23rd Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. John McLeay) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– I desire to ask the Prime Minister a question concerning superannuation payments to retired Commonwealth public servants, particularly to those who were in the lower grades. Will the right honorable gentleman say whether he is prepared to have a re-examination made of these payments which, in view of rising costs, are now totally inadequate and do not enable the retired officers to meet their obligations? Furthermore, there are certain anomalies that might be corrected, and perhaps they, too, could be examined.
– I would be very glad to look into this matter.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Trade. Has the Export Development Council yet had cause or reason to look into the port facilities of Australia in relation to our exports? In particular, has the council made any assessment of the complaints in some quarters that Australian port facilities lag behind the requirements of our current exports?
– The Export Development Council has studied quite closely and continuously - indeed, it is in session to-day - the opportunities for exports, the goods that may be exported, where we may sell them and the limiting factors that may exist. I know that the council is highly conscious of the fact that exports of certain items, notably coal, are limited by the port and loading facilities available. My colleague, the Minister for National Development, who has an especial responsibility in regard to coal, is constantly making the point that if we had better port facilities in certain places such as Newcastle, I think Port Kembla, and at least one Queensland port adjacent to a great coal deposit, we would have an opportunity to increase our earnings from the export of coal. There are ready markets for coal and we can sell at a competitive price. We hope that, in the present circumstances, the State governments, which have a responsibility for ports and harbours, as well as mining, will give an appropriate priority to this very essential requirement. I still allow myself to hope that the State governments will give a higher priority to improving port facilities than they give to other matters involving the expenditure of their funds.
– My question to the Minister for Trade arises from the near tragedy which befell the furnishing fabrics industry so recently, and I ask it entirely without malice. Is it true that the Government is disillusioned by and disappointed with the results which have flowed from its actions in abolishing import controls, as was demonstrated plainly for all to see by the tragic decline in our overseas reserves? Further, is it the Government’s intention to reimpose import controls either later this year, or very early next year?
– The simple answer to the honorable member’s lengthy question is, “ No. “.
– I ask the Treasurer whether he will take steps to ensure that, for the convenience of the general public, adequate supplies of Commonwealth parliamentary papers, particularly acts and regulations, are always in stock at the SubTreasury in each capital city.
– The Commonwealth Treasury acts as agent, through its Sub-Treasuries, for the Government Printer in these matters. I shall make inquiries to see whether there are deficiencies, which I take it from the honorable member’s question he has found to exist, and if there are, I shall ascertain what we can do to remedy them.
– I address a question to the Minister for Trade relating to the official opening on Monday last by the Premier of New South Wales of the new inner harbour at Port Kembla for the use of shipping in that important industrial port. Is the Minister aware of the prime importance of this new inner harbour port, which provides seventeen deep-water berths, to the future development of the Australian steel industry in particular and other allied industries in the area? Is it a fact that the new port can be expected to provide immediately a direct link with the markets of the world for steel and coal exports, thus proving a valuable factor in promoting overseas trade? Will the Minister investigate the possibility of developing this port, in co-operation with the New South Wales State Government, to the point where it becomes an outlet for the exportation of wool, wheat and other primary production
– Order! I think the honorable member should ask his question.
– from the regions west of the immediate south coast area?
– I am aware of the recent opening by the New South Wales Premier of the inner harbour at Port Kembla, which I understand provides new berthing facilities for the unloading of iron ore from inward traffic and the loading of steel for the outward traffic. It is my understanding that that is only part of the plan for the Port Kembla port facilities and that there is still a forward programme awaiting activity on the part of the New South Wales Government for establishing facilities necessary for loading coal, wheat and other export products. I repeat what I said a moment ago. I am glad to see this development, but T do hope that the New South Wales Government will attach to it an appropriate priority for coal and steel which represent the big new items of Australia’s potential exports.
– I address a question to the Postmaster-General relating to television in the Goulburn valley area of Victoria. Will the honorable gentleman ask his technical staff to give him facts about the certified strength of signal available to the various towns in this area from, first, a transmitter placed on Mount Major and, secondly, a transmitter situated on Mount Glenrowan? Will he then authorize publication of these signal strengths in the various newspapers throughout the northeast area of Victoria so that the public may have this information from an impartial body of technical experts? If he is willing to adopt this procedure, will the PostmasterGeneral have included in such statement a full explanation of the tentative choice of Mount Major as the site for a transmitter? Will he also ask his staff-
– Order! I think the honorable member should complete his question to the Minister.
– Will the Minister ask his staff to pay particular attention to the expected quality of reception in towns like Wangaratta, Myrtleford and Benalla-
– Order! I think the honorable member’s question is too long. I give him the opportunity to complete it.
– I have come to the last part of it.
– Order! Will the honorable member ask his question?
– If Wangaratta and Myrtleford districts do not receive-
– Order! The honorable member is commenting now.
– I will leave it at that.
– I think I have the gist of the honorable member’s question. The staffs of the Postmaster-General’s Department and the Australian Broadcasting Control Board have been engaged, for some weeks now, in determining this question of sites in various areas. I know that certain information about signal strengths is available for the area referred to by the honorable member for Indi. I think it is likely that the information is not quite complete and that further investigations may have to be made regarding the sites to which he referred. In any case, I will get the information for the honorable member and will let him have it as soon as possible.
– My question is addressed to the Attorney-General. Is he aware that Australia’s bauxite reserves, including the most extensive in the world, those at Weipa in Queensland, have come under the control, for a period of many years, of Consolidated Zinc Corporation Limited or British Aluminium Company Limited?
Is he also aware that Australia’s only aluminium processing plant has been sold to the Zinc Corporation, a company which now proposes to set up a plant almost ten times as large in New Zealand? Is it also a fact that Zinc Corporation has sold a half share in its New Zealand aluminium operations to the Kaiser Aluminium and Chemical Corporation of the United States of America, that British Aluminium is controlled by the American Reynolds Metal Company and that Kaiser and Reynolds are interlocked-
– Order! I think the honorable member is giving information now.
– Does the AttorneyGeneral consider that this international monopolization of Australian and New Zealand bauxite and aluminium would come within the scope of an Australian monopolies and restrictive practices act if he had the intention and the ability to bring such legislation into the Australian Parliament?
– The honorable member’s question, I thought, was highly hypothetical. I tell him, in reply, that I know that the steps being taken to develop a great Australian industry in bauxite and aluminium are very good.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Social Services. I understand that the honorable gentleman’s department is paying something in excess of £3,000,000 a year to support deserted wives. Has he made any approach to the State governments in Australia, asking them to strengthen considerably their existing maintenance laws so as to enable the taxpayers of Australia to be relieved of the responsibility for supporting deserted wives, and also to oblige those husbands who have deserted their wives to fulfil what are their proper and manly responsibilities?
– I think it would be outside my province to make approaches of the kind the honorable member suggests to the legal authorities of the States. Under the Social Services Act, a deserted wife may make appli cation, in certain circumstances, for a widow’s pension, but before that application can be favorably considered she must exhaust all the processes of law that are available to her for maintenance under State legislation.
– My question to the Minister for Territories is supplementary to the question relating to the Darwin High School, which was asked of him yesterday by the honorable member for the Northern Territory. What is the difference between the cost of installing mechanical ventilation and the cost of air-conditioning, as was recommended by the Public Works Committee? I might refresh the Minister’s mind by informing him that the estimated cost of air-conditioning was £109,000. Was expert evidence called on this subject? Who were the experts who recommended mechanical ventilation? Is the Minister aware that expert evidence is available to the effect that mechanical ventilation is no more effective than is ordinary ventilation?
– Matters relating to the technical and engineering side of this project are under the administration of my colleague, the Minister for Works. I do not have in my mind at the moment the difference in cost between providing a fully airconditioned building and a building that is cooled by mechanical means, but I shall obtain the relevant figures and let the honorable gentleman have them.
– Is the Minister for Primary Industry aware of the shortage of Australian fresh fruits and vegetables, particularly citrus fruits and potatoes, on the Malayan market? As the United States of America has had the greatest share of this market in the past, would the present be a good time to advertise Australian products seeing that American production has declined owing to the effects of the season in the United States.
– I am aware that in Malaya there is a shortage at present of citrus fruits, fresh vegetables and potatoes. The reason is that this is the off season and supplies are not readily available. Potatoes are just coming on to the market. Malaya is an important market for our apples and pears. Last year we exported 190,000 bushels of apples and 21,000 bushels of pears to Malaya. In addition, SO per cent, of our exports of grapes - 48,000 bushel cases - went to that market.
The honorable member has suggested that trade commissioners might be sent to Malaya to ascertain the market prospects. The citrus growers themselves have representatives there now to explore the market. As soon as supplies are available trade commissioners will contact the various buyers with a view to arranging increased sales. The potato crop is subject to seasonal conditions. Potatoes are just coming on the market, mainly from Western Australia. However, this year the crop in that State will be only about one-half of what it normally is - three or four tons to the acre instead of eight tons to the acre - so supplies this year will be somewhat less than they were previously.
– I address my question to the Minister for Shipping and Transport. Is the Union Steam Ship Company of New Zealand Limited one of the major shipping companies operating on the Australian coast? Is this company calling for tenders in Australia, Hong Kong and the United Kingdom for the construction of two 5,500-ton ships for use on the Australian coast? Is it necessary for this company to obtain Government approval to have these vessels built overseas? If so, has this approval been granted? Will the Commonwealth ship-building subsidy of 33i per cent, be paid on these ships if they are built in Australian shipyards?
– As yet, I have no official knowledge of the calling of tenders but I shall get the relevant information for the honorable member. The payment of the 33i per cent, subsidy is a matter of Government policy.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Primary Industry. As wheat harvesting soon will be general throughout Australia, and as growers would like to know the amount per bushel of the first advance so that they can arrange their financial commitments for next year, can the Minister say when an announcement on this subject may be expected?
– If the House gives me leave to do so, I shall make a statement on this matter at the end of question time.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Primary Industry. Are any restrictions imposed on cheese manufacturers in relation to dealing directly with trading firms in overseas countries, such as Indonesia and South Africa, in an attempt to build up an export market for their products? Is it a fact that Australian manufacturers at present are obliged to channel their inquiries and arrange their overseas sales through a group of approximately ten exporters approved by the Australian Dairy Produce Board?
– I do not know just what the honorable member has in mind, because I did not hear the question fully. I can say, however, that I know of no restrictions whatsoever of exports.
– Can the Minister for Labour and National Service say whether it is a fact that the Sydney branch of E.M.I. (Australia) Limited has retrenched approximately 800 of its employees in recent weeks as a result of the Government’s economic measures?
– I would treat with considerable reserve any statement that companies are retrenching employees as a consequence of the Government’s recently announced economic measures. They have not had time to estimate what the effect will be on the demand for their products, and consequently it is improbable that dismissals are taking place because of these new measures. As to the cases I have looked into, including those I mentioned yesterday and the one just referred to by the honorable member for Phillip, I think I can assure the honorable member that all those retrenchments were planned before, and in some cases many weeks before, the date on which the Government announced the changes. As to the particular company referred to by the honorable member, the number of employees involved has been exaggerated, and we do not think we shall have great difficulty in placing in other employment the men who have been retrenched. I think I should say, for the benefit of the honorable member, that we can all rest assured that the economy of this country will continue to develop at a very healthy rate, assisted by the measures which have been taken by the Government, and that as a consequence the opportunities for employment will also continue to increase.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Air. Is it a fact that the Rathmines air base is to close in January next? Is it also a fact that the Department of the Army has now abandoned its original intention to take over that base?
– It is true that the Royal Australian Air Force establishment at Rathmines will close at the end of this year as part of a re-organization of Air Force bases for purposes of economy and efficiency. The base was originally a flying boat base. The Air Force no longer operates flying boats, so the base is no longer required for its original purpose. It has been used for some time as a ground training establishment, both for new entry recruits and for administrative officers, and for other purposes. A general re-organization of the training establishments of the R.A.A.F., designed to save both money and manpower, has necessitated the closing of the base. Whether the Army has any plans for this base I do not know. I suggest that the honorable member put that part of his question on the notice-paper.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Health. Are major changes taking place in America with respect to the distribution of drugs and pharmaceutical products, with a view to reducing costs to consumers? If so. are similar changes being effected in Australia? If not, will trade practices in this industry he included amongst those being studied by the Attorney-General in his investigation of restrictive trade practices?
– 1 understand that in America a committee of the Senate has been appointed to inquire into the price of drugs. I am not sure whether it will inquire into distribution but certainly it will inquire into prices. I also understand that so far the committee has not made any report. Conditions in Australia are different from those in the United States of America in this respect, and as the honorable gentleman will realize the Commonwealth Government has no direct control over prices. Neither has the Government any indirect control of the prices of drugs except by influencing the prices at which drugs can be admitted to the list of pharmaceutical benefits. The Department of Health is active in this regard and, in fact, I think it is no exaggeration to say that many of its actions in the past have saved the taxpayer millions of pounds by keeping the prices of drugs within a reasonable range when they are admitted to the pharmaceutical benefits list.
– Will the Prime Minister inform the House what he intends to do about the proposition recently put to him by the Leader of the Opposition for the appointment of a select committee to inquire into and report upon New Guinea?
– No decision has yet been arrived at on that matter.
– Can the Minister for Trade give the House an estimate of the value in money terms of the various trade agreements that have been negotiated on behalf of the beef industry by this Government?
– 1 am afraid I cannot give an estimate of the value. First, I do not have the relevant figures in my head. Secondly, any external arrangement which benefits the beef industry reflects itself automatically on Australian values at the same time because of the manner in which beef is sold in Australia, generally at public auction. I remember saying a couple of years ago in this House, and widely in grazing circles, that the value of the longterm meat agreement at that point of time was such that it would raise the value of beef herds in the beef exporting areas of Australia, principally Queensland, by not less than £50,000.000. That was in addition to the increase in export earnings.
The more recent arrangements under which some release from commitments to the United Kingdom and entry to the market of the United States of America were negotiated have produced a great boom in the beef industry, the like of which has never been experienced before. In respect of breeding herds and lands devoted to beef production, I would think that the value to the Australian beef industry can be assessed in terms of scores of millions of pounds.
– Has the PostmasterGeneral received a deputation from the people of Dimbulah, in north Queensland, regarding the transfer of the post office from one side of the railway line to the other? If the Minister has received a petition - and I believe he has - will he consider stopping further work on the project until a more thorough investigation has been made into the requirements of the area and he has ascertained on which side of the line the people wish the post office to be situated?
– Some little time ago, I received a petition from residents of Dimbulah to which the honorable member has referred. I have asked my departmental officers to make a survey of the matter and give me some information about it. I hope to be able to pass this information on to the honorable member shortly.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Trade. Has the Government considered the Tariff Board’s report on sulphuric acid? If it has, is the Minister able to say whether the Sulphuric Acid Bounty Act on which the pyrites industry of Australia depends will be extended, as it expires next month?
– I know that the honorable member for Kalgoorlie has constantly displayed an interest in this matter because of his electorate’s concern with pyrites production. Cabinet has received and considered the Tariff Board’s report on this matter. It will be tabled in the House at a very early date and whatever consequential action the Government decides should be taken will proceed without delay.
– The Treasurer will be aware that despite the restrictive advance policy which he has ordained, the Governor of the Reserve Bank of Australia has announced that the statutory reserve deposit ratio will be reduced temporarily to meet the usual pre-Christmas withdrawal of cash by the public. As this action appears inconsistent with general credit policy and as trading banks, of their own initiative, should make provision for Christmas withdrawals of cash, I ask him whether the reduction in the statutory reserve deposit ratio is designed to avoid further trading banks, in particular the largest private trading bank in Australia, suffering the embarrassment of having to borrow from the Reserve Bank. If this is not the reason for the reduced reserve ratio, what is the reason for the unusual action taken by the Reserve Bank?
– The action to which the honorable gentleman has referred was taken after full consideration of the current situation by the board of the Reserve Bank. It is known that the liquidity of the trading banks had reached a very low level. Indeed, some of them had already borrowed from the Reserve Bank. Normally, at this time of the year, there is a very heavy demand by the public on the banks for notes for Christmas trading and it was thought desirable that there should be, at least temporarily, some reduction in the normal statutory reserve deposit limit. I have no doubt that what was done was done against the background of the Government’s policy but having regard to special circumstances that obtain at this time of the year.
– At the time of the negotiations for the sale of the Commonwealth’s share of the Bell Bay aluminium plant was the Prime Minister aware of the probable incorporation in that field of the Kaiser group in America? If he was aware of that, why did the Government not make it clear to the public that an international cartel was involved? As the entry of Kaiser is now an established fact, does he not feel great concern that such an important Australian industry should come under partial control by a foreign company?
– I think it was quite well known at the time that these negotiations began that Consolidated Zinc Proprietary Limited would have as a partner a substantial company, because the enormous amount of money involved required most unusual financial provisions. At that time the prospective partner, indeed the actual partner for certain purposes, was British Aluminium Company Limited which, as the honorable member knows, was purchased by Reynolds Metal Company, an American concern. The arrangement between Consolidated Zinc and British Aluminium subsequently was terminated for certain purposes, including Bell Bay. In order to obtain the necessary financial accommodation to enable this great project to go forward, Consolidated Zinc then negotiated with another enterprise, and this was the Kaiser company of the United States. I do not know why the association with Kaiser, a company that has done great work in this country to the great satisfaction of governments, should be regarded as somewhat more dangerous than the association with British Aluminium, which has passed into the hands of Reynolds.
– It is not any more dangerous.
– No. But if the honorable member is putting forward the proposition that an Australian-managed company such as Consolidated Zinc should not participate in the development of these great resources except with Australian capital, then he is, in effect, saying that these resources should not be developed. This is the constant error into which the Opposion falls. It rejects the idea that one of the great hopes for this country is that we continue to attract from overseas fruitful capital investment for the development of Australia’s wealth.
– I ask the Minister for Health: Has his attention been directed to a statement by the Australian Estates Company Limited of that company’s intention to import a breed of rather drought resistant cattle from America? Further, I ask whether the Government’s policy in regard to a total import ban on ruminant animals has been altered or is likely to be altered.
– 1 do not know anything about the statement to which the honorable gentleman refers - at least officially - but there is no intention at present on the part of the Government to alter its quarantine requirements in relation to the importation of cattle. As the honorable gentleman knows, those requirements at present provide for a complete prohibition of the importation of cattle on account of the risks of blue tongue disease. I can see no prospect of altering the quarantine regulations until those risks are removed.
– Is the Minister for Primary Industry aware that the investigators conducting the dairy industry inquiry selected three groups of dairy farms in different districts on which to base their investigations? These three groups were, best dairy farms, medium class dairy farms and poorer class dairy farms. Is the Minister aware that there is evidence in existence to show that the farms selected appear to be approximately representative of the first two classes, but were not fully representative of all the three classes of farms that I have mentioned? Would not this suggest that the committee set out with the predetermined aim of making sure that sufficient evidence would be gathered to make inevitable a recommendation for the discontinuance of the £13,000.000 subsidy to the dairy industry?
– I am fairly well aware of the contents of the report submitted by the committee. I have perused it quite closely. As to the substance of the report, I have no comment to make. I am awaiting the report of the industry itself. No doubt the representatives of the industry will have talks with me in due course.
– I desire to ask the Prime Minister a question without notice. The background to my question is a reported statement attributed to a Queensland Minister to the effect that secession might in certain circumstances be desirable. I ask the right honorable gentleman whether it is a fact that Queensland covers only a little less than one-quarter of the total area of Australia. Also is it a fact that, thanks to the beneficial policy of the present Australian Government, the resources of that great area have been greatly augmented, and many great additional resources have been discovered? Is it a fact that those two factors combined may eventually make Queensland the colossus of Australia? In the circumstances, 1 ask the right honorable gentleman whether he will confer with the Premier of Queensland with a view to reducing the size of the colossus by dividing it into at least three separate parts, thereby removing the danger of secession and. incidentally, bringing into play effectively the old policy of divide and govern.
– I read in the newspapers a reference to this speech. I thought it was a rather dashing statement from a Minister. I confess I did not take it too seriously. I have a very great regard for the State of Queensland. I think it has an enormous future as an area. Of course, Queenslanders know that their greatest future is as members of the Commonwealth of Australia.
– My question is addressed to the Prime Minister. In view of the obvious recognition by the Government of the importance to the Australian economy of coal as an export commodity, as illustrated by the Minister for Trade earlier this afternoon, will the Prime Minister consider taking action, through one of the several avenues available to the Government, to supply special finance to the States for the development of port facilities? Such action could be taken through the Joint Coal Board or through defence legislation. Alternatively, is the right honorable gentleman prepared to arrange a conference with State Premiers or appropriate State Ministers to see whether any arrangements can be made to facilitate the export of coal?
– We have regular annual meetings with the Premiers of the States both at Premiers’ Conferences and in the Australian. Loan Council. I see no reason for adding to these by holding some particular ad hoc meeting.
– I should like to direct a question to the Minister for Trade. Can he tell us whether the Government has yet received the Tariff Board’s report on copper and, if it has, whether the report is likely to be tabled in the near future?
– Yes, the Government has received this report of the Tariff Board and has considered it. The report will be tabled in the House in the very near future.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Territories. Is it a fact that a company calling itself Rice Development Limited has taken over from Territory Rice Limited the Humpty Doo ricegrowing concession in the Northern Territory? As the transaction must have been approved by the Minister, will he inform the House of the basis of the transfer, and will he state the paid-up capital, the names of the principal shareholders and the names of the directors of the new company? Is it correct that the Government is sponsoring or guaranteeing a loan to this company through the Commonwealth Development Bank? If so, what is the amount?
– I have no knowledge of the registration of any company of the name mentioned; nor has any application been made to me for the transfer to any other company of the leases that are held by Territory Rice Limited. If some negotiations are going on, they have not yet come to my knowledge. The only action by the Government has been to assist the growers who are actually engaged on the cultivation of rice to continue their cropping operations this year.
– I wish to ask the Minister in charge of the Commonwealth
Scientific and Industrial Research Organization a question without notice. Does he realize that the frequent moves of the organization’s farm in the Australian Capital Territory have ruined a number of valuable long-term experiments and are unsettling to the skilled scientists who conduct these experiments? Is there any truth in the rumour that the site at Weetangera to which the farm is to be moved is only a temporary one? If so, will the Minister consider giving the farm a permanent home in the electorate of Farrer?
– If I may say so, I think, with due respect to the honorable gentleman, that he has overstated the case a little with respect to the experiments. The experiment farm has to be moved from its present site at Dickson to a site at Ginninderra - a name which I hope I have pronounced correctly. The farm has been in the process of transfer for some time. As the honorable gentleman will realize, such a transfer cannot be made overnight. I am having discussions with my colleague, the Minister for the Interior, in order to determine whether a permanent home can be provided for the experiment farm at the site to which it is now moving, and I have hopes that this will be so. If not, of course, I shall consider the honorable gentleman’s wish to have the farm moved to the electorate of Farrer.
Penalty of Deportation
– I direct my question to the Minister for Immigration. Does the Minister know of any legislation other than the Crimes Act which prescribes discriminatory penalties for offences of the same type according to whether or not a citizen is Australian-born? Is it a fact that all citizens not born in Australia, including naturalized citizens and those born in Commonwealth countries, can be deported if they are found guilty of certain offences under the Crimes Act for which the penalty for Australian-born citizens is twelve months’ imprisonment? Does the Minister consider these provisions to be discriminatory and conducive to second-class citizenship, and capable of militating against Aus tralia’s immigration programme and limiting the rate of naturalization?
– The honorable gentleman has asked a number of questions on legal matters and question time is not suitable for dealing with them. I confine myself to saying that this Government, especially in the last few years, has introduced a number of measures which have greatly ameliorated the conditions under which foreign-born people may live in Australia. A feature of this Government’s record for which I hope it will be remembered is the way in which it has removed the discrimination between naturalized Australians and those who are native-born.
– by leave - 1 wish to inform honorable members that after consultation between Commonwealth Prime Ministers initiated by the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, it has been agreed that a Commonwealth Prime Ministers’ Conference will be held in London early next March - I think about 8th March. As honorable members are aware, there is no formal agenda for these conferences, but I understand that certain international issues of great current importance - for example, disarmament - will be the subject of particular consideration.
– by leave - The first advance on wheat delivered to the Australian Wheat Board from the 1960-61 crop will be maintained at lis. a bushel less freight but will be paid in two instalments. The first payment will be 9s. a bushel less freight for bulk wheat f.o.r. ports on delivery, with a further payment of 2s. a bushel on 1st April next. For bagged wheat, the first advance will be 4d. a bushel above the bulk rate and an additional advance of 2d. a bushel* will be paid on Western Australian deliveriesin recognition of the freight advantage accruing to that State on export markets. These are the usual variations.
The current forecast of deliveries to the Australian Wheat Board from the 1960-61 crop is 225,000,000 bushels, a quantity well above any previous year’s deliveries, and about 45,000,000 bushels above the 1959-60 figure. The finance needed - £115,000,000 - to meet the initial payment and freight and handling charges on a crop of these dimensions will require that an overdraft be arranged with the Commonwealth Bank for £5,000,000 greater than that necessary for the payment of the first advance on the previous season’s crop. This overdraft will be guaranteed by the Commonwealth Government, as usual.
The board expects that the current crop year will end to-day, 30th November, 1960, with a carry-over of about 62,000,000 bushels, after 181,000,000 bushels have been sold for home consumption and export during 1959-60. Export sales made by the board during the season now ending will be about 124,000,000 bushels. This is a very high and encouraging figure having regard to difficult export marketing conditions due to world accumulations of wheat stocks, particularly in North America. The Australian Wheat Board is well aware of the need to maintain and, if possible, to increase sales of wheat to export markets, particularly in view of the anticipated record deliveries from 1960-61 crop, so that burdensome accumulations may not require to be held for undue periods. The Government will continue as in the past to work towards the maintenance and further development, if possible, of markets for Australian wheat through trade agreements and action at the international level to prevent damage to the volume of Australian commercial sales of wheat through unfair and restrictive trade practices by some of our competitors.
The Australian Wheat Board will take the necessary steps to pay growers, as promptly as possible, the initial payment against deliveries of wheat of the 1960-61 crop. Many growers should be paid before Christmas. Indeed, the board is meeting to-day in Melbourne. In view of the fact that the Commonwealth Government has made every effort to protect the interests of primary industry against inflationary trends, the Government believes that the wheat industry will appreciate the value of making this spread in payments over approximately four months.
Report of the Public Accounts Committee.
– I present the following report of the Public Accounts Committee: -
Fifty-second Report - The Reports of the Auditor-General - Financial Year 1958-59 - Part II.
This is Part II. of the first report of the Public Accounts Committee to be based exclusively on the annual reports of the Auditor-General. Part I. of the report has been presented already as the Fiftieth Report of the committee. A number of important matters are detailed in this report, but the committee has been concerned particularly with the following significant conclusion resulting from its investigations: - The role of the Auditor-General is both essential and important, but the full benefit of his endeavours will not be attained without an effective follow-up of his report. In our opinion, a number of departments have failed to give sufficient consideration to comments in the AuditorGeneral’s annual reports, whilst the Public Service Board and the Treasury in some instances should have followed up these matters more actively.
Ordered to be printed.
Debate resumed from 29th November (vide page 3374), on motion by Mr. Harold Holt-
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- It has been fairly obvious, as the debate on this bill has proceeded, that the argument has been mainly directed to the need for maintaining the stability of our balance of payments. Whilst Opposition members have tended to castigate the Government, they have given very little intimation of what policy they would pursue in order to meet the problem. The main constructive points were, I think, contained in the speech of the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley). It was fairly obvious that he would advocate two things: First, a return to import licensing, and secondly, the hoarding of our overseas reserves.
The honorable member accused the Government of frittering away, in the period from 1953 to 1959, a total of £1,000,000,000 in overseas funds. He said that our accumulated trade deficit on current account during that period amounted to this figure. Presumably, we can read into this that he would have applied stringent import licensing to reduce our imports during the seven years by £1,000,000,000. If that had been done, according to the honorable member, an extra £1,000,000,000 would have been added to our overseas reserves, which now stand at £500,000,000, making a total of £1,500,000,000. Is it really the attitude of the Opposition that we should at this stage maintain overseas balances at that colossal amount? That is the first question that should be put to the Opposition. Should we have adopted a policy of rigid import licensing over the whole of this period of seven years, neglected any form of capital development and resorted solely to piling up larger and larger overseas balances? After all, that surely must be the implication contained in the remarks of the honorable member for Fremantle. To my mind, the Government has a duty to maintain the stability of our balance of payments as far as that is possible, for the balance of payments is the main indicator of the state of our economy. I also believe that constant adjustments must be made from day to day, and from month to month, because if our exports exceed our imports and there is a surplus in current account we build up our overseas balances instead of using the money to develop the economy and the capital of the nation as greatly and as rapidly as our national security demands. The Opposition would have us board our overseas reserves and refrain from making use of borrowings and capital investment from overseas. I would liken the attitude of honorable members opposite to that portrayed in the parable of the talents in that, instead of using the talents which have been given to them, Opposition members would seem to be digging a hole, putting their talents into it and refraining from using them.
– There is no talent in the Opposition.
– That is an even harsher observation than I would have expected from the honorable member for Wide Bay. The Government has always taken the view that we should develop our national resources as rapidly as we can afford to and that, if overseas nations are prepared to invest in this country, we should use the proceeds of such investment for capital improvements which will develop and strengthen the resources of our nation. And we have done that. But we must be quite sure that we do not allow our balance of payments to run into a deficit because, if we do so, we cannot meet our external commitments and we then become confronted with problems of the type with which we are faced now. Therefore, I believe that the Government has been acting wisely and correctly over the last few years in constantly making slight alterations to and adjustments of our economy in order to avoid running into a deficit while at the same time seeing to it that any surplus that arises either in our current account or from external borrowing is applied to the maximum possible useful extent for national development. The bill we are now considering is a typical example of that policy, for another slight alteration to our economy is necessary now. How much better this is than an inflexible policy which would involve major adjustments at the end of a much longer period!
The honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Crean) suggested that this action should have been taken sooner and that the trends in imports were surely visible at an earlier date. I am not quite so certain that the trends which he has in mind were visible some months ago. After all, the decisions upon which the Budget was framed must have been taken in June and July of this year - nearly five months ago. The latest import figures available at that time surely must have been those for May and, by May, we had had only little more than two months in which to gauge the effect of the removal of import licensing in February. It is well known that it takes at least six months before the effects of any change of import licensing policy will be shown in the monthly returns. Anybody who has studied the import figures for the whole period during which import licensing was in force will know that it was at least six months before the full effect of any change in import licensing policy could be seen. In those circumstances, I think it would have been almost impossible for a government which had to arrive at decisions in June or July of this year to be certain of the likely trend of imports during this current period. The figures that were available to the Government in March, April and May did not portray the trends that are so well demonstrated in those for July, August and September and, to a greater extent, those for October.
Let us examine the figures relating to the importation of certain selected items during the July-September quarter of 1960 as compared with those for the corresponding period in 1959. First, they show that the total value of imports for the JulySeptember quarter of 1960 was £280,000,000, which represents an annual rate of £1,120,000,000 as compared with a quarterly rate of £205,000,000, or an annual rate of £820,000,000 for the corresponding period last year. Let us examine in particular the figures relating to importation of those consumer goods which come under the heading, “Food, beverages and tobacco “. The honorable member for Melbourne Ports made great play on the importation of frogs’ legs in aspic and other things his wife sees when she does her weekly shopping in Melbourne, but I point out that the total value of imports coming under the heading “ Food, beverages and tobacco “ for the June-September quarter, I960, increased by only 11 per cent, to £9.500.000 as compared with £8,500,000 for the corresponding period last year. I do not think that frogs’ legs and the other things that have been hammered at by the Opposition were responsible for a great proportion of that increase. Even if they had been, the increase under the heading to which I have referred was very small when compared with the increase in our total exports for that quarter. Again, the importation of clothing increased by only £700.000, from £1,200,000 to £1,900,000. The increase in the total value of consumer goods was only from £36,400,000 to £48.000.000 and the actual proportion which consumer goods represented to our total importations declined from 17.7 per cent, in the July-September quarter, 1959, to 17.1 per cent, in the corresponding period this year. It will be seen, therefore, that the increase in our imports bill was not due to any great extent to the importation of many of the items that have been mentioned by the Opposition. On the other hand, there were big increases in the imports of such things as structural steel and three other items related to the building industry. The value of structural steel imported increased by over 1,000 per cent., from £100,000 to £1,200,000, while that of timber imported increased from £3,500,000 to £7,500,000, an increase of well over 100 per cent. Again, the value of floor coverings, which gives some indication of the extent of our building activities, increased by almost 100 per cent., from £1,472,000 to £2,759,000. All those items give some indication of the extent of the increase in activity in the building industry.
Let us have a look at the other major increases that have occurred in those items which go into the manufacturing of cars, trucks and tractors. The value of imports of steel plate has risen from £800,000 to £6,000,000 - an increase of nearly 650 per cent, over the period, being part of the total increase in the value of iron and steel imports from £4,000,000 to £14,000,000. The value of motor vehicles imported complete has gone up from £800,000 to £1,700,000. The same position applies in respect of tractors and aluminium. All these items showed colossal increases during the quarter compared with the same quarter last year. No other items in our import bill have shown increases of anything like these amounts.
The total imports of materials for manufacture - particularly in the building trades and the automotive trade - have shown an increase, over that period, of over £50,000,000, out of a total import bill of £280,000,000. The increase in that time was £75,000,000 and over £50,000,000 of that was accounted for by these manufacturing materials.
Even more important than this, because it relates to matters which the honorable member for Fremantle referred when dealing with the question of a possible diversion of labour, is the great increase in imports of components for motor cars - not only the cars themselves and not only the steel. We must have regard to what happened in the past. Last year the registrations of cars were running at an annual rate of 250,000, and the rate has now increased to 330,000. In October the rate reached nearly 340,000. It is wellknown that the makers of components for cars in Australia could cope with an annual registration rate of 250,000, but when the rate was raised to 330,000 registrations annually the manufacturers of components were unable to meet the requirements of the automotive industry. The whole of the increase, therefore, had to be met by importing components.
The Australian industry was not geared to increase its rate of production of components for the automotive industry rapidly enough to cope with the increased sales of motor vehicles. That is why there has been an increase in the imports not only of completed cars but also of so many components which otherwise would have been manufactured in Australia. I think it is important that members of the Opposition should realize this rather important point. To my mind, therefore, the effect of this tax will not be to cause widespread unemployment in the automotive industries, and particularly in those industries which are by far the largest and which manufacture components of cars. The greatest effect will be felt in the assembly lines, but certainly not where the large bulk of workers is employed. As I see it, any reduction in the rate of registration of new cars will be felt first in a decrease in the imports of components for cars, leaving the Australian industry to carry on at the normal rate.
– Do you want to see our car imports reduced?
– I want to see a greater proportion of the cars used in Australia made in Australia and that is what I think will occur as the result of this legislation. We still have a greater car population than any other country in the world except the United States of America, Canada and New Zealand. We also throw away our cars more rapidly than most other nations do. It is a well-known fact that to-day hirepurchase companies will not accept as a risk a used car manufactured before 1950 and therefore, to all intents and purposes, most cars over that age are to-day almost worthless.
There is another fact that we can learn from events overseas. The sales tax on cars in the United Kingdom - the purchase tax, as it is called there - was raised to 50 per cent., which is higher than the tax here. One of the results of that increase in tax was that it encouraged the export of cars from the United Kingdom. Certain automotive companies in Australia have recently been improving the rate of export of cars from this country. We therefore hope that the effect of this legislation will be the same as the effect of that in the United Kingdom, and that the export of cars during the coming months will increase.
If we can reduce the rate of new car registrations to what it was at this time last year, we will reduce imports to a very great extent and will not greatly affect the employment of people in this industry in Australia. There will still be plenty of cars to go round and to meet essential needs. By raising the sales tax to 40 per cent, and reducing this class of imports to an extent, we will provide sufficient resources for other sections of our economy that are in need of a portion of our precious external reserves at the present time. To my mind, the way of achieving these ends at present, as suggested to the Government, is a very much better way than that which was advocated last night by the honorable member for Fremantle. I, therefore, support the bill.
– Mr. Deputy Speaker, the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Howson) has delivered a very thoughtful speech. In fact, having listened to his speech and having observed his rather uncomfortable manner, I am of the opinion that he has done nothing but think about this proposal since it was first announced. That is not surprising, because of the many proposals that have aroused the ire of the Australian people, this is the one that takes first prize.
I have no doubt that the honorable member, like most other honorable members who support the Government, is somewhat alarmed at the general trend of opposition and criticism that have come from the Australian people generally following the announcement of this proposal and, more importantly, from the wealthy tycoons who substantially maintain Liberal Party campaign funds. When men like Ricketson, Ian Potter and some of the other tycoons in industry make public statements attacking the Government for this absurd proposal, it is no wonder that we have in this House the kind of speech that we have just been listening to.
The honorable member for Fawkner came somewhere near the point when he said that a great deal of our steel imports was structural steel for the building of the enormous buildings which are rising against the skyline of Melbourne and other capital cities. They are being erected by banks, great emporiums and insurance companies. These buildings are monopolizing the manpower available in the building industry and are taking a large slab of the available materials. This, surely, should convince us that something ought to be done, as was done by the Chifley Government, to reimpose capital issues controls. It seems absolutely absurd, in a time like this, that we allow capital to be used for the building of fabulous hotels, motels, and petrol stations - and now we have tire stations - all over the countryside. Unessential industries are finding almost a surplus of capital for their expansion, but brickyards, cement works and other things absolutely essential to the building industry and to a growing economy are being starved for want of finance. They are being starved because the money now is being channelled either into very profitable unessential industries or into hire-purchase organizations which are able to make tremendous profits from the business that they transact.
In addition to the structural steel that we are importing to meet the demand of these luxury building projects we have, as the honorable member pointed out, an enormous importation of timber, a commodity which is badly needed for the construction of homes and for more essential purposes than the erection of luxury hotels, motels and the like. Petrol imports have increased considerably. This is another reason why our balance of payments position has been deteriorating. Aluminium imports have increased at a considerable rate. Instead of meeting this problem in the only sensible way, namely, by the expansion of output of the Bell Bay works so that we could meet our own requirements of aluminium, this Government has sold the Bell Bay project to some overseas cartel. Now, instead of an expansion beyond the tentative 28,000 tons output that was announced, there is every prospect that eventually the Bell Bay project will be closed down. There is no guarantee in any of the agreements that are being considered that this cannot be done within the next sixteen years. This is how I think the Government has fallen down on its job: When it discovered that aluminium imports were growing at the alarming rate that was mentioned by the honorable member for Fawkner, the Government should have increased the capital investment in the Bell Bay project so that the increased demand for aluminium could have been met from within our own country. But this was not done. The honorable member for Fawkner made the amazing statement that this tax will increase car output in Australia.
– 1 did not say that.
– I am sorry if I misunderstood the honorable gentleman, but that is a remark that some honorable members on the Government side have made from time to time. They claim that the tax will increase, not reduce, car output. They cannot have it both ways. Either it will increase output or it will reduce output. Let us consider both propositions. If the tax will increase car production, which apparently is a good thing in the eyes of those who claim that that is what the tax will do, why stop at a 40 per cent, tax? Why not make it 50 per cent, or even 60 per cent, because presumably the higher the tax the greater the output? But, if this tax will reduce output, then surely that is a very bad thing in a country that boasts about its growing economy. We heard the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) boasting how this country, under a private enterprise Government, has made great strides. He pointed to the motor car industry as an example of how we have increased our output. The honorable gentleman then stated that the United Kingdom Government had increased sales tax to 50 per cent. Apparently he believes that our 40 per cent, sales tax on cars is too little and that we should follow the example of the United Kingdom Government. Perhaps even the United Kingdom Government was too modest and should have made the tax 60 per cent.
– At least the United Kingdom increased its exports.
– The Minister states that the United Kingdom increased its exports; but let me ask him to have a look at some of the other things that the United Kingdom Government did. If this Government were prepared to apply to the Australian economy all the methods that the United Kingdom Government has applied, we probably would be in a much better position than we are now. The United Kingdom Government imposed a capital gains tax and I suggest, with due deference to the Minister, that a capital gains tax in Australia would have done far more to solve the inflationary problem than this increased sales tax on motor cars will do. As every one knows, sales tax is an inflationary tax. It must increase the price of goods. The very purpose of the higher sales tax on motor cars is to so increase the price of cars that fewer people will buy them. Obviously, it is an inflationary measure, and this Government uses an inflationary measure to deal with inflation! However, a capital gains tax is a deflationary measure. It does not increase the price of goods which a company is producing because all that would be achieved by doing so would be to make the tax on capital gains even higher than it was previously.
The honorable member for Richmond who, presumably, speaks with the authority of the Country Party, last night had this to say when referring to the proposed sales tax -
It is not imposed simply for the purpose of raising additional revenue. Tt is imposed for the purpose of correcting an imbalance in our national growth, and also for the purpose of safeguarding our overseas funds.
According to the honorable member for Richmond, the sole purpose of this tax is to safeguard our overseas funds. I can think of a much better way to do that.
– Why do you not read what he said?
– I have just read what he said.
– He did not say that the sole purpose of this tax is to safeguard overseas funds.
– I shall repeat exactly what he said as reported in “Hansard”. He stated-
It is not imposed simply for the purpose of raising additional revenue.
I can think of a much more effective way to safeguard our overseas funds than by this indirect method of increasing sales tax on motor cars and making every working man and, as the honorable member for Richmond seems to have forgotten, every primary producer pay more for the motor car that he needs. The way to do this is to reimpose import restrictions so that we can prevent luxury items from coming into this country.
– Is steel plate included in that category?
– No. Steel plate is not a luxury item, but this Government, which talks about being concerned with the problem of safeguarding our overseas balances, allows a wide variety of luxury goods to come into this country in unlimited quantities. They can be seen in any of the big emporiums in Melbourne. The honorable member for Fawkner, who owns an emporium in Melbourne, will know that what I am saying is true. These goods include frogs’ legs in aspic, canned pheasants, cods’ eyes, sturgeons’ eggs, muscatels in champagne, edible snails, canned caterpillars, red ants in sugar, honey, stuffed prawns, all kinds of fabulous furs, most of them from the Soviet Union. Paris model frocks and hats, glass shoes, artificial eyelashes, jewel-studded dog collars, mechanical fighting cocks and poodle perfume. I ask honorable members to dwell on the magnificent way in which this Government is safeguarding our overseas balances!
– Do you suggest seriously that those items are coming into Australia in unlimited quantities?
– They are coming in in unlimited quantities.
– To what extent?
– To the extent that purchasers can be found for them, and more and more purchasers are being found from people in Australia who are in the higher income brackets. People who have shares in the great monopolies in Australia are able to gorge themselves on cods’ eyes, sturgeons’ eggs and stuffed prawns, and the women are able to buy more of the fabulous furs that are available. Some women walk around the streets with jewel-studded dog collars attached to their poodles and with the poodles smelling as though they too have had a fairly good douching in poodle perfume. But these women are not the wives of primary producers; they are not the wives of the workers in Richards, Holden’s or Chryslers; they are the wives of the men who wax fat on the ineptitude of the Government. I can understand why the Minister shakes his head, because it must be most embarrassing for him to be reminded of the way in which this Government has, if we can use the term, governed Australia over the last eleven years.
The honorable member for Richmond also stated -
As a result of the Government’s efforts over the last ten years, a very large automobile industry has been established in Australia.
The plain truth is that the very large automobile industry in Australia was established by the Chifley Government in 1947 when Mr. Chifley arranged for the Commonwealth Bank to lend General MotorsHolden’s £2,300,000 with which to commence the manufacture of an Australian car. Not one penny of American money has been invested in the project since then. All of the present capital of the industry has been built up by charging the Australian public excessive prices for the articles it has to sell. The industry has become established and it has prospered, but it is not true to say that its prosperity has resulted from the efforts of this Government.
Having proudly announced that the motor vehicle industry has expanded as the result of this Government’s efforts, the honorable member for Richmond went on to say that this measure is necessary to arrest the abnormal growth of the industry. Apparently, according to the honorable member, the industry has made too much progress. He said also that the legislation is designed to curb inflation. I decided to find out what was said about these aspects of the matter in debate in this Parliament, and I came across the following passage in “ Hansard “:-
I regret that this proposal was contained in the measures referred to by the Treasurer. I object to it because it imposes the same penalty on the person to whom a motor car is a necessity as on the person who is in a far better financial position to purchase a motor car.
This gentleman, speaking in another place, went on to say-
I think of primary producers, many of whom live in remote areas far from centres of business. They must travel to those centres over rough roads, with consequent wear and tear on their vehicles. The primary producer is the man to whom we look to increase our exports. We are told that we must increase our exports because we have built up an edifice of costs which our present rate of exports cannot offset. It is unthinkable that these people should be slugged an extra 10 per cent, if they wish to purchase a motor car, which to them is an absolute essential. Without a motor car they would be compelled to live in isolation. They would not be able to take their families away from the farm. A motor car is absolutely essential to them if they are to take part in the social life of the community . . . I regret very much that the Government has seen fit to increase the sales tax on motor cars as a means of remedying the ills that beset the Commonwealth.
This gentleman concluded his speech by repeating -
I very much regret the intention to charge 40 per cent, sales tax on the vehicle of a man upon whom we must rely to boost our export income, which Mr. McEwen says must be increased by £50,000.000 a year.
Who do you thing made those comments? It was not a member of the Labour Party, although the intelligence of the remarks would lead one to believe that it was the speech of a member of the Labour Party. It was none other than a Liberal Party senator, Senator Lillico. Let me say to the Government that if it believes it can sit back smugly and think this legislation is going to be passed, it has a rude awakening coming to it. Already Senator Wood has announced in the press that he is going to vote against the bill. Already Senator Wright has indicated that he is going to vote against the bill. Already Senator Lillico has shown by the speech of which the extracts I have read formed part that he is completely opposed to the bill. Since members of the Liberal Party and the Country Party are not bound by caucus decisions, as we of the Labour Party are so often told we are bound and chided for being bound, it is reasonable to assume that these three gentlemen will, having declared that they consider this measure to be completely wrong, have the courage of their convictions and vote against it when the vote is taken in the Senate. I could not imagine that any one of these three would prove so craven, when the pressure is put on them by the Government, as to shift his position and vote in favour of a measure which he had publicly declared to be entirely wrong and indefensible.
Having heard what Senator Lillico had to say, let us return to the Country Party speaker in this House. Let us hear some more of what the honorable member for Richmond had to say about the 40 per cent, sales tax on motor cars. He said -
This Government has considered the primary producers greatly. It has not increased the sales tax on utilities, panel vans, trucks and other types of commercial vehicles used by primary producers.
Evidently he is delighted with the Government because it has contented itself with merely taxing primary producers at the rate of 40 per cent, for their motor cars. There is no doubt, as many honorable members have said, that if we are to correct the imbalance of trade that is now causing us so much difficulty, we must find some way of increasing our exports. In fact, the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen) has announced that unless we increase our exports by £250,000,000 over the next five years we will not be able to maintain our present standards. That is a very serious, and, I would say, a doleful forecast for him to have to make. That statement was made nearly a year ago.
– It is a terrific target.
– Yes, it is. Instead of us increasing our exports by £50,000,000 a year, which is the average that we will have to maintain to meet the target set by the Minister, our exports have been decreasing. At the same time the value of our imports has skyrocketed. What is happening is this: The prices of wool, of wheat, of meat, of fruit and of all the other things on which we depend for export income have been steadily falling. Even though in some instances production has increased, the fact is that by the time we receive the cheque for the proceeds of the full production for the year, the amount of it is less than it was in the previous year.
Besides the falling returns for our exported commodities we must consider the increase that is taking place in invisibles. What has this Government done to meet that situation? Nothing at all! Freight charges imposed by the conference shipping lines have steadily increased year by year, and this Government has done absolutely nothing about the matter. My honorable friend from Grayndler (Mr. Daly) has asked a series of pertinent questions on this matter. He has asked the Minister for Trade the following questions, which appear on the notice-paper: -
Is he (the Minister) able to say whether the Conference Shipping Lines advised local travel agents some time ago that they must not book passengers on the Greek-Australian Line ship “ Patris “ ?
Are these agents unable to advertise sailings of the “Patris” . . .?
Are these restrictions being rigidly enforced by the Shipping Conference Combine . . .? “
Then he asked what the Australian Government was going to do about the matter. He has not received an answer as yet. If he ever gets one, the answer will be, of course, that the Government will do exactly the same about this matter as it has done about similar matters during the last eleven years, which is nothing. The Government’s policy is to let the shipping companies charge what they like, and to do nothing about it. The honorable member for Grayndler then asked the Minister for Trade another significant question. This question again appears on the notice-paper, and it is in these terms: -
Can he say whether an order was recently placed by an Athens car dealer for Holden cars, and were arrangements made for them to be shipped on the Greek-Australian Line ship “ Patris “ ?
Of course they were. I can give the honorable gentleman the answer now. If he had come to me, I could have given him the answer immediately. Then he asked -
Were these cars subsequently taken off the manifest and shipped to Piraeus aboard a ship of the British Cargo Conference?
I can tell the honorable gentleman, who is, as usual, in his place in the chamber, that the answer is “ Yes “. They were taken off the manifest and transferred to another ship of the British Cargo Conference. The honorable member then asked -
Was this action taken on instructions from the British Shipping Conference?
Again the answer is “ Yes “. The honorable member continued -
Does this body dictate the basis and the ship on which the goods must be transported?
If restrictive practices are used, what action does he intend to take to eliminate them?
The answer again is, “ Absolutely nothing “. The Government does not intend to do a thing. The honorable member should not have been so naive as to think that it was going to do anything about the matter. I congratulate him on having discovered this example of manipulation by the British conference lines. We should be encouraging other Greek lines to come into the Australian trade to compete with the conference lines. What is wrong with our using our own Australian National Line for the purpose?
– We would’ not have a chance to compete.
– We have not tried to compete.
– I rise to order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. While it might be permissible for an honorable member to refer to certain matters in making a point, is the honorable member for Hindmarsh correct and in order in devoting about 90 per cent, of his speech to matters that have no relation to the bill before the House?
– A wide range of opinion has been expressed on the measure before the House, and I rule that the honorable member for Hindmarsh is quite in order.
– Thank you, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I congratulate you on your wise ruling. Clearly, we must try to get more markets if we are to achieve the objective of increasing our exports by £50,000,000 a year for five years. We must find fresh markets. I am fascinated by the series of questions that have been asked by the honorable member for Grayndler because he has devoted his attention not only to the enormous freight rates charged by the conference lines, but also to the question of trying to discover ways and means of increasing our export earnings. The honorable member has asked the Minister for Trade whether there is a possibility of selling at least 10,000 tons of Australian meat to Greece each year if arrangements can be made for the “ Patris “ to be allowed to take the cargo to Greece. The honorable member has pointed out in question No. 30 on the notice-paper that this vessel has 183,000 cubic feet of refrigeration space. Of course, an answer is not yet available.
The honorable member also wants to know whether shipping freights represent 40 per cent, of the value of meat now being exported to Greece. He will never get an answer, or if he does get one, it will be evasive, indicating that nothing is to be done that will interfere in any way with the monopoly that the conference lines have over the right to transport Australian produce overseas. 1 am pleased to notice that the newspapers have taken up the questions that have been raised by the honorable member for Grayndler. It will be interesting to see what the Government proposes to do about this important matter because while only one ship is affected, a vital principle is involved - the right of other shipping companies to enter the Australian market and compete freely with the conference lines.
I have no more to say on this matter. I feel that I have proved conclusively that this Governm’ent would do far more good for the economy if it were to direct its attention to such things as take-overs and monopoly controls that are contributing to inflation which the Government is trying to correct by the indirect method contained in the bill. The Government would do far more good if it gave attention to capital issues control, about which it has done nothing. The Government should also do something to correct the situation which in the absence of import licensing allows people to import frogs’ legs in aspic and red ants in sugar and other unessential stuff. I believe the Government would do well to impose import restrictions again on unes sential goods so that whatever money we have for imports can be used to maintain payments for essential goods.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Daly) adjourned.
.- I move- [Customs Tariff Amendment (No. 24).]
[Customs Tariff Amendment (No. 25).]
[Customs Tariff Amendment (No. 26).]
[Customs Tariff (New Zealand Preference) Amendment (No. 7).]
The Tariff Proposals which I have tabled relate to proposed amendments of the schedules to the Customs Tariff 1933-1960 and the Customs Tariff (New Zealand Preference) 1933-1960. With one exception, to which I will refer later, they arise from the Government’s consideration of reports of the Tariff Board on -
Chlorination regulators and controllers, and Voltage regulators.
All the alterations, except those concerning unwrought copper, will have effect as from to-morrow morning. The new provisions for copper will come into operation on 3rd January, 1961. In regard to unwrought copper, the Tariff Board has recommended some increase in the tariff protection now given to local industry. At present, no duty is payable on unwrought copper when the determined price of copper, which is based on the world price, is £275 Australian or more a ton. When the determined price falls below £275, duty is payable at the rate of £1 a ton for each £1 by which the determined price is less than £275 Australian a ton.
As from 3rd January, 1961, the price level at which unwrought copper becomes free of duty will be raised from £275 to £290 Australian. With the current price of copper in the vicinity of £287 a ton, the duty payable would be about £3 a ton. This action is complementary to that proposed in a Copper Bounty Bill which will be introduced during the present sitting.
On travel goods and various other bags, cases and the like, the Tariff Board has recommended rationalized duties with little overall change in the level of protection. This has made possible the introduction of a simplified tariff structure on these goods. The new rates of duty are 15 per cent. British Preferential Tariff and 32* per cent, otherwise for baskets and 17$ per cent. British Preferential Tariff and 45 per cent. Most-Favoured-Nation for the other goods covered by the Tariff Board’s recommendation.
A complementary amendment to the Customs Tariff (New Zealand Preference) 1933-1960 is proposed. The special rates of duty for certain bags, baskets, cases and similar goods when of New Zealand origin are being deleted and they will now become entitled to entry at British Preferential Tariff rates.
The Government has decided not to adopt the Tariff Board’s recommendation for protective duties on imported chlorination regulators and controllers. The proposal, therefore, merely introduces a new item which will have the effect of continuing the present non-protective tariff on these goods. The rates of duty are Free British Preferential Tariff and71/2 per cent. otherwise.
Protective duties, as recommended by the Tariff Board, are now provided for two unit type voltage regulators suitable for 6-volt and 12-volt systems, when they are to be used for replacements in motor vehicles. The new rates, which already apply to three unit type voltage regulators, are271/2 per cent. under the British Preferential Tariff and 40 per cent. under the Most-Favoured-Nation Tariff. No change is proposed for these goods when for use as original equipment in motor vehicles.
The other amendment which I mentioned and which is not associated with a report of the Tariff Board concerns importations by a government of an overseas country pursuant to an agreement made with the Commonwealth. The goods are for official use and are not for purposes of trade and, consequently, should be admitted without liability as to import duty.
– No. The sort of thing that the Government has in mind is the 85-foot satellite tracking dish at Woomera. That is owned by the United States of America but it is operated by Australia. If it were not for a provision of this sort, such goods would be dutiable and it is obviously not desirable to charge duty on goods of that nature.
There is no provision in the customs tariff to cover these goods and the Government has decided to insert a by-law item which could be used when required for such imports. I expect to bring these matters up for consideration by the committee with a view to enactment before the Parliament rises, early next month. I commend the proposals to honorable members.
Reports on Items.
– I lay on the table of the House the reports of the Tariff Board on the following subjects: -
Chlorination regulators and controllers.
Motor vehicle type voltage regulators.
Travel goods, handbags, wallets, purses and various other containers.
Passionfruit juice and passionfruit pulp.
Legislation will be introduced during the present session to implement decisions which the Government has taken to provide for payment of bounty on copper, sulphuric acid and pyrites. The Government has adopted the Tariff Board’s recommendation for bounty payments on the production of copper, but has decided to review the situation again in three years rather than in five years as recommended by the Tariff Board. On sulphuric acid and pyrites the Government has adopted the board’s recommendations for payment of bounty at a level which will offset the average cost disabilities of local producers.
Ordered to be printed.
Debate resumed (vide page 3397).
.- At the outset, let me thank the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron) for bringing to the attention of the Parliament certain restrictive trade practices which have an important bearing on the import position which is so closely allied to the legislation under discussion. I am extremely grateful to the honorable member for the lengths to which he went to give me answers which were more satisfactory than those given by Ministers on important questions of this nature. As the honorable member for Hindmarsh mentioned, restrictive trade practices indulged in by Conference shipping lines are seriously affecting our returns from imports and causing the Government to lose control of the economic situation. This is exemplified by the legislation under discussion. I am gratified to know that the honorable member for Hindmarsh has noticed these important matters and has given me the benefit of his extensive knowledge.
– It would be an improvement to make him a Minister.
– It would probably be a very desirable improvement and in due course it may be achieved. In the course of this debate it has been quite apparent to members on this side of the Parliament that Government supporters are deliberately ignoring the pledges on which they were elected. In case the people have forgotten it should be made generally known that the Government was elected as a tax-reduction government. Whether Government supporters belong to the Liberal Party or the Australian Country Party, that was the policy on which they were elected. I intend, at the outset of my discussion of this measure which will raise taxation from 30 per cent, to 40 per cent., and from 161 per cent, to 25 per cent, on the products of one section of industry, to show the background of the Government, its repudiation of its pledges, and the fact that, by direct and indirect means, it has raised substantially the cost of living for every person in the community, particularly by substantial increases in taxation.
As I have said, this is supposed to be a tax-reduction government. In a policy speech made to this country on 10th November, 1949, the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) stated -
We still believe that rates of taxation must be steadily reduced, as national production and income rise, and as economies are effected in administration.
We will institute a prompt overhaul of the Taxation laws by a competent commitee, to simplify the Statutes and remove anomalies.
We will review the incidence of indirect taxes (which are a huge though sometimes unrecognized item in Australia) upon basic wage and cost of living items and housing costs.
That was the Prime Minister’s pledge to start with. Let me now run through some of the Liberal Party’s election dodgers which were distributed throughout the country. In one entitled “ The Australian woman . . . her future and opportunity “, it is stated -
The Liberal Party is a tax reduction party.
In another leaflet, under a nice photograph of the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Mr. Opperman) the following appears: -
If you have saved enough money to buy a car, they make you pay 10 per cent, of its cost for the privilege of buying it.
It was 10 per cent, then! Now the Minister is supporting a Government proposal to raise sales tax on cars to 40 per cent., an all-time record!
– When was the rate of sales tax only 10 per cent.?
– That was at the time of the Chifley Government. In 1950 the honorable member for Bruce (Mr. Snedden) was so excited about the Liberal Party’s tax reduction policy that he had a leaflet prepared in Italian. I cannot read it, but there is a nice photograph of himself, and his name, which is underneath the photograph, is the only thing which appears in English. It has the word “ Socialismo “ on top of it, and no doubt the Italian passages underneath describe the Government’s socalled tax reduction policy in an effort to pull the wool over the eves of the electors. I could run through these dodgers indefinitely if only to remind those who sit here to-day under false pretences of the promises that they have ignored. Another Liberal dodger is entitled “The Victorian woman “. This sets out a policy on which the honorable member for McMillan (Mr. Buchanan) was elected. It says -
Much indirect taxation is purely government robbery to provide funds for fantastic experiments that would have no place in a practical Liberal government’s plans. Taxation relief will be provided for industry, to enable it to function at a high productive level.
Did you ever hear such hypocrisy as this? Another dodger was issued by the honorable member for Robertson (Mr. Dean), who is known in this Parliament as the red Dean because he was elected on Communist Party preferences. It states -
The Liberal Party will reduce taxation. Stop wasteful government expenditure - and your £ will buy more.
Another leaflet issued by the Prime Minister, a beautiful publication printed no doubt at great cost to the private banks, says under the heading “Taxation” -
The Prime Minister said: “ We can confidently look forward to making still further reduction of tax in our next Budget “.
I want honorable members to listen to these things because later in my speech I shall give details ot what the average person is paying in taxes under this Government. The point I make after reading these matters is that this Government was elected on a pledge to reduce taxes, both direct and indirect, yet we find that although in 1949 the government of this country was getting what might be described as a mere pittance from direct and indirect taxes, this year every citizen and every family in the country pays more in both direct and indirect taxes than they have paid at any other time in history. And this, I repeat, under a government pledged, in all the literature I have been reading to the House, to reduce taxes and indelibly recorded on the minds of the people as being elected on a policy of reducing taxes. Although the Government may laugh as much as it likes, the public outside knows that it has repudiated its pledges. That is why honorable members opposite have been condemned, as the honorable member for Hindmarsh has said, by the tycoons who put them into office. They are condemned because the tycoons know that they have neglected to honour the promises on which they were falsely elected.
Let me bring the House up to date on the level of taxation in this country, because I think it is well to remind honorable members opposite of their sordid past. Here is what a speaker on the Sales Tax (Exemptions and Classifications) Bill 1949, had to say on 19th October, 1949, as recorded at page 1658 of “ Hansard “-
Pay-roll tax, land tax, and sales tax must also be elements of the cost of production that must be passed on to the public in the form of increased prices.
He went on -
The items that I have mentioned have an immediate and direct impact upon the cost of living and also upon the weight of the burden that rests upon the taxpayers of the nation.
And who was the speaker who made that statement? It was the right honorable gentleman who is the Treasurer in this present Government, who brought down the Budget last August and who introduced this measure only a few days ago. He went on to say -
Despite the proposed reductions-
We of the Labour Government were reducing sales tax under that measure - the sales tax is expected to yield £35,000,000 or more in the current year - -
But this year, this present Government is taking £77,000,000 from the motor industry alone! He continued - or £5 a head per annum, or at least £20 per annum for the average Australian family.
That is the present Treasurer, crying about the things that happened when the Labour Government had levelled out sales tax to a rate of 8i per cent., preparatory to abolishing the tax, which was intended, in the first place, to be a temporary measure. Now we come back to the tame cats on the Government benches who were the roaring lions in Opposition in the days of the Labour Government. “ Hansard “ reports the present Treasurer as saying, on 10th April, 1946-
As all honorable members have pointed out from time to time, sales tax is a most unsatisfactory tax, because its incidence does not, as the income tax does, relate to the circumstances of the person who has to pay it. The sales tax bears heavily upon the family man in the lower income ranges, who carries a much heavier burden, proportionately, in sales tax than in income tax. This tax has a depressing effect upon industry and causes increased prices. That, of course, in turn, has a deadening effect upon economic development. I therefore ask the Government to investigate, before the budget is presented, the practicability of granting substantial reductions of the rates of sales tax.
These words are taken from a speech made in this Parliament by the present Treasurer in the days when he realized the importance of abolishing this tax because of its effect on the cost of living. Do not forget that, like his colleagues, the Treasurer was. elected to office on a tax reduction policy. What approach must other members of the Parliament make to a Treasurer and a Government, knowing their backgrounds, knowing the promises on which they were elected, having heard and having read the speeches that they made in this House when they were in Opposition. If I had the time I could read a dozen more statements on the subject of the effect of sales tax that were made by the honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull), and which- were much more vehement against sales tax than were the statements made by the Treasurer, which I have just read. What must we think of a government which introduces a measure to impose sales tax of 40 per cent, on the motor industry alone, in addition to raising a record amount from taxes, indirect taxes in particular?
I point those matters out because they are tremendously important. At the present time this Government is taking more from the taxpayers through all avenues of taxation than his ever been taken from them. I have here a document, “ The Taxpayers’ Bulletin “, of Saturday, 20th August, 1960, issued by a great supporter of the Government - a friend of those on the other side of the chamber - Mr. McKellar White of the Taxpayers Association of New South Wales. He is a wellknown supporter of the Government. In this document he reveals, in a very telling way, the amount of taxes that this Government has taken and is taking from the people, despite its election pledges. He states that in 1961-62 the Government will take in an additional £441,000 in sales tax alone. It will take in an additional £265,000 in sales tax on motor vehicles, £150,000 in sales tax on silverware, £20,000 in tax on milk tanks, and £6,000 on sundry items. The document then goes on to deal with the tax burden, and shows that in 1938-39 the tax yield was £17 19s. 5d. a head of population. In 1948-49 it was £67 12s. lid. Under the Government’s tax reduction policy the yield has risen to £135 2s. a head in 1959-60. In other words, since 1948-49 this Government has doubled the rate of tax on every individual in the community, under the policy of reducing taxes on which it was elected. Is it any wonder that business tycoons scream, and that people in the lower income brackets are resentful of the Government’s policy? In the last full financial year of the Chifley Government the average family of husband, wife and two children paid in tax £5 4s. a week. In 1959-60 it paid £10 7s. lOd. - an increase of 100 per cent. The honorable member for Mcpherson (Mr. Barnes) says that the taxpayers are making three times as much money now as they did in 1948-49. That does not excuse the Government for repudiating its promise to reduce taxes.
Honorable gentlemen opposite promised not only to reduce taxes, but also to increase the purchasing power of money - to put value back into the £1 - and give the people real benefits and real returns from the money that they earn. Those promises have been repudiated.
Now let us look at the other side of the picture - the hidden taxes. The average price of a packet of cigarettes now is 3s. 3d., and included in that price is a tax of ls. lOd. When, a man smokes a packet of cigarettes he is smoking two of every three cigarettes on behalf of the Treasurer. The tax on a bottle of Scotch whisky costing 33s. 9d. - a commodity of which the Government would know more than I do - is 10s. 9£d. The tax on a gallon of petrol costing 3s. 6£d. is ls. Id. The tax on the worker’s bottle of beer is ls. 73d. on every 3s. Id. So, for every beer the worker has, the Treasurer has a couple. That gives an indication, of how the burden on the individual in this community is increasing under this Government pledged to reduce taxes. Sales tax on a television receiver costing £234 is £39. All round, there has been a tremendous increase in taxation under this Government, which was pledged to reduce taxes.
As the document issued by Mr. McKellar White from which I have obtained some of the details I have given to the House is more or less an official document of the Government I should like to have its statements, charts, graphs and so on incorporated in “ Hansard “ as an indication of the Government’s failure to carry out its promises. Accordingly, with the concurrence of honorable members I will incorporate the document in “ Hansard “.
– Is permission granted?
Government supporters. - No!
– Permission is not granted.
– You will note, Mr. Deputy Speaker, the fear on the part of the Government and its supporters to have the details given in this document recorded in “ Hansard “ for the benefit of people who like to read what is happening in this Parliament. However, honorable members opposite need not think that by their refusal to allow the document to be incorporated in “ Hansard “ the details that it contains will be hidden from the light of day. These details will be made known to the public despite the action of the Government’s supporters. I have a shrewd idea that the contents of this document will be presented to the electors at the next general election. The facts will be there for the public to see, even if they are not incorporated in “ Hansard “. I also state that from here on, for an indefinite period while I am in this Parliament, I shall object to anything being incorporated in “ Hansard “ by any member on the other side of the House, irrespective of who he may be. I will do so in order to remind honorable members opposite of what has happened to-day.
The measure before us has been made necessary by the Government’s removal of import restrictions. A statement made in the issue of 18th November, 1960, of “ Canberra Letter “, which is issued by the Associated Chambers of Manufactures of Australia, makes it quite clear, 1 think, that that is the real crux of the situation. This was the statement -
Virtual abandonment of import licensing has proved a costly experiment. It has been admitted that the rate of imports is much higher than the Government’s advisers and anticipated (but no higher than many others forecasted). It was expected that there would be a slowing down after the initial flood of imports; but there are no signs whatsoever of this happening. November imports will again be sky high.
This is just another step, as a leading British economist said, in the weird and wonderful methods adopted by this Government to counter the drain on its overseas reserves.
Why is not the Government honest enough to say to the Parliament, “ We made a mistake when we removed import restrictions “? I have always said that if Australian manufacturers are to undertake programmes for the production of quality goods at a reasonable price, there must always be a great measure of protection and, in addition, selective controls on imports. When all is said and done, why should all these luxury goods such as those mentioned by the honorable member for Hindmarsh be brought into the country? Who wants to eat worms in jelly if a man will be forced out of business in
Marrickville as a result of imports of these goods? What kind of a policy is it that allows imports of all kinds of luxury goods, and manufactured goods that could very well be made in Australia, thereby providing employment for the Australian people? What kind of a policy is it that allows these goods to be imported and requires people who use motor cars and other kinds of transport to meet terrific increases in sales tax in order to make good the Government’s shortcomings in these matters?
We have in this country to-day an amazing situation in which the Government has not expanded the markets for Australian goods in any countries except those that are behind the iron curtain. The honorable member for Mcpherson said that we were at war with Russia. But if Russia had not been buying the wool produced by supporters of the Australian Country Party, the Government would probably have raised the sales tax on motor cars to 50 or 60 per cent, instead of 40 per cent. This Government’s great drive for export markets in order to build up our overseas reserves has started and finished with the Communist countries that I listed in this Parliament the other evening. Those are the only countries that are buying our goods in any quantity, despite the Government’s so-called export drive.
The honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) stated in this House that the Government was endeavouring to obtain markets overseas for our goods and said, “ Let the Holden company build more cars and export them. That is what we require. Why should the home market take all the cars that are available? “ I say, in the first place, that the Australian people are entitled to cars. Holden motor cars are at present being exported by Australia, and in order to counteract the drain on our resources we have as a consequence toimport great quantities of steel. Whether we like it or not, one of the great monopolies in this country - the Broken HillProprietary Company Limited - is limiting, its production. It does not want competition in the steel industry or greater production, and it is falling down in the discharge of its responsibilities to thisnation. This company is failing to meet, the home demand, as it could well do. It: could at the same time produce steel for export and gain for us valuable export markets.
As a consequence of the company’s attitude, we have to obtain iron and steel from Japan. At the present time, this is scandalous in the extreme. Our overseas reserves are being whittled down because the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited does not wish to meet the demands of the home market and produce for export to the markets which we could obtain abroad. All this ballyhoo about the great demand for steel in Australia being responsible for current steel imports is quite wrong. The simple fact is that the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited and subsidiaries do not wish to expand their output. They are quite content to maintain thenpresent monopoly control. The time is approaching when the national government in this country will have to adopt a truly national approach to our problems and see that another steel enterprise is established in order that Australia may obtain the great returns that are available in the export field and also meet the demand in the home market. I should like to know what the Government is doing in this matter. This is a classic example of the things that it ought to turn its attention to. We in this country are able to manufacture the cheapest steel in the world - and we are able to make it more efficiently than steel can be made elsewhere. Yet we are told that we cannot manufacture enough even to meet our own needs, much less to export and earn overseas funds. These matters require investigation, and I should like to know what the Government is doing about them.
It is all very well for the honorable member for Richmond to say that motor cars and other products should be exported, but we should not export such products if as a consequence we have to import goods that could be made here and should be readily available. We should not spend our overseas funds in that way. That sort of thing is the cause of the trouble that we are at present having with respect to our overseas reserves. I should like to know what prompted the Government to rush in and remove all controls on imports as it did. Surely a Liberal Party-Australian Country
Party Government ought to have realized that we in Australia could not at present produce all the goods that are being imported from overseas and pay for them without draining our overseas balances. This Government must have realized that any fall in wool prices or in the prices of other primary products, or any similar event, would inevitably lead to the reduction of our overseas balances. The Government should have known, from its experience in 1951, that when import restrictions were removed all kinds of goods would be brought into the country. This has been exemplified by imports of various goods which have been mentioned in this debate with the result that our overseas reserves have been reduced by many millions of pounds, the ultimate result being further restrictions of several kinds.
The real crux of the matter is that the Government now refuses to recognize its mistake and is venting its spleen on the motor industry of this country, which is being asked to make full retribution for something which has been the Government’s own fault. The Government blames the motor industry for its own deficiencies in administration. I see no reason why the responsible Ministers should not acknowledge the facts instead of rushing in with legislative measures of this kind and imposing additional taxes which will serve only to increase the cost of living and perhaps to obtain for the Government additional revenue. The Government does this sort of thing but makes no contribution to the solution of our economic problems. As I have said, I see no reason why a particular industry should be singled out for treatment of the kind which is being meted out to the motor industry.
What is the remedy for the fall in our overseas balances? What proposals has the Government to stabilize our overseas reserves and counteract the fall in the prices of wool and other export commodities? Its only solution is to adopt this weird and wonderful method of increasing the sales tax in order to try to prevent the import of certain commodities which are used in the manufacture of motor cars. This measure represents but a drop in the ocean. I think that a more practical approach would have been to look for more markets overseas and to adopt a system of selective controls on imports, with the particular object of preventing the import of luxury goods which are useless in the extreme and which are costing the country millions of pounds - imports which will ultimately cause many business people in this country to go to the wall.
No satisfactory explanation has been given as to why the motor industry was singled out to bear the full brunt of the consequences of the Government’s incompetence. Let us look at what has happened to this industry since the present Government took office. In November, 1946, the sales tax on passenger motor cars was 10 per cent. On 8th September, 1949, the rate was reduced to 8i per cent. Since that time, the rate has progressively been increased by the present Government. On 13th October, 1950, this tax-reduction Government raised the rate to 10 per cent., and on 27th September, 1951, to 20 per cent. On 10th September, 1953, the rate was reduced to 16i per cent. But, on 15th March, 1956, this tax-reduction Government again increased the rate - on that occasion to 30 per cent. Now we have the masterpiece! The Liberal Party of Australia and the Australian Country Party have united in a masterly piece of tax reduction by raising the sales tax on motor cars to the all-time record level of 40 per cent.
– What about utilities?
– That is one of the strangest questions that I have ever been asked. It is just about as silly as is the Government’s effort in imposing on poker machines sales tax at the same rate as is levied on children’s toys. Utilities are of only slight significance compared to the overall number of passenger motor cars - the vast majority of motor vehicles in this country.
The Chamber of Automotive Industries of New South Wales has distributed a remarkable circular, the like of which has not been seen for a long time. Among other things, it states -
In the 1959-60 year, the Federal Government collected total taxation of £144,000,000 from the Australian motoring community.
In sales tax alone, motorists contributed £77,000,000, which was 47 per cent, of sales tax collected from all sources. The dealer didn’t pay this - you did.
Similar comments are made throughout the publications of the automotive industry. The November, 1960, issue of “Automotive Topics “, which has been sent to me, points out that in 1956, when the little Budget was introduced, the Prime Minister said unequivocally that the 30 per cent, sales tax then imposed on motor vehicles was “ a temporary restraint on the motor industry “. Yet, to-day, this temporary restraint has been extended by this Government and is now 40 per cent. All of this means that the Government is taking it out on the motor industry for no reason except to cover its own incompetence.
These matters are of importance, because other remedies than the imposition of higher sales tax could have been adopted. There can be no excuse at a time when the Government knows that inflation is out of hand to increase substantially the price of motor cars. In a country of the size of Australia, the motor industry should be encouraged to develop. Those who manufacture vehicles and those who distribute them should be encouraged and the indirect burden on this means of transport should be reduced. Instead of that, we have an incompetent administration that fails to give effect to policies, abandons import restrictions, misjudges the state of the economy, fails to develop overseas markets and does not give adequate consideration to the great problems that face this young country in world competition. Controls that would have maintained stability in our overseas balances were abandoned overnight. Now, when the Government sees that it is in difficulties, it takes advantage of the prosperity of the motor vehicle industry and imposes the most vicious sales tax ever imposed on the transport system of this country. These matters require investigation.
We on this side of the House object strongly to this form of taxation. Sales tax is a most vicious tax. It falls equally on the millionaire and on the basic wage earner. It is a flat rate tax. That is why the Labour Government set out to eliminate sales tax completely and by 1949 had succeeded to the extent that only a small number of items attracted sales tax at the rate of 81 per cent. This Government, elected on a promise to reduce taxation, has substantially increased it, and this form of taxation is now part and parcel of the system of raising income. The Government refuses to admit that it is in economic trouble to-day because it abandoned import licensing a few months ago and because it has failed to honour the promise to abolish this form of taxation that it gave when it was elected in 1949. Every Government supporter who has spoken has been on the defensive and has refused to admit that the Government was elected on a promise to reduce taxation.
People in the business world well divorced from my politics have attacked the Government for its incompetence. Its methods have been described as weird and wonderful. The Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) has said that, except for the Government’s flexibility, the country may have been in the throes of a depression, and the Prime Minister has shown that he is worried about the state of the economy. This Government’s economic policy is one of stops and starts, and its activities in the field of finance have brought us to the stage where it has had to impose this increased sales tax. I join Opposition members in opposing the measure. I regret that a great industry like the motor vehicle industry is to-day suffering under this further increase of taxation simply because this Government has proved that it is incompetent to handle the economic affairs of the country. Clearly, the Government deserves the condemnation that has been levelled at it from one end of the nation to the other. It will be interesting to observe whether it realizes the need for flexibility by changing its economic policies and giving effect to policies which will really safeguard our industries, our people and the nation generally.
Mr. E. JAMES HARRISON (Blaxland) [4.491. - I would have thought that when a measure of this character was introduced, designed, so we are told by the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt), to assist realistically in stabilizing the economy at a time when inflation is galloping. Government supporters would have been anxious to jump into the collar and establish that this legislation is a force capable of achieving the Treasurer’s objective. The very fact that such legislation as this is introduced before the ink is dry on the Budget papers for 1960-61 must show one of two things: Either the Treasurer and his advisers were right off the beam in their assessment of our economic state or the Cabinet was disinclined to face the realities of the situation. When legislation of this type is introduced so quickly, attacking one industry with the hope - it is only a hope - that the economy will be steadied and when we are told that the building industry will be attacked in some other way, I conclude that the Government is tinkering dangerously with a situation in which prices are being forced upwards.
The worst feature of this type of legislation is that it is singular in character. We went to a great deal of trouble to encourage the establishment in this country of a motor car industry. It is historical that when the production of motor cars was first commenced under Labour, every one said that the venture would fail and that the industry could not be established. It was said, for instance, that the price of the Australian product would be so high that the industry would not be able to withstand the competition of the imported vehicles and that the Tariff Board would be unable to protect the industry sufficiently to enable it to succeed. All these arguments and others were advanced against the establishment of the motor car industry in Australia. Despite the misgivings of so many people, we have seen the industry established with Australian labour working under awards prescribing Australian wages and Australian conditions. Though we on this side of the House criticize the huge profits made by the industry, the profits show clearly that the Australian worker, the Australian material and the Australian method of production are better than those in any other part of the world. Clearly, the industry has flourished.
Let us look at what the motor car industry is doing for Australia. I have heard many debates in this House in which the need for good roads has been mentioned and in which we have been told of the failure of this Government to meet the requirements for roads in Australia. It seems to me that the motor car industry, in addition to becoming a flourishing industry and providing many employment opportunities, has played a tremendously important part in recent times in developing the country. Now this industry, which was induced to come to Australia, which has been encouraged and which has nourished, is singled out for attack. There is little use the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) and his Ministers saying that industries should be encouraged to come to Australia, if those industries will be attacked in this way when the Government fails to meet its obligation to maintain economic stability. Surely this thought is more likely to frighten industry away than to attract it.
I have heard it said that industries do not come to Australia because they fear that a Labour government may come into office. But no industry would picture a Labour government imposing a sales tax of 40 per cent, on an Australian commodity produced for sale in Australia. This has been done by this Government, we are told, to steady the economy. How will this steady the economy? I have never heard such unbalanced reasoning. lt was suggested, for instance, that one of the purposes of the Government’s action was to regulate the use of steel. It was said that this would result in a two-fold benefit in that it would mean, first, that more steel would be available to Australian industry, and, secondly, that the necessity for importing steel from overseas would be avoided. (I remind honorable members that the steel industry has been built up in Australia under monopoly control and I also remind those members of the Country Party who talk about shortages of fencing posts that this Government is only playing with the real problems confronting Australia’s development. Members of the Country Party seek to justify the introduction of legislation of this type by arguing that an increase of 10 per cent, in the sales tax on motor cars will mean that more fencing posts will be available to the farmers of Brewarrina and in this way help the future development of the country.
– We may have no fencing posts.
– Last night one member of the Liberal Party said that there would be no retrenchment in the motor car industry, and he mentioned place after place in State after State to support his assertion. What benefit will come from this bill? Did the 1956 increase in sales tax on motor cars give us any additional fencing posts? If it did not, what has happened in the intervening four years to make this legislation any more effective in that way? I submit that by such measures as the 1956 increase in sales tax and the one now proposed, the Government is not attacking the root of the problem. If the upward trend in motor car sales is worrying the Government, that is one factor of which it should have been aware quite early in the piece. To support that, I refer to the publication “ The Motor Vehicle Industry “, one of the industry study series, issued by the Department of Trade in 1959. This document was published early in the year and the information contained in it would have been available to the Government before the Budget for 1959 was framed. On page 21 of this document appears the following statement: -
In 1957-58, the supply of vehicles to the Australian market was about 240,000. Less than 5,000 of these were imported as completely built-up vehicles-
Less than 5,000 of the 240,000!-
The others were produced or assembled in Australia using varying quantities of Australian-made components.
The current demand for motor vehicles is about 238,000 a year, and, on short-term estimates, could rise to 245,000 by the end of 1959. In the long term, the demand should reach at least 330,000 within the next ten years.
As compared with this, local assembly and manufacturing capacity is approaching 335,000 a year, and if present plans of all the companies eventuate, capacity in the next few years will be about 375,000. This does not include companies which have announced their intention of manufacturing in Australia but have not yet formulated specific plans.
These facts were known to the Department of Trade in 1959. Since the publication of this document, we have had the 1959 Budget and the 1960 Budget. With that information at its disposal in 1959, the Government budgeted for a surplus, and, in 1 960, it said, “ We will remedy the position by budgeting for a deficit”.
– What was the price of wool in 1959?
– If that is what is worrying the members of the Country Party, I refer them to this very document which deals with that point. In it we find reference to import licensing, and it is worth quoting for it should convince the honorable member that the Department of Trade is of the opinion that the more effective way of controlling the position is to impose import licensing in preference to adopting the policy now being applied by the Government. On page 20 of the document to which I have already referred, we find this statement -
In order to halt the decline in the overseas monetary reserves of Australia, import licensing controls were extended on March 8, 1952, to cover all goods imported into Australia from outside the dollar area. For some years, imports from the dollar area have been subject to special restrictions.
Import restrictions are of particular significance. The motor vehicle industry, as all companies, are dependent to some degree on imported components. This is an obvious inducement for the various producers to increase the Australian content of their vehicles to gain the maximum benefit from the exchange available. In the period when dollar expenditure was the main limiting factor, it stimulated, those companies with North American affiliations to expand their Australian activities and it also had the result of diverting some of their dollar spending to the sterling area.
I emphasize that this report was published in 1959 and was in the hands of the Government at that time. All the information contained in it was available to the Government through its own Department of Trade. The statement continues -
Fluctuations in the level of Australia’s balance of payments have caused variations from time to time in the severity of import restrictions. In general, imports of unassembled vehicles have fared better than “ built-up “ units in terms of exchange allocations.
I quote this part of the report because I think it is time that members of the Country Party carefully analysed some of the information prepared1 by the Government’s own officers. All this information was available from the Department of Trade at the time.
I now come to a most relevant part of this publication issued in 1959. It reads -
As from April, 1957, there was a general relaxation of import licensing and the motor vehicle industry was granted certain important concessions.
As far back as 1957 the motor vehicle industry was being given special attention in connexion with this very point. The statement continues -
Within an annual ceiling these concessions allow vehicles to be imported on a sales replacement basis instead of by quotas calculated on a base year of imports. Certain additional licensing facilities are available to those companies which have demonstrated their intention to increase substantially the Australian content of their vehicles.
I am mentioning these matters because when members of the Country Party and the Government use the price of wool as a reason for these spasmodic actions by the Government, it indicates clearly to me that they have not analysed the information prepared by government departments. The report to which I have referred has this to say about the alterations made in 1957 -
The new system of sales replacement tends to enable the industry to meet the requirements of the market for particular vehicles. In the past, some car firms have held quite substantial stocks of vehicles and unused licences whereas others had very little stock and were selling all the vehicles they were entitled to import. The ultimate objective of sales replacement is that licences will be issued to accord with sales achieved.
So, in 1959, a report prepared by the Department of Trade gave a clear businesslike and1 logical method of approach to a consideration of die motor car industry in Australia. Despite this report of 1959, when somebody got a bee in his bonnet and decided that the big thing to do was immediately to release everybody from import control restrictions, motor cars and their parts went into the field. That is what happened, despite the properly organized arrangements that the department spoke of in this report. That is where the trouble commences - the disinclination on the part of this Government-
– The implication is that this remedy is in the wrong place.
– That is right. If the policy prescribed in 1951 had not been interfered with, there would have been no difficulty with motor car sales in 1960. The Government itself broke down the very machinery which it had set up in the motor car industry. When a government disregards its own principles as has been done this year and when the Treasurer brings in this type of legislation, we rise in our places to protest because the implications are that this Government pays no attention to its own principles for any longer than it takes to discard them. The answer to the proper control of the motor car industry is contained in this 1959 report. Proper control of the motor car industry, if it is required, is not to be attained in this fashion. If what was said by Government spokesmen last night - that there is to be no retrenchment in this industry and that nobody in it will lose his job - is true, all the Government is doing now is to turn a deficit budget into a credit budget.
– In what way?
– By means of the additional revenue it will get from the increased sales tax. That will be the result, if the information supplied to the House - that there will be no retrenchment or loss of work - is correct. After looking at the realities of the situation, does any one here think that this imposition of increased sales tax on motor cars will affect greatly the supply of steel on the Australian market? Does it mean that Australia’s production of steel is so neatly balanced that some reduction in the number of motor cars produced will enable the needs of farmers to be met? If that is the type of thinking the Government is indulging in and if that is the type of organization to which it is driving industry, I suggest that the steel industry will ask itself, “If this Government attacks the motor industry at this point, who is to say that we will not be next, if this proposal does not work? “
Why does this policy not work? This Government began to lose proper control of the economy of this country when it extended to the private banks the right to establish savings banks. If we look at the records, we shall find that since 1956 the private banking companies, now said by the Treasurer to be already in debt - my understanding is that all but one of them are in the red - are in that position through financing the purchase of motor cars. This results from the relaxation of control of the private banks by this Government.
Let us look at the figures to see what has happened in a few years. In 1956, savings accounts deposits with the private banks amounted to £41,000,000 and in June, 1959, the figure was £203,000,000. Let us see what Esanda has done to the economy of this country. Anybody can walk into an office of Esanda and get a loan for the purchase of a motor car but not a loan for the purchase of a house. That is where the financial stability of this country commences to crumble. This Government could not withstand the financial pressure that was put on it by the financial and private banking institutions. If members on the Government side of the House look at the figures in this year’s “ Commonwealth Year Book”, they must realize that the Government in that manner pulled the safety plug out of the hole in Australia’s financial structure. Whatever money is flowing, the present proposal will not correct the position, because motor cars have become part of normal home life in Australia.
In one of to-day’s newspapers we read that, despite the fact that the Government has brought down this measure and intends to bring down other legislation, Esanda has bigger and* better advertisements than ever before in its history, calling for more money. The type of advice that Esanda and other private banking institutions will be giving to would-be purchasers of motor cars will be: Do not take any notice of the Government’s statement that the increased sales tax is a temporary measure. We were told, in 1956, that the imposition at that time was a temporary measure, and it was not. The latest increase is here to stay.” The history of this Government shows that, once having imposed a sales tax, it never reduces the impost, and that will be so in this instance. Esanda will say to people, “ You had better get in now and buy your motor car, because next year the sales tax might be 45 per cent.”
This Government is moving from one slippery rock to another. When it jumped on to this slippery rock and proposed to increase the sales tax on motor cars, all it did was to shake the confidence of investors in Australia. That will be the only effect of this proposal. It will shake business confidence in Australia. On Monday last a business man said to me, “ Jim, where is this Government going? “ And he is not one of our supporters. He said, “If I had £500,000 to-morrow I could spent the lot on mink coats and bring them into this country, but if I had £500,000 and wanted another £500,000 with which to import something to promote development, 1 could not get the loan”. That is the type of thinking and the type of reality that this Government is creating among the business fraternity.
In the opinion of the Labour Party there is only one limit to development and that is the maximum use of man-power and materials on every working day in every year. I invite members of the Government to look at the report to which I have referred. I think that since my friend the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Crean) led for the Opposition in this debate, members of the Government have looked at this document, and I believe that is why they are not rising to their feet to defend this measure. If they read this document they will realize how stupid this legislation is and how incompetent it shows the Government to be in respect of this industry. Once the confidence of the Australian investor is shaken - this applies to him even more than to the overseas investors - he will no longer trust this type of government. Once the point is reached, in the development of a young country such as ours, where the confidence of the people who are going to make investments is Shaken, the foundations of progress are shaken, and the country starts to slip back. It must be remembered that at no time can the development of a young country such as this stand still. It either moves forward or slips back. Now the Government introduces legislation which will affect every phase of transport, even taxi-cabs. There is a limit to the life of any car that is used for public transport purposes. The Government’s sales tax proposals mean that if a taxi is worn out the owner will pay an additional £100 when he replaces it, but if a haulier’s truck wears out he will not have to pay any additional amount when he replaces it. The Government has a lopsided approach to this question. It should never have been dealt with in this way.
The Government has ways and means to deal with the present inflationary situation other than to take the easy course and attack a particular industry by imposing an increased sales tax on the products of that industry. But ever since it came to office the Government has avoided consistently the introduction of any legislation that migh hurt its real friends. That rs why, in another field, one section of the industry is being attacked. As the honorable member for Melbourne Ports said, if the Government had done the decent or the honest thing it would not have used this bludgeoning legislation. If the motor industry is at fault - which I do not admit - the fault goes back to the time when the Government gave the green light to the private banking companies to do as they wished with their funds. The Government allowed them to finance the sale of motor cars instead of homes. If it wanted to do something about the motor industry, the pattern was prescribed in the Government’s own documents. That pattern had proved successful on previous occasions. Because this legislation is sectional and is ill founded, no one can be sure whether it will be of value.
Honorable members opposite have said that there will be no retrenchments as a consequence of the increased sales tax. They have suggested that the production of motor cars will continue undiminished. If that is correct, my friends in the Country Party corner will still not get the fence posts that they need.
For those reasons, and for so many others which I have not time to mention but which demonstrate the inability of the Government to govern or to do anything to steady the inflationary trend that gradually has been becoming stronger since it came to office, we on this side of the House take the correct course of opposing the legislation because increasing sales tax is not the way to deal with the present difficult situation.
.- Mr. Speaker-
Motion (by Dr. Donald Cameron) put -
That the question be now put.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. John McLeay.)
Majority . . 23
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Question put -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker- Hon. John McLeay.)
Majority . . . . 25
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and reported from committee without amendment or debate; report adopted.
Bill- by leave - read a third time.
SALES TAX BILLS (Nos. 1 to 9) 1960.
In Committee of Ways and Means: Consideration resumed from 15th November (vide page 2880), on motion by Mr. Harold Holt-
– The Opposition intends to oppose this motion, for reasons that are evident. I think at this stage, when we are discussing the financial consequences of these measures, the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) ought at least to give the committee some indication of their likely impact on the revenue. In August we passed Budget proposals. At that time the estimate of sales tax collections for the year was £180,379,000, of which £77,000,000 was expected to come from the sales tax on motor cars. If fewer cars are sold as a result of the increased tax, you lose not only the additional 10 per cent, of tax in respect of the unsold cars; you lose also the tax, imposed at the rate of 30 per cent., that would have been collected if this legislation had not been introduced and those cars had been sold. Therefore I ask the Treasurer to give the committee what information he can as to the likely impact on the revenue, for the remainder of the financial year, of the measures we are now contemplating.
– I was asked a question on this matter in the House recently, and my recollection of the answer I gave is that I had been informed by officers of the Commissioner of Taxation that, as far as one can assess a matter in which some degree of uncertainty exists, there should be very little change in revenue one way or the other as a result of the introduction of this legislation. To the extent that this and other measures adopted by the Government are effective in reducing sales of motor cars, naturally there will be a reduction of revenue. On the other hand, cars that are sold will carry the extra impost. It would take a clearer vision than the Commissioner of Taxation or I have at this stage to say just what the estimate could be expected to be.
– But there will be a reduction of one-third in the sale of motor cars?
– I am not suggesting that necessarily. The position could be affected by the availability of hire-purchase finance or the reluctance of purchasers to buy at the price. I think the motor trade has made its own estimate of the likely reduction which it has conveyed to me, but I am not in a position to say whether it is on a confidential basis or not. If the trade wants to state its view, no doubt it will do so; but on the best estimate one can make, we cannot see any major alteration in revenue. I should be in a better position a little later to answer the honorable gentleman.
.- The explanation of the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) is unsatisfactory to me. He has dealt with imponderables - what might be and what might not be. One would think when legislation of this sort is brought to the Parliament and considered by the committee that the Treasurer would have a clear view of the picture. One would expect him to know precisely what was going to happen. If he lacks specific information on this matter, how can he know that the measure will do the work he anticipates it will do? The Treasurer has said that he cannot indicate clearly what will happen because of a number of circumstances. He said he would not know what would be the effect on hire purchase or the attitude of the community generally to the higher impost.
All these imponderables have cast a cloud of doubt over the whole proposition. Until the right honorable gentleman and the Administration are capable of telling the committee clearly what will happen as a result of this proposal, I think we ought to reject it. The proposal is unsatisfactory to me. I know it is unsatisfactory to the Australian Labour Party, just as it is unsatisfactory to the motor industry and most of the people in the community. Here is an important matter involving finance. What is to happen regarding a specific tax? We do not know whether the people will buy motor cars, whether cars will be available for export, whether materials will not be available or whether there will be a decline in employment. All these things are shrouded in doubt, and until the Treasurer can give a more satisfactory explanation, the proposal should be rejected.
.- It seems to me that this proposition goes to the very root of the matter before the committee. The purpose of the Government in imposing additional sales tax on motor cars is to reduce the number of motor cars imported into, or produced and sold in, Australia. If the Government does not succeed in bringing about that reduction, the purpose of the measure will have been defeated. This is not the first time that the Government has introduced an important economic proposal and has been in some doubt about the results and consequences of it. The Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) has given us no definite information. He has said that he does not think the revenue will be much affected. If that statement means anything, it must mean that the value of motor cars sold will drop by something like one-third in the coming months. Is that what the Treasurer’s proposition means? As the Treasurer, who is sitting at the table, is not paying any attention to what I am saying-
– I know what you are doing; you are stone-walling the bill.
– There is no stone-walling. This is a fundamental question. We want information and so also do the people. For far too long we have not known, and the people have not known, what the Government intends, and that leads us to believe that the Government does not know what it intends. No Government speaker has given any assurance on this matter; indeed, some Government speakers have said there will be no reduction of activity in the motor car industry, and nobody will be put off.
– I have not said that at any stage.
– You have not said it, but your supporters have, and you listened with great approval to one of them yesterday. I suggest to the Treasurer that he should rise afterwards and give an explanation and not try by way of interjection to make a statement that we cannot determine.
Supporters of the Government have said that there will be no reduction in activity in the motor car industry as a result of the increase in sales tax. The Treasurer said, a few moments ago, that he did not expect the revenue from sales tax would be changed much one way or the other. Does that not involve the proposition that the value of motor cars sold in the coming months will fall by about one-third?
If the tax is increased by one-third, and if the Government collects the same amount from the tax, it means that the figure on which the tax is levied has fallen by onethird. Is that not a fact? Is not the Treasurer anticipating that the number of motor cars sold on which sales tax is levied will fall by one-third? If so, how can that happen unless the volume of cars manufactured in Australia falls by the same proportion? What impact will this have on the industry and those associated with it? If this proposition is a factor in the Treasurer’s reasoning, honorable members and the people have a right to know what is involved in his reasoning. We are left in the dark about this proposal, just as we were in February last year, when economic measures were introduced.
The Treasurer was forced to admit, when introducing these proposals, that the increase in bank credit of £150,000,000 was something he had not reckoned with. How much of these proposals has he not reckoned with? In the circumstances, any one would be justified in opposing the proposal before the committee.
Finally, we have a right to know. If the Treasurer’s propositions are as he stated them, does he anticipate there will be any change in revenue from sales tax? If he expects a change, does that not involve a decline by one-third in the value of motor cars sold? If so, what other effects on the Australian economy does he anticipate, and in what way has he provided for those effects?
– I made it clear that the intention of ‘the Government’s measure was to reduce the volume of sales of new motor cars; that is, to reduce to some degree the abnormal sales. I have given to the House the statistics on this matter. They were well canvassed in the debate that has just been concluded. I pointed to the remarkable increase in sales that had occurred in our period of office compared with the last year of the Labour Government’s term of office. Honorable members opposite can hardly find any ground to press for opposition to this measure when we are confronted with the present external circumstances. The Labour Government in New Zealand, when it found it was in somewhat comparable circumstances, thought it necessary to increase the sales tax on motor cars by 100 per cent. - from 20 per cent, to 40 per cent.
At no stage have honorable members opposite come forward with any positive contribution to a solution of the situation that is confronting the nation. They are fishing in troubled political waters for their own political advantage, but at no time have they endeavoured to hand to the Government alternatives which are preferable, nor have they gone along with the Government in efforts to keep the economy of the country on a level keel.
The reasons why it is not practicable at this stage to give any reasonably precise estimate of the effects of this proposal should be evident enough. Quite soon after the Government’s measures were announced, press reports stated that the price of second-hand motor cars was going up. To the extent that they proved less competitive with new cars, you would expect that some new cars would be sold. Since that time we have had reports that because of financial stringency, the price of second-hand cars is going down, so that will tend to make them more competitive than new cars. In those circumstances, who could speak with any real authority on this matter?
As my recollection goes, the estimate in the office of the Commissioner of Taxation was that if the level of sales remained unaltered in the remainder of this financial year there could be an increase in sales tax collections of £7,000,000. The purpose of this and associated measures which the Government has announced is to reduce the volume of sales. Unless our purpose fails there will be some reduction, perhaps a very material reduction, in the £7,000,000 increase which would otherwise be experienced. We believe that there will be some reduction in sales because of the circumstances I have mentioned. I think that most members of the committee will appreciate the reason why, at the moment, all I can say is that the advice available to me indicates that there is not likely to be much variation, one way or the other, in the Budget estimate of collections from sales tax on motor vehicles.
.- The explanation of the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) is wholly inadequate. It is all very well to accuse us of fishing in troubled waters. We have asked for some specific information.
– And I have given you the best information available.
– The Treasurer told the committee that he had some estimate from the trade concerning the drop in sales. Surely the committee is entitled to have that estimate placed before it! It has been given to the right honorable gentleman in his official capacity as Treasurer. The overall purpose of this sales tax imposition, I take it, is to strengthen our international balances. But the Government proposes to increase the sales tax on all cars, irrespective of whether they are manufactured in Australia or imported.
To the extent that the purchase of imported cars is deterred, dollars, sterling or francs will be saved and this may serve some useful purpose. But it is a fairly good guess that the imposition of sales tax on imported cars will not be a great deterrent because, in the main, imported cars are expensive cars and the more affluent people in the community will continue to buy them. Consequently the savings in dollars, sterling and francs resulting from this measure will not be as great as might be expected.
– All cars use rubber and petrol.
– Of course they do. But that is another angle. I am dealing with the car itself. Imported cars will continue to come into Australia. The Treasurer has said that the Opposition is trying to be destructive. Far from it! The Opposition has suggested that the accumulation of more dollars, sterling, francs or lira could be better and more certainly achieved bv the imposition of import restrictions on the goods which come from those currency areas. I do not suggest that there should be a savage, immediate application of a total prohibition on any particular line of goods. The Government could impose import restrictions gradually, increasing them in accordance with the degree of crisis with which it was confronted. Perhaps within three months it could have a total prohibition on the importation of cars. Why not?
With regard to import restrictions it is interesting to notice that the daily newspapers carry advertisements for walkietalkie dolls at £8 or £9. The various delicacies that have been mentioned are also being advertised. I shall not name them again. Also advertised are Russian mink coats which are probably no better than good rabbit coats, properly processed. When a fur is well processed, you cannot tell the difference between mink and any other kind. There is a wide range of such items. There is no need for walkie-talkie dolls at £8. Plastic dolls, good enough for any Australian children, can be made in Australia - particularly in a time of economic crisis - and they give just as much amusement. It is not beyond the inventive genius or the copying attributes of Australian manufacturers to turn out walkietalkie dolls.
The Government rejects the course suggested by the Opposition. Instead, it whacks down this sales tax. This does not affect the fellow who is importing expensive cars. It affects buyers of the locally manufactured car. That does not save any dollars. It may permit a saving of internal currency, but can the money that is saved be put to work bv the Government as capital expenditure or administrative expenditure? Will it produce any more dollars, sterling, francs or lira? It is very doubtful.
The labour that will be dismissed from the motor car industry can be re-employed only in Australian secondary industry which is not exporting its products and earning overseas currency. Does anybody deny that? Does the Treasurer deny it? The hope has been expressed by the Treasurer that people will be displaced from the motor car industry by the Government’s economic measures. Almost every Government supporter who spoke last night expressed the hope that this measure would deter the purchase of cars. Where will the people who are displaced from the car manufacturing industry go? What will they do? Will they go into industries that will produce exports? Of course not They will go into secondary industries which produce goods for our internal consumption. This is all to the good. But it will not make any more dollar or sterling income. Not a penny piece!
As I said last night, no more employees are wanted on the farms to produce wool or wheat. Nobody can buy a farm to-day unless he is most affluent. It costs at least £25,000 to set yourself up on a farm. Even then, under this Government, you might have to buy dollar machinery. You are in an impossible position. With all the emergency measures of the Government, it has not touched wool. For the first time in about two years, the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen) announced in the press last week something that had been stated in the “ Financial Times “ - that when Russia, Japan and other powers came into the Australian wool market. Bradford stood out. What is the Government doing about it7 Nothing! It has discovered also that, as Mr. Justice Cook stated, pies have been operating and depressing the market. The Government has discovered that, at last, after the Opposition had been belting the argument for four or five years.
What is the Government’s remedy for a problem the solution of which could probably earn for Australia another £100.000,000 or £150,000,000 in dollars or sterling? Its remedy is an inquiry into the wool industry which as one honorable member prophesied last night, will not produce a report in less than two years. If the Government, using the brains of its departmental officers and its existing records, set out to produce within three months three or four alternative plans for the wool-growers to examine it would then have a marketing plan which could easily bring in £100,000,000 to £150,000,000 more of foreign currency to help cope with the problem with which it is confronted. But the Government does not do anything of the sort. It is like old Nero; it fiddles white Rome burns and we can expect nothing more from it.
Sitting suspended from 5-56 to 8 p.m.
Debate resumed from 17th November (vide page 2986), on motion by Mr. Menzies -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– This particular piece of legislation is not opposed by the Opposition. It is a bill to amend the Public Service Act, and it follows on the presentation of the Boyer committee’s report to the Government quite some time ago. The Government has taken quite a time in consideration of the Boyer committee’s report and I think that, by and large, it acted very wisely in not adopting all the recommendations of that committee.
In particular, I think it was very wise of the Government not to accept the recommendation that, when appointing officers to the First Division - that is, permanent heads of departments - the Government must consult and secure the approval of the Public Service Board. From time to time a suggestion has been made that, before appointing justices to the various Commonwealth courts, the Government should secure the approval of either the High Court of Australia or of a collection of judges throughout the Commonwealth. All these various suggestions have been designed to weaken the power of the Commonwealth. They carry within them the idea that the Commonwealth Parliament is not to be trusted, that the government of the day might act improperly or irregularly, and that some harm might be done to the nation because of the unrestricted power that rests in the hands of the government, of whatever political complexion it may be. Now, we say that the government of the day, having been elected by the people, is entitled to fill vacancies, whether they be of permanent headships of departments or on the High Court bench or anywhere else, without interference from anybody; otherwise, the Parliament would be limited and hampered. If the Parliament does not wish to approve of what the Executive has done it can express its disapproval. The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) was quite adamant in his rejection of the recommendation of the Boyer com mittee in this regard, and we think that the decision was a right one.
In respect of other matters contained in the bill it can be said broadly that the bill is one of a tidying-up nature. It sets out to repeal certain sections of the principal act which have become redundant, obsolete or no longer necessary. But in our view there are some matters which are worthy of attention, and I propose to direct the attention of the House to some of them.
I read in a newspaper the other day that the Liberal Party has decided to support the principle of equal pay for the sexes. I do not know what the Liberal Party’s motive was in making that decision, but at least it went on record as saying that men and women doing equal work should receive equal salaries or wages. In committee, we will move an amendment to provide that female employees of the Commonwealth Public Service doing equal work with males shall be paid the same wage as those males. There can be nothing wrong with that idea, and we hope that members of the Liberal Party will support the proposition. We even hope that members of the Australian Country Party, who are always tardy in their support of any such advance and in recognizing the claims of social justice and wage justice, will also come into line.
– Do you intend to divide the committee on that amendment?
– We shall divide the committee on it, of course. We shall separate the sheep from the goats, but we do not expect to find too many sheep. In Victoria, women employed as tram conductresses receive the same wage as male conductors, and women working as porters on the Victorian Railways receive the same wage as male porters.
– The same principle applies in the Senate.
– Yes. Lady senators receive the same salaries and allowances as male senators receive, and when we had a lady member of this House she received the same salary and allowances as every other member of the House of Representatives. During the time she was a Minister she received the same ministerial salary and allowances as other Ministers.
– Lady doctors are also in the same position.
– Of course, there is no distinction between the salaries received by lady doctors and those received by male doctors. We think the time has arrived when, as the Liberals have screwed up enough courage to recognize the principle of equal pay for the sexes, they should be prepared to vote for the principle in connexion with the Commonwealth Public Service. I know that the argument of the Commonwealth Public Service Board is simply that the Government works on the principle that the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission has decided that women shall be paid 75 per cent, of the male wage rate, and therefore that shall be the rate obtaining in the Commonwealth Public Service. There is no reason why this Parliament should not itself decide to adopt a different principle, and we invite the House to assert a more humane, more modern and, if I may say so, more gallant principle.
– Brave new world!
– We want the brave new world. Of course, we do. We want the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Chaney), who once deserted the Labour Party, to move back towards the Labour Party, and we shall he interested to see how he acts in this regard.
We have some views in regard to the “ known character “ provisions of this bill. Clause 11, which, inter alia, seeks to insert a new section 34 in the bill, provides in that new section as follows: -
A person is not eligible for appointment to the Commonwealth Service unless - the board is satisfied that he is a fit and proper person to be an officer of the Commonwealth Service;
Now, we think that too wide a power is given to the board at the present time in its determination of whether a person is a fit and proper person. We think that injustice could be done, and that injustices may have been done in the past to persons who applied for appointment, because somebody has said that for some reason or other a particular person was not a fit and proper person. We think that some machinery ought to be devised whereby a person against whom something is alleged will have an opportunity to clear his character before some tribunal or other before it is finally decided that he is not eligible for appointment to the service. A case was reported to me only to-day by a member of my party, who is a senator. It concerned an incident which occurred when this senator was a public servant. A boy of sixteen years of age applied for appointment to the Public Service in Western Australia, and a police report was received alleging that this boy, who happened to bear the same full name as his father, had committed a number of offences. The boy’s application for appointment was rejected until somebody discovered that the offences had all been committed by the father. Hurriedly the boy was summoned again and given the appointment. We ought to have some safeguards to prevent that sort of thing from happening. Such a thing may not happen very often, but it can happen.
On the aspect of the appointment of university graduates to certain positions in the Second and Third Divisions because of special qualifications - limited to 10 per cent, of total intake - we think it is time that the Government had another look at this matter. At one time, the appointment of university graduates just because they were university graduates may have been all right. This may have been so particularly at a time when a number of servicemen returned from World War I. were being given preferential appointment to the Public Service because of their war service without necessarily having the qualifications that would have fitted them for high administrative office later in their Public Service careers. But to-day, with the facilities that are offering to so many people for the acquisition of a university education and of university degrees, and with the Government itself providing so many facilities to enable young people to go to universities and obtain a university education, surely the reservation of a certain number of positions within the Public Service for the appointment of people from outside the service is no longer necessary. There are within the Public Service to-day many very highly qualified people who, if a great many of the more senior personnel in the service were unfortunately to die to-night, could fill the vacant positions, not necessarily with complete satisfaction immediately, but with a certain expectation of being able to discharge the duties satisfactorily within a reasonable period of time.
Originally, the Commonwealth Public Service, like the services of the States, was established with the idea that entrance should be on a competitive qualifying basis and that nobody should obtain entry unless he had very high educational qualifications. I think that we are again reaching the stage at which entry should be on such a basis, and therefore the need for provisions with respect to entry that arose out of the two world wars is more or less disappearing. In this bill, the Government is making provision to raise the educational standards required of returned soldiers. In future, under the terms of this measure, it will not be as easy for them to qualify for promotion as in the past. The bill contains a provision that will enable those who are already more or less in line for promotion to be safeguarded against those other provisions. About 1926, I think, the BrucePage Government made provision for the appointment of university graduates to 10 per cent., of the positions in the Third Division, to be filled at an entrance examination, and the matter should now be further considered.
I refer also to sub-section (1.) of proposed new section 46, in clause 11, which states -
The Board may, from time to time, by notice published in the “ Gazette “, invite persons to apply for appointment to the Commonwealth Service.
Some Opposition members believe that the Government also wishes in some instances to dispense with the requirement that notification of examinations to take place from time to time be given. The argument is that the inserting of advertisements in the “ Gazette “ takes time - that if telegraph messengers are required in an isolated part of Australia, the easiest method is to put up a notice in the local post office, thereby saving a good deal of time which would be lost if an advertisement had to be published in the “ Gazette “. Some Opposition members feel that the obligation on the Government to advertise in the “ Gazette “ should remain and that the Government should take whatever other steps are necessary to bring to the notice of the country generally the occurrence of vacancies.
In recent years, it has not been the practice of the Government or the Public Service Board to conduct competitive examinations for appointment to the Third Division of the Public Service, for the very simple reason that there have never been sufficient applicants to fill the existing positions. In the post-war period, so great has been the demand for the available man-power in Australia that the Commonwealth Government, like the State governments, has found extreme difficulty in getting youths to enter its Service. But we are now reaching a stage at which the difficulty is not so great. Australia is becoming what may be termed a country with a younging community. We no longer have an ageing community. The policy of full employment, the development of the welfare state after the amendment of the Australian Constitution in 1946, and the influx of migrants, which has brought proportionately more children than adults to our shores, have given us more children in the group aged from fifteen to nineteen, and probably in the group aged from nineteen to 25, than perhaps we ever expected to have at this time. Indeed, in 1939, the demographers and the statisticians were prophesying that after a given period Australia would attain a population of 7,500,000 people and that from that time on the population would decline. We are now speculating as to when we shall have a population of 20,000,000. and that is a very happy position to be in.
We now have quite a number of young people who were born in 1943 and thereabouts when the birth-rate was very high. Indeed, it has been very high in the years since, and has reached something like 22 per 1,000 compared with sixteen per 1,000 during the depression years. These young people who were born in the mid-1 940’s will soon be looking for employment. The time has arrived when the Commonwealth will have to establish the system of competitive examinations again, and when that is done we shall be able to get in the Commonwealth Service the best of the young people offering for employment. There was a time - I think about 1955 - when we had a population approaching 10,000,000 and when the number of children in the group aged from fifteen to nineteen was no higher than in 1937 when our population was only about 7,000,000. Fortunately, we are now reaching a stage at which we shall have quite a crop of young people coming forward to do the tasks that have to be done. We are fortunate to be able to say that in this regard Australia is one of the most advanced “ younging “ nations of the Western world. Indeed, it is probably the most advanced.
There are in this bill provisions which are carried over from the original act. Some of them have been in the act for many years and others were embodied in it in 1945 by an act introduced by either the Curtin Government or the Chifley Government - at any rate, by a Labour government. One relates to the resignation of officers of the Public Service to contest parliamentary elections. Some members of the Opposition believe that the provision that the board may re-appoint such a person to the Public changed my position of a permanent public ment, is not good enough. They believe that the provision should be made more mandatory and that the word “ may “ should be replaced by the word “ shall “. I admit quite readily that the Labour Government - I think it was the Chifley Government - used the word “ may “. However, we shall move that the word be changed to “ shall “, because we think that a person should not be dependent upon the board for the right to be re-appointed. The bill takes the power to re-appoint from the Governor-General and gives it to the board. There is no objection to that, because it saves a lot of paper work. I think there is nothing wrong with reposing the power in the board and not in the Governor-General.
Proposed new section 47 provides that a person may be appointed to the Second, Third or Fourth Divisions on probation. I think nostalgically on this because in 1913 I was appointed to the Commonwealth Public Service, having passed the examination. I was then rejected on medical grounds, but I could never find out just why I was rejected. I think any person who is rejected ought to be given some reason. My father was prepared to pay to find out why I was rejected, but was unable to ascertain the reason. However, I was appointed to the State Public Service at the munificent salary of £5 a month, and the next year this was raised to £6 a month. It was possibly the best thing that ever happened to me, because I ultimately changed my position of a permanent public servant for that of a temporary public servant.
– It was the worst thing that could have happened for the Labour Party.
– I would not say that, because next year you will be back in Kalgoorlie applauding the fact that I am Prime Minister while you look on. I do not wish the honorable member for Kalgoorlie any harm, and if there is anything I can do to help him at that time, I shall be glad to do it.
I want to refer to other provisions in the bill. Many matters are being discussed to-day in various parts of the world and we ought to concern ourselves with them. One such matter is the question of whether 65 years is the right age at which public servants should retire. I know that a fierce controversy could rage over this very question, but medical science is enabling people to live longer. It is not that the age of every person in the community is being prolonged so very greatly. But more people are being enabled to live longer - some are being helped to live very much longer - and quite a lot of people at age 65 are much healthier now than people of like age were 30 or 40 years ago. Medical authorities are debating whether some use should be found for the abilities and capacities of people who have to retire from the Public Service at age 65. Though they may not retain their old positions they could possibly serve the public in some other way and so keep themselves occupied and possibly not die prematurely because of a lack of the opportunity to find suitable remunerative employment.
We tend to follow the traditional and more conservative thinking that is typical of Great Britain. I have an idea that the people in the United States of America and in Russia are much more experimental, much more pragmatic, in their approach to many questions than we are. lt would not do any harm for us to examine the practices in those countries on the matter of a compulsory retiring age. Indeed, it would not do any harm if the Public Service Board were to send representatives to the United States and to Russia to study their systems. It would not do any harm to send parliamentary delegations to the United States and to Russia for this purpose. The Australian community would ultimately benefit from the reports of these officers and delegations on their return to Australia.
I notice that a number of provisions in the original act are to be repealed. It may be right to repeal the provision that officers of State Public Services can no longer transfer to the Commonwealth, or the provision concerning the transfer of employees of the Repatriation Commission and the War Service Homes Commission. It may be right to repeal certain other important provisions of the existing legislation. I offer no opinion about that. I hope that what the Government is doing will work out well.
I think that the House should offer its thanks to the Boyer committee, which inquired into this matter. It was an important body and it worked very hard. It took evidence from quite a number of interested people and from people competent to give advice. It gave its judgments according to the evidence presented to it, and in the light of its own investigations and of its own extensive knowledge and experience of men and events. The only recommendation of the committee which the Government rejected was, I think, rightly rejected.
The Government should have brought down this legislation earlier so that the House could have considered it earlier. It may have been that the Parliamentary Draftsman was not able to complete the preparation of the bill at an earlier time. However, the Opposition has been considerably inconvenienced by having the legislation brought down with a number of other bills last week and then being asked to proceed with the debate this week and to consider amendments almost immediately after the completion of the second-reading debate. Our caucus dealt with the bill only to-day. I have a number of amendments to move and I hope that at the conclusion of the second-reading debate the Government will accede to the request to adjourn the committee stage so that I can have my amendments prepared. They could then be debated to-morrow or the next day. In this way, the passage of the legislation will be facilitated.
.- I have one thing in common with the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell); I was for a time a permanent public servant. The remarks of the Leader of the Opposition do point up one matter which probably deserves further consideration, and that is the medical requirement for entry into the permanent Public Service. We look at the Leader of the Opposition now and see a robust, healthy man. He has lived a life which would probably have killed most public servants long ago, and he is still with us. Yet, had fate decreed otherwise, he by now might well have been Secretary to the Commonwealth Treasury. Instead of cheer chasing and running round the place in a demogogic fashion, he would probably be persuading successive governments of whatever political party they may be to pile financial misery upon the people. The Commonwealth Public Service, being such a large employer, I suggest it is not reasonable to the community as a whole to set medical standards which are higher than those required by other employers. There are obvious limitations upon those whom the Commonwealth Public Service can admit to pension rights, but, on the whole, the medical standards should be set out in such a way that most people can understand what they are and applicants for appointment should not merely receive, as they sometimes do, the blank wall answer that they have been rejected on medical grounds, without those grounds being specified.
The Leader of the Opposition said that he proposed moving an amendment to provide for equal pay for the sexes in the Public Service. He stated - and it is true - that the Liberal Party has accepted the principle of equal remuneration for men and women for work of equal value. But l»t us examine this matter closely. First, the basic rates in the Commonwealth Public Service are fixed and regulated by a complex of industrial awards. My understanding is that the Government has discretionary power to decide whether margins over and above the minimum rates determined by the ordinary conciliation and arbitration machinery shall be equal for both men and women in the Commonwealth Public Service.
While dealing with this question of equal pay for men and women for work of equal value and the amendment foreshadowed by the Leader of the Opposition, it will be interesting if following speakers on the Opposition side will indicate the Labour Party’s attitude towards something which is not covered by this bill. I refer to the treatment of married women in the Commonwealth Public Service. The Governmen has postponed consideration of that matter for a while. Is the Opposition prepared to give married women the same right as they enjoy in other professions and occupations? In other words, is the Opposition prepared to allow these people to continue to be employed if it is considered that they are efficient, instead of allowing them to continue to be arbitrarily dismissed under the law? Another matter which has been postponed for the time being is the employment of physically handicapped persons. Although those two matters are not covered by the bill, it is important that everybody’s attitude towards them should be made known because the conditions of recruitment to the Public Service ought not to be made a political football. This is a matter upon which both sides of the House should be united. Both sides should endeavour to evolve the best possible system under which the Public Service can serve successive governments, irrespective of political colour, without political considerations entering into the matter.
There are two principles involved in connexion with the employment of married women. One is the right of the individual. 1 know there are some who, while professing to support the rights of individuals, actually believe that those rights should be restricted to only one sex. It is only reasonable and logical that those women who get married and wish to rear families should have the right to work for a year or two until their families arrive if they so wish. It is only reasonable and logical that, while awaiting the arrival of a family, these women should have the opportunity of providing for that family’s future.
It must be remembered, too, that not only the Public Service proper is affected by this question. Governmental and semigovernmental agencies of one sort or another must also be considered because their staffing conditions run on lines parallel with those of the Commonwealth Public Service. Let me give an example of one government instrumentality about which I know something. I refer to the Commonwealth Bank. This bank employs girls for only a limited number of years because most of them enter employment with it at seventeen years of age and, by the time they are 21 or 22 years old, they get married. After marriage, many of them would be willing to serve the bank for another year or two if they were permitted to do so. There is a tremendous waste of talent when girls and women who are trained to do a job are obliged by statute to leave their employment as soon as they are married.
Then there are the women who marry at a much older age than those about whom I have been speaking. When men and women leave the Public Service before the statutory retiring age, they receive a refund of only the exact amount of money they have contributed to the superannuation fund. They receive no interest on their money, nor do they enjoy any share of the contributions which otherwise would have been made by the Commonwealth Government. Again, this matter is not covered by the bill, but it is one that affects Public Service recruitment and should be given proper consideration.
I join with the Leader of the Opposition in paying tribute to the work of the Boyer committee. If there is any fault to be found with the Boyer committee’s report, it is that if anything, it is too academic. That was only to be expected, because the committee was comprised of people from outside the Public Service who asked questions about existing practices. The recommendations have to be measured in terms of what is practicable. It seems to me that on the whole the Government has produced a very good bill. We appreciate the fact that it has had to decide which of the committee’s recommendations were practicable and which were not. I suggest that no one can accuse the Government either of being hasty or of bringing the bill forward at a time when adequate consideration cannot be given to it.
There are one or two points which I believe should be given further consideration now. One is that in prescribing academic qualifications it must be remembered that the basic need of the Public Service, as elsewhere, is primarily to recruit people of brains and energy. You get them in different ways; there is no golden rule in this matter, educational attainments are a very useful embellishment of basic requirements, but, of themselves, they are not sufficient. I wonder whether the country is quite ready yet for making the Leaving Certificate the basic requirement for entering the Third Division, if the Third Division of the Public Service is to stay as it is at the moment, because, whatever might be the cause, the fact is that very large numbers of our bright and energetic children now leave school before they qualify for the Leaving Certificate. A large number of recruits of the type of those who now come into the Commonwealth Public Service will be lost to it under the proposal that possession of the Leaving Certificate is a prerequisite to appointment. From inquiries I have made, I am quite sure that many of the good bright children who leave school at the intermediate stage in practice prove better material than the less able children who are able to pass the qualifying examination for the Leaving Certificate. I am sure, too, that most of those who do very well in the Leaving Certificate examination take Commonwealth scholarships and go on to the universities. Whereas, no doubt, in the fulness of time, the raising of the educational requirements would be a sound provision, there is at this juncture still a possibility that we may lose a certain amount of good material which, under the present practice is recruited to the Public Service. I was not quite sure from his speech exactly where the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) stood on the question of graduate entry. But why should if be limited to 10 per cent.? In fact, I imagine it would hardly be as high as 10 per cent, in present circumstances. Why was it suggested that there should be this statutory limitation upon it. Here again, a boy or girl with a good pass in the Leaving Certificate examination who enters the Public Service may be better material than some one who goes to the university and just gets past his examinations and who, although nominally educated to a higher pitch, is not able to produce the energy and initiative of some one educated to a lesser degree.
Important within the field of entry is the attractiveness of the Public Service to the really outstanding graduate, because with the present system of Commonwealth scholarships the brightest in the community, whatever their origin, do go to the universities and obtain degrees. Now, because the Public Service is geared to provide the kind of positions suitable for the ordinary folk going to universities, it is not good enough to attract the best graduates. We do not need a very high proportion of the highest types of intellect in the Public Service, but we do need a good many, and the need for the higher quality graduates will increase as times goes on. Our Public Service at the present time is, in most of its grades, a very good and efficient mechanism, whatever criticism may be levelled at it from outside; and it is very often badly informed criticism. It is basically an efficient service, but it is often deficient in the number of people it has of the very highest flight of ability.
I find the measure very difficult to follow in some respects and I would like the Government to re-assure us that there is some provision in the new legislation by means of which we can attract a reasonable proportion of the very best graduates that come out of the universities. I am less concerned whether we attract graduates or anybody else, as such, but at every stage we need to attract to the Public Service a proportion of the ablest in the community and the Boyer report supports this. As is common knowledge at the moment, the brightest people who leave our universities will not go near the Public Service, and this is a very sad thing for the future of the country, because as time goes on it will be more and more important to have the most highly qualified and trained brains to sift the kind of things from which governments have to make decisions.
There are various possibilities ahead, and one of them is that we are now moving into the realm of computers. Technical personnel will have to be recruited on an everincreasing scale. The weakness of our present Public Service Act - and our Public Service Board - is that it is well equipped to cope with the sort of people who carry out ordinary administration, but it is not well equipped to recruit and attract people with higher technical qualifications. In this field, of course, there is provision by means of which the 10 per cent, provision in regard to recruiting university graduates does not apply. Apparently the other field will be fairly wide open. But it will be a sad thing indeed if, in the course of time, we have a number of very good technical people and the administrative wing is not of commensurate quality. That is the current trend of the Public Service. We are not attracting the brightest people to administration, where we badly need them, but we are attracting some of the best people to our technical branches.
There seems to be some lack of balance in the Public Service Act. Perhaps we need separate provisions for recruiting the scientific and other people trained to professional standard. As of now this act does not, to my mind, adequately sift the kind of problems which will arise in this sphere. With that reservation, and as far as they are aimed at general recruitment to the Public Service, the provisions of this bill, as most of us know, are a step forward. They are essentially sound and I hope that when the Government - as it has indicated it shortly will - is considering the type of treatment to be afforded to married women and the employment of physically handicapped persons, it will find itself coming out on the side of general Liberal policy. As I have mentioned, this policy is that there should be equal opportunity for women and men who engage in all civic and political activities in the community; and anomalies in employment which adversely affect women and their freedom to engage in the occupation of their choice should be eliminated. Those seem to me to be important principles and I hope the Labour Party will not come forward merely with its amendment in respect of pay. I hope it will also underline the principle that in the matter of employment in the Public Service the sexes should, as far as is practicable, be treated on a common basis.
.- The honorable member for Wentworth (Mr.
Bury) invited the Opposition to state what should be done about this measure and the factors in the Boyer report that have not been dealt with. One gets used to such invitations. It is the same old story of the Government failing to face up to its responsibilities and asking the Opposition to tell it what should be done. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) has already indicated where we stand on several matters. This is a Government bill, and it is the Government’s responsibility to analyse and bring forward suggestions and amendments from the Boyer report. The Government has to face up to that responsibility.
In his opening remarks, when introducing the bill, the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) stated that the amendments of the recruitment and appointment provisions of the Public Service Act follow the Government’s consideration of the report of the committee of inquiry into Public Service recruitment. It is interesting to note that the report was presented to the Prime Minister on 1st November, 1958, and now, two years later, it has finally reached this chamber for legislative action to be taken. I have repeatedly asked the Prime Minister and the Deputy Prime Minister (Mr. McEwen) to inform me when certain sections of the Boyer report would be implemented - such as that with regard to the employment of the physically handicapped - and each time I have been told that the legislation would be brought down soon. The legislation is now before us and again I learn that the position in respect of physically handicapped persons is still receiving consideration.
It is interesting to know why the Boyer committee was ever considered necessary. If the Public Service Board is doing its job - I think it can do the job which is its responsibility - it has a continuing responsibility for matters such as the recruitment processes and standards of the Public Service. I think the board is quite capable of doing those things and quite competent to do them, and one would expect the Government to take action and implement some of the measures which it puts up. I think there are plenty of people in the board who could have made recommendations perhaps even better than those which have flowed from the Boyer report. The most interesting point is, in the words of the Prime Minister, that the committee was required to make a comprehensive and thorough review of recruitment in the Public Service. The Prime Minister said -
The committee made a number of recommendations which were interesting, challenging and constructive and the report is a valuable contribution to the current and future development of the Commonwealth administration.
He said, in effect, that the Government has accepted a few of the committee’s recommendations and has introduced in this legislation measures which, for the most part, change the existing Public Service Act only in respect of recruitment practice. In making these changes, however, the Government intends to give legislative sanction to certain features of Public Service practice to which strong exception can be taken unless some satisfactory safeguards are provided.
The Leader of the Opposition already has referred to proposed section 34 which provides that a person is not eligible for appointment to the Commonwealth service unless the board is satisfied that he is a fit and proper person to be an officer of the Commonwealth service. Reference was made also to proposed section 35 which provides that a person outside the service shall not be appointed to any position in the Second or Third Division except in certain circumstances.
The bill provides for certain amendments of the principal act in relation to Public Service recruitment and appointment. The Prime Minister has stated that these amendments have been found necessary for the effective administration of the service. A study of these amendments supports the Prime Minister’s view in every case except one - the amendment to section 69 of the principal act by deleting sub-section (3.) which gives members of the service leave of absence to prepare submissions to, and to appear before, arbitration tribunals. The amendment will take from the officer the statutory right to have leave without pay to prepare evidence on behalf of an employee organization for submission to an arbitration tribunal counted as service. The amendment will give the board the right to determine whether such leave will count as service. In no way can it be claimed that this amendment is necessary for the effective administration of the Public Service unless the Government considers that by discouraging employee organizations it will make the board’s control of the service more effective. The amendment is completely out of character with other sections of the principal act which encourage employee representatives to take an active part in their arbitration applications. The amendment should never have been sought. Perhaps, in an attempt to tidy up the Public Service Act this amendment has crept in without due consideration having been given to the existing section.
For the most part the bill relates to the recruitment of staff for the service. Therefore, some examination is necessary of the present legislation and practice, of the Boyer report and of the Government’s views on that report. We must look at the report to get the right background. An examination of it throws light on a number of points relevant to Public Service recruitment, not the least of which is the gradual worsening of conditions of Commonwealth public servants compared with the conditions in comparable positions outside. In addition, the basic pay and salary ranges for new entrants are most unattractive. The Boyer report makes some mention of these comparisons and suggests that some alteration should be made in the base rate payable in certain sections of the service, but the Government has not given any consideration to that aspect. It has not thought it necessary to consider the disadvantage of certain employees in the Public Service when compared with employees in insurance companies and other organizations. The Boyer report pinpoints this feature, but the Government is not interested in it. But that really is the key to the recruitment problem. That is why the Government is not obtaining recruits. They are going to positions where the salaries are more attractive than they are inside the service.
When margins were increased recently the “ top brass “ received increases of up to £900 a year but the Government, or the board, refused to apply the margins throughout the Public Service. Recruits will not flow into the low levels of the service until the Government ensures that they are treated equally as well as employees in comparable positions outside are treated.
– That goes for compensation, too.
– That is right. Proposed section 34(c), which states that a person is not eligible for appointment to the Commonwealth Public Service unless the board is satisfied that he is a fit and proper person to be an officer of that service, is an entirely new provision in legislation relating to the Public Service. It is not, however, a new practice as far as appointment to the service is concerned. I suppose the Prime Minister is correct in stating that the practice of deciding whether a candidate’s character and integrity meet the standards required has operated in the past. Certainly, it has operated without statutory backing. But now it is to be included in legislation. It is natural to expect that candidates for employment in the Commonwealth Public Service should be men and women of good character, but if they are refused employment there is at present no opportunity for the candidates to find out why they have been rejected. Often candidates are refused employment on the say-so of some one who is not concerned with the Public Service - sometimes on a report by the security service. But the security service has been known to make mistakes.
To-night the Leader of the Opposition directed attention to a mistake that the security service made in the case of a lad who was kept out of employment for some time because he allegedly had a police record. I know a man in South Australia who suffered greatly because he had worked for the security service. He was employed in the Public Service and was asked to become a security officer. He agreed to accept that position and, in the course of his duties, attended peace conferences, the Eureka Youth League meetings and meetings of other organizations and reported upon them as he was required to do. Everything was going along smoothly until he became known to those organizations as a member of the security service. He was then of no further use to the intelligence organization and was returned to his former position in the Public Service. He waited for some time for promotion but he could not understand why he was passed over. He applied for a job at Woomera but he was not accepted. Finally he discovered that he had been passed over because he was regarded as a security risk - he had attended peace meetings and Eureka Youth League conferences.
This man’s story is fantastic. He approached Sir Philip McBride and then came to me. He told me his story and said, “ If you want to check my story just contact the former director of the department by which I was employed “. I rang the former director and asked whether he knew this man. He replied that he knew him very well and that he had been a very good servant. I said to the former director, “ Did this man work for security? “ He replied; “ Yes, definitely, and he suffered for it “. This employee suffered because the fact that he was working for the security service when he attended the peace meetings was not known to the senior officers in the department in which he was located, and certain investigation officers had marked on his card that although he was not a Communist he should not be employed in any place where he could be a security risk. Because some person had marked this man as a security risk he was denied promotion that he should have received. If something like that can happen inside the Public Service, what can happen outside when a man applies for employment?
Surely it is reasonable that if a person is refused employment he should be told why, and he should then be given the opportunity, if he so wishes, to appeal against the decision not to employ him. If he is in the wrong, he will not appeal, but at least he should be given the opportunity to state his case to an appeal tribunal. Just because some security service officer or some one who may have a grudge against him says that he is a Communist and that the Public Service should not take a risk with him, he should not be denied employment or promotion without a hearing. This aspect should be considered most carefully. In the past the board has made the decisions, but the security service and others have made the reports on which the decisions were based.
– Do you know this man personally?
– Yes, I do know him personally. He is a constituent of mine. Sir Philip McBride would know the case. The department would know the case. He suffered wrongfully, He was very foolish in the first place, probably, to become involved in this, but, be that as it may, by working for the security service, and being dubbed a “ Com “ for doing so, he eventually suffered and was prevented from getting a senior appointment in the service.
We are discussing the four divisions of the Public Service. In the First Division there are 29 officers. I think they are almost all permanent heads appointed by the Government, and recruited mainly from the Second Division. In the Second Division there are 300 officers, most of whom have come up from the lower ranks. Then we have the Third Division, with its 33,000 officers, and then the Fourth Division. It is the Third and Fourth Divisions that one can call the real Public Service so far as the employees are concerned. The top brass are well looked after. Where have they come from, in the main? They have come from the lower ranks, from the Third and Fourth Divisions. That is as it should be. I find nothing wrong with that, but I suggest that you will not get efficient officers for the First and Second Divisions unless you make conditions in the Third and Fourth Divisions sufficiently attractive to interest suitable officers. Make the conditions good enough and you will get- the recruits you want. You will not have to beg for recruits if you look after those at the lower levels in the Third and Fourth Divisions.
The honorable member who preceded me in this debate spoke of the employment of disabled persons. I mentioned previously the problem of the physically handicaped, and I say now that the Government ought to have done something about this matter. It has had two years to make a decision on this subject. The Department of Social Services has done a fine job in the field of rehabilitation. It has shown many physically handicapped persons that they are capable of accepting useful employment, and has given them opportunities to work. But the Commonwealth itself will not give the lead and provide employment for these people. Officers of the Department of Labour and National Service, as the Minister is well aware, seek and find work for these physically handicapped persons. Whom do they have to go to in order to find such work? They have to beg employers in private industry to make jobs available for people who have been rehabilitated through the agency of the Department of Social Services. The Commonwealth itself has done nothing about providing employment for rehabilitated persons. The Government should give a lead. I am most grateful that there is one firm in South Australia, a firm that has received much criticism - General Motors-Holden’s Limited - that has played a major part in giving employment to the physically handicapped. But there is a limit to what we can ask these firms to do, especially if the Government itself is not prepared to co-operate and offer employment.
– It should give a lead.
– That is what I said, thai it should give a lead. The Boyer committee made certain suggestions which appear to have been pushed aside and almost forgotten. That committee made a recommendation concerning this aspect of employment in the Public Service which should have received high priority. I only hope that the Government will do something about it very soon.
Recently we had in Australia Mr. Atkinson, the chairman of the Public Service Commission of New Zealand. He answered some questions on a matter with which, I believe, the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Bury) is concerned. I refer to the employment of married women. The Public Service Commission in New Zealand has tackled this problem. I have no doubt that it is a problem, and that we will not solve it simply by pushing it aside. It is not enough merely to bring certain provisions of the legislation up to date. We must get on with the job and we must seriously consider the questions of equal pay for equal work and of the employment of married women. It is not for the Opposition to say where it stands on this matter; it is for the Government to introduce legislation to give effect to the recommendations contained in the Boyer report.
The recommendation with which I am particularly concerned, and of which I made brief mention earlier, is one which, I believe, gets to the root of the problem of recruitment. It is concerned with the worsening of Public Service conditions as compared with those that operate outside the service. It appears from recent decisions of the Public Service Board, of the Government and of various arbitration authorities that Commonwealth public servants are being denied wage justice. The Boyer committee said that it thought it desirable to consider the effect on recruitment of an assured incremental range in the lower grades of the Third Division. The committee said it had evidence that salaries prescribed in awards applicable to clerical staffs in banks and insurance companies were at much higher levels than those for comparable employees in the Commonwealth Public Service.
The Government was quite happy to grant increases of about £900 to various officers in the higher ranks when adjustments were made recently. Surely this particular recommendation in the Boyer report could have been given effect to, because it would have improved the chances of recruiting young people as employees in the Public Service. Does not the Government believe in paying wages to those in the lower grades at rates comparable to those paid outside the service? Does it believe in lifting the wages and salaries only of those in the top brackets? It has before it a report of a committee that it set up for a specific purpose. The committee has made its recommendations. Some of them have been accepted, but I suggest that the Government should accept recommendation 153, which deals with rates of payment for those on the lower levels.
By acceding to this recommendation we could increase our chances of obtaining suitable recruits. If the Government does not do so, then the high council of Public Service associations may adopt a procedure that it now has under consideration, and which seems to have the approval particularly of the Administrative and Clerical Officers Association. The proposal is to publicize, particularly for the benefit of young people, the disadvantages that flow from joining the Public Service. It may be more effective, from the point of view of the Public Service associations, to point out how unwise it is for young people to enter the service. The people who would spread this publicity are people who have worked in the service and who know all the disadvantages of it.
All the talk of enlarging the service, of bringing in university graduates and so on, will avail us nothing if the Government is not prepared to help the people in the lower ranks. If the associations take the strong action of pointing out the disadvantages of joining the service, you will find that recruitment will be even more difficult. The offer of an attractive salary for a worthwhile job, in satisfactory working conditions and with a guaranteed career based on merit and open competition, will provide the service with its share of good recruits from the schools and universities. These are the factors which influence recruitment, but the Government appears not to appreciate this fact.
I raised earlier the question of section 69 of the principal act, dealing with leave of absence for officers to appear in arbitration proceedings and to prepare the evidence for such proceedings. I think this is a most important matter. Most of the Public Service organizations have full-time secretaries and part-time secretaries. When an organization has a case to present to an arbitration court or some other such authority, a person in the service may work with the full-time secretary of the organization for a number of weeks, preparing the case and collecting the evidence for presentation. For this purpose he obtains leave without pay. In the past such periods of leave were always counted as service, but for some unknown reason it is now suggested that a period of leave taken for this purpose will not necessarily be counted as service, and that the board will determine whether it will be so counted. This provision will not encourage men to take an active part in the affairs of their organizations. I believe that this has simply been overlooked, and I ask that the Government do something about it. The Leader of the Opposition also referred to Commonwealth officers who resigned to contest a parliamentary election and returned to their work if they were defeated. Proposed new section 47c states - the Board may, upon application by that person within two months after the declaration of the result of the election, re-appoint him to the Commonwealth Service . . .
The suggestion was that the word “ may “ should be replaced by the word “ shall “. I do not think that is asking very much. In a democracy, an officer of the Public Service should have his rights protected and he should be encouraged to enter Parliament if he feels that he has the ability. But if this provision is left in some doubt, irresspective of who forms the government, and the man is an opposition candidate, the possibility that he might not get his position back if defeated at the poll might be just enough to keep him from being a candidate. I suggest that the word should be altered as suggested. I am not a legal eagle but I think the provision should be made clear.
We pay tribute to the members of the Boyer committee which brought in the report, but I think that we should pay a tribute also to the members of the Public Service in every division. The honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Bury) made a remark that the Boyer report was jargon which could almost mean university language. Perhaps a better report could have been obtained from members of the Public Service itself. I hope that we will build up the Public Service with an Australian tradition from inside the service. We do not need to look to people overseas. It is nice to have comparisons with the public services of the United Kingdom or the United States of America but a tradition of loyalty and efficiency has grown up in the Commonwealth Public Service and I think we can give us even better service and that better avenues of recruitment will become available if we take notice of our own officers. I do not consider that we have to go inside the universities of Australia to find the. best recruits. They will be found to more advantage by a study of the problems of the people in the Public Service, and I mean the problems not only at the top but also at the bottom.
I conclude by saying that I hope the Government will do something for the physically handicapped persons and for ex-servicemen. Many in the Public Service are receiving perhaps a 50 per cent, repatriation pension and suddenly they are told that they are no longer wanted by their departments because permanent officers have been appointed to their positions and they have been employed on a temporary basis. The report before us has given the Government some ideas. It is the responsibility of the Government and of the Parliament to do something about the physically handicapped. The Department of Social Services is doing a grand job in rehabilitation. The department under the administration of the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. McMahon) has tried to obtain jobs for those rehabilitated persons, but they have to beg private industry to give them jobs. The Commonwealth Government and the State governments must take full responsibility and do something to solve this very grave problem.
– The honorable member for Kingston (Mr. Galvin) has spoken in fairly glowing terms about the activities and, I believe, the success of the rehabilitation section of the Department of Social Services. Some years ago, I had the good fortune to be associated with that section and was able to introduce some amendments to provide further opportunities for the medical rehabilitation of those who needed help and also to increase the opportunities to have them placed in employment. Few things gave me greater pleasure than the passing of the amendments to the principal act. I think most of us will agree that rehabilitated persons trained for a particular job are peculiarly able to carry out jobs to which they are allotted when they are suited to their abilities. These people do the work extremely well, and stay on the job and their employers find them to be the best types of employees.
There has been some criticism about employment of rehabilitated persons in the Commonwealth Public Service. My answer is that it must be the responsibility of the permanent head of each department to decide how many rehabilitated workers he can employ in his department.
– Then we would have variation of policy between the departments.
– It might be necessary. The same procedure cannot be applied to all departments. Each department has different responsibilities and different types of activities, and it is far better to leave the decision to the permanent heads provided that we let the permanent heads know that we want them to employ these people if it is practicable. The Department of Social Services and the department under my administration employ these people to the maximum possible extent. Admittedly, on occasions it has been necessary to pose the question whether or not there might be enough rehabilitated persons in a department and that there could be an imbalance. If this were so, it might be necessary to say, “I think you should look to another department to see if you can place them there “. Notwithstanding this, I believe that most, if not all departments, practise this policy of employing rehabilitated people to the best of their ability.
The honorable member for Kingston has said that private industry does a magnificent job. I agree with him. I think that private employers do well. The answer is to be found in the employment figures themselves. Only recently I had an opportunity to look at the statistics relating to rehabilitated persons who had been placed in employment. I was pleased to see that with few exceptions, most of those who had passed through the Department of Social Services and were employable were placed in employment fairly quickly. I think it is fairly correct to say that the departments and private industry do make a maximum effort to place these people in employment, and I think most of the employable are successfully placed. So while I agree with the sentiments of the honorable gentleman from Kingston, I also think the Government is doing a good job and so also is private industry.
I rose to answer an amendment foreshadowed by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) in connexion with the employment of women on the basis of equal pay for work of equal value. I think the House will know that the International Labour Organization passed a draft convention relating to equal pay. What I want to make clear to the House is that there is a reservation in the resolution of the I.L.O. That reservation relates to the normal method of wage and salary fixation in the country concerned and to the normal methods employed in that country for determining standards in industry. In accordance with the policy of the International Labour Office and our practice here, the former Minister for Labour and National Service made it clear that whilst the Government believed in equal pay for work of equal value, we believed that there was only one proper method of incorporating that principle in the wage structure of this country and that was by the trade union movement applying to the Arbitration Commission for a variation of the relevant awards.
Consequently, the Government’s approach to this problem is clear. We believe in the principle. Equally, we believe that it is for the Arbitration Commission itself to determine how and when the principle shall be applied. It is up to the trade union movement, if it thinks it desirable, to apply to the Arbitration Commission. The Liberal Party has adopted that principle in its constitution, but always subject to a reservation that it believes in the law of the land being applied and the normal method of wage fixation being followed. I think that I have correctly stated the Government’s view: We believe in the principle of equal pay for equal work, but we do so subject to the jurisdiction of the Arbitration Commission, which must determine both the timing and the application; and we think that that application should be made on the initiative of the trade union movement itself.
Recently, I had a conference with the trade union movement relating to this question. I put it to the representatives that they knew the convention. I put it to them that they knew the procedure involved in approaching the Arbitration Commission; and that if the Australian Council of Trade Unions was really sincere in its proposals it could make an application to the Arbitration Commission and let the commission decide the matter. The decisive point was reached when a representative from, I think, the Victorian Trades and Labour Council asked a woman representative of the Teachers Federation how much the introduction of equal pay for women would cost. I am relying a little heavily on my memory, but I think that she said £90,000,000 a year. The consequence of this increase should be clear. Under our arbitration system, wages are increased according .to the capacity of industry to pay. If equal pay were introduced at a cost of £90,000,000 a year, we would not be able to afford an increase in the basic wage for about eighteen months unless there was an enormous increase in work. The moment the figure of £90,000,000 was mentioned, not by me, but by the woman representative at this meeting, the Victorian representative of the Trades Hall Council abandoned the case completely and had no further interest in pushing the proposition.
I finish on this basis which I put to the trade union movement itself: The responsibility belongs to the trade union movement if it cares to stand up to its responsibilities. Of course, it will not because it knows very well that as wages are fixed on the basis of the capacity of industry to pay, a substantial increase in the basic wage of women would prejudice a basic wage increase, perhaps for some time to come. I think I have set out the Government’s approach to the problem in terms of principle, the practical application of the principle, and what I believe to be the trade unions’ approach to this problem.
The only other two matters that arise are these: First, there is the Commonwealth’s approach. I have mentioned that the basic wage is a matter for the Arbitration Commission. Margins of women employed in the Commonwealth Public Service are treated on exactly the same basis as the margins of male employees. The difference occurs in the basic wage and not in the marginal element of the wage. Finally, I think that we have to answer one other question: Should we permit an amendment to be made to Public Service legislation to provide for equal pay for work of equal value? The answer to that, I think, is quite simple: Certainly not. We do not think a government, whether it be Commonwealth or State, should legislate, either in terms of principle or in terms of an actual wage determination, on the wages of males or females. We do not think that there should be politics in wage fixation. The Arbitration Commission should determine wages, both of males and females. It is up to that tribunal to decide both as to timing and amount. Consequently, on behalf of the Government. I say quite emphatically that if during the committee stage an amend ment is moved such as has been foreshadowed by the Leader of the Opposition it will be rejected. I think that I can sum up in this way:
While we believe in the principle, we certainly also think of the secondary principle of wage fixation by the tribunals. Those principles must be taken together. If the Australian Council of Trade Unions wants an increase in female wages it is up to it to make an application to the commission. As to the foreshadowed action of the Leader of the Opposition, I think that most honorable gentlemen will now accept the fact that this will be a purely political action on his part. He knows that it is not a function of the Parliament itself to legislate in these matters. He knows that it is the responsibility of the Arbitration Commission. He knows only too well that the Victorian Trades and Labour Council would not for a moment consider making an application to the commission. He knows only too well that the Australian Council of Trade Unions has had abundant opportunities to do it but has neglected those opportunities for many years and will do so for many years to come. Consequently, I think it wise that I should again make it clear that, whilst the Government believes in the principle of equal pay for equal work, we think that the matter is one for the Arbitration Commission. Therefore we consider that this is not a bill in which any amendment of the kind proposed should be incorporated.
– I wish to address myself to one or two points in the legislation under discussion. At the outset, let me join with other honorable members in the observation that, generally speaking, members of our Commonwealth Public Service are men of high standing, capacity and integrity and render great service in their respective spheres. Naturally, some are not as competent as others, but, in a general sense, I think that we are privileged to have an efficient Public Service which, to best of its ability, gives effect to the decisions of the Government. It was to improve the methods of recruitment, the administration and the general organization of the Public Service that the Boyer committee reported to the Government. Some of the recommendations of the committee have been incorporated in this legislation. It is regrettable, however, that some sections of the report have not yet been considered and are not covered in this bill. There is, particularly, a reference to employment of handicapped persons with which I shall deal later. Naturally, I support the views put forward by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) in respect of the amendments which he foreshadowed and which are thought to be desirable improvements to this legislation.
I wish to address myself particularly to the question of appointments to the Commonwealth Public Service. Proposed new section 34, which is contained in clause 11, provides as follows: -
A person is not eligible for appointment to the Commonwealth Service unless -
he is a British subject;
the Board is satisfied, after he has under gone a medical examination approved by the Board, as to his health and physical fitness;
the Board is satisfied that he is a fit and proper person to be an officer of the Commonwealth Service; and
he has made and subscribed, as pre scribed, an oath or affirmation in accordance with the Fourth Schedule to this Act.
How is the board to be satisfied that a man is a fit and proper person to be an officer of the Commonwealth Public Service? I should like to know on what basis that is to be decided in future. As the honorable member for Kingston (Mr. Galvin) has stated, there is grave misgiving in the minds of people - as we who come in contact with them know - about the system now adopted, I suppose fairly generally, in regard to recruitment to the Commonwealth Public Service and in regard to the determination whether an applicant is a fit and proper person to be an officer of the service. Evidently it is the practice of the Public Service Board to engage the security service, or special officers, to interrogate people who, it considers, should not be appointed or should not be promoted after having received appointment. This leaves the way open for very grave concern by members of the public, and particularly grave concern by the persons concerned.
Recently I placed on the notice-paper a question directed to the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) asking how many persons had applied for appointment to, or promo tion in, the Commonwealth Public Service and had been refused promotion or appointment on the advice or recommendation of the security service. No names were given in the reply to the question, although I had asked for them, but the Prime Minister stated that the number of such cases was very small. The important point is that evidently a number of people have been refused appointment to, or promotion in, the Commonwealth Public Service as a result of reports on them submitted by the security service. There are those who say that that may be all right but, as the honorable member for Kingston stated, a man’s future should not depend entirely on a report of the security service unless evidence is produced which the person concerned is given a chance to rebut.
Only a few weeks ago a case came to my notice of a man employed in the Commonwealth Public Service, in a department a very long way divorced from any military or security risk. He was interrogated, on the instructions of certain officers of that department, by members of the security service. A lengthy interview took place, and he was told that it was in connexion with an examination that he had passed in order to proceed to the Third Division. Furthermore, he was told that he had passed the examination fairly well, but evidently some charge or statement had been made against him that he was not a fit and proper person to be promoted. This man is an ex-serviceman, a comparatively young man, and he has a good record. He assured me that there was no reason that he knew of for his loyalty to be challenged, and that in every way he considered himself a fit and proper person to be promoted. I took the matter up with the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen), who was Acting Prime Minister at the time, and I was subsequently advised that the person concerned had been recommended for promotion and approval had been granted.
That person had no chance of rebutting the charges against him. If I had mentioned his name in this Parliament he would have been listed in the Public Service as suspect along the lines of those who might be suspicious. No charge was made against this man. He was only interrogated. As I have said, he was employed in a department - as a matter of fact, it wm a financial department - a long way divorced from anything connected with defence. He had passed a qualifying examination with flying colours, but he was subjected to a great deal of worry and concern as the result of a statement by some one with whom he was not connected. That case was corrected, and the promotion was approved, but I have had other cases where the reply received has not been so satisfactory.
It is quite evident that the information supplied by security officers is not always reliable. We all remember the occasion when the Prime Minister came into this House and announced that certain people were Communists, and had to apologize to those people the next day. There should be some way in which people against whom such charges are made are given an opportunity to challenge those making the charges. Every one may not wish to bring his case to me or to some other honorable member, or to have his affairs ventilated here, because of the fear that he would then become a listed person with no prospect of promotion in the Public Service. I should like to know on what basis the board will decide whether a person is a fit and proper person to be an officer in the service or to be promoted. What precautions will be taken to ensure that, for example, an anonymous letter written by some mischievous person will not result in somebody being stopped in his career in the Public Service or being refused appointment?
Quite recently we heard in this Parliament of the case of a man appointed by the Public Service Board to a department in Sydney, and subsequently dismissed because previously he had had some association with Communist organizations. Whether or not that man should have been dismissed is a matter that I do not wish to debate now, but if he was dismissed later for that reason, I say that he should not have been appointed in the first place.
We see that errors can occur. Amazing things can happen with the security service, and I am not satisfied that every case in which a man may have been victimized comes to the light of day. Some of the persons concerned may not know that procedure for bringing their cases to the atten tion of honorable members, or they may not wish to face the publicity associated with the raising of the matter in this Parliament. In the case of the man to whom I referred earlier, the request for promotion was eventually granted. If, however, I had gone about the matter in another way and had raised his case in the Parliament, he would have been a listed person and would have suffered just as much as if the case had never been raised in that way.
This is an important aspect of administration. Whilst I give no support at all to people who are disloyal, and whilst I would not want such people to be appointed to any section of the Public Service, I believe that some safeguards are necessary so that people who are challenged in this respect will have an opportunity of rebutting the charges against them, and of clearing their names, without being listed as persons suspected of disloyalty.
I had an amazing case brought to my notice during the war years. Of course, war years are exceptional times. A person in my constituency sought to buy a house. He had a foreign name. It was necessary at that time for foreigners to seek permission to buy houses. His purchase of that house was held up for two years. I subsequently looked at the file, and I was advised by the Minister in charge of the department concerned that the permission that was sought had not been granted because the house was in Five Dock in Sydney. The security people said, “We cannot allow an Italian to buy a house in the vicinity of docks in Sydney in war-time “. Five Dock is a part of Sydney Harbour where you could not run a 14-ft. rowing boat. It is just a backwater. Apparently the security officer concerned lived in Perth and thought that Five Dock was an important harbour area. That is humorous in the extreme, but it took the man two years to get the permission that he applied for. That man had been 40 years in this country, was a justice of the peace and had sat on juries. Although he had an Italian name he was probably more Australian than I or some other people in this chamber.
Those things can happen. I do not criticize the people concerned. What happened was probably the result of ignorance, but it was tremendously inconvenient to the man affected. That case shows what can happen. Every honorable member could probably cite similar cases. As the honorable member for Kingston said, a man whose official duties took him to meetings of organizations like the Eureka Youth League was subsequently refused appointment to the Public Service because he was said to be a person who had constantly attended such functions. It is terribly difficult to get information from the Government on these issues, and it is disconcerting to the individual concerned, inconvenient and unpalatable in every way. So I should like to know what the Government is doing to prevent many loyal citizens from being condemned to loss of promotion in, or appointment to, the Public Service on the say-so of people whom we do not know. With all due respect to the security service, many of its officers are quite unskilled in the art of detection, in which our ordinary police forces are so skilled.
These are matters that the Government might well look at. I have on my files quite a few cases which cause me great concern, particularly when one knows that when representations on these cases are made by me or other honorable members the result of that intervention is that the people concerned are given clearances. That means that if the cases I am concerned with had not been brought before me, and been raised by me, the persons affected would have been refused their just rights in regard to promotion or appointment. I think it is time something was done by the Government or the Public Service Board to set up some tribunal that will prevent that kind of injustice being done to people.
I turn now to another matter. This year, or last year, the Government had a great deal to say about World Refugee Year and the need for the Australian Government and other governments to assist in bringing to Australia, or other countries, European refugees suffering from disabilities who might wish to take up residence overseas. It is to the credit of the Government and all concerned that certain restrictions were removed and that people in that category came here under that World Refugee Year scheme.
The Government appeals for private industry to employ handicapped people. I believe that private employers responded reasonably well within their capabilities. This brings me to the point that it is all very well to set aside certain physical standards and to bring handicapped refugees here during World Refugee Year and also to appeal to private enterprise to employ handicapped people, but I think that the Commonwealth Public Service Board is failing in its duty to handicapped people. In this measure, the Government does not propose to enable physically handicapped people to be employed in the Commonwealth Public Service. Some months ago in this Parliament, I called for a royal commission into the manner in which handicapped ex-servicemen are treated by the Commonwealth Public Service Board. I do not complain about the idea of asking private enterprise to employ disabled people or at the idea of bringing to this country from other parts of the world refugees who have disabilities. But let us be consistent and see that the Commonwealth Public Service Board, in accordance with the provisions of the Public Service Act, extends reasonable and just treatment to men who have suffered disabilities while on war service.
I mention again a case that has come under my notice. It is that of a man who receives a 50 per cent, repatriation pension for a war disability. He is a big man who weighs, I suppose, 14 or 15 stone. He is a capable person and has passed all the examinations necessary for appointment in a clerical capacity in the Commonwealth Public Service, but the Public Service Board refused him an appointment on the ground that he was physically incapable of doing the clerical work for which he had qualified. By occupation, this man is a plumber and in that trade he engages in the most arduous duties. Yet the board refused to appoint him on the ground that he did not fulfil the physical requirements needed by a man whose job is to push a pen in the Public Service, his disability having been caused by war service and having resulted in his receiving a 50 per cent, repatriation pension. The Public Service Board advised this man to apply to the Repatriation Commission for a substantial increase in his pension and suggested that he was entitled to a 100 per cent, pension. But when he applied, the commission refused to increase his pension and he had to fight like the devil to prevent a reduction.
Where does this sort of thing get us? The Commonwealth Public Service Board refused to employ this man because his health had been impaired by war service - a disability for which he receives a 50 per cent, pension. The Repatriation Commission will not increase his pension and, indeed, takes the attitude that he rs already getting too high a pension. You cannot have it both ways. This man has fought for the country and, as a result, his health has been impaired. He should at least be given the opportunity to work in a clerical capacity, especially since, even to this day, he is fit for and is engaged on arduous plumbing work which requires much more physical effort than is required for the pushing of a pen. Yet the Commonwealth Public Service Board refuses to employ him. I have brought this matter to the attention of the chairman of the board and the Prime Minister. This case is only one of many. I have heard other honorable members on this side of the House raise numerous cases of this kind. I am not at all satisfied that the Commonwealth Public Service is extending the tolerance, leniency and justice that should be extended to ex-servicemen who have applied, in what we may say is a very easy way, for appointment in the Public Service. For the life of me, I cannot see why the man whose case I have mentioned was refused appointment. He had all the required qualifications and is a very competent person.
I believe that something should be done to make provision in the Public Service Act for the appointment to the Public Service of physically handicapped people. Nothing has been done about this so far. Something should be done about it as well as about the appointment of ex-servicemen who have war-caused disabilities. I therefore suggest to the Government that in its deliberations on this measure it sympathetically consider this aspect of the matter. I hope, too, that in the near future the Public Service Board will have a look at its records and re-examine the case which I have mentioned. If necessary, I can give the board further details. I should very much like to know how many exservicemen have been refused appointment by the Commonwealth Public Service
Board because they have war-caused disabilities. I think that people of this country would be astounded to know how many ex-servicemen are apparently not getting from the Public Service Board, solely because their health has been impaired by their war service, the justice to which they are entitled.
– A number of exservicemen have left the Public Service for such a reason.
– That is so.
Having dealt with those points, I turn to another aspect of the Public Service. I am not averse to the officers at the top receiving a reasonable reward for the great responsibilities that they discharge and the tasks that they have to carry out. At the same time, like other honorable members on this side of the House, I am not satisfied that those on the lower rungs of the Public Service are receiving the rewards to which they are duly entitled. I think that there has been a tendency to increase the salaries paid in the top ranks of the service extravagantly in some instances by comparison with increases given to employees in the lower ranks. I suggest that the salaries of people doing very effective and important work in the lower divisions of the Public Service ought to be reviewed, because, proportionately, those people have not received increases as great as were those given to the people at the top. I repeat that I do not wish in any way to detract from the officers at the top who carry heavy responsibility. They are entitled to a fair reward for the discharge of their great responsibilities. However, I suggest that the Government and the Public Service Board would do well to adopt policies designed to help those on the lower income scales in the Public Service by giving them salary increases commensurate with those given to the officers at the top.
– Does the honorable member think that those at the top are now receiving fair rewards?
– I think that those at the top are doing exceptionally well. Recently, increases ranging up to £900 a year, or about £18 a week, were given to senior officers. I do not think that those who received such salary increases can be said to be battling. The point that I make is that these were tremendous salary increases. They may have been justified. But they were given to officers on salaries of £5,000 or £6,000 a year, together with all that goes with the occupancy of these top positions in the Public Service. Down the line, in the lower ranks of the service, the situation of the man on a salary of, say, £20 a week is somewhat different. Broadly speaking, I say “ Good luck “ to those at the top who received the big increases if they can get such treatment. But I suggest that they are not underpaid, and I think there is a feeling that the men at the top are getting a little too much and those in the lower ranks are not getting enough. I have already said that I do not wish to take anything away from the officers at the top, but I suggest that as time goes on, those further down the line ought to have their salaries increased proportionately.
Having made those observations, 1 wish now to take the opportunity to place on record a tribute to Sir William Dunk, who, 1 understand, is shortly to retire from the position of Chairman of the Public Service Board which he has occupied for quite a long time. Undoubtedly, Sir William has discharged his duties to the best of his ability, and has rendered great service to this country. I understand that his successor will be Mr. Wheeler, who is well known in the Commonwealth Public Service. He will follow a capable predecessor. I am sure that Mr. Wheeler, also, with his great knowledge of public affairs in this country, will render great service in this very high office.
Having said so much, Sir, let me say that 1 think the speech that 1 have just delivered is probably one of the most constructive that has been made on this bill. I hope that the Government will duly consider all the points that I have made.
.- Mr. Deputy Speaker, the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), in his second-reading speech, said that the development of a public service of the highest quality and integrity is clearly a first essential of good government. Nobody has said this evening that the Commonwealth Public Service is anything but of the highest quality and integrity. This bill aims at maintaining and improving the quality of the service as far as possible. However, this measure makes no provision for the transfer within the service of temporary employees to permanent positions or for the upgrading of permanent employees. The main object of the bill seems to be to provide for recruitment to the service. In a service so large as is that of the Commonwealth, naturally, some rigid standards are laid down, but I hoped to see in this bill provision for greater flexibility than appears to have been provided with respect to the accepting of temporary employees into the service in permanent capacities. I have found, as I have no doubt a great number of other honorable members who represent country electorates have found, that people occupying temporary positions in the Public Service have been greatly disturbed because, with the enlargement of the service, the question of their status as temporary employees has become rather critical.
I had a case that I could mention here as an illustration of the sort of thing that happens. An ex-serviceman had a nonofficial post office for many years and gave excellent service. He became ill as a result of war injuries and from then on his wife carried on the post office. The local residents were delighted with the service that she gave to them. There were never any complaints; on the contrary, I was told that she did everything that could be desired of the occupant of such a position. She carried on for many years. She was not even a temporary public servant, because this was a non-official post office. When her husband died, she had no standing whatever. She was not the post-mistress; her husband had been the postmaster. She had to pack up and leave immediately the post office was established on an official basis and a permanent public servant took over.
That may be an isolated case, but I mention it because there must be in this large service hundreds, if not thousands, of officers who are adding to the prestige of the service although they are not permanently employed. These people can contribute much, particularly in country areas, to the efficiency of many of the departments.
I pass now to another aspect, and that is the physically handicapped person employed on a temporary basis. In his second-reading speech, the Prime Minister said -
It may well be in a career service that the highest standards, both medically and educationally, should be observed, but with these people who are not necessarily engaged in a career service in the full meaning of the term but who are usefully filling a temporary position, there should be some relaxation and some flexibility in the qualifications required. It may well be said that a person who is able to pass an examination is qualified for permanent employment, but this does not necessarily mean that because they cannot pass a strict examination they should not qualify. The Prime Minister acknowledges this point to some extent when he says that seniority should not be the sole or even the principal basis for promotion. In other words, no one criterion should be applied either for entry to or promotion in the service. I believe that it is quite wrong to have a rigid health or educational examination, which must be passed, and the provisions should be altered.
Most members’ secretaries are temporary employees in the Public Service. I do not know the full details, but I understand that should they wish to become permanent employees they must pass an examination, although they may be thoroughly proficient and quite satisfactory in their jobs as secretaries. They may have some difficulty, so many years after leaving school, in passing an examination, and the examination, I understand, in some instances would be conducted by their senior officers and1 not by an outside body.
I pass to the question of the physically handicapped, and I will cite two cases which I believe sum up the position as I have found it to be and. I have no doubt, as other honorable members have found it to be. I do not intend to mention names or places. I had an application from a girl who for many years had been employed as a telephonist in a country town. She was aged 42 years and had been employed, on and off, for sixteen years. She had never been appointed to the permanent staff, but was regarded merely as a temporary employee. She joined the service in 1946 - that is, immediately after the war when no doubt the authorities were very glad to get people to take these positions. I understand! that she was a capable officer and highly regarded by the residents of the town in which she lived. Indeed, she was so highly regarded that the shire council in the area made representations to me following extensive public interest and resentment at the way she had been treated.
When she was dismissed, the reason given was that retrenchment was necessary and there was some doubt as to her fitness in a medical sense. I went into the matter and in 1960 the Postmaster-General informed me that she was actually permanently appointed in 1958. However, at that time she was said to be unable to meet the physical fitness standards required and her appointment was subsequently annulled on medical grounds as from the close of business on 15th October. 1958. However, she was considered fit to remain in temporary employment. This is the type of situation that we oppose. This girl was not sick to the point of being unable to carry out her duty, but she could not pass some specified medical examination. She was considered fit to remain in temporary employment, but because she could not pass a medical examination, she was not fit for permanent employment. Yet she had every qualification that one could wish to find in a telephonist. Those of us who are served by a manual telephone exchange know the difference that is made to our every-day lives by a telephonist who does the job well, who has the right manner, is pleasant and civil, and who knows how to do the job.
This girl commenced duty in a temporary capacity in 1946. She continued in broken periods until 1947 and was employed again from December, 1950, continuously until September, 1951. At that time she was retrenched because of general staff reductions, but was re-employed on 21st December, 1951. Her services were retained without a further break until her last retrenchment on 7th December, 1959. It appears that this girl was used by a Commonwealth department as it suited it. There was never any question about her work or her ability to carry out her duties. The only question was whether she could pass a medical examination laid down by the Public Service Board. It became necessary to dispense with her services because the part-time temporary position she was occupying was eliminated owing to a decrease in the volume of telephone traffic at the exchange. I was told’ that her possibilities of future employment were not bright. It was “-aid that it would be possible to re-employ her at another centre, but her personal responsibilities at her home town prevented her from accepting employment in any other town.
It is understandable that a woman of 42 years would find it difficult to uproot herself and take temporary employment in -some other town knowing that, overnight, she could be asked to relinquish her position. Following a request from the local shire council that in the event of another telephonist being required at that exchange she be given employment in that position, the Postmaster-General replied that it was proposed to offer her temporary employment for periods of relieving duty as opportunity permitted. He also stated that it was intended, should a vacancy in the exchange in her home town occur, to give her preference of employment until the position bad been filled by a permanent employee.
I have no complaint against the PostmasterGeneral’s Department because I know very well from experience that it has no say in these matters. I have no complaint against the Public Service Board because apparently it must carry out the requirements of the act and regulations. But I do think it silly that there should be room for anomalies such as these and that departments should be prevented from exercising common sense in these matters.
That is not an isolated case. I mention also the case of a girl who commenced employment as a telephonist in 19S6. She sat for an examination in 19S7 and, in 1958, she was appointed on probation. In February of that year, she was examined by the local Commonwealth Medical Officer and then the director requested that she be examined by an eye specialist. A few months later, she was advised that her probationary appointment had been cancelled as the medical report indicated that she could not comply with the physical fitness requirements for permanent appointment to the Public Service. She then reverted to what is called an exempt telephonist, whatever that may be, and she was later advised that her services would be terminated on the appointment of a number of girls who had qualified at a more recent examination. Here again she was told that the department would use her, while it suited it, despite the fact that her alleged physical disability did not detract from her efficiency.
The cancellation of her appointment was considered by her and her family to be unjust, as both the Commonwealth Medical Officer and a highly qualified eye specialist assured her verbally that she had passed her examination and would be fit for permanent appointment. Her private medical consultant had also issued a certificate to the effect that there was nothing to prevent her being appointed permanently. The matter was taken up with the PostmasterGeneral who replied that as the case had been taken to the Public Service Board, which was the final authority for the employment of persons in all Commonwealth departments, and as that board had considered an appeal which she had made against its earlier decision that she could not meet the medical standard required, the annulment of her appointment must stand. The department wrote to her in these terms -
Your application … for consideration of further appointment was referred to the Public Service Board from whom advice has now been received that following careful review of your case, in the light of all available medical reports, including visual evidence, it regrets that it is unable to alter its previous decision cancelling your probationary appointment on medical grounds.
The matter was referred to the Public Service Board by me. I had ascertained that, following further medical examinations, the reports showed that her visual acuity, as it is called, was not of sufficiently high . standard to permit of her appointment as a telephonist, and I was informed that she could qualify as a clerical assistant or typist. I submit that it is unreasonable that a person who has proved that she is capable of carrying out her duties efficiently should be debarred from permanent appointment because of some mandatory medical requirement which she cannot meet. I am disturbed about this because I believe that when people have exceptional ability, as these two people have, it is ridiculous that they should be debarred from permanent appointment purely because of some mandatory requirement that they are unable to meet.
During the course of his second-reading speech, the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) said -
The Public Service Board has established a separate committee, including medical authorities, to examine this question-
That is, the whole question of physically handicapped persons - and the conclusions of this group will be considered by the Government as soon as they are available.
That prompted me to rise to-night to plead the case for people in country areas in particular. As honorable members know, the people in country areas come directly under the notice of members of Parliament. We know the services many of them give to the department in which they are employed and we know that, but for this arbitrary medical qualification, many of them could enjoy several years’ faithful service in positions which they are thoroughly capable of filling. I do hope that the board will examine this matter with a view to exercising some flexibility to meet the cases of those temporary employees to whom the department is not prepared to give permanent appointment because of some arbitrary medical requirement.
.- I refer to proposed new section 34, which reads -
A person is not eligible for appointment to the Commonwealth Service unless -
he is a British subject;
the Board is satisfied, after he has under gone a medical examination approved by the Board, as to his health and physical fitness;
the Board* is satisfied that he is a fit and proper person to be an officer of the Commonwealth Service: and
he has made and subscribed, as prescribed, an oath or affirmation in accordance with the Fourth Schedule to this Act.
Many representations have been made to me on behalf of ex-servicemen who have suffered disabilities whilst serving overseas and who, while being considered suitable for tem porary employment in the Commonwealth Public Service, have been denied permanent appointment on medical grounds. These ex-servicemen are debarred from advancement unless they become permanent employees. I suppose the reason for rejecting them on medical grounds is the risk that they represent to the superannuation scheme and the provident fund, but I suggest that the Government give favorable consideration to evolving some scheme under which these ex-servicemen who have become disabled in defending their country might be given permanent employment in the Public Service without being eligible for either superannuation or benefit from the provident fund. I know that there are many ex-servicemen on the Government side of the House, and I think sympathetic consideration should be given to this matter. Members on the Government side must have had similar representations made to them. In the two years I have been here I have had many cases placed before me where the Public Service Board bad refused the applications of such people and they had no opportunity to join the service. I know many people in my electorate who want to make a contribution to public service, but they wish to be sure that they can share in promotion opportunities and that promotion will not be limited. But under the present system they cannot get promotion. As temporary clerks or temporary public servants their opportunity is limited. So I ask the Prime Minister to review the position. I ask him to consider the position of ex-servicemen who have been refused permanent appointment to the Public Service on medical grounds. They might be getting 30, 40, or 50 per cent. repatriation pensions for war-caused disabilities, and that fact debars them from becoming permanent public servants. I hope a way can be found to exclude such people from the superannuation fund or the provident fund and yet retain them as permanent public servants so that they can get promotion and contribute to public service as they desire to do. They have served their country in time of war, so why can they not serve it in time of peace? The present act debars them from serving and getting promotion in time of peace, but they are not debarred from serving their country in time ofwarand in the face of the enemy. That is the case which I would like the Prime Minister to examine on behalf of exservicemen.
.- 1 shall not detain the House for very long, but it is customary for me, when listening to members of the Opposition contributing to the debate, to make notes and to rebut some of the things they have said. The honorable member for Kingston (Mr. Galvin) chided the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Bur,). who invited the Opposition to make some suggestions to the Government for the improvement of the Public Service. He said. “ It is not the task of the Opposition, lt is the task of the Government.” But the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) intends to move some amendments, and that surely, will be helping the Government in that regard. The honorable member for Kingston will vote for those amendments, yet he would not make any suggestions to the Government. He said. “ Why introduce the Boyer report and why not have a fresh committee to examine the Public Service? “ When so many people charge the Public Service with being bureaucratic, is it not refreshing to have an outside body coming in to examine the service? The honorable member said the Public Service Board was quite competent to carry out the inquiry, but the honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly) was critical of the board. Here we have an Opposition of constant contradictions!
I have made a note, “ Hot air story about officer who became a security risk “. The honorable member for Kingston talked about a man who was seconded to the security service and who, on his return to the civil service, was adjudged a security risk and received no promotion. The Public Service Act provides for an officer the right to make application to an appeals board if an officer is promoted over him. When he thinks he has superior efficiency or has equal efficiency and seniority he has the right of appeal to the Public Service Board, and so my note “ Hot air story “ cannot be far wrong.
The honorable member for Grayndler has talked about security risk and promotions and referring to Clause 24 said the board has to be satisfied that the appointee is a fit and proper person to be an officer of the Commonwealth Public Service. He said that because one person was not a fit and proper person he failed to get promotion and but that provision deals only with appointment to the Public Service. The honorable member fo; Grayndler spoke for half an hour and indulged in continual repetition. He told us recently that he was born in the country and I think he contracted the habit of a ruminant because his habit in this House is so often to go round and round the same point.
The matter of an appointee to the service being a fit and proper person was raised also by the Leader of the Opposition. I cannot understand the thinking of the Labour Party. We say that there is in this country a conspiracy inimical to the safety of Australia, and so does the Opposition, yet whenever there is raised the question of a test of a person being a fit and proper person for a position which may become a position of trust - twenty years after appointment a man may be at the top of his division - the Opposition always raises criticism. What is the reason for that? In matters relating to the Public Service and the security of the country the Opposition never takes precautions, but a man cannot become a member of the Labour Party unless he has undergone close scrutiny. The Opposition always puts the party above the nation, and that is a very serious thing. I suggest that the scrutiny which the Labour Party has already practised should be practised again.
A point which interests me is the question of promotion on seniority. The Boyer report states that seniority as a criterion for promotions in all four divisions of the Public Service should be dropped. The present act states that in the Second and Third Divisions the criterion for promotions should be efficiency. I support that view strongly. But the Government does not agree with the report in regard to the Fourth Division. It has a very good reason for doing so and its reason may be sound, but I believe that it is as well to try to carry out the suggestions of the Boyer committee and give public servants the maximum chance of promotion on merit. The Opposition has several times mentioned the question of promotion by merit but I find it extremely hard to reconcile that with the fact that one plank of Labour’s platform is “Last on, first off”. How can we reconcile that principle with promotion by merit? The Opposition is a party of contradictions. I think promotion should be decided on merit, diligence, efficiency, integrity and application. Those things must be taken into consideration and the Opposition supports that view now, but trade unions say, “ Last on, first off “. I have had brought to my attention the question of examinations for promotion. The matter of promotion and the like are dealt with in proposed new section. 45, paragraph (c) of which states that the board may from time to time - appoint such examiners for the purpose of those examinations as it thinks necessary.
It has come to my notice that there was a case where an officer underwent an examination conducted by his immediate superior. He made a carbon copy of the paper and a friend of his took it to a university professor who marked it with a 90 per cent. pass. But he failed to get a pass from his immediate superior! I think there are cases where it is not always right that an immediate superior should have the task of examining his own staff. In the army there is sometimes the great problem of appointing someone to supersede other people. This system leaves a great problem to the person responsible, because he has to be completely impartial. Once you have in any service lack of impartiality you have a low morale; and morale is a most important consideration in any service. When a superior’ officer made a recommendation or noted a remark about a person in the Army it was possible for that person to view his superior’s recommendation. I do not know whetherthat is so in the Public Service, but it is a very good point. If a man applies for promotion and his superior officer makes a note either favorable or unfavorable against his name, he should have the right to see it.
I understand that the Leader of the Opposition proposes to submit an amendment designed to give women equal pay with men for equal work. I feel very strongly about this. It is not the task of parliaments or of governments to fix hours of work or rates of pay. We have seen the disastrous effect on our economy of the McGirr Government’s premature introduction of the 40-hour week in New South Wales, and it may be that the 35-hour week also will be introduced prematurely. It may be a wonderful idea to give women equal pay for equal work, but governments have no right to interfere in these matters. They are matters for decision by an impartial tribunal. Irrespective of any merit that the proposed amendment may have, I shall vote against it.
I join with the honorable member for Lawson (Mr. Failes) in making a plea on behalf of the physically handicapped. I was pleased to hear the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) in his second-reading speech state that the Government has this matter under review. It is very awkward for the Commonwealth Government to ask private industry to employ physically handicapped persons when it does not do so itself. The Commonwealth should give a lead in this matter.
One point in the annual report of the Public Service Board to which I should like to direct attention is that in spite of the increasing work of various departments, such as the Postal Department and the Department of Social Services, for three successive years the intake of new employees had been reduced progressively until finally, in the year under review there had been a reduction in total employment.
– By how many?
– By five. That is a remarkable achievement. Those people who criticize the Public Service Board should not forget that this reduction in staff has been made at a time when there has been a tremendous increase in the work of the Public Service in general and of the Postmaster-General’s Department in particular. I support the bill and commend the Government for what it proposes to do.
.- In addressing myself to this bill I should like to say that in the main I agree with most of its provisions, but I feel that the Government has not gone far enough and has not really attempted to tackle a number of problems that exist. Overall, the Public Service is an excellent organization which is composed of men and women who have thenjob at heart. For many years I have had contact with public servants and I have found them always to be conscientious, anxious to please and keen to carry out their duties. Public servants are entitled to more than they receive. On many occasions they are subjected to unnecessary criticism. When dealing with legislation of this kind we should attempt to rectify all the ills of the Public Service and to put the public servants on a proper level. That is why I propose to make reference to some matters that were not dealt with by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) in his secondreading speech.
The most important shortcoming of the bill is its failure so to amend the act as to permit physically handicapped persons to become permanent members of the Commonwealth Public Service. Proposed new section 34 provides in paragraph (b) that a person shall not be eligible for appointment to the Commonwealth service unless the board is satisfied, after he has undergone a medical examination approved by the board, as to his health and physical fitness. Here is the inconsistency: The Department of Social Services is spending a considerable amount of money on rehabilitation centres in an attempt to bring people who are physically handicapped in some way or other to a standard of efficiency which will enable them to be absorbed in industry. They will then cease to be a burden on themselves and on the community. We know that people who are physically handicapped have a considerable burden to bear through life because of their unfortunate disability. The Department of Social Services is doing excellent work. I have had the privilege and the pleasure of inspecting the Mount Wilga rehabilitation centre, and I have seen the fine work that is being done there. I am sure that good work is being done also at the other rehabilitation centres throughout the Commonwealth.
We expect outside industry to employ handicapped people. Surely the Public Service, which, as the Prime Minister has stated, employs some 66,000 persons, can find some place for them. They should be given the opportunity to show their ability. If they are not given that opportunity, full advantage is not being taken of the work that is done by the rehabilitation centres. We are not sincere if we expect private industry to employ the physically handicapped after we train them if we also do not find some employment for them. Because they are physically handicapped it does not mean that they are mentally retarded. They are mentally capable of doing the work that is normally required of a person who is considered to be physically fit.
I have in mind three physically handicapped people in the Newcastle district. One is incapacitated due to an accident at birth. In the past he could have been expected to be an invalid all his life, but today he is a useful citizen doing a useful job as a bookbinder, and he can do his job as well as any one. If he had been medically unfit he would not have been able to take the book-binding job and he would not have been eligible for permanent employment with the firm which employs him. The other two men whom I have in mind are polio victims, but they both hold high positions. One is secretary-accountant in a big undertaking and also holds very high office in civic life in the Newcastle district. But under the Public Service Act he would not be eligible for permanent appointment to the Commonwealth Public Service. The other man whom I have known since we were boys is head man in a big railway and coal firm in the Newcastle district. He also could be only a temporary employee in the Commonwealth Public Service. Although these men hold responsible administrative positions in industry they could never become permanent employees of the Public Service.
In one government department in Sydney - I shall not mention it specifically, but honorable members who have been there will know the department concerned when I give some details - there is a blind woman who is secretary to one of the senior officers on the staff. He has told me that although his secretary is blind she is capable and competent. She is able to write shorthand and does her own typing. But although she is as capable as any other female employee in the Public Service she can never become a permanent officer. Forever she must remain on the temporary staff.
Honorable members will understand now why I said that the Prime Minister did not take some important aspects into consideration when he introduced this bill. I understand that the Boyer committee has recommended that physically handicapped people be treated more sympathetically than has been the case hitherto. I am sorry that the Government has not taken note of the committee’s recommendation. After all, these people fulfil other requirements. They have reached the necessary educational standard and they are British subjects. Their disability is not of their own making. It is something over which they had no control, but they are being punished by the Public Service Board to the extent of being prevented from becoming permanent members of the Public Service simply because the Government is not prepared to move with the times. At one time people who were mentally unbalanced or who had some physical disability were looked upon as the result of the sins of the parents being visited on the children. That is no longer the case. That attitude belongs to the old days of black magic, which are long past. I suggest that these unfortunate people should be treated as the equals of other persons in the community and should be given the opportunity to which I have referred.
I wish to refer briefly also to the matter of equal pay for the sexes. Once again we see the Government getting out from under, blaming everybody else. It says that this is a matter for the arbitration courts, but never once has the Government sent a representative to the arbitration courts to say that it supports the principle of equal pay for equal work, and that it is prepared to give its women employees the same pay as male employees for similar work. We have heard the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. McMahon) speak on this subject, and I have wondered whether he. as a bachelor, has the bias of a woman-hater, and for that reason opposes equal pay for equal work. He said earlier this evening that this matter is one for the arbitration courts, and that it is not the responsibility of the Government.
We heard the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Anderson) say a few moments ago that this country has never yet recovered from the effects of the introduction of the 40-hour week. It amuses me to hear honorable members opposite claim that the country has never recovered from the 40-hour week, and mat we cannot afford three weeks annual leave or equal pay for the sexes, because it is not so very long ago that the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) went before the people with his oft-repeated slogan. “ Australia Unlimited “. He claimed that Australia was a land of milk and honey. He said that we had never seen such prosperity, that we had never been better off in our lives. Now we are told that the country has never yet recovered from the effects of the 40-hour week, and that we cannot possibly grant three weeks annual leave or equal pay for the sexes for equal work.
– The honorable member for Hume belongs to a different party from that which the Prime Minister leads.
– That is right. They are in different parties. The trouble to-day is not that the country has never recovered from the introduction of the 40-hour week; it has never recovered from the roguery of companies that charge inflated prices in order to make excess profits, and which this Government has permitted. The country has never recovered from such economic manipulations as the sell-out of the Bell Bay aluminium enterprise to world cartels. These are the reasons why the Government cannot and will not support the principle of equal pay for equal work. The Government may talk about the country not having recovered from the effects of the 40-hour week, but what is really wrong is that the country has not recovered from the maladministration of this Government, which has permitted companies to charge excess prices so as to make excess profits. Examine facts and figures and you will learn the answers yourselves. You will not need me to tell you what the position is.
Order! I think the honorable member is getting away from the bill.
– I am dealing with the bill, inasmuch as I am condemning the Government for its failure to grant equal pay for the sexes for equal work. The honorable member for Hume said that we had not yet recovered from the effects of the 40- hour week, and all I am saying is that if the Government did what I suggest it should do, and provided equal pay for equal work, it would be doing something practical, and something which is within .the reach of this country. I believe that if the Government did what should be done, the workers would not be working a 40-hour week; they would be working a 35-hour week, and female workers would receive the same pay as male workers for the same work.
The honorable member for Hume asked, “ Why do not the workers go to arbitration? Why do they not go to some price-fixing tribunal?” I have spoken many times in this House about the tire racketeers. Why do they not go to a price-fixing tribunal? lt appears that private enterprise is at liberty to fix the prices that it wants to charge and to determine the profits it shall make.
– Order! The honorable member will come back to the bill. It is the Public Service Bill.
– That is what I am trying to talk about. The workers are subject to this Government’s arbitration legislation, and I say that they have lost their faith in arbitration. The State Labour governments have led the way throughout the Commonwealth in granting industrial concessions to workers. This Government should give a lead to other State governments and to employers throughout the country by granting equal pay to its women employees for equal work.
We heard the honorable member for Hume talking about seniority. He says that he agrees with the remarks of the Boyer committee and is disappointed that the seniority provisions have not been deleted. I am very pleased to see that the Prime Minister has agreed not to interfere with the existing arrangements. The Labour Party believes in seniority when all things are equal. We know that in various parts of the Public Service, unfortunately, favoritism is extended to certain employees. A man came to me not so long ago with a complaint. He said that he was one of three men working on similar jobs. He was the senior of the three, but one of the other two was always given temporary appointment to higher positions when relief war. needed for employees occupying those posi tions who went on leave or were ill. I believe that in such circumstances it is the prerogative of the departmental head to appoint any person he thinks is suitable to fill such positions temporarily. When one of those positions becomes vacant and a permanent appointment is made to it, the person who has acted in the position for the longest time is given preference. The departmental head merely says, “A has worked for only sixteen days in the position, B for 40 days, and C for 100 days. C has always given satisfaction when he has so acted, and I therefore recommend his permanent appointment.”
The particular man to whom I am referring found himself in an awkward position, because he had been pushed around by the departmental head to such an extent that it now appears that an officer much junior to him will be given a permanent appointment in one of the higher positions. I believe that if a competitive examination is held and two applicants are found to be of equal ability, then the seniority principle should apply. Whether the honorable member for Hume likes it or not, there must be some organized system. We cannot simply accept the law of the jungle. The honorable member for Hume recently expressed support for the measure which is designed to increase sales tax on motor vehicles from 30 per cent, to 40 per cent.
– The honorable member is geting away from the bill. Sales tax legislation will be considered at a later stage.
– I am trying to point out to the House the inconsistency of honorable members opposite. I was referring particularly to the honorable member for Hume and the inconsistency that he has repeatedly demonstrated in this House, and even as late as to-day. I have made my point about the inconsistency of Government supporters, and I now wish to refer to the preference given to ex-servicemen under the Re-establishment and Employment Act. I am simply asking the Prime Minister to give some consideration, at a later stage, to the suggestion I am now making.
At present ex-servicemen are given preference for appointment to the Public
Service only if they have seen service in a combat zone. They must, of course, have been ex-servicemen within the meaning of the act as it stands. I suggest that consideration should be given also to those men who enlisted in the permanent Army, Navy or Air Force and completed their time, or, alternatively, were pensioned out. I had before me recently the case of a man who was in the permanent Navy as a steward before the war, and contracted dermatitis. He was paid £279 as compensation and was discharged from the Navy as being medically unfit. He immediately went into the merchant navy - this was just before the war - and he saw service on the Australian coast. He worked for the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited, and a number of ships of that company were lost. As I say, this man enlisted in the Navy of his own accord and was discharged medically unfit because of a complaint he contracted during his Navy service, and for which he was paid compensation. When he applied for a position in the Public Service he was not eligible because he was not an ex-serviceman within the meaning of the act. Cases like that should have more consideration. They may be rare, but when they come to notice they should be examined and the act should be amended to give them protection and assistance.
I do not propose to take up any more time on this bill. The bill is fair and reasonable, but I urge that attention be given to the provision for physically-handicapped persons, equal pay, promotion according to seniority and consideration for exservicemen who may not have qualified completely but have strong claims because of their service.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 and 2 agreed to.
The following bills were returned from the Senate without amendment: -
Explosives Bill 1960.
Seamen’s Compensation Bill 1960.
SALES TAX BILLS (Nos. 1 to 9) 1960.
In Committee of Ways and Means: Consideration resumed (vide page 3417).
.- Before the sitting was suspended this afternoon, the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) said that a New Zealand Labour Government, in the face of the economic situation at the time, had increased the sales tax on motor cars by 100 per cent. Might I remind the Treasurer that since this Government was elected to office it has increased the sales tax on motor cars by more than 400 per cent.
– We have been in office a long time.
– When this Government was first elected, the sales tax was81/3 per cent. It was increased on 30th October, 1950, to 10 per cent.; on 27th September, 1951, to 20 per cent.; on 10th September, 1953, it was reduced to 162/3 per cent., and on 15th March, 1956, increased again to 30 per cent. On the last occasion the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), speaking on behalf of the Treasurer of the day, Sir Arthur Fadden, who was then overseas, said -
But we are convinced that the proper counterinflationary action requires that some temporary restraint should be laid upon . . .
Some temporary restraint! That was in 1956, but the 30 per cent. sales tax on motor cars remained and now it is to be lifted to 40 per cent. The Government is very vague about this proposal. We do not know whether it is intended to raise revenue or to overcome the imbalance of payments between imports and exports. Usually when a proposal like this is brought down, the Treasurer or some other Minister gives details of the proposed revenue, but on this occasion we have had no information.
It has been said that this is a stopandstart government. This time it is in a quandary. We know that payments for petroleum products are eating into our export earnings. The “ Treasury Information Bulletin “, dated October, 1960, dealing with quarterly figures of the quantity of petrol, other than aviation spirits and solvents, on which customs and excise was paid, showed that the percentage increases on the corresponding quarters of the preceding year were -
There has been a continual increase. Does the Government hope that the increase in the sales tax on motor cars to 40 per cent. will lead to a lower consumption of petrol? I do not believe that this impost will solve that problem. If the Government wants to make a realistic approach to the problem it should impose sales tax on a sliding scale. A motor car with a low petrol consumption of 40 to 50 miles to the gallon should attract a much lower sales tax than a super luxury car which does only 15 miles to the gallon. If the Government wants to increase the sales tax to 40 per cent. it should apply that rate to motor cars and reduce the sales tax on those with a lower consumption of petrol. That would encourage the workers who want some enjoyment from a motor car to buy a vehicle with low petrol consumption. That would help to stop the drain on our export earnings. There is a big question mark after this Government’s proposals and there is no guarantee that this new impost will do what the Government wants it to do.
I remind honorable members that the volume of sales tax revenue has increased tremendously under this Government’s administration. In the last year of the Chifley Government, sales tax yielded £39,000,000. This Government estimates that sales tax revenue this year will total £180,000,000, and that estimate was made before the latest slug was contemplated. An increase in the sales tax on motor cars of 10 per cent. will not get the Government out of its difficulties. My suggestion is more realistic than this stab in the dark.
The Government does not know where it is going. The truth is that this proposal is only designed to raise more revenue. It is simply another indirect tax. In the last year of the Chifley Administration, indirect taxes amounted to 9.5 per cent. of the gross national product, but have grown to 1 1 . 3 per cent. under this Government. It is. evident that the Government is turning more and more to the field of indirect taxation. It will not solve the- balance of trade problem by increasing the sales tax on motor cars.
To-night, when the Treasurer criticized members of the Opposition, he was rather sensitive that his ideas and thoughts were not clear. Anybody would have difficulty in following the thoughts of this Government which are very foggy and befuddled. The approach of the Government has altered. When it first came to power it was going to put value back into the £1. But what happened? In 1952. under the horror Budget, indirect taxes were heaped on and they have remained ever since. Again, in 1956, indirect taxes were increased. This year, the new lurk was to remove import restrictions so that imported goods could be competitive with internally manufactured goods. We know that the great industries in this country are controlled by monopoly capital.
– Order! I would remind the honorable member that the resolution before the committee deals with the increase in sales tax from 30 per cent. to 40 per cent. and has nothing to do with imports..
– I understood that the Treasurer’s original request was that we should be able to discuss this matter broadly. It is an economic issue. It is not merely a matter of the sales tax.
– The matter before the committee at the moment is the resolution in relation to the increasing of sales tax from 30 per cent. to 40 per cent. on motor vehicles.
– With all due respect to you, Mr. Temporary Chairman, the big question for everybody is whether the proposed increase in sales tax is intended as a revenue raiser, or as a means of improving our balance of payments position and curbing the inflationary tendency. The position is confused. The Treasurer’s original request was that we should be able to discuss economic problems broadly. The Opposition considers that this proposal is a tax slug. We have exposed the position. The Government’s objective is to raise revenue by means of an indirect tax which can be passed on to the consumers. I believe that, instead of this being an antiinflationary measure, it will contribute to the inflationary trend.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
Question put -
That the motion (vide page 2880) be agreed to.
The committee divided. (The Temporary Chairman - Mr. P. E. Lucock.)
Majority . . 25
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Standing Orders suspended; resolution adopted.
That Mr. Harold Holt and Dr. Donald Cameron do prepare and bring in bills to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Motion (by Mr. Harold Holt) agreed to -
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the questions in regard to the first and second readings, committee’s report stage, and third readings being put in one motion covering several or all of the Sales Tax Bills Nos. 1 to 9, and the consideration of several or all of such bills together in a committee of the whole.
Bills (Nos. 1 to 9) presented by Mr. Harold Holt, and passed through all stages without amendment or debate.
Debate resumed from 24th November (vide page 3309), on motion by Mr. Downer -
That the bill be now read a second time.
Mr. L. R. JOHNSON Hughes [11.2]. This bill is designed to amend an act which is generally good, and the Opposition offers no particular objection to it. We are pleased to see a measureintroduced which will encourage the rate of naturalization in Australia.
The bill is a very simple one, and my colleague the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard) dealt with it in an extremely effective way a few days ago. I do not want to take up the time of the House unnecessarily, and I am sure that honorable members opposite, who are anxious to close the proceedings of the Parliament as quickly as possible, will agree with that sentiment. I am sure that most honorable members are concerned about the fact that so many people now in Australia have failed to avail themselves of the opportunity to seek Australian citizenship. One of the aims of the measure is to break down some of the barriers to naturalization which exist at the moment.
The measure will make it easier for people to participate in naturalization proceedings. It will abolish the need for an applicant for naturalization to produce three certificates of character. Honorable members will appreciate the dilemma in which new Australians find themselves when they are required to produce three certificates of character after having been in this country perhaps only a short time.
– Order! There is too much audible conversation.
– I agree with you. Mr. Deputy Speaker. Honorable members just do not know what they are missing. I think that most honorable members have had the experience of a new Australian coming to them as a last resort and asking them to provide a reference of character for the purposes of naturalization. Most people like to maintain the value of a reference. They like to put their names to references for people with whom they have some very close association. Often, of course, new Australians do not have close associations with old Australians, because the barriers mitigating against such close associations have not been broken down. Such things as the language difficulty have prevented them from making the friendly associations that are characteristic of the Australian way of life.
If a system is abortive by its very nature we might as well abolish it. The fact of the matter is that, because of language and other barriers and, for that matter, because of housing problems, many new Australians have not become naturalized. I think that many honorable members will have observed the sort of thing that I have observed. New Australians have arrived here without great economic resources and have found it necessary to live in temporary dwellings. They live humbly and quietly in the community and make no close associations with people in the neighbourhood. As a result, they are reluctant to seek naturalization because of the requirement to have three certificates of character.
The legislation will also eliminate the need for an intending citizen to make a statutory declaration. We can appreciate that this provision will be of great assistance to our new Australian friends, who quite often have a wrong idea about the judicial level of justices of the peace and other people who are required to sign such declarations. Proposed new section 36 will limit the personal details that will have to be submitted by new Australians seeking naturalization. These will be limited to such things as names, addresses, occupations and places of birth.
The honorable member for Bass was very concerned over the fact that so many people eligible for naturalization have not availed themselves of this very enticing proposition. So he should be. I think every honorable member would view with some concern the fact that there is a considerable section of our community whose members could become Australian citizens but have not availed themselves of the opportunity so generously extended to them. Of course, we hope that Australia will not be involved in a war, but we must recognize just the same that, if war eventually comes, a high incidence of un-naturalized people in our population would be a matter about which the Australian Parliament would be genuinely concerned. So we have to look at this matter very closely indeed.
The honorable member for Bass was extremely reluctant to identify any of the issues which might be deterrents to the seeking of naturalization by new Australians. I think he might have been oversensitive about this sort of thing. Of course, new Australians are sensitive about seeking Australian citizenship at present. We might be disappointed about this, but I feel that the attitude taken by the Labour Party in this place over the difficult years when naturalization policy was being formulated was very realistic. There are many new Australians who come here without much in the way of economic resources and find it difficult to find a house. I think that lack of housing has been an effective deterrent to new Australians seeking naturalization. Lack of employment in past years particularly, has also been a deterrent. I also think that such issues as those with which the Parliament has been concerned in recent months might give new Australian people some cause for speculation, and might indeed be a deterrent to their seeking naturalization. New Australians in my electorate have expressed concern about a number of things - for example, telephone tapping, some of the provisions in the Crimes Act, and discriminatory legislation which does provide to some extent for a type of second-class citizenship.
Only this afternoon, at question .time, 1 availed myself of the opportunity to direct the. attention of the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Downer), who is now at the table, to the continued existence of this sort -of deterrent. It has been perpetuated in one of the most recent measures Which has come before this house - the Crimes Bill 1960 - and in the Crimes Act itself. As honorable members are well aware, the act and the bill are two separate considerations. I think that we should consider these things with which I am dealing very seriously. Not very long ago - in 1958 - the Minister was tremendously enthusiastic about overcoming a difficulty to which the slate Terce Clarey and other honorable members had directed attention - the existence of secondclass citizenship in this country. -It prevailed at that time, and it prevails even to-day.
In 1958, a number of new Australians were concerned about this second-class citizenship, and they demonstrated their concern, especially in the Bendigo constituency, and also in other electorates, when they came to recognize that under the Nationality and Citizenship Act new Australians were discriminated against even if they were naturalized. I cannot recall whether the present Minister for Immigration held the portfolio at that time. I see now that he nods his head to indicate that he did. I and all other honorable members were pleased to see removed from the statute-book the obnoxious provision which discriminated against new Australians. In my electorate in particular, Dutch nationals who had come to this country became greatly concerned when they realized that, under the terms of the Nationality and Citizenship Act, they could be deported from this country if they committed a particular offence for which the prescribed penalty was five years’ imprisonment, whereas Australian-born citizens were liable only to the term of imprisonment. The situation has now been retrieved, of course, and we on this side of the House are very pleased with that development.
We have to recognize that in naturalization matters we are dealing with an issue about which there is a general and uniformly enthusiastic accord on both sides of the Parliament. The immigration programme was initiated by one major political party in Australia and it has been carried on fairly faithfully by another. I always take the opportunity to make that point at naturalization ceremonies. I think that, generally, it is a good thing to put naturalization and immigration matters above the level of party politics, and I endeavour to do that this evening, because I know full well the great humanitarian ideals that motivated the Labour Government in 1945 when, it initiated the immigration programme and turned its attention to these matters. I know that that Government was not inspired by selfish considerations. We all recognize <hat new Australians bring this country a -great deal of benefit and enhance its prospects for development. We recognize, also, that a great idealistic conception was behind this scheme for the movement of large numbers of people from countries which were wartorn or devastated, or which had npt the natural advantages and resources which we in Australia fortunately .enjoy. It is a good thing that those Ministers who have followed in the Immigration portfolio in the wake of the present Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) have followed this great conception as enthusiastically as did the initiator of the immigration scheme.
I turn now to several particular matters, Mr. Deputy Speaker. My colleague, the honorable member for Bass dealt with deterrents. That is a matter that we must consider very seriously. I understand that something like 47 per cent, of the new Australians who have come to this country have not applied for naturalization. This is a matter of great concern.
– That is 47 per cent, of those who are eligible.
– That is so. I think that something like 416.000 is the number given in the very good report made available by the Department of Immigration.
– Perhaps they contemplate returning to a country with a better government.
– Frankly, my view is that even a bad Liberal government in Australia is probably better than are governments in most other countries.
– Most of those who return to their own countries want to come back here.
– I think that is the case.
On 1st September, I directed to the Minister several questions about naturalization. ‘They were answered on 20th September. I asked–
How many applications for naturalization have been unsuccessful during each of the last ten years?
The answer to this question has been referred to at some length by the honorable member for Bass, who led for the Opposition in the debate on this measure. The figures are astounding. They establish that there is a growing incidence of rejections of applications for naturalization. Between 1st July and 31st December, 1950, 45 were rejected: in 1951, 103; in 1952, 76: in 1953, 152. The figure moves up steadily and eventually attains a very high level. In 1954, 238 applications were rejected; in 1955, 645; in 1956, 757; in 1957, 1.290; in 1958, 1,312; and in 1959, 2.531. Between 1st January and 30th June, of this year, 972 applications were rejected. A total of 8,121 applications for naturalization have been rejected over the last ten years. That is a pretty serious state of affairs.
– Why have these applications been rejected?
– The honorable member is justified in asking that question. Many people throughout Australia, also, are anxious to ascertain the reason, because they cannot help but feel that this record of rejected applications for naturalization fits into a pattern which is characterized by telephone tapping, measures like the Crimes Bill 1960 and other repressive legislation, and various pernicious practices. We want to know why these people have been refused naturalization.
Let us have a look at the nationalities of those whose applications for naturalization have been rejected. Applications from 4,076 Italians have been rejected. I notice that 209,000 Italians have received the benefit of assisted passages. We might be justified in wondering how many of the 4,076 whose applications were rejected came out on assisted passages at the expense of the Australian taxpayers. A total of 913 Polish applicants have been refused naturalization, and 76,000 Polish people have come to Australia on assisted passages. Have we granted assisted passages to Polish people who have come to Australia only to reject on some ground which is unknown to Australians generally their applications for naturalization?
– You can blame the faceless informers for the rejection of the applications of those people.
– That could be so, and I shall make a few comments about that proposition shortly.
Applications from 714 Greeks have been rejected. I notice that 70,000 Greeks have received assisted pasages. So the situation is rather serious. I remember that, not very long ago, I suggested to the Minister, at question time in this House, that migrants whose applications for naturalization have been rejected suffer unduly and unjustifiably as a consequence of the rejection. That is a fair proposition. Migrants may have relinquished their jobs and their homes in order to come to this country. Indeed, they may virtually have been enticed to come here. I know that the Minister for Immigration recognizes that throughout the world immigration is competitive to-day. We want to get people who will fit into the Australian developmental programme and who can work for its success. We want young and healthy people. Other countries which are seeking migrants look for the same categories of people. We worked very hard to get a good type of immigrant. Recently the Minister went overseas-
– With very fruitful results.
– I think the Minister’s visit probably did have fruitful results. I think he means that our overseas immigration posts were made smarter so that they could do a good job in enticing people to come here. The Minister recognized that Australia is competing with other countries for immigrants and he wanted to make sure that our overseas immigration posts were capable of attracting a good share of the available immigrants. Having resided here for five years, the immigrant applies for naturalization, but for some unknown reason many applications are rejected. The honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Murray) is interjecting. I do not know whether he maintains a close association with his constituents, but those of us who do know that many applicants for naturalization are not told why their applications are refused. Who rejects their applications? I think any of us would agree that police authorities in Australia or elsewhere in the world cannot be completely trusted. All of us know that police prosecutions have often been upset by unbiased people sitting in judicial positions in our Australian courts. I have a great deal of respect for the police, but I would not like to put my faith in them if the reputation of my family, my social prestige and my job were at stake. Not very long ago I suggested to the Minister that he set up an independent tribunal of, say, retired judges, to inquire into rejections for naturalization. Applications for naturalization are made the subject of security reports. Unfortunately the Minister has not so far agreed to my suggestion. I know that he has made good headway and I think that he would be helping further to break down the barriers if he considered my suggestion.
The honorable member for Herbert looks sceptical. A workers’ club in my electorate recently rejected summarily an application by a man for membership. That man was a builder, and following the rejection of his application for club membership his reputation collapsed overnight. I venture to say that the same thing will happen to new Australians who apply for naturalization and who are rejected. They have survived the department’s screening overseas. I do not think that the department is lax in its screening methods. I venture to say that it has very efficient people inquiring into the bona fides of applicants for immigration to Australia.
– I seriously doubt it.
– I know that many people who have applied to come to this country as immigrants have been refused for security reasons. I submit that f a person survives the department’s strict screening overseas and the extensive medical examination, his application should not be rejected out of hand merely on the basis of a security report. Very often intending immigrants have given up their homes, their jobs and in some cases their pensions in order that they may come to this country. When they get here, they do not expect to be dealt with in a cursory manner.
The Minister has told me that a total of 194 applications has been refused or deferred on security grounds. On the face of it that would not seem serious. But probably 194 families are involved, and we should make sure that each of those families has been dealt with justly. It is interesting to note the other reasons for which applications for naturalization have been rejected. We find that 3,947 applications have been rejected because of the applicants’ inadequate knowledge of English or of the responsibilities and privileges of citizenship. Who is to judge whether an applicant has an adequate knowledge of English? I have attended many naturalization ceremonies; I love going to them. On occasions I have seen immigrants stand before the local shire president, who has repeated the various oaths, and at times I have had difficulty in understanding what the migrants were saying. I think all honorable members will agree that many migrants who apply for naturalization do not speak English well. Some applicants are rejected because they have an inadequate knowledge of the responsibilities and privileges of citizenship. What is the yardstick that is applied in these matters?
I was interested in the speech delivered by the Minister on 1st May, 1958, when he was speaking on the Migration Bill. He was referring to the dictation test, which was applied occasionally. Many people in the community felt that the dictation test was applied unfairly, unreasonably and irrationally. The test has now been modified if not completely eliminated. I suppose the dictation test may be compared with the test of an applicant’s knowledge of English. In his speech to which I have referred the Minister said -
This ingenious, but contentious, device had been first applied in the colony of Natal earlier in the same year-
That is, 1897 - and, if my researches are correct, originated in the mind of that inspired liberal imperialist, Joseph Chamberlain, who was then the Colonial Secretary in Lord Salisbury’s British Government. As the House will recall, the first Commonwealth Parliament seized upon this precedent, and the dictation test was enshrined in 1901 in section 3 of the Immigration Act, where it still remains.
In recent years, the need for a thorough overhaul of our immigration legislation has become increasingly apparent. The dictation test, bowever subtle and convenient it may have seemed 60 years ago, must surely appear to-day as an archaic, heavy-handed piece of machinery, in the category of those singularly ugly museum pieces of the Victorian age, and quite out of keeping with the ideas of the second half of the twentieth century. It has been used to prevent the entry to Australia of both Europeans and Asians, and also as a means of deporting people within five years of their arrival, even though they were legally admitted to settle permanently. Its clumsy, creaking operation has evoked much resentment outside Australia, and has tarnished our good name in the eyes of the world. The Government, therefore, proposes to abolish it, and to substitute in its stead the neat, simple expedient of an entry permit.
That was a very dramatic and realistic speech about the dictation test. The Minister has shown by the administration of his portfolio that he is a fair man. I put it to him that it is about time that he overhauled some of these obnoxious provisions which enable applicants for naturalization to be bowled out because of their inadequate knowledge of English. We should recognize the fact that many migrants who come before the municipalities and shires for naturalization cannot effectively express themselves in English.
I think that some of the 3,947 people who were bowled out because of their inadequate knowledge of English or because of their inadequate understanding of the responsibilities of citizenship - whatever that means - may have also been the subject of security reports. Surely that is a fair comment. I would like the Minister to explain the dividing line in a test of the responsibilities of citizenship. There were 184 applicants rejected on the ground of mental incapacity. We do not quibble about that. It merely means that there were 184 people who would vote for the Government, but we will not need to worry about that in the future. Then 529 were rejected because of their failure to comply with character requirements. I do not know what that means, and I suggest that the Minister give some consideration to this provision.
I repeat that at present 416,000 eligible migrants have not applied for naturalization. The Minister should look at the large number of applicants who have been rejected. He might well establish that some of them have been unfairly rejected, and this circumstance would become an effective deterrent to others who may be considering naturalization. We can well imagine how this would manifest itself in the minds of people in other parts of the world. We remember how people at the Olympic Games sang -
Come to Australia, back to Australia; Breaks in the hill and the sun shining through; With the slip-rails down and the billy boiling merrily,
Wide open arms are awaiting you.
But are our arms open waiting for them? What happens to migrants who are enticed to this country?
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– Because Christmas is drawing nigh, I will not delay the House for too long. I was not amazed to hear that the honorable member for Hughes (Mr. L. R. Johnson) had been to a number of naturalization ceremonies. I can understand the reason for that, but I was amazed to hear him say that he thought that people with an insufficient knowledge of English had been granted naturalization. The honorable member for Hughes was sworn in as a member of this Parliament in 1955 and I venture to say that he could not repeat to me, without refreshing his memory, the oath that he took on that occasion. It is the same as the oath taken by a person who is being naturalized.
This matter should be kept in perspective. A person who is to be granted naturalization has been tested by an officer of the department who has to be satisfied that the applicant has a certain qualification in English. This does not mean that the applicant must be able to pass a test in
English at first year university standard. All the applicant needs is to be able to understand spoken English to a certain extent. We must realize that at a naturalization ceremony, when a person is renouncing his former citizenship, he must be rather nervy. He would not be acting normally. Any mistakes made then could be attributed to the solemnity and seriousness of the occasion.
I am one of those who believe that we should not insist too rigidly on this qualification of a knowledge of English before we grant citizenship to these people. I speak particularly for one section. The honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley) and I mentioned this matter some eighteen months ago in connexion with foreign language broadcasts. I refer to those people who are confined to their homes, who do not mix with the ordinary population and who do not have the opportunity to learn English by force, if I may use that expression. The man who goes out to work every day mixes with his workmates, and it is only a matter of time, aided by the force of necessity, before he learns English. But his wife in the home does not have that opportunity and often need not use English even when shopping in the capital cities. Previously a wife may have had to go to a store and use some sort of English to make her purchases, but to-day she can go to a store where her own langauge is spoken. To-day, the major stores display notices listing the languages that are spoken. Sometimes as many as six languages including German, Dutch, Italian and Greek are spoken. There is not the :arne driving force now for people to obtain the language capability that would enable them to qualify for naturalization.
By laying down a rigid rule, I think that we are penalizing a certain section of the community. If a husband migrates to Australia, makes a success of his new life and then brings out his wife and family, we do not need to worry about the children because they will learn English as quickly as any Australian child will. Children of migrants who have been here only five or six years sometimes fill the top places in the subject of English at our schools. But the mother, confined largely to the home, is not so fortunate and we may reach the stage where we will refuse her naturalization because, her knowledge, of English is inadequate. I think the law should be flexible so that the Minister may approve of applications by these people for naturalization. I believe that they are the best type of citizens that we can get. They have proved it by the families that they have raised, and if we can do anything to assist them, we should certainly do it.
– The issue now before the Parliament is most important. In my electorate, we have some 30,000 new Australians. One in every five in the entire population of the south coast of New South Wales is a migrant. There are 32 languages spoken amongst the 2,500 employees of the steel works. This issue, therefore, is important in this area and it is, of course, important to the country as a whole. The Opposition does not disagree with the terms of the bill, but I suggest that the bill does not touch the problem. I give the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Downer) full marks, but I do not think that he has faced up to the problem. He should seek to ascertain the real reasons why some 47.8 per cent, of eligible migrants have failed to apply for naturalization.
This bill merely proposes to simplify the procedure for naturalization. As far as it goes, it is good. But in my humble opinion, and I am sure in the opinion of any one who has dealt with large numbers of migrants, the procedure is not the reason why 215,000 eligible migrants at the end of June, 1960. had failed to apply for naturalization. Of that number, it is estimated that some 20 per cent, or 43.000 would be children under 16 years of age who could not apply in their own right. But that still leaves an enormous number. There must be some cogent reason why these people are not coming forward to be naturalized. I am not a bit dismayed by the number of applicants who have been rejected, and I will touch on that point a little later. But I am concerned at the fact that these people who have been invited to come to this country have failed to pursue their obligation to become citizens after they have settled in and decided that they will accept a share of the benefits of this great nation. They can best discharge their obligation by accepting the responsibility of citizenship and participating in government at all levels. They have the .responsibility, too, of merging into our social life - the responsibility of becoming, in fact, Australians. That is a responsibility of which no evasion can be permitted, and it is from that point of view that I look at .this piece of legislation.
I congratulate the Minister for Immigration on his personal good intent and on his administration of the important Department of Immigration. Since taking over his responsibilities he has acquitted himself well. Every one will concede that he is making a positive contribution to immigration and that in many instances his decisions are full of merit. I was a little amazed to find that, although he has shown much realism in deciding many of the cases I have submitted to him. he has failed to display the same realism in relation to the very important issue involved in this legislation.
The failure of migrants to apply for naturalization is a matter that we must look at with the utmost concern. We want all migrants to become first-class citizens. We do not want any of them to remain secondclass citizens. We want them to make an effort to become first-class citizens. We expect that of them after they have been in Australia for a reasonable period of time. The honorable member for Perth (Mr. Chaney) mentioned the housewife and said that she does not have the opportunity to mix with people to the same extent as her husband. I recognize, and so does my party, that that is true. However, I do not believe that the men folk, who are employed in industry and are working alongside Australian and other workmen, should be given any latitude in this matter. The Government should develop a plan whereby these people can be induced to study English and reach a standard of proficiency in it sufficient to allow them to make themselves understood. This week an Italian and a Swede appeared in the Wollongong court on two separate charges, and it was impossible for the court to proceed without obtaining the services of an interpreter. When migrants come to my office in Wollongong, frequently I have to send for an interpreter. That applies to people who are naturalized and to others who have been here for a long time. I am not referring to housewives. I am referring to male migrants, who are mixing with Australians in industry, often in places where dangerous work is being done.
Migrants who have not acquired a knowledge of English to the extent that they are able to understand simple orders and act upon them have suffered severe injury in Port Kembla. I could enumerate a dozen cases that come to my mind of men who were killed or seriously injured because of a lack of knowledge of English. Probably they imperilled the lives of other men. As a matter of fact, in the steel industry and allied industries where the work is sometimes dangerous, job foremen will not have migrants in their gangs who cannot understand orders given in English. It is logical and fair that that should be so.
The Minister, therefore, has a responsibility to consider this matter very carefully. I suggest that it is fundamental that these people should have a proper grasp of the English language. I suggest that, in the first instance, a campaign should be initiated to induce those migrants who are sitting back and not applying for naturalization to go back to school, as it were. A man who works in heavy industry all day should not be expected to spend a few hours at night in study, even if it is only on two or three nights in a week. I put the onus on the Government to induce managements to permit men to leave their work at certain specified periods during their normal working hours in order to attend classes and make themselves more proficient in the English language. In my opinion, business management has that obligation to its employees. It is ridiculous to suggest that a man who earns his living by the sweat of his brow and works hard all day should be asked to set about learning the English language at night. Occasionally studious types do that, but the great majority of people do not come under that heading. I am referring to the ordinary, average people, many of whom had only a rudimentary education in their own lands. Many of them were on the verge of illiteracy when they left their own countries to come to Australia. It is a hardship for those people to go back to books and study.
However, unless they understand our language we cannot expect them to overcome the great problem of assimilation during their lifetimes. When all is said and done, assimilation involves participation in all aspects of our way of life - our literature, our sport and our pastimes. It is only by being able to read the written word and speak the language that migrants can acquire a knowledge of this country, make an assessment of its history and develop an enthusiasm for its great accomplishments. This is not a second-rate country. I have been disgusted often to hear the vapourings at naturalization ceremonies by people who suggest that we owe everything to the people who come from overseas. We do not. They owe us a lot, and it is incumbent upon them to co-operate with us. It is incumbent upon the Government also to induce them to co-operate and to equip themselves to be first-class citizens.
I now wish to deal with the numbers of the people of various nationalities who have failed to apply for naturalization. I shall give a few figures which indicate the lack of action by some people who are eligible for naturalization. Of the Austrian migrants, only about one-eighth have applied for naturalization- 2,800 of the 19,000 who have arrived here. In the case of Czechoslovakians, 8,900 have applied for naturalization out of 11,000. The rate is high in their case. Only about one-fifth of Dutch migrants have applied. I am giving rough figures because time is short.
– You must remember that one person, by becoming naturalized, may naturalize two or three others.
– I realize that fully, but, even allowing for that, the gap is still very great. The responsibility, I suggest, sits squarely upon the shoulders of the Government of the day to provide the encouragement that is necessary for people to apply for naturalization. In the case of Hungarians, approximately one-half have applied. About one-quarter of the Italians have applied. The figures supplied by the department show a similar tendency for all the nationalities involved.
Turning to migrant educational statistics, the figures for 1959-60 show that attendances have remained fairly constant. However, the intake of migrants has increased. We could expect that the attendances would increase automatically as we absorb more people, and as more people become available to attend classes, but there is a levelling out, as it were, in respect of the number of these people accepting the educational facilities offered by the Government. The basic need is for the Government to step up the campaign to induce migrants to absorb a knowledge of the English language and to reach a standard adequate to permit them to accept the responsibilities of citizenship. There is a need to break down the degree of resentment that exists in industrial areas against migrants who have been here for some years and who, during that time, have failed to improve their knowledge of English much beyond the standard they had reached when they arrived. The people of this country expect migrants to increase their knowledge of English, and they should do so as far as it is humanly possible.
Reference has been made to the number of applications for naturalization that have been rejected. According to departmental figures, 8,286 applications have been rejected. Of that number, 3,947 were rejected on the ground of inadequate knowledge of English for the responsibilities and privileges of citizenship. I ask the Minister to explain these matters when he replies, so that we may understand exactly what is meant. As worded, now, the statement does not express clearly exactly what is meant. It is obvious that the Government has rejected the applications of 3,947 migrants who cannot speak English because it is anxious that we maintain a certain standard when granting citizenship rights. After all, citizenship is not a bauble; it is a most cherished possession, for by it these people are being given equal rights with those who were born here. Upon being granted naturalization, there is an obligation upon these migants to recognize and honour the responsibilities which go with Australian citizenship.
Again, 529 applicants for naturalization were rejected for failure to comply with the character requirement. I would not attempt to suggest what that expression means. Were they rejected because they had criminal records or undesirable habits? If they were, then they should be returned to the countries from which they came. If, in the opinion of the Government, they will not make desirable citizens because of their dastardly character, the Australian taxpayer should not be required to put up with them. 1 should like the Minister to explain all these terms. 1 presume that “ mental incapacity “ means that these people are suffering from some mental deficiency.
– Those are the people who vote for the Liberals.
– They certainly would be the type who would vote for the Liberal Party. These people who are rejected because of mental incapacity might be dangerous to have in the community. Are they the types who should be incarcerated in asylums? The Minister has not explained that.
We find that 195 applications have been rejected or deferred on security grounds. Of this number, 44 were approved subsequently upon review. All these matters must be scrutinized very closely. I do not intend to deal with the security question in detail because that has been covered adequately and ably by previous speakers, but we do look with the gravest suspicion on rejections based on security grounds. We have had ample cause to do so, and our suspicion on security grounds is no less when the persons concerned are migrants. There have been instances in which applications for naturalization have been rejected because the applicants had been wrongly clubbed Communists, by reason of their having been members of a socialistic movement in Europe. That is not a sufficient reason to refuse them citizenship. If they have all the other desirable characteristics, they should be given citizenship, and from then on their fate would be in their own hands, just as it is with any Australian national. If, on the other hand, there is a really good case for rejecting them on security grounds, let those grounds be known, and let undesirables be returned to the countries from which they came. After all, we should not be required to shelter, feed or take to our bosoms people who could become a danger to our security in the event of our becoming involved in an international situation. All these cases should be thoroughly investigated by a committee, perhaps one representative of all parties in this Parliament. I, for one, am not prepared to accept the bare reason, “ security grounds “, for the rejection of 195 applications. So far as I am aware, the rejections were based solely upon departmental decisions, of which no details have been made public.
We are bestowing a great blessing upon these migrants in accepting them as citizens, and in turn they are playing a great part in the development of this country. But here we should pay tribute to the trade union movement of Australia for its cooperation in absorbing the migrants. Whether it be on the Snowy Mountains project or any other work, the Australian trade union member has accepted the migrant. He has not shunned any man simply because he was a migrant, although he would draw the line at accepting any person who would seek to endanger his workmates on any project. The trade union movement is to to be congratulated on its acceptance into the Australian work force of some 800,000 migrants of all nationalities. Probably the greatest example of that aceptance is to be seen at the works of Australian Iron and Steel Limited at Port Kembla, where 32 countries are represented in a total work force of 6,000 men. The difficulty has been experienced there. The unions have played a wonderful part in cooperating, from go to whoa, to make our immigration scheme a success.
Goodwill towards the migrant starts first amongst the men with whom he works and then spreads to other sections of the community. This expansive vision on the part of the trade union movement should be fostered by the Government. No doubt it is, and it should be continued. This great scheme, that was introduced by a Labour government, in which the present Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) was the Minister for Immigration, has been of stupendous benefit to this nation. Assimilation is a necessity which flows from it, and to my mind that is a most difficult task. I am sympathetic towards those in authority in their task of bringing about the welding of divergent stocks and cultures into a homogeny, a singleness of loyalty and purpose which is unmistakably Australian.
Another difficulty confronting us is the question of cliques of certain nationals. I am not referring now to social get-togethers which are held from time to time; I am referring to-the cliques of -nationals who are influenced -by political considerations in the sense that they have retained their overseas allegiances and for this reason are being deprived , of easy acceptance of Australian citizenship. Not so very long ago, I attended a meeting of young men of about 35 years .of age, and I was astounded to find that, although most of .them had been here long enough to qualify for naturalization they had not as yet been naturalized. When I explained to .them that if a conflict broke out between Australia and the country from which they came it was possible that they would be incarcerated in Australian detention camps because they were not naturalized, one of them shrugged and said that at least they would be safe in a detention camp-mar they may not be safe in an Australian uniform. He merely expressed the view that I felt was shared by a number of those present.
Another important aspect of .naturalization is marriage. Many migrants have married Australian men or Australian women. According to statistics, 270,000 children, one of whose parents was a migrant, have been born in Australia, and 220,000 more births have resulted from marriages in which both parties were migrants. I have seen scores of these children in my electorate, and I am convinced that in them we have gained a race of wonderful young Australians. They are magnificent pupils, usually at the top of their classes in school, and they are of splendid physique. Intermarriage of immigrants with Australians is one of the best means of assimilation, but while the language problem remains it should be a matter of urgent concern for the department.
An active programme is being pursued. The Government expects that the migrant intake will be 125,000 a year. Of that number, half will be from alien countries and their knowledge of English will probably be limited. The problem, of teaching English to them has gone past the stage where it can be done in an honorary way. The system of having school teachers devote an odd night in the week for the purpose is not satisfactory. It is a haphazard and willy-nilly approach. Instruction in English should be given to an applicant right from the time he is accepted in his own country as a migrant. Some system should be instituted in those countries, perhaps to the point of demanding of intending migrants certain progress in the study of English, particularly by men folk, before they enter this country. The Australian attitude towards the migrant is excellent and we do not want it disturbed or upset by defects which can be examined and cured.
Another factor that tends to make a migrant hesitate to seek naturalization is the housing situation. The Government is continuing to bring in migrants without doing anything positive to house them. On the south coast of New South Wales, in the steel-producing area, a distressing set of circumstances exists because of the absence of finance to enable migrants to obtain housing. The situation is tragic and this Government is not lifting a finger to alleviate it. The Government brings out migrants, puts them in hostels, and at that point washes its hands of them. There are living in hostels on the south coast migrants who have reared two, three or four children in those hostels because they could not obtain homes. That position does not apply generally but it is sufficiently common for me to raise this matter with the Minister. The Government has a direct responsibility for providing extra money for the housing of every migrant unit that comes to this country.
The unions are assisting. I believe that the Federated Ironworkers Association is negotiating with Australian Iron and Steel and other companies absorbing migrants to induce them to make money available for home construction. Migrants are sent to the steel industry on the south coast. They are certainly needed in that industry, but also needed are houses on the south coast in which to put them. The newcomers should not be thrown into the district to be maintained in hostels for many years or else to pauperize themselves or work themselves into the ground in order to obtain finance at very high rates of interest to provide the essential basic requirement, a home. On the south coast one can see literally thousands of migrants living in premises which are not much more than glorified garages. This is possible only because the council looks at its own housing regulations with a blind eye and permits these conditions to continue. Parklands are filled with migrants living in tents, caravans and other sub-standard accommodation. Others are living in conditions of turmoil in over-crowded houses shared by several families. If the local authority were to enforce immediately its housing regulations, there would be chaos. This is a matter that is basic to the speeding up of the naturalization of eligible new Australians.
Thursday, 1 December 1960
.- It is not my intention to delay the committee long at this hour. I shall not take more than a few minutes of its time. I have a good many friends amongst the migrant population of Melbourne and two reasons have been advanced to me by them for not taking advantage of Australian cittizenship. I believe that these reasons have not been dealt with by previous speakers. The first is that quite a number of migrants are still not sufficiently clear about what they have to do in order to become naturalized. Quite a number of them believe they have to consult a solicitor. They can neither afford the solicitor’s fee nor the time off from their employment to see him. I know that the Government has abolished the fee for naturalization and has made the procedure as simple as possible. Also, the department writes a letter to migrants who are eligible for citizenship, but I do not think that we are getting through to a sufficient number of them. I consider that the solution of the problem is to be found in personal contact.
The second reason given to me applies only to nationals of certain countries, one of which is Poland. It is that there are agitators .moving among migrants from Poland and some other iron curtain countries, advising them against becoming naturalized on the ground that they would be betraying their native countries. I think that, in this regard too, personal contact would go a long way towards eliminating this problem. I believe that the department could profitably employ a field team, perhaps in conjunction with the ‘Good Neighbour Movement, to call personally on migrants who have been resident here for five years but have not applied for naturalization.
Mr. BEAZLEY (Fremantle) [12.7 a.m - I ask the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Downer) a question which is underlined by the second point made by the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Fox). I think it is a serious one. What does naturalization mean if we make it revocable, as in fact we have made it revocable in the Crimes Act and in the Nationality and Citizenship Act? The significance which we attribute to naturalization may well be a protection to naturalized Australian citizens and British nationals from treason trials by a foreign power.
Let me, for example, give the case of an Italian who was naturalized in Australia before the Second World War and who fought against Italy. Had he been put on trial by Italy for treason, we would have strongly complained and we would have asserted that our naturalization was real, that he had renounced his former allegiance and that he was now our citizen. To-day the Soviet is claiming that Lithuanians, Latvians, Estonians and Ukranians are Soviet citizens. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) some years ago protested when the Soviet Embassy attempted to get such people to register. This question of what meaning we attribute to naturalization is very important, in that naturalization may well be a protection for those people who have accepted new allegiance to this country, should they ever be in conflict with the country to which they formerly owed allegiance.
Many of these points came up in the trial of William Joyce, Lord Haw Haw, who apparently had never been a British subject but who was a naturalized German. There was very strong sentiment in Britain that it was ludicrous that he was being tried for treason, but he was caught on the technicality that he had a forged passport, which put him under the protection of George VI., and that by possessing that -forged passport he owed allegiance to George VI. That was a ground that could never be advanced against bis wife. In view of the fact that naturalization was one of the angles discussed in that case, if the honorable member for Henty is right in saying .that Polish nationals are being terrorized and told that they will be regarded by Poland as traitors if they become naturalized, obviously we weaken our stand by the provision whereby we make naturalization revocable. Why should a foreign power take back a criminal who has renounced his allegiance to it? By this very act, we admit that such persons are still citizens of their former country. We send them back, and we say to their former country, “You are responsible for them “. If we do that, why should a foreign country with which we are at war refrain from trying as traitors naturalized citizens of this country who formerly owed allegiance to that country?
If they are taken prisoners of war we undercut the protection of naturalization by making it revocable. A foreign power may legitimately say, “ If you return to us people convicted of a crime, whom you have naturalized, thereby declaring them not to be British subjects or Australian citizens, but to be our subjects, why should we acknowledge the naturalization of those whom you do not return? “ Surely naturalization should be the subject of close scrutiny before it is conferred; but once it is conferred it should be irrevocable. If it is irrevocable you protect the state of people who have entered into a new allegiance as Australian citizens and British subjects. You can always get an easy cry in this country, “ So and so committed a crime; send him back “; and ignore the effect that it may have on the status of valuable citizens of this country, many times more numerous, who commit no crime. I would like an elucidation of that point by the Minister.
– in reply - Mr. Deputy Speaker, I appreciate the support that the Opposition has given to this measure and I am glad that in its general terms it has commended itself to both sides of the House. As I said in my second-reading speech, although it was not intended to be anything more than a machinery bill, I and my officers feel that if the Parliament agrees to its passage it will achieve some of the objectives which it sets out to achieve. In the debate which has taken place, a number of honorable members have spoken on quite a number of matters not connected with the bill, but - quite properly, if I may say so - on the subject of the Nationality and Citizenship Act. Without taking up too much of the time of the House, because the hour is now fifteen minutes past midnight, I would like to make a few observations on some of the points raised.
The honorable member for Cunningham (Mr. Kearney) in a vigorous speech made what I thought was a strong plea for migrants to learn more English; but I think he rather overlooked the fact that for years now we have had quite substantial English classes on migrant ships. I was instrumental, two years ago, in instituting a series of pre-embarkation classes in English in the various countries of origin, and I refer to parts of Germany, Italy and Greece. When I was in Greece eighteen months ago, I saw these classes in operation; and very effective they were, from my own observation of them. I think my honorable friend rather played down the very signal educational services which are being performed by the State Education Departments, by the radio classes that every honorable member must be aware of and must have heard and, of course, all the excellent work done in the teaching of English through correspondence classes. I, and I suppose many of us, have had experience in our dealing with migrants - I have had long experience of these problems, long before I was asked to take on the responsible office of Minister for Immigration - and all of us have been most impressed by the highly successful and diverse way in which English has been taught for years in this country and, I repeat for my friends opposite, the way it is now being taught before migrants leave their countries of origin and while they are still on the water coming here.
I would say that our European settlers have many facilities to learn English if they desire to do so. I am quite convinced that if a European living in Australia really wants to learn English he can do so with a minimum of trouble. The real limitation - this applies to all of us in dealing with a foreign language, and it would apply to me and perhaps to some other honorable gentlemen in this House - lies in the varying capacity of people, especially when they are older, to absorb and acquire proficiency in a foreign language; and as we know English is not an easy language for a foreigner to learn.
The honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard), in leading for the
Opposition in this debate, quoted a number of figures of registered aliens, particularly from Austria, Germany and Italy. I only mention this point in passing because I think, with all respect to him, that he rather overstated the argument he was trying to make, since not all of these people are eligible for naturalization as they have not resided here for the requisite five-year period and some, indeed, as a further examination of the figures will show, are comparatively recent arrivals.
I want now to turn to some of the criticisms made by honorable members opposite concerning those who have been refused naturalization. As I have listened to this debate - I repeat, with great interest - the fact has been impressed upon me by speaker after speaker that there has been an extraordinary tendency to overlook the specific terms which are binding on the Minister for Immigration of the day under section 12 of the principal act - a section, let me remind the House, that was passed by the Labour Government in 1948 substantially as it now stands. This section states quite specifically that an applicant for naturalization - I apologize to the House for restating one of its own statutes, but I think it is very relevant to the argument to-night - must be of full age and capacity. He must be resident in Australia for five years. He must intend to remain here. He must be of good character. He must have an adequate knowledge of English or, as an alternative, he must have resided in this country for at least twenty years. Finally, he must have an adequate knowledge of the responsibilities and privileges of Australian citizenship.
– If he has been here twenty years, does he have to pass a language test?
– No. Special consideration is given to a migrant who has been here for twenty years and the standards for English are relaxed. Then the honorable member for Hughes (Mr. L. R. Johnson), and before him the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard) spoke at some length, as one or two other honorable members also did, about the number of applications for citizenship which has been refused. As they quoted and as I gave it to the House earlier in reply to questions, that figure is 8,300. When all is said and done, surely any dispassionate observer must admit that when we have naturalized to the 30th June - again in round figures - 256,000 people, the refusal of 8,300 is a very small figure, a fractional figure indeed. With the greatest respect to those honorable members, whose support for this measure I appreciate, I think they have been making too much of the matter.
Furthermore, what the same honorable gentlemen have said is misleading, because of those rejected quite a number are, in fact, subsequently approved once they qualify for citizenship under the act which I have quoted to the House. Last week my colleague, the honorable member for Farrer (Mr. Fairbairn), stated that of this total, 4,000 applications had been deferred because the applicants had an inadequate knowledge of English or of the responsibilities of citizenship. That, Sir, is quite a substantial proportion of the total number of refusals or deferments. For the life of me, I cannot see how any reasonable person can expect a European settler to be clothed with all the panoply of the privileges of Australian citizenship and of being a British subject if he cannot satisfy the elementary criterion of having a reasonable knowledge of the language, particularly as not a very high standard is insisted upon.
From time to time we have heard about the deferment of applications for security reasons. As the House well knows, only 195, compared with the total number of 256,000 persons who have been naturalized, have had their applications deferred for that reason. Honorable gentlemen may be interested to know that 44 of the 195 applications which were deferred were later approved by me. Because honorable members have shown absolutely no recognition of the fact in the criticisms they have made, I should like to tell them that no application is deferred or refused for security reasons without very careful consideration by me personally in my capacity as Minister for Immigration. I do not think honorable gentlemen have given sufficient weight to the part that has been played not just by me but by whoever else has administered the Department of Immigration, and to the very considerable amount of time that is devoted to an examination and consideration of these cases. Moreover, honorable gentlemen opposite have not made allowance for the number of cases that are reconsidered on the provision of further evidence. As I have had some complaints from honorable members opposite about their not being told the reasons for deferment, it is only fair that I should remind them of the quite large numbers of confidential letters they receive and which give them a pretty fair idea of the reasons for the rejection of particular applications. I believe that, for the sake of the record, I should direct attention to the practice. It is one that I myself have enlarged upon and which, as every honorable member knows, I have followed liberally.
– It is very helpful.
– I am glad that my friend, the honorable member for Hindmarsh, acknowledges it. I feel, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that the honorable member for Bass and the honorable member for Hughes both overstated the effect of deferments and rejections on the general naturalization rate. I, quite frankly, have made no bones about saying that I share the dissatisfaction of honorable members probably on both sides of the House about the general progress of the rate of naturalization. Although, in round terms, 52 per cent, of the total number of migrants have been naturalized, no one could possibly throw up his hands with wonderment and say, “This is the criterion which we wish to establish “. But I put this point to the House: Even on the supposition that the entire 8,300 applications which have been rejected had been approved, that figure in itself is so small in proportion to the total number involved that it would have made very little difference indeed to the overall position. Therefore, I say to my friends opposite that what some of them have said in this respect does not really go to the heart of the naturalization problem.
Sir, there is another thing that I should like to say in this respect. I believe that we should be aware of it and should think seriously about it. As I see the situation, there is a danger in bestowing too much sympathy on those who cannot fulfil the requirements of section 12 of the principal act. Australian citizenship, as has been stated many times - it cannot be emphasized too much - is a valuable prize. It carries privileges, but it also, as a concomitant, entails obligations. The Government certainly does not see why those privileges should be granted to people who, being aliens, are Communists, who are ignorant of our language, or who are of unsound mind. 1 ask those who urge, both inside and outside this chamber, a relaxation of the law to consider a more important aspect of the problem - the welfare of the totality of the Australian people and the undesirability of investing anti-social or ignorant individuals with full civic authority. Hitherto, as I understand the situation, that has been the point of view of honorable members on both sides of the Parliament. I believe that one should try to rise above party politics in considering this matter. I would be very sorry if some members of this House or of another place started to have second thoughts about that aspect of the problem. The Government has not changed its opinion. It will not deviate from its objectives of trying, on the one hand, to do justice to the individual and, on the other hand, to safeguard the welfare of this nation.
Before I resume my seat I want to deal in the briefest possible way with a question that was asked by the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley). I do not intend at this stage to go into the intricacies and the possible application of the Crimes Act. That is a highly legalistic matter, and it would not be pertinent or appropriate for me to go into it at this juncture. All I want to say is that, under our nationality laws, once an alien has been clothed with the rights of an Australian citizen and a British subject, his naturalization can be revoked only if he has obtained it by fraudulent means. In every other respect, under the legislation that has been passed by this Parliament within the last two and a half years, an alien who has qualified for and has accepted Australian citizenship is in exactly the same position as a person who is Australian born. I believe, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that that point cannot be stated too clearly or too strongly when we are considering a measure of this nature.
I repeat that I appreciate the support the Opposition has given to the bill, and I hope that it will have a speedy passage.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and reported from committee without amendment or debate; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Motion (by Mr. Downer) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
– During the debate on the Wool Use Promotion Bill last Thursday night I was followed by the honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie). Owing to a certain amount of noise in the House and a lack of clarity in the honorable member’s voice I did not hear everything that he said. The following day my attention was directed to certain of his remarks, which had been given some publicity in the Melbourne press. In view of the rather unfortunate nature of those remarks I should like to put the record straight.
The honorable member challenged my right to speak on behalf of the woolgrowers of the great electorate that I represent. He adopted a more than challenging attitude when he made a most unfortunate reference to myself, particularly having regard to his own background. He is reported in “ Hansard “ as having said that I had got up as if I was the lord of all being. I leave it to the House to decide whether statements of that kind should be introduced into the debates.
Not only did the honorable member accuse me of being egotistical but, with far more confidence than accuracy, he went on to say - i guarantee that i have thousands more sheep in my electorate than he has in his.
When my attention was directed to this remark I realized that it could not be correct, so I made a little study of the subject. I consulted the Tasmanian section of the “ Commonwealth Year Book “ and ascertained that as at 31st March, 1960, Tasmania had a total of 3,494,000 sheep. I then turned to the Victorian section of the “Year Book” and found that in the electorate of Corangamite there were nearly 4,000,000 sheep. So the honorable member’s guarantee cannot be regarded as being very reliable.
He also claimed that the best merino wool grown in Australia is grown in his electorate. I concede that Tasmania has a little of what obviously is the finest wool in Australia and, possibly, in the world, but I point out to him that only 10 per cent, of the total number of sheep in Tasmania are merinos whereas in the western district of Victoria one-half of the total number of sheep are merinos. I leave it to the House to judge which electorate would have the largest quantity of good wool.
He would have done the people of his electorate a greater service if he had given them credit for something that they are doing. For a number of years the electorate that he represents has been the fountain head of some of the finest merino sheep in Australia. He can safely tell the people in his electorate that I have said on their behalf that the stud-masters there have been responsible for the production of some of the finest merino sheep in the fine-wool class in Victoria and New South Wales, and that the studs of those States owe a great debt of gratitude to the breeders in the electorate of Wilmot.
.I wish to direct the attention of the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. McMahon) to what I regard as the unfair treatment that is meted1 out to unions that are prepared to allow the arbitration system to take its course, as compared with those unions that are not prepared to do that and are prepared to fight for their rights. On various occasions the Minister has stated in the House that if the unions place themselves in the hands of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission they will be given a fair hearing and will get a fair decision.
I remind honorable members that in Melbourne recently the Waterside Workers Federation was fined £500 for contempt of court - for having taken the law into its own hands when it could not get justice. The Boilermakers Society and eight other unions in Newcastle went on strike because one unionist who came to Canberra with a deputation to protest against the provisions of the Crimes Bill was suspended. the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited having claimed that the deputation was not engaged on union business. The unions have been called upon to show cause why they should not be dealt with. This sort of thing is going on continually with unions that are prepared to fight for their rights.
I want to direct the attention of the House to what is going on in relation to the Musicians Union of Australia, and to point out how slowly the wheels of arbitration turn when they are asked to turn by a union. I wonder if the powers that be ever apply any oil to those wheels to speed up the hearing of applications by unions. We know that they are speeded up when the occasion arises to impose fines on unions. I have received a letter from Christina Marshall, the secretary of the Newcastle coalfields branch of the Musicians Union of Australia. It relates to an infringement of the musicians’ award by a hotelkeeper. In the first place, a letter had been addressed to the New South Wales Department of Labour and Industry, which replied, in effect, that the complaint was a matter for the Commonwealth Arbitration Commission. The letter therefore was sent to the senior Commonwealth arbitration inspector on 1st July, 1960. It is now 30th November and nothing has yet been done. Just imagine what would have happened if the union had been infringing the award. The letter is in these terms -
Under instructions from my committee I had requested the Department of Labour and Industry to make an inspection at the Speers Point Hotel where a colossal round-up of entertainment is advertised every week-end, and it is stated the amount of £2 is paid per player, which is far under the award for hotels.
Incidentally, the rate of pay for playing in hotels is £3 19s. for three hours. The letter continues -
As this is a Commonwealth award matter the Department of Labour and Industry here has referred me to you. We sincerely trust you will be able to make an early investigation as it has also been stated that musicians who insist on the award do not get another job.
Not only does the hotelkeeper pay only one-half of the wage to which musicians are entitled, but any player who demands the full wage is told not to come back. On 6th July, Mr. W. R. Watkins, Common wealth arbitration inspector, replied to Christina Marshall in these terms -
I refer to your letter dated 1st July, 1960, about the employment of your members at Speers Point Hotel, and advise that the matter will be investigated when an inspector next visits the district.
The Musicians Union is entitled to complain and to feel that something is wrong with our cumbersome arbitration system. As I have said, the matter was first raised on 1st July and here we are at 30th November without any action having been taken by the Arbitration Commission. Employers have their complaints heard promptly and the unions are entitled to the same treatment. How easy it is for employers’ organizations to have matters heard by the court! How easy it is for the court of pains and penalties to impose fines on the unions! The fines that the court has imposed since it has been reconstituted amount to a considerable sum.
I had hoped that the Minister would be in the chamber when I mentioned this matter. As he is not, I hope that at least he will take up the matter with his officers to ensure that the Musicians Union receives justice. It is accepting arbitration. It has not gone on strike and it has been prepared to allow the wheels of arbitration to turn slowly. Like most trade unionists and workers generally, the members of this union have no confidence in arbitration. They want somebody else to have a look at this matter. I ask the Minister whether he will do something to make this apathetic body get on with the job that it was appointed to do, namely, to ensure that awards that are made by the commission are observed by both parties to them. We want to ensure that the employers also observe award conditions.
I have previously referred in this House to the actions of tire racketeers in the community, and I now wish to place on record another aspect of that matter. I propose to refer to the annual report of M. S. McLeod Limited, which appeared as an advertisement in the Adelaide “ Advertiser “ of 3rd November, 1960. I shall refer to the relevant parts of the report to the shareholders by the chairman of directors of the company, because they relate to the rackets that are going on in the tire industry to-day. The report states -
As it now appears that not more than about three acres of ground will be required for the manufacture of prefabricated buildings and other such products, the remainder of the Wingfield land should represent a good investment and could provide a very satisfactory site for a tyre factory, at some time in the future-
I emphasize this point - should the Australian tyre manufacturers force us into this position.
Here, we see a company, which is one of the largest tire distributing concerns in the Commonwealth, having to set aside land so that it may go into the tire manufacturing business if the tire manufacturers force it to do so. The report continues -
As four of the Australian tyre manufacturers now control, between them, over 300 retail tyre stores, it would appear that these tyre manufacturers are seeking to retain for themselves not only the manufacturing and wholesale profit - but, in addition, as much of the retail profit as they possibly can. It will be readily seen, therefore, that recent criticism in the House of Representatives concerning the present method of the terms of sale of tyres by the Australian Tyre Manufacturers to the Independent Tyre Dealers of Australia, was well founded.
Apparently, nobody on the Government side of the House can see any justification for the criticism and complaints that are continually being made about this position, although many people outside can do so. The company report continues -
For this method of sale gives the tyre manufacturers almost dictatorial rights covering the wholesale and retail prices of new tyres, and has the resultant effect of considerably increasing the price of tyres to the Australian primary producers at a time when their products are at lower price levels. It has the effect, also, of making it difficult for small independent tyre dealers to continue to trade profitably in the new tyre retail sales field. We - as Australia’s largest independent tyre dealer, will find ways and means of securing our new tyre requirements at a price that will enable us to maintain the superb tyre service for which we are renowned among the primary producers, transport users and private motorists of Australia.
The Australian Tyre Manufacturing Companies undoubtedly have modern plant and efficient methods of production, with resultant low factory unit costs. Therefore, in view of the serious position facing the very important primary industries throughout Australia owing to the reduced export prices of their products . . . (for instance the average price for Australian wool for ten years to the 30th June last was 75d. per pound, compared with an average of only 45d. per pound for the first quarter of the current financial year) . . . it would appear there is a case for the removal of import duty on all pneumatic tyres and tubes imported from the United Kingdom, and for a reduction of fifty per cent, on the import duty on pneumatic tyres and tubes from MostFavouredNations - for it could be claimed that the 25 per cent, exchange rate between Britain and Australia in itself affords the Australian tyre industry a considerable amount of protection against tyres imported from England.
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. John McLeay).Order! The honorable gentleman’s time has expired.
– Recently, the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Allan Fraser) made an attack on me, and because of that attack, 1 must apologize for detaining the House for a few minutes. Apparently, it is usual to reply to such attacks. The honorable member said that I had made certain statements about the report of the committee which recently inquired into the dairying industry. Apparently, the object of the attack was to obtain from the Government a statement about its intentions in regard to the report. It is clear, Mr. Speaker, that the report of the committee does not involve Executive action. The Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. Adermann) has quite clearly and properly stated that the Government is awaiting the views of the leaders of the industry, to be expressed at a conference.
I have stated that I am opposed to the implementation of certain recommendations in the report, and I believe that other supporters of the Government are similarly opposed to them. Opposition to recommendations contained in a report is nothing new. Many reports - notably that of the Constitutional Review Committee - that have come to this Parliament have not been fully implemented. In some cases, the recommendations of committees are not implemented at all. The honorable member for Eden-Monaro is doing something that is quite improper if he is trying to cause anxiety and worry to the dairy farmers. He is doing a disservice to the dairying industry. In making his attack on me-
– Was it vicious?
– Whether or not ii was intended to be vicious, it was just so much nonsense. The honorable member’s comments received a degree of publicity, which helped to allay the fears of those engaged in the industry. He stated that some people, who could be relied upon, would oppose the implementation of certain parts of the report. In other words, people of character, who are trusted by the industry, have said that they will oppose the adoption of some of the recommendations. In saying that, the honorable member did both the industry and me a service. But although he allayed the fears of the industry in that respect, he nevertheless disturbed it considerably. When the industry learned that the honorable member for Eden-Monaro was taking an interest in the matter, the dairy farmers immediately became very worried, because he is a member of a party whose policy really upsets the industry. That is the reason why few, if any, dairy farmers vote for the honorable member.
Let me refer to the features of the policy of the Australian Labour Party which the dairying industry fears. The leader of the Australian, Labour Party has told the people of Australia, including those engaged in the dairying industry, that if elected to office the Labour Party proposes to restore federal land tax, to introduce a capital gains tax and to increase federal death duties. I point out, Mr. Speaker, that because of the increase in farm values, some dairy farmers are in the higher brackets so far as death duties are concerned. Even without the increase of death duties favoured by the Labour Party, in, many cases young men who are working on family farms will be unable to continue to operate the farms after their fathers die. The policy of the Australian Labour Party, if adopted, would destroy the continuity of farm ownership.
The last feature of the Labour policy to which I want to refer is the proposal to increase company tax by ls. 9d. or 2s. in the £1. The effect of such an increase, of course, would be to add to the price of every commodity that those engaged in the dairying industry have to buy, thus leading to a considerable worsening of the position of the industry. The effect of a policy of that kind was seen in the days of the Chifley Government in 1949. At that time, as that policy of that government collapsed, there was a coal strike which completely paralysed Australian industry. There were 500,000 people out of work. There were blackouts and there was loss of income.
The products of the dairying industry could not be sold because the people had lost their purchasing power. That would be the kind of result that the dairying industry would have to experience if it had the bad luck to have the honorable member for Eden-Monaro on the Government side.
Not all of the report is bad. I propose to read paragraph 914, which says -
On the social side the “ cow cocky “ of yesterday is being replaced by the experienced and cultured dairy farmer.
When the honorable member for Eden Monaro last visited the dairying part of his electorate perhaps there were cow cockies in that area, because it was a long time ago. At the present time, as the report of the committee of inquiry says -
Many young men just through college and with a wide choice of occupations and professions elect to go to agricultural colleges for basic studies that will be of value to them in the dairy industry. Participants in the industry are no longer the subject of “ Dad and Dave “ jokes in weeklies but are respected citizens with an accepted standing in all communities - many of them possessing homes and amenities of high standards of comfort.
We have been told that the Labour Party in Great Britain and also in this country is representing people who no longer exist. The honorable member for Eden-Monaro represents the cow cocky type, the Dadand.Dave type, which no longer exists. There are now in the industry young men of vigour and of great intelligence who are profiting by the fruits of research, and these, of course, are the people that the honorable member for Eden-Monaro knows not. These are the people who are giving us a great and prosperous dairying industry. These are not the people whom the honorable member seeks to represent in this House, because he represents the old type. He represents the type that we have heard about from honorable members on the other side of the House - the workers. They are the workers that they used to represent when they existed. But to-day, of course, there are no longer people who call themselves workers. There are young executives. There are young men who are well trained, men with very valuable machinery in their charge, men who would be insulted to be called workers and who support the Labour Party as it is now constituted.
So I say that the honorable member for Eden-Monaro, who has suddenly returned to the House after a long absence, is completely out of date. He completely misses the point of the moves that are made to try to reform this industry. I resent, on behalf of the dairying industry, any attempt by the honorable member for Eden-Monaro to cause panic and concern in that industry. It is an industry that has been developing for more than 100 years. It is a stable industry and a great one, with a very great number of people engaged in it. It is quite capable of carrying out its reforms and of dealing with this report which, after all, is only a report. The honorable member for Eden-Monaro quoted the “Bega District News “ and suggested, that it supported him. Let me bring him up to date. The “ Bega District News “, which he praises for its accuracy, has now said that this is a mammoth report, with a tremendous amount in it to which consideration can be given. In other words, it kicked the props from underneath the honorable member for EdenMonaro. It gave no grounds for any implication that it was brought up to date by the report that I sent it.
The industry resents any threat to its well-being. It resents the sort of criticism that would damage dairy farmers when they ask for credit.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– I hope the honorable member for Macarthur (Mr. Jeff Bate), has not disappointed the House as a whole as much as he has disappointed me. I really expected him to put a little bit of fire and energy into his speech to-night. At least I am glad that the observations I made the other night have brought him to his feet. For the first time in this session he has found it necessary to speak on behalf of his constituents and of the dairying industry.
– That is a lie.
– Order! The honorable member must withdraw that remark.
– I say it is a lie. I will not withdraw if he has told a lie.
– Order! The honorable member will withdraw the charge that it was a lie.
– Well, I will withdraw it. It is a fib.
– I accept thehonorable member’s withdrawal. I would not intentionally mis-state his position for anything. But I am astonished to see that the honorable member is now leaving the House. It is most peculiar behaviour when a member launches a personal attack on another member and then deliberately leaves the House. I am glad to see that hiscolleagues have recalled him and that heis now compelled to sit and take his. medicine.
The electors of Eden-Monaro will not be disturbed by what the honorable member has said, but they will, of course, observehis description of them as ignorant cow cockies and Dad-and-Dave types. I hear honorable members opposite- interjecting, but I must repeat that the honorable member for Macarthur said that the honorable member for Eden-Monaro represented” ignorant cow cockies and Dad-and-Dave types which were, no longer characteristic of the industry.
– He was describing the state of your mind, not the state of your electors.
– I am afraid’ that that is what he said. However, it isnot my purpose to reply to the personalities, indulged in by the honorable member for Macarthur. I have made it my deliberate policy during the seventeen years during which I have been in this Parliament never to engage in personalities, and I hope to continue to follow that policy during the remainder of the time in which I represent my constituents here. The reason why I rose the other night was to make clear the position of the honorable member for Macarthur and of the Government, and I am glad that to-night I have succeeded indoing so. It was of great importance tome dairying industry to know whether or not the honorable member for Macarthur had said outside this House what he had obviously not dared to say inside it, namely that he and a number of other rural Liberal and Country Party members would prevent the implementation of many features of this report. I am glad to-night to have the honorable member’s confirmation of my interpretation of his remarks, and his agreement with my suggestion that this is what he intends to do. He says that in bringing this matter to the notice of the dairying industry I have done it a service, because I have re-assured it and given it confidence that responsible and determined men, such as the honorable member for Macarthur himself, will prevent the implementation of the report. I am glad to hear that statement by the honorable member for Macarthur, and the dairying industry in general will be glad to hear it. I am not sure, however, that the honorable member controls the numbers he claims to control in order to thwart the Government’s will in this respect. 1 think he would do a service to the dairying industry and to the House if he would name his fellow members of the Liberal and Country Parties representing rural electorates who have joined with him in a determination to prevent the implementation of this report. It would also be a fair thing if he would bring to the notice of the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. Adermann) the determination of his col leagues to follow this course, because it appears that, irrespective of the result of the consideration by the dairying industry of this most valuable report, which requires the utmost study, he and his colleagues of the Liberal and Country Party representing rural electorates will prevent its implementation.
The honorable member does not deny the statement that appears in the “Bega District News”, but he does distort the attitude of that newspaper by quoting from its latest editorial without quoting the paragraph in the leader which states that it becomes necessary still for the dairying industry to prevent the implementation of the most objectionable features of the report.
I think I have said quite enough, Mr. Speaker, to answer the honorable member for Macarthur.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 1 a.m. (Thursday).
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 30 November 1960, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1960/19601130_reps_23_hor29/>.