23rd Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. 3ohn McLeay) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– I desire to ask the Treasurer a question without notice. Will the right honorable gentleman explain in greater detail what proposals the Minister for Trade had in mind when he told the conference of the National Farmers Union of Australia that the Government would probably have to resort again to unpalatable measures to control rising costs? Does this mean that the Government is contemplating another supplementary budget, with increases of sales tax and in other indirect taxes, including excise duties on beer, tobacco and cigarettes? Will this budget be brought down before the House goes into recess towards the end of November, or will it be introduced when the House re-assembles in February of next year? Finally, in view of the admissions of the Minister for Trade, and the Minister for Primary Industry that the Government knows no way by which the ever-rising spiral of costs, with their consequent disastrous effects on the primary producers, can ,be brought to a halt, will he now make an open confession, that he and his predecessor, Sir Arthur Fadden, have made: a complete mess of the Australian economy? .
– My friend, the Minister for Trade, appears to .me to be in a state of very good health, and so far as I arn aware, he is completely articulate. If the honorable member Wants to know what the Minister for Trade had in mind, o.r said, I think the obvious thing for him to do is to put his question directly to my very able and distinguished colleague. But nobody, Mr. Speaker, will be deluded by this Grievance Day performance ‘ by the. Leader of the Opposition. There will be a. by-election in Calare within the next fort-‘ night and the Leader of the Opposition is trying .desperately to gather ‘round himself some of the tattered’ remnants of the old Labour Party’s reputation by .snatching, from the uncertainty of battle, a victory which nobody1 is ‘ready to concede. ‘ 1 1
– He does not want the’ Labour candidate in Calare to lose his’ deposit.
– The Prime, Minister suggests that the Leader of the. Opposition does not want his candidate to lose his deposit. That is understandable, because at least his candidate realizes that, in existing circumstances he will get more! value for his money than he would if the Labour Party were in office. i
– Has the Prime Minister, received a request from the Premier of New South Wales to establish “ Advance’ Australia Fair “ as a national anthem?* With the very greatest respect for the power and influence of the Prime Minister in this country, I ask him whether he claims’ to be able to enthrone a song in the heartsof the people, against their inclination?. Is it true that whenever Australian troops or Australian travellers have been abroad,1 and in the mood to demonstrate their national solidarity by bursting into song,, they have always spontaneously chosen, in’ accordance with their raffish character, “ Waltzing Matilda “ rather than the naive’ alternative, “ Advance Australia Fair “?
– Order! The honorable member had better riot follow the previous’ example. ‘ He had better come to his question. i
– I am coming to it now,; Sir. Is it also true that they have a spontaneous loyalty to, and affection for, our Sovereign Lady, and enjoy expressing this sentiment in the familiar strains of “ God, Save the Queen “?
– I am not aware of having received a request from the Premier of New South Wales to establish “ Advance Australia Fair “ as Australia’s national anthem. If I do receive any such request, it will get very short shrift for the reasons that have been mentioned by the honorable member.
– Is the Treasurer aware’ that it is. almost impossible to obtain bank finance to purchase existing homes, that is, homes- that are not newly constructed? Will the right honorable gentleman investigate this matter and, if possible, arrange for the Commonwealth Bank to allot a certain amount of money for these purchases - at least for the purchase of homes that are part of deceased persons’ estates, as practically the only finance for the purchase of such homes is that obtainable from hirer-purchase companies?
– HOLT.- I had gathered: that transactions for the acquisition of existing homes had tended to increase rather than decrease. Certainly, the honorable member will be aware that the rate of home construction generally is running at what is an all-time record for Australia. Commencements for the last period under review were at the- rate of well over 100,000 units- a year. That would suggest that finance for housing generally has- not been too restricted. No doubt the honorable gentleman would have taken some interest in the events in Melbourne over the past weekend when 33 building lots in the suburban area of Melbourne fronting an attractive vista of the Yarra River averaged just on £10,000 a block. That does not suggest a shortage of finance for building, construction.
– I preface a question to the- Minister for- Labour and National Service by referring him to the industrial troubles which followed the new seamen’s award some months ago, and the request by Mr. Justice Foster that there should be a trouble-free period to give the award an opportunity to work and to be seen working. I understand that the Seamen’s Union had a meeting on this matter several days ago. Will the Minister inform the House whether the Seamen’s Union has acceded to the request of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission, and if so, for what period?
– It is true that since Mr. Justice Foster made his suggestion to the Seamen’s Union, the seamen have regularly manned the ships over the weekend, and that this week the management committee of the Seamen’s Union decided to recommend to the seamen themselves that they- should keep on manning the ships at least until- the expiration of the trial period on 2nd February. I understand, too - and this will be of. great interest to the honorable gentleman - that to-day the representatives of the Seamen’s Union will meet Mr. Justice Foster. It is probablethat they will, give him assurances that the ships will be manned until 2nd February next year under the conditions I have mentioned.
-I direct a question to the Postmaster.-General. Is there any truth in the suggestion that the Government is. bogged down and. unable to make up its mind’ as to what country centres are to obtain television stations?’ I’s the technical committee’s report confusing? Do its recommendations pose serious difficulties in the allocation of channels to country areas because broadcasting frequencies are too close to one another and interference to established- stations may occur? Is it true that some centres, such as Orange and Newcastle, are not to obtain television stations for an indefinite period because of the factors I have referred to? If there are difficulties in the allocation of channels, will the Minister say so, so that people living in the areas I have mentioned will know that, should they purchase televisionsets, they cannot expect to receive an adequate- service?
– Mr. Speaker, I can: assure the honorable member for Shortland, that the Government’s consideration of the report of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board into the granting of television licences, is not bogged down by the various matters to which he. has referred. The. honorable member can rest assured that’ there is no suggestion in the report that Orange, which, is in the Calare electorate, may not or will not receive, quite shortly, a proper service. As I have told this chamber on several occasions, this report is an extremely important one. There has been a very widespread investigation. Such matters- as. frequencies and sites have to be very carefully considered because they pose, problems different from those in- metropolitan areas. The. board is, quite properly, looking well ahead, not just to this particular phase of development, so- that the Government will have advice which will enable it to plan properly for all the phases that lie ahead’. A decision will be made quite shortly and it will be found that,, instead of being bogged down, the Government has given very careful consideration to these important problems and that the decisions, therefore, will be wise.
– Some months ago, the Postmaster-General- agreed to a request from Government supporters that he shouldinvestigate the- possibility of altering to a fully alphabetical’ list the country district telephone directories. Has the PostmasterGeneral1 had an opportunity to look into this request? If so, what is the result?
– I have assured- the honorable member for Wimmera and anumber of other- members who have made representations from time to time concerning a fully alphabetical directory for country areas that the subject was being investigated by the department, and’ that we were planning to improve the type of directory and the information contained in it. Those investigations, have proceeded’. The difficulties of providing a completely alphabetical telephone directory for all country areas have been considered”. It has been found that it is. not practicable- to provide such a directory at present. For instance, to pro. vide directories for the country sections of New South Wales, Queensland and Victoria would cost about £26,000 extra in. each case. If we attempted to put under the one cover all the country areas of the three States the extra expense would be about £126,000 per annum-. We have not yet reached the stage at which that is practicable.
Another difficulty is that in the present stage of automatic telephone development, the different call signs necessitate different “ how to call “ instructions at each exchange. While these different requirements exist it is not practicable to include all names in one alphabetical list because the different “ how to call “ instructions could not be included in such a list. However, for the present, the department is proceeding- to list certain country exchanges in the charging zones in which they fall as a result of the alterations to our charging zones on 1st May. A large number of country exchanges will be grouped in one list. At the commencement of that section of the directory there will, be a list of the exchanges concerned and a map showing exactly in what zones they fall, so that callers will be able to look at the map and the list and ascertain where subscribers can be found in the directory.
– I” desire to ask the Minister for Trade a question. What are the unpalatable measures that the Minister told the National Farmers Union of Australia the Government would have to resort to in order to control costs? Are they made necessary by, first, the immense increase in the cost of living during the last two quarters* which has occurred despite the fact that the basic wage has not been increased; secondly, the great reduction in our overseas funds caused by the lifting of import restrictions; and, thirdly, the difficulties being experienced by primary producers and home seekers as a result of the current credit squeeze?’
– I thank the honorable member for asking me this question. It gives, me an opportunity to correct an unfortunate misreport. One of this morning’s newspapers carries a heading, “ New Government Action on Costs ‘ Probable ‘ “. The word “ probable “ is shown in inverted commas, to give the- impression that it is a word I used. My remarks of yesterday were recorded on tape and I shall now read a verbatim account of the relevant part of my speech. It is -
Up to the present time we do not know the formula to prevent expansion putting a pressure on our costs. From time to lime we engage in very unpalatable policies to put a. period to fast cost rises. You have seen us do that a few times. We are in one of those phases at the present time. But history shows that fast progress does put a pressure on costs, and that is the scene in which we are working, now.
Those were the actual words I used. It is common knowledge, I think,, that the fast pace of our expansion, which is nationally demanded, has. put and is putting a pressure on our costs. The truth is as simple as that. As we know, the Government has very properly pursued certain policies, involving some tightening, of the availability of credit, some rise in the rates of taxation, some increases in imports, and budgeting for a> surplus. These measures are all unpalatable! to some sections of the community, but they represent a sane and responsible approach on the part of the Government to the task of maintaining the health of the economy. If I may add just one other remark, I said yesterday that the Division of Agricultural Economics had produced an index to show that over the last two years the costs of things with which farmers were concerned had risen at the rate of 1 per cent, per annum.
There has been one other unhappily incorrect press report of my remarks - and I say that not in any recriminatory way. The newspaper has reported me as saying: -
The real problem was the fall in the volume of products Australia sold in the export markets.
To repeat my statement verbatim, I said -
The real problem is the fall in the value of the products which we sell to export markets.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Labour and National Service. I refer to the new consumer price index figures for the September quarter. Is it a fact that this new index is based upon a much wider spread of items than the C series index, and that it takes into account the changed pattern of family spending? Does the new index give a more accurate picture for the purposes of wage fixation, and, if so, will it be recommended for future use as providing a more reliable basis?
– It is true that the recently introduced consumer price index is based on a much wider range of commodities than is the old C series index, but the Commonwealth Statistician has pointed out by implication that neither index should be related to the cost of living. The consumer price index merely indicates the change in the prices of a certain fixed range of commodities. It relates only to those commodities and therefore should not be taken as an index of the cost of living changes. I think this is enormously important, because it is illogical and quite wrong for any government to rely wholly on an index of consumer prices in determining what changes in wages should be made.
There’ is ohe other point which I should’ make: The main reason for the increase in’ the consumer price index, which, after all, rose at only half the rate at which the C series index increased, was the increase in the price of meat. The price of that commodity, of course, could fall in the next quarter, but by then costs might have risen: and the new platform would be maintained.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Health. During the debate on the motion for the adjournment of the House last evening, the Minister explained the application of the special account procedure to hospital benefits. In the course of that explanation, he said that the Government paid the whole of the amount that was paid out of the special account. I interjected in order to point out that the Government paid only the difference between the amount available in the special account and the payment made to the patient. I think that the Minister did not quite understand what I meant, and he seemed to indicate that the Government found the whole of the amount paid to the patient out of the special account by an approved benefit society. Will he clarify the position, as there was evidently a misunderstanding last evening?
– The honorable gentleman is quite right when he says that there was a misunderstanding. I am afraid that I did not quite catch what he said by way of interjection. The procedure is that when a contributor is transferred to the special account, his contributions for a certain period are transferred with him. The fund pays his claims from the special account, and the deficit in the account is made good by the Commonwealth Government. I may say that all special accounts operate at a substantial deficit.
– I direct my question to the Minister for Trade. Is he able to explain to the House the nature of the resolution at present before the United Nations organization which is aimed at the distribution of surplus foodstuffs among needy nations?
– This is not a matter which lends itself to a simple and adequate reply to a question without notice. There is before the United Nations a proposal which was initiated by the United States of America and which, with some qualifications, has support from Australia. Its objective is the rationalizing and organizing of the methods of making surplus foodstuffs available to needy nations when surpluses of foodstuffs exist. For my part, I have seen to it that, in the use of the term “ countries that produce surplus foodstuffs “, there is a clear comprehension that some countries like Australia produce surplus foodstuffs in the course of their commercial activities. We live by the sale of the surpluses that we deliberately produce. There are other countries in which surpluses are produced as the outcome of domestic political policies. A distinction ought to be made, and the two different kinds of surpluses ought to be recognized for what they are.
– My question is directed to the Postmaster-General and is supplementary to that asked yesterday by the honorable member for Wide Bay. Will the Minister seriously consider the allocation of moneys, either from the profits made by the Postmaster-General’s Department or from any other source within the department, for the expediting of the installation of automatic telephone exchanges in rural areas? Primary producers in my district are very much handicapped by totally inadequate telephone services. I am not referring now to television.
– I do not think that it is correct for the honorable member for Leichhardt to refer to the services in his area, or in any other area, as totally inadequate. There are some areas in which an improvement can be effected and the department is constantly planning for this improvement. In the main, the reports that we have from all sources show that the services offered by the department are ;- efficient and are’ appreciated.
The honorable; member , asks whether I can allocate more funds for the provision i df rural .’automatic exchanges and’ automatic lines. . Already’ in, the allocation of funds available to the Post Office for this year, provision has been made to increase country automatic exchange lines to various subscribers by about 4,000 on a total last year of about 40,000 installations, or an increase of 10 per cent. That, I think, must be accepted as quite a move forward and shows that the department is applying itself to the problem mentioned by the honorable member for Leichhardt. I want to make one other point: It is only within the last two or three weeks that I notified the honorable member for Leichhardt of the installation of a rural automatic exchange in one part of his electorate.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Trade. I understand that the right honorable gentleman made a speech to the National Farmers Union yesterday on the place of agriculture in a developing economy. A report of the speech intimated that he had attributed the real problem to a fall in the volume of products sold on the export market. Is this report correct?
– I think that the honorable member was out of the chamber a moment ago when I answered a similar question by another honorable member. The verbatim report of my speech shows there is an inadvertent misreport in which the word “ volume “ has been substituted for “ value “. What I said yesterday was that pur real problem was the fall in the value of our exports. I am sure the newspaper concerned will correct the report.
– I ask the Prime Minister a question concerning the first report of the Universities Commission. The right honorable gentleman will remember that three years ago the Murray committee recommended that the commission should report on the number of Commonwealth scholarships and the needs of technological education. He will also remember that a year ago he told me that the commission was considering the needs of teaching hospitals arid would undoubtedly look at those of teachers’ colleges. I ask him whether the Parliament will’ be able to discuss and implement ‘ the commission’s . report on these matters before the end of this year and the commencement of the next academic year, particularly since our two largest universities have already restricted, or soon will restrict, their enrolments.
-I received the report of the Universities Commission yesterday and the matter will be examined by the Government as early as possible. I am fully aware of the point about the new academic year. Indeed, I think it will be accessary to introduce legislation before this session ends. Before any measure is brought before the House as a result of decisions taken by the Government, the report which I have asked to be put into print as soon as possible will be made available to all honorable members so that before they discuss any legislation, they will have before them the full text of the commission’s observations and recommendations. I may say, not in any warning fashion, that the report is a quite lengthy document and will take quite a lot of reading.
– I address a question to the Minister for Health relating to the arrangement between the Commonwealth and the chemists in connexion with the doubleprice system which operates in connexion with high velocity drugs. I ask the Minister whether this double pricing system was agreed upon after negotiations between the Government and the Pharmaceutical Service Guild of Australia, and whether that agreement has met with some widespread objections from pharmacists in most States of the Commonwealth. I ask further whether consideration has been or is being given to amending this pricing system so that one price will operate for the high velocity drugs sold either in standard packs or in bulk.
– This matter refers , to only one very small area of very concentrated negotiation and agreement over the pricing of drugs. It has not been aneasy matter to negotiate, but it was negotiated by an agreement between myself and the federalpresident of the pharmaceutical guild. We aremeeting again in the near future, and will again discuss this item. In the meantime, chemists will continue to dispense these high velocity drugs and to obtain reimbursement through the procedure which is operating at present as a result of the agreement between the federal president of the guild and myself.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether he is aware - he probably is - that a chair of Australian literature is now being established at the University of Sydney for the first time in our history to make a critical examination of our culture, with certain lectures on Australian literature which will be open to the general public. The right honorable gentleman will recollect, too, that this chair was financed, in part at least, by public subscription.
In view of the fact that the Mitchell Library will be a great adjunct to ‘the study of Australian literature in Sydney, will he agree that the ideal siting for a chair of Australian literature in the Commonwealth is the Australian National University, and will he use his weight and influence to see that it is established here, because the Australian National University in Canberra has remarkably good and powerful resources for the examination of culture and literature? Since the Australian National University has taken over the Canberra University College, and the humanities are now being catered for as well, this seems a very appropriate time to have a chair of Australian literature in the national capital.
– It isvery difficult to see at a glance what may be involved in the suggestion made by the honorable member, but I will have a look at it.
– Can the Minister for PrimaryIndustry inform the House whether -a decision has yet been made in connexion with the unanimous and urgent request from the wool industry for an inquiry into the wool selling system?
– No final decision has yet been reached on this -matter.
– I address to the Minister for Trade a question supplementary to that asked by the honorable member for Corangamite. Does the Commonwealth Government believe it has evidence that gifts of surplus food have in the past depressed the prices of Australian primary produce exports, or is it constantly fearing this as a possibility only? Is there evidence that in the past the recipients of Che gifts could ‘have bought this food had it not been given? If so, could not Australia prove that such gifts were unnecessary and prevent their being made? If Australian representatives cannot .demonstrate that the gifts could be paid for, why intervene at all?
– It is always difficult to make a judgment of all the factors which influence prices, but I can say quite categorically that we have had an instance in which one country, which was the biggest buyer in the world of one of Australia’s greatest export products, ceased entirely to be a buyer because it was a great recipient of that particular item from another country. It would follow that there was a price implication in that situation. Gifts, or what are broadly spoken of as gifts, are not always gifts in the sense in which we use the term. Much more frequently they are sales at a commercial price, but for payment in a non-convertible currency. Very frequently these so-called gifts are sold to the local population at the normal commercial price. As .a consequence there is often no increase in the quantity of food available to hungry people, but only a saving in foreign payments by the nation concerned. We have engaged in this analysis quite frequently and have made it clear that where gifts are for the purpose of making food available to people who otherwise would not get it, there is nothing but the most enthusiastic support for that policy by Australia.
– Can the Minister for Trade explain why the trend towards closer co-operation between nations, which has been remarked upon several times by the Treasurer, ls not more evident in the sphere of trade? Is this due to some weakness in the machinery for negotiation between nations or a complete lack of machinery for negotiation in some cases?
– I am not sure that I completely grasped the purport of the honorable member’s question. So far as cooperation between nations in the field of trade is concerned there is -a very comprehensive series of arrangements for discussions through agencies of the United Nations. The General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade is the principal one, but trade relationships are discussed to some extent in the Food and Agriculture Organization. Trade relationships are discussed more pointedly ,on the international level when “ any international commodity agreement, such as the International Wheat Agreement, the International Sugar Agreement or the International Tin Agreement is negotiated, and so on. There is evidence throughout the world of a desire and -willingness for closer co-operation for mutual benefit in trade discussions. But there is, quite naturally, the recurring problem of vested interests of particular parties, which cuts across the genuine desire to facilitate the flow of ‘trade. I can only say that I believe that more progress has been made in the last decade towards the objective aimed at than was made in thousands of years of previous history.
– My question is directed to the right honorable the Treasurer. I preface it by quoting in part from ‘his Budget speech of 16th August last. I quote -
It can be said, truly enough, that we could .not afford imports to go on rising indefinitely.
I would like to direct the attention of the Treasurer “to the fact that our overseas balances are now at their lowest ebb since this Government has been in office. What level has the Government set as bedrock, below which our overseas balances cannot be allowed to fall, and what action does the -Government propose to take?
– I think our position on this matter has been stated quite elaborately .by me at different times and by other spokemen for the Government. It is true that I did include in my Budget speech a reference to this matter, and no doubt we shall have other opportunities to discuss it in greater detail. To ask -what is the bedrock figure for any country is to approach this matter in an unrealistic way. Australia’s overseas reserves, when compared with those of most other countries, appear to be strong. For our part, we would not wish to see an indefinite runningdown of our reserves. In our present situation we have permitted such a process to continue because it has been one of the 1 factors contributing to the other measures that we have adopted to dampen down inflation.
The important thing is not so much whether there is a downward or an upward trend; it is whether we achieve our objectives in the longer term. This Government’s policies will be directed towards securing internal stability, which will have its own corrective influence on the level of imports into Australia.
– I address my question i to the Postmaster-General. Have arrange- ments been completed for the provision of a new telecommunication system between Brisbane and Sydney using coaxial cable and microwave radio? If so, has work ; commenced on the project? Will it be completed in sections? Will this dual system be able to cater for television programmes while providing also telephonic communication?
– I can give the honorable member a little more information on this matter than I was able to give the honorable member for Mcpherson some weeks ago when. he asked a similar question. Work has commenced on both sections of the connexion between Brisbane and Sydney. Work on the. coaxial cable section between Brisbane and Lismore commenced in August last and it is proceeding satisfactorily. Over 130 miles of cable have to be laid and it is expected that the work will be completed by some time in June, 1962. The other section pf the complete link is a microwave radio sys-1 tern between Lismore and Sydney-. This will not be completed until a little later - probably in October, 1962- but by that 1 time we shall have this communication : channel between Brisbane and Sydney which will join up with the Melbourne-Sydney coaxial cable, thus - affording another link ^between the States.
The honorable: member has asked whether this system will be available for television relay as well as for telephone services. In fact, it has been designed primarily as a trunk telephone link but, if necessary, equipment can be added to the cable section to provide a television relay or, alternatively, a television relay could be provided by an extension of the microwave system which will have been developed between Lismore and Sydney. If and when such television links are necessary this system will be. available for that purpose.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for National Development. Is he aware that in the last report to Parliament of the Joint Coal Board it was pointed out that fuel and diesel oils are becoming increasingly competitive with coal and that the financial burden on the country of the policies of the international oil industry is becoming increasingly heavy? It was pointed out also that this burden could be reduced. This being so, has the Minister any proposal to remedy the position?
– I am quite sure that my colleague in another place is aware of the matters contained in the report. I shall convey to him the honorable member’s question, and obtain an answer for the honorable gentleman in due course.
– I have to inform the House that I have this day issued a writ in connexion with the by-election for the Higinbotham Division, and that the dates fixed were those announced to the House on 25th October.
Motion (by Mr. Harold Holt) agreed to -
That the House, at its rising, adjourn until Tuesday,. 8th November, at 2.30 p.m.
– have received a letter from the honorable member for Newcastle (Mr. Jones) proposing that a definite matter of urgent public importance be submitted to the House for discussion, namely -
The failure of the Government to take action in respect of trade practices affecting primary producers in the matter of tires, petrol, farm machinery and superphosphates.
I call upon those members who approve of .the ; proposed discussion to rise in their places. (More than the number of members required by the Standing Orders having risen in their places)-
– I believe that this is a matter which requires serious consideration by the Parliament. This. House should have an opportunity to discuss the apathetic approach of the respective Ministers to this most important issue. Tires are the first commodity mentioned in my proposal for discussion. On a number of. occasion’s in this House I have spoken on the. subject of tire prices.
– Order! I ask the honorable gentleman to resume his seat. I must ask honorable members not to stand in the passageways, and also to cease engaging in audible conversation. .
– By way of questions to the Attorney-General (Sir Garfield Barwick) and in-, speeches, I have placed- before the Government the position regarding tire prices, but as yet the Government has not shown itself prepared to make any definite statement of policy on the matter. All that it has done is to hedge, as the Attorney-General and the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. McMahon), who was acting for the Attorney-General for a time, did when I directed questions to them about tire prices. The same treatment has been meted out to other honorable members who have asked questions of Ministers and made speeches on the subject of restrictive trade practices. Their questions have been evaded. Quite obviously, the Government will not get on with this most important job of controlling monopolies and the restrictive trade practices followed by tire companies in this country.
There are similar considerations in regard to petrol, farm machinery and superphosphates, with which I also want to deal:
The position in regard to these commodities also requires the attention of this Parliament.. Here -.again, the Government con;tinues to be . apathetic, and hides behind the statement that it is investigating the position. I do not know how long we are to wait before we get definite, concrete action from the Government. Recently, the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen), at a conference of the National Farmers Union, talked about the need to increase production, reduce costs and so on. He told the conference how essential it is for this nation to increase the volume of its exports. The primary producers are among the people1 who are most hard hit by the tire monopoly, and by the high prices for petrol, farm, machinery and1 fertilizers, but the Government, with an opportunity to give real assistance to rural industry in respect of those matters, does nothing.
In the last twelve months the average price of wool has fallen from about 57d.per lb. to the present low level- of 46d. per lb., a price which takes the wool-grower, in effect, back to 1949. We know that the, costs of wool-growers and other farmers, have increased by about two and a half times since 1949, yet the Government is not prepared to tackle one of the root causes of those high costs. That is why I think that we should examine very closely the present position regarding tire prices.
The lead-up to the present, high tire prices was a series of ‘ take-overs in the tire industry. In my electorate, for example. Steads and Super Tyres were taken over by the Beaurepaire people who, as everybody knows, are really the Olympic Tyre interests! Harrison and ‘Stacks were taken over by Goodyear; Lindgrens were taken over by the Hardie Rubber Company, which in turn was taken over by Golden Fleece. In regard to that we’ had quite a comical incident early this year when the Ampol interests attempted to take over the Golden Fleece organization. The chairman of directors of Golden Fleece said that in the interests of free enterprise and competition it was essential that Golden Fleece be not taken over by Ampol. Yet I can produce here facts and figures in connexion with all the agreements made by these tire companies and < petrol , companies which show. ‘that they . are not ‘concerned with competition and free- enterprise at all. Here is the file: on the matter,, and it. is available to the various. Ministers if they want it. It deals with take-overs by Dunlop, Goodyear, Har die Rubber, Olympic Tyre and all the rest of them-. We know that. the. tire companies have: issued dictatorial directions and terms of trade to govern the prices at which retailers must sell, yet we have this comical statement by the chairman: of directors of Golden Fleece about free enterprise and competition. But that firm is itself part and parcel; of one of the fiercest and strongest rings ever created in this country. The Gurton tyre- company, which was an independent firm, was taken over by the National Tyre- Service which- was in turn taken- over by Dunlop Rubber. Not only in the Newcastle electorate, but all over this country small, independent firms have been taken over by the combines,, which then get together to fix prices. If any retailer- bucks them they do not discontinue his supply of tires. They- have an equally effective method of dealing with him. They simply supply tires to him at a- price at which it is impossible for him to compete on the open market, because the combines themselves are also- engaged in the retailing end of the industry. I propose to deal later with the action taken by the combines against retailers who do not fall into line.
What does, this price agreement between the big companies in the tire combine mean? It means, for example, that a 640 x 13 tire that previously cost £8 17s. 6d., less discounts given by the various retailers, is no longer available at the old prices. Retailers had their own agreements and their own scales of discounts for certain customers. This Government claims that it believes in free enterprise which, it says, leads to reductions in prices and therefore reductions in overhead costs. Reduction in overhead costs of trucking companies and so forth was a result of discounts given by tire retailers, but now the retailers have to stick hard and fast to the rigid terms of trade agreements drawn up by the tire manufacturers. Previously a discount of 15 per cent, was available on a 640 x 13 tire costing £8 17s. 6d., but that has gone by the board now. Retailers would give a man who operated a number of trucks a discount of as high as 20 per cent, or 25 per cent. In the case’ of the really !big operator the retailers were prepared to offer a’ discount- as high as 40 per cent, and- 45 per cent. Now they are no longer allowed to do so. They- must- stick to- a rigid scale of prices. This means that not only the ordinary individual who runs a car or a truck, but also the primary producer, suffers. A popular size of tire used for trucks run by farmers and’ graziers and- men- with small businesses is the 900 x 20. Some traders were giving a discount of 20 per cent, or 25 per cent, on this tire-. On a tire, costing £40 this meant a discount of from £8 to £10-. To-day unless a customer, operates at least nine trucks, he gets no discount.
This applies also to tractor tires. Most farmers and! graziers- use tractors on their farms. We all know that primary industry is made up largely of men with small and medium-sized holdings who do not have fleets of trucks or tractors. The price of a- 1’3’50 x 28 tractor tire is £77 12s. Previously, a- discount of £7- 14s. was allowed but unless a farmer has at least nine tractors, he cannot get any rebate now. Sometimes in the past a good customer would, get a rebate: of as much as, £10, but that has been discontinued. Unless a trader observes all the terms and conditions of trade he cannot get the recognized discount from time to time. The restrictions that are imposed on business in new tires is increasing the costs of tire users and giving additional profits to the industry. These profits are being retained by the monopoly interests - Goodyear Tyre and Rubber Company, Dunlop Rubber Australia Limited, Hardie Rubber Company Limited and Olympic Tyre and Rubber Company Proprietary Limited. The same thing applies to retreads. If I had time,, I would deal with this matter in detail. The discounts on retreads for the average motor car formerly ranged from £1 7s. 3d. to £1 5s. The discount on retreads for trucks, ranged from £5 9s. 9d. for an 825 x 20 tire to £8 18s. 3d. for an HOO x 20 tire. Now, unless a man has nine trucks, he is not entitled to any rebate. Yet the. Attorney-General sits idly by. He claims that he is investigating the position; but he has done nothing about it.
This matter arose in April last. It is now almost the end of. October and the AttorneyGeneral still has done nothing. However, there has been, a considerable amount of activity on, the. part of the companies because many men have had. volume discounts, discontinued. E. E. Maling of Parramatta, was one of the first. The Ace Tyre Service, Newcastle, and Loscoe Sales & Service ha.ve also been affected. Another company which lost, its volume discount was Spence’s Rubber Works, Hurstville, in. the electorate of. the honorable member for Barton (Mr.. Reynolds)-. The Minister is. fully aware of what is going on. I have written to him and: so also have the Leader of. the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) and the honorable member for Barton; but the Attorney-General, has- done nothing.
The big tire companies have gone further into this matter and have pried into individual agreements. Oh 28th May the combine wrote to all retailers in these terms -
Advise: State Tyre Committee of any contracts they may have with municipal councils, shire councils and semi-government agencies; fleet operators or any consumer’ accounts covering either new tyres, tubes or retreading which are at variance with the- terms- and conditions of trade; date- of agreement, date of termination and materials covered;, whether discount quotes were based on. retail or trade price at the time of acceptance.
What is it to do with the manufacturers of. the tires what their agents do?’ If an individual” is able to reduce his overhead costs, he has the right to fix the price at. which he wants to sell. If he wants to retain the goodwill’ of his clients, it is for him to determine at what, price he will sell. It is not a matter for the tire manufacturers. Mr. L. V. Winslow, managing director of the Goodyear Tyre and Rubber Company (Australia) Limited, stated, as reported in the “ Daily Telegraph “, that the companies intended to enforce these restrictions.
The men concerned are being put out of business. And what are the methods that have been adopted? In the case of F. E. Maling, the big companies put in a stooge. The proprietor of Maling’s was talking to a traveller and he said that he had one man on a holiday and another was sick, and he would like somebody to help out. The traveller- said that he could recommend somebody. The man was a Goodyear stooge who reported Maling’s to the State Tyre Committee and it: discontinued the volume discount. In: the case of Loscoe Sales’ and Service, somebody telephoned and; said; “ We are small taxi operators. Will you supply a. set of four tires less. 10 per cent.? “’ That was: contrary to the agreement. Loscoe Sales and Service agreed: to supply the tires at 1.0 per cent, discount. The company was reported to the. Dunlop: organization who reported the matter tff the. State- Tyre: Committee: and the Loscoe company had; its head cut off.
I have referred all these matters to the Attorney-General. The traders who belong to> free1 enterprise are continually complaining about the restrictive trade practices of- the tir.e companies. These are not the- complaints of the Australian LabourParty only. ! have a copy of a> letter that was- forwarded’ to> Mr-. J>. Hutchinson, secretary of the Associated’ Chambers of Commerce, of- Newcastle; from; the Wallsend. Chamber of Commerce. These people who represent free enterprise are objecting to the restrictive- trade practices. The letter contained this comment: -
Oh- the- surface this may appear to be an advantage, but several iniquitous points force usto believe that it is purely a “ cartel “-
– Order! The; honorable member’s time hasexpired.
– I cannot but believe that the fire of the honorable member for Newcastle (Mr. Jones) is somewhat spurious. He has brought under notice certain- transactions, and I’ have no doubt that he has gone to the learned Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam) and’ asked him for a- little advice about the law. If he did so, I am sure that he would1 have ascertained’ - particularly if the learned Deputy Leader of the Opposition gave him the right advice - that none of the matters to which he has referred involve any question- of interstate commerce or trade. That being so and as things stand now, I have no power that I can exercise to interfere in this matter.
But the. State of New South Wales has the power. The Labour Government of New South Wales has complete power to fix up this, matter, if it needs to be fixed up, at the instance of the honorable member for Newcastle or either of his colleagues in the State House who- represent- State divisions in his electorate. The honorable member has been very noisy’ in this chamber; but’ I warrant that he has not been to the! Attorney-General of New South Wales. I; will wager that there is not a single line of correspondence between him and the New South Wales Attorney-General., There is complete power in the hands of the State Government to do exactly what the honorable member wants arid to do it according to Labour theory, but I shall come to that in a moment.
If all the members of the’ Opposition play; speaks with one another- and I do not know whether they do- the honorable mem-, her for Newcastle might ask the honorable member for Braddon (Mr. Davies) about a; matter of restriction of interstate trade which the honorable member for Braddon brought to my notice;- I did intervene, and stopped it, ‘ thus benefiting a constituent of the honorable’ member for Braddon .very singu-.larly. It is idle for the honorable member: for Newcastle to say that I am apathetic or that I will not do things. He should consult his colleague, the honorable member for Braddon. ‘ ‘
This word “ monopoly “ is used in many different senses. I listened to Mr. Khrushchev accuse Australia and other countries of being “ a land of monopolists “. When this word, “ monopoly “ gets into the mouth of the honorable member for Newcastle, somehow it has a somewhat similar tinge.
– How childish.
– That is all very well. The philosophy on the Opposition side is: When you see anything big and profitable it becomes a monopoly and an enemy. It becomes something on which you must put the clammy hand of socialism. That is not so far removed from what I listened to elsewhere. The philosophy on the Government side of the House is different. We believe that free enterprise should be free. Where monopoly or restrictive practice prevents free interprise from operating properly we shall interfere to the limit of our powers.
I have been busily engaged in. endeavouring to devise a better formula to exploit to the full the power of this Parliament in relation’ to interstate trade and commerce. It lis very significant that this ‘country has only: six State’s^ Iri the United States oft America, which has 50 States, the amount, of interstate trade overbalances completely’ the amount of intra-state trade. So the. American Congress, with the same constitutional power as this Parliament has in relation to interstate trade and commerce, can reach into a far wider field because thereare so. many more transactions of interstate trade and commerce. In this country, with only six States, intranstate trade by far occupies the field. What the honorable member for Newcastle referred to was clearly intra-‘ state trade. It has .not a single element of, interstate trade iti it. Whether, by some.’ adjustment’ of expressions. in the statutes, we may be able to reach a little further into restrictive, practices and tendencies to monopolize remains to be seen. I am not inactiveiri that sphere.
-I suppose that you find some of your former arguments rather embarrassing now.
– Not at all. I am not in the least troubled by my arguments. t I want to say a further thing: Not merely’ has the State of New South Wales, complete jurisdiction oyer this matter, but, if the honorable member for Newcastle went to my friend’, the Attorney-General for -New; South-Wales, who is a reasonable individual.’ he would be met by some sort of analysis like this: It all depends, in this area of discussion, whom you are looking at to get the advantage. This illustration of the tire companies is a very good one. It shows that the problem is rather complex, even te! the mind pf a fair-minded Labour man., There is no monopoly in tire manufacture. There were three or four companies making them. They were selling them to firms which made their own terms of re-sale.
What happens under those circumstances? The tendency to monopoly develops at the retail level. The big dealer gets a big turnover. As the honorable member for Newcastle accidentally said, because the big dealer has a big turnover he is able to cut’ his costs - a circumstance which is always the argument for monopoly. Having got his turnover, he gives good discounts - not to everybody, but to those in the know. Thus he attracts business away from the garage man. .The little’ chap, not being able to compete with him. does not sell tires. Soon the big tire seller gets so big that he begins to dictate to the manufacturers. When he gets to that stage he will not keep the prices down; he will put them up. That is a very old technique. The tire companies, seeing these dangers, and perhaps for their own benefit - I am not passing any judgment on the rights or wrongs of any part of this - say, “ This cannot be. We will insist on levels of discount or resale terms. The result will be that the little garage man will be able to sell tires again.” And he has. It is quite true that the chap who was in the know cannot get as good a discount as he did before, but where was the advantage to :the public in that situation?
If the honorable member for Newcastle takes all his documents to my friend, the Attorney-General for New South Wales, he will give that gentleman the nice problem, even on Labour theory, of deciding who is to be favoured. Is the little garage man to be killed in the interests of the few who get a discount? Is there to be a monopoly of big tire distributing companies? What is to be done? That is a problem which even an anti-monopolist of the Labour vintage would find very difficult to solve. < Recently, while I was in America, I took the opportunity to. find ‘out the administrative techniques of the Justice Department and the Anti-Trust Division of the United States and of the Office of the Minister for Justice in Ottawa. I had discussions at a ‘ very high level with practising lawyers who work for clients against the law depart- ment. I, spoke with industrialists including ; those who were subject to anti-trust decrees. The further one goes, the more complex this problem is and the more difficult it is ; easily .and quickly to fasten on the right criteria so that people with the philosophy which I adopt can ensure that there is free “ competition, because we believe that com- petition keeps prices down. ‘
The honorable ‘ member for’ Newcastle does riot favour competition at the retail level. He says, in effect, “ Let us have .big tire sellers who can give big discounts because they have a big turnover”. He l wants a monopoly at that level. The 1 Government is very, anxious, as soon as it ^ can, to use its . constitutional powers as far as it can and to select: sound and sensible criteria to prevent that form of monopolizing and restrictive practice which will do this community harm as a community, of free enterprise.
May I close on this note? To my mind, if is always a source of amusement to hear the Labour Party inveighing against monopoly ‘arid combination. Labour is a trade union party. It believes, to the very hilt, in monopoly. It believes in combination, for its own sake, almost. That is the very heart of its philosophy. It is a party of socialists who believe in government ownership which is the worst form of monopoly. They believe in nationalizing. They do not really dislike monopoly. It is a peculiar fact that what they dislike is to see any enterprise become large and profitable; and they make it their target. They do not stop to think that an unprofitable enterprise will not employ anybody and that a profitable enterprise will employ more people and, ultimately, will pay bigger wages because it is profitable. They do not stop to think that the big enterprise, with its profits, is indispensable for our growth because no government enterprise ever, built a country. No government enterprise ever led to any sound expansion of an economy.
So, in these discussions about restrictive practices and monopolies it is tremendously important to bear in mind what meaning is being given to the word “ monopoly “. The honorable member for Newcastle talked about a monopoly of the manufacturers of tires. There is not merely one company; there are several. He does not use the word properly in that instance. He means to say that they are big and that they should not be big. One has to remember who ‘is talking- about monopoly and combination and restrictive practices. When the Opposition calls for a debate on an urgent matter in the middle of a by-election, and the honorable member for Newcastle says that he has- a case which has been documented since April, although the matter is not in the federal sphere but should be placed in the lap pf the New South Wales Labour Government, I suppose that the honorable member is posing before his constituents as a great champion. I would suggest’ that his constituents ask him to ‘go and see the Attorney-General for New South Wales who has the power and the - philosophy that suits him, and’ see whether he can get the Attorney-General to pass a bill to interfere with this particular enterprise.
.- We have listened to the Attorney-General (Sir Garfield Barwick) attempting to give a reply to the honorable member for Newcastle (Mr. Jones). The reply that the Minister did give was absolutely futile and irrelevant. It was futile for the Minister to suggest that the matter in question is one for the New South Wales ‘Government, because it is purely .a State matter. Does the AttorneyGeneral want us to believe that the Dunlop company, the Perdriau organization, the Olympic company and the Goodyear company operate only within one State? I can tell the honorable gentleman that these companies operate all over Australia. The regimen of prices of tires and tubes and of retreading and recapping services, which has been laid down by these firms, applies uniformly throughout the whole of Australia. These prices are not fixed merely for certain defined areas. They apply to tires and tire services provided for -every individual and every industry and municipal authority in the country.
I can also tell the Minister that the body set up to police the industry and ensure adherence to the fixed prices, on behalf of the tire manufacturers, is not located in Sydney or even in New South Wales; it is located in Melbourne. The Hurstville company with which I am particularly concerned, which has 35 employees, has operated for two generations and given good service to the community, and has not driven out other enterprises during its so-called monopolistic development, must now, when it is threatened with extinction by the action of the monopoly of tire manufacturers, go to the head-quarters in Melbourne and plead its case if it wants to obtain redress. It is in Melbourne that this arbitrary body which rules the whole of the industry is situated.
Honorable members opposite talk about the necessity to maintain free private enterprise in .the community. What has happened to all the independent service stations? They have all gone by .the board. What has happened to SO per cent, of the retailers -of tires in Australia? Of the independent retailers who previously operated, 80 per cent, have gone out of business. They have had to sell out to the big manufacturers’ organizations. I tell .the Minister again nhat 80 per cent, of the establishments selling tires and providing recapping and retreading services are now in the hands of the four big tire manufacturers. The independent .operators have sold out under threat of being r.un out. The ones that are left are the resilient few. It is unfortunate an a sense that they are the biggest of the independent operators, but it could not be -otherwise, because only the biggest of them have been able to withstand the challenge. Even they are now being forced out by these normally dubious activities.
What has been established is an organization that sets down prices and conditions of sale to operate uniformly all over Australia. It enforces its instructions by threatening to run out of business any independent firm that breaks the code. The big tire manufacturers and their subsidiaries are. using every dubious device they know to achieve their objectives. I wish I could tell this House about all the nefarious devices that are being employed by .the manufacturers and their subsidiaries to bring to heel the independent firms and prevent them from violating the code to which they must adhere if they wish to remain in business.
It is all very well for the AttorneyGeneral to smile. I say to him that this is no smiling matter for the private motorist who used to enjoy his discount, or for the farmer who could once obtain tires and tubes for his trucks and tractors at a reduced price. As I have said, uniform prices have now been fixed for tires and tubes and for retreading and recapping services. I can also say that the indications are. that similar price-fixing practices will be introduced for batteries and various other items. In the case of petrol, considerable concern has been expressed at the growing monopolization of the petrol retail trade. In yesterday’s Sydney “ Daily Telegraph “ an article appeared which read, in part -
The Automobile Chamber of Commerce yesterday .carried a resolution expressing concern at the “ growing monopolization of the petrol retail trade “. The secretary (Mr. L. Armstrong) told the annual general meeting that owners of independent service stations were virtually servants of the major oil companies.
I read in. a Queensland newspaper last Saturday week a statement that each year 25 per cent, of operators of petrol stations are finding it necessary to leave their businesses because of the restrictions applied by the big oil. companies,, which are linking up with the tire manufacturers. As a group, petrol station operators comprise the section of the community covering the third largest number of bankruptcy cases in Australia to-day. Monopoly development at the top has squeezed out all the independent petrol station owners and has now squeezed out 80 per cent, of the independent tire dealers. The monopolies are now trying to squeeze out1 the last resilient few who are carrying- on this great fight to try to preserve some- kind of free competition.
I have in, my possession certain receipts which show the tactics employed by the retail subsidiaries of the tire manufacturers. Representatives of these- subsidiaries have approached former customers in my electorate of the independent tire dealers and retreading and recapping, servicemen,, and have offered them discounts- that they cannot obtain from the. independent firms, which are not allowed to give such discounts. To get over the legal complications, the customers have been described on the- receipts- as garages^ because garages are entitled to a volume discount. That is the kind of device- being employed by the subsidiaries of the big manufacturing firms. If. an independent operator used’ such tactics he. would be wiped out.
Let us make no mistake- about the importance of this matter. A good deal of capital, is involved, and. a large number of employees are concerned. Many operators have been; arbitrarily wiped out as a result of the imposition of this uniform regimen of prices. Any- that have, managed to survive have had. to- contend, with, all- the other nefarious techniques that have been employed. Let me mention, one other devicethat has been employed. All. the. retail, subsidiaries owned.by the few big manufacturing companies have ganged up and. placed, orders covering their establishments throughout the whole of Australia. For instance, all the Goodyear subsidiaries combined- and put in an order, and- so received a volume discount which could never be obtained if all1 the retail’ establishments involved’ Bad placed individual orders: These are- the unfair trade practices being followed by the tire manufacturers to drive independent firms out of. business. The ordinary individual in the community is denied the benefit of the discount of 20 or 25 per cent, that he used1 to receive. All forms of industry, secondary, as well as primary, are being denied the benefits of discounts that they were formerly allowed.
The tire manufacturers went before the Prices Commissioner in South Australia and asked for a price increase. They were knocked back, and they then brought in their regimen, so that they could obtain greater returns by taking something from the retailers and distributors. They wiped out the discounts that were previously allowed, and they got their pound of flesh despite the decision of the South Australian Prices Commissioner. Just imagine, in this day of private enterprise, a retail firm receiving a letter such as the one I have before me, which reads -
I have received apparent evidence of an alleged breach by you in the- retail sale of a new 590 x 15 4 ply tyre R.S.4 for. £7 9s. and as this figure is considerably below the Retail’ List Price for such a tyre; I would appreciate your explanation.
So the letter goes on. I have not time to read all of it. Just imagine what would be said if governments tried to establish this kind of crushing authority over independent private enterprise..
It is irrelevant for Government supporters to talk about unions, being monopolistic. The unions have to go before courts. They have to establish before public tribunals their claims for increased wages and salaries.
– Order! The honorable gentleman’s- time- has expired.
.- Mr.. Deputy Speaker, the terms of the matter of urgency now before the House are -
The failure of the Government to take action in respect of trade practices affecting primary producers in- the- matter’ of- tyres, petrol, farm machinery and superphosphates:
The curious thing is that the two speakers’ who have been put- up so far by the Opposition represent closely settled urban areas. Probably neither of those honorable members knows which- end’ of a bull is likely to hurt him-. In any event, they are just trying to- make- a shabby horse run. And the’ shabby horse- is this tire situation-. Not x word has been said about farm machinery’ or superphosphates. Instead of dealing with them, the honorable member for Barton (Mr. Reynolds) sought to make honorable members believe that he has been clothed with some of the qualities of his predecessor as representative of Barton, the Right Honorable H. V. Evatt. The honorable member sought to tell the House what constitutes an - interstate transaction. He has none of the legal learning of his predecessor. I wonder whether he has consulted the Deputy ‘ Leader . of the Opposition (Mr. . Whitlam),- and whether that honorable gentleman has the opinion that the tire situation outlined by the honorable member for Newcastle (Mr. Jones) comes within the category of an interstate matter. I challenge, the Deputy Leader, of the Opposition to give his opinion as to whether ‘or . not it is an- interstate matter. I . challenge the honorable member, for Barton .and the. honorable member for Newcastle, also, to’ say whether they have consulted their deputy leader.
The honorable member : for Newcastle’ used the phrase “ monopolies and …. restrictive trade practices”. He just does, not know the difference between them. In, the past, the Opposition has talked about monopolies. It does not know what restrictivetrade practices are. And the honor-, able member for Newcastle, in outlining what he describes as the tire situation to-day, has demonstrated that he does not yet know whether what exists is a monopoly or. a restrictive trade practice. He and the- honorable member for Barton talked about pushing people out of business by unfair’, trade practices. The AttorneyGeneral (Sir Garfield Barwick) has described the philosophy of the New South Wales Government and has pointed out that at the retail level, the retailers were gradually reducing the number of distribution outlets. So the trend was quite definite: In the course of time, the number of retail’ outlets would be reduced until one had to go to a predetermined place or company in order to get a tire.
The honorable member for Barton and the honorable member for Newcastle havemerely looked at- a tire and received letters, - and have given no. thoughtful consideration; to the matter. They dp. npt understand that the Pattman-Robinson Act of 1936, [ in the United States of America, which was j part of the New Deal legislation in that [ country, was specifically directed towards i making it a criminal offence to under-sell > a. competitor in order to drive him out of business. The policy behind that act has’ been actively pursued in the United States since 1936.
As I have said in this chamber before” in answer to the honorable member for’. Newcastle, it is not easy to determine where the public interest lies in relation to motor ‘ tires. However, this proposal is merely a shabby political trick designed to affect voting in the Calare by-election. It refers to, primary -producers, farm machinery and, superphosphates. Not a word has been said about superphosphates by the two Opposition members who have spoken. They have not examined the situation with respect to superphosphates, ‘the price of which has been reduced by approximately 10 per cent.’ in recent years.’ In Victoria, which, is the1 major- user of. superphosphates, the price is determined predominantly by one ‘co-opera-‘ ti ve company, which has recently made, two1 significant reductions in the price. ‘
Another thing that has been overlooked i by the Opposition is the sulphuric acid’ bounty. As a result of the payment of thatbounty, there is now a plentiful supply of this substance. And because the supply is more plentiful, there is more competition among the manufacturers of superphosphates. This is the reason why the price has been reduced.
I come now to the allegation that the Government’ has failed to do anything about farm machinery. Surely Opposition members are aware of the -tractor bounty, which involves the expenditure of about’ £1,000,000 of. public funds annually.’ Surely they are aware of the Tariff Board’s inquiries iri .respect of .farm machinery/ Surely they are aware of the. saving in cost1 to primary producers as a result pf the pay-‘ ment of .the tractor bounty.
Petrol, also; was mentioned in the terms,of the proposal now before us: Is not the Opposition aware that, -as a result. of. a Tariff, Board inquiry into the- situation in respect; of petrol, some of the protection accorded; to the- local industry was removed and,’ as a; j consequence, ‘ the price of ‘ petrol was reduced? Do not Opposition members know that the question of whether the remaining
Id. a gallon of the protection afforded to the ‘local industry should be continued has been .referred to . the Tariff Board? Surely we could have expected the Opposition to con- sider these things! But apparently^ if has not done so. All that it is concerned about doing is making an intrusion into the Calare by-election. And what an extraordinary pair of speakers it put up to argue its case!
I Apparently, they have ho concern about wage increases or railway costs and freight rates. They seek to lay the entire blame for the existing level of costs at the door of this Government, and in the process they talk about monopolies ‘and restrictive trade practices-two things .which they just do not understand. . . i ‘ : c The Tariff Board, after due inquiry, has given protection to local manufacturers of -.farm machinery. Does either the honorable member for Barton or the. honorable member for Newcastle realize- that there are at least a dozen manufacturers of farm machinery in Australia which I could name? I am sure that my colleagues who represent country electorates can name up to twenty. Are those two honorable members aware ; that the’ tariff on farm machinery is very low?. I think it is something like 12 per : cent. Do they know that farm machinery of j a kind which is not manufactured in Ausf tralia at all comes in free of duty? What I have just said is the only mention that has been . made of farm machinery in this dis- cussion. Can we expect Opposition mem. bers to say anything about that sort of machinery? The honorable member for
I Newcastle, in the terms of his proposal, has suggested, that the Government has failed I to take action in respect of trade practices relating to farm’ machinery. What trade practices relating to farm machinery does he 1 refer to? . ‘ , . ! Let me now return to the vital point in 1 respect of tires. The honorable member for
Barton took it on himself to decide that what is happening in respect of tires is ah inter- state matter and therefore is within the legislative competence of the. Federal Parlia- ment. He could have consulted the Deputy 1 Leader of. the Opposition on ‘this point, and < it would be most interesting to know what are the opinions of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition.
– The honorable member for East Sydney could have been consulted.
– He would possibly be a better spokesman on these matters than would be the Deputy Leader of the Opposition. We ought to know at least who is’ the Opposition’s spokesman on such matters.
Has either the honorable member for Barton dr the honorable member for Newcastle asked the New South Wales Government to legislate with respect to the distribution of motor tires? These two honorable members have merely produced letters and said, “ Here is the evidence “, as though a letter from A to B were conclusive evidence of anything. They have not’ produced any letter or document to suggest that any approach has been made to the government which one would expect to be approached - the State government. As the AttorneyGeneral has pointed out, the political philosophy of the New .South Wales Government coincides with that of the Opposition in this Parliament. ‘
This proposal for discussion _ as a matter of urgency is not worth the consideration of this House, Mr. ‘Deputy Speaker, because it is designed, not to. bring up for discussion a matter of urgent public importance but to divert to the’ Australian Labour’ Party votes that should go elsewhere in the Calare byelection..
Mr. POLLARD (Lalor) ri2.51.- The House and the people are indeed indebted to the honorable member for . Newcastle (Mr. Jones) for raising this’ matter, which iS-
The failure of the Government to take action in respect of .trade practices affecting primary producers irc the matter of tires, petrol, farm machinery and superphosphate- 1 Judging from the speeches of the AttorneyGeneral (Sir Garfield Barwick) and his junior counsel- where he got him, I do not know-théy and their superiors are very tender. Rather than present an effective defence-and tell the House how they intend to ‘ deal with’ what is’ undoubtedly a well- known practice in Australia,- they descend to ‘ the lowest possible . political level of accusing the Opposition of indulging’ in a manoeuvre to affect votes - I think the honorable member for Bruce (Mr. Snedden) said voting at the Calare by-election. Let us look at the facts. The Attorney-General :said first that this is a matter within .the power of the New South Wales Government to .control effectively, but he knows in his own -heart as an eminent legal -man that the State governments are completely impotent in this matter and have no power to control restrictive trade practices or monopolies.
– That is not right.
-He knows it; the State governments are .completely impotent. He (knows that in the main these .materials are manufactured in various parts of -the Commonwealth.
– That has nothing to do with it.
– In a great majority of instances, they are interlinked. He knows that once a product manufactured in New South Wales crosses the border into Victoria, .the New South Wales Government has no power to control its price or the arrangements made to sell .it, either .retail-or wholesale, in Victoria.
– The other States can control it.
– You are irritated new. They are the facts. He knows better -than do most people that what I have said is right; he knows it and he does not deny it. Why put up such a -flimsy defence? it is a defence aimed at deluding the people and diverting their attention from the .fact that this type of practice has .grown right from the time that this .Government took office in 1949. All sorts of restrictive practices, price fixing arrangements, discount arrangements and other nefarious business arrangements have been indulged in since 1.949. If honorable members want the truth of this, they need only look at the way that primary producers have been adversely affected. The index figures showing the prices obtained and the prices paid by primary producers over the last ten years show that the prices obtained by primary producers have risen by 36 per cent., while their .costs have increased by 132 per cent. True, one factor in this is .the effect of .imported goods, but the main factor .is -the internal price and .cost structure.
Mr. -Anderson. - What about transport costs?
– I will not be interrupted by you. -If honorable ‘members want a more vivid illustration of my point, .they -.should look at the cost of -production of a bushel of wheat, which in 1949 was 7s. Id., and to-day is L5s. The result is that we are selling wheat on the markets of the world :at 1.3s. a bushel. I could give further illustrations ad nauseam. It is because of these facts that the Government is irritated and tells us to ask the New South Wales Government to keep costs down and to ‘prevent restrictive trade -practices which are aimed at ‘increasing costs and ‘increasing the profits of .those who indulge in them. These restrictive practices in the end affect the farming community. No one can deny that. The Attorney-General said that we should ask the New South Wales Government to take action and almost in the same breath said, “ I am investigating this question of restrictive trade practices “. He has been doing that for the deuce of a long time and has not produced one solitary thing yet.
– How many firms have gone out of business?
– Many firms have gone out of business or have ;been sold up. The figures show that ‘bankruptcies amongst the smaller ‘fry of -.this .country are ‘increasing at an alarming -rate. This is also the position with primary producers. The Government has been indifferent and ineffective over the -long period it has been in office, despite its -promise that it would keep costs down. Somebody asked about the restrictive practices with wages. The Attorney-General says that he believes ‘in free (Competition, in private enterprise and in freedom. But did he allow any freedom to the trade .unions that went to the Arbitration -Commission and asked their honours for an increase of the basic wage? No! At that point, he lost -all faith in the impartiality .of the skilled members -of ‘his -own profession and he sent -his advocates to the commission to say, “Do -not give these awful fellows an increase -of wages; it -would ha>ve a detrimental effect “. Yet he sits like a dummy in this House -or in ‘his .office -and does not raise one finger to .attack .one of the most vital factors in -the -cost .of production to-day; and .he does not ,den.y that. They -are ;the facts. -Let >u5 look at the problem of farm machinery, which my Mend ‘from Bruce spoke about so glibly. USe knows full well :that ‘the Victorian .Government -has no “control over the price or conditions sunder which farm machinery manufactured in Victoria will :be sold in ;New South Wales, itf he .does not .know “.that, he .is a much worse junior to the Attorney-General than I thought the .was. After all, the -Government knows .well - ..it -is ‘vulnerable >on this point - that its Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) in 1956 appointed an .all-party committee of this ‘Parliament to investigate whether changes should be made in the Commonwealth .Constitution. The Government apparently admitted at that point that neither the “States nor the Commonwealth had a completely .effective control -over the economy .or ;a .control that .could be used to keep -costs at a reasonable .level. It has .had the .report .of that committee on its plate for twelve .months, hut .has not done one solitary thing about it. In particular, it has not done anything about the recommendations of the committee, which included six of its own members, two of them ‘legal luminaries, concerning restrictive trade practices.
– The recommendation of the .committee maid ,that .not .all practices were , bad. Tell us whether this “is bad and, if ‘so, show
– -Do not get away from the main theme. “You haven’t a poor mug in court .now, you know.
Mr. -Snedden. - Give us an .example.
Order! The honorable -member Nor Bruce will cease interjecting.
– The ‘committee recommended specifically, ‘and gave its reasons, that :it was essential for the Commonwealth to be vested with -power to -deal with restrictive trade -practices. You try another trick now on somebody else. <Mr. -Snedden. - Which of .them is .bad?
– You take it very badly. You accuse us of .some horrible, nef arious attempt to influence voting. The .fact is that the ‘Government knows it is vulnerable. It has held the reins of office for eleven years.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– I suggest that the honorable member for Newcastle (Mr. Jones), in proposing this matter for discussion by the House, omitted one word from his communication to Mr. Speaker. Instead of merely saying, “The failure of the Government “, he should have said, “The failure of the State Government”. Had that additional word been .included, the ‘true position would have been revealed. The honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) failed to mention that this is not a Commonwealth responsibility. He also suggested that .we have not taken any notice of the recommendations of the Constitutional Review Committee. I remind him that the only time when a referendum was put to .the people of Australia for the purpose of ‘helping the primary producers - I refer to 1937 when we sought to amend the marketing legislation - the Labour Party opposed it. Had the referendum been supported by the .Labour Party, the Commonwealth would have had all necessary powers to-day. “Mr. Pollard. - It -did nothing of the ‘sort!
– The .Labour .Party opposed it.
– It did nothing of the sort. That is a perversion of the truth, to put it mildly.
– .Mr. Deputy Speaker, -I can tell you that at the first meeting held in Queensland in connexion with that referendum the then Premier of Queensland, “Mr. Forgan Smith, supported it. Then a decision was taken by the Queensland central executive of the Labour Party not to support it, and from then on the whole of the Labour Party in Queensland, where I was working in support of the referendum, opposed it, or ceased to support it. The honorable member for Lalor cannot deny that. I repeat that ‘but for the opposition of the “Labour Party, the -Commonwealth would have had the necessary -powers :to-day.
-Your Government has had eleven years to rectify the position.
– Order! The honorable member for Lalor will cease interjecting.
– The honorable member for Lalor mentioned motor tires, as did the honorable member for Newcastle. He said that control over the prices of motor tires was not the responsibility of the State Government. I do not want to make incorrect statements, but I can tell the honorable member for Lalor that the position he described as existing in New South Wales does not obtain in Queensland. I also tell him that in the town of Maryborough, in Queensland, 110 miles from where Ilive, there are now four tire firms operating where there were only two a few years ago. In Queensland, they have a very prominent farmers’ organization, which has an arrangement with the tire selling firms under which members of the organization receive 10 per cent, discount on tires. In those circumstances, . I cannot see how his assertion that there is monopoly control over the price of tires can be substantiated. If such a position does exist in New South Wales, then , it is the fault of the New South Wales Government, and it ought to be rectified by that Government. That is another reason why I say that the honorable member for Newcastle should have included the word “ State “ before “Government” in his submission.
Let me state the true position with regard to tires. In 1956, this Government asked that an inquiry be held into the matter. The result was that there have been relatively stable tire prices since. Mydepartment supplied me with certain figures this morning, and they disclose that there has been relatively little movement in the prices paid by consumers for tires. Again, if we ignore such factors as freight increases and distances at which farmers live from the cities, those figures also disclose that over the last three years petrol prices have shown a downward trend as a result of this Government’s action. These facts are a complete refutation of the suggestions contained in the motion..
The honorable member for Lalor also said that the prices of primary products
Had increased by 36 per cent., and that over the same period costs had increased by 136 percent. Accepting those figures for discussion, we then look for the fault. It lies . in. the fact that freights and other charges have increased over that period. I remind the honorable member that a costfinding committee of the dairying industry, upon whose report the present price of butter was fixed, pointed out that there had been an increase of 1.19 pence per lb. in costs, and of which increase over one penny was due to increased labour costs. I remind him also that when the price of bread was increased recently in Sydney there had been no alteration in the price of wheat from thefigure at which it was fixed last November. The increase in the price of bread in Sydney was made necessary solely because of increased costs of distribution. In Sydney, too, the price charged for cream is 7s. 2d. a pint as compared with 4s. 6d. a pint in Victoria. Again, the higher cost is due to increases in distribution charges. The Commonwealth Government has no control over those costs. The sole responsibility lies with the New SouthWales Government, and with the. New South Wales Milk Board headed by an erstwhile Labour leader, who had himself appointed its chairman. As a result of the higher prices in Sydney, the primary producers of New South Wales are detrimentally affected because the quantity of cream consumed in Sydney is less than half that consumed in Melbourne. I suggest that the honorable member look into this matter properly. , If he does he will then realize that the fault lies not with the Commonwealth Government, but with the State Government.
The honorable member for Bruce (Mr. Snedden) rightly pointed out that the honorable member for Newcastle, and those honorable members who supported him, omitted to discuss superphosphate and other fertilizers. If those honorable members had taken the trouble to examine the statistics they would have seen that the prices of fertilizers have fallen considerably. They would have learned that whereas the price of superphosphate was £14 5s. a ton in Victoria in July, 1952, it was down to £11 17s.6d. a ton in July, 1960. There had been fluctuations in the interim, but the price as at July, 1960, was only £11 17s. 6d. a ton. Again, sulphate of ammonia, which cost £37 5s. a ton in June, 1958, cost only £28 5s. a ton in May, 1960. As a result of this fall in prices, fertilizers have been used milch more extensively. I remind the honorable member for Lalor and the other members of the Opposition who have spoken in this debate that the Commonwealth Government took steps to acquire joint rights to the phosphate deposits of Nauru and Ocean islands and, more recently, of Christmas Island. This has enabled primary, producers to obtain phosphates from these, sources at a .much lower price than would be payable, for phosphates from alternative sources. Again, as the result of the lifting of import restrictions, urea which has been much sought after by Australian primary producers, has been available in substantial quantities at reasonable rates. Because of this the sugar industry in Queensland alone has been estimated to save about £160,000 a year. And all this’ because of action taken by the Commonwealth Government! Where are these failures to which honorable members opposite refer? This Government has had nothing but success all along the line. We have been able to help the primary producers to keep down the costs of the very items mentioned by the honorable member for Newcastle.
Reverting to the subject of petrol, I’ remember that when I was in Opposition during the Chifley Government’s regime I wrote to the Government time and time again asking for a uniform price for petrol throughout Australia. The Chifley Government gave me the answer that our Govern-, ment gives - that the price of petrol “is the responsibility of the State governments’; the Commonwealth Government has nothing to do with it. . So it is, right back in .your court, brother. When’ we , .consider the question of the price o.f tires not having risen to any degree, let us also remember that the prices of. petrol, superphosphate and farm machinery have , gone down. .This Government has seen- to it that no duty is payable on essential imports ,qf farm, machinery and so I say, that we have justified our policy in relation, to the. primary producers,
– Order! The
Minister’s time has expired. ‘ r r i…’ : ; . ‘ .V’ - ) ‘- ‘…… ,
-.rr-:The speeches made by; honorable: members on the Government side of the House are poor satisfaction to those who have to pay exces.sively high prices. The people of Australia are the best judges of whether fair charges are being made for commodities at the present time. The case presented by the Opposition is so overwhelming that representatives of the Government are incapable of giving, a satisfactory explanation of the part they - have played in bringing about the present situation. It is easy to try to place the responsibility on somebody else, but this. National Parliament is surely capable of effecting necessary changes in the commercial and general life of this country. I refer , particularly’. to the necessity to correct the many wrongful practices that are current1 in bur- community affairs. The learned/ Attorney-General (Sir Garfield Barwick); seeks to divert. responsibility for the present, position from the Commonwealth Govern-, ment to the State governments, but he must be conscious of the fact that the major tire companies have interstate status and. in one( instance, an international link-up. . In those, circumstances this Government cannot possibly .shed its responsibility’ to serve the public interest.
If the Government is, convinced that it has- no power to effectively restrain the commercial. firms who are engaging in monopoly ‘ practices, surely it. should be prepared’ immediately to carry out the recommendations of the Constitutional Review Committee, which indicated in its report that this added power should be made available to the Commonwealth. , If, as honorable! members opposite have endeavoured to, make it appear,’ the authority lies with the’ State governments- they have named the’ Government of New South. Wales in par- ticular- one might .indicate that the wrongful . practices, and business Operations that have . been mentioned’ this morning are found not only in New South Wales but! also in the other States! The Liberal governments of Victoria, South Australia,’ Queensland and Western Australia arc equally responsible’ for allowing such impositions to be placed on their people. I do not think those governments would be! prepared to admit that they . had failed ifr their responsibility; rather they would assert- that it’ is the Commonwealth Govern-; ment ;which . has the .authority to deal with, monopolies having interstate1 connexions; such ,as,;exist in many pf; the commercial, ventures that are vital to the life of the Australian community.
I feel that they are setting up road blocks in the path of the primary producer. The man on the land to-day is more than ever dependent on motor traction, on tires and petrol for transport and for power to work his farm. On all these items there is an added charge constantly being levied on the primary producer by the big business concerns in order to obtain the profits which give them a decided advantage. The position at present is that these big business concerns are able to control the very life of the Australian community; and this is done by means of their trade methods. To some who are favored, these people are willing to make concessions, but others who seek’ to give the community a fairer deal in the matter of prices are likely to be denied the supplies they require. For this reason they are unable to give the community free and fair competition. For these reasons it is essential that the Commonwealth Government exercise its powers with much more diligence than it is exercising them to-day. This is necessary in order that those who service the needs of the country and are endeavouring to guarantee that reasonable charges will be made for essential supplies will not be subject to business isolation.
These essential supplies include, particularly, commodities used by farmers. Every one who owns a car which requires servicing from time to time in the matter of tires, oil and petrol, has to pay charges which are far beyond what is felt to be reasonable or right. This is due largely to the monopolies exercised by big business concerns and. the practice of rebates and. discounts, by. means of which they are able to maintain prices, which are beyond the reasonable rates which the community should have to1 pay. We might have expected from the Government moreencouraging signs that is is: willing- to recognize that the people of this country must’ be protected against unfair business prac. rices. This” applies’ particularly to the people engaged in- primary production. I again bring to the notice of the AttorneyGeneral and the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. Adermann) the fact that explanations such as they have given this morning are by no means a justification for what they are1 allowing to occur in this country.
– When the Opposition introduced this matter I am sure we all thought that we would hear references to some known restrictive trade practices, and that some Opposition members would make some constructive suggestions as to the action that could be taken to deal with the problem. But it has now become obvious that the motion was introduced for political propaganda purposes. Indeed, the cases which were cited come mainly within the jurisdiction of the State governments.
Restrictive trade practices are always possible in any free enterprise system, and, since federation-, the possible need to- deal with them has always been in the minds of Australian governments. As all- honorable member* know, in 1906- the Australian Industries Preservation Act was placed upon the statute-book of- this country with this purpose in mind. Part Et. of this act refers specifically to such practices.- Section 4- deals with- restraint of interstate or external trade and destruction of industries; section 6- relates- to unfair competition-; section 7 to: monopoly of interest or external trade, and section 7a to unfair concessions by persons. A. number- of other sections also deals with restrictive trade practices.
When the Labour Party was in office for many- years after the removal of war-time controls it had’ an opportunity to amend the act, if- this was considered necessary to deal with the- position that existed’ at that time. But the- Labour Party did not amend the actto’ bring it into line with- current conditions.
Looking back through history, we see that the coal vend case of 1911-13 has some significant relationship to the Government’s present intention to introduce new legislation to deal, with monopolies and’ restrictive trade practices. It is’ now many years since the Deakin Government initiated a case against the combine of colliery owners and shipping companies, and the issue has never been really tested’ in the courts since that time. In- fact,, at the first hearing the presiding judge, Sir Isaac Isaacs, gave a verdict in favour of the Government, but majorities in the- Full’ Court and the- Privy Council overruled his verdict against the combine. As I understand the position, the differences at that time were mainly as to fact. The apparent validity of this federal law has not been finally disputed. In fact, an amendment of the act years later by the Fisher Government relieved the prosecution of the onus of proof. This being so, the effectiveness of the remaining Commonwealth powers in relation to restrictive trade practices has never really been tested although doubts have always been very clearly expressed by governments from time to time. As is well known also, the recent interpretation of section 92 of the Constitution has barred certain interstate restrictive trade practices.
In the short time remaining at my disposal I want to make what I hope will be an objective analysis of matters which perhaps could be classified as restrictive trade practices within our economic structure. I want to refer first to the restriction of certain patent rights. I have in mind principally the industries which produce polythene and nylon. The restriction on the manufacture under patent rights in this industry does much to encourage inventions and technological improvements. Against that, however, is the fact that suppliers are restricted in placing their supplies on the market, with the obvious effect on the price structure.
The second matter to which I wish to refer on the aspect of restrictive trade practices relates to the present policy in relation to marketing organizations. I have in mind principally the Government-controlled marketing boards and some non-official boards such as the Victorian maize board. The advantage which flows from this kind of organization is that it permits orderly marketing which has some inherent benefits, [t tends also to stabilize prices and to control the flow of exports to some degree. It allows also a stimulation of research, at the same time permitting the industries concerned to co-operate in their public relations efforts both in Australia and abroad. But against these advantages are the obvious disadvantages that prices to the consumer can rise and that a restriction is placed on the number of people who have the opportunity to export products which are handled by these organizations.
A number of price rings operates in Australia. They include the copper producers association, the cable makers association, the steel industry, the soda ash industry, the liquified petroleum industry, the gas association, petrol companies and airline operators. This kind of ring does perhaps rationalize prices and distribution and tends to eliminate competition. But against that is the fact that obviously it tends to bring about price increases to users and consumers and discriminates on prices and supplies between purchasers and distributors. In addition, rings tend to restrict the entry of new suppliers into the field and to produce the anomaly of tender price agreements.
The fourth matter to which I wish to refer relates to the restriction of outlets. A number of organizations are involved in this. The tire manufacturers have been referred to already. Then there are associations also of automotive products manufacturers, paper makers, glass manufacturers and a number of others. The pooling of profits perhaps assists stability within the industry, and the control of distribution, servicing and guarantees, probably results in better service to the community. The practice also ensures standardized prices and economic returns to the industry concerned. At the same time it restricts the choice of the consumer and again tends to raise prices.
I should like to refer to a number of other matters, but I shall content myself with a brief reference to restrictive trade practices which affect our overseas trade. I have in mind principally the franchise restriction which is imposed upon Australian subsidiaries of overseas companies, and also the operations of shipping conferences. These limit competition and allocate production to the most efficient or the most conveniently placed units within the industry. They also avoid surplus production capacity. As against that, to some degree they limit our export opportunities and increase overseas and interstate freight rates.
I have mentioned some of the advantages and disadvantages which flow from restrictive trade practices and which I feel must be taken into consideration. I believe that, on the balance, amending legislation is necessary, and I commend the AttorneyGeneral (Sir Garfield Barwick) for his action in implementing the Government’s policy which ultimately will be of benefit to all sections of the Australian community.
.- The Attorney-General (Sir Garfield Barwick) has pleaded a constitutional alibi on this matter. He and the honorable and learned member for Bruce (Mr. Snedden) have sought my views on it. They know quite well that an arrangement was made that the House would debate this matter only until 12.45 p.m. I shall abide by the arrangement. Unfortunately, there now remains for me no opportunity to state the views which I hold and which. I am sure, would have exposed completely the fatuity and sham of the arguments which have been advanced by Government supporters.
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. John McLeay).Order! As no other honorable members wish to speak, this debate is concluded.
Sitting suspended from 12.46 to 2.15 p.m.
– Order! As the time allotted for precedence to general business has expired, Government business will be called on.
Motion (by Mr. Downer) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act to amend the Nationality and Citizenship Act 1948-1959.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
– by leave - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
This is a very short bill, Sir, to amend the Nationality and Citizenship Act in an effort to improve the rate of naturalization. As the House will know, the Government is always considering means by which the prospect, and practice, of assuming Australian citizenship can be made more attractive to our new settlers. This bill is designed to simplify the procedure which a migrant must follow when applying for Australian citizenship. It sets out to achieve two main things. First, it will abolish the present obligation on an applicant to produce three certificates of character. Secondly, it will eliminate the necessity for an applicant having to make a statutory declaration. These two requirements are set out in section 36 (2.) of the principal act. This the bill will repeal, and will substitute an entirely new section 36 requiring an applicant for registration or naturalization to furnish, in support of his applicant, a statement in writing, signed by him, setting out his name, address and occupation; the date and place of his birth; and such other matters as are prescribed.
These reforms are based upon the experience of my department. The burden on an applicant to supply three certificates of character has proved of little practical value over the years; indeed, I believe it has sometimes deterred some of our new settlers from applying for naturalization. Many of those wishing to assume Australian citizenship are shy about asking long-established Australian citizens to certify that they are persons of good repute. Some are fearful of rebuff; others feel they might embarrass their friends by making such a request; others again consider that often the local people whom they know are not really in a position to vouch for them. On the other side of the picture, those to whom the application is made are sometimes reluctant to fulfil the migrant’s request because they feel too much is being asked of them, or that they are undertaking some sort of obligation with legal consequences. What I have been saying applies to conscientious people. But, as honorable members will realize, such certificates of character can also be obtained from people who attach no importance to what they are doing, who for various reasons are merely anxious to oblige the applicant, and may be quite ignorant of the applicant’s character.
The superfluousness of the certificates is heightened by the fact that it has always been the practice of my department not to rely solely on them, but to make an independent check, from other sources, of the character of every applicant for naturalization. In abolishing what amounts to a redundancy we are not jettisoning any safeguards, but we do believe that we may be removing an obstacle which may have seemed formidable to those qualified to become Australians.
The second proposal is to abolish the existing practice of an applicant having to make a statutory declaration giving his name, age, birthplace, occupation, and residence, and such other matters as are prescribed. Under this bill, as I said a few moments ago, he will still have to give his name, address, occupation, the date and place of his birth, and matters prescribed by regulation; but we propose to save him the trouble of finding a justice of the peace or a comissioner for declarations before whom the form must be signed. Many of our new settlers are unable to complete the form themselves, and have had difficulty in finding a justice of the peace or a commissioner for declarations; and, still aware of some strangeness in their new land, are diffident about approaching these dignitaries. Under the new procedure an applicant for registration or naturalization may come to the offices of my department in the capital city of the State in which he resides, and give the information verbally to officers. They will write it down and hand the applicant a form to sign. Alternatively, application forms will continue to be distributed through Good Neighbour Councils, and those voluntary organizations such as Apex and Rotary which are willing to assist. Residents of country areas will not be required to come to the department’s offices in a capital city for this purpose; interviews will still be carried out by either Commonwealth Employment Service officers or local police according to the locality. They in turn, will send their reports of these interviews to my department.
Thus, a somewhat cold, legal process will give way to what I hope will be always a friendly encounter between an applicant and a departmental or other official. Without wishing to claim too much, I am hopeful that, if the House agrees to this simplification of procedure, the whole machinery of naturalization will become easier, more co-operative, and more attractive to the many thousands we are anxious to clothe with full citizenship rights.
There is just one other thing I want to say to honorable members. These amendments will not weaken the substantive act in any way. Section 50 provides that a person shall not, for any of the purposes of this act, knowingly make a false representation or a statement false in any material particular. An applicant making a false statement within the ambit of this section can be prosecuted just as effectively as he or she could be for making a false statement in a statutory declaration.
I hope the House will endorse these proposals. I think they are useful, and may speed the rate of naturalization in this country. They are certainly an example of the Government’s constant desire to bring more and more of our settlers from Europe and other lands into the allembracing status of British subject and Australian citizen.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Crean) adjourned.
Motion (by Mr. Freeth, through Mr. Davidson) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act to amend the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918-1953.
Debate resumed from 26th October (vide page 2375), on motion by Mr. Harold Holt-
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- The purpose of this bill is to give effect to the recommendations contained in the report for the vear 1960 of the Commonwealth Grants Commission for the provision of special financial assistance to the two remaining claimant States, Western Australia and Tasmania, to the extent of £8,618,000. That sum is £1.718.000 more than was provided for the claimant States of Tasmania and Western Australia for the financial year 1959-60. At this point. I wish to protest at the inadequate time that has been made available to members on the Opposition side to consider this most important measure. The States Grants (Special Assistance) Bill has special significance for the claimant States - Tasmania and Western Australia - and the Government should have given Opposition members more consideration. The Government introduced the bill only yesterday. Now it expects the second-reading debate to be resumed at this early stage. I believe there was sufficient business, on, the. notice-paper to allow the Government to leave this important measure until later so that honorable members could have had an opportunity to study it. As I have said, the bill is of great importance to Tasmania and Western Australia, and Opposition members are entitled to more consideration than they have received from, the Government.
The grants that are to be provided are less than the assistance requested by Tasmania and Western Australia. Earlier this year, the Tasmanian representative at sittings of the Commonwealth Grants Commission asked for £3,845,000 and Western Australia asked for £4,482,000. Under the terms of this bill. Tasmania will receive £3,400,000- about £445.000 less than it asked for - and Western Australia will receive £3,700,000. The bill also provides for a special adjustment for South Australia based on the financial year 1958-59. I should like to refer to the Commonwealth Grants Commission in greater detail because it is one of the few commissions or committees that supplies most comprehensive reports to this Parliament, and I pay a tribute tn it in that respect. Undoubtedly, the Grants Commission gives a great deal of time and attention to the problems affecting the claimant States. This financial year they are Tasmania and Western Australia. I have some understanding of the problems affecting Tasmania and also Western Australia’s problems. I know that each financial year, the Commonwealth Grants Commission has investigated those problems fully. I know the areas that members of the commission have visited in Tasmania to study economic and social problems at first-hand.
As I have said, the reports of the Grants Commission are most comprehensive and the report for 1960 is up to standard. The Grants Commission decides upon the amounts to be granted to the claimant States on the basis of the revenue that the States can raise from the avenues open to them, and also upon the expenditure incurred by the States on education, charities, law and order and public safety. On that basis, the Grants Commission makes its recommendations to this Parliament. In that connexion, I remind the House that the Commonwealth Government is the sole federal taxing authority. The States are confined to rais* ing revenue from various activities within, the States. Tasmania’s taxation revenue - and this would apply also, to Western Australia - is limited to what can be collected from estate duties, stamp duties, land tax, liquor tax, lottery revenue and motor vehicle taxation. Even in those fields, there is a marked disparity between the revenue available to the claimant States and the nonclaimant States. That is evident from the report that has been tabled on behalf of the Commonwealth Grants Commission for the’ last financial year. In 1958-59, Tasmania raised from the sources I have named £4,060,000. In the same year, New South Wales raised £53,995,000. It would be quite illogical for the Tasmanian Government - and I have no doubt that this applies also to Western Australia - to increase State taxes. Revenue from that source has already reached the maximum, but as I have said, there is an obvious disparity between the revenue available to the non-claimant States and the claimant States.
I know that the tax reimbursement formula makes provision for an increase in population and the higher costs incurred by the States each year; but only one minor example is necessary to show that the tax reimbursement formula does not provide adequately for the greatly increased costs of the States. I direct attention to education in particular. The tax reimbursement formula provides for an increase in population, but the cost of the increase in the school population in recent years has far exceeded the provision for education made to the States under the formula. To that extent the claimant States are being penalized in comparison with the non-claimant States. In that connexion, I direct attention to the Budget deficits of the various States. Tasmania has had a deficit in each of the past three years. Western Australia has had a deficit each year for the past eight years. All of the non-claimant States have been able to show surpluses over that period. It is obvious that the non-claimant States probably have been affected by their climatic conditions and that Western Australia in particular has been affected by the vast area of the State and the sparse population. I believe that all these factors have been to the detriment of the claimant States.
I believe that some factors which have been taken into consideration by the Commonwealth Grants Commission should not be considered in future- years; I have referred before, in this Parliament, to the fact that a State’s expenditure on social services is one of the first matters that are taken into consideration by the Grants Commission. I have always held the view that a State’s expenditure in this field should not be considered to the extent that it has been considered by the commission. A study of the 26th annual report of the commission will show that the three States which were then claimant States were not Satisfied with the way in which the commission was assessing expenditure on social services generally. After all. there is some expenditure to which the States are committed whatever action is taken by the Commonwealth Government in respect of social services generally.
One example which illustrates that the States are not in a position to reduce their social services expenditure is the position of deserted wives and wives whose husbands have been committed to an institution. In those cases the Commonwealth Government, under its social services legislation, does not accept the responsibility, in the first instance, until the wife has been deserted for six months and, in the second instance, until the husband has been confined to an institution for a corresponding period. In either case, the only hope that the wife has of financial assistance to tide her over an extremely difficult period is to turn to the State authorities. Because of this and many other commitments, it is not possible for the States to reduce their expenditure in the field of social services. I have protested in this Parliament on other occasions against this situation. I believe that if a State wishes to make educational facilities, and transport facilities available it should not be penalized for doing so. That position has arisen in the past and I have no doubt that it will arise in the future.
T turn now to education generally in the State of Tasmania. I believe that the amount received by Tasmania from the Commonwealth Grants Commission in the past has been determined, to a degree, by that State’s expenditure in this field of social services. We make no apology for the fact that, in Tasmania, we spend more on education than, is spent in any other State. The report: of the. Commonwealth Grants Commission at page 63 contains a table of per capita expenditure from revenue sources on certain social services for the financial year 1958-59. In that year, NewSouth WaLes spent 23’6s. 6d. per capita on. education,, and Tasmania spent 271s. 6d. per capita. New South Wales, which E believe represents a fair average, spent 131s. lid. on health, hospitals and charities, while Tasmania spent 165s. 6d. In both fields, Tasmania spent, per capita, considerably in excess of the New South Wales expenditure. On law, order and public safety, New South Wales spent 55s. 9d. per capita and Tasmania spent 69s. Id. Tasmania has probably given greater attention than New South Wales to all these fields,, certainly to education.
I believe that because we have spent more than other States on education the amount provided annually for Tasmania by the Commonwealth Grants Commission has been correspondingly reduced. As I said a few moments ago, we make no apology in Tasmania for the amount spent on education. I believe that the peculiar circumstances of this State ought to be taken into consideration by the Commonwealth Grants Commission when making its assessment. I know that when the commission has visited Tasmania it has given great consideration to the type of education that we have introduced in that State. The commission has visited various parts of the State for the purpose of trying to understand the problems of education that affect the various districts..
Prior to the last war, secondary education was not free in Tasmania. It was not until a. Labour government was returned to office that fees for secondary school education were abolished. Since those days, a great amount of money has been spent in improving the facilities available to children for education. I believe that our system of education compares more than favorably with that of any other State. This is due to the fact that the Labour Government has devoted its attention primarily to the purposes of education. Therefore, I believe it is unfortunate that expenditure on education should be taken into consideration by the Commonwealth Grants- Commission in assessing the amount that should be made available each year to this State.
In recent years Tasmania has made great strides in heavy industry, but there still remains a great disparity between Tasmania and other States. The figures which show this are available in the report of the Commonwealth Grants Commission. They show that there is a great disparity between the claimant States, Tasmania and Western Australia, and the non-claimant States, New South Wales and Victoria.
In recent years Tasmania has endeavoured to make up its leeway in heavy industry. We have devoted our attention to hydro-electric works which, I believe, should have been taken into consideration by the Commonwealth Grants Commission. By 1966 Tasmania will have expended on hydro-electric development no less than £86,000,000. I believe that this expenditure, on a per capita basis, compares more than favorably with the amount that has been expended by the Commonwealth, which has been provided purely from taxation revenue and which, in respect of the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority, will benefit only three States. Tasmania has been restricted in its hydro-electric development by having Y°A to provide money from local revenues, mainly from taxation, and from loans which bear interest at the normal rate charged by the Commonwealth Government. On the other hand, the Commonwealth has made money freely available for the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority.
Only three years ago a move was initiated in the Tasmanian Parliament for a special loan to Tasmania in order to help that State overcome the difficulties to which I have referred. The move was not initiated by the Labour Government but by the Opposition, which suggested that the Commonwealth Government should offer Tasmania a special loan. Of course, the Commonwealth Government refused to do so.
These are all matters that should be considered by the Commonwealth Grants Commission. Its report gives me the impression that the commission does have a better understanding of these problems than it may have had in earlier years, because it has referred to the disparity between the industrial development in the non-claimant States and that in’ the claimant States. It has referred to the significantly greater increase in earnings, on a per capita basis, of the people who live in the non-claimant States than of those residing in the claimant States. Having regard to considerations such as these, the Grants Commission has decided that in future it will make its assessments on the basis of the level of prosperity, or of the amount of revenue received, in the States of Queensland and South Australia. In the past, of course, it has based its assessments on the revenue available to New South Wales and Victoria.
As I have said, there is a great disparity between conditions existing in the claimant and the non-claimant States, particularly in the field of industrial development. T acknowledge at once that there are probably many factors which have contributed to this disparity, and that any levelling-up process would present grave difficulties. I do think, however, that the Grants Commission should adopt policies designed to enable the claimant States to make up the leeway that now exists, financially, socially and economically. Let me refer again to the Twenty-seventh Report of the Commonwealth Grants Commission, and particularly to the table of incomes and earnings for the various States, appearing at page 21. In New South Wales in 1955-56 personal income per capita amounted to £465. In the same year in Tasmania it was £420. The difference was £45. In 1958-59 the figure for New South Wales had increased by £32. to £497, while for Tasmania it had risen by only £11, to £431. This is a clear indication of the disparity that exists. If the tax reimbursement formula was taking effective care of the difficulties experienced in the claimant States, obviously there would not be such a great disparity.
These are matters to which the Grants Commission should give attention when making its assessments for the next financial year. We do not overlook what has been achieved by the commission in the past. Year by year some improvements have been effected. I have already referred to the valuable work that the commission has done, and I agree that it has achieved useful results. The commission makes recommendations designed to assist financially, to the extent that the commission thinks is desirable, the States that are not so well situated as the non-claimant States. However, the fact remains that great disparity continues to exist between the two sets of States, claimant and non-claimant, and I suggest that the Grants Commission should give closer attention to the submissions made to it at its investigation in Melbourne of the position for the financial year 1959-60. Expenditures in the claimant States on education, health, hospitals and charities, law and order and public safety, should not be given as much importance by the commission as they have been in the past.
I believe there is a need for far greater amounts of money to be made available to both of the claimant States. That contention is borne out by the figures given by the commission in its report, of which I have cited only a few. The disparity in personal incomes can be eliminated only if the claimant States receive much greater consideration than they have received in the past. It is not possible for the States to reduce their expenditure in any way. Obviously they could not be expected to reduce their expenditure on education, and certainly they could not reduce their expenditure on other public services, such as hospitals and transport.
– By greater efficiency they could reduce the amounts of money they require.
– Something may be said for that proposition. I would not quarrel with the suggestion that there may be room for improvement. I can speak only of Tasmania, of course, and I am sure that it would not be possible to increase the efficiency of the Education Department in that State. I respect the knowledge and experience of the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Bland) in the field of public administration, but I am sure that if he had the opportunity to investigate the activities of the Tasmanian education authorities he would agree with me. As to the matter of transport, we have had investigations carried out by efficiency experts, but nobody has yet been able to suggest how we may eliminate the great losses that are experienced each year in Tasmania on transport services. I am sure that similar conditions exist in Western Australia.
The problems that the governments of the claimant States face are ever-present and I do not believe it is possible for either of the State Governments concerned to reduce their expenditure in any of these fields. The disparity that exists between those States and the non-claimant States can be eliminated only by the provision of greater amounts of money, and the Grants Commission should make recommendations along these lines.
There are many other matters to which 1 could refer, but I shall mention only one in conclusion. I believe that in the past the Commonwealth Government has displayed a conspicuous lack of interest in the Bell Bay aluminium undertaking. The Tasmanian Government has been heavily involved financially in the establishment of that enterprise, not merely in the provision of some of the necessary capital, but more particularly in the provision of essential services. Reference has frequently been made to the amount of capital invested by the Commonwealth Government in Bell Bay, but if one takes into account the money spent by the State Government in providing water services, roads, power and other essential services, it will be seen that the expenditure by the State has been greater than that incurred by the Commonwealth in the establishment of this vital industry. This is another matter that should be considered by the Grants Commission.
No doubt the honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie) will be referring shortly to the disastrous flooding that occurred in Tasmania during 1959. The cost of flood relief and repair work in the south of Tasmania will total £2,500,000. I understand that a small contribution will be made by the Commonwealth, but the greater part of the expenditure necessary as a consequence of the floods will be entirely the responsibility of the Tasmanian Government. I believe that all these difficulties have accentuated the financial problems of Tasmania. In my opinion, the fact that both of the claimant States have in recent years had to budget for deficits indicates that a far great recognition of their problems, financial and otherwise, is necessary on the part of the Commonwealth Grants Commission.
In conclusion, Sir, let me say that the Opposition does not oppose this bill. We acknowledge the fact that the Commonwealth intends to honour the recommendation of the Grants Commission in its entirety. I believe that more could be done, but we have no quarrel with the commission, as I have already pointed out. over the way in which it has examined the problems of non-claimant States. We believe that some factors which are taken into consideration by the commission should not be given the importance which they are given. I have already mentioned that. On this occasion, we pay tribute to the commission for its report, which is most comprehensive indeed. I hope that next year it will be possible to reduce the present financial differences between the claimant and the non-claimant States.
Mr. CLEAVER (Swan) [2.571.- Mr. Speaker, I very readily agree wilh the observations made by the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard) about the inadequacy of the time allowed to honorable members to prepare themselves for this debate. The twenty-seventh report of the Commonwealth Grants Commission, to which we are referring in relation to this bill, is by no means a small document. Nor is it one that is easily read. It is a complex document which deals with the intricate aspects of Commonwealth finance and economic activity. Since it was made available to honorable members only a matter of hours ago, it is difficult for one to come into this debate confident that one is fully prepared to do justice not only to the members of the Grants Commission who prepared the report, but also to the claimant States and the non-claimant States. I agree with the honorable member for Bass that this fully justifies a greater allocation of time to prepare for debates on measures such as this in the future so that those debates may be based all the more confidently on accuracy.
I gladly take this opportunity of praising the work of the Commonwealth Grants Commission from the time of its establishment in 1933. The personnel have changed down through the years, of course, and in praising the work of the commission I genuinely express appreciation to the present members of the commission, whose work is now under analysis. I think it is important to recognize, Mr. Speaker, that so sound have been the reports of the commission over the years that it has become the accepted practice for governments invariably to accept without variation the recommendations made. That does not mean that this Government, together with the Parliament, of which this House is a part, does not very closely scrutinize the actual reports and the recommendations.
I believe that the significance of these special grants to the claimant States becomes clearly apparent when one turns to the tax reimbursements to the various States in the financial year 1958-59, which are referred to in paragraph 31 of the Grants Commission’s report as follows: - in 1958-59 tax reimbursement payments and supplementary grants varied only from £19.66 per capita in Victoria to £22.72 per capita in Western Australia. The additional financial needs of South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania, arising from the underlying differences referred to in paragraph 17, were met principally through special grants.
I think that that throws up into very clear relief the degree to which the claimant States depend on these grants which we are considering in the debate on this bill.
As I have pointed out, Sir, this measure is based upon the twenty-seventh report of the Commonwealth Grants Commission. This report covers applications by the States for financial assistance from the Commonwealth under section 96 of the Australian Constitution. I was interested in the reference by the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt), in his second-reading speech, to the commission’s adherence to the principle of financial need which was first enunciated in 1936 - just three years after the commission was established. T want to make it clear that these special grants are intended to make possible activities in the various claimant States at a standard not appreciably below that in the other States. It is natural, however, that this assistance is subject to two important conditions which must be satisfied before it is granted. First, the claimant States must make efforts comparable with those of the non-claimant States in the raising of revenue. On this point, I am sure that I am in complete agreement with my friend and colleague, the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Bland), when I say that no claimant State can justify a request to the Commonwealth for a disability grant unless there is adequate evidence that it has put its own house in order. We certainly believe that there must be evidence of efficiency on the part of the State governments concerned. The second condition is that the control of expenditure must be satisfactory on a comparative basis.
It is interesting to turn one’s attention to this complex report and to try to follow through the reasoning of the Grants Commission, the methods that it uses in making comparisons between the budgets of the States and trying to bring them into balance, and the weighting that it applies at various points. It is particularly interesting to note how carefully the commission tries to be fair, to recognize efficiency in the government of a State and to raise that efficiency as a target or an objective for the claimant States to aim at.
I am sure that the claimant States raise no argument about these two pre-requisites which I have mentioned. Having said that, I can now turn my attention to my good friend on my immediate right, the honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. Mackinnon), who refers to Western Australia and Tasmania often and to South Australia sometimes as mendicant States which are always looking for additional assistance. Having made the point that I have just made about the two pre-requisites applicable to the granting of assistance, I am sure that the honorable member and all other honorable members in this House who come from nonclaimant States will be generous enough to concede that spec:-! grants for Tasmania and Western Australia are still fully warranted.
Chapter II. of the report now before us deals with inequalities between the States. It is most informative in pointing out the differences in resources, population and incomes. There is a reference to marked deficiencies in rivers in South Australia and Western Australia. As table 3, at page 20 of the report, shows, in New South Wales and Victoria the per capita value of secondary production and the proportion of the population employed in factories are roughly twice as high as in Queensland and Western Australia. Then-, too, costs of development are very significant. In order to develop their resources, all the States have, of course, incurred heavy loan expenditure. The twenty-seventh report of the Commonwealth Grants Com mission discloses that on a per capita basis accumulated loan expenditure is substantially higher in South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania than in the other three States and continues to be incurred at a higher rate. South Australia and Western Australia have incurred relatively heavy loan expenditure in providing assured water supplies to both metropolitan and rural areas. In Western Australia, populations have extended to agricultural areas under comprehensive water supply schemes.
So I come to the debate this afternoon as a member from Western Australia and I would like to analyse and comment upon the assistance under State grants which has been approved for Western Australia. The honorable member for Bass, who spoke in the debate just before I rose, as a member from Tasmania has naturally laid stress upon the claim of his State and the grant that is included in this legislation. As far as Western Australia is concerned, the legislation provides for the payment of £4,309,000. That grant comprises, as we recognize under the current procedure of the Commonwealth Grants Commission, in the first part a final adjustment for 1958-59t two years preceding this year, and that first part contribution is £609,000. The second part is an advance against the year 1960-61, and is a grant of £3,700,000. The results of budgeting in Western Australia as published for the year 1958-59 disclosed a deficit of £1.685,000. Therefore, this final adjustment now presented to us of only £609,000 leaves a residue of £1,076,000 to be funded by the Government of Western Australia. That is not easy to face. There is no great complaint from Western Australia, because it is felt that the resources have changed and the future is brighter. But when one knows the improvement in the overall, figures for the State, this final deficit for two years ago is most disappointing, particularly when the report shows that for the same year Tasmania finished with a balanced Budget, due recognition having been given to her effort as a State to meet financial needs from her own resources. We followed with great interest the comments of the honorable member for Bass on the action taken in his State in this connexion.
I raise the questions: Why the discrepancy in the Western Australian figures? What factors have caused the commission to penalize the State’s claim? The item termed “ social services “, which is well worthy of some detailed comment and to which I shall refer again later, attracted an unfavorable adjustment of £426,000 - almost half a million pounds. On the other hand, the item “ State taxation “ resulted in a favorable adjustment of £350,000, due to the Western Australian increases in that year showing a distinct advantage against the non-claimant States. My good friend from Corangamite, who so often tries to stir me up as a Western Australian advocate, should note that we too as a State are putting our house in order, and here in State taxation it is acknowledged by this favorable .adjustment that Western Australia some years ago went even further than the non-claimant States. The third and major factor was the measurement of the impact upon the State Budget by State undertakings where substantial losses had occurred. The commission set off against the State’s claim no less than £740,000 as an unfavorable adjustment. That is a substantial figure and accounts vastly for the discrepancy that I would try to analyse.
Let us look for a moment at the system which brought about the penalty on social services, in the activities of the States, this heading embraces education, health, hospitals, charities, law and order and public safety. The commission, rightly or wrongly, Mr. Deputy Speaker, strikes a simple average of the net per capita expenditure on these items in the non-claimant States, the theory being that if the non-claimant States reach a point where no special Commonwealth assistance is required, their expenditure in this field should be a fairly accurate guide as to whether the claimant States are approaching a point of efficiency. In this instance, for the year 1958-59, the average accepted by the commision was 425s. 7d. per capita. This average is applied to the mean population of the claimant State, an extra allowance for greater difficulties being calculated. The resultant theoretical cost of social services is then compared to the actual expenditure. If the actual expenditure is above this calculated figure, that becomes the unfavorable adjustment, and that is how the figure of £740,000 was reached as an unfavorable adjustment in respect of Western Australia.
It seems to me that two aspects of this procedure could, to some extent at least, be unfair. First, the Premier of Western Australia informed the commission, when a submission was made on behalf of Western Australia, that the State considered the 12 per cent, allowance for greater difficulties in the previous year, 1957-58, was insufficient and was an unrealistic figure to adopt for those disadvantages. I draw attention to the fact that for the year we are now considering, 1958-59, the same allowance of 12 per cent, has been retained. When I think of the dispersal of schools, hospitals and police stations over such a vast area as Western Australia comprises, with its long stretch of virtually deserted coastline and groups of relatively low population in various centres to return revenue for local services, I believe that the commission may be doing us an injustice. Perhaps this 12 per cent, allowance is unrealistic and a good case does exist for its review. Secondly, could it not be true that in this area of social services, Western Australia with commendable vision has raised its standards for hospitals, schools, health and police, whilst the non-claimant States are setting the average too low? I am sure my honorable friend from Corangamite will not mind if I lay some insistence upon this point. Perhaps there is some justification for my suggestion that Western Australia has set the sights too high. Why then should the commission draw the inference, as shown by this penalty, that Western Australia has over-spent or has been too liberal in making this provision? I am concerned that the commission should encourage enlightened administration rather than weight special grant assistance against the possible deficiencies of other governments. I still bear in mind the suggestion of the honorable member for Warringah that at all points we must look for efficient government, efficient administration and efficient departmental direction.
When I turn to the other factor which brings about this unfavorable situation in connexion with the grant to Western Australia, and refer to the loss on State undertakings, let me observe that some of these State undertakings usually bolster the deficits of State governments. The present
Government of Western Australia - and I say this without any apology at all - received a legacy from the previous Labour Administration of that State. Treasury affairs were found to be in a shocking condition, and the existing State trading concerns did not present a bright picture as far as profits and successful operations were concerned.
Immediate corrective action is difficult in these circumstances, and I want to make the point that even the full life of a parliament is at times an insufficient period in which to undo all the errors of a previous administration. The new Liberal Government of Western Australia is earning unstinted praise from the general community for what it has achieved. There is a new optimism throughout the whole State. Immigration is again flowing; the employment position has visibly improved and the building industry is more than active, with a programme which is virtually assured for the next five years.
It is interesting to note that this State Administration, which has brought such a dynamic lift to State affairs, had something to say about its attitude when it made its submission to the Commonwealth Grants Commission. It is referred to in paragraph 66 of the commission’s report, which reads -
At the Perth hearings the W.A. submission expressed disappointment that the commission had made an unfavourable adjustment for 1957-58 in respect of business undertakings. It pointed out that the levels of charges imposed for State services had a direct bearing on the level of economic activity in the State, particularly in regard to primary industry. It was submitted that, while the State Government was concerned about the impact of the finances of State business undertakings on Consolidated Revenue Fund, there were definite limits to the extent to which corrective action could be taken without reacting to the detriment of the level of economic activity in the State.
Before arriving at its recommendations, the Commonwealth Grants Commission endeavours to correct the State budget figures because of the varied attitudes, State by State, on certain items of expenditure as determined by government policy. I am sure that it is felt in some quarters that several of the items taken into account by the commission before arriving at the correct State budgets are bewildering, and I suggest that the claimant States might give attention to these items when making future submissions. However, on this occasion, the commission decided to reduce the average deficit of the non-claimant States from 12s. per capita to 9s. per capita, a slight reduction on the average used last year. This was brought about largely because of an amount taken in from suspense account in respect of Queensland. This reduction from 12s. to 9s. per capita represented an amount of £321,000 as the average deficit for Western Australia, and the difference between this amount and the corrected budget result provided for the commission the final grant of £609,000 as set out in the bill.
And what of the estimates for this year? The other part of the grant to Western Australia is related to that State’s request for £4,482,000 to balance its budget for the current financial year, but the commission is providing an advance of only £3,750,000. Paragraph 151 of the commis.sion’s report states that the second part of this year’s grant will be subject to adjustment when the year 1960-61 is under review. Therefore, I think it is fair to say that unless the basis of some of the measuring devices is altered it appears that West» ern Australia will be penalized along lines similar to what I have endeavoured to describe.
Let me return now to the avowed principle of the Commonwealth Grants Commission. In its third report, that for the year 1936, the commission finally rejected the principle of compensation for disabilities arising from federation, and chose instead the principle of financial need, which it expressed in the following terms: -
Special grants are justified when a State, through financial stress, from any cause, is unable efficiently to discharge its functions as a member of the Federation and should be determined by the amount of help found necessary to make it possible for that State by reasonable effort to function at a standard not appreciably below that of other States.
The commission’s report is a very complex document, and I am one of the first to acknowledge that only those closely associated with the submissions to the commission, the analysis of the evidence and the compilation of the report are fully qualified to approve of its merits or to criticize its errors. But there is a strong emphasis in the report on the standards which are adopted by the commission, and f am impressed with the need for honorable members in this Parliament to accept their full responsibility for seeing to it that justice is done. Again, let the commission speak for itself. Paragraph 4.8 of its report deals with the determination of standards and says that this was a matter of broad judgment based on the political and economic realities of the situation. It states that no mechanical formula can give a satisfactory normal standard, and that the standard must be determined from a broad survey of the operations of government in the non-claimant States. The commission also points out that the standards it proposes come in a very special way under the scrutiny of the Government and the Parliament of Australia, and that this Parliament can make the standards of effort as severe as it pleases. This, at least, reminds us that we in this chamber have the right to disagree with the standards set, and I therefore conclude by expressing the hope that, as honorable members, we shall not hesitate to bring a critical judgment to bear upon a report such as this, which provides the all-essential stimulus to claimant States which feel that, through adverse circumstances, their local conditions are appreciably below those of the other States of the Commonwealth.
.- It is regrettable that there should have to be claimant States, and I look forward to the time when the Commonwealth Grants Commission will no longer be required to function. I shall welcome that day provided the two present claimant States are in such a financial position as will enable them to carry on independently, as South Australia has attempted to do during the past twelve months. The fact that South Australia, the third claimant State until his year, was able to withdraw, indicates the growth of financial strength and development there. I should say that Tasmania will be the last of the claimant States because it is obvious that a State of the size of Tasmania, with its present small population, must need financial help, and will continue to need that help until its population reaches such a level, and its industries expand to such an extent, that it : will be able to bear the burden unaided.
– Tasmania has paid -a higher price for federation .than has any other State.
– The honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Allan Fraser) suggests that Tasmania has paid a higher price for federation than has any other State, and, looking through the whole field, I agree with him. As a small State we are grateful for the Commonwealth Grants Commission and its help during the years. We are grateful also to the Commonwealth Government for allocating this .grant on the recommendations of the commission. I will not say that we do not want a million or two more, but the Grants Commission has gone thoroughly into this matter and its recommendations appear at page 70 in its report. There we see that £8,618,000 is to be made available to Western Australia and Tasmania together. In this world we have to be thankful for small mercies. Tasmania has been used to saying “ thank you “ for so long that we now say “ thank you “ again to the commission and to the Government for this grant.
The grant is not as high as Tasmania requested before the commission. I think the State asked for £3,835,000 in order to balance its Budget, .but the commission saw fit to fix the grant at £3,400,000 - in the second part of the grant. The Treasury has always played an important part in the affairs of the Grants Commission, but down the years it has been demonstrated that the commission has a mind of its own. Many times Treasury submissions and suggestions have been respectfully listened to, graciously examined and then just as graciously rejected. I admire the independence of spirit of the Grants Commission. It is one of the few government agencies which can stand up to a mighty force like the Treasury and say, “We think this way. This is the way we are going to report and recommend.” There is an instance of that in this report, and I will refer to it directly.
The economy of Australia is gradually forging ahead, when we can reduce the number of claimant States from three to two. As I said earlier, we will no doubt reach a stage when there will be no claimant States at ail.
– South Australia has merely transferred from being assisted by direct grants to being assisted by Commonwealth tariffs.
– That may be true. I heard, from one of my South Australian colleagues a moment ago, that the people of South Australia are paying heavily and dearly for its transference from the status of a claimant to that of a non-claimant State.
– The tariff has created a motor industry in South Australia, which made a profit last year of £15,000,000 and which employs 12,000 people. With other tariff-protected industries this makes the position of South Australia buoyant.
– That is true. They are lucky to have a mighty industry like that. I want now to refer to the dates of the Grants Commission’s hearings. It has always seemed strange to me that they should be started so soon after the Budget period of the States. The commission starts meeting somewhere about November and has what it calls its principal meetings during the summer months and in the April period. It calls a special meeting in August, and that is its last meeting for the year. We find time and time again in the commission’s reports, as is indicated at page 35 of its report, that it has not sufficient evidence before it at that stage to make an estimate of what should be granted to the claimant States for the following financial year. At page 35 of the Grants Commission’s report we read -
So far as the second parts of the grants for 1960-61 were concerned it was difficult for the State representatives to specify precise amounts because at the time of the State hearings insufficient was known of budgetary positions.
The dates of the hearings in Tasmania were 30th November, 1st December and 2nd December, 1959, about eight months before the Budget would be introduced in the following financial year. I cannot see why the hearings in each of the two claimant States should not be in the JuneJulyAugust period. Why should the commission have to have a special meeting in August to get the final details - and they are not always exact - from the State Treasury Departments. If the commission met in June, July and August, it would be able to dovetail its reports and findings into a shorter period and the State representatives would have their budgetary requirements more up to date and advanced. This would enable the commission to give an almost exact estimate, at that date, as to what would be needed to adjust the Budget for that financial year.
– The climate of Tasmania is particularly delightful in October and November.
– The honorable member for Eden-Monaro suggests that our climate at that time of the year is pretty good, and that has been so this year. The climate is also most delightful in the November and December period, but I do not think that should be the deciding factor as to when the Grants Commission should visit the State. For both convenience and accuracy there is no doubt that the JuneJulyAugust period should be the time of the commission’s hearings in Tasmania. One can find in the commission’s report several passages where it almost apologizes because it could not give an accurate assessment owing to the fact that the State could not give accurate figures for its Budget period. I mention that in passing.
I desire to comment on some of the features of this report as it applies to Tasmania. At page 92, we find reference to country water supplies and irrigation. Here there is a tie-up between the State Government and the municipalities, which is general throughout the Commonwealth. The assistance given by the Tasmanian Government to municipal councils or Shires for water supplies in non-metropolitan areas is considerable, and the cost of supplying water to growing towns in that State has a constant upward trend. The State Government has been giving more and more assistance to the municipalities to do that work. A few years ago it decided to introduce a subsidy system for the municipalities. In its first year that subsidy system cost £17,000 at a certain rate. I think the rate was £6 10s. for each person to have the water laid on to his home. The Minister for Lands and Works in Tasmania recently told me that for this financial year the cost of that subsidy system will be £210,000. In a few years that cost has risen from £17,000 to £210,000, and the cut-out rate has had to be lifted from £6 10s. to £12, with the result that people are now paying £12 for that service - and all because of increased costs. Another factor is that the Grants Commission has been very concerned at the Tasmanian Government’s subsidy system.
Last year the Government promised to reduce the subsidy, and did so; but the Minister told me that in spite of this it is conceivable that by 1963 the subsidy system will be costing the State Government £500,000 per year. I do not know what the commission will say when it is asked to allocate such a large amount, but the people must have water, and water must come before hydro-electric power. The State Government is justified in trying to relieve the financial burden which has been placed on householders in relation to the provision of water supplies. I hope that the commission will not be unduly hard on Tasmania when the question of providing finance to assist the municipalities to connect the water supply to houses is raised. No town will develop without a water supply. Tasmania has a plentiful supply of beautiful water, so it is only natural that the State Government should be doing its best to supply water to the people of our island by means of the hydro-electric system. The tie-up with the councils in this matter is important.
The cost of providing sewerage and water reticulation are the two greatest charges that the councils have to meet, and they are appealing to the State Government to assist them. On this aspect I want to mention the raising of loans by the councils. They can live only by borrowing. Unfortunately, they have to borrow huge sums of money every year to provide the basic services for the people because the municipalities are the bodies which meet the basic needs of the community. As those needs become greater the councils are faced with the problem of obtaining financial assistance. The sources from which they may obtain funds are very limited. At the beginning of their financial year the councils have to go cap in hand to the banks and ask for loans. Usually they are granted only short-term loans which must be repaid within ten, fifteen or twenty years, and which carry an interest rate of 5 per cent, or 6 per cent. All honorable members know that the short-term loan is a costly loan. Is it not degrading that wardens, as they are called in Tasmania - they are known as shire presidents on the mainland - should have to go on what I call a bank crawl to obtain money to enable them to carry on their municipal services?
Each year the State Government nominates the amount which municipalities may borrow, and there the State Government’s responsibility ends. It merely fixes the maximum amount that the municipalities may borrow. They then have to approach various organizations in an attempt to raise the money. I have spoken to many wardens in Tasmania and I am convinced that it must be a nauseating experience to have to approach bank managers and ask for assistance, knowing that many other people have already been to the same managers.
The Commonwealth Government should take some action in this matter. I should like to see a central lending agency established to finance municipal works in Australia. Even if it were a division of the Commonwealth Bank, or some such central authority, it would serve the purpose. The municipalities would then know that they could obtain from that authority the amount which the respective State governments had said that they could borrow. They would be able to approach the responsible officer in a dignified manner, and they would know that they would be able to obtain a long-term loan for, say, 50 years - that is the kind of loan that municipalities need - at about 4 per cent, interest, which is a reasonable and rational rate.
If the Commonwealth Government tackled this problem it would do an enormous service to thousands of ordinary Australian people who are the grass roots of the nation and who have to pay increased rates because councils have to borrow money at such a high rate of interest. Even if the central borrowing authority which I have suggested could lend money at interest 1 per cent, lower than the municipalities can now borrow it, the householders in Australia who now are benefiting from water and sewerage services would be assisted tremendously. I appeal to the Government to consider the suggestion that I have advanced. Perhaps my remarks have not been strictly relevant to the bill which is before us and I thank you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, for your tolerance in allowing me to deviate slightly.
– He would not know what you were talking about.
– Do not make that mistake. The honorable member for Scullin (Mr. Peters) is a very able man and a very able Deputy Speaker. The next point to which I should like to refer concerns Tasmania’s greatest undertaking - the HydroElectric Commission. This body spends about £11,000,000 a year which is more than one-half of the total State budget. About a dozen large hydro-electric stations are now operating in Tasmania. The latest one will be at Poatina - meaning “ cavern “ - which is about 34 miles from Launceston on ‘the Western Tiers* the mountain range which is the backbone of the island. The commission is burrowing into the side of the mountain and, over a period of about eight years, it will excavate a cavern 400 feet long. 300 feet wide and 100 feet deep, about 500 feet below the surface. When completed, this will be the site of the biggest underground hydroelectric station in the Southern Hemisphere, exceeding in size any station in the Snowy Mountains scheme, including the TI and T2 stations which already are in operation. This enormous project will cost about £28,000,000 over the eight years. Honorable members will see that we are not wasting the money that the Commonwealth Government allocates to us, because it is being used in hydro-electric projects.
Tasmania has more hydro-electric stations than any island of comparable size in the world. I am very proud to say that every one of these stations is in my electorate. I have seen them grow since 1946, and now their output includes 35,000 kilowatts for the Bell Bay aluminium industry which also is in my electorate.
To complete the great Poatina scheme a beautiful village, which eventually will comprise 80 permanent brick homes housing about 2,500 people - engineers and others - is being built just below the foothills of the Western Tiers. Already the area has become a tourist mecca. Probably 100 or 200 motor cars travel into the locality every Sunday. As well as constructing hydro-electric stations, the commission has built a wonderful bitumen road up the side of this mountain. The road twists and turns in a climb of about 3,000 feet, and it includes two large S bends. It is an engineering marvel. At the top of the mountain the road meets the Great Lake - a huge area of water in the central highlands of Tasmania - which will feed the hydro-electric station away down in the side of the mountain. A coffer dam has been built to hold the water back and a shaft several hundred feet deep is being dug at the side of the lake. From the bottom of that shaft another underground tunnel will be dug through which water will flow several hundred feet down the side of the mountain in huge steel pipes into the underground station. That is a general idea of the scheme.
The road to which I have referred has linked the plains to the top of the mountain and the Great Lake. It is being extended around the eastern side of the lake to the southern end, and when completed it will obviate the necessity to pass through Deloraine when travelling from Launceston to Queenstown, thus shortening the distance by about 40 miles. It will be a magnificent tourist highway. The Hydro-electric Commission of Tasmania has always given the tourist every facility. People may go through all its completed hydro-electric stations. Not all of them are served by bitumen roads, but they are served by good solid roads at least.
In connexion with this great programme there has been a wise expenditure of money. The Commonwealth Grants Commission in its report says, at page 95 -
In Tasmania, for many years no part of the profit earned by the Hydro-Electric Commission has been paid to Consolidated Revenue, and substantial contributions have been paid from Consolidated Revenue towards the cost of electricity extensions in rural areas.
Only about 3 per cent, of the area of Tasmania is not served by hydro-electric power, and the districts involved are isolated places. I and other honorable members are making efforts to have them also connected with hydro-electricity supplies. There is a Tasmanian act of Parliament which provides that if it costs more than £350 per consumer to connect a place to hydroelectric supplies the connexion will not be made. That act could well be amended to lift the ceiling to £450 or £500 per consumer, because the cost of linking isolated areas to power sources will always be high as a result of the great distances over which the power lines have to be carried. However, it is a wonderful thing that 97 per cent, of the island is now linked with power sources.
The report of the Commonwealth Grants Commission also states -
The Hydro-Electric Commission of Tasmania had a net loss of £56,000, although it received a subsidy of £20.000 from Consolidated Revenue for rural extensions.
That is not an exorbitant loss, considering the enormous outlay involved and the enormous amount of work done.
I turn now to road finance, which is one of the problems affecting the whole nation. The sooner we get a national roads plan for Australia, financed by the Commonwealth and operated by State engineers and planners, with the States providing the manpower, the sooner we will solve this terrific roads problem. The report of the Commonwealth Grants Commission shows What a tremendous part roads play in relation to finance. In fact, about six pages of the report are devoted to roads in Tasmania alone. The report has this to say -
Prior to 1954, the Commission included an adjustment for relative severity of motor taxation in the over-all adjustment for the relative severity of all State taxes. . . It was strongly urged by the claimant States thai motor taxation should not be included in general State taxation because it was preeminently a tax which could be regarded as a special-purpose tax. It was contended that, even if the rates of motor taxation were low, the Commission should be concerned only with the question whether those low rates resulted in any call on the general tax revenues of the State for road finance purposes. This view was opposed by the Commonwealth’ Treasury.
In its 21st Report (1954) the Commission accepted the arguments of the States and discontinued making specific adjustments for the relative severity of motor taxation.
Then came the Commonwealth Aid Roads Act 1959, which provided for matching road grants by the Commonwealth on a £1 for £1 basis. The commission looked at that problem and saw how it affected the grant to Tasmania and Western Australia. Referring to last year’s report the commission says -
In the 26th Report the Commission discussed whether a budget “ correction “ should be made because of a change in practice in Tasmania in the treatment of public-vehicle fees. Previously Tasmania had applied these fees in such a way as to reduce the impact on the State budget of the loss of the Transport Commission. Under the new arrangement most of the revenue from these fees was paid to the State Highways Fund and applied to road expenditure.
Tasmania is the only State, I understand, which is doing this sort of thing. The report continues -
Consequently, if a budget “ correction “ had been made for any part of these public-vehicle fees, it might have operated in such a way as to make it more difficult for Tasmania to qualify for a “ matching “ road grant. For this reason the Commission decided, for the time being, not to make a budget “ correction “ in respect of any part of the amount of public-vehicle fees transferred to the State Highways Fund.
That was a very magnanimous decision by the commission in Tasmania’s case. The report says that at the Canberra hearings of the commission the Tasmanian submission recalled the concern expressed by the commission on previous occasions about the level of loan expenditure on roads in Tasmania, particularly as there was no recovery to Consolidated Revenue of the debt charges in respect of such expenditure. It was also stated that to qualify for the matching grant it was incumbent on Tasmania to increase the level of roads expenditure at the rate of £100,000 a year, beginning in 1959-60, for the whole of the five-year period of the legislation.
The Treasury was very upset about this. lt felt that the matching contributions were designed to encourage the States to allocate more money from their loan resources. The decision as to the amount and nature of the funds which might be allocated by the States is one for the States themselves to make. So the Treasury submission was rather against the Tasmanian submission. But, interestingly enough, Tasmania has suggested that, even if funds were allocated for road purposes in order to attract a matching grant in a way which normally would have resulted in an adverse correction or adjustment, no such action should be taken by the commission because it would defeat Tasmania’s attempt to obtain the matching grant. The Treasury regarded this suggestion as unacceptable. Later in the report it is stated -
The Treasury pointed out that it had always argued that no State taxes should be regarded as being hypothecated for particular purposes.
That is to say, the Treasury was quite against the paying of motor tax revenue into the State Highways Fund specifically for roads. However, the upshot was that the commission disagreed with the Treasury and reached this finding - it is now clear that the public-vehicle fees in Tasmania will form part of the sources of the funds which will be taken into account for determing the “ matching “ road grants payable to that State. The Commission has concluded that, having regard to the circumstances applying to the imposition of these fees in Tasmania and to the differences- among the States in the scale of fees and the treatment of the revenue, there- is not sufficient ground to justify a budget “ correction “.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- I disagree with the principle upon which the Commonwealth Grants Commission rests, and I believe that this Parliament should disagree with the principle upon which the Commonwealth Grants Commission rests, because the principle is demonstrably false. I also think that the honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie) is mistaken in being grateful to the commission on behalf of Tasmania. If we examine why it is that South Australia has graduated from being a claimant State to being a non-claimant State we see that it is merely a transference of the form of Commonwealth assistance that is involved. The industrialization of South Australia transformed South Australia from a State which was not a beneficiary under the tariff policy of the Commonwealth into one which is a beneficiary under the tariff policy of the Commonwealth, and the mere enunciation of that fact destroys the ground on which the commission has always said that the grants rest. It said in 1936, which was a depression year, that the grants did not rest on the penalty imposed on any State by federation, but on a State’s need for money - a very silly statement, because the States’ need for money could arise from the penalty imposed on them by federation, and therefore the statement of alleged principles by the commission means exactly nothing. I do not get up here to make this statement as a State-righter. There is nothing malignant in Commonwealth action against Western Australia as a State. But ever since the beginning of federation, there has been some malignance in Commonwealth action regarding primary industries. It merely happens to be a coincidence that Western Australia and Tasmania remain to-day agriculturally-based States whereas South Australia has just graduated from that position.
The year 1936 was three years after two significant events in Australian history. One was the attempt by Western Australia to secede, and the other was the attempt of the rural areas of New South Wales to form new States. The Western Australian presumption underlying secession was false. It believed that the conflict of interests in Australia was vertical as between States,, whereas, in fact, the conflict of interests in Australia was horizontal as between industries. The fanners of New South Wales were as much penalized by the tariff policy of the Commonwealth Government as were the farmers of Western Australia. But it happened - and this was in the days before uniform taxation - that the income of the Government of Western Australia rested upon agricultural industries whereas the income of the State of New South Wales rested on both agricultural and secondary industries. Therefore, the depressed agricultural interests in that State found themselves casting off what they regarded as a Sydney and Newcastle plot Their aim was to get rid of Sydney and Newcastle in the formation of new States. But Western Australia regarded what was, in essence, the tariff policy of the Commonwealth as an eastern States’ plot, and it sought to secede.
The situation we have to face is this: Because of Commonwealth tariff policy, very large industries have been concentrated in certain areas. I give as the latest example of it - because I was supporting a government which started this policy - the motor car industry in South Australia. Last year, the motor car industry in South Australia made a profit of £15,000,000. and it employs 12,000 men; but it would die over-night if it did not receive Commonwealth tariff protection. So Commonwealth tariff action which is now beginning to establish industries in South Australia, established in prior times industries in Melbourne and Sydney. Thereafter, the snowball process operated. Honorable members who support the Australian Country Party stand up in this place week in and week out and speak about decentralization. That is a wonderful principle, but it does not come into effect. Will the members of the Country Party who advocate decentralization explain how they are going to get a private investor to put up factories in the country if his market is in Sydney or Melbourne? How are you going to stop this attraction of new industries to centres where industries and population already exist? So. the capital cities get larger and larger.
Western Australia has no industries which benefit from the tariff. I am not blaming the Commonwealth for that. It never was a Commonwealth plot; that was a fallacy of the secession explanation. But it is a hard fact that the industries of Western Australia, which receive no benefit from the Commonwealth tariff, therefore suffer the penalty of having to provide the higher prices for the goods that are protected by that tariff. If Western Australia had never entered federation, it would not now be paying the fancy prices for Holden vehicles which sustained a profit of £15,000,000 last year for that organization. Sir James Mitchell was always able to demonstrate the enormously increased cost he faced in building the Western Australian railways which he could have got more cheaply by purchasing rails and rolling stock from London than he got in all the days of development work in Western Australia from the tariff-protected industries of the eastern States.
I am not for one moment attacking that tariff; but I think we have to start off on the basis of the fact that federation penalized the primary industries. The whole tariff policy since federation has penalized those States which happened to be agricultural States. Therefore, the silly statement of the Commonwealth Grants Commission that it does not make these grants to the States on account of any alleged losses from federation but upon their need for money - which is another way of saying the same thing - is something this Parliament should not accept as a principle, because it is not a principle but a fallacy. I am shocked at the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Cleaver) who rushed in piously to endorse the Father Christmas principle that the special grants are designed to enable the claimant States to function at a standard not appreciably below that of the other States providing they make comparable efforts to control expenditure. In other words: If you are good, Father Christmas will give you some money, but will look at your efforts in controlling expenditure.
Then the honorable member said that the Liberal Government in Western Australia to-day was very good. It found the Treasury in a shocking condition and, therefore, because it was very, very good it has qualified for a special grant. The honorable member failed to explain why the previous government which, he said, left the Treasury in a shocking condition, also qualified for special grants. Therefore, either the Grants Commission departed from its Father Christmas principle of rewarding those who were good, or his explanation of the finances of the previous Labour policy is fallacious.
The State of Western Australia is simply an historical accident so far as its boundaries are concerned. I doubt whether any rational person, in determining the development of the Commonwealth by sovereign State governments, would have said it was a rational principle of division to make Western Australia about ten times as big as Victoria. But through an historical accident, Western Australia has 974,000 square miles. South Australia was lucky enough to unload its development problem, which we now call the Northern Territory, on to the Commonwealth. Western Australia has not been lucky enough to unload the whole of the northern part of that State on to the Commonwealth. It is an unfortunate fact that the whole of the Kimberley region, which would much more justify Commonwealth expenditure, is not a constitutional responsibility of the Commonwealth. It is a much more fertile region than the Northern Territory, and it has a greater potential. But the north of Western Australia, with tremendous possibilities of water supplies and with the greatest possibilities in the whole of Australia of hydro-electric power based on the rise and fall of the tide, is not a Commonwealth responsibility for development. If, by some historical accident, the southern border of the Northern Territory had been extended across the Commonwealth to hit the coastline at the Indian Ocean, and if we called the whole of that northern region the Northern Territory, the Commonwealth Government would now be responsible for the development of the Kimberleys, instead of lecturing the
Western Australian Government, which has no finance, on how that area should be developed.
But because the Northern Territory is the responsibility of the Commonwealth, it is being developed by Commonwealth expenditure although it has less developmental potential, and the Kimberleys, with the much greater potential, have less expenditure directed to development. If that area is to be left in the hands of the Western Australian Government there is no reason, from the point of view of the development of the territory of the Commonwealth, why the Commonwealth Government should not grant to Western Australia sums equal to what the Commonwealth Government itself spends on the Northern Territory. If you say that the development of the north of Australia will depend upon the extent of constitutional responsibility and not upon economic potential, you have a completely false principle upon which the north is being developed to-day. I do not think that the Western Australian Government would consent to the cession of that territory, but looking at the matter from the point of view of development, I would be perfectly happy if the southern border of the Northern Territory were extended to the Indian Ocean, because I think that Commonwealth expenditure, following constitutional responsibility, would be directed better than it is at the present time with its special concentration on the. Northern Territory which is the Commonwealth’s own special responsibility. For instance, why in the name of heaven, should the 16.000 aborigines of the Northern Territory rate much higher expenditure than the 25,000 aborigines of Western Australia - especially those of the north of Western Australia? There is no rational reason for that discrimination. It is a pure historic accident of constitutional responsibility. The pious statements of the Grants Commission reveal the depression mentality of 1936. Through its documents ooze the fallacious financial theories of that period, with all its unnecessary suffering. The commission should get down to first principles. It should look at the constitutional responsibility of certain States for developing certain areas instead of paying undue regard to certain historic accidents. The north is a territory beyond the capacity of Western Aus tralia to develop. Yet it should be developed. The Ord and the Fitzroy rivers have a greater water output than the Nile. The damming of the Ord could give us 12,000,000 acre feet of water which would be sufficient to irrigate as much land as is already irrigated in Australia.
The United Nations commission, in its report on hydro-electric power generated by the rise and fall of tides, has pointed out that the 38 feet rise and fall of the tide on the north-west coast of Western Australia provides the second greatest hydro-electric power potential in the world. It also points out that France, with a lower rise and fall of tide than 38 feet has, in two places, enormous hydro-electric generators. There is a greater potential of power in the tides which daily sweep through narrow estuaries on the north-west coast of Western Australia than there is in the Snowy Mountains scheme. If there is to be a development of that power, there is a case for a special grant for Western Australia. While the constitutional responsibility rests upon the State Government, basically, the Commonwealth is not interested.
The whole of the north of Western Australia also has enormous potential for tropical agriculture. That, again, is beyond the resources of the State to develop. I believe that there is much greater potentiality for tropical agriculture in 12,000,000 acre feet of irrigation water in the north of Western Australia than there is in the Northern Territory. But the Commonwealth is not responsible. It is not responsible and is not particularly interested in the State’s developmental task there. It is interested in irrigation closer to home. It is interested in irrigation in the Northern Territory. We find in Western Australia all sorts of disabilities, some of them occasioned by the tariff, which qualify the State to accept this grant without any expression of gratitude at all, but regarding it as a part of the normal adjustment of- the finances of an area which is penalized by the basic tariff policy of the Commonwealth. I am not complaining of that policy but I feel that Western Australia only began to get a fair share of the proceeds of federation when uniform taxation taxed incomes in those areas in which Commonwealth policy had concentrated industries, and the proceeds were spread, by means of grants, equally over the Commonwealth.
Before uniform taxation existed and when State taxation was dominant, Victoria and New South Wales could tax the incomes which the Commonwealth tariff policy had created and spend the proceeds on themselves. All through that period, which continued until 1940 - the first 40 years of federation - the agricultural States were heavily penalized. Western Australia has little secondary industry. It has minerals which are vital to secondary industry hut it has no high-grade coal. So the highgrade iron ore - almost the highest in the world - from Yampi Sound, is taken to the east for processing and Western Australia remains a primary producer. It sends the raw material to the east. It does not process it. Incomes from the processing are not generated in the State and have no effect on the State’s prosperity.
Western Australia’s expenses for social services are greater than those of other States. Quite clearly, one of the consequences of centralization in enormous cities like Sydney and Melbourne is that education becomes cheaper. It is not necessary to provide a teacher on a full salary for small schools, perhaps of ten children, which might be 20 miles apart. Because of the concentration of students in metropolitan areas the cost of education is much less. The length of roads required in Western Australia is greater than it is in other States. The absence of a population to provide rail passengers means that there is heavier expenditure on railways. The need to pull harvested crops greater distances makes industries carry a heavier burden and so depresses State finances. The short haul of the South Australian wheat crop compared with the longer haul of the Western Australian crop illustrates what I mean. Western Australia, a comparatively arid state, has been, forced into enormous expense to provide water supplies.
Let me stress what I have said to the House before, and it is not a State-righter’s plea. I am merely speaking in terms of industry when I say that Western Australia, as an agricultural area, bears exactly the same relationship to the industrialized eastern seaboard of Australia as does New Zealand. The industrialized eastern seaboard of Australia has a seven to one trade ratio in its favour with New Zealand. It provides New Zealand with manufactured goods; it does not want New Zealand’s agricultural products in return. Exactly the same thing is true of Western Australia. I have not the most recent figures but the most recent that I have seen were as follows: - Western Australia bought £93,000,000 worth of goods, mostly manufactured, from the eastern States and it sent back £1 9,000,000 worth of goods. How did it finance the balance? It financed the balance in the same way as New Zealand does - by triangular trade through London. In other words, the credits that Western Australia’s agricultural exports to the United Kingdom build up in London, financed the disparity of trade.
– You would have a balance of payments problem, wouldn’t you?
– We would if Western Australia were an independent dominion. It would either not be buying the higherpriced goods from the eastern seaboard, but would be buying them in London where it sold its agricultural products, or if it were trying to do what it is doing within the federation, it would have a chronic balance of trade problem, as New Zealand has. Those are the only points that I wish to make. I have tried to make them in order to establish the fallacy of the 1936 principle which I could almost say that the Grants Commission has arrogated to itself and which the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) has quite astonishingly endorsed at this period of time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
.- I would like to make a few remarks about the roads problem in Tasmania. I remind the committee, first, that in my State all the proceeds from motor registration charges are spent on roads. The ferry service now being provided by the “ Princess of Tasmania “ has proved very popular with tourists and others, and many large motor transport vehicles are now coming to Tasmania from the mainland. Tourists are also bringing large numbers of motor cars to Tasmania. All these extra vehicles mean increased wear and tear on our roads, and I ask the Grants Commission to consider that matter when formulating next year’s States grants.
– I raise a point of order, Mr. Temporary Chairman. Surely in the committee stage the honorable member is not allowed to continue his second-reading speech. He must confine himself to the clause of the bill under discussion.
– Order! The committee is discus sing the bill as a whole. The honorable member for Wilmot must deal with matters covered by the bill.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
– I move - [Customs Tariff Amendment (No. 23).]
[Customs Tariff (New Zealand Preference) Amendment (No. 6).]
The tariff proposals I have just moved arise from the Government’s acceptance of a recommendation by the Tariff Board in relation to furnishing fabrics. The board’s recommendation can be divided into three main parts. The first recommendation was that only fabrics which are principally used for furnishings and are made of all cotton, all linen, or mixtures of these and other fibres, not containing wool or 20 per cent, or more of man-made fibres, should be the subject of a specific tariff item. The rate recommended by the Tariff Board is 50 per cent, most-favoured-nation, and the British preferential tariff is therefore fixed at 37i per cent, ad valorem.
The second recommendation was that the rate of duty for woollen moquettes should be 6d. per square yard plus 17i per cent, ad valorem British preferential tariff, the intermediate tariff rate then being determined at 6d. per square yard plus 30 per cent, ad valorem. The board recommended, thirdly, that furnishing fabrics containing wool or 20 per cent, or more of man-made fibres, and other furnishing fabrics not covered by the two other parts, should be dealt with under the tariff provisions applicable to nonfurnishing fabrics of similar composition.
The overall effects of the board’s recommendations may be summarized as follows. There will be a slight increase in duty on woollen moquettes and a reduction in the duty on actual imports of other moquettes. In the case of man-made fibre furnishing fabrics, there will be increased duties on low cost heavier ‘fabrics and no change or a slight reduction on the balance. On cotton and linen furnishing fabrics, there will be an increase of 5 per cent, in the British preferential rates due to international commitments. Overall, a considerable simplification of administration will follow from these changes.
Complementary to these proposals, an amendment is proposed by Customs Tariff (New Zealand Preference) Proposals No. 6 which relates to moquettes with uncut woollen pile of the type used for upholstery. The special rate of 22i per cent, ad valorem which has applied to these moquettes when of New Zealand origin is now being removed, and the goods will become entitled to British preferential tariff treatment.
I commend the proposals to honorable members.
– I lay on the table of the
House the report of the Tariff Board on the following subject: -
Ordered to be printed.
Debate resumed from 13 th October (vide page 1997), on motion by Mr. Hulme -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- The Opposition does not oppose this bill, but it will take the opportunity to express certain criticisms of the general housing programme of this Government. The Minister for Supply (Mr. Hulme), after introducing the bill, made what was probably one of the shortest second-reading speeches on record. It has been the custom over the past two or three years for Ministers to make very short speeches when initiating the secondreading debate on the various Loan (Housing) Bills. One might expect the Government to take the opportunity provided at the second-reading stage to give honorable members on this side of the House some indication of the general housing programme, to tell us to what extent the backlag of homes is being overtaken and something of its plans for the future. However, the Minister merely dealt with the proposed allocation under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement which was negotiated in 1956. The amount to be made available this year is £37,200,000. Of that amount 30 per cent, is to be made available to building societies and other approved lending institutions. I shall not deal with that aspect of the matter at this stage, but I hope during the course of my remarks to have something to say concerning the proportion of the total allocation that is to be made available to building societies.
Since 30 per cent, of the total allocation will be made available to building societies. 70 per cent, will be made available to the various State housing instrumentalities. But in actual fact only 65 per cent, will be available to the States for State housing programmes, because 5 per cent, out of the 70 per cent, allocated to the States must be made available for the construction of homes for serving members of the defence forces.
The amount that is to be allocated to the States under the terms of this bill is not all that is required by the States. In every State the number of applications for assistance through the State instrumentality is increasing. I think that every member of this Parliament who is fully conscious of his duties as an elected representative of the people will be aware of the extent to which we are falling behind in the programme to meet the demand for homes in this country. I believe also that every member of this House who represents a city electorate is aware of the extent to which evictions are taking place in the cities. Obviously, circumstances in respect of housing have continued to deteriorate.
I do not intend, of course, to labour the point that this Government was elected to office on a pledge to house the people of this country. It had no need to lay down the principle that people should be housed. I believe that it has been a generally accepted principle of all governments that their first responsibility should be to house the homeless people in this country. Our quarrel with the Government is that it has not accepted that principle or, if it has accepted the principle, it has not carried it into effect.
Prior to the Second World War, there was a considerable shortage of homes in this country - after 25 years of almost uninterrupted administration by coalitions of the Liberal Party of Australia, known by one name or . another, and the Australian Country Party. Now, after almost eleven years of administration by a government of the same kind, very little impact has been made on the housing shortage. During the 1930’s, there was an abundance of materials and man-power, but the governments of those days refused to use the manpower and materials that were available. In those days the average family man who could not provide the margin of security required by lending institutions was obliged to rent a home, and very few people were encouraged in home-ownership.
There has been some improvement in the rate of construction in the last two years, and the Opposition gives the Government full credit for this. Statistics supplied’ by the Commonwealth Statistician show that in the year ended 30th June, 1959, 84,158 homes were constructed. This was certainly a considerable improvement on the rate in the preceding year. In the year ended 30th June, 1960, 90,021 homes were built. I believe that that probably represents a record in this country. So I have no hesitation in acknowledging the fact that a definite improvement has been made during the last two years in the rate of home construction. However, I have no doubt that this has been largely due to the publicity given by the Opposition and other interested people to the fact that the rate of construction in recent years has been insufficient to make good the back-lag that has existed for so many years.
In December, 1956, the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) presented to the Parliament what I have no doubt may be described as a most comprehensive document dealing with the housing situation generally. He estimated at that time that if we could maintain a construction rate of 77,000 homes over the succeeding five years the end of the housing shortage would be in sight. In the year ended 30th June, 1956, we constructed only 72,620 homes - almost 4,500 short of the Minister’s target. In the year ended 30th June, 1957, we built 69,457 homes - about 7,500 short of the Minister’s estimate of the number needed. There was an improvement in the year ended 30th June, 1958, when 73,347 homes were constructed. As I have already pointed out, the rate further improved in the year ended 30th June, 1959, and the year ended 30th June, 1960.
I find myself in complete disagreement with the annual target set by the responsible Minister, the Minister for National Development, as far back as 1956. We on this side of the House have never maintained that the back-lag of homes in Australia totalled only 150,000 - the figure set by the Minister in the report on the housing situation that he made in December. 1956. I have always held the opinion - I believe it is shared by the Opposition generally - that there was m the immediate post-war years a backlag of at least 300,000 homes in this country. I contend that if the Government wishes to overcome the shortage of homes it will have to set a target of at least 120,000 homes a year - 60,000 to meet current demand and at least 60,000 to help make good the shortage which I have just mentioned.
Furthermore, the report made by the Minister for National Development did not take into consideration the slum replacement that is required in every State. He totally ignored that vital factor, and his target of 77,000 homes a year makes no allowance at all for the need to solve this continuing problem. Neither did the Minister take into consideration the demolition of homes in order to make way for buildings for nonresidential purposes. I believe that every honorable member in this House knows how extensively this is going on in every State. The Minister, in his report, gave no indication of the number of homes needed each year to replace dwellings demolished in order to make way for nonresidential buildings.
Another factor which the Minister for National Development ignored was the impact of our immigration programme. It is extremely important for us to remember that Australia’s population has increased from 7,300,000 in 1945 to more than 10,000,000 in I960. The report presented to the Parliament in 1956 did not take into consideration the great impact of our immigration programme. In recent years, we have been bringing new settlers to this country at the rate of more than 100,000 a year. I suggest that new homes are required for the accommodation of at least one-fifth of them. This represents a requirement for this purpose alone of 20,000 homes a year.
The Minister’s report also ignored the very high birth rate which has prevailed since 1945. It did not take into consideration that in 1957, 120,700 young people would reach the age of 21 years. It isexpected that by 1964 this figure will have increased to 142.000 and by 1968 to- 200,000. None of these factors had been taken into consideration by the Government. The Government had not taken into consideration several, matters which must inevitably have a great impact on the housing shortage. I shall refer to them again, very briefly First, in every State homes have been demolished for nonessential purposes such as the construction of service stations and luxury flats. Secondly, the Government refuses to recognize the very great increase in our immigration programme and thirdly it has not considered the number of young people who will reach the age of 21 years and who may reasonably be expected to require accommodation in the years ahead.
We contend, therefore, that the estimate of our housing requirements made in the 1956 report of the Minister for National Development was completely inaccurate. The Minister estimated that the deficiency was 150,000, but it was far greater than that. Obviously, not 77,000 homes but at least 120,000 homes a year were needed to overcome this deficiency.
I turn now to the number of homes constructed by State housing authorities. The Opposition believes that this is an important part of the home construction programme. In every State, the number of applications for Housing Commission homes is still increasing. The honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Wight) shakes his head, but I shall provide figures in a moment which will establish that in the two States for which information is available, the number of applications is increasing. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam) asked the Minister for National Development a question on notice concerning the number of applications for assistance made to each State instrumentality. This question has not been answered. Therefore, we have not the figures for each State, but information is available in respect of two States. In both these States, the number of applications has been increasing, and I believe the situation would be the same in the other States. More applications are being lodged with Housing Commissions because it is not possible for people in the lower income groups, including young couples who wish to marry, to obtain sufficient finance from banks and other approved lending institutions.
I shall now deal with the applications for homes received by Housing Commissions and I shall go back several years to make a comparison of the figures that are avail able. The position in New South Wales is shown in the following table: -
So, the number of unsatisfied applications had increased from 21,174 at 30th June, 1958, to 33,059 at 30th June, 1960. The position in Victoria is much the same. At the end of June, 1958, 13,349 applications for assistance were outstanding. At the end of June, 1959, the number had increased to 15,531 and by the end of June, 1960, to 17,231. The number of unsatisfied applications in each of those two States has certainly been increasing year by year. As I have already said, the figures for the other States are not available. They will, no doubt, be supplied to the Deputy Leader of the Opposition when this debate has concluded, but I feel certain that the position in the other States is much the same as it is in Victoria.
Let me turn now to the number of houses that have been built in recent years by State housing authorities. Since 1956, when the agreement was amended, a greater proportion of the funds normally made available to the States for their housing programmes has been diverted to other organizations, and the number of homes that the States have been able to build has decreased correspondingly. In New South Wales, 3,669 homes were constructed under the State housing programme in 1957- 58 and fewer homes - 3,351 - were constructed in 1959-60. Again, in Victoria, the number of homes constructed in 1958- 59 was 2,447 and in 1959-60, the Housing Commission completed 2,594, an increase of 147 homes. In Queensland - I am sure that this will have special significance for the honorable member for Lilley - in 1958-59, 1,005 homes were constructed, but in 1959-60 only 730 were constructed, a decrease of 275.
– Is that homes constructed by the Housing Commission or the total number of homes built?
– I am referring to the number of homes built through the State housing authority. In South Australia for the two years I have taken, 251 fewer homes were built under the State housing programme. In Western Australia, 198 fewer homes were built and in Tasmania fourteen more were built. In practically every State, the figures have either remained static or there has been a decrease in the number of homes built by the State housing authorities. When the amending legislation was introduced in 1956, we suggested that the fact that the Government had decided to channel to building societies and approved lending institutions 20 per cent, of the amount normally made available to State housing authorities for the first two years and 30 per cent, for the remaining three years, would mean that less money would be available to the Housing Commissions. More money has not been made available through the building societies; the simple fact is that money which was normally available to building societies through such institutions as banks and insurance companies is no longer available to them. Last financial year, co-operative building societies in New South Wales received less money from sources other than banks than they did previously. At this stage, I think it appropriate to mention that in 1952-53 a total of 8,667 homes were either built or purchased through approved building societies in New South Wales. By 1957-58. that figure had dropped to 3,969, and in 1959-60, the last year for which figures are available, it had increased to 6.000. and that is still fewer by far than the number of homes constructed before money was made available to building societies and other approved institutions under the new scheme brought into operation by the 1956 amendment to the CommonwealthState Housing Agreement. The fact that fewer homes are available adds weight to my point that although the Government has taken away from the State housing authorities some of the money that was available to them previously, less money has been channelled by banks and other organizations into the building societies. For example, in 1952-53, a total of £11,730,000 was raised privately by building societies in New South Wales, but by 1959-60 that figure had fallen to £8,085,000, and in that same period the average cost of a home increased considerably. In his annual report for the year 1959-60 the
Director of War Service Homes points out that whereas in 1952 the average cost of a home was £3,028, by 1960 it had increased to £3,949. This clearly demonstrates that although considerably more money was raised privately by building societies in New South Wales in 1952-53, the number of homes constructed was far greater than for the year 1959-60 when less money was available to these organizations through private sources. But for the allocations made by the Commonwealth and the support given to building societies by the Commonwealth Trading Bank and the Commonwealth Savings Bank, there would be very little finance available for building societies to-day.
Honorable members on the Government side know why capital is no longer available to building societies and other approved institutions from private banks and insurance companies. They know that the money that previously went to the building societies is now channelled by the banks and insurance companies into avenues from which a greater return on the investment is available. At 30th June, 1960, out of a total borrowing of £159,000,000, the guaranteed building societies of New South Wales had £98,000,000 on loan from banks. £27,800,000 of the £98,000,000 obtained from the banks was made available by the Commonwealth Trading Bank and £46,200,000 by the Commonwealth Savings Bank. This represented a total of £74,000,000 from the Commonwealth Bank, or 76 per cent, of the total amount raised by the building societies in New South Wales. The largest other bank lender in that year was the Bank of New South Wales, which invested £8,900,000 in housing through building societies. It is clear, therefore, that only the Commonwealth Savings Bank and the Commonwealth Trading Bank are conscious of their obligations in the field of co-operative building. The very fact that under the amending legislation of 1956 the Government has made more money available to building societies has resulted in less money being available to building societies now than was available before the legislation was amended. As a result of that amending legislation, too, the State housing authorities have had less money available for their own building programmes. To support that assertion, I point out that, in its last annual report, the Victorian Housing Commission says -
It is obvious that on the Commission’s present building programme it is falling farther and farther behind the demand for houses - more than 2,000 worse off at June 30th than a year before. The reason is lack of loan funds with which to finance housing. The Commission could increase its output if it had the money.
That is a clear demonstration that, although there has been some improvement in the rate of construction throughout the Commonwealth during both this and the previous financial years, the number of homes available to people in the lower income groups has declined substantially, and these are the people about whom the Opposition is vitally concerned. We believe that Parliament has a responsibility to ensure that finance is available to those in the lower income groups who must look to the State housing authorities for either a rental home or money to buy a home. Under the present credit restrictions imposed by the Government, it is almost impossible for people in the lower income groups to secure sufficient finance from the approved lending institutions to which I have just referred. I do not hesitate to pay tribute to the approved building societies in this country. I think they have made a great contribution towards overcoming this very difficult social problem, but their lending terms are clearly laid down by the Government, and under those terms a young man seeking to obtain money finds it almost impossible to provide the amount of security required, and he is forced to turn to the State housing authorities for assistance. The average cost of a home to-day is at least £4,000, and, as honorable members are well aware, the deposit required by banks and other approved lending institutions is approximately 60 per cent, of the capital cost of the home. Under those circumstances, it is not possible for people in the lower income groups to secure sufficient finance from the building societies.
I have already pointed out that the building societies and other approved lending institutions provide finance for those who are in reasonable circumstances, but the Opposition reiterates that our great responsibility at this stage is to the people in the lower income groups who must turn to the various State housing authorities for accom modation. In view of the fact that the agreement is to be reviewed again next year, the Opposition suggests that the Government give immediate consideration to reverting to the old basis of making money available to the States. We have no quarrel with the Government’s providing money for approved lending institutions, but we do most emphatically quarrel with the Government’s decision to make money available to those institutions at the expense of the various State housing authorities. This is particularly so when we know that less money is now being lent by the building societies than was the case when the agreement was amended in 1956. The only homes which can be secured on a reasonable deposit by people in the lower income groups are those that are built by the State housing commissions. In New South Wales, a deposit of only £50 is required for the purchase of such a home. In Victoria, a deposit of only £100 is required. In South Australia, the deposit required is £200 and in Queensland £250. In Tasmania no deposit is required.
Those are reasonable deposits for people who are not in a position to provide the margin of security required by the various banks and other approved institutions. The Labour Party believes that to overtake the backlag in housing, particularly in the case of the State housing authorities, more money must be made available under the agreement. We are overtaking the housing backlag, but too slowly. It is all very well to say that more houses have been built this year and the year before than during the preceding three years, but that does not alter the fact that this social problem exists. The only way in which we can overtake the backlag in housing is to make more money available to the various State housing instrumentalities, which are in a position to make houses available to the people who are not able to provide the margin of security to which I have just referred. I believe that the Commonwealth Government has failed to give proper recognition to that point of view.
When the members of the present Government parties were in Opposition, they were most vocal about the housing shortage in this country and told us how they would tackle this problem if they were given the opportunity to occupy the treasury bench in this Parliament On one occasion the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) said, during a policy speech -
We give this firm promise to young couples. The Liberal Party when returned to office will regard as its paramount and most vital responsibility the speeding up of the housing programme. We will not allow any other public works, other than those of the most extreme urgency, to be given priority over home building.
The Liberal Party has failed to honour that promise. Even a glance at the figures available will show that expenditure on home construction m recent years has not increased proportionately with the finance available for other building construction. Unless we are prepared to accept the responsibility that we have in this respect and to recognize that there is a great need to provide homes for people in the lower income bracket, and unless we are prepared to amend .the 1956 legislation to achieve that purpose, then, although we may overtake the backlag in providing homes for people who can obtain finance from building societies and other approved institutions, we will not be able to provide homes for people in the lower-income bracket, who must look to the various State housing authorities for assistance. I believe that those are the problems to which this Government should direct its attention.
The amount of money made available to State housing authorities is to be increased this year, but only very slightly. I have already referred to the fact that 30 per cent, of the money provided under the agreement will be made available to building societies, which will receive less money from the sources for which they secured their finance previous to the agreement being amended.
.- I should like to congratulate the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard) on the splendid manner in which he handled the very difficult task of reproaching the Government - if that is possible - for its record in housing. He did a magnificent job but, as honorable members are well aware, he was, in fact, belabouring the New South Wales Government for its ineptitude and inefficiency in handling the housing requirements of the citizens of that State. Instead of criticizing the New South Wales Labour Government, the honorable gentleman, tried to put the sins of omission of that government on to the shoulders of the Commonwealth Government. We know full well that the figures quoted by the honorable member for Bass highlight the fact that the New South Wales Government has not handled the finances made available to it by the Commonwealth with the same degree of efficiency as other State governments.
The honorable gentleman quoted a string of figures in an attempt to show - not to members of this House, because we know the terms of the housing agreement between the States and the Commonwealth - that there had been a decline in the number of houses being built under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement. What he did not say was that if there has been a decline in the number of houses being built by the State housing commissions under the agreement, there has been a far greater proportionate increase in the number of houses that have been provided with the finance that is being made available through other phases of the agreement. It may be that fewer houses are being built by the housing commissions, but the fact is many more houses are being built with the money that is being made available than would have been built if the Government had continued the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement in the form in which it was introduced into this Parliament in 1945 by the then Labour Government.
The whole purpose of the 1945 agreement was to provide money to the States so that they could be the great landlords. They would build the houses and they would be the authorities to whom the rents would be paid. The amortization period of the loans, I believe, was 53 years, and during that period the tenants would be paying for houses that were deteriorating. The money was lent at a very low rate of interest. When that agreement expired, this Government amended and improved it very considerably. The honorable member for Bass knows that in the amended housing agreement, which met with the approval of the State Premiers, there was a new arrangement for the allocation of the moneys made available. The Commonwealth stipulated that a certain proportion of the money - increasing year by year during the five-year period of the agreement - should be made* allocated to homebuilding societies. The: Commonwealth intended in that way to get a greater degree of value for its money. The Minister for Supply (Mr. Hulme) explained this during his second-reading speech. He gave an illustration which I think is worth quoting. It specifically answers the argument that has been put forward by the honorable member for Bass. The Minister said - . . whereas the capital cost of a dwelling, including land, erected by a State Housing Commission could be of the order of £3,300, a person building the same dwelling with a loan of £3,000 from a building society would himself contribute £500 towards the capital cost.
So naturally we would get a greater number of houses built for the amount of money made available. I. would like to refer again to the argument of the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard) who. stated that the problem of providing homes for those in the low income group was. that on which the attention of the. Labour Party was most concentrated. In his remarks the. honorable member seemed to imply that if we were to answer this problem we should make available to the State Housing Commissions a far greater amount, of. money with which to build rental homes. If we are honest and examine the facts and conditions operating in the building industry in Australia to-day, we must realize that the argument advanced: by the honorable member for Bass is completely specious.
The building industry in Australia is at present operating to capacity. I am sure that if the- honorable member consulted the- president of the Master Builders Federation in any of the States of Australia, he- would be told by that gentleman that there was to-day more money available in this country for building than the industry is able to absorb. If we feed more money into the building industry we will do the very thing that the honorable member for Bass suggests should not be done, because we will create a tremendous inflationary spiral in the cost of home building. That is the very thing that we wish to prevent. We must have some degree of balance. There is a great demand to-day for non-residential buildings and that is part of our expansion programme. Does the- honorable member for Bass suggest that we are to embark upon a campaign of restricting the volume of * money available for these- developmental projects: Does he suggest that factories should not be built and that instead of building factories we build homes, with the result there would be. no jobs for the breadwinner, who then could not pay rent or buy a home? The arguments the honorable member advanced were specious. The fact is that we are developing to the limit of our capacity.
It is true that building at the rate of from 77,000 to 87,000 houses a year is rapidly overcoming the backlog. To quote the honorable member’s figures, he said that to meet the current demand for houses we need to build 60,000 houses a year-
– I did not. I said that we should build 120,000 houses, a year.
– The honorable member said that to meet the current demand we would need to build 60,000 houses a year, and to overtake the backlog, another 60,000. I hope T will never be in this Parliament when anybody with any responsibility in government demands that we embark on a scheme such as that. I will tell the House why. There is, indeed, some degree of backlog in housing demand. I regard the building, industry as one of the most important industries, in. the Australian economy. If the day should ever come when we have a great surplus of houses we shall assuredly face one of the greatest depressions of our time. It is absolutely essential to the Australian economy that we should have a strong and healthy building industry working at its maximum capacity, with full employment for those engaged in it. If we embarked on the scheme suggested by the honorable member for Bass we would flood the building industry with money. We would make a great volume of money available in a vain attempt to build more houses. We would cause the prices of houses to skyrocket and, instead of building more homes, we would be building, less. Instead of people being able to buy those homes and having money to furnish them and thus support the complementary industries associated with the building, industries, we would deny them those opportunities and people in the lower income brackets would- be. the first to suffer. Even if that were not true and it were possible that the building industry could import a great mass of pre-fabricated houses and a great army of workmen to erect them and we succeeded in building 120,000 houses a year, it would not be very long before we found that we had created a great boom in the building industry and immediately afterwards it would bust and there would be no demand at all for houses.
Let us look at the facts of housing demand. There is a great difference between housing demand and housing need. Let us face the facts in that regard. Most people, even most members of this House, have homes of their own in which they are living, but they welcome the opportunity to buy a grander building in which to reside. Most people in this country, where there are so many home owners, would much prefer, if they could afford it. to sell the homes in which they are living, and buy better homes. That tendency will always continue, because it is part of our character. For that reason there will always be a housing demand which is greater than our actual housing needs. If we are going to estimate housing needs and try to get an accurate estimate of the number of houses required to fill those needs, we cannot do it on the premises advanced by the honorable member for Bass. The sociologists tell us that the housing requirements of a people enjoying a standard of living equivalent to that which we enjoy in Australia mean that we should have a density of approximately four people per house. If there are sufficient houses in the country to accommodate an average of four people in every home, there is no great shortage of houses in that country. If we look at the statistics we find that to-day the housing density is only a little over three people per house in this country. Is anybody in any part of the world, however high his standard of living might be, going to suggest that we have a terrific housing shortage in Australia? No. The fact is that we have not. There will always be movements of people from rental homes into homes of their own. and from their first home into a second home of their own. There will always be that movement and so there will always be some demand for housing unless we destroy the industry by adopting the economic procedures suggested bv the honorable member for Bass.
We have before us a bill to authorize the raising of further money which this Government will make available, under the terms of the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement, to the various States, to enable them to continue with their own building programmes in two parts. The first is to build houses through their housing commissions for tenants to rent; and the second is to make money available to approved building societies, so that they can assist a much greater section of the community to build homes of their own. The full responsibility of meeting the housing requirements of the Australian people is not that of the Commonwealth Government. It is not the responsibility of this Government to raise all the money that is required and give it to the State governments so that all the people in this country can be housed. If we did that we would deny all the other institutions which are engaged in this work their right to carry on. I believe that we should pay a great tribute to the free enterprise savings banks, as well as to the Commonwealth Savings Bank, for the work they have done in making money available to approved building societies and people who have borrowed money from them for the purpose of building homes. I place on record my appreciation of the work which has been done by the Commonwealth Savings Bank and the free enterprise savings banks in this field.
I commend this bill to honorable members. I am pleased to hear that the Opposition does not oppose it. I am quite certain that the Opposition cannot, with any great deal of honesty or with any real purpose, attack the record of this Government in the field of housing. I say that remembering the situation in 1945 when Mr. Dedman, a Minister in the Labour Government, introduced his Commonwealth and State housing agreement, and the situation that existed when this Government took office in 1949. At that time honorable members on both sides of this House found that nine out of every ten constituents who came to see them in their offices came because they were unable to obtain housing accommodation. People were living on verandahs, under houses, and in tents and humpies. Although at that time nine out of every ten constituents who came to see us came about housing problems, the position to-day is that if only one person in ten comes to see us about housing, that is unusual. The honorable member for Stirling (Mr. Cash) informs me that only about one out of every 100 constituents who come to see him has a housing problem. That is the criterion as to whether or not this Government has done a good job.
I did not hear the interjection just made by the honorable member for Bass, but I am certain that it would have been as specious as the list of figures he read when he gave the record of the New South Wales Labour Government and indicated how it was carrying out its responsibility in the field of housing. I conclude by suggesting to the honorable member for Bass that if he is sincere in saying that the people of New South Wales are inadequately housed, at the next State election he should assist the Liberal Party and the Australian Country Party to get rid of the inept government in that State.
.- I rise to support the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard). In doing so I wish to answer the honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Wight), who has just resumed his seat. By attacking the New South Wales Labour Government he attempted to make a political issue out of what is a great national and human problem. No amount of argument that the honorable member can advance can disprove the fact that in every State of Australia there is this great human problem of people being in need of homes. In the face of the claims of supporters of the Government that this problem does not exist. I think it is worth while making a survey of the position, going back over a few years, and listening to the claims that have been made by the supporters of the Government.
As the honorable member for Bass mentioned, in 1956 the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) said -
It a rate of completion of approximately 77,000 houses a year could be maintained, then the end of the housing shortage would be well in sight. Progress would vary from State to State.
The Minister for National Development even admitted that. He continued -
But four or five years at this rate of progress would break the back of the problem.
That statement was made in 1956. In 1957 that great economist, Sir Douglas Copland, said that Australia should adopt a minimum target of 75,000 new homes a year and that target should be increased to 82,500 by 1961.
In spite of those statements and in spite of the fact that we have the men and materials, the hopes and aspirations of those gentlemen have never been realized. It is interesting to note that the honorable member for Lilley takes some exception to the figures which were cited by the honorable member for Bass. This answers to some extent the statement of the honorable member for Lilley that there is not a housing problem in Australia. Figures taken out in November, 1957, revealed that the number of homes accommodating more than one family had not shown any appreciable change since 1953. I think the figure was 9 per cent, in 1957. This percentage has not shown any appreciable change since then.
One might well ask why this state of affairs should exist. It is true that we have the labour and materials, and the Government claims that we have the money. I know it is easy for any one to criticize the Government on subjects of great national importance such as housing. In my opinion - I think this is the opinion of honorable members on both sides of this House - this matter is above politics. It is estimated that in Melbourne alone there are about 50,000 people living in conditions which are criminal and a curse upon your humanity. The housing conditions of those people present a problem and a challenge to any government, irrespective of its political complexion. Unfortunately, those people, in the main, are in the low wage group and their salvation lies in renting a home or obtaining a home through a housing commission. Hundreds of people throughout the Commonwealth are in that position to-day.
It is also true to say that the only builders of homes for rental are the State housing commissions. Again in answer to the honorable member for Lilley, it may be truly said that there will never be enough money for everything; we know that to be true. But we say that the policy of this Government is creating grave problems for the housing commissions. I shall refer to that matter again later. Before going any further, I desire to give credit and add my word of praise to the housing commissions in Australia. I think every honorable member will agree that we would have been in very dire straits if the housing commissions had not been established. In fact, I think every one will agree that when the Federal Labour Government negotiated the Commonwealth and State housing agreement in 1945, it placed on the statute-book legislation of great national importance. It was induced to do so by the great national housing emergency that faced this country.. No one can deny that in this year, fourteen years afterwards, we still have a great national housing problem.
I support the honorable member for Bass when I say that we on this side of the House have no quarrel with co-operative building societies. In fact, we support them 100 per cent. Recently I was instrumental in starting a new housing cooperative in my own electorate. If any honorable member had been at the initial meeting, he would have seen that we filled the No. 1 society with no difficulty and from the people who were present that night we could have filled four more societies. That would have indicated to any honorable member who was present just how pressing the need is and how desperate people are to get homes, particularly if they can get them by obtaining finance on easy terms. Perhaps the strangest part of this problem is the fact that prior to the war bricks and mortar were considered a very sound investment - the best that one could obtain. But to-day the interest rates which are being paid by hire-purchase companies make investment in those organizations a far more attractive proposition for investors than bricks and mortar. To-day people just do not consider investing in homes for rent.
The honorable member for Lilley has referred to the building industry and has gone to some lengths to try to convince the “House that more money is being spent in building to-day than previously was the case. In 1958 I made a survey of the position. To-day, there is considerably more money being spent in the building industry than was so spent in 1958, but it is not going into houses; it is going into big commercial offices, garages and the like.
I have with me a submission which was presented to the Minister for National
Development by the Master Builders Federation of Australia in January, 19.58. The following statement appears on page 5: -
Firstly, we have been informed that, during the last financial year 1956-57, not all the money available for lending for housing purposes in some quarters was taken up by borrowers. The reasons for this were fourfold: - deposits were beyond the reach of many wage-earners, and the actual amounts available as loans per dwelling were out of touch with current values, being too small to match present-day costs and needs in accommodation. In addition, interest rates generally were high and repayment periods too short. While these four conditions persist, it is futile to expect major favorable changes in the housing situation of intending home owners, no matter how much money is theoretically available for lending. If the price of money is too high, then one cannot expect it to be employed. We regard it as imperative, however, that this large section of home seekers be encouraged.
Interest rates of Si per cent, and higher, charged by some lending authorities, are too high and should be reduced to a maximum of 4i per cent, consistent with the low risk which is virtually a first .mortgage on a readily insurable asset.
That brings me to the point that I want to emphasize. I agree with the master builders in their contention that our troubles are due entirely to the fact that money is too dear and that if we want to overcome the housing problem we have to make cheaper money available to the people. If this were done the pressures which are being placed upon the housing commissions of this country would be relieved and those bodies would be able to conduct their affairs in the manner in which it was intended that they should be conducted, that is, they would be able to engage in a programme of slum reclamation and of building homes to let.
The honorable member for Bass cited some figures from reports of the various State housing commissions. The honorable member for Lilley has suggested that those figures were a little distorted. I shall read some of the statements that are contained in the reports of the Victorian Housing Commission so that no honorable member will be able to say that I am distorting the figures. The first report from which 1 shall read is that for the year 1956-57, which was the first report presented by the commission following the new Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement. It states -
The new agreement has resulted in a substantial reduction m the number of housing units constructed by the Commission and ‘after -making provision for the allocation to the Services of 242 units, resulted in a net total of 2,338 units being available to eligible families as compared with 4,152 in the previous year. The 1 per cent, increase in interest rates has resulted in an increase in rent of lis. to 12s. approximately per week . . .
These factors have contributed to a record high in rents which have reached the alarming level of £5 per week for a three-bedroom house in the country.
The report for the year 1957-58 reads -
At 30th June, 1958, the Commission held 13,349 live applications for tenancies. The significance of that total will be apparent when it is noted that the Commission was able to house only 4,377 new tenants in 1957-58, on the basis of 1,803 in new construction and 2,574 in vacated units. Unless the programme of new construction can be expanded, the total number of applications on hand will’ progressively increase.
The same line of thought runs through the 1958-59 report - the last report furnished by the commission - which, in dealing with tenancies,, states -
A heavy demand still exists for Commission homes, particularly in the metropolitan area, where the waiting time for a dwelling can be more than three years. In most country centres it is only a few months, or even less.
I pause to point out that the position is worsening -
At June 30th last the Commission held 15,531 applications for homes, compared with. 13,349 a year earlier. Of the latest total, 11,817 were in the metropolitan area and 3.714 in the country.
It is obvious that on the Commission’s present building programme it is falling farther and farther behind the demand for houses - more than 2.000 worse off at June 30th than a year before. The reason- is lack of loan funds with which to finance housing. The Commission could increase its output if it had the money.
That is convincing evidence that what the honorable member for Bass said was entirely correct. It refutes in some measure the arguments that were advanced by the honorable member for Lilley. The report shows the concern of the Victorian Housing Commission at the trend of affairs, and it reveals how desperate is the position.
When we consider those statements in the light of the estimate that in the next ten years there will be an 80 per cent, increase in the number of marriageable Australians in the twenty to 24 age group, and that even by 1965 the number in this group will be about 833,000 - the great majority of whom will need homes for rent or money for homebuilding - we can see how the position is deteriorating. If we add to this the impact that immigration has made upon this country, I think we must realize what a great national problem the housing demand has created. Some of the strange features of this great demand are evident from articles we read in journals, such as publications by the National Bank of Australasia Limited. In the “ Monthly Summary of Australian Conditions “ for October, 1960, the bank makes this interesting comment -
Small “ spec “’ builders are reported to be experiencing some difficulty in selling completed houses, mainly because of competition from large building companies. Building materials are in good supply and labour is readily available.
But nothing is said about the availability of finance. The statement which I have read indicates that all is not well, even though it has been suggested that homes are quite easy to obtain. I should be only too happy for honorable members opposite to come to my electorate and do what they could to help young people who are suffering severely because of the credit squeeze. The people of whom I speak include those to whom the report of the National Bank referred, such as young people who have been able to buy a block of land and use that as a deposit on a home. The State Savings Bank of Victoria now requires that people who seek from it assistance for housing must have at least £500 in the bank before an advance will be made. Many people who are unable to find the £400 or £500 on. second mortgage are coming to me for advice. Fortunately, I have been able to make satisfactory arrangements for five or six people to borrow £400 or £500 to get them over their difficulty.
Another curious feature of the housing position is seen on reference to the report of the Attorney-General (Sir Garfield Barwick) on bankruptcies. I have no doubt that the Minister will correct me if I am wrong, but I think that the report discloses, that approximately 340 builders were declared insolvent in Australia last year. I am reliably informed that within the last few months about six Canberra builders have gone broke. Why has that happened? I think we are entitled to seek the reasons for so many bankruptcies in the housing field when there is an intense demand for houses. My opinion is that it is because builders are not. able, to obtain finance from the banks quickly enough. Advances are delayed, for six months or nine months. The result is that not only the builders suffer because of the credit squeeze; people who are buying homes also suffer and, in some cases, lose their homes because the builders sell the partly-completed homes.
T believe that the way to overcome this problem is to provide cheaper money. If we are to meet this great human challenge that the housing problem represents, we must reduce interest rates to a level that the pay envelope of the worker can afford to meet. Common decency demands that that be done. I have gone back over the year, Mr. Deputy Speaker, but I come now to more recent times. I wish to refer to an article that appeared in the Melbourne “ Sun “ newspaper of Tuesday last. The article stated that Mr. David Scott, the director of social services for the Brotherhood of St. Laurence, had claimed that 17.500 people were waiting for Housing Commission homes. According to the newspaper, he said -
Our housing needs cannot be expressed adequately in figures. A hopeless housing situation can change a family atmosphere from hope to frustration, apathy and despair.
Let me refer to another statement which answers the remarks of the honorable member for Lilley. It was made by Mr. Langford, the managing director of Clements, Langford Proprietary Limited, one of the biggest building companies in Australia. Mr. Langford said that private enterprise could produce the homes required if the Government could make cheap finance available. He went on to say -
Hire-purchase companies may have to be forced to contribute some of their funds to a national housing corporation.
How true that is.
I return to the report of the Master Builders Federation published in 1958. I know that the housing position has not changed materially since then. The report states -
Essentially, finance provided by a nation for housing purposes is simply lending money amongst ourselves. When the money is, as postulated above, stimulated to emerge from the private investor, it adds nothing to the national debt. Every penny loaned produces a tangible, useful asset to the community. In terms of human happiness, improved family life and comfort, investment in housing could be said to repay itself over and over again. The advanced accommodation of a people brings in its wake higher standards of living and of citizenship; a lowering of the incidence of crime and an increasingly attractive community for overseas capital to invest in.
Why is the Government reluctant to initiate a policy of this kind? Every one has the right to a decent home. The report of the Master Builders Federation continued -
It is obvious that, in spite of the large assistance at present being rendered by the Commonwealth Government in providing housing loan money, the total moneys currently being injected into the housing sector are insufficient to meet the national needs. More funds must be provided and we are not looking to the Government to provide these, but to the people themselves. We are confident that, given adequate incentive, these additional funds will be forthcoming, and that over the years investment of this nature will remove a burden from the shoulders of the Government. It has succeeded in other countries . . .
I suggest, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that the provisions of adequate incentive, to which the federation has referred, would succeed in improving the position in this country also.
The honorable member for Lilley said that if we approach the master builders they will tell us that there is no housing problem in Australia. My answer to that statement is that the housing position is practically the same to-day as it was in 1945. There may not now be so many people seeking, homes as there were then, but it cannot be denied that a great housing problem exists, in Australia. It is the duty of governments, regardless of their political complexion, totry to overcome that problem. Every member of the community has a right not only to a decent home, but to a home at a rental, that he is able to meet. The housing commissions in the various States were established to provide such accommodation.
I believe that the answer to the housing, problem is to provide the housing commissions, housing co-operatives and building, societies with more money at low rates of interest. They must be able to advance cheap money that the workers can afford. I am prepared to quote a Victorian man, who occupies a high position in the housing” field in that State, to say that housing: finance in Victoria is in a chaotic state. Even Mr. Bolte has admitted that that is so. Let us consider the statement of Mr. Gaskin, the Deputy Director of the Victorian Housing Commission, as reported in to-day’s
Melbourne “ Sun “. I suggest, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that it is damnable that the conditions to which he referred should still exist. When interviewed by a State government committee in Victoria, Mr. Gaskin said that only to-day the commission was interviewing people of 1957 vintage. That means that people who put their names on the waiting list for houses about three years and nine months ago are only now being interviewed. I believe that this Government has a responsibility to such people. If measures to overcome the housing shortage can be taken successfully in other countries, surely they can be taken here. At the risk of repetition, I say that the answer to the problem lies in the Commonwealth Government making cheaper money available.
Mr. ANDERSON (Hume) [5.441.- Whenever the House debates the subject of homes for the people we receive a mass of statistics from all manner of sources. The honorable member for Gellibrand (Mr. Mclvor), a man whom we respect for his thoughtful contributions to the debates in this place, referred repeatedly to the ideas of the Master Builders Federation of Australia. When we approach this complex human problem we have to analyse the motives behind statements such as those referred to by the honorable member. It is natural to expect that the Master Builders Federation would make strong demands for more finance for housing. That is normal. As in any other branch of activity, those who want finance paddle their own canoes. We are dealing with housing which is the master builders’ line of business. While it is true, as the master builders say, that more money will build more homes - and give the master builders more business - governments, whether State or Federal, have tremendous demands on their resources and must try to keep a balanced economy.
I turn now to the question of home ownership and State housing. The bill before the House provides for a continuation of the 1956 Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement, which provides that 30 per cent, of the money that is made available to the States will be spent through co-operative building societies. The Commonwealth will not decide how much money will be spent on housing. The States will decide that. Each State will decide how much of its loan allocation it will devote to housing.
Housing is a State responsibility, but the Commonwealth does see that, overall, housing continues to progress at a reasonable rate. The number of homes completed last year showed an increase of nearly 8,000 on the previous year, according to the “Quarterly Bulletin of Building Statistics” for the quarter ended December. 1959. This bulletin shows that the number of new houses and flats completed in 1959 totalled 85,114 compared with 77,758 in the previous year. We, as a private enterprise government, have encouraged home ownership. When the previous Labour Government was in office the Housing Commission of New South Wales - and the commissions in other States also - insisted that housing commission homes were not for sale. That was a tragic decision. A socialist government was in office in New South Wales and it wanted to be a great landlord. Had those homes been sold, more money would have been made available for the construction of new houses. That is the difference between socialist and non-socialist governments. Unfortunately, large sums of money provided by the taxpayers have to be taken from consolidated revenue in New South Wales to maintain all those homes that have been built since the Second World War.
I have the report of the Housing Commission of New South Wales, which states that the total cost of maintenance in 1957-58 was £939,970. Nearly £1.000.000 was spent on the maintenance of Housing Commission properties. This expenditure was reduced in 1958-59 to £755.237. Had those homes been sold to the tenants - who were ready to buy them because the cost of building was rising, and it would have been to their advantage to do so - the Housing Commission would not have had to pay for their maintenance. The homeowner usually does his own painting and plumbing; but in New South Wales the taxpayers have to find nearly £1,000,000 a year to maintain Housing Commission properties, in addition to meeting the administrative costs of the Housing Commission, which are very high. People who occupy homes which are not their own do not take the same care of them as they would if they owned them. This high cost of maintenance in New South Wales is unnecessary, and it arose simply because of the philosophy of state ownership. We who support this Government believe that everybody should own his own home.
– The costs you have mentioned are taken into account in fixing the rent.
– Those are the costs of maintenance. If a man owns his own home he does his own maintenance. The administrative costs of the Housing Commission of New South Wales in 1958-59 totalled £1,411,429; so you see, the system of State home building is a very costly charge on the taxpayers. That is important in New South Wales, and is a big factor in home building. Presumably improvements have been made in New South Wales. The authorities there have agreed, for instance, to lower ceiling heights, and that affects costs, which is always important. There is no certainty that the supply of finance is equal to building capacity. As the honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Wight) wisely said, if more money is made available for goods and materials, inflation is the result. That is a normal factor in economics. If you increase the demand for goods and services you have rising prices.
The cost of homes is an eternal complaint of honorable members opposite. The Opposition claims to represent the lower income group and to be concerned about the people in that group who, it claims, are its special responsibility. The cost of housing, after all, has an effect on what a man can afford. Let us consider housing costs and how the Labour Party has influenced them, although it pretends to be concerned about people on low incomes.
After the Second World War, naturally there was a very serious shortage of houses. That is normal in every country, and other countries are much further behind in housing than is Australia. Actually, Australia compares very favorably with other countries for housing construction since the war. The post-war shortage of houses was worst in New South Wales. In 1947 Mr. McGirr, who was then Premier of New South Wales, introduced a 40-hour week by legislation. That was long before this country could possibly have overtaken the shortages of the wartime period. According to simple arithmetic, Mr. McGirr put 10 per cent, on to the cost of houses. Possibly the increase was greater than that, because the 40-hour week affected not only the cost of building but also other costs, including the costs of materials and transport. I do not say that the 40-hour week is bad. I think it is very good indeed - when you can afford it. When I was in Germany in 1955 there was the sound of hammering until nine and ten o’clock at night. It started again at cockcrow. Men were on the job continuously building homes for the workers. They were putting their hearts and souls into it. But in New South Wales a 40-hour week was introduced when the workers wanted homes. That is one of the reasons why we have not got as far as we should in Australia. Now we have a similar Labour Government in New South Wales, under Mr. Heffron, which introduced three weeks’ annual leave. How can you do that when there are thousands of workers who have not got homes? For one week more in each year the workers are not building houses, and the higher cost of their work is being paid for by people who cannot afford it. In addition, the Australian Council of Trade Unions is joining with Labour governments in seeking a 35-hour week. That would again put up the cost of housing for the workers whom the Oppositions claims to represent.
The Opposition also asks for cheap money at low interest. I do not know what the Labour Party expects. All I know is that it is going the right way to destroy Australia and damage the workers’ future. The security of the workers does not seem to matter much to the Labour Party.
The capacity of the building industry is limited. If the Labour Party succeeds in increasing the flow of money for housing, and shortens hours again, there will be a tremendous upsurge of new costs and overtime. The Housing Commission of New South Wales has done a very good job. Nobody will say that it has not. It is not my desire to detract from the work of these people, whether there is a Labour government or a Conservative government in office. They should be neutral. But the Housing Commission is making a profit on housing. Its report for the year ended 30th June, 1959, states-
The combined management operations of the Commission showed a net surplus of £537,436 for the year-,, an increase of. £1-13,784- on the: net surplus for 1957-58.
In the year under review the commission made a profit of almost £500,000. That is a feather in the commission’s cap and I congratulate it on its success. But if the commission can. make a profit such as* that,, why has the New South Wales- Labour Government provided only £0,000,000 of1 loan money for housing this year?’ If the commission is doing such good work, and’ all of us agree that it is, would’ it not be a sound business proposition to provide the commission with more money so that it could’ reduce the back-lag in housing?
I criticize the commission for the manner in which it has, distributed its houses throughout New South Wales. Whether the fault lies with the commission or’ with its political control, I do not know. The Australian Country Party is accused of saying that it believes in decentralization and of doing nothing about it. The Labour Party claims that it is the only party that does something about decentralization. Let us see how the New South. Wales Housing Commission has distributed its houses throughout New South Wales. In 1956-57, of the homes built by the New South Wales Housing Commission 75 per cent, were built in the Sydney,. Newcastle and Wollongong areas, and. 25 per cent, in country areas. In its. report the commission lists the areas separately- the metropolitan area of Sydney, the Newcastle district, Wollongong and. Port Kembla. It endeavours- to suggest that all houses erected, in- other than- the metropolitan area of Sydney were erected in country areas. In 1957-58, 89 per cent, of houses were erected, in the metropolitan area and 11 per cent, in country areas*. Im 1958-59, the commission felt a pang of guilt and erected 85 per cent. of. its houses in the metropolitan area and 15 per cent, in country areas. Those figures seem to substantiate the claim of honorable members on this side of the House that the Labour Party has failed to decentralize.
One reason why New. South Wales has the worst housing record of all the States is the Landlord and Tenant Act,, which has. discouraged’ many people from building for rental purposes and from sub-dividing their homes or converting them into flats.
With- regard: to the cost of housing; I have a. great deal of sympathy with the views:, that the Labour Party expresses: but I quarrel1 with the way in which its endeavours to implement its policy. The cost of housing is high;, but the cost of land should not be as high as; it is. The cost of land has. nothing to do with the Commonwealth. That is- a State responsibility. The States have complete power- over land: The Commonwealth does’ not even have a land office.
Mr.- Bird. - What, about a capital” gains tax?.
-! am’ not” concerned’ with that. The cost of homes is too high and’ the cost of land is too high. The Labour Party; which claims that it represents the lower income group, has done nothing- about the high cost of land in New South’ Wales:
I compliment the New South Wales, Government and’ its housing commission on> the progress that they have. made, in slum clearance. A great deal of. work can be, done in this regard. I do not think that a decent society can be- raised” in slums such as we- have in Surry Hills and-‘ Redfern. Much more money should be devoted’ to slum clearance.
The bill provides for the payment of money to the. States for the. purpose of Housing- and the States will be assisted by the Commonwealth in the matter of interest payments. I support the bill.
Debate (on- motion by Mr. Bird)’ adjourned.
Sitting suspended from. 6. tot 8 p.m.
Debate resumed from’ 8th September(vide page 1033), on motion- by Sir- Garfield: Barwick -
That the bill’ be now read a* second’ time:
; - Mr. Speaker,, the bill before, the House to amend’ the Crimes Act is,, as claimed by the AttorneyGeneral(Sir Garfield Barwick), a comprehensive, one. To that extent we. are in agreementIt covers 3’3. pages and comprises 60 clauses. It is the twelfth amendment and extension of the original Crimes Act of 1914 introduced by the Fisher Labour Government shortly after the outbreak of World War I. This was, I believe, largely a copy of the Official Secrets Act 1911 of the United Kingdom and it contained provisions taken from the Queensland criminal code.
The Attorney-General said that the bill makes a number of amendments to the original act. Most of them are of a machinery nature designed to give the act extra-territorial operation and making new provisions in such matters as conditional release of offenders without proceeding to conviction in appropriate cases, the power to discharge or vary conditions of recognizance, offences by children and young people, the making of reparations for offences, offences in relation to the coinage, the illegal use of uniforms, offenders found to be insane, official permits, impersonation, the jurisdiction of courts and miscellaneous matters. Against all these provisions the Opposition has no complaint because, ordinarily speaking, they are desirable and unexceptionable.
But there are clauses in the bill of which that cannot be said, as I shall presently show. There are also sections of the original act, the Crimes Act 1914-1959, which the Opposition believes should be revised by the Parliament and which are not dealt with in the bill. The Opposition is primarily concerned with those two categories. The sections of the existing act which need revision are those which permit trial without judge or jury of certain crimes which are visited with the most severe penalties, those which permit the initiation by private persons of proceedings in respect of serious indictable offences; and those which convert industrial strike action into criminal offences. It is such matters which comprise the first category of our objections. The clauses of the present bill which comprise the second category to which the Opposition takes the strongest possible exception and to which it will offer the strongest possible opposition are the provisions which deal with certain offences in a way which violate all accepted principles of justice and endanger the rule of law. These are the offences which the bill calls “ treason, treachery, sabotage, disclosure of information by Commonwealth officers, espionage and disclosure of official secrets “.
The Opposition, Sir, has not reached its decision to demand revision of certain sections of the original act or to oppose certain provisions of this bill without very serious consideration and without having considered the views of eminent counsel whose opinion cannot be lightly dismissed by this or any other anti-Labour government anxious to push through legislation of this sort for purposes of its own, not necessarily connected with the defence of the Commonwealth, the protection of the Constitution, the administration of justice, breaches of official secrecy and generally the protection of the Constitution of the Commonwealth, its institutions and services and the enforcement of its laws. In order to test the opinion of this House, I move an amendment in the following terms: -
That all words after “That” be omitted with a view to inserting the following words in place thereof: - “ the bill be withdrawn and redrafted because it fails to repeal objectionable features of the Crimes Act. including political and industrial offences and the death penalty, and because it introduces new offences infringing freedom of speech, writing and action by individuals and organizations innocent of disloyal intent, and because, in particular, it fails -
to preserve the rule of law and the principles of natural justice in trials for these offences;
to establish the principle of trial by jury for all these offences;
to achieve certainty and precision in the definition of these offences;
to ensure the application of long estab lished rules excluding evidence of the character of an accused person on trial for these offences;
to provide means of specifying enemy countries which or enemy persons whom it will be an offence to assist; and
to guarantee liberty bona fide to express criticisms and to seek alteration of the policy of the Australian or any other Government “.
At the outset, I wish to make it clear beyond all possibility of misrepresentation by any supporter of this legislation or by anybody else who is anxious to malign or misrepresent the Labour Party and its attitude to this legislation that there is no decent Australian who does not believe that there should be stringent laws against offences constituting disloyalty to Australia, and that there is no decent Australian who does not believe in the fixing of severe penalties for such offences. But there is also no decent Australian who does not think that all prosecutions for any of these offences should be conducted in accordance with the well-known and timehonoured traditions and principles of British justice.
Of course, there must be laws against treason, treachery, espionage, sabotage, and breaches of official secrecy. There must be severe penalties for those who commit such offences. At the same time no support can ever be given, when persons are charged with these crimes which are fortunately extremely rare, for any departure under any circumstances from the rule of law or from the principles of natural justice. That is the ground on which we state our case. In saying this, I frankly admit that there are some provisions of the Crimes Act 1914 which were introduced by the Fisher Government and passed into law which to-day are not acceptable to public opinion and which, therefore, should be brought up to date in the terms of the amendment which I have moved.
The Attorney-General has told us that part of the legislation is based upon English law dating back to Edward III. Edward III. has been dead a long time now, and legislation of that period should certainly be brought up to date. Sometimes laws are invoked that are very ancient. We prefer English common law as the basis for our legislation; and we are always suspicious when any government wishes to dispense with the wellestablished principles of justice, as is happening in this case.
I should like to emphasize that when the Bruce-Page Government introduced its amendment to the original act of 1914 in 1926 it, too, exploited the fear of communism to justify the insertion of certain reactionary provisions just as the present Government is doing in the present bill. Honorable members who have read the Attorney-General’s speech will recollect having noted these terms. “ I have already become aware “, said the Attorney-General in his pompous style, “ of a spate of propaganda against the amendments of the Crimes Act stemming from the Communist Party of Australia. The propaganda commenced some time ago.” I admit that the Attorney-General was not too pompous in New York recently. He was not even mentioned. He was not invited to the breakfasts or the dinners which the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) attended. He was Australia’s forgotten man in New York.
But the statement of the AttorneyGeneral was the usual slur that is cast by members on the Government side on anybody who happens to oppose any of their ideas.
There are quite a lot of people in Australia who are opposed to this legislation, who were opposed to the Communist Party Dissolution Bill, who are not Communists, who never were Communists, but who are not going to allow the Government to impose legislation of this sort by the methods, the techniques and in accordance with the philosophy of the Communist Party. We are opposed to communism as much as anybody is opposed to communism, but this Government, knowing full well that the Australian people will not accept the particular legislation, resorts to the smear and the sneer. Of course, all the members opposite are practitioners in that respect, because they had to pass a qualifying examination before they entered the Parliament. .
I have not time to deal in detail with the amendment introduced and passed in 1926, but I instance particularly section 30j, which states that if the Government thinks a serious industrial disturbance exists it may make a proclamation to that effect, and any one who continues to strike or otherwise to defy the Government may be imprisoned or, if not born in Australia, deported. I mention that section because action was taken under it and the High Court made Australian legal history with its judgment against an attempt by the Bruce-Page Government to deport two union leaders, Walsh and Johnson. I just want to say in passing that Walsh, who was attacked by the Bruce-Page Government as a Communist, finished up in the early days of World War II. as an organizer of the Liberal Party. I instance this amendment, which was passed in 1926 - of course, section 30k was passed at the same time - to enable me to relate the remarks of the Leader of the Opposition of those days, Mr. Matthew Charlton, who said in the Parliament on 10th February, 1926 -
Over and over again I have said definitely that honorable members on this side of the House have no sympathy with any party that advocates violence and revolution for the overthrow of constitutional government in this country. But my assurance has never been accepted; on the contrary, I am sorry to say, many honorable members opposite, and the press, endeavoured to make the electors believe that the Labour Party shelters the ‘Communists.
How history repeats itself! What was said by Mr. Charlton in reply to the attacks of 1926, 1 say in 1960 in repiy to the attacks of people of the same political philosophy. There are exhibited in the AttorneyGeneral’s remarks the same McCarthy-like tendencies as were exhibited in those days, although the late Senator McCarthy was not born at that time.
It will be seen, therefore, that the present Attorney-General and the present Prime Minister are to-day saying the -same things as Mr. Bruce, now Lord Bruce, Mr. Latham, now Sir John Latham, and ‘Dr. Page, now Sir Earle Page and still the wight honorable member .for Cowper, said 34 years ago about the Australian Labour Party, when my distinguished predecessor, Mr. Charlton, stood in this place opposing legislation similar to that which is before us to-night, and of which this amending legislation is only an extension. Allegedly, like the 1926 legislation it also is intended as a deterrent.
To keep the record straight and to indicate the consistent attitude of the Labour Party over 34 years to legislation of this sort, let me say that Mr. Charlton moved an amendment to the motion that the 1926 bill be now read a second time in the following terms: -
That all the words after “That” be left out with a view to insert in lieu thereof - “ this House is of opinion that the bill should be withdrawn, with a view to re-drafting, so as to eliminate the obnoxious clauses referring to industrial disputes, as such clauses associated with the Crimes Act are an unwarranted affront to the great bodies of organized labour.
I mention, for whatever satisfaction honorable members opposite can take from the fact, that the Labour Government from 1941 to 1949 did not repeal sections 30j and 30k. Perhaps we should have repealed them. We would like to repeal them rat this time. But the fact is that those 1926 amendments, like some of the 1’914 sections to which we now take objection, fell into disuse, and nobody thought that they would ever be used again or that anybody would ever want to use them. However, we now ‘find that the present Government does want to use them and we feel that it is wrong in what it is doing. That is the justification for our position in regard to this legislation, which is to oppose the amendments to which we take objection and to repeal those sections of the act to which we also object.
The clauses of the bill, as I have said, are 60 in all, and the Labour Party takes strong objection to .only seven of them, but they are seven vitally important clauses. They are clauses 23, 46, 49, 50, 52, 54 and 56. The sections of the principal act -to Which we object are 12a, 13 and 30a to 30r. In the .limited time which I can use, I .shall deal with some .of those clauses and sections, and subsequent speakers will deal with the remainder. ‘Let me say that .the broad defects of >the bill in relation ito -all the offences against the :State -with which they deal, or allegedly deal, are, as the Labour Party sees the situation: First, a lack -of precision in defining the constituent elements of serious crimes; secondly, the conferring of power on .the prosecution to lead evidence of conduct and known character, as proved, of :the accused, not relevant ‘to any act constituting a crime; thirdly, the imposition on the .accused of the onus of proving innocence in a number of cases; and, fourthly, ‘the consequent inhibition of speech, writing and action on the part of individuals and organizations innocent of disloyal intent.
Let me take these .clauses in detail -Clause 23 writes in a common law concept of treason with novel .and dangerous extensions. Proposed section 24(l.)(c) provides that a person who levies war or does any act preparatory to levying war against the -Commonwealth is ;guilty of treason. The penalty is death. The expression “ levies war “ has ^nothing whatever to do with war as generally accepted. It deals with the action of individuals who come together to achieve a general purpose by force or violence against the lawful purposes of a State. The bill introduces a new and very vague offence, namely, doing any act preparatory to levying war - not levying war but .doing an act preparatory to it. It is like the old Japanese offence of harbouring dangerous thoughts. This new offence might well extend to the activities of ai trade union leader promoting industrial action which gets out of hand, and ends in violence. If that should happen, the trade union leader concerned would be guilty of treason, according- to- this proposed section.
Proposed new section- 24, sub-section (P.), paragraph (d), provides that a person who assists- by any means whatever an enemy at war with the Commonwealth, whether or not the existence of a state- of war has been declared, shall be guilty of treason. The offence covers assistance of any kind, psychological or material, regardless of whether or not there is damage or an intent to assist. We all know that the common law of England provides that a person shall not be adjudged guilty of a crime- unless it is shown that he intended to commit the crime. Under this proposed new section the question of intent need not be considered at all. The word “ enemy “ in this connotation is imprecise. It does- not necessarily mean a nation or a country. It could mean, an individual. An enemy could be at war with the. Commonwealth without the Commonwealth being, at war with the enemy.
-. - Say that again.
– All the galahs on the Government back benches can laugh as loudly as they like. One does not expect much sense from a- galah at any time: As r said, the word’ “ enemy “ is imprecise. It does not necessarily mean a nation or a country. I- repeat that for the- edification of honorable members opposite who are so dull. We say that the offence, if it is to be an offence at all, should be restricted to- an act intended to assist an- enemy or a foreign power which the GovernorGeneral has, by proclamation, declared to be an enemy at war with the Commonwealth. What would be wrong with inserting a provision of that kind’ in the legislation? Why will not the Government proclaim the country or the foreign power with which we are at war. before it starts charging people’ in our- courts with assisting an1 enemy? Surely it would be commonjustice to do so.
Paragraph (f) of the same proposed new sub-section provides -
A person who . . . forms an intention to do any act referred to in a preceding paragraph of. this sub-section and manifests that intention by an overt act,, shall- be guilty of . . .. treason. . . .
We contend that all these provisions are too wide. The Attorney-General has admitted that the legislation is a little clumsily drafted. Me did not make exactly that admission, but that is what he meant. If it is drafted in any way similarly to the way in which His legislation on divorceand on marriage was prepared, then I would’ certainly say that it has been very loosely drafted, and he will need a whole sheaf of amendments to make it both intelligible and reasonable. This legislation may be intelligible to certain lawyers, which I greatly doubt, but it would be most unreasonable in- the view of any person who might be charged” under its provisions.
Proposed new section 24, sub-section (2.), paragraph (b) provides -
A person who . . . knowing that a person intends to commit treason, does not give information thereof with all reasonable despatch to a constable or use other reasonable endeavours to prevent the commission of the offence, shall be guilty of an indictable offence.
The penalty for that offence is imprisonment for life. Having regard to the difficulties, r have already mentioned of establishing, what does constitute treason, this provision goes much too far. It would compel a member of a family to inform on. another, member of that family. Have we reached the stage at which we should’ enforce this kind of compulsion, a compulsion which is a part of the Russian system and’ about which we complain? Have we reached such a stage that we should encourage members, of a family to. inform on other members of that family under pain of severe punishment if they fail to do so? In Russia a person who offends against that kind of provision can be shot. In Australia he will now be liable to. be imprisoned for life. I wonder where the Attorney-General got this concept of law. from?
– From Hitler!’
Mi-. CALWELL. - He may have got it from- Hitler; He certainly did not get it from any democratic country. We suggest that this proposed new section might be broken up into parts, but as it stands it is completely unacceptable to us. A major surgical operation would have to be performed on it before it could be made acceptable. We say that the penalty of death prescribed in the bill for treason or for any other offence under this legislation should be reduced to imprisonment for life.
Now I come to the new offences of treachery and sabotage which are created by this legislation. I do not know where this Government is going to stop in creating new offences. No doubt it will introduce another one later of harbouring dangerous thoughts or something of that kind. There is no limit to the Government’s capacity for imagining offences, and if it stays in office long enough it. will no doubt bring down further legislation to amend this legislation. Proposed new section 24aa would treat as treachery the doing of any act or thing, within or outside Australia, in an attempt to overthrow the Constitution of the Commonwealth by sabotage, but sabotage is not defined. Perhaps the Attorney-General will take some action to define sabotage.
– Have a look at proposed new section 24ab.
– I would not take the advice of the Minister for Labour and National Service on legal matters if he gave it to me free. I will come to proposed new section 24ab in due course. The bill also would treat as treachery the doing of any act or thing, within or outside Australia, in an attempt to overthrow by force or violence the established government of a proclaimed country. It also proposes to treat as treachery the levying of war or the doing of any act preparatory to levying war against a proclaimed country, as well as assisting by any means whatever an enemy of and at war with a proclaimed country, whether or not the existence of a state of war has been declared. So one can get caught by this legislation if he is friendly towards a country that is at war with another country. He can be considered guilty of treachery in such circumstances and heavily punished. Our only hope of protection is the High Court of Australia, which would be the sole remaining authority with power to prevent the perpetration of outrages under the legislation. But the body that should be protecting the rights of the Australian people is the Parliament of the nation, elected by the people, and when we return to power at the end of next year we will certainly revise all this legislation. Honorable members opposite may laugh, but there are quite a few of them who are whistling to keep up their courage as they contemplate the provisions of this bill and the worsening of the position of the nation’s economy.
Let me tell honorable members what the term “ a proclaimed country “ may cover under this bill. The term includes a colony, overseas territory or protectorate of the proclaimed country, and a territory for the international relations of which that country is responsible. The combined effect of the provisions regarding proclaimed countries is to throw on the Australian citizen the onus of obtaining knowledge of overseas events which, in the absence of some declaration by the Government, he may possibly know about only from newspapers, and to render criminally punishable by imprisonment for life acts of a kind which in normal circumstances would be wholly’ innocent. That is the gravamen of our charge against the Government with regard to these provisions.
The Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. McMahon), who has now replaced the Attorney-General at the table - the substitute Attorney-General-
– The dilutee!
– The dilutee AttorneyGeneral has directed my attention to proposed new section 24ab. This is primarily a definition section devoted to the crime of sabotage. An act of sabotage is defined as -
The destruction, damage or impairment, for a purpose prejudicial, or intended to be prejudicial, to the safety or defence of the Commonwealth, of any article-
Then four specified classes of articles are set out. The words “ for a purpose prejudicial, or intended to be prejudicial “ demand critical scrutiny. The insertion of the words “ or intended to be prejudicial “ indicate that the preceding words “ for a purpose prejudicial “ can be construed apart altogether from the intent, innocent or otherwise, of the accused. As I have said, it is basic in English law, that intent is the first requirement for the commission of an offence. Tn short, under this bill, a person who is accused of destruction, impairment or damage for a purpose prejudicial to the safety or defence of the Commonwealth can be convicted even if he has no guilty intent if the court holds that he produced an effect which was prejudicial.
Proposed new section 24ab gets worse as it continues. The definition of “ article “ is exceedingly wide and includes any place, government owned or private, which is used by the armed forces for the manufacture, investigation or testing of weapons or apparatus of war. This is where the position becomes really desperate for any accused person, particularly a person who has been a member of the Communist Party at any time in his life, even though he has left it or has been expelled from it because he disagreed with it over Hungary, Stalin or anything else and has taken action over the years to show that he is quite divorced from the party and its activities.
Proposed section 24ab (3.) provides -
On a prosecution under this section it is not necessary to show that the accused person was guilty of a particular act tending to show a purpose prejudicial, or intended to be prejudicial to the safety or defence of the Commonwealth and, notwithstanding that such an act is not proved against him, he may be convicted if, from the circumstances of the case, from his conduct or from his known character as proved, it appears that his purpose was a purpose prejudicial, or a purpose intended to be prejudicial, as the case requires, to the safety or defence of the Commonwealth.
Let me give an illustration of the manner in which a person could be convicted of an offence, merely on his known character as proved. A workman may drop a spanner into a machine that is used in producing an article for use by the armed forces. It could be any article at all. It need not be something connected with a piece of artillery or an aircraft; it could be a tin of bully beef or anything intended for use by the armed forces. If he drops a spanner into such a machine, his guilty intent to prejudice the safety or defence of the Commonwealth may be presumed from the fact that he is known to be or to have been a member of the Communist Party. He may have slipped, he may have been pushed, he may have been framed, or something else may have happened. But under this proposed sub-section he will be presumed to be guilty because of his known character.
If a person is a member of the Communist Party he should not be employed in a munitions plant. If the Government is afraid that he may do some harm to a defence establishment or interfere with the proper conduct of that institution, he should be transferred elsewhere. The Government has its security service, and it is up to the Government to say who shall and who shall not be employed in munitions plants or defence establishments. To say that a person who at one time or another has been a member of the Communist Party shall be found guilty because he dropped a spanner into a machine is outrageous and cannot be defended by anybody. Do not let any one say that this Government would not do this sort of thing. A former Communist who has carried on a one man war against the Communist Party ever since the invasion of Hungary four years ago was temporarily employed by the Attorney-General’s Department, but was summarily dismissed because he had been a Communist. The Prime Minister in a statement made in this chamber refused to accept the man’s explanation that he was no longer a Communist. The right honorable gentleman sought to prove that the man was still an underground Communist, saying that the Communist Party had let him loose so he could be even more dangerous. That person is now denied the right of employment by the Commonwealth Government. The dictum of this Government that out of the hell of communism there is no redemption will not be accepted by many persons in Australia. If the early Christians had accepted that idea we would never have known of St. Paul or of a lot of other people who changed their views around that time. I hate communism, but I do not hate Communists. I would never do an injustice to a Communist or to anybody else with whose philosophy I did not agree. Our view on this legislation is that the Government is acting wrongly, unfairly and unjustly, and that the Australian people will not stand for what it is doing.
The proposed sub-section to which I have referred will enable the Crown to prove the guilt of an act, innocent or accidental in itself, from circumstances that are not relevant to or connected with the act, but which relate to conduct or character long ante-dating the commission of the act. I -again instance the -case of a workman who accidently drops a spanner into a machine that is engaged in preparing say, boots, clothing, tinned meat or something else for the armed forces.
Clause 46 deals with the publication by an ex-Commonwealth officer of .a fact which at the time when he ceased to be a Commonwealth officer “it was .his duty not to disclose. This provision will apply even though after ‘he leaves the service the fact loses all elements of secrecy and ceases to have any value at all. The ‘fact may have been commented upon publicly; it may have been released in somebody’s memoirs or may have been mentioned in newspaper articles, but if that man had that secret at the time he left the service of the Commonwealth he must not disclose it. If he does disclose it, the onus of proving that he had lawful authority or excuse for such publication rests with him. If he cannot offer an acceptable explanation, he is guilty of an offence.
– If that is so, Anthony Eden could have been found guilty.
– Before Anthony Eden and Winston Churchill wrote their memoirs, they sought and obtained the approval of the Prime Minister of the day. But, under this .provision, if a private secretary to a Minister were to publish material, he could be ‘hauled before the court and charged with an offence. The Australian -.people do not want to continue to create offences where a person has no guilty intent.
Clause 49 seeks to establish sabotage as an indictable offence which shall “be punishable ‘by imprisonment for seven years. The proposed new section provides that if a person for a purpose prejudicial, or intended to be prejudicial, to the safety or defence of the Commonwealth, .makes a sketch, plan or certain other things, or communicates to another person a sketch .or plan or does certain other things in that .regard, or approaches, is in the neighbourhood of, is in, enters, inspects or passes over a prohibited place, he ‘is guilty of an offence. Anybody -can ,be .dragged ‘in >under this provision. There is a large defence establishment at Albert Park -near St. Kilda:road. Melbourne. Part of that establishment is regarded as -a restricted area. Under this provision, if a ‘person for a purpose prejudicial to the defence or safety of the Commonwealth approaches, is in the neighbourhood of, :is in, ‘enters, inspects or passes over a prohibited place -such as this, he shall be guilty of an indictable offence and will be liable to imprisonment for the term I have stated. That defence establishment is ,on a public road. Quite a alot of people pass along that road, and anybody who passes along it can .be deemed to be in the neighbourhood of a public place. That :is obvious.
– By reason of subsection (2.) (a) of proposed new section 7:8, such .a person may have this allegedly guilty [purpose .proved from his known character. It is all right for .this doctor -of philosophy opposite, whose philosophy is :of a very poor type, anyhow, to suggest that what I am saying is nonsense. If the honorable .gentleman does not want this sort of thing to be written .into the law. let him vote against this proposition.
Clause 50 of the bill will amend .section 80 of the principal act toy widening the definition of “ prohibited places “. Clause 52 will insert a revised section 82 which will enable a justice of the .peace to issue -a search warrant. We say that having regard to ‘the seriousness of the offences dealt with - treason, treachery, sabotage, espionage and the disclosure of official secrets - the person to issue a search warrant should be nobody other than a magistrate or a judge. Search warrants should not be issued by justices of the peace. This is just a minor .objection which we offer. Clause 54 will insert in the .principal act proposed new section 84, which will authorize a Commonwealth officer to arrest without warrant a person committing or attempting to commit an. offence in .relation to a -prohibited place.
Clause 55 of the bill will insert proposed -new section 85a, which will make Officers of a corporation guilty Of offences committed by the .corporation unless the onus of proving innocence is accepted by the accused. Having regard to the fact that a registered trade union is a corporation, in our view particular attention should be directed by the Parliament to the effect of this provision on officers of trade unions. Any trade union official could be landed in serious trouble and his union could be bankrupted if a perverse Minister or government wishing, on the eve of an election to cause another scare and being deprived of another Petrov case with which to stampede the people, decided to make a raid on a trade union office and allege certain happenings, and prosecute certain people with the idea of quietly dropping the case when the election was over. We object to other provisions in the bill such as the proposed new provisions to be inserted in the principal act by clause 56.
For all the reasons that I have stated and for other reasons which will be stated by my colleagues who will follow me in this debate, we demand that this bill be withdrawn and redrafted in order to bring it more into consonance with the accepted principles of justice and law.
Finally, I come to a remark made by the Attorney-General which contains the usual smear with which Government supporters conclude everything. The last few words that the Minister uttered at the conclusion of his second-reading speech are worthy of repetition in order -that they may be hurled back at him. Talking not only about Communists, but about everybody who is opposed to this Government, he said -
I can, therefore, Mr. Speaker, understand their alarm and their antipathy when amendments of the Crimes -Act are proposed. On the other hand, may I not have good reason to expect that those who deeply cherish this country as their own, are proud of its institutions and are resolved to maintain them, will - details perhaps apart - wholeheartedly endorse the endeavour represented by this bill, which is in the tradition of British justice in this field, and find it an expression of the maturity of Australia and of its determination to maintain its national integrity.
This bill is retrogressive and retrograde, and we will have nothing to do with the clauses that I have criticized.
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. John McLeay).Is the amendment seconded?
– I second it.
– Mr. Speaker, I do not think it is an unfair generalization to say that the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) has taken all the sting out of this debate. Where his heart was I do not know. Where his brains were no one else will know, either. As I have said, he has taken the sting out of this debate, and I am afraid that he has ruined it for my colleague, the Attorney-General (Sir Garfield Barwick). As I read through the amendment proposed by the Leader of the Opposition I came to the conclusion that it was not so much a real amendment to the bill brought down by the AttorneyGeneral. It was a political manifesto. In that political manifesto and in the political speech made by the Leader of the Opposition you find the dilemma that the Australian Labour Party is in to-day - a real dilemma that it cannot resolve, because it has within its ranks several groups, one of which represents the interests of the Communist Party of Australia and is so powerful that the other elements within the party are unable to take strong and decisive action against those forces which are acting or trying to act to the prejudice of the safety of this country. In that manifesto, Mr. Speaker, you find that dilemma, and you find the reason for the lack of decision by the Labour Party and the extraordinary attitude that it always takes when the issues of communism, treason and sabotage are debated.
I believe that it is right that I, as the first speaker to reply to the Leader of the Opposition on behalf of the Government, should put my reply in a proper context. In order to do so I return to what my colleague, the AttorneyGeneral, has said. In his secondreading speech he directed attention to the enormous changes that have taken place in Australia during the time in which the Crimes Act has been in force. He pointed out that it could have been thought years ago, when the original act was introduced, that we were in effect a dependency. We were then within the British Empire, not the Commonwealth of Nations. We had not developed to full nationhood. We had not developed our own defence forces and our own policy on foreign affairs. We had not embassies of our own overseas. In fact, we were in effect a dependency within the British Empire and not a nation standing on its own feet - a nation in its own right, administering its own domestic and foreign affairs. That is the first change for us to note that has taken place between the introduction of the original Crimes Act and to-day, Sir.
The second point that the AttorneyGeneral made was that now that the Statute of Westminster is in force extraterritorial matters come within the ambit of Australian legislation. Thirdly, my colleague pointed to the enormously changed conditions that exist in the world as we know it to-day. A hostile act against this country in these times need not necessarily be thought of in terms of an act of war. It can be an act of subversion or an act of treachery which need not be supported by a declaration of war. Finally, the Attorney-General directed attention to what I think is the classic difficulty, the real difficulty that faces the countries of the free world - the continuing threat of international communism. My colleague - very rightly, I believe - stressed those four aspects as the basis of the things at which this amending bill is aimed. I personally think that that background has to be known and thoroughly understood if the provisions of this bill are to be understood.
The Attorney-General also pointed out that there were four different classifications of amendments - those related to penology; those related to official secrets; those related to coinage; and those related to Part II. of the bill, which refers to treason, sabotage, treachery and other acts against the security and defence of the country. These are important, and it is to the provisions concerning treason, sabotage and treachery that I want to address my remarks to-night. I put it to the House that when we are dealing with offences against the government of the country - this does not mean the executive government, but the people and the institutions of the country - we should do as the Attorney-General said - remember the first principle of our law, which is that the security and defence of the cvuntry must be the paramount consideration of the Government. It is perfectly true that in the interests of the people and of the country some deprivation of personal liberty may be necessary. We want that deprivation to be as small as it possibly can be. But I think that any Government supporter in the House, or any other sensible person within the community, would place the need to protect the people and our institutions against treachery and treason as the first principle of government. So I personally believe - I put this as my own personal philosophy - that those who attack these provisions of the bill have the onus put upon them to show that the changes are not reasonable.
Now may I turn to the provisions of the bill. Here I would like to divide my remarks into two sections. The first section relates to what can be called technical criticisms, criticisms of draftsmanship and of what the bill may mean. The second part relates to criticisms of substance. I want to touch, first, on criticisms of technical details and of draftsmanship. The Leader of the Opposition referred to sections 30j and 30k of the principal act. Section 30j provides - (1.) If at any time the Governor-General is of opinion that there exists in Australia a serious industrial disturbance prejudicing or threatening trade or commerce with other countries or among the States, he may make a Proclamation . . . (2.) Any person who, during the operation of such Proclamation, takes part in or continues, or incites to, urges, aids or encourages the taking part in, or continuance of, a lock-out or strike . . . shall be guilty of an offence . . .
Section 30k provides that whoever, by violence to the person or property of another person, obstructs or hinders the provision of any public service by the Commonwealth shall also be guilty of an offence. So there must be a serious industrial disturbance and a proclamation by the Governor-General on the recommendation of the government of the day. We believe that those sections should remain. They have been there for many years - I think since 1932. They have been there throughout the regime of successive Labour governments and have not been altered. They are used only as a last resort and when it is felt that no other remedies are open to the Government to stop serious disturbances of the kind that I have mentioned. It becomes perfectly obvious, Mr. Speaker, that the opposition to these sections was the result of a request from the trade union movement. That is understandable, I admit, but the sections were not repealed when the Australian Labour Party was in office. The sections are used only as a last resort and I believe that any government would keep unto itself the right to take action if it thought that such action was in the best interests of the community and that serious industrial disturbances had to be stopped. I think that that will dispose of the first category mentioned by the Leader of the Opposition. As I said, I do not know where his heart was when he mentioned this, and I doubt whether serious-minded members of the Opposition will pursue it very much further.
Now may I come to the second classification. I believe that there has been more misrepresentation or misunderstanding of the proposed new sections 24, 24aa and 24ab than there has been of any other section of any act in the eleven years that I have been a member of this House. Peculiarly enough, when referring to proposed new section 24, the Leader of the Opposition mentioned that he liked the common law. I shall come back to that in a moment. Proposed new section 24 provides that a person who levies war or does any act preparatory to levying war against the Commonwealth, or - and this is important - assists by any means whatever an enemy at war with the Commonwealth, whether or not the existence of a state of war has been declared, shall be guilty of an indictable offence. Many people have criticized that part of the proposed new section which says “ assists by any means whatever an enemy at war with the Commonwealth “.
It is claimed that the words “ assists by any means “ have three implications. The first is that a person may be prevented from criticizing the foreign policy of the Government. The second is that the provision can be used to stop a genuine industrial action, and the third is that a person may do this quite accidentally. Let us look at each of those suggestions. The Leader of the Opposition said that he preferred the common law to this new section. The quick and simple answer to what he has said - this was made perfectly clear by the Attorney-General - is that the proposed new section 24 is the common law. The Attorney-General has taken the provision from the common law and has put it into the statute law. He has explained the position very fully.
It is said that a person could assist the enemy without intending to do so. But the very words “ assist the enemy “ have a common law meaning. A person must assist the enemy and must do so with an intention to assist. Surely we must treat as an act of treason the doing of some positive act to assist the enemy, if we can prove to the limit that it is done with an intention to assist the enemy. It is a long time since I had anything to do with the law, but my colleague has given me an excellent quotation taken from the case “ Rex versus Steane “. I think this sets out the law perfectly. It reads -
The Court of Criminal Appeal held that the proper direction to the jury would have been that it was for the prosecution to prove the criminal intent, and that, while the jury would be entitled to presume that intent if they thought that the act was done as the result of the free, uncontrolled action of the accused, they would not be entitled to presume it if the circumstances showed that the act was done in subjection to the power of the enemy or was as equally consistent with an innocent intent as with a criminal intent-
This is the important passage -
So there must be both an act and an intention to assist the enemy before a person could be brought within the scope of this provision. I mention these facts. I personally believe that in substance this provision is sound. It is designed, under the new conditions as we find them to-day, to protect this country from acts of treason. We must do our best to protect ourselves. It does not interfere one iota with the common law, and the person has to be convicted on indictment; that is, he must come before a judge and jury, if conviction is to be achieved. Much the same thing can be said about clauses 24aa (1 .) and 24aa (2.), but I leave them for the moment.
I come now to the question of the trade unions. After consultation with mv colleague, the Attorney-General, I make it clear that there is nothing in the provisions of this bill which either directly or indirectly - I use the word “ indirectly “ deliberately - is aimed at the legitimate actions of the trade union movement as such or any member of the trade union movement. This provision does not touch or interfere in any -way with the legitimate industrial activities of the trade union movement. Nor can it be said that because of art. accident, such as where a person drops a spanner, or something of that kind, a person could become liable under this provision. He could not become liable for the very good reason that you must show intention to assist the enemy, and you must prove that intention beyond a reasonable doubt as well as proving that the particular act was committed.
Finally, I deal with the question as to whether or not it could happen as a result of an accident. I suggest that is answered already by virtue of the fact that you must prove that it was intended to assist the enemy. I do hope that will overcome some of the criticisms that have been offered. The clause has been criticized by very eminent members of the Australian National University, very eminent members of the Sydney University and a very eminent junior barrister, but their criticisms indicate beyond any shadow of doubt that they have not done their homework or, if they have done their homework, they have not understood what the common law is. 1 come now to the second objection, that relating to sabotage. Clause 24ab is the relevant provision. To illustrate the confusion, in the mind of the Leader of the Opposition, I mention that he first made the astonishing statement that there was no definition of “ sabotage “. Later he. corrected himself and referred to what “ sabotage “ actually meant as set out in clause 2.4 ab, which provides - . . “Act of sabotage” means the destruction, damage or impairment, for a purpose prejudicial, or intended to be prejudicial, tn the safety or defence of the Commonwealth. . . . and it mentions certain types of articles. The clause also sets out that if a person carries out an act of sabotage then he shall be guilty of an indictable offence. That makes it necessary first to prove the act. If you are to indict a person for an act of sabotage, you must have the evidence on which you can convict him for committing one of the acts set out in clause 24ab. Therefore you must first have the act.
Then there is a second provision relating to the offence. It is purely evidentiary. I refer to sub-clause (3.) of clause 24ab. which has been referred to already by the Leader of the Opposition. It says -
On a prosecution under this section it is not necessary to show that the accused person was guilty of a particular act tending to show a purpose prejudicial, or intended to be prejudicial, to the safety or defence of the Commonwealth. . . .
The relevant part reads - he . . . may be convicted if, from the circumstances of the case, from his conduct or from his known character as proved, it appears that his purpose was a purpose prejudicial, or a purpose intended to be prejudicial, as the case requires, to the safety or defence of the Commonwealth.
Honorable members opposite have attempted to argue that a person can be convicted on known character alone. That is totally incorrect. Two ingredients must be established. The first is the act of sabotage in accordance with the definition, and the second is that you must prove his known character of a kind relevant to the type of act it is alleged he has committed; and that must be proved up to the hilt - beyond reasonable doubt and to the satisfaction of the jury. It is therefore my firm conviction that again in this instance the provision is correct in substance and the Attorney-General must be given great credit for introducing it.
This particular evidentiary provision has been dealt with by the Opposition on the ground that it is something new. On the contrary, it has been in the Loitering Acts for many years. It was in the 1871 Prevention of Crimes Act, and it is in section 78 of the principal act. It was taken out of the Official Secrets Act 1911. The important point to remember is that Labour knew of this evidentiary provision when it was in government, and it took no action whatsoever to repeal that section. Therefore, we have to discount most of what the Opposition has said. It is not novel. It was the law when the Labour Party was in office. I believe it is a sensible provision and that it should stay in the act for the very solid reason that when we are dealing with acts of sabotage we need to have some deterrent. If a person of known character for committing a particular type of sabotage commits another type of sabotage, he will know very well that evidence of his known character can be introduced.
Finally, I should like to deal with the question of trade unions. Here I emphasize again that when I speak about trade unions I do so with great respect. I can understand their making a bid now to get rid of sections 30j and 30k, but L emphasize to honorable members that there is not one clause in this bill which is aimed either directly or indirectly at the trade unions as such, or at individual trade union members Their genuine industrial interests are not affected in any way. For instance, if a foreman should abuse or hit a seaman and industrial action is carried out, that would not come within the scope of any of the provisions of the amending bill, even if that act were carried out during a time of war. It is only natural that we in this House and, I am sure, the trade union movement itself would never want to argue that trade unions and’ their members should be placed above the law, that there should be discrimination in their favour and that they should be permitted to commit acts which would be regarded as criminal offences if committed by others. I am sure the unions are not asking for that privilege; and this bill does not touch any genuine industrial problem, or any genuine industrial action.
I have tried to make it clear to the House that there are two kinds of activity which are affected by the bill, and I am sure that the. provisions relating to them are correct in substance. In any case, the AttorneyGeneral has given the assurance that if any drafting or other amendments are necessary he will look at them, but we are confident that in substance the provisions contained in the bill are correct. Let us now look at the real argument as to- the substance of the clauses now before the House. Who are the real opponents? I shall leave that question to be answered in a few moments; but I do direct attention again to the fact that when we look at the substance of this, bill we must remember the changed conditions that exist in this country in that we now have to defend’ ourselves against known enemies. We now have our own external defence system. What is equally important, we have the big problem of our age so- far as security and defence are concerned. I refer to the known activities, aims and objectives of the Communist Party.
I do not think any sensible person will deny that the historic aim’ of the Communist Party is to- destroy this country’s freedom and its free institutions’. No one will deny that statement of fact. In the bill now before us, there is a- clear intention to prevent subversion and: sabotage, whether by the Communist Party or any one else. I believe it is the responsibility of this Government to carry out those changes in the law which it thinks necessary for the defence and security of this country. We know who are the sworn foes and enemies of this country. We would be lacking in our sense of duty and responsibility if, during the period of the Attorney-Generalship of a very distinguished and able man, we did not bring down laws designed for the single purpose of protecting the security and defence of this country.
Those who are opposed to this measure in substance must stand up and be counted. They must justify their opposition to the bill and tell us why they oppose it. I believe that, in substance, every clause in this bill deserves to be supported. The AttorneyGeneral has given his assurance that if any clarifications or drafting amendments are necessary he will go out of his way to see what they are and, if necessary, make some changes in the measure. I support the bill and strongly recommend it to the House.
.- I am extremely gratified at the decision of the Australian Labour Party to oppose this fascist type legislation with all the vigour it possesses. I will indicate to the Australian community that this legislation is not what the Government claims it to be. The Communist Party Dissolution Bill was aimed not merely at the Communist Party and people who could be identified as members of the Communist Party, but at every progressive thinker and worker in this country and every militant trade unionist and. Labourite v/ho stood up for his party’s policy,, and the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. McMahon) - this tailor’s dummy who has. been telling us of his interpretation, of the. legal provisions of the legislation; - has let the cat out of the bag in regard to the bill before us. He said there is a- group in the Labour Party representing, the Communist Party. Therefore, one can say that this legislation is designed to deal not merely with the official Communist Party- but’ also with members of the Australian Labour Party..
Why does the Government want this legislation? What is the urgency about it?
Who is it that we are at war with to-day? Let us examine the powers now sought. This Government is seeking powers which no government sought even in war-time, and we are now living in a period of peace. In 1951 the present Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) warned us that we had three years and no more in which to prepare for war. At that time, when we were told that we had only three years to prepare for war, no action was taken to put this type of legislation on the statute-book.
The Minister for Labour and National Service talks about our enemies. Why does he not name those whom he regards as the enemies of this country? As a matter of fact, we know that the members of the Government, from their past attitude, would indicate the Soviet Republic. Yet it is only a week or two ago that the Leader of this Government and of this country was in conference with Mr. Khrushchev for a period of 80 minutes. If this legislation had then been on the statute-book and had been administered by another government, the Prime Minister himself could have been regarded as having committed an offence under this measure.
I believe this bill fits into a definite pattern. We have said and we repeat that what this Government is attempting to do is to destroy the democratic form of government in Australia. What is the basis of democratic government? It is free speech. If every person in the community has not the right to stand up and say what he likes about the policy of the government, how can we claim to have democratic government in this country? The Attorney-General and the Minister for Labour and National Service may protest and say that the only people who object to this measure are members of the Communist Party. I have in my hand a letter from the Presbyterian Church authorities. I do not know whether it would be regarded as an official church viewpoint by the simple Presbyterian who leads the Government. However, this letter is from the Presbyterian Church. Let us see whether it expresses any concern about this legislation. The Presbyterian Church expresses concern for the obligation and the right of churches and Christians to speak on public issues. Evidently it thinks freedom of speech is endangered by this measure. It says -
Stability, law and order are secure only when they incorporate justice and freedom.
It continues -
We see in certain clauses of the bill a threat to the freedom of the churches, Christians and others. Any person publicly maintaining a pacifist position on religious, moral or other grounds would appear to be liable to prosecution. Christian missionaries, doctors and others could be placed in an untenable position with regard to acts of compassion on behalf of persons against whom part of the defence force is or is likely to be opposed.
The Church refers to these things as dangers inherent in the bill. How can members of the Government continue to say that the only people opposed to this legislation are members of the Communist Party? I said that this measure fitted into a pattern. What this Government wants to do is to destroy democratic government and to establish a police state in Australia. If that is done, we will have a reign of tyranny equal to that which existed in prewar Germany under the Hitler regime.
Let us turn now to our security service, which has been turned by this Government into a political police force. To-day the security service sends its representatives to report the speeches of trade unionists speaking on industrial issues. It prepares its secret dossiers on many people in this country who are not associated with the Communist Party. It has its agents everywhere. Did we not find out during the Petrov inquiry that the security service had medical men spying for it, and pimps in the trade unions? Did we not find out that it had agents in the universities reporting on what the professors and the students were talking and thinking about? Latterly we have had the infamous telephonetapping legislation, and now no two citizens of this country are free to have a telephone conversation without the threat of some agent of the security service listening in and the information so obtained being used to malign and smear the reputation of honorable Australian citizens.
We have often heard this Government say it is not against the trade union movement. What the Government wants is tame cat unions which will do what it wants them to do. What the Government aims to do is to destroy every militant trade union organization in this country. Let us consider the savage penalties imposed on trade unions to-day for exercising their right to withhold labour when they deem that the. conditions of employment offered are not satisfactory to them, in the same way as other sections of the community use their power and withdraw their products from the market if they do not receive what they think is a satisfactory price. These savage penalties are imposed on trade unions by courts presided over by people who, not very long ago, were vicious antiunion senators in this Parliament.
Now I come to this Crimes Bill, as it is termed. This legislation creates crimes out of what, at the moment, are lawful acts. It extends the field of crime in Australia.
Let me briefly go through some of the provisions of the bill and show their dangers. The treason charge has now been extended. You could be charged with treason previously only if you were actually helping an enemy at war with the Commonwealth. Now the Government has extended the field and a person can be charged with treason whether or not a state of war has been declared. Why does not the Government name the countries it regards as enemies of Australia so that at least the law can be expressed with some precision and the people of this country would then know if they were infringing its provisions. Let me turn briefly to other sections to which the Labour Party raises strong objection. Proposed new section 24 (2.) (b) provides -
A person who . . . knowing that a person intends to commit treason, does not give information thereof with all reasonable despatch . . . shall be guilty of an indictable offence.
As the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) has pointed out, this provision creates a situation in which parents are asked to pimp on their children and children are asked to inform on their parents. That is the very system that we have heard condemned in this Parliament, and which operates in the totalitarian countries.
I now turn to the new charge of treachery. Honorable members opposite are interjecting, but I am not going to be distracted from my arguments because I have only limited time in which to speak. What is this new charge of treachery?
Proposed new section 24aa (1.) (a) provides -
A person shall not do any act or thing in an attempt -
to overthrow by force or violence the established government of the Commonwealth of a State or of a proclaimed country; or
We are told that a protection is provided in the legislation in respect to a proclaimed country. The Attorney-General said - . . no proclamation of any country may be made except in pursuance of and after a resolution of each House of this Parliament authorizing it and passed within 21 days preceding the making of the resolution.
How can that be regarded as a protection when the Government has a majority in both chambers? It can proclaim any country at all at any time. Proposed new section 24aa (1.) (b) (i) provides that a person shall not - levy war, or do any act preparatory to levying war, against a proclaimed country.
If a person did not know the countries that were to be proclaimed by this Government how could he be sure that he was not committing an offence under this legislation? The next sub-paragraph reads -
Every honorable member knows that when the expression, “ by any means whatever “, is used it includes assistance or encouragement by speech. If any member of this Parliament were to make a speech criticizing the foreign policy of this Government and his remarks were deemed to aid an enemy of this country or a country that was engaged in war against a proclaimed country, he would commit an offence and be liable to a very severe penalty without being conscious that he had offended. The last sub-paragraph of paragraph (b) reads -
Sub-section (2.) of proposed new section 24aa reads -
Where a part of the Defence Force is on, or is proceeding to, service outside the Commonwealth and the Territories not forming part of the Commonwealth, a person shall not assist by any means whatever any persons against whom that part of the Defence Force, or a force that includes that part of the Defence Force, is 101 is likely .to be opposed.
What would have happened if this legislation had been on the statute-book in years gone by when people dared to criticize the cause of the First World WaT? I well recollect the late Mr. William Morris Hughes referring to the First World War as a sordid trade ‘war. If this legislation had been in existence, he would have been deemed to be assisting the enemies .of this country..
We know, too, that during the Boer War many years ago people in .this country were deemed to be pro-Boer because they were opposed to the policy of the Government of the day in acting against the Dutch settlers in South Africa. If this legislation had been then in force, those people would have : been liable to a charge of treachery and would have been subject to life imprisonment upon conviction. The late Mr. Ben Chifley, who -condemned the sending of Australian troops into Malaya when we were not at war with any country, could have been subject to life imprisonment .if this legislation had been in existence at the time. Let me refer also to the old conscription issue in the First World War. Many men in this country, including many honorable members sitting on the Opposition side in this Parliament, opposed the conscription proposals of the government of the day. They would all have “been subject .to a charge of treachery and liable to life imprisonment if this legislation had been in existence.
Let us now consider a few opinions outside the Communist Party to which the Government has directed attention. The “Sydney Morning Herald” of 26th September, in referring to this legislation stated -
It is so loosely drafted that, as it stands, it could be used to suppress public discussion of the Government’s foreign policy.
So we find that even conservative newspapers consider that opposition or criticism of the Government can be deemed under the terms of this, bill to be treachery. Supposing the Government were to declare Formosa under this bill. Every person in this country who dared to criticize the corrupt regime of Chiang Kai-shek would be committing an offence and be liable to a severe penalty. We all know what was said by many Australian about Synghman Rhee’s regime in Korea, and it turned out to be correct. The people who condemned Synghman Rhee and his corrupt administration, and those who wished to change the situation in that country could have been guilty of treachery if this bill had been in existence.
Let me turn to what the AttorneyGeneral .said about a proclaimed country. In his second-reading speech, the Attorney - General said -
The Government -has thought that there .should be available to this country a ready means of preventing certain activities which are aimed at another country with which this country has and may desire to ma’inta’in, or indeed to create, friendly and co-operative relationships or which it may desire to assist or protect.
I would like Government speakers to explain how we are to regard the countries that are not proclaimed. The Attorney-General says that it is only the proclaimed countries against whom a person is not permitted to -take any action. If a country is not proclaimed, I would presume that hostile acts against it would be encouraged by the Government. If people “want to commit hostile acts against the countries that are not proclaimed, it is quite permissible for them to do ‘so. Could -you imagine a more ridiculous or more provocative piece of legislation than this? I say that it is a most dangerous piece of legislation.
The Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. McMahon) has said that there is nothing in this bill of which the trade unionists of this country need be afraid. The Attorney-General has been saying the same thing to deputations of trade unionists who have been in this city during the last few days. Who can place any reliance on these assurances .given by members of the Government? If the Government would not use this legislation against these people whom it fears, against whom would lt use it? I say that the Government does fear the trade unionists and that this is part of the machinery which it is preparing to deal with a situation that is developing. The Government knows that the economic conditions in this country are worsening. Recently, the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen), when addressing a primary producers’ conference, talked about the drastic steps that the Government would soon be obliged to take in -order to -prevent the running away -of our overseas financial reserves. So we ‘get to the point where the Government, as part of its plan to deal with this situation, intends to attack the living standards of the trade unionists of this country. Why does the Government want the adoption of the new interim cost of living index? Is it ‘because it thinks it is the fair way to determine wages, or because it would result in a lowering of wages and a worsening of the workers’ living standards? These things are being mounted by the Government against the trade unionists ‘because the Government knows that sooner or later there is going to be an industrial explosion in this country. Then the Government will want to be able to use this great power in relation to what .it terms sabotage against trade unionists. An act of sabotage, according to proposed new section 24ab (1.) means - the destruction, damage or impairment, for a purpose prejudicial, or intended to be prejudicial to the safety or defence of the .Commonwealth, or any article -
Sub-section (2.) reads -
A person who -
Cb) has in his possession any article that is capable of use, and which he intends for use, in carrying out an act of sabotage. ;In my opinion, the interpretation put upon that clause by the the Leader of the Opposition is correct. There is no trade unionist in this country whose liberty, will not be endangered if this legislation ever becomes effective. I say “ ever “becomes effective “ because J want to issue a warning to the Government: The Government can put an act on the statute-book, but if an act of Parliament is resisted and objected to by a majority of the Australian community, it cannot be made effective law. If the Government believes that that is an over-statement of the position let the people be given an opportunity to determine the matter by referendum. Surely there is not the urgency for these amendments that members of the Government are indicating in their speeches. I am .quite confident that the result of a referendum on this legislation would .be similar to the verdict which the people gave on the Communist PartY Dissolution Bill.
I return to the question of proved character. -Do not let it he thought that the Government would not use the powers provided in this legislation. These people think as fascists do. Most honorable members know of the opinions that -have been expressed by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) -on a number of former occasions. Let me quote just one -or two of them to show that the Government is quite capable of using these powers if the occasion arises. The late Mr. Mahoney, who was a Labour member of this Parliament from Tasmania, is reported in “ Hansard “ as having related a ‘Conversation which he had with the Prime Minister in 1940. In “ Hansard “ Hae is reported as saying that the Prime Minister had said -
I have a great admiration for the Nazi organization of Germany.
We also remember the famous incident in 1939 when the then Prime Minister, the late Mr. Lyons, banned a speech that was to be made by the present Prime Minister, who was then the Attorney-General, commenting on .a speech which Hitler had made in the German Reichstag. But the -decision to ban .the speech was too late to prevent its publication. This is what the present Prime Minister is reported as having said -
On the whole, Hitler’s speech was satisfactory . . It is imperative that we should get to know the German point of view and so help to destroy the German delusion .that the democratic countries .do not understand her and have no sympathy with any of her ambitions . . . Germany had some real grievances agains: Czechoslovakia . . . Those who thought France was always right and Germany was always wrong ‘were the ones who perpetuated international trouble.
Referring to the dictatorship in Germany the right honorable gentleman is reported as having said -
There are also points in that dictatorship that Australia could learn from.
– Who said that7
– The present Prime Minister. Evidently, this Government did learn from them. He also said -
I think there is a great deal to be .said for Germany re-arming.
That statement was made in the pre-war period. Let me make just one further quotation of what the Prime Minister said on this matter. As reported in the “ Sydney Morning Herald” of 17th October. 1938. he said -
Australians who cannot bother to exercise a vote sometimes had the effrontery to proclaim their disdain for the Governments of Italy and Germany-
That is, the fascist governments of those countries -
Surely honorable members do not need any further proof that this Government and the person who leads it are fascist minded.
I want to refer to another statement made by the Attorney-General in his secondreading speech. He said that this bill -
I repeat what the Leader of the Opposition said: The man Staples, who was expelled from the Communist Party some years ago and was given a position in the AttorneyGeneral’s Department, suffered dismissal as a result of a security report; but if this legislation had been in existence he would have been faced with life imprisonment because, having previously been a member of the Communist Party, he would have been deemed guilty of committing an act of treachery. What freedom-loving people could believe in or support that type of legislation?
I turn now to the question of official secrets. Why does the Government want to prevent public servants, who may believe that they have a greater duty to the public than they have to the executive government of this country, from revealing certain things that ought to be revealed? I well recollect, as will other honorable members in this chamber, what happened at the commencement of the Second World War, when we were in opposition and the Government was led by the same man who leads this Government. At that time we brought to light deficiencies in defence production and showed how the defences of the country were in a disorganized state. Where were we getting the information from? In many cases, we were getting it from public servants who were so terrified about the security and safety of this country under the mismanagement of the Menzies Government of that day that they felt obliged to bring the information to members of the Opposition. The people of this country probably never would have heard of the Brisbane line strategy if it had not been for the fact that I was given information by a public servant who knew of the great danger that existed when the then Menzies Government was in control of Australia’s defences.
That is the type of happening which the Government wants to prevent, and do not forget that the amendment does not apply only to information of a security character obtained by public servants. As a former Minister, I recognize that it is essential that the utmost secrecy should be preserved in regard to certain information. But when the need for security has ceased to exist, if somebody wants to write his memoirs or a history of that period, are not the people entitled to know the individuals who failed them or let them down, particularly if they are still in public life?
Let me make one further reference to this question of espionage and official secrets. I want to direct attention to the fact that the bill provides that if a person passes on information he commits an act of espionage. Let me read to the House the definition of information contained in the bill “ Information “ means information of any kind whatsoever, whether true or false . . . and includes -
So, it must be evident to any fair-minded and reasonable Australian citizen that the Government intends to use this legislation as a deterrent, to terrify people so that they will not criticize its foreign or domestic policy and so that they will not resist actions of the Government with which they strongly disagree. An unfortunate public servant may, without any deliberate attempt to create a position in which an enemy or potential enemy could get valuable information, make an error, as many people do in their ordinary activities. For instance, he may be careless and leave a document out. If somebody peruses it, or the Government believes that some unauthorized person has perused it, then for that mere act of carelessness the public servant may suffer a penalty of six months’ imprisonment.
The Australian Journalists Association, which is by no means a militant organization and is in no way associated with the Communist Party, says in regard to this question of official secrets that whereas the existing law refers only to information useful to an enemy, the addition of the words “ or a foreign power “ now extends what were previously regarded as war-time offences into peace-time. The association also directs attention to the provision that these offences can be proved against ‘members of the Australian Journalists’ Association on their past character as proved. When the Government puts in the bill the words “ as proved “, it does not mean as proved in the courts by the production of evidence. A person’s character could be established to the satisfaction of this Government and of a court on a security report. The person concerned would know nothing about the nature of the report and the agent who prepared the report would be unknown to him. Already, in the Commonwealth Public Service, public servants are dismissed, transferred or refused promotion on the evidence of faceless informers. They are never told what the nature of the evidence is. Under this legislation we would have a similar situation in which people would suffer severe penalties of imprisonment on the mere say-so of a faceless informer, or a report submitted by the security service. People have been denied their rights in Australia as a result of the activities of this organization, which has been developed into a political police force by this Government. The “ Journalist “ continues in this way -
Publication of information of defence deficiencies . . . would be an offence . . . The lav,- would be there to be used if disclosures were sufficiently annoying to a government . . .
It must be evident to every honorable member of this Parliament and to every member of the Australian community who was listening to what I said when I commenced my address, that this is a piece of fascist legislation. It is part of the Government’s plan to establish a police state in Australia. I believe that, if the legislation passes this Parliament, when the people have the opportunity to pass judgment upon it they will reject not only the legislation but also the government which introduced it.
.- The speech of the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) indicates quite definitely the left wing view of the Opposition. It has been most interesting to see the attitude that has been adopted on this occasion by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) and the honorable member for East Sydney, who are posing now as paragons and the defenders of liberty and democracy. It is important to know the attitude that these honorable gentlemen adopted when they were Cabinet Ministers, when the Labour Party was in office during the war. It will be interesting also to recount, for the information of honorable members, their attitude when individuals were put at the mercy of this Parliament.
Because it happened so long ago, people have probably forgotten the case of the “ Australia First “ movement - a fascist movement, no doubt, which came into prominence in Australia during the Second World War. Eighteen alleged members of this movement were detained, by ministerial direction, under the national security regulations, for five and a half months without any charge being laid against them. This is an illustration of what happened when the government in which the two honorable members to whom I have referred were ministers was in office. The important thing about this case is that the characters of the men who were detained were not cleared for a long time. They had to wait another three and a half years - almost a total of four years in all - before they had the opportunity to clear themselves of the charges that had been laid against them. A judicial inquiry then took place, as a result of which two men were imprisoned for two and three years respectively, and sixteen were completely exonerated. But the characters of those sixteen people were besmirched, their reputations were ruined, their livelihood was taken away from them, and their business, which have taken years to establish, were completely destroyed.
I should like to read to honorable members an extract of a speech which was made by Mr. Eric Harrison - now Sir Eric
Harrison’ - which is reported on page 230 of volume 186 of “ Hansard “. I point out that Mr. Harrison’s speech which he made on 13th March, 1946, was not contradicted by members of the then Government. He said -
I take three cases as typical of all - those of Matthews, Bath and Watts, two of whom were ex-servicemen of World War I and proved their loyalty by blood sacrifice while some of the membees of this Government were under suspicion; indeed, some o£ them were put in gaol during that war. Harry Matthews was never a member of the movement. Mr. Justice Clyne has stated that definitely in- his report. In 1915, he served with distinction in World War I’. Epstein had taken him as a model of the spirit of Anzac. He was, living with his mother, who was 74 years, of age. At 2 p.m. on the 10th March he was seized and thrown into internment on as base a charge as could’ be conceived, and was subjected to an. interrogation unequalled in any other democracy in the world. He was never brought to trial, and was released six months after his arrest. The result was that he lost everything- that he possessed. Not only was his name defamed, but his mother, 74 years of age died’ in Adelaide when her son’s reputation was still besmirched. He was only allowed to attend- her funeral under guard.
– Who did that to him?
– The then Government - in which the present Leader of the Opposition and the honorable member for East Sydney were: Cabinet Ministers.
– It is. This did not take place, in Russia; it took place in Australia, which was controlled by a government comprised of men who now, claim’ to be paragons and defenders of our liberties and our democracy.
– It was a Labour government.
– Yes, it was a Labour government. Mr. Eric Harrison’s speech continued in this way -
If honorable members can support action of that kind against a man who on inquiry was proved to be innocent of the charges levelled, against him, it is an everlasting blot on the escutcheon of Australia. Those wrongs cannot be redressed by the granting of the paltry sum of £700. Can he buy, back his good name and his mother’s memory for that?
After ruining this man’s life, the Labour Government granted him £700. Mr. Eric Harrison then went on to- say–
– Who is making this speech?
– I know that the Opposition does not like this, because I am testing the sincerity of two of its leading figures. This is an excellent test. Mr. Eric Harrison continued -
Take the case of another ex-soldier of the 1914-1*8’ war named Watts, who served with distinction and was- awarded the Military Medal. He had war injuries for which a grateful country paid him- a pension, but he died two years, and four months after his arrest, with his name still besmirched. He died with the knowledge that he was considered by his fellow men to be a traitor to the- country which he had shed his blood in preserving; The irony of the whole thing! Will his widow be grateful to- the Government to know that, when its action had materially contributed to her husband’s death, it had given her a paltry £400 in an attempt to buy back his honour?
I should now like to read a paragraph of a letter from Bath, one of the men who was condemned by the Labour Government when it was in office. It is apparent that this letter was written, with a feeling of bitterness. It states -
Bad’ luck Mr. Bath, we are sorry for all that has happened to you; we imprisoned you for nearly six months without interrogation, charge or trial; branded you a traitor to your country in the National Parliament, held you up to execration in the press throughout Australia and denied you the opportunity of defending yourself. .We realize the implications of all this; your business, built up over a period of twenty years was smashed beyond’ repair, your home lost, the position, education and. future prospects of your family jeopardized, your health seriously affected, and your standing in the community so damaged that you were regarded as a pariah amongst your fellows when we released YOU without reason. What we did’ caused your whole material and economic edifice to- crash like- a pack of cards. To show that we bear you no ill will we now generously offer you the sum of five hundred pounds, which should help to pay some of the expenses . . .
That was the action of the Labour Party, which is opposing this bill, as the. Leader of the Opposition said, to protect the rule of law.
Earlier this week we saw a deputation, sponsored by honorable members opposite, come to this Parliament. We saw several hundred people, some of whom carried placards which bore the words. “ Do not bring gestapo methods to Australia “. I ask honorable members opposite: In what category do they place the incidents to which I have just referred? I believe that reference to those incidents will put the people of Australia in the picture and let them know just where the Labour Party stands.
If the supporters of the Labour Party were consistent in their treatment of those whom they think prejudice the safety of the country, there might be an argument to support their attitude, but let me refer to the other side of the picture. Two Communists, by the name of Ratliff and Thomas, were interned in June. 1941, when the Menzies-Fadden Government was in office. Consistent with the views on freedom and democracy of the Liberal-Country Party Government, those men were brought to trial at an inquiry that was held within a few days. The Government was defeated at a general election on 6th October of that year and a Labour government came to office. Almost the first act of the Labour Cabinet, on 21st October, was to free those two men. It did that within a few days of attaining office. There is the difference? Is not the attitude of the Opposition a sinister one? It is endeavouring to cloak the Communist Party by condemning, this bill and trying to defeat it.
I say to honorable members opposite that this bill is constructive. Ite purpose is to reinforce the rule of law in our country. There is plenty of evidence of the inroads that the Communists made when Labour was in power. Let me refer to a letter written by the secretary of a former Attorney-General, Dr.. Evatt, to Mr. Blain, who was at the time the member for the Northern Territory. The letter stated -
It is to Russia that the people look for a practical example of what can be accomplished under a system differing from ours. What better way could the Government show their sincerity than to implement social legislation now using Russian principles?
Let ‘me refer, also, to a statement made by a man well known to Australia as one of the foremost Communists, a man who had an official position under the Labour Government of the day. I refer to Ernie Thornton. He said -
With the methods of the ‘Soviet Union applied to Australia, I am quite satisfied that this country could not be equalled by any country -throughout the world.
That is the statement of a man who had an official appointment “under the Labour Government. Then we turn to the report of the Petrov royal commission, from which a lot of valuable information may be obtained. I shall not discuss the details of the report, but I ‘shall refer to certain passages to show the inroads made by the Communists into government departments, particularly the Department of External Affairs. When the Labour Government was in office, Australia’s reputation internationally sank so low -that our allies, particularly the United States of America, would not share their atomic secrets with us. That is another reason why this bill is so necessary for our security. Petrov said, according to the report of the royal commission -
The Communist Party here had a group of External Affairs officers who were giving them official information. The members of the group were bringing out copies of official documents, which they gave to a Communist Party member. This party man gave the documents to Mi. Makarov at the Soviet Embassy.
In consequence, the United States, our foremost ally, refused to share secrets with the Australian Government. Our whole foreign policy was exposed to the enemies of Australia.
Then we have another gentleman whom I shall not name because the incidents in which he was involved occurred a few years ago and it is possible that he has changed his ways since the time when he was a member of the Communist Party. We have since seen the horror of the events in Hungary and the rape of Tibet. I will give him the benefit of the doubt. I feel that he may have changed and that perhaps he is now, as he should be, a supporter of the Liberal-Country Party Government, having seen the error of his ways. This man was the secretary to the adviser on atomic affairs to Dr. Evatt. That is another instance of the fact that -the Communist Party had its tentacles inside the Labour Government.
Petrov stated, according to the report of the royal commission, that from 1949 on, conditions became very difficult. It will not be forgotten that this Government came to power in 1949. The people of Australia have returned it to office on several occasions since then. The people have no illusions about communism. They know it is out to destroy this country and every other democracy in .the world. That is why this Government enjoys the confidence of Australians.
The bill that is now before the House aims to protect our liberties. As the AttorneyGeneral has said, we have come a long way. The bill is designed to meet changed conditions. The Minister pointed out that we now have the Statute of Westminster; we are now more or less on our own in world affairs. Therefore, we have to take measures to protect our country. Much has been made of the provisions of the bill, but as I am not a legal man I do not intend to discuss them in detail. I was interested to read some of the provisions of the British Official Secrets Act of 1920 - provisions that are far more drastic than any to be found in this bill. For instance, under the British act a man may be convicted if he has in his pocket the name and address of a foreign agent. He may be condemned on that evidence alone. Yet Britain is regarded as an outstanding example of a free country. It is the country from which we have derived our laws and our ideas of freedom. We have come a long way since the days of Magna Carta. The provisions of the bill before us have been designed to protect rights and principles that derive from Magna Carta. If we lived in Russia, there would be not even Marquess of Queensberry rules to protect us, yet in this country the Communists who are out to subvert our security claim the full protection of our laws. The honorable member for East Sydney said the bill would confer powers which the Government would not have in time of war. But we are at war; this is a cold war. If honorable members read the report of the Petrov inquiry they will find that Moscow refers to Australia as “ the enemy “.
– With whom are we at war?
– Russia is at war with us. This bill is designed to protect our position. The Opposition throws out many smoke screens. The reputation of the Labour Party is very poor when other people’s liberties are in its hands. When an organization has a reputation as bad as that, the only thing to do is to throw out a smoke screen. I am not suggesting for one moment that supporters of the Labour Party are Communists, but they are mouthpieces for the Communist movement in Australia, and every Communist in Australia wants this bill to be defeated. One of the smoke screens thrown out by the Opposition is the claim that the liberties of trade unionists will be infringedBut as has been pointed out, no legitimate member of a trade union has anything to fear. 1 congratulate the Attorney-General on the bill which is designed to protect the liberties of Australians, and I urge honorable members to support it in its entirety.
– I listened with interest to the honorable member for Mcpherson (Mr. Barnes), and while I have important things to say on this measure, I want to spend a couple of minutes replying to a few outrageous statements he made in support of the monstrous measure that is before the House. ‘ First, the honorable member referred to a number of men who were interned during the Second World War on the information of the intelligence service at a time when this country was engaged in a life and death struggle. Members of this Government promised those people, who I understand were all members of the Liberal Party, that they could take their case to the High Court of Australia for justice, but when they attempted to do so, this Government intervened and opposed the lifting of the statute of limitations. The Government has refused to allow those people to go to the court. Now, the honorable member for Macpherson, like a real humbug, stands in his place and brings up this matter in justification of a Fascist measure which should be condemned by every one who believes in British justice.
The honorable member tells us we are at war with Russia. I wish he would tell us why Australia is selling wool to that country and making millions upon millions of pounds a year from that trade. If we are at war with Russia, this Government is subject to the Crimes Act, according to this bill, and the Ministry should be charged immediately. Under the law that is about to be passed, their characters should be stated and they should be condemned forthwith because that is the provision of the bill before us. I have not the time to go into this matter at length, but I mention these things in passing. The honorable member for Macpherson spoke about the former Leader of the Opposition, Dr. Evatt, writing to Thornton, a Communist, during the war years when he occupied some official position. Honorable members should not take umbrage at that because the other night, the
Minister for Shipping and Transport (Mr. Opperman) dined with Mr. Eliot V. Elliott, the Communist secretary of the Seamen’s Union because he occupied a position in a union and the Minister considered he was entitled to be at the dinner.
My mind goes back to the National Export Convention which was held at the Hotel Canberra in May, i960. At page 11 of the record of the convention, none other ‘than the Communist Jim Healy, Federal Secretary of the Watersiders Federation, is shown. Under this legislation, he will not last very long, but he was at the National Export Convention addressing, apparently in quite a humorous way, a group of the greatest capitalists in the country. Among them were many Liberal members including the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Howson). They were in cohorts with a member of the Communist Party, sitting side by side, wining and dining and speaking in friendly fashion. If it were not for the fact that I think the joke would be unparliamentary, I would ask for it to be incorporated in “ Hansard “ in order to record for all time the collaboration of the Liberal Party with these men.
The hypocritical people on the Government benches would condemn a Communist without a trial; yet they claim they believe in justice, freedom and liberty. Is it not right that the Australian Labour Party should state clearly where it stands on this issue because this party was born out of oppression and suppression? My forebears and others suffered under oppression and tyranny such as this Government proposes to introduce through this bill. The Labour Party’s attitude was exemplified by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell). This party is opposed to subversion, espionage and traitors and people who are disloyal to Australia in peace or war. As Mr. Charlton and Mr. Chifley have said, at no time will this party condone disloyalty, subversion or traitors in our midst, but we draw the line at condemning them by the methods proposed by this Government. We say that if persons are guilty or alleged to be guilty of crimes against the nation, let them be charged in accordance with the principles of justice laid down in every country where freedom is cherished. Let them pay for their crimes as others do and not be condemned out of hand through the fascist-like treatment of people such as those who seek to implement this legislation. The Government’s attitude has been exemplified by those who have spoken in this debate in support of the bill. Supporters of the Government have tried to shelter behind the smear that the Australian Labour Party is supporting the Communist Party and that this measure is one upon which we are side by side with the Communists. This argument will certainly be destroyed because this measure is opposed not only by the Labour movement and the industrial movement but also by newspapers which are strongly opposed to the Labour movement here and overseas. They have quoted the case unmistakably in the strongest terms against the legislation.
The honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) quoted a letter from the Presbyterian Church of Victoria. Would the supporters of the Government list the members of the Presbyterian Church as Communists? I have another interesting document written on behalf of the Methodist Church of Australasia, Social Services Department, dated 26th October. I shall read it to the Parliament to give the lie direct to the statement that the Labour Party stands alone in its attitude to the bill and that it is acting in defence of the Communist Party. I want to place on record the fact that the Labour Party, churchmen and others are opposed to this measure because ot trie principle mat ii infringes and the way in which the Government is endeavouring to destroy British justice. The letter which was written on behalf of the Methodist Church is as follows: -
Re the Commonwealth Crimes Act and the Amendment Bill.
As instructed by the Annual Conference of the Methodist Church of Victoria and Tasmania, meeting in Melbourne last week, I am writing to convey to you the following resolution, which was carried unanimously: “ Conference affirms its conviction that it is fundamental to a democratic society that no person shall be convicted of a crime unless proved guilty; that the ‘ circumstances of the case ‘, ‘ his conduct ‘ or ‘ his known character as proved ‘ are inadequate and dangerous legal grounds for conviction; that a person’s ‘ known character ‘ should not be regarded as legal evidence for his conviction. “ Conference further affirms that in a democratic society a person accused of a crime must be deemed innocent until proved guilty, and the onus of proof of innocence should never, rest on the accused. In no. circumstances should an accused person be denied the right both- to- a public trial and to- every facility for the defence of his case. “ Conference believes the wording of certain sections of the Commonwealth Crimes Act and the amendment bill thereto are so vague as to. make possible the widest interpretation and application of the clauses and penalties, to the possible detriment of freedom of thought, speech and action in the community. “ Conference also believes that, in a democratic society, both freedom and justice can only be preserved, not by destroying- the principles involved, but by fostering and safeguarding them. “ We therefore request the. Federal Government to redraft the Crimes Act Amendment Bill in such a way as to remove the grounds- for these objections, both in- the Act itself and in the Amendment. “ In particular, Conference objects to portions of Sections 23, 46, 49, 52 and. 55 “.
I am, Yours faithfully,
If that is not an indication of the attitude of the average Australian who believes, in justice and liberty, I am a bad judge.
To-night the apologetic Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. McMahon) spoke. So, too, did’ the honorabb member for Mcpherson, who claimed that Australia was at war with a country to which we are selling our wool. Honorable members opposite cannot hide behind the skirts of the Communist Party and say that the Labour Party defends communism, because we- on this side of the House stand where we have always stood in relation to these matters. We stand in defence of liberty and freedom. We are opposed to the attempts that are made by the Government to infringe the liberty of the individual in this country. Remember what the honorable member for Phillip (Mr. Aston) said: He said that this bill was designed to deal not only with Communists. It is designed to deal with anybody whom the honorable member may think is a Communist or any person against whom the Government mav wish to take action at any time.
I do not intend to quote at great length to-night from the numerous newspaper articles, that have, been written, about this bill. They cannot, be contradicted. Most of those articles point out clearly the extent to which individual, liberties will be involved if this bill, becomes law. Under this measure the Government- seeks to. do things the- objectionable nature of which has never been equalled since the time of the- Communist Party Dissolution Bill. I cannot- help thinking’, that the AttorneyGeneral: (Sir Garfield Barwick) has introduced this, measure because he is sore that his arguments as an- advocate in connexion with the Communist Party Dissolution Bill were rejected by the court and in other places. Some of the clauses of the bill now before the House are almost identical with certain clauses of the Communist Party Dissolution Bill. That legislation, which the Government sought to foist on the people of this country, was rejected by five judges of the High Court of Australia. It was subsequently rejected overwhelmingly by the people of this country at a referendum.
The Attorney-General was the Government’s advocate in the case before the High Court. He assisted with the drafting, of the earlier bill and. to-night, by a backdoor approach-, he has sought to introduce provisions of the Communist Party Dissolution Bill into the legislation before us. He is trying- to thwart the will’ of the Australian; people and foist this fascist-type legislation on them because of the setback that he received over the rejection of the Communist Party Dissolution Act. I have no time for Communists or anybody associated with them, but as an Australian I stand for a fair trial for all. I like to think that any member of the community, be he Liberal or Communist, wealthy or poor, if charged with an offence, is entitled to. the. kind of trial one expects in any British country.
The Communist Party Dissolution Bill was fought on- the principle, among other things, that the onus should be on the Crown to prove- a person’s guilt. Under this, bill the- Government seeks to place upon the individual the onus of proving that he is innocent. The Leader of the Opposition’ (Mr. Calwell) and the honorable member for. East Sydney (Mr. Ward) to-night quoted countless cases where people could be charged under this bill and’ be forced to prove their innocence.
– T- will bring; the prospective lawyer up-to-date. I understand’ that soon he will1 sit for his final law examinations. If fie follows the law laid down in this bill he is a certainty to fail in them. I suggest that he stick to the true principles of British justice and leave the kind of justice meted out in this bill to the AttorneyGeneral.
Let us look at the laws relating to treason. The definition of treason is vague. I mentioned earlier how easy it would be under this bill for a person to be convicted of treason. Proposed new section 24(l.)(d) refers to any person who - assists by any means whatever an enemy at war with the Commonwealth . . .
When is the Commonwealth at war? Does anybody know? The proposed new section continues -
The honorable member for McPherson should be interested in what I am about to say. Suppose some one said something that might assist the Russian cause. If this bill became law, you could inform and pimp on him and quote his character against him. He would be convicted if he were a person of bad character. What a fantastic state of affairs! Do not forget that the penalty is death. A man could be charged simply as a result of a statement such as that made to-night by the honorable member for McPherson. You could go into court and give details of a man’s character. If that man happened to be a Communist or some one. charged with an offence he could be sentenced to death under this provision. I base that statement on proposed new section 24 (2.), which reads -
A person who -
receives or assists another person who is, to his knowledge, guilty of treason in order to enable him to escape punishment; or
knowing that a person intends’ to commit treason, does not give information thereof with all reasonable despatch to a constable or use other reasonable endeavours to prevent the commission of the offence, shall be guilty of an indictable offence.
The penalty is imprisonment for life. In other words, people are encouraged to be pimps, informers and top-offs - things that every decent Australian despises. The most rotten thing in society is the pimp, the topoff and the informer. But the Government, in this bill, is making a man responsible for informing on his son, daughter or any other person. Clearly and unmistakably this Government is following the lead of the South African Government. Churchmen have been expelled from that country and many people have been denied their freedom on the sayso, of irresponsible persons and fascists such as are found in the ranks of this Government’s supporters.
Let us see what the bill says about treachery. A person may be found guilty of treachery if he assists - by any means whatever an enemy of and at war with a proclaimed country, whether or not the existence of a state of war has been declared.
You may know which is a proclaimed country but you may not know who are the friends of that country and who are its enemies. It is all guesswork. It is a question of what country is at war with the proclaimed country and what is the proclaimed, country. If a person infringes that provision in the legislation he is guilty of treachery, the penalty for which is imprisonment for life. That is a shade longer than 90 days and is a trifle heavier than a fine of £15 or £20. This pattern is followed throughout the bill.
Those are some of the objectionable features of the bill. Now I propose to deal with those aspects of this bill which I and all other members of the Opposition feel are of major importance - the placing of the onus on an accused person to prove his innocence and the provision relating to the admission of evidence of known character. As the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) said to me to-night, under this Government we are getting crime detection by automation. Under this bill the Government will quote a man’s record first and convict him afterwards. Let us see what the bill says about the offence of sabotage. Conviction for sabotage carries a penalty of imprisonment for fifteen years. Proposed new section 24ab (1.) states -
In this section - “ act of sabotage “ means the destruction, damage or impairment for a purpose prejudicial, or intended to be prejudicial, to the safety or defence of the Commonwealth, of any article -
that is used, or intended to be used, by the Defence Force or a part of the Defence Force or is used, or intended to be used, in the Commonwealth or a Territory not forming part of the Commonwealth, by the armed forces of a country that is a proclaimed country for the purposes of the last preceding section;
See how wide that provision is! Supposing you were passing Prouds and you broke one of the windows with a brick. Suppose Prouds had a contract to supply watches to the Air Force during war-time. In that ease you could be charged under this provision and the Government could cite your character. You would probably get fifteen years’ imprisonment. Do not forget that you have no choice of whether you go before a jury. Trial by jury is not provided under this part of the bill. Proposed new section 24ab (3.) states -
On a prosecution under this section it is not necessary to show that the accused person was guilty of a particular act tending to show a purpose prejudicial, or intended to be prejudicial, to the safety or defence of the Commonwealth and, notwithstanding that such an act is not proved against him, he may be convicted if, from the circumstances of the case, from his conduct or from his known character as proved, it appears that his purpose was a purpose prejudicial, or a purpose intended to be prejudicial, as the case requires, to the safety or defence of the Commonwealth.
That answers the budding lawyer from up north - the honorable member for Moreton, I am reminded of something by the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Luchetti). If this bill had been law when the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) and the honorable member for Macarthur (Mr. Jeff Bate) raided Garden Island, they would now be serving fifteen years’ imprisonment. I am inclined to think that if they had run on to the dock when Jack Lang was in power they would have ended up where De Groot ended up.
Proposed new section 78 deals with espionage and similar activities. Subsection (2.) of the proposed new section states -
In a prosecution under this section - (a) it is not necessary to show that the accused person was guilty of a particular act tending to show a purpose prejudicial, or intended to be prejudicial, to the safety or defence of the Commonwealth or a part of the Queen’s dominion and, notwithstanding that such an act is not proved against him, he may be convicted if, from the circumstances of the case, from his conduct or from his known ] character . . .
I do not want to be uncharitable to supporters of the Government, but if they were charged with dodging payment of a tram fare and their known characters were cited, I do not think they would get justice because in the first place it is human nature to convict. I mention these matters so that honorable members will know the position and will know what they have to face. If the honorable member for Moreton wants to be brought up to date with his law, I shall quote to him some of the most eminent authorities on the question of onus of proof in order that he may have, at least, something substantial to put in his final examination paper. One authority states -
One of the foundation stones of British justice the onus of proof undoubtedly is.
Viscount Sankey, Lord Chancellor of England, in the Woolmington appeal case heard by the House of Lords and reported in 1935 Appeal Cases at page 481 made a very valuable statement about the onus of proof. He said -
Throughout the web of English criminal law one golden thread is always to be seen, that it is the duty of the prosecution to prove the prisoner’s guilt subject to what I have already said as to the defence of insanity and subject also to any statutory exception.
He went on to say -
No matter what the charge or where the trial, the principle that the prosecution must prove the guilt of the prisoner is part of the common law of England and no attempt to whittle it down can be entertained.
What an answer to this monstrous bill that has been introduced into this Parliament by one whom we are told is of the most eminent legal authorities in Australia! Is it any wonder that the people voted against the Communist Party Dissolution Bill. Is it any wonder that the Government will not have a referendum on this measure and that Government supporters seek to brand us as Communists for opposing it when they know that it is opposed to every principle of British justice?
There is no doubt that members of the Government cannot be trusted in respect of these matters. I agree with the honorable member for East Sydney that the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) and other members opposite would misuse this power concerning the onus of proof - that they would condemn an accused because of his associations and previous character. In the course of his speech to-night, the honorable member for East Sydney asked, “ Who is the enemy of the Australian people? “ The honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Lindsay) interjected, “ You are “. No doubt, that means that if this bill is passed he would be prepared to lay a charge against the honorable member for East Sydney.
The Prime Minister, speaking in the House of Representatives on the Constitution Alteration (Avoidance of Double Dissolution Deadlocks) Bill 1950, is reported at page 2219 of “Hansard”. He had been referring to what would happen if there were a deadlock in the Senate, and the following exchanges occurred: -
Mfr. Ward. - The right honorable gentleman could declare a couple of the Labour senators.
– I am obliged to the honorable member for the suggestion. I can think of at least one Labour senator whom it would be easy to declare.
– The Fuhrer has spoken.
– I can think of one member of this House who might escape only by the skin of his teeth.
Mr. Chifley. ; The right honorable member is on dangerous ground.
– I agree - on dangerous ground. If this is dangerous ground I suggest to the right honorable gentleman that he might restrain his interjections, but. of course, the problem does not arise because-
Mr. Chifley. ; I suggest that the right honorable gentleman should not make threats.
– I never make a threat that I cannot carry out.
– The right honorable gentleman is drunk with power.
That exemplifies the fact that there are men in this Parliament who cannot be trusted with this legislation and who would place the full onus of proof on members on this side of the House and on people in other places. I do not think that we can ever protest too greatly against taking from the people the right of trial by jury. Under the present law, any person charged with stealing any item, illegally using any item, or interfering in any way with equipment worth less than ?50 can be tried without a jury under section 12a of the principal act. Under this bill, if you send a map to some one in red China you could be guilty of sabotage or treachery or treason and you might well be charged before a judge without a jury.
A person can be charged with murder - with unspeakable crimes, with the most monstrous crimes in the criminal calendar - and he can walk into court with the onus of proof on the Crown and with his character unknown to the judge and jury except in exceptional circumstances. That right that has been given to the worst criminal in society is now to be denied to trade unionists and the average Australian by a government which says that it believes in British justice and democracy. Is it any wonder that the Communist Party Dissolution Bill was rejected? Is it any wonder that in relation to this legislation, members are running away from their responsibilities? They cannot answer the charges of the Presbyterian Church and others that this legislation is monstrous in the extreme and should be bitterly opposed by all who believe in freedom and justice. An editorial in the Sydney “Sun” of 30th September reads as follows: -
BE SILENT OR BE DOOMED.
All liberal-minded people who can foresee dangers in the proposed new Crimes Act will wonder whether what is now happening in France could happen here. There, the Government has banned 140 intellectuals, actors, writers and teachers from State controlled radio, TV and theatres, because they have spoken against French policy in Algeria. They have signed a manifesto supporting all whose conscience will not allow them to be forced into military service in a cause they believe to be false . . Unfortunately too many of the democracies which supposedly fought a war for the destruction of Fascism are in danger of catching the infection themselves.
That is a clear indication of what would happen under this bill. I regret that honorable members opposite do not object to this position and realize their responsibilities. The Attorney-General himself has said that there may be some loose phrasing in this bill. There is no scope for loose phrasing when a man’s life is at stake or when fifteen years’ imprisonment is a possibility. We are sick and tired of the brilliant Attorney-General introducing the perfect bill into this Parliament and subsequently introducing 58 amendments to it, as he did in the case of the divorce legislation.
All the humbug of honorable members opposite will not, by any stretch of the imagination, take away from what has been said by Opposition speakers to the effect that this bill is aimed at the civil liberties of everybody in this country. Our liberties are threatened as are those of the people of South Africa by the taking away of the right of trial by jury, the onus of proof being placed on the accused, and by the deprivation of all those liberties which are cherished in every British community. Mr. Speaker, I have not the time to go further into this legislation which has been so fully covered by honorable members on this side of the House. I hope that the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) will be carried.
I was privileged to go from one end of this country to the other to campaign against the Communist Party Dissolution Bill because of its great potential effect on civil liberty. This Government has become power drunk and it now seeks to reintroduce the bill that was rejected by the people, because it is still ashamed and still sore at its treatment at the hands of the electors over that bill. The right of free trial by jury in the ways that we have established should never be given away in a democracy. Why run down Russia when it has nothing like this bill on its statutebook? I do not think they would dare to bring it in.
In this country, it is our responsibility to set the standards for democracy, build the nation up and in every way give a lead to the people which we believe to be just and right. Whether I agree or disagree with people I stand for a fair trial and justice for them. This legislation destroys every semblance of decency in the community. It means the destruction of justice. It will be rejected by the majority of the people. I hope that our amendment will be carried so that some of the faith of the people will be restored in a government which seeks to destroy our democracy as we know it.
– A great deal could be said about the three speeches that have been made by those who have spoken for the Opposition this evening. However, I think it is sufficient to say of the speech of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) that he made a very vigorous but nevertheless a very modest and, more particularly, a highly unsuccessful effort to understand the bill. The honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) did not want to understand the bill, and the honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly) is physically incapable of understanding it. The honorable member for Grayndler may be likened to a reincarnation of the wild colonial boy because of the extravagant nonsense towards the end of his speech. He did not know whether to pound a passion to pieces or to tear a tear to tatters, when he said that even the Soviet Union would not dream of introducing legislation approximating this. I remind the honorable gentleman and I remind the House and, I hope, those outside the House, that under the Soviet criminal code any one who holds up any form of public transport is liable to deprivation of liberty for ten years. There is no trial, no jury, and no manifestation of justice - the British justice that the honorable member for Grayndler has so impiously prattled about this evening.
It is interesting to recall that the Leader of the Opposition, the honorable member for Grayndler, and the honorable member for East Sydney, were three who in 1949 voted for a measure called the National Emergency (Coal Strike) Act. I hope that honorable members will bear with me while I recite one of the more critical and, to my mind, more offensive provisions in that bill-
Where an organization has committed an offence against this Act, every person who, at the time of the commission of the offence, was a member of a committee of management, or an officer, of the organization or of a branch of the organization shall be deemed to be guilty of the offence, unless he proves . . .
Where was the onus of proof? What has the Leader of the Opposition to say about that? He advocated a measure which, in the most explicit language, put the onus of proof upon the defendant. Where was the honorable member for East Sydney when that act was put upon the statute-book? He voted for it. Where was the honorable member for Grayndler? He voted for it.
That is not the complete performance. The Approved Defence Projects Protection Act, which was passed in 1947, also by a Labour government, related to approved defence projects either within or outside Australia. Members of the Opposition protested against the “proclaimed country” provision of this legislation. Can they justify their stand there? Can they honestly square with their consciences their attitude to-day and their actions of thirteen years ago? We heard a protest from the honorable member for Grayndler about the wiping out of the. jury system. That is something about which I shall have something to say as I progress through an examination of the bill. Under the Approved Defence Projects Protection Act, to which I have referred, an offender could be prosecuted summarily or upon indictment. Was there any guarantee of a jury under that act?
– Who passed that act?
– It was passed by a Labour government. For heaven’s sake, let us make a genuine, honest effort to examine the merits of the measure, instead of simply getting hold of the bill, as the honorable member for East Sydney did, and saying, “ The whole proposal is no good “. There are some people who are genuinely disturbed about some of the provisions of the bill, but the test of their genuineness is their preparedness to listen to reason. I shall return later to those people whom I describe as being genuinely disturbed.
I think it is one of the most singular political and historical facts concerning this measure that the Communist Party of Australia has unleashed against this Government, and against everything for which this Government stands, the most intensified propaganda campaign ever unleashed in this country. Armed with the murderous pretence that they, the members of the Communist Party, have a trifling interest in liberty, they are seeking to destroy public opinion or to weaken it so that it will break and this Government will say, “We must not press on with this measure “. The truth of the matter is that the members of the Communist Party in Australia, far from having an interest in liberty, have a vested interest in tyranny. The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics to-day maintains in 27 intelligence organizations throughout the world 300,000 officers trained in espionage. Yet to-day and yesterday some members of the Communist Party were here protesting about this measure. Communism has an unrivalled record in deceit, duplicity, espionage, sabotage, and mischief. Those are part and parcel of the very doctrine of communism, which aims to plunder and to wreck the entire system that operates in our society. Communism has blazed a trail of treason and treachery that girdles the earth in every direction. Do the names of Alan Nunn-May, Klaus Fuchs, David Greenglass, Bruno Pontecorvo and the Rosenbergs mean nothing? Are those names not the symbols of a form of treachery that has exposed the whole of humanity to possible disaster?
We in this country can, by our indifference, lose in this imaginary time of peace everything that we have protected in war and we would be more than stupid to ignore the declaration of war that has been made against us. The honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Allan Fraser) asked one of my colleagues earlier this evening, “ With whom are we at war? “ I say to the honorable gentleman and to every one else sitting opposite that we are at war with international communism, and those who cannot see that either have no capacity for seeing or are completely stupid.
Now I turn to those people whom I consider to be genuinely disturbed about this measure. The first point to consider is whether it is necessary to protect the State. I do not summon to my cause any political figure. I summon two eminent jurists, who have expressed themselves publicly in the courts on this great issue. I refer, first, to Lord Justice Scrutton. who had this to say -
Very wide powers had been given to the executive to act on suspicion in matters affecting the interests of the State. The responsibility for giving those powers rested not with the judges, but with the representatives of the people in Parliament.
Professor Dicey, to whom I would hope even the pomposity of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam) would succumb and who, I hope, the latter would accept as a respectable authority, had this to say in “ Laws of the Constitution “ in relation to the United Kingdom Official Secrets Act, than which the bill we are now considering is an infinitely milder measure -
These enactments are in fact framed in the widest terms to prevent the publication of any matter which is detrimental to the public interest . . The avowed object of the acts is not, of course, to control the liberty of the press or to restrict discussion of matters of political interest, but to prevent the betrayal to a potential enemy of matters relating to national defence.
Let us look at recent experience in several countries of matters of espionage and sabotage, their effects upon the governments of those countries and the subsequent actions of those governments. Let us take, first, the experience of Canada. In 1946 a royal commission was appointed to inquire into these matters, and in their report the commissioners recommended -
What did the Canadian Government do? It substantially amended the Official Secrets Act 1939, not because of the caprice of any one individual or because of the ideas held by a group of individuals in the Government, but on the basis of experience of what had happened in the way of the massive betrayal that had occurred when Alan Nunn-May gave information to the Soviet Union.
What of our own experience in Australia? the royal commission of 1955 had this to say in its report: -
Apart from the difficulties arising from the law of evidence, it seems that the law of Australia is inadequate to combat espionage, particularly in time of peace.
Because of the uncertainty of the meaning of Section 78-
That was Section 78 of the Crimes Act at that time -
We prefer not to say whether any communication was made in breach of that Section. Our reluctance is fortified by the fact that even if breaches of Section 78 did occur, there is no evidence legally admissible in a court of law which would be sufficient to warrant a prosecution in respect thereof.
I have been a little surprised, although not completely so, to hear some of the extravagant and highly imaginative arguments presented by Opposition spokesmen in the course of this debate. If one takes those arguments and considers them in complete isolation, one would come to the conclusion, of course, that this bill is a dreadful piece of legislation. But is that the case?
– The honorable member for Eden-Monaro says, “ Yes “. I would hope that in the course of the next few minutes - and conceding that he is a reasonable man - he will be open to some measure of persuasion. If one looks at the existing Crimes Act, one finds that in section 24a (2.) there is, in a very real sense, a diminutive Magna Carta. I will read the provisions of the sub-section, which says -
It shall be lawful for any person -
to endeavour in good faith to show that the Sovereign has been mistaken in any of his counsels;
to point out in good faith errors or defects in the Government or Constitution of the United Kingdom . . .
to excite in good faith His Majesty’s sub jects to attempt to procure by lawful means the alteration of any matter in the Commonwealth as by law established; or
to point out in good faith in order to their removal any matters which are producing or have a tendency to produce feelings of ill-will and hostility between different classes of His Majesty’s subjects.
The very worst that can be said about it is that there is a small measure of doubt that the principle expressed by that section runs through the entire act. But would it not be a fair proposition to suggest that the honorable members of the Opposition should say, “We are conscious of an anxiety that is felt concerning industrial matters. We are doubtful whether or not these proposals will curb free speech “? Why not then say to the Attorney-General, in a reasonable way, “ Will you ensure that these provisions prevail throughout the entire act? “ As I have said, the fact is that at the very worst there is but a small doubt that these provisions do not permeate the entire act, and I am quite certain that if the AttorneyGeneral were asked in a reasonable way - and I do ask him, I hope, in a reasonable way - to ensure that these provisions prevailed throughout the act he would gladly accede to that request. To the honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly), who sneered at the fact that I am a law student - a fact of which I am not ashamed - let me say-
– The honorable member will be a law student for a long time.
– I say to the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell), who has, if one can judge from his speech to-night, been illadvised by a lot of fifth-class lawyers, that it is fundamental in the consideration of any doctrine that you take the doctrine as a whole. You do not take one line or one paragraph or one section and say, “This represents the law “. Because they have done this, the Leader of the Opposition, the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) and the honorable member for Grayndler have found themselves floundering this evening. They have taken hold of but one element of a particular offence and they have said, “ This represents the entire offence”. They have not recognized the fact that in a court every element of an offence must be proved, and that unless every element is proved the prosecution fails.
I must disregard the interjections and press on, and I turn now to the major amendments. It has been suggested that there is no guarantee of trial by jury. Treason is an indictable offence. Offences against proclaimed countries are indictable offences. Sabotage, assisting prisoners of war to escape, and espionage are all indictable offences. In view of these faults, what is the meaning of the proposition put forward by the Opposition? Is it contended that the Attorney-General, by his persuasiveness and eloquence, will domineer and capture a jury? Is there no one in this House who has watched a jury at work, or who has sat as a member of a jury and observed the way in which it arrives at its conclusions? On this aspect of the legislation the case for the Opposition amounts to a massive sneer at the jury system. In every one of the major alterations to be made to the legislation there is provision for a jury trial. It is complete and utter humbug for any honorable gentleman opposite to suggest that such is not the case.
I turn now to a brief examination of what appears to be one of the more sensitive issues in the debate on this legislation. It revolves around the scope of the words “ assist by any means “, which are to be found in proposed new section 24aa, sub-section (1.). There is nothing novel about these words. I am very surprised that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam), who has a modest reputation for a knowledge of the law, and a reputation that I am bound to say he thoroughly deserves, should take the view that there is something new about these words “ assist by any means “. I suggest that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition should consult Hale and Blackstone, and also Stephen, who used these words in his “ Digest of the Criminal Law “ -
Every one commits high treason who, either in the realm or without it, actively assists a public enemy at war with the Queen.
Similar words were part and parcel of the criminal code drafted by Sir Samuel Griffith in 1879. The phrase used in that case was as follows -
Assisting any public enemy at war with Her Majesty in such war by any means whatsoever.
In the celebrated Casement case, the court had this to say -
In our view, the words “ giving aid and comfort to the King’s enemies “ are words in opposition to explain what is meant by being adherent to the King’s enemies.
I turn to what appears to be yet another point of sensitivity in regard to these proposals. I refer to the admission of evidence of a person’s character as proved. There is nothing new about this proposal, either. It was put into the Crimes Act originally by a Labour government. Subsequent Labour governments have left it there undisturbed; they have done nothing about it whatsoever. Now it is proposed to extend the provision regarding a person’s character to a number of other sections in the act. It is hysteria to imagine that a you have to do to prove the whole offence is to prove that a person has a particularly bad character. Where on earth the honorable member for Grayndler got that crazy, impossible, cranky idea, I do not know. The honorable member said that if a person were caught and it was found that he had not paid his bus fare on one occasion, he could be hung. Dear me, that sort of argument is unworthy of any person who sits in the National Parliament. Possibly the Leader of the Opposition, with his ready anxiety to bring himself up to date, would care to look at the case R v. Fairbairn, which is reported in 33 Criminal Appeal Reports, and in particular at the words of Lord Chief Justice Goddard, one of the greatest jurists that the British people have ever known. It is a pity that Lord Goddard never had an opportunity of having the honorable member for East Sydney, who is now interjecting, brought before him. Lord Chief Justice Goddard said -
A man with previous convictions for dishonesty cannot be arrested merely because he is walking down a street. That, of course, would be absurd. It has to be shown that a man with a bad character, and known to the police as a person with a had character, is acting in such a way as to justify an arrest.
The provision that I am now referring to had its genesis in the Prevention of Crimes Act of 1871. It has been in operation for nearly 100 years. There is nothing novel about the provision; it is a fined down provision. It will have reference to a person’s character only in relation to a particular act. It is quite absurd to say that, in the case of a person who is found in the act of breaking and entering a particular establishment, the whole offence can be proved merely by invoking the fact that five or ten years previously he evaded payment of a fare. Under this measure, it is necessary to prove the actual act and also that it was done for a purpose prejudicial to the defence and security of this country.
– Are you satisfied with the provision?
– If my honorable friend cannot see that point, I am not at liberty now to take him through the whole provision in a detailed way. But I hope that over the week-end he will make some effort to see what it really amounts to. This provision has been in the Crimes Act for 46 years. It has not been used, let alone abused, for 46 years. Finally, I say this to the House: The threats we face in this free Australia are great threats. We would be fools indeed to run away from them or to attempt to disguise the great danger that they represent to the Australian community. If necessary, through revolution and violence, through the mobilization of every passion of hatred, greed and suspicion, through the use of every form of lying, subterfuge, cheating and spying, the submergence of every decent national sentiment, and through suffocation of all worth-while ambition to keep inviolate national sovereignty and liberty, the Communists faithfully press towards the great redemption. Perhaps they will not realize it in a generation or in a century, but they press towards it with unswerving conviction of the final un conditional surrender of their enemies, be they of the right or of the left.
What form of folly is this to which, in this year of grace 1960, we have succumbed that we now appear reluctant to defend even our future? What is it that presses so dreadfully upon us that we profit not from the warning contained in the fact that 1,000,000,000 men and women have been swept into serfdom? What elements are there that have ravaged our instincts and have persuaded people to believe that to tolerate tyranny is an expression of nobility of purpose? What is it that so horribly confuses licence with liberty? Why is it that there is so little resolution to say boldly that those who practise treachery, sedition and espionage against the interests of this country are in truth the enemies of this country?
At this perilous point of time it would be, at least, a contemplation of national suicide if we failed to concede the fact that we are opposed by a ruthless and unremitting enemy whose methods have no parallel in history. This bill, with its ample safeguards, vigorously expresses to those who have an affection for debased causes that they can expect the sanctions of a people who have a missionary zeal to remain free.
Mr. CLYDE CAMERON (Hindmarsh) flO.561. - The speech that has just been delivered by the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Killen) typifies the fascistlike attitude of the Government towards the matter we are now discussing. The honorable member spoke about the Communists and said that people who have such evil intents and who seek to effect such evil purposes ought to be dealt with severely. Let me say to the honorable member that those who preach liberty and justice ought to practise what they preach and should not attempt to trample on the fundamentals of civil rights and liberties.
There are features of the bill to which no one can take exception. I refer to the provisions which relate to coinage and which seek to make routine changes to the existing legislation. But, on the other hand, there are provisions which, if passed, will make the Crimes Act more obnoxious than it is now and which, as the honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly) said, will make it worse than any form of legislation which appears on the statute-book of any totalitarian state. There could not be a worse state of dictatorship or totalitarianism than is envisaged in the measure now before the House, under which a person could be found guilty of an offence which carried the death penalty simply because, in view of his known character, some one believed that he intended to do something which amounted to what is described in the bill as being treason.
Let me say something about the subject of known character. The honorable member for Moreton tried to gloss over the proposal that an innocent person can be convicted on his known character. He tried to make out that this is a normal provision which appears in quite a lot of other legislation and that therefore there is nothing untoward about it. But, oddly enough, Professor Geoffrey Sawer, Professor Julius Stone and many other eminent legal men such as Mr. Cohen and Mr. Lionel Murphy, have pointed out that such a provision is a serious incursion into what are regarded as the fundamentals of natural justice. Serious opposition to this aspect of the bill has been expressed by church leaders, by leaders of trade unions, by the Australian Council of Trade Unions and by representatives of other important sections of public thought.
It is true that a similar provision exists in other criminal laws - for example, in section 72 (9.) of the Victorian Police Offences Act, which deals with rogues and vagabonds and known thieves or cheats. But it should be pointed out that the requirements of the Victorian section are cumulative and not alternative. Thus, a person could be convicted if, from the circumstances of the case and from his known character as proved by the court, it appears that his intention was to commit a felony or a misdemeanour. There are several grave objections to this procedural requirement, wherever it appears in the bill. Under the terms of proposed new section 24ab, which will be inserted in the principal act by clause 23 of the bill, this kind of procedure may be used to prove that an act which may be perfectly innocent was done by a person with a known character of a certain kind, and this would be sufficient to give the act a guilty character.
Here I think one is entitled to refer again to what Professor Sawer had to say in the article which he published in the issue of “Nation” of 24th September, 1960. He stated that the provision could be interpreted so as to save the prosecutor from having to prove any guilty act at all; mere bad character would be enough. The Attorney-General (Sir Garfield Barwick), however, as reported at page 1030 of “ Hansard “ of this House of 8th September, 1960, said that the Crown must still prove the act of damage, destruction or impairment. What does “ impairment “ mean? It is a word that lends itself to the widest possible interpretation. Proposed new section 24ab, as drafted, is open to the interpretation suggested by Professor Sawer. I hope that the Attorney-General will not cling, merely for the sake of being consistent, to the view already expressed by him that this will be quite a harmless provision. I hope that he will face up to the fact that the opposition to it is a legitimate opposition, and that everybody who is opposing the measure is not to be taken as a Communist simply because he opposes it.
This nonsense that we have heard from the honorable member for Moreton to the effect that the only people who are opposing the bill are Communists is just sheer rubbish. It is the sort of stuff that was used by Hitler to get rid of the Reichstag and to trample on the Weimar Constitution. It is the kind of thing that was used by Franco and by Stalin to get rid of their opponents - the branding as fascists or Communists of those to whom one is opposed, and the classifying of every piece of legislation, no matter to what extent it tramples on the rights of individuals, as being justified as a means of getting rid of communism. Communism’s greatest victory in this country will be the passage of this bill, because it represents the very things for which we oppose communism. We oppose communism chiefly because of the way in which we believe it tramples on the things that we as British subjects believe to be fundamental principles of civil rights and liberties. It is chiefly because the Communists have no respect for those things that over the centuries British people have grown up to respect, love and admire, that we oppose communism. How can we say that we are winning the fight against communism if in the process of carrying on that fight we trample on the very things which we should hold dear and if in trying to defeat communism we adopt the methods of the Communists? A victory achieved by those means would not be a victory at all. It would be just an abdication to communism.
Therefore to say that only the Communists are opposing the bill is to talk sheer nonsense. To say that is to say that the adherents of the Methodist Church are a bunch of Communists, that the members of the Presbyterian Church are Communists, that all the members of the Australian Council of Trade Unions are Communists and that every one in the Labour movement is a Communist. If Government supporters say those things, we know at whom the bill is aimed; we know that it is in reality, to use the Government’s own words, aimed against the Communists in this country wherever they can be found, whether they are found in the Presbyterian Church, in the Methodist Church, in the A.C.T.U., in the Australian Labour Party or in the National Parliament of the country.
All that will have to be proved will be the known character of an accused person, and that character will be established by the production of a dossier by some security spy - the faceless informer who, without revealing the sources of his information and without being forced to confront the person against whom he makes the accusation, is able to produce dossiers as evidence for the Government. That evidence will give it the right to say, “This man is a Communist. Therefore, that is proof that he is guilty of the act with which he is charged.”
Sub-section (3.) of proposed new section 24ab of the principal act is a provision under the terms of which an accused person’s conduct may be used as evidence against him in order to establish that his purpose was prejudicial to the safety or defence of Australia. If, as was pointed out by Professor Julius Stone in the “Sydney Morning Herald” of 26th September last, the words “his conduct” mean “ his conduct in relation to the act charged”, this should be made clear by an amendment of this provision. If the words are given their literal meaning, they will allow a prosecution to succeed on evidence of some unrelated act by the accused many years before as evidence of the prejudicial purpose of the act charged against him.
Suppose, for example, that a waterside worker was helping to load armoured cars being sent to Malaya for the use of Australian troops fighting there and, by sheer accident, he was responsible for an armoured car being dropped into the sea or on to the wharf in such a way as to cause damage. All that the Government would have to do would be to say, “ This man used to be a member of the Communist Party at one time. Not only that, but our security police are able to produce a dossier to show that he attended a peace conference eight years ago. Furthermore we have evidence to show that he signed a petition protesting against the hydrogen bomb, and that he signed another petition for the cessation of tests of nuclear weapons. All these things, added together, establish, first of all, that on his proven character this man was a Communist. We have proof that he attended a peace conference and that he signed petitions protesting against the hydrogen bomb and tests of nuclear weapons. Therefore, the dropping of the armoured car on to the wharf which resulted in its being damaged is absolutely proven to have been an act of sabotage because of his known character.” There is the test.
The waterside worker would have no hope of proving his innocence. He could say, “ Yes, I admit that I was careless, but I did not deliberately do it “. That would not get him out of his predicament, because the Government would be able to say, “ It is just too bad for you. Saying that you were careless is not good enough. We are able to prove on your known character that you were a Communist, or, even worse, are a Communist, that you have attended a peace conference at which protests were made about the use of Australian troops in Malaya and that you have signed a petition opposing their use there. When you were asked to load armoured cars for the use of Australian troops serving there - a use of Australian troops which you had opposed - you allowed one of the armoured cars to be dropped. We are satisfied that this was an act of deliberate sabotage on your part, and you are to get the axe.” That is not the way to dispense justice in a democratic country, but it is the sort of thing that we are expected to approve by passing this bill.
I now turn to sub-section (1.) of proposed new section 24 of the principal act, which appears in clause 23 of the bill. That provision provides that it shall be treason to levy war or to do any act preparatory to levying war against the Commonwealth. As the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) said, the actual levying of war will not be necessary. All that will be necessary will be the doing of something that can be described or interpreted as being an act preparatory to levying war. Let us consider what is meant by the expression “ levying war “. The AttorneyGeneral says that it is well known in the law, but there is certainly no recognized test by which we can determine whether any particular act is an act preparatory to levying war. Does the sub-section contemplate an act preparatory to the levying of war by the person charged or preparatory to the levying of war against the Commonwealth by some other person or persons? It may be noted that the English provision against the levying of war has been held to extend to cases of riot for various general purposes. The principles in this branch of law are ill-defined, and the law of treason as expounded in the decided cases has been unduly stretched, according to Sir James Stephen, an eminent authority. In a famous English case which is quoted - “The Crown v. Lord Gordon” - Lord Mansfield, the Chief Justice, said -
Insurrection by force and violence to raise the price of wages-
They are his words - to open all prisons, to destroy meeting houses . . to redress grievances real or pretended, have all been held to be levying war.
At the same trial, he went on to say -
I tell you the opinion of us all is that if this multitude assembled with intent, by acts of force and violence, to compel the Legislature to change a law, it is high treason. Whoever incites, advises or is in any way encouraging to such a multitude assembled with such intent, though he does not personally appear among them, yet he is equally a principal.
– What year was this?
– It does not matter what year it was. Under this bill, it is clear that an act of violence would be committed if persons came to King’s Hall in Parliament House, as did the unionists from the south coast yesterday, and by some connivance - it has been done by Hitler, Stalin and totalitarian governments - police were sent into the peaceful demonstration deliberately to provoke violence by wielding batons, without any justification, amongst people who had no intention of violence until at last one person put up his hand to defend himself. Perhaps very soon this would become a riot. Although originally it was just an ordinary peaceful demonstration, it would then be described as a riot, a revolution, an attempt to intimidate the Parliament and to force upon the Parliament by insurrection the will of the mob. What would happen if the seamen who went to the Arbitration Commission to protest against the award of Judge Foster happened to mix it with the police who mingled amongst them? It would be easy to provoke a disturbance amongst these seamen and indeed it was only the good common sense of the police on that occasion which prevented a riot from developing. If a riot occurred, according to the terms of this bill, those who agreed to send a demonstration to the Arbitration Commission would be guilty of an offence punishable in the way described in the bill.
No one can say, therefore, that these proposals need not be taken seriously. It is quite apparent that the boundary between insurrection by force and violence to raise the price of wages, as described by Lord Mansfield, on the one hand, and militant industrial action by trade unionists to raise the price of wages or to secure other improvements in conditions of employment on the other hand, may be very finely drawn. This may be especially so at times of strong public feeling when some industrial action by a trade union or its officers was under attack by the press. Suppose a strike by waterside workers resulted in hospitals being unable to obtain supplies of oxygen or some other item absolutely essential to maintain life, and the newspapers conducted a campaign opposing the strike, as they would no doubt be entitled to do in certain circumstances. We can imagine the state of mind of every juryman who heard the charges laid against the waterside workers involved in the strike when they were called upon to show cause why they should not be dealt with under the provisions of this bill.
We say that the provisions of the bill are bad. They trample on the fundamental principles of natural justice and prevent the definition with certainty and precision of offences with which people are to be charged and which carry penalties ranging from fifteen years to life imprisonment and to death. But we go further and say that the bill enables the Government to stifle legitimate criticism of the Government’s foreign policy. It not only stifles legitimate criticism of the foreign policy of an Australian government; it also stifles legitimate criticism of the foreign policy of some other country. If the Government or the Parliament - that means the Government which has the majority - decided to proclaim America as a friendly power, it could become an offence to criticize America’s foreign policy. If it could be shown that there was a state of war between America and Cuba, though not declared and though in fact not existing as a war, it would become an offence for any one to go out into the highways and by-ways and declare publicly in favour of Castro’s nationalization of the great American oil cartels in Cuba, although most Australians believe that Castro was right in doing this. If the bill becomes law and America is proclaimed to be a friendly country, any person expressing this view could be put into prison for life, not because he had done anything against this country but because he had expressed an opinion against a country that had been proclaimed to be a friendly country.
But the pos.:.ion is worse than that. The bill enables the Government to punish people who assist the enemies of this country, though the enemies have never been declared. The bill does not say what will be done to indicate who are the enemy countries. Nowhere in the bill do we find the formula to be applied by the Government so that the Australian people will know who are the enemies of this country. We know who are the friends and we are told that we cannot do anything to assist the enemies of friendly powers. But no where in the bill can any one find the means of determining who are the enemies of this country.
– The honorable member for Moreton said to-night that every international Communist was an enemy.
– That is so. The honorable member for Moreton said to-night that the enemies at whom this bill is aimed include every international Communist in the world. Presumably, therefore, if the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Anderson) continues to sell his wool to Russia and to red China, as he has been doing for several years, then because Russia and China are both controlled by Communists, the honorable member for Hume will become an enemy of Australia. By selling his wool to the Communists of Russia and China, he is undoubtedly assisting them. Does this mean that every member of the Australian Labour Party who tries to expose the farcical situation of not recognizing the Government of continental China as the real government of China, is to be punished because China is a Communist country? Does this mean that Churchill and all those who supported him in recognizing Communist China would also be culpable if they were citizens of Australia? It must mean that, if the statement of the honorable member for Moreton is right. If this bill is aimed at Communists, it must be aimed at all Communists. If it is aimed at all Communists, every Communist union official must come into the net. No one who is a Communist or has been a Communist is really safe, because his known character would be sufficient to condemn him.
– The Minister for Shipping and Transport committed an offence when he had lunch with the secretary of the Seamen’s Union.
– That is a good example. The Minister had lunch with one of the leading Communists in Australia only a short time ago, and that would be sufficient to condemn him under this bill.
– He bought the lunch.
– If he bought the lunch, I suppose that makes it an even worse offence. I do not condemn the Minister for having lunch with this Communist.
I condemn only his foolish friends who, through the provisions of this bill, say that this is sufficient to prove that he is a Communist too. Honorable members on the other side of the House are willing to brand as a Communist any person seen travelling with a known Communist in a motor car, a train or a tram. This is ridiculous!
As the honorable member for East Sydney said, this is a piece of fascist legislation. It has been thought out by people with fascist tendencies. My view is that it has been thought out by the secret police in order to widen their already very wide powers. 1 have no faith in the secret police of this country. I have no more faith in the secret police of this country than 1 have in the secret police of any totalitarian country. I do not condone the activities of the secret police who pimp and spy on Australians, who get behind bars and in secret places tapping telephones, who listen at keyholes to private conversations, and who walk around with tape recorders strapped to their wrists so that they may record private conversations for use against ordinary innocent people. When you look at the Australian scene, you see such things as the secret police, and the pimping and the spying that goes with it. You see the tapping of telephones already legalized in this country - and this is the only country in the whole of the free world where Parliament has had the audacity to legalize the tapping of private telephones. You see arbitration laws which enable a court to impose savage penalties upon unions merely for asking their members to withhold their labour power from the labour market. You see coupled with that these provisions which give the Government the right to imprison for life a trade union official who fights for the rights of his members. You see the provisions of section 30j pf the present Crimes Act which enables the Government to declare as a crime an ordinary strike. Clearly this is a situation which the Government can no longer claim is any better than that obtaining in the Communist countries of the world. No longer can members of the Government throw out their chests and say, “We offer freedom, liberty and respect for the civil rights of the individual, but the Communists do not “. The Government has nothing better to offer than the Com munists have if it takes away the things I have mentioned; and it is taking them away. Once you introduce the secret police of the Communist state, once you introduce telephone tapping, which the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) described as being characteristic of a police state, when he was talking of Colonel Nasser’s regime in Egypt - how true that was - and once you impose savage penalties on free men merely for deciding not to sell their labour at a price which they think is too. low, you establish all of the main fundamentals of a totalitarian state in the country.
Nobody can claim that the Government is fighting for the freedoms it pretends to be fighting for when it uses weapons such as those. The imposition of the enormous penalty of £500 upon a union and £10 a day upon each individual member of the union which goes on strike is an interference with the right of a human being to determine what he is going to do with his own labour power. As the late honorable member for Bendigo, Mr. Clarey, said some time ago, the free right to strike is the only thing that distinguishes the free man from the slave.
We are reaching a very dangerous sima. tion in this country. I believe that when the real evil intent and purpose of this bill become apparent to the people of Australia, they will rise up in their wrath against the Government. At the next election they will throw the Government out of office in order to show their disapproval of these inroads into traditional civil liberties of the individual. Not only the trade unionists of Australia but the church leaders, the professional men, the middle-of-the-road people, the white-collar workers, the school teachers - all the people who really understand what is involved in this shocking, atrocious piece of legislation - will rise up in wrath against this Government at the next election.
It is clear to me that in bringing down this bill the Government thought it could put over another Petrov or another Communist Party dissolution stunt. It has now discovered how dismally it has failed. You cannot pull these stunts too often. There comes a time when the people realize what is being done to them. Whilst the people might treat as unimportant a Petrov stunt which does not impinge upon their civil liberties, they will see nothing funny at all in a political stunt designed to embarrass the Opposition politically but which aims at the very heart of their own civil liberties.
I agree with the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) when he says that it is one thing to put a rotten corrupt, evil piece of fascist-like legislation on the statute-book and another thing to carry it out and get the people to accept it. The members of the Government will find that the people will not. accept it. Fortunately, the people are able to use the ballot-box every three years. These evil intrusions into the civil rights of the individual can be checked at the ballot-box every three years. The Labour Party would be wise to fight the next election on this piece of legislation alone. If it does, it cannot help but win. What happened in connexion with the Communist Party Dissolution Bill? When the matter was first put to the people, a gallup poll showed that 72 per cent, of the people were in favour of the bill, but four weeks later, when the vote was taken, after the Labour Party had had an opportunity to educate the people as to what that bill really stood for, the vote of 72 per cent, in favour of it was turned into one of 51 per cent, against it. That is what will happen in this case, because on this occasion it will be much easier to explain to the people how much more evil this bill is than was the Communist Party Dissolution Bill.
I say, finally, that when this Government started on this rampage against the civil rights of the citizens of this country in order to try to obtain - as it thought it might - a cheap, shabby political point against the Opposition, hoping that it would split the Opposition as it did on the Petrov stunt, it might have felt that it had nothing to fear. However, by this action it has united the Opposition in a way in which it has never been united before. For years we have never seen the Opposition united as it is now. Not only is the Opposition united in the political field; it is united in the industrial field as well. There is not one dissentient voice among the whole of the trade union movement about the action we are taking here to-night, and there is not one dissentient voice amongst the political Labour movement.
This is the one thing that has done most to weld the great Labour movement of Australia, both industrial and political, into the fighting force that will enable it to put an end to this Government at the next election.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Snedden) adjourned.
House adjourned at 11.28 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
m asked the Minister for Labour and National Service, upon notice -
What countries have ratified the 1951 International Labour Organization Convention No. 100 concerning Equal Remuneration for Men and Women Workers for Work of Equal Value?
On what occasions and with what results have the Commonwealth and States conferred or corresponded concerning the convention since Victoria and New South Wales advised that they were prepared to agree to its ratification?
Can he say what States in the United States of America and what provinces in Canada have legislated for equal pay for men and women doing work of equal value?
What governments in (a) the United States, (b) Canada, (c) Australia, and (d) other countries give equal pay to their own male and female employees doing work of equal value?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
m asked the Minister for Health, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: - 1, 2, 3 and 4. No additions or amendments have been made to the British Pharmacopoeia since the Therapeutic Substances Act 1959. A new edition of the British Pharmaceutical Codex became official in the United Kingdom in July, 1960. This has not yet been promulgated in Australia.
m asked the Minister for Health, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
m asked the Minister for Health, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
m asked the Minister for Health, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
z asked the Minister representing the Minister for Civil Aviation, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
d asked the Minister representing the Minister for Civil Aviation, upon notice -
What was the (a) number of passengers and (b) quantity of air freight handled by all major airlines in 1959 at the Western Junction and Hobart airports, respectively?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows: -
m asked the Minister representing the Minister for Civil Aviation, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
d asked the Minister representing the Minister for Civil Aviation, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
m asked the Attorney-General, upon notice -
What members of the Commonwealth of Nations are (a) parts of the Queen’s dominions and (b) foreign powers under the proposed Crimes Act 1960?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows: -
My impression is that the honorable member is under some misapprehension about the bearing of the Crimes Bill upon the Commonwealth of Nations. The proper view of the present situation is that no part of the Commonwealth is a foreign power for the purpose of this bill or, so far as I am aware, for any other legal purpose in Australia, although it is true that some parts of the Commonwealth of Nations are not parts of the Queen’s dominions. But an answer to a question on notice is not a convenient place to expound these complicated matters which I would gladly discuss with the honorable member at any convenient time.
Freedom from Hunger Campaign.
z asked the Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
z asked the Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice-
Has there been any recent significant increase in aerial agriculture in Australia?
n. - The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
s asked the Minister for External Affairs, upon notice -
Is he able to furnish the following information: -
Where is the government which governs the affairs of the Chinese people, located;
For how long has this government exercised this jurisdiction;
Which countries have diplomatic relations with the government he describes as “ the Peking regime “; and
When, in each case, were these relations established, and what form do they take?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows: -
Afghanistan - 20th January, 1955.
Albania - 23rd November, 1949.
Bulgaria - 4th October, 1949.
Burma- 8th June, 1950.
Cambodia- 17th July, 1958.
Ceylon- 7th February, 1959.
Cuba - 4th September, 1960.
Czechoslovakia - 6th October, 1949.
Denmark- 11th May, 1950.
Finland- 28th October, 1950.
Ghana- 7th July, 1960.
Guinea - 4th October, 1959.
Hungary- 6th October, 1949.
India- 1st April, 1950.
Indonesia - 9th June, 1950.
Iraq- 29th July, 1958.
Morocco - 1st November, 1958.
Nepal- 1st August, 1955.
Netherlands - 19th November, 1954.
Norway- 5 th October, 1954.
Pakistan- 21st May, 1951.
Poland- 7th October, 1949.
Rumania- 5th October, 1949.
Sudan- 30th November, 1958.
Sweden- 9th May, 1950.
Switzerland- 14th September, 1950.
United Arab Republic- 30th May - 10th August, 1956.
United Kingdom- 17th June, 1954.
U.S.S.R.- 3rd October, 1949.
Yemen- 24th September, 1956.
Yugoslavia - 10th January, 1955.
Note- (i) The regimes of East Germany, North
Korea and Outer Mongolia agreed to establish diplomatic relations with the Peking regime in October, 1949. The North Vietnamese regime did so in January, 1950, and the self-styled “Provisional Government of the Republic of Algeria” in May, 1960. (ii) Israel recognized the Peking regime in January, 1950, but there has not been any agreement to establish diplomatic relations. The Republic of Mali on 14th October, 1960, recognized the Peking regime and expressed the hope of establishing diplomatic relations.
z asked the Minister for External Affairs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
Vientiane) and Samboc Rapids (in Cambodia). In January, 1960, a reconnaissance team of an engineer and geologist from the Snowy Mountains Authority made a preliminary investigation and reported that there are practicable dam sites at both these sections of the river. On the basis of this preliminary investigation Australia has agreed to provide £182,000 under the Colombo Plan for geological and drilling work to confirm the feasibility of the proposed sites and obtain geological information required to the point where detailed design of the dams would commence. The Australian team will train geologists and drillers from the neighbouring countries in the course of its work. Facilities for further training under the Colombo Plan will be offered in Australia. The Australian investigations will be carried out by the Snowy Mountains Hydroelectric Authority. A party of nine Australian engineers, geologists and drillers arrived in Bangkok in September and October. The party is establishing camp on the Thailand side of the river near Vientiane and is at present engaged in moving its equipment to the site.
d asked the Minister for Trade, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: - 1 to 4. The landed price of crude oil imported into India would be expected to differ from the landed price of similar oil imported into Australia on account of differences in the freight component due to varying lengths of hauls. Over the past twelve months there has been an increasing world-wide surplus of crude oil and prices have been declining. This may well be the reason for the recent offer by the U.S.S.R. to India and the subsequent decline in the price of oil imported into that country. It was largely due to this fall in the “ world “ price that the wholesale and retail prices of refined petroleum were reduced by id. a gallon early this month almost throughout Australia. As there has been some rise in distribution costs, this action does not suggest that those companies marketing oil in Australia are fixing prices on the basis of what the domestic market can bear.
z asked the Minister in charge of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
s. - On 20th October, the honorable member for Chisholm (Sir Wilfrid Kent Hughes) asked the following questions: -
Has any decision been made with regard to the provision of our own ice-breaker to give regular service to our Antarctic bases and to provide continuity of research in Antarctica?
At present we hire an ice-breaker on an annual basis. Would it not be advisable for such a vessel to be serviced and maintained by the Royal Australian Navy?
Has any request been made for air crews of the Royal Australian Air Force to train with the United States Air Force on the air transport routes in Antarctica? I understand that we have had one observer with the United States Air Force since 1958.
I undertook to obtain a detailed reply, and the following information is now given: -
No decision has yet been made with regard to the construction of a ship for use by Australia in the Antarctic. The matter is, however, under active examination by appropriate government departments with a view to preparing a submission for consideration by Cabinet.
It is not yet clear that the costs of constructing, servicing and maintaining an Antarctic ice-breaker would be less, or significantly less, than those of chartering. The honorable member may be assured, however, that all factors will be taken into consideration including that of Royal Australian Navy responsibility.
No request has been made for Royal Australian Air Force aircrews to train with the United States
Air Force on air transport routes in Antarctica. Arrangements are being made, however, for a senior Royal Australian Air Force officer to accompany the forthcoming United States Operation Deepfreeze 61 to Antarctica, by which he will obtain valuable operational experience.
m asked the Minister for Health, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: - 1 and 2. Legislation enacted in Queensland and South Australia relating to narcotic drugs is, for practical purposes, very similar to the model act and regulations recommended by the National Health and Medical Research Council. Tasmania brought in an act in 1959 which is based on the model act, but regulations have not yet been passed and the act is not yet in operation.
n asked the Minister for Territories, upon notice -
Why did the Administration in the Territory oi Papua and New Guinea call public tenders, as notified on page 34 of the New Guinea “Times Courier” of 12th October, 1960, for the sale of one of its tractors with dozer attachment at Lae, when on the same day in the same newspaper and on the same page it invited tenders for the supply on hire of a tractor and dozer at (a) Lae, (b) Madang, (c) Wewak and (d) Kavieng?
– The answer to the honorable member’s Question is as follows: -
The tenders referred to by the honorable member were not called by the Administration of Papua arid New Guinea. The notice inviting tenders for the purchase and removal of a tractor with angle dozer and power control unit attachments at Lae was inserted by the Commonwealth Department of Works Transport Pool at Lae. The tenders foi the supply on hire of bulldozers and other equip, ment at Lae, Madang, Wewak and Kavieng were invited by the Department of Civil Aviation and were returnable to the Secretary of the Regional Contract Board, Department of Civil Aviation, Port Moresby. Neither the Commonwealth Department or Works nor the Commonwealth Department of Civil Aviation is in any way under the control or jurisdiction of the Administrator of the Territory of Papua and New Guinea.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 27 October 1960, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1960/19601027_reps_23_hor29/>.