23rd Parliament · 3rd Session
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. John McLeay) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– My question is directed to the Treasurer. Is it a fact that a £35,000,000 Commonwealth-States loan closed last Thursday? Is it also a fact that to date no announcement has been made of the result of the loan? If this is so, is there any particular reason why no announcement has been made? Again, if it is so, when does the Treasurer propose to make an announcement in regard to the result?
– It is a fact that a loan closed at the time mentioned by the Leader of the Opposition. The only reason why no formal announcement has been made is that always after the closing of a loan a certain time elapses while some of the subscriptions from outlying places come in. However, I have had the best estimate that the Treasury can make on the advices received by it, and I had proposed later to-day to issue a press statement giving the full details. I am sure that the Leader of the Opposition, as well as all honorable members, will be gratified to know that whilst this was the largest loan sought by the Commonwealth for some time, the result has been the best since February, 1960, and that £34,700,000 of the target of £35,000,000 appears to have been subscribed. Having regard to existing circumstances I think that we can regard that as a highly satisfactory result.
– You ought to get a good result with the price you are paying for it.
– While I am on my feet I will mention another loan of which I have not yet given any formal indication, which is being raised in Switzerland. The price being paid for the money raised there is a coupon rate of 4i per cent. - a rather better issue price from Australia’s point of view than was the case for a similar loan of 60,000,000 Swiss francs last year when, with the same coupon rate of 4i per cent., the loan was issued at a discount, at 99. I myself attach some significance to the fact that the Swiss bankers, who are able to select their borrowers with great discrimination - indeed, any country in the field of borrowing regards itself as fortunate if it can be placed in the queue for the Swiss loan market, because rates are more favorable in Switzerland than they are in any of the financial centres of the world - should show such faith in Australia. I think that in view of all the circumstances Australia can feel gratified that there should be this confidence shown in our country and our future by the Swiss bankers, and that we should be able to raise money in Switzerland on such favorable terms.
– I ask the Acting Prime Minister and Minister for Trade whether his officers are investigating the manufacture of canned chicken alone or the whole field of processed chicken meat. Is it a fact that the poultry industry has not yet welded itself into a compact federal body with adequate statistics? Until this is achieved, is there a danger of booms and slumps in the industry? How far can the Government go in securing continuing statistics of production and projected production? How soon can the Minister get the information that will enable him to decide whether to refer an emergency application for a tariff on imported canned chicken to the Deputy Chairman of the Australian Tariff Board under section 17a of the tariff legislation?
– As the honorable member is aware, I answered a question last week addressed to me by the honorable member for Mitchell on this subject. A number of other members on both sides of the House have concerned themselves with this problem. In the first place, the problem concerns the competition offered to local processors of chicken by imported canned chicken, and of course, any trouble there has its repercussions on the producers of chickens for processing. The local processors and, I understand, the producers of chickens, came to the Department of Trade last January and sought to make a case, but the case was not convincing and the industry was asked to provide further information. That information not being forthcoming, I asked the department to send officers into the field to help the industry to assemble the facts upon which a case could be made. Officers of the department are engaged in this work in Victoria and in New South Wales at the present time. In this case, therefore, the Government has taken the initiative ahead of the industry itself. I expect that there will be a report from these officers and I would expect a meeting, again, between the Department of Trade and representatives of the industry in the near future. Action will be taken on the facts that are revealed.
– I ask the Treasurer whether the Premier of Victoria or of any other State has made any approaches at any time to the Commonwealth for a special grant to be used to aid State educational programmes at the primary, secondary or technical school levels.
– Matters relating to education normally are dealt with by the Prime Minister. I have no knowledge of an approach along the lines mentioned by the honorable gentleman. 1 shall have inquiries made and see what information I can convey to him.
– Has the attention of the Acting Prime Minister and Minister for Trade been drawn to the fact that United Kingdom manufacturers of filled milk have managed to build up substantial exports to milk-starved regions, particularly West Africa? Has his department made any assessment of the potential market for filled milk in the milk starved regions of Asia and our near north? If not, will he have appropriate inquiries made to ascertain the potentialities of a trade in which Australia should have a natural advantage and which might, perhaps, both increase our export receipts and add considerably to the income of the Australian dairy industry?
– I am not able to say that I have a knowledge, and I am not sure whether my department has a knowledge, of the filled milk trade in the areas mentioned by the honorable member. For a number of years the department has been vigorously promoting the sale of Australian dried and condensed milk products. It has proposed the establishment of reconstituted milk plants in certain areas. This would permit the sale of a product comparable with but not identical with what I understand to be “ filled milk “. That would involve the ‘use of Australian dried or concentrated milk, with or without some locally-produced milk which could be cow’s milk, goat’s milk or, in many cases, even buffalo milk. Discussions have been taking place concerning the supply, not of reconstituted milk but of other types of milk to Singapore, India and former African colonies including Rhodesia. The honorable member can be assured that a vigorous interest has been shown in this matter; but I shall take up the aspect that he has mentioned.
– I direct a question to the Acting Prime Minister and, by way of explanation, I state that on numerous occasions Liberal and Country Party members of this Parliament have adversely criticized the red Chinese army for aggression over the past few years. Can the Acting Prime Minister give an assurance to the House that none of the 1,050,000 tons of wheat and 40,000 tons of flour recently sold by this Government to red’ China will be used to feed this aggressive red Chinese army?
– In the first place, I correct ‘the honorable member. No wheat has been sold by this Government to mainland China.
– Then who sold it?
– The Australian Wheat Board, which is the realizing authority on behalf of Australian wheat-growers, has sold to mainland China the quantity of wheat that the honorable member has mentioned and in circumstances which I think are publicly known; that is, payment has been in cash against documents in circumstances of grievous food shortage in China. If it is the policy of the Australian Labour Party that no wheat should be sold for cash to a famine area lest a soldier of the Opposition’s friends in the Communist Party should get a handful of it, then that is not the policy of this Government.
– Is the Minister for Primary Industry aware that the supply of Australian-made woven wire netting as used in the trade production of oysters is such that oyster farmers are being forced to buy mostly imported woven wire netting when they would prefer the Australian product? Will the Minister state what is being done to stimulate the local production of this wire netting?
– The shortage of wire for oyster farming is identical with the shortage of fencing wire that is being suffered at present by primary producers. In 1959, there was more wire than the manufacturers could sell and they sought export markets. Having secured them, they agreed to supply ‘those markets. At the beginning of 1 960, as everybody knows, there was an unprecedented demand for fencing wire. Of course, the manufacturers could not forego their contracts, but they have been speeding up production and trying to make up the leeway so that they can supply the Australian consumers. I do not think they have yet achieved that objective; but the Department of Primary Industry has investigated1 this matter and will do everything possible to help primary producers as well ‘as oyster farmers to obtain the necessary wire.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Shipping and Transport. Is it true that in 1949 the Commonwealth entered into an agreement with the South Australian Government, under which the Commonwealth agreed to meet about 70 per cent, of the cost of standardizing the South Australian railway system? When did the Premier of South Australia begin to press the Commonwealth to carry out its obligation under the agreement? What practical steps has Sir Thomas Playford taken to have the project commenced, by way of surveys, estimates of cost and other necessary preliminaries? Have any steps been taken to reach agreement with the Silverton Tramway Company to enable the standardization of the Broken Hill to Port Pirie line to be completed, and, if so, with what result? If agreement is not reached with this company, will the Commonwealth Government take up with the New South Wales Government the matter of an alternate route from Broken Hill to Cockburn, in order that the standardization of the line may be completed?
-I could see by the look in the honorable member’s eye yesterday that he intended to ask me a question about this matter, and I thought he would appreciate a definite reply, which I can now give him. On 14th February the Deputy Crown Solicitor in Adelaide accepted service of a writ issued out of the High Court at the instance of the State of South Australia against the Commonwealth, claiming declarations in respect of the Railways Standardization Agreement (South Australia) Act 1949. Briefly, the plaintiff’s claim is for, first, a declaration that the act is a valid instrument binding on the Commonwealth and creating a legal contractual relationship enforceable between the parties to the agreement, and secondly, a declaration that the performance of the agreement is not subject to delay or postponement at the will of the Commonwealth. The honorable member for Hindmarsh will appreciate that this matter is now sub judice, and I am sure he will not ask me to comment further on his question or on other matters concerning the agreement.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for Customs and Excise. As imported stocks of paper and paperboards are building up at the rate of 50,000 tons a year, their present value now being £5,000,000, and this being nearly four times the rate at which stocks were built up in the year 1959-60, and as a large part of these imports are being brought in at dumping prices, can the Minister tell me when action can be expected as a result of representations made to him by Austraiian Paper Manufacturers Limited in August, 1960, backed up by prima facie evidence, and as a result also of a request for immediate imposition of duty penalties, which was made on 29th December last? I may add that these dumped imports are still arriving in large quantities.
– I am sure the honorable member will appreciate that 1 cannot have first-hand knowledge of this matter. I will make inquiries through my colleague in another place, and I will then let the honorable member have an answer.
– My question is directed to the Treasurer. I remind him that the National Heart Campaign is being seriously and sympathetically considered by all sections of the people of Australia, many workers contributing towards it out of their weekly pay envelopes. I know that the Commonwealth Government granted some £10,000 to the National Heart Foundation at the beginning of the campaign, but as the treatment and control of heart disease is of such national importance, I ask the right honorable gentleman whether the Government will consider making a further contribution, perhaps by granting £1 for every £1 raised by public subscription.
– I understand that donations to the National Heart Campaign are deductible from income for taxation purposes. Whatever may have been given by the Government as a direct contribution, we are, in effect, making a further substantial contribution according to the degree to which the public subscribes to the campaign, because the opportunity to deduct subscriptions from income when preparing income tax returns will induce many people to increase their subscriptions.
– My question is directed to you, Mr. Speaker, and it concerns the reading of prayers in this House. Have you or the Standing Orders Committee considered any new form of prayers? Will you give an undertaking to the House that before the present form of prayers is abandoned honorable members will be given an opportunity to express their views on this subject? I refer especially to the recently announced version of the Lord’s Prayer. Any capricious abandonment of the lilt and warmth of language of the existing Lord’s Prayer would be greeted by a number of people with a great measure of distress.
– The wording of the prayers which are read at the commencement of our proceedings each day is provided for in Standing Order No. 40. This standing order was recommended by the Standing Orders Committee and approved by this House. It could be varied only by following the same procedure.
– Is the Treasurer aware that grave dissatisfaction is felt by many retired Commonwealth public servants who, over a considerable period have been denied increases in their frugal superannuation benefits? Does he realize that their frustration is intensified by the knowledge that the present credit balance of the Commonwealth Superannuation Fund, to which they all have contributed, is at least £71,000,000, and that its profits are increasing annually? Does the Treasurer realize also that although many of these retired public servants are able to supplement their paltry superannuation payments with part age pensions, they are denied the benefit of the pensioner medical scheme. As little or no new call would be made on the Commonwealth’s Budget revenue, will the Government immediately increase the superannuation benefits of its retired servants?
– The honorable gentleman invites a statement on policy aspects which, as he knows, is not the kind of statement that is normally given at question time. Consideration is usually given to financial matters of this kind when the Budget is being framed. I have considerable correspondence from retired public servants in the general terms of the honorable gentleman’s question, but I believe that he is in error in the dimension of the surplus that he has mentioned. Tt appears to me that he has omitted to take into account the contingent liabilities of the superannuation fund. However, because of the interest that he and others feel in this matter, I shall have a considered reply prepared and let him have it.
– I address my question to the Minister for Labour and National Service and refer to discussions that we have had about obtaining more markets for Australian coal. In view of the important announcement which was made by the Acting Prime Minister last Wednesday, can the Minister say whether the Government has considered easing the excise presently payable on export coal?
– 1 am sure that the honorable member will be aware that competition for the sale of coal on the international market is very keen, and that even -a small reduction in .the excise duty could very well mean that we could not only sustain but increase the Australian share of the market. As the honorable gentleman also will be aware, about 800 miners are engaged in the production of coal for export, and the abolition or even a reduction, however slight, of the excise would help them considerably. Consequently, the Government has agreed to abolish the excise on exported coal and also to adopt certain other measures including administrative changes. I hope to be able soon to make a statement of the Government’s intention. An amendment of the relevant legislation win be needed before the proposed abolition can be implemented.
– I desire to learn from the Treasurer whether it is a fact that the Government’s programe to deal with the economic muddle of its own creation is slowing down the rate of national development. Is it a fact that the present intake of migrants, added to our natural increase in population, requires the continuance of a policy of expanding production if a lowering in Australian living standards is to be avoided? Has the Government announced its intention to adhere to its present plan to provide for an .intake each year of at least 115,000 migrants? Is it a fact that the Government has deliberately set about reducing the cost structure in Australia by a general reduction of the workers’ living standards and is now creating a man-made depression as the weapon by which it will accomplish its purpose? If the Treasurer is not prepared to admit that this is the aim of the Government, will he explain how the Government proposes to follow a plan to slow down national development, with consequent unemployment, and at the same time absorb 115,000 migrants each year without reducing the living standards of Australian workers?
– I am quite certain, Mr. Speaker, that you would not wish me to engage in the debate which the question put by the honorable gentleman quite clearly invites. One would have thought that, after the years he has been in this place, he could couch a question within the limits of the Standing Orders, thereby enabling a factual reply to be given. I think, if I may say so, Mr. Speaker, that you showed the honorable gentleman great indulgence, no doubt having regard to the fact that he has been a bit out of practice lately, for reasons which we all regret. I am sure that we are all glad to see him back in his customary place. However, he has even managed to get his information out of line with the facts. My colleague, the Minister for Immigration, announced, at the time of the last Budget, that the programme of migrant intake for this year would be altered. As an expression of the confidence which this Government feels in the capacity of this country to absorb additions to the work force, and of its determination to advance the progress of Australia, that former figure of 115,000 migrants is increased this year to 125,000.
– That makes it worse.
– You think so, but I doubt whether your leader would agree with you on that point. Here we have another obvious line of disagreement between senior members of the Opposition, but I point out, and I am sure that at least the Leader of the Opposition will-
– Where are you going to place them?
– Order! The honorable member for East Sydney has asked his question, and will allow the Treasurer to make his reply.
– I am sure that at least the Leader of the Opposition will give his approval to the statement I am about to make. To the best of my knowledge the movement of migrant labour from the reception camps has proceeded smoothly up to the present time. In conclusion, I assure the honorable gentleman that it is not the intention of this Government, having had the great satisfaction of leading the country during the period in which it has enjoyed its greatest prosperity and the greatest improvement in its living standards, to allow that position to abate. Indeed, all our policies are directed to the steady development and expansion of the Australian economy and the improvement of the standards of the people.
– My quesion is addressed to the Acting Minister for External Affairs. Is there any conjecture, and if so, what factual basis is there for the conjecture that the Dutch Government is seeking the creation of an international commission to administer the whole of New Guinea as a single entity? If there is any such basis, has the Government yet been able to give consideration to any such proposal and, if it has, what is its reaction?
– 1 have no information which would enable me to tell the House that there is any basis for this speculation. If any serious material comes before me and the Government in this regard, no doubt it will receive serious consideration.
– My question is addressed to the Treasurer. Is he aware that many business undertakings are facing great financial difficulties and possible bankruptcy if the trading banks enforce the Government’s directive that their bank overdrafts must be cleared up by the end of this month? As that date is rapidly approaching, will the Government consider extending the date from the end of March until, possibly, the end of June, thus preventing further hardship and unemployment?
– The honorable member seems to have misread the directive which has gone from the Reserve Bank to the trading banks. He has certainly misread the statement which I delivered to the House in November last. There was no suggestion then that overdrafts be “ cleared up “, to use the somewhat loose phrase employed by the honorable member. The trading banks were asked to effect a substantial reduction in the level of their advances by the end of March. That was done because it was recognized that, in the tight liquidity situation in which the banks found themselves following a run-up of advances by something over £150,000,000 from January to October last year, if advances continued without restriction, the banks would not be in a position to meet the more urgent requirements of their customers in the June quarter of the year, the period of the year which is normally the one of most acute liquidity for the banks.
As far as I can ascertain, the banks are adhering broadly to the directive issued by the Reserve Bank and, having regard to the needs likely to be experienced in the June quarter, we see no occasion to vary that directive at the present time.
– 1 ask the Acting Minister for External Affairs whether he can give the House details of Indonesia’s decision to withdraw its permission previously granted to the United Kingdom to represent the Netherlands interests in Indonesia.
– I can inform the House that quite recently the Indonesian Government withdrew - I think that is the right way to describe it - its arrangement with the United Arab Republic to represent it, the Indonesian Government, at The Hague, and indicated that the arrangement which had been made for the British Government to represent the Netherlands at Djakarta should also be terminated.
We have read a good deal of speculation as to whether this action is the prelude to other more serious action. I should like to say that, for my part, that is pure speculation and that this Government does not believe that such an event is likely as of this moment. Naturally, we regret that channels of communication have been closed - and deliberately closed - between two peoples with each of whom we are friendly. We would hope that no further or other deterioration takes place in their relations, particularly because of this closure of their channels of communication, which is an unusual course, because, as a rule, even in war-time the channels of communications between governments are kept open.
– I ask .the Acting Minister for External Affairs whether he knows anything about the decision - if anything has yet been decided - of the Prime Ministers Conference with regard to the future of South Africa as a member state of the British Commonwealth of Nations.
Leader of the Opposition knows quite well that a Prime Ministers Conference does not reach decisions in the way in which some conferences do. If and when a common view is attained, it will appear from that which is said at the conclusion of the conference.
– What do you know about it? What can you tell the Parliament?
– I do not propose to enter into a discussion of what, at the moment, are secret discussions between the Prime Ministers.
– I ask the Minister in charge of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization whether he has authorized or directed any investigation by any officers of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization into the food preserving process known as accelerated freeze drying. If he has not, will he consider doing so at an early date? Further, will the Minister agree that the results already reported to be achieved by the United Kingdom Department of Agriculture, Food and Fisheries, in conjunction with the Aberdeen University, the Vickers Armstrong company and the Mallow sugar company in Ireland, suggest that this process could have very great possibilities for practical economic use in Australia?
– I cannot tell the honorable gentleman with precision what has been done by the C.S.I.R.O. itself in this matter, but I understand that a considerable volume of information rs held by the organization. However, I will get further details for him and let him have them.
– Supplementary to the question asked by the right honorable member for Cowper, I ask the Minister for Primary Industry: Is it a fact that both Lysaght Proprietary Limited and Rylands Brothers (Australia) Proprietary Limited have declined this year to supply the netting of small mesh required by the oyster industry since the tray production of oysters was instituted? Although we have the pious hope of these companies that they will some time in the future be able to supply this need, is the present position that the industry is required to obtain the whole of its supplies of this kind of netting from overseas? If so, will the Minister bring pressure to bear on these companies to ensure that the needs of the oyster industry are included in their programme of production for the coming year? Finally, will the Minister agree that for the industry to be forced to import woven netting is economically unsound and contrary to the Government’s professed concern at the unsatisfactory condition of our overseas balance of trade?
– I have no knowledge that the firms mentioned by the honorable member are not interested in this type of production, but I do know that there has been a shortage of this netting. The honorable member asks me whether I am prepared to bring pressure to bear on these firms. Of course, I have no intention of issuing any direction, because I have no power to do so. However, as I intimated to the right honorable member for Cowper, I will bring the matter before the firms to see whether I can do anything to assist oyster producers to obtain their requirements from Australian sources.
– I address a question to the Treasurer. Is the right honorable gentleman aware of some public concern at the delay in announcing the Government’s decision on the introduction of decimal currency in Australia? Is he in a position to advise the House whether the despatch of Australian observers to South Africa indicates the high probability that decimal currency will be introduced here, and if so, approximately when?
– The honorable gentleman speaks of concern being felt on this matter. I realize that many people are interested in the question of decimal currency and no doubt there are some practical problems which would vary in degree for different individuals according to the way in which the Government’s general policy decision is taken and the detailed application of any affirmative decision to go ahead with decimal currency. The Government has not been idle on this matter. There was a good deal of cabinet discussion on it prior to the end of last year and we arranged for accredited observers to go from this country to watch the transition process as it occurred in South Africa. But I would point out to the honorable gentleman that, although we have a very valuable report from the committee which was set up to examine certain aspects of the matter, there are other aspects on which the committee was not required to report and which are still of practical moment to us. There is the problem of the minting of coinage should any change in currency policy be determined. Wrapped up with that is the practical question of Whether we need additional minting capacity. There are also the question as to when a mint should be established in Canberra and the question of the time required for the minting of new coins in order to build up a stock before any change is made.
In saying those things, I do not wish to convey the impression that the Government has already come to a firm decision on this matter. I propose, a little later in the session, when the want of confidence motion has been disposed of - I hope satisfactorily from the Government’s point of view - to ask the House to afford me an opportunity to state the Government’s attitude on this matter in rather more detail. This matter is by no means a simple one. I think that, at a time when the economy has been subjected to the influence of some unsettling factors, we do not need to look to the kind of timetable which might earlier have appeared to be desirable. However, T shall be able to say a little more about that later.
– Does the Acting Prime Minister remember that last Wednesday I asked him whether the committee appointed by the Government to inquire into the marketing of wool had been vested with power to demand papers and documents and to subpoena witnesses and take evidence from them? I think the right honorable gentleman said that he did not know but would find out and let me know. Can he now tell me what the position is?
– The committee is not vested with this power. If it finds, in the course of its inquiry, that it needs such power, it will doubtless submit to the Government a recommendation to that effect. I regret that the honorable member has not heard from me in the matter. I have a clear recollection of having dictated a note to him, but apparently it has not reached him yet.
– My question, which is addressed to the Treasurer, is supplementary to that asked by the honorable member for Swan. The Minister will recall that several weeks ago I wrote to him on this subject of a decimal currency as it will affect the educational system in Australia. I now ask the right honorable gentleman: Has he yet considered the impact on more than 1,000,000 students who will be taught the old system up to 1963, if that year is accepted as the year in which a change will be made? Has he considered that this would be an appalling waste of time, since these students could be taught the new system and only shortly instructed in the old method for historical purposes?
-I thought that I had made it clear in my answer to the honorable member for Swan that the Government had taken no final decision on this matter. In the statement which I pronose to make, T would not attempt to do more than elaborate on the points that T raised in answering his question. The last of the observers will have returned from South Africa by the end of this week, I understand, and we shall naturally be interested to hear from them the outcome of their observations.
Many factors are involved in this very important subject. A change of currency is not a change to be lightly undertaken.
Other countries in the Commonwealth of Nations, also, are considering a change in currency. There were in the press rumours, which have not been substantiated by any official information received by me, that this matter might even be discussed by the Commonwealth Prime Ministers. I do not expect to be in a position to make a final statement on the Government’s policy for some considerable time. I regret any uncertainty that this circumstance causes, but I assure the honorable member for Maribyrnong, and the House, that we are trying to act in this matter in a way that will best serve the national interest.
– I ask the Minister for the Interior: Can he state the reasons which prompted the Government’s decision to increase the rentals of many governmentowned homes in Canberra as from 6th April next? Is it true that the rentals of many of these homes will increase by amounts much in excess of the 29s. a week mentioned in the first announcement as the maximum increase? As the rental rebate system takes account only of family income and not of the number of children or the commitments which a family has, will the Minister see what aid can be given to families who find that they are not entitled to rebates, but nevertheless are not able to pay rents higher than those at present paid?
– I should have thought it would have been fairly obvious that all costs have increased considerably - that wages and incomes have increased considerably - since any previous adjustments were made to rents for government-owned dwellings in the Australian Capital Territory. It is obviously quite impossible for the Government to go on meeting the demand for housing if it is doing so at a considerable loss, and the increase in rents is designed primarily to assist the Government to meet the continuing demand for housing in the Australian Capital Territory.
So far as the question of degree of increase goes, I venture to suggest that in no capital city of Australia are government houses available for rent on more generous terms than they are in the Australian Capital Territory. For those families suffering hardship, as the honorable member reminds us, there is a rental rebate system which is taken from the original Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement. If any cases of hardship are brought to my notice over and above that, they will be closely examined.
– I lay on the table the following paper: -
Public Works Committee Act - Twenty-sixth General Report of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works.
Motion (by Mr. Hasluck) - by leave - agreed to -
That Mr. Lucock be discharged from attendance on the Printing Committee, and that, in his place, Mr. King be appointed a member of the committee.
Motion (by Sir Garfield Barwick) - by leave - proposed -
That Mr. Lucock be discharged from attendance on the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and that his place be filled by Mr. Failes.
That Mr. Anderson be a member of the committee in the place of Mr. Failes.
That the foregoing resolution be communicated to the Senate by message.
– I did not follow the Acting Minister for External Affairs (Sir Garfield Barwick). He wants to discharge Mr. Lucock, who has become the Chairman of Committees, from this extraordinary committee and appoint Mr. Failes in his place, and then, somehow or other, he brings Mr. Anderson into the question. I do not know who is to be appointed. Is it to be Mr. Failes or Mr. Anderson who is to be appointed to the committee? I would not like to see Mr. Anderson, with all his splendid qualifications, on a committee of this sort, because he would give its deliberations a wrong slant. He is a man with a one-track mind, and I do not think he could discuss foreign affairs sufficiently dispassionately to be able to influence the hopeless material with which he will have to work in reaching a really sound judgment as to recommendations that this committee will make to the
Government in regard to Australia’s foreign policy. Not that the present Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Menzies), now absent overseas, or his deputy, who knows nothing about what is happening anyhow, will be any more likely to take any more notice of this committee than Lord Casey took of it when he was Minister for External Affairs.
I should like to know what this committee does. Why do we need to fill a vacancy? Why not let all its members resign? What do they do? They never make a report to the Parliament. They meet here. This is a costly body. Its members are paid expenses for coming here. They listen to ambassadors, high commissioners, Ministers and everybody else who can be brought along in an effort to justify the committee’s existence, but we have no evidence at all that over the eight, nine or ten years that this committee has been in existence it has been of any use to the government of the day or to the Commonwealth Parliament or to the people of Australia. In any case, it is only a study circle. It is not a foreign affairs committee. I am indebted to my Lord Casey for the term “ study circle “. It is a misuse of language to call it a foreign affairs committee. It is nothing of the sort. I thought that the Government might, in these days of stress and difficulty, be anxious to save at least some government expenditure. A lot of people are being thrown out of work. Why should the Government want to fill a vacancy of this sort when it can easily save money by not filling it? If it is to be Mr. Failes who is to be appointed to the committee, Mr. Failes will not be here for the remainder of this year. He is engaged on important duties overseas.
– I am here.
– Mr. Failes was engaged on important duties abroad. These days I live a life of such absorption worrying about the mess that the Government is making of the Australian economy that I have overlooked the return of Mr. Failes. I am sorry for having done that. If Mr. Failes is going to be on the committee we OU 2nt to know something about what he will do. If Mr. Anderson is going to be on the committee we ought to know some thing about what his policy is. These gentlemen are members of the Australian Country Party. We want to know what is their attitude on the recognition of red China. How much wheat does red China have to buy from Australia to get recognition? How many more bales of wool does red China have to buy? Does red China come in on the disarmament conference?
– Order! I think the Leader of the Opposition is getting a little wide of the mark.
– Well, Sir, all I can say is that the Government is in the red, and that I will be anxious to hear the Minister’s reply.
– We have had the usual tirade from the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) that we get every time the subject of the Foreign Affairs Committee comes up. I feel that he is somewhat like the person described as looking through the keyhole trying to find out what is going on inside the room. He has the opportunity of allowing his own supporters to join this committee. They understand the apparent anomaly which obviously has slipped past him, that when the membership of the Foreign Affairs Committee is chosen certain vacancies are in effect kept for the Opposition which, we hope, with the wisdom of the years will eventually participate in the committee. So in fact the committee is reduced to two types of membership at the moment - members who are the definite members of the committee from the Government parties, and members, also from the Government benches, who are temporarily filling the vacancies which we hope will some day be filled by Opposition members. I hope that that makes the position quite clear to the Leader of the Opposition.
Mr. Failes is already a member of the Foreign Affairs Committee. Mr. Lucock has been a member of the first part of the committee - that is to say, a permanent member - and Mr. Failes has been a member of that part of the committee consisting of those temporarily filling vacancies to be filled by the Opposition when it sees fit to participate in the committee. So. in fact, the appointment of Mr. Failes is not a new appointment. Mr. Failes will now become a member of the permanent section of the committee, and Mr. Anderson will become a member of the other section of the committee.
May I close on this note? I repeat that the attitude of the Leader of the Opposition is not reflected in the private conversations of many of his supporters. I also say that the fact that we do not make a great fanfare of trumpets over the committee’s activities, and tell them to all the world, does not mean that we are not doing a very great and valuable work on behalf of the people of Australia. A lot goes on behind the scenes. I can well understand why he would like to get his eye to the keyhole and have a jolly good look.
– Order! I point out that there is a motion of want of confidence in the Government before the House. Under the circumstances, it is questionable whether it is expedient to proceed with this debate. I call the honorable member for Parkes, but I remind him that there has been a little laxity in the debate so far. I ask him to confine his remarks, as I know he will, to the subject-matter before the Chair, which is the nomination of certain honorable members for the Foreign Affairs Committee.
.- I regret the restriction because I have some very fixed views concerning the useless study group known as the “ Foreign Affairs Committee “. It began with a flourish of trumpets some years ago. The honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) used it in an attempt to have an Australian indicted for treachery. That indicates how impartial it is.
– I rise to order. The House has already decided that there should be such a committee and that matter is not under discussion. The only matter now under discussion is whether certain honorable members should serve on the committee.
– I think that the Minister is correct. The honorable member for Parkes will be entitled to canvass only the question of the suitability of the members suggested for the committee and not the functions of the committee.
– That is limiting but 1 will accept your ruling with good grace, Mr. Speaker. I point to the fact that the Australian Country Party is the most unstable quantity in this House and least able to bear the onerous duties of the tatting club known as the “ Foreign Affairs Committee “. It is completely useless, but it is a sort of arrogance on the part of the Country Party to tie itself up-
– I rise to order. It is well known that a motion of want of confidence, moved toy the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell), is before the House. Normally, that precludes the discussion of other business until the motion is disposed of. In this case, the Minister sought the leave of the House to move a motion. I think it would be quite wrong to assume that the granting of leave was intended to invite a general debate. Having regard to the fact that we have this other important business before the House, which I know members from all parties are anxious to proceed with, I move -
That the question be now put.
Question put. The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. John McLeay.)
Majority . . . . 26
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Debate resumed from 14th March (vide page 208), on motion by Mr. Calwell-
That because the Government’s rapidly changing plans have failed to protect and develop the Australian economy and to safeguard our overseas funds and have caused grave confusion, dislocation and hardship to many sections of industry, both primary and secondary, and unnecessary suffering to many citizens, particularly those who have lost their employment, this Government does not possess the confidence of the Parliament or of the nation.
– The motion that has been submitted by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) embraces three subjects, and I think it is advisable to refresh our memories on them. First, the motion refers to the general state of the Australian economy; secondly, to the condition of our overseas balance of payments and our overseas funds; and thirdly, the problem of employment and unemployment in relation to the general economy. One would have thought that in such an important debate as this, which concerns all the people of Australia, the Opposition as a potential government would produce in an election year something for the edification and education of the public. One would expect to hear expressed some of the thoughts that the Opposition would apply to the problems that are specifically mentioned in the motion; but it is particularly interesting at this time to recall the events that took place in this chamber just before I rose to speak. I was led to believe by the actions of the Opposition that it felt it did not want to discuss this important motion. Honorable members opposite indicated that they would far rather engage in frivolous witticisms about a very valuable committee of this House, and so divert the public mind from the mare’s nest of their own making.
In an election year, I would have expected from the Oppsosition something intelligible - something the public could bite into. I would have expected to hear something about Labour’s policy on the problems that face Australia. In fact, on studying the speech of the Leader of the Opposition and the speeches of several of his supporters, I have found evidence of their confusion in arriving at what they consider to be the real problem. It is obvious that in the mind of the Leader of the Opposition, the problem is one of imports and the balance of payments. He believes that is the be all and end all of our present economic problems. In his speech, the honorable gentleman said - . . there has been only one economic problem that matters, and that is that imports have been too high.
Later, the honorable gentleman said -
The Government has one problem that transcends all others. It is the problem of the flood of imports.
The honorable gentleman also said -
I presume from those statements that the Leader of the Opposition discards inflation as a basic problem. I maintain - and I think I echo the sentiments of many of my colleagues in this matter - that the problem of balance of payments is purely a symptom of a far deeper problem that we have to solve, and that is the internal inflation that has built up gradually, particularly since the Korean war. not only in Australia but in the world generally. The import appetite we have displayed in the last nine or twelve months is only a corollary of this inflationary process within the economy.
I find some difficultyin accepting the implication that the more intelligent members of the Opposition really agree with their leader in his diagnosis of the complaint. It is rather interesting to note that when the Government takes steps to introduce remedial measures, many Opposition members raise their hands in horror and so also, to an extent, does the general public. In fact, when we analyse the basis of our economy to-day, we find there are many people who are interested in the inflationary type of enterprise, the get-rich-quick, buildandbust propositions. So it is obvious that when any steps towards corrective action are taken, many people have their toes trodden on.
Owing to the obvious intellectual weakness of political Labour in Australia, the responsibility has fallen on our principal newspapers to take up the task of criticizing the Government on the actions rt has taken. In many cases, their criticism has been profound, wise and also very helpful in dealing with the situation. I believe that in general, the press of Australia has much to commend it for being objective on the subject although, as has been pointed out by the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) in this debate, there has been a tendency among certain elements to distort the relevant facts and figures.
I repeat that 1 believe the press has a responsibility in these circumstances because it is obvious that the muddled arguments that have been pushed up by the Opposition in this debate could not lead the Australian public to have any great confidence in either the basic philosophy of the Opposition or the standard of its criticism. So the responsibility has devolved on the press of Australia; and I believe its criticism is helpful provided it is constructive and objective and does not paint an exaggerated picture which might or might not bring on a condition which nobody in this country wants. I refer particularly to the panic criticism which is basic in the creation of lack of confidence.
As everybody knows, our country has set itself some tremendous tasks for very good and valid reasons. First, with the distinct approval of the people of Australia, we are aiming at a high increase in population. That, in itself, involves various considerations, particularly the strain of an ambitious immigration policy on our internal economy. Secondly, we believe that the people sunport us in seeking a high rate of commercial and industrial development and an increase in our export potential. I do not think anybody in this House will argue about that. Thirdly, we all hope that in conjunction with these other developments, we will be able to develop our social and cultural interests so that the people of Australia generally will move towards a better way of life. We are trying to do this within the framework of a very high standard of living and a principle of full employment. This is a matter to which 1 want to devote some time.
I bear out the remarks of the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) that no one in Australia, if he is sincere, can see any advantage, for political or other reasons, in promoting unemployment. All political parties are committed to a policy of full employment. The Government’s record over the past eleven years has been one of continued success in that direction. But since the Government’s fiscal or commercial policies or the overseas crisis raise the threat of unemployment, resistance based on the fear of unemployment is shown to those policies. The honorable member for St. George (Mr. Clay) referred yesterday to the use of threatened unemployment as a means of blackmailing the Government. To be quite frank, T suppose there is a certain amount of that going on. There can be no doubt that it does take place, and this Government, or any government, would have to be resolute and courageous to stand up to this threat which implies in the minds of the public that there is a tendency to encourage unemployment.
The Government must also use its best means to ensure that alternative avenues of employment are found for those unfortunate people who, through either overseas crises, conditions of industry or Government fiscal policy are thrown out of work. I think that action has been exemplified in the present activities of the Department of Labour and National Service. It is very well demonstrated, I believe, by figures recently issued by that department.
I wish to refer now to the editorial appearing in to-day’s Melbourne “ Age “, which T regard as one of the greatest and most significant journals in Australia, if not in the world. I might add that the “ Age “ has not been entirely complimentary in its remarks about the Government’s activities, particularly in the fiscal region, in the last six or nine months. However, there is an interesting comment in this editorial which I should like to read to the House: -
There has been a short-term upheaval in a section of the labour market and this has brought distress, but the situation is better than it was this time two years ago and immeasurably better than it was in other countries.
I think if we accept that statement as factual - and everybody knows, from figures that have been cited in this debate, the magnitude of the unemployment problem throughout the world - we will realize the importance of what the Department of Labour and National Service and the Minister are doing in handling the transposition of people who, unfortunately, through Government action, have lost their employment.
As a member representing a large constituency I realize the vast importance of maintaining an extensive local market. For instance, to refer to the position of only one primary industry, the importance of the local market to the sale of our dairy products cannot be over-estimated. A large local market, with people in a position to buy our local products, is of tremendous value to Australia’s industry as a whole, and particularly to those primary industries which must naturally rely to a large extent on sales to people within Australia. However, over-full employment brings considerable pressures in its train at a time of rapid development, particularly such a time as that which we have gone through in the last ten years. Obviously, if we are to cater for our natural-born increase, as well as the large number of immigrants being brought here and seeking employment, an expansion of secondary industry must take place. It is quite obvious that the primary industries and State and Commonwealth services and departments cannot provide significant numbers of job opportunities for the vast numbers of people who are increasing our work-force each year. So we must rely on an expansion of secondary industry to help solve this problem of making jobs available. In these circumstances any adverse set of conditions, caused either by overseas influences or by governmental policy, must react immediately on the employment position. The problem of employment, as everybody in Australia realizes, is one that must be studied closely all the time, and I am glad to be associated with a government that has, over the years, shown its capacity to deal with that problem.
The next subject I wish to deal with is that of import licensing. It is rather interesting, in the light of what the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) and the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Crean) said about the paramount importance of the re-introduction of selective import licensing, to read again the remarks of the previous Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt), in 1952, when he said -
We look forward to the time when the system can be removed and when there can be substituted for it a proper system of tariff duties, so that the trade of the country can run free.
That is, I believe, a true statement of what Australia’s policy should be, but Labour’s panacea for our ills at present is the reintroduction of import licensing. It is rather interesting to note in this regard that the greatest increase in importations has been in those items which, before the lifting of import restrictions, were not subject to restriction.
The huge increase of imports results from the vast pent-up spending power accumulated through our internal inflation. Of course, there has been some luxury spending. Of course, there have probably been too many large and flashy American cars imported. But in total these importations have been insignificant in the overall figures. As has been pointed out on a number of occasions during this debate, had Australia’s exports remained at the 1953 values, they would be worth this year £1,300,000,000 instead of £880,000,000. This is a significant fact, and one from which there is no escaping. At the moment, unfortunately, we are on the wrong end of the stick.
I supported the lifting of import restrictions at the time the Government announced its intention to do so, because I believed it would have a good influence on the price structure in Australia. I thought that after the first rush the demand for imports would level out at a reasonable figure. So far,
I have been proved wrong, I think for two reasons. The first one is that it was impossible to estimate accurately the amount of spending money that was available in Australia. Secondly, the psychological effect of some of the talk that has been indulged in since the lifting of import restrictions has been to create in the minds of the public a belief that sooner or later these restrictions will have to be re-imposed. If you are engaged in a certain activity involving imported goods, and you think you may be left out on a limb, it is natural that you will take all sorts of steps to protect yourself against an expected eventuality. No one wants to be left out when, at some time in the future, a quota figure is established on a base year which may be the current year, or may be last year or next year. I think this belief in an ultimate reimposition of import restrictions has probably encouraged the flood of imports more than any other factor, and it has been brought about to a large extent by much of the talk that has been going on about this matter.
I understand also that the policy of the Reserve Bank to restrict loans from Australian sources for overseas purchasing has been circumvented to some extent by overseas exporters who themselves have made financial accommodation available.
I would like to recount a couple of experiences which I had in connexion with import licensing, one some years ago and one more recently. They show what an anomalous position we can get ourselves into. Some years ago I was approached by a concern which was engaged in making clothing in one of the important towns in my electorate. It was having difficulty in obtaining the right kind of lining material, which could be obtained only from overseas. I was asked if it were possible to do something to relieve the situation of the firm, because it was faced with the possibility of having to close down, and it employed some 120 people. Thank goodness, owing to the wisdom of the Minister
We were able to overcome the difficulty, and the firm was able to carry on. That is one side of the picture. More recently T have been asked by another concern in my electorate to try to do something about reimposing import restrictions, because a cer tain kind of product of this firm is being undercut by imported goods.
How to reconcile all these differing views I do not know, but I am led to the conclusion, and 1 still affirm, that the Government’s policy is right, and that the tariff system is the only proper system by which the problem can be solved. If tariff machinery can be devised to work speedily - and the system was greatly strengthened by legislation introduced in this House last year - 1 think it is by far the most equitable and logical method of ensuring the protection of industry. Furthermore, it is fairly obvious that import licensing did encourage the establishment of uneconomic industries which have had some effect on our increasing cost structure.
I should like to refer now to investment in government loans. I believe that the old system which operated for a number of years would be of advantage at this time. Provision should be made for the acceptance at face value of government loans in payment of federal estate duty. I do not claim that it should be possible for an executor to buy bonds on the market and to use those bonds in settlement of estate duty, but there is plenty of room in our federal financial structure for acceptance of the principle that, say, the executors of an original investor in a lew loan, or of a person who has held bonds for a number of years, should be able to use those bonds in settlement of estate duty. I know that at present it is possible to take up special bonds for that purpose, but I must remind the House that special bonds are limited to £5,000, and that is not the kind of investment that I have in mind when discussing this subject.
I pass now to the question of our overseas balances. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition referred to the run-down in our overseas balances as throwing away £400,000,000. Does he seriously suggest that we have actually thrown away £400,000,000? Does he seriously suggest that some of that amount is not represented by the value of the equipment that we have introduced into Australia and the capital works that have been carried out during the last ten years? His suggestion is fanciful and in keeping with a lot of the tenets of his argument.
Many Government members have pointed out that a reduction in prices of our main exports cannot be anticipated accurately. If we are to curb our expansion programme during this period of our development for fear that something might happen, our progress inevitably will be retarded. I think that is fairly axiomatic. We have followed a policy of trying to build up overseas reserves. Overseas reserves have no real value if they are not to be used when required to enable us to continue our development. That is what we are doing. The reserves are built up to meet that very contingency and we expect them to be available if and when they are required.
I mentioned earlier that when the Government adopts measures to deal with internal and external financial problems it is a certainty that some one will be disadvantaged. No one likes the good-time atmosphere of booming conditions to be slowed down or stopped, except that unfortunate section of the community whose incomes are fixed and do not keep pace with rising costs. The solution of our immediate economic problems will emerge as the effect of the present measures are felt. Things may get worse before they get better, but as the representative of a constituency which is vastly affected by falls in overseas prices without corresponding falls in the cost structure, I welcome the policies which are aimed at curbing inflation so that after a shake-out we can get on with the task of making Australia physically and economically strong.
.- There is no doubt that the majority of the people of Australia support the want of confidence motion which has been moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell). During the ten and a half years of this Government’s reign, all sections of the community have voiced their criticism of its economic policy, but the criticism has never been so widespread or as prolonged as that which has been levelled at the Government since its most recent economic proposals were announced last November. There is good reason for most of the criticism, and the Labour Opposition would have been remiss in its duty if it had not proposed the motion which the House is now discussing.
The honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. Mackinnon) gave reasons for certain actions of the Government, but during the whole of his speech he gave the impression of a man who was speaking simply because he thought that he should speak and not because he had a firm belief in the statements that he uttered. It was very interesting, for instance, to hear him proclaim the fact that perhaps one of the reasons why imports have continued at such a high level is that importers, because of the fear that import restrictions will toe reimposed, have decided to ‘buy far more good’s overseas than they actually require in order, as he states, to have a high quota on which to base their claims for import licences should restrictions be reimposed in the future. That is exactly what the Labour Party has been stating. We have said that the people for whom this Government stands - the industrialists, the manufacturers and the vested interests in the community - ‘have not been prepared to do for the country what most people believe to be the correct thing.
If, as the honorable member for Corangamite has suggested, these importers and retail houses have decided to spend millions of pounds overseas on imports because they want to be in a good position if restrictions are re-introduced, then their action is unpatriotic and unprincipled. Unless that section of the community is prepared to put its needs and its requirements on a comparable level with every other section of the community, and place the future of this nation1, its development, and the welfare of its people above all else, the re-introduction of controls will be imperative.
We of the Labour Party are not the only ones who believe that selective import controls should be imposed. For instance, Mr. Staniforth Ricketson, chairman of directors of Haliburton Investments (Australia) Limited, after referring to what he believed to be the unjustified proposal for the devaluation of the Australian £1, said this during his address to the tenth annual meeting of the company -
A more probable course would appear to be some re-imposition of import controls if the influx of goods continues for some months at recent levels. This would help in replenishing Australia’s international reserves and would enable some relaxation of credit restrictions.
– Who said that?
– That statement was made by Mr. Staniforth Ricketson who, I think the House will agree, can hardly be regarded as a supporter of the Labour Party. The Labour Party’s view is also shared by the Associated Chambers of Manufactures of Australia. Time and again during the last few weeks Mr. R. W. C. Anderson, the federal director, has had something to say about this matter. In the “ Canberra Letter “ - the organization’s publication - dated 2nd March, 1961, Mr. Anderson devoted a good deal of space to stressing the fact that selective import restrictions should be imposed. He then said - *
We could save £100,000,000 a year by reducing imports of consumer goods which are now running at a rate well in excess of £200,000,000 a year. Nobody (repeat nobody) would be adversely affected by this kind of import control.
There is no doubt that most of the goods that are being imported can be, and have been, manufactured in Australia. One reason why imports have continued at such a high level since restrictions were lifted in February last year is that the importers and retail houses have exercised no discretion. And some of the things which are being brought into this country are manufactured here and have been manufactured here for many years, but the height of ridiculousness is reached when we realize that frozen iceblocks, meat pies, orange juice, tinned ham and tinned chicken, as well as many other things mentioned during this debate by various speakers on the other side of the House, are being imported. I suggest that Cabinet should look at some of the goods which are being purchased by government departments from overseas and which can be readily manufactured in Australia. I suggest that we are importing for government use, such things as guns, shells, ammunition, cordage, webbing and safety equipment such as parachutes, underwater equipment and dinghys. All those things have been and still are being manufactured in Australia.
If we are going to lift our overseas reserves, one way in which to do so is by seeing that the Government makes some attempt to ensure that its departments do not purchase from overseas goods that can be manufactured in Australia and which have been and are being manufactured here. Some of the things which I have just mentioned are of vital defence importance, and, while I do not want to hark back to 1942 and 1943, it is clear in our memories of that time that our defence industries were very much below the standard at which they should have been. Yet the Government which was responsible for that position is making the same mistake as it made then by allowing important manufacturing industries, which can be useful in time of war or stress, to be put out of business by the importation of goods.
Surely, if we are to maintain secondary industry in Australia, we should see that these industries, which can be of benefit to us in time of conflict, are among those that are supported. The stop-and-go policy of this Government over the last ten years has been the main reason for the drastic economic safeguards and changes which were introduced by the Government last November. It is not necessary for me to go back any further than the announcements made in November last to point to the fact that this Government lacks courage and is a government of indecision, which has no idea at all of the needs for the development of Australia.
Industry has not been given an opportunity to develop on a sound basis since this Government came into office, because it has repeatedly changed its economic plans. We have only to look at the plans announced last November. One of four points was the introduction of the 10 per cent, increase of sales tax on motor vehicles. Another was the plan to compel insurance companies and superannuation funds to invest 30 per cent, of their funds in Commonwealth loans. The third point was the credit squeeze, which is still with us, while the fourth point was the deductibility of interest payments for income tax purposes. If we look at each one of those points we find that, after a very short period of time, because of pressure applied to the Government by the motor industry, the sales tax on motor vehicles was reduced from 40 per cent, to 30 per cent. I do not maintain that the sales tax should have ‘been increased in the first place, but the Government, after due consideration - as it said - bad decided that that was one of the things essential to be done. But with a little bit of pressure from the motor industry, and with perhaps some actions being taken by the motor industry, which were not absolutely essential at that time, the Government went into a panic and the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), prior to his departure for overseas, announced that sales tax would be returned to 30 per cent.
The next point was that 30 per cent, of insurance company and superannuation funds had to be invested in Commonwealth loans. We find that the Government is still shilly-shallying on this question. Pressure has been applied to the Government by the superannuation funds, insurance companies and Various other private instrumentalities, and the Government cannot make up its mind whether to compel them to put into Commonwealth loans 30 per cent, of their funds in accordance with its announcement in November last.
The fourth point is that of deductibility of interest payments for income tax purposes. The Government is still discussing the question and its proposals are still under consideration. The Government does not know what it is going to do about that point at all. Three out of the four points announced by the Government in November have been altered or are to be altered and, consequently, it is quite apparent that this Government is prepared to give way to pressure which comes from those people whom it represents in this Parliament. If the pressure comes from any of the workers for increased wages, better amenities or increased social services, we find that the Government can always muster sufficient strength to stand up to that pressure. Yet in the case of the people who support the Government it is prepared, even to the detriment of the employment situation in Australia and the future of this country, to give way to those who pressurize it.
The main reasons for the introduction of the Government’s economic proposals in November was that our overseas reserves were falling to a dangerous level. I know that statement is contrary to the opinion which has just been expressed by the honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. Mackinnon), who says it was our internal inflation which caused the Government to take those measures. But in truth and fact the reason why the Government took those actions was that our overseas reserves Were falling. The Government took action by a backdoor method and was not prepared to say: “ You people who have been bringing in too many luxury and unnecessary goods will be stopped from doing that. We will put on selective import controls.” Instead of doing that, the Government decided to put on the credit squeeze which has not been effective to any great extent at all, as our overseas reserves fell last month by between £13,000,000 and £15,000,000 and, in the previous month, by about the same amount.
The credit squeeze has made no difference at all to the volume of imports, but it has made a great deal of difference to the people in Australia who have faced unemployment and dismissals in various industries throughout the length and breadth of the country. While the Government, perhaps, looks forward to the day when it will have a pool of unemployed, we, on the Labour Party side, say that one thing which we do not want to see is any person in Australia, willing and capable of working, without a job. Irrespective of the fact that we would have to impose import restrictions ot preserve our position I believe that the interests of our Australian people are sacrosanct and should be preserved at every opportunity.
I suggest that the imposition of selective import controls would cause no excessive hardship to anybody. During the eight or nine years when they were imposed there were very few average people - and they are the people whom the Australian Labour Party represents, in the main - forced to go without any goods that they desired. If they could not get the imported article they were certainly able, in most instances, to get one made in Australia; and most of them are quite prepared and much prefer to buy Australian manufactured goods. I believe that one of the reasons for the influx of excessive imports is the fact that they are brought in, in many instances, from cheap labour markets. They come into
Australia at certain prices and the importer and retailer then make an excessive markup for profit. Those goods are then sold at a price not far below the price of Australian manufactured goods. But the price at which they are sold is little below the price of the Australian manufactured goods because of the excessive mark-up for profit by the importer and the retailer. I would like to see a survey undertaken by the Department of Trade to ascertain how many imported goods are being sold in Australia at an excessive amount of profit. 1 am confident that the results of such a survey would amaze most of the people of Australia, and certainly most honorable members on the Government side of the House. Many of the retail stores have failed to play their part in overcoming the economic difficulties besetting Australia at the moment, and it is time this Government realized that until it has the courage to show some decisiveness they will continue to use every device at their disposal to prevent it from doing what it realizes must be done and what we of the Labour Party know is urgently needed if the position is to be rectified.
Yesterday, the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) asked the Treasurer a question about a loan of £1,000,000 made by the Commonwealth Superannuation Board to David Jones Limited. When answering that question, the Treasurer gave a far from satisfactory explanation, and I should like to deal with that subject again because I feel there are many points about that transaction that should be brought to the light of day. As I have stated already, the Government has found it necessary to impose credit restrictions because of the excessive purchases of imports and excessive spending in the community. Excessive purchases of imports have adversely affected the liquidity of such firms as David Jones Limited. The Government now proposes to bring down legislation designed to compel insurance companies and the trustees of superannuation funds to invest in Commonwealth loans. Credit restrictions have caused widespread unemployment throughout Australia. Yet, in the face of all these facts, we find a statutory body of the Commonwealth making £1,000,000 available to a retail house whose liquidity undoubtedly has been adversely affected because it has purchased excessive amounts of consumer goods from overseas! Amongst other things, the Government’s economic policy has resulted in reducing to a minimum loans to State governments and local governing bodies for essential public works, and at this time when local governing bodies are unable to construct roads, carry out sewerage work or lay down kerbing and guttering, we see a Commonwealth statutory body lending £1,000,000 to a firm such as David Jones Limited!
I remind honorable members that just prior to the imposition of stricter import controls a few years ago, it was rumoured that the very firm which is now receiving a loan of £1,000,000 from the Commonwealth Superannuation Board was given prior warning of the Government’s intention to impose those stricter import controls and so was able to enjoy an advantage over its competitors in the import field. The same set of circumstances would seem to be present in this instance, for David Jones Limited has been granted a loan of £1,000,000 from Commonwealth superannuation funds at a time prior to the introduction of legislation requiring insurance companies and the holders of certain other funds to invest a percentage of their moneys in Commonwealth loans.
– The Government has no control over that, and you know it. The Government cannot tell the trustees of that fund what they shall do with the money in the fund.
– That is what the Treasurer said yesterday - the Government has no control over what shall be done with superannuation moneys. The point I emphasize is that the Commonwealth Superannuation Board is a statutory body appointed by this Government and, in view of the restrictions being imposed in Australia at the present time, it is completely and utterly stupid and laughable to allow any Commonwealth funds to go into private industry. The Government seeks to wash its hands of the matter by saying it has no control over superannuation funds. The Government should have told the board not to make the loan.
– Would you suggest that the Government should raid the superannuation fund and use the money for its own purposes?
– I am not making any such suggestion; the Government already proposes doing that for it announced as far back as last November that it proposed compelling insurance companies and the trustees of superannuation funds to invest 30 per cent, of their moneys in Commonwealth loans. 1 repeat that the Commonwealth Superannuation Board is a statutory body and, if the Government expects private industry to do certain things an example should be set by these statutory bodies. If any of these statutory bodies have surplus Hinds, those moneys should be used for the development of Australia and to ensure i: economic future of the nation instead of being made available to a private retail house which, I suggest, will use those moneys to build a large store either in Adelaide or in some other city of the Commonwealth.
Many speakers on the Government side have suggested that during this debate the Labour Party has offered no constructive suggestion for remedying the position in which our economy has been placed. For the benefit of such honorable members, I direct attention to the policy speech of the Labour Party as delivered by the former leader of the party, Dr. Evatt, on Wednesday, 9th November, 1955. Now that the Government has decided upon an all-out drive to increase exports, it is appropriate for me to read the following extract from that policy speech: -
Negative action on the balance of payments position can help to prevent actual insolvency in the short run. But positive action to encourage exports is essential to regain the position Australia occupied in overseas markets during the Labour Government. That will be the keynote of Labour’s overseas policy. Exports must be increased; existing markets expanded; new export markets sought out.
Until very recently, and then only under constant pressure, practically no campaign to sell was conducted in relation to our exports. Labour will create a special Ministry of Exports to devote itself to this vital task. We will tolerate no inhibition which might prevent Australia from associating itself with Britain, Canada and New Zealand in seeking trade relations with all countries, not only in wool but in all exports, both primary and secondary.
I emphasize that the Labour Party made that statement in 1955. That action was urgently needed then, but it is more urgently needed now, and at long last the
Government has decided to do something about our export position.
In the few moments left to me, I should like to refer to the fact that the nonproduction of oil in Australia is costing us in the vicinity of £125,000,000 a year. Some attempts are being made to discover oil here now, but, in all, only four drills are sinking bores at the present time. If the Government were really sincere in its desire to find oil in Australia - and most of the experts believe that it is here to be found - the Government would make an all-out drive to discover oil, for the discovery of oil would have a terrific beneficial effect upon our overseas trade balances. As I have said, it is costing us in the vicinity of £125,000,000 a year to import the oil we need. Recently, the Government announced that it proposed to spend a little over £1,000,000 this year on subsidies for oil search, but I point out that Pakistan, a country whose standards could not possibly be compared with ours, will be spending £13,500,000 for this purpose. We should be making an all-out drive now to discover oil here, and I would suggest that if and when oil is found, the Government should have the controlling interest in it.
Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- 1 do not propose to answer all the points raised during the course of this debate, but I do hope to answer some of those raised by the honorable member for Lang (Mr. Stewart). Before doing so, I wish to refer to the want-of-confidence motion submitted by the Leader of the Opposition (Mt. Calwell). That motion is notable not for what it says, but for what it does not say. The speech of the Leader of the Opposition left me with one thought. It was that he. the great crusader of socialism who has often extolled the virtues of that philosophy, had decided not to air his views on that subject on this occasion. Similarly, most of his supporters who are socialists are not prepared to do that either on this occasion because it is not the right time. I dare say we will not hear anything about socialism during the whole of this year. I want to remind the House of the wording of this want-of-confidence motion. It begins, as we all remember, but let me emphasize, with the words -
That because the Government’s rapidly changing plans have failed to protect and develop the Australian economy . . .
The Leader of the Opposition commenced his speech by saying that he would tell the story properly and he must start at the beginning. I am not sure what story he wanted to tell us, but I presume it was the story of Australia’s economy during the past ten years. He did not say how good things were during the past ten years and he did not tell us anything of the advantages that had been gained by the community during that period. He wanted, of course, to tell us the faults and the mistakes that, in his opinion, may have been made. He was very anxious to tell us exactly what took place in the period prior to this Government coming into office.
In the time that I have at my disposal, I want to make the point that under a freeenterprise system, with the help of good Australian workmen and Government guidance of the economy, Australia has become one of the most prosperous nations in the world and its standard of living is one of the best in the world. According to statistics, our standard of living is at least 1 5 per cent, better than that of any other nation. Unemployment figures to-day are amongst the lowest, if not the lowest, in the free world. I have before me the “ International Labour Review “ which publishes the figures on unemployment. Despite the fact that we have had some additional unemployment during the past two months, our figures are still lower than those of most other countries. I would say that working conditions in this country to-day are first class. Few, if any, countries enjoy more leisure time than we do. Australia is still to-day and will remain one of the most favoured countries in which to live.
I have made a number of very positive statements and I hope to have the pleasure of giving some of the facts to support those statements. I said that working conditions are first class and few, if any, countries enjoy leisure time to the extent that we enjoy it while still maintaining full employment. It is on that point that Australia is challenged to-day. Wherever I have been abroad, I have been repeatedly asked how it is that we can enjoy such short working hours and still remain a prosperous country.
– Because you have a Labour philosophy.
– I will explain to you in the course of my remarks exactly how it has happened. I remind honorable members of a report on the 42nd Session of the International Labour Conference. One item on the agenda related to hours of work. The International Labour Organization published a report which included details of the yearly hours of work and of the number of hours not worked but paid during a year. The report says that the data on which the calculations are made are valid for wage-earners excluding office employees and apply to industry in general. Egypt heads the list of countries because of its 54-hour week. Indonesia is at the bottom of the list because, like Australia, it has a 40-hour week and two weeks’ annual paid holidays, but it has an extra paid public holiday. There are, of course, many reasons why the conditions of this country are infinitely better than those of Indonesia.
This matter is so important that I propose to enumerate the countries. Honorable members will agree that it is vital to the economy of this country that we increase our exports, and it is just as well to know the hours of work in other countries. The list supplied by the International Labour Organization includes 40 countries. It starts with Egypt where the average working man works the greatest number of hours in a year. It then goes on to Chile, Greece, Mexico, Switzerland, Portugal. Uruguay, Peru, Venezuela, Costa Rica, Luxembourg, Turkey, Brazil, Yugoslavia, the Netherlands, the Federal Republic of Germany, Austria, Italy, Denmark, Norway, the Union of South Africa, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, Colombia, Czechoslovakia, Finland, Poland, Belgium, Sweden, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Ireland, the United Kingdom, Argentina, Cuba, the United States of America, Canada, New Zealand, France, Australia and Indonesia.
I mention these countries particularly because it will be seen that all the important socialist countries work much longer hours in a year than we do. Further, the greatest exporting countries and some of our greatest competitors work much longer hours than we do. We fortunately have one of the lowest rates of unemployment in the world and we have extra leisure time that is not enjoyed by the countries that I have mentioned.
A further study by the International Labour Organization on current labour costs in the major European countries shows that West Germany’s total labour cost per hour is equivalent to 8s. 3d., calculated in Australian currency. That is the average amount paid to the working man. In the United Kingdom it is 7s. 9d., in France 7s. and in Italy 5s. lOd. It is impossible to give comparable hourly labour costs for Australia, as the figures are not available to make such a computation, but the evidence suggests that labour costs for employee hours worked in Australia are at least 10s. I am very glad to say that we are paying more per hour for our labour than are the great exporting countries and some of our great competitors. But the true test of the value of wages to the employee is how much they will buy. In one of the socialist countries I visited some months ago, a pound of butter cost the equivalent of four days’ pay for an unskilled worker and a pair of boots cost the equivalent of a month’s pay. In the other socialist countries I visited, conditions were very much the same.
Not only are Australian employees much better off according to the International Labour Organization’s figures than are the wage-earners in other countries, but they are much better off to-day than they were ten years ago. That is something that the Leader of the Opposition was not prepared to tell us in his address to the House when moving the motion of want of confidence in this Government. He was not prepared to tell us that the conditions existing to-day are infinitely better than those that existed in what we call the Chifley era. According to the statistics that I have been able to obtain, we are to-day 15 per cent, better off than we were ten years ago.
In that unfortunate era, which is referred to so often as the Chifley era, there were signs of very great unrest and discontent. There were bitterness and a great suspicion between management and men. Industrial stoppages and calamities, such as national strikes, were widespread. The situation to-day has improved to the extent that there is considerable goodwill between management and men. Now, we no longer have to import coal as we had to do during the term of the Chifley Government. Only to-day, I read in the press that we propose to export from Queensland this year £1,000,000 worth of coal. This will mean an additional £1,000,000 of export income to help our balance of payments.
The first important thing about the figures that I have cited is that all this transformation in this country during the last ten years has come about under the administration of a government which is considered by the Leader of the Opposition, as he stated when proposing his wantofconfidence motion, to have failed to carry out its duty. The second important thing, Sir, is that all this has come about within the framework of a free-enterprise system which has been adapted to modern needs. That is a most important point.
We should not forget that this wantofconfidence motion, which constitutes a vote of censure on the Government, has been submitted by the leader of a party that is committed to socialism. You will remember, Sir, that when I read a list of countries where the hours of work are much longer than are those in Australia, I mentioned Soviet Russia, Czechoslovakia, Poland and Yugoslavia. In Soviet Russia, the normal hours of work are 2,248 a year. Russia’s satellites have somewhat similar working hours. This is in sharp contrast to conditions in Australia, where the workers’ normal hours of work are something like 1,888 a year. I mention this again because the four countries which I have just named, like the Australian Labour Party, advocate and support socialism. When the countries which are satellites of Russia first embraced socialism, they adopted a short working week. But conditions in those countries are very much different to-day.
Not only are the hours of work much longer than are the hours worked in Australia, but also workers in those countries have to work more than one shift. They have to work two shifts in order to live. They do not work two shifts, as do some of Australia’s workers, in order to obtain additional money with which to buy a motor car or perhaps a television set or some other appliance or amenity. The workers in these socialist countries work additional shifts in order to enable themselves to live. What we have to remember about the wantofconfidence motion submitted by the Australian Labour Party is that if it is carried the next government will be a socialist one.
– Hear, hear!
– 1 remind the honorable member that the example that the Labour Party wants to follow is that of the socialist countries in Europe where to-day conditions are very much worse than are those under which we in Australia live.
I want to emphasize, Sir, that attempts to improve the standard of living for any section of the community at a rate faster than that which the development of the nation’s resources can sustain - by that, 1 mean at a rate faster than that at which national productivity is increasing - will eventually run the economy into a short series of stresses and strains. This is what has happened in every other country which has a free economy. Only to-day, I read a report of a remark made by Mr. E. J. Kaplan, who is the leader of the trade mission from the United States of America which is now visiting this country. He said that Australia’s credit squeeze is a kind of growing pam which is inevitable for a nation progressing so dramatically as is this country at the present time.
We are a great exporting country, Sir. The prosperity of our economy naturally rises and falls with movements in prices on the world’s markets. When prices are high, we can live high. When prices fall, our export income falls, and we perhaps have to buy a little more frugally and adjust our mode of living. That is only natural, and that is the kind of thing that happens in a free-enterprise system. The socialist system which the Australian Labour Party would substitute if it replaced this Government to-morrow would produce conditions similar to those which exist in the countries of Europe to which I have directed the attention of the House, where socialism has reigned during the last 20 or 30 years. In a socialist system, the value of the currency can comparatively easily be altered accord ing to changes in world prices. It can be changed over-night in response to changes in world prices, for the simple reason that in a socialist system no one owns anything. The government acquires everything and there is no free enterprise. Therefore, a socialist government finds it easy to alter the value of the currency over-night because no one in the country is affected except when he goes outside its borders.
The difficulties caused by attempts to improve standards of living at a rate faster than that which can be sustained by the development of the nation’s resources, or at a rate faster than that at which productivity is increasing, are particularly evident to-day in the unequal distribution of labour, quite apart from our balance-ot-payments problem. A few weeks ago, employment figures for our luxury industries indicated over-full employment and an extremely tight labour market in which employers were competing with one another for the available labour. In some important industries, labour was impossible to get. Consequently there was a great deal of unbalanced productivity. House building was progressing with great rapidity, and the rate at which essential works like street construction and the provision of water services were being undertaken was slipping further and further behind the rate of house construction. This applied to both maintenance and new works. All of us can remember the situation that existed in the fringe suburbs of the large cities, particularly in some of the eastern States, during the winter months of last year. Houses were being built, but streets were not being laid out and normal services for the provision of water, electric power and the like were unavailable in many housing areas. Daily, particularly in the Victorian newspapers, one could see pictures of houses in unmade streets. The rate at which street works were undertaken did not keep pace with the high rate of house construction.
The motor car industry has been booming, but the steel industry, on the other hand, has been unable to obtain sufficient labour to enable it to produce all the steel that we need. This, of course, is one of the weaknesses of a free-enterprise system. The alternative in a socialist system is direction of labour. The socialist countries have no difficulty in ensuring that a proper distribution of labour is made in all industries. Every working man or woman is directed to the job at which he or she is to work. The workers go where they are compelled to go. The whole thing is just as easy as that. If a worker is not prepared to take the job that is offered to him, he cannot get employment anywhere else. He has no alternative to taking the job to which he is directed.
During World War II., we termed this method of directing labour the direction of man-power. This is the socialist method, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Proper socialism cannot exist without such a system for the direction of labour. If the Australian Labour Party took office to-day, it would direct man-power to-morrow in order to make the socialist system work. Mr. Chifley himself realized that this sort of thing had to happen under socialism. He realized that if the Labour Government were to continue to administer a socialist system it would have to control man-power and direct labour. In fact, he gave that indication. I remember, and most honorable members will remember, the statement that he made in 1948 when he said that no guarantee could be given that workers could stay put in a particular industry. He said that the worker had to realize that there would have to be a transfer. He did not say that there might be a transfer, but said that there would have to be a transfer of workers, a transfer of whole communities to other forms of work. He said that everybody would not be able to stay at home because there would have to be a transfer of labour if there were to be expansion. He said he was not going to fool anybody in that regard and that it might even involve a plan for moving towns. Mr. Chifley was a realist and he knew that in order to have a socialistic system you have to have direction of labour, and he was then telling the trade unions at that very important meeting of union members in the Sydney Town Hall what to expect if his government was returned to power. Very fortunately, the people of this country believed then, as I think they believe to-day, that a system of free enterprise is the only progressive system and the only system which is going to make this country great. I believe that the average Australian would prefer the economic restrictions applied by this Government in order to bring the economy back into balance to the direction of labour that is advocated by the Leader of the Opposition. He has so very often indicated in this House that he is an uncompromising socialist, and if he ever becomes the leader of a government we will know that we are going to have to live under a socialistic system in this country under which there wall be direction of man-power such as exists in every other socialistic country in the world. One thing is very clear to-day, particularly when we look at the hours of work and the wages that apply in other countries - that as a free people we have to meet the challenge. We have to show that our free economy and our democracy work better than the controlled economy - the economic dictatorship - that is applied under socialism.
We must increase our exports of primary and secondary products at prices that will favorably compare with the export goods of the socialistic countries. If we can do that I believe we will continue to enjoy the amenities of one of the most prosperous countries in the world and continue to be one of the most favoured countries in the world.
.- I want to say, without offence to the honorable member for Isaacs (Mr. Haworth), that I have never heard such flapdoodle in my life. I want to say, further, that as an essay on how to defend yourself against a motion of censure the honorable gentleman’s speech made me feel that he was attending some dreary summer school on economics and foreign affairs. He ambled on and gave no concrete rebuttals of our charges, nor did he attempt in any way to come to grips with the problem which has caused us in the Opposition - the alternative government - to bring to this House the facts of the crisis that exists outside. It was the famous Earl of Beaconsfield - the great Benjamin Disraeli himself - who said, “ There are lies, damned lies and statistics “. In his attack on the socialistic countries, the honorable member for Isaacs made a happy hotchpotch of all these things - lies, damned lies and statistics. What it had to do with the case before us, with the battle that is joined by us on this side and the Government in rebuttal, on the motion of censure, is very hard to follow.
I should like for a moment, in all humility, to try to represent myself as an average Australian outside looking in on this dreary, sloppy, and no-account Government and wondering, “ What next, in the name of God? What next? “ The Government has changed from one foot to another. While marching it has changed from aggressive conservatism to weak milk and water socialism. As a final parting gift the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) himself, on leaving the country, said before he stepped into the plane, “ All the legislation, the increased sales tax on motor cars, the threats to the insurance companies, the idea of regimentation to stop this inflation, to stop the fall in our overseas balances and to put the country back on the rails, was a dreadful mistake. You need not worry about anything until I come back.” He makes a fool of the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt). He makes fools of all his followers, because you could not have anybody less consistent than the Prime Minister. He has gone off again. I notice that the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen), who is now the Acting Prime Minister, has advocated tourism. You have the greatest example of tourism in the Prime Minister himself, who is home in Australia only incidentally when some minor royalty is visiting us, or when there is some occasion of pageantry. So, I want to say in regard to what has been said on the other side of the House during this debate, that we are weary of the explanations of people like the honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. Mackinnon) who, climbing the weary Matterhorn of his own platitudes, was trying to explain the unexplainable. What the people of Australia want to-day is to know what the Government is now going to do about the chaos it has created outside. It wants to know what you gentlemen opposite are going to do about the things that are so manifestly, so abundantly, and so demonstrably, clear. There is trouble in this country, and all the dreary nonsensical babble on the other side cannot get away from the fact that you have not got a formula, that you have run dry. You have borrowed from socialism, you have borrowed from laisser- faire liberalism. You have run out of tricks. You have run down like a cheap clock made in West Germany and you have not got a tick left in you. You have no credit in your own country, and certainly no credit overseas. So, in the circumstances, why cannot we get deliberate answers from the Government on these problems. The Government says, “ What is the alternative government’s answer? “ Do you think we are going to tell you so that you will steal it again? Honorable members opposite laugh at that, but the happy laughter from the other side prompts me to remind honorable members opposite that most of the measures they are now employing are socialistic measures to cure problems caused by laisser-faire. Of course, they are! Your controls are socialistic, your pressures are socialistic and your various moves to limit and your methods to stop and start are all a badly applied remedy instead of the remedy that we would apply properly. If you want the short answer about what we are going to do when we become the government, that answer is that we will do exactly the opposite of what you are going to do and, having set ourselves to the wheel, or, to put it more explicitly, having set ourselves a target, we will stick to it. Our Government will not be one that will run away in cowardice, but one of some substance and with a desire to do the right thing for the Australian people.
What I want to say in the few minutes at my disposal is that we want to shake up the Government into giving some answer instead of coming to us and asking what we would do. The great Bernard Shaw, who was the greatest publicist as well as the greatest author and playwright of his time, wrote a very provocative play which caused the critics, referring to the problem with which the play dealt, to ask, “ What would you do to solve it? “ He answered, “My boy, it is my right and privilege to tell you what is wrong and you, as sovereign people, have to fix it”. In the same way, we are the Opposition, and we know our policy and have expounded it from time to time without deviation. There it is. Read, mark and inwardly digest, and you will know what we are going to do. You pretend that you do not know. Even the honorable member for Isaacs got up a while ago after one of the Ministers had said, “ Labour hasn’t a clue. It will not be able to tell us what to do. If it gets in it can’t do it “, and he sard, “ Beware of Labour when it gets in. It has a definite programme. It is going to put the screws on. It is going to hurt private enterprise.” It is going to jolt some capitalists out of their slumbers, and it is going to do some good for the working classes of this country. Yet one thing belies the other. Of course we know where we are going, and we leave that as the answer to the rather childish bleatings of the Government, which says to us, “ You will not tell us what you are going to do, so we do not know what to do “.
I should like to point out the perplexity of the worker outside, whether he lives in a constituency which returns a Liberal member, a Country Party member or a Labourite. He does not know a great deal about overseas balances, but he has a glimmering of fear in his mind and a beat in his heart that perhaps what the Government is doing means depression, that it means unemployment, that it means some change in the economic fair weather that he has enjoyed, and which was instituted, of a certainty, in the days of the Chifley Administration. He also knows a great deal about the fact that there are 73,000 unemployed, and he is worried about the growth of unemployment which, from its incipiency, has become very definite and in a while could be a rather strong trend.
The Labour Party has said from time to time through its former leader, who is now the Chief Justice of New South Wales, and its present leader and its members, that we do not declare for either unemployment or a depression; but we cannot help but tell the people who are running from the juggernaut which is rolling downhill into both disasters, that the Government should take a look-see and make some hand signals before it rs too late. That is the thought of the man in the street. He is not taken up with your academic arguments about trade balances and the fine razor’s edge of your economy, and about where your trade flows and does not flow. His is not to reason why but to bend his back and work and to hope that in the fullness of judgment and understanding, he will get a government that will give him a chance to build his house, rear his children, and live in the prosperity that belongs to the Australian people.
The honorable member for Isaacs (Mr. Haworth), in some sort of Alice in Wonderland fashion, drew an analogy between the people of Indonesia and the people of Australia, and tried to point out that because we work fewer hours we do not have as much prosperity. Of course, he merely proves our argument that with automation and facilities for continuity of higher production we can have shorter hours and greater prosperity. The two are synonymous. The worker believes that.
I want to concentrate, in my remaining time, on the appalling problem of interest rates and the Government’s complete arrogance and absence of feeling in regard to the credit squeeze on the community. The businessman, the investor, the old people in retirement and living on fixed incomes, the worker and everybody else feel this interest squeeze. The Government must have encouraged more Shylocks in this country than there are anywhere else in the world. The Government has talked about controls. Surely that is where controls should be applied. As I pointed out yesterday, and as the honorable member for Lang (Mr. Stewart) has mentioned, the trustees admintering the Commonwealth Superannuation Fund have had the temerity to lend money to a rag shop ostensibly to extend its factories, but no doubt to buy goods overseas. Yet the Government cannot find a bob for council work, to repair our streets, or for co-operative housing so that people can build houses and live in contentment! Of course there is a shortage of money, but it is an artificial credit squeeze. What a disgraceful thing it is when an organization with £1,000,000 to hand out does not think of Commonwealth loans as a fitting avenue of investment! Trustees should not go after the golden gate; they should make sure that they place their funds in a gilt-edged investment.
– What is the rag shop?
– David Jones Limited. The interest rate, I believe, is 8 per cent. If that is wrong, I shall stand corrected.
The enormous and tragic thing to-day is that the worker is being blasted to hell with his own money. The funds that go from the worker into insurance, superannuation and other investments are used, in bulk, to oppress him. That money is lent, not back to the worker, but to madcap adventurers, exploiters, people who want to buy more overseas goods, or build stupid-looking buildings that will remain empty because when the worker has not a job his exploiters and oppressors will certainly not quarter him in these big houses. Huge new insurance company buildings dot the landscape in Sydney, Melbourne and the other capital cities. This indicates that the premiums are too high and the bonuses are too low. The word “ mutual “ in regard to insurance companies is the greatest laugh since Henry the Horse was on the films.
Where is the tragedy behind all this? These organizations have almost unlimited funds which they should lend for housing. They should lend to people in travail. They should lend to the little businessmen. Instead of that, they are chasing 12 per cent. I could give the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) a list of half a dozen insurance companies which have people standing in a queue waiting to lend them between £3,000 and £5,000 at 1 5 per cent.
Do 1 believe in the nationalization of insurance? Most emphatically I do. T hope to see the day when it is done. The insurance companies are even more dangerous to-day than were the banks in 1945. They create a credit squeeze by using their funds against the worker. Look at the sequence of the money that is collected by an average insurance company.” Take for instance what is called “ industrial insurance “. A man knocks at the back door and gets ls. or 2s. a week from the worker’s wife for the insurance of their children. It has been proved by statistics that there is a 40 per cent, rake-off for the collector. After the woman has paid about £100 and the currency has depreciated, the company comes along with a great flourish and produces an alleged bonus. The policy is written off and the woman who has paid £100 receives, in effect, only about £70 to help her son or daughter. That money is virtually blood money. It is wrung from parents who are hoping to do their best to help their youngsters to receive higher education or perhaps to have a little nest egg when they marry.
What happens to insurance contributions? They aggregate an enormous sum of money. The “ bobs “ at the door become millions upon millions of pounds. Where do those moneys which belong to the worker go? They certainly do not go into the workers’ housing. They certainly do not go into loans to municipalities. The big, important and, perhaps, reasonable-minded insurance companies pay their devoirs or forfeits to the Government. They put 30 per cent, of their investments into loans. But all the little shyster organizations are bleeding this country dry. That is a statement that the Minister should answer instead of talking poppycock about balances and imbalances and using the jargon of the economist - not that I condemn economists, because we have half a dozen brilliant men on our side who are economists, and I pay my respects to them. But there is a question which dwarfs all other questions.
The Government has mouthed platitudes about controls, lt says that the Labour Party favours controls. The Government raises these bogies to drive the little people into slamming the door and saying that they must not have the Fascist Party. Of course, like all criminally-minded people - and the Government has a sort of slant that way - it thinks of only one master control, the control of credit. Compared with this, all the little controls of Labour fall to the ground. The Government has the key. If you have a stranglehold on the banks and on the credit of the country you do not need other controls. What sort of a Uriah Heep is the Treasurer? What sort of a Jason, speaking from two minds and two faces, is the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. McEwen) when he says that the Government abhors controls? He says there are no controls. In fact the Government subsists on control, but, unlike us, it does not have several of them, exposed to the public gaze for criticism or comment. It has one master control.
The cruellest and deadliest thing of all, and the thing that is strangling this country is the interest rate. All right! “ Control “ is a naughty word and the Government does not like to hear it, but the Government would love to have control of business and of capital issues. Look at the most recent scandal in this country! Nowhere else would it happen. 1 refer to vending machines. Not the big, knowledgeable investor, nor the fellow looking for the quick quid, not the banker who thinks he will make money for his organization, but the little old lady sitting by the television set and the man in retirement are inveigled into an investment by a specious conversation over the air. Here is your chance to make £20 on every £100! It was doomed from the start. Any commercially minded man, any accountant, or even the average man, knows that no investment of that kind can return 20 per cent. Why does the Broadcasting Control Board allow that sort of investment to be advertised on television and radio?
This Government favours the manipulator, the entrepreneur, and the shady shypoo businessman. That is why the vending machine companies were allowed to advertise on the television. It stank from a long way off. Anybody who had ever spent two bob on investment could smell it. Yet this highly paid Broadcasting Control Board could not take action! It was too busy fostering Yankee programmes and pushing Australians in the face to bother about the fact that there was a racket in which the great machinery of television, paid for and established by the Government, was being used by one company to make a £1,250,000 rake-off. The investor can kiss it good-bye. It is gone for ever. Tt is gone with the wind. The Government says that there is not anything in the want of confidence motion about a lack of controls, but clearly there is no control of big business, there is no control of the banks, and there is no control of the banks’ big brothers, the bandits, the time-payment companies. I heard a speaker refer to some organizations, and the Cambridge Investment Company comes to mind in that connexion. You can get your money out quickly, according to these companies. They say. “ If you do not want £50 for a week, put it in our bank and we will give you interest on the sum “. It is all wrong, and it is dangerous and the Government knows that it cannot be sustained. The Commonwealth Bank cannot give interest on a current account, and Australia stands behind the Commonwealth Bank; so how can some private organization do it?
Wherever you look you find interlocking organizations engaged in the interest racket. You find the Shylocks in countless numbers and the racket of the insurance companies and big business. You see £1,000,000 advanced for David Jones to build a shed or buy some dolls’ eyes from Italy or West Germany or wherever they are obtained. It is all fantastically wrong, yet supporters of the Government wonder why the Opposition supports a motion of want of confidence in the Government.
Supporters of the Government rise and say to us, “ There is nothing to prove “. They must be living in an ivory tower of impenetrable thickness. Outside, everybody is asking: “ How soon will the Menzies Government fall? Will you wait until the old boy gets back or will you do it while he is away? Will you be merciful so that he will not see what will happen to his followers, or has he deserted them and perhaps is never coming back? “. I notice that very admirable lady - Dame Pattie Menzies whom I greatly respect - made a speech and said “We in Australia are extremely loyal and extremely rich “. We are extremely rich because of our potentiality. We are extremely loyal, too; and if Dame Pattie does not come home soon we will be extremely poor as well because we will have 150,000 unemployed.
These are the things that every supporter of the Government will have to consider when he returns to his electorate. The honorable member for Moreton and his friends will not be talking about the beatnik Bible next week. They will be worrying about their seats in the Parliament. Some of them have indulged in a brief dilettantism with politics. It has been frightfully nice and too utterly utter to be a member of the Liberal Party! Last year, its members said to themselves, “We do not need to worry until next year “. But they are right on their beat now and we are ready to give the Government a go.
There are so many things I could talk about that I am overwhelmed when I look for additional points. Let us turn to inflation. Members of the Australian Country Party who are interjecting now, give an occasional giggle. If there was ever a post and rail fence surrounding a lot of hillbillies, I have seen it in this House in the eighteen years I have been here. The members in the Country Party corner are impervious to anything except their own profit. They deal with the Communist Party and love it. They will have red wool, yellow wool or Chinese wool so long as they get their money. They do a complete bludge on the Government because they say, “ We want so many men in the Cabinet or else “. Their spokesman gets up and says, “ We have to out costs so that our wool can compete with the wool of the rest of the world “. It does not matter to them how many Australian workers - men and women - the Government puts out of work so long as costs are cut. I thought I had heard the last of that pernicious free trade twaddle, “ We have to cut costs “.
I went into the country on several occasions during by-elections and I would say that under the Country Party, the country has slipped back. In the country towns, if you took the motor cars out and put the horses back, you would be back in the days of the Ford before the V8. That is the sort of thinking we find in the country. The Government should wake up. It has had the most wonderful run over the ‘last ten years. It has had wonderful seasons, and the advantage of the removal of the rabbit through the miracle of myxomatosis, and all the Government supporters can do is sit on a wet and lonely hill and whine about the workers. The workers - not the graziers - nave made this country and the workers will continue to bear the burden of it. Honorable members of the Country Party corner should grow up.
The honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull), who is very vocal about these things, is like the rest of the Country Party. He has never seen a horse or a plough; he is an auctioneer. A former Leader of the Country Party was a doctor. One member was a dentist and somebody else was a major in the Army. Another one was Chairman of Committees. They are the greatest imitations of the farming community that I have ever seen. The honorable member for Hume (Mr. Anderson) made a most arrant and savage attack on everything relating to the Labour movement. All he can see is chaos. He sees Commoes on the wall, Commoes under the bed, Commoes in the sheep pen and Commoes in the cow bails. He sees Commoes here and Commoes there. It is a completely irrational and stupid picture. What he should see is capitalists here and capitalists there, and free enterprise eating the heart out of the country.
Something should be done about the interest scoundrels and those who are exploiting inflation. The Government should do something about the get-rich-quicks and those who have destroyed this community. It should give an answer to the man on the street corner waiting for his bus who asks: “ What are they doing in Canberra for my future? Is my job secure? Is the country secure, or is it the same old story? “ The Liberal Party runs like a clockwork mouse for a certain time, runs down, turns over on its back and dies. Then it asks the Labour Party to come in and take over. We will be prepared to dc that at any time because the Government has missed its chance on so many things.
We have not had an answer to one of the great questions of to-day. We have not had an answer on foreign affairs. Men have died in Sharpeville and men are dying in the Congo. The honorable member for Hume says there will always be black and white people. Of course there will. Why can we not debate those matters? I wanted to speak on this matter half an hour ago and I was gagged. The Government is gutless on foreign affairs; it is gutless on interest rates and on policy because it does not know anything. The Minister for Health (Dr. Donald Cameron), who is sitting at the table, has no prescription for his failing Government. He cannot get an anti-biotic that would cure it or an emetic that would make it any sicker than it is. He cannot prescribe anything to build up the tissues of Government supporters so that they will survive in office another six months.
The Leader of the Opposition has said, and we reiterate, that it is time the Government got out. It is time you rolled the swag and went waltzing Matilda because the hour has struck and Australia has done with your ineptitude. The Government started off in 1949 with almost £900,000,000 in overseas funds. But it has wasted that money on the stuff it bought overseas that only the rich can afford, such as chicken in aspic, mushrooms in jelly, white ants in honey and things of that sort. They are silly nonsensical things. The worker walking through David Jones and Farmer’s asks, “Who eats those things?”, because the workers are struggling to get a ration of food for their families.
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. John McLeay).Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- When the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) began his speech he said, referring to the honorable member for Isaacs (Mr. Haworth), that with all due respect, the honorable member’s speech contained a tremendous amount of flapdoodle. With alt due respect I say after listening to the honorable member for Parkes that he should be an authority on flapdoodle. First of all, we might have a look at some of the statements he made. I found them most interesting. He referred to the trip overseas of the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies). I wonder whether the honorable member thought that the Prime Minister should not be overseas at this vital conference of the Commonwealth Prime Ministers. The honorable member spoke about a cheap clock made in West Germany running down and likened it to the economic policy of the Government. I wonder whether he picked on West Germany because one of the things that has made the Communists feel unhappy is the tremendous progress that has been made by that country since the end of the Second World War.
The honorable member for Parkes referred to insurance companies. I have met many executives of insurance companies and I have found that they are men of high quality and integrity. The honorable member’s statements regarding some of them would be received with considerable interest by the people concerned. The honorable member’s statements about a strangle-hold on credit meaning a stranglehold on the country, will be of interest to those who remember when the Labour Government wanted to nationalize the banks. That would have given the Labour
Party a strangle-hold on. the capital of this country and thus would have given them a strangle-hold over Australia.
I will have something to say later about the situation that has developed with regard to vending machines, but I remind the honorable member for Parkes, who criticized this Government and asked what action it had taken in the matter of the vending machines, that this is a matter in which a State government should take action. I realize that the people concerned get no benefit and no compensation from our being able to say in this House that this is a matter over which the States have control; nevertheless, 1 remind the honorable member for Parkes that he should, before he starts throwing bricks, take a look at his own glass house and the glass houses of his colleagues.
I remind the honorable member also that it is well known that when a person has a very weak argument he will frequently resort to personal abuse. The personal abuse that he levelled at members of the Country Party will be received by them with the contempt that it deserved. In heaping this abuse on us he did not put forward any kind of reasonable or solid argument. I am sure, also, that the country people of Australia will be extremely interested to hear the personal abuse that he directed not only at the members of the Country Party, but also at country people in general.
Let me make a few comments also about the remarks of the honorable member for Parkes concerning the Christian Church in red China. I invite him to compare hrs statement, that the Christian Church in red China is all right, and that it has a degree of freedom, with the statement of a person who, I suggest, would know a little more about the matter than the honorable member would. I refer to the famous missionary, Miss Gladys Aylward, who says that there is no freedom of the Church in red China, and that she has seen people murdered because they refused to denounce the name of Jesus Christ. I, for one, would be prepared to take the word of a person of the character of Miss Aylward rather than that of the honorable member for Parkes, who has given us his opinion on the subject after a very short visit to red China. 1 was rather surprised at a statement made by the honorable member for Lang (Mr. Stewart). Perhaps the statement was not meant to give the impression that it did give. He said, however, that this Government lacked courage. That is one accusation that surely cannot be made about this Government, because we have, over a period of eleven years, gone forward from time to time and faced the people of Australia with a high degree of courage and conviction, putting our policies before them, and we have seen that courage and conviction appreciated by the people, who have, in the long run, agreed with our policies.
One of the charges made by the honorable member for Parkes which should be refuted is that this Government desires to create unemployment. I have heard this suggestion on more than one occasion from various members of the Opposition, and I invite the Australian people to consider it. If, over a period of almost twelve years, the policy of this Government has been to sustain employment at the high level at which it has been sustained, as high as, or higher than, the levels in the United States of America, the United Kingdom, Canada and West Germany, surely the Opposition’s charge must fall by the wayside. If a government did wish to create unemployment, it certainly would not wait twelve years to try to do so, and it would not do so in the circumstances in which we now find ourselves.
This censure motion, which has been moved by the Leader of the Opposition, means, of course, as my friend and colleague, the honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Wight) said yesterday, that the Opposition contends the Government no longer has the confidence of the people and should resign. I believe every person in Australia should read what the honorable member for Lilley said, because he gave the facts of the present political situation. Honorable members opposite may try to pass off his contentions and say that they are the ones that are frequently brought forward in such circumstances as these, but the fact remains that the left-wing section has control of the Labour Party at the present time. That statement of the honorable member for Lilley cannot be disproved, and if honorable members opposite do not like to face the fact, they should do something about the situation.
It is apparent, I think, that there is little depth of feeling amongst members of the Opposition with regard to this censure motion, and little optimism as to its chances of success. The attitude of the Opposition towards the country’s problems was clearly shown earlier this afternoon, when the matter of appointments to the Foreign Affairs Committee was being discussed. Honorable members opposite displayed a complete lack of appreciation and understanding of what should be done in our present world situation. The Leader of the Opposition said there was no evidence that this committee had achieved anything.
– Where is the evidence?
– The honorable gentleman would have seen the evidence if he had accepted the invitation of the Minister for External Affairs to have members of his party appointed to the committee. This committee does not go around waving the flag and boasting of what it does. It is more concerned with making a contribution towards the safety, progress and stability of the country than in getting cheap publicity for itself. If the Opposition had felt that its censure motion was really acceptable to the people of Australia, or if it were vitally concerned with Australia’s welfare, it would not have fiddled about, if I may use that expression, with the matter of appointments to the Foreign Affairs Committee on minor procedural grounds.
I say quite sincerely that if we look squarely at the present situation we must appreciate - and it is being appreciated more and more clearly by the people of Australia - that we cannot, in this twentieth century, divorce matters involving foreign affairs from considerations of trade. Consider the situation that is developing in Europe at the present time, with the formation of the European Common Market. There are not only economic links involved in the situation but also political links. So I say that in this twentieth century, and in the present world situation, foreign affairs and trade must be linked together, and they must continue to be linked together. The two matters must be given equal consideration, and they must be considered together.
The censure motion that is now before us criticizes the Government’s approach to economic problems. To listen to speeches made by members of the Opposition one would gain the impression that there is no problem involved in governing a country of the size of Australia in its present position, that there is no problem with regard to our international trade relationships and that there is no problem at all involving world trade. But if we look at what is happening overseas - and evidently members of the Opposition have not bothered to do so - we can see that these matters are concerning many nations to-day. If members of the Opposition had listened carefully to the speech made by the Acting Prime Minister and Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen), they would have realized that, there are problems involving international trade which vitally concerns us, and which, in many cases, have arisen quite outside our own domestic scene. They would also have come to appreciate mat these are problems that cause, at one time or another, an alteration to our planning and our programmes.
I would like to pay a tribute to the tremendously valuable work that the Minister for Trade and the members of his department have done in contributing towards the economic stability of Australia. The right honorable gentleman gave us figures showing what we have exported from this country and what we have received in payment for those exported goods. This year Australia will sell overseas about £880,000,000 worth of wool, meat, butter, lead, zinc and various other commodities. If we were to obtain the prices for those goods that we received for them in 1953 we would be paid, as the Minister pointed out, £1,300,000,000. The fall in the value of exports is something over which this Government has had no control, but, as I have said,- to listen to speeches of Opposition members one would think that this circumstance had no relationship whatsoever to our present problems, and that we have nothing to worry about in this regard.
Let us consider the progress of development of the country during this Government’s period of office. I direct attention first to the very successful immigration programme. Then there is the Snowy Mountains hydro-electric scheme. We admit that the planning of this scheme was commenced by a Labour government, and let me say that the members of the government at that time had a far greater degree of stability and of appreciation of the real world problems and the problems of this country than the members of the present Opposition. We concede that the Snowy Mountains scheme was commenced by the Labour Government, but the money that has been spent on it has been made available because of the progress and development of Australia under the leadership of this Government. A sum of £2,000,000,000 has been provided by the people to pay for public works, which will benefit not only the present generation but also generations to come. This is the kind of achievement to which we can point. We can be proud of the progress, development and advancement of Australia under this Government.
I have advocated on a number of occasions that a harbour be built at Port Stephens. If the State Government had any appreciation of the real need for this harbour it would have at least commenced work on it. Experts who know something about the subject have said that Port Stephens is one of the best natural harbours in the world. But in the face of this the oil refinery was established at Kurnell.
I have said that this is a vast country. We are confronted by problems of progress, development and high per capita costs because, with our huge area and our small population our cost per head would be greater than in any other country even without an inflationary spiral. I should like to read to the House a statement which was made by Mr. Bernard Baruch, adviser to United States presidents, on his 90th birthday. He said -
Inflation often seems to be a complicated subject but it really is a question of protecting the purchasing power of the money which each one of us earns.
Inflation directly concerns the working man, the business man, the pensioner. It is a problem for schools, hospitals and governments. It cuts athwart all the great issues confronting us - foreign trade, taxes, military strength, social improvements. It has a direct bearing on the standard of living we enjoy and on the strength and stability of our country.
The problem of combating inflation is a problem of preserving our economic health and strength. And we must be strong economically as well as militarily and spiritually to overcome the danger? that confront us.
The Commonwealth Government, in its endeavours to overcome this problem has not received from certain quarters the assistance that it should have received. We have slowed down inflation but a tremendous amount of work still remains to be done. We have to work so that the margin between market costs and world prices can be restored. By this means we shall save capital for expansion. A greater amount of savings should be loaned to industry for the development and progress of this country, but I state emphatically that there must be co-operation between all sections of the community - the worker, the trade union and big business interests.
The Government proposes to introduce legislation relating to monopolies. Members of the Opposition have criticized the Attorney-General (Sir Garfield Barwick) for his decision to approach the State governments in this regard, but that is the wisest thing that he could do because, if the legislation is to be introduced, we must ensure that it has no loopholes through which the interests concerned can escape. If those loopholes existed, our last state would be worse than our first. I remind honorable members opposite who have criticized the Government that in 1955 Mr. Justice Richards conducted an inquiry into the timber industry in New South Wales. In his findings he referred to the detrimental effect that six associations in that State were having on the industry because of monopolistic tendencies. That report was presented to the New South Wales Government in 1955 but no action has yet been taken on it. But Opposition members come into this House and criticize the Government for not doing this and for not doing that. The honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) mentioned vending machines and seated that the Government should take some action in relation to them, but the activities of the companies concerned are a matter for the State Government.
Judge Ganey of the United States Court made the following declaration in the antitrust case: -
This is a shocking indictment of a vast section of our economy, for what is really at stake is the survival of a kind of economy under which America has grown to greatness - the free enterprise system.
The defendants have flagrantly mocked the image of that system.
I am convinced that many of these defendants were organization men - the conformists who go along with superiors and find balm for conscience in the additional comforts and security of their place in a corporate set-up.
Mr. Baddia Rashid. the Department of Justice trial attorney, stated -
This litigation is to make clear that economic freedom in this country is no less important and no less an ideal to be followed than political liberty.
The Government, in introducing this legislation, needs the co-operation of the States and of those who are interested in achieving the economic stability that we require. The people whom I represent - the people in the country towns who for many years have carried the burden of our economic stability on their shoulders and upon whom the industries in the metropolitan area depend - realize that this is something that we have to do. So do not let us have cheap gibes from Opposition members, because this is a matter on which co-operation between the Commonwealth and all State governments is necessary. I have tremendous respect for the Attorney-General and I realize the magnitude of the job that is ahead of him.
Mention has been made of the timber industry. I believe that the Government will take certain action to assist the industry to meet the problems which now face it, but I say quite frankly that we should not be asked to throw overboard the whole of our economic planning which is directed towards reducing costs in our own industries and achieving stability in our economy. It is essential that the State governments cooperate with the Commonwealth Government in its endeavour to stabilize the timber industry and to place it on a sound economic basis.
The Opposition’s want-of-confidence motion should be thrown out, not only by this House but also by the country. All we have heard from the Opposition is a jumble of words. There has been no positive presentation of any reasons why the motion should be supported. It is evident that not only in the political field but also in the economic field the Opposition has no realization of the problems that are confronting this country and, as they have no such realization, they can have no policy for the solution of those problems.
.- The honorable member for Lyne (Mr. Lucock) has just proved not only that he cannot hear but also that he cannot read. He has only to read the speeches that have been made by Opposition members and to study the statements of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell), the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Whitlam) and the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Crean) to realize that our criticisms are valid, well presented and based on fact. Statistics are available to support every argument that has been advanced.
Government supporters follow the line of abstraction, generality and not getting down to facts. It does not matter to them what happens to the human beings on the receiving end of their policies. In all the speeches that they have made not one word has been said about the citizen who is out of work. One of the greatest personal tragedies that can happen to any individual is to find himself out of a job, with three children to go to school next morning and nothing in the house to eat. If honorable members opposite care to come to my office at any time I shall give them the names and addresses of some people to whom this has happened in the last few weeks. If it is happening in my electoral, it is happening all over the country, ‘i There does not have to be a great number of men out of work. It is a national calamity to have any man out of work. It is time that the Government gave up statistics, generalities about strains and stresses and all the other cliches and gimmicks that it has used to describe the economic position, and got down to concerning itself about what is happening to the human being on the receiving end. This is a government of gimmickry. Tt does not do anything by direct action.
Let us consider our balance of payments position. The matter is quite simple. How would you stop a great deal of money being expended on imports? You would stop imports. But the Government has suddenly discovered that it is a sin, an offence against the free enterprise idea, to interfere with imports, and so the whole country is thrown open to a flood of imports. In a few moments I shall describe specifically, and not in general terms, what is happening to one industry. It would be the simplest thing for this Government, by regulation, decree, ultimatum or however it wishes, to stop the flow of imports. But, being the simplest and most direct method of solving this problem, the Government does not adopt it. The Government set out to do something about exports, the thing about which it is most difficult to take any positive action. Only in the long term can it take any definite action in relation to exports. So, while avoiding the most direct method of approach, the Government does that which is most abstract and least positive.
In the present state of the nation we believe that it is necessary to re-impose import controls. They may well have been badly administered in the past. We say that, to judge from the past actions of this Government, export development is unlikely to produce any immediate, positive results.
The honorable member for Lyne (Mr. Lucock) was loud in his praise of the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen) and his department. But what is the history of this department? For years the right honorable gentleman has pleaded with the Americans to buy more Australian metals, to open their doors to o ir wool and to buy other products from us, but not a bit of progress has been made in that field on which all the effort has been concentrated. If we look in the Estimates at the financial provision for trade promotion, we see where the greatest expenditure is incurred. America is the place to which the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) and the Minister for Trade flee when they are trying to do something in this regard, but with no result. The country which they choose to ignore and which they apparently presume to be non-existent, China, is the place where Australia has the greatest access to markets at the moment. Where they are working so diligently they are making no progress, while in the country that they ignore they have their greatest successes. This seems to be proof positive that the Minister, or the Department of Trade or the whole philosophy behind it is in error.
These are the things which beset us. We, on this side of the House, are concerned, as everybody is, with the trend of events, the stability of the nation, the export position and the position of the wool industry. We are just as vitally concerned about this as you are, Mr. Deputy Speaker, and I think it is safe to say that we on this side of the House are more inclined to get down to specific things and avoid generalities than is the Government. It seems to me that these are the factors by which you can judge the trend of events such as the falling wool prices.
With falling wool prices there is a fall in our export income, increasing invisible overseas payments and an increasing trend towards unemployment. There is no use denying it. We are faced with rising interest rates, increasing overseas control of Australian industry and a trend towards monopolies. The honorable member for Lyne wants the Attorney-General (Sir Garfield Barwick) to do something about monopolies and restrictive trade practices. Members of the Government have been talking about it for twelve years. There is the trend in banking and finance as the result of which a great part of the financial structure is out of the control of the Government. There is a trend towards increased indirect taxation and strangulation of the economy. The financial policy of this Government is responsible for such movement.
All this is increasing inflation and, in the battle against increasing inflation, whom does this Government assail? Does it try to get stuck into the great manufacturing concerns and great commercial enterprises? Of course, not! The only people the Government assails in an attempt to defeat inflation are the wage-earners. Last year and the year before the Government went to the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission in an endeavour to get wages pegged, and succeeded. In fact, the only part of the economy which the Government attempts to control is the wages of the workers. In every other respect it attempts to do things by indirect means. So, we have a constant balance-of-payments problem. It has become almost a neurosis.
It seems to me that if we analyse the position we discover that these are not difficult matters to deal with. They may be difficult to control, but it is not difficult to see the kind of direct action which should be undertaken to overcome these difficulties. Let us consider the wool industry for a moment. If we could stabilize it we might improve the position of our overseas balances and make a gain of £50,000,000 to £70,000,000 a year. But the arch-priests of private enterprise on the other side of the House - the private enterprisers - say that this is offensive and wicked and false to the spirit of the Liberal Party. They are prepared to keep up the ideology of the Liberal Party at the expense of the nation as a whole. The wool industry is fundamental to our well-being. A year or so back, 43 per cent, of our total income was earned by the wool industry, but the figure has now fallen to 37 per cent. A fall of Id. per lb. in the price of wool results in a drop of £7,000,000 in our income.
What should be done about this? Surely the lessons of history prove that it is necessary and possible to control the price of wool, as was done after both the First and Second World Wars. We have the machinery, the administrative experience and the know-how to do it. We have even the idea which the Right Honorable William Morris Hughes used in 1920, when there was a sudden collapse in the price of wool on the introduction of the free auction system. He used the customs power so that wool could not be exported unless it was sold at a certain price. This seems to be a logical step to take and that is the view of a number of people in the wool industry.
You do not have to move around the country very much and talk to many small wool-growers - and most graziers are small wool-producers - to ascertain that they want something like this done. They want a floor price for wool. They do not want to be threatened with penury and with bankruptcy because of the ideology of a free auction system. We have come to a stage in the wool industry - and it is obvious from the inquiries that have gone on - where we are in the hands of a few hundred wool-buyers.
We have only to get hold of the report of Mr. Justice Cook, of New South Wales, or talk to the people engaged in the industry to realize that the brokers and buyers and all the rest of them are part of the machinery which is holding the rest of Australia to ransom. The evidence is in the report of Mr. Justice Cook, for anybody who cares to look at it. that these people are not congregating to form pies for the good of the national economy. They form pies in order to obtain wool at a cheaper price. It is essential to the national interest that the price of wool be kept stable and well above the cost of production; and it is essential also that the Government act in this regard.
But what do we find at the present moment? The Minister for Trade, upon whom Country Party members heap eulogies, appointed a committee to inquire into the wool industry. He was asked by the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) this morning what the powers of the committee were. We are told that it cannot demand the production of documents and papers and cannot demand that witnesses attend. What kind of an inquiry can that be into a group of very smart operators involving, in an intricate way, the operations of woolbuyers, wool-brokers and all the rest of them? You cannot find the answer to the problem in this way.
That, again, is symptomatic of the Government’s whole approach to the question of the control of the economy of the country. Where direct action is called for. the Government avoids it. If the country cries out for some kind of activity on the part of this Government. Ministers call a conference and go around the matter in the most indirect fashion possible.
I say that the first step that should be taken to stabilize our balance of payments position is to stabilize wool prices. All the evidence and all the experience gained in the First and Second World Wars show that this should be done, and should be done effectively. I would like to hear, from the other side of the House, the reason why the Government does not do this. Tt is no use putting headlines in the paper or organizing a wool promotion campaign. What is the use of running a wool promotion campaign when we sell all the wool we produce? Every fibre of wool produced is sold already, and there is no carry-over. It is a question not of promoting the sale of wool but of protecting its sale.
If we allow the control of our major industry to stay in the hands of a few hundred buyers we are asking for trouble. The honorable member for Lyne has spoken of the Government’s courage. In the matter of wool, the Government is deficient in courage.
The next essential to the improvement of our overseas balance of payments is to trade in our own ships. At the present moment we are spending something like £120,000,000 per year in freight on our exports. To whom are these freights paid? Of course, they are paid to overseas shipowners! Every single penny of it is paid to them. The first logical step for any government conscious of its duty in this regard to take would be the shipping of our goods overseas in Australian ships. We have our national shippin.g line, and should be able to expand it.
We have from history the example of the shipping line that was purchased at the end of World War I. That is another example of how, out of perhaps £120,000,000 that we spend overseas now in payment of freight charges, we could save anything from £50,000,000 to £60,000,000 a year and still retain in Australia the money actually spent on freight. I repeat that is one logical step that could be taken by the Government to reduce the cost of exporting overseas. It could buy its own ships, but it will not do that. We cannot afford to sacrifice the interests of this economy on the altar of this Government’s free enterprise ideology any longer.
The next matter with which I wish to deal is import controls. The Labour Party is not addicted to the way in which import controls were administered in the past, but it is obvious that import controls have become almost inbuilt in the community. In my electorate there is one very important industry. I refer to the hosiery industry, and I propose to give specific examples of how the lifting of import controls has affected this industry. It is the centre of hosiery manufacture in Australia. The factories at Brunswick, Coburg and two or three other places in Australia can produce the 2,700,000 dozen pairs of stockings a year which the people of Australia need. Last year, immediately after import controls were relaxed, there was a rush of buyers overseas to the United Kingdom and other countries and we suffered a flood of imported stockings. The figures are there fo: everybody to see. For instance, in 1958-59, we imported 61,211 dozen pairs of stockings as against 51,540 dozen pairs in the previous year. In 1959-60, that figure jumped to 133,209 dozen pairs. As a result of this flood of imports from overseas, the shelves of the big stores in Melbourne - and I assume the same circumstances apply in other capital cities - are loaded with imported stockings. I quote that as a specific instance of the effect this Government’s policy has had on one factory at Coburg which is capable of producing 300,000 dozen pairs of stockings a vear.
– Working how many shifts a day?
– This was that factory’s ordinary production, and it employed between 400 and 500 people. That factory was producing at that rate until just before Christmas. Because of the way it is constructed, the type of yarn it was using and the desirability of utilizing the machinery to ‘.he best advantage, a good part of the factory was working round the clock. But that was done more in the interests of economic production than for any other reason. In the last few months, that factory’s sales dropped by 32 per cent., its employment went down 33 per cent, and the wages paid out declined by 28 per cent. All this in an industry built up by one man over the last 30 years! That factory, which can produce one-ninth of the stockings manufactured in Australia, has been hit in this savage way. because on the shelves of the big stores in Melbourne there are lying countless thousands of pairs of imported stockings while countless thousands of pairs of Australian-made stockings are lying in the factory’s store rooms. When I visited that factory a fortnight ago there was £100,000 worth of stockings in the store which the management was unable to sell because so many stockings had been imported. They had been imported mainly from the United Kingdom where the employees work longer hours for relatively lower wages and where conditions of employment such as recreation and sick leave are not to be compared with those obtaining in Australia.
In the last month or two, in the hosiery industry at Brunswick and Coburg alone - only two of about 30 suburbs of one large city - 500 people were retrenched, disemployed, unemployed, or dismissed, whatever term one wishes to apply. It is of no use to talk about statistics and endeavour to establish some other fact. It is of no use for the Treasurer to say that there are 50,000 vacancies, or a vacancy for a nurse in Papua, New Guinea or the Northern Territory, or for a school teacher in Queensland is of no help to the hosiery employee who has been sacked from the factories in Coburg and Brunswick. There must be countless instances of similar dismissals all over Australia. I mention the hosiery industry merely to illustrate the need for a change of policy in connexion with import controls.
One needs only to peruse the figures contained in various publications to realize that this sort of thing must be occurring in every part of Australia. Surely the honorable member for Lyne (Mr. Lucock) heard the honorable member for Braddon (Mr. Davies) speaking the other night about the effect timber imports were having on the Tasmanian timber industry. Is it not plain to anybody who has any feeling for human beings at all, or who has any heart at all, that this Government’s policy is resulting in heartbreak and misery? That must be clear when it is known that in one electorate alone 500 people have been dismissed. Even if those 500 employees were married women, the fact is that they were playing an important role in building up the living standards of their families and in helping to maintain their families. Unfortunately, the high cost of educating and clothing children necessitates both partners to a marriage going to work. The Government is criminal in its disregard of these matters. It is criminal in allowing its ideology about freedom of imports to restrain it in this field. Until the Government takes the kind of action T have suggested, it is denying justice to humanity. That is only one example of the effect this Government’s financial and other policies are having on the people.
Let me give another instance of the damage the Government is causing. The Coburg City Council works on an annual overdraft of between £300,000 and £400,000 from the Commonwealth Bank.
One of the immediate results of the credit squeeze has been that the Coburg City Council will not be able to obtain £100,000 that it needs for street construction. Because of this, 25 men who were employed on that work are now disemployed. The term used by the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. McMahon) was “ redeployed “. But the fact is that 25 men have been dismissed by one local authority because of one small part of the Government’s policy. By its policy, in addition to causing hardship to individuals, the Government is disregarding our national interests, it is slowing down what is in fact important national development work. After all, the streets of the Melbourne suburbs are just as important as they ever have been, and they are part of the people’s standard of living, and when this idiotic doctrine about free enterprise, of which we hear so much from the other side, transcends human beings, as it is doing in this case, it is time the Government left the treasury bench. The Government is well aware of all these facts, yet, in all fields, the action being taken by the Government is hindering the nation in its attempt to overcome its present difficulties.
There are two aspects of Government policy which are detrimental to the wellbeing of the people. The first relates to interest rates which have been rising continuously during the last few years. For instance, in 1948, the interest on government loans was 3i per cent., while that on loans to local government authorities was 31 per cent. In that same year, interest on Crédit Foncier loans for housing was 3J per cent., and interest on overdrafts 4i per cent. In .1952, interest rates increased by another fraction, and by 1956 they had gone to 4 per cent, on government loans, 5i per cent, on loans to local government authorities, 5 per cent, on Credit Foncier loans for housing and 6 per cent, on overdrafts. By 1960, after another lift in 1958, the interest rates were 5 per cent, on government loans, 6 per cent, on loans to semi-government authorities, 5i per cent, on Credit Foncier loans for housing and 7 per cent, on overdrafts. I look upon the continuous rise in interest rates on loans for housing, for local government purposes and for the ordinary services for the community as not only mischievous, but iniquitous. lt is placing an impossible burden upon municipalities, upon State governments and upon the citizens themselves. Let us take the instance of a war service home, on which the lowest possible interest rates are charged. I know of one house which cost £2,000 for the framework, timber, plaster, glass and all the other materials used in it. By the time the loan on it is repaid, the interest will have amounted to £2,400.
We on this side of the House say that the policy of high interest rates adopted by this Government is a crime against the nation. It is building costs into the economy and these costs are passed on through every level. If a farmer has an overdraft of £5,000 and the rate of interest is increased by 1 per cent., the additional interest will be £50 a year or another £1 a week. Higher interest rates in the next year will cost the Coburg City Council an additional £3,000, and that is the equivalent of wages for four or five men on the basic wage.
No ideological proposition can be advanced by the Government to support its policy. The people of Australia are becoming concerned and they are convinced that the policy of this Government is taking them to their ruin. Having spoken to the people generally and heard what they have to say, we on this side of the House are convinced that it is time this Government was removed from office. The censure motion moved by the Leader of the Australian Labour Party deserves the support of every member of the Parliament, particularly the sycophantic satellites of the Australian Country Party - it is time they stood up and spoke for themselves.
Sitting suspended from 5.56 to 8 p.m.
– Mr. Speaker, as I understand it, the motion that we are debating was intended to be a wantofconfidence motion. In other words, if the House carried the motion and thereby expressed want of confidence in the Government’s economic policies, the Government itself would be under a responsibility to go to the people and let them decide whom they wished to govern the country for the next three years. But I think it has become obvious to most people, as it became obvious to us here on the first day of this debate, that the Opposition really had little to say. Indeed, I venture to suggest to the House that the Opposition’s attempt to establish want of confidence has been a complete failure.
Quite a number of metaphors have been floating about the House to-day, and if I may use a metaphor, I suggest that the Opposition intended this motion to be an intercontinental ballistic missile, but it never got off the launching pad. Reducing the metaphor further, I would say that this was a hunger that did not go off. That is my immediate reaction, and the reaction of my colleagues, to the debate that has been in progress over the last few days. This motion was intended to establish that the House had no confidence in the Government, but the Opposition has said little of substance, and I believe that it has given the Government a golden opportunity to state its point of view and win warm public support for its cause.
I do not want to become too heavily engaged in the politics of this debate, but one statement made on behalf of the Opposition struck me immediately as being evidence of a great deal of inconsistency. That was the statement made on behalf of the Opposition, particularly by the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Crean), that the Opposition agreed with the Government’s diagnosis of the problems. In effect, he said: “ You have properly diagnosed the problems. You know what is wrong.” But the Opposition differs from the Government about what ought to be done. First of all, the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) said, “ I think that what you have done is correct, but you have not gone far enough “. In other words, he said to the people, “ Had Labour been in office, we would have done exactly the same’ thing as the Government has done, but we would have gone much further “.
– It is all very well to say that.
– The honorable member needs only to look at the words used by his leader. So there can be little comfort for those of our critics who have been making so much mischief when we say: “ You are our critics. Would you be prepared to accept the alternative government?” The answer to that would be in the negative, of course. In the present circumstances, those critics could not for one moment think that there was an alternative to the present Government.
The honorable gentleman from Melbourne Ports violently disagreed with his leader. That sort of thing is not unusual in the ranks of the Opposition. The honorable member expressed his own personal view and said. “ I disagree on quite fundamental grounds with what has been done “. He did not state what those grounds were, and we are left to guess at what would be his remedies other than the introduction of wholesale controls. But we find that difference of opinion between two very prominent Opposition members, Mr. Speaker.
Having said that, I should now like to consider the problem from the stand-point of my own portfolio of Labour and National Service. I administer a department which has wide associations with the working man, and particularly with the working man in industry. I think it is not untrue to say that when we in the Department of Labour and National Service, as a miniature of the Government, look at any problem, we look at it from the stand-point of the individual himself. I am never one who likes to mouth phrases such as, “ You are against the worker”, “You are for the worker “, “ You are for somebody else “ or “ You are against somebody else “. I often think that those who use such phrases can usually be classified as hypocrites or humbugs. I do not put in that class the honorable gentleman from Melbourne Ports, who accused the Government of lacking humanity. But I do point out that the department and I think of these things solely in terms of the individual. I hope to be able to prove to the House later this evening that any action that we take is taken in the interests of the working man and in the interests of his family. So, in my opinion, assertions such as the one that we lack humanity are somewhat foolish.
May I now move on to define in my own way what I regard as the background against which the Government’s . actions must be judged. Sir. I have heard used in this debate the phrase “ balanced on a razor edge “. It is said that we are balanced on a razor edge. I do not like that metaphor. If we look at the Government’s objectives, we find that there are four or five of them. They relate to the solution of the problem of full employment, the problem of our balance of payments and the problem of maintaining the value of our purchasing power, and to several other matters such as immigration and full-scale national development, each of which presents a problem in its own right. So we cannot define our problem as that of being balanced on a razor edge. Our problem is rather that of finding a series of balances each related to one of the objectives that the Government has before it. I emphasize that what we want is not one but a series of balances, each balance changing as our international position changes and as Australia develops internally. So I much prefer the metaphor of a series of balances.
The point that T want to make particularly with my own colleagues on this side of the House is this: When we find one or more of these problems, we always are up against the difficulty that there is not one remedy that is common to all of the problems that we meet. For instance, if your problem is a lack of demand and you try to pump money into the community, that action can well create another problem by boosting costs and so adding to balance of payments difficulties. I could go on and give further illustrations. I could go on explaining for some considerable time that we have not a remedy that is common to all our problems. There are many remedies, and the central problem of government arises from the fact that we have to use all the remedies that we have in order to achieve the best results by ensuring the best series of balances that we can achieve. I believe that the central problem of balances is this: How do we do our he:t? With the remedies that we have at our disposal, how do we get the best series of balances and the best results in the interests of the people? So. Sir, I do not like this idea of statins that we are balanced on a razor edge, because I believe that the metaphor is an unfortunate one.
We have these various objectives of policy. That is perfectly true. Some of them rank much more highly than do others, f personally place the objec tive of solving the problem of full employment in the highest rank. Full employment brings with it certain difficulties and attendant problems because, I believe, we have never yet learned to live comortably with it. We have never learned to live comfortably with it without allowing it to create attendant problems that this Government has always to watch as we reach the stage, first, of full employment and then of over-full employment.
The second important fact that I believe I should point out is that we have never learned to insulate ourselves completely against changes in our balance of payments unless we have reserves which are very much more than adequate to tide us over a difficult period. So, Sir, I put it that these are the real problems. They are difficult problems, and what they mean - and here I use the words of the Treasurer - is that if we are to toe successful in achieving the maximum of our goals then the means that we employ to attain our policy objectives must be extremely flexible, and we must be willing to change them whenever we see the red signal come up as an indication that some change in means must be adopted. I think, Sir, that the proof of the necessity for a change in means was brought home to us very fully during the latter part of 1959-60. It can be expressed perfectly plainly, and perfectly accurately, too, by saying that with over-full employment and with a strong tendency for costs to rise we had a very difficult and serious problem. When, added to that, there was a fall in our overseas balances, an explosive situation was created. That explosive situation made it necessary for the Government to act, and I believe that, in the light of what has happened, every action the Government took was correct. In the light of the difficult circumstances, and in the light of the known facts, the way in which the Government acted is correct, as events have proved.
I have said that there was a necessity for action. T have mentioned the fact that we believe that when we act we must act in the interests of the individual and we should relate this to the policy changes that were made in 1959-60. We must ask ourselves what changes have occurred in recent months that are to the benefit of the community.
What changes have occurred as a result of the economic measures we have taken which have strengthened our capacity for production and for future development?
I should like to put four different propositions. The first is that I believe that in 1958-59 people did not care about costs and prices. They just did not matter, and as a consequence costs and prices rose. The pensioner suffered. The person on a fixed income suffered. I do not want to dwell on this problem of inflation and what its effects might be, but I do want to mention strongly the fact that there was a carelessness about costs and prices which had to be stopped if our success was to be assured. So, the Government took action. I think it is not untrue to say that to-day there is a growing consciousnes of what prices mean, a growing consciousness of the value of money, and I believe that that will have a very beneficial effect for all of us in the future.
The second point to which I should like to direct attention is the transfer of labour that has occurred in recent months. 1 believe that many industries were affected, but the two that one would single out for particular attention are the building industry and the motor vehicle industry. They are important, but they were employing far too many people to permit us to have a proper balance between these sections of industry and other equally vital sections. Last week I was able to announce that there has been a transfer of about 40,000 people from one industry to another, and the month before there was a similar transfer. We in the department believe that this is creating a much more effective balance in terms of employment than we had previously. Industries such as the transport industry, shire councils and so on were, I believe, starved of labour. What the Government has done has been to bring about a transfer of labour from one industry to another, and I personally believe that this will be of benefit to all of us.
The third point I should like to make is that with over-full employment the value of a man’s job lost its importance. Tt became of little importance to the employee, in many cases because he could so quickly move from one job to another and could be led away from one job to another by the incentive of a wage increase. I believe this to be socially important, because it leads to a social effect that is quite undesirable. Under these conditions a man has not a permanent working place. He can become forgetful of the fact that he should do a good day’s work. He can become forgetful of the fact that it is good to have an occupation to which he can constantly return when necessary, and that can give him satisfaction.
A very important fact to which I wish to direct the attention of the House is that in September last year a review was made by my department which showed that the turnover in a very large section of industry was running at the rate of 72 per cent, per annum. That meant an enormous loss in efficiency. It meant an enormous loss in respect of the training given to a man in one occupation, when he goes to another and, though perhaps of secondary importance in its social consequences, a loss of production. We are reliably informed that the transfer of men from one job to another costs the new employer something like £30 a man. We believe that it will be found that, as a result of the Government’s actions, the labour turnover will be enormously reduced. If it is reduced, in time the impact on production will be substantial. When added to by the changes in the other two factors I have mentioned - carelessness about prices and lack of consciousness of the value of a steady job - there will be an improvement over a time in productivity and in production generally.
The only other point I want to mention is that employment figures which were issued yesterday lead one to the conclusion - I have certainly come to this conclusion - that the number of people registered for employment, 73,000, is not unduly large, and that the increase in the number registered up to 24th February is, in the circumstances, probably as good a figure as we could have expected. I point out that even those figures over-emphasize what registration for employment means in terms of unemployment, because last year more than 100,000 extra people came into the work force, which was a number larger than natural increase would have produced. Married women and elderly people were coming into employment, and thus were masking the shortage of labour which existed in 1959-60. Similarly, the registration of married women and elderly people for employment would to-day overemphasize the significance of the number of people registered and, in fact, capable of being placed in permanent employment. So I personally accept the figure of 73,000 with some reservation, because I think that it overstates the true number of unemployed.
I turn now, Mr. Speaker, to two of the statements made by the Opposition. The first, to which I have referred already, was the statement made by the honorable member for Melbourne Ports that the Opposition’s philosophical approach to this problem was based on humanity. Surely no such assertion is necessary. I believe that any government, whether Liberal or Labour, would always base its actions on the cause of the people themselves. But when the honorable member says that it is the working man who is asked to take the burden I feel that the time has come when his arguments should be confounded.
Before T came in here to-night I obtained figures relating to male earnings. Recently, average weekly earnings moved up to £23 15s. compared with about £8 when Labour was last in office. The minimum weekly wage rate has now moved up to £17 14s. Id. a week, whereas it was £8 8s. 8d. a week in 1949-50. So no decent person can argue from those facts that the wages of the working man are not rising and that the Government has left it to the wage-earner to carry the burden and pay the penalty.
Equally important is the fact that recently the Commonwealth Statistician issued a paper in which he pointed out that less than 2i per cent, of al! wage and salary earners in this country earned less than £1 above the basic wage. Many of them are in parttime employment. So we can draw the conclusion that there are very few basic wage earners and, much more importantly, that average wages and minimum wages are going up.
I come now to the second part of the Opposition’s argument. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition said that it was the individual who had been made to pay the penalty. But let us look at what has been done to industry and commerce. The Government’s economic measures have included import controls and increased company tax, both designed to affect commerce and industry because we realized that, in the long run, everybody would benefit. Consequently, I believe that this no-confidence motion is based on such flimsy grounds that, in effect, it is a hunger that will not go off.
Now, Sir, may I return to our policy objectives and the Government’s means of achieving those objectives? I shall not repeat what the Treasurer has already said about the objectives. They are well known. They include full employment, national development, and stability of overseas balances. The thought that I want to leave with the House is this: Whilst our policy objectives remain constant, the means that we adopt in order to achieve them are flexible. In his Wayville speech, the Prime Minister said -
I will always regard myself . . . not only at liberty, but compelled to make whatever changes from time to time may be necessary in order to maintain the central policy that we stand for.
It is in exactly that way that the Government has acted whenever it has found or thought that one of its policy objectives was in jeopardy and that something had to be done. We look, not only at the figures for employment but at trends. In assessing housing trends we look, not only at the past, but also at the commencement of buildings and at building approvals. We look at all the facts from which we can draw conclusions as to trends. This applies, also, to textiles and other industries. We will change our means whenever we consider this to be desirable in order to achieve those glorious objectives of the Government. I do not know of any one who says that the objectives are wrong. We are proud of them and we will do our best to see that they are realized because we know that they will benefit the Australian people.
– I do not believe that the members of this House have ever listened to such an empty speech as that which has just been delivered by the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. McMahon). The
Minister gave the show away in the first five minutes of his speech.
– He is walking out of the chamber.
– Of course he is. He said that the Government had not yet learned to live comfortably with full employment. What is the alternative? The Government has learned to live comfortably with unemployment. That is the alternative. The Minister spoke on the first three of the four points with which he originally proposed to deal. He did not develop the fourth because he felt that it was weaker than the first three. His first point was that in 1958-59 people had not cared about costs and prices. On 11th August, 1959, the present Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt), who also has just left the chamber, delivered the Budget Speech in which he said -
However, it is not simply a matter of holding our position. Expansion must go on.
Keep in mind that this was said in 1 959, the year of which the Minister for Labour and National Service was speaking a while ago! The Treasurer continued -
Each year brings a larger number of additional people - chiefly migrants and young folk leaving school - for whom occupations must be provided. Tn net terms the addition to the work force this year will be probably about 80,000.
That was said in 1959! So a figure of 100,000 in 1960-61 is what we might expect. Anybody who knew anything about the growth of a community should have known that that 100,000 people would come into the work-force in 1960-61. The Treasurer went on -
Our whole economy these days is based upon the assumption of strong and continuous growth.
Yet, to-night the Minister told us that the people had not cared about costs and prices! The Treasurer went on -
To keep all resources, and particularly resources of labour, fully employed is, of course, not only a social obligation but also a vital economic need. It will be, as I have said, an advantage to have an increasing flow of people, and especially of young people, available for employment. But these additional people must find occupations readily and continuously, and this can happen only if there is all-round expansion of the economy.
Let me pause again. This is what the Treasurer was saying to industry! But the Minister for Labour and National Service had the audacity to say to-night that the Labour Government did not know how to run its affairs and that the people did not care about costs and prices. This statement should be related not only to employees but also to employers. To-night the Minister was trying to draw a red herring across the trail to divert attention from the real failures of this Government. But if we examine further what the Treasurer said in his 1958-59 Budget Speech we will find that he talked about challenges. He went on to say -
So far, the rising numbers of new workers appear to have been successfully absorbed. This is encouraging; but the number will grow fairly rapidly in the next few years. It is a challenge to which the Government, and I am glad to say, the world of trade and industry, are very much alive.
Mr. Speaker, clearly the statement by the Minister for Labour and National Service to-night in regard to the year 1958-59 is in complete contradiction of what the Treasurer said in his Budget Speech of 11th August, 1959. The Minister spoke about the transfer of workers from one industry to another. What has he done about the workers in the Kempsey district, where 40 per cent, of the people are dependent on the saw-mills and have been thrown out of work! He did not say one word about them, or the conditions generally on the north coast of New South Wales. The right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) and the honorable member for New England (Mr. Drummond) have been crying for some assistance from this Minister who spoke to-night about workers changing their employment. For the saw-mill workers on the north coast of New South Wales and Queensland, the only change is from employment to unemployment.
The Minister said, quite frankly, we had never yet learnt to live comfortably with full employment. This Government never believed in full employment. I never expected to see a Minister give it away as the Minister for Labour and National Service did to-night. The Minister did not develop his fourth point, because he got frightened of it and ran away. He dealt with over-full employment, and said that the value of a man’s job became of little importance to him. If I heard him correctly, he produced some calculations that a clerk had prepared in his office, and I am sure he said that there had been 72 per cent, changeover in employment. I throw that back in his teeth. That is wilful misrepresentation of the facts.
– The Minister said “ in an industry “.
– Another Minister has interjected that the Minister for Labour and National Service used the words “ in an industry “ in that context. He probably got that figure from the north coast saw-mills, where the workers have gone out of one industry but not into another. He would not get that figure anywhere else. If the Minister said there had been a 72 per cent, changeover in employment, he referred to those who have been thrown out of work and have not yet got a job.
– You do not understand what turnover of employment is.
Minister, who came into this chamber talking about over-full employment and men changing their jobs, spoke about the workers forgetting that they should do a good day’s work. That statement came from the Minister for Labour and National Service. Is that what he thinks about the whole of the Australian work force? If so, what a blot on management it is! Have we reached the stage where management is forgetful of its national responsibility and is not prepared to take complete managerial control to achieve a reasonable day’s work whether the worker is prepared to do it or not?
What are the facts? The Minister for Labour and National Service did not offer one word of hope for those who have not got a job to-night. He did not offer one decent plan to take up the slack for those who are out of employment. He spoke about 72 per cent, changeover in employment. I throw that statement back in his teeth and say that any Minister who talks as he has to-night, when this Government has thrown the workers out of employment, is not facing up to the responsibilities of his office, and the quicker we have a change of Ministers and a change of government the better for the workers.
Let me put aside what the Minister has said to comment on the statements made last night by the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt). I could scarcely believe my ears when I heard the Treasurer brand the Government which has been in office for twelve years as a government totally incapable of governing. That is what he implied if his statements are correct. The Treasurer said -
It was clear that boom conditions existed in the building industry, particularly in some States, lt was clear that boom conditions had developed with respect to speculation in land and in other forms of speculative activity. Share prices had rocketed because of these speculative processes. We found that even commodities so basic as steel and timber were being imported because the supply could not be sustained in this country. We found that labour had reached a point at which job vacancies exceeded the supply of labour in great areas of the economy.
The Treasurer used the word “ great “, which is a wilful misrepresentation of facts, and he added -
The flow of imports had mounted to flood proportions which we could not hope to sustain and bank advances, as I mentioned earlier, had reached record levels.
That was the statement of the Treasurer after the Government had been in office almost twelve years. That alone was sufficient ground for the Opposition to submit a motion of want of confidence. Any government that allows such a position to arise is not worthy of office. Let us analyse what the Treasurer said. He stated -
It was clear that boom conditions existed in the building industry, particularly in some States.
Where was the building boom? Were the workers getting homes suitable for their personal requirements at reasonable rates of interest? The simple desire of the worker is to get a home and pay for it within his working life. If ever we get a boom in that sort of housing, we will find contentment among the workers; but such a position will never be achieved until we have another Labour government. When the Minister spoke of a building boom, he was talking about the Chevron Hotel in Sydney and the big buildings that are being erected by the insurance companies. One of these at Circular Quay has reached 24 stories and is still going up. If you take out the Chevron and the insurance company buildings, the building industry would be in a flat spin and there would be no boom at all.
That is where there is a building boom. It is not to be found among the people who really need something.
Those who are enjoying the boom are those who are taking advantage of this Government’s miserable policy. They are reaping such benefits that they can borrow at 10 to 15 per cent, to get the money to build the structures which are causing the boom. This Government made that possible. Reference has been made to home units. They have been built on a speculative basis and it should never have been tolerated by any government. The Treasurer also said -
It was clear that boom conditions had developed with regard to speculation in land and other forms of speculative activity.
Who made that possible? It was made possible by the policy of this Government. Those who benefited were not the workers who, according to the Minister for Labour and National Service, are forgetting how to do a good day’s work, but the Hooker organization and others. This Government made it possible for them to speculate. They have raked in money at 10 per cent, under a system with which this Government did not attempt to interfere. The Treasurer also sard -
Share prices have rocketed because of these speculative processes.
Who were the people who benefited from the rocketing share prices? Were they the workers? We have a former Treasurer and goodness knows who else attached to this Government reaping fortunes out of an uncontrolled economy that has been deliberately fostered by this Government following the statements made by the Treasurer in 1958-59. Last night, the Treasurer said -
We found that even commodities so basic as are steel and timber were being imported because the supply could not be sustained in this country.
Let me refer to this part of his statement specifically. What is the Government’s remedy for that situation about which the Treasurer has complained? The Government has offered one solution, and one solution only: A tax concession by way of a rebate of pay-roll tax to the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited if it can sell more of its steel overseas. I. have never heard of anything so ridiculous. First, we have a monopoly with complete control over steel, and then the Government has a policy to encourage the export of steel while more steel is brought in from overseas. No wonder there are complaints about cluttering up the ports. If our steel industry is as important as the members of the Country Party and everybody else in this House claim, and as the Minister suggested last night, then it is high time that the industry was placed under a form of control that would operate in the best interests of the Australian people. It is high time that the industry was removed from the monopoly control under which it is labouring at present.
– I knew 1 would draw that remark from the Minister. “ Nationalization “, he says. Let me be quite frank about this. If it comes to a choice between protecting the people’s right to develop their country and prosper and looking after the vested interests of monopolies, I will come down on the side of the people every day in the week - and make no mistake about it!
Now let me discuss the timber industry. What was the Government’s answer to the situation when there was a shortage of timber? Keep in mind what the Treasurer said at the end of his remarks, to the effect that the flow of imports had mounted to flood proportions which we could not hope to sustain. What was the Government’s answer at the time it complained that there was a shortage of timber? It took action that has almost completely cut off the production of Australian timber. The Treasurer complained about the flood of imports that we cannot allow to go on, but Government action has resulted in the importation of millions of feet of timber, resulting in Australian workers being thrown to the wolves. If only on this ground, the motion that is now before the House should be passed. If the members of the Liberal Party and the Country Party are prepared to go along with a Treasurer who makes that kind of statement, I can assure them that there will be retribution at the next election.
– You have only eight minutes left. Tell us your policy.
– We have proposed a mot/on of no confidence. It is not a question of telling you our policy. I can tell you one of the things we would not do; we would not close our sawmills and then complain about the flood of imports to this country.
– What about the coal strike of 1949?
– All right, let us have a look at 1949. I am glad the Minister has raised that point. The Minister for Labour and National Service started to talk to-night about what was done with respect to wages and spiralling costs. Let us look at the facts. I have some figures before me that are contained in another document issued by the Commonwealth Statistician. In the last two years of office of the Menzies Government, before it failed so miserably in time of war, 1939 and 1940, the basic wage rose by 8s. In the four years of war-time, 1941 to 1945, when a Labour government was in office, the basic wage rose by 10s. Then in the next four years it rose by 24s. But what happened when the Labour Government went out of office? In 1950, after this Government came to power, the basic wage rose by 33s. It increased by a further 38s. in the second year of office of the Government, by 30s. in the third year, and at the end of the Government’s first four years the basic wage had increased by £5 7s. a week. This resulted in the complete smashing of the Australian economy.
We have now a government that has pegged child endowment ever since it came to office. Child endowment payments have remained at the same level since 1948, and I believe that the Minister for Labour and National Service, the Minister for Supply (Mr. Hulme), and all their colleagues who have followed this policy of imposing hardship on the family group will no longer be tolerated by decent-thinking people. Let us consider why the Government has followed this policy. Fortunately we have a Labour Government in New South Wales that still uses, for the purpose of assessing the wage requirements of the community, an index that was adopted in 1934 for measuring the minimum standard. This C series index was decided upon in 1934 ?s the method of establishing the minimum wage on which a family could live. It is to the outstanding credit of the Labour Government which has adorned the treasury bench in New South Wales for twenty years, that when this Commonwealth Government, through the machinery it set up, pegged the basic wage in 1953, the Government of New South Wales continued to grant quarterly increases according to the C series index. The Bolte Government in Victoria, a government of the same kidney as the Commonwealth Government, made promises at election time that it would not interfere with quarterly basic wage adjustments if re-elected. But what happened in Victoria? Let me tell honorable members the story.
– And it is a story!
– I have the actual figures before me, and they will catch up with you in due time. As from 30th June, 1959, the basic wage in Australia was pegged. As from December of the same year margins were pegged. In New South Wales, where regular increases have been granted according to movements in the C series index, the basic wage has risen, between the time when this Government and the Bolte Government in Victoria pegged the wage and now, by 23s. The increase has been paid to all State employees and to all employees under State control working under federal awards. As I said, the Bolte Government ratted on its promise and decided to follow the practice of the Commonwealth Government and no longer to recognize the C series index figures. When it made this decision it hoped that there would be no further inflation in Victoria, but what has been the result? Using the same barometer, the C series index figures, while the increase in New South Wales amounted to 23s., in Victoria the increase has been 43s.
Of course, this is a government which always imposes financial burdens upon those least able to bear them. We remember that thirteen months ago the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) said that all we needed was a steadying of wage levels and the grant of no further wage increases in order to give us a sound economy. That was in February of last year. In March of this year we see a situation that the Minister for Labour and National Service will not face up to. Costs in Victoria have risen at twice the rate at which they have risen in New South Wales, and under an administration of a similar kind to that which operates in the Commonwealth sphere we cannot expect any different result.
Mr. Speaker, I support in full the motion of the Leader of the Opposition. I support it particularly in its application to the unnecessary sufferings of people who have lost their employment. Those people had a right to learn from the Minister for Labour and National Service what his programme was to guarantee full employment. But, let me repeat, the Minister gave the game away when he said that we have not learned to live with a policy of full employment. This motion that we have before us would be worth while if it had no other purpose than to censure the Minister for a remark of that kind. When he comes to this House, after his Government has been twelve years in office, and tells us that the Government has not yet learned to live with a policy of full employment, he indicates to the whole community that the Government does not understand a policy of full employment, does not know how to apply it, and, in point of fact, is against it.
The honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Wight), who is interjecting, should remain quiet. During his speech last night he did not say one word about unemployment in Queensland. He merely engaged in diversionary tactics.
– What about the Communist influence in the Labour Party?
– I will debate that question with the honorable member any time he likes in his own electorate.
– That is a date.
– In fact, I shall be there during the election campaign, and I can assure him that he will not be sitting in the place he now occupies in this House after the next election.
.- I understand that we are debating an Opposition motion of want of confidence in this Government. I understand also, although nothing so far has led me to believe it, that we are under attack. I am sure that the honorable member for Blaxland (Mr. E. James Harrison) made a very good speech.
If only I had been able to understand it! He seemed to whip from bough to bough like a budgerigar and did not remain for very long in one spot.
I should like to read to the House an extract from an article written by Alan Reid which appeared in to-day’s “ Daily Telegraph “.
– Who wrote it?
– Mr. Reid.
– That’s a turn-up for the books.
– He is not always on our side. This is what he said -
Normally a government builds up its reputation during a parliamentary recess, then in session exposed to Opposition criticism goes downhill a bit.
But the present Menzies Administration seems to have reversed this traditional pattern.
Ils standing seems to go down when Parliament is in recess and to recover while Parliament is in session . . .
One reason which could be advanced is the weakness of the Labour Party.
Honorable members opposite should read that article. Let me turn now to the Administrator’s Speech when he opened this parliamentary session. He said -
The Parliament has assembled to proceed with the nation’s business and to work to promote the best interests of the Australian people.
In my opinion - and this opinion is coming to be shared by many people, not only in this House but also throughout Australia - for the first two weeks of this session the Opposition has not even considered the best interests of the Australian people. Instead, political opportunism has been rife.
To the general public, and to me before I was raised to this illustrious House, a want-of-confidence motion usually conjures up a picture of two powerful political parties sitting on opposite sides of the House coming out at the ringing of the bell just like a pair of fighting cocks. After the Opposition’s performance of the last few days one cannot help but feel that public money has been wasted. We did not see any fighting cocks in the Opposition; we saw only parrots. For at least five days the Opposition has contributed nothing of any benefit to the people of Australia. T am prepared to repeat that statement outside the House.
After listening to honorable gentlemen opposite for the last eight months in this place, I have asked my colleagues why each succeeding Opposition member says the same thing. One of my colleagues said to me: “ Don’t be a fool. Don’t you know that the parliamentary proceedings are being broadcast? If the 8 o’clock public does not catch it the 9 o’clock public will.” In other words, Opposition members address the people outside as they would at a political meeting, and not the Parliament.
In any crisis, whether it be internal or external, one would expect members of the various political parties, as Australians, to come together in an endeavour to find a remedy for our ills and to work together for the betterment of the people. The honorable member for Kingsford-Smith (Mr. Curtin) sniggers, but I do not think that my remarks apply to him so 1 shall exclude him. I am confident that the Australian Government is working for all sections of the community. The measures that it has adopted have been designed for the ultimate benefit of all, not only of one section. F state emphatically that I do not blame any one section of the community for any of the problems which may confront us at this time, but if the Opposition would apply itself to the Parliament and not to the public the dignity and the reputation of the Parliament would be greatly enhanced.
The Government has stated its policy very clearly. The Acting Prime Minister (Mr. McEwen), the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt), the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. McMahon) and various other members on this side of the House have participated in the debate. It is not necessary for all of us to repeat the various statements which have been made by our leaders in explanation of the Government’s policy.
The honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) said this afternoon that there had been too much academic argument. He used a lot of long words which, frankly. I could “ot understand. T wish that he would come down to my level. Whenever the Government has seen a red light indicating a danger spot on the road ahead, it has been prepared to amend or to revise its policies. The Opposition has criticized this practice, not only on this occasion but also in relation to the Marriage Bill, the Matrimonial Causes Bill and other legislation. The Government is to be commended for its honorable actions. It has shown that it is reasonable and receptive to suggestions that are advanced, lt is not full of humbug, and it is not steering a course which it refuses to alter because it is hide-bound.
During a brilliant speech yesterday the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Luchetti) stated that he would name the guilty men of the party supporting the Government. Of course, he did not name one.
– I named you.
– You did not name me. I only wish you had. I am only too proud to be linked with the Government. I support its actions and I am confident that its policies will pay off eventually to the benefit of the Australian people - not only one section - regardless of the Opposition’s actions. How could one expect any reasonable wantofconfidence motion from the Opposition? How could one find anything constructive in what has been said by Opposition members during the last five days?
I shall by-pass a number of comments which I had intended to make because I think that already I have dealt rather harshly with the Opposition. Her Majesty’s Opposition occupies a position of distinction which has been filled by many honorable men and many honorable parties, but at this stage of our history the Opposition has a leader who is never sure which party he leads and a deputy leader whom 1 believe to be as much a Labour man as I am. These gentlemen are backed up by a front-line of men who are devoid of any constructive idea, and a back bench of members who do not know which side in their party is going to win and so are afraid to support either. In addition, the genuine, decent Labour men are called rats by their own executive.
– How did you get in?
– Fortunately, I am not on the Labour side of the House. All that Opposition members have said is that import control should be re-imposed. The Opposition has said to the Government: “ We will now attack you. We will not tell you what you ought to do and we will not tell you what we would do if we were in office except that we would re-impose import controls.”
The honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Crean) mentioned the capital that is coming into Australia from overseas. I presume that he would cut that off completely. But we have not heard from the Opposition how, if this capital were diverted from Australia, it would employ the new work force which is becoming available at the end of each year, quite apart from the inflow of immigrants. There would be no development, no building and no opportunities for employing our work force. I do not think that the honorable gentlemen on the other side of the House really expect to win the election at the end of this year. I really do not think they want to win it. I believe they think that if, by using impeding tactics, they can harm the economy and prevent it from recovering, they will be a sure thing for 1964. But even that hope, I think, is fast failing. With the exception of the Government - which, in my opinion, I repeat, is acting for all Australians and for the community as a whole - there seems to be little representation in this House of the decent hardworking trade unionist who has Australia’s interests at heart. AH the backing of the Opposition seems to go to the militant unions. The others, which seemingly are not so well organized, receive very little consideration. I would again stress the article, “ That Labour has only one voice, that of Chamberlain “. That was written by Reid in the Sydney “ Sun “ to-day.
I compliment the honorable member for Lang (Mr. Stewart), who made a very constructive speech and introduced a few new ideas, which I think are worthy of support by the Government, on the question of oil search and the development of the north. The Government has announced plans in that regard which I think will have great and outstanding effects on the economy of this country. In respect of wool, I agree with the honorable member. I think one of the big problems that will confront Australia in the future is that wool is meeting greater competition from man-ma(k fibres overseas. But surely the economic development of Australia must always depend upon the manufacturer, the primary producer and the trade unionist realizing that they are all Australians and that on their co-operation and understanding their future and that of the nation depends. I feel that that point cannot be stressed strongly enough and I believe that at this moment it is not being realized in very many sections of the community.
I think there are reasons why, in the past, trade unions have taken militant action, for which I do not blame them. There have been many things that the manufacturer has done and whch I do not support now and did not support then. I feel that the same thing applies to the primary producer, but I think that at this stage we should get together and do something for Australia and for its people instead of becoming so insular and small-minded. In my opinion, the Australian manufacturer has lived for too long under an umbrella of government protection. Now the manufacturers have the cold winds of competition blowing on them. That is not an original saying, as honorable members will realize. However, if they are good manufacturers they will give the consumers the benefit.
I would like to stress some of the reasons why, in my opinion, import licensing should not be re-imposed and why the Labour Party should oppose its re-imposition, as it seemingly endeavoured to do when that suited Labour’s purpose once before. Some manufacturers will never reduce prices - those are the manufacturers who are not honest and outstanding Australian citizens - as long as they have protection against competition. At this moment they are not interested in reducing their prices, because honorable gentlemen on the other side of the House and very many others are endeavouring to re-impose import licensing. I think the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam) said yesterday that employees are being put off but prices are not being reduced. This is for one reason. The manufacturer is not prepared at the moment to reduce his prices, because he feels import controls will be reimposed through pressure, and competition will vanish. When you hear people advertising television sets at £100 below the list price if you can name a make beginning with the letter A, with five letters, they can certainly reduce their prices to the Australian people.
I compliment the Government in every way on its immigration policy and I hope it continues. I believe the Government has done a magnificent job for this country in this field. It is a joy to see these people coming in from countries overseas and to see how thrilled they are with Australia on seeing how well we live. It is a shame that some of our people belittle this country and do nothing for it, and are dissatisfied with everything we have, which the rest of the world would give its heart and soul to obtain. The Government’s policy, as has been stated, has been and will be one of full employment. The honorable member for Blaxland (Mr. E. James Harrison) said that the remark of the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. McMahon) that we were not used to living with full employment was a damaging admission or something of that sort. Never in my life have I heard such rubbish. This Government has stated its policy clearly. No country in the world has yet lived with full employment, but we are endeavouring to do so and will succeed.
The Government’s economic policy has been under attack by the Chamber of Manufactures and by the Chamber of Commerce, both on different sides of the fence, but I think most people agree that the Government is right. If the Opposition wants to do something about the economy, it should make a statement about the wharf stoppage in Melbourne to-day and about that at Fremantle recently, as well as about various other strikes which are not helping the economy one iota, but about which honorable members opposite have said nothing.
The Melbourne “ Herald “ to-night states “Hopes for 1961-62 are rising”. It is an article by John Eddy, the “Herald” economist. I will not read it in its entirety, but I suggest that members on the other side of the House get a copy, read it and become unhappy. T am sure that is what will happen to them. In the Sydney “ Sun “ to-day appears the heading “ Government Action Backed “, and further down we have the president of the Australian Exporters Federation, Mr. A. Sparks, saying some favorable things, with some reservations, about the Government’s policy. The executive director of the Employers Federation has been saying very nice things, with wee reservations. The senior lecturer in economics at Sydney University says that the Government’s measures are working well, and then continues quite lyrically.
I have confidence in the Government. I believe the motion moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) is an act of complete humbug and I think some members of the Labour Party agree emphatically with me in that regard but lack the courage to get up and say so.
.- We have listened to a very interesting address by the honorable member for La Trobe (Mr. Jess), in which he made certain apologies both for himself and for the Government. I wish to say to the honorable member at this stage, in view of the disparaging remarks he made about the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) and the Deputy Leader of this party, that he has a lot to learn in this Parliament. Let me inform him that every member on this side of the House, if he wishes to do so, or if he has reason to do so, is entitled to criticize both the Leader of the Opposition and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam). Let me make that point for the benefit of the honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Wight) also, because he knows only too well that if the honorable member for La Trobe criticizes his leader or deputy leader he will be where the honorable member for Lilley rs now, and will remain there. That has happened to other honorable members on the Government side. Let me assure the honorable member for La Trobe, once again, that he has a great deal to learn in this Parliament. If criticism is to be made on this side of the House concerning any member of this party, it rs made freely and objectively, and there are no repercussions. On the other hand, we might refer to many honorable members on the Government side who, in the past, have had the courage and the conviction to criticize their leaders and their policy, and who, like the honorable member for Lilley, have remained on the back benches indefinitely. That is the position and I wanted to refer to it because T believe it to be extremely important.
The honorable member for La Trobe referred to the question of controls in this country. He said that, in his opinion, there are no controls in this country and he said also that the Government does not believe in controls. 1 assure him and other honorable members on the Government side of the House that there are controls rn this country, and that controls were never more repressive than they are to-day. Even in war-time, when this country was engaged in war, controls were not as oppressive as they are to-day. The honorable member for La Trobe knows that controls in every direction have never been more severe in this country than they are at the present time. Later in my speech, I shall refer to some of the controls that have been imposed by this Government during its eleven years of office.
What has been lacking in this country has been leadership. I did propose to refer to lack of purpose, but I shall not use that term because 1 believe that all the governments in Australia, irrespective of political colour, have a common purpose. I believe that, irrespective of their political affiliations, they intend to do the best for every one, including the ordinary man and woman in Australia. It is on the method of approach towards achieving this purpose that we join issue with this Government. We believe that the restrictions imposed by this Government are directed against the average man and woman in Australia, and in imposing them the Government has lacked that leadership to which I have referred. In my opinion, it has not shown any intelligence in its approach. Intelligence may be shown in three ways. First, intelligence implies knowledge. The Government has displayed a remarkable lack of knowledge. Next, an intelligent government should have ability to apply whatever knowledge it possesses. Thirdly, it should have the ability to see and plan ahead.
This Government certainly cannot claim that it has not had the opportunity to acquire the requisite knowledge from the Public Service and outside experts. The knowledge has been available to it, but the Government has refused to accept the advice of those people who are in a position to offer advice concerning the economic problems now confronting the country. Probably the Government has received advice from quarters from which it should not have received advice and that could be the reason for some of the economic ills besetting us to-day.
This Government certainly has had every opportunity to see and plan ahead. It attained office in 1949 and no government has ever assumed office in better circumstances. It was elected to office on its pledge to reduce inflation and to increase the purchasing power of the Australian £1. The Government had, so it claimed, the ability to see and plan ahead. What has happened to the value of the Australian £1 in the eleven years during which this Government has been in office? We all know that the Government does not like to be reminded of the fact that, instead of increasing in value since 1949, the Australian £1 is now worth only one-quarter of what it was worth in that year. This is ample proof that the Government has possessed no ability to see and plan ahead. If the Government had wanted to see and plan ahead, it could have carried out the policies and pledges it offered the people in 1949. Instead, it has repudiated every pledge it made to the people at that time.
Since then, there has been a steady increase in the cost of living. In the first four post-war years, during the regime of the Curtin and Chifley governments, prices rose by only 24 per cent., or an average of 6 per cent, in each of those years. But, during the last ten years, prices have risen by no less than 98 per cent, or an average of almost 10 per cent, in each year during which the Menzies Government has been ia office. No attempt has been made to control costs and prices in any way at all. Instead, they have increased by 98 per cent, in Australia as against only 20 per cent, in Canada, and 18 per cent, in the United States of America. This Government, which talks to-day about stability in the economy, as the honorable member for La Trobe did, overlooks the fact that this continuing increase in costs and prices is not only having a detrimental effect on the industries of Australia but also visiting hardship upon pensioners and others on fixed incomes.
In 1952, the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) made a series of broadcasts in which he referred to costs and prices in Australia and stated that in a period of rising costs and prices there was a tendency for profits to increase. He said then that he would introduce a bill to control profits, but no such bill has ever been introduced into this Parliament. The Prime Minister has failed to honour the promise he made nine years ago to control profits in this country! Costs and prices are continuing to increase just as rapidly to-day as ever they did. Sometimes the inflation with which we are afflicted is described as creeping inflation. At other times, it is called galloping inflation, but, whatever it may be called, if there is inflation in a country large sections of the community are being hurt by it for it brings in its train increasing costs and prices.
This period of eleven years to which I have been referring has not been so bad for the privileged few, who are able to add to their prices the various increases in tax charges that this Government bas levied and who, on occasions, have even gone so far as to add a margin of profit to the additional taxes levied by the Government. These privileged few have not felt inflation; on the contrary, to them it has meant those rising profits to which I have just referred and which the Prime Minister promised as far back as 1952 he would take action to curb.
But this period has certainly not been of any great benefit to the primary producer whose average return to-day is far less than it was in 1948-49 despite the increase that has taken place in prices since that time. Nor has it been of any benefit to the average worker of Australia who, year after year, has had to meet ever-rising costs of household commodities and increases in rents out of an income which has been stabilized partly as a result of the influence which this Government has been able to exercise in the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. The 600,000- odd pensioners of Australia who are being required to endeavour to exist on the miserable income which this Government has consistently refused to increase have certainly enjoyed no benefit during this period. The Minister for Social Services (Mr. Roberton) might argue that something was done for the pensioners when the last Budget was brought down. I agree that the means test was eased, but the Minister knows as well as I do, and as well as every other honorable member in this House does, that this has been of no benefit to the average pensioner whose total income is £5 a week, or £5 10s. if he is fortunate enough to be in receipt of the supplementary rent allowance. The alteration of the means test was of no benefit at all to those who to-day are living on fixed incomes and who are the victims of the inflationary tendency that is present in our community and is in many ways supported by the Government.
Of course, the Government has accepted no responsibility and has not been prepared to take action against the monopolies to which I have just referred, although at the beginning of 1960 we were told in the Governor-General’s Speech that the Government intended to bring down legislation to control monopolies. In the Budget session of the same year, the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) repeated the promise that legislation would be introduced to control monopoly practices. I recall that at the beginning of 1960 the honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie) said that the Government had no intention of bringing down legislation to control monopoly practices. The fact is that the honorable member was quite correct in his assumption, because the Government has made no attempt to introduce such legislation and I suggest that it is not likely to do so.
Let me turn for a moment to the matte; of unemployment, to which the honorable member for La Trobe referred briefly. The Opposition has repeatedly attacked the Government on this matter. I have taken the opportunity on two occasions of raising thi? matter as one for urgent discussion by the House. On every occasion we are told that the situation will correct itself. It may be said to the Government’s credit that towards the end of 1960 the situation did improve and in point of fact fewer persons were registered for employment than had been registered for some years. But now at this early stage in 1961, unemployment has again increased and every person who is concerned with this matter knows that the present position is the result of the economic policies that are being foisted on the people bv this Government. Unemployment should not be tolerated by any selfrespecting citizen, irrespective of what may have been said by honorable members opposite. If there is unemployment or fear of unemployment - whether it affects new Australians or old Australians - it is not only an injury to those who are unemployed and to their families but it is also a threat to every one. As the Government knows, unemployment is an evil which spreads from State to State and certainly no part of our society is exempt from the conditions of unemployment that now prevail.
Unemployment to-day is reaching proportions that should not be tolerated in any enlightened community. The Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. McMahon) tends to gloss over the figures. However, the February figures, which have now been made available to honorable members by the Minister, cause concern to the Opposition and to every person engaged in industry. If I may, I shall quote to the House the figures on unemployment since 1949, which is the first year for which this Government bears responsibility and the last year that the Chifley Government was in office. In February, 1949, 17,200 persons were registered as unemployed. By 1953, this figure had reached 69,400 and in 1959 it was 76,900. As I intimated only a few moments ago, in 1960 there was a distinct improvement, and in October of that year only 34,400 persons were registered as unemployed.
– Now tell us about the vacancies.
– Yes, I would be happy to read out the latest figures because I am most concerned about them and I am sure that the honorable member should also be concerned. After all, he represents an electorate that will not tolerate unemployment. The lastest figures available from the Minister for Labour and National Service show that now 73,100 persons are registered as unemployed as against 61,000 in February, 1960. Unemployment is again on the rise. I shall refer now to those who are registered for unemployment benefit. In December, 1960, only 17,600 persons were in receipt of this benefit, but the figures for February, 1961, show that there were then 20,900 registered. That is an increase of 3,000 persons in two months.
Last week I asked the Minister for Labour and National Service when he was replying to my question to give the latest figures on unemployment. I have given the latest figures that have been supplied and I point out that they are for February and not for March. I suggest that after the first week in March the figures will be substantially higher than the February figures that have been made available to honorable members. I pointed out to the Minister in my question that during the last fortnight in Tasmania more than 400 persons have lost their employment.
I understand that the honorable member for Braddon (Mr. Davies) referred to the situation in the Tasmanian Timber industry - another industry that is feeling the effects of the Government’s economic policies. The Tasmanian timber industry has never been more depressed than it is now. 1 raised this matter for discussion by the House, if my memory serves me correctly, as far back as 1958 and I pointed then to the situation in the timber industry generally throughout the Commonwealth. It was then that the first effects of the unemployment situation were being felt, and they are again being felt throughout the Commonwealth. There is no need for unemployment in the timber industry and no one knows that better than do members of the Government, but they have refused to accept their responsibilities. The complete removal of import restrictions has had an adverse effect on the timber industry. To me it is inconceivable that a government can stand by whilst timber mills are closing in every State. In Tasmania, timber mills that have been fully occupied during the period of office of this Government and the Government that preceded it are to-day either completely closed or are working on short time. That state of affairs should not be allowed to continue.
I refer now to the motor car industry. When the additional sales tax was imposed in November of last year, we were told that there would be very little unemployment in the motor car industry. I think the Treasurer said then that he expected, to use his own words, that certainly no more than 250 people would be retrenched by the Ford Motor Company of Australia Proprietary Limited - that possibly about 170 would be put off at the works at Homebush in New South Wales and probably about 70 would be retrenched at the Ford works in Brisbane. “ But “, he said, “ they will quickly find jobs “. What is the position to-day? Far more than 250 persons have lost their employment in the motor industry. Between 1,700 and 1,800 workers have been dismissed - about seven times as many as had been predicted by the Treasurer. 1 suggest that the unemployment situation in this country is reaching a stage at which the Opposition and, indeed, the people outside this Parliament can no longer stand by and allow this Government to continue to apply economic policies that are causing and will continue to cause hardships of the kind which I have just mentioned. The building industry isin much the same position as is the timber industry, with which I have just dealt. The building industry, also, is in a state of depression. Fewer homes are being built to-day. The figures for last month show that in that month far fewer homes were being built than were under construction in the corresponding month of 1960, despite the fact that some years ago the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner), who is the responsible Minister, stated thatif we were to make up the leeway in housing we would have to construct at least 77,000 homes a year. But we have never averaged that figure. I think it may be said, in fairness to the Government, that last year more than 77,000 homes were built, but the fact remains that this year the number will be far below the number constructed in other years. The building industry and the timber industry are in a state of depression merely because this Government has continued to apply its credit restrictions.
The Government’s one positive approach to our problems has been to suggest that we might do something with our export trade. That is a commendable approach on the Government’s part. The export field is the only one in which it is likely to do anything, but even in that field its policy is narrow. We know that, merely for the sake of party political propaganda, honorable members who sit on the Government side of the chamber-
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- Mr. Deputy Speaker, when the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) spoke to this motion, he uttered these remarkable words -
We have more controls operating to-day in Australia than we had at any period during the war.
– Hear, hear!
– For the benefit of the honorable member for Kingsford-Smith, who apparently agrees with the statement made by his leader, I should like to point out that during the Second World War the only activity in Australia that was not controlled was the movement of people from State to State. The right to move from one State to another was at first denied to our citizens, but the High Court of Australia heard the case and decided that a citizen could not be prevented from going from one State to another without permission. Every other activity was completely controlled by the government of the time. It is not for me to say whether those controls were right or wrong. The fact is that they existed. We were engaged in a very fierce war, and therefore it was essential that every possible step be taken to ensure that we fought the war to the utmost limits of our powers. But to say that the situation that existed then was comparable with that which exists to-day is just to talk plain humbug.
Let me remind honorable members that during the war the National Security Regulations relating to every aspect of our life filled a number of books. Furthermore, we had to hand over coupons if we wanted to buy clothing, tea, butter or petrol. Not only that, but the Labour Government considered that these and other controls should continue after the war. In 1948, I almost had to stand on my head to get a new motor car when I wanted one. although the war had finished three years before. Some years after the war, one man of my acquaintance decided to demonstrate the ridiculousness of the butter coupon system. He deliberately bought butter without coupons and then made his action known publicly. Although this was done some years after the war, at a time when Australia was exporting thousands of tons of butter a year, he was prosecuted by the Labour Government.
– I suppose that the honorable member was the man’s solicitor and that that is why he lost the case.
– I am indebted to the honorable member for his interest. I told my client that, contrary to what the Labour Government of the day appeared to think, the war had been over for some time, and I advised him to plead not guilty on the ground that the war had been over for some time. The Labour Government then withdrew the prosecution before the case went to court.
T should like to remind Opposition members, whose memories are so bad, also about the power failures that occurred and about Sir Arthur Fadden’s promise, before the 1949 general election, to do away with petrol rationing if the Labour Government were turned out and the anti-Labour parties were elected to office. Labour supporters said that he could not do it, but the people wisely chose to turn the Labour Government out, and petrol rationing was immediately ended, with complete satisfaction to all concerned and no shortage at any subsequent time. Therefore, Mr. Deputy .Speaker, I say that the Leader of the Opposition was guilty of talking humbug when he said -
We have more controls operating to-day in Australia than we had at any period during the war.
The honorable gentleman’s motion states -
I thought I would examine some figures in order to see what had happened to the economy. I found that since November last, bank deposits, both interest-bearing and non-interest-bearing, have increased by a net total of £22,000.000. Savings bank deposits in the Commonwealth Savings Bank and the private savings banks were £1,391,000,000 at 30th June, 1959; £1,461,000,000 at 31st December of that year; £1,523,000,000 at 30th June, 1960; and had risen to £1,567,000,000 at 31st December, 1960. I was interested in the suggestion by the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard) that prices have gone up and up. The overall level of wholesale prices dropped by nearly 1 per cent, in January - the fifth successive month in which wholesale prices in this country fell.
I commend the Government on the measures it has adopted and the courage it has shown in bringing the boom under control. We know that America had eight booms and eight depressions in 100 years. We have had booms in Australia, and on every occasion a boom has been followed by a depression. So h is the responsibility of a government to see that a boom does not get out of control.
The steps that the Government has taken to bring the boom under control have been clearly stated in this House. I shall refer, briefly, to the fact that the land boom has been well and truly brought under control. I also refer to the very definite fact that by the end of December last year inflation was much less than it would have been if the Government had not taken steps to control it. Indeed, it was considerably less than half of the inflation that took place some years earlier at the time of the Korean war.
Now let us look at Australia’s internal position. According to official figures issued by the Government, the Consolidated Revenue Fund as at 28th February this year showed receipts for eight months up to that date as £841,800,000, to the nearest £100,000. Receipts for the same eight months period a year earlier were £734,800,000- a difference of £107,000,000. Expenditure for the eight months to 28th February, 1961 was £928,000,000 compared with expenditure for the eight months to 28th February, 1960 of £874,000,000 - a difference of about £55,000,000. I am giving these amounts in round figures. Those figures represent a gain for that eight months period which ended on 28th February last of £52,000,000 in Australia’s internal financial position.
We have been told - and this has been demonstrated clearly in this House - that the Government’s aim is chiefly two-fold. That aim is to check inflation and to expand exports. I have mentioned that the Government has already succeeded in some degree in checking inflation. It is certainly taking all the steps possible to expand exports. We have been given a further interesting fact which shows the difficult conditions under which the Government is working. It is that, if we were receiving to-day the price per unit that we received for our exports in 1953 we would have more than £400,000,000 extra in overseas funds with which to pay our imports bill.
We have no control over the amount that we receive for our exports, but we have control over the costs of production of those exports as well as of goods produced for home consumption. The Government’s aim - and it is succeeding in it - is to check the increase in costs. Labour’s remedy would have the entirely opposite effect, as has been shown over the years. Labour’s remedy is massive import licensing. Many speakers in this debate have spoken as though we have no import controls at all, whereas about one-tenth of our imports are under control. Labour’s policy is to impose heavy import licensing, and it is obvious that in a protected domestic market this creates an inflationary position. That is exactly what has happened over the years as a result of severe import control. So the Government is to be commended for its attempt to solve the present problem of our overseas balances without resorting to further import licensing.
There is one further factor to which I wish to direct the attention of honorable members. During those eight years when the price per unit of our exports has gone down on the average, and the costs of production have gone up, the primary producer has been the chief sufferer. The question is: Is it fair to the people who produce fourfifths of our export income that we should allow the position continually to develop in which their costs go up and their return per unit goes down? So, T repeat, the Government must be commended on taking whatever steps are possible to control that situation. lt is not only the primary producer who suffers in this way. In Queensland, for example, about 60 per cent, of the population live in provincial areas. Obviously, if the primary producers do not flourish all the people in the towns and cities in the country areas also cannot flourish, because their prosperity is dependent on the prosperity of the primary producers. I suggest that if primary producers received a further £50,000,000 a year for their exports that increase would be reflected in the prosperity of everybody whose livelihood depended on the prosperity of the primary producers, lt would also be reflected in the Treasury’s receipts because of the resultant gain in income tax collections.
There are two suggestions that I should like to make to the Government, both of which deal with Queensland’s special position. Queensland had a very serious drought last year, and a less serious drought in the previous year. The result was that this State, which depends heavily on primary production, suffered a great drop in its earning power. Mention has been made in this House of finance. I shall cite two instances relating to primary producers in order to show what happens when conditions are tough. The first case relates to a grazing family which is expert in the raising of beef cattle and has a very good property of its own. Recently, that family owed nothing on its property, and in fact had money saved. Because one of the sons was approaching marriageable age it was decided to buy a second property especially for him. An amount of £10,000, roughly half the purchase price of the property to be bought, was borrowed so that the family could pay cash. Now we see what happens because of financial stringency. It was necessary for the borrowers to agree to repay £5,000 in October this year and the balance of £5,000 of the loan in two equal amounts over two years. Here we have a case of an absolutely first-class grazing family having to find about £10,000 in three years. That family would have no difficulty whatsoever in finding £10.000 within six months. But in order to find that money grazing operations would have to be disorganized. For one thing, too many cattle would have to be sold. That would upset breeding arrangements and taxation arrangements. Therefore, it would be desirable in such a case, in normal times, instead of repaying the money in three years, to repay it over six, seven or ten years.
There we have a case in which financial stringency has prevented the best operation of a proved grazing property. The important result will be this: In order to raise the necessary money according to good husbandry, the family will not employ two workers who would normally be fully employed to develop the new property that has been bought. That is a case relating to an export earner. Now I shall quote a case relating to an import saver.
This case concerns a firm of very reliable men whose business assets are worth about £160,000. Last year, in order to develop their tobacco venture, which is an import saver, they decided to spend £4,000 on barns and certain other necessary improvements. Because there was a drought, they were obliged to spend another £2,000 on irrigation. They approached a bank, which agreed to lend them the £2,000. That sum was to be paid some time this year. In spite of the fact that they had outlaid £6,000 on this one venture, they would have had no difficulty in paying back this extra £2,000 that the bank was to lend them. But when the financial stringency occurred in November, they found that they could not get the additional £2,000 but had to reduce the existing liability on their other property by £2,000 by the middle of February.
There we have a case in which financial stringency has affected our capacity to save imports. Do not say that these people could not grow tobacco because in spite of the drought they have 12 tons of tobacco leaf in their barns which is worth over £11,000. Of course, when they sell it they will be able to pay back some money, but they have other expenses, too.
Taking the figures for the Commonwealth Trading Bank and private trading bank advances, we find that, so far as grazing, agriculture and dairying are concerned, 24 per cent, of loans advanced by the banks was outstanding in 1958 but only 22.5 per cent, in June, 1960.
My time will not permit me to discuss other aspects of the position in Queensland, where, mainly because of the drought, unemployment is quite a serious matter. I suggest, therefore, that the Government should give consideration to these two suggestions: First, finance should be released to the banks with a view to advancing money to primary producers and for housing. The release of such money would, of course, help the situation in Queensland very considerably because it is basically a primary producing State. It would also help primary producers elsewhere, especially those in northern and north-western New South Wales who have suffered from drought. 1 also suggest that the Government should investigate whether it would be possible for it to pay one-quarter of the cost of all authorized improvements by primary producers. The reason for that proposal is that the primary producer who is not making a good income does not get a worthwhile tax rebate in respect of moneys spent on improvements. A straight-out payment of onequarter of the cost would help him. I suggest that these two proposals are worthy of consideration and would boost our export industries. They would take up the unfortunate slack that exists in Queensland, mainly because of drought conditions last year, and would I am sure be of great benefit to Australia generally.
Fortunately, Queensland has enjoyed good rains in many areas recently, but it does not rain money. Therefore, it will be some time before the slack can be taken up in the normal way. I am sure, therefore, that the Government, which is always mindful of the citizens’ interest, will give consideration to ensuring, as far as possible, that the least possible harm is suffered by those people who are unable to do anything to help themselves.
– Mr. Deputy Speaker, the honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Bandidt) did not say whether he was supporting or opposing the motion before the Chair. In view of his remarks, I think he would find it almost impossible to assert that he was opposing the motion of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell). The speech of the honorable member for Wide Bay has, in effect, given support to the statements of the Leader of the Opposition and the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Crean) concerning the economic and financial policies of the Government.
The honorable member for Wide Bay spoke about our export industries. He told us about the man who bought extra cattle country which he wanted to improve. If he could have obtained money from the bank, he would have employed two men to improve the property and so would have provided more beef for export. The Opposition is complaining about the part of the Government’s policy which has caused this state of affairs.
Then, relating his remarks to the saving of imports, the honorable member spoke about certain tobacco-growers who required additional finance for the improvement of their property. We have heard the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) and other Government supporters say that the Government does not believe in controls. They have been condemning what the Leader of the Opposition said about this Government and its controls. The honorable member for Wide Bay said that he hoped the Government would take notice of his proposal to release all the finance necessary to make advances to primary producers. Why are the banks not making advances? Last week I said to a bank manager, “ How are you getting on? “ He said, “ I am still saying ‘ No ‘ to everybody “. That was his expression. I was speaking to the same gentleman a few weeks earlier and he said the bank had had instructions that people with an overdraft must not exceed it. He said that a small businessman with an overdraft of £600 had exceeded it by £160. He told the manager he thought that was all right. The bank manager replied: “ If I went into your shop and took goods worth £160, you would not think it was all right. You have no more right to increase your overdraft and pay out cheques on the bank to that extent than I have to go into your shop and take your goods without paying.” He was acting under instructions.
– That is fair enough.
– The honorable member for Mallee thinks that is fair enough. I suggest that he read the newspapers and what the banks have had to say about deposits. The honorable member for Wide Bay said there had been an increase in deposits. I read a complaint by the banks that they have £15,000,000 they want to lend but they cannot lend it because of instructions from the Government through the Commonwealth Bank. They said their difficulty was that they were paying higher rates of interest to the depositors for fixed deposits and yet they were not able to make advances on that money. If the honorable member believes that the economic position is sound in those circumstances, he has another think coming.
I made a note of the speech made by the honorable member for La Trobe (Mr.
Jess) who has just returned to the chamber. He has not been a member of this Parliament for very long. He began his speech by describing the Opposition as a lot of parrots. All 1 can say to him is that the little he said about things that counted was a repetition of statements that have been made by the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) and other Government supporters. I have never seen a better exhibition of parrot-like repetition of statements than that given by the honorable member for La Trobe. He said the Labour Party did not know this and that. He said members of the Opposition had not referred to the strikes in Melbourne or Fremantle. He chided the Labour Party with not knowing where it was going or what policy the Labour leader was putting forward. He said further that the Leader of the Opposition did not know what to suggest.
I would ask the honorable member for La Trobe how many real Labour votes went his way at the by-election about a year ago because they were misdirected by a splinter group that has broken away from the Labour Party. He said we did not know which party we were following. If I were sitting in his place, I would hardly know what party I was representing because he did not gain election on the policy of this Government or the policy of the Labour Party. He won his seat with the help of disgruntled persons who formerly belonged to the Labour Party but turned it down because they could not get their own way.
The honorable member for La Trobe quoted from the “ Sun “ newspaper. I read a press report to the effect that the Menzies Government can now sit back feeling fairly comfortable because the rift between the Australian Labour Party and the Australian Democratic Labour Party has grown wider. The newspaper suggested that the Government could feel pretty safe about its prospects at the forthcoming general election. That was not a Labour statement but a report in the sort of newspaper that the honorable member reads. He implies that the Labour Parry’s policy is at fault. The fact is that the Government and its supporters hope that there will be continued strife between the sections of Labour and that they will be returned as a consequence.
The honorable member complained that we had not said much about the economic position. 1 have replied to the honorable member for Wide Bay but I did not consider it necessary to produce a lot of figures to support the Opposition’s motion. I believe there are two or three matters which are of paramount interest to the people. One is the position of our overseas balances. Another is inflation, and I link that with employment. About twelve months ago, this Government virtually abolished import licensing. Honorable members on the Government side glory in that action. T was attending a Labour meeting that night. Other speakers referred to what they thought was in the mind of the Government. I said 1 had a slightly different opinion. I told the meeting I thought the Government was lifting import restrictions to force more competition on the manufacturers because it wanted to reduce costs. I said the Government wanted the importation from overseas of large quantities of goods which were already being manufactured in Australia. That is the only way to reduce costs, in the opinion of the Government.
If the Government wants to reduce costs, it will not achieve its objectives at the expense of the workers. I say without hesitation I am on the side of the Associated Chambers of Manufactures of Australia and not on the side of the Associated Chambers of Commerce of Australia. This Government’s main interest is in the big importers. It is not interested in the manufacturing industries.
– What about the primary producers?
– You are only concerned with cheaper prices for the goods you are buying.
– Hear, hear!
– That is all you are after - cheaper costs.
What 1 put to that meeting has received endorsement here to-night. The Minister for Labour and National Service has told us that the Government has not been able to manage a policy of full employment. He said that with full employment men have not valued their jobs, that if they do not like a particular job they can say, “You can stick it, and I will go and take another job “. He did not use those words, but that is what he implied. Of course that is correct, and many men have done just that. The Minister said that we have now reached a position in which the economy is becoming healthier. Let me say that we have reached the position that I suggested, at that meeting twelve months ago, we would finally reach. The manufacturers say, “ Ali these goods are being imported, and the storekeepers are selling them because they can make bigger profits on them “. Take the position in the electrical industry to-day. We have known for the last three or four years, from the time when the trade agreement with Japan was negotiated, what would happen in the electrical industry. I am not attacking that agreement.
– But you have done so in the past, or other members of the Labour Party have done so.
– I am not talking about what somebody else said, or what the honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull) may have said. I am speaking about what I said. We know that since Japanese goods have been allowed to flow into this country the electrical industry has faced difficulties. You can go to people running electrical goods stores in Sydney, and they will tell you, “ We can sell the imported article for less than we can buy the Australian-made article “. We know that this is so, and the position has got to be rectified.
According to the Minister for Labour and National Service, a man should not be able to leave his job if he does not like it. The Minister says that a man must value his job. When you have had experience of what happened in the time of the great depression, you cannot help remembering the fears of the workers in those times. There were 100 or 150 men working at the establishment where I was employed. On a particular Friday six men would be given notice, and the management would say, “ If things do not improve a few more will go off next Friday”. Men were afraid of losing their jobs because they knew there were no others to go to, and they would try to show the boss what good men they were. They were motivated only by the fear of unemployment. What the Minister said to-night demonstrated, whether he wanted to do so or not, that the Government intends to bring about that state of affairs again.
– “Rubbish”, the honorable member says. Evidently he did not listen to the Minister. The Minister said that nien did not value the jobs they were in. He said that the turnover of employment was at the rate of 72 per cent., and he further said, at least by implication, “We want to stop this. We want to tell the men that they must keep their jobs, and the only way we can ensure that they will keep them is by seeing that no other jobs will be available for them.”
Does the Government consider for one moment the position in which a man is placed when he loses his job? The other day I read in the newspaper that the Department of Labour and National Service had said that at Mildura and nearby centres there was an ample supply of pickers for the fruit harvest.
– There were 72 in gaol at the week-end.
– The honorable member for Mallee says that there were 72 in gaol at the week-end. That is a very nice niece of information to come from the honorable member. He says that all these people went to Mildura to pick the fruit, and that 72 ended up in gaol. What a reflection on the workers! The Minister has claimed that although the Labour Party contends that it stands for the interests and the welfare of the workers, it is really the Government parties that have the workers’ interests most at heart. Yet the honorable member for Mallee said that although they sent all these men to the Mildura area, 72 were put in gaol.
– That is true.
– The honorable member seems pleased to be able to assure us that this is a fact. However, this does not affect my point. In Mildura, Renmark. Berri and such districts at the present time, and during the last couple of months, people have been needed to pick apricots and to slice them preparatory to preserving them. In another three months there will be no fruit to pick and none left to preserve. All the people who were put off in the motor industry and who went to pick the fruit will then be out of employment again. 1 am told that the employees who were dismissed from General Motors-Holden’s Limited in Adelaide all crowded around the employment office looking for jobs, and that about 150 of them were there at half -past eight in t>e morning. A Labour member told me that he saw a long queue of them. The employment office was able to send them to Mildura to fruit-picking jobs, but what jobs will they have when the fruit season is finished?
I tell the Government that it has the sole responsibility, because of its credit restriction policy, for having men thrown out of employment unnecessarily. Consider the fluctuations of sales tax on motor vehicles between 30 per cent, and 40 per cent. The Treasurer tells us that this is not a stopandgo government. About a fortnight ago I visited the premises of one of the biggest distributors of Holdens in my district in order to get some petrol. I am well acquainted with the man in charge of that establishment. He came out and spoke to me, and he said, “Why don’t they give us businessmen a chance? We do not know where we are with these stop-and-go tactics, putting on the tax and taking it off.” A few days before that I spoke to the manager of the firm, and I said to him, “ It is not the tax that is restricting sales. An extra £70 or £80 in sales tax on a car will not prevent a man from buying it if he can get the necessary credit. He would not worry about the extra tax.” This man replied, “ A purchaser does not have to pay the extra £70 or £80 “. He told me that if a man put his car in as deposit on a new one, the firm would give him an extra £50 on the trade-in because the new cars had increased in price, so that all the purchaser was required to find was an extra £30. The person who stood to lose was the one who bought the secondhand car.
If you know anything about the carselling business, you will realize that car dealing follows a staircase pattern. The man at the top is the one who keeps his car for twelve or eighteen months and then replaces it with a new one. There are many people who keep a car for only this length of time and then trade it in, paying perhaps £300 for the new car. The man who buys that second-hand car is usually a person who trades in a slightly older one, also paying an extra £200 or £300. Finally we come down to the “ bitzer “ at the bottom. The “ bitzer “ buyer is the chap who does not have much money and who has to borrow practically all of the purchase price, perhaps £400, from a hirepurchase company. It has now been announced that if a car is over five years old the hire-purchase companies will not advance money for it.
– That is not correct to-day.
– I say that the position to-day is that the chap at the bottom cannot get the credit to buy a car, and the repercussions are felt right up the scale. The man who can obtain credit cannot get a buyer for the car he has to dispose of.
I now want to deal with import restrictions. As I have said, the intention of this Government was to introduce into our business world competition from overseas, is order to force prices down. In order to meet this competition the Australian manufacturer would have to do one of two things. He would either have to take less profit on what he was selling, or he would have to induce his employees to produce the goods more cheaply. He might use a combination of these two measures in order to meet the competition. I was rather amused by a statement made by the Treasurer some weeks ago when it was suggested that local sales would be interfered with. Somebody asked about the importation of Japanese cars. Well, there is nothing to stop Japanese cars from coming in. You can just imagine what chance we would have of competing with them having regard to the standard of living that we enjoy in this country.
– Holdens could be sold in Japan.
– Perhaps they could be sold to certain people, but I am prepared to say that sales of Holdens would not amount to more than one-tenth per cent, of the total car sales in Japan.
The Government has stated that it is necessary to increase our exports and the Treasurer, or a person in a similar high position, is reported to have asked General Motors-Holden’s why more Holdens were not being exported. On the following day 1 read in the press that although a number of Holdens had been exported to South Africa last year they could not now be sent to that country because it had placed a restriction o;i its imports. We could be faced with the same position in other countries. I do not know how the Government expects to do anything along those lines. 1 live a quarter of a mile from the General Motors-Holden’s factory in the Woodville district and a lot of my friends and relatives work there. I kr.ow that the company is expending an immense amount of capital. It has a huge capital investment and so a huge overhead bill. How can the Government expect the company to reduce its output by 20 per cent, and carry on as before. The Government’s economic and financial policy just does not work.
-Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– The honorable member for Port Adelaide (Mr. Thompson) devoted most of his time to an endeavour to prove the thesis that the Government has not been supporting manufacturing industries in Australia. In fact, from some of his remarks, one would gather the impression that the Government had been supporting the big importers - to use his own words - to the detriment of the manufacturers. Perhaps he does rot realize the situation that exists in Australia, and perhaps he has not examined statistics very carefully. If he does, he will learn that the greatest period of Australia’s industrial development has been during the life of this Government. The national product from our secondary industries in the last financial year rose to over £4,000,000,000, an increase of over 60 per cent, since this Government came to office. That is a complete refutation of the thesis that the honorable member has been trying to prove. In addition, in every State - even in his own State of South Australia - many thousands of additional factories have been constructed in recent years.
An examination of the pattern of trade in the post-war period, particularly during the life of this Government, indicates that whereas in the pre-war period approximately 85 per cent, of our imports were manufactured goods, to-day only 17 per cent, fall into this category. This indicates quite clearly the tremendous support and encouragement that this Government has given to manufacturing industries and the success that has been achieved.
The honorable member for Port Adelaide followed the pattern which has been set by the Opposition during this debate, and made gloomy forecasts of unemployment. I have heard such forecasts regularly ever since I have been in this place, during Budget debates, debates on our financial position, and debates of this kind. The Opposition has been propounding the same theme for years, perhaps in the hope that something will eventuate which will give it some political advantage and assist it at the next election. The Opposition should remember that some years ago one of its spokesmen stated that it would be better for the economy of Australia if we had approximately 5 per cent, of our workforce unemployed.
– That statement was made by the honorable member for Parkes, was it not?
– I think it was. When we compare the records of governments, we see that the best record of employment in the history of this country has been achieved during the life of this Government and we are very proud of that record. It is something in which we all have a very definite and personal interest, no matter on what side of the House we sit. We should all strive to maintain our good record.
Our objective should be to achieve stability in our economy. I shall refer to this matter in greater detail at a later stage. At this point I should like to clarify a statement that the honorable member for Port Adelaide made in relation to the importation of Japanese motor vehicles following the lifting of import restrictions. If the honorable member had been following the situation very carefully during the past years he would have known that motor vehicles had been on a replacement system for a number of years before import licensing was lifted almost entirely in February of last year, so there would have been nothing to prevent such trade developing provided it had been on an orthodox basis. In fact, there has been no change in the system in relation to motor vehicles, and I am sure the honorable member overlooked the point that I have made.
We should appreciate also that Australia is not the only country that is facing some economic difficulties. We know that the United Kingdom and the United States also are facing problems of varying magnitude. In this modern age, with the lessons of the past before us, government economic policies must be flexible in tactics while still adhering to certain broad economic objectives. To maintain a static economic policy these days would be to court disaster because conditions of inflation and depression can only be avoided by constant vigilance and constant action by governments. If the Opposition policy of “ do nothing “ were adopted during a period of boom, there would be the inevitable period of bust with its grim economic and social consequences.
The great nations of the Western world have to-day adopted the principle of flexibility and have applied this principle to their economic policies. As a result, apart from minor setbacks there has been a period of great advancement in the free world which we are endeavouring to share with the underdeveloped countries.
In Australia the broad economic objectives of this Government can be classified as, first, national development on a steadily expanding basis year by year. The second objective is a planned immigration programme, which is vital if we are to have continuing industrial development. I am sure we all agree with the existing immigration programme and the existing quota. Thirdly, although some adjustments are required from time to time, the Government has the objective of a continuing high level of employment which we classify to-day as full employment. Fourthly, we believe also that our policies should be continually examined and improved, where practicable, in relation to our social services. Fifthly, we believe in the principle of home ownership, and that there should be an adequate level of homebuilding. Associated with all these things is stability of the economy, which means stability of costs and prices. These objectives, you may say, pose some economic opposites, and yet, as a nation, we have in the post-war decade been actually achieving them. At the same time we have been passing through a pioneering phase of our history and have increased our living standards until to-day we have the second highest living standard in the world, a fact of which we can all feel duly proud.
I think it can be fairly claimed that the economic Objectives of the Government over recent years have brought about a period in Australia’s history such as has never previously been enjoyed. The Australian economy, like the economies of most other countries of the Western world today, is always difficult to hold in balance, and there are a number of specific reasons for that in our case. First of all, we must appreciate that we are a relatively small nation, with a population of a little over 10,000,000 and yet, at the same time, as far as our economy is concerned, we are a great trading nation. In fact, we are within the first ten trading nations of the world to-day; and that is a tremendous effort to be sustained by a nation with the population and physical resources that we have.
We must also appreciate that a very high proportion of our gross national product is exported. In fact, the proportion of our gross national product that is exported is more than three times that exported from the United States of America, and far more than is exported from that other great trading nation, Japan. There are peculiar conditions associated with our economy, which must be examined very carefully in relation to the existing situation. One of them is that over 80 per cent, of our exports are made up of primary commodities. In 1959-60 primary commodities amounted to 86 per cent, of our exports. The volume of production varies in accordance with seasonal conditions and prices of certain commodities fluctuate rather violently over a period of years. The proportion of the gross national product exported from Australia has ranged from as low as 10 per cent, in 1946 to 27 per cent, during the Korean war, and is running at present at about 14 per cent.
We know also another factor which has some influence in relation to our consideration of the present circumstances, and that is the predominance of wool in our export earnings. At the present time wool still constitutes about 44 per cent, of our total exports of primary produce and we have experienced quite violent fluctuations in the price of wool over the years. Wool prices have ranged widely from a low level in 1949 to a peak in 1951 and reached the lowest level for a period’ of ten years in 1959-60.
Those are circumstances over which no one in this House has any control, but we must take them into consideration in an examination of the economic situation. When we look at the terms of trade we find that, as is the case with most of the primary produce exporting countries, in Australia to-day the terms of trade have been running against us, and perhaps more against us, because of our size as a trading nation, than against most other nations. I am referring to the terms of trade where we are to-day paying more pro rata for our imports and are receiving less for an increased volume of exports. That is a situation which is serious from our point of view, but is perhaps more serious for some of the under-developed countries which are going through the process of expansion and development in the early stage of their independence.
This situation has been recognized to a substantial degree internationally, and some action has been taken in international circles to deal with it and to assist us in that regard. One example of that is the fact that the International Monetary Fund, selecting 1953 as the year and a base figure of 100, has given consideration to our position in relation to terms of trade and has allowed us a borrowing capacity of approximately 400,000,000 dollars, which is about £211,000,000 Australian, a figure out of proportion to the rate allocated to many of the more highly industrialized countries.
At the same time we are faced with the situation that while we are increasing steadily - and in some cases rapidly - the total volume of our exports, we are going through a phase where world commodity prices are causing a drop in our total earnings during this, particular year. It is a fact, as has already been stated in this House, that the volume of exports in anticipation this year will return about £880,000,000. This volume of exports, if the prices of 1953 had prevailed, would have produced an income of approximately £1,350,000,000. That indicates the problem which we have to face and over which we in this country have no control, but we have taken some strong action in the international field to correct this grave problem of commodity price falls.
In 1958, as honorable members know, Australia was particularly vocal at the Montreal conference of British Commonwealth nations and was responsible for this matter being brought forward and ventilated there. The result was that an international committee was set up to examine this situation. With co-operation between British Commonwealth countries and the United States of America, we hope that ultimately some solution will be found to this overriding problem, which will become increasingly difficult as the years go by.
This Government has instituted a positive policy of export promotion, not only for our own traditional primary commodities, but also for the products of secondary industry. This diversification of export earnings is vital to the future growth of our economy. Reference was made by the honorable member for Port Adelaide to-night to the removal of approximately 40 per cent, of the remaining import controls in February of last year. He quoted one reason why he thought the Government had taken that action. He was partly right in that regard, and I think his examination of that matter was reasonably sound and quite fair, but there were a number of other reasons which actuated the Government at that time.
The first point was that the Government had undertaken, on instituting quantitive controls by import licensing, that it would remove them as soon as practicable. That had been the stated policy of the Government year by year during the operation of import licensing controls. It will be recalled that while those controls were in operation the Government was continually criticized by the Opposition for retaining them. The Opposition advocated on many occasions that the controls should be removed because they were inequitable, bureaucratic and arbitrary in their results. That was a criticism, I think, which was voiced by sections of the business community as well, and to some extent I agree with it. That was one of the reasons why, in accordance with the policy that had been enunciated by the Government, import licensing controls were substantially removed at that time.
The second point is that Australia, under international obligations under the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade and other commitments by bi-lateral agreements with other countries, agreed to refrain from licensing imports except for balanceofpayments reasons. If our balance of payments reaches a position where we can no longer justify the continuation of import licensing we have an obligation, under our international commitments, to remove licensing as such. In fact, it is in our own interests to do so because Australia has been perhaps the most vocal nation at Gatt in protesting against the alleged illegal actions of West Germany, France and other nations which have been continuing import licensing beyond the point at which we considered they could justify it on balanceofpayments grounds. So that on that ground, if upon no other, we had very compelling reasons for removing a substantial part of the remainder of the controls we had at the time. It must be remembered, also, that in February, 1960, our front-line overseas reserves were approximately £500,000,000 and our drawing quota from the International Monetary Fund - our second line reserve - was about £211,000,000. Therefore, we had no real justification for continuing beyond that period the import licensing controls as they existed at that time.
The honorable member for Port Adelaide (Mr. Thompson) referred to inflationary pressures and to the additional competition that could be injected into the community by an increased flow of goods and materials which would substantially assist industry and, although not to the degree that he imagines, the importers as well. That has had some definite effect, as we have seen with the passing months. We should also realize, however, that in February, 1960, more than 50 per cent, of our total imports were already running free - that is to say, they could be freely imported under the exempt list or on a replacement basis. This meant that there were restrictions on only 10 per cent, of our imports after the removal of the additional 40 per cent. I mention these matters to clarify the position and to indicate why the Government took the action it did at the time, and I am sure most members of the business community and of industry in general supported that action.
Let me now clarify the position with relation to the type of goods being imported into the country. At the end of last year - which is the latest period for which figures are available - 75,7 per cent, of the money expended on imports was expended on the importation of essential equipment and materials which mainly went to industry. Only 17.5 per cent, of the total expenditure went on consumer goods, and 6.8 per cent, went on the remainder. That proportion has changed slightly since then. To-day, the percentage spent on essential materials and equipment is a little higher than it was at the end of last year and that spent on consumer goods is a little lower, which indicates a reverse trend to that which was suggested to-night. It also indicates that Australian manufacturers are themselves absorbing the greater part of the import expenditure, as they have always done.
– Why are we importing steel?
– It is interesting to note the change that has taken place in connexion with the importation of steel and to emphasize the boom that existed in the motor car and commercial building industries. In November, 1959, we were importing steel and steel products to the value of £14,900,000 annually, and in November, 1960, that figure had increased to £70,100,000, indicating a boom which had to be controlled. There again, the action which was taken by the Government and which is now being criticized by the Opposition was designed to correct an imbalance that was creeping into the economy.
As I have not much time left, let me conclude by referring to the fact that the Government is embarking on export promotion to an unprecedented degree in an endeavour to build up our export earnings and to overcome our vital difficulties. Our great primary industries have benefited from stabilization schemes and our industries generally from trade agreements which have been negotiated to secure access to important markets. The Government, through its expanded trade commissioner service, trade publicity programmes, trade missions and a wide variety of specific export measures, in full partnership with industry and commerce, has vigorously promoted Australia’s trade interests abroad. These efforts are now being intensified, and a new bias is to be given to developmental works which offer prospects of increasing exports or import savings. This is a positive policy of vital importance to future economic stability in this country.
So, with the knowledge that its economic policies over recent years have succeeded in maintaining a period of unprecedented development, the Government is now convinced that the present policy will restore health to the economy and enable the rate of development and full employment to be maintained in the future.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Cope) adjourned.
House adjourned at 10.47 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
d asked the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
Imports from Japan.
d asked the Minister representing the Minister for Customs and Excise, upon notice -
– The Minister for Customs and Excise has furnished the following answer to the honorable member’s questions: -
Imports of man-made fibre piece goods from Japan for the financial year 1959-60, and for the July to January period of the current financial year, are shown hereunder: -
d asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
To what extent per annum would Australia’s balance of payments position benefit if all forms of insurance in this country were conducted by Australian insurance organizations?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows: -
There is at present no means by which the net benefit, if any, to the balance of payments could be readily ascertained.
d asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
Cakes, cake mixes and pastry.
Ice cream and similar frozen foods.
Imported canned fish.
Food flavourings, including pepper, salt and curry powder.
Jellies, custard powders, junket tablets and other dessert materials.
d asked the Attorney-General, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
Conferences on Legislation.
m asked the Attorney-
General, upon notice -
On what dates and at what places have Commonwealth representatives attended conferences concerning (a) uniform companies legislation by the States, and (b) rules under the Matrimonial Causes Act?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows: -
Some of these conferences were attended by Ministers and officers, others by officers only.
d asked the Minister representing the Minister for Air, upon notice -
– The Minister for Air has furnished the following answers: -
d asked the Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
d asked the Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are: - 1 (a) (i). 501s. 8d. Australian currency per cwt. (ii) 210s. New Zealand currency, equivalent to 262s. 6d. A.C. per cwt. 1 (b) (i). 4s. lid. Australian currency per lb. (ii) 2s. New Zealand currency, equivalent to 2s. 6d. A.C. per lb.
m asked the Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice -
When does he now expect to confer with State Ministers concerning Commonwealth and State jurisdiction over fisheries, about which he told me on 13th October last that he expected to confer in January or February?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is -
I have been in correspondence with the Ministers responsible for fisheries in the various States regarding a meeting to discuss matters of CommonwealthState interests in the field of fisheries. All the State Ministers but one have replied indicating they are agreeable to attend. As soon as the outstanding reply is received, I will then convene a meeting at the early convenience of all Ministers concerned.
d asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The honorable member is well aware that the Government of the Commonwealth of Australia, in regard to matters within its own competence, makes its own decisions. The advice tendered to it, whether sought or unsought, whether in its view good or bad, is not necessarily made public. The Government must always, and in this instance specifically does, take full responsibility for its own decisions.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 15 March 1961, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1961/19610315_reps_23_hor30/>.