These big concerns are developing Australia as it should be developed. Sometimes I wonder what would happen to our development if Labour were in office. It would probably finish up in the sea. I think the worst comment on the Budget that I heard was the suggestion that it was a negative Budget. I could as well suggest that the Opposition’s attack on the Budge; was a mighty negative attack. Very little of a constructive nature has been said by the Opposition.
– Where have you been?
– It is rather strange that such an interjection should come from the Opposition side of the chamber, because the benches on that side are often rather empty. I am very pleased to be associated with a party which gives much of its time to attending the sittings here. The number of Australian Country Party members in the chamber at all times is very large, when compared with the number of Opposition members.
One honorable member commented that there was very little in the Budget. I suggest that any government that has been in office for eleven years naturally has not many big projects to continue. However, the Government is continuing with the longterm project of developing Australia as it should be developed. Perhaps I can, at this early stage, congratulate the Government on some of the provisions of the Budget. One very helpful move is the provision of medical treatment for service pensioners, including the more or less forgotten Boer War veterans. While I am on the matter of service pensions, there seems to be some doubt as to eligibility for a service pension. An ex-serviceman qualifies for it on reaching the age of 60 years. He becomes entitled to a service pension, under the means test, as a person qualifies for the age pension on reaching the age of 65 years. That is the position in respect of the bulk of service pensioners. But coupled with those we also have the tuberculosis cases among returned servicemen as distinct from ex-servicemen, and likewise the invalids who need not necessarily have reached 60 years of age.
I offer my congratulations to the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Roberton) for his efforts in having the property means test altered. This will be very helpful to quite a number of unfortunate citizens of Australia. I know a case of two elderly people who were left property which has been valued at a figure higher than the permissible property limit for pension purposes. It is a leased-out property, and the income from it is very low. These people have no alternative but to live on the charity of their neighbours. Under this new proposal each of them will be entitled to an additional £2 a week. That is a very worthwhile move, and I am sure that it will be appreciated by many people.
I was very interested to note the increase in the allocation of funds for the Territories, particularly Papua and New Guinea, for which an additional £2,000,000 has been provided. This may not be sufficient to develop New Guinea as we would like it developed, but I issue a word of warning to the Government. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) suggested that we must consider getting outside finance from the United Nations. If we accept outside finance, we must be prepared to accept outside advice and direction. That is one thing abou’t which we must be very care ful, because, after all, New Guinea strategically is of great importance to Australia and we should exercise our voice in its development. However, one will have an opportunity to speak on this subject later in the session.
In his Budget speech, the Treasurer dealt with payments to the States. A most interesting angle of this subject is that both New South Wales and Victoria have budgeted for a surplus for the current financial year. That is cause for wonder because on travelling through Victoria - I am sure this applies equally to New South Wales and other States - one hears the comments, “ What is the Commonwealth doing about this issue?”, and “ Why cannot the Commonwealth give us more money? “ Yet both Victoria and New South Wales have budgeted for a surplus. It becomes a little bit boring when a State budgets for a surplus and, at the same time, cries out for more money from the Commonwealth. I know it is not the prerogative of the States to embark upon great projects. Most big projects are being carried out on a Commonwealth basis, such as the Snowy Mountains scheme and the standardization of gauge of the Albury to Melbourne railway.
In respect of land settlement, I am somewhat disappointed that the Budget provision has been reduced by £4,000,000. I realize that soldier land settlement is nearing completion, but I believe that on the completion of that scheme there is ample room for a general land settlement scheme. Such a scheme would produce more for the economy of this country than could any other project. It seems to me to be a tragedy that the Commonwealth has not investigated the principle of a general land settlement scheme, because the various States are limited in that respect. Victoria, I might add, has done a magnificent job in settling ex-servicemen on the land. There, many hundreds of settlers are living to-day on what used to be completely useless scrub country, and are producing milk, butter, wool, fat lambs, cattle and all sorts of commodities which our economy needs. If we were to commence a scheme such as I have suggested on a Commonwealth basis, it would have a three-fold effect. We could settle the remaining ex-servicemen - the young settlers; we would boost our primary production for export, which is most essential; and we would also help 10 fill the Treasury. It has been proved on many properties in Victoria that the new schemes are successful. Just because country has not been opened up, it does not follow that it is of little value.
Only a few days ago I was talking to a resident in my electorate, which happens to adjoin the electorate of the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Malcolm Fraser), and he told me certain things. Unfortunately, he did not give me authority to use any names, and I will not do so. He referred to a station property comprising some 13,000 acres, which produced 300 bales of wool or an average of one bale to every 43 acres. After it was cut up into 640-acre blocks for soldier settlement each of those blocks averaged in the vicinity of 70 bales of wool, or 1 bale to 9 acres. What a difference! No matter what the cost, the opening up and development of new country will eventually benefit the Commonwealth as a whole. I will quote another case at Balmoral, just within the electorate of the honorable member for Wannon. Within a 40-mile radius of a certain town, there are no less than 3,500,000 sheep, producing 100,000 bales of wool of a value equivalent to £7,000,000 or £8,000,000 even at the low wool prices prevailing to-day. These properties range from 1,000 to 1,500 acres t’n area, and there are some 2,500 properties all told, producing some of the most valuable wool Australia can produce, superfine, spinner’s wool.
The Government could well look into projects of this kind, because the young settler to-day is just crying out for financial assistance or for property. There has been a lot of criticism as far as the financial angle is concerned, but it is impossible for individuals to open up land of this kind. That is why I say that when the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) criticizes L. J. Hooker and Company he should consider the good that such firms can do in this sphere. While speaking on production, it is well that one should mention the position in which the wool industry finds itself to-day.
I suppose that the Opposition will suggest that I am criticizing the actions of the Government because of the position in which the wool industry is to-day. Naturally, there are many problems in the wool industry, the biggest of which is that the price of wool is too low. I believe that this problem is of a temporary nature only, but nevertheless it is a serious problem. I think that over a period of years wool will prove beyond all doubt to be a commodity we cannot do without. However, one does not know just how long it will be before wool is once more a top-class paying proposition. In the interests of the growers, and of the economy, wool is a most important industry which should concern this Parliament, and it is up to us to see that wool-growing is a paying proposition.
Many different reasons are given for the low price of wool. Some people would say it is the result of over-production, and that something must be done about it. Others would say that the price of wool is too high in comparison with the prices of synthetic materials such as rayon, and in comparison with the price of cotton. I should like to refer to a passage, Mr. Temporary Chairman, from volume 7, No. 3, of a publication entitled “ Farm Progress “, which states, under the heading “The Arrival of the Merinos in 1797 “, that in 1822 John Macarthur exported to England 15,000 lb. of wool. The interesting part is that he received for that wool up to 10s. 4d. per lb. - a remarkable price.
We must look at the consumption angle of the wool industry as well as at our selling methods, since, as I said a few moments ago, it has been suggested that over-production may be one of our problems. Wool to-day is used extensively and is keeping pace with other commodities, but we should examine the question of overproduction. It is all very well to say that there are other reasons for the present position. We must never forget, however, that if we are to populate this country we must export more goods - and wool earns at least 45 per cent, of our export income. So, we must continue to expand the wool industry. The fact that Australia has increased her sheep population from 112,000,000 head in 1950 to 155,000,000 head to-day augurs well for the future. It proves that this Government is doing something for the wool industry.
Of course, other countries are also increasing their wool production. An :article in volume XIII., No. 2, of the “ Quarterly Review of Agricultural Economics “, under the heading “ Wool Production in the U.S.S.R.”, gives some details of Russian wool production. I hope that as a result of reading this matter to the committee I will not be accused of any connexion with communism. While Russia does not export wool, she does import it, and naturally the more she produces the less she imports. In 1950, Communist Russia had 77,000,000 head of sheep. In 1959, according to this report, she had 130,000,000 head of sheep and her target for 1965 is 200,000,000 head - almost three times the 1950 figure.
– But the quality is not good.
– The honorable gentleman says that the quality is not good. If he would go to the trouble of reading this article he would see for himself that even Communist Russia is improving the quality of her wool. Naturally, other countries are also increasing their wool output. I quote from “ Facts and Figures “, No. 64. at page 74, which says that in the year 1958-59 the estimated world production of greasy wool was 5,316,000,000 lb. That was an increase of 5 per cent, on the previous record of 5,081,000,000 lb. in 1956-57. The world production in 1959-60 is estimated at 5,514,000,000 lb. So honorable members can see that there is a significant increase in the production of wool. Also, the population of the world is increasing at a very rapid rate, and consequently consumption of wool will increase too.
I believe that one of the answers to the present problem in the wool industry is trade promotion. When we produce an article we have to make sure that we sell it. We hear a lot of comments about the amount that the wool-grower is prepared to devote to wool promotion. It is rather interesting to note a statement by Mr. Arthur Paine, the general manager of the Australian Wool Bureau, under the headline “ Japan hardly touched as wool market, bureau manager says “. The article states that purchases of wool by Japan last year were worth £95,000,000 more than those of any other country, but the surface of the potential market had hardly been scratched. I repeat that we, as growers, must consider stepping up our promotion scheme.
The subject of farm costs makes a rather interesting story. Unfortunately, Mr. Temporary Chairman, farm costs are not wholly within the control of the primary producer, and reduction of them is almost impossible, for the reason that as soon as the producer starts to cut his costs, he also cuts his efficiency. Anybody who has had any connexion with the land will appreciate that primary production is a non-paying proposition.
Time will not allow me to deal with all the aspects of the wool industry with which I would like to deal. It is rather interesting to study primary production statistics in the latest Year-Book. The average gross return to primary producers for the three years 1950-51 to 1952-53 was £1,103,000,000; for the next three years it was £1,140,000,000; for the following three years it was £1,210,000,000, a very small increase. But the average costs in each of those three-year periods were £494,000,000, £631,000,000 and £731,000,000, respectively, a substantial increase. This indicates why the wool industry is in a difficult position to-day.
Marketing is a very important issue. We have heard many different angles put forward. It is a very contentious subject. Perhaps one of the hot proposals to-day is that there should be a floor price within the auction system. This is one industry which we do not want to become a political football as the wheat industry was in the 1930’s. We have a number of grower organizations which are quite capable of looking after the industry. Unfortunately, because of the number of organizations there seem to be differences of opinion among them. Sometimes I wonder whether it is not a case of jealousy. If one man says that wool is white, another will say that there is a mighty lot of black wool in it.
We appreciate the move in New South Wales where the Wool and Meat Growers’ Federation is prepared to meet the new organization, the Australian Wool Growers’ and Graziers’ Council. I was very pleased to hear that announced by the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. Adermann) in reply to a question which I put to him yesterday. Those two organizations should get together and agree on some form of marketing. Whether it be the continuation of the present auction system or a floor price within that auction system does not matter as long as they come to a unanimous decision on the issue.
I believe that one of the answers to their problem lies in a full-scale inquiry. Recently, an inquiry was undertaken by the Australian Wool Growers Council, but, unfortunately, this was more or less on an individual basis. I believe that if we had an over-all inquiry on a federal basis we could, perhaps, give the growers a lead as to what their next move should be. I believe that the growers now realize that they have to pull together. It is rather interesting to note in a newspaper, the “ Victorian Wheat and Wool Grower “, of 19th August, the following article: -
“CLOSE RANKS: SPEAK WITH UNITED VOICE”
A plea for woolgrowers to close their ranks and achieve an understanding on marketing so they could speak with one voice was made to 300 wool-growers at Balmoral last Friday by a VWWGA vice-president (Mr. F. R. Howell). It was the largest meeting ever held in the town - part of the richest wool-growing area in Australia. Growers listened without interruption to Mr. Howell on wool marketing and the General Manager of the Australian Wool Bureau (Mr. W. A. Payne), on promotion and organization.
I believe that when these people can get together their problems will be ironed out. As time will not permit me to go further into this matter I conclude by saying that, whilst 1 have had some suggestions to make, I support the Budget.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.
Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- I rise to support the amendment. The majority of speeches made by Government supporters have been in the form of apologies for the Budget. The honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. King) has touched on many aspects of rural industry that have been raised by members of the Opposition who represent rural areas. In this respect, an Australian Country Party member has charged the Government’ with having deficiencies in its Budget.
The Budget does little for the pensioner and absolutely nothing for the wage-earner.
As stated by the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) it gives the green light to the profiteer, the take-over merchants and the hire-purchase monopolies to carry on fleecing the people without restraint. In February of this year, the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) said -
Much that is going on in industry and trade and construction is undoubtedly sound and beneficial. We do not want to check or impede this.
The people to whom that remark was addressed are to-day not quite sure of the sincerity of the statement. But I agree that the Budget does nothing to check or to impede those who have exploited the people in the past and who will undoubtedly continue to exploit them in the future. They have been able to do this because they know that the Government is prepared at all times to intervene in a basic wage case. It is prepared to stand by and see the workers robbed of their cost of living adjustments. It is not prepared to do anything to provide a fair margin for skill. It is not even prepared to raise child endowment. It is unconcerned that the Industrial Court inflicts harsh penalties on trade unions and unionists and takes away those privileges which the average Australian - the working class Australian - has enjoyed traditionally through the years.
– That is doubtful.
– It may be doubtful as far as you are concerned but it is true as far as the workers are concerned. We heard the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. McMahon) say this morning that he works harder than the average fellow in the street. Let him tell that to the man in the street. He will probably find that there is no doubt that what I say is the truth. The Government intervened in the basic wage case but it did not have the stomach to increase child endowment, even minutely. This is strange justice. The Government does not want the worker to obtain wage justice from the Arbitration Commission and is not prepared to do anything to give him justice itself.
The Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) said at the outset of his remarks that the Government was compelled to introduce this frozen Budget. It is as cold as the tomb. But the Government was not compelled to turn a blind eye to th» obvious deficiencies existing in this country. The standard of living of ihe ordinary citizen has not kept pace with the enormous profits that big monopolies are making. The Treasurer made a remark about everybody sharing in the progress that is going on in the country. Certainly everybody should benefit from that progress. Well, what about some assistance for the family man?
If the Government is sincere in saying that it wants to see the continuous growth of population, together with a continuous rise in the standards of living with every one enjoying his share of the gains to be obtained from progress, I submit the more practicable way of showing that sincerity would be to provide in the Budget for assistance to the people in the form of greater tax deductions for education and granting some measure of justice to the worker by providing for a restoration of the cost of living adjustments, together with a reduction of interest rates on money made available to young people for the building of homes. It is by the building of homes that a higher standard of living may be provided. The building of homes would also encourage young people to marry and rear a family. Instead of these practical demonstrations of sincerity, we have nothing but lip service from the Government.
Recently, the Victorian Housing Commission announced the dismissal of 250 men. I am informed that those dismissals are the result of a further reduction in the allocation of finance to the Victorian Housing Commission. This means that in turn there will be a reduction in the number of homes built for rental purposes. In other words, there will be a worsening of living standards for the people. It also means that the 17,000 people who are now waiting for rental homes will be compelled to wait for years before obtaining any relief from the cramped and squalid living conditions which many of them are compelled to suffer to-day. Yet, the Government talks about improving living standards! It talks about high living standards at a time when, in the metropolitan area of Victoria, there are over 100 State primary and secondary schools unsewered, and 30,000 children are attending schools which have not even a septic tank system. I emphasize that I am not now referring to the fringe areas where a great deal of development is taking place.
Three of the schools to which I have referred are situated in large residential areas on the boundaries of my electorate. Add to that the 70,000 or more homes in Melbourne which are unsewered, and one gains some idea of the rise in the standard of living and the progress about which the Government boasts.
– Tell us about New South Wales.
– The honorable member can look to New South Wales himself. In the blue riband electorate of La Trobe, where the Labour Party won a moral victory recently, the people showed in no uncertain way their resentment of the filthy, insanitary conditions in which they are compelled to live because of this Government’s failure to make available to municipalities sufficient funds to enable them to lift the people out of these conditions and give them amenities which any decent civilized community demands.
– You ought to go to Wide Bay.
– I am quite satisfied where I am. Living standards are rising for those who have the requisite means, but such privileges are not enjoyed by the average wage-earner, regardless of what honorable members on the Government side may say. The wage-earner is engaged in a constant struggle to make ends meet. He is compelled, through his trade union, to engage in a constant struggle for wage increases in order to maintain a decent standard of living. The only way in which the worker can be given a decent standard of living is by the control of company profits, by effective control over prices, by the provision of an adequate basic wage and by increases in margins for skill together with cost of living adjustments. I am surprised that no mention has been made in the Budget of Commonwealth aid to State hospitals. At their recent conference, the State Premiers revealed the difficulties being experienced by State hospitals through lack of finance. Charges for hospital accommodation to-day are such that a person cannot afford to be sick. Is this the price of progress?
The honorable member who has just resumed his seat cited figures relating to the allocation of finance for the Territories. I want to speak about the Northern Territory. I support my leader’s advocacy of more national works. There is a dire need for works of a national character in that Territory.
– Have you been to the Northern Territory?
– I have been there three times in three years. Like the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) I view with alarm the take-over bids by Hookers. 1 do not like the phrase, “the empty north”. The use of such phrases does great harm to the Northern Territory. The expression, “ empty north “, creates in the minds of people not far removed from our shores the impression that this nation has done nothing at all to develop the north. Such an impression is wrong, for some development has taken place, although much remains to be done.
World attention is focused on New Guinea to-day. If we accept that fact as an indication that the affairs and potentialities of our huge undeveloped spaces are arousing the attention of people overseas, it is reasonable to assume that in the near future questions about what Australia intends to do about its so-called empty north will be posed in the United Nations. With that thought ever-present in my mind, I am compelled to say that it is time we adopted a more realistic attitude towards our far north. I know that the first question that will be asked will be, “ Where is the money to come from? “ My answer is that unless we are prepared to spend money to give to the far north amenities vital to its progress, we shall never enjoy the considerable financial resources that would result from the provision of such amenities.
The most tragic handicap of this country is its lack of feeder and all-weather roads. Another tragic feature is the lack of water conservation. A classic example of what can be done in water conservation is provided at Rum Jungle. There, a huge hole that was formed following the first extractions of uranium, and which is over 300 feet deep, is now full of water. From that hole, the people of Rum Jungle are using thousands of gallons of water a day to aid them in the production of uranium concentrates. I suppose that could be regarded as an accidental example, but it is evidence of what can be accomplished in the way of water reticulation.
A vital necessity for the north which cannot be emphasized too often is the provision of all-weather roads to give a stimulus to mineral, agricultural and pastoral development. Next, of course, is water reticulation. The honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. King) spoke of land settlement. Perhaps the Government might be wise to consider settling people on smaller areas in the Northern Territory, and so attract more to engage in developing that part of Australia. Add that to the provision of roads and water reticulation and you have a formula that would induce not only big people, such as Hookers, but also - and this is most important - small people to go north and play a part in the progress of this nation. I agree with the Leader of the Opposition when he says that if we are to retain this country we must develop it. I agree also with the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), when he says, “ It would be better to develop it too soon than too late “.
Last year, there was much controversy over increased telephone charges. We were told that the proposed increases would amount to something like £15,000,000 and that this extra revenue would enable the Postal Department to overcome most of its deficiencies. An article published in the Melbourne “ Herald “ on 22nd June stated -
The waiting list for telephones in Australia continues to grow.
Latest figures show that 46,573 people are still waiting for a telephone and 17,790 of these are in Victoria. A year ago 40,823 people were waiting for a telephone. Of these 15,368 were in Victoria.
The Postmaster-General’s Department said to-day that lack of money was the major reason for the lag in connections.
Yet we are informed that there is progress unlimited everywhere. One might well ask where has all this money gone? 1 notice also that the expenditure on the Snowy Mountains hydro-electric scheme has been cut. This has been done despite the following statement by the Minister for Electrical Undertakings, Mr. Reid -
Victoria’s power generating system will again have no reserve throughout this winter because of limitation of capital finance over many years.
Bui the State Electricity Commission’s construction programme provides for correction of this disability by 1967. The position will improve from next year. Clearly it is not practicable to provide sufficient reserve power capacity to guard against every possible eventuality.
So much for progress. Much has been said about the financial aid given to the States. It is not my intention to develop this matter except to suggest that if there is any sincerity in the concern the Government has expressed for local governments, there is one way to prove that sincerity and that is by removing the pay-roll tax from those institutions. I conclude on this note: There will never be an equitable sharing of the gains of progress in Australia until justice is done to the workers, the cost of living adjustments are restored, a reasonable basic wage is provided and a proper award for margins is brought down. An increase in child endowment also is essential. Not until we achieve these objectives will the ordinary people get some minor share of the so-called gains of progress to which the Treasurer has referred so lightly.
.- I should like to congratulate the honorable member from the neighbouring electorate of Hunter (Mr. James) upon having delivered his maiden speech in this chamber. I also add a welcome to those that have already been extended to the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Whittorn) and the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Beaton). While 1 do not agree altogether with some of the remarks that were made by the honorable member for Hunter, that does not detract from the congratulations I offer him personally upon having faced the difficult test of delivering a maiden speech.
I want to say something in general about the Budget because I have found during the time I have been in this place that whenever a Budget is brought down by the Government, criticism of it is quickly forthcoming. Many people criticize the Budget and are loud in their condemnation of it, but the extraordinary fact remains that not very long after the Budget has been delivered, the 6ame people describe the economy of Australia as very sound. The phrase has been used by others than ourselves that Australia has never had it better. At question time to-day, reference was made to the speech delivered by the Governor of New South Wales yesterday on behalf of the Government of that State declaring how prosperous the State of New South Wales is. Therefore, I suggest that while the Budget is not responsible in all respects, in many ways it creates the atmosphere and provides leadership, and credit must be given to a good Budget that produces these good times.
I also remind the committee of the long period of industrial peace we have had in Australia. The honorable member for Gellibrand (Mr. Mclvor) said that, in his opinion, the country would not progress until we had justice for the worker and a good basic wage. If the honorable member would study the figures, he would find that the progress made in this country on the industrial level, and the industrial peace achieved under the former Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Harold Holt) and the present Minister holding that portfolio (Mr. McMahon), have been notable. While those Ministers would be the last to say that they were entirely responsible for that happy state of affairs, at the same time we must give credit to them and their officers for the fact that we enjoy these conditions.
When I refer to the Budget in general terms, I ask those who feel inclined to criticize it to think of the results that have flowed from Budgets they have criticized in the past. Much of the criticism of the Budget is delivered with very little thought. This Budget was brought down at 8 o’clock on Tuesday of last week. At 10 o’clock some gentleman found himself in a position to give what he claimed to be a considered judgment of the Budget. The Budget is a document which took many months to prepare. Many people gave a lot of thought to its preparation; yet this person thought himself able to deliver a considered criticism of it immediately.
I want to deal with two things in particular associated with the Budget - and’ to voice praise in respect of one and disappointment in respect of the other. The praise is for what may be called the merged means test. I and a large number of members of this House have discussed with the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Roberton), officers of the Department of Social Services and our own committees this great problem of property and income in connexion with the means test. In the present circumstances, 1 ‘think we all realize how unfair it is that a person who has been able to save some money for his years of retirement should be penalized by the means test as it operates at present. I realize that a solution has not been easy, but the current proposal is a good one.
We know of many cases where the potential applicant for a pension, because he is self-employed or is in an industry which has no superannuation scheme, saves some of his money to invest it in property or shares. Such a person is penalized as a pensioner when the amount of savings exceeds £200 Some years ago, we passed an amendment which helped quite a large group of people by allowing a married couple to have an income of £7 a week without the rate of pension being affected. A single person was allowed £3 10s. a week. However, that assisted only one group of people. There was a large group outside which was Stil penalized by the operation of the means test.
In the new Budget proposals which are expected to be brought into operation in March of next year, there is a merged means test. When the income is £182 per annum or more, and disregarding the variations which may occur in the property range following the removal of the automatic cut-off of the pension when the property exceeds £2,250, the pension payable at all levels on property and income is the same under the means test. But there is one other thing we should remember before I give any examples. Under this new proposal, all pensioners will receive the actual income derived from their property in addition to the pension. At a later stage in my speech I shall deal with income other than income derived from property which will be taken into consideration under the merged means test. Under the present means test a pension of £260 a year is payable to a person who has an income of £52 a year and property worth £200, which is the present limit figure. There will be no change under the new proposals. If a person has an income of £52 a year and property worth £1,000, the pension payable at present is £180. but under the new proposals it will be £260, an increase of £80 a year. That may be regarded as an example in the medium class. Let me now give an example in a higher class. If a person has an income of £52 a year and property worth £2,250, under the present means test a pension of £55 a year is payable, but under the new proposals the pension will be £185, an increase of £130. I have not given very many examples of the application of the proposals, but I think I have shown to the committee the great benefits which will flow from the proposed amendments to the Social Services Act. I congratulate the Government on finding this solution to a problem which has concerned all of us for so long.
I am disappointed that the Budget makes no mention of the abolition of pay-roll tax. I have dealt with this subject on a number of occasions, both in this chamber and by way of representation to the Minister, so 1 shall not speak on it at any length now. I shall make only two points: The first is that I believe pay-roll tax to be basically a bad form of tax because the imposition applies whether the company concerned is making a profit or a loss. The tax is reflected, therefore, in our cost structure and so in the price of our goods. This aspect is in our minds at present because of the export drive which the Government is initiating. The imposition of pay-roll tax and its effect on our cost structure makes it all the more difficult to sell our goods abroad on very competitive world markets. I believe that the companies would prefer to pay a proportionate increase in company tax rather than the pay-roll tax. The second point is that I believe this form of tax to be morally wrong.
The honorable member for Gellibrand referred to the amount of money which should be made available to the States by the Commonwealth. I do not wish to follow him along the various paths that he trod, but I should like to comment on the suggestion that the Commonwealth Government should make more money available for education. I have selected the subject of education because, as all honorable members know, a widespread petition is being prepared for submission to this Parliament requesting that the Commonwealth make more money available for education purposes. Substantial sums have been made available to the States for this purpose for many years. Indeed, in this present financial year an even more substantial sum will be made available. It is the responsibility pf the States to decide how this money shall be allocated.
There has been some loose thinking on the Commonwealth’s responsibility in education. All of us agree that education is of the utmost importance. People believe - quite rightly - that the Commonwealth Government is the most important government in Australia; that its responsibilities cover Australia and, therefore, that it must make itself responsible directly for education.
As we know, since the time of federation responsibility for education has rested with the States. Certainly in the tertiary field, the Commonwealth Government has made special grants to the States to assist in solving the problems which confront our universities, but in primary and secondary education the States have their responsibilities. There is no evidence that the States have ever made any request to the Commonwealth to take over the responsibility for education.
– That is not true.
– That is quite true. The States have asked for more money and they have been given more money, but they still want to retain the responsibility of directing the educational services within the States. Rightly so! As several eminent gentlemen in this place have pointed out, the very nature of the education problem makes it essentially a State matter. The requirements of children in Tasmania may differ to some extent from the requirements of children in northern Queensland. The Queensland Government is better fitted than any other government to decide what is best for the children in that State. I do not say that sufficient money has been made available for education. Of course, we would like more money to be made available for this purpose. What I am trying to prove to the committee - 1 hope I have succeeded - is that the Commonwealth has met the demands for more money for education by increasing the grants to the States each year. The States have the responsibility of allocating those funds,
Some people in the community say that sufficient money is not being made available to build hospitals, roads and houses. That is true. We should spend more money in those directions, but the point is that because Australia is such a large country, with such a rapid growth in population and with the huge number of things to be done to cope with the expansion which is taking place, we have to establish an order of priority for the allocation of funds. The Stale governments have the complete responsibility of allocating to education, and other avenues of expenditure the sums which are at its disposal.
The honorable member for Gellibrand mentioned also the need for development in the Northern Territory. I agree with him wholeheartedly in the broad sense, but I differ with him in some respects as to how this may be done. We should reconsider the order of priority for the allocation of money to see whether it would not be possible to provide larger sums for the Northern Territory. In discussing this problem I should like to take as my text two statements which were given in evidence before the Public Works Committee at the beginning of last year by the late distinguished Chief Justice of the Northern Territory, Mr. Justice Kriewaldt. Amongst other things, His Honour said -
The importance of the figures I have given is to be found in the reflection that the Northern Territory must be regarded as a “ frontier “ area where the administration of justice assumes a far greater importance than in a more settled community.
Later His Honour was asked a question by a member of the committee regarding the assimilation of the indigenous people of the Northern Territory, and whether any segregation should be made in public buildings, public transport and so on. The Judge made a very interesting reply which was in these terms -
The tolerance shown in Darwin towards aborigines and the process of assimilation is unique. Speaking as a son of the manse, it would offend me to see toilets marked “ Native Toilets “. I firmly believe that we must assimilate our natives, perhaps not so quickly as the Minister for Territories hopes, but it must be done. I would think it would be bad to make separate provision for natives, or at least any open separation provision. I do not like apartheid.
That is the impartial opinion and judgment of a distinguished Australian lawyer who for many years served his country on the bench. Two very interesting points emerge. One is that the process of the assimilation of the indigenous people of the Northern
Territory is going well. The second point is that Mr. Justice Kriewaldt believed that we must assimilate our natives, but perhaps not so quickly as is hoped by the Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck). In view of the criticism that has come from several organizations, and from respected journals and the daily press, regarding the need to quicken the process of assimilation in our Territories, I think that this impartial opinion and considered judgment of Mr. Justice Kriewaldt should command the close attention of this Parliament.
I turn now to the various ways in which we can assist in this process of assimilation by promoting closer settlement and encouraging our own people to go to the Northern Territory, thereby ensuring that it shall cease to be a frontier area. The Government is doing much to help promote closer settlement, as I can testify after visiting the Territory within the last few weeks. The Estimates contain provision for an estimated expenditure in 1960-61 of £87,000 on research and development work to be undertaken by the Plant Industry Branch of the Northern Territory Administration. I have chosen research and development in agriculture as my example, not because development in other fields is not equally important, but because I think the work of the Plant Industry Branch affords a good illustration of the way in which closer settlement can be promoted in the Northern Territory. As I have said, agriculture is only of minor significance in the Territory at the present time, but the work being done and the experiments being made convince me that the contribution made by agriculture to the Territory’s economy will increase rapidly.
Honorable members may recall that in July of last year the Minister for Territories appointed an expert committee to investigate the possibilities of closer settlement for agriculture in the Northern Territory. I am sure that I speak for all honorable members when I say that we await with interest the report of that committee. Agricultural research and experimental work for the determination of the commercial possibilities of cropping and mixed farming in the Katherine-Darwin area continued throughout last financial year, and I have seen something of the programme for the ensuing financial year. I think it will result in a lot of good work. Research on the growing of rice on the plains between the Adelaide and Mary rivers was begun by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization in 1959-60, and that work is being expanded. I had an opportunity, also, to see the work being done by Territory Rice Limited at Humpty Doo. Speaking from memory, I should say that in the last season something like 1,200 tons of rice was harvested there. Some of this rice was marketed in Hong Kong and some in New South Wales, and some shipments were sent to Port Moresby. The rice being grown at Humpty Doo is of the long-grain type. Further experiments are being undertaken in the Tortilla Flats area, which one enters by leaving the highway some 62 miles south of Darwin. In that area, experiments are being made with a variety of even longer grain, which is known as Blue Bonnet.
In these rice-growing areas, and especially at Tortilla Flats, the Plant Industry Branch of the Northern Territory Administration is experimenting with pastures, and especially with fodder crops such as cow peas and centro, which are planted in the rice stubble immediately after the water has been drained off and the rice has been harvested. These crops and the rice stubble, when watered regularly, make very good feed for cattle. This is why I said a few moments ago that I had chosen agricultural research in order to illustrate the work being done to promote closer settlement. This kind of work will enable us to establish mixed farming in the Territory. Farmers will be able to grow rice, and after draining the fields and harvesting the rice, they will be able to plant fodder crops in the rice stubble and then graze cattle on that pasture. This kind of development will enable us to subdivide some of the present very large holdings into smaller areas, and thereby encourage closer settlement in the Darwin area.
Experiments with fruit and vegetable crops and pastures are continuing at the Berrima experiment farm, and I saw something of this work. It is worthy of the attention of any one who visits the district, because it is most impressive. In the Alice Springs area, the Animal Industry Branch of the Territory Administration has taken over four square miles of Hamilton Downs station for experiments in cattle feeding. Over the last two years, experiments have been conducted by adding salts of the missing trace elements - in particular, phosphorus - to the drinking water of the stock. When 1 visited the property, I was shown two beasts, one of which was of much better quality than was the other. Both had been sired by the same bull and were by cows of the same strain, and they had been born within a week of each other. Only twins could have been more closely related and more comparable than that. The first beast had been fed on natural grasses and had drunk specially prepared water which had been impregnated with phosphorus salts. The other animal had had similar feed, but had drunk only the natural water. The first beast was some two inches taller than the second. It carried far more meat and was in much better condition generally. The results of these experiments are most gratifying. I am glad to see that they are continuing and that the Animal Industry Branch is now launching out into further experiments on pasture improvement. So, in the Alice Springs area of the Territory, also, the work being done by the agencies of the Territory Administration will promote closer settlement.
There is much more that I could say and should like to say about the Northern Territory, Mr. Temporary Chairman, but I have not enough time. However, before I conclude, I should like to pay tribute to Mr. Justice Kriewaldt, whose opinions I cited earlier. I am sure that I speak on behalf of all honorable members when I say how sad we were to hear of his sudden death. On behalf of all in this place I extend our sympathy to his widow and family and place on record our appreciation of the wonderful service that he gave to Australia as both a distinguished lawyer and a distinguished judge.
.- 1 rise to support the amendment moved on Tuesday night last by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell). If any evidence was needed of the soundness of the argument presented by him, I think the last two speakers in this debate, belonging to the Country Party and the Liberal Party respectively, have provided it, and have vindicated not only the Leader of the Oppo sition but also every other honorable member who has spoken from this side of the House. These two honorable members on the other side made apology after apology for the Government and its misdeeds.
Government supporters have said time and time again that they would do this or they would do that if only they had the necessary constitutional power. The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) and the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) were challenged the other night to hold a referendum on constitutional powers. Some four years ago the Constitutional Review Committee was established to consider means of improving the effectiveness of our Constitution, which has been in operation for more than 50 years. If a person buys a motor vehicle, he is not likely to keep that same vehicle for 50 years or more. He will find it necessary at some time to change it. For similar reasons it is necessary to bring pur constitutional provisions ‘ up to date. The committee consisted of an equal number of members from the Government and Opposition sides, and they were practically unanimous that certain changes should be made. The committee’s report has been in the hands of the Government for the last twelve months at least, and nothing has been done about it. This Government boasts of having been returned to power at the last election with a large majority - a majority, by the way, that it will never again enjoy. This being so, why is it afraid to hold a referendum, if one is necessary, and ask the people to give it the necessary powers?
For the last eleven years this Government has been in office, during some of the best seasons we have ever experienced, lt has had no problems arising from wars, fires, floods or any other such emergency. Nevertheless, the Budget it has now brought to the Parliament is one of despair. That is the opinion not only of those on this side of the House, but also of at least one honorable member opposite, the honorable member for Robertson (Mr. Dean), who has condemned the Government for many things it has done.
As the member for West Sydney, I must use the short time at my disposal to mention certain things that concern persons and institutions in my electorate and adjacent districts. I was very pleased to hear the honorable member for Robertson say something about pay-roll tax. I have no compassion for wealthy people who have to pay pay-roll tax, but I did think I would see something in the Budget about a matter 1 raised in this chamber some time ago. 1 am speaking of a hospital in Strathfield, in the centre of the electorate of the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. McMahon). There are more than 100 patients in this hospital, or rest home, which is the only such institution which is constantly examined and controlled at all times by officers of the Government. It is also, possibly, the only such hospital in Sydney in which the inmates have to pay only about £11 a week. I remind honorable members that hospital patients generally these days have to pay about £24 a week. 1 have appealed to the Minister and the Government to consider exempting this institution from the obligation to pay pay-roll tax. As I have said, the hospital has some 100 patients, of which about 65 are what are called wet-bed patients. This circumstance means that a great many nurses are required, and, in fact, the hospital employs about 60 nurses. When 1 asked the lady running the hospital why so many nurses were needed, she said, “Work it out for yourself. They work three shifts a day. They have to be there day and night with these patients.” The Minister for Labour and National Service is constantly talking about the wharf labourers, the ironworkers and others who strike because of their conditions. Practically every day he gets up in this chamber and condemns those workers because they ask for an extra shilling or two for their labour; yet he allows this state of affairs to continue in his own electorate. If the Government were not disposed to wipe out the pay-roll tax entirely, it could at least have granted exemption from pay-roll tax to this hospital, which is performing a service for the country that the Government itself is not prepared to undertake.
There is another matter I wish to refer to, and which I have tried to explain many times at pensioners’ meetings and on other occasions.
– What about State aid for church schools?
– If the honorable member for Barker had gone to a church school he might be better off. The Budget of 1955 contained a provision, for which the Minister for Health, Sir Earle Page, was responsible, which deprived certain pensioners of their pensioner medical service entitlement cards. Government supporters have frequently boasted of the fact that a pensioner may earn up to £3 10s. a week without having his pension reduced. They tell us that a pensioner couple may thus have an income of up to £15 a week. But they do not mention the fact that only 17 per cent, or 18 per cent, of the pensioners are capable of earning anything to supplement their pensions. But if a pensioner is able to earn a little extra, perhaps by selling papers, or going to the markets and keeping an eye on the trucks while their owners are buying vegetables, and he receives more than £2 a week from such activities, he is deprived, under the 1955 provision, of his pensioner medical service entitlement card.
This is something that pensioners never fail to resent. There may be two pensioners living in a house, one of them with a medical card, but the other, who happens to come within the scope of the 1955 provision, without a card. Let me read to honorable members some pertinent passages from the speech made by the Minister for Health (Dr. Donald Cameron) on the second reading of the National Health Bill, on 22nd October, 1959. The honorable gentleman said -
It became, on every count, impossible to restrict the number of free pharmaceutical benefits to a small range of prescribing, and to retain as pharmaceutical benefits a relatively small number of drugs. Inevitably the number of both drugs and prescriptions, and indeed of indications for their use, has increased, and in recent years at an accelerated pace. There have been inevitable concomitant increases in cost. In the early years the scheme was comparatively stable.
Then, as we know, the list of drugs was increased. Later we found that drugs that could have saved peoples’ lives were considered too expensive and were removed from the list. More and more of them were removed year by year. Pensioners who earn more than £2 a week over and above their pensions now find that they have to pay 5s. for each prescription as well as the cost of the medicine concerned. The Minister for Health continued, in the same speech -
Up to the present there have been two separate pharmaceutical benefits schemes-
Here is where the catch came in -
A pensioner scheme anda general scheme. The pensioner with only the £2 that he may earn by selling papers or by some other means, loses his medical card and must rely on the general pharmaceutical benefits scheme. We never know where we are with this Government. The Minister for Health here tells us one thing and the Minister for Health in New South Wales tells us something different. When we write to the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Roberton ) we are all at sea and in the end find that we are no better off than we were when we started.Referringto the pensioner medical service entitlement card, the Minister for Health said -
So far as this scheme is concerned, no change is proposed. Pensioners and their dependants, who are enrolled in the pensioner medical service, will still continue to be eligible for a full range of drugs and medicines free of any charge.
The pensioner receiving £2 a week from any source is not entitled to that service. The Minister continued -
Under the general scheme, the position has been that there has been a limited list of drugs which the public generally has been entitled to receive free of charge. When medicines or drugs not included in this list have been prescribed by doctors, they have been supplied by chemists at the expense of the patient concerned, this expense varying from a few shillings in the case of the cheaper drugs to considerable amounts in the case of more expensive drugs.
That means that hundreds of pensioners have to find not only 5s.; they have also to find the 10s., 12s. or 15s. that the chemist charges for the medicine. The Minister then said -
What the Government now proposes is, first, that this general list will be very substantially widened so that it will cover practically the same comprehensive range as the pensioner list, and secondly, that a charge of 5s. will be made to persons, other than pensioners, for drugs prescribed by doctors from this general list.
This is the greatest racket of all time; it would never be allowed in any other society or anywhere outside this Parliament. He went on to say -
Considerable advantages will flow from this arrangement. For instance, instead of his present uncertainty, and sometimes anxiety, as to what it will cost him to obtain a drug or medicine prescribed for him by his doctor, every patient will now know what the cost will be.
It will be 5s. and the patient will still have to pay for his medicine. That is a wicked thing for this Government to do. The Government allows a pensioner to earn £3 10s., but once he earns £2 he loses his medical card and must find not only the 5s. for each prescription but also any other charges that maybe made for medicine.
The honorable member for Robertson referred to education. I have here a letter from the New South Wales Teachers Federation which refers to the present situation. I suppose that every honorable member has received a copy of this letter. In my electorate is the school known as Blackfriars. It is the second largest correspondence school in the world, but insufficient accommodation is provided and not half enough teachers are available. I leave it to honorable members to imagine the plight of private schools if this is the condition of state educational institutions.
I come now to the housing position. Pensioners in and around Sydney are very lucky to get a room for half the pension rate - that is, about £2 10s. If they have the money, it costs nearer to £5 for a room. We often hear the New South Wales Government condemned here, but if it were not for that Government, the plight of the pensioners would be much worse than it is. I may be asked to say what the State Government has done. But what has the Commonwealth Government done? In the last ten years that it has been in office, it has given 5s. 3d. a week to the pensioners, and this is taking the good years with the bad years. In my view, they were all good years, because we have had no wars, no strikes, no floods and no fires. Yet this Government can give only 5s. a week to the pioneers of this country in the ten years that it has occupied the treasury bench. I am confident that within the next ten years the Government will disappear from the treasury bench, and when that happens the people who have made this country what it is will then have something in their old age.
Without the help of the State Government, the pensioners would not be able to obtain any dental attention, transport concessions, optical services and many other things. Last but not least, the Sydney City Council is to be congratulated for filling the gap caused by the failure of the Menzies Government to help the pensioners. Over the last four years, the council has built four amenity blocks at a cost of £40,000 each. There, pensioners can obtain their meals every day for 2s. They can also listen to the radio or watch television. Labour aldermen have done this and not one alderman, whether Civic Reform or any other group, has ever objected to this humanitarian treatment. At Christmas, pensioners are given an opportunity to do a week’s work and receive a week’s wages. The Lord Mayor of Sydney and the aldermen are to be congratulated, because, if it were not for the council and the State Government, pensioners would look in vain for a happy Christmas. Certainly, they would not get it from this Government, While I am speaking now I must not forget to advertise the pensioners’ dance in the Sydney Town Hall on 17th September. The tickets cost 4s. The only fear that I have is that the Town Hall . will not be large enough.
– Are we all welcome to come?
– You are all welcome to come on condition that you pay. We are very thankful for the people who have never failed to come to the rescue of the pensioners. One such man is Sir Edward Hallstrom. He is an animal lover and has brought animals to Sydney from every part of the world; but he has never forgotten the human touch and gives a valuable refrigerator to be used as a prize in a competition. We have another organization in the Liberal stronghold of North Sydney, and many worthy people there have contributed prizes to help to establish facilities similar to those we have established in West Sydney on behalf of these people.
I turn now to the Budget provision of £14,700 in respect of Australia’s representation in Ireland. That is the lowest amount proposed to be provided1 in respect of any country in which we are represented. I have asked the Government time and time again to appoint a Minister to Ireland, but it has absolutely refused to do so. I tried for years to get Lord Casey, when he was our Minister for External Affairs, to interest himself in that matter. The other day I saw a newspaper report that he had returned from overseas and that he had1 at least a thought for his old friend Eddie Ward. I recall, reading in the “ Sydney Morning
Herald “ years ago when the honorable member for Reid was a Mr. Gander that an argument arose between him and Mr. Casey, as he then was. Mr. Gander said to Mr. Casey, “That is the Irish blood getting up in your veins “, and Mr. Casey replied, “ I have no Irish blood in my veins “. Well, if that was so I was quite satisfied; and I thought that might be one reason why Australia did not have proper representation in Ireland while he was Minister for External Affairs. The other day I had a letter from a North Sydney chemist who had visited Ireland. He said he called to see De Valera but had to wait half an hour because Lord Casey was with him. According to press reports, Lord Casey recently went to Ireland to trace his ancestry. I hope the Government will not repeat his failures as a Minister; but if that happens, we have only twelve months to wait until a Labour government is again in office and then, as was the case under the last Labour Government, we shall have representation in Ireland equal to our representation in any other country.
– Have you not anything good to say about this Government?
– I cannot say good things about an undeserving government. The honorable member himself has condemned this Government as much as anybody else has. He condemned it here only the other day because it did not dig out the weeds on his farm. Members of the Country Party are subsidized from the cradle to the grave. Train fares and everything else are subsidized for their benefits. Yet they tell us that a 5s. rise is enough for the pensioners. I hope and trust that the day is not far distant when a Labour Government will take over and do something on behalf of the ordinary people. This Government, as every one knows, is a rich man’s government. With due respect to the member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page), I do not think he would give a man of 65 years any chance to re-marry. At all events other Budgets will be brought down and, perhaps, the most deserving sections in the community will get justice.
– In the short time at my disposal I will do my best to get back to the Budget. The honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Minogue), who preceded me made a speech which was an excellent follow-on to that of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) and it contained about the same amount of real meat. I would like to congratulate the Government on bringing in what I think is, in all the circumstances, a reasonably good Budget; and I am pleased to be able to do that because I think this is about the first Budget on which I have done so in the ten years 1 have been in the Parliament.
As has been said by other honorable members, there are some things which one hoped would have been done - that some of the pensioners might have received greater assistance, for instance. The thanks of the Parliament and of the Government are due to the honorable member for Sturt (Mr. Wilson), who for many years has put in a lot of very hard work which has played a considerable part in bringing about the amelioration of the means test which is now proposed. That is a valuable improvement which should lead to the removal of some of the penalties on thrift which have existed for some time in the pensions legislation.
At page 3 of his Budget speech the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) said -
As the Government sees it, then, the situation clearly requires a steadying-down in the rates of increase in expenditure. This is necessary to ensure a stiffening of resistance to price and cost increases; it is necessary to avoid critical shortages of key materials and labour; it is necessary to prevent an excessive rise of imports. In this there is no thought of holding back well based expansion; on the contrary, output should have a better chance to grow, productivity to improve and exports to increase if we can lessen some of the more extreme pressures on our system.
On the next page, he continued -
Within the province of the Commonwealth, such restraint has to be sought chiefly through monetary and budgetary action . For the past year or more monetary conditions in Australia have been all too easy and this has contributed to the rise in expenditures. The supply of money, technically so-called, rose by 8 per cent, in 1959-60, following a rise of 5 per cent, in 1958-59. This was due partly to deficit financing and partly to increased lending and investment by the banks. There has also been a sharp increase in the rate of money turnover. In 1959-60 the Central Bank sought, by firm use of its power over bank reserves, to prevent any increase in banking liquidity over the year and, if possible; to bring about some reduction. It succeeded in doing this, to the extent that the ratio of liquid assets and government securities held by the major trading banks fell from 22.3 per cent, in June, 1959, to 18.9 per cent, in June, 1960. However, trading bank advances have risen steeply in recent months and, for the year as a whole, showed a total increase of £99,000,000. This is quite contrary to the needs of our current situation and the Reserve Bank some time ago quite properly requested the trading banks to make an immediate and significant reduction in their rates of new lending.
Now, Sir, when some time ago there was introduced legislation which affected the structure of the Commonwealth Bank - it set up the Reserve Bank - I said I was doubtful whether that legislation was either necessary or good. I had no doubts about the Government’s good intentions; but, Sir, I am beginning to worry as to what the overall effect will be in the years that lie ahead, when we consider that reconstruction which, I said at the time, the people who had largely prompted it would have cause to regret. I feel that they are regretting it to a certain extent now. As the Development Bank increases in size and power, the trading banks will regret even more some of the suggestions they made in the first place. I say this, Sir, because of the present position of the trading banks in the overall financial picture.
The vast expansion of hire-purchase business and the building up of the Development Bank, which undoubtedly will occur, will tend to produce a result which I, and many other Government supporters, I believe, will greatly regret. They will have a very adverse effect on the trading banks in general, and will tend to drive them more and more out of the true banking functions which for many years they carried on, and so many of which they have lost in comparatively recent times. It is about these things that I want to speak.
In July the advances of the major banks were approximately £1,060,000,000 and their deposits were about £1,760,000,000, which means that the advance-deposit ratio was approximately 62 per cent., which is about 20 per cent, below the level to which the ratio sometimes went prior to the last war, particularly at this time of the year, which is a low liquidity time of the year. That is so because heavy taxation payments are made then, export income is at its lowest, and there is a general run-down of bank deposits, so that an increase in advances normally takes place. Nevertheless, this figure is slightly higher, or appears to be higher, than the Reserve Bank wants to see. So the Governor of the Reserve Bank gave instructions that lending was to be fairly severely reduced, particularly lending for speculative purposes.
The Reserve Bank appears to base this policy on the belief that bank advances tend to be inflationary. This belief stems from the theory that bank advances are different from other forms of lending inasmuch as a bank advance, it is alleged, results eventually in the creation of a new deposit and this, in turn, provides an artificial base for further new advances. It is claimed that if that process is continued almost indefinitely the banks, without any addition of real money, can increase their advances and their profits again and again.
If we look at the picture before the present controls were brought in, we see that there was a time when automatically there was a check by the banking structure itself on the amount of money made available. It could be described as an inbuilt moderator. On top of this, post-war governments put further restrictions of a fairly inflexible and arbitrary nature, and the result, which we are seeing now, is a greatly diminished role, of the banks in the community and the raising of fairly costly - I think one could justifiably say, extremely costly - new types of. finance. This is, of course, where hire purchase comes into the matter.
The growth of hire purchase has been very rapid, and has been almost contemporary with the period of credit control and the decline in power, to a certain extent, of the banks. The hire-purchase system, on the whole, involves high rates of interest, sometimes two and even three times higher than those charged for bank advances. The ethical standards of the hire-purchase system, certainly in the beginning, were not comparable with the ethical standards of the banks. I think that within fairly recent times the major hire-purchase companies have realized the considerable dangers they were letting themselves in for by not having some fairly high ethical standards, and they formed a hire-purchase conference with the idea of getting the major companies together to lay down policy. That,. I think, has had a very beneficial influence on the whole of the hire-purchase structure. At the same time, it cannot be said that the hire-purchase structure has anything like the traditions or the practices of the old banking structure in relation to the things that are traditional to that banking structure.
In an article under the heading “ Banks and the Capital Market “, Professor H. W. Arndt wrote, in 1958 -
Whereas in the last five years before the war bank credit accounted for 56 per cent, of all credit supplied by the main financial intermediaries, its share was only 32 per cent, in the years 1948-49 to 1952-53, and it fell to 21 per cent, over the last five years.
Since 1958, this trend has undoubtedly accelerated. At the same time, hirepurchase “ outstandings “, as they are called, have increased considerably. Professor Arndt gave a table showing that, while the banks’ share of new money provided declined, from 56 per cent, to 21 per cent, in that five-year period, hire-purchase finance provided rose from 2 per cent, to 16 per cent, of the total. That is, of all the new finance provided by institutions over that five-year period which ended in 1958, the banks were responsible for 21 per cent, and the finance companies for 16 per cent. I repeat, in a similar fiveyear period immediately before the war, the relative figures were 56 per cent, and 2 per cent’. There has been a tremendous change in the picture there.
Since 1958, of course, finance companies have increased considerably in number, and I think that the Government has to face the fact, that clamping down on the banks to the extent that has occurred has provided an encouragement to the growth of a secondary banking system which has not had the same ethical standards as the banks have had. In addition, that system has been more expensive to run. I do not think that it is as flexible as overdraft banking and - I think this is important - it has not played any real part in the major development of the country. By that I mean the pioneering development of the country.
One thing, which is probably the most important of all, is that this type of financing is as inflationary as is the old banking type of financing. I do not think there can be any argument about that. The reason is that it has the same stimulating effect on the rate at which money goes round.
As we all know, under legislation introduced some time ago, the major trading banks have to keep at all times about 174 per cent, of their total deposits in a statutory reserve deposit with the Reserve Bank. On that they receive about one-quarter of 1 per cent, interest, which is about 2 per cent, less than it costs them to collect the deposits. The second point is that they have to keep another 16 per cent, of total deposits in liquid form. That extra 16 per cent, could not be used as a basis for lending. At least 33i per cent, of trading bank deposits are therefore not available to the banks for lending to the public. At the same time we must realize - and this is one of the forms of control - that as the Reserve Bank buys bonds with at least some of its statutory reserve deposits and as, in practice, the banks have to keep most of their 16 per cent, in bonds and semigovernment stocks, in both cases the money is in effect a compulsory loan to the Government. This is a form of control. It is all right for the Government to spend the money, but it does not appear to be all right for free enterprise to spend it. Government works have a very considerable long-term value. Nevertheless, they are, in themselves, quite inflationary. That cannot be argued against.
At the present time, according to the figures that I have been able to secure, the nationally operated savings banks have about £750,000,000 of their £1,053,000,000 in frozen deposits. That £750,000,000 is not available for lending because it is the minimum amount that the banks are allowed to have in bonds and cash. I am not quite certain about that figure, but it was the nearest one that I could get. The total theoretical limit for lending by the savings banks is 30 per cent, of deposits or about £270,000,000 of the £1,073,000,000. In practice it must be much less because of loans drawn against and because of the need to retain flexibility. With the ban on the lending of the 33£ per cent, of the deposits in the major trading banks and 70 per cent, of the deposits in the nationally operated savings banks, the Government is, in effect, permanently freezing almost half of the total deposits in the banks. Of course, this is at a time when hire-purchase finance is drawing in more and more money at higher rates of interest and gaining considerably more business all the time.
It is not surprising that the Government, as a result of this, has established a development bank. It had to be established; 1 think, to plug up some of the holes that were in our lending policy as a result of the restrictions that had been placed on the overall lending of the trading banks. Those restrictions have forced the trading banks to confine their lending, predominantly, to short-term loans. Seldom can they give consideration to long-term loans. I suppose it could be said that traditionally, and particularly in Australia, banks almost invariably lend money for developmental purposes - for the development of primary or secondary industry - or for commerce generally or for housing. For that reason, as I have mentioned, the well-established tradings banks have played a tremendous part in our initial pioneering development. They do not make a loan unless there is a good reason for it. At least, if there is a bank that does not observe that policy, I would like to hear of it. On the whole, their lending has been quite responsible,
So whilst the Government is severely restricting the major banks, it has set up in competition with them a development bank which can only do them very considerable harm unless care is taken about it in future. I am all for the idea of having a development bank to which people who wish to undertake development, particularly in primary industry, can go and get their money at a reasonably low rate of interest, and, most importantly, over a fairly long period. But it strikes me as a bit unfair that the ordinary trading banks are being driven out of that field, in which I believe they would be prepared to remain if they were in a financial position to do so.
I wonder what the answer could be to some of the things that I have been talking about. At page 292 of “ Hansard “ the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) is reported as having said last Tuesday night - “The Government of Australia is in truth being carried on by monopolies and corporations which are outside the power of this Parliament. The hire-purchase companies for one can do what they like. The private banks, under an amendment of the Banking Act were permitted to invest their funds where they wished. Whereas in the days of the Chifley Government the industrial finance section of the Commonwealth Bank advanced £15,000,000 of the then current hirepurchase debt of £25,000,000, the Development Bank which the Country Party pretends to support can still advance only £15,000,000 when the total hire-purchase debt is about £450,000,000. The banks have gone out of the field of genuine banking into the field of hire purchase. They now own or control many of the hire-purchase companies.
After mentioning the percentages of ownership he said -
This Parliament must have power to fix interest rates other than bank interest rates. It already has power over bank interest rates but not over anything else of a like nature.
He had previously been talking about the necessity for bringing into legislation some of the recommendations of the Constitutional Review Committee. I would like the honorable gentleman to be quite clear that there are only about 10 per cent, of the recommendations of that committee that I would consider supporting. Some of those mentioned by the Leader of the Opposition I would most strenuously oppose. I believe that one of the few remaining solutions in this field is not to try, by gaining constitutional power to impose limits on hirepurchase companies but to encourage the banks to go into the hire-purchase field in the true banking sense - by making overdrafts available. Overdraft financing is a lot cheaper than hire purchase and it would be good for this country if that happened.
– But it would not be good for the banks. Why should they lend at 5 per cent, when they can get 15 per cent.?
– I have been one of the biggest critics of the banks. But they cannot go into the overdraft hire-purchase business because they have not the necessary money available. You can say that they own some of the hire-purchase companies.
– Of course.
– But that does not involve a very great amount of money. Of the £450,000,000 involved in hire-purchase finance probably only £12,000,000 or £14,000,000 is taken up in the ownership of hire-purchase companies. But because of the very high rates of interest which the hire-purchase companies are paying for the money that they use, the ordinary banking structure has not a hope of drawing money to it. I believe that we have to look at this position very seriously. I have noticed in to-day’s press that a Mr. Carter, representing one of the hire-purchase companies in Brisbane, has said that in future the hire-pur chase companies would have to pay a greater rate of interest in order to attract money. If this trend is allowed to snowball indefinitely, there could be considerable danger in it. First of all, there should be a greater freedom for banks to lend quantitatively. I do not think there is any doubt about that. Secondly, I think we have to get around to the idea of a greater flexibility in the interest rate. I am not suggesting for one moment that the interest on housing loans should go sky high; I am suggesting that the banks should be allowed to lend money for other purposes at a higher rate of interest and not be excluded from that field.
– With a higher interest rate on deposits?
– If they paid a higher rate of interest on deposits they might attract more money. I think that would improve their position.
– You would not fix higher prices to reduce prices. Your suggestion will not work.
– My suggestion has not been tried, but prices control has been tried and we know it does not work.
– It did work.
– It did nothing of the kind1. Time and time again I myself have seen that the only person who really profited from prices control was the inefficient manufacturer. He made a terrific profit because of prices control, as he was the only person who got any encouragement under that system. Australia needs development, and it is completely ridiculous to speak of developing it under a system of profit control and prices control.
I believe that if the present policy of the Government is continued, the trend which was mentioned by Professor Arndt in 1958 will also continue. That will mean that the area of finance under the control of the central bank and the Government will gradually become smaller and smaller and will diminish in relation to the rest of the money in the economy. If that trend continues, it will also mean that the controls the Government has over the banks at the present time will have to be intensified. This problem is assuming all the characteristics of a really vicious circle, in the same way as inflation is, and the Government should see that very considerable damage is not done to the real banking structure.
The more controls the Government applies to restrict the banks, the more finance will be forced into the more expensive semi-banking systems which have recently been set up, and the inflationary effect of a high velocity circulation because of hire purchase will be felt more and more by the community generally.
I commend the Government on the Budget it has brought down. I heard its presentation with considerable relief. I thought it would be a lot worse. The Treasurer is to be congratulated on the Budget. I have referred to these other matters because I consider they bear looking into. I should like to make it clear to the committee that I believe the suggestions put forward by the Leader of the Opposition are on a par with his overall policy of trying to get the angel of death to help him in his politics. -
– Mr. Temporary Chairman, I have been interested in the remarks of the honorable member for Bowman (Mr. McColm). I wondered what conclusion he would arrive at. Towards the end of his speech he said that he was pleased with the Budget. He appeared to contradict himself. He attacked, as severely as he could, the banking policy of the Government, yet towards the end of his speech he said that he approved of the policy that is contained in the Budget. He contends, rather remarkably, that because of banking controls hirepurchase companies have been able to secure business which otherwise the banks would have secured. Yet the banks say that they are very careful in the way they handle money that is entrusted to them and that money deposited in a bank is in the safest place. The honorable member for Bowman said that if the banks had the power to accept business which the hire-purchase companies are accepting, the banks would be able to use their money wisely.
– In some fields.
– I do not know what the fields are. If the banks are not able to operate in the fields about which the honorable member has spoken, it is a condemnation of the Government because he would say they were fields which were safe for the banks to operate in.
– With a higher rate of interest.
– If the honorable member is an advocate of and believes in a higher rate of interest than this Government has been permitting, God help the country if that proposal is put into effect!
– Thousands of people are paying a higher rate of interest now.
– I know thousands of people are paying higher rates of interest because they have no option but to do so.
The banks to-day are just as they always have been. When people need money most, the banks are most loath to advance it to them. The honorable member knows that if some one asks a bank for money for developmental purposes, he has a really hard job to obtain an advance. The policy of the banks is just the same as it has been over the last half century. When people do not need the money, when people are prosperous and have plenty of assets behind them, the banks want to lend them money; but when conditions are adverse and people need money and have not many assets behind them the banks say to them, “ Reduce your overdrafts and let the money come back to us.”.
This afternoon the honorable member for Bowman has discussed a subject which clearly indicates the difference between the opinion of the party to which he belongs and that of the party to which I belong.
– That is very true.
– It is very true indeed. If the honorable member intends to take away all restraints, he intends to do something which is not right. He referred to the rule whereby savings banks are restricted to using only 30 per cent, of their funds for ordinary advances whilst the balance has to be kept in cash or government bonds. I think that was the statement he made. He said that if the savings banks could use the other 70 per cent.–
– I did not say that; I said a percentage of it.
– Well, a percentage of it; that does not matter in relation to whatI am saying. The honorable member suggested that the savings banks could use part of the balance of 70 per cent. I do not know whether he meant that they should use 5 per cent, or 50 per cent. He did not say what he meant. He was very vague. The hesitant way in which he discussed these matters this afternoon indicates to me that he has read a lot of figures, but he cannot quite assimilate their meaning and he was not sure what to say. I might be a bit harsh on ‘him in saying so, but that is my impression of his attempt to tell us what the private banks should be able to do.
The honorable member for Bowman spoke about the restrictions on the amount of money the private banks are able to advance at the present time and the amount they have to keep on deposit under the Banking Act. The Banking Act came into operation about fifteen years ago and was amended in accordance with the desires of the Government about a year ago. If the banks are not able to do something about the present position is is because the Government he supports, and whose Budget he approves, says they cannot. The honorable member cannot have it both ways. He cannot complain to the Government because there is a section in the Banking Act with which he does not agree. For myself, I am pleased to see it still there. That section says that the Treasurer, who is the financial representative of the Government, can call upon the Commonwealth Bank Board to inform him of the policy it is adopting, and if he is not satisfied that that policy is in the best interests of Australia and is what the Government desires, he may direct the board to act in accordance with the policy laid down by him.
The more I consider the speech of the honorable member for Bowman, the more satisfied I am that the blame for the very things about which he has complained today, in regard to the banking policy that is being pursued, lies right at the door of the Government with which he has said he is satisfied. IfI were on the Government side of the chamber and felt that the Government was doing the wrong thing, and I quoted figures to show that what the Government was doing was wrong, I would not conclude my speech by congratulating the Government and supporting its Budget.
– That reflects the freedom we have on this side.
– I am not complaining that the honorable member expressed his opinion but that he first condemned the Government’s policy and then supported it.
– You have misinterpreted what I said.
– The honorable member for Bowman said that the reason why the hire-purchase companies were able to lend vast sums was that the private banks were restricted by the Reserve Bank under this Government’s legislation.
– I have said that for years.
– Yet the honorable member says I have misrepresented him. He also said that he would not agree with about 10 per cent, of the recommendations of the Constitutional Review Committee.
– I said I would agree with 10 per cent, of them.
– Then it would seem that the honorable member disagrees with 90 per cent, of the committee’s recommendations. He is like the woman who consults a doctor and after the doctor has given her a thorough overhaul and told her that her heart is not as good as it should be, that she should go on a diet and so on, she goes away saying, “ I am prepared to accept 10 per cent, of his diagnosis. I agree that my heart is not as good as it should be, but I do not agree with the other 90 per cent, of what he says, and I will go my own sweet way.” That is the attitude the honorable member adopts. After this body of excellent men appointed from both sides of the House made almost unanimous recommendations, the honorable member, without analysing them at all, says,, “ L agree with 1 0 per cent, of what they put forward”..
– At the most.
– I have always thought that the honorable member was a bit of a rebel in his party, that he was not as conservative as his colleagues in his approach to proposals put forward by the Government; but it would seem, from what he has said to-day, that he has developed into a die-hard conservative. He now wants the banks to be given the freedom they had in the past to increase rates of interest. First, he says that people should be enabled to build homes at a reasonable rate of interest, and then he argues that if they are required to pay the banks the same rate of interest on money they borrow for home building as they are now charged by hire-purchase companies they will not patronize the hire-purchase business. What is needed in this country is not a little less but more control of our financial system.
– That is what the people are afraid of.
– If the honorable member’s Government were to fight an election on such a policy, the number of representatives of the present Government parties returned to this Parliament would be very small indeed. Actually, the Government won the last election largely on an issue which I am glad to see has not been raised so much during this debate. I refer to its allegation that the Labour Party was closely associated with the Communists, and so on. If the Government went to the country on the policy the honorable member advocates, I can assure him that many people who voted for it last time and who have since been refused loans by the banks for the purchase of machinery costing from £1,000 to £1,500, and who have been told by the banks that if they went to the banks’ hire-purchase sections they would get all the money they required, would not vote for it to-day. If the honorable member has been in close touch with the people in his electorate, he must know that what I say is true. He must know also that the banks are quite content to let the hire-purchase organizations lend the money. If, through their hire-purchase activities, the banks can get 15 per cent, interest on the money they lend, they are not going to be keen about lending money in the ordinary way on overdraft at from 5i per cent, to 6 per cent. If we want this country to develop, if we want to increase primary production and to develop secondary industries, we must be prepared to advance the capital required at a cost which industry can afford to pay.
We on this side are clamouring for the control of hire purchase to-day. It would seem that the honorable member for Bowman would not do anything to control it. He has not suggested that there should be any control over hire purchase either by this Government or, if the Commonwealth has not the power, by the State Governments. The honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) quoted the case of the woman who went to a hire-purchase company for a loan and he mentioned what the loan actually cost her. The honorable member for Bowman knows only too well that if a person buys a motor car, a television set, a washing machine or any other modern home aid on hire purchase, he pays through the nose for it. I agree with the honorable member that if the purchaser could obtain the money from a bank the position might be different; but I remind him that even in the days before hire purchase became established as we know it to-day, it was not the policy of the banks to lend money in the way in which the hire-purchase companies do. Years ago, when the family man who was battling wanted to buy a piano for his daughter to learn music he could not borrow from a bank without first giving the bank a mortgage. Even in those days he was forced to go in for hire purchase, and the hirepurchase business has rapidly developed from the financing of pianos and sewing machines to the great industry it is to-day.
The Leader of the Opposition cited figures relating to hire purchase. I think I am correct in saying that he stated that the Commonwealth Bank at one stage had advanced £15,000,000 of a total of £25,000,000 borrowed for hire purchase. To-day, the debt owing to hire-purchase companies is something over £400,000,000, and the proportion advanced by banks to-day is by no means as great as it was in those days.
The honorable member for Bowman also spoke about the savings banks. When I was a member of the South Australian Parliament’, I spoke about the amount that could be obtained by way of loan from the savings banks for housing. In those days there was a limit on the amount that could be drawn from a savings bank for that purpose. I know also that at that time people in South Australia obtained any additional money they required from the Bank of New South Wales and paid from i to 1 per cent, more for it. That was the position. We increased the power of the savings banks to make loans for housing purposes, and we got a little more money for that purpose. I am not sure what percentage of deposits can be used for housing to-day.
The other banks became jealous of the government savings banks, and during this Government’s term of office they entered the savings bank field. Had the Labour Government remained in office, private savings banks would not be in existence to-day; I make no bones about that. I am not talking about all banking being under the control of the Commonwealth Bank. The private banks could have continued as trading banks. However, they wanted to reap the benefit of savings bank business, and the Bank of New South Wales, and other banks, established savings bank branches. In that way, they got money that would otherwise have gone to Commonwealth or State savings banks. Now the honorable member for Bowman is unhappy because the private banks cannot advance more than, I think, 30 per cent, of their deposits and have to keep some of their funds, either in cash or in Government bands, in accordance with the policy that has been followed for years. That policy was not introduced by a State Labour government or a Federal Labour government. It dates back to the beginnings of savings banks in this country. The honorable member should not run away with the idea that competition may be provided against the high rates that are being charged by hire-purchase organizations by permitting the trading banks to charge higher rates than at present for money that they lend in the ordinary way. f remember going very carefully into this position in relation to housing. I suppose that the honorable member for Bowman, like myself and other members, continually has coming to him people who want to build or buy a home, but are not able to borrow the necessary money except at a very high rate of interest. A person wanting finance from the War Service Homes
Division must wait twelve or eighteen months for it, I think. I am not sure of the period, but that does not matter. A returned soldier who goes to the department is told, “ You are a good fellow. You went away, quite prepared to sacrifice everything, if necessary, for your country. Fortunately, you have come back. You are married, you have three or four children, and you want a war service home, with finance at 31 per cent, interest. We will not have money available to lend to you for eighteen months, but we will have a look at the house you propose to buy. or the house you propose to build, and if the price is within our range, we will let you have the money in eighteen months. In the meantime, we are quite prepared for you to go to a private source and get the money to buy or build straight away. In eighteen months we will pay back to the private source the money you borrow now.”
What does the ex-serviceman find? Many have told me that they have been asked to pay 10 per cent, interest for accommodation of this sort. The honorable member for Bowman said that the trading banks should be free to raise their interest rates. If the trading banks had that freedom, they would join with the people who are providing the type of finance to which I have referred, and their rates would be up to 10 per cent. There is no doubt about that; the trading banks would1 do the same thing.
The honorable member should not be surprised because we do not agree with him. I admit that this Government has retained, to a degree, the controls that Labour imposed on the banks. When Labour does something that is of benefit to the people, the Government that takes its place, no matter how conservative it may be, does not dare to abolish the provision made by Labour, but very often waters it down as much as possible. That is the position in regard to the Commonwealth Bank to-day. I give the Government credit for the manner in which it has restrained the trading banks in the use of their funds, but we should pursue a policy that will prevent the usurer from getting the rate of interest that he is getting to-day.
I marked twelve or fifteen passages in the speech of the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt). I intended to remind1 the committee of what he said and to say what we thought about it. I have not had time to read those passages, but some of them will be covered by what I have been saying. These few words of the Treasurer are rather good -
The Budget is not the only instrument of policy - monetary policy and trade policy have highly important roles to play - and there must be consistency between all three. But the Budget has a great and pervasive influence . . .
There is no question about that. He continued -
Later, he said -
Thus, in the matter of the Budget, the Government is following through the broad programme of economic policy measures announced by the Prime Miinster last February. Honorable members will recall the main courses of action then proposed.
This is where we join issue. Honorable members opposite ask what we would do. I am quite prepared to say what I would do or what we would do. The Treasurer continued -
One was to strengthen resistance to the rise in prices and costs and, in particular, to prevent large increases in the factors which affect costs generally.
He does not want costs to increase. The honorable member for Bowman said that if the banks were allowed to charge a higher rate of interest they would be able to lend money to get things functioning in the interests of Australia. I have never yet heard that paying a higher rate of interest would reduce the cost of things being produced. That suggestion is new to me. If the Treasurer wants to prevent large increases in prices and costs, let him have a look at the increases in the profits of hundreds of Australian companies. There have been profit increases everywhere, but that does not matter to the Government. Apparently it wants to prevent rising costs by controlling the wages of the worker, who is the man at the bottom.
The 28 per cent, increase in margins that was granted last year meant an average increase in most wages of about £1 a week, but an increase of £500 or £600 in the salaries of some very highly placed persons. I still say that that was abominable. The Treasurer reaps the benefit of increased wages and salaries in the form of more income tax. Looking at the statement of income tax presented yesterday, I find that a man who receives between £1,000 and £1,200 - which is not a very high amount - has to pay in tax 4s. 4d. on every £1 in excess of £1,000. So the person in industry whose wage was in the £1,000 bracket and who received an increase of £1 a week had to pay to the Treasurer, to swell income tax receipts, 4s. 4d. on every extra £1 he received. These are the things we on this side of the House believe should be rectified. If a man is given an increase in salary, he should derive the full benefit from it. A man in receipt of an income exceeding £10,000 but not more than £16,000 a year will be taxed at the rate of 12s. 8d. in the £1. But he does not come into this bracket. The big increase in income tax is being imposed on the man with medium earnings. The basic wage earner is not greatly affected.
I turn now to the consolidated revenue for this year. When the basic wage case was before the arbitration tribunal, the Government used its influence against an increase in wages. The Government told the court, in effect, “ If you put up wages, the country will not be able to carry the burden “. As I have told people outside this chamber, the Government cannot say directly that wages will be at a certain level, but it can influence the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. If a Labour government had intervened, it would not have told the court that the country could not stand higher wages. A Labour government would have told the court that th? people should get the increase they were entitled to receive and the country should carry the cost.
Last year, the Estimates provided for taxation totalling £1,243,000,000. This year, provision is made for taxation totalling £1 .401,000.000 an increase of £158,000,000. The Government talks about people not being able to get anything better.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– I suggest that in the consideration of the Budget we should recognize that certain factors are operating which tend to weaken, if not to nullify, the attempts of this Government to control inflationary tendencies in
Australia. Before I conclude my speech, I shall address myself to some questions that were raised by the honorable member for Port Adelaide (Mr. Thompson). For the present, 1 wish to refer to certain recommendations of the Joint Committee on Constitutional Review. When I was appointed by this House to be a member of that committee, 1 went into it as a member of a joint party committee. I went into it also with the belief that I have always had that, in the consideration of constitutional questions, we should not approach them with the idea of an immediate party gain or loss, but should attempt to review the Constitution on the basis that any amendments made to it will apply for a very long time.
Last night a question was asked to this effect; What would the Labour Party do if certain recommendations of the committee were put into effect? I suggest that the Labour Party would do precisely what it could do under the Constitution, and no more. Let me make that point clear. When you amend the Constitution, you merely give to this Parliament the power to do certain things. If our recommendations were carried into effect, the things that this Parliament would have power to do would be those that were recommended almost unanimously. But the fact that there is in the Constitution a. certain power does not mean that that power will be used immediately. What it means, in effect, is - I am thinking in terms of the continuity of the Commonwealth Parliament - that when this Parliament decides to pass a bill, it shall have within the ambit of its powers the right to do so without challenge from the High Court of Australia or from any other authority.
When you get down to bedrock, it means that if the Constitution is amended, everything that is done under the amendments must come to the Commonwealth Parliament. Therefore, it is implemented by an act of Parliament. An act of Parliament is not the Constitution. What one party does to-day, another party may amend or repeal a year or so hence. I want to make it clear to this committee and to the country that the acts of Parliament which implement what the Constitution permits can - and in some cases would be - repealed, perhaps in two years or less. If the Govern ment which controlled that Parliament overstepped the mark in the opinion of the electors, the matter would go to the people, and the people would either endorse the government’s action or say that the government of the day had not properly construed their will in exercising the power.
Let me give two cases in point. During the last session of the last Parliament, we passed the Matrimonial Causes Bill. Under the Constitution, which was ratified 60 years ago by the people of Australia, power was given to this Parliament to legislate in respect of marriage and divorce. Yet it took 60 years for the Commonwealth to exercise that power. There is another thing. Since 1920, there has not been an Inter-state Commission in this Commonwealth. I believe the Commonwealth is the poorer for not having reconstituted that body. The Constitution states in no uncertain terms that there shall be an Inter-state Commission. For 40 years, Parliament after Parliament has defeated the purpose and intention of the Constitution in that respect and, in my opinion, has acted unconstitutionally in the highest sense of the word.
When I joined with my colleagues of various parties round the table in the Constitutional Review Committee, I found there was naturally an exchange of views. There was also a certain amount of modification of views. After all, we were practical politicians. At the same time, I want to pay tribute to the men who sat beside me and tried to hammer out something that would enable this Commonwealth to throw off the shackles which were holding it back in respect of national and international growth.
I wish to refer to one recommendation made by that committee which has a definite bearing not only on this Budget but also on the future of Australia. I refer to the recommendation dealing with the power to establish new States. The committee recommended that if the States consistently refused to exercise their power in this regard, as they have done for the past 60 years, the Commonwealth should have the right to intervene and take the steps necessary to prevent a distorted and unbalanced population g.row:li iri Australia. For 60 years the States have had the power to consent to the creation of new States within their boundaries, but they have not used that power. Prior to federation the Imperial Parliament created five colonies out of the territory that was originally administered as New South Wales - New South Wales, Queensland, Victoria, Tasmania, and New Zealand. In addition, it created Western Australia and South Australia. Successive governments in New South Wales and Queensland have refused to grant referendums to ascertain the will of the people in respect of a matter that would certainly have been quickly resolved by the Imperial Parliament. Does anybody believe that if this matter had been left to the Imperial Parliament we would have a State of the size of Queensland, with its capital almost 2,000 miles from its northernmost areas and situated almost on the borders of New South Wales - to say nothing of the ridiculous positioning of Sydney in relation to the remainder of New South Wales? There can be only one answer. Whatever faults the Imperial Parliament had, it did not lack vision in matters such as this.
The constant use of the veto by the States has gravely distorted our national development and has become a threat to our national existence in this age of total and atomic warfare. Consider for one moment the following facts that I submit in support of my charge that our development has been distorted: - In March, 1960, the total population of Australia was 10,230,000. The population of the five mainland capitals at that time was 5,350,000. The number of people resident outside those five capitals in an area of approximately 3,000,000 square miles was 4,680,000. If that does not indicate distorted and unbalanced development, what does? In the five mainland capitals we have no less than 52 per cent, of our total population and the remaining 48 per cent, is scattered over almost 3,000,000 square miles. The imbalance is further accentuated by the fact that in March, 1960, the combined population of Sydney and Melbourne was 3,832,000 or approximately 70 per cent, of the total population in the five capital cities. The Victorian Chamber of Manufactures, in a report to the Victorian Government, has pointed out -
A brief summary of the population figure reveals that of a total population in Victoria of approximately 2,700,000, some 1,670,000 are congested in the metropolitan area and only 1,030,000 in the whole of the rest of the State.
Whilst sharing with you great pride in the development of our State, we submit that when this development is analysed, we can only reach the conclusion that undue emphasis is placed on City development with all the inherent problems created within a sprawling metropolis.
That was the opinion of 600 or 700 representatives of firms that were struggling to develop industries inland. Let us look at how the population was concentrated in Australia in 1945 and in 1960. In 1945 Sydney had 49.65 per cent, of the population of New South Wales. In 1960 it had 54.7 per cent. In 1945, Melbourne had 58.57 per cent, of the population of Victoria and in 1960 the figure had risen to 63.16 per cent., Brisbane in 1945 had 36.28 per cent, of the population of Queensland and fifteen years later it had 39.35 per cent. Tn 1945 Adelaide had 58.97 per cent, of the population in South Australia and by 1960 the figure had grown to 61.09 per cent. In Western Australia 53.05 per cent, of the population lived in Perth in 1945 and by 1960 the figure had increased to 54.09 per cent. Those figures must be regarded with considerable alarm. If we dissect them further in terms of industrial production they are bad. In terms of national defence they are suicidal. Consider these facts: Heavy industry is the key to all industries. Let us see how it is located in Australia. The total value of factories engaged in the production of industrial metals, machines and conveyances in Australia is £735,800,000. The value of such factories located in New South Wales is £359,400,000 and in Victoria, £214,200,000 or a total of £573,600,000. Those factories are situated, in the main, in and around Melbourne and Sydney. The value of factories situated in and around the other mainland cities of Australia is £162,200,000. If we take the figures for factories manufacturing optical equipment, munitions, electrical and engineering equipment, explosives and chemicals we find that practically all of our heavy industries and defence industries are placed in or near State capitals. We find that industries basic to our survival, including industries at Port Kembla and Newcastle, are situated almost entirely near Sydney and Melbourne.
The director of dispersal policy in the United States of America, under a directive from President Truman in August, 1951, said-
The strength of our national defence, and in fact of our continued existence as a free nation, depends largely on our industrial capacity. The care of this capacity - so essential to our survival - lies with a few densely built up centres. Since 194S we have experienced a period of unprecedented industrial expansion but except for a few examples there has been no pronounced trend away from these concentrations.
Although those remarks were applied to the position as it existed in America they could quite easily be applied to the position that exists to-day in Australia. If I had set out to paint a word picture of our danger in the face of the present-day international tendency towards war, I could not have done any better than has the United States director of dispersal policy.
The United States has relatively few vulnerable places. According to an official statement in 1953, 1.7 billion dollars worth of new construction has been located in non-vulnerable areas. What are we in Australia doing? We have a far more dangerous concentration than has the United States. The inordinate growth of our capital cities in the last fifteen years supplies the answer. Honorable members might ask: If this is so - it is so, because 1 am citing official figures - how can new States help to solve our problems which arise from the intense concentration of people in the capital cities? In the first place, the creation of new States would lead to new centres of government, administration, communications, public works, law and local government. I emphasize that aspect because if an atomic attack was made on our vulnerably placed capital cities, practically the whole communications system and the co-ordinated arrangements for defence would be destroyed, and there would be no alternative but to introduce martial law and military government - the wo: st kind of government to handle civilian populations, though sometimes necessary in time of war. Further, if there were new States and new capitals or centres of communication, there would be more rapid mobilization of assistance if disaster struck the present capitals where everything is centralized. During the last war I was appointed by the New South Wales Government to draw up a plan for the handling and dispersal of the non-combatant population and to provide for it away from the target areas. I hate to think what would happen if we suffered an attack on the existing Slate capitals.
If new States were created there would be concentration on the encouragement of new industries by using the States’ resources to attract them. More people would be able to take part in the art and science of government, thus strengthening our system of democratic parliamentary government. Only by governing can men learn to govern, just as by swimming they learn to swim. New forces of energy, enterprise and initiative would be released, and people away from the existing capital cities would be given a freedom from the sense of frustration which has been forced on them by the continued failure of State governments to implement the Constitution. Another factor, which I state with all the solemnity that I can call to my aid, is that the danger of secession and armed revolt against the State which will not implement the Constitution would be removed. This may seem to some people to be a forced point of view, but I warn this Parliament and the people of Australia that you cannot always rely on the hitherto inexhaustible patience of those who are sickened by and resentful of the law-breakers who refuse to implement the Constitution.
In 1932 I sat in two meetings at which men of the northern area of New South Wales solemnly debated the question of whether they would revolt. I cast my vote and my influence against that course. In 1948 a rising tide of rage and despair was diverted to constitutional ends by the revival of the new State movement.
The day may come when men such as the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) and I, who have fought the constitutional battle on constitutional lines, will be either discredited by our failure or have passed from the scene. Others less patient than we are may take our place and, if civil revolt breaks out, the responsibility will lie squarely on the heads of those who continually refuse to implement the Constitution which provides expressly for the creation of new States.
Let me read a letter which was published in the Armidale “ Express “ and the “ Sydney Morning Herald “. It was written recently by a highly educated man, a first cousin of Sir Winston Churchill - Mr. Hugh Frewin, Jerome Park, Dorrigo, New England. The letter reads -
Mr. Ulrich Ellis, the campaign director of the New England movement, has appealed for selfgovernment as a democratic right within five years. The time is all too long. The late Jafar Pasha once said to me, “ Independence is never given; it is taken “. A profound reflection! Three-quarters of a million people with an annual production of £248,000,000 are not to be put off. Their secession is the only practicable measure towards decentralisation. If it does not come soon, we shall be faced with all the strife and bad blood which attended Irish separation and Indian partition. Australia cannot afford that. Unity, in the face of external danger, is even more important.
Mr. Frewin concluded his letter in this way, as he is something of a poet -
You have plundered our lands
For your bridges and streets,
And pledged all our assets
To brand us as cheats.
But the soul of a people,
Still honoured and great,
Shall arise from the wreck
Of this down-trodden State.
That is a significant letter. Honorable members may have thought that I was romancing when 1 said that in 1932 I sat in two meetings at which men of the northern part of New South Wales solemnly debated whether they would actively rebel against the government in power at the time. I have stated truthfully the position which then existed. I cast my vote and used my influence against the proposal then, as I would do now. But as I have pointed out, there may, and almost certainly will, come a time when those who do not think in terms of the Constitution will take the law into their own hands if their request for a new State is not granted. Similar conditions obtain all over the world. There are countries in which on the surface everything seems to be flowing along placidly and then the day comes when the clam bursts. How can one account for these sudden outbursts? It is all very well for honorable members to laugh. But the requests of people to break away from the constant pledging and use of their assets to build little more than a tremendous atomic target on the shores of Port Jackson cannot long be refused.
There is not a military man in this chamber who does not know that the military nightmare now is the atomic or nuclear bomb which will come from the bottom of the sea in the form of a Polaris or similar missile. It may be practicable to guard against a long-range missile, but one’s chances are very slight when an attack comes from very close to one’s own shores. I believe that the position will be unchanged for a long time.
I appeal to the Parliament not to reject the recommendations which have been made by the Constitutional Review Committee. 1 believe that this and other matters ought to be referred to the people. The point that I want to make before I pass from this aspect of the problem, Sir, is that the Constitutional Review Committee was unanimous in most of its recommendations, and especially on one point - that the people of Australia were entitled to be asked for their opinion as to whether these proposals should be rejected or put into effect. The people have that right, and those who refuse to recognize that fact will perhaps some day regret that they did not acknowledge this right.
I want to mention one more thing before 1 conclude. The honorable member for Port Adelaide mentioned banking. Those of us who were members of the Constitutional Review Committee and who have studied these matters know perfectly well that this Parliament has not the power properly to control banking. The Reserve Bank of Australia has been given authority to control bank interest rates, deposits, including the special deposits of the trading banks with the Reserve Bank, and so on. But outside that, there is a great sector of banking which cannot be controlled by this Parliament or by the Reserve Bank. I put this question to any one in this chamber who understands finance: Can any modern nation hope to manage its affairs successfully without having a central reserve bank to protect it against internal inflation and the onslaught of other countries that would use their financial power to destroy it? I think there can be only one answer - and I believe it is the right one: You must have a reserve bank. But, in present circumstances, the Reserve Bank of Australia is a futility, and the efforts of this Government to control the inflation in our midst are being defeated. In present circumstances the measures taken by the Government are just about as useful, in the final analysis, as would be a porous plaster applied to a cancer. And that is just about what the financial measures that we have taken amount to. I do not want any one to think that I am decrying the Government that I support. I think it is trying to deal with the situation as best it can. But unless the people of Australia realize how limited are the powers of this Parliament to control the major financial activities of this country, the Government’s efforts will be rendered futile.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- Mr. Temporary Chairman, the honorable member for New England (Mr. Drummond) was running nicely into my line of thought as he concluded his remarks. This Government has completely failed to tackle the nation’s problems, and its financial measures are about as useful as would be a porous plaster applied to a cancer, as the honorable member suggested. The Government has demonstrated its complete inability to deal with our financial problems. Nothing has distinguished the honorable member so much in a very long and distinguished public career as has the revolutionary attitude that he seemed to advocate this afternoon. One would almost think, having heard him, that before long the Australian Country Party would be up on the barricades and the revolution would be under way, and that at last something would be done. I suggest to the honorable member that at least he might stir up his sixteen or seventeen colleagues in this place and see whether at long last, after almost eleven long-suffering years, they cannot wake up to the deficiencies of the present Government, spring into action and do something for the nation.
The attitude of Government supporters is one of the outstanding features of Budget debates. Members of both the Australian Country Party and the Liberal Party of Australia make piteous pleas for people on pensions and they demand decentralization politically and industrially. They plead with and cajole the Government in all sorts of ways, but when the whip is cracked they finally toe the line and do exactly as the great white dictator tells them to do. They sit silent in this chamber when he nods his head and suggests that he does not like interjections any more.
We even saw a public rebuke - almost a public spanking - handed out to the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) the other night to support this view.
Now I want to deal directly with this rather depressing Budget speech made by the Treasurer. At the beginning, he said -
More than ever these days, the Commonwealth Budget has to be regarded as a means to guide the broad trend of the economy in the direction of certain well-established goals.
In a country such as this, which is one of the wealthiest in the world, with almost unlimited resources at its disposal and with 10,000,000 people who have all the knowhow they need to enable them to do anything that they wish to do, it is interesting to examine some of the Government’s deficiencies. We cannot help but wonder whether the Liberal Party has embodied in its goals the demand for housing, education and transport and the demands for the satisfaction of the needs of people who need pensions but cannot get them and who therefore wonder when they will get another meal. We wonder whether these things are embodied in the goals of the present Government.
At the conclusion of his Budget speech, the Treasurer said -
The past fifteen years have seen progress in Australia without parallel in our history.
That is reasonable enough with an expanding economy and an expanding population, but the people know that it is not the full story. The right honorable gentleman added -
This is unfortunately the theme that the Government has adopted during the four and one-half years for which I have been a member of this Parliament. Indeed, this has been its theme ever since it gained the treasury bench. The Treasurer went on to say that, essentially, the pace of expansion had become rather too fast and that we have to ease it off a little. I suggest that he tell that to the people who are looking for houses, schools, better transport and all the things which make life comfortable and the country fit to live in.
In our view, the whole thing boils down to a simple equation. Our standard of living is equal to the degree of satisfaction of the demand for many things which are provided by governments - by the public sector of the economy. The water that comes from the laps, the electricity that flows through the power lines, the school that my child attends, the roads on which we drive and the footpaths on which we walk are just as essential to our comfort and to the maintenance of a proper standard of living as are the carpets on our floors. However, under the regime of the Liberal Party, the ability of the public sector of the economy to provide these things is continually declining. Every public utility in Australia is being strangled by the Government’s policy. The private sector of the economy is taking over all the resources and the public sector is staggering and faltering.
I look at this Budget and ask: What are the Treasurer and the Government afraid of? Why, in every great debate on important public issues, do we see evidence of fear and faltering? Why must we slow down a little and ease off? This is no time to ease off. The children who need schools cannot wait for five years. If they miss out on their education this year, they will be finished. They can pass through the educational system only once, and if they are denied a proper education now, the deficiency can never be made good. If the thousands of people who are waiting for homes - I understand that there are at present 16,000 or 17,000 on the waiting list of the Housing Commission of Victoria - do not get accommodation now, to-day’s unhappiness, suffering, sorrow, heartbreak and broken homes will leave in our society deficiencies that can never be made good, no matter how much courage this Government may gather to itself in the future.
There is another thing about which the Government seems to be very cautious and diffident - the problem of prices. The Treasurer extolled the remarkable advances that this nation is making, and then said -
But there is another side of the picture, not so favorable. Prices and costs rose sharply over last year and, so far, the rate of increase does not seem to be slackening.
The right honorable gentleman is content to sit in his ivory tower, with his Government colleagues all about him, I presume, and to speculate on whether the tide of rising costs and prices will check itself.
Is it not time that they themselves did something about it? Just think of the prices of the ordinary things that the community needs - the clothes we wear, the houses we live in and the motor cars we drive. What raises the cost of all these things? Has not the Government some influence over the cost of raw materials, over interest rates, taxes and profits, and over the cost of transport, land, power and communications? The exploitation of this country by overseas interests and this Government’s export policy contribute to the final cost of everything, whether it be a pair of boots, a house, a hotel or a transport service. In any article which we buy we can almost invariably find some component of its cost which can be held to be the responsibility of this Government - a responsibility which the Government refuses to acknowledge, and in the discharge of which it refuses to act. Consider for a moment the position regarding raw materials in this country. It ought to be the Government’s job to see that raw materials are made available freely to our manufacturing industries at the lowest possible cost.
Perhaps our principal basic raw material is steel, so let us consider steel itself and the components of its cost. The production of steel in this country is in the hands of one giant corporation. We on this side of the House have respect for people who are capable of doing a job, and do it thoroughly; but the fact is that the production of steel is in the hands of one politically irresponsible group which does what it likes. If it wishes to raise the price of steel in order to finance expansion of its industry, it does so. If it wishes to export steel instead of selling it on the Australian market, it again does so, and this Government takes no step to protect Australia’s interests. Neither does the Government take any steps in the case, for instance, of the Mount Isa company, to see that the control of the company lies fairly and squarely inside Australia. The same thing applies to many of our other raw materials..
I pass on to high interest rates, power over which lies almost completely within the initiative of this Government. What has been the story over the last few years? This is a government of usury. It is a government that fosters usurers in every sphere of our national life, whether in public utilities such as our education and transport systems, in our domestic life, in home building, or in any other commercial, charitable or industrial activity. In all these spheres the rising price of interest is becoming a millstone around our necks, although this is a field in which this Government could be a pace-setter. This is a field in which the Government could take the initiative by making money available at a cheaper rate of interest. The Government could deal with this problem through its banking system - but this is a high interest rate Government.
The Treasurer says that costs seem to rise. Well, this is one particular field in which he could show some initiative. Like most other Australians I am a home owner, and like most other Australians I shall probably hand my home on to my grandchildren, not quite paid off principally because of the burden of high interest rates. Let us consider the cost of an ordinary war-service home.
– Would the honorable member like to get a house free?
– The honorable member for Barker suggests that because a person does not want to pay high interest rates he wants to get a house free. The Treasurer is a sociable character in his way. At times he almost shows - as long as there is no need for any practical application - a little bit of human sympathy. The other day - in fact twice in the last fortnight - he raised the question of the cost of home-building. What is the principal component in the cost of a home? I occupy a war-service home and as honorable members know the War Service Homes Division offers the lowest interest rates you can get. It offers also about the longest terms for payment you can get and it has probably got as sympathetic an administration as you can get. When I make my final payment or when my grand-children do so the greatest single cost of that house - greater than the actual cost of the house itself - will be interest. I cannot give the figures offhand but in 40 years my home will cost me a total sum of £4,500, of which £2,500 will be interest and £2,000 will be the cost of the tiles on the roof, the nails, the timber, &c.
My friend the honorable member for Hughes (Mr. L. R. Johnson) has just pointed out that for a home costing £2,000, after 30 years’ payment of interest and principal the total cost will amount to £4,585.
There are lots of ways in which I should like to discuss the question of interest rates, but at least I can say that, even if honorable members opposite do not accept my perhaps radical proposal that usury or interest are out of place in modern society, the Government ought to find some other way of charging people for money advanced to them. Anything which raises interest rates increases costs to everybody in the community, and the home owner is the principal sufferer.
The Commonwealth Bank, which is one of our own instruments, could well be the style leader in regard to interest rates. I will cite one example of how high interest rates increase costs in Victoria. I am the president of a body conducting an aboriginal hostel in that State. The capital debt on the building at the moment is £4,600. Last year we paid some £350 in interest. In respect of all the plans we want to make, and all the money that we raise, the first burden is an interest rate of some 6 per cent. We paid £350 in interest last year, which amounts to £7 a week. If you divide that interest charge by twelve, which is the number of beds in the hostel, it meant that every bed in the hostel bears an interest burden of 12s. 6d. a week. Nevertheless, we are able to carry on by charging each occupant the sum of £2 10s. a week for board. If the Government were to cut interest rates on such institutions by half, and we were charged only 3 per cent., we could immediately cut the cost of maintaining each bed in that hostel, which is a home for twelve girls, by 6s. a week.
I have not the time, in this particular debate, to analyse interest rates in regard to everything in the community, but if the things with which I am associated - my home, on which I have paid £600 or £700 in the last seven or eight years, but have reduced my principal debt by only £150, and the organization in which I am involved in community work - are staggering under this load of interest, then it is time that the whole community paid some regard to this problem. The great things, the small things - the railway systems of Australia, too - are staggering under a load of interest which they cannot possibly sustain, and this is the direct result of the policy of the Government. The Government could deal with this one particular item because it has the initiative to do so through the banking system. It has the initiative also through its system of lending money to the States - of which I strongly disapprove - and it could take immediate action to curb this element of rising costs. So I say that at least in that one item alone this Government is responsible for some of the rising costs. But unless it acknowledges that responsibility it will not take action, and unless it takes action rising costs will get beyond our control.
Now let us consider taxation. Direct taxes cannot be passed on, but indirect taxes might be passed on. This is another item of Government responsibility which cannot be gainsaid. This Government has a mechanistic attitude to financial matters. It believes that if you press a button you can lay on a little more sales tax, or lay on a little higher interest rates, but you cannot do that when you are dealing with human beings.
Now I turn to pay-roll tax. I know that the honorable member for Bradfield (Mr. Turner) will say, “ Oh, well, we are back on the old stuff again “. I have not bothered about analysing pay-roll tax during the last year or so, but a couple of years ago I did find out how many people in Victoria were connected to the electricity system there, and I ascertained how much pay-roll tax they paid. Every individual electricity account in Victoria at that time bore a burden of 5s. pay-roll tax. There is no gainsaying that. It is a simple fact of arithmetic. And that is just part of it, because electricity affects everything else. The extra cost runs down through the power lines into every shoe that is made with electric power. It runs into every home and into every piece of food that is eaten in that home. The whole system is also strangling public utilities. Last year the Victorian Department of Education paid some £535,000 in pay-roll tax, so five and a half high schools alone were denied to the people of Victoria as a result of the taxation policy of this Government.
I cannot spend all of my time on this subject, but surely sales tax and pay-roll tax are indicative of the attitude of this Government to the question of rising costs. If the Government is prepared to maintain taxes which add to the cost structure, then it is responsible itself for the price rises that result.
Now let us consider the matter of profits. No attempt whatever has been made to curtail the fantastic profits that huge corporations in this country are making. Reference was made earlier to the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited. I have no particular bug about the B.H.P., but its profits have become so fantastic, as have those of General Motors-Holden’s Limited, that no Australian can ignore them. They are even commented on in the monopoly press. I understand that the profit on a Holden motor car is about £180, and every person who buys a Holden has to accept this great extra burden of cost, and possibly passes it on.
Is this not a proper field for a government to enter? Has the Government no right to interfere in these activities? The honorable member for New England (Mr. Drummond) says that we will have to get constitutional power. In the very first speech that I heard when I came to this Parliament, the Governor-General’s Speech at the beginning of 1956, it was asserted that the Government would start to do something about constitutional power. Now, after four and a half years of unspecific dithering, we have made no progress in this connexion. The honorable member for New England, steeped in the best traditions of this nation, is becoming quite revolutionary about it. Yet we have the Treasurer saying only that costs and prices still seem to rise. Evidently he does not have to do the shopping. Apparently profits come within the Government’s field of business. Taxes certainly do. Interest is a matter on which the Government has the principal initiative. It has been said time and time again that we have extraordinarily high overhead charges in Australia because of our geography and the very high cost of transport. Consider what the interest and financial policies generally of this Government have done to our transport systems. A couple of years ago, or less, answers were given to questions asked in this Parliament - and they can be read in “ Hansard “ - giving the amounts of money paid in interest by our railway systems in the previous ten years. The total reached the staggering sum of about £137,000,000.
It is, of course, part of the policy of this Government to load with these heavy burdens instrumentalities which play a vital part in the cost of every manufactured article and every service that is provided in the community. Yet members of the Government sit here and say only that things seem to be out of control and that it is time for action. This Government has been ignoring its responsibility in every field of public policy having anything to do with costs. Consider, for instance, the cost of land. I suppose that transport, land and power costs are the basic items of cost affecting the community. What is happening to the cost of land? Land is bringing fantastic prices, prices that have become quite unreal. lt is almost impossible to buy a block of land, even to build a house, without hanging a load of debt around one’s neck for the rest of one’s life. Great extra cost burdens have been thrown upon industry in all parts of the country by land speculators. These extra costs have to be borne by all classes of industries, primary or secondary. Is it not possible for the Government to take some action in this field? Can it not do something, by banking policy or tax policy, to prevent this huge rise in the cost of land?
On this happy note, Mr. Temporary Chairman, may I suggest that this would be a suitable time to suspend the sitting?
– No! The suspension is announced at 6 o’clock.
The honorable member will continue.
– I thank the Minister for Social Services for this opportunity to speak while he is at the table. I may as well devote the minute remaining before 6 o’clock to directing the Minister’s attention to some of the deficiencies of his own department. He frequently makes platitudinous speeches in this chamber, stepping forward time and time again, as if he had holy writ on his side and in his hands, to tell the people how well served they are with their miserable pensions. The Minister now sits here and smiles, despite the fact that the anomalous social service provisions mentioned in the Budget will soon be written into the legislation for which he is primarily responsible. I had not proposed to analyse the social service provisions this evening, but I am attempting to do so in the moments that I have left before the Minister allows me to go off to my dinner - and I remind honorable members that the Minister refuses thousands of others the wherewithal to obtain a decent dinner. Let me hope that my entreaties will touch his stony heart.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
– Before the suspension of the sitting for dinner, I was dealing with what I call the anatomy of costs - the cost of raw materials, interest, taxes, profits, transport, land, power, communications, wages, and so on - and pointing out, I hope to the satisfaction of those who cared to listen, that in respect of each of those items there was some action which the Government could take to prevent the rising costs of which the Treasurer has taken rather offhanded notice in his Budget speech. I indicated that, in respect of raw materials, for instance, there are actions which the Government could take to protect Australia’s interests and to control the price of materials, such as steel, which are essential commodities in manufacturing.
I pointed out that the Government’s policy on interest rates had amounted to the development of usury in the community, so that every public utility and every domestic activity has this millstone of high interest rates around its neck, thereby prejudicing national development and the standards of living of the people. The taxation policy that the Treasurer and his precedessor have adopted has loaded the community with costs which become invisible in the long run but which nevertheless are there and are pricing us out of the world’s markets. The transport industry is one of the principal sufferers, particularly the railways of Australia. There are exorbitant costs in connexion with land transactions. Power, which is an element of every piece of manufactured goods, also is loaded with this cost. The Government, despite the powers that are at its command, such as the financial power and the potential power to obtain constitutional reform, does nothing about it.
I am pleased that the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies’) is in the chamber this evening. I hope that he will answer some of the- questions which are the. constant theme of speeches from this side of the House. In this context, I speak perhaps with the opportunity to give some kind of a summary of the questions that have been posed by practically every speaker from this side. The Government constantly refers in its policy announcements to restrictive trade practices, but it does nothing about them. Every one of the matters that I have mentioned contribute, in the final analysis, to the rise of costs about which the Treasurer says, “ It seems to be occurring “.
The honorable member for Hughes (Mr. L. R. Johnson) has given me a good example of the ineffective nature of this Government’s attitude to the problems it faces. The Illawarra County Council has furnished the honorable member with particulars of an instance in which fourteen firms tendered for electrical equipment. Strangely enough, by some odd coincidence of accountancy, they all tendered identical prices. He was approached by the council because he is an effective member. He took the matter up with the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen) and received the ordinary answer that nothing could be done about it - because the Minister is ineffective.
There are three or four vital questions which are posed to every Australian. Why, for instance - and the Prime Minister may well be able to give the answer - is it that the public sector of the economy is languishing while the private sector is flourishing? Why is it that schools are not being built? Perhaps the right honorable gentleman will also give the answer to a question that I posed to the Treasurer the other day. I asked why the resources devoted to destruction can be so magnificent while those devoted to instruction are so humble. I invite all honorable members opposite to take a drive past the Watsonia military camp and see for themselves whether that is not part and parcel of the financial structure with which this Government, of which the Prime Minister is the head, has burdened the country. If rising prices are so great as to deter honorable members from making the trip, I shall arrange transport for them.
Every State instrumentality is carrying a staggering burden of interest imposed on it by the financial policies of this Govern ment. We- see in the Estimates evidence of the rising burden of debt of the State governments. In 1960, the interest burden imposed on the States is £104,000,000, while the Commonwealth’s load has slipped to £50,000,000. The Commonwealth’s interest burden is falling because that of the States is. rising. Every single £1 of that interest will deprive some child of a school desk. That is the direct result of the financial fantasy which this Government calls a policy. Let us consider the simple example of the airlines versus the railways. Why is it that the Queensland Government, the Victorian Government, the New South Wales Government and the South Australian Government have to pay interest in respect of public utilities, in the case of the standardization of the railway lines, and why is it that the airlines have been for ten years almost completely subsidized by the Commonwealth Government? In every field of public activity for which this Government is responsible, we find that kind of inconsistency. Let us examine again the single factor of railways finance. The honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Whitlam) made the point in a speech last night, and it would not be a bad idea if the members of the Government read it, that the three southern States have received more favorable financial terms than the Queensland Government.
In all of these matters there is inconsistency of policy. We see the development of financial policies which are strangling State instrumentalities. We see the public sector languishing and the private sector flourishing. These things are the direct results of the Government’s policy, which ignores the vital demands of the community. In the last few days, I have received from various parts of Australia, principally from New South Wales, telegram after telegram. Let me take the one on top. It reads, “ Request emphasize needs of education whenever possible during Budget debate “. That telegram came from the Deniliquin Teachers Association. Why did not the association send it to the federal member for that area? It did not do so because it knows he is simply a cipher in a government such as this, and that the Prime Minister has adopted the attitude that a Constitution written 60 years ago is of more importance than the demands of the children of to-day.
I challenge the Government on all the questions to which I have referred, on the great social questions of to-day, whether they are concerned with education, housing, national development, or other matters. Why cannot we decentralize Australia? I challenge the Government on the development of public utilities and of overseas trade. Why is it that Australia, a nation which ought to be one of the richest and best endowed in the world, has reached the stage where the Treasurer can come into this Parliament and say that this is a time for caution, a time to step warily - when thousands of people are homeless, there is a great demand for schools, and many important questions are begging for an immediate answer. This dynamic Government with its private enterprise philosophy cannot find the answers to those questions. Perhaps, to-night, the Prime Minister will tell us why the answers are so difficult to find.
Order! The honorable gentleman’s time has expired.
– I was very interested in what I heard of the speech of the honorable member for Wills (Mr. Bryant), and I was glad that he made a properly impassioned appeal for instruction in the country. If I may say so, Sir, he needs a little instruction himself on the financial affairs of Australia. He took the opportunity to say something that I did not expect ever to hear from him. That was the old bromide: If you can do it for war, why cannot you do it for peace? If you can do it for destruction, why cannot you do it for instruction?
The honorable gentleman knows perfectly well that you can do certain things for war, if you raise taxation to war-time levels, if you control all investment, if you ration food and supplies generally, and if you go back to all the controls that existed in Australia, very properly, in the course of the war. What he must go away and think about is whether he is telling us, in this year of grace, that it is the policy of the Australian Labour Party to secure enough power to do all those things once more in time of peace. It is perfectly simple. It is so simple that even the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Cairns) ought to understand it. If you reproduce the conditions and the powers, the circumstances and the authorities of war, of course you can do these things. But is the honorable member for Wills prepared at the next election, the one after that or the one after that - as long as he is sitting on the Opposition side - to go to the people and ask them to authorize the Commonwealth Parliament to impose income tax running up to 18s. 6d. in the £1, to control investment, to control capital issues, to ration food and other commodities, and to re-institute all the control of war?
I am sure that he knows, because he is an intelligent man, that unless he can reproduce the conditions, he cannot reproduce the results.
– Why not put up an intelligent argument?
– I was under the impression that what I had said was quite intelligent, but I leave it to others to determine whether it was. My main purpose in this debate, which I shall not prolong very much-
– It is hardly a debate!
– I agree with that comment. My purpose is to say something about what I understood to be the case of. the Opposition. I know that for unavoidable reasons my friend, the Leader of the Opposition, cannot be here to-night, but I think I would be permitted to say that in the course of his speech, which was as remarkable for its omissions as for the matters it dealt with, he seemed to me to put forward four proposals. It was nothing like a positive speech from a Leader of the Opposition. The first of his four proposals was the admirable suggestion, “ Get rid of the Menzies Government “. All I can say is that, if all the speeches made by Opposition members are like that of their Leader the people will never get rid of the Menzies Government, except by death. Mind you, that is not only a probability but a certainty, in due course. In his second proposal, he said, with a fidelity to his predecessor that I could not but admire, “We ought to have the Chifley Government back again “. I said to myself, in the best Australian vernacular, “ Too right “. The Opposition is always living in the past, never living in the present. That is what is wrong with the Australian Labour Party. It is practising a dead philosophy with a dead collection of ideas.
– Do not repeat yourself.
– That is all right; I have to repeat everything three times to you, for the most elementary reasons.
The third proposal - I have heard it at least four times - is that the right way to ileal with the Budget in 1960 is to alter the Constitution to give more powers of control to the Commonwealth Parliament. Is that the best contribution that honorable members opposite can make to a Budget debate?
– It is the only sensible one!
-I am familiar with your views on that.I am also familiar, as no doubt my friend is, with the long history of proposals to alter the Constitution. But to come along to people in 1960 and say, when dealing with the Budget, that at some Kathleen Mavourneen time in the future the Constitution ought to be altered-
– Do not become sectarian!
– If therehad been a similar Scottish allusion to a MacTavish, I would have used it. In his fourth proposal, the Leader of the Opposition said that we must defeat inflation. There, I thought, he was on good ground, but he refrained from telling us how he would do this. To defeat inflation, to restrain it, to bring it to a halt is the supreme task of this Parliament.
– You have been telling us that for ten long years.
– Now, Reggie.
– You are now no further ahead than you were when you started.
– I say to my old and esteemed friend, through you, Mr. Temporary Chairman, that I have listened to him with great patience and great mystification for twenty years.
How does the Opposition propose to defeat inflation? We are not told. This is the great task of this Budget, as it is of all budgets, and it is a very difficult (ask requiring a great deal of serious thought and a great deal of close study. How do we defeat inflation while maintaining development? This is the central problem of our economy to-day. It is a very hard task and a task that can be solved only with constructive ideas. In order to deal with that real problem, let us forget the unrealities of the Opposition’s case - if I may so dignify it - and look at the comments of the professional expert critics. We have heard some of them and read some of them, and I want to say something about them. Having been left lamenting for an Opposition case, 1 must cast my net wider and find out what the critics are saying elsewhere.
First, they say that there are no signs of cuts in Government spending. Those are the very words of one powerful organ. Here we have a blissful silence on the Opposition side of the chamber, because I do not think that any Opposition member would believe that if his views were put into operation, he would not increase Government spending by millions, or scores of millions, or indeed, in an exuberant moment, by hundreds of millions. The critics say that there are no signs of cuts in Government spending. I want to remind honorable members of the facts, because facts have a lovely intractable quality about them.
– Is that why you avoid them?
– That is why I am about to refer to them. The honorable member for Yarra has never had even a nodding acquaintance with a fact in his life.
– I don’t think you like him!
– I do not. I think he is deplorable, since you ask me. I do not think you are very good, but I like you: that is the difference.
– That will lose me votes at the next election.
– I hope so.
What are facts? Expenditure on capital works and services in this Budget is actually down on what it was last year. It has fallen from £142,000,000 to £139,900,000. That is not very much, you may say, but it is a fall. It is worth remembering that at a time when the Commonwealth Government, in order to help the States to carry out their vastly important duties in the public sector of capital investment, is doing more for the States than has ever been done for them before, we have in fact reduced expenditure on our own capital works and services. As against that, our payments to the States have risen by £29,000,000. Does any critic here or elsewhere say that we should not have done that?
– Only by-
– I remember everything you say with loving care, and I have heard you say many times that the States ought to have more. Very well, the payments to the States this year, under an agreement which they all accepted with great satisfaction, are up by £29,000,000.
I have mentioned those two matters. Budget expenditure has risen by £89,700,000. Some one says, “That is a tremendous increase. That shows you are not controlling Commonwealth expenditure.” I remind the committee of the fact that this year allocations by the Australian Loan Council for works and housing, every shilling of which will go to the States, has risen by £10,000,000. Moreover, as a result of the increases provided for in the Budget, expenditure on social services and repatriation benefits will rise by £10,100,000. I have already mentioned an increase of £29,000,000 in payments to the States. The increased cost of social services at existing rates, apart from all changes proposed for this year, will be £23,000,000. Does anybody suggest that provision should not have been made for these payments?
The increased cost of repatriation benefits, apart from the increases provided for in the Budget - to which I have referred - will be £8,100,000. Our debt charges! - does anybody suggest that we should repudiate them? They have risen by £3,500,000. In addition, according to our estimate, which may turn out to be somewhat conservative, expenditure on redemptions will rise by £2,600,000. All that means that of this nominal increase of £89,000,000 to which I have referred, the sum of £86,500,000 is in respect of items which no one in the Parliament or outside it would challenge. In other words, there has been an increase of £3,200,000. When we set off against that the reduction in expenditure on capital works, honorable members will see that the actual increase in Commonwealth expenditure is quite nominal.
As responsible members of this Parliament we should ask ourselves, “ Has anybody any proposals to reduce any of these items? “ If he has, the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) and, if I may say so, I, will be interested to hear them. But nobody has any proposal to offer. There has been no hint of one. Therefore, the first charge against the Budget falls to the ground.
Next, it is said - I know this is not what the Opposition said - that the Government, by an ultra-cautious approach, is retarding expansion. AH I need say in reply to that charge is that, on the facts, it is just silly. I have not the time to quote all the figures; they are familiar to honorable members from their reading of the documents. We have had record housing, record employment, record production, record average earnings, record national development and record contributions by the Commonwealth in the field of education.
– And record inflation.
– To say that we are retarding expansion is to make a statement which any one who cares to go anywhere in Australia and look about him will see is contradicted. ,
The third charge against the Government is that we have inflation. That is true. It is referred to by the Opposition annually during the Budget debate. But I have never known the Opposition to make a single proposal calculated to retard it.
– You never deal with our case.
– How can 1 deal with a non-existent case? You have no case. I am flattering you by even pretending to discuss it. I admit, Mr. Temporary Chairman, that we have an inflationary movement. But we as the Government have a policy which has been stated and has been acted upon with precision. It is unfortunate that I should have to repeat it. First, we adopted the principle that there should be some sensible restraint - not injustice - in wage costs. The Opposition has bitterly attacked1 us for that approach. But the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission has agreed with us. Secondly, we said we would remove import licensing in substance. We said that, because we wanted the ordinary man and woman in Australia, rich or poor, to be able to have goods and more services to buy so that inflationary pressures might be reduced. What does the Opposition say about it? So far as I have understood honorable members opposite, they have been opposed to getting rid of import licensing.I thought for a while that the reason why they wanted import licensing retained was that they regarded it as a protective measure for industry.
– Is that why the Government implemented it?
– I seem to recall that the honorable member has spoken on that subject. There is nothing like dealing with the facts of life. When import licensing goes, that is a fact of life. Therefore, I should have expected the Opposition to say, “ Let us do something that will prevent Australian secondary industry from being injured by the inflow of imports “.
– Hear, hear!
– I am very glad to hear my honorable friend say “ Hear hear! “ But when my colleague the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen) introduced a bill to provide for urgent temporary import duties so that local industries should not be damaged by a flood of imports, the entire Opposition in this Parliament - perhaps inadvertently; I do not know - voted against it-
– You get close to the truth sometimes.
– The honorable member ought to think about these matters. The fact is that the Opposition voted against the giving of power to impose temporary import duties to protect Australian industries while the Tariff Board conducted its full and final inquiry. Honorable members opposite may go away and laugh that off at their leisure. The fact is that they wanted import licensing, but when they could not get it they could not have cared less about what happened to Australian manufacturing industries. They have made that perfectly clear.
Our third item of policy was that we would support measures designed to avoid excess bank credit liquidity. I do not know what the attitude of the Opposition is on this matter. Every one who has a rudimentary knowledge of how to deal with an inflationary process knows that the restraint of credit is one of the great things that a central bank ought to be engaged in. But we do not know what the Opposition thinks about this matter.
– What about hire purchase?
– Honorable members opposite mumble about hire purchase, but none of their colleagues in any State Labour government seems to do a thing about it. Fourthly - and this is the nub of the matter - we said, “ We will avoid deficit finance in 1960-61 “. We said that, many months back, and this Budget is our performance of it. Does any responsible person challenge the idea that we ought not to have a deficit this year? Is there a solitary soul - I use the words loosely - on the Opposition side who believes that we ought to be budgeting for a deficit at a time of inflationary pressure? Is there a single writer of any responsibility anywhere who says that we should? Of course not! And, Sir, if nobody can challenge that proposition, let the Opposition face up to it. How does the Opposition propose to balance the Budget? Let us assume that it believes that the Budget ought to be balanced and that we ought not to be in deficit: How does the Opposition propose to do it? Not one word have we beard from the Opposition
– Whose budget is it?
– It is ours.
– Well, do something about it, then.
– Here is an interesting confession. I hear an honorable member say that the Opposition is barren of ideas. That is a perfect description of the difference between these two parties. Does the Opposition say “ Balance the Budget by reducing expenditure “? Certainly not! Oh the Opposition’s own showing, that course would increase the Budget out of hand. On this great problem, the problem that we have tackled in this Budget, the Labour Party is futile and silent. Having mentioned these four points I just say one thing before I conclude. I am sure that honorable members opposite say - some of them have hinted at it - that social services are neglected-
– So they are.
– I knew the honorable member would say that. He is my ever present help in time of trouble. I hope he never loses his seat. I could not live without him.
– What about Lord Ward?
– No, there is no risk of that, 1 hope. But, Sir, I was about to refer to social services - pensions, medical benefits, hospital benefits, child endowment. Social services, about which honorable members opposite talk occasionally - and occasionally incessantly - totalled £92,000,000 when we came in, just as they went out - and in this Budget they total £330,000,000. I know that some clever fellow will say “ The value of money has fallen”. Yes, if we take either the “C” series index or the new consumer index figure which has been evolved, we find that there has been, over that period of time, an increase in the index figure from roughly 60 to roughly 120. In other words, there is a change to that extent, but that is only a fraction of the increase in social services from £92,000,000 to £330,000,000.
Having mentioned those global figures, let me say this: Honorable members opposite have been fairly silent on the merging of the means test for property and income. I wonder whether they thoroughly realize that this change in the means test will give some benefit, and in many cases a large benefit, to 120,000 people in this country. Therefore, Sir, broadly the Budget is aptly fashioned and stands, if not unassailed, at least unbroken by those arguments. It is aptly fashioned to slow down and arrest inflation and to maintain development - those two things being things that have to live together, presenting the greatest possible difficulties of adjustment - and, above all to provide social justice for 10,000,000 people in what I believe is one of the great countries of the world.
.- The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) has moved, on behalf of the Labour Party, that the first item in the Estimates be reduced by £1, which is the traditional way by which an Opposition records its disapproval of an inadequate and unjust Budget. The honorable gentleman has done so because the Labour Party believes that the Government has failed to grapple with the problems of inflation as they beset the nation. It seems to have become the policy of the Government not to answer for what it has done, or what it has not done, but to say to the Opposition, “ Well, what would you do about the position, anyway? “ I believe that at budget time it is the primary duty of the Opposition to attack the Government where it believes it to be vulnerable.
To-night the Prime Minister spoke, and we did not have to move that he be granted an extension of time, as we had expected. In fact, he did not take the half-hour to which any honorable member is entitled, but he did repeat the four points that have been quoted almost ad nauseam by the Government since the Address-in-Reply debate some seven or eight months ago. I can only touch on them briefly. The Prime Minister says that the Government is co-operating with the Reserve Bank in restricting credit - or in a credit squeeze. It has intervened in the Australian arbitration court in a wage freeze, and it claims that it is entitled to great praise because of a new policy. This new policy is revealed in the presentation, not of a deficit budget but of a balanced budget or of a budget with a surplus. The fourth thing for which the Government believes it should be given credit is the removal of import licensing.
Those points are the broad substratum of this Government’s economic policy at a time when it is admitted, even by the Government, that a state of inflation exists in the nation. We of the Labour Party believe that some people profit by inflation, because, if they did not, inflation would not be continued. But because of inflation the vast masses of the population suffer from great injustices and it is the task of the Government, where it can intervene in economic policy, to attempt to redress those injustices. Even the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) said the other night, “ The Budget is not the only instrument of policy that the Government has at its disposal. There is monetary policy and there is trade policy, which have important roles to play.” He says there must be consistency between those three factors - the Budget, monetary policy and trade policy. 1 hope to show, later this evening, that there is something else, also, that the Government ought to be having a look at and which goes to the very root of this problem. I refer to the fact that in this situation, which is basically one of price inflation, nothing whatever has been done by this Government to intervene at the point which is the source of the trouble. The Government springs into action after the wageearners have endeavoured to get back a little bit of what they were entitled to. All at once, we are told that inflation, which had formerly been creeping, is now rampant or leaping. The Government is worried not while profits or prices are merely rising, but when the wage-earner attempts to get justice. After all, the wageearners form the majority of family units in the Australian community and the wage is the only means they have of enjoying their share of what the Government is pleased to call prosperity. We do not deny that prosperity exists and probably exists, in the aggregate, to a greater extent in Australia in 1960 than ever before. And why should it not? Australia is a nation well endowed by nature with natural resources. Its population is growing by reason of natural increase and also by immigration by 2 or 3 per cent, per annum.
The Treasurer said in his Budget speech that the wage-earners of Australia had received nearly £300.000,000 more in this financial year than in the previous year. But he did not say that, at the end of June, 1960, there were 93,000 more people in employment in Australia than there had been at the end of the previous June - an increase of 3.4 per cent, in the wageearning force. He did not say that, during the year, there had been a 6 per cent, increase in prices. When you link those facts you realize that there was very little real increase in wages in the last financial year. In fact, if you analyse the figures closely enough you find that the real share of the national income received by wage-earners was almost stationary. The Government never gets down to the root of these problems.
We are told that the Budget can be a dominant instrument in the economy. Primarily, what does this Budget do to alter the situation which existed before its introduction? It restores the 5 per cent, reduction in income tax which was made at this time last year. This seems to me to be a recognition that the policy then adopted was wrong. The Budget imposes an additional tax of 6d. in the £1 on company profits earned last year. Those are the sole changes so far as the Budget as an instrument of policy is concerned.
The Treasurer proposes to pay a small additional amount to those in receipt of social services. He proposes to pay them another 5s. a week, which is less than the fall in the value of their existing pensions due to the raging of inflation during the last year. Because of the effect of the 6 per cent, increase in prices, an increase of 5s. in the pension of £4 15s. a week merely leaves the pensioners where they were before. They are no better off. They are only as well off as they were twelve months ago. Yet this is regarded as largesse by the Government. 1 think it is time that the Government grappled with the problems of the community. I wish to direct the attention of the Government and the Treasurer in particular - I see him in the chamber now - to a document which I suggest is not usually quoted on this side of the chamber. _This is the thirteenth annual report of the Bank for International- Settlements for the year ended 31st March, 1960, which surveys the economic conditions in member countries. The report reads as follows: -
Budgetary and monetary policy, wage policy and the price policy of enterprises have to move in harmony if inflationary tendencies are to be kept in check. “ Enterprises “ means “ businesses “.
In this country, of course, budgetary policy is a public matter. Because we have a Reserve Bank, monetary policy is subject to a certain amount of public control. In relation to wage policy, we have had the spectacle of the Government directly intervening, as a government, before the court and saying that certain wage increases should not be given. Wages are publicly regulated in this country, but the price policy of enterprises is not touched. Yet this conservative body, the Bank for International Settlements, says that if inflation is to be halted, if there is to be harmony between the various sections of the community, it cannot be done without doing something that will affect the price policy of enterprises.
Australia is like some other parts of the world in which the distinctive form of business enterprise consists of large-scale corporations, which are sometimes referred to as monopolies, or semi-monopolies, or oligopolies or some other term. These are -economic organizations which, because of their size, can no longer be described as “ private enterprises “ in a real sense of the term. What sort of stakes are at issue? The “Financial Review” of 11th August, 1960, referred to what that publication was pleased to call the “ battle of the grocers “ the great drama that has been going on between two great retail organizations, Woolworths and Coles, for the possession of a chain of grocery stores. A battle has been taking place between financial institutions with profit in mind; but at stake is the destiny of the daily budget of nearly every housewife in the metropolitan area of Sydney and, ultimately, in Melbourne. What do we read concerning the battle of the grocers? We read -
This meant that in Melbourne alone something like 120,000 Coles shares had been traded in the four trading days to Tuesday and their price had been forced down from 19s. 3d. to 17s. 4d. . . .
This sort of thing is more than a private event. It is a public event. This is the sort of event in which there should be intervention. We have heard about the zeal of the new Attorney-General (Sir Garfield Barwick) to reform the law and control this sort of thing. He has been going to introduce a law to curb this sort of thing. Meanwhile, it is going on to a greater extent than ever, while all that the Government wants to do is to reach out to stop the wage-earner from taking up the leeway in the effect that inflation, which this sort of activity promotes, has had on the fruits of his labour.
I want to cite a set of figures which I have brought up to date for this occasion. I gave them during the Budget debate last year. They show the structure of the cost of business activity in Australia.. They indicate at least that there are other things which, in the aggregate, are just as important to the cost structure as are wages, in respect of every one of which the Government has either done nothing whatever or has itself been an active agent in their promotion. I refer to the table which is contained in the document known as the “ White Paper on National Income and Expenditure “. I hear a Government supporter laugh. This is nothing to laugh about. This paper shows, in the aggregate, the incomes received by every individual in the Australian community, lt shows how these incomes are shared between wages, profit, interest and rent. Honorable members on this side- of the chamber are primarily interested in the share going to wages, because the wage-earners form about 80 per cent, of the Australian community, although they get little more than 60 per cent, of the total of goods and services. For the year ended June, 1960, the total outlay of what are called “ trading enterprises “ reached1 the gigantic sum of £6,068,000,000, which represented roughly about three-quarters of the total economic activity of Australia. The wages item was the biggest single item in that table, and so it should be, because wages are the sole source of income of the- main section of the Australian people. Wages aggregated £2,606,000,000, or near enough to 43 “per cent, of the total outlay of £6,068,000,000. Company profits in aggregate were £672,000,000, or 11 per cent, of the total outlay. The surplus of public authority undertakings was £100,000,000, and that was aggravated by this Government’s increasing postal charges by £17,000,000 more than was necessary to balance the receipts and expenditure of the Post Office. That is why I say the Government itself has actively intervened in regard to some of the items set out in this table, not to restrict them but to increase them.
Farm income is a matter in which honorable gentlemen opposite ought to be interested. The aggregate of farm incomes was £466,000,009, or 7i per cent, of the total outlay. Farm incomes have declined over recent years. Other business profits - those of the small businesses in the community - aggregated’ £577,000,000, or nearly 10 per cent, of the total outlay. Net interest and rent amounted to £367,000,000, or 6 per cent, of the total outlay. This Government has been an active agent in both increasing the interest oh its own securities and failing to check the exhorbitant interest rates which are charged on everybody else’s securities. The next item is indirect taxes. This Government is an active agent in imposing taxes. The total of indirect taxes was the gigantic sum of £772,000,000, which was more than a quarter of the total wages bill. Indirect taxes account for £1 in every £8 of costs in Australia. Allowances for depreciation, which are amounts appropriated by companies and businesses before they compute and are taxed on their profits, totalled £512,000,000, or eight per cent, of the total outlay.
Over the period during which this Government has been in office the outlays in respect of these items have actually risen more rapidly than have wages. Yet the only time this Government takes action is when the wage earner, through the machinery of an arbitration court, takes the only possible action and seeks an increase in wages so as to maintain his real standard, having regard to the increases in prices that have occurred.
The Government chides us on this side of the chamber and says, “ What would you do?”. It is the Government which should be doing something. It is this Government which, for the time being, is charged with the responsibility of governing this country. Surely “ governing “ means endeavouring to do justice to the various sections of the community, but at the moment the greatest injustices in this country are being wrought against those people who are on fixed incomes - that is, among others, the 500,000 or more people in receipt of social service payments - and also against the wage-earning family groups in the community, when the prices they have to pay are rising far more rapidly than are their wages.
I ask honorable members to contemplate the situation which is developing in the Australian community. It is all very well for Government supporters to say that last year the number of jobs in Australia increased by 93,000, but I ask them to have a look at the report on Australian manufacturing indust y in the next decade, a document prepared by a council set up under the authority of the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen). Referring to the next decade, this document says -
The Council estimates that the Australian work force will number 4,700,000 by June, 1965, and 5,300,000 by June, 1970. This will represent an annual rate of increase of approximately 24 per cent, in the work force between 1960 and 1970, which is somewhat higher than the expected annual fate of growth in total population.
Therefore, roughly 100,000 to. 125,000 additional jobs’ will heed to be found by the end of June in one year, as compared with the end of June in the previous year. Yet the Government tries” to’ take credit unto itself because last year there” was an increase of 93,000 in the number of jobs in Australia, and last year” was the first year for a long time, in which there was any significant increase. I suggest that the Government study Some of its own documents. I shall refer to one which was quoted in this chamber last night by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Trade, the honorable member for Darling Downs (Mr. Swartz), lt is a document entitled, “ Survey of Manufacturing Activity in Australia”. Already in some sections of industry apprehension is being felt about the capacity of industry to increase in the next year or so as it has in the past. This document says -
At the time of the survey-
That was only a few months ago, because this document is hot off the press - manufacturers interviewed generally expected output and employment to continue to increase until September, 1960, though at a rate of growth lower than that of the previous 12 months.
Yet the rate of growth over the last twelve months was nowhere near sufficient to meet the programme that is required for Australian manufacturing industries, in the estimation of the Department of Trade, which prepared this document.
It is all very well for the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) to say that certain people’ in the community want a restriction of Government spending and for him to take great pride in pointing to the fact that this year public works expenditure by the Commonwealth Government will be £4,000,000 less than in the previous year, but do not the’ States want tens of millions of pounds more’ for schools and hospitals? With reference to those matters, the report on Australian manufacturing industry in the next decade says -
The age distribution of the Australian population is such that within the next decade there will .be a need for a great increase in educational facilities and. in housing.
Apparently, the Government points with pride to the fact that, having been chided for reckless Government expenditure, this year it has reduced the amount to be spent on public works. I suggest that any government that does that is recreant to its trust. Since changes, structural and otherwise, are being made in the Australian community, the .Government should be examining those changes.
Another council drew, attention to the need to examine certain features pf oversea investment . in Australia… In a document entitled “ Oversea Investment in Australia “ the Manufacturing Industries Advisory Council refers to the extent of control exercised by oversea interests over individual companies and industries in Australia. This council is another one set up by the Minister for Trade. The Government is a great one for setting up councils, getting advice from them and then ignoring the advice. In the document to which I have just referred the council says -
The extent of control exercised by oversea interests over individual companies and industries … is a matter warranting careful examination with a view to making a sound assessment of the nature and extent of oversea ownership and control of Australian companies and industries.
I suggest that it is equally relevant to see whether those who control what the Government calls private enterprise in this country have the capacity and enough confidence in the future to make plans which will enable the children who are coming on to the labour market every year, and the new Australians who are hopefully coming to Australia to seek a decent life for themselves and their families, to be absorbed into employment. That is the sort of thing that the Government ought to be doing. The members of the Government should not be just rubbing their hands together and saying in the name of some orthodoxy, “ We have balanced the budget; we have applied a credit squeeze; we have applied a wage freeze; and we are restricting the flow of imports into Australia “. Not every section of the community which normally is friendly towards this Go vernment is unapprehensive about the future flow of imports into this country. Let me quote now from the “ Monthly Summary of Australian Conditions” published by the National Bank of Australasia Limited on 12th August, 1960. In that journal, we find the following statement: -
Imports totalled approximately £270,000,000 for the three months ended July, an annual rate of around £1,080,000,000.
Then it adds this, rather cryptically, I think-
It is worth remembering that nine years ago
When prices were about half what they were now - they reached £1,050,000,000 in conditions of free importing.
In other words, the bank has not the same complacency about the future flow of imports into this country if imports are allowed to enter Australia unchecked. Whatever chiding we may receive from honorable members on the Government side about the re-imposition of controls, we say without any equivocation that certain things which are not needed in the Australian economy and which do jeopardize already established Australian industries are being imported into Australia to-day. For instance, whilst our motor manufacturing industry is working at under-capacity, why should there be any suggestion of the importation of second-hand motor cars? A government which allows any person to import anything at all merely if he thinks he can sell it, irrespective of its effect on the Australian economy or its need, especially when our economy is so vulnerable, is being recreant to its trust.
Let me quote again from some of the sources that normally support the Government. I shall quote now from a document entitled “Director Reports”, published by the Australian Industries Development Association. On page 4 of publication No. 10, the following statement appears: -
However, wasting overseas funds on luxury and consumer goods instead of building assets is likely to create contingent liabilities which could impose a strain on balances.
That is a discreet way of putting it, but it does illustrate that the Australian Industries Development Association has fears for the future of Australian industries. The children who will leave our schools in the next ten years) and the new Australians, are not going to obtain employment in firms overseas; they are going to secure it in firms which are growing and developing within our own economy. This Government should be straining every resource available to it in planning these things properly. The best we can say of this Government is that its actions are haphazard, that it is adopting a policy of stopandstart. The Government which says it now does not need import controls, at least had to have them for several years earlier. I feel that it may have to re-impose them sooner than it expects. It is all very well for the Government to feel that it has done something, but the fact is that the Government really may actually have to repair a bigger hole in the wall than it did last time. The Government took great unction to itself twelve months ago for reducing income tax by 5 per cent. That reduction meant hardly anything to the man on the bottom rung of the ladder, but it meant a good deal to the man on top. Now, only twelve months after granting the reduction, the Government has been forced to re-impose taxation at the level at which it stood before the reduction. It may also have to eat its words on import controls.
Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- When speaking to the Budget a short time ago, the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Crean), pointing to honorable members on the Government side, said, “ It is you who should be doing something “. I have the answer to the honorable member for Melbourne Ports. It is very simple. It is apparent to all level-headed and levelthinking Australians. Just how successful the Government has been in what it has done is equally apparent to those same levelheaded, level-thinking Australians who are still waiting, without a glimmer of hope, for some convincing, constructive, positive idea from Her Majesty’s Opposition, as the Prime Minister pointed out so effectively a short time ago.
Before I pose three simple questions which I would classify as the types of questions that the man in the street might ask about the Budget, I want to deal with the public’s acceptance of this 1960 Budget of the Commonwealth of Australia. It is interesting to note some of the headings of the various articles that have appeared, not only in the daily press, but in magazines and periodicals since this Budget was announced by the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt). This is the Treasurer’s second Budget. His first was a little more difficult than this, but I think that we have more praise for this, his second successive Budget. One prominent and well recognized newspaper said that the Budget was a modest attack on inflation. It said that its virtue is that it aims for a small surplus and is taxing where the increases should be borne and can be carried. My friend, the Premier of Victoria, Mr. Bolte, said that it was a Budget which will not hurt or hinder. That was a compliment, and we accept it as such. Another heading, to which I will refer later in my speech, that appeared in a very prominent newspaper, was -
Sweeping changes in the means test for age and invalid pensioners.
Then I noticed in an Australian newspaper, one which, unfortunately, is rarely complimentary to this Government, and one which always heads its editorials, “ Above all, for Australia “, an editorial which departed from or contradicted the commendable objective of its usual heading. That article made a biased, anti-Government reference to this particular Budget. So biased was it that it contained no praise for any one provision of the Budget. According to this editorial, every move that the Government had made and recorded in its Budget was wrong. There was no word of compliment or commendation from the author of the editorial for anything that the Government had done. How can such a newspaper reconcile that sort of writing with its claim that whatever it presents to the reading public is, above all, in the interests of this country?
Other associations and groups in Australia were quick to express their disappointment when they discovered that their particular recommendations to the Commonwealth - recommendations which, no doubt, were based upon self-interest because of their legitimate activities - either had not been adopted or had been only partially implemented.
The proposition I bring to the committee to-night is a sound cross-section of public opinion which provides the more representative view of the whole nation. I feel, on the evidence of sound writing, that I can say that the leaders of business, with their impact upon the economy of this country, the employers of labour, the family menwho are so important - the semi-skilled and unskilled labourers, all of whom are representative of the population of the whole of Australia, have said that this is a Budget which is sound.
– Do you agree with that?
– My friend, I agree with that. If the honorable member is not happy with the country in which he is living, let me suggest to him that he resign his seat in this honorable chamber and take a ticket to some place outside Australia - if he can find such a place - where there are better living conditions than those that are offered to us to-day.
These representatives of the population to whom I have referred paid a tribute to the Menzies Administration which, in eleven years, has brought the country to a most remarkable state of prosperity, with an expanding population, challenging industrial expansion, and a national developmental programme that is the envy of so many other countries. I regret that the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) is not here to-night. Whatever we on this side of the chamber might say about him, we prefer, of course, to say to his face rather than let him read it in “ Hansard “ at a later date. He has not had a very good day to-day. I have no doubt that he has felt quite sick ever since reading the New South Wales Labour Premier’s view of conditions in that State. That must have been a bitter pill for him to swallow. The contrasting views of the two Labour leaders, the Leader of Her Majesty’s Opposition in this Commonwealth Parliament and the Premier of New South Wales, were very impressively presented in this morning’s edition of the Sydney “ Daily Telegraph “. I want to direct attention to this because it is really good. The editorial reads -
Few Labor Leaders can have differed more astonishingly in their views of Australia than the Leader of the Federal Opposition (Mr. Calwell) and the Premier of N.S.W. (Mr. Heffron)’.
Mr. Calwell looks out of his window at Australia and sees nothing but galloping inflation, “so-called prosperity”, an economic crisis and the shadows cif impending depression.
Mr. Heffron looks out of his window at N.S.W. and sees wheels turning, factories smoking, houses going up, jobs being advertised and a landscape of the purest rose.
Mr. Calwell sees a wilderness in which he and the Federal Labour Party have been wandering for eleven years.
Mr. Heffron sees a State which has had a Labor Government for 19 years and of which he is now Premier.
At the opening of State Parliament yesterday, the Governor’s speech (which is virtually a reflection of the Government’s views) mentioned that 27 major industrial projects, involving an outlay of £85,000,000, are to be established in N.S.W.
Wheat production is about 50 per cent, above the average, wool delivery into stores is a record, coal output has increased nearly 30 per cent, in the last 10 years and the season’s milk production has been the “ highest in years “.
Building activity has been “ especially strong “ and the volume of new building is rising at an “ unprecedented “ rate. The level of unemployment in N.S.W. is lower than it has been at any time since 1956, and the total increase in employment in the past year was greater than any recorded in the previous three years.
AU of this fills Mr. Calwell with the gloomiest suspicion.
That is a most interesting editorial in what, I believe, is recognized as one of Australia’s leading newspapers.
The Treasurer’s Budget speech directs attention to the White Paper on National Income and Expenditure, which reveals that in 1959-60, the year just closed, the estimated personal consumption spending in this country increased by 9 per cent.; that private investment spending on capital equipment increased by 14 per cent.; and that public authority spending increased by 9 per cent. These are factual indications of the prosperity of Australia to-day.
Allow me to go a little further. The conditions existing in New South Wales, as described in the editorial that I have just read, are by no means confined to that State, which happens to be under a Labour Administration at the present time - one of only two such Administrations in the whole Commonwealth. Those conditions are indicative of the situation right across this country. I believe them to be indicative of the progress and prosperity being experienced in all States. Let me share with the committee the bright new horizon in my own State of Western Australia. All strength to the enlightened new Administration in the western State, which was made possible when the Liberal-Country Party team undertook responsibility less than two years ago!
In this relatively short period, what has happened? Pessimism and restraint have been lifted. Confidence amongst the people, including the workers, has been re-established. Unemployment has been reduced to the seasonal and disability groups of workers. The building industry faces a boom. Industrial development is clearly apparent and, thank goodness, migration to Western Australia by overseas settlers is beginning to flow again. There is faith in the future.
– I could probably go there.
– That would be a little too much to take. I think the honorable gentleman had better stay in New South Wales. Faith in the future is being developed in Western Australia. Let me quote from an editorial published a few months ago in the “ West Australian Manufacturer “ a rather interesting statement of fact regarding a situation which, three, four or five years ago, under a Labour Administration just did not exist. The editorial is headed “ Faith in the Future “ and it reads -
Employment in W.A. has increased by more than three per cent in the twelve months ended last November compared with a rise of two percent in Vic. Unemployment in April this year was down 40 percent compared with the same month of 1959. In the twelve months ended February, 1960, savings bank deposits in this State increased by eleven percent, the highest percentage increase of any State.
Monthly production statistics indicate that production in most industries will be considerably higher than in 1958/59.
So we see that there is every justification for faith in the future, not only in Western Australia but also in the other States. All of this is influenced by the Commonwealth Government’s overall budgeting, because of the impact to-day of Commonwealth finance upon every State.
From my own experience I can supply impressive examples to confirm these claims, particularly about Western Australia. In the winter recess, it was my pleasure to go with a number of my colleagues to see something of the industrial activity in my own electorate. What did I see? To some extent we were amazed at what had happened in a relatively short period.We saw new industries, some with techniques quite new and in some instances unique in this country. This was in Western Aus tralia where a few years ago the critics said we could not possibly build up an acceptable secondary industry. We saw the manufacture of every type of plastic material. As a group, we went to a new timber mill where, to our delight, we saw short lengths ofour beautiful Western Australian jarrah, £60,000 pounds’ worth of which used normally to be burned annually in the fires of our timber mills, being put through a finger-jointing process, coming out as acceptable full-width flooring for rooms of any size that a builder might specify. Here was a magnificent new factory redeeming material that was previously burned. We saw an industrial battery factory, manufacturing a product that was quite up to the standard of the well-established factories performing this this type of work in eastern States.
We were delighted to have the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Downer) in our State only a few weeks ago. Some of my colleagues and I were privileged to be with him when he welcomed over 1,000 immigrants on the vessel “ Aurelia “. This ship was carrying 1,037 splendid immigrants from Germany and Scandinavian countries. It was significant that 103 of that number, including 67 skilled workers, left the ship at Fremantle to remain in Western Australia. They have chosen to come to Western Australia, the State where the Labouradministration, in its fear, stopped the migration flow not so long ago.
This is the Australia of to-day, and well does the Leader of the Opposition know that what I have been saying is true. When so few people take notice of his bleating criticism of this Budget, here’s hoping that he feels completely deflated. After his experience this morning in being lined up with the Premier of New South Wales, perhaps to-night he is more than deflated. The spurious arguments of the Opposition are emphatically contradicted by the facts I have endeavoured to underline.
– You are not doing very well.
– Judging from that interjection, I think I must be getting under your skin and am really going places. What about the questions that I indicated we would ask because these are direct questions that the man in the street in Australia would ask about the Budget. First, he asks, “ What does the Budget tell me? “ In the broad, the Budget is a summary of the economy of the nation. It links the past with the immediate future. It establishes the goals set by the Government and the means which will be used to achieve these new objectives. The Budget as we refer to it - and we do refer to it rather loosely - is much more than the recognized type of business or household Budget with which the people of Australia may ‘ be more accustomed. The many Budget Papers, the Estimates, the statement of national income and the Budget speech itself each year provide the detail upon which an assessment may be made of Australia’s financial position, its stability as a nation, its growth towards maturity and how other countries are recognizing that that growth has been speeded up. It also shows the trend of Australia’s comparatively high standard economy.
The Budget’ Papers then tell the story of last year. But permit me to say this to my honorable colleagues: You have to go searching to find that story. Even the Budget Papers are not clear to a qualified accountant. There are many men who have been associated with this Commonwealth Parliament for years who cannot readily take this conglomeration of data, these numerous records, and find the simple answer they may be seeking in haste. But when we analyse last year’s figures, we find that receipts to Consolidated Revenue totalled £46,500,000 more than the estimate, reaching the impressive total of £1,431,000.000. Expenditure totalled £1,390,000,000 and this of course permitted an increased provision to the reserve account of £41,000,000.
The man in the street as he asks “ What does the Budget tell us?” could probably quite legitimately ask also, “ What does this reserve figure show? “ Why is this reserve needed? The Commonwealth underwrites the Australian Loan Council’s borrowing programme for State works, and from the reserve account last year, £54,800,000 was provided through a special loan to complete the programme for the States. The Budget also tells the story for the current year. We find that the Treasurer had budgeted for an income of £1,812,000,000 and an expenditure of £1,796,000,000. As the Treasurer revealed in his speech, he hopes to complete the financial year with a surplus of £15,000,000, in lieu of last year’s deficit. The surplus from Consolidated Revenue should be £125,000,000, which will be held in the reserve account to meet any emergency related to the Loan Council programme.
Now let me say a word about the form of the Budget Papers. They are involved and they are difficult to follow. The Taxpayers Association of Australia has had something to say about the national accounts. I quote from the “Taxpayers’ Bulletin “-
Whatever may be said of this Budget, it highlights the necessity to overhaul the manner in which the national accounts are presented. The people - the shareholders of a vast enterprise - are entitled to a clear and simple picture of the state of the public purse.
Government accounting, of course, is different from commercial accounting and there are sound arguments why certain forms should remain distinctive, but I think the Taxpayers Association of Australia is quite right when it asks for a simplification of the Budget figures. In its recent bulletin, the association set out very impressively how this complicated Budget could be transferred into the form of a commercial statement with which we are more familiar. Our revenue for last year was £1,431,000,000, it states, and we spent £927,000,000. Therefore we had a surplus of £504,000,000. Of this, we shared with our partners, the States, £321,000,000. We paid for capital works £142,000,000. This left a balance which was placed to the reserve account of £41,000,000. The Taxpayers Association dealt in similar fashion with the current year’s Budget. That is an impressive approach, and it is a simple approach which would help to make this Budget more intelligible to many more people.
In that connexion, I am pleased to say that the Joint Parliamentary Committee of Public Accounts is engaged in a progressive inquiry into the form of the Estimates of the Commonwealth. Already, we have given our attention to that section which deals with Miscellaneous Services. Perhaps we shall reach a day when all the Budget papers will be more akin to commercial reports and documents.
The second question to which I turn my attention relative to the Budget is this: I think the man in the street has every reason to see quickly what real concessions the Budget provides this year. First, let me pay, in passing, a tribute - and a just tribute - to several material things. The sales tax exemption for motor vehicles used by the maimed and limbless was a splendid indication of sympathy with disabled persons. Let us turn our attention to the National Welfare Fund. I was very pleased to hear my esteemed leader, the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) remind honorable members that £330,000,000 of our total expenditure is devoted to the National Welfare Fund. If there should be a critic still among the ranks of Her Majesty’s Opposition, let me say to him very emphatically that the Budget this year raises the national welfare expenditure by not less than £31,000,000.
Honorable members are well aware that part of that expenditure is taken up by the increase in the base pension which is now £5 a week. With a permissible income of £3 10s. weekly, a pensioner is in the position that he could well have £8 10s. a week coming in but a married couple could have £17. Let us recognize that that is more than many of them received when they were working before they retired. We must not overlook, as so many people do, that the pension is ‘given to assist one to live. We have no contractual right in this country to a pension until the Government provides a national contributory scheme. We hope that will come in due time. The liberalization of the property means test was a welcome addition indeed. 1 want to praise the Government for what it has done in this connexion; but I want to say very earnestly that some praise is also due to the honorable member for Sturt (Mr. Wilson) and other private members who persistently over the years have said, “We believe, in conviction, that this should be done “.
I do not think that it is necessary in the short time that is left to me to explain to honorable members the principles of the merged means test, but it may be necessary to give some explanation of the scheme to our constituents outside. The scheme that has been evolved is a simple one. At first sight it may appear to be bewildering. The Prime Minister to-night reminded us that more than 100,000 people in the community will reap the benefit of the merged means test. The new scheme represents a gain for aged citizens of £4,200,000 thanks to a determined group of private members on this side of the chamber all of whom are outside the Executive. I am glad to belong to a party that is truly democratic, in which individual members may speak according to their personal convictions, and in which they may negotiate in a sound and sensible way for a decision that they may be seeking. That is what happened in this instance concerning the liberalization of the property means test.
The final question that many of my colleagues in this place and friends in the community may ask is: What did the Budget this year omit? I am a little disappointed that circumstances did not permit the Treasurer to decrease sales tax on many items of foodstuffs, but we will talk about that during the current year. What about pay-roll tax? In my opinion the Treasurer and the Government could well have made history this year if only they had had the courage to do something about pay-roll tax. Their names would have been written in gold lettering in the history of this country for a long time. Pay-roll tax is estimated to produce £60,000,000 this year. The revenue derived from this tax has increased rapidly over the years. The Taxpayer’s Association of Australia has commented at length on pay-roll tax. I express my disappointment with the official paper issued by the Treasurer some months ago. I say, kindly, that it is not convincing. I do not like pay-roll tax. I do not like its form at all. I submit that it is based on a wrong premise. It is a sectional tax. It does not take into account ability to pay. It is inflicted on new industries that we desire to encourage in all areas of our activity. The tax is inflicted on them even before they earn a profit.
I believe that the Government will end this financial year with a surplus, perhaps greater than it has budgeted for. The coming year will add lustre to the Administration of which we on this side of the chamber are proud to be a part. I hope that in the current year the Treasurer will listen to the earnest recommendations of leaders in industry and will go to his colleagues with a suggestion that pay-roll tax be abolished and the next Budget be constructed without that income of £60,000,000. This could be done in view of the rising prosperity in this country in which all of us are privileged to live. I am sure that the Treasurer can construct his next Budget without relying on revenue from this iniquitous tax.
It Has been my pleasure to-night to make a small contribution to the debate on this’ vital Budget. I give praise to the Government
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
[9.34j.Earlier to-night we heard the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) exhort all members of the Parliament to present the facts. I propose to present the facts, but in a way different from that in which the Prime Minister presented them. I make’ an emphatic protest against the deliberate interference by the Government during the last ten years with the machinery of the Industrial Court. I refer to the celebrated case of the Boilermakers’ Society of Australia, of which I am an honoured member. The society was ordered to show cause why it should not be prosecuted for aiding and abetting a strike of ironworkers at Mort’s Dock and Engineering Company Limited in 1955. On that occasion the ironworkers and riggers were on strike. The boilermakers had no part in the strike whatever but, ever ready to help fellow unionists, they decided to take up a collection outside the gates of the dock for the wives and children of the men who were on strike. This Government, through the machinery of the court, savagely issued the necessary summons and the union was brought before the court and fined £500 - just because its members committed the humane act of assisting financially the wives and children of brother unionists who were on strike.
I remind honorable members that the ironworkers’ organization was not summoned at all for participation in the strike. But the Government under-estimated the fighting qualities of the boilermakers, and the then Minister for Labour and National Service, our present Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt), suffered a set-back when the Boilermakers’ Society appealed to the High Court and the court pointed out to the Government the weaknesses in the legislation and found in favour of the union. Infuriated, the Minister approached Cabinet and instructed the Attorney-General of the day, Senator Spicer, who is now Chief Judge of the Commonwealth Industrial Court, to lodge an appeal to the Privy Council against the decision of the Government’s own instrument - the High Court. It is now history how the Privy Council upheld the decision of the High Court, and awarded costs against the Government.
The facts I have presented show the extent to which this Government was prepared to go to destroy one of the finest and most skilful bodies of men in Australia. I warn the Prime Minister not to tinker too much with the Boilermakers’ Society and to remember that boilermakers are vital to the development of this country. Following the Government’s unsuccessful appeal to the Privy Council, the Prime Minister instructed the Attorney-General of the day to draw up new arbitration measures and a bill was subsequently brought down in Parliament and, despite strenuous opposition from this side of the chamber, it was placed tin the statute-book and is now law. If is generally known as the “ pains and penalties “ legislation.
Savage penalties are provided under that legislation. For example, a penalty of £500 is provided for strike action by organizations. A penalty of £100 is provided for minor offences, and a penalty of £10 a day a man while unions are on strike. Under the legislation there is no defence for a strike; court orders operate automatically. The way is open to destroy unions one by one by exhausting their financial resources by fining them for so-called breaches which are mostly provoked by employers for their own particular purposes.
I agree with my colleague, the honorable member for Cunningham (Mr. Kearney) that there are not many trade unionists who will not state clearly that the strike weapon is the last implement that should be employed when an industrial dispute arises. It is a weapon which is sacred to the trade unionists, and is intended for use in issues of wide application and high principle. The first sacrifice of a unionist on strike is made by his wife arid children, and a good unionist’s first love is for his family. At the same time, let us never forget that the right to strike is the only thing, industrially, which distinguishes a free man from a slave.
Under this legislation it is a criminal offence to strike, and any unionist, for defending working class principles, can not only be fined and gaoled, but also have his property seized to satisfy fines and legal costs. A person who commits a crime under the criminal code has a better chance of defeating the law than has a union official or a union member who engages in a strike. Strikes have become a criminal offence.
This is not Russia. This is Australia. Recently the Seamen’s Union was fined £600 plus heavy costs because its members stopped work in protest against a wage reduction of £6 a week. Recently the Waterside Workers Federation was fined £500 plus costs because it refused to carry out a court order to supply labour on Sundays. This action by the court was unprecedented in Australian industrial history. The .Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. McMahon) who was responsible for this legislation, has just come into the chamber, looked around and walked out again. But he will be back.
Employers, of course, act in collusion with the Government against unionists by appealing to the court on flimsy grounds and, when the case comes on for hearing, by engaging a panel of top line barristers, knowing full well that costs will be awarded against the union when the case has been decided - quite a snide technique at which this Government connives by the insertion of penal provisions in the legislation. Top line barristers employ agents who hang around the courts like bar flies for the one purpose of securing briefs for the barristers. What a racket to be perpetrated in a country like Australia! Democratic government becomes a farce when a government can get away with such repressive legislation in this Year of Our Lord, 1960. What legislation to have in this jet age! It reminds one of the coercion acts in the early days of the twentieth century. All older honorable members must remember wage leg irons. It is unfortunate also that the act was introduced in this House while the present Chief Judge of the Commonwealth Industrial Court was the Attorney-General.
Why should our Prime Minister try to embarrass His Honour? And this is Australia, the land of the free!
Another of the very many disturbing features associated with this Government’s administration is the deliberate efforts which it makes from time to time to corrupt the Arbitration Commission. With Fascistlike determination it uses various methods in its attempts to corrupt. This, of course, is part of its programme of destruction.
Let me remind honorable members that as recently as February last our Prime Minister initiated a tremendous publicity campaign deliberately to influence the Arbitration Commission, which was then engaged in hearing the unions’ case for an increase in the basic wage. The Minister for Labour and National Service was selected as a member of the publicity team. To try to mask his real intentions, the Prime Minister asked big business not to regard profits as sacrosanct. Other Ministers, including the Treasurer, also made weak appeals for moderation in profit-making. Of course, these appeals were voiced only for the purpose of lulling the worker into the erroneous belief that the Government was concerned with soaring profits. Why could not the Prime Minister direct these profithungry financial wolves to amend their ways, or else? That is the way to legislate. But no, he knew that it was much easier to deal with the court. The court was easier to handle and more pliable to his will. This was borne out by none other than the Treasurer himself during the Queensland State election campaign. He stated publicly that the Government had told the Arbitration Commission that at that time it did not think there should be an increase in the basic wage.
This was one attempt at corruption which apparently made an impression on the three learned gentlemen who, in their judgment, accepted the statement of Mr. Eggleston, Q.C. for the Commonwealth, that the Government was convinced that above all what were needed was a firm rejection of any new measures which could add to current inflationary pressures and time for the adjustment of the economy to the general wage increases which had been awarded during the preceding twelve months. The Government’s view was that any further wage increases would add fuel to inflation - whatever that means - to home prices and to costs in industry. The honorable judges said that such a clear statement of the Government’s attitude, supported by submissions and economic material, was something which the commission had to view seriously.
The Minister for Labour and National Service was also a party to the intervention before the court. It is most improper or, to say the least, most unethical, for the Minister for Labour and National Service to intervene when a court is sitting in judgment on an application for increased wages or improved conditions, particularly when the Minister is a member of a very wealthy family which is deeply involved financially in a huge steel combine, which is a satellite of Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited. The name of the firm is Luke Muras Limited, which operates in the Sydney suburb of Alexandria. I notice that the Minister has now returned to the chamber. I knew that my remarks would bring him back. The Minister’s family owns 25,000 shares in the company.
– That is only chicken feed.
– The honorable member states that it is only chicken feed, but Luke Muras Limited is only one of the combines with which the Minister is involved. It is interesting to learn that Mr. Eggleston, Q.C., who appeared for the Government in the basic wage case had, prior to this hearing, been counsel for the unions in previous applications. With the usual aptitude of a Queen’s Counsel, Mr. Eggleston stepped across smartly to the Government side and used all the knowledge at his command to the benefit of the Government. This, of course, had to be rewarded by a grateful government, a government which was not prepared to accept the unions’ view. Mr. Eggleston, in company with another Liberal Party member - Mr. Percy Joske - was elevated to the status of judge. This is an example of how to load a court. This person who helped to deprive the workers of an increase in the basic wage will enjoy with his colleagues the recent increase of £900 a year - approximately £18 a week - which was awarded to the judges by a grateful government despite the warnings of the dangers of inflation and the fears of his brother judges of what would happen economically if an increase in the basic wage were granted. What an effort of will it must have been for the judges to call up sufficient strength to accept that increase of £18 a week! I hope that those honorable judges sleep soundly with clear consciences. When they gave their decision on the salaries of officers of the South Australian railways, they said that the percentage marginal increases for higher-paid employees should be tapered off. Then they themselves gathered up the £18 a week and marched off quietly.
I should like to point out at this stage that the Australian Council of Trade Unions claims that the denial of quarterly wage adjustments by these judges has robbed every worker of 25s. a week, except in the great State of New South Wales, where a Labour government restored quarterly wage adjustments. I could hardly have imagined such things happening in the free world, especially in Australia. A dangerous situation is developing as a result, and the workers generally are in a very angry mood. Much resentment is being expressed. The interstate executive of the A.C.T.U. has decided to launch a new campaign, Mr. Temporary Chairman - a campaign of mass publicity in support of demands that are very reasonable indeed. These demands are for the restoration of the real basic wage standard and of the prosperity that the Prime Minister has been telling us about to-night.
– He has been pulling our legs.
– Of course he has. Other demands are for the restoration of the real basic wage standard that existed in 1950. All that the workers ask for is the restoration of the purchasing power of their wages to the level of 1950. Is not that reasonable? They also want the restoration of the quarterly adjustment system, the restoration of the 1952 margins, and a higher real standard of living based on a reasonable share of this wonderful prosperity about which our Prime Minister prates so much. The workers want only their fair share of that prosperity. That is a very reasonable demand. A higher standard of living must be attained, and a shorter working week is inevitable. The normal results of the introduction of automation are a shorter working week and higher living standards for the workers and their families. But this savage, brutal Government, blinded by class hatred, stubbornly refuses to face thu facts, and it goes to the extreme lengths of using the courts to browbeat the real producers - the workers of Australia. From day to day, we hear our smug Prime Minister and the smug Minister for Labour and National Service prating about the conciliatory methods that are used in industrial disputes. This is hypocrisy at its worst, to say the least.
Let us examine the seamen’s case. They appeared before the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission on 8th June, seeking a variation of the award made by Judge Foster - an award which deprived them of conditions, some of which they had enjoyed for 50 years. Their earnings were savagely reduced, especially at week-ends. These are the facts. I am presenting the facts for the Prime Minister. Week-end rates were reduced from 10s. lOd. to 3s.2id. an hour on Saturdays and from LOs. lOd. to 4s. 4id. an hour on Sundays. In making this award, Judge Foster said that his experience and the data he had been able to get indicated to him that the seamen would lose substantially under his award. Yet he had just collected a rise of £18 a week. His observation was really an understatement. I hope Government supporters will remember the reduction in seamen’s wages when they are tripping across the world in big liners. The loss to seamen is as high as £6 a week.
Naturally, the men protested, and demonstrations were held. At one stage, dear old Judge Foster was called on to inspect a ship. The seamen formed a guard of honour for him, and as he walked by they chanted, “ We want justice “. It was as simple as that. But the old gentleman was alarmed because they wanted justice, and he said that when he made inspections in future he would call for an armed guard. That was mere propaganda by the dear old thing, of course, and it was unbecoming to a judge of the Commonwealth Industrial Court.’ I have still to hear of a judge going anywhere at any time in his official capacity without an armed escort to guard his precious person. I think that, in view of the savage reductions in their pay, the seamen showed admirable restraint, for which I commend them. I am sure that most honorable members will agree with me, but doubtless I shall not get the agreement of this wealthy Minister for Labour and National Service who does not know the first thing about what goes on in the industrial world. I know that the members of my party agree with me. These savage penalties and reductions in pay were imposed by the Commonwealth Industrial Court at Government direction. I emphasize the words “ at Government direction “.
Let us now have a look at the other side of the picture and turn our attention to the pay of members appointed to the commission by this Government. Let us take first Mr. Percy Joske, now Mr. Justice Joske. Previously, as a Liberal member of this Parliament, he had received a salary of £2,750, together with an electorate allowance of £800 a year. That is what I get. I am worth it, of course. As a judge, this gentleman receives a salary of £5,500 a year, plus the £18 a week increase in margins recently granted. That is a higher margin for skill. In addition, he receives a parliamentary pension of £9 a week. Yet he said it would be dangerous to increase the basic wage. Furthermore, he may receive any allowance that the Chief Judge of the Commonwealth Industrial Court directs is reasonable. And that gentleman is not too modest in giving directions on allowances to his fellow judges.
– These payments are subject to tax.
– I pay tax, too. If Mr. Justice Joske retires in his first or second year of service on the commission, he will be entitled to a pension of £1,872 a year, and if he retires after more lengthy service, his pension will be much more. I hope the pensioners, who will be given an additional 5s. a week by this Budget - they are not getting it yet, of course - are listening to these things. The basic wage earners would do well to chew over this analysis of the situation, and I am sure that the firemen stoking the boilers of the coffin ships that sail around our coast in all weathers will give .the matter special, thought. Just imagine a fireman, happy in his work in the depths of the stokehole in a vessel in the middle of a boiling sea, singing, “ Judge Foster is a jolly good fellow “, and Judge Foster at the 6ame time, in the comfort of his home, thinking that a reduction of £6 a week in the wages of ships’ firemen meets the needs of the situation.
I do not think that the judiciary should be required to move and work in an atmosphere of suspicion, Mr. Temporary Chairman - an atmosphere reeking of political intrigue and malice - for, in the final analysis, the judiciary is the only defence that the people have against this completely fanatical Government, which is so bigoted and which administers affairs so chaotically, especially where the trade unions are concerned. The results achieved in the industrial field, whatever they are, hardly compensate for the damage done to the reputations of judges who have been made available for political inquisitions.
I looked up a dictionary to get the meaning of the word “ corrupt “. I found that, as a verb, it means “ to make rotten “, “ to make evil “, “ to bribe “ or “ to rot “, and “that, as an adjective, it means “ tainted with vice “, “ influenced by bribery “, “ spoiled by mistakes “ or “ altered for the worse “. May I suggest, Sir, that recommendation for a knighthood could be termed a form of bribery, insofar as it opens up opportunities for appointment to well-paid directorships in very profitable fields at £10,000 a year.
With all due respect to the honorable judges, old and feeble as they may be, let us have a look at another side of the question. Recently a dispute which caused a strike arose at the Clyde Engineering Company Proprietary Limited. I think the Minister for Labour and National Service should remember this case, which was brought before the court by the company concerned. It appears that the court made an order enjoining the union from being concerned in strikes and work bans at the Clyde Engineering Company Pty. Ltd. It is interesting to note that recently the retired Commissioner of Railways became a member of the board of directors of this company, after having given it lucrative contracts while he was commissioner - another case of bribery and corruption!
The dispute arose over the refusal of boilermakers to weld and hot rivet prepainted metal. The boilermakers alleged a health hazard from the paint fumes. The union later agreed to the work being done under the old conditions, but not before the company had dismissed four men for refusing to do the work. One of the dismissed men had worked for the company for 34 years. What patriotism! How loyal was the company to an old employee who had worked for it for 34 years?
After fining the boilermakers’ society £5 for contempt of court - for being involved in the strike - His Honour, Mr. Justice Spicer - a previous Attorney-General of this Government - then expressed himself most caustically in relation to the action of the employer, saying that the company had acted in an unreasonable and a provocative manner. His Honour said that the conduct of the company was, in his opinion, unreasonable and that he was satisfied that if it had not been for the dismissal of the four men the whole matter would have been satisfactorily settled. It is interesting to note that a doctor reported that the fumes, although not noxious, arose from the linseed oil in the paint and could cause temporary irritation to the nose, throat and eyes.
After delivering his caustic criticism of the company, the judge looked severely over his glasses at the boilermakers’ representative and then fined the society £5 for contempt. This proves to me - and I am sure it does to every one, even the Minister, as dumb as he is - that the attitude of the court towards employers in all cases is partial. I have yet to hear of an employer having been penalized by the court for causing a lock-out, which is what most strikes really are. They are lock-outs of the employees by the employer for the purpose of dodging clauses in contracts that the employer has secured on certain conditions.
.- We have heard a number of comments from both sides of the committee about this year’s Budget. I agree with some of them, but I disagree with others. I am certain that every one in Australia was looking forward to the introduction of the 1960 Budget by the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt), particularly in view of the fact that the Government had said that in order to curb inflation it intended to balance its Budget this year. I think that most honorable members on the Government side were very relieved when they heard, and read, the provisions that are contained in this year’s Budget. I think we would all agree that it could have been a lot worse. The Cabinet, which had to make the final decisions before the Budget was prepared, had to deal with many weighty problems as its members looked at the over-all picture of the Australian economy. I am certain that they gave those problems careful and responsible consideration and arrived finally at what I would term a fairly well-balanced Budget.
All the good points of the Budget, or most of them, have been gone into by honorable members on the Government side, and some of the good points have been mentioned by Opposition members. 1 would therefore like to take the opportunity to mention a few things that have caused me disappointment because they have not received consideration in this year’s Budget. I hope that they will be considered when the next budget is being prepared.
The first subject to which 1 wish to refer is pensions. The pensioners’ association in the Indi electorate - I have put this to the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Roberton) before - has made the very sensible suggestion that a single pensioner who lives alone should be granted an increase of the supplementary allowance, or, alternatively, should be paid a higher pension. I have prepared a rough list of the approximate expenses that a single pensioner has to meet out of his or her pension compared with the expenses that a married couple has to meet out of two pensions. They amount to a considerable sum.
From now on, a married couple will receive £520 a year in pensions from which to meet their fixed expenses, whereas a single person will receive only £286 a year - that is, if he is being paid the 1 0s. a week supplementary allowance. Out of that he has to pay for things such as wood, rent, rates, power for lighting and cooking and a telephone. Somebody has asked me why I have taken a telephone into account. He said, “ Why should a single pensioner living alone have a telephone? “ I replied, “ Goodness me, why should not he have one? “ lt is even more important to a single pensioner than to a married couple.
I do hope that the Minister and the Government will give consideration to this matter when next year’s budget is being prepared.
I should like now to mention fees paid to ambulance associations, and make the suggestion that they be allowed as a taxation deduction. Hospital fees are allowed as a deduction. Perhaps the request I am making is peculiar to Victoria. In thatState at the present time ambulance fees and the £1 subscription to an ambulance co-operative society are not allowed as deductions for income purposes. I feel that these expenses should be allowable deductions. It can cost a lot of money for a person living in a country area to go to Melbourne by ambulance for urgent treatment. I consider that ambulance fees are in the same category as hospital fees and pharmaceutical expenses.
I now wish to say something about primary producers. We have heard a lot about them in this debate from honorable members on both sides. I have taken out some figures showing the contributions that primary producers have made to our export income over the last nine years. Out of a total export income during that period of £7,495,000,000, primary products have earned £6,827,000,000, or 91 per cent. However, even considering those enormous export earnings, the net incomes have got out of balance altogether. The honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Malcolm Fraser) said in his excellent speech last night that the net incomes of farmers have fallen by 11 per cent, over the past four years, while the average earnings of wage-earners have risen by 20 per cent., and average company incomes by 31 per cent. I have no quarrel with those latter increases, particularly the increase of 20 per cent, in incomes of wage-earners. Some people might say that it is not enough, and perhaps that is open to question, but I do not disapprove at all of the fact that those incomes have shown a substantial increase. But surely the primary producer is entitled to some consideration, when we think of the very valuable contribution he makes to the national income. However, we find that his earnings have fallen.
What has been the cause of this fall in incomes of primary producers? At the risk of repeating what other people have said, I consider that the main reasons have been the rising costs confronting primary producers and reduced prices for the commodities they produce. Those tilings are, by and large, beyond the control of primary producers. Increased costs are having a really disastrous effect on the incomes of farmers. What has this Government done about it? It said, “ First, we will discontinue import licensing “. This, of course, is not the magic cure for all our troubles, but it certainly represents a start towards the reduction of costs of many manufactured articles. I believe, too, that the primary producer has, perhaps, been a little remiss in not taking advantage of the remedy that is at hand if he considers that costs are having disastrous effects on his income. I refer to the opportunity that is available to him to approach either the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission or the Tariff Board. I am afraid that primary producers have not taken as full advantage of the opportunities available to them to approach these bodies as they might have done.
The main primary industry affected, of course, has been the great wool industry, which in the last financial year was responsible for providing 44 per cent, of our national income. A lot of discussion has been taking place recently about wool, particularly about the marketing of it, and we on the Government side are very pleased to see that the primary producers’ organizations, which the Government has said time and time again will have to present some definite plan on marketing to the Government, have got together and are in the process of forming a united body to prepare such a plan. I am certain that this will be of great assistance to the wool industry.
Lel me now turn to the manufacturing industries. I believe that they have a responsibility to the community, and particularly to primary producers. I do not suggest that every firm has passed on increased costs to its customers without makins any attempt to refrain from so doing b’.’.t I do believe that a much greater effort should be made by manufacturing industries to avoid passing on increased costs automatically, as, I am sure many firms would agree, is frequently done at present.
The next matter to which I should refer is the recently announced credit restriction policy adopted by the Reserve Bank. This affects not only private individuals and secondary industries, but also primary producers, who deserve some special consideration in the way of the provision of finance because of the very nature of their activities. What does this policy mean? it is said that the credit squeeze must be brought into effect in order to halt inflation, but it is also said that we must keep production going in the primary industries. To this end we must supply the money that is vitally needed by the farmers in order to carry on. I have before me some letters that have been received from various banks, saying that because of the new restriction policy adopted by the Reserve Bank they are forced to restrict the extension of credit to ali their customers, including primary producers.
– When were these letters written?
– They were written this month. I consider that the Development Bank should rise to the occasion when the credit squeeze is applied to the other banks, and should consider sympathetically the granting of loans to primary producers. I also suggest that short-term loans are not of much use. Long-term loans are necessary because of the very nature of farming activities. A great deal of capital is involved in the acquisition of land and the necessary machinery to work it, in the erection of fencing and so on. All these things require a very great amount of capital, and the annual returns on that capital are small when compared with those available in secondary industry. The primary producer has to be very careful with his long-term plans, and he must ensure that he does not make mistakes. When long-term plans are put into effect on a farming property, they involve considerable capital outlay. This means, of course, that great care must be taken to avoid mistakes. It is most necessary, therefore, that long-term loans be made available to members of the farming community.
It is really very hard to fault this Budget, I must admit, but there are one or two comments that I should make. The Prime Minister (Mc. Menzies) said to-night that the Government’s capital works had been cut down. That is true, according to the figures, but I might respectfully suggest that the proposals for capital expenditure could have been better balanced. We find, for instance, that by the end of this financial year one department will have spent £49,800,000 during the preceding five years in the Australian Capital Territory. I hae listened carefully to the remarks of many people whom I have the honour to represent in this Parliament, and I suggest that perhaps some of that money could have been diverted to more vital and urgent works. You may ask what works I would suggest. I would say, first, water conservation. Secondly, I believe that the great Channel country in Queensland should be provided with roads especially when one considers the tremendous losses of cattle that occur there in times of drought. The honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Brimblecombe) told us the other night of the tremendous losses that Australia has suffered because of drought and floods in the Channel country. It seems most reasonable to me that roads in the Channel country should be given No. 1 priority.
Another problem that should be attacked is that of control of the cattle tick, which the Minister tells us is responsible for losses amounting to £10,000,000 a year. Surely it would be worth while to provide some more money ‘for research and for a general attack on this insect.
Another matter I might refer to is the payment of a bounty on superphosphate. Perhaps this affects mainly the southern area of Australia. Some people say they do not like subsidies, but from my observations it seems that Australia is about the only country in the world with extensive primary producing industries that does not employ the subsidy method to any great extent. If it has been proved by other countries of the world that the primary producer needs that kind of finance, I consider that we should take that fact very much into account.
I should like to see a little more of our capital expenditure going towards the provision of greater extension services for primary industry. Although a total of £49,800,000 will have been expended on the development of Canberra in the five-year period concluding at the end of this financial year £2,500,000 will have been spent on agricultural advisory extension work in the various States in the same time. To my way of thinking, that does not seem to be proportionate. If I were asked why we need extension agencies and why we need expert advice to be made available to our great agricultural industry, my answer would be to quote a statement by Mr. James Boulware, Agricultural Attache to the American Embassy in Canberra. He said -
Rapid changes in agriculture mean that every farmer must be prepared to adjust his operations rapidly if he would hope to continue successful. It means that any one interested in farming has only begun his education when he leaves school. Even the university graduate would be hopelessly out of date in 5 to 10 years if he did not keep pace with the developments.
It is impossible to expect a farmer to have all the modern developments at his finger tips. I consider that Australia must provide expert services for two reasons, the first being to increase productivity. The world’s population will increase tremendously in the next 40 years, and, so far as it is humanly possible to forecast, our primary products will be in great demand. Secondly, the provision of expert advice would help to increase the income of farmers.
At this stage, I should like to say that the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. Adermann), who is now at the table, is certainly playing his part, so far as it is possible for him to do so, in uniting the various primary producer organizations and bringing them closer together. It may be asked: How do we make this scientific knowledge available? First, the Commonwealth Government has allocated £300,000 to be divided among the six States, which, admittedly, does not amount to very much for each one. In addition, another £50,000 may be made available at the discretion of the Minister for Primary Industry, after consulting his departmental advisers and the Treasury, to finance special investigations and extension projects, on an appropriate matching basis with contributions by the States and/or the industries concerned.
I should like to see the Government become interested in the efforts of farmers to form themselves into clubs or groups - call them what we like - each consisting of about 30 farmers and employing one agricultural scientist or one person qualified to advise them expertly in farming procedures. In Western Australia, two groups of farmers have each advertised for an agricultural scientist for that very purpose.
– That system is also in operation in New England.
– As the honorable member for Gwydir reminds me, the system is operating in the New England district, in the north of New South Wales. I do not claim that this is an original idea of mine. I know that it has been tried very successfully in America and that it has been proved there that agricultural experts, who go under various names, are of great assistance to farmers. I think that the Minister should seriously consider endeavouring to interest the Government in encouraging the formation of one such group in each State. The details of the plan could be worked out. I admit that I have no concrete suggestions at the moment, but I have been working on the plan for some months.
The Government should seriously consider giving the scheme a trial. I fully appreciate that this matter is largely one for the State governments, but so are many other matters. If the State governments are not prepared to recognize the importance of something that we in the Federal Parliament consider to be of great importance to the future of our nation, the Commonwealth should negotiate with the State governments and try to get them to enter into a partnership with the Commonwealth. If the States decline to do so, the Commonwealth must make financial agreements with them with certain tags attached, such as that a proportion of the money made available will be used for a particular purpose. This is a matter that calls for a broad outlook. If the State governments are not prepared to use for this purpose some of the money that has been made available to them under favorable conditions, and to see that the services of more experts are made available to farmers, then in my opinion the Commonwealth Government must assert itself and say, “Well, we consider that it is vital to the nation that that be done “.
I come now to an aspect of our primary producing industries which is of concern to most people. I refer to the subject of trade and the location of markets in which our primary produce may be sold at reason able prices. I do not think it can be denied that the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen) has worked unceasingly and successfully to achieve that objective. I know that he has not done all that he wants to do and I know, too, that there are problems facing us in relation to trade. I wish to give my thoughts on this matter from one angle. I think we should try to assist the people who are the potential consumers of our primary products. We must look twenty years ahead and try to help those people to develop their economies so that they will be able to afford to buy our primary products. There is no doubt that to the north of us we certainly have a great potential market.
I congratulate the honorable member for New England (Mr. Drummond) on the speech that he made this afternoon, when he spoke of decentralization and the need for a positive lead from this Government. I agree that such a lead should be given. I know that if we are to stick rigidly to the Constitution, it may be difficult to give such a lead, and I also know that decentralization is a responsibility of State governments. But if the State governments will not act in the interests of the nation, the Commonwealth Government must adopt a statesmanlike attitude and say, “ We consider that it is necessary. If you will not do it, we shall step in and authorize the provision of a certain amount of money.” Of course, when any one uses the words “ more money “ the Treasurer does not look too happy, and I do not blame him.
– The important thing is whether the money is coming or going.
– Yes, that is so. I think that a positive lead must be given by the Commonwealth Government in the development of country areas. It does not matter much which country area is chosen for development, except that, naturally, the north-east of Victoria is a very good area in which to establish industries and invest money.
Before I conclude my speech and make way for a most capable member of the Opposition, the honorable member for Scullin (Mr. Peters), I would like to say that the Government must move at all times in partnership with the primary producers and all sections of industry. I realize that is the aim of the Government, and I fully support its efforts to work in partnership with various organizations and to encourage people to work hard for the advancement of Australia, because that will finally decide whether this nation will be successful. If this course is followed, perhaps the Budget next year will have a little more dash.
.- I agree with much of what has been said by the honorable member for Indi (Mr. Holten). 1 agree emphatically that it is necessary to develop our primary industries. In his Budget speech, the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) said that a strong continuous growth of population, rising standards of living and full employment of labour were all goals at which a Budget should aim. They should be promoted not only by the Budget, but also by the monetary and trade policies of the Government. He said - . . the Government decided to remove import licensing controls so that, apart from certain licensing arrangements to meet special problems, the flow of imports into Australia would be unrestricted except for the Customs Tariff.
That was done in February. He went on to say -
A second danger would be a rise in imports to levels higher than we can afford.
He added -
Since import controls were lifted, the rate of imports has increased to some extent. This increase has not been inordinate and certainly no more than we expected.
He said that the Government had determined to introduce credit restrictions for the purpose of reducing the flow of imports promoted by the lifting of import restrictions. He then made this statement -
Imports will be considerably greater this year than last … It will, almost certainly, involve a substantial running down of cur international reserves; for even if exports and capital inflow are as high this year as last, we will have a larger import bill to meet.
Those statements are particularly clear. What he said is that although we have £512,000,000 in our international reserves, they will be considerably less at 30th June, 1961. He does not say how much less they will be. He does not say they will be £100,000,000, £200,000,000 or £1 50,000,000 less. But although he has not given us that information some of his friends have supplied it. The economist of the Bank of New South Wales has said that the trade balance will be reduced by £100,000,000 in addition to the invisibles that we must pay abroad. That, in effect, means that our overseas funds will be reduced by approximately £150,000,000. The Australian and New Zealand Bank Limited issued a statement in which it was said that our overseas funds would be reduced by £150,000,000. At the end of this year, they will be about £300,000,000. What does that mean? I have only to read a statement made by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) on 10th March, 1952, to show what this will mean. He pointed out that our overseas funds were approaching £300,000,000 and said -
Why has it become necessary to restrict imports by Government action? The answer is that we must avoid international insolvency. . . . These overseas balances may sound a bit mysterious at first blush, but they are in essence very simple. They are added to whenever some of our goods are sold to people living outside Australia and whenever money is earned or borrowed from people overseas by Australians.
On the other side they are depleted whenever Australians buy goods or pay for services from people abroad. They are just like a bank account. If the balance threatens to become exhausted, whether for the individual or for the nation, the situation can be most serious. It’s like a man on a salary of £15 a week who wants to live at the rate of £30 a week. He can do it for a while by drawing on his savings bank account to supplement his salary. But when his savings threaten to run out, he must work harder and earn more if he wants to go on living at £30 a week.
He added -
We cannot afford to run our overseas balances down beyond a certain point of safety.
That point of safety was about £300,000,000. At 30th June, 1961, our overseas balances will be about £300,000,000. But what of next year? If the value of our imports and exports remains at the same level, our overseas balances will be reduced by a further £150,000,000 or more in the year ending 30th June, 1962. Then we will be internationally insolvent. We will have hurtled down the road to international insolvency under the administration of this Government. But will our exports be maintained at their present high level as they have done during the past ten years when we had the best seasons that Australia has ever known? The Prime Minister, in one of his speeches, said -
But I have the great honour to represent a country which every now and then has a drought or a Are or a flood; not as many as you might
Imagine, perhaps, but still unpredictable. No one can say when there is going to be a drought or a fire or a flood, and one vast drought in the cuttle or sheep country or one great outbreak of fires in the wheat country and we should find ourselves with our whole export income cut in half.
In those circumstances, being prudent (and having the supreme advantage of having a ScotsAustralian as Prime Minister), we take precautions; and we are determined that we are going to have at all times overseas such an amount of reserves as will enable us to honour our obligations and pay our debts even though drought and fire and flood may come upon us. I do not think that anybody will deny our right and our duty to do that.
Following the making of that statement there was applause. Who applauded? The applause came from “ My Lord Chairman and My Lords, Ladies and Gentlemen “. That statement was made at the Central Hall, Westminster, on 9th June, 1952. Then the right honorable gentleman went on to say - and he has it in deep black print -
To sum up, we must live within our earnings. That is the oldest British principle, and it is a principle to which we shall all come before we are much older.
But are we living within our income when we are borrowing overseas at a greater rate than ever before in our history? Last year we borrowed £42,000,000 overseas- the highest amount since 1928. Moreover, overseas capital is flowing into this country at the rate of between £100,000,000 and £200,000,000 a year. In other words, our assets are being sold one by one to overseas companies to the tune of nearly £200,000,000 a year. Each year the total amount of our sales of assets to overseas companies, and of overseas borrowing, is becoming greater.
What can we do to retain our overseas solvency? Can we change altogether the policy that this Government has adopted and say that its decision never again to resort to import restrictions will be rescinded, and that we will radically reduce the volume of our imports? Would that solve the problem that has been created by this Government? Of course it would not. We cannot radically reduce the volume of our imports, for reasons that have been put forward by honorable members on the other side of the chamber. The honorable member for Barker (Mr. Forbes), when replying to certain statements of mine, said that we could not reduce the volume of imports to any considerable extent because a greater flow of imports was required to keep our secondary industries expanding. Of course, the honorable member was right. I agree with the Treasurer when he says that the progress of this country depends upon two things - the promotion of primary and secondary industries, and their expansion so that they may employ the natural increase in our population, and our immigrants.
What does a secondary industry depend upon? I agree with the honorable member for Indi when he says that secondary industries depend upon primary industries. It is necessary to have steel, minerals of some description, wool and cotton or other fibres - in other words, primary products of one kind or another - in order to expand secondary industries. But where do we get our primary products? At present we get a considerable quantity of them from overseas. Hundreds of millions of pounds worth of imports must enter this country annually if our secondary industries are to continue to expand.
If every year more overseas funds are invested in Australia, and df every year we borrow more money overseas, our obligation to pay interest and dividends to overseas bondholders will become greater and greater. For the year ended 30th June, 1959, we were obliged to pay £116,000,000 for that purpose. But as our interest obligations overseas increase, a smaller proportion of our export income is available to buy the rubber, oil, raw cotton and a number of other . primary products that are essential if we are to develop our secondary industries. It was for that reason that this Government decided to take action. It said, in effect, “ We cannot increase the volume of our imports indefinitely without placing the Australian economy in serious danger. Therefore, we must increase our volume of exports.” But within five years of saying that, the Government said that, to offset the inflow of capital from overseas, we would have to increase the value of our exports by £250,000,000 a year. How was that to be done? It was to be done by increasing the export of manufactured goods.
Dr. Coombs has said that during the last ten years the return from manufactured goods exported did not pay for the raw materials that were imported for the manufacture of those goods, and much less did it solve the problem of Australia’s sinking into international insolvency. It is obvious that we cannot increase our export income by increasing the volume of manufactured goods exported from Australia. As an example, I refer to the export of motor cars. The value of motor cars exported has risen to approximately £9,000,000 a year. But we are able to export motor cars only under a franchise from an overseas organization - the General Motors Corporation. That organization says to Australia, in effect, “ You may export some cars to certain specified areas, but when the time comes that we do not desire you to export to those areas you will not be permitted to export to them. We will export from the parent company in America.”
Are we able to increase our primary production? What has been the record of this Government during the last ten years in the field of primary production? In 1939 there were about 253,000 farms in Australia, but in 1945, at the end of the war, there were only about 247,000. Since the end of the war we have spent over £150,000,000 to provide approximately 8,000 farms for soldier settlers, which, together with the number that we had in 1945, should total 256,000; but we have not 256,000 farms. Instead, we have 252,000. That is the story that is set out by the Statistician. We have 4,000 fewer farms to-day than we had in 1945, although we have a greater desire and a greater need for exports than ever before in our history.
In 1939, when we had about 253,000 farms, we had 7,077,000 people in Australia. Now we have over 10,000,000 people. So, as the population increased by about 3,000,000, the number of our farms decreased by about 4,000. In 1938 we had 432,000 people permanently employed in rural production, and in 1958 there were 393,000, or 39,000 fewer. Is the Government in any way responsible for that? Has it done anything to increase the number of farms or the number of people employed in rural production? No. Instead, it has done everything possible to reduce the number of farms in this country. It was this Government which reduced the land tax by 10 per cent., although that tax would have been an incentive to those with farms to keep those farms up to their full productive capacity. The Government not only reduced the land tax by 10 per cent., but, having done that, abolished it altogether, lt said that that gave the States an opportunity to impose the tax, but the Commonwealth controls the purse. 1 remember an occasion in 1953, or before that, when the Right Honorable Herbert Evatt and I both pointed out to this Government how it could give a lead in the settlement of more and more people on the land. We said that as millions of pounds were coming to Australia from overseas, the 60,000 returned soldiers of the Second World War who had been adjudged by committees as desirable and suitable settlers should be placed on farms so that our production in the only economic sphere that could add to our overseas funds could be increased. However, the Government did not do that.
I have not dealt with the rise of only 8id. per day in the payment to pensioners, which is a scandalous thing. I have not dealt with the vast amounts of money which have been paid to speculators and big financial interests in this community, such as the hirepurchase organizations. I agree that during the last ten years more money to spend has come into this country than ever before in our history. We have exported overseas thousands of millions of pounds worth of commodities - more in the last ten years than in the previous 50 years. In addition to that, we have brought into this country overseas loans to the extent of £100,000,000 during that ten years. Also, during that time, we have brought into this country £1,000,000,000 of investment money from overseas. All that money - the results of our exports, of our borrowing and of selling our country to overseas interests bit by bit - has been expended in one vast spending spree. During that period, the basis of our national prosperity - the primary industries of this country - have declined. Wealth has accumulated but man has decayed.
That is the story of events under this Government. I challenge the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) to dispute those figures. I challenge him to tell me what he is going to do to rehabilitate our overseas funds at the end of 1961, when, as he agrees, they will have been depleted by £150,000,000. What policy will he adopt? Will he revert to the policy of protecting industries by import restrictions? If not, our overseas funds during the year after 1961 will go down by another £150,000,000. We will toboggan into international insolvency and the country will have another depression. In times of depression, some people say, “ We have to save this country, and there is only one way in which to save it. We must reduce costs so that we can sell more and more abroad.” When they talk of a reduction of costs, they mean a reduction of the wages of the workers, of the pensions of the pensioners and of the social services enjoyed by the average members of the community. It will be said that they must be reduced, as they were in days gone by, in order to save the country from international insolvency. In order that the policy of this Government to bolster and promote the interests of its financial friends and their predatory businesses may continue to operate, the best interests of this country - its development and the welfare of its people - must be sacrificed. Even the Minister for the Army (Mr. Cramer) knows that our primary and secondary industries, as well as paying for our imports, provide the means for national development - funds for water supply schemes, irrigation schemes and power supply schemes, as well as funds for the Army that he controls. In days of peace those industries and the wealth that flows from them must be the means of developing this country. In days of war they are the means of its defence and security.
– Mr. Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation.
Order! Does the honorable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes. In the “ Canberra Times “ this morning there appeared an article reading as follows -
Labour Caucus yesterday overwhelmingly voted against two moves by Mr. Thompson (S.A.) to have the member’s resident allowance of £4 a day increased to cover tariff rises at the Hotel
Kurrajong. Most members stay at the Kurrajong, which recently put up its charges by 2s. 6d. a day for the bed and breakfast rates and to £2 13s. 6d. the full weekly rate. Members receive £4 a day while in Canberra to meet accommodation charges, but Mr. Thompson said the rate should be increased. He asked Caucus to sponsor a move to this end, but it was rejected outright. He then tried to have the matter referred to the party’s amenities committee, but this also was defeated.
Mr. Speaker, 1 deny that I moved or suggested any increase in that rate of £4. It never entered my head. Even now, I will say again that I do not think it should be increased. My objection was that, while the daily rate at the Hotel Kurrajong was raised by only 2s. 6d., the weekly rate of members who stay over the week-end in Canberra was raised by £2 12s. 6d. They are mostly members from the distant States. No objection was made to a commensurate increase of about 12s. 6d. a week, but I did feel, in accordance with your statement made in this House this morning, that while members of Parliament should not get preferential treatment, when they are compelled to be away from their homes to attend Parliament, they should be entitled to some better consideration than the ordinary public gets. I want to say emphatically that I never suggested, nor did any other member of the party suggest, that the members’ Canberra allowance of £4 a day should be increased.
Menzies Ministry - East German Trade Union Delegation - Unemployment in Queensland - Communism - Security Service.
Motion (by Mr. Adermann) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- Earlier in the week, I reminded the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) by way of a question, that he is now administering two very important portfolios and will soon also administer another. Honorable members are conversant with the reply that he gave. The right honorable gentleman said that he will perform the tasks he has set himself, and when he finds he cannot perform them he will give up. I have been very interested to find that my question has evidently stimulated some decadent members of the Liberal Party to raise this matter in their caucus. I am fortified in my views by the following article in the “Daily Mirror” of 25th August - “ Dictator “, says Liberal M.P.
Revolt against Menzies.
The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) is facing the most serious crisis within his own party for many years. The revolt of back-bench Liberals came to a head yesterday when he was strongly criticized for retaining personal control of the three most important Cabinet portfolios.
They are the Prime Ministership, External Affairs, and the Treasury.
The article continues -
The attack was led by two Queenslanders, Messrs. J. Killen (Moreton) and McColm (Bowman). Mr. Menzies was noticeably upset by the barrage of criticism. There was a tense moment when he attempted to stifle discussion but Mr. McColm defied his ruling. Earlier Mr. Killen had said he did not think any one man could adequately discharge the duties of Prime Minister, Treasurer and Minister for External Affairs.
In another newspaper, the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Killen) is reported as follows: - . . the Government was becoming “ like McNamara’s band “. It might be the best band in the land, but it could be construed as a oneman band . . .
I congratulate the honorable member on that statement, but I think it is a bit of an insult to McNamara. The first newspaper article to which I have referred also stated -
Several members then rose to speak but all excepting Mr. McColm resumed their seats when Mr. Menzies ruled that the matter was not to be debated any further.
A first-class chairman! The article went on -
Mr. McColm ignored the ruling and told the meeting he agreed with what had been said by Mr. Killen. When Mr. McColm finished speaking, Mr. Menzies again said he would not hear any further debate on the matter. Members left the meeting angrily declaring that Mr. Menzies “ was nothing but a dictator “.
What an outrageous state of affairs in a government! In the two Houses of Parliament this Government has 109 members and they are so incompetent, as instanced by the article to which I have referred, that the Prime Minister has to do three jobs. I should have thought that, even among the limited talent available, a few members could have been found who could at least have done part-time duty in these occupations. The Prime Minister models himself on Mr. Macmillan of Great Britain. Mr.
Macmillan does not have a number of important portfolios himself, but I understand that he allocates them to people whom he can control. In that way, he has his finger on the Treasury, Foreign Affairs and a few other portfolios in a way similar to that of our Prime Minister. Has the Government any talent? We might well ask ourselves that question.
Let us look at one of the members who led the attack, the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Killen). I should say that he would be called the “ Young Pretender “. He is an expert, at least in his own opinion, in foreign affairs. He has told us so from time to time. 1 think that his great capacity in this regard was exemplified during the Budget debate.
– Order! The honorable member will keep off the Budget debate.
– I heard the honorable member make a speech on the U2 spy case. I would say that he was well qualified in foreign affairs. He has all the physical attributes for the External Affairs portfolio. He is not unlike a notable figure of other days, Adolf Hitler. I do not say that in a derogatory way. In that respect he has some international background. Therefore I do not see why the Prime Minister should not give this disgruntled member an opportunity to serve in the high position of Minister for External Affairs and display some of the talent that he appears - to himself and to others - to have.
What is wrong with the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Cleaver), who spoke to-night in a most pontifical manner and appeared, from his observations on the Budget, to be well in line for the portfolio which the Prime Minister is going to attend to for the Treasurer during his absence? Then we have the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Bury). He was promoted, or demoted, according to how he looked at it, from the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development. He is an international figure in finance. He is pining away endless hours on a back bench and is not given the opportunity to be Acting Acting Treasurer in the absence of the Treasurer abroad. I think that he is well fitted to fill the position of Treasurer. He has no imagination. He is a disinterested type of speaker. He is very hard to listen to and, generally speaking, he has all those attributes that one would expect to find in a dynamic Liberal. He should be somewhat qualified for this important post!
The honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth), without doubt, is a man who has talent unlimited. He is always on the scent. I would say, from his broad outlook, his wide knowledge of affairs, and from the comments that he has made on the present Prime Minister in days gone by, that he is qualified to fill the post of Prime Minister if the Prime Minister feels that he cannot possibly continue in it. I instance those as a few members who might well be kept in mind for the Cabinet. I have not had the opportunity to observe them elsewhere but, with the Prime Minister over-burdened with three important portfolios, in a desperate situation any of them might well be promoted, even temporarily.
What is the position with respect to Country Party talent? The honorable member for Canning (Mr. Hamilton), fed up with Government policy, lack of opportunity, and the type of personnel promoted from his party to the Ministry has decided to retire from Parliament. In addition, the honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Brimblecombe), a man of considerable talent, who undoubtedly should have added lustre to the ministerial bench, is leaving with the honorable member for Canning because there is uo opportunity for him. It is a McNamara’s band ministry - a oneman band. When the Treasurer goes away they cannot get anyone to fill the position.
The honorable member for Bowman (Mr. McColm) is another disgruntled man who has complained in caucus about the Prime Minister’s attitude and has refused to sit down. What about the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Forbes)? He is an economist - a man who gives us what he considers to be brilliant expositions about what should be done for the economy! He is wasted; he is frittering away his talent. The honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Falkinder) has long ago seen the impossibility of reaching any high office in the Ministry. With Ministers touring abroad, going around the world more times than a sputnik, the people will have to put up with the Prime Minister occupying three of the most important portfolios.
The honorable member for Calare (Mr. Howse) is fed up because he has been a parliamentary secretary for a long time. He has decided to retire because he cannot see any future here at all and hardly, if ever, now bothers to come into the chamber. I think it is nothing short of contempt of Parliament that the Prime Minister should take these portfolios. He cannot attend to them adequately, whatever his qualities might be. It is all the more fantastic when you consider that, with the Budget and the Estimates under discussion, the most important man on the Government side will go abroad shortly to a trade conference, or something of that nature. The place for the Treasurer when the Budget is being debated is in this Parliament. Members should not be asked to direct questions to what one might call a “ stand-in Treasurer “, competent as the Prime Minister might be.
I believe this is the second occasion on which we in this chamber have not had the opportunity of debating the Budget and the Estimates in the presence of the Treasurer, because of his absence overseas, touring the world. One can find him on the Isle of Capri or elsewhere, but never in his place in this Parliament when the Budget is under discussion.
I shall now go back to what I said at the commencement of my speech. The honorable member for Moreton, who looks so gloomily at the picture I am painting, raised this matter at his party meeting. We are in the impossible position of having the Prime Minister holding three separate portfolios which are all most important. He cannot expect to have an intimate knowledge of any but his own portfolio. I suggest again to the Government that the Treasurer ought to stay in Australia and be in his place in this Parliament when the Budget is under discussion. However, the Government will not be in office for much longer because the Labour Party is on the way back. I make those constructive suggestions to the Government.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
, - It is rather appropriate that the honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly) should have made a speech based on a newspaper report of a party room discussion, immediately following a personal explanation by one of his colleagues who claimed to have been misrepresented by a newspaper report of a discussion which had occurred within the Labour Party. In regard to our party room discussions, all I say to the honorable member is that he can talk about a one-man band or some other kind of music, but at least the harmony in our party room is something of which we are proud and delighted. When there is the same degree of harmony in his party room he will then be in a position to chide us.
Coming to the substance of the matter the honorable member raised - if there is any substance in it - I question whether honorable members opposite would treat it in the facetious manner by which we have been entertained for the last few minutes if they really felt there was a matter of real consequence to discuss. Let me put this to honorable gentlemen opposite: First of all, there is criticism because, in my own absence, the Prime Minister is to assume the portfolio of the Treasury. Two barrels are fired; one because the Prime Minister himself is taking on additional duties, and the other because I shall be out of the country on official tasks. I shall deal with those two points in the reverse order to that in which the honorable gentleman put them. He said that the Treasurer’s place is in this Parliament. Speaking as the Treasurer, I can assure him that, sceptical though he may be because of his own record absence from Australia which brought him a nickname which has lasted to this day, I shall not be absent from this Parliament for longer than I feel I need be. If the honorable member can point to any time, during all the years I have been in this Parliament, when I have been overseas for longer than was necessary to carry out the tasks assigned to me, then I invite him to do so.
The fact of the matter is that increasingly, in the world in which we live, national policies are greatly affected by international policies decided at international conferences. The world is shrinking and Australia is becoming increasingly in volved in its affairs. I suggest to honorable members opposite that, however easy they find it to be critical of Ministers who go overseas to represent Australia, when the day comes that they are in office - if it ever does come - if they are to do their job effectively for Australia they will find that they need to represent Australia at international gatherings to no lesser a degree than we do and just as they did iti the past. In the years which have elapsed since Labour held office, the significance and importance of such discussions have grown.
The honorable member for Grayndler suggests, with an airy wave, that my absence is due to my representation of Australia at a trade conference. If that is his view, he is singularly uninformed about what is happening in the international sphere. In point of fact, my participation in the Lausanne seminar is a very minor aspect, relatively speaking, of what I have to do overseas. I am doing it at the request of my colleague, the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen), who finds that, rather than his absenting himself from Australia for a longer period, it is convenient to have me do for him what he otherwise would have to do for himself. I shall have two visits to Switzerland. One visit will last from a Sunday night until a Wednesday morning and on the second visit, during which I shall open the seminar, I shall leave London at twenty past one in the morning and then leave for Washington on the following morning after having done this job in Switzerland for the Australian Government. Apparently the honorable member for Grayndler would represent that to the gullible elector as a jaunt by a Minister. I only envy the opportunities the honorable gentleman had when he established his long-distance record. If a visit to Switzerland lasting about 24 hours for this purpose is a jaunt in his eyes, then I plead guilty to that charge.
I come now to the real business of my visit overseas and this is where the position of the Prime Minister becomes of great importance. First, I shall be representing the Commonwealth Government at the Commonwealth Economic Consultative Council meetings in London which other Finance Ministers from the Commonwealth of Nations will attend. The Council will deal with subjects of very great consequence to this country, including the European Common Market and the European Free Trade Association. There will also be a list of matters which we shall later be required to discuss at the annual meeting of the boards of governors of the International Monetary Fund, the International Bank and the International Finance Corporation in Washington. I point out to honorable gentlemen opposite that those three bodies are all affiliates of the United Nations Organization and that more than 60 member governments are associated with them. This will be the first occasion in the history of those organizations on which Australia will be honoured by providing the chairman of each of those three bodies. Among the matters to be discussed will be the important new institution, the International Development Association, through which we hope to assist underdeveloped countries and newly-emerging independent countries to establish themselves in an economic sense. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam) has been very articulate on the need to do more for such countries and that will be one of the matters discussed. In addition, there will be loan raising and conversion discussions in New York and London.
That brings the critical situation of the Prime Minister into those matters. It is the practice for the Prime Minister and myself to confer regularly upon high policy economic and Treasury matters. When the Loan Council meets - its members are the Premiers and Treasurers of the States and they are intimately concerned with the details of our loan raising operations overseas - the Prime Minister and I represent the Commonwealth. Nobody else in the Cabinet is privy to our discussions with the Premiers and their Treasurers, or to the Treasury discussions. Consequently, just as in the United Kingdom the Prime Minister, Mr. Macmillan, is the First Lord of the Treasury, in this country the Prime Minister has always had an intimate association with policy-making in the Treasury. A former Labour Prime Minister, Mr. Chifley, was himself both Prime Minister and Treasurer. He held those two portfolios, not temporarily, but permanently.
I shall be absent for the equivalent of four sitting weeks of this Parliament. During that time I shall be discussing the kind of matters which the Prime Minister and I will then have to take up with the Premiers and Treasurers of the States. The Prime Minister has all the background to that in his mind. Nobody is more appropriate to carry on that work on the top level policy-making plane than he is. Of course he is not going to do the administrative, humdrum, day-to-day aspects of the Treasury work! Another Minister will be doing that job for him, just as another Minister does the daily routine for him with respect to the Department of External Affairs.
I say that this Prime Minister, who has had a record term of office as leader of this country, has shown that the one test he applies to these matters is what, in his judgment, is in the best interests of the nation. For most of the time he has been in office, he has held one portfolio, and one only - that of Prime Minister - and he has been the most distinguished and successful Prime Minister this country has ever known. He does not need any lecturing from honorable members opposite as to how the Cabinet business of this country can most effectively be conducted. We are not short of men of ability, nor of Cabinet material, on our side of the House.
– Order! The right honorable gentleman’s time has expired.
– Last night, the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Killen) and the honorable member for Phillip (Mr. Aston) saw fit to inform the House that I had introduced into this chamber two visitors who were delegates from East German building trades unions. So that there will be no doubt about the matter, I say frankly now that I did introduce them and that I considered it a privilege to do so. In order to save the honorable members concerned the trouble of following up my movements any further, I admit that I also took them to dinner in Parliament House and later to supper. I also attended a send-off dinner in their honour last night.
Let me explain the reasons why I did those things. The federal secretary of my union had contacted me and told me that on the occasion of the visit to East Germany by an Australian delegation from the building trades unions, these people had extended generous hospitality and, in short, had done everything possible to make the Australians comfortable and to ensure that they enjoyed their stay in the country.
I remind honorable members that parliamentary delegations frequently go overseas from Australia. On more than one occasion these delegations have passed through East Germany and very generous hospitality was extended to them. Many of the members of those delegations were members of the Liberal Party who, I am sure, will admit they received good treatment in Germany. Not only did they partake of the hospitality offered, but, in fact, competed with one another for selection to enjoy the hospitality.
– When was this?
– As a matter of fact, one team returned from Warsaw only recently. I remind honorable members that a delegation went to China recently and teams of clergymen have also visited that country.
My Federal secretary asked me whether, on behalf of the union, I would endeavour to return the hospitality that had been accorded to our delegation in East Germany. I did so. In my view, I could not have done less. I disagree with the political philosophy of the visitors, but, as an Australian who believes m parliamentary democracy, I should be proud to show these people how we conduct our affairs. I was proud to do so. No harm was done. What is more, these men were very much impressed by the manner in which our affairs are conducted. Certainly, after the hospitality they had extended to our delegates, I would not sink to the depths of describing the strangers within the gate as a motley collection of hoodlums and gangsters. I would not do so even had they not extended such great courtesy to our delegation.
How would honorable members like it if our parliamentary delegations or delegations from our trade unions were described in the way in which these visitors were described by the honorable member for Moreton? At least it should be remembered that the trade unions themselves pay the expenses of the delegations they send overseas. The charge is borne by trade unionists, and trade unionists alone, whereas the cost of parliamentary delegations that go overseas is a charge on the whole community, unionists and non-unionists alike. Further, the community has very little say in whether these parliamentary delegations should be sent overseas, whereas the trade unionists have all the say in connexion with decisions about trade union delegations.
I want to make one other reference to this matter. No matter what trade union delegation comes to this country - provided it is a trade union delegation - I shall do my utmost to ensure that when it returns to its own country it can only report that it was received with the greatest courtesy, was extended the greatest possible hospitality and was treated with the dignity that I believe should be accorded the representatives of trade unions. Incidentally, the visitors to whom the honorable members referred hold higher ranks in the trade union movement than the honorable members who insulted them hold in this Parliament.
Both honorable members made personal explanations this morning in connexion with their presence and the time of their presence at the Kingsford-Smith Airport. They were both present at the airport on Tuesday of this week. Two security officers were also present at the airport on that day. If those honorable members have nothing better to do than virtually act as unofficial security officers, watching the activities of trade unionists who happen to be members of this Parliament, I can only say that we are well able to return the compliment. I emphasize that to insult the stranger within our gates merely because he has a political philosophy which is different from ours, is anti-Australian and anti-trade unionist. It is far better that such visitors as these should be able to return to their native lands and say that they have seen how we conduct our affairs. It is far better that they should be able to return to their homeland with an appreciation of the manner in which we conduct our affairs. I know that these visitors have that appreciation; indeed, I know they were rather envious of the way in which we conduct our affairs.
Reference was made to my inviting them into the chamber. What have we to hide that we should refrain from inviting such visitors into the chamber? I point out that they could well have listened to the proceedings of Parliament over the radio. They could well have acquired a copy of “ Hansard “ and read the insults offered to them by the honorable member for Moreton on the previous day. They could also return to their native land and to other lands and say, “ This is how visitors are treated in Australia! “ We have nothing to fear from inviting visitors to see what goes on in this chamber, and we should realize that if we expect courtesy and hospitality on our overseas visits, the least we can do as Australians is extend hospitality and courtesy to those who visit this land.
.- Last night the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) instructed the honorable member for Kennedy (Mr. Riordan) to rise in his place and read to this Parliament a telegram that his leader had received from a Trades and Labour Council branch in Queensland. The honorable member for Kennedy did as he was instructed by his leader, but with obvious reluctance. He was emotionally upset, as was obvious to everybody in the chamber, and he read the telegram with great reluctance. There was a very good reason for his reluctance, and there was a very strong motive behind the action of the Leader of the Opposition in instructing him to read the telegram, as the honorable member told us in his speech, and the intervention of the Leader of the Opposition and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam) in the debate in an endeavour to extricate the honorable member for Kennedy from the difficulties in which he had placed himself as a result of the speech he delivered in relation to that telegram.
Let us look at the facts. The Trades and Labour Council in Townsville called a conference to consider the problem of unemployment of meat workers. To that conference it invited the honorable member for Leichhardt (Mr. Fulton) and the honorable member for Kennedy. The honorable member for Kennedy travelled from Brisbane, where he lives, to Townsville to attend the conference; but on his arrival at Townsville he received instructions from some source not to attend the conference because it was a Communist-controlled conference. When the honorable member for Kennedy was asked publicly why he did not attend, he said, “ It is being run by a bunch of Commos. It is a Communist conference and no Labour men are going.” He then denied that any Labour man attended that conference. In other words, by claiming publicly that no Labour man had attended that conference, and by saying that it was a Communist conference, he accused everybody who attended it of being Communists. Many who attended it came from the Ross River meat works and were not Communists, as the honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Murray) clearly told the House last night. The honorable member for Kennedy at that time was within a stone’s throw of his own electorate, having travelled 1,000 miles from where he lived. One might therefore have concluded that, being so close to his electorate, he would have entered his electorate to see whether any of his constituents had any problems to put before him. But no, he obtained a seat on the aircraft he wanted to catch and returned to Brisbane to his banana farm on the outskirts of that city.
That might have been the end of the incident had not a further event occurred in Queensland. Mr. Jim Keeffe, who will probably be the next secretary of the Queensland branch of the Australian Labour Party - at present he is one of its organizers - made a survey of the Labour Party’s chances in Queensland at the next federal general election, and he came to a conclusion that was considered by the Queensland Central Executive of the party. This was to the effect that the Labour Party could well lose two more seats in Queensland. One of them is the electorate of Brisbane. The honorable member for Brisbane (Mr. George Lawson) has indicated that he will retire, and it is well known that he has held that seat because of the high regard and personal esteem in which he is held by everybody regardless of party in Queensland. With his retirement, Brisbane, in the opinion of the Queensland Central Executive of the Labour Party, might well be won by the Liberal Party. Leichhardt, the most northerly division in Queensland, has been held since the last election by a member who returns to his home in the electorate every week-end and interviews his constituents regularly about their problems. The honorable member for Herbert has set up his federal member’s rooms in his electorate and regularly interviews his constituents there; and the honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Brimblecombe) lives in his electorate and interviews his constituents there. Bearing these facts in mind, the opinion has gained ground that the electorate of Kennedy, which adjoins all of those electorates, might well be lost to the Labour Party because the honorable member for Kennedy is seen in the electorate only at election time or about once a year when he tours the electorate to let his constituents know that he is still alive.
The previous representative of the electorate of Herbert did not visit his electorate very frequently. Knowing the regularity with which the present member for Herbert attends to his duties, and knowing that the member for Leichhardt does likewise, although he has to travel much further from Canberra than has the honorable member for Kennedy, the electors of Kennedy want to know why their representative returns from Canberra only to his home in Brisbane instead of his electorate to attend to his constituents. So, the Queensland Central Executive of the Labour Party communicated with the Leader of the Opposition and indicated that it had some doubt about the chances of the honorable member for Kennedy continuing to hold his seat. The executive considered it wise that he should not adopt his dictatorial attitude towards the Trades and Labour Council in Townsville, and that a little more co-operation on the part of the honorable member, even where Communists were involved, might help him to hold his seat.
The honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) says, “Ha”; but the attitude of the honorable member for Kennedy to Communism was clearly displayed in the caucus when the split occurred in the Labour Party some years ago. The honorable member for Parkes will recall that when the Keon-Mullens group within the Labour Party, which later crossed the floor of the House, was recording a vote about that time in the caucus, the honorable member for Kennedy voted with that group. He voted for the anti-Communist movement within the Labour Party. But when he discovered that he was in a minority group, he went back to Brisbane and did not attend any more caucus meetings until that problem had been resolved. Then he threw in his hat with the winning side. These facts are not unknown in the electorate of Kennedy or to the Trades and Labour Council in Townsville. Consequently, as the honorable member for Kennedy is under attack from within the
Labour movement and as he is in grave danger of losing his seat at the next election, the Leader of the Opposition and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition made an attempt to discredit honorable members on this side of the House on the basis that we had not supported the subsidization by this Government of the re-building of the Mount Isa railway line.
That argument was put forward by the Leader of the Opposition last night. The policy of the Labour Party, expressed a thousand times by a thousand spokesmen, is definitely opposed to overseas capital investment in Australia on the ground, as I heard said even to-night, that such investment means selling the assets of the Australian community. Let us look at the facts. Mount Isa Mines Limited is American owned and controlled. We welcome the money that comes to this country from American shareholders. We are only too glad to see these people invest their money in this country and we wish every possible success to the Mount Isa mine. How does the Australian Labour Party reconcile these two conflicting ideas? On the one hand, it condemns the investment of overseas capital in Australia, but on the other hand it says that the railway line should be re-built at the expense of the Australian taxpayers, which would mean that the American shareholders in Mount Isa Mines Limited would receive increased dividends. The proposition that has been agreed to by the Government and Mount Isa Mines Limited is quite fair.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- Last night I listened with absolute disgust to an attack on the workers of this country by three honorable members on the Government side, whose personal status with the trade union movement would be nil. I refer to the honorable members for Moreton (Mr. Killen), Lilley (Mr. Wight) and Phillip (Mr. Aston). Those three traducers of the workers sought to smear an honorable member who is beyond reproach.
– I did not speak last night.
– I exclude the honorable member for Lilley from my reference to last night, but I include him in my charge now because of the speech he has just concluded. He took advantage of the absence of the honorable member for Kennedy (Mr. Riordan) to suggest that that honorable member had some degree of reluctance in presenting to this House a plea on behalf of the organized trade unionists of north Queensland. The unionists needed someone to champion them because they were in danger of suffering a miniature depression. Because of various factors in the employment situation in Queensland, they were being deprived of the opportunity for continuous employment. The honorable member for Lilley attacked the honorable member for Kennedy in his absence on the ground that he was reluctant to present the workers’ plea.
The honorable member for Kennedy had no reluctance in presenting a plea to the Government to bridge the gap in continuous employment for these people in north Queensland. That amounted to a plea to prevent the workers going on the meagre allowance that this Government is prepared to make out of a Budget of £1,700,000,000 for those who suffer unemployment. I support the honorable member for Kennedy completely. What else could the honorable member have done? Last night, the supporters of the Government whom I have named sought to bait the Opposition by calling us “ reds “. This is a form of McCarthyism that no Australian is prepared to accept. They stand condemned for their deceit and their deliberate attempt to bring into disrepute the workers who are organized as trade unionists. As a former trade union official, I say that you people opposite are not competent in any degree, or on any pretext, to rise in this Parliament and try to traduce the trade unionists of this country, in north Queensland, Port Kembla, or anywhere else. The fact is that you know simply nothing about trade unionism. Your instincts are against the trade unions. You are the puppets of high finance.
– I rise to a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Is the honorable member in order in disregarding the Standing Orders which state than an honorable member must address the Chair.
– Order! There is no substance in the point of order. The honorable member is addressing the Chair.
– It is evident, Mr. Speaker, that you, as a man of the world, understand that I do not intend to cast any aspersions on your high and august office. These honorable members are like the butcher’s dog - they can hand it out but they can’t take it. None of these three honorable members has the status or justification, economically, socially or otherwise, to try to traduce the organized unions of Australia. The honorable member for Kennedy did what I would have done, and what any Australian unionist would do; he presented a plea on behalf of the workers in the State from which he comes that they should be able to earn enough to buy bread. That was the simple equation behind the telegram that was read by the honorable member for Kennedy.
– The Government supporters would not know about that.
– As the honorable member for Kingsford-Smith has said, they would not know. They have not been through the mill. They have come here as the servants of Mammon, and they are prepared to sell their heritage for a mess of potage. They are exploited before they come here, and exploited while they are here. We on this side of the Parliament are not subservient to Mammon, and we will not sell our heritage. We have sacked our masters before to-day, and we will sack them again tomorrow. We are still able to carry on as Australian workers despite the imperfections of the system and the fact that we have seen too many men out of work and on the dole. I was one of them. For three years I was on the dole of the capitalist society of this country. That society had no justification in the 1930’s for sacking one man, let alone half a million good Australians who were put out of work and forced to eat the leek. Some honorable members on the Government side are not old enough to remember those days. They are still wet behind the ears. The sooner they realize that those days were real and that it is possible for the same conditions to appear to-morrow, given the proper circumstances, the sooner they will gain stature as members of the Commonwealth Parliament and understand the issues I am talking about.
In relation to the attack that was made last night on the Labour movement I, as a trade unionist, say that big business in Australia could well take to its bosom the trading instincts of other countries and the knowledge possessed by international visitors, no matter where they come from. As the honorable member for Newcastle (Mr. Jones) indicated this morning, something like one-tenth of our exports from Australia are arranged through trade channels, lt is fair to say that that one-tenth represents sales of Australian commodities by primary producers and manufacturers to Communistcontrolled countries. There has been co-ordination, connivance, cooperation, discourse and contact in respect of those people, but the honorable members for Moreton and Phillip saw fit to say last night that while it is good enough for big business to connive with the Communist countries in order to make a quid for the industrialists, it is not proper for the workers to exchange with unionists from those countries ideas on technical processes for development, to co-operate on international thought, and to develop understanding between the nations.
It is more important to the long-range welfare of this country that we have mutual understanding between the nations of the world than it is to make a profit of a few pounds on the sale of goods overseas. It is much more important, in fact, because the destinies of the unborn children of Australia are wrapped up in this mutual understanding. We must recognize that unless we have complete freedom, an unfettered exchange of thoughts, and mutual trust between the workers of Australia and the peoples of other nations, we shall never have international understanding. Instead, we will have international discord, disruption and decay. I say to honorable members on the Government side: Lift your sights to a more distant horizon. If we, cannot stand as a fully grown nation in world affairs, we are no better than pigmies. I object to this Government or any of its minions suggesting that I, as an Australian-
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– I wish to comment briefly on the remarks passed to-night by the honorable member for Darebin (Mr. Courtnay). In so doing, I do not want to charge him with any insincerity, because I think he may well have believed what he was saying. I want to deal with this matter logically, calmly and dispassionately. I was a little puzzled by one thing that he said. He referred to the presence of security officers at Mascot aerodrome early this week - I think on Tuesday. What puzzles me is how he knew that security officers were there. Was he looking for them? Is there a kind of antisecurity conspiracy within the Australian Labour Party? Is the Labour Party so hand-in-glove with the Communists that its members are going around looking for security officers so that they may warn the Communists? Are members of the Labour Party acting as stool-pigeons for the Communists? Are honorable members opposite the enemies of Australia? How is it that they are so well briefed on the movements of security officers, whom they say they detest and with whom they have no contact? Is there a conspiracy or are these allegations a tissue of lies?
Certain accusations have been made which the honorable members concerned on this side of the House have said are factually untrue, but a question that arises is: Whether the accusations were true or false, were they such grave accusations after all? Why should it be a matter of disgrace for any member of this House or, indeed, any loyal Australian to talk to the people who are endeavouring to counter the actions of our Communist enemies? What is wrong with that? Surely anybody who is loyal and who is anti-Communist would applaud the efforts of those people who are working to counter the efforts of communism. I say that the Labour Party has some explaining to do about this campaign which, apparently, it is conducting against the security service of this country. How did honorable members opposite know that these men were security officers?
– We found out.
– No doubt you did find out. No doubt you have an apparatus. No doubt you are in close contact with the Communists, who are out to thwart the efforts of the security service at every turn. This matter needs explaining. Perhaps somebody on the opposite side of the House will endeavour to explain it.
Let me turn to another point. The honorable member for Darebin - I think with some sincerity - asked: What is wrong with trying to repay hospitality that we have received in East Germany? I would say that there was nothing wrong with that if the hospitality were given in equal measure by both sides. From Australia there go to East Germany as observers, people who are not committed to communism, and in some cases, unfortunately, not committed to an opposition to communism. We go there as observers. We want to see what is happening there. We are not allowed to take part in the politics of that country. We are not allowed to go to East Germany and take part in anti-Communist activities there, because people who do that sort of thing in East Germany quickly find themselves in prison. But the representatives of East Germany who come to Australia do not come as visitors. They come as Communist agents. They do not come here to see what we are doing. They come here to organize communism within our unions. That is quite a different kettle of fish. If we could get from East Germany people who were representative of a cross-section of the community there - which is to a great degree, I believe, anti-Communist - we would welcome them in this country. But people of that type are not allowed to leave East Germany. The only people allowed out of that country are Communist agents. They are sent here as Communist agents.
Let me direct the attention of the House to the disgraceful history of the Communist Party of Germany. Let us remember that it was the Communist Party of Germany which, during the Berlin transport strike, joined forces with the Nazis and put Hitler into power. The Communist Party did that in accordance with a plan. It believed that by overthrowing democracy in Germany, it would throw the country into chaos. The Nazi storm troopers and1 the Communists stood shoulder to shoulder in the critical Berlin transport strike which brought Hitler to power. That is a matter of historical record. However, the Communists miscalculated. Hitler came to power, whereas the Communists thought that they would only bring chaos to Germany.
Then something far more disgraceful happened. Openly, Stalin made the vicious pact with Hitler which was meant to create the war, and which in fact did create the war. Stalin and Hitler plotted to overwhelm us; and they very nearly succeeded. Let us not forget that in 1940, when the blitz on Britain was at its height, and when, France having been overrun, it looked as though Hitler might well win the war, the Communist Party of Germany was on Hitler’s side, on Stalin’s orders. Just as at that time British and Australian Communists became traitors in order to bring about a Nazi victory, because Hitler was then allied with Stalin, so, in the same way, the Communist Party of Germany was on Hitler’s side. Let us not forget that peculiarly disgraceful conduct of the German Communist Party.
The people who were members of the German Communist Party at that time acted just as disgracefully as the Australian and British Communists when they were on Hitler’s side at Stalin’s orders. Those people now visit our country and endeavour, in the same treacherous way, to foster the Communist plan and draw the wool over the eyes of Australian workers. I do not think that the honorable member for Darebin fully realized what he was saying when he told us that these people were here to forge bonds between their Communistcontrolled unions, so called, in East Germany and unions here. Honorable members are well aware that in Communist countries there are no real trade unions. There are only organs of the state. These people who come here may pose as unionists, but in reality they come here to deceive us. They are representatives of the World Federation of Trade Unions, which is opposed to free trade unions. The Australian trade union movement officially supports free trade unions, although in fact it does not always seem to support them. These people come from Russia, East Germany or China as agents of communism, although they come under the guise of trade unionists. They endeavour to deceive Australian trade unionists and to forge bonds between our workers and the pseudo trade unionists in Communist countries. This is a vicious thing and the people in this country who, perhaps innocently, help these Communists in their activities are doing Australia a disservice.
– During the adjournment debate last night, the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) said that I, in my speech, was covering up for the Communist Party. That is only one of the many untruths that he has uttered. 1 want to inform him that I have never been associated with any Communist Party movement, nor have I ever presented any silver cup trophy to any Communist Party organization. Night after night, we hear this same diatribe of nonsense from the honorable member for Mackellar, who says that we have Communist spies in Australia. Who lets them into Australia? Why does not the honorable member protest to his own Government if spies are coming into this country? Why does not the honorable member protest to his own Government about Healy, the secretary of the Waterside Workers Federation, going to Russia, getting his instructions and coming back to Australia? You are all weak. You adopt the same old smearing tactics all the time. 1 wish now to deal with the reference that was made in the first speech to-night in the adjournment debate to a newspaper article. 1 shall not refer to what appeared in the Sydney “ Daily Mirror “, but I should like to say that many honorable members on the Government side are very prone to use newspaper articles against us and, as the honorable member for Cunningham (Mr. Kearney) has said, they are like the butcher’s dog - they can give it but they cannot take it. Let me cite an illustration. A certain journalist writes for the Sydney “ Daily Telegraph “. Honorable members on the Government side quote this journalist’s articles from time to time and use most of them in smear attacks on the Australian Labour Party. Let me demonstrate the reliability and honesty of this journalist, whom I shall name. He is Mr. Alan Reid. This is what Alan Reid said in the “Sunday Telegraph” of 17th July, after the Balaclava by-election -
The Liberal candidate (Mr. Whittorn) will win easily. His majority will be higher than that of Mr. Joske when he held the seat for the Government at the 1958 election.
Nothing is further from the truth. In 1958 Mr. “ Joske won the Balaclava seat by 14,490 votes and obtained 60.6 per cent. of the total votes cast. At the recent byelection, Mr. Whittorn obtained 17,148 votes, compared with 9,332 votes that the Labour Party candidate received. Admittedly, those were not the final figures, but I assume that they reflect the final result. The Liberal vote fell from 60.6 per cent, to 53 per cent, of the total votes cast, which was a loss of over 7 per cent.
Most of the nonsense which we hear from honorable members on the Government side during adjournment debates is based on this journalist’s articles in the press. 1 presume that, in view of the figures I have mentioned, when he stated that the Liberal candidate would obtain a greater majority than Mr. Joske had secured, he is either incompetent, or he was drunk when he wrote the article, or he is an unmitigated liar - and I will say that outside this House.
.When making a personal explanation this morning, I said that I joined with the honorable member for Phillip (Mr. Aston) in protesting at the gross misrepresentation by a newspaper which purparts to be a responsible newspaper. Some minutes prior to making that personal explanation, it had been represented to me in good faith - and I had accepted it in that spirit - that a newspaper had carried a report charging the honorable member for Phillip and myself with having spoken to two security officers. I was unaware at that time that the article was merely a report of the parliamentary debate. In the circumstances, and as matters stand at the moment, r .y -.!> iep-1 en t regarding the newspaper may be rather harsh and ungenerous, but it was made in a moment of great annoyance and with a feeling of temper which I should imagine would be fairly comprehensible to most people. I regret that I used such harsh and ungenerous language.
I want to move now to other matters. I join with the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) in inquiring what is wrong with speaking to a security officer, if one should have done so? Is one to be believed to be doing something improper? I hold that such is not the case.
Apropos the personal explanation that I made this morning, and the observations which I have just made, I should like to put it to you, Mr. Speaker, that the Standing Orders are in need of review. If an honorable gentleman rises in his place and makes some wild, extravagant charge against another person, and that other person merely says that the statement is untrue, a newspaper is entitled to report the exchange. You may say, Mr. Speaker, that the question of ethics is involved on the part of the newspaper, but I submit for your consideration that the control of wild, extravagant, grossly unfair and improper statements by members of this House is the business of this House, and should be treated accordingly.
.- I should not have risen to continue the debate on this matter but for the statement that was made by the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Killen). What happened last night, and what he has just reported, is substantially correct. I said that the honorable member for Moreton and the honorable member for Phillip (Mr. Aston) were at the Sydney airport on Tuesday last and at that time they were, whether they knew it or not, in conversation with two security officers named Gilmour and McDermott, who are well known to most journalists and politicians who do their job in Sydney. I said that the honorable member for Moreton was not attempting to hide the fact that he was looking out for - what he called - Communists going to Canberra. The honorable member is alleged to have made that statement, although I did not hear it. The matter has been honorably reported. No wild statements have been made.
I shall repeat what I said last night. Two security officers were at the airport and two red baiters were at the airport. The happy meeting is something which the “ Sydney Morning Herald “ recognizes, as I do. I leave the matter there because the hour is growing late and we need not bash each other’s ears over it. I believe the report to be true. I saw the meeting with my own eyes. Whether the honorable members were in conversation with the security officers, knowing them to be security officers, I do not know, but I do know that they were there together.
The honorable member for Phillip said that I was in Canberra. He tried to make it appear that we were referring to last Tuesday week.
– That is so.
– The point of the matter is that I was not in the House. The occasion of which I am speaking was on Tuesday of this week. In corroboration of what I have said, the honorable member for Moreton has Stated exactly what has happened. He asked: What is wrong with talking to a security officer - indicating that he was doing so - if he were there, asking the officer whether any Communists were about? That is the matter as I raised it, and that is the matter as it now stands. There have been no outrageous statements, no wrong statements and no wrong asseverations.
.- Mr. Speaker, I had not intended to take part in this discussion. I do so only because I feel that the deliberate and malicious lies that the Australian Labour Party is putting forward and that the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) is trying to foist on this House require an explanation.
– Order! Did I understand the honorable member to say that another honorable member had uttered deliberate and malicious lies? Did the honorable member for Phillip use the word “ lies “?
– Yes, I did say that.
– The honorable member will withdraw it.
– I withdraw it and I shall use the word “ untruths “. In the short time at my disposal, Sir, I want to say that I do not know what are the motives of the honorable member for Parkes, but his informers, who ever they may be, are on the wrong track entirely. I say quite frankly that when the honorable member was speaking last evening, I thought he was referring to last Tuesday week, and I made a personal explanation accordingly.
– That is where the honorable member was wrong.
– Yes. I readily admit that. Now I want to come back to Tuesday of this week because it suits me better. On Tuesday of this week, I left Sydney for Canberra on the 7.20 a.m. plane. The honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Killen) left Sydney on the 10 a.m. plane. The honorable member for Parkes travelled on the 11 a.m. special aircraft. Yet he told the House last evening that he saw with his own eyes the things that he has described! If these are not fraudulent and malicious untruths, I do not know what are.
But let us go a little further. I was at the airport in Sydney from 7.10 a.m. until 7.20 a.m., and in that time I was in the company of the honorable member for Mitchell (Mr. Wheeler) and also of the honorable member for Watson (Mr. Cope). At no time was I in the company of any other honorable member. I know the honorable member for Watson is an honest member of the Labour Party, and I am sure that he will corroborate my statement, Sir. In these circumstances, one might ask oneself, “ What is the reason behind the attack made on the Australian Security Intelligence Organization by the honorable member for Parkes?” We know the honorable member, Sir, and we are accustomed to hearing from time to time about the figments of his imagination. We have read about them in the books that he has written. We read about them in a book, “ Blood Upon the Wattle “, which he wrote some years ago, and also in his book about red China. In these works, he let his imagination run riot, and he has done exactly the same thing in his utterances in this House.
I think that any honorable member who has told an untruth should be man enough to admit his mistake, whether or not he made it in this House or in any other public place. The electors of Parkes and the members of this House will judge the honorable member by his actions, and I say that if he does not retract his statement and apologize, he is no longer a fit person to be a member of this place.
It is common knowledge that all that I said last evening was the truth. What I said about these things was common knowledge All one has to do to understand this is to refer to the “ Guardian “, the “ Tribune “ or some of the honorable member’s own colleagues in the Australian Labour Party. Let the honorable member for Parkes just think that over.
I do not want to prolong this discussion, Mr. Speaker. But I want to re-affirm that at no time prior to my becoming a member of this House or since have I had any dealings with the security service. Nor have I spoken to any officer of that organization in connexion with anybody or any matter in which these people mentioned by the honorable member for Parkes or any other person has been involved. I re-affirm my statements, Sir, and I challenge the honorable member to produce evidence of what he has alleged, because there is no evidence to contradict what I have just stated.
Apparently, the members of the security service are pretty well known to the honorable member for Parkes. One can understand that. We can see it easily, Sir, and it does not take a great deal of imagination to understand which side of the fence the honorable member is on. He is well known for his left-wing political views, and for the speeches that he made in this House at a time when the security service was under discussion. He is well known, also, for his feeling towards the security service. The honorable member’s statements about the honorable member for Moreton and me just constitute an attempt to bring us both into disrepute. Perhaps that is only a minor matter. I think that the big thing in this issue is the fact that the honorable member for Parkes, in common with the Communist Party of Australia and a lot of members of the Australian Labour Party, endeavours to bring the security service of this country into disrepute. Any man who wants to do that should be ashamed of himself as an Australian. The security service meets an urgent need and serves a most useful purpose by protecting the security not only of the unionists and workers whom the honorable member represents, but also of his children, my children and the whole of the people of Australia. I think that any man who tries to belittle the work that the service is doing and who at the same time tells malicious falsehoods and lies in an endeavour to get cheap publicity should apologize not only to this House but also to the people of Australia.
Motion (by Mr. Hasluck) agreed to -
That the question be now put.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 12.16 a.m. (Friday).
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
d asked the Minister for Territories, upon notice -
Will he prepare and furnish for the information of honorable members a precis of the proposals which were submitted to him by white settlers and members of the indigenous population of the Territory of Papua and New Guinea when he visited the Territory in July?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows: -
The substance of the representations made regarding reform of the Legislative Council will be given to the House when introducing a Bill to amend the Papua and New Guinea Act later this session. An outline of statements made regarding the political future of the Territory was given in a statement to the House on August 23.
d asked the Minister for Territories -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions arc as follows: - 1 and 2. The Government has promised to announce target dates in economic, social and educational advancement of the native peoples of Papua and New Guinea with the objectives of having these people able and ready to determine their own political future. 3, 4 and 5. These questions are hypothetical.
n asked the Minister for Territories, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
d asked the Minister for Territories, upon notice -
– The answer to the honorable member’s questions is as follows: -
The police report on Mus Gufanaf at the time of his trial and conviction in June last, makes no mention of any previous convictions.
d asked the Minister for Territories, upon notice -
Why does the Government continue to submit separate reports to Parliament in respect of the administration of Papua and New Guinea, when for a period of approximately fifteen years both areas have been administered as a single unit known as the Territory of Papua and New Guinea?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows: -
Separate annual reports are prepared for the Territory of Papua and the Trust Territory of New Guinea in compliance with the requirements of the Charter of the United Nations. A report on the Territory of Papua is transmitted to the United Nations in accordance with Article 73 (e) relating to non-self-governing territories. An annual report on the Trust Territory of New Guinea is submitted to the Trusteeship Council in conformity with Article 88 of the Charter. The Trusteeship Council has no supervisory functions in relation to the Territory of Papua. As no composite annual report is published for the Territory of Papua and New Guinea, it is the practice of the Government to table copies of the separate annual reports for the information of Parliament.
d asked the Minister for Territories -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
m asked the Minister for Territories, upon notice -
Why have the following Ordinances not yet come into operation in the Territory of Papua and New Guinea: -
Administration Servants’ Ordinance 1958.
Native Apprenticeship Ordinance 1958,
Native Apprenticeship Ordinance 1960,
Native Emigration Restriction Ordinance 1955,
Native Emigration Restriction Ordinance 1958,
Native Employment Ordinance 1958,
Native Local Government Councils Ordinance 1958,
Native Local Government Councils Ordinance 1960,
Transactions with Natives Ordinance 1958, ‘
Workers’ Compensation Ordinance 1958,
Workers’ Compensation Ordinance 1959,
Workers’ Compensation Ordinance 1960?
k. - The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows: -
The following Ordinances: -
Administration Servants’ Ordinance 1958,
Native Apprenticeship Ordinance 1958,
Transactions with Natives Ordinance 1958,
Workers’ Compensation Ordinance 1958,
Native Emigration Restriction Ordinance 1958, are all closely related to the major piece of new labour legislation for the Territory, the Native Employment Ordinance, 1958. It is intended that they will all be brought in as soon as the Native Employment Ordinance 1958 is ready to be brought into force. The drafting of the last of the regulations for this group of legislation is expected to be completed during September and the preparation of the extensive administrative instructions to ensure the uniform application of the legislation by numerous Administration officers throughout the Territory is proceeding.
The Native Apprenticeship Ordinance 1960 amends the Principal Ordinance, the Native Apprenticeship Ordinance 1951-1958, and can therefore not come into force until the 1958 amendment comes into force.
The Native Emigration Restriction Ordinance 19SS amalgamated existing provisions in the laws of New Guinea and Papua and when it became apparent that the ordinance would require amendment in the light of the impending Native Employment Ordinance its introduction was deferred. It will be brought into force at the same time as the 1958 amendment.
The Workers’ Compensation Ordinance 1959 and the Workers’ Compensation Ordinance 1960 add improvements to the 1958 Ordinance and await the introduction of that Ordinance before they can come into force.
n asked the Minister for Territories, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
d asked the Minister for Territories, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
m asked the Minister for Territories, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
m asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
t asked the Minister for the Army, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
Queensland - 1 Supervisor of Rifle Clubs; 1 Inspector of Rifle Ranges; 2 Clerks; total, 4. New South Wales - 1 Supervisor of Rifle Clubs; 1 Inspector of Rifle Ranges; 2 Clerks; 1 Typist; total, 5. Victoria - 1 Supervisor of Rifle Clubs; 1 Inspector of Rifle Ranges; 2 Clerks; total, 4. South Australia - 1 Supervisor of Rifle Clubs who also performs the duties of Inspector of Rifle Ranges; 1 Clerk; total, 2. Western Australia - 1 Supervisor of Rifle Clubs; 1 Inspector of Rifle
Ranges; 1 Clerk; total, 3. Tasmania - 1 Supervisor of Rifle Clubs; 1 Clerk; total, 2. Duties of Inspector of Rifle ranges performed by Military Staff. Total 22. The Supervisors of Rifle Clubs have been responsible for registration of clubs and members, provision of stores and ammunition, payment of grants and liaison with state rifle associations. Inspectors of Rifle Ranges carried out regular inspections of ranges to check on safety, gave technical direction for maintenance, repair and construction of ranges and certified work for which grants were paid.
m asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: - 1 and 2. As I have indicated on a number of occasions I appreciate the desirability of having reports available to honorable members when the Estimates are being considered. Action has been taken to present to Parliament, before the commencement of the Estimates debate, as many papers as possible giving honorable members information on the activities of departments and instrumentalities. Where it is not practicable to present final reports this information may be given in the form of interim reports or statements of activities. A number of reports, including interim reports, have already been tabled this session. The attached statement sets out the date on which the reports of various departments and instrumentalities were last tabled in the House and the period covered in those reports.
m asked the Minister for Shipping and Transport, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable members’ questions are as follows: -
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 25 August 1960, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1960/19600825_reps_23_hor28/>.